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Social Impact: Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe on Sustainable Business Practices
Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe serves as the Vice President of the PlungeSmile Foundation, which provides education, health, nutrition, and infrastructure programs to support rural communities in Nigeria, Africa. PlungeSmile exemplifies how corporations can forge impactful partnerships to tackle pressing societal challenges. Our conversation explores how authentic corporate social responsibility drives sustained business success and why it should be central to every company's mission. Corporations elevate their brand reputation through these collaborations and showcase a solid dedication to social causes. Additionally, these alliances offer valuable insights into pressing societal issues, empowering companies to gather data for refining future product development or service enhancements. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube,  Amazon Music, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over for more insightful episodes. Questions? Email Stephen Matini or send him a message on LinkedIn. #AndyEberechukwuAkukwe #PlungeSmile #RelianceInfosystems  #CorporateSocialResponsibility #Sustainability #SocialImpact #Leadership #CommunityDevelopment #PityPartyOver #Alygn #Stephen Matini ... TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: What I love about your background is the fact that you are a business person, you are an entrepreneur, but at the same time, you also have a tremendous sensitivity for sustainability and sustainable development. So how did this come about? You know, how did you join these two things?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: Okay, splendid. Plunge Smile is a foundation established by the group managing director of Reliance Info Systems, Olayemi Popoola, who I happen to be a member of his team. And then over the years, he's personalized to help to assist people, develop even on a career level as well. He took this out to the public to salvage the problem that we have in the Nigerian society, which was mainly centered on education. Marrying his passion was not a thing of difficulty for him. And then getting members of like mind onto the team was not much of a hard work as well. I love social impact. I love to see people smile. So joining the team of Plunge Smile and see that it's all about making this social impact is our dreams actually or fully attained, gives me that confidence to move with the team. So it's a seamless flow because it's a mixture of career and passion. Stephen Matini: I’ve had the pleasure of talking to other business people in Africa. And one thing that all of you have in common is your sensitivity towards corporate social responsibility. And CSR is a huge topic in the Western world. But then oftentimes the need for profits, you know, to make money seems to get ahead. Why do you think in Africa this theme seems to be so important to a lot of people?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: The African society is built for interdependence. When you talk of the traditional family system, we majorly operate an extended family system here unlike what you have in Europe. So here, when you are concerned with your spouse and your children, you still need to think about your uncles, your aunts, their families, your in-laws and all whatnot. These actually traditionally make up for the unique African family system. Corporate social responsibility is a huge thing here in that in a local community, you would always find people who are not as privileged as others. You would always find people who actually need a helping hand. So it's such a big one because we call it giving back, right? It's such a big one that many business founders and of course giants in different fields, including sports, where actually people who depended on others to survive, people who depended on others to rise. So some survived on the streets, some survived through certain tissue-free schemes, scholarships and all that. So the first thing anyone wants to do when they succeed is to think of how to give back to the society. And so that's why CSR is a big thing for us here, tying it to our traditional family system. Stephen Matini: When did you hear about CSR for the first time? Do you remember?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: Oh, yes. That was when I had my first corporate job in the early 2000s. I joined Diageo at the time. It was a big thing. And of course, for many other corporates all over the world, CSR is high because you want to give back to your host community. You want to give back to those that actually form your mass markets. Stephen Matini: In the Western world, oftentimes a big debate is about, should I manage my business for shareholders? Should I manage my business for stakeholders? Oftentimes, CEOs, they really focus on short-term returns rather than long-term investments. In your opinion, how can we find balance between making sure that a business is profitable, but having a long-term goal?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: So business deals with numbers, right? It all comes to approach. So there has to be the quick approach of making money, carrying out your research, finding out what it is that the market needs, curating products or services that the market needs, curating your routes to market, positioning your brand, activating all your strategies and tactics in the marketplace to be at the winning edge. All of these, of course, make sure that revenue, profits, and of course, growth structures almost immediately attained. But then again, likening these to the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals ), which talks about sustainability, you don't just want to build for today. The shareholders primarily wait for, say, half a year, end of the year to take some shares, those who would sell off, those who will liquidate and all that, they do that. But of course, the stakeholders are beautiful tomorrow because many of these employees would want to work for decades, for perennial years. So they want to see that the business succeeds. So it's just an approach knowing that, okay, we need to get the numbers. And then we have to develop a culture, a sustainability culture building on the long term, where we are not just looking at numbers, we are looking at goodwill in the market. And you can't all but attend this with marketing, selling campaigns. This is where CSR comes, because when the people are on your side, you have good will with them, then in fact, your stay in that market is almost all even guaranteed. Stephen Matini: Do you think that this approach can be applied to any industry, to any company?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: Definitely, yes. So it depends on what the vision is, what the mission is. Of course, the vision is that big picture, and then the mission are those tiny pieces that actually lead us to the big picture. How we are going to achieve or how any organization would achieve this would be fundamentally assembling the right team. And so this is where HR professionals come to play. For instance, in Reliance Group here, we've got a robust HR professionals or HR team made up of professionals who actually bring a whole lot of experienced wealth into their field. So what that would mean is you have to make sure that the team are of like mind with you. So if I am the CEO, I am the founder and I have these long-term goals, I need to make sure that I get the right people by my side. Of course, over the years, there will be churn, right? There will be staff churn and all that. But those who share the same vision with you will remain. And then you build something with them, you know, progressively and make sure that they are rewarded and that they keep staying with you. Stephen Matini: So Andy, me personally, I agree with you 100%. So everything you say resonates very deeply with me and what is dear to me. But let's say hypothetically, I were someone who said, Andy, that's beautiful, but that's not applicable. That's not realistic because you have to make sure that your company runs and to make your shareholders happy. So I don't think what you're saying is possible. How would you respond to the type of criticism?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: Irrespective of the size of the corporate, that's why you have Plunge Smile. That's why we are here. So there are B2B partnerships that you can enter into with NGOs, Punge Smile referentially here. While you're doing your business, you could make financial contributions. You could have employee volunteering. You could do pro bono services. You could actually do some skill-based volunteering where you identify certain people who bring certain skills to play, for instance, you identify people who could actually help these schoolchildren with, say, coding and then free coding services or free coding aptitude is actually a provision to them. There could be cause marketing or advocacy and public influence where you use your marketing campaigns, you highlight social mis-norms, crime for advocating actually for social reforms, for policy reforms and all that. You could actually partner with Plunge Smile in the area of supply chain integration. So let's assume that yes, you want to deliver on education or you want to deliver on free school feeding or you want to deliver on certain piece of your corporate social responsibility. So we have the leg, we have the guys on the field, we have all the mercenaries and tools. So when we integrate our supply chain, we get to deliver this. Then of course, impact investing is that tranche where, for instance, you are trying to say cure a water challenge in a society. And at the same time, that company actually sells water. So while solving for water problem, you are still positioning your brand as maybe the supreme or superior brand over others. So these are more even research and data sharing as well. So how do people actually gain insights into what could be called real time societal problems that they could solve for? That's when they actually partner with NGOs, when they partner with serious NGOs like Plunge Smile, get on the field, see what these schoolchildren are going through, see what community residents are going through, and then of course, begin to solve them. And they have rich data to form whatever product or whatever service that they want to create in the future. It's a win-win. You can't just say, I'm here to do business and I want to look out a corporate social responsibility. And that's why we are seeing here at Plunge Smile. As an individual, you can go about your daily activities where we help you run this other aspect of your corporate social responsibility. We have dashboards that gives you real time visibility into your donations, your resources, where they are going, how they be used, what impact they've made. And of course, you can celebrate your success, even on your website, on your page, and all that. So I see it as a collaborative effort where you just get to identify who you're going to collaborate with, then focus more on your business while we focus more on your social impact. Stephen Matini: I love that. It's such a systemic collaborative view of the world and what the world could be, you know, in the future. Of all possible directions, what attracted you to Plunge Smile, why you decided to join this initiative?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: At a time that age, I presented my school in a quiz competition. I got to state level. In fact, I was in certain quiz competitions even at national level. So I found out firsthand that certain people would actually want to fly, but they don't have means to fly. Certain children were deprived of the rights to education because of poverty, of low appreciation of the impact of education by their parents or any other factor. It could be peer pressure, it could be violence in the community, whatever it is. So collectively seeing that the world could actually be a better place, even especially the less privileged children get access to college education, have the right funding, have the right tools. And Plunge Smile is already playing in this space over the years. Why not? So you could see that the marriage is something that came seamlessly and effortlessly. Stephen Matini: Where do you hope a Plunge Smile to be let's say 10 years from now, what do you see?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: Before I answer that question, I want to give it a two-leg approach. So Plunge Smile actually have a flagship initiative called Educa. And this Educa was better as a result of our years of interventions in educational sector of Nigeria. And our plan is actually to scale this across to Africa. So Educa gets to see that children who don't have school fees to pay are being funded. Children whose school buildings are dilapidated. These buildings could be repaired. Children who stay out of school because of hunger, they could be fed in school. And then most importantly, many children who stay out of school because they don't have uniforms. They don't have the screen. They don't have bags. They don't have shoes. Neither do they have the full skill kits, right? So they stay out of school. And what we found in interventions is we saw it at 5% response increments in the attendance of schoolchildren when you kick them up. And that's why the scent of education is kid up a child. So we have “Kit Up A Child” program. So Kit Up A Child program actually highlights making sure that the child goes back to school and stays in school, having the full kits, which are the uniforms, the bags, the shoes or sandals, as the case may be. And then of course, there are different ways by which any organization or individual can actually key into the program of London, which is educated. So you could donate, you could volunteer your skills, you could sponsor a child with an amount, you could sponsor 50 children, you could sponsor 100 children. So those details we could actually share with you, it depends on the school, depends on the popularity of what you want to do. And then you could partner with us on a long term, you know, a while ago we talked about partnership and the different trends of partnership. Partnership goes to see that these solutions are scaled. And of course, there's a long-term retention in our schemes. So we actually have people that we work with along these trenches. So educate proper, what's the workings of educator? So in Educa, we build, we have rather interactive maps, we have dashboards, all the APIs, and of course, the user-friendly experience that anyone would have on the app. So here you explore the map, you choose a school, you select a project. I've mentioned a whole lot of projects. You select a project, then of course, you donate towards this project. You track the progress through the dashboard, you have real-time tracking of the project. And then, of course, you celebrate success. You celebrate impact made. We help you do this on social media. We collaborate with you. There are badges. There are so many other things that we've come up with to actually help you touch like this, because we are not doing this in our name. So we are doing this in the name of the corporates, but because we have the experience, we have the wherewithal, we know what the problems are. And we have over 112,000 public primary schools in Nigeria already in the system. So we could actually help you navigate. It could be your alma mater, it could be any school that you know that actually has a problem. And with this, your go-to social impact is made easy and you achieve your dreams. So where I see Plunge Smile in the next few years is scaling across, you know, out of Nigeria, you know, scaling across Africa, because the plan to actually do this is already in place. And I see 2024 being that year, where all of these will begin to unfold. And so that's why we actually need collaborators, we need individuals, we need corporates and all. We have, of course, Plunge Smile is riding on the back of a technological giant, which is Reliance Ecosystems Group. So all the tech driven solutions, all the tech enablements, all the functionalities that will actually help you have visibility into your project and actually make sure you know there is accountability there. So on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis, on a quarterly basis, depending on how we agree or however you want to do it, we could actually have some reviews. We could actually have some performance reviews. We could actually celebrate your donations, whatever resources you would see them live. And if there are leftovers, of course, they will be reimbursed. Stephen Matini: Has education always been central in your life? Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: Oh, yes. A man informed will make informed decisions, while a man uninformed will make deformed decisions. So he could think that he's smart. He could think that, oh, I've met the market women. I've met the market people. I know the pain points. But he doesn't know what we call research. He doesn't know what we call inferential analysis, right? So if he cannot actually do that, then his decisions will always be deformed. So education is central to anyone's life. And that is why through the Educa Initiative of Plunge Smile, we are drumming on education. We are asking individuals, we're asking corporates, come join us in what we've done over the years. We have a whole lot of achievements. We've donated thousands of textbooks and notebooks. We have school teachers in some committees that we hired. And under bureau, we have buildings renovated. We have several schools where children don't bother about what to eat. They just come to school. There's always a free school feeding. Even in a unit like this, a Plunge Smile still goes out to communities, you know, share some staples, some foods, materials, and even some drugs to make sure that, you know, residents are safe, they are healthy, and of course, they are welfare. So over the years, and of course talking about technology, we have an ICT center where children actually just come. There are laptops, there are gadgets, they just come to up their skills in computer proficiency. There are several programs for them to do across fields. They get to see the outer world. They get to understand Internet, cloud computing, coding, graphics design, data analysis, at least at that basic level. And all of these will form their mindsets to say, you know what? I have to continue this. I have to get to the top. It's just beyond what I'm taught in English mathematics and some other general science subjects. So yes, it's central to everyone and it's central to me. Stephen Matini: You know, these days, a lot of people feel scared and afraid what the future might hold. You know, we listen to the news and it's just this constant polarization, bickering, fighting and wars and such and such. So a lot of people feel not that optimistic about the future. How do you stay positive? You have so much strength. There's so much energy. How do you keep your energy up?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: Man, who is a tripartite being, spiritual and body, has to always draw strength from God. Personally, I'm a believer of Jesus Christ. That is my key strength and how I draw energy fundamentally. Then I draw energy, of course, from happenings around. The problems of others get to inspire me and get to make me know that I need to find solutions to their problems. 'Cause I told you I grew up seeing people with diverse problems. I had some of my challenges myself. So problem in the African society is an ending. And then keeping your head above the waters, navigating through those challenges and getting to the top, you just need to be focused because it's only through being focused that you can help others. So one from God and then two, being inspired by helping people get out of their problems. Stephen Matini: What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are interested in pursuing your similar route, a route that is filled with sustainable development?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: All right. So according to a UN, we have 17 SDGs. Three may be very much pronounced, which has to do with health and well-being, quality education, and of course, industry innovation and infrastructure. First and foremost, across the 17 divides or 17 goals, any venture need to tie their vision to the actualization of some of these goals, because trying to achieve all of these goals may be a tall order for any corporate, right? Because it's a very broad space. So when you need to identify your key strengths, marry that with what you would want to solve in the society business wise, then of course, you have the social impact that actually inspires you from seeing people with similar problems. It could be people with nutrition problems, it could be people with shelter problems, it could be people with water problems. And then maybe you are working on any of these or a sinister solution area. So that inspires you to even go out there to get solutions to their problems. So this could be viewed in the form of impact investing, which I said a while ago, which is where you're actually making this impact. There'll be financial returns. But in addition to financial returns, of course, there is this corporate or social impact made at the corporate level. So my advice would be, when you research, you find out what the problems are, you know what your key strengths are, you position yourself to take advantage of your key strengths and then bring the solution to the social space. Then of course, you need partners. And being that one smile is that foundation that has been on the ground, that has actually worked in these key areas. You need to partner with an organization like Plunge Smile. So that is very, very important because you actually need a helping hand. You need one to actually serve as a compass to help you have a soft landing and then make sure that your resources or the resources you're deploying are well utilized. So this is the advice I'll give them. Stephen Matini: Growing up, was there any person or any event that somehow contributed to help you realize who you wanted to be?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: Oh, yes. Okay. So growing up, I've had challenges, right? My upbringing was settled with certain challenges. I needed certain things and they were not readily available. And then I had to be determined as the first of four children, just calling it straight. So I lost my parents at an early age. I needed to make sure that, of course, my younger ones would actually get to where I was. So at the time, still in secondary school, there were certain luxury that were available to others that were not available to me. And I knew one thing that the only way for me to access this luxury was actually to study. So I was a bookworm. So the only thing I knew was how to study. I never really kept friends. You wouldn't believe that the first time in my life that I played PS, that's PlayStation was actually years after marriage when I bought it for my children. So many of my mates would play those games, would indulge in so many activities, even in primary school and secondary school. But hey, I didn't have that luxury. I just knew that the only thing that would actually get me above the waters was to study and then believing in my God. So I did this and that has been my main state. Stephen Matini: Is there anything that you would like our listeners of our episode to focus on in particular?  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: I want to speak across life, without any industry, without any solution area in mind. So fundamentally, you need to be socially aware of who you are. You need to understand that as a man, we are not just elevated animals, we are created to solve problems. So you need to start out early enough to find out the problems that exist and those problems that resonate with your inbuilt capacity. Now, the capacity may not be well enough. You could have 20% of what you need to solve those problems. So the one lies on you to make sure that you build for the 80% capacity while trying out solutions. So what do I mean? I can't say I want to take care of 100 households if I didn't have the resources to do that. But I could actually start with a household while taking up courses, learning how people do it, building my business, to have the full capacity where I could even achieve beyond the 100 households. Then two, you need to be tenacious. You need to be consistent in whatever it is that you do. Because there will always be storms, there will always be criticisms. Even in this social impact, even as London actually delivers the social impact to communities, you see here a few people doubting, suspecting, why are they doing it? Is there anything in need for them? Is there anything hidden? They are not telling us stuff like that, right? But you need to be considered what you do and find a way to navigate through those criticisms and those challenges, because they will always be there and they should not put you down. Then of course, finally, you need to have your eye on the ball. What is the ball as a corporate want to make X revenue? Y profits and employees get to Z countries, make T social impact. This should form your daily watch, right? So every day you get to review how close am I to achieving these call-out points? How close am I to getting to my destination? And then whatever it is that you need to adjust, you adjust. Not forgetting that you have to study some people that have gone ahead of you. They are always models, so get to find out how they did it, how they built their businesses, how they built their social impact, how they actually built their nonprofits for a long term, how they actually delivered and they were trusted. Just as we do the Plunge Smile, we built a trust system where I'll call it a trust foundation, where as you join us as a partner, as you come in, everything is clear to you. So we need to make sure that this is maintained because this is what actually gives everyone confidence at the end of the day. So even in an organization, your employees, your co-C level staff need to have visibility into what you do, ideas will just come up. And then, of course, achieving your dreams will be a walk in the park. Stephen Matini Well, Andy, I feel energized after listening to you. So thank you so much for your vision, for your leadership, for your energy, for all the things that I've learned today. Because oftentimes I talk about corporate social responsibility, but you are the embodiment of concepts that sometimes are just, you know, very academic. You really live and breathe this. So thank you so much.  Andy Eberechukwu Akukwe: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me, Stephen. You have a lovely day.
29:57 7/9/24
The Future Is Now - Chris Marshall on Big Trends, Playfulness, and Disruptive Change
Chris Marshall is a futurist, behavioral scientist, and founder of the Playfulness Institute. Futurism is not about predicting the future, but it involves looking beneath surface-level events to identify trends that drive seismic changes.  Chris's journey as a futurist highlights the importance of curiosity. In his experience, being multi-passionate and embracing diverse interests is advantageous in a world of rapid change and disruption. A curious mindset fosters resilience and creativity, allowing entrepreneurs to adapt more effectively to uncertain environments. Our conversation revolves around adapting to change and embracing a multi-dimensional perspective in navigating disruptive environments.  Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or your favorite podcast platform. Check Chris Marshall’s Decoding Change: Understanding what the heck is going on, and why we should be optimistic about our future, and use the affiliate links to support Pity Party Over at no additional cost to you. Subscribe to Pity Party Over for more insightful episodes. Questions? Email Stephen Matini or send him a message on LinkedIn. #Futurism, #BehavioralScience, #ChrisMarshall, #PlayfulnessInstitute, #AdaptingToChange, #MultiDimensionalPerspective, #DisruptiveEnvironments, #Curiosity, #Entrepreneurship, #Resilience, #Creativity, #Innovation, #FutureTrends, #RapidChange, #DiverseInterests, #CuriousMindset, #Adaptability, #SeismicChanges, #MultiPassionate, #PodcastEpisode #StephenMatini #PityPartyOver #Alygn #MikaelaSchiffrin #TaylorSwift TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: My first question for you, which probably would serve a lot of people listening to this episode, is who is a futurist?  Chris Marhsall: So what's a futurist? A futurist basically, it's not sci-fi. It's not predicting the future even, because that's what a lot of people do think it's about. It's kind of we have a crystal ball somehow and go, oh, well, this is going to happen at this date and this time. The way I approach it is I look at the big drivers, the big trends and megatrends, which are just kind of bringing about seismic change, but often under the surface. So I guess for me, the definition I like to use is that a futurist looks below the surface level events and look to what is happening beneath the surface, which might not be being picked up by mass media and things like that. And really, when we start to understand that, we start to see that everything is always in flux. Everything's always changing. You know, this isn't new thinking. In fact, Eastern philosophies have talked about this kind of natural law of impermanence for millennia. Being a futurist, the way I try to look at it is, well, what's the current trend? What's currently powering society? If we're looking at kind of societal philosophy or we're looking at business technology, what's the current trend? What's the one which is potentially coming in because that's the one that's then maybe going to take over? And then we can build out scenarios around that crossover. And you can also go further out and go, well, actually, what's right at the fringes, what's being developed right at the fringes today? And this has less probability, has less certainty around it. It makes you aware of what's happening, what might change the world, what might move this market or this group of people or this business or organization. It's a far more scenario-based way of looking at things rather than the typical, let's go back to business and the business plan, which typically has one scenario, and it's normally very, very positive, and I'm going to get 1% of this market share. And hey, Presto, it's an amazing business. Futures thinking really just tries to bring in the different scenarios and then paint kind of, well, what are the pros and cons? What are the things we need to be aware of in each of those? Stephen Matini: As you're talking, I was also wondering when you realized in your life this passion of yours, because for me happened really, really early on, and I could express it as a passion for patterns. You know I could see patterns in everything. How did you find out this attitude of yours? Chris Marshall: So I lived in North Wales. I still live in North Wales. Obviously, a few hundred years ago, 1,000 years ago now, the Romans came and kind of conquered Britain. And Welsh roads, they weave in and out. They have a corner every about 30 centimeters. The joke is that there used to be sheep paths. And the Roman roads in contrast are pinned straight. Now, whether this is true or not, my parents told me that this would kind of save travel time and it would stop bandits lurking around a corner and all these kind of things. And for me, I was always interested in these big shifts that we had these kind of, I'm going to call them scars on the landscape from eras gone by that no longer exist, but they're still visible to us. And so I was fascinated by these big moments of change, kind of pivotal moments or paradigm shifts. That kind of like lay dormant in me for decades. Obviously, just curious. And I think that's probably the key is I'm a highly curious person. And that sent me down an awful lot of rabbit holes of, you know, kind of if I list the titles of things that I've done. I'm a master distiller. I'm a psychotherapist. I'm a performance coach, a behavioral scientist, a futurist, an investment manager. What's happened in the last few years is really, I think it was when I was researching for the book "Decoding Change," I realized that all of this life experience, this kind of life of being a multi-passioned person, this highly curious person, actually, they do have crossovers. They have transferable skills and transferable insights. So for me, it was really just a life of being highly curious and often getting stuck into things which fascinated me, which I found interesting. Some people would just call them distractions from what I was meant to be focusing on. But essentially, over that time, I just found all these different avenues. And then eventually it all came together. This is maybe going back only maybe seven, eight years into this field that, okay, if we actually add all these together in this kind of beautiful Venn diagram almost, then right at the center is the overlap between all of these things. So that's for me, and I constantly draw on all of those different experiences and skills I've built. Stephen Matini: Basically, based on what you're saying, you need to have so many different tools to navigate in a way that makes sense. I don't think you were unfocused. You were building your resilience, probably.  Chris Marshall: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, and I couldn't agree more. In fact, most of my work now not only draws on all those different skills, but helps people promote it in their own lives. And this isn't to say that if you are a highly focused person with one focus, one job, one project, that that's bad. You know, the world needs both types. But what we've done, I think, in the modern world is promote this kind of idea that we go through school and we continually specialize until we come out with this hyper-focused specialization in this niche area. And that's all we do and all we look at. But as you'll know from your teaching in your own life and seeing this in businesses, when we kind of look for creative solutions, they tend to come from spillovers. So I think Einstein described it as creativity being combinational play. So this idea of knocking two molecules together which have never met before. And you don't get that very easily when it's just one molecule. It's got nothing to bounce off. So you can get it in a committee, you can get it in a team, you can get it in an organization, but you can also get it in individuals. And the world we've promoted, I mean, if you even think about how you promote yourself individually, if you're a multi-passion person, the question I hate the most is, what do you do? I struggle to answer that one because it's like, well, what's your interest? And I'll tell you what's relevant. But the way we've promoted the world, these kind of 30 second, 60-second elevator pitches that we're all told to have, they don't allow for multi-passion people to kind of promote themselves and thrive. In fact, all too often, they're hit back with these ideas of, "You're not focused," or, "You're a jack of all trades," which is kind of this derogatory term for you're not really a master of anything. But in a world of disruption and change, I actually believe having that multi-passioned mindset, that highly curious one, is a distinct advantage. We haven't had to have it in the last 250 years, and we can dig into why, but we're moving to an era of radical social change, radical disruption. And if you can't see things from different perspectives, not only do those situations become stress-inducing, anxiety-provoking, you're engulfed in that situation, but you haven't got the skill set and experience to see it from different perspectives. So actually, the multi-passion mindset is extraordinarily important as we move into a disruption, disruptive era, which I believe we are. Stephen Matini: And I think probably of all people, what you're saying is something that may resonate very deeply with entrepreneurs. They have to wear so many different hats. And sometimes your budget is just nothing, and you have to make the best out of nothing. Is that maybe the reason that you enjoy working with entrepreneurs?  Chris Marshall: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's creatives in general. So I've kind of founded two different companies around, not specifically entrepreneurs, but multi-passioned people, curious people, creatives, whatever label people want to kind of give themselves. And the first was a company called the PPM method or “pause play move” method. It's a decision-making framework that allows people to pause more, be more playful, and we can dig into why those two things are kind of highly relevant. But yeah, it teaches people to deal with this constant bombardment of wearing multiple hats, being pulled in different directions. And if you look at kind of stress levels, burnout rates, then entrepreneurs are normally pretty high on the top of the table. So there's a downside to being multi-passionate as well. And that's why also as a psychotherapist, I set up a company called The Refuel Clinic. So it's a small psychotherapy practice specifically for multi-passioned and creative people, because we experience different sets of burnout and stress and anxiety because we're constantly flicking between tasks, we're constantly wearing different hats, we're constantly being pulled in different directions. We're normally behind because we're not that well organized. And so firefighting as we go. But yeah, absolutely. I find it an incredible group of people to work amongst and with because it's my tribe of other people who are creative and insightful and innovative in their nature. Stephen Matini: You know what I just realized? You said past play a move. I did not realize this, but the tagline of my podcast, you know pity party over is a pause, learn and move on. You know So maybe I'm a little bit of Chris, but I love yours more, I have to say. I love the word “play.” Why you picked that word of all possible words? Chris Marshall: This was kind of, again, some research into what makes us resilient. At the time, one of the avenues I'd kind of dive down, I'd set up a micro distillery in the UK. This was 2014. The reason being was essentially, I was working in an investment management space. I wanted to do something a little bit more creative. There is quite a lot of creativity within investment management, but I wanted something more tangible. And I was starting to notice this trend of people wanting things which were authentic, that they were artisan, that they were small batch, you know all these kind of things. I nearly opened a brewery and then I found out I was gluten intolerant, so I can't drink beer. And I thought, well, that's not the best company really to own, is it? So I set up a distillery because they start in similar ways. And I've always loved chemistry. And it's really just a big boy's chemistry set with a nice ending. You get to drink the product. And at the same time, I was obviously still head of investment strategy, a fund manager. I was doing research into behavioral science, particularly around resiliency. And this is where it becomes a little bit embarrassing, because while I was doing academic research on resiliency and mental toughness, I actually burnt out. And the irony for those who don't really understand those concepts is that those mindsets, states, personality types, however you want to construct them, they are meant to protect you from the very thing I was experiencing. I realized kind of lying on my back in hospital for three days, you know I did a pretty good job of burnout because you know that's if you're driven and you're committed, that's what you do. And I'd come from a world of professional sport as a young child. So I raced on the British ski team up until about age 17, 18. Within there, we talk about mental toughness a lot, but the construct of mental toughness and resiliency within elite sport is very different to within a business and an organization. But the mistake we've done is we've just transported it from elite sport and gone, this is what entrepreneurs need to do. But with an elite sport or any sport, you tend to have both short timeframes of when you're competing. So you might be mentally tough for a day and then you can chill out or let's extend this. You might have to show resiliency for a season and then you have an off-season. Being an entrepreneur, you don't get that. Often you don't even get that while you sleep. I was kind of looking at this and going, "Okay, I think we've actually got things wrong here. There's a lot that we can take from the mental toughness research and resiliency research into entrepreneurship and organization psychology and things like that. There's a missing piece. And the missing piece is within organizations. And as an entrepreneur, it's constant. It becomes chronic rather than these more acute periods where we have to be mentally strong. So I was then looking for what's the missing piece. And for me, I stumbled across research on adult playfulness. And adult playfulness is so under-researched, so underrepresented. I mean, it's overlooked. When you kind of tell somebody as an adult to be playful, particularly if they're in a professional setting, they tend to kind of look at you as if you've lost your head a little bit. You can see what they're thinking. They're thinking, yeah, kids play. I'm a professional. I make the joke that as kids, we're second nature and we're very playful and creative. And then when we become an adult, somewhere along the lines, who knows quite what happens, but there's a defining moment when we go, okay, well, I'm going to be a professional and that means I need to be stressed and serious. When we actually look at playfulness, what it brings us is incredible. I mean, the benefits of cognition, of thought, of creativity, of curiosity, of collaboration, we can keep going and adding on all these things that happen when we're playful. And I'd actually go further and say, if we even draw on lessons from the animal kingdom, playfulness is not only an adaptive response. So if we meet a situation where we're failing or it's not going our way, play is a way of exploring new options without being too hung up on the outcome. It's actually when we consider it, it's, I believe, the optimal state of being human. When we're playful, we can think with like this swiftness and clarity. We can collaborate with others. We're not rigid. We're not closed-minded. We're open-minded. We're happy to kind of be adaptable and flexible. And so the challenge for us all is how do we cultivate playfulness? And that was really what led me to both the poorest play move and the play part as a middle pillar in the PPM method. It was stumbling across this research and it was really just trying to find out what was lacking. Why was I burning out? Why was I lying in hospital when I was a researcher on mental toughness and resiliency? I mean, it was ridiculous. And it was finding that missing part because if you take the mental toughness or hardiness construct, you have commitment challenge as kind of these two big pillars. But really, as an entrepreneur, if you're very high in those kind of if you're self-challenged, high commitment, then essentially what you do is you just bury yourself in the ground eventually. You need something to break that and to actually make it more fluid and fun and be prepared to ports. So for me, you know again, how I typically describe this is we have to go back to kind of our stress response. And when we start looking at stress, we start understanding stress isn't just about a situation we find ourselves in. Stress is the total load, if you like, on our body from our behaviors, what we consume, the environment we're in, you know all of these different things. And our stress response is incredible. So when we meet a situation that we detect as threat, we're not detecting safety and comfort anymore. If we go back far enough, it would have been a lion at the cave door. It would have been an angry tribesman from the tribe in the next valley across. What happens is our body goes through this incredible shift to prepare us for what might be imminent physical danger. Now, what's happening in our modern society is the email that comes in with the angry tone, the message that goes, "Where's this report?" Or, "That report you sent was rubbish," or whatever it might be. It's also triggering our stress response. And our body is reacting the same way as it would have when we were cave-dwelling Neolithic men, but we don't require the same physical change. We don't need for our cortisol to spike and cut off our prefrontal cortex or limit access to it. We don't need our heart rate to increase and digestion to actually kind of take a pause so that we're physically ready to tackle a line. But that's still what's happening. And the issue in our modern society is it's happening so frequently that this stress response, which is amazing if it only goes on and off very quickly, is we're keeping that stress buzzer jammed on. The link with playfulness is built into this whole stress response is when we see stress increase, and I want you to think about stress not as either on or off, but as a scale. So level five might be that you're actually past fight flight at level five. You're completely depressed, immobilized. It's freeze response, an animal playing dead, essentially, that we can link this with things like depression. That's a highly stressed state, but low energy. At four, this is where you're ready just to punch anybody. 'Cause it's just like, they've got in your way and they've just said something, which is really annoying. You hopefully don't act out on that, but within you, you are ready to fight or run away. And so I want you to think about it as a scale, 'cause most people don't live at level one, which is joy and calm. They live probably at like level two and a half, sometimes three, and they're easily spiked to level four. So you see this in road rage because they're detecting all these threats and they're easily just moving up that stress scale, but harder to actually move back down to level one. And again, kind of bringing this back to playfulness. When you're in the higher stages, you can't be playful, because being at the highest stages, your body is now hyper-focused on the threat. It's hyper-focused on the outcome. It's hyper-focused on understanding everything about that single situation and it becomes completely engrossed in it. Engulfed is probably a better word. This is where emotions can completely consume us. Playfulness happens at the lower stress levels. Stress levels one, maybe just as we come into level two. As soon as you go two and a half, three, you can't access it. And it's got evolutionary properties. If a lion was coming at you at the cave, the last thing you want to be is playful. You don't want to be curious. You don't want to be wondering, oh, well, I wonder what it had for breakfast, or I wonder what shampoo it uses in its mane. You want to just be either kind of preparing for this run of your life or tackling it if you're protecting other people. Those are the choices and your body completely prepares you for that. So playfulness has to do with stress. Now, as I said, the issue in our modern society, we can look at data on this from stress and anxiety and burnout and everything else. Since the '80s, something has been going fundamentally wrong in society. The rising level of stress, the rising level of anxiety shows that collectively, we are no longer coping with the environment that we're in for whatever reason. And actually there's a whole myriad of reasons and sometimes it's very individual. But on aggregate, the collective is no longer coping as well. And I believe that we just need a new way to actually navigate highly disruptive environments.  Since the '80s, the world's been disruptive. And I think from this point on, it's going to become even more disruptive. If we're not coping already, then we need something drastically new in the way that we think, the way that we compose ourselves, the way that we deal with our stress response, the way that we actually come to behaviors and relationships and everything else so that we can manage ourselves so much better. But nothing is being presented. That was the whole reason why I developed this PPM method, because I could see there was something. Even me who understood all this stuff, I was still falling foul of the environment I was in. So playfulness, yeah, has so much to do with stress levels. And unfortunately, the environment we're in and the ways that we've been taught to think and behave and calm ourselves, coping strategies, they aren't good enough anymore. They aren't strong enough. Stephen Matini: I think that what happens probably to everyone, but for sure to entrepreneurs and definitely to small entrepreneurs is that you are ambitious. You want to achieve things, you have all kinds of different stuff, and it's very easy to go, go, go, go, go, go, go. And our environment is loaded with information. It's going way too fast. In the meantime, as you know, way better than I do, our brain has not evolved as rapidly. And so we are in overload. You pointed out these many, many important things, playfulness. You pointed out the importance of being aware that we are in this particular moment in time of great, great, great change. And then you talked about the fact that there are so many stimuli that we are constantly in this state of alertness.  And to me, you are a positive person. And I would say most people these days feel very scared. So the question to you is, why are you positive despite everything? Chris Mashall: I am a positive person. You know I have my own doubts. I think that's the important thing is when you're looking out to the future, there is a lot of fear and anxiety. And I think we need to bring this back. Let's join this up to the conversation we've just had, because what you're doing with your body in your kind of exercise regime is what we need to also do cognitively. We need to shift how we're cognitively looking after ourselves. The physical body can help cognition, absolutely, but also the way that we think helps cognition. And coming back to this environment of increasing stress. Now, one of the key things that your brain and my brain hates and everybody else listening to this podcast, we all have different windows of tolerance, we can cope with, some people can cope with a lot, some people can cope with a little bit. But the fundamental thing that our brains hate is uncertainty. In fact, our brains will do almost anything, even lie to ourselves, to create certainty because uncertainty is the biggest threat to this organism. And if we really think about what the brain's job is, it's not to perform amazing kind of calculations to put rockets into space. It's to keep this organism alive. That's fundamentally what it's there for. We've used it for other things and it's amazing. But fundamentally, it's to keep us alive. And it can't do that job if it doesn't understand what the environment is, if there's a lot of uncertainty around it. So when we have disruptive change, we have tons of uncertainty. We have tons of different scenarios and everything else. And as that stress level increases, because that's essentially one of the roles of that stress response is to give our body energy, our brain energy, to go find more information, to solve this problem of uncertainty, to find, well, what is the outcome? Because I need to know the outcome. Even if it's terrible, we'd rather have an outcome which is terribly bad in our head than sit with no outcome at all. Now, also what happens with the stress response, and I promise I will come back to optimism. What happens with the stress response is as we become more stressed, we become more pessimistic. And that's quite obvious why, because we're detecting threat. We're not looking for optimism. We're looking for things which are going to hurt us. That's what the stress response is. It's an energized, mobilized state of finding the things which are dangerous. So if we add together all of these things, higher disruption, higher levels of stress, higher levels of uncertainty, is it really too surprising that we see rising levels of anxiety and fear about the future? Absolutely not. Add in that, we really do have some hurdles to overcome. I completely agree with that. But we've got this additional layer of fear on top. And that additional layer, I believe, is psychological. And you can actually trace this back to other time periods through history where it's been radical change. And actually, there's been an equal fear within society. I mean, let's take the Industrial Revolution. The Luddites, the group of bandit-like people who were reasonably in their own head, kind of burning down factories because it was taking away their livelihoods. And whenever we kind of have these massive moments, that there's always this additional fear and anxiety. So we have that. Yes, we have hurdles to overcome, but I think the biggest lesson I learned from writing “Decoding Change” was in the research, one of the things that stood out, and perhaps even the prominent thing which stood out is us humans, when we're at our best, when we learn to pause and play, actually, when we're at our best, we are the most incredible, creative, innovative creatures to have ever walked this earth. We are adaptable, we are flexible, we are collaborative, we're cooperative. When we're not at our best, we're rigid, closed-minded. And so my optimism comes from seeing through history how humans as a species have walked out of situations that we should never have walked out of. And if you bring that forward, and there is a kind of a hope that, you know, some of the, me and a very, very small part of this, helping people basically find their best decision making to reduce their stress, to unblock emotional blockages and everything else, that hopefully, collectively, if we can get towards our best, our optimal state, that we can embrace those human qualities. And what happens when we do that is just stunning. We can't even forecast what might be. I mean, again, come back to the Industrial Revolution. All the Luddites could see was that their industry was being taken away. Let's fast forward this to AI. Countless careers and jobs are on the line. If AI manages to do half of what it is supposed to be able to do, we're looking at that from, oh my word, 50% of the world's going to be unemployed. And if there wasn't any progress or innovation or creativity, absolutely. But what happens is we are innovative. Whole new industries pop up. I mean, just look at some of the industries which have kind of gone by the wayside. There used to be people with a long stick who used to come, they were called tapper uppers, used to walk along the streets to wake people up in the morning because there weren't clocks, there weren't alarm clocks. And it was a big career. You could have that as a lifelong career. And there are countless other careers and industries like that. Every wave of technological progress, every paradigm shift in cultural philosophy or natural environment absolutely changes the status quo. But as we said right at the start of this podcast, there is no such thing as the status quo. It's always constantly in flux. And what we're trying to do when we're stressed is go, we want to keep this piece of ground we're standing on exactly the same. We can't do it anyway, even if we wanted to. That's where my optimism comes from, is seeing what humans can be and do when they're at their best. It's not a naive optimism. I completely agree we have lots of things to sort out. The shifting natural environment will certainly be one of the biggest things, which makes many, many changes to how humans live and where we live and how we migrate. Technology will change the industrial and career landscape, no doubt about it. We also have the shift in cultural philosophy, which is stunning at the moment. Normally, if you look at kind of tribes and communities, elders pass down their wisdom to the younger generations. What we're actually seeing for the first time in human history, as far as I can see anyway, is that the younger generation is influencing the older generation just as much as the older generation is influencing the younger. And we have this kind of collective wisdom of different perspectives. And it's bringing friction. Absolutely. It's bringing friction at the moment because it's different. But if we can embrace collective wisdom, then all of a sudden we start to bring in so many different perspectives. And this is where the diversity piece, you know diversity and inclusion piece is so important. It's not about box ticking at a company. It's about making your organization or your team the most collaborative and creative and innovative group of people you possibly can. You can't do that if you select just from one type or group of person. Stephen Matini: By listening to you, your insights, your energy, my stress level is going down. You do have this soothing feeling that, okay, maybe it's not as bad as I thought. I'm not as weird as I thought I was. If we could have in this moment, you and I talking, if we could invite a couple of people from the past, a couple of great minds from the past, who would you invite? Who would you like to have here with us? Chris Marshall: I think I'd have to go with the physicist, Richard Feynman, to start. That's probably a controversial one because he was fundamental behind the hydrogen bomb. But where Feynman for me gets things right is in this idea, what we should be looking at from learning is how everything is connected. And when you start to actually see things clearly, you start to see how things move together and how you can transfer skills from one to another. And it's a far more kind of nothing is thrown out in his way of thinking. Everything is kind of brought in as a kind of, oh, well, let's kind of it was actually a very playful way of thinking that, oh, well, okay, that's new to me. How does that fit with the current model rather than I have to be very defensive and throw it out because it doesn't conform to my understanding right now? Stephen Matini: Well, you know there's a lot of people that I really admire, and it saddens me to think that I would never meet them. They're no longer here. But one person that I've always been so curious because it's so veneered would be Leonardo, you know Da Vinci.  Talking about someone who could multitask! But it would be amazing to hear his point of view. It's like, hey, look at all this. What do you think? He was such a disruptor for your time. That would be one that I would love to.  Chris Marshall: I had like three in my head. One would be definitely Sir Ernest Shackleton. So actually in the TEDx Talk, which I know you've watched, he kind of features as my kind of the person I've put up there as having this playful attitude in the most ridiculous of situations. And for those who don't know his story, Sir Ernest Shackleton was the captain of the Endurance. He set out on a mission to basically cross Antarctica, thousands miles of pack ice. I mean, we're going back to like wooden boats here. It's a ridiculous feat, thousands miles of sailing through pack ice. And they were one day's landing away from their kind of intended landing and disaster struck and the temperatures dropped and the ship became pinned in the ice. And what people don't realize is not only was there the world's most incredible rescue mission, 800 miles in a small lifeboat that isn't designed to go ocean going travel. But they spent 10 months on the ice before this. It's incredible. And he embodied this idea of playfulness, even in that situation. In fact, when he was talking about how he selected his crew, there's this incredible quote from him that talks about withstanding the agonies of thirst with laughter and song. Now, he used the word optimism. And in the TEDx talk, I argued that if he was living in our modern day, that would have been playfulness. Withstanding agonies of thirst with laughter and song, that's not optimism. That's not you looking going, "Oh, isn't it a nice day?" That's completely framing and reframing a situation, which is terrible, which is life-threatening in its literal sense. Stephen Matini: Have you seen any video of Mikaela Schiffrin?  Chris Marshall: Yes. Stephen Matini: She has a series on YouTube, “Moving Along,” I love her and I love her attitude. I love how hardworking she is, and at the same time, humble and always curious. You know What a phenomenal athlete.  Chris Marshall: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And interestingly, I saw reading a piece the other week on her, because obviously I kind of keep up to date with the World Cup Circuit. And she said she found inspiration from Taylor Swift's playbook. And I found this really interesting because if you look at Taylor Swift's playbook, whatever your view of her music and her as a person doesn't really matter, is she's been able to consistently generate music, which resonates with the zeitgeist of the time and just get this incredible following. You know, I would put her up there in the likes of kind of other artists who've managed to do this over multi-decade careers like Elton John. And Schiffrin kind of was citing this, just saying how not only Taylor Swift has been this inspiration and her albums always seem to get her through whatever emotional crisis is unfolding in her life, but also just this constant adaptability and flexibility. And that's really what we're talking about. If you want to remain relevant in a changing environment, you can't just go, okay, well, I'm charting a course from A to B and I'm going in a straight line. It's got to constantly have this awareness of what's going on and adaptability and flexibility. But we don't often talk about this or even teach it. And so yeah, I kind of bringing it back to what we were talking about. Absolutely incredible career that Schiffrin's had. But I just found it fascinating how she was finding inspiration from another artist. They're very similar ages. I think they're both about 33. And so kind of going through these life-changing moments almost together in a virtual way, almost, but also just this whole adaptability and flexibility piece that Taylor Swift has shown. Stephen Matini: Now, because of the podcast, I interview a lot of colleagues, but I would say that I get most of my inspirations from completely different industries, not necessarily my industry. Like I watch a lot of interviews and Taylor, you know Taylor Swift, I'm not a Swiftie in a sense that I don't listen to her music, but I watch a lot of interviews of her. I love her as a director. I love how incredibly kind and eloquent and precise she is, how gracious she is. I get inspired by all kinds of stuff, and kind of what we said before. You must have that cross-pollination. I was sharing this yesterday with the guest. You know I did another episode that the idea of doing this podcast with a lot of colleagues of mine came because for years and years and years, I watched a lot of makeup videos.  How incredibly cool the fact that all these kids, they do collaborations. So technically they are competitors, but they do all these collaborations. They review each other's products. The intention is to make this industry better. It's like, I wonder if this can be done in my own industry. And now that I've been doing this podcast for two years, I love it. It just gives me a tremendous amount of pleasure to work with my colleagues, you know to learn from them, to build something together. Chris Marshall: Yeah. And that's one of the incredible things. So within Decoding Change, I was obviously looking at these big driving forces. And I stumbled across what I call information revolutions. And I think this is kind of really nice for the point that you're making there. So information revolutions are, they don't happen very often. So technological revolutions happen every about 50 to 60 years. That's been quite consistent since the start of the Industrial Revolution. So the last one was the semiconductor in 1971. Hey, Presto, we're talking about AI and machine learning and robotics, 53 years on. But information revolutions happen at far longer cycles. So the first one that I'm going to cite is the kind of Guttenberg press, that all of a sudden knowledge was able to be shared not person to person, but freely shared by transporting a book. And if we combine that with a transport mechanism of the great age of exploration, all of a sudden we had the printed press sailing around the world because we had Columbus and Diaz and Vasco Gamma, all kind of going on. What happened is there was this massive change in cultural philosophy with that. I mean, it wasn't all positive. There was some pretty dark periods, but it was the ability as you bring more voices to the table, as you bring more philosophies to the table, you get this incredible kind of incubator of creativity. Same thing happened when we got to, we could cite a few things, but I'm gonna use the telephone, partly because we just overlook the telephone. None of us even use the telephone anymore. I mean, if you think before the telephone, before they laid those cables into continentally, transatlanticly, before that, we were essentially relying on ships with letters. Steam ships kind of made it far more consistent the crossing from sailing ships, but still you're talking several days to get a letter to the states. And okay, there were a few quicker mechanisms, but for the general public, that was the only way. Then all of a sudden, the telephone comes along. And not only is there a richness in the information, I can hear your voice and the tone of it and the sentiment of what you're saying, but it's instant. And you can reply to me instantly, not three weeks later. I mean, it's bonkers when you really think about it. We're at this next age, the Internet started this next information revolution and AI accelerates it. And all of this stuff, I mean, even the way we're recording this podcast, you're sat in a completely different location in the world. Yeah, I'm speaking to you as if you're sat on the other side of the table. And the richness of data, we've not just got voice, we've got visual. And what happens with all of this is we get more voices around the table as long as we embrace it. And that's come back to why we need to learn to pause and play, is because we become open-minded and more collaborative. But when we learn those skills, we can accelerate businesses, we can accelerate organizations, we can accelerate teams and everything else because we bring so many more views and technology enables that. Information revolutions are fascinating. This is one of the reasons why I say we're at such a disruptive point in time. It's not just about AI, it's not just about natural environment. We're in the midst of so many different trends and mega trends. Stephen Matini: Well, Chris, I have learned so much in this hour with you. I truly believe you are really special. And I don't mean it to flatter you, you know, just pointlessly, but I think I really, truly believe you are very special. Everything you say resonates beautifully. And I love the way that I feel now. I really feel calmer. You're very, very special. Thank you so much for this time together.  Chris Marshall: Oh, well, thank you so much for that compliment. And thank you for having me on and rabbiting on about my stories and research.
42:11 6/26/24
Adaptive Leaders: Damian Goldvarg on Mastering Leadership in Current Times
In the evolving post-COVID word, the leadership paradigm is changing to keep up with the evolving requirements of the new generations and a fast changing technology. In Dr. Damian Goldvarg’s lastest book, Leadership for Current Times, empathy emerges as a crucial trait for effective leadership, which requires a genuine willingness to understand and connect with others’ perspectives.  Dr. Goldvarg also underscores the practical benefits of strategic thinking and foresight in leadership. By developing skills in anticipating future trends and challenges, leaders can make informed decisions and stay ahead in a rapidly evolving landscape. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or your favorite podcast platform. Please check Dr. Damian Goldvarg’s Liderazgo Para Los Tiempos Actuales: Nuevos Paradigmas Y Habilidades De Coaching, soon available in English. Use the affiliate links to support Pity Party Over at no additional cost to you. Subscribe to Pity Party Over for more insightful episodes. Questions? Email Stephen Matini or send him a message on LinkedIn. #AdaptingtoChange, #Alygn, #BusinessPodcast, #ChangeManagement, #CoachingSkills, #COVID-19, #DamianGoldvarg, #Emotional Intelligence, #Empathy, #HybridWork, #Leadership, #LeadershipDevelopment, #LeadershipPodcast, #LeadershipTrends, #MentalHealth, #OrganizationalPsychology, #PityPartyOver, #PodcastInterview, #Post-COVID, #StephenMatini, #TeamCollaboration, #Work-LifeBalance TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: As a collective society, we've been talking about COVID and all the ramifications of COVID. And I think we are definitely realizing that the post COVID is probably just as harsh as the actual pandemic. There are a lot, a lot of different ramifications. And you decided to write a book about it. So I was wondering how the idea came about. Damian Goldvarg: Well, I started working in a book on leadership. So I have been training leaders for more than 30 years. And I wanted to write one on coaching skills for leaders. So I wrote already eight books, was author of books on coaching skills for coaches, mentor coaching, supervision in English and Spanish, nd this time, I wanted to write a book on coaching skills that I could use in my trainings; When I train coaching skills, I can use that book as a manual, but also my colleagues who benefit from it. I thought they can use that also with their clients when they are coaching leaders because they had all exercises and activities. So I thought I would be sharing that. I started writing the book and then COVID hit. And then I kept working with the book. And then I was thinking, well, things are changing now. So I think what about working on how COVID is affecting the work and the leadership? I started looking at working in a hybrid environment, working virtually, talking about the mental health sequels from that, how people are affecting the level of stress that they had during COVID and after COVID. I think that there were a lot of emotional experiences that leaders needed to deal with and being overwhelmed by their own experiences, but experiences of their teams. The idea with this book was to answer, okay, how leadership is changing and what leaders need to pay attention to. And I think that the leaders need to be more focused on these formative relationships and also developing coaching skills, being more coaches. Some are already doing that. The ones that are not doing that needs to look at it because you know they're going to get behind in terms of their requirements for the new generations. And then it's interestingly because when I was getting ready to send the book to the publisher, I sent the book to a few people to give me feedback. And several of them from medium don't have the word COVID or post-COVID in the title of the book, because people are tired of it, are burned out. They don't want to hear anything about it too cold. So I said, OK, so let's go for the third name, Because first at the beginning, we have a leadership coaching skill for leaders. The second title was post COVID leadership. And now the final title is in Spanish, and the book is totally translated, and I am working on the edition of that. It's called “Leadership in Current Times,” What is required right now, what is right now in this moment, what is required for leaders. I decided to take from the name post-COVID because out of the reaction of people were telling me, "That's it." I said, "Okay." But it's interesting, Stephen, because I hear from some people that they like it to be reminded that it's post-COVID, et cetera. But you know what? I had COVID for a second time last month. So it's not gone. It's still around. I have a friend of mine that I was talking to him yesterday. He has been very sick, even though he had vaccines. And he was one of the most careful persons that I have ever met around COVID and finally took for him too once. And there is a lot of more cases now in LA County where I live. Stephen Matini: So when you introduce these concepts to your own clients, usually, how do they react?  Damian Goldvarg: It makes sense to them. I work globally, and because I am originally from Argentina, I work in Spanish a lot. And the Latino cultures tends to be compared to the American culture or the European cultures, a little bit more authoritative in terms of having more distance, power distance between leaders and their reports. It's more like, and also have a tradition from Italy, Spain, the father figure, and this parental, and the resistance, and the disrespect to the authority. It's a different kind of relationship. And many times, these leaders are not very collaborative in their approach. They feel responsible. They feel responsible when they want to take care of things, and they may not engage as much as the colleagues, as peers. There is this distance in hierarchies that we see that is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. So sometimes that for leaders who feel that it's their responsibility that they need to make their decisions, they don't engage and include people in decision-making. They have, I think, the hardest time to listen to these ideas. And sometimes it's really, really in their system. So it's not easy to change the mindset. So I try not to force anything. As a coach, part of my job is to challenge mindsets and being patient because different people need different time to look at things from different angles. And at the end of the day, everybody has the right to look at reality the way that they want. I have an invitation and the metaphor that I use is the glasses. I said, okay, you know, your sunglasses are blue, you see everything blue, are you willing to take your sunglasses for a minute and put one that are green and see if you're willing to look differently with different color things. And sometimes people are willing and sometimes they are not, but it's their decision. Stephen Matini: What usually does the trick, meaning those who actually shift, you know, or somehow they start wearing a different pair of sunglasses, you know, tinted differently, what helps them making the shift? Damian Goldvarg: Sometimes if everything is going very well and they're being very successful, and they do not have any reason to think, why aren't we going to change? We're very successful. We have done things like that. If people have a challenge and suddenly they have not been as successful, they are not selling as much and there are a lot of complaints or there is conflict crisis. Then when people are realizing, okay, we are not going to keep being successful with past practices. So we need to look new ways of doing things. So they've been forced by the market or the circumstances, you know, because of economy and the changes. There are some jobs because of AI. Some jobs are being redundant. And I'm telling my colleagues and they don't like to listen to it. But they said, you know, eventually in the future, I also will replace some of the work of some cultures. And so you need to be prepared. You cannot be saying, no, I don't want to listen about it. I don't want to say. No, it's like, okay, we are supposed to be open to what's happening in the world, and we need to have a dubious responsibility. Being on top of technology advances, trends. So I do believe that we can also show the trends to the leaders, and they may choose not to pay attention. Stephen Matini: In your opinion, if someone is not that empathetic, can the person actually transition and to become more empathic, which is one of the key features of the post-COVID leadership?  Damian Goldvarg: Definitely. I do believe it's possible, but the person needs to be willing to go there. Like, for example, what I do in my work with my clients is I start with the 360, where people receive feedback from the boss or other people in the organization, peers, and deliver reports, sometimes also customers, other third parties. So I collected data and I shared with them the perceptions that people have about them. And sometimes the perception may be that they are not empathic enough, that they are not showing that they're understanding. And sometimes leaders say, okay, I want to work on that. So they make a commitment, intentionally, decide to do it. And sometimes everybody feels like they are not being empathic and it's too bad, their problem. They can still not be empathic, but still they care in their heart. They do care about people, not that they do not care, but it's difficult for them to put themselves in the shoes of other people, but they may not, they don't have the ability to even realize that they are doing that. And when you point it out, and when you share that with them, not everybody is willing to accept it and integrate it and work on it. It's also different levels of maturity. At the end of the day, I don't think any of them, in my experience, mean bad. I don't think, if not, they are bad people. If not, they are bad. Is that some people may or may not have been able to develop over life these skills? So they may have good intentions. And I do believe also what in my experience is based on generational issues, the older, the more difficulties they have to adapt to the new trends and the new tendencies and being willing to listen because they have a lot of experience and they have been successful and they know what they've done, they know what they know. When I train coaches, you know part of my job is to train coaches and supervisors and team coaches, I use a model where I tell them that there are things that we know that we know, things we know that we don't know, but there are things that we don't know that we don't know. I got a PhD in Organizational Psychology, so I know a lot about organizations because that's my area of expertise. I don't know, for example, Chinese. If I want, I can go and learn. There are things that may be very difficult for me to learn, but I still can put effort. But then there are areas in our life that we do not know that we don't know. So in this area, when I ask, what do you think is there? What do you think is there, Stephen, in the area that you don't know that you don't know? You're going to answer the question. In the area that you don't know that you don't know, the way that you may answer is nothing yet, because there is not something there that you don't know that you don't know. But because there is nothing there is a lot of opportunities there. But the first element is to ask yourself, what I may not know that I don't know. So how do I get there with my clients in coaching? It's like, okay, what do you think is going on? And they answer to you. And then I ask, what else? And they answered. And then what else? And then the client said, I don't know. And I said, okay, take your time. And what else? So suddenly, something that is not in that awareness, they start going and exploring and going deeper. And I use a metaphor of the iceberg, whatever people coaching to explore that are underlying beliefs, emotion. So you start going deeper and deeper and to say, OK, what else? And what else? And then you can start making new connections. So that is one of the ways to be aware that there are things that you don't know that you don't know that you want to discover. But usually the paradigm that we live, we don't do that. In our paradigm, usually we have things we know and things we don't know. We don't even realize that there are things we don't know that we don't know. And that worked really well for my father, who for many years, he knew everything. And I was able to convince him to go for coaching training. And I follow him and my mother, both of them are psychologists. So I follow them to become a psychologist like them. And then I convinced them that they followed me to become coaches. And it did change the way that my father communicated. In my perspective, this is what I see, what is very difficult to say things are like this, like many people say, OK, things are like this, because it's for them like this, but they don't realize that it's their perspective. And there are other perspectives that can be valid. You may not agree with them, but there are other possibilities, and there are other perspectives on our perspective, and it's just ours. So that's really changed and transformed the relationships. So why I'm going to that, why I give you this answer, because we are going back to your question, really, how do you work with people who don't want to or are willing or open to go to the empathy? So with this model, you can invite them to see what they are not seeing. So maybe what they're not seeing is how much pain they may be causing to people because they are not being empathetic. They may not be aware of that. Stephen Matini: As you were talking, another thing that came to mind is the notion that the importance of having people, it could be a coach, it could be sometimes a psychotherapist, people that help you making the transition.  Somehow I have this distinctive perception that the whole area of mental well-being is not just a nice thing to say or something you should give to employees. It really is a thing. You know, it should not be underestimated. If it's not dealt correctly, it can have disastrous consequences.  And I think that everyone is slowly realizing how difficult this moment is. You know, it's super difficult on youngsters. It's difficult on everyone.  Sometimes you find out about what you don't know through the help of someone who can gently guiding you there. Damian Goldvarg: Yeah, that's a reason why it's so important to have somebody to work in your life, a therapist, a coach, the professional who can help you to see what you're not seeing and to support you in your endeavors. So I believe that we may have good partners or friends who can also be supportive on that, but it's not the same because they also have their own agendas. But when you work with a professional therapist or coach or mentor that helped you to, I would say, develop that well-being and also to have clarity in terms of your goals. It provides support too. I believe at the end of the day is to have a life that you enjoy, that you love your life. And what do you need to do to really love your life? I do work with two supervisors. So I use supervision as my work. And I also have a mastermind group. So in this mastermind group is a group of colleagues that we meet and we support each other with our goals and activities. And I have friends and I have my partner, but I also look for spaces just to look at the work. And when you spend the time dealing with your therapist or with a coach, looking at your work, looking at your life, and that allows you to stop, analyze things, and make some decisions that you may not do if you keep going on and on and on and on without stopping and reflecting. So I do believe that this is part of when I train coaches to talk about how we live our life in a mechanistic way, like work in the morning, special tea, have breakfast, have a routine. And then at the end of the day, you brush your teeth again. I say, oh, I can't believe it. It went so fast. And then the weekend comes and you say, okay, it's Monday again. How is that possible? You remember when the weekend? And then the holidays come and say, oh my God, it's Christmas, unbelievable. So you leave your lesson in the way that we live with so much going on and so many routines, we may sometimes lose track of breathing, spending time in the here and now, enjoying the present, looking at our dissociating ourselves. And this is what I do in supervision when I train supervisors in coaching is you separate yourself and you look at the work you're doing as a coach in supervision. And I use that idea in life in coaching too and in our work, in different places where it's super vision, you disassociate yourself, you look at yourself. And what do you see? Are you enjoying what you are seeing? Do you think it's what you want? But there is a mismatch and not alignment between what you want for your life and how you are living your life. And that's, as you know, one of the key elements in coaching is people coming to coaching because they are not happy with their lives. There is no alignment between their values, what is important to them and how they are working or where they are working. So these are areas and opportunities. And I do believe that to have a better world, just being a little bit more idealistic, having a better world for everybody, to the extent that we have more level of satisfaction. Satisfaction means you are meeting your needs and your needs are not only we can go with the hierarchy of Maslow categories of what I will need. But after you have your basics covered, full room, job to pay everything that you need after you cover your basic needs, them belonging, self-realization, the opportunity to grow and learn and maximize your potential and have dreams. And so I do believe that it's important that we also stop and spend time looking at that. Stephen Matini: In terms of needs, relationships really take center stage in this moment. You were referring the importance of really nurturing the relationship that you have with yourself. And this is something that I see a lot of people acknowledging the importance of coming together in a world that seems to have become so transactional, you know, mechanistic, as you said, instead of to find out how it is important to be human with other humans. When people, I don't know if it ever happened to you, but people say, yeah, yeah, yeah, the relationship with myself is important, but I don't have time. You know, it's so difficult to have all these things to do. How do you respond to them?  Damian Goldvarg: I tell people that we do have choices. So we choose. I was talking to my friend yesterday and he has COVID and he was pretty sick, even though he had the vaccines and everything. And I was telling him, "Okay, as a friend, just take care of yourself. Just focus on your healing, focus on yourself." And he said, "No, I cannot do that because I have so much work that if I don't do the work that I need to do, it's going to pile up. And then when I get to do the work, I'm going to be so stressed out that I would rather don't let that to happen." And I didn't argue with him. As I let go, that was his mindset. He was more worried about not having too much work later. That was more important to him than taking full care of his health. So at the end, that was his choice. But I was thinking when I got COVID, I stopped everything. I just let everything go. It's just time for me. It's time for healing. Time to get better. So then later, when I am better, I will take care of everything that needs to be taken care of. So this is what I wanted to tell him, but I don't think he was interested. So we also need to listen and be prepared. I cannot impose my idea on him. He was telling me that, and he's very convinced about that. So that was not my time to challenge him. And he had told me in the past that he really didn't want to be challenged. So, you know, you know the kind of client would say, okay, challenge me. I want to see what I am not seeing. He has taught me in the path that he would rather, when he makes decisions, he doesn't want to be challenged. So okay, I let go. But I do believe that sometimes, again, we don't know what we don't know. So the way that I see it, what you're not seeing is that he needs to take care of himself first, be completely healthy. And then when he's healthy, he do whatever he needs to do. And he's late with some of his work in not the end of the world. What I like to do is ask my clients, if you look at the situation from five years from now, how will you see it? Because it will give perspective, like fulfilling yourself, looking yourself in the future. Sometimes we realize that what is so important now, if we're looking from here in five years, it will not be as important. It's like I used to have a partner who never, ever went absent to his job. He was always going to work. He was a teacher. So he didn't want to let his students down. So no matter what, he would go to work every day, and he was very, very committed. And sometimes I would tell him, "Okay, you're too tired. You're not feeling great. Just take care of yourself, you know, calling sick today. They will find another replacement for you." And he was not willing to do it. And then one day, when they had to make cuts in the district, because he was newer compared to other teachers, even though he was much more committed, doing much better work, he will let go. And all of his work and all of his commitment, all of that, they didn't care about it. So I was saying, you know, look at that. You know, you work harder. You were a much better teacher than other people, and you still want to let go. Now you look everything, the whole thing at the distance. Will you still do what you did? And now that is a personal decision. Some people may tell you, yes, I was still the same because these are my values. Some people may tell you, you know what? I didn't realize at the end of the day, they didn't care much about if I would have known that they would let me go as soon as I may not live my life there. Have you seen that before? And you see that particularly working, people working in big companies where they really work really, really hard. And one day, they say, okay, goodbye. That's a generational issue too. Before people work in company for many years, nowadays, the average job is two, three years, but it's also different loyalty that companies have with employees and employee companies to work rights. Stephen Matini: It's interesting when you talk about as coaches, we can challenge people, you can provide an observations, you can gently invite them. But then how people react is completely personal. And I still haven't figured out why some people seem to make that leap super quickly, some people never do that.  But I do know that all I can do is just to be the right distance from them, to be there, and then you always have to give them the space to maneuver and to decide what to do. You have been working in leadership for such a long time. So over the years, you probably may have seen some shifts on paradigm, the way, you know, leadership is. And now, even with your book, you're talking about what is the type of leadership that is needed at this time.  It is impossible to predict the future. But if you had to kind of sense what leadership it will be five years from now, even further ahead, what do you see?  Damian Goldvarg: Well, my, I would say, prediction is that there is going to be much more technology in place. So I think that leaders will need to learn how to integrate technology, AI to their work more and more. It's necessary right now, and more and more in the future. Some of the functions and some of the work will be done by artificial intelligence. And I believe that leader would need to integrate that and collaborate, be more collaborative. I think organizations are going to be much more horizontal in the future. I believe that you already see an organization that are lowering all of these hierarchies and all of these flat organizations. So I see flat organizations where leaders are more like here, working as collaborators, where authority would change the authority. That for one part. Also the networking, the collaboration with networking integrating networks of people working in different parts of the world at different levels. So learning how to integrate different groups of people, colleagues. So in all of this, as you are saying, one of the key elements is relationships, this building relationship, this empathy. If you cannot collaborate as a leader, you will be in trouble. Stephen Matini: It would be really hard to survive in the long run.  Damian Goldvarg: Yeah, and also inspiration. Always leaders are going to be role models. So it's what kind of role model are you being? So it's what you are doing and how you've been, where you're coming from. And I do believe that people really appreciate leaders who care about other people, who really genuinely care. And we're talking here that many times people are seeing, and this is a little bit more philosophical and sounds harsh, but some people see other people as objects and objects. I mean, okay, you are here to do your work, so I can do my work so I can be successful. And we know in leadership, an effective leader is a leader that gets people who are working for them being effective. So to the extent that the people under the leader are effective, the leader is effective. So the effectiveness of the leader depends on the effectiveness of his or her team. You have an element where the leader is a role model and wants to inspiration and want to inspire people to want to do their best. That has been always like that. And I will continue to be that way. We want leaders who inspire us, who treat us people and not as objects. We're talking about objects is easily looking at the reports as people who are going to accomplish for his or her success, or as they see in the reports as human beings, we need the flexibility to walk to work and deal with different needs. At the same time, aligning the overall vision of the company with the vision of the team and his own vision of their own vision. Stephen Matini: A huge, a huge element that is going to, it is changing everything. It's really the new generations that just simply think differently. I mean, you really have no choice. In a matter of five years, ten years that the workplace would be heavily dominated by Gen Z. And it's just that different way, you know, that they operate and exactly the way you describe it. Out of everything we talked about, is there anything that you would say that would be important for our listeners to focus on as a starting point to start thinking about this new leadership? Damian Goldvarg: Well, there is a field of study that is called foresight, foresight in the studies of the future. And when I worked with leaders in organizations for many years, and I did assessment centers. Assessment Center is where you assess a leader and see what are the strength and development needs. So I work for a company, a big company that they send me all over the world to do this assessment center. So part of my job was to evaluate what were the strength and weaknesses of the leaders and then coach them, reach the strength, and overcome any obstacles that may be the way development meets. And there were two areas where most leaders worldwide were weak. One was coaching and the other one was foresight or strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is about not just paying attention to the present and here and now, but looking at the future. It's what you're asking me, okay, what do you need to pay attention to the future? Okay, that is a skill. And the strategic thinking is also looking at the future. So looking at the future and developing their people were two areas where leaders were not effective worldwide in all different industries. So because of that, I was very interested in that. And that's the reason why I started doing more trainings on coaching skills, meeting that need. But the other area is foresight for the study of the future, paying attention to trends, paying attention to what's coming, and working not only for what you have in front of you right now, but looking at the future. Success today, not success in the future. So understanding that and being prepared for that and looking at trends. And yes, you were right. We cannot predict the future, but we can pay attention to what's coming so we can be better prepared. So I went and I took two certifications in foresight in two different places that leaders in the marketing, training foresight practitioners. So I went to receive foresight training because I wanted to build the skills and the muscles to do that kind of work with the leader that was working. So I do believe that in the foresight, looking at places where you can look at trends, for example, one particular resource can be the Wall Street Journal. Every Friday, a section called Just About the Future is everything about the future. I don't remember the name exactly right now. Also, you always help us to meet Harvard Business Review, looking at trends, just looking what their sense of we need to be proactive in paying attention to what's coming and we can go to different places. These are two key places where I look at. Also I receive emails. This is for free. McKinsey reports, singular university, they report that they send also a weekly newsletter from them. So it's about looking for places where we can learn about trends and paying attention to that in the world. Stephen Matini: Damien, thank you so much for spending time with me. I have a lot to think about.  Damian Goldvarg:Thank you for inviting me. I hope that this conversation inspires people to learn about these topics. And if they want to reach, if you want to follow up on the conversation, I don't know if you can share also my email. If people have any questions or comments, I have also YouTube, like 400 videos on coaching and Spanish and English, what is free, and it's a resource. And the books also, you can find them in Amazon. People may be interested in the books on Coaching for the Spanish speakers, bilingual people who are listening, the book on “Leadership in Currect Times” is coming up in Spanish next month. And the English one, I am working on it. I'm still looking for a publisher for that. So I am working on that. Stephen Matini: Well, then I wish for your book to do super well and to inspire a lot of people.  Damian Goldvarg: Thank you very much.
32:13 6/9/24
Leading Generations: Kathryn Landis on Creating Inclusive Multi-Generational Workplaces
This episode of Pity Party Over revolves around the importance of intentional leadership and its impact on team dynamics, especially in the context of diverse generational workforces. Kathryn Landis, Executive and Team Coach and Professor of C-Suite Leadership at New York University, emphasizes the need for leaders to understand and address the unique needs and values of different generations, particularly Gen Z. She highlights the importance of aligning these needs with organizational goals while creating a culture of psychological safety and transparency. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or your favorite podcast platform to learn how to navigate generational differences and understand the significance of transparency and purpose-driven work for engaging Gen Z employees. How do you leverage a multi-generational workplace? Share your story! Subscribe to Pity Party Over for more insightful episodes. Questions? Email Stephen Matini or send him a message on LinkedIn. #KathrynLandis #Stephen Matini #PityPartyOver #Alygn #WorkplaceCulture #GenerationalDifferences #GenZ #EmployeeEngagement #PsychologicalSafety #LeadershipDevelopment #PurposeDrivenWork #IntentionalLeadership TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini - I'm curious to ask you, how did you get to human development?  Kathryn Landis: You know, I was first exposed to this thing called coaching, when I was in business school. I went to Northwestern University in Chicago and I took a class around personal leadership and coaching, and I really enjoyed it, but I was already on this track to go into marketing. And fast forward 10, 15 years, I had a boss at a large Fortune 500 company that was not supportive of the company's parental leave policy. And so when I had my son, this leader made my life miserable. I thought to myself, and I thought back to that class, had this leader had coaching, had this leader had support, I'm sure she didn't want to show up the way that she was showing up. I got into this because I don't want anyone to ever have the same experience that I had. I want to help leaders get to the next level of greatness. And I want them to empower and inspire their teams and become the best versions of themselves and work in life. Stephen Matini: Do you have a favorite client? Like, do you prefer to work with teams? Do you prefer to coach people one-on-one? Kathryn Landis: I think where I'm at my best is when I'm coaching the leader one-on-one and their team. So we're doing both. So with the leader, helping that person think about, you know, how do they want to show up as a leader? How do they want to create followership? How do they want to communicate their vision? And then with the team, helping them to really operate most effectively and make agreements amongst each other and really think about how they want to create those working norms to be the best team they can be. Because everyone has to go to work. Everyone's been on bad teams. Think about the worst team ever been on. I mean, I'm getting like negative feelings right now just thinking about that. It could be at work, it could be at school, you know, it could be your softball league versus the best team you've been on. Wow, being a part of that best team really just changes your outlook, changes how you show up, what you're able to accomplish. And so if I can really help the leader as long with their team, that's where I think really making major progress and really able to make a major impact. Stephen Matini: So I have a theory about teams, and it's not based on any theory. I believe that the team leader is vital, you're like the orchestra director, you set the tone. However, the team and the chemistry within the team seems to have a life on its own. Sometimes you are lucky, you get teams that for whatever the reason, things flow. It's fun. And sometimes no matter how hard you try, the team seems to really feel heavy. So the question to you is, is it always possible to turn things around in a team?  Kathryn Landis: I would say it's always possible, but you also have to think about, do you have the right people on the team? Do you have people that have the right skill sets? And are they able to work together? So you can have diverse perspectives, but they can't work together, then it's not useful. Is their work interdependent in a way that motivates them to collaborate effectively? And is there a compelling purpose for the team? Do people know why the team exists, what their priorities are, and what the impact is to the customer or to the organization. I find that a lot of teams that are dysfunctional, there's not a compelling purpose for the team. People don't know why the team exists. There's maybe not the right people on the bus, or their work is not interdependent. There's just a group of people that are reporting to the same leader. So you really need those essential conditions in order to have an effective team. Stephen Matini: You know, “the right people on the bus” should be the title of this episode. Kathryn Landis: Yeah, something like that. Stephen Matini: As if it happened to you that often team members say, we do not know where we are going. Why do you think that happens? How can it be? Kathryn Landis: I haven't observed that as much. Maybe it's by virtue of my work. But for sure, an organization would have a more engaged and motivated workforce that they had a vision for the organization of where they want to be in three to five years, if it was motivational, if it was inspiring. And then that trickles down to what each team or department does. And then from each team or department, it trickles down to each individual. Why are you showing up to work? You know What's the contribution? It doesn't matter if you're in the accounting department or in sales, you're all driving towards this goal that hopefully is something that ladders up to something bigger than oneself. It has purpose. Because even if you think, hey, I'm working in an accounting firm, you're still helping a customer. Maybe you're helping small business owners making better decisions. So how can you take that mission and make it compelling and purposeful for your employees? So they're not just showing up for a paycheck, they're showing up to really change lives. Stephen Matini: Have you ever seen within an organization that has a specific culture that may necessarily foster transparency or full trust, have you ever noticed the existence of what I call islands of happiness? I mean, somehow there's one team that seems to work more efficiently than others.  Kathryn Landis: Well, a lot of your happiness, as much research would suggest, is based on your immediate boss. So if your immediate boss is able to create those conditions for what Amy Edmondson would call psychological safety, if they're able to motivate and inspire other team members, yes, there can absolutely be islands of happiness. But I think that at a more senior level, whoever is looking after the organization, that certainly is areas for concern. So is there someone who's being mindful of the discrepancy or the variance between the teams? Stephen Matini: You have been working with a lot of teams and different leaders. As of today, teams are very diverse, you know, often comprise different generations. Based on what you have observed, what would you say they are the main competencies that a good leader should have to lead the team effectively?  Kathryn Landis: So I think that we're in a unique time where you can have five generations at work. And I'm in a unique position where a lot of my clients are baby boomers or Gen X, as we call it in the US, or Gen Z or younger millennials. And there are very different expectations in terms of how one should show up in the workplace and that makes them work in life. A lot of it having to do with their own life experiences. And, you know, the Gen X and boomers do not understand the Gen Z and the younger millennials and vice versa. I see it with my students. I also teach at NYU. So a lot of my master's students are Gen Z. And it's very different. I had a student say to me, I just want to find a job where I can be there for six months and really contribute. You know As myself being an older millennial thinking, six months, after six months, you just know where the bathroom is. You haven't made a contribution. You're just training on boarding, but that's the longevity that folks are looking for. I think making ... one is creating shared values for that department or team, creating agreements of working norms and how you're all going to show up and communicate at work is so important. When I say agreements, a lot of people live in the land of expectations, meaning they want someone else to do something. Maybe they tell them what they want them to do, but people inherently wrestle with and they rebuff expectations. But if you can get an agreement with them, so you're both bought in, you ask them, how can I help you to meet this agreement? They're exponentially more likely to do it. So I think for leaders, what agreements can you make with your team members so that you're all aligned on the critical elements that will support a productive workforce? Stephen Matini: So if I understood correctly, the difference between expectations and agreements is that agreements are negotiated expectations? Kathryn Landis: Expectations are one way. It says expectation is, Stephen, I want you to show up at 9:00 a.m. of this podcast. And agreement would be, Stephen, I'd like you to show up at 9:00 a.m. this podcast because this is when it'll be most effectively recorded. How can I help you do that? What's going to keep you from doing that? Nothing. I'm going to be here. Okay. Can we have an agreement that that's what we're going to be doing? Yes, perfect. Now that's like a very simple example, but it's two way conversation and getting someone to say yes, and also as a leader, asking them what help they need from you in order to accomplish it. Stephen Matini: So it's more collaborative.  Kathryn Landis: 100% versus just having an expectation in your mind that you either don't communicate or you communicate, but then don't ask the other person what they need from you in order to achieve it. Stephen Matini: One of the things that I like to use in order to understand different generations is to see all these people, from Baby Boomers to Gen Z as humans that have the same needs. The human brain doesn't evolve as rapidly as our technology, but they come to life facing a different political scenario, different economy, different social situation, and such and such, and so they have to respond to a specific situation. In your opinion, and this is just in your observation, do you think it's harder for a Gen Z to deal with life than it was, let's say, for me, that I'm Generation Y?  Kathryn Landis: I don't know if I can say harder or less hard, but I will say that research states that Gen Z is as a cohort in a mental health crisis. There's lots of research that indicates that Gen Z is overall depressed, that Gen Z, you know, went through very formative years in a pandemic and are very isolated, the first true digitally native cohorts and haven't had that in-person interaction that a lot of the other generations grew up with and were accustomed to. So I think harder is difficult to define and to measure, but certainly as it relates to mental health, Gen Z is very much struggling. And that puts the leaders in a difficult position where they're being asked to play multiple roles outside of, you know, strictly that of the supervisor. Stephen Matini: What would you say that could be the kindest gesture that you could provide to Gen Z? Kathryn Landis: I don't know about kindest gesture, but I wrote a co-wrote a Harvard Business Review article about helping Gen Z find their place at work. And what we do know is that Gen Z really cares about transparency. This is a generation that has always had information at the fingertips. So to the extent that you can be transparent and explain to them rationale and reasons why, it's very useful. Also, expecting them to even be open with some formerly taboo topics, such as, you know, salary and compensation, they're talking about it. Transparency is really critically important to them. Perhaps that's the most, the kindest thing, but I also would say vital thing is transparency. Stephen Matini: Very often in organizations, it's not possible to have the level of transparency. Like from my perspective, it seems that a lot of people struggle a lot with organizational politics, which is this invisible thing happening all the time, you know, understanding who's who, who has power, what you can say, what you cannot say. How do you see Gen Z fitting into this web of politics?  Kathryn Landis: I think Gen Z is really struggling to figure that out. And I think it's amplified by the fact that a lot of them, a lot of folks are remote working or hybrid working. So you're not getting that, quote unquote, water cooler talk that you would if you're in the office, and you're not getting the mentorship of some of the more seasoned colleagues that you might overhear if you're just, you know, walking by. It's more difficult for Gen Z to find out. What I've seen organizations do do that ineffective is maybe have like an ERG (Employee Resource Group) for Gen Z so that they group folks can get together and talk about issues that are important to them or topics that are important to them, pairing them up with a mentor that can help them navigate the organization, for example, and bringing folks together in a way that's meaningful. There's lots of talk about how folks don't want to go back to work. Well, they don't want to go back to work and do the same job that they can do at home. You have to think about what is the purpose of bringing people in the office? How can you make it more intentional? And how can you create relationships, collaboration, moments for interaction that can't be done virtually or online? Stephen Matini One of the things that my clients struggle the most right now is to be ready in five years from now, 10 years from now, to a demographics within their companies that would be completely different. And one thing they realize is, how can I keep these people? How do I attract the Gen Z? How are they going to be here? So for anyone who has that issue, you've already pointed out a lot of wonderful things, including on mentoring and such and such. What would you say that are some of the things companies should be really aware of and to be proactive so that they can really create an environment that is ready for Gen Z in the future?  Kathryn Landis: Well, first and foremost, accepting the fact that employer loyalty has changed. Most Gen Z, I was reading some research this past week that upwards of 70% of Gen Z are already thinking about their next job and planning to move the next two years. So accepting the fact that there is not that loyalty and that you have to earn that retention every day. It's a different mindset than that feeling that you're going to be with an employer for five years because that's what you're supposed to be on your resume. Also, majority of Gen Z want to be their own boss. They want to be entrepreneurs. 90% of Gen Z has either their own business or they have a side hustle or a side gig. So thinking about ways that you can align incentives, understanding what their career goals and aspirations are and how you can keep them engaged and doing it in a very intentional way will be very important. Stephen Matini: I saw an interview with Jodie Foster, the actress. She's promoting a new, what is it? TV show now? I can't remember the name, anyhow. And at some point, she was joking with the host that she said, Oh, my God, working with Gen Z is so hard. You tell them to show up at nine and they show up at 10. Do you think this is a fair statement?  Kathryn Landis: I think that is based on different people's perspective. And I can't speak for Jodie Foster, but for many people, it's table stakes to say, if your boss tells you to come in at nine, you come in at nine. For Gen Z, you have had different life experiences than someone of, I'm not sure the age of Jodie Foster, but you know someone else who's grown up in the workforce where you just did what your boss told you to do and it was more an authoritarian style, you know it can be quite shocking. But I would say, you know, to that Gen Z employee, this is why we need to be here in nine. Can we make an agreement about this so that we can achieve X, Y, Z? And it might seem like you're going out of your way or maybe even a little bit ridiculous, but it'll go a long way to getting that buy-in and creating a more fruitful relationship. Stephen Matini: So one of the things that I read about you and your experience with Gen Z, you said it that it seems to me that Gen Z are a generation that is a purpose-driven. Would you mind explaining more this concept? Because it seems to me to be very central. Kathryn Landis: What I mean by purpose-driven is that they want their work to have meaning, to make an impact. You know, they've had a huge impact on politics in the U.S., huge socioeconomic issues. I think Black Lives Matter, you know, gun control. And, you know, they are becoming accustomed to having their voice heard as this up and coming cohort and actually looking to work for and buy from companies that put their money where their mouths at. Are you actually sustainable? Do you actually promote diversity and inclusion? Are you living the values that you put on your website? And so they're voting with their feet. And I think that that is quite admirable, but also puts maybe some of the other generations under the microscope to really do a lot of the things that they said they would like to do or would do. You know, a fun fact that early 2024, Gen Z is going to eclipse baby boomers in the workplace. They're only here to stay. So for all those employers out there that are thinking, oh my goodness, how am I going to manage this? You got to start trying. And you know I'm happy to share more information around that. I have a talk around age diversity at work, a talk around how to lead Gen Z is kind of teasers into helping managers and leaders think about how they can most effectively support Gen Z, but also, you know, the more mature workers in there who in their workforce who might be facing ageism or feeling like there might be left out as well. So you have this dichotomy of both ends of the spectrum. Stephen Matini: Something happened to me recently. I started a program with the company and it was about making everyone more sensitive about age differences, ageism. You know, that was really the topic. And then as we started working with the managers, basically they put together cross-functional teams, you know, and I would facilitate the conversation. But it came out, it came out, well, it doesn't seem to us that it seems to be such a big issue here. You know, we don't think so, although we understand the importance of preparing and to have a culture that is welcoming that type of generation. But anyhow, reasoning with them, what it came out is this one, that every single time they're able to be more functional in terms of organizational synergy, when that is really strong, that's when they're able to really leverage the strengths of every single generation. Whereas when there's no cross-functional synergy, all these generations, all groups, they become separate. They have difficulty communicating. Have you ever observed something like this in your projects? Kathryn Landis: Well, I think that there's no cross-functional synergy, as you put it. There's a lot of problems, and it's not just age-related. So things just aren't going well and kind of goes back to my worst team scenario. So when things are going well, maybe the tip of the, you only see the tip of the iceberg, but you don't notice what's going on underneath, right? But you know once you know maybe the company's not going so well, all that stuff that was underneath the water is there. And that's when, you know, the truth comes out about what's really been happening. Stephen Matini: You work with people and you help them out. How do you preserve your energy? Kathryn Landis: So actually, I get energized by working with people. I really enjoy helping and supporting people because that's what I feel like is my purpose. You know, that being said, I have to do my own self-care. For me, that means eating real food, because I have a tendency to get off on and let myself go with, you know, protein bars and protein shakes, which is not good, you know, drinking water and exercising. So I think all those things, if I can be physically healthy, you know, really impacts my mental health so that I can show up to my fullest for my clients. Stephen Matini: So we talked about a bunch of stuff, you know, a lot of different angles and ideas. Out of everything we said, is there anything in particular that you would say our listeners should be pay attention to?  Kathryn Landis: The first thing that comes to mind is intentionality. So getting clear on how you want to show up as a leader, how you want people to perceive you, and then doing self-reflection to say, am I behaving? Am I showing up in the way that I intend? And I'd also encourage you to solicit feedback. So do you have what's called a personal board of directors in your personal life, in your colleagues at work that you could get feedback to find out how you are showing up? And then asking for suggestions or advice about how you could improve to become that leader that you envision yourself to be. Stephen Matini: If someone asked you, what is intentionality to you? How would you define it? Kathryn Landis: For me, it's being self-aware, you know, being really focused on your behavior, on your mindset, on the way that you are engaging in the world, particularly when you're stressed, right, and all things go by the wayside. That's the moment of truth. Stephen Matini: And going back to we're talking about Gen Z, as a leader, how can it be intentional about my Gen Z employees? Kathryn Landis: Yeah, I think it starts from the moment that you're in the interview, you know, to really share what the values are of your team and of the organization, and ensuring that there is, you know, a good fit there, that there are shared values and alignment. It's important during their onboarding process that Gen Z is connected with the right people and the right tools and resources to feel like they're getting the support that they need, and they're making the agreements that will foster a productive relationship. The more you can do upfront to invest in that relationship, you're paving the way and it will benefit tremendously later on. Stephen Matini: So maybe to those listeners of this episode who are Gen Z, what would you like to tell them?  Kathryn Landis: Keep it up. Be curious. You know, absolutely. Listen. Know that you can learn from all different people. You can learn what you want, how you want to show up and how you don't want to show up. And, you know, look for opportunities to find mentors and sponsors. And if you're not sure what that is, Google it. And I am excited for you and your career and what life has in store for you. Stephen Matini: Oh, thank you, Catherine. I think people are going to feel really good about this. Thank you so much.  Kathryn Landis: Thank you, Stephen. Take good care.
25:48 5/22/24
Simplifying Numbers - Frederic Neus on Unveiling the Power of Numbers for Strategic Growth
My guest today is Frederic Neus, Founder of JK7 Consulting. Frederic is known for simplifying financial management for his clients so they can confidently focus on growing their businesses. In our conversation, we explore the crucial role of financial management in fostering cross-functional synergy.  For Frederic Neus, cross-functional synergy starts with the CEO's clear strategic vision, with goals cascading down through different functions to foster collaboration among departments. Many professionals, even those with business backgrounds, need more financial literacy. For Frederic, this is a significant gap in our educational system, leaving many entrepreneurs and CEOs guessing the real story behind numbers.  For this reason, Frederic advocates the critical need for entrepreneurs to proactively seek professional financial assistance to navigate complexities and ensure the long-term sustainability of their ventures. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or your favorite podcast platform. How do you unveil "the story" behind your company's financials to make strategic decisions? Share your story! Subscribe to Pity Party Over for more insightful episodes. Questions? Email Stephen Matini or send him a message on LinkedIn. #fredericneus #CFO #financials #JK7Consutling #simplifyingnumbers #pitypartyover #podcast #alygn #stephenmatini #leadershipdevelopment #managementdevelopment TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: I was thinking about a conversation, and the one thing that was really curious is; after working for so many years as a CFO, what have you learned to be a successful approach as a CFO to interface correctly with all the other functions within an organization?  Frederic Neus: You need this ability to interconnect with the people and to really interest in what the other are doing.  As a finance person that is always seen as the serious guy and a number, a cruncher, if you don't go to them and get interest in what they do, you are not going to make happen. That's the best way to return and to make them understand, that you will share with as information as numbers, or to open their eyes in order to grow the company at the end. Stephen Matini: You shared with me last time that you tend to be very people-oriented and also you have a certain commercial understanding of a business. Would you say that these two components helped you communicate with other functions better?  Frederic Neus: Yes. There is a difference between a good CFO and a great CFO. A good CFO will be the one that's very technical. He knows his number and he's doing the right business sense and all the technical. To me, the great CFO is the one that has a good understanding of all technical part, but the greatest is a leader with a commercial approach, business understanding people-oriented approach. These two are what is making the difference between a good and a great CFO, that's for sure. From my part, what has made me different in terms of people has always been an increase in the performance of the company because you make people work better in a nice atmosphere. You were speaking before but was collaboration with the other department, that is a key, because if are not business-oriented or people-oriented, you will not get the others participating in all this, which the company overall suffer. And also being people-oriented helps the company overall to have a better people retention, of course in the company and not only in the financial department, but overall. Stephen Matini: Sometimes there's a cultural element within organizations that impacts what it's called the organizational synergy, meaning the ability of all the functions to talk and to work together. Somehow some companies seem to give priority to some function. So to give you an example, lots of companies are commercially driven. So the sales function is seen as “The King” of the company, those are the ones who bring the money.  So in your opinion, when you work in a company in which cross-functional synergy doesn't happen, what would you say that could be a first step that anyone could take to go more in that direction? Frederic Neus: It’s a difficult question. I would say. I don't think there is recipe for that. To me it starts from the strategy. If you have a great CEO, we have clearly defining our goals, our strategic goals, and that there is a cascade of these goals between the different functions of the companies, that clearly defining those goals by the pillars of the company and without forgetting the interconnection between these pillars. All depends on each other's for sure. It all start from the strategy and then you state the objectives and this allows you to have this interdependence between the different pillars, functions of the company as you say. But yeah, obviously I agree with you, “The Kings” are always commercial. Stephen Matini: Why do you think people become so tribal with their function and somehow struggle with interconnectedness?  Frederic Neus: This is a lack of and alignment from the start. Again, you don't that CEO which has that vision and the team spirit of connecting everybody, you have big chance for non-success. If you don't manage as a CEO or as a management team to play as a team, you will keep the silos in the company and everybody will sit there in his silo and do whatever he thinks is good for him, which means that is not good for the company. You have some entrepreneurs, so the CEOs of the company, they are doing it on purpose. You know?  They are keep the people separate. In order for him to have got this link with control with everybody, he is sure that everybody had passed by him, which at the end of the day to me show a lack of confidence in himself rather than anything else. Stephen Matini: I love when you said that you have to be able to tell the story through the numbers. Do you think it's because you experienced both working as a CFO within a company and now as an external consultant providing SCFO services to companies. Would you say that it's easier as an outsider or an insider to tell this story through numbers?  Frederic Neus: There is no black and white. As an inside for sure you already know the company because you have this time of you go to good companies or big companies. You've got this onboarding where you go through knowing everything, starting your job, well most of the time saying that it's everywhere, but you have more time. And from that perspective, I think it's easy. So what we do now as an external, we've got onboarding process, which at the end of the day it's rather technical because you need to get the data, you need to ask questions and everything. But the main purpose of this onboarding process is really to get feel and to ask right question in order to understand what's going on in their company in order to provide them good value as quick as possible. You've got to understand very well the company and the business they are in order to provide the right support and the right value as a CFO, being internal or external, at the end of the day, it's the same. But then if one is easier than the others, I would say that being internal is easier, but we are trying to be as effective as an internal by having this perfect onboarding process. Stephen Matini: How did you choose this slogan, “Making the Invisible Visible” for JK7 Consulting, which is so simple but so great? Frederic Neus: We were in a session in order to get to the right sentence for our vision and mission, we came up with different possibilities and two of us more or less arrived with the same thing. We're trying to bring to our customers that understanding of what is happening in their company, because 95%of the time, they don't know half of what's going on in their company. They don't know all the interesting element that is in their numbers because they don't know how to get there. And so this is our first job. Let's create the right visibility and the right understanding of what is going on. And it's not easy, but with simplicity. Because I mean I already told you about that, but if you, yeah, I'm a great CFO and I'm the best, and then you come up with ratios of liquidity, assets, whatever. I mean your customer which doesn't understand already his number, if you come with that, they will understand even less. If you don't speak their language, you're going to lose them even more. So we create visibility to the past, and then we are going to create another set of visibility, but to the future, a more strategic one. In this scenario, 1, 2, 3, this is what is going to happen with your company if you do that, this is from a number perspective, this is what will happen. This is a nice element because it allows that CEO that we were talking before to start to realize the impact that he can make by doing that that that in this company. And the first element to that, the first consequence to that, is an intangible element, which is the peace of mind. I will never stop mentioning that the peace of mind of the entrepreneur, the boss of the company, this has no price and we cannot forget that. So these are things that are very key in our job and therefore making the invisible visible is to meet the differentiation of what we do. Stephen Matini: A lot of people, well, you would assume people that do business, they must have gone to business school or study business. And yet I'm always amazed to see how little people understand of numbers. And I'm one of those people, I'm definitely by no stretch of the imagination, someone who's just so savvy, but somehow I guess because I've always worked for the most part as a small entrepreneur, I need to make sense of this entire world.  So the question for you is this one, why would you say that a lot of people that come from business backgrounds, somehow they seem to have such a hard time with numbers and to navigate through this complexity of numbers?  Frederic Neus: Finance is complex. It is complex, it's a difficult subject, but if you look at the economy in general, there are people that are making masters and for five years to understand that, then you can expect that these guys, they understand what they do and what they talk about. So yes, economy is complex tax regulations. I mean you go all over the world. I mean it's different everywhere. You understand nothing about that, even the tax guys, they understand nothing about that to be honest. And you've got the financial jargon. You go to big companies for example, and you go to listen to a financial presentation and you are not a financial guy, you would understand 20% of it because most of the words that they are saying in there doesn't exist even in any dictionary. So to me, this is something I always say to my kids as well, the education, the financial education. You go to school, they don't teach about finance, whatever type of finance, even personal finance or how to manage your money properly, nobody speaks about it at school. On top of that, there is indeed, as you said in the business in general, there is a lack of financial background. The basics of the financials for the entrepreneurs, they are not there. But I can tell you that most of the CEOs of these small entities, of that big company, they were not, I would say at ease with financials neither. This is a fact also in the big companies, OK? There is also something which is bad is that a lot of these guys, they don't realize the importance of it. So they don't get the point that numbers are there and needs to be, we need to do something with it. But until the time that you will not have somebody that will explain that properly with your word, you will not realize. Stephen Matini: So let's say hypothetically you are with the leadership team, and you do realize that the people working with you have a little understanding of numbers and they have in front of them in financial statement with millions of different numbers. Where do you bring the attention to? I mean, is there any specific figure on a financial statement that somehow you tend to emphasize first, to simplify the matter? Frederic Neus: We always try to demystify the financial, because at the end of the day, we are the guys, as the CFO ,or a financial team. We are the guys that need to absorb the complexity, which I was telling you before. Well, it looks simple, but it's not. We need to absorb the complexity of the numbers and tell a story to the guy that is in front of you, whomever it is, that he will understand from his own point of view with his own filter in order for him to understand. So it is quite difficult. It's complex because one is different than another and it takes time, but the quicker you get there, the better it is for the company. And this is not black or white because it can be different from the company to another depending on the industry they are in. But most of the time we have a five or six element that we are trying to speak is always about revenue for sure, because it's an important element. It's not the most important. I want to be clear on that. You have the gross margin, which is really, I take an example. If you are selling goods, so you've got your revenue, so how much your customer is paying for that, and the cost of it, what you are paying to your supplier to buy these goods, if you are distributing these goods. One minus the other is the gross margin. So it's really the business, what it costs you for that business. The percentage that go with it, so gross margin as a percentage of the revenue, this is always a relationship that you're trying to do. Then you've got the net profit, which is important because below between that net profit and between the gross margin, there are a lot of elements like the remuneration, you know, whatever costs you've got in there. And then cash, cash is important. So we are tracking cash obviously, and mainly in SMEs is even more important. And then we've got the working capital aspect. So we keep it as important because that's the balance sheet element and you're tracking the day-to-day of the company. When you look at working capital. Stephen Matini: As you said, it's about telling a story. So in any story, an element that is super, super important is the conflict. And so in the story of an entrepreneur, based on numbers, who would you say usually is the villain of your story?  Frederic Neus: We are trying to avoid any bad guy I would say, because at the end of the day, the story that we are telling to our audience. If the numbers are good, there will be no bad guy. I would say if the numbers are bad, there will be different bad guys all the time. So at the end of the day, we are always trying to share the story in the more positive approach as we can, because otherwise we are already perceived as the bad guys, us as financials, because we are always pointing the finger to something bad that doesn't work. You have to always approach it in a positive way and explain to your counterpart with bringing solution on the plate, and do you agree with this solution? What elements you can bring on the table that will help us to find more solutions? You always need to position yourself as a coach, basically. Stephen Matini: As an entrepreneur, what would you say are the signs that would make me understand that I need someone like Frederic to come in and to help me out, so I need a professional financial management assistance?  Frederic Neus: Whatever the size of the company you have, you need financial assistance from the start. I have the feeling that we are at pivotal points where more and more people are getting to entrepreneurs rather than employees. And to me, we are at a point where the SMEs will need to last longer than the human generation. To make it clear, we'll need to build companies which will last for longer. Because now when you look at the bankruptcy rates, it's crazy. I mean, it's increasing year on year and you had a lower peak at Covid because I mean the States stopped putting bankruptcies. So this is an element which for us, it's our vision, this will happen. What we are playing in this is that we want to play a role in that by doing what? By bringing the clarity, which I told you, and creating that strategic visibility to the entrepreneurs in order for them to play along the game with a sustainable growth. And of course with the peace of mind, which we cannot forget, I told you before. When you look at that, generally speaking, you've got two to three different type. The first time is the company which are reading in trouble. When you are sick, you feel bad and you go to the doctor, most of the time it's already late because you didn't anticipate and do something about that. So we have this type of persons, which are already in a very bad situation, sometimes close to bankruptcy. You've got the other one, which is also in a bad situation, but already not that bad. And then he needs to start thinking about that because he sees really signals that he's entering into a turbulence. And then the third one is the one that are growing. I mean the one that has this company and it's booming. And then it start to see, am I doing the right thing? Am I going into the right direction and everything? So most of the time we've got these three scenarios, but I need to tell you that the first one is the one that is coming. The question that they have most of the time is simple. I have profit, but I don't have cash. So how come what's going on? I don't see my family. I'm working like hell and I am going nowhere. We are in June and I don't even have the numbers from the last year. I want to do an investment, but can I do it? I don't know. I would like to hire people, but can I afford it? I mean, I'm doing everything. I'm doing my invoice, I'm doing this, I'm everywhere. I need to meet my clients. So that's really the situation where the people are in a complete mess to not to say something else. And then I have a rapid growth, a big expansion, and I'm not in control of the thing anymore. So this is a point where you need to realize that you need to be backed up with somebody that has the right knowledge to put to implement the thing. You enter into complex financials transactions. You are thinking of raising capital, for example, because you need to get either loan or you need to have a new owner on board, or ... I mean these are signs also, or you do a mergers for example. These are signs that you need somebody that is going to support you in this. I mean, I was saying sometimes you've got numbers, but you're not sure they're right. And this is always something that happen. You've got big debts and you don't know how to manage them. So there you come back to the cashflow. Where am I going with my cashflow? What's going on to happen? You have your costs which are not under control, so you are spending to hell and you don't know where and you don't know why, and you are not negotiating properly with your suppliers or you are in doubt about that. Business valuation needs for example. I mean, this is also another element which is important. I mean, people are always looking at today, okay, what is my profit? So also you need to understand that your company has a value. And more organized your company will be, more you build a system that is working alone, without you no dependence on yourself, more the value of your company will be obviously. Stephen Matini: What would you say that is maybe one thing that you would like our listeners to focus on based on everything we said?  Frederic Neus: The point is that you cannot do it alone, it's impossible. I mean, you are the pilot of a company, but any plane, there is a copilot. You need to be challenged by somebody. You need to be supported by somebody, and this can be done with a person that is going to help you, to bring you all this experience and to be this day-to-day challenger. And most of the time, finance is the topic that is not under control. I have my accountant, but the accountant is doing the accounting most of the time on an external basis, and they do a great job these guys, you need to be honest. But what we bring to the companies is not accounting, we are really giving them strategic advice on the day-to-day of the companies in order for them to grow, and to gain that peace of mind. So what I would say is that the people cannot do it alone, and they need to be challenged on a daily basis and to have an eye opener in order for them to have this peace of mind and that grow mindset. Stephen Matini: So you help them write their story. Frederic Neus: Yeah. Bringing clarity to their day-to-day and to what they do, et cetera. I mean, that is not that difficult, even though it is if you want to do it properly and with the right point and to put your finger where it's really painful for you to understand. But again, the story you will explain, it's key. Most of them what they do now, they receive a financial statement from their external accountant, which has been done on a yearly basis. We do that, but on a monthly basis because there needs to be that recurrence of the numbers because that's the only way that they need to be. It would be in their head. So the recurrence is very important, it's very key. They will start to fix their objective by looking forward rather than backwards. So when we do our monthly calls with our clients or our monthly meeting with our clients, we spend, I would say, fifteen minutes to the past, and I would say one hour and a half to the future because that's what you need to talk about. I mean, what am I going to do now that I know what happened in order for that to not happen anymore or for that to happen? So you have to shift your mindset to the future and to the solution rather than the past. Stephen Matini: It's all about having someone who has experience to support you, and I love the fact that your approach is positive, is about simplifying, is about looking forward. So I love it. Thank you, Frederick, for everything you taught me today. Thank you.  Frederic Neus: You’re welcome. Thank you.
28:00 5/15/24
A Purpose Bigger Than You: Finding Success through Learning, Helping, and Loving - Featuring Paolo Gallo
Paolo Gallo, author of, The Seven Games of Leadership and The Compass and the Radar, brings a wealth of experience from his leadership positions at the International Finance Corporation, The World Bank, and The World Economic Forum.  Paolo stresses the significance of aligning our decisions with our genuine passions and skills. He also underscores the importance of clarity in discerning our priorities and recommends embracing confusion as a regular aspect of self-discovery. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Please check Paolo Gallo’s books The Seven Games of Leadership and The Compass and the Radar, and use the affiliate links to support Pity Party Over at no additional cost to you. How do you navigate life transitions while maintaining a sense of direction and purpose? Share your story! Subscribe to Pity Party Over for more insightful episodes. Questions? Email Stephen or send him a message on LinkedIn. #paologallo #thesevengamesofleadership #careerdevelopment #pitypartyover #podcast #alygn #stephenmatini #leadershipdevelopment #managementdevelopment TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: Have you always had clarity about the trajectory, what you wanted to do? How did  it work for you? Because for a lot of people, they find out who they are and what they want to be later on in life. Even myself, I take all kinds of detours and turns and I learned about myself as I went, but your career seems to be so very clear, very almost like if you knew where you were going, at least that's the impression that I got. Paolo Gallo: I believe I had, but not because I'm particularly clever, but because I had clarity in what I wanted to do in my life since my early twenties and without tending to many things. But I started to study economics mainly by default because they said, oh, law, I think it's too boring, medicine, I faint if I see a drop of blood engineering. No freaking way. I don't understand mathematics. So I chose economics mainly by default. So it wasn't really totally convinced choice when I started university, but as I was studying this subject, all of a sudden things start to make a lot of sense. You study economics, finance, strategy, marketing, accounting, human resources and law and sociology, and all of a sudden I start to see a puzzle that fit together quite well. And then in the third year, I studied human resources and organizational behavior and bingo, I said that's exactly what I wanted to do. And I haven't changed my mind since then because I've always been passionate about developing people and organizations. And you may see that the last 30 years, that's pretty much what I've been doing in different contexts, in different organizations. But I have this clarity of thoughts and clarity of feelings about what would be my trajectory since my early twenties. And now that I'm in just turned 60 recently, I like to think that I've been doing what I loved for the last 35 years and I've not regretted. Stephen Matini: Amongst many different experiences, and that you work in human resources really a super high level, you work for the World Economic Forum, for the World Bank. What is your fondest memory of the time, something that you may have accomplished that somehow is really dear to your heart?  Paolo Gallo: Listen, more than accomplishment, perhaps, there is a story that I also quoted in some of my speeches now because I start working for the World Bank. And yeah, I was happy, but I wasn't a hundred percent yet into the role. And a few months into the role, my boss asked me to go to Africa and been to Ghana and then to Senegal. Our first trip to Africa, I remember the driver said to me, listen, I'll take you to a village where I come from. And so we went to this village and then he showed me, said many years ago in this village we didn't have a well, and my mother used to walk seven kilometers each way just to get two buckets of water. And it was polluted water and it was a dangerous journey because it's full of a wild beast. And then the UN War bank came the build this well and for extra stuff and the life of our village changed. So it took me to see his mother. Of course, they I speak the local language and she couldn't speak English, look at each other and the mother hug me. And I have to say that's the moment which I realized why I joined World Bank, why I was doing what I was doing. So more than an accomplishment, I like to think that the moment in which I realized the purpose of that organization was exactly there. So it didn't come rationally, it didn't come, cognitively came from my guts and my heart, and I found it was a very important moment in my career to build this sense of purpose that perhaps I didn't have so strongly when I was working for Citibank. Stephen Matini: As you're talking, I'm thinking of the word success, which means the different things to different people. For you, success is connected to purpose?  Paolo Gallo: Yes. My first book, I start with a story. The name of the book is called The Compass and the Radar. And I kept on telling the story to myself and also to people that listened to me, including now because my father once, when I was at the beginning of my school, literally I was six years old, he told me, Paolo, please remember every day you go to school if you learn something new, if you helped all the people and if you love what you're doing. And that's the reason why I call the compass of success because to me, my own compass has been quite clear my own mind to see do I learn something new every day? Did I help somebody or at least did I do something helpful and do I still love what I do? If you have clarity about these three questions, then the rest, I don't want to say it's marginal, but it's not so essential because I think the motivation comes when you are linked with a purpose that is probably bigger than you when you love doing what you're doing, so you are able to deal with some of the difficult moments that you are having in whatever journey you're taking in your life and the helping others are dominion a condescending way, but in terms of building relationship of trust with individuals, that is going to last forever. So relationship cannot be only transactional, which I refer to you only because I need you to be based on trust. So you have the clarity about the learning, the helping and the loving. I think you have a clear definition of success. Stephen Matini: Everything you say sounds so wonderful to me and these are also values that inspire my own career. In your career, have you always met people that welcome this way of thinking or were you some sort of a weird ball?  Paolo Gallo: I wish I could tell you absolutely yes, and in which case I would be on delusional or on the drugs. So once I told my daughter, everybody loves 007 movies because there is a villain in the movie. Now without a villain, you must think that the movie is quite boring. So you meet villains in your journey, you meet people that are, let's be English more than Italian, not particularly pleasant or helpful. And this is a moment where you have to verify the solidity of your values. You confront yourself with what I'm prepared to do. Oh, you're not prepared to do in a given situations. So the answer to your question absolutely no, but I think that overall, if you look at my 30 plus years experience, the number of good guys are overwhelmed, the number of bad guys, some of the big guys are really bad. There are one or two in particular that were absolutely awful as human beings, but these people pushed me to confront my values and to stand on my feet and once it cost me my job because it was fired by one of them. But what I consider at that time shameful, I now realize that it's actually probably my biggest achievement inside professional life. Stephen Matini: The concept of staying true to oneself is really central to your thinking, to your approach to life. What is the difference between a compass and a radar?  Paolo Gallo: The compass is remembering what you stand for. No, it is a value and I'm referring to, it is the definition of success, which is not about visibility or fame or money or power, but it's about meaning. It is about helping and it's about learning. And the radar is the capacity to open the window to see what's happening outside. Because one of the features that I realized in my own life, I met a lot of phenomenal people, incredibly good in doing what they were doing, but for some reason they lacked the intellectual curiosity to go one step further, to stand the effect of whatever technology that is an impact in their job or demographic or whatever. So the radar is the capacity to maintain this intellectual curiosity to keep on learning and also in psychology called contextual intelligence, the capacity connect the dots and to know how a given topic will have an impact in whatever activity you perform in your role or sector or position that you have in a company. So I think that if you have a clarity about compass and intellectual curiosity about the radar and you keep it open all the time, you may end up in a good place if you're exclusively focused in doing very well what you've been doing, you become a prisoner of what I call the better game. In my second book about The Seven Games of Leadership, the better game is great, you improving, doing what you're doing, but there is a moment where perhaps it becomes a trap it because if you keep on doing well what you've been doing, maybe you'll miss that something else that is happening. The example they provide is VE were produced in the best type machine in the world and then one day they that nobody was buying them anymore, but they didn't focus in developing computers and the thought were to business literally in 36 months after 60 years of a successful journey. The same happened with individuals. So I always encourage people to say, listen, you may be credibly good in doing what you're doing, but please try to anticipate what is coming next because if you are non reactive move, then you may end up in a difficult spot. Stephen Matini: Would you say that someone can balance the inner dialogue with all the stimuli that comes from the outside? How do you think that you can find the balance?  Paolo Gallo: In my second book, the first chapter is called “What the Fact Moments” because there are a lot of events that derail our attention to and our focus, and sadly we had a lot of these moments in the last few years from Covid to the world in Ukraine, and what's happening right now in Gaza, is a continuous derailed of our tension and our focus. Not to say that what's happening is not important, but to say that most of the time we spend time in focusing on something that is not relevant or we cannot change. Okay, or a very limited the first time is to say, are you focused in what really matters to you? And focus doesn't mean obsess and you ignore everything, but being aware of what's happening around you doesn't mean that you are not focusing on what you should be doing. That's one element. The second element is I ask also my clients in coaching and conferences, two very simple questions. One is from 0 to 10, how proud are you of what you've achieved? And most of the time people say nine, eight, they look with pride with what they have achieved and rightly so. And then ask another question, which is from 0 to 10, how proud are you of what you've become? It really is a powerful question. And when I ask this question, usually people immediately stop and they visualize the delta, the difference between the effort that they put in achievement and the unfocused of becoming. And sometimes ago, I will not tell the name of the person obviously, but I'm coaching several CEOs, people that are running huge organizations, thousands of people, billions of revenues, and one of them probably the most powerful that I'm coaching, and you remain silent for a few seconds and they started to cry and I didn't expect this reaction and I said, what's happening? And I said, yeah, listen, my salary, my compensation, you know that I'm on newspaper every other day, but what you don't know that I have three failed marriages and three of my four kids that don’t want to talk to me anymore and therefore I failed completely as a human being, as a father, as a husband, even if you see the image of a very powerful rich individual. I don't want to have a psychological analysis of the individual, but it's really to be mindful that it's like the two muscles that you have in both arms. You have to develop the achievement side, you have to get stuff done, you have to apply the knowledge in so concrete, but you also have to grow as an individual. And that's the focus of my book, The Seven Games of Leadership. They tried to explain the seven phases of personal development that are a prerequisite to become a credible leader in whatever organization, contest, community, operating. One question that ask people, and funny enough, I mean it's not funny because it's a bit of a sad example. He came up today on a Italian newspaper. There is a former soccer coach called Ericsson that used to be the coach over the English national team and also some Italian teams here. And they said, oh, I have cancer. I have one year to leave. So I asked question, to myself and other people, if you are given one year to leave, would you still continue doing what you're doing? If the answer is yes, that is great. And if the answer is absolutely not, I would leave it tomorrow morning. Then my question is, do you need to have cancer to reflect about this question? And here, of course it's not because I wish people anything bad, but it's simply to say, okay, can you think that if what you're doing right now makes sense to you as an individual? I'm trying to push people with my coaching session and with my speeches and with my book to think about essential questions, not about when can I get my next other increase or maybe next promotion. Stephen Matini: One of the question that I ask myself that allows me to understand whether or not I am aligned with myself is would I want to be somewhere else in this moment? Quite frankly, I'm very happy to be here. This is exactly where I am. I'm enjoying myself, I'm doing exactly what I want and I know that this is time well spent. Sometimes I don't have the kind of luxury we all have to work and do things that we don't enjoy as much. But knowing the difference, knowing when I feel that way and when I don't feel that way, I think it makes a huge difference, particularly moving forward and making choices. They are as much as possible, they resonate with me. Paolo Gallo: This is actually a very good point, and just to provide another practical example, yesterday I just opened the May because I wanted to read. I was contacted by one head and to say, dear Mr. Gallo, I hope you're doing well. Please let me know when I can call you because I have a very interesting role that I'm sure you may be interested in considering. Can you give me your phone number, I’ll call you ideally by the end of the week. And I said, thank you, Mary, but I'm really not interested in any role because I'm too much fun in doing what I'm doing right now. And she said, okay, thanks for letting me know. I didn't want to sound arrogant, but just the idea that all a sudden I have to go back to nine to five, it's never been nine to five, it's been nine to eight maybe with a boss and maybe if I'm lucky, I can take a week off at Christmas and maybe two weeks in August. That's not the life that I've for me. So I think it's important from time to time to take stock of what you're doing and also to understand in my book, there's a concept which is called congruence. If you're congruent with who you are, if you are in the right place, and as you said, if you feel like you want to be there, it's the same with people, and I work with your wife, with your husband, with your kids, if you'd rather be somewhere else, then you're in the wrong place. If you're so happy, maybe to have a soup with your wife and you prefer soup with your wife and then maybe being alone in the Maldive, then you are in a good marriage. Sometimes time is important to have a taken stock and to reflect rather than just being moved by actions and getting stuff done. Stephen Matini: In hindsight, everything is so much clearer, in general, but if you could do it all over again, I mean your professional career, and if you could have known back at the time one of the insights of your book, The Compass and the Radar, which one would you use? Paolo Gallo: I tend to trust people. And in few occasions, I have given trust to the wrong people, and this is a mistake that I've done more than once in my life by falling in love with people, situations and professional of course, and then being deeply disappointed at the end of the journey. But at the same time I feel like, okay, should I become paranoid and distrust everybody? I prefer to be disappointed 10% of the time that never be disappointed, but never to enjoy any conversations. So that's perhaps one on one point. The second one is probably I got worried too much about situations and people and perhaps now that I'm different age, I could have taken more likely situation that were maybe difficult, but not necessarily life-threatening or dramatic. But when I was in that moment, the entire world was evolving, relating to these quota problems I was trying to solve inside of human resources. So in retrospect, perhaps I should have not slept, lose a lot of sleep over our performance management process or our pension system or the recruitment of somebody that I did in the past. Stephen Matini: Are you still an adjunct professor? Are you still teaching or you don't?  Paolo Gallo: Yeah, I do. I do is part of my activity and I think that what I do is that in terms of coaching, writing or magazine or books, giving speeches or seminar or workshop and teaching is part of the same debate because everything feeds everything else. So when you give a speech, you have to get prepared. When you get prepared, you have to study. When you study, you become a better professor. When you become a professor, you get better feedback when you get better feedback. So I think everything is correlated. So I like to think that whatever I do is part of a cohesive puzzle that makes sense to me and that's what matters to me. Stephen Matini: How old are your students on average? Which age group do you teach to?  Paolo Gallo: I do executive education. So I used to do undergraduates, I now do executive education, executive education, it really depends, but probably people between late thirties to early fifties. So people between, I dunno, let's say 12, 15, 20 years experience, they want to go to the next phase, they want to go deeper in certain topics and I kind of enjoy because these people already had a significant portion of their professional life behind their back and saw the very deep and meaningful conversation about problem. I've learned all the time by talking to them, next time actually be on Tuesday when I will be talking to 270 people in Milan and I have two hours, but I always say two people I want to have half of the time for questions. Anytime I give a speech, I say, I don't mind if you give me three hours. I'm not going to talk for three hours. That's a long one. But I want to have a list time of half of the time are located for my contribution for questions because question is a way to reflect and to also understand if whatever you said has an impact on the people that are listening. Stephen Matini: What is the question that you hear more frequently from your audience about career, career alignment and such?  Paolo Gallo: Well, listen, several of won, but if I go back to the book that's been just released, The Seven Games of Leadership, it has been released in October and I've done so far about 22 or 23 presentations now this book and quite lot of people, they were quite well prepared and already read the book. And what I love is when somebody believes that what is written is being meaningful to him or to her, not because they fell in love with the line with a quote or with the lyrics, but because bingo, that's exactly where I am right now. To give us specific example in The Seven Games (of Leadership), that is what I believe is the most difficult game of all, which is a crisis game. And the crisis game is a moment that usually occurs in your mid forties, but it could be a little bit earlier, a little bit later where you scratch your head and you're thinking, do I want to do the next 20 years of my life the way I did the last 20? So in soccer terms, do I want to play the second half the way I played first? Usually the answer is no, I don't. I want to do something different, but I still have not figured it out what it is. So what really gives me joy is when people read the book or maybe listen one of my speeches or read one of my articles and come back to me, say what was written is exactly the way I feel and therefore there is a validation not about the validity of my book, but the validity of the instruments that offer to the readers. And this is a moment where I feel that whatever I'm doing makes sense not only to me but also to other people. Stephen Matini: Do you remember the time when you got the first spark about this book, The Seven Games of Leadership?  Paolo Gallo: Yes. I mean, of course. I shared the story at the beginning of the book where I always asked my daughter, she's now 18, what have you learned in your school. Two years ago over Christmas holidays? She said, daddy, but you've been asking me this question for many, many years now it's my turn. What have you learned.  And I said, shit, that's a powerful question. So I asked a little bit of time to reflect, and then I told her the story and she said, daddy, I love your story. Why don't you write a book about it? And that's why I wrote this book. What I told her is to say, listen, I met thousands of people in my life now in my professional life, in interviews, seminars, workshops, coaching webinars or whatever, and that's been wonderful. But what I realized that I did not meet a thousand of people. I had the same conversation a thousand of times because certain topics, certain challenges comes regardless of any of the variable, okay? So you can be a banker in Switzerland, you can be agriculture specialist in Washington, DCO, you can be an engineer or consultant in whatever company. There are issues that comes up regardless of the job that you're doing. And as reflecting about the conversation, the topics, I realized that were seven clusters of issues that came up. And I noticed that there was a sequence in these conversations, and rather than call them phases, which is a kind of a Jung definition, I call them “games,” because every game implies the understanding of the rules and the capacity to go from one to the other because you cannot get stuck in one game from all the entire life. So I was triggered by a conversation with my daughter and then the rest followed up based on my reflection and some hard work to come up with that book. Stephen Matini: What would you say that is the biggest difference in terms of leadership, what we need today from a leader, compared to what the need for leadership used to be, I don't know, 20 years ago?  Paolo Gallo: When I proposed my book to Bloomsbury, they asked a very good question and the question was, Paolo, do we need another book about leadership? And the answer is no, probably not, because there are thousand of them every year, millions. If you write leadership on Google, you have a 15 million century and definition, the stories are so different. So should I add another one to the very crowded and intense topic? But I also realize as I've been working and studying leadership for many years, and I think I've worked with a lot of leaders and them, you have three school of thoughts when it comes to leadership. One school of thoughts is tell you what the leader should be doing. And so it is a focus on the deliverables, and this books are very technical. They focus on KPIs and business models and this kind of stuff. The second school of thought is to say, actually this is what the leader should be. And so you described some ideal behavior, probably more meaningful to me than the former one, but at times is a bit aspirational. And at times also they indicate stuff that very difficult to reconcile and quote an article, let’s say a leader should be somebody with 30 years of eyes on, but being able to get a profit every quarter, which is kind of difficult to being able to reconcile. The third school of thoughts that I saw is you take a leader and you describe what he or she has been doing, and they say, just do what Steve Jobs has been doing and you'll be fine. That's very interesting to read, but the contest is completely different, your brain is completely different and it's very difficult to say you can be the new Michael Jordan, if I'm telling you about the life of Michael Jordan. I mean it's difficult to get there. But what we realize that there are very little, if nothing, except in other disciplines like psychology or other discipline, they said, how do you grow as a leader? What I mean by as you grow as a leader is not how you become from manager to director to director to vice president to vice president to managing director. Now it's how you grow as an individual, which is a prerequisite for you to be a leader. And I haven't found a lot on that topic. So I wanted to fill this gap by saying, listen, if you want to have a to do list, it's not my book. If you want to be list, maybe there's some element of it, but it's not there. If you want to see the autobiography of the story of a very famous individual, there are plenty up there. I'm trying to help you out in understanding what could be or would be your journey for you to understand where you are and for you to reflect and perhaps to continue your journey with your own thinking legs and critical thinking. That's the overall purpose of this book. Stephen Matini: Is it connected to what we said at the very beginning of our conversation, the meaning and the importance of knowing your purpose?  Paolo Gallo: Yeah, I mean that to me is very important because I'm a very simple guy. I mean in a very humble and genuine way. When I say simple, it means stupid. It means I've clarity about what is essential. And to me, I always ask myself, when a nice people, when are you at your best and which activity when you perform, you lose track of the time, when you are in the zone, and you see with kids, kids when they play, they even forgot to eat and they even forgot to go to the toilet because they're so focused in the device, doesn't matter. And it's a beautiful things to watch because they're so into the game, they don't care about everything that is around them. Okay, why? Because they're freaking focused. And let's go back to the beginning of this conversation. So then when you ask the question about when are you at your best, I realize that I'm going to be best when I have a total autonomy of my time. And two, when am I helping organization teams of people to grow. So I realized that if I were to do an activity where I can do this with autonomy, then I will be at my best. And why not your best? You produce wonderful results, and when you produce wonderful results, people come to you and you don't have to worry about money. But if you start by thinking, oh, I want to make a list of 10,000 per month, and you start to devise a way of tricking people, it just doesn't work. I'm pushing people to think, when are you at your best? When you lose track of time, when you find the energy to do it? And equally, what are the sort of activity just thinking about makes you sick, tired, disgusted, bored, annoyed or disengaged? Because focus on the stuff that gives you energy and then you probably have a direction of your personal and professional life. Stephen Matini: I really do believe that if we focus a hundred percent on our truest talent, what makes us happy, that's usually where you find all the solutions. It's just that for myself, that happened later on in life. If I'd known that at twenty, probably I would've made different types of decisions I think. Paolo Gallo: The day before yesterday spent one hour with the daughter of very d friend of ours that is struggling on that decision, and I realized that was a huge amount of anxiety and pressure related to her decision about her professional life. What I found helpful is to remove elements that pollute in your decision making because they're not essential in your final decision. Let me give you an example. This is a person that has brilliant, severe, she's speak three languages. She worked for six or seven years. She's now in her early thirties and she doesn't know what to do next. And one question is maybe another MBA or maybe completely change sector. So there were a lot of stuff, and she has an element about logistic, about should I be stay in England or go to another place? One element about what's about my boyfriend, we love each other and I don't want to be distanced. One element about finance to say, well, some of the MBA are very expensive and I can't really afford or maybe ask for more money to my family. Some element about should I been able to do maybe work? And B, at the same time, there was a lot of stuff that is very difficult to reconcile. So I'm asking people to say, remove what is not essential. I'm not saying the money is not essential, but you should not get married with somebody because maybe he has available by the sea. No, you should be married with the person because you love it. No, if there is also available by the sea, even better, but should not be the decision that drives your final outcome. So when something creates anxiety, usually is because there are too much stuff to handle at the same time and you have to remove stuff from, it's like when you put things in order in your bedroom on your dining, no, you have to remove stuff and then all of a sudden you have clarity when you focus on something that is very meaningful. And one it exercise that I ask people to do is exercise or visualization. So close your eyes and you open your eyes and you have a day in front of you, which day do you want to have? And if the answer is, I hate thinking about going to university, then issue is not the money. You don't want to go there. But if the answer is Jesus, I mean I really would love to learn more about artificial intelligence and I dunno anything and I'm fascinated by this topic, et cetera, then you have an indication that perhaps this is a good avenue. So in decision making, most of the time we feel blocked because the decision is, I'm going to say a funny word, is constipated by too many staff, the blocking the fluidity of your thinking. So remove stuff that are important to consider but not essential on the first place. And then step by step, you can end up having a much better decision making if you have a methodology that allows you to drive a decision in a meaningful way. Stephen Matini: So as of today, what is your definition of clarity? How would you define what clarity is?  Paolo Gallo: Perhaps by understanding what is not essential? And what I mean by this is I just been to a restaurant with a friend and you go through the list, they say, no, no, no, no, and then you realize what you like. To me, it's also clarity about what you're not good at. It's clarity about what you're not interested in doing, in the capacity, as I wrote in my book also to let go certain things that are perhaps not relevant anymore. Let me provide an example because again, I always love giving examples. When I was a in human resources at the EBRD European Bank for Reconstruction Development, I set up a group for the head of human resources of international organizations. And so in 2004, I organized the first meeting of head of human resources and there was a success and there were about 60 of them coming from all over the globe, head of human resources for international organization like ... , the World Bank, the IMF, the United Nation, the NATO, et cetera, et cetera, WTO, WHO and ILO, and this kind organization. Great. And the second year I was the keynote speaker. I was at the board and for about 16 or 17 years, I've been participating as a founder with another guy called Pierre of that group. Then I left, stopped being head of human resources in 2018. And on LinkedIn I saw that these former colleagues of mine were organizing a meeting and I wasn't invited. And part of me was very disappointed and very hurt by the fact that, look, I've been the founder, I created this group and now they don't even acknowledge that I created and I don't even invite me. So I was upset for a good couple of weeks. Then one day I thought, but I'm going to say Palo, you have decided to do something else in life. You have decided to be an independent thinker, to be a writer or a professor, author, et cetera, et cetera. You have removed your T-shirt with head of your resources, why you even care? And so this clarity of what is not essential helps to be focused on what it is. But if you don't have that clarity, you may regret that, oh my God, I'm not part of the group, but part of the group was part of our role that I decided not to have anymore. And therefore, clarity about what is not essential usually helps in understanding what you're to focus on. Stephen Matini: Do you ever get confused or fuzzy about what to do next? Or are you always clear?  Paolo Gallo: I’m clear after the confusion. What I mean by this is, and I'll give you maybe another example, mindful that you are close to the end of this conversation now. When I stopped being an HR director and I became an independent consultant, coach, also a professor, whatever you want to say, I use this analogy, which is I felt that I opened an ice cream shop with 50 flavors because I was able to do many things following 30 years of experience and studies and MBAs and blah, blah. I made available a lot of services to a lot of people, but then ended up doing coaching with one person, the revision of a performance management process to another organization, developing a leadership development for another one, doing a workshop for somebody else and teaching the university. There was a lot of stuff going on. So it was a bit of a confusing moment for me. But then at the end I said, okay, if I were to have an ice cream shop and now summer is over and I closing the ice cream shop, what did I learn by looking at the clients that came to my shop? And I realized that most of the clients wanted to have three or four flavors. I mean, nobody want to have a banana ice cream, but everybody want to have a chocolate ice cream. So what does it mean to me? It mean that clarity about what the clients wants to have first point. The second one is interested in developing the best chocolate ice cream in the world. If the answer do it and dismantle and stop producing banana cream in, the answer is no. Maybe you suggest somebody else for the chocolate ice cream, but you produce something that is still relevant for the client. So what I'm trying to say is confusion is part of the creativity process, but you need to have a methodology for you to say, what did I learn by listening, by working and by being in different debates with different people. And then you can have clarity about what did I learn at the end of the season? So what did I learn by listening these people? And if 80% of the clients asking three things, then preparing 47 dishes makes no sense. I think it's much better to prepare four dishes and do it brilliantly well. And that's pretty much part of the learning process that I've learned when I became an independent consultant by say, I don't want to have a menu with a 75 items. I want to do four things, but incredibly well. And if somebody called me to say, Paolo, can you do a performance management or bonus system? I know how to do it, but I'm not interested in do it, and I have people that can do better than me. And so I call this guy, I need to sell this and call our, call this company. They can do better what I can do, but from the average plus. But these people will do a super job. But if you want to have a super job, please ask me these three things and I'll deliver it to you. So confusion is a necessary part of the creative process provided that you have a process perhaps to provide clarity at the end of this confusion, Stephen Matini: This conversation is a delight Paolo, I really love it. Thank you so much for your time. We cover so many different things. Is there anything that you deem our listeners of this episode I should focus on? Of all points that we touched?  Paolo Gallo: Well, first of all, Stephen, the pleasure is mine because always great to have a meaningful rich conversation in a psychologically safe space, and you've been able to provide this. I'm very grateful for your kindness and also your intellectually stimulating questions, so I'm grateful to you. The second question is, I think that from time to time, I always say to people, we are human beings, we're not human doings. And from time to time is helpful, and perhaps the beginning of the year is a good moment to do this for a second pose and reflect about where you are in your journey. And it's not about I'm a manager making 3000, I want to be a director making 5000. That's not really what I need. It's to say, where are you in your journey as a human being? Have you not only achieved also become? Have you invested in improving yourself as an individual, not only in terms of making more money or having more power? And so I know it sounds a bit of a commercial, but reading The Seven Books (of Leadership) could be perhaps a moment of reflection that can help the reader to understand where he or she is and to understand how to continually progress in your journey as an individual. So I don't want to, sounds like please buy my book because frankly I make one euro per copy. So I don't care because you don't write the book to make money. But I think I wrote the book for the sake of supporting people in their professional development and perhaps reading my book could be a way, not the only way, but a way to achieve that character Stephen Matini: And probably Bloomsbury said yes to “another leadership book” because they sense that it's not just a leadership book based on how you describe it. So I'm going to get it. I'm going to read it. I'm going to get inspired. Paolo Gallo: Thanks so much, Stephen. It's been such a pleasure and I hope I will. Professional path will cross again and grazie and thank you so much for your time.
42:26 4/23/24
Lifelong Learning: Unlocking Your Endless Potential - Featuring Dr. Marcia Reynolds
Our guest today is Dr. Marcia Reynolds, one of the most influential figures in the coaching world. She has contributed to the industry through groundbreaking books Breakthrough Coaching and Coach the Person, Not the Problem. How do you make time for learning and growth with a jam-packed schedule? When we stop learning, challenges feel like giant puzzles. To succeed in the many facets of life, Dr. Reynolds encourages us to make learning a core value. Lifelong learning is not about seeking perfection but the journey of a lifetime. Dr. Marcia Reynolds suggests “wandering” as the mindset of curiosity where we ask questions, challenge assumptions, and remain open to learning from others. Despite years of experience or expertise, it’s vital to maintain a humble attitude and acknowledge that mastery is an ongoing journey that unlocks endless potential. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music or your favorite pocast platform. Please check Dr. Marcia Reynolds' groundbreaking books Breakthrough Coaching and Coach the Person, Not the Problem and use the affiliate links to support Pity Party Over at no additional cost to you. How have you carved time for learning in your busy schedule? Leave your comments, thank you! Subscribe to Pity Party Over for more insightful episodes. Questions? Email Stephen or send him a message on LinkedIn. #MarciaReynolds #Covisioning #Coaching #Curiosity #GrowthMindset #Learning #PityPartyOver #Podcast #Alygn #StephenMatini TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: Have you always been this way? Has it gotten easier to be a learner as you mature? Are you more of a wanderer today compared to the way it used to be? I mean, how does this work? Marcia Reynolds: Those are kind of two separate questions and as you ask the question about learning, it's almost like for different purposes at different times in my life. But I do have a value for learning and I don't know if that's an inherent value or inherited value you because it was, you know, a very important part of my culture that we get educated and we learn things and we question, which I really love that I was taught very young to question not just accept always. I can remember that wanting to just hunger to learn more about this. If I hear something I wanna know more. I don't wanna just take it at face value. But the look of learning, you know, has changed over the years. I mean younger, you know, is pursuing lots of degrees and I think if I was independently wealthy, I would continue to do that. I was blessed with liking school, not all the teachers, but, liking to be there and have access to things that I wouldn't normally have for myself for learning now, you know, it's very focused because I really want to, I'm so focused on coaching and understanding how coaching works so we can do it better and better that the learning is down a lane, but it's still there. I'm still like hungry to learn, but just for different purposes. I think though the, the important thing is that it is a true value, not just something I have to do, I need to do. I like it. So to really commit to learning, even if you don't quite like researching, what is it that would be most fascinating to you that you'd just like to know a little bit more? You know? So go down a path like I've now narrowed my path. It's not learning in general, but learning for purpose. Stephen Matini: When people, sometimes that happens to me. When people tell you, I don't have time to learn, I'm so busy, what would you tell them? Marcia Reynolds: Well, first I would ask them, so what does learning mean to you? You know, because obviously you have a picture in your head of what learning is, is maybe like sitting somewhere and reading books and maybe you don't have time for that or going to school. But if learning is just going places and listening, like last night I went to just an hour class, you know, that I wouldn't normally do. I usually would sit and watch TV. But I went to this and it was fascinating. It was an area that I would not even have normally thought about, but it sounded interesting. Last week I attended a discussion group. It was a dinner meetup discussion group, and we ate and, and talked about certain topics and I got to meet people. So you can combine learning with networking, even in a meeting at work to sit there and to question what has led them to believe that help me to understand and maybe ask to meet with them later. Could you tell me what were the things that led for you to believe that that decision was most correct? I'm just really interested in your perspective. So being interested in a perspective is even learning. So what is it that would be useful for you to know a little bit more about and you know, how could you then engage people in a way that you could learn without, you know, having to go somewhere to get it? Stephen Matini: Have you noticed over the years a change in the way people approach learning? Marcia Reynolds: Well, as you were saying that it, it sounds to me there's a connection with, I think I don't have time, so whatever it is you give me make sure that I can use it right away. Although I'm not so sure that's new. Being that I was, you know, used to run training departments and my second master's is an instructional design, it was always how can you make this applicable? That's nice if they enjoy just sitting and listening to you talk. But if it doesn't change what they do is there an ROI? But I know that over the years, like even yesterday, is changing their summits and she says, we decided we need to do it more workshop. You know, where people are engaged and they're doing things and they know then how to use it when they leave. I think there's more of a demand to interact. We've always known that was important to learning, but I think there's more of a demand for interaction so I can apply it now. So it's just an evolution. I don't see it as a change. Even my book that's coming out in a few weeks, it's kind of like the next version of coach the person, but there's far more resource tools and exercises and you know, it's an interactive guide. It's something that you work with. That's how people get the concepts of what I'm trying to teach, you know? So even I went that way with writing the book to make sure that there was more things that they could actually engage in and do mostly with others, but even with themselves. And there's questions all through it. Not just to ask when you're coaching, but to ask yourself, am I willing to give up being the expert in this situation in order to engage and coach people in a different way no matter what. Whether it's, you know, being a leader or part of a family, I think the who are you is really important. So I do see engaging people's minds and their doing as becoming more and more forefront in how we teach. Stephen Matini: Because you've been around coaching for such a long time and you're still so deeply passionate about it. What is coaching to you today compared to, I don't know, maybe five, 10 or 15 years ago? Marcia Reynolds: I signed up for a coaching school in 1995. And so I've been learning and coaching for quite some time. In working with or taking my foundational breakthrough coaching program and making it self-study, I had to sit and watch 32 coaching demos that I did since 2020. It was torture. But what was fascinating to me to see even my evolution from 2020 to now, so, you know, and I've been coaching over two decades that I'm still, you know, learning and growing and that I went from coaching 40 minutes to now I 15 minutes and we're like, breakthrough and done, you know? But I found that the real shift was when I really stepped into that being that I'm totally curious about this person's way of seeing and the questions that come from me is, is my being of being with them as a thinking partner of fully stepping into that and not being the expert and not being the person who needs to lead them in any direction, but really, really, really, I'm gonna help you think. And so every reflection and question I use comes out of this interaction. We have to explore their thinking and as they explore their thinking, it expands. You know? And the more that I believed in that and, and was just that, you know, just blended into that being the more profound the coaching was, you know, it went deeper faster and it created insights that changed their minds and how they were gonna do things in a much quicker, memorable, sustainable way. You know? And so I think as in anything we learn, you know, the foundational skills you have to do that. And then we're much more deliberate and conscious, consciously aware of what we're doing. And as we get better at it, it starts to sink in and we don't have to think about it. And to the point where I can finally create a collective space with this person, that what shows up in between us in our conversation is what's incredible to both of us. It takes belief, it takes trust, and it takes practice. And I fortunately have been around long enough that I've been able to really get that into my bones. But I in the process, continue to learn what that means. You know, what exactly is am I doing? I'm not sure, but let me see if I can parse it out so I can then write about it and share it with other coaches so they get it, you know, in service of what, it's been a an incredible journey and I'm, I can't wait to see three years from now how different I'm coaching than even now. Stephen Matini: When you look back to your career as a coach, is there one specific contribution or client or something that you are super, super proud of? Marcia Reynolds: There's always this one woman that comes to mind that she was tough. You know, she was resistant. She'd get angry with me, but I just stayed in in that what I did was just ask her a question. And I knew that the question I was asking, I wasn't leading, but I knew it would challenge, but I had the courage to ask it anyway. She needed to explore this, you know, if we were gonna go any deeper, this was a block. It was interesting because the day we started, she was like, and she worked for a global pharmaceutical and I'm like, so what is it that that you really want to that create from our relationship? She goes, I need to change positions. I should be CEO of this company and they don't get it. And then she was like, I think I need to leave because they don't understand me. And I just said, we've got six months here. Could you gimme that that we could explore this? 'cause I would really like you to, to absolutely choose where you're going based on your needs instead of leaving behind what you don't like. And she did and we explored what, who she was as a leader and what was really possible and what she wanted to create. And after that she ended up running a medical clinic and then ended up being the head of health and human services for one of our states here. And the next time I saw her, she had her limo pick me up at the airport. So I would say that that was a great, great thing 'cause she would've just leaped to some other job. You know, this comes back way back to when you mentioned about wandering. You know, you can wander with intention to the next challenge or you wander because you can't stand what's going on right now. But you know, when you first asked me the question I'm like, wow, there's so many, you know, like the woman that was a general manager that they were divesting her division, she wanted to be CEO of, of the new company and she ended up getting the position. They hadn't weren't looking at her that way when we started. So there's been quite a few shifts. Many of them been women I've, you know, coached men into seeing themselves as the leader that's going to really create a difference, you know, which is different than what they thought they were going to be. I've done a lot of that too. So there's a lot of moments I'm proud of, you know, but there have been some profound accomplishments, I, promotions, accomplishments, being that people have done, even the ones that have decided that it was time to move on. I coached a bank president for eight years that now runs a stitchery shop and she's happy as can be. So I think that's why I'm so passionate about coaching is that there's all these ways that we affect people's lives without telling them what to do. You know, or giving them our best advice that they discover, created, have the courage to go there is just always so delightful to observe, you know? And to have the privilege to be a part of that process is just amazing. Stephen Matini: Delightful and privilege are beautiful words to describe that feeling. Do you still, probably not, but do you still ever get anxious about, okay, I have to be present, but I need to perform? Or at this point you just are? Marcia Reynolds: For the most part, I don't think when I'm coaching, so it's not really there, you know, when I'm working with coaches, doing demos, teaching, and even when I'm hired by companies, it seems to be not a problem anymore. I don't question it sometimes when I've had individuals hire me, you know, and there seems to be an expectation. I just had a request just this week and the person he described is like incredible. And, and I really thought, am I gonna be able to just let go of being in awe of this person and challenging when the challenge needs to happen? Am I gonna be able to do that? And I'm glad I'm asking the question because if I don't feel I can do that, then I can't coach the person. But it is interesting when it does , it's like, okay, so what about this intimidates me that normally, you know, anything else wouldn't, but it still comes up Stephen Matini: What's mastery to you? Because we love to learn, learn. So do you ever reach mastery or it's just this thing that you try to achieve and never get? Marcia Reynolds: Well, you know, it's interesting in, I think it was 1999, the ICF pulled together who they thought were the hundred top thought leaders in coaching at the time, but it was, so it was quite a while ago. And we met in Vancouver and they broke into tables. And my table had that got that question, is there a destination? What is mastery to coaching? And what we all agreed to was that it's not a destination. You're always on a path of mastery. It's not a path to mastery. One of the people, Richard Heckler, is a multiple black belt Aikido. And I took Aikido for five years and we talked about, you know, in martial arts you never are the master. It's always a path of mastery. There's always more to embed and to develop and to be that. Maybe there are a few masters, but even they will tell you that they're still learning. And so I think that when you look at that concept, that's the same with coaching. If you feel you've made it, I mean, it's like the, the whole thing. There's no such thing as a comfort zone. You're either moving forward or you fall backwards. So, you know, I think that's the same thing and that I get a lot of comments from experienced coaches on my demos and LinkedIn and you know, that attend my classes and they say, wow, I had forgotten. You know, I got to a a a bit of complacency thinking, okay, I am a great coach now. And then watching you going, oh my , there's so much more. And people always say to me, I mean, they may call me a master. I'm like, no, no, no, I'm on the path too. And I have the, the great honor to teach it, which keeps me learning and growing as I have to learn more. Like I said, I, I'm doing this mastery program, it's gotta be different. When I first did this, a man who's become a friend of mine, his name is Alan Briskin, and he wrote a book in 1990 called The Stirring of the Soul in the Workplace. And that was pretty out there for 1990. And I remember I was running a training department for semiconductor company and I remember finding that book and like, oh my, that's what happens often in the corporate world, is the soul gets degraded or lost. I followed his work and then when I first published with my publisher, we had a retreat and there he was because he worked with my publisher and we've become friends. He's written a number of books on collective wisdom. It was at the beginning of the pandemic. I hired him. I said, Alan, I really wanna bring collective wisdom to coaching, so I wanna hire you. And he says, well, I'm not gonna consult with you. We're gonna have 90 minute dialogues. And what comes out of the dialogue is going to be whatever it is you learn. Exactly. You know, it's like coaching. Yeah. You know, I'm not gonna tell you what to do, so let's just have this conversation and see what emerges. It was fascinating. We did this like twice a week for three months. I mean, I so look forward to it of what came out of it.   And he said too, how much he learned. 'cause He didn't know that much about coaching and everything that we'd talk about. I'd say, okay, so let me put this in a coaching context. He was just so fascinated about that. So I didn't go to a coach, guru master, I went to someone else who I saw had mastery in something that we could use in coaching. There's so much of that that exists, you know, I mean even like there's that one coaching school that uses a lot of Buddhist thought. You know, there's so much more in disciplines and modalities that we can take from and integrate to deepen the impact we have in coaching. Obviously I'm fascinated by, you know, okay, so what's next? There's never an end point. I think we'd get bored if there was. Stephen Matini: At the beginning you said that being a learner and a wonderer, those are two different separate questions. So who is the wonderer then? Marcia Reynolds: So when I was getting my doctorate and it came time to do my dissertation, you know, I went in to learn the whole neuroscience of learning and leading. But everything I wanted to do, I thought, I'll never finish this in, in this lifetime, you know, and I understand why a lot of people are a, b, D that never finished their dissertations, you know? And I was sitting and listening to this man speak and he was talking about the difference of men and women in the workplace. And he was so wrong. You know, as he described women, I'm like, that's not me and that's not the women I coach. I you don't have a clue. Then I went out and I started researching and you know, they were defining women and their challenges all the same. We don't speak up, we don't lean in, blah blah. Which is, you know, some women don't, but a lot of them do way too much. So I chose to research smart, strong women in the workplace. And what I found with the hundred women in my research study, the most common thing was that they wandered, they'd go into a job and within a couple years, you know, they were excited. A couple years they were bored, not enough challenges, not enough places to move unless it was a huge global company and they could maybe do some lateral moves, weren't that interested in climbing a ladder. They were interested in movement and learning and growth and that it had to be significant, it had to be meaningful. And I was talking to a man that works with archetypes and he said, oh, they're wanders, you know? And I'm like, oh my, I'm a wander. I did the same thing. I would go only stay with a company five years, you know, went from this to this to this jumped industries. I didn't care. If I had no idea what, what the company did, I'd figure it out, you know? And then I wrote the book Wander Woman, based on my research and from the book, a lot of people came to me and even, you know, a lot of the younger generation of men saying we do that too, you know, like maybe our fathers would stay with with organizations for a very long time. So there wasn't a stereotype that it was just women. But I think women still do it more when I'm finding my coaching, that they're more willing to leave and trust that they'll find something that they're not going to like, not have anything. And so wandering, it isn't just a learning and and wandering in my mind being me, it's actual physical wandering, you know, the whole been there, done that, what's next for me to learn and to grow. Yeah, learning has something to do with it. But again, because learning is a little bit more, you know, mental, where the wandering is physical. It's so funny because when I talk to people and in my mind I'm like, oh, you're a wanderer. And I remember him making the distinction. There are settlers that will go in and create amazing things and then stay, you know, like some of your major CEOs and then they stay, they settle. So there are settlers instead of wanderers. And not that they settle, you know, but that they settle in to what they have created and they wanna stay with that. More wanderers is like, I go there, I create great things and now it's time for me to move on. I did until I found coaching. But even with coaching, I couldn't sit and just coach all day, like some people do. I do a lot of training. For many years I did a, before the pandemic, I did a lot of speaking at conferences, writing and there's many times where I'm just sitting and writing. So there's a lot of wandering to what I do within this business that I've created. So it keeps me going and I'm creating new programs this year, you know, and it's like, okay, so you said you're in your fifties, I'm 68, you know, it's like, well is there gonna be a time I slow down? And I keep thinking, yeah, I think there will be, but I don't know when , you know, because it's still so fascinating. There's so much to learn. Stephen Matini: Do you prefer coaching over other tools or you like them all? You like training just as much as coaching, just as much as writing, speaking, or do you have a preference? Marcia Reynolds: I do like writing. For many, many years I was a writer, teacher when I first came into coaching, when people would ask me, it was very difficult for me to say I'm a coach. I do like coaching, but I think I like writing and teaching. Writing to me is sharing. It's not like just sitting down and writing a fiction book. It's what I see is needed. When I teach, let me write about it. To me, they kind of go together. I do not like sitting and doing all my teaching by Zoom. So the pandemic like killed some of that. Oh yeah. I love to teach, well not 3, 4, 5 hours by Zoom, you know, at some point that's gonna be done with either, you know, I do it live 'cause I prefer to do it live. I'm fine with tr People are like, oh, you can stay home now. It's like, no, I don't wanna stay home . I wanna be out in the world with people. So I prefer, you know, live training, writing and live training. But then I'm always doing a coaching demo in every program that I do pretty much. And so I guess you'd still say I coach, you know, when I teach, so it kind of blends together, you know, a lot of times when I speak and they're like, so tell us something that people wouldn't know about you. Well, most people wouldn't know this, actually, I think the last 10 years of my corporate life was, I wrote Fiction, you know, I've got like three books up on a shelf, maybe one day I'll pull 'em out and fix 'em up, update 'em in a little bit. That was the way I dealt with my stress level of, of working and primarily male tech companies where I was often the only woman in the room and I'm not a big person. I had to be loud and annoying and all of that , you know, so I get it. It was like such a a, a nice escape to write the fiction. Stephen Matini: You think it's possible for an executive, let's say CEO, to be a learner and a wonderer? Because those people to me, I work with, a lot of them are big loners oftentimes, you know, very much misunderstood. Oftentimes they cannot share a lot of stuff, a lot of pressure, and they have to produce results. So is it possible for them to really have a learning and, and a wonder, a mindset. Marcia Reynolds: Under mindset? Well, you know, it's interesting 'cause a lot of it was over the pandemic. I was coaching a number of executives in this company and the CEO I wasn't coaching him, but every now and then he reached out to me and said, you know, I've just been reading this book and I it could we just talk about it? You know, and he was all over the place and what he would read and you know, but you're right, he didn't have anyone to talk about it. But what often would happen was his exploration then would create a little bit of conflict of values with what had to be done in, in the company. And so part of it was having to resolve that I cannot live by the values that seem to be developing and coming through me and work with these people. So again, it comes back to the concept of what is learning. In my last company, one of the reasons I, I attribute my success to is to this champion I had when I started. We had a program together, he was like the head of quality and he quickly moved into being a director and then in our time together a vp and now he's like the senior vp and you know, he to the CEO and a huge company, we would argue a lot. But in the service of learning what he loved, to really dig deep into what it was I was teaching. I remember this one other VP said to me, I think I wanna support what you're talking about, but honestly I have no idea what you mean. This other guy would like, I'm not sure what you mean, like, can we like explore this? And so it was like two different ways of looking at it. I don't know what that means. So I'm not gonna spend time with it or I dunno what that means, you know, help me understand, you know. So it's a different thing that I even think when le leaders really get into a coaching approach with people that what they're doing is an active learning process. See, I see coaching as a learning technology. I do not see it as productivity, problem solving therapy. I don't see it. I see it as a learning technology, you know, and that was what my research has been since the late eighties is on learning the creative insights that we spark. It's a middle band process. It changes perspective and creates sustainable change. And in learning, that's what we're looking for is how do we create sustainable change? That's what companies want. But it comes a a a lot out of curiosity just to start there for a leader to turn to someone and say, you know, that's interesting that you're saying that you don't think that this has a long-term sustainability. So tell me what sustainability means to you. That's a coaching approach to get the person starting to think about what they just said. But it also gives the leader a chance to look at maybe there's a different way this person is seeing this than I do. So we kind of learn together. So just asking, what do you mean by that helps us both to learn in that moment that we can possibly expand our perspective or at least understand what's going on in a different way. You know? And then getting into, so what are the things that you considered that led you to believe this, you know, would be a second question, which again makes them think about it. You know, maybe they haven't considered everything. And also for you to see as a leader, what are some things maybe I didn't see, you know? So again, we learned together just by those two questions, what do you mean by that? What did you consider to bring you to this point, to this belief, to this decision? Powerful stuff in just two questions. Stephen Matini: So you say coaching, it's a learning technology for sustainable change. So of all the possible words that you could have chosen, why did you choose technology and sustainability and sustainable? Marcia Reynolds: Well, again, remember that I come out of 11 years of working in the tech world. So it's part of my language. So as a technology, I like it better than a methodology. 'cause The word method then is very limiting. Where I think a technology is really an overall process and that I see it as a part of learning. And that the technology of learning sustainability is because that's the word, you know, again, in in especially in the tech world, they're looking for sustainable change. Sustainable change, what creates sustainable change. And in learning, that's what we're looking for. You know, people can come into my class and at the end give me all the happy faces and say, oh this was so fabulous, I love this. They try a new communication technique or something and it feels awkward. They go back to old behavior. So what's going to jump over that block that it feels weird. I'm not going to do it, you know, because I'm the leader and I should be perfect or whatever that is. And so I find that coaching bypasses that and gives them a little bit even more courage and confidence to stick with what they've learned until it becomes a part of who they are. In that sense, it creates a sustainable change. 'cause I'm working with who you are, not just what you do, which is what creates the change. Now I'm not talking about skill-based learning, you know? 'cause That's a different thing. I, I see you do it, I try it and then I do it myself. That's, you know, a standard. See, do try, do whatever. Talking about like leadership and personal growth, Stephen Matini: You published several books and now in a few weeks a new book is gonna come out. Do you feel as excited as other times? Is it different this time? How do you feel? Marcia Reynolds: It's different in the sense that coach the person is such a huge success. My previous books have done well and they still sell, but coach the person was off the charts. One of my is now one of my publishers bestsellers, you know, and so I, it there's both the, okay, so most of the people that bought that, it's gonna buy the next one. So it should do well. But there's also, what if they don't like it as much as this one ? So there's always the comparison. What if it's not as good as, and I've never met an author that didn't go through the process of while they're writing the book thinking who's gonna read this? Or you know, they're gonna judge this is not good. Or they're gonna see this as it's just replicated what I said before, you know, and all the negative things that people can say about it. You spend a year of your Saturdays sitting in front of a computer creating something and you're like, is it really worth it? You know? Which is just normal process that I think authors always go through. So I'm sitting here now like a few weeks away from the book launch and going, what if it flops not likely to based on the success of Coach the Person. But there's always that question and you know what, so what if it did? The people who will benefit from it will find it. Stephen Matini: What is your biggest hope for this book? Meaning let's say I get your book, I read it. What would you hope for me to get out of the book? What is your hope, your biggest wish? Marcia Reynolds: Well, you know, I think that's what coach the person taught me was that even to this day, every day I get people from around the world connecting with me on LinkedIn saying, I found your book. Oh my God, thank you. I really, really understand coaching now and I've gotten so much better because of your book. And then you know, all the other things that you put out there. I want the same thing that, oh wow, you know, I was really getting it and now I have an even deeper understanding of what it is I'm trying to create and how to do it. I want them to just feel more confident and believe in the coaching process that if we stay in coaching, you know, really being their thinking partner and not revert to, you know, 'cause I always get the question, but what if they really, you know, need me to tell them? What is it that led you to believe that? Most of the time I find people do have the answers inside of them. They're just afraid to apply what they know. That's what we're doing. If somebody had absolutely no, no experience or idea of what something is, then probably they need a little bit more guidance. But even that, I've had like people who were brand new leaders and said, but I've never been a leader before. And I always say, yeah, but have you worked for leaders? Yeah, well what did you like about them? Or what did you hate about some of these leaders? Boom. We get into the conversation. I don't have to tell them what a good leader does. You know, they know, they come from the, I've never done this before. I don't know how, but they do have perspective. You know, can I pull that out first before I assume that they need my brilliant advice, changing their mind, really shift the connections and the neurons is what we're aiming for and telling them, pacifies the brain, you know, we coaching activates the brain. Can I activate their brain? That's what I'm aiming for. Stephen Matini: You know, after an hour of listening to you, now I know why. I have heard about you so many times. You are a goddess. Thank you so much for this lovely conversation and for, for giving me your time because I've learned a lot and even probably more important, I feel peaceful that it is something really valuable when you have the privilege of talking to someone still so young and so curious, but with this amazing experience that you have. And so thank you so much. Marcia Reynolds: Oh, you're so welcome. Thank you. This was really enjoyable for me as well.
37:15 4/16/24
Beauty Unveiled: The Power of Beauty to Thrive in Business, People, and Life - Featuring Prof. Peter Hawkins
Our guest is Prof. Peter Hawkins, a well-known figure recognized for his work in systemic coaching and developing coaching cultures in organizations. Professor Hawkins presents beauty as a transformative force, urging individuals and organizations to align with their core values for a sustainable and harmonious future. Beauty is found in authentic, vulnerable moments and genuine connections between people, emerging through acts of kindness, compassion, and service. Advocating for a move away from transactional leadership, Professor Hawkins calls for a model that recognizes each person's inherent beauty, fostering belonging and mutual respect. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Contact Prof. Peter Hawkins Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen Matini #PeterHawkins #BeautyinLeadershipandCoaching #SystemicCoaching #Purpose #Beauty #SustainableFuture #PityPartyOver #Alygn #StephenMatini TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: You are such a prolific author, how did you end up writing so many books? Prof. Peter Hawkins: I started off by writing chapters for books where people said that, well, I write a chapter on this one, the other. And then since then, each of the books that, that I've written is because a real need for a new approach. So my first book, which was around supervision, was because, you know, I'd become a supervisor and discovered there was no real guidance for supervisors and that every supervisor did something different. Thought, well, you know, we need something that kind of puts this together. And then, you know, when I got on to writing about, uh, coaching and systemic team coaching and leadership, it's always because I got to the edge and can't find what I want to learn next. So end up writing it, and by writing I discover what I know, but also I discover what I don't yet know. Writing is a just a lovely practice, as always, discovering. And, and I suppose I've always been an integrationist, wanted to work across disciplines. And so by writing I'm, I'm able to kind of integrate stuff that has come from very different traditions. Stephen Matini: And it's interesting because you are such a big, big, big name in coaching, but your books are infused with, um, so many different ingredients. So they're not just your typical coaching book. And then, um, I remember last time when we talked about your latest book, which I think is, is still has to come out, right? The beauty in leadership and coaching, the way you explain it to me, it seems to be the last discovery in your journey and somehow it puts together all the ingredients that you have found along the way. Prof. Peter Hawkins: Well, it kind of tries to set coaching, leadership, organizational development in, in a larger context, where in that larger context is both on the one hand about evolution and about epistemology, and it's another level about spirituality and ecology. Basically, in that book, I am very much looking at the great challenges that we face as a civilization and saying at root, they are all interconnected and at root, they are all symptoms of the fact that we haven't been able to evolve human consciousness at the speed of which we have changed the earth. So beauty, I am using as energetic force as a guide to help us on the return journey from how we've shrunken our, our consciousness, our way of engaging with the world, from participatory consciousness to collective consciousness. And then the white European world, we, we, in American world, we've, we treated further into from the embodied consciousness to brain consciousness. And then we've retreated even further into left hemisphere. And I'm seeing beauty as a force that awakens us to that which is beyond us, that which comes knocking our door and takes us by surprise. And so the notion of following beauty is awakening, if you like the taking us out of our left hemisphere into our whole brain and add our brain into our, our hearts and our guts and our embodied knowing and back into relationship. Stephen Matini: One thing that I often see particularly business people doing, they tend to focus on business. You know, they're just business. And instead of most of my motivation, most of my creativity, I get it from stepping out the whole realm of, uh, business. And my background is in humanities. So for me, humanities, literature, theater, music, steel, is a huge, huge source of inspiration. And I believe that you and I share some people that are really dear to our hearts. You talked to me about William Blake, you talked about Dante, uh, Rumi. Why are these people so important to you? Prof. Peter Hawkins: First of all, I'm fascinated by you saying about business or busyness. What is business? I'm just interested, what what do we mean by business or what do we mean by organizations? An organization exists because there is a purpose or something that needs doing that requires collaboration. And that collaboration requires organizing. Actually we could say that business is a mode of responding to what's needed and necessary, but it's become an end in itself. So the purpose of the organization is to feed the organization so it can feed the organization so it can feed the shareholders so it can, so there's something wrong with business. We've all got business to do, but the business should never be an end in itself, which is why I also in my books around teams say we shouldn't talk about high performing teams. The goal is not to be a, a successful organization or a high performing team. Prof. Peter Hawkins: Those are a means to an end. And the end is to create beneficial value for all the people your work serves. So trying to get us away from means to purpose is important. And we don't create our purpose. We discover it. And I think that people, you mentioned Dante Mena Ian, Rumi ha real, William Blake Ridge, Shakespeare, , let's bring in some of the great, uh, w Wang Wei, the Great Tang Chinese per they go to Essence, they go to the heart of purpose, and they go beyond the restrictive separating individualism of the modernist western world. They reconnect us. Nna Jin Rumi says, why in the plenitude of God's universe have you chosen to fall asleep in such a small dark prison? And beauty is, if you like, what are the keys to unlock the prison? Stephen Matini: Do you find it hard, easy possible when you work with um, clients, let them enter beauty. Prof. Peter Hawkins: I put it the way around that my job isn't to let them into beauty. My job is to discover the beauty and what they are in them and what they're doing to uncover the beauty. This is there rather than believe that I know where I need to take them. Stephen Matini: It is true when the organization tap into the purpose, the soul, the beauty, that's when magic happens. But in my personal experience, it's not always possible, you know, to unveil it with clients. So when you experience that resistance to change, whichever you want to call it, what do you do? Prof. Peter Hawkins: If a client says to me, uh, but what matters is the bottom line, I would say, so Steven, what is the bottom line? Tell me about the bottom line. If they say, well, it's the, the amount of profit we make at the bottom of the page, I'd say, and, and what is the purpose of that profit? So we can reinvest and what's the purpose of re well so we can make more? They've stopped. At a full bottom, my job is just to Dr. Open the windows to what is beneath that bottom Stephen Matini: With this latest book, what do you hope that readers will take away? Prof. Peter Hawkins: I just received an amazing email this morning from a beautiful black woman in, in in America who just talked about how just reading the first chapter, 'cause I'd used it as a handout on the program, had let her whole body shaking and just brought up so much for her and inspired her to write a poem that she sent me. And honestly, it, it brought me to tears. I just thought if more people have that reaction, it just opened up so much for her in terms of what was buried within her that needed to surface. And if I can help people just open a window to a, to, to a wider perspective, I can help them see beyond our own imprisonment and break out some of the constriction. 'cause if it helps them, then they can help others. If it helps the coaching profession move from being expensive, personal development for the already highly privileged. And it's not about self-improvement, but it's about what is the world knocking on our door asking us to step up to. It can move us from a, a individualistic self-orientation to a service orientation. And not just service of humanity, but service of the more than human world than, than I feel I will have achieved a small part of my business, of the work I'm being asked to do. Stephen Matini: You will have to stay on this planet forever because , there's a terrible need. Prof. Peter Hawkins: All, all our job to do is to do what is responsibility of our generation then to pass the torch on. But you know, the reality is that my generation is passing on a much more depleted and challenged world than we inherited. And that weighs quite large. And I wasn't say on my shoulders, it weighs large in front of me. What is our responsibility in terms of at least doing what we can, what little we can to help the generations that come after us face the bigger challenges that come after us? You know, I spend a lot of time saying to leaders, you know, what are your major jobs as leaders? I I was in South Africa in a very big gathering of MBA alumni from across Southern Africa. And I started my talk 'cause I'd followed a very inspirational South African politician. I just stood up and I said, please stand up. Prof. Peter Hawkins: All those of you in the audience who are responsible for developing the next generation of leaders across Southern Africa. Of the 400, probably about 50 stood up. They were the HR folk. And I said, I don't think you understood my question. Please stand up if you are responsible for, for supporting the next generation of leadership across Southern Africa. I had to ask it three times. And eventually everyone stood up, look around the room. These are the people who are gonna help you and you are gonna help them develop the next generation. So please turn to the person next to you and ask them what do they most need to learn this evening to step up to that responsibility. The phrase I often come back to, and I'm also a lover of Michelangelo and the beauty he liberates. Yes. Although as Warren Bennis points out, we have to remember that the Sistine Chapel was not just done by Michelangelo. Prof. Peter Hawkins: He had a team of 30 people. So he was a great team leader. He was a, a great orchestrator of, of others. It wasn't the work of one genius and he was part of an extraordinary time in community of artists in in Florence. And the line that I often come back to and use with individuals and teams and organizations and communities is what can you uniquely do that the world of tomorrow needs? They don't try and be anyone else because all other places are taken. What is it that can only be done by you? Because nobody occupies the place in the wider interconnected universe that you occupy. There'll never be a another. Stephen, that's one the just things that got me so excited writing this book in the whole billions of years of creation that we know about. That's only what we know about. There's never been a repetition. No, no organism has ever been created the same as a previous one. And when we have children, every child is a surprise. It's not 50% of the father and 50% of the mother is a, it's a unique never having been created being, it's never existed in the whole history of creation. Isn't that a miracle? Stephen Matini: It's an impossible statistical weird thing that happened somehow. Prof. Peter Hawkins: The the line that came to me when I was writing the book is that creation is in love with becoming. So I said that, it goes back to your question about why do I write books? I don't write books to tell people what I know. I write books to take myself to my learning edge and to discover between me and what I'm writing about, what is trying to struggle into consciousness at my best. I don't write them. Stephen Matini: Have you ever felt in your entire life as you were trying to discover something could have been the brand of a book or whichever something you want to achieve. Have you ever felt, God, what if I don't get there? You know, kinda self-doubt. So maybe you didn't feel that the beauty within yourself or somehow at some point you felt, God, I'm lost. I don't know if you ever felt it that way, but if you did, how did you overcome it. Prof. Peter Hawkins: At the end of writing this book? I thought, but I haven't got to what's needed. And then I remind myself that if I stayed with that, I'd never put the book out. I've had my book on leadership team coaching and my book on supervision going to fifth editions, fourth editions. And, and I end up apologizing for what I've written in the earlier editions. You know, because at some point we have to say, well, it's not enough, but is it good enough? Because who said all, all the way to heaven is heaven. And at some level we just have to, to stop trying to be perfect and put out share where we've got to, uh, in the hope that will help other people on the path behind us, but also people alongside us to go further on the path. A lot of our doubts are just ego contortions. Prof. Peter Hawkins: You know, they just take us back into, am I good enough? Or all the internal chat. And I think somewhere to do what we need to do, we just have to say that doesn't really, all that doesn't really matter. Yeah, we, we have to have doubts because that's what leads us into furthering inquiry. And I think certainty is more dangerous than doubt, but doubt can be a interruption when it starts to catches an internal hesitancy and self-doubt. And rather than to say, well actually I need to get on and do what is showing up in front of me is necessary to do Stephen Matini: For me. Probably the one thing that I guess I've learned only later on in my life is the fact that simply because the process is sometimes is not pleasant or doesn't feel pleasant, does not mean it's wrong. Whereas before, you know, when I was much younger, I was all, oh, I should not be feeling this way. You know, if I were really, really good at this, I should not be going down this route. And now I really believe it is a process. And in the process there's space for everything. There's space for moments in which I feel great for, for great, great doubts for sure. Prof. Peter Hawkins: You see, I think the thing that helps me in the moments of doubt weigh down, depressed, is at that moment you can either go into grumble or into gratitude. And if you can, and I can't, I didn't say I can, but if I, I can hold to the path of treating everything that happens, absolutely everything that happens, however awful as a generous lesson from life, I may not like it. I may feel burdened by it, I may feel inadequate to respond. But if it's a generous lesson from life, then it is a gift as well as a burden. Stephen Matini: I do gratitude it, but I also do a lot or feeding myself. Prof. Peter Hawkins: I think it's a deep trust, not my trust in life. Constantly becoming my trust in that is greater than the trust in my own emotional reactiveness. So I always believe life knows better than I do. I think this shouldn't have happened to me, but that's not I gonna achieve anything. Life's decided. That's the next thing I have to deal with. And it's a generous lesson. So the choice I have is do I see it as a generous lesson and learn from it or I do. I see it as some awful thing I'm a victim of. But, but I do have a choice saver. Stephen Matini: Last time when we talked, I asked you what is the opposite of beauty for you? You remember what you said? Prof. Peter Hawkins: I think I probably said, well, at one level it's ugliness. Stephen Matini: Yes. You said, um, it's solipsistic narcissism, you know, dualism you talked about, but ugliness, I think it wraps it up better. Prof. Peter Hawkins: Um, well, well solipsistic narcissism is, is ugly because it fragments us and divides us from that which we are a part of. You know, the the image that came to me just then was, um, Philip Pullman's novels where everybody has an animal Damon that is part of them. And, and they do these experiments to, to s children from their animal being self. It's alongside them, which is what we've all done in the modernist western world. Solipsism is ugly because it is, it's a severing of that which lives in connection and great poetry that we talked about is if you like, sewing us back into connection, it's opening the windows to, to a world beyond. Stephen Matini: Sometimes it does feel that this ugliness is getting more and more and more. And sometimes I do wonder is this because of the fact that we are so hyper connected? Is so we are constantly exposed to a lot of negative type of information. How do you feel about it? I mean, you know, o over the years being someone who has experienced it so much, do you see this ugliness more prevalent today, more dangerous today than it used to be? Or just simply has always been there? Prof. Peter Hawkins: I feel in myself that it is growing the openness that we're talking about, but we need to balance it with, we live in a world where actually a, a smaller percentage of people are dying from wars and murder than ever probably in human history. Number may be greater, but percentages more. And there are ways in which we have become more, more moral. But at the same time, I think over the last 500 years, the modernist revolution of science, secularism, individualism, colonization, capitalists, the trying to control the world around us and the human search for control has created enormous ugliness at the moral level and a world which we have greater mental distress and mentally honest than than ever. And yet we are richer, more affluent, more educated, more educated in knowing about the world and far, far less educated in being in and connected within the world. Stephen Matini: If a young person, let's say someone, a young professionals, you know, 19, 20, 21. So let's say if someone around that age that is kind of trying to figure it out where to go, um, asked you what practical steps can I take, you know, to somehow handle this ugliness, you know, because it is so depressing. What would you say that are steps, you know, some first steps that, that the person can take? Prof. Peter Hawkins: I have people around that age come as wolfers worldwide opportunities on our organic farms and they come and stay with us. And, um, I would say go out and wander through the garden. They wander through the woodlands and just be open to whatever speaks to you. Just listen to the more than human world. Let it be your teacher. Don't try and just master everything. I'd ask 'em about who inspires them and what inspires them. I might ask them. And what do you really love in your life to try and reconnect them to source and away from knowing about? I jokingly say I have wolfers come and stay with us because they fill in the gap between my children and my grandchildren. My children are all in their forties and my grandchildren are between nine and 15. So I just love talking to young people in their twenties. Mind you, I love talking to two year olds, but, uh, or listening to two year olds, Stephen Matini: I am so grateful that I was born in a moment that did not have all these connectivity, didn't have the internet, you know, so it was very much analog. Not because I don't like it, I use it plenty, but I'm glad that I have the perspective. And so I use it a lot. But then there are always moments, usually it towards, at the end of the day, like it, let's say I'm done with computer phone, I mean bye, you know, and for me it's quite easy because I've always done it, but younger people don't have that. I mean, they, they can do exactly what you said, but they grew up in a world in which everything is filtered through technology and that lack of perspective, it must be a little bit difficult sometimes to overcome. Prof. Peter Hawkins: You know, like right now, can we find a, a heart connection even with the, the screen between us? We have to be able to, to hold the imaginal in the digitalized world. Stephen Matini: I agree. It's mostly for me at least, making the effort to drop anything and to really be present with that person and listen, you know, to really to to sense it, to find it, you know? Instead, if I get sidetracked by whatever it might be, you know, I need to get there. I need to reach the goal, I need to do that one. Even now talking to you, I can always make the choice. I'm either, I wanna be feeling grateful of being here with you to enjoy this or be somewhere else, you know? But if I do that, I know that I feel exactly the way you're describing it. Prof. Peter Hawkins: I was looking at, um, the work that Steve March is doing with Athia coaching because I really like the way he talks about the difference between self-improvement and self unfoldment. You know, with young people, we can ask them, what do you wanna be when you grow up? Which is such an unhelpful question. Stephen Matini: I still don't know. Prof. Peter Hawkins: But it is playing to like the words you used earlier. Ambition is unfoldment, is, you know, what, what in you is struggling to come into flowering? Where do you see life asking you to become more than you currently are? These are so much ritual ways of engaging, then goal centered. What do you want to achieve? You know, if I ask my grandchildren when they're nine or 10, if they're boys, they'll say, I wanna, I wanna play in the premiership as a footballer. If they're girls, they'll say, I want to be a pop singer. We can guarantee that uh, 990,000 of a million or whatever will, will be disappointed. , how can we get back to the love of playing? And if you do end up playing professionally or you know, that's fine, but actually the love is for the craft. Stephen Matini: So it's about discovering and as you are discovering, enjoying the process. Prof. Peter Hawkins: It's more than that, isn't it? It's about loving the work. It's about loving not just the person you are coaching, but loving all the, all the people that their work serves, their community and the world beyond them. And loving what shows up through all of that, which is beyond the people. It's, that's why I go to beauty. It's about loving what shines through the team, the organization, the which is what, what, what, what's beyond the top level? Stephen Matini: It just, the beauty is a word that I don't think I've ever heard in the world of, uh, how you say busyness, usually. But it's a beautiful world. I mean, I cannot think of a better word to express what you're saying. Prof. Peter Hawkins: In one part of the book, I quote Samuel Taylor Ridge's, perm of the Ancient Mariner. And this perhaps ties up a number of things we've talked about because the ugliness of narcissistic solipsism, you know, the ancient mariner, you know, he shoots the albatross. He destroys this beautiful bird that hangs around his neck and one by one all, all the other sailors die of, of plague. And they, they look at him that his shooting of the bird has caused it. And he is left totally alone and cursed and weighed down in this solipsistic narcissistic world. And then he sees the sea snakes under the boat. He talks about all, all alone from the wide seas. And then he sees the sea snakes and there's this lovely line where he says about their colors and their, the light on them. And, and I blessed them unawares. He didn't choose to see their beauty. Prof. Peter Hawkins: Their beauty suddenly breaks through his aloneness and his, and in that moment, the arbitrages falls from his neck. At that moment, he is kind of released from this small dark prison that he's fallen asleep in. And it's that, can we see beyond our self concern, can we see beyond the bottom line, can we see beyond the goal, the ambition? To what, what does it serve? And, and you may know in another of my books, i I I get very taken by the ful storyful or sur ful who goes to search for the holy grail. And when he first sees it, this magnificent grail procession, um, he wakes up in the morning in a empty field. 'cause he hasn't asked the question. Years, years later, after much journey, he comes back and he asked the question he has to ask in order to be able to stay there, which is who and what does the grail serve? You see, he's learned to see that the beauty is not in the object. One other story about my oldest son, when he was about seven or eight said, daddy, why, why aren't we born knowing everything? Because then we wouldn't have to go to school. . And I said, but Adam, if you knew everything, why would you bother to get bomb? Stephen Matini: What did he say? Prof. Peter Hawkins: I think he just looked at me slightly old , he didn't quite know how to respond. So, you know, he went back to school, which is what we all have to do, isn't it? Is it, is it beautiful that we get it wrong? You know, on my courses, I get people to even compete on who has the most quality failures, right? That we can all learn from what a gift that we fail over and over again because our failure takes us to our learning edge. Mea shall Rumi says, leadership is a poison. Unless we have the antidote in our hearts, success is a poison unless we have the antidote. Aren't aren't you blessed to have failed many times? Stephen Matini: I didn't get it completely wrong. I would say that you are a very precious reminder. So I'm going to listen to this a lot of times . So maybe the, the right word is not success, but, um, it is a good success. What would it be? The definition for you? Prof. Peter Hawkins: Well, a, a good success is one that I I recognize doesn't belong to me. One, one of my blogs, I talk about why we shouldn't talk about high performing teams. And I tell an imaginary story of Zoom in 2021, the top team all celebrating. 'cause they've had their biggest growth in in customers, their biggest growth in revenue and their biggest growth in bottom line in inverted commas. What they think is the bottom line and that they're all drinking champagne and saying hump, we've done well. And, and one of the team members says, but we should do a special call out for the, the team member that's contributed the most. I said, well, who are you talking about? And she says, not only did they contribute the most, but they only joined us last year. I said, well, who are you talking about? She said, isn't it obvious Coronavirus, she is the one who's made the biggest contribution to our success. And I just tell that story on success has always co-created. So good success is to know that my Sufi teacher used to say, make sure that when you die, your candle wax has all been burnt up. And that's how you give light to the world. That's good success when you die, having given yourself away. Stephen Matini: That's a beautiful thing, what you just said. Prof. Peter Hawkins: I've been blessed with extraordinary teachers. Do any of us say anything that's original or do we find ways of framing eternal truth just in new forms? Stephen Matini: There's one question that, uh, came up to mind a bunch of times, but I haven't asked you of all the possible tools, routes that you could have taken, why coaching? Prof. Peter Hawkins: That's what came knocking on my door. But another way of answering that would be to say, well, you know, I started in a love for literature, which turned into a love of drama, which turned to a love for theater, which turned into a love for what was happening in the whole creative unfoldment of a more in the process and the production. And that took me to mental health and becoming a psychotherapist. And then I started to realize that many mental health organizations were more, uh, disturbed than the people they were treating. And that took me into a love for how do you heal organizations? And that's taken me into how do we together heal humanity and how do we heal the split between the human and the more than human world? So there's an unfoldment there. And, and, and I suppose my real interest is, is I don't think that either coaching, as we know it, executive coaching or consultancy are fit for the 21st century. And, and I'm just having been privileged to be involved in leadership development, consultancy, coaching, leading. I'm constantly looking for the what is needed beyond those. You see coaching because I was more interested in not people just sort of themselves out, but helping people make a bigger difference to the world beyond them. That took me from psychotherapy to coaching, to team coaching, to systemic team coaching, to providing partnership to organizations as they try and transform the difference they can make in the world. But it's all one. Stephen Matini: Well, I have one last question, which is, we have talked about wonderful things. For anyone who's going to listen to this episode, is there anything in particular that you would suggest them to focus on. Prof. Peter Hawkins: Focus on? Well, if there's, as a lot of your audience, uh, in one of my favorite countries, Italy, I am coming to Milan in May, so please do put the de dates, um, on the information about the podcast, I'm running a three day experiential training in systemic team coaching through renewal associates. And I hope some people may be, um, encouraged to at least go and dip into my new book when it's out in the autumn. Beauty and leadership and coaching. I suppose the other encouragement is beyond both of those would be to say, you know, remember we have one shared holy book, which is all around us, which is the more than human world and beyond. You know, what I teach or any of my teachers teach, the more than human world is, is trying to teach us all the time, but we're not very good at listening or paying attention. Please take some time and go and walk to the hills around lakes, through the woods, but walk in a way of humility to and, and let them teach you and see how beauty will surprise you. Stephen Matini: Maestro Hawkins, thank you so much for this wonderful time, which I will always cherish. Thank you so much. Prof. Peter Hawkins: Thank you Stephen. And it is the questionnaire that opens the door to what needs to flow.
37:46 4/3/24
Wealthy Words: Break Down Financial Concepts into Simple Actionable Steps - Featuring Riccardo Grabbio
Financial advisors, attorneys, doctors, and fiscal consultants are essential professionals who help us navigate an ocean of information to make sound decisions. How do you choose a good one when the language they speak is a nebulous lingo few people fully understand? Riccardo Grabbio is a seasoned financial consultant known for his pragmatic approach and extensive experience as Chief Financial Officer. In this episode, Riccardo helps clarify some common financial lingo so you can build trustworthy and clear communication with your financial advisor or find the perfect one you understand. Listen to how to keep financial strategies simple on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Connect with Stephen #RiccardoGrabbio #WealthBuilding #Investing #Savings #FinancialEducation #MoneyManagement #FinancialWellness #PityPartyOver #Podcast #Alygn #StephenMatini   TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: So I represent your typical moron who doesn't know anything about finance. And let's say that I'm seeking for a financial advisor, where should I start? Riccardo Grabbio: When we take a look at finance actually is not something very small, very narrow, something. There are thousands of aspects that we need to take a look at. So first question to me is asking yourself, what do I need? Because when you talk at about finance, it might be have your own personal budget, for instance, because your expenses are not under control. Can be or maybe can be having a finance advisor because my company must improve, must improve for whatever reason because the balance between revenues are and cost are not enough or simply because I'm not managing well enough, my working capital for instance, or maybe because my cash flow is not coming, even though I'm making revenues, I, I do not understand why this is the second one. Or maybe it can be for instance because I have a lot of cash, but I'm not capable of leverage that cash well enough to make my company grow better or how it should, or maybe simply because I have a personal heritage that I want to have a battery yield. Riccardo Grabbio: And at the moment I don't have this is let me say very typical situation that Italian families has. For instance, just to give an idea because you need to know that the GDP of Italy is not satisfactory, is not a country that is growing a lot for several reasons. We are not efficient enough. Our industries are weak, must improve, we have tax issues and all those stuff. But you need to know that Italian families are rather rich and what they have, they have a lot of cash because of generation and so on. And they have a lot of properties. And the big issues that I have seen, for instance in Italy is that what the Americans say is asset rich and income board, to me a financial advisor, this is the first rule of financial advisor, try to change this status because when you are asset rich and income board means that you are not efficient or better, you can't manage your asset. And in this specific situation, for instance, the financial advisor can create tremendous value to, to a family for instance, try to think very rich family that has a good family office and exactly the same very rich family without the family office handling the money for them, the result would be completely different. Stephen Matini: Based on everything you said so far, it seems to me that you, I think you mentioned like probably several things, they're important, but three are really important. One is that you don't need to have a big assets in order to start to be more financially savvy. That's one. Then you mentioned several times the importance of cashflow and the other one you emphasized the importance of time because from a financial investment standpoint, time is crucial more than the actual percentage you get paid in the moment. Riccardo Grabbio: Yes, exactly. I can tell you talking about the time, which is the most important of one. There are several studies that I have read over the years from JP Morgan, but also from some other sources like banger and so on. And what they say is that in a period of at least 20 years in a bunch of 100% investors in the stock market, there was not one that lose one penny over or the 20 years. It means that if you invest, if you buy and hold for 20 years, you're not going to lose money. If instead you try to, what, what we technically say, time the market. So you buy and sell, you buy and sell, then things get tricky. I can tell you one thing, I dunno if you have ever heard about Peter Lynch, I think in seven years in which he managed the found Magellan, he doubled the s and p 500 each and every year. Riccardo Grabbio: So try to think a, a result what we are still talking now about his performance and the funny thing is that 90% of the investors that invest in his fund, they lose money over the year. And you can ask me how it can be possible that in 20 years a fund had a performance huge and the investors lose the money because they were not buying and holding, they were buying and then selling, buying and selling try to keep the best moment in which you to enter and to exit from the fund and doing that 90% of those, they lose the best return of the market. So buying a whole is a good advice. Stephen Matini: So I I wanna ask you to define some key terms, you know that maybe could be useful for the people who are going to listen to the episode. How would you explain assets in the simplest way? Riccardo Grabbio: An asset is something that brings you money in your pocket and on the other side you have liabilities. That is something that takes out money from your pocket. Why is tell you that? Because for instance, try to think to have a new big car, an expensive new car. Actually from the accounting standpoint, this is an asset. Then you, you, you d it in your, in your balance sheet, this is an asset then you will depreciate in 10 years and so on. This is technically an asset, but to me this is not financially an asset. Why not? Because it's not bringing you value any kind, it's not bringing you money in your pocket, it's draining money from your pocket. So keeping it in very simple. For our listeners, asset is something when you buy something that will bring you further money in your pocket than you are buying an asset. Riccardo Grabbio: If it doesn't, then it's not an asset. Then we have some asset that intrinsically they produce something, they produce a value. Let me give you an an an example. A stock index or a single stock for instance, you have a company, you have an organization. Those people, they are all working together with a common purpose, which is to create earnings and so on. So it doesn't matter the price in the short term, in the long run it'll increase in value. Why? Because those companies are making earnings, they're paying dividends and so on. So there will be a good result in the, in in the future. But then there are some other asset that those, they have a value fine, but they don't produce anything. Let me give you an example. If we talk about precious metals, I dunno, gold for instance and so on in this one here is just a simple piece of metal, right? Riccardo Grabbio: It has big value. Yes it does. The market is valuing is up and low value, it does a function in investment portfolio but is not producing anything. I mean, so in this case we are a bit more speculating. The price can go up or down. We don't know in the future can be be a function in the portfolio, but it's not creating anything. But this is another different kind of asset. Another kind of asset are bonds for instance. The returns typically is low, but you lend money to someone, to a government, to a private company, to a corporation, whatever, and they pay you the interest in in your return. This is another asset. It bring you money in your, in your pocket. Then there are also real estate. You can buy flats for, for instance you can buy apartments and so on. Rent it and as a return you have the pay that the people are paying to you. This is another, another example. For instance, those are assets. Stephen Matini: How would you explain? Same question in super simple terms, P&L? Riccardo Grabbio: Very simple difference between revenues and cost difference between what you from your business or from in your private light and the cost that you have to bear to stay alive or if you're talking about a company that you need to pay to keep your company alive. Difference between revenues and cost. And what I'm surprised that several organizations, several entrepreneurs and also private people, sometimes they do not understand why they are not making earnings and they don't arrive to a very simple conclusion. Either you increase your revenues or you reduce your cost or you do them both. And again, I go back to the first concept and and statement that we said keep it simple. You can have a p and l, okay, which is long one kilometer for ista with 1000, 2000 different lines detailed and so on. But in the end, if you take a look at things from 1000 kilometers from from the moon, if you take a look at things from the moon, from a very high distance, in the end you will see two things. You will see revenues and costs. Either you increase revenues or you reduce cost. I know it's very simple, looks trivial, but trust me that nine out of 10 of dozen per they look at the tree but they don't look at the wood because if you take a look at from things from the from the moon, this is what you will see. And you either you are just one or you are just the other. Stephen Matini: How would you define super simple cashflow? Riccardo Grabbio: Cashflow is the difference from the money that you have in the first day of the year and the money that you have in the last day of the year. The difference between the two is the cash that you have generated and beware because the cash that you have generated is not perfectly linked with the earning that you made in that years because it might happen that in the year you made good earnings but you didn't generate good cash flow because you didn't manage while you are working capital on the things that we said before can happen or the other way around might happen that in one year for instance you have a good cash flow but your earnings are not satisfactory enough. It might happen for instance because in one year you dismiss a big asset or something and so on and you find a lot of cash in your bank account, yes, looks good. But then if you take a look at p and l, which is your business, you see it's not profitable enough. So beware, we have just defined what cash flow is, but it's not one-to-one with your earnings with your business. Stephen Matini: If I said, and this is just how I personally define it, which is very trivial. Cashflow is the money that I need to run my business. It is essentially what is in my banking account after I pay all my expenses, after paying all, all taxes, what is left in my banking account? Would this be a good definition of cashflow? Riccardo Grabbio: No, it is not the money that you need to run your business. This is something that we definitely call the short term debt. This is your financial position. Keep it very simple. Even here if you are a class, your balance sheet Steven, you need to know that your business must be financed simply. It is a bit more tricky, but very simply can be financed only in two ways, either with the equity which the owner puts in in his company or borrowing money from the banks, meaning from the financial institution. There are several other ways, but keeping simple, those two things. So on the right side of your balance sheet, you only have those two things, your financial debts and your equity, nothing else now. So those are the ways in which you support your business, but this is not the cash flow. The cash flow is the difference in your cash from one moment and in another one, let me give you an example. If the beginning of 2024, first day you have 10 K in your bank account and at the end of the year you have 20 k, your cash flow of the year is 10 k, which is the difference between the end and the beginning. This is what you generated, this is the cash flow, okay? While instead your financial position, what you need to let me say keeping your business alive is something that is your short-term debt is your position that you have in your balance sheet. Stephen Matini: I wanna ask you one thing. What'd you think? Would you say the cashflow is the star? Riccardo Grabbio: It is and I have a specific example that I bring that is a company for which i, I do consulting also now, and they came to me because they could not understand why the cashflow was not coming. And I will tell you more if you take a look at this p and l for instance, right? The revenues last cost is, is very profitable. I mean they are making a lot of earnings, margin are very high volumes are growing, but the cashflow is not coming and they did not understand why actually the, the reply was rather simple, okay? And the cashflow is not simply coming from the p and l revenues less cost, but then there is the balance sheet, there is the working capital. Let me give you a very simple example. If you do a lot of earning each and every year, but then you can't collect money from your customers simply because you did not a good credit management and, and you sold a lot of stuff, a lot of items, your products or whatever to a customer that actually is in, in trouble is financially weak and is not capable of paying you, I know for one year or even more, then you have a problem of cash. This is an example or another example can be if you have a very good p and l but you inventory is growing and growing, the terms of your items that are in your stock are staying there and they don't go to the customer, then you need to finance those stuff that you have and also in this case you are absorbing cash and this, this is the second one or the third one can be for instance because your p and l is very good but you pay your vendors very quickly too quickly, okay? Compared on the timing in which you collect cash and you keep your items in in stock. Also in that, in that case you have issues of cash and then there might be also some other reason for instance investment. Try to think at investments they don't hit your p and l but you can do big huge investment that turn out to be in the future not good enough. They don't have a good payback, they don't have a good return. And also in that case you have a problem of cash. This is another thing then this is the last thing that we call when your balance sheet is not robust enough. If you have working capital right of 10 and you have your short term debt which is 12, so you have an issue of two because it means that in a short term you have to pay 12 to someone to the banks or investors, but your cash that will come will be only 10 and you will be short of cash. So your balance sheet must boost enough. So there might might be several reasons, but the tricky thing for a non-finance people is try to link and bridge the earnings, right, the result of your p and l to the cash and make them to understand that from your earning to the cash flow that you generate, there are several, a lot of stuff that you need to make otherwise you can be very profitable but not generating cash. Stephen Matini: And it's important not to keep your money under the mattress by actually invest them. Riccardo Grabbio: Exactly. This is the second one now is a bit different because actually the interest rate are rather high. They are more than 4% are recording now in December, 2023. So they are rather high. And I would say that in this situation might be sensible also to pay someone that you have to do so if you have cash if you have liquidity you can pay something. But try to think for instance till two years ago when interest rates were zero and the market was returning six or 7%, I'm talking about stocks for instance. In that case it would've make sense to borrow a lot of money because you borrow for free and the money who you have is returning 7%. So on depends from the market situation for sure. It's not so wise to keep your money under your mattress. Stephen Matini: You know, to me as you talk, I understand what you're saying because I've been doing this for little bit. Once again, I'm not super financially savvy but I made a lot of mistakes in the past. So inevitably I learned but not, not knowing who's going to listen to this episode. That could be some people they may feel unfamiliar with this whole territory. If they had to choose a financial advisor, what would you say they are three features they should look for in a financial advisor? Riccardo Grabbio: To me, first thing a financial advisor must have a good track record. Let me say that the market is something that, I mean we have been studying that for 120 years and what we have seen that nobody has still completely understood it. There are always new situation and so on. So to me the more the financial advisor is experience, the more he has spend time on the market, the more he is trustworthy. I mean it is not the only rule but you need to know the market very well. So a long time and in the market with a good track record is one feature that you need to take a look at. Then there is a second feature that of course is very important is having a good feeling with that person seems not fundamental but it is because that person will help you on very sensitive topics. It'll help you on things that are rather dear to you in the and because they are talking about your finances and so on. And so if you don't have a good feeling, if you don't have a full trustworthy of that person, I think is not the the person good enough for you. Stephen Matini: You know, the rule that I gave myself when I was trying to select the right one was if I cannot understand what he or she says, then it's not the right person for me. Truly. I mean you can be the most incredible person and I'm not questioning your, you know, education, your experience, but I'm the client and I need to understand. Riccardo Grabbio: I will. I will tell you one thing. Over the past 15 years I have seen a lot of portfolio and there is a feature that all the beginners investor that then will have some troubles for sure, which is mathematically they try to seek things very complicated and one rule that the investors and beginners investors they need to take a look at or better to search in a financial advisor to keep things simple, what they have seen in life that the more the investors are beginners and the more they look for complicated stuff, this is a big mistake but it's very natural. For instance, if you happen to have an investor that has either know a big quantity of cash to be invested, but he doesn't know anything about that and you talk to him about very complex fund, fund of fund robot advisors or structured product derivatives and some other things, very technical and very complex product with leverage and so on, they immediately fall in love about that because they think that that we all exotic products, new products with artificial intelligence and so on, they completely fall in love them thinking that will be very cutting edge and that will beat the market. You know what will happen in that case that you will create a mass, you will create a portfolio with huge costs and the result will be for sure far below the market. Stephen Matini: Again, I understand what you're saying, but I feel my head getting dizzy a little bit like because also, you know, money is something that is so connected to our survival. I mean it's not just status or I can buy this, I can buy that, but it's connected to so many things such as, you know, when people say money does not give you happiness and always say that's the biggest someone has ever said, because you know when my money's fine, I'm so glad I can think of all the things that I love in a way that's more peaceful. You know? Riccardo Grabbio: Yes, the said that you just mentioned can be truth or not, I dunno, but there is one thing to tell you when a family and a person goes under financial stress, in that case you need to talk to them about that saying, because financial stress I think is one of the worst situation ever. And I can tell you one thing be because of that you need to have also a good financial planner because what he will help you to do is not only to deal with the markets properly, but also to manage the psychological impacts that you have from the up and downs of the market. If you are very expert, you know how the market works and so on, you don't have the impacts. But if you are a beginner, if you don't trust the situation or if you don't trust the financial advisor when the market is down 30% because from time to time it happens, then you start to have some bad feelings maybe not to sleep at night and so on. So the financial advisor for this situation is fundamental Stephen Matini: And that to me goes back to what you were saying about the relationship. You know, particularly these days of artificial intelligence, everything being automatic and such and such, that is such a key relationship to have in a life that is so uncertain. You know, you read the news and millions of different things, so it's very easy, you know, in this situation to fall for trends and the stupid things that you hear everywhere. But a good financial advisor, that relationship in my opinion informs you and really helps you to stay grounded. Riccardo Grabbio: I agree with you. You must stay the course. The Americans say, and this is a really valuable advice. You need to stay the course and stay the course being not being trapped into the new fashion stuff, new fashion things, the new hot stock that might come on the market and so on because they, they were not going to help you, they'll harm you. Stephen Matini: How do you feel about anything that has to do with ESG investing, anything pertaining sustainability? Riccardo Grabbio: First point is the tactical situation about that. I have some portfolios that I'm managing where the, the clients is asking me to invest in those specific companies. We, which has a good status for being very ethical, being very keen on environment and so on because they are interesting in that. And I think that from that standpoint, it makes you feel better because you feel that you are doing something good for the environment and so on. Then we need to see what is the reality under those companies because we don't know 100% because when we buy an ESG for instance, found, we don't know if all the companies that there are inside, those are all the features that they should have because sometimes working in the companies, I have seen that sometimes, okay, they are ESG, fine, they have white certificates and so on, but then let me say energy must have been used better was not managed well enough. So there were some inefficiencies from the environmental standpoints. So I would say that okay, this is a good thing to do good for the environment, which I'm very keen on as well. But we don't know exactly if all those are the best choices that we could have made. We don't know, we hope, but we don't know. This is the first thing. Then we don't need to forget that when we invest we are looking at returns. The first reason of course why we invest is having a return. And what I can tell you that I have compared the s and p 500 with the SGN funds for 10 years and so on. And what I have seen that in the long run, the returns that I have is very, very close so far we don't know in the future, but so far is is more or less the same. So from the pure yield standpoint, right, the return in that case, I would say that there is not much difference in that. What drives the difference in the return in the long run is the asset allocation. Stephen Matini: What have you learned about yourself throughout this whole thing, working with people in different situations? Riccardo Grabbio: Well it, it's difficult to answer for different reasons. The first one is we need to take a look at if we are taking a look at finance from the company standpoints or from the financial advisor standpoints, which is very different. And the second one is because you need to know the finance has been changing so much over the years. I remember Steven when, when I started working in finance, the value added for the organization and for, for the people who was perceived and basically also what the companies were asking to the finance people were things completely different from the things that there are now. So over the year things have changed and as a result also the finance people, people that work in finance must change and see things in different ways because the market is asking to go to the finance people different stuff. In the past it was much more mathematically the mathemat result they were asking about preciseness they were asking about and so on. But as the time goes by, as the artificial intelligence goes by, the technologies is growing and so on. What I see that now what the partner, the CEO, the stakeholder are asking to the finance community is being a tremendous business partner, not being extremely technical and so on. So what they want is having a support that translate their view, okay in finance language or better to translate the finance language to them so that they can understand what they can do and they cannot do. And of course help supporting them in having the right strategy in getting their result doesn't matter if you are looking about a private person or if we're looking about a corporation from that standpoint is exactly the same. What they are asking now today is to support them to understand what are their goals, their needs and so on and to set kind of strategy in order to get their targets. This is what they want. Now, just to make it an example, and this is a bit sad also to me to say that nowadays people for instance that do finance me say rather low level. So for instance, booking invoices, booking transaction, general ledger journals and so on, those are profiles that are not interesting for the market anymore because there are the emerging markets where there are people doing that for an extremely low cost or there is with a new tech iTech and so on, there are computer that are doing those transaction automatically themselves. Those were profiles very helpful in the past or better indispensable, but today it's not like that. Today they are not needed any, any almost needed anymore. So it has changed a lot. So if you want to work nowadays in this field, you need to be a good financial strategist and you need to support and give direction to investors, to entrepreneurs and so on. Stephen Matini: What would you say that is the right posture that a good finance person should have to enter this job? Riccardo Grabbio: Well I would say more than possible, I would say the, the right mindset in finance, you do need to have a good mindset. This is key from a several standpoint and I believe that if you want to be a good finance person, finance manager, finance advisor or whatever, you need to have good background. This is a commodity. Without that you cannot go ahead, but you need to have also a good mindset because having the good mindset meaning is to trust what is your view? To stay steady, to stay the course, to stay consistent with with your choices, not to change the strategies, being methodical and not to lose the focus on your goals. Straighten your way because you know what happens in finance? Finance is like the seasons that we have in the year, right? We have summer, winter, spring, autumn and so on, and things change and like things change in the day and in the season, in the years they change exactly in the same way also in finance because no matter what after winter, spring will come and in finance it's exactly the same after resection. Sooner or later you don't know exactly when the new grow will come. And that's why he said you need to have the right mindset, trust your knowledge and staying the course and not changing strategies and so on. Because if you try instead to change strategies because of the season you are in and you don't know when the decision will will change, you run the risk to take an umbrella and after two minutes to have the sun shining and your your umbrella, you don't need it anymore. Stephen Matini: Riccardo, out of anything we have covered so far, what would you say that is something that those who will listen to this episode that should pay close attention to? Riccardo Grabbio: If we are talking, for instance, to private investors, they need to keep things simple, try to understand what they are doing because as you said before, for instance, if you are not understanding what you are investing in, this is not a good investment or better, they should be very careful. So if they don't understand what they are investing in, no matter what, they don't have to invest. Stephen Matini: I've heard that a famous investor does that. Warren Buffett, you know, he only invest in things he understands, you know, and if he doesn't, he doesn't. Riccardo Grabbio: Yes, wow you are mentioning is, is not a new kid on the block. I think that the S&P 500 for 50 years in a row about either, I don't know, 10 or 8 points per year. Average per year. So yeah, an outstanding result. And what it does is something like, like you said before, what it does, he, he stays in his circle of competence. He does not diversify a lot. So he stay focused on a bunch of share that he knows very well and he stay on those for a long time. What his strategies is by and old forever it is an extreme strategy his but the reward is very remarkable given the facts. Stephen Matini: Riccardo, thank you for keep it simple. I've learned a lot today. Thank you.
37:32 3/20/24
Servant Leadership: The Humble Leader - Featuring Suzanne Harman Munson
Historian Suzanne Harman Munson discusses her book Jefferson's Godfather: The Man Behind the Man, revealing the significance of servant leadership exemplified by George Wythe, a lesser-known Founding Father. Throughout the conversation, Suzanne offers valuable insights essential for navigating contemporary challenges, emphasizing the importance of individual impact, critical thinking, kindness, and humility. Listen to this episode of Pity Party over and discover how servant leadership and humility can transform lives on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen Matini #SuzanneHarmanMunson #JeffersonsGodfather #GeorgeWythe #ServantLeadership #PityPartyOver #Podcast #Alygn #StephenMatini TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: You essentially got into writing and history after you retired? Did I get that right? Suzanne Munson: That's correct. Uh, I didn't have time to write books when I was working. And, um, I had a lot of responsibilities at home as well, raising children and so on. After my husband died and after I retired, I went on kind of a journey in a lot of different directions, and I've written books in different genres. Stephen Matini: Why do you think you chose writing and you chose history of all possible directions? Suzanne Munson: Well, my parents loved history, particularly my father. He would go to bed reading history. Well, he was interested in the Civil War, and he would read detailed accounts of the battles, which not my cup of tea by any means, but we always told stories of our ancestors who came to this country and why they came. So I've always been interested in history, but I, I majored in English, which was very helpful to me as the writer. Stephen Matini: Writer. And your family goes back generations? Suzanne Munson: Yes. They go back to the earliest days of the United States. Stephen Matini: As far as the Founding Fathers, one of your interests is the Founding Fathers. Did you investigate, did you study them all or specific ones, because you focus specifically on Jefferson, but did you have any interest in one of the other ones? Suzanne Munson: Well, yes, I have. I'm reading, um, pretty big book about, um, Benjamin Franklin now who really deserves more credit for helping us win the Revolutionary War. I really like following John Adams and Abigail Adams. But the two Founding Fathers that I focus on in my writing are Thomas Jefferson and his wonderful mentor George with, who is called the forgotten founding father, because hardly anybody knows anything about him today. And I uncovered him and some reading and I said, why don't we know more about this man who was very instrumental in the early success of this country? And his story needs to be told in the 21st century. And I wanted to tell it, but I couldn't because I was working. But as soon as I decided to, uh, to leave the office world, I said light bulb went off. And I said, well, I can finally do this book. But it took about five years to write that book because for some reason I couldn't focus at home. So I would go away to various retreats, writers retreats, spiritual retreats for 48 hours at a time or a week at a time, and really focus intensely on it. Stephen Matini: The process of writing. It's a spiritual experience, and you spend so much time within yourself. What have you learned about yourself when you started digging into this, this whole world or writing? Suzanne Munson: I sort of think of myself as a light giver. You know, the things that I'm learning, I like to share with other people, the integrity of this founding father. I think that we need greater integrity in our government. I've given more than three dozen lectures and online interviews about integrity and government that are need for, for that. Now. Also, after my husband died 10 years ago, I, uh, went on a spiritual journey to find out where he went and what he was doing, if that was knowable, and where we all go and what we do after we leave our physical form. So that was a separate journey. So I was really on two journeys. I was on a traditional journey, uh, with the traditional history, and then I was on a metaphysical journey trying to learn more about the afterlife. So two parallel journeys. And I've written books in both of those genres. Stephen Matini: Was it clear from the very beginning what you were looking for, or were you just aimed by curiosity and openness? Suzanne Munson: Well, with the first book that I wrote, which is called Jefferson's Godfather, uh, that was the biography of George with, it was very clear that I wanted to tell his story, that I felt his story was needed today in the 21st century. Now, my latest book, which is called of Loss and love, a Journey of the Heart that took 10 years to write the book has a happy ending. I did actually do the modern thing. I went online at the encouragement of friends and found my current husband. So it's a memoir of, of my three years between my husband's death and my marriage. Stephen Matini: What is the solace that you received from history? Suzanne Munson: Well, I'm very much inspired by what our Founding Fathers did to create the United States of America. Uh, they were very brave men. They were inspired. I believe what they did was unheard of in the history of the world. Now, we had a Roman Republic, briefly. We had a Greek democracy briefly. They went away fairly quickly. And so what these individuals wanted to do was totally revolutionary, not just on the battlefield, but in the battlefield of ideas. And that was to give power to the people and to create a democratic republic for the first time ever in history, that people were free from kings and queens and popes and aristocracy. Well, the hope was that we would have a meritocracy, that only the best people would rise to be leaders, and that the people would choose those leaders, choose them periodically, and if they weren't satisfactory, bo vote them out of office without killing them throughout the history of mankind, you had to kill somebody to get rid of him if he was in power. And so the peaceful transition of power was very, very strong ideal of these Founding Fathers. That's why they would've been appalled at what happened on January 6th. That would've been their worst nightmare. So this is a time when we need to visit the ideals of these Founding Fathers. And what happened in America in the late 18th century, what we came up with a government by the people of the people, for the people and our constitution that spread all across the world. Our constitution was, um, adopted by many, many, many countries after that took a while. And democracy is still an ideal, a worldwide ideal. It's not in place in, uh, most countries, uh, to the extent that we'd like to have it in place, but it's still an ideal. People still are searching for freedom. They want their freedom. Stephen Matini: I believe that democracy is a huge responsibility for all of us. Some of the worst nightmares in history, were democratically elected. If the Founding Founders came back today, what would you say they would say about democracy and what is the right approach for all of us in terms of, you know, living this responsibility? Suzanne Munson: This is outlined in my book called The metaphysical Thomas Jefferson, what Thomas Jefferson might say today about our government, our higher education, our news, media, religion, the use of military foreign policy, all those institutions. And I believe what he would say is that we as a people have become apathetic. We've allowed our freedoms to be taken away gradually, like the frog in the kettle of water as it heats up what is said in that book, the metaphysical Thomas Jefferson. What he might say if he were observing us today, is that he would crave most of all critical thinking. He didn't use these terms, but TikTok, Facebook, all those social media things where we're totally absorbed by ourselves and our little circle of friends and what they think of us, and we're not paying much attention to what our government officials are doing. Jefferson, above all wanted an educated popula populace and wanted, um, universal education for everyone, rich and poor. That was a revolutionary concept at the time. Only the, um, wealthy, they were educated. And so he would want critical thinking. Uh, he would want us to demand integrity of our, uh, leaders. He would want the leaders in Washington to form circles of integrity. Not all representatives in Washington are corrupt or deal in self-dealing, but enough of them are. But some of them really are striving to be good public servants. And we have one here in Virginia, Abigail Berger, who is admired for being a true public servant. And so there are some like her who were fairly new to the game and haven't gotten corrupted and haven't really started feathering their nests with all the large s that's available. So I think he would want leaders in government to form circles of integrity so that there's a mass of individuals and not just a handful who want the best for the people and not just for themselves or for special interests for the powerful. So some of this is going on. I, I think sometimes things have to get so bad that, uh, you know, people will say enough of this, which we've hit the bottom here, and we, we need to do things differently. We need better leaders. And so the hope is that more people of integrity will offer themselves for a public office. It's not easy. It's a dirty business. There's a lot of dirt thrown around, and it would be nice if that weren't necessary, weren't considered necessary. We do need more leaders with integrity, interest for the public rather than pure self-interest and ego ego's gone wild right now in, in some quarters in Washington. And what's right for the people is secondary. Another thing that he would be very concerned about is freedom of the press. Of course, that's in our first amendment, and we do have more freedom of the press than most countries have, but our press is declining. Uh, our newspapers don't have the staffs that they did 10 years ago to do investigative reporting and TV stations. And they've all kind of acquiesced to these feel-good stories or covering murders and accidents and things like that. And there's not enough coverage of what's going on in our government. And you could make that interesting. It doesn't have to be dull, but the decline of investigative reporting would be of great concern to our Founding Fathers, because you can't have a government without clarification, without people knowing what's really going on behind the scenes. Because if we don't know those things, it's an open door to corruption. And here in my town, we need to analyze just at the local level, who's getting the contracts for the, you know, multimillion dollar deals here. Are they cronies? Was there open bidding for these big dollar items? Those things need to be open, and they're being hidden, not just here, but all over. So cronyism will run rampant if you don't expose it. That's just one, one aspect of government, not to speak of just out and out corruption. Stephen Matini: In your experience, in your studies, researching and writing about the Founding Founders, you mentioned the word integrity many times. And to me, when I think about the moment in history was one of those exceptional time, like, you know, Florence doing Renaissance somehow for whatever the reason, there were this huge concentration of amazing people why that happened. Who knows? But it's really bizarre to think about it. Why do you think integrity seemed to be such a distinctive feature of these, these amazing people who laid the foundation for us? And today we struggle with integrity. Suzanne Munson: In my book, Jefferson's Godfather, which is a biography of his mentor George, with, I make the case that about the power of one, the ability of just one individual for, uh, great, good or a great evil. And in his case, he had a lot to do with the early success of this country because he trained not only Thomas Jefferson, but Chief Justice John Marshall, the revered statesman, Henry Clay and 200 other future leaders in government, and also in the court system to very important agencies for the success of a country. And so he had an enormous influence. And because he had such great integrity himself, uh, he was a role model for the servant leader. He influenced either directly or indirectly, all five of our first five presidents. He was a friend of each of them, or a role model for each of them. And that was the first, oh, three decades of this country, very consequential, three decades. I think that their sense of integrity, he was a big part of that because he had so much of it himself. I attribute a lot of that to George West's Quaker background. Most of his contemporaries were of the Anglican faith, and they were very arrogant. People in Virginia, particularly Virginians at that time, were known to be arrogant. The aristocracy, uh, because they fashioned themselves, uh, after the House of Lords in, uh, England, large landowners, and they did not oppose slavery. They accepted that as a way of life. He was outta step with his contemporaries. He was ardently opposed to slavery. And I attribute that to one of his Quaker ancestors who came to this country a hundred years before and preached about the evils of slavery and taught that the Bible did make references to this stealing being one, stealing another person's life. So I, I think he had a big influence. A lot of his students never freed their slaves, but he made them feel very guilty about it. And then he just was a very honest person. Contemporary of his said. Well, he was the only honest lawyer I ever knew. He made a good living. But he could have made much bigger living if he had accepted liars and cheats as clients. But he would never defend a, uh, a liar and a cheat. Everyone had to have a good case if he were to accept it and be more or less on the right, or if they weren't on the right, be repentant for their sins. So the Founding Fathers had a wonderful opportunity to change history for the better. George Beth being one of the revered leaders at the time, his legacy has been lost to time, but he was enormously influential at, in his day, the signer of the Declaration of Independence, champion of the Constitution leader in the Continental Congress, speaker of the House of Delegates in Virginia. Those were the early days when everything was new and fresh and we were reinventing the, our world. Hundreds of years later, we have what we have in Washington because big money has been allowed in as a mighty power in our government, and it's very easy to feather one's nest. So there's really more temptations now, I think, uh, than there were at the beginning of the country. Eventually corruption did and self-dealing did creep in, and partisanship did emerge fairly early. George with was not part of that, but it emerged very much so during Jefferson's time. Stephen Matini: When you say servant leadership, so servant leadership is something that we hear a lot these days. It's also the many leadership programs that had their name. What would it be? Your own definition of servant leadership? Suzanne Munson: Putting the public's interest before your own, or at least having a balance, just not being totally self-interested and not letting your ego run wild as we see right now in Washington. Now in writing this book, uh, my first book called Jefferson's Godfather, the Man Behind the Man, I can come up with at least seven leadership qualities that George with this founding father had and that he shared as a role model, as a servant leader for others. Number one, a strong ethical foundation, the only honest lawyer I ever knew. Number two, mentorship, the ability to mentor generously. He influenced the futures of approximately 200 future state and national leaders. Number three, advisorship, if that's a word, uh, couldn't come up with a better word, but George with advised those in higher authority. He was a role model for the colonial governors of Virginia who needed advice about how to interact with this unruly group over here. He did influence the first five American Founding Fathers, either directly or indirectly. Number four, scholarship and preparation. George West did not have much of a formal education. He learned Greek and Latin at the knee of his mother, and then I think the money ran out and he couldn't go to college. And then when he was a legal apprentice to his uncle, he didn't learn much. And so he found that he, if he were to succeed in life, he would have to teach himself. And he became a self-taught scholar preparation. He never went into court unprepared, and he was an excellent lawyer, and he served those in the highest circles in Virginia. Number five, and this should be probably number one, along with ethics, is, um, emotional intelligence, people skills. Now we know about iq, but EQ is equally important. George With's IQ was probably not as high as Jefferson's. George with was very smart, but he also had to work hard. Um, he studied and he was prepared. So he had an IQ that was sufficient for leadership, but he also had the eq, the emotional quotient. He was a friend to those in the highest circles as well as to the low born. He freed his slaves as soon as he was legally able to do so. He was a friend of children. They said a a surly dog would wag his tail when George with walked by. Uh, so he had had those both skills. Um, EQ and IQ. Number six, humanitarian values. Unlike his contemporaries, he reviled slavery. Uh, and, and he was a humanitarian in many other ways. He and the one of the colonial governors started the first hospital for the mentally ill in Williamsburg. It was the first in North America, number seven, although that really shouldn't be seven, but humility. And he was modest in dress and speech reflecting his Quaker background. The best leaders like I can think of, Mahatma Gandhi is the major figure here. Uh, they were very wise people, but they were very humble in their wisdom. So a case in point with taught Chief Justice, John Marshall, who was one of the most consequential chief justices in American history. And so when Marshall became Chief Justice, he walked in to meet his, his group in a plain black robe. Well, they were astonished because they had adorned themselves in Irman and red velvet because they wanted to be like the justices in England. He set the example, and I think he got the idea of the plain black robe, the robe of a servant from George with who dressed very modestly. And I think in some of his role roles as clerk of the house delegates, uh, he probably wore the plain black robe. And so that changed, you know, the whole demeanor of the United States Supreme Court. It gave them a more humble approach to their job. So the only deviation from that that we've seen recently is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who added a little lace collar to her robe. But that can be forgiven. So, uh, those are, there's seven of the qualities that I found in doing research for George with, for the book Jefferson's Godfather, Stephen Matini: As you were talking then, you said it, the word that kept coming to my head was, um, humble humbleness. Suzanne Munson: Yes, we all need to learn humility. And it's not the same thing as being humiliated. I've learned that one myself. So we all must try to be servants or helpful to our fellow man in one way or another. That requires a little bit of humility in trying to let go of our ego so much. Stephen Matini: One thing that helps me tremendously to keep my attitude, uh, humble, hopefully, is the awareness that I will not be here forever. What would you say that could be a first step for someone to learn a more humble perspective? Suzanne Munson: Sometimes you have to be brought low by adversity or a great tragedy, or just realizing that you have too much ego, you need to knock it down a peg or two. I can't say when, when I started thinking about that, seriously, it was probably, probably after my husband died. I had time to think about myself. Also, I think we need to realize that our later years can be time for enormous growth. I said when I reached 70, that my seventies were gonna be the best decade of my life, that I was gonna solid fly in my seventies, but I didn't know what I was gonna do, had no idea. Just let things flow. So a certain degree of humility is important there. I ask for guidance. I get little nudges, I think from the other side about nice things to do or good things to do. I always answer my nudge, nudges, otherwise I'd feel kind of bad about something, you know, even if it's just to call somebody or answer a call from an irritating person or take an irritating person to the doctor, you know, that's pushed my limits a little bit. I try to do a lot of volunteer work. I think that's extremely important in living a fulfilling life. And so I work with recovering drug addicts and alcoholics. I do a lot of work with them, and I teach classes that they have in their recovery program. I teach a class on love and forgiveness. Forgiveness is very important. I teach a la a class on emotional intelligence, and they are hungry for this because in their addiction they become stunned as individuals. If you start drinking and drugging when you're 19, you have arrested development. So a lot of these people are just discovering themselves in sobriety. So that is, uh, very rewarding for me to try to help these people. And I enter the classroom, uh, with a degree of humbleness, of humility and, uh, try to relate to them on their level. I've had my issues as well, and so I relate to them. But, uh, meaningful volunteer work, even if you're just working in a soup kitchen, you know, labeling soup out, it's better than sitting home watching TV all day. And a lot of people who retire just go out to the golf course or play bridge. And nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with playing games. We should amuse ourselves. We should have a good time. But you have to balance that with giving to others. And that also includes giving financially if you're able to do so. There's a lot of want in this world. There's refugees all over the world who are literally starving right now. And so we must give generously if we can afford to, to do that to doctors without Borders and all of the good agencies that are trying to help the helpless. So all of that is part of, you know, living more humbly, trying to get out of your ego, trying to think of other people. And that's really part of the secret to to being happy. Stephen Matini: Our society seems to emphasize so much a specific moment in time in your, your twenties when you're super young, it is a shame because life is so much more bigger. And what you said as you age, you, you get a different understanding about everything, a different appreciation about everything that you cannot possibly have. You know, when you are, when you're younger. There's something I wanna ask you that you mentioned before when you were talking about leadership and has to do with the notion of freedom. Because the word freedom is super important. And today, freedom. The word freedom is everywhere. Freedom of speech or freedom, this and that. And people get really confused about what freedom it really is. Some people feel it's a license to do or, or say whatever they want. And for me, it's not at all freedom. If anything is accountability, freedom is responsibility. What is your definition of freedom and what is the, the responsibility of, of people if they really want to be free? Suzanne Munson: Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of hate speech. Certain forms of hate speech are being punished. I mean, media, people are being fired if they do that, but other people are getting by with it on social media and so on. So we need not just a revolution of integrity, but a revolution of kindness, I guess is, is a word I'm thinking of. We need to be kinder to one another. We need to watch that hateful speech, that judgmental speech. Just because you can say it doesn't mean you should say it. So I think that's one freedom that we, we need to really think about what is harmful speech, harmful writing, harmful speaking? Do we really need to say those things? Do we really need to think those things? Can't we teach ourselves to be more thoughtful, more kind, more considerate? So I'm hoping that we'll have better role models in the future and that a lot of this hate speech will, will go away. It's very unhealthy and it's caused a lot of us to turn off the news. Not just because of the hate speech, but because it just seems that all the worst kinds of behavior are presented in the news. And what is our local news? Murders, robberies, car wrecks, whatever. After a while, it gets painful. I listened to the news just enough to be well-informed. I used to listen to it morning, noon, and night. 'cause I wanted to be super well informed. But I can't do that anymore. I don't listen to it until evening. And then a small dose of it just to be informed. Stephen Matini: I feel the same way, , I am informed, but I notice that the more time I spend reading that negative molasses, it doesn't really add any value to my life. So I want to know, of course, what's happening, but I'm more preoccupied about spending my time with you than feeling upset, you know, well, what is the point? You know? But Susan, we talked about so many things and all of them are so important. But out of all the things that we said, is there anything that you deem really important impressions for our listeners to focus on? Suzanne Munson: Well, this is what Thomas Jefferson would want. And George, with these two Founding Fathers, they would want more critical thinking. We need to watch our head time, what I call head time. And I wrote a reflection about that. We are what we think, literally, we are what we think. And if we're dwelling in negativity all the time, it's like a, well, particularly if we have a resentment against somebody or several people, that's a boomerang. It comes back to bite us. Try to think positively, try to live positively, live healthy, think healthy, but also be critical thinkers. Now, I'm very irritated with a lot of my friends who listen to one particular TV channel that tends to slant things and present only one side of an argument that is just wrong. You need to sort through all of the trash and all of the good ideas, and we need to read better books. Get back to reading books or pick better tv. There's, there's some very good things you can look at on tv. Be a critical thinker and try to live. Kindly learn forgiveness Stephen Matini: And kindness shall be. Susan, thank you so much for spending time with me. I've learned a lot of stuff. I have something to think about this weekend and many days to come. Thank you. Suzanne Munson: I've enjoyed it. Stephen.
32:25 3/7/24
Leadership: Lateral Dialogues - Featuring Dr. Petros Oratis
Dr. Petros Oratis, a leadership and organization development consultant, team facilitator, and executive coach, believes modern organizational success hinges on embracing lateral leadership and fostering collaboration across hierarchical boundaries. Lateral leadership refers to a leadership style that emphasizes collaboration, teamwork, and the ability to lead without relying on a formal position of authority. Dr. Oratis advocates for leaders to address these interdependencies by creating spaces for dialogue and understanding, particularly in environments where power dynamics and competition may exist. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Connect with Stephen #petrosoratis #lateraldialogues #lateralleadership #pitypartyover #alygn #stephenmatini #podcast #leadershipdevelopment #teamwork TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: I'm really happy to be here with you, we share the same passion and so I have a lot of questions for you, which are questions that I try to answer myself. I got into organizational development, you know, later on in my life. Previously I had a career in marketing, which I thought it was my thing. And then at some point out of pure coincidence I learned that I loved to work on organizational functions and to help people to perform better. How did it happen to you? Is this something that you have always known, but how did you get into this? Petros Oratis: Yeah, that's a very good question on reconnecting with origins and the course of life. I think because I studied in Greece and our system there is quite specific as to how you end up in university. But I think maybe also globally at that age you might not really know what to study. So I studied economics as an undergraduate, not necessarily by choice, but because I wanted to end up in organizations sort of in management. On one hand, when studying economics is very interesting because you learned from very early on in life about systems and about interdependencies and the complexity of the world, which I think it's very helpful as a mindset to be grown from early on. But it's also quite of a positive is science. So it has some sort of predictability in a way. Or you learn very quickly this idea of predictability and control and with knowledge and with models, if you apply them properly, you know you will get good results. But human behavior is extremely complex and even if you get it a little bit in courses around psychology, organizational psychology, still, there is this idea that if we study it and we can predict it, we would know what to do about it. And then of course you probably know from your practice and our profession, that's not how it works with large systems, with human behavior, even with us personally we might think in certain ways. So I started developing this curiosity of could I study human behavior more and differently from conventional studies? I wanted to seek something else and that's how I ended up studying differently organizations. So systemically, I mean the discipline is called system psychodynamics, but the idea is that you also take the more unconscious processes that operate within us and in working relations and then in bigger systems. Still the goal and the principle behind it is how can we understand human behavior so that we can actually address it differently but not, not from also I would say almost god-like thinking that if I were to control it fully, then that's how it would work. Stephen Matini: And eventually you learned that there's something that escapes analysis, you know, that you cannot quite frame. I think there's a huge element of craftsmanship in any job. Early on you started to become really interested in the whole notion of flat structures, bottom up, top down and then it even your own podcast, you know, it's the whole notion of lateral leadership is such a central component. How did you get there? Why? Why is this specific angle so important to you? Petros Oratis: I would say both the hard data, the intuition are, are what working jointly. So you can't, you can't split either or right? And I think that's what you exactly said. And the same thing I would apply to this idea of this very organic one could say type of leadership that you need to discover your role and you need to work through how you are going to lead with others. But at the same time that happens in a explicit structure. This tension, I think it's something that I discovered throughout practice that it is relevant for all of us and it becomes part of leadership. I think the interest on studying that more was when I started my doctorate I didn't know what I would research and I didn't know that would be the topic. I knew that I wanted to study something related to collaboration on that high level. And one of the early findings that was guiding me is this idea that when you get sort of senior leaders that are part of a team even together, they would actually do many very meaningful work together. But to get them actually in a room usually would be very tough, very difficult. And then to take them properly in a room, not just physically but really committed so, and to commit to their interdependency, that was also very difficult. So peeling a little bit the onion around that. So what is it that we understand logically that we need to collaborate, we do want to collaborate, but there is something also that is quite scary that in pulls us away, especially when we grow in hierarchy was the first starting point of that, which made me then understand this is not just about collegial relationships. The group of executives that are part of a team, they are also independent leaders that are trying to lead their own stuff. And that's what becomes quite challenging when you want to approach teamwork is those two roles that they conflict with each other and they require a little bit more understanding Stephen Matini: Based on your studies. There's a cultural component that has a huge weight. So it really depends on the culture, it depends where with the organization is located. But as human beings, do we tend and naturally to favor top down organizations, is that just how we operate? Petros Oratis: Our relation to hierarchy is something that is part of our human nature and I think it very much starts from the idea that we are brought into this world in absolute dependency on parent and caretakers on adults who we can only survive at these sort of early steps of our life actually based on those figures that they will take care of us very practically but also emotionally even to make sense. So that's part of our psyche that cannot go away. This idea that we sort of move from complete dependency into autonomy as we are building our own strength and our own self-reliance, we become less dependent on those individuals and that sort of continuum that I'm sort of painting here also continues in careers. So very early life we may have that mentality. We need to learn from our superiors, we need to depend on their judgment, we need to be guided by them and sort of we develop in careers so that we can actually become more autonomous and more powerful perhaps. And then we'll become more autonomous. And maybe this idea or what we tell ourselves is that then we should lead others and so forth. And while this is of course the nature of life, we are forgetting the lateral dimension of all of this may not come to mind so clearly because we do all of that with other peers, whether that's our siblings or our classmates or later on in in groups, our education, also the career development is giving us enough stimulation to be able to collaborate with others. But we forget completely that this collaboration and maybe this competition will at some point entail also dependency, again. I said early life will depend on parents and that's what we think dependency is about or we depend on bosses but we are actually depending on each other because we are part of systems. When the structure is clear that interdependency is no issue. I come to you when I need to come to you, you come to me when you need to and so forth and we will find each other.  But as this clarity goes more and more away, it also means that it's very difficult to basically understand what these interdependencies are and then later on we have to negotiate on those ourselves. From this idea that we were developing our own strength in order to become autonomous and not to rely on authority figures now comes into a conflict that as we become autonomous we are actually depending on others who may not be so, you know, in a different level than we are or they may not actually even care about us as maybe our bosses cared about us doing a good job, if you see what I mean. They felt responsibility maybe over whether that's a good or a bad boss, but they felt some responsibility over us performing or delivering good work to them. Now we are dependent on others and others depend on us that maybe, you know, it's more on an adult to adult level and they don't have responsibility of our wellbeing. So a different access or a different value needs to come to play that can guide us about how do we negotiate, how do we learn to care for each other or how do we take responsibility of the total outcome. This doesn't answer your question on culture predisposition because you know some cultures are very hierarchical in that sense and some others are very egalitarian. But regardless of those nuances, I think it's also helpful to understand that from a psyche point of view, we already have that programming in our lives. Maybe more than other species even who have a very short period of being dependent then they're spend the rest of their lives being autonomous. Stephen Matini: The answer that I've given myself so far, of the reason why so many organizations are so much top down probably is around the notion of power. Human beings seem to lose their mind around power and around money. What, what do you think of power as a factor? Does it play any weight? Petros Oratis: Absolutely, it's was central to my research. Maybe it's helpful to distinguish what we mean by power and what do we mean by authority, right? So when we talk about formal authority, we're talking about the right that I have to exercise decision or to make decisions over others, and that right has been given to me also because I also hold ultimate responsibility. So authority often is a dirty word, especially nowadays and we can even talk about that. The idea that a leader will exercise authority is a little bit of a turnoff, it's a bit of a, this is not a good leader, it's a very traditional old fashioned type of leader. But we also need to understand that there is a part of authority which is absolutely required and needed. Some roles have a even legal responsibility over something and we are decreasing the idea of your basically ability to, or your right to make decisions, at least in current discourse about leadership we're saying you should not be just doing it in a authoritarian way, but with that sometimes we are almost implying you should not do it at all, which is not helpful. So there, there is something about how do we exercise authority. But there are also very good reasons why authorities completely going down because complexity one person doesn't have the answer, they need to involve a lot of people. There are a lot of interdependencies, there are different organizational models and so forth. So there is a very good reason why authorities not being exercised directly. So, but if you, if you decrease authority, how do roles begin to differentiate, right? And that's where power comes. The idea of power I think is more related to what do I have in terms of resources, internal or external whether that's skills or that can be binding to someone else similarly to authority, right? So whereas authority is very explicit and it comes with a role and it's power is more related to the person related to their skills and how they're using those skills resources to bind others to do something. And that is positive and it's negative. So usually we are saying well we don't wanna be vulnerable, we don't want to be again in this early stages where we were depending on others. So we have to increase our power and that may also get into the negative connotations of we are power hungry so if only I would be at the top of the world, I don't care about titles unless they give me power or that's where we start getting, we might, some of us might get actually power hungry in that sense. But in my research that was not so much. So what is so fascinating in this topic is that we believe it's about egocentric type of leaders that are driven to accumulate power and money and so forth. I'm sure that there is a percentage of those leaders out there and that's a big driver for leadership. But the way I have experienced in my practice, in my research, the power dynamics that get at play is not simply because people are power hungry, is because the lack of clarity and the lack of formal authority enters a dynamic that even though you don't want it to be and you deny it and you try to avoid it to be competitive or being about a power struggle, it automatically becomes a such. So that's also a lot of in misinterpretation about the other occurs. And the two interacting leaders is suddenly become opponents that they need to engage in a power fight even though that's not explicitly mentioned and that's not what they talk about. The felt experience of the dynamic is as such. So then I become more guarded in opening up and I perceive the other perhaps as being power hungry or on a mission to get me or to sort of dominate me, but actually that may not be their agenda. Stephen Matini: When did the notional lateral leadership begin? How far back does it go in terms of studies? Petros Oratis: So lateral leadership has existed for, i I would say as long as organizations have existed, but it has been taken different forms and we mean different things based on sort of the contemporary reality that that we are part of. So there is a field of studies that that actually are focused completely on leaderless groups, actually leaderless movements. And that's not what I necessarily focus on because I focus on that dimension within hierarchal systems, which majority of our systems are. There is a big trend that started that that related to self authorized or self-manage groups that are leaderless and there you need to see how leadership gets exercised beyond roles or people it's exchanged. So in my field it also started very early on because the group dynamics as they were being studied psychoanalytically that started in Second World War and already there there were studies by a famous psych named Bion who are actually, and others I should say, but they studied also groups from this idea that authority and leadership are shared and you need to understand how they get sort of fluctuated within groups. In the mid two thousands, the notion of lateral leadership and lateral collaboration begin to take more traction in being studied also in my discipline, because a lot of changes in organizational structures were pushing that dimension. So what was before maybe a multidisciplinary or cross-functional collaboration where it needed to be studied there it became more relevant for also top leadership for executive level leadership to be studied, because of this idea that even if you have a vertical accountability, you still need to operate on an enterprise level. And a lot of what we are designing on paper, a lot of organizational design also approaches would amplify this idea that as a leader you absolutely need to learn to collaborate laterally. And that doesn't mean just on people on your level, on your equals, it means simply being on a lateral level with multiple leaders or role holders of different parts of the organization where momentarily you don't have formal authority over and you either have to lead or you have to follow them. So it's not so clear. Stephen Matini: Who would you consider to be a great example of lateral leadership these days? Petros Oratis: I don't want to go into a situation where I call out the particular individual. I could describe some of the characteristics that I found out from my research even though it's all helpful to find role models. So sometimes, you know, I am more in, in this idea that we need to acknowledge the challenges that come from a in our human nature or certain type of behaviors and understand them as opposed to say, you know, underdeveloped leaders or very inspiring leaders. Stephen Matini: I have a a brilliant example and I'm being very humble. I think a good example would be you and I. Who are we? We are competitors. I mean feasibly I may provide some of your services to the same clients, you know on a technical level, you and I competitor, but we are here working together. I love the fact that we can create something together that makes sense. Something that hopefully is going to provide a lot of opportunities and wonderful things to you and to me, you know, rather than competing with other agencies, can we all come together and really support each other and to provide to clients is something that is the cumulative combination of our experiences. So maybe I'm completely off with this, but I think that in some small way I try to be a non-authoritative type of leader. Petros Oratis: What you say resonates a lot and of course I recognize the principles of of what you're saying. My challenge maybe to this and the view of the world in general is that we reflect on this behavior, our value or our ability to engage with that. What we might be forgetting the context. So what you and I have done in our roles is that we sought out an independent practice, right in that sense and in our interaction. Now we might have competitiveness or elements where we might, we could look at them in a competitive or a reserved way. Yes. But we are coming in a collaboration together out of very autonomous roles and we can actually, protect is not the right word, but our independence will not be heavily impacted in our collaboration. That doesn't discount any of what you describe around values or the fact that somebody else could approach something in a very competitive way. Like so it doesn't discount our personal values around that. But the difference, I think we need to remember what may shift the dynamic is either the actual interdependency or the idea of interdependency. So for example, if I forget what you just said and I go on LinkedIn, everyone is a competitor and everyone is a potential client and therefore I might get into a mode that I'm suffocating myself and I need to, you know, I need to become very assertive and very authoritative and so forth. Now organizations completely expose you to that experience all the time. Even if your values are as such, you will never forget that you have to compete. There are limited resources. When you started the question one individual leader came to mind who was actually driven a lot by impact, was inspired to actually take on big roles but without becoming competitive or not being driven by ego or by money and so forth. But of course was also struggling with that. So, and I think that a role model doesn't necessarily mean they don't struggle with exercising that leadership, but in one of the cases that was brought in, there was basically a funding for a research that was given to someone else in another department that he thought should actually had come to him because he was advocating for that role. So, and in that moment was sharing this was starting doubting shouldn't I be more competitive? Shouldn't I be more hierarchical? Why did it went somewhere else? Am I not playing the game right and so forth. And then whilst talking I didn't do much in that interaction, I was just listening. But whilst talking to it, he was saying well maybe this other person, their role was most suited to get the grant done in my case. So he started contextualizing what was happening so that he could step out of this power dynamic that was already imposed. Because it brings up a lot of good questions like who am I? If I'm bypassed in my organization, who am I? Am I, if I'm too collaborative, does it mean that I will be seen for my individual contribution, could maybe later on somebody else speak of my work but they get the credits. All of those aspects that are far in an organization that are far more, I would say even suffocating or impactful than being independent. So starting my research, I was thinking, you know, you have people who are more inclined to be power hungry or they're driven by hierarchy and there are others who are more based on purpose and so forth, but I cannot really say that I can draw the lines so clearly and I am more of an optimist in that sense in a full spectrum where sometimes they're triggered to be in a certain way and sometimes they're triggered to be seen differently. Stephen Matini: It seems that we're going through a massive shift and whether leaders want it or not, you have to start collaborating. You will not be able to survive in such a super complex and fast environment in which we are in. It is virtually impossible. Petros Oratis: I think that younger generations but also the contemporary state is all about purpose and vision more so than you know, the promise of career development, what is a good purpose of an organization that also is shifting quite a lot in a positive way. But that I think also creates maybe a challenge for different generations of leaders, including also the new generation of leaders, right? So not just older generations I think for all is this idea of combining the two different styles. It's very difficult if you think about that. I have experienced even, you know, moments where roles that are more supportive that are from more junior staff as part of a, for example executive team. Sometimes they find it very difficult also to say, oh hold on, this is not actually for me to decide or I need to accept that somebody else ultimately decides. Not everything is about consensus. There are moments that we are lateral and it has to be that way that's enriching the process. And then there are moments actually that we are quite hierarchical. We're quite vertical because some others have those, you know, you are the owner at the end of the day you carry the risks of your business and so forth and it could not be seen as that risk then has to be shared laterally if you, if you see what I mean. Even if you could do that Stephen Matini: In your job, in my job it is such an important thing to have the strength and to be optimistic. So when you work with the client and you provide your point of view, which is beautiful and they are skeptical in, they say, seriously, I understand all of this but I don't see how we can apply here, we have shareholders, we have to produce money, produce results. What is the first step you take in order for them to start getting into this whole lateral type of thinking? Petros Oratis: I think actually that the work with a client is never of the same format as we do now that we analyze something in such a cognitive way. I need to clarify that I'm not advocating for a certain organizational model whether that should be hierarchical or not, right? So, so I would never go in an organization or work with a leader by already holding in mind what the right answer is. All I'm trying to do in that work with a leader is to understand how the lateral dimension, which is always there even in the army, so, so even in a very hierarchical structure and the actual organizational structure with its rules, how they interact for them and for their team. But that's also not necessarily the my beginning and my stop of of this work. So it's just a very informative dimension, what is at the back of the mind and if it requires and it helps the leader to explore that further, we work specifically on that. If not some of those principles will be offering some guiding questions so that we can resolve some of the tensions that they're experiencing with different awareness. So I would never advocate for them to become less authoritative or to let go of control immediately. I would try to understand what are the drivers behind a certain type of behavior, whether that style is supportive of the role and what are the limitations and work with that. That's why I would be very reluctant, for example, to put people in a spectrum of hierarchical versus lateral because these are also contextual. What we often do also is to understand how is my personal predisposition on authority and hierarchy and what is also of more fluid leadership. So what are my predisposition and what are also some of my unconscious relationship models that I carry with me in those roles. So do I experience an thought figure as by default someone who is there to get me or to maybe restrict my autonomy or have I learned to effectively challenge those figures playfully maybe or am I rebellious Again, they can be very resourceful, those models that we all carry, but they could also have limitations. So how far am I conscious of how I'm basically using them? And the same is when I interact with others on a more lateral level. Stephen Matini: What would you say that is the one aspect of your job that makes you the happiest? Petros Oratis: The highlight of this work and what actually is a fuel for doing more of it is when when you have seen that when you work with individuals or with teams, they have actually accomplished an understanding and insights that inspires change, which before was completely out of reach to them. Not because they don't have the skills or because I am might be more intellectual as such, but because the space was not there. So it was through the work, there was space created to experience insights about own behavior and about understanding the system we operate in that before was completely out of reach and that really gives me a high after, after doing such work. I'm not saying that it always has sustainable change if you do it one off and then you that it has, but those moments can never be forgotten either. So even when sometimes the team or an individual defaults into previous behavior, that moment is not forgotten. So it's a, it's a touch point of saying, hold on a second, why am I back into a certain type of behavior? And sometimes, you know, you cannot change a system alone or even can change fully a system. Like you learn how to tweak a little bit or change somewhat of a balance. But I think this is what absolutely gives me a high. Maybe to seek some sort of understanding of different perspectives. That's something also that I was missing in my early life also because of divorce of parents. So I could see that one household had a different storyline, the other household had, they were not fighting necessarily the storylines, but I could see the differences and I, I always was in this experience, but why do I get to be in between and not be able to share the experience of being in between? And that's a little bit what you do often with consulting and coaching is that you are coming across very different storylines, sometimes competitive storylines and we you're trying to actually engage into some sort of dialogue. Also what I've learned is that sometimes my drive to see a certain type of harmony or a certain type of understanding or collaborative moving forward may not be what's needed or what's helpful to others or it may not be as painful to them as I maybe once experienced that. So I think by doing a lot of that work also that desire goes a little bit down in me. The more and more I do this work I process a little bit those experiences that I thought, you know, maybe also they should be better now then I'm thinking okay, maybe they were not so bad in the end. Stephen Matini: Petros we talked about so many different things and I still have so many questions, but I wanna ask you, is there anything that you deem to be really, really important that our listeners, the listeners of this episode that should pay attention to? Petros Oratis: Maybe I already referred to it a little bit, but I think one of my biggest insights is when coming across competitive or power dynamics that are challenging to experience emotionally, I think it is also very important to find a space to process them and not to draw judgments right away to perceive that an organization is not maybe healthy or safe because of those dynamics. It's an unfair thing to be stated. There is no way for organizations to find their equilibrium without a lot of those power dynamics that are at play. When we are in situations that are completely harmonious and everyone is very friendly, we will quickly find out that those dynamics are under the table, which can make it even harder than in highly, let's just say competitive environments where competition is what you see is what you get. So in other words, it's something that we need to learn to play with a little bit more without it being so daunting, without also thinking that it's for the ones who are highly political and they are on a power trick. That's also not what I'm actually advocating, But it's to say we need to come more comfortable with negotiating authorities all the time with each other to wrestle a little bit with our dynamics, especially in highly interdependent roles, and not to judge others when they are on that mode, but to find ways to make that dialogue a little bit richer and that process a little bit richer. Stephen Matini: Petros I've learned a ton of things today. I really appreciate the time you gave me and your kindness. Thank you. Thank you very much.
32:57 2/28/24
Well-Being: Letting Go - Featuring Kali Patrick
Kali Patrick is a Sleep, Health, & Well-Being Coach whose book Mastering Your Sleep Puzzle helps busy people who struggle with sleep due to stress and overactive minds. Kali highlights the importance of letting go, creating personal space, and making positive lifestyle changes for better sleep. Our interview revolves around understanding and addressing individualized sleep challenges through a comprehensive, mindful, and personalized approach. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen Matini #KaliPatrick #SleepCoach #MasteringYourSleepPuzzle #Well-Being #LettingGo #Burnout #Work-LifeBalance #Podcast #PityPartyOver #Alygn #StephenMatini #LeadershipDevelopment TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: So I think maybe as a first question that I should ask you to an expert in sleep is, how did you sleep last night? Kali Patrick: I was doing mixed and you know, a lot of people think that because I'm a sleep coach, that I get something like whatever perfect sleep would be that that happens every night. It's almost like if you were a, a nutrition person, people think that you never eat anything that's not healthy. As a woman of a certain age, I wake up hot and then cold and then hot and then cold. So some nights are better than others. I mean, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.   Stephen Matini: When did you start getting interested in sleep? I know you mentioned last time also that, you know, as it happened to so many of us as somehow a trouble or something that upset us becomes the inspiration for a job. How did it start for you? Kali Patrick: Well, my big problems are rooted back in childhood. I think they really started bothering me and becoming an issue in, in college I was under a lot of stress. I was studying for a degree that did not match what I was truly, naturally good at and wanted to do. So I had a lot of stress around making sure I got good grades and making sure I kept my financial support, et cetera. And I had a lot of trouble sleeping. I started this with grinding of the teeth with bro them. So had a lot of pain in my mouth and was going to dentist. They finally gave me the guards for my feet. So that took away some of the pain. But I was still tired. I was still very stressed and struggling and that went on and I graduated and everything was fine and I got a job and then the stress became the job, which, which was in high tech. And I was developing websites back when they were new. So I'm on my way, I something to do in fact that, that I enjoyed, which was helpful. But it was still a very stressful environment. Things were always changing. As you might know, things are never static. You always, always behind, always busy. And so I was having trouble sleeping then and again. I knew it was because of the stress. So I explored things like yoga and meditation and I would take a class here and there and try, okay, I'm gonna sit and I'm gonna stop my mind and I'm gonna do all the things. And that didn't work. And finally I'd say it was probably 15 years later, I did a sleep study. 'cause I thought, well maybe there's something wrong. And going to a doctor and, and telling them, Hey, I'm having trouble sleeping. I don't know what else to do. They had me sleep in the room with the wires attached to my head. And I thought, how in the world am I gonna sleep in a cold, sterile environment with people behind a, a mirror watching me and monitoring me? And turns out I fell asleep. And he said, I woke up in the morning and they said, well, there's nothing wrong with you. You slept great. Here's a prescription. And in hindsight, I really questioned why I got a prescription if there was nothing wrong. I was happy. I was great. Okay, nothing's wrong with me. I have a prescription, I'll take this medication and I'll sleep. I must be taking it for about a week. And that was it because I noticed that I was groggy when I woke up, more so than had I not slept. And I didn't remember my dream. I was a, a pretty vivid dreamer at that time and I was interested in my dream. And when I woke up after taking medication, I couldn't remember them anymore. And I said, well, so I'm gonna wake up broadly. At least I want the benefit of remembering my dream. So I stopped doing that and went to all the natural things, right? The valerian and the melatonin, the teeth, anything that was sort of more natural that I could try. And none of that worked. I eventually thought from burnout in 2010 with my job, I had risen up through the ranks manager, et cetera, all the fun that comes with that as a sort of new job in a tech environment. So I left everything. I just said, I can't do this anymore. I had the benefit of being able to do that. So I went into a yoga teacher training program just saying, I don't wanna teach yoga. I just want to do something completely different and do something that's going to be good for me and I know that this is going to be good for me. And so I did a really intensive teacher training and it was life changing. It was just one of those moments where, wow, my life could be different, I could be different. So I came back from that saying, I do wanna teach yoga. I do wanna be that person who's less stressed and has that calm be yoga voice and just as relaxed. And that created a lot of turmoil in my existing life because the two things didn't fit at all. So there was a lot of, of shedding of my career, my relationship, and it was a very difficult time actually. But what came out of that was this practice that I now have where I am helping people learn how to sleep better, how to do it without all of that stuff that clearly, well, it didn't work for me. That doesn't mean it doesn't work for other people, but most of the people I coach have been in that situation, right where they have tried all the things, I've done, all the stuff I've seen my doctor, nothing's wrong, but I'm not sleeping. And so it's really a pleasure to be able to work with people and to help them find their way through that and do it in a way that works for them, right? Just because I did it in a certain way, you know, you mentioned I'm a sleep expert. I don't call myself a sleep expert. I call myself a sleep coach because I don't initially have all the answers. What we do in a coaching situation is we work together and we navigate it together and we figure out, well, what's going to work best for each person? And that could be completely different than how I did it, but it's that learning how to reconnect to your own natural ability to sleep and see all these other things as distraction, as more stressors, as more to do and to really peel the things away that are preventing sleep versus trying to do things to make sleep happen.   Stephen Matini: Where do you start when you want to be more aware? Kali Patrick: I do usually have people do an assessment. So let's lay out all the problems. Let's just get it all on the table. What are the issues people are having? A lot of my clients suffer from multiple sleep concerns. The main bucket being trouble falling asleep initially when you go to bed, trouble staying asleep throughout the night. Some people wake up too early and some people have all of those problems and still others sometimes feel that the sleep at night is interrupted in some way, or not quality sleep because in the daytime they feel, well, I get tired right in the afternoon, for example. I get tired, I don't have the energy that I want. So we lay all that out. Generally speaking, people have an idea of what might be contributing positively or negatively to their space. What's something you do, for example, that you know you sleep better when you do it? You know, a lot of people will say, well I wanna go for a walk. I know when I exercise or when I go for a walk in the daylight, I sleep better that night. Okay, great. So then that's one in the column of this helps. Okay, what's one thing you're doing that is probably not the best thing for your sleep? And out of 10 people say using technology, I'm on my phone, I'm on my iPad, I'm watching television, I'm, you know, too late in the evening before bed. That's the number one answer. We do that, we go back and forth. We look at what are the contributors, what are the things that are influencing sleep? And the other thing that I think is really important is to step back from all that and say, well what do we want six months from now, a year from now? What do you want your life to be like? And people usually start out by saying, well, I'd like to sleep better. I'd like to have more energy. Great. Let's imagine that you have that now. What do you want? What will you do with all that energy that you have as a result of sleeping better? What will you do with all the extra time and money and effort that you're putting into trying to solve this problem? Where will that go? That becomes the motivating factor. So I've had people say all sorts of wonderful things and people wanna start a business. People want to create art or music. People want to be better in their relationship. There's no right or wrong answer there, but what is the vision for somebody who tweaks better and is more energetic? And that is a real important part of the process because we have to keep that in mind when we make choices and all those little choices that make or break someone's sleep on a daily basis, on a nightly basis.   Stephen Matini: If I understood correctly, it seems that sleep is the manifestation or something else. It is something that gets affected when other parts of our life do not quite align or work the way they do. While you were talking, obviously I'm not a sleep expert, probably my expertise, I would say lies more in the, in the communication realm. And for me, communication is always the indicator, depending how that is or things flowing or flowing and such and such. So oftentimes when people want to work on communication, they feel that, okay, let's address communication, miscommunication in reality, the problem usually is always elsewhere. Sure, you know, there's certain technicalities you want to learn about communication, but once all the other stuff is taken care of, then usually communication flows. And as they were talking, you know, it seems to me it might be a similar dynamic. Kali Patrick: Absolutely. And and a lot of it, like I I mentioned is, is removing barriers. So clearing the path. And yes, once people start to make different choices, and particularly around rest and recovery, sleep happen. You don't create sleep, you don't make sleep happen. It does happen when you get out of the way of it and a different mindset, it's different view into the problem and therefore a different solution.   Stephen Matini: One thing you said last time when you and I talked that really got stuck in my head is sleeping, is learning to let go. And I think it's beautiful because falling asleep it is, you know, letting it go. But it's such a simple thing, but it seems to be so hard sometimes to do. Would you mind explaining more this concept? Kali Patrick: I often say sleep is about letting go or sleep is a surrender as a way to contrast with how we typically look at sleep and how we look at solving sleep struggle, right? Which is to try to control the problem, to put practices in place. Not to say that having a great bedtime routine isn't a wonderful thing, but when we start to get rigid about it, right, okay, I have to do this and I have to do this and I have to do this. Or we get stressed and anxious about it, okay, I'm not sleeping, so let me run through all the things I could possibly do to help myself, right? Which I see a lot of people doing as well, right? So that's all in service of how do I make sleep happen? How do I control my sleep? How do I fix this problem? Which I work with fixers, I work with managers, I work with project managers, program managers, people who are used to looking at a problem saying, okay, I can fix this. How do I do that? What are my options? And that works great in a lot of situations and we get praised for our ability to do that in a lot of different situations. But when it, where it comes to sleep, that actually usually backfires. So what we need to do, as you said, is to say, okay, what do I need to let go of? How do I let myself surrender to this? And that is not easy. It is a simple idea. It makes sense to most people, but it's not necessarily easy. And in part that's because of the training that we've had, right? Again, the training we've had to say, okay, here's a problem. What are my options? How do I solve it? And to some extent we do bring that to the sleep struggle, but it is less about doing and more about undoing. So in terms of really looking to surrender and let go, I think the best way to practice that, and it is a practice, doesn't just, we don't just suddenly be able to let go, right? We have to practice that is by having moments during the day where we can practice rest and practice receiving and practice recovery, which most people don't do. And even if they do try to do that, a lot of times we're so conditioned to be doing and moving and productive that sitting down, for example, for 15 minutes without some sort of stimulation, just sitting and being with ourselves and you know, yeah, letting the mind do its thing. It's going to think, it's going to be busy, but can we try to be built and give that space for the mind to kind of process and the heart and the emotion. Certainly we're consuming a lot of things during the day, right? We're consuming information, we're consuming other people's energy and we might have difficult conversations, et cetera. So we need to sort of process that and we give ourselves these small rest breaks during the day. It might not be sort of the then meditation experience, but those things can wash through our brains and wash through our body. During the daytime, people usually complain that, Hey, I'm up at three in the morning and I'm thinking about what happened during the day and I'm worrying about this and I'm worrying about that. Oh, that's because that's when you're finally quiet. That's when you're finally still, we need to practice that during the daytime, like make an appointment with ourselves to say, okay, I'm gonna just sit and say, okay, what's happened so far today? Let me process that. Let me see what do I think? What do I feel about that? And then get up and move on. But that does require some change to how the daytime is.   Stephen Matini: Are you deliberate with the quiet moments during the day minute? Do you plan them somehow or you let them happen organically? Spontaneously? Kali Patrick: Personally or for my client?   Stephen Matini: Both. Kali Patrick: Personally I plan for them, for me in particular, the morning is a sacred time. I have a good two to three hours from the time that I get up to the time that I start, you know, my day where I'm quote unquote working on something, right? Where I, and it's not that I'm sitting here quiet, right? I have things that I'm doing, but I have a process. I'm maybe sitting down reading something that I wanna read. I drink coffee. Yes, I do have, I enjoy my hot cup of coffee in a cold morning, right? So I take that time to kind of ease into my day. And I do also have an appointment with myself around three in the afternoon because I know that's when I tend to get a little bit of low energy, which many people do. And so that's a great time also to take care of yourself and to have that appointment with yourself. My clients sometimes do that as well where, where they know, oh, well, you know, lunchtime I have a break, I can sit with my food, et cetera. Or if they have children or depending on their schedule, they need to figure out where, when that works best for them. I find that most people, unless they're highly exceptional and have a really flexible schedule, most people do benefit from having some sort of routine and rhythm to it. So it's a consistent, every day at this time, I do this. And the body and the mind start to expect that it becomes part of the training of the rhythm of the day, which also does all contribute to having a better night. So, but it's, it's completely up to what works for each person.   Stephen Matini: As I was going through your website and learning as much as possible so I could be well-informed. I read one thing that I, I thought I'm gonna ask her, which is revenge bedtime procrastination is, I wanna ask you, I used to have such a busy schedule, you know, go, go, go, go, go out of the, I don't know, guilt or whatever the hell it was. And then in the evening I would procrastinate going to bed because it was like, screw it. Now I need some time for myself. I need to carve with some times that I can actually exist and live. Is this an example of revenge, bedtime procrastination? Kali Patrick: 100%. Exactly. It's that not having time for yourself during the daytime, that pushes me further away because, oh, you know, maybe the house is quiet or you finally feel as though you've done all the things you need to do that day. It's a scheduling problem to some extent, right? If there are too many things that are not for me happening during my day, too much of me giving myself to other people. We talk a lot about boundaries and coaching because oftentimes people struggle with saying no at work, saying no to family friends, to asking for help, for receiving help, for taking that time without feeling guilty. And that that is really important, you know, and we know from, I mean from the work side, the to-do list is endless. It never goes away. And I mean, it's the same in personal life really. Everything's a project, right? You can't go do anything quickly. I'm finding that, you know, I put something on my list of something to do personally, and I think it's gonna take 15 minutes and I'm on, you know, I'm on in traffic, I'm on the phone, whatever, for an hour. Everything takes longer than we think. And we don't, we don't necessarily budget for that. And we don't necessarily give ourselves those moments of quiet, like I mentioned. So of course we're gonna create, that's, that's basically moving that moment of rest and quiet and time for you taking it away from your sleep time. And that's a choice. Is that time to yourself more important than the quality of your suite? It might be, but at some point the what you're taking away from your suite is going to catch up with you and then you'll make a difference with it.   Stephen Matini: And it, and it's also so cultural particularly, yeah, I would say for the western world, you know, which is so focused on doing, doing, doing, doing, doing. And the notion that if you carve some space for yourself, it's not that you're being unproductive, you're just recouping your energy so you can be even more efficient. You know, that's something that is definitely not part of the mindset of, of a lot of people. And so when we talk about work-life balance and all these programs within organizations for work-life balance, is that just a big lie ? Because I mean, we're getting this whole thing so wrong. I mean, what is a healthy way to really approach work-life balance, you know, from an organizational standpoint? Kali Patrick: Well, the thing that IHP and I'm often a provider for company. I come in and I do webinars. I talk about sleep, I talk about meditation, I do meditation classes, I teach yoga. These are benefits that a lot of companies give to try to help people with their mental health and their physical health and have some balance. What I see unfortunately is that many people don't take advantage of those programs. And the main thing that I see as to why is there's that permission. There's not an environment of safety that says, well, you're gonna take this hour and for yourself and go to a yoga class. We're gonna offer it to you, but we're going to make you feel really bad if you go take it because it's work to do. So for me, it comes down to that permission and that security, right? That it's an acceptable choice to say, yes, I'm gonna take advantage of that. And it doesn't have to be a company provided yoga class, it could be a, Hey, I'm gonna go out for my run in the afternoon because I want some daylight before the sun goes away and I know it's going to help me sleep better. But if it feels bad or like the person's going to get punished for taking that time, then they're not gonna take that time. And that's the, the shingle biggest thing I think is the problem. And it has been a problem for many years, is that people don't feel comfortable doing it. I have done some consulting work in the past couple years just to kind of stay connected to the culture. I did a consulting job probably several years ago now, but I had to be in an all day meeting with the, the customers and my boss. And I said, great. It was, it was in Boston. I said, I'll be there at nine o'clock. So I show up at, he said, no problem. I show up at nine o'clock. They've been there since seven. Okay, fine. I'm here at nine, fully participatory, well rested. We get it to about 12 o'clock noon. I'm thinking, my stomach's growling, I'm ready for a break, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, et cetera. No one's making any movement to leave. I can feel my blood sugar going down, right? So I said, excuse me, I'm going to get up and take a break now. And I got up and I left the room and I was the only one who did this. And it took so much courage, it really was hard. And I know everything I know about burning out and, and not doing this and having that experience and having recovered from that experience, I knew I had to do it. I mean, it, it was so difficult to do that. I thought, you know, on all the things in the minds, right? Oh my gosh, what are they gonna think of me? That I left on top of that I was the only female in the room at the time. There's that, there's a little bit of that concern going on. But it took a half an hour lunch, I just left, I ate my lunch, I, I drank some water, I went to the restroom, walked around a little bit, came back, they're all still there, right? And they brought some things in, you know, some bad coffee, some pizza, whatever. And you know, people ate and continued the meeting. So three o'clock in the afternoon, now we're still all trapped in this room. No oxygen, excuse me, I'm just gonna step out for a moment. I get up, I walk around, get some water, et cetera, et cetera, come back in. It got a little easier that second time because I had done it already by five o'clock the meeting was over, the client left, my boss looks at me and he says, oh my God, I need a scotch. I am wiped. I am like so drained. Well of course you've been here since seven, you haven't left the room, you haven't moved around, you haven't really eaten anything. Well you haven't had a drink of anything hydrating, right? And I actually kind of sat there for a moment. I thought, I'm okay, I feel okay. And that's because I made different choices. But it's really hard when you're the only one doing this. And in another situation, what I did might've inspired others to say, Hey, yeah, let's take a break. And sometimes that does happen, but I, I like this example. 'cause It, it was a bit extreme where no one else left the room . I think it's a good illustration of how it does require courage. We are in many cases working against the culture, which is largely unhealthy.   Stephen Matini: I wanna ask you something about your book, you know, mastering your sleep puzzle. When I got familiar with your background, it's kind of interesting your approach because if I got it right, you almost like, I rejected everything that people usually do around sleep, but you're going really to the most interesting, smart way to do it. You know, which is a way to approach it that, that I find it more, let's say more strategic. Let all the stuff that gets in the way away so that it, the sleeper can happen naturally. So if I had to ask you what makes your book, you know, different compared to similar books, I mean, what would you say? Kali Patrick: Well, I'm not sure there is a similar book, the book that I read about sleep are the more sleep science books. And certainly those are interesting for somebody who has a sleep struggle, although I don't, I'm not sure that it's absolutely necessary. I do see a lot of people reading the, the very deep sleep science and, and, and details about insomnia and that just creates more anxiety around the fact that they're not sleeping. So my book is really a marriage of the coaching process, the health and wellbeing coaching process with a lot of concepts from yoga and meditation, but more of the philosophy around energy and how stimulation is a root cause of many people sleep struggles these days and how to reduce the stimulation through various practices. So the 12 weeks is really a step by step. How do I do this for myself without being a plan, if that makes sense, right? It's not a 12 week plan. I don't say, okay, here's what you do exactly in week one, you must do X, Y, and Z. It's not prescriptive, it's here are the things that I want you to think about and you put your own plan in place. So I think it has the potential to, to help a lot more people because it is not something that's rigid and formulaic, but it does follow a style a, a again, a a method that I have seen work in many stressed out, particularly busy people. You have this problem of being overstimulated and, and not necessarily having a sleep disorder, a medical problem, but having disorder sleep through behaviors and patterns and, and training of life.   Stephen Matini: Before we we're talking about electronics, you know, we all know some people more than others that it would be great to give ourselves some space and time without any sort of digital stuff because that interferes with our sleep. In terms of diet, what to eat in the evening, like I understand your approach is so much more holistic and comprehensive, but is it, is anything like really practical that people could be right away mindful of what to eat or not to eat in the evening based on your experience? Kali Patrick: Well there is a whole chapter in the book about eating. It is certainly related just to stress is related to sleep, so is eating, so was exercise, so was light, so was so many different things, which is part of why I called the book Mastering Your Sleep Puzzle, right? 'cause There's so many small components of things that influence our sleep, again, positively or negatively. So being aware of that and knowing that is part of the solution and most people have that sense of, of what's going on for themselves. But caffeine is something that lasts in your system for a lot longer than, you know, people think sugar is often a problem for people, especially as they age In the evening, for example, I used to be able to eat to drink coffee with dinner or to have a chocolate cake for dessert, whatever. But now not so much where you learn to adapt. We learn to pay attention and see the connection and then to where the gap and say, okay, so now when I have my chocolate cake, it's at lunch because I want my chocolate cake, right? and I want my sleep. So I make an adjustment. Then I have everything that I want if I have a light dinner because I often eat more for lunch than I do for dinner. Sometimes I don't eat enough and then I find that, well I'm hungry before bed. You don't wanna go to bed hungry because a stomach growling is going to keep you awake. You're not gonna be able to relax. So then I eat a little something just enough to take away that feeling of hunger. I think I do say in the book, what's interesting about food and sleep I think is that you probably have experienced that when you're hungry, when you're ready to eat, you feel a little tired, right? The energy goes down because the fuel is gone. So it's almost like you wanna time the bedtime with that feeling of the energy going down. And digestion of course is an active process. So the, the more that is in the stomach to be digestive, the more active and stimulated your system's going to be. So there is that balance. And again, for every person, we don't wanna be going to bed and having blood sugar crashes or wake up at two in the morning when blood sugar often does funny things too. So again, it's learning what works for your system and then making those, those changes to adapt. And it will change throughout a person's life for sure.   Stephen Matini: And sometimes it gets so tough because of the, also the culture. Like, you know, I live in Italy and Italians for the most part eat around 8:00 PM and I think they have lunch probably 1:00 PM Of course it changes from person to person, but roughly, but what happens, a lot of people enjoy to go, you know, to dinner like at nine o'clock, at nine 30. And it's something that I love the social component, but I just cannot do it. I mean, that means that if I do that, either I don't eat a thing or if I eat, then I'm gonna be super, you know, harshly punished, you know, doing my sleep. So, and, and it's difficult sometimes with some people, you know, explaining that, that you're not trying to be finicky or difficult. It just really, you know, I cannot afford and not to sleep because then tomorrow is a million different things that I need to do, you know, for sure. We talked about different things from different angles about sleep and so much more. Is there anything in particular that you think would be helpful for the people listening to this episode to focus on as a starting point? Kali Patrick: What I see a lot and hear a lot from people is all the things that haven't worked. I think we, we started off with this, right? I've tried this, I've done that, I've done this. But yet many people are still doing those things. And again, this is an example of where if you're not sure if it's working for you and especially if it's creating stress, then drop it. I see people who have 12 step bedtime routine too much and they're still not sleeping 'cause they're seeing me, right? They're coming for a consultation. So why do it? It's not helping you let it go, start fresh, right? When you wake up in the middle of the night, people go through that file drawer of, well I can breathe like this or I can do this meditation, or I could do this visitation, or I can count sleep or I can do this, or I can get up and have a da da da da da. And then you can hear the busyness, the stress coming in the mind, right? So there's all these options. Choose one thing when I wake up in the middle of the night, I'm going to do this and then do that thing for a month. At least don't worry about whatever other options you see. You go on, you go on social media, you find, oh there's this new technique, right? There's a new app, there's a new this, there's a new net, forget it, you're doing your thing. There's so many things that can work, but it's like digging a bunch of shallow wells. You're never gonna hit water. You have to focus in on something that sounds like it's going to be enjoyable. That sounds like you think it's going to help, that maybe you feel in your gut, you know, it's going to help me, right? Just focus in on that and let all the other stuff drop away for a time and see what happens. Because again, for a lot of people, there's this increased focus on getting better sleep, which on the one hand is great. Yes, we need to pay attention to this area that we've perhaps neglected for a time, but there can be a hyper focus on it that does more harm than good. Again, this whole conversation really has been about how do we narrow the focus? How do we create some space for ourselves and let what's not helping and what's not the focus drop away? I think that's really the theme of what we've been saying in so many different way.   Stephen Matini: I love it because it seems to me a positive strength approach essentially. Like rather than seeking some solution, you know, there's already a bunch of stuff that if you just pay attention to it, you can tap into it and just to get the whole sleep pattern perfecting a better. Kali Patrick: Yes. And many people need help with that, right? Because we are so conditioned. I mean that's, that's how I'd partner with people. I help them shift their focus and sometimes shift their mindset or shift how they're thinking about making healthy choices, right? How do I talk to my partner about sleeping separately? How do I tell my friends, I'm not trying to be antisocial. How do I know what's the best thing we can, we can talk about that and we can figure that out together and then approach the method with some curiosity. Well, what happened when I tried that? Right? Let's pay attention and let's really see what worked, what didn't? How do we do more of what does work? How do we rely on what you already know? And your strengths And your abilities and what you have been able to accomplish? There are so many people sometimes who say, well I haven't had an experience of good night's sleep in a really long time. And then we have a conversation and I find out, well, a week ago, yeah, I had a great night's sleep. Okay, well, so you're capable. Your body and your mind are capable of doing that. You've had that experience. It might not be a week ago, it might be two weeks ago or or three months ago, but you've done it. So it's possible people lose that hope sometimes when they're struggling that it's even possible for them to do it again. So we really reconnect with the positive and start to shift the mindset around what can I do and what is working and how do I just do more of that?   Stephen Matini: Well, Kali, this evening, I think inevitably I will think about you for sure and all the wonderful things that you shared with me. Thank you so much for giving me your time. I've learned a lot. Kali Patrick: Oh great. Thank you. It's been my pleasure speaking with you.
38:31 2/14/24
Mindfulness: Authentically Me - Featuring Neil Lawrence
Neil Lawrence is a well-being and transformational coach who reminds us about the importance of self-acceptance and authenticity to find purpose in life. Neil shares how mindfulness has helped him navigate neurodivergence as well as chronic conditions that have profoundly impacted his life, like Fibromyalgia and PSTD. Neil emphasizes the idea that everyone is good enough as they are, countering societal pressures that often lead to a sense of inadequacy, which heavily affects minority groups like neurodivergent individuals and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for Live Sessions combining coaching, content, and advisory to boost leadership and management skills. Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen Matini #NeilLawrence #Mindfulness #compassion #LifeCoachLondon #podcast #PityPartyOver #Alygn #StephenMatini #LeadershipDevelopment #ManagementDevelopment TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: Have you always known what you want to do professionally? Neil Lawrence: No, I coach creatives. I'm a writer myself. I coach execs, I coach leaders. I do lots of career coaching. I coach kids. And honestly, that idea of having the career and the career plan, it's so antithetical to me. I'm kind of careful where I say it, but I do honestly believe that's not the way it goes. I became intentional about the work I did when I became a coach, everything before it. And even then, it was still like, I don't really know what was getting myself into before then. Third generation immigrant. My community was, this is the generation that has to make it to middle class. I'm sure you know about the UK and just how class obsessed and hierarchically obsessed they are. So, you know, I went to university that wasn't approved of by my community 'cause it wasn't one of the ones. But essentially I kind of fell into everything I did until I became a coach and intentionally became a writer. Stephen Matini: What you just described is what happens, I think to most people. Very few people know from the very beginning what they wanted to do. And you said at some point you made more intentional choices. Do you think it, is it possible to make intentional choices early on on our lives or it just that we have to go through a bunch of stuff before we actually understand? Neil Lawrence: That's a good question. I think our society has got everything the wrong way around. I think there are systemic reasons for that and in the UK I think there's political reasons for that. We are a nation obsessed with success, passion being driven, having the career, having the title. And actually I kind of find myself asking what for, I think work is important. I probably am a workaholic, but in my mind I don't think it's that important. It doesn't define who I am. It's something that I spend a lot of my life doing. I think those people know what they want to do at an early age and are quite driven. I'm passionate about it. I'm not judgmental about that. I'm more on alert for the fact that everybody feels like they have to. And so many people feel they're failing because of it. And particularly since Covid and the pandemic hit and people are even more desperately trying to support the system that now has so many holes and gaps in it that it's unsustainable. I'm seeing as a coach, I'm seeing a lot of really worn out, unhappy, confused people. So three or four things got me too intentional. One facing up to the fact that I was disabled. Two, realizing that I was living with PTSD as well as fibromyalgia and like I've just, it's interesting you're saying about not sleeping. So I've literally just come up my whole weekend's been decimated by PTSD this weekend. It's just like I didn't exist for about 36 hours and you know, it's a big something and then I've told this story a billion times, but basically me and my husband were, we're on a very narrow and congested motorway about five years ago and it was dangerous driving conditions and I, we shouldn't be here. So still being here when I shouldn't be here also is quite a good motivate. So I wouldn't recommend it for anyone, by the way, as a way of finding out who you are. But I think all those things coalesced and I'm being bullied within the education sector and, and the values of working within that for 25 years and realizing just how misaligned they were. As I came to the conclusion that, you know, in UK education's really about two things. It's about hierarchy and it's about institutionalized bullying. All of that coalesced and drew me towards coaching the course I did with a company called Catalyst one Four. I'm still super supervised by them now. Demi one four who's the the founder and the kind of person who's my supervisor as well. They had a big mindfulness element to it that was really important to me as well. So, you know, I dunno if this long answer is giving you kind of what you want, but certainly my experience of waking up day to day means that now whatever's on, even if I'm stressed, it's like it is, it feels like purpose and it feels like I'm doing what I should be doing. Stephen Matini: So basically we are sold a big lie. Neil Lawrence: Yes. What we're told is we need to work so many hours, we need to have a micromanaged plan. We need to keep improving and keep adding to our skillset and we are not good enough. That's kind of, and we'll never be good enough. So we have to keep going. What I see from the people I coach and as as was saying, it's you know, sort of really broad spectrum of people is when they realize they don't have to work this hard, they are more than their job title. If they don't do this course and get this next qualification and people don't congratulate them on social media, they still might be working really well. Trying to be really careful say. That, oh, I haven't done my post this morning either. That's when I see the difference of people going, oh my, my motto is do less, plan less be less. Stephen Matini: But I love it connected to what you're saying. For me, what helps me is reminding myself, why am I doing this? You know, am I doing it because I am enjoying myself and obviously, you know, work is, work is not vacation, but what is the, the reason why I'm doing it? Because that really changes everything. It changes how you are in a situation. It changes how you work, it changes how you feel about stuff. If it's all about getting there, the results, how is it gonna land on people? It may spoil the whole journey, not completely. Definitely it did it for me. Neil Lawrence: I do wonder whether lots of us are on a journey or just constantly looking at destinations. Either those that have gone already that stick with us or those that we're heading to. I do wonder about that. And obviously that's the mindfulness bit, which is also nicely packaged these days as a kind of CBT tick box, which is not at all where I'm at with it or how I practice it and work with people that I coach either. But focusing on the now is the important thing. Set the intention. Obviously we plan, but we leave enough in the hands of trust that we will know when to make the gut decision. The right people will come to us if we're open to it. It always sounds a bit vague and wooly doesn't it, when people who, when people say this stuff or, or it's easily, you know, certain phrase I hate soft skills is an insult. Likewise, you know, when people talk about mindfulness being quite wooly and it's about clearing your mind so you have the clarity to make the decisions you need to as and when they happen rather than trying to look ahead and put everything in place before you get there. You missing on the journey there. Stephen Matini: How did you get into mindfulness? Do you remember the first time that got into your life? Neil Lawrence: In the days when I was still muck schooling, I worked with this wonderful counselor and we were running a couple of groups for young men at the point where I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. That's when I started meditating and used this app, which was a very basic, this is how you know, the three steps, three basic mindfulness techniques. And then from there I started to practice it and I kind of got it. But then I came across two teachers, two American teachers, one called Tara Brack and the second one called Jack Kornfield with a cape. They're really down to earth, they're really funny, they're really compassionate and they are very switched on in terms of systems and what's happening in the world around and, and they don't shy away from any of that. And my jaw kind of dropped open, suddenly there was a kind of spiritual link to the work I was doing and that's when as I continued to practice, a light switched on. I can remember the very moment, you know, Jack Hall Phil's written a book called After the Ecstasy of the Laundry. It's something like that, which is about his experience of kind of becoming a Budd monk and then coming back to America and just kind of the day-to-day going, oh, and I have this half term off where I was really connecting and really starting to feel compassion for other people and doors were opening and I went back to work and got these like 25 emails all about admin and systems and process that completely obfuscated working with young people or connecting with them or making a difference. And I really felt this disconnection. It was like, how the hell am I supposed to do this? So I realized I'd also have to find a wave surviving day-to-day systems that didn't really reach into making compassionate connections and being able to make a difference in that way. So from that moment onwards, things change. Stephen Matini: One of the ways that I have introduced mindfulness in the corporate world, which by the way for many, many, many years in depends on the situation, but it has always been welcomed really warmly to my surprise. But when people ask me more information and a bizarre way that I have to introduce it so they understand it is, it's basically implementing the lean process to your mind so that you think less and you focus on what matters. Okay, okay. Yeah. So you're gonna be more efficient. Run your mind. I like that. I've, well my, my experience of business-wise right across the board, the place where it's happened most has been kind of post 360 audit. It's exactly that. I think when you're coaching and especially with something like something that's an emotionally charged as a 360 or or any kind of review of performance that people are really open to what's gonna make this feel less like I an imposter And mindfulness is a really powerful way of introducing that. So yeah, I've shifted lots of, lots of copies of radical compassion particularly and radical acceptance. Stephen Matini: What does compassion mean to you? Neil Lawrence: I'm a change maker just in case it's not clear already. I've always been motivated by advocacy in terms of the work I do. So it's always been important to me to kind of have that sensibility. When lockdown happened, it was an interesting experience for me watching the way the rest of the world reacted to not being able to leave the house and the way that people completely still ignored disabled people that can't go out. And I suddenly realized if I didn't gain some compassion quick that I was just gonna hate the universe. So I literally introduced compassion meditation, meta meditation, much more loving kindness. Meditation is much more part of my day to day and and again, intentionally wanted to build all that soft care. And by the time toilet roll gators I like to call it happened in the UK and you know, people were just like literally fighting to get stuff off the shelves. I just, I thought it was a really interesting image anyway, that people have to buy something to feel in control of a situation where uncertainty is slapping them across the face. I just felt this huge sadness that it's deep pain and sadness and I can't manage it all the time and that's okay 'cause that's why we practice meditation. We don't surpass it. But that's what impassion means to me. That ability Stephen Matini: For different reasons. So many people these days seem to go through a mess up out of sadness, anger. These past few years have been really difficult for many, many, many different reasons. How do you switch from feeling sad and angry to feeling compassionate? Do you use mindfulness? Is it anything else that you do specifically? Neil Lawrence: It is mindfulness because that retrains the brain. And also I've studied psych psychodynamic psychotherapy. You've either got someone in front of you, you take the toilet roll gate as an example. You've either got someone in front of you who's really angry and selfish and doesn't care about anyone else and look at these people. So you either get that or you can see that someone is desperate and that desperation is leading them to literally lash out. And if people's defensiveness is because they feel they're gonna be attacked. And I do believe that's what it is, there's a lot of fight, flight, freeze response. And if you can see that, keep yourself safe because you're in the line of fire of somebody else who's not coping. That's not necessarily safe place to be emotionally or physically sometimes. But at the same time to recognize what you are seeing, that actually that violence or language or the selfishness isn't selfishness. It's desperation. We seem to be obsessed with becoming self-aware and lots of the self-help stuff is about self-awareness, but none of it is about how we heal afterwards. So I think we've got loads of people that are becoming more self-aware and are really quite thin skinned as a result because they don't have the tools they need to actually look after themselves because that's not the wellbeing marketplace is it. Stephen Matini: It's interesting when you talked about before about the notion of labels, I think I've read it on your website, when you talk about your values, like one of your, your values that you cherish is being real and you wrote, we are far more than a labels. Labels should not be boxes. We should know who we are beneath. It feels like an oxymoron such as we are trying to be inclusive, we want to recognize diversity of thinking, of political diversity and such and such. But rather than feeling more inclusive, it's almost like we are fragmenting, you know, we are separating even further and further. So what would you say that is a healthy approach to labels if you should use, if you should use them at all? Neil Lawrence: Thank you for the way you framed that question. 'cause We are on serious dangerous ground with even approaching this as, you know, because people's stories and the history of people's stories who've not been treated with respect or worse have been treated with aggression and violence and exclusion. Whatever community is, they matter. All those stories matter. And the right that people have to expect better from that of course is paramount. But I think where we've got to is it's your fault and what are you gonna do about it? As a way of talking about previous experience, again, the, so mindfulness would say that we can become overdependent on the label. All these things that actually describe who I am, they are things that I do or they are parts of my physical or emotional landscape. I think it's about holding onto it lightly and we should reach out to others with that and the strength in numbers. So leaning into, you know, I'm not com I've, I've always found I'm never comfortable in the, the label community that I've been part that that I go to. Because yes, we need to be talking and yes, other people should know what our experiences is, but I just kind of have this feeling that really truly connecting with someone and deeply listening to them. If someone else is doing that, then your experience is being shared. That's the way to do it. And what's been lost is the idea of community at the moment and people joining together. I'm sure it suits the system for us to be this divided, you know, certainly suits the uk you know, while we're all bickering then life can go on as normal elsewhere. But actually we need to be joining together and listening to each other's experiences. At some point we have to stop the idea of hierarchy. And I feel like that's a dangerous thing to say. I'm just waiting for the kickback whenever I say that. Stephen Matini: If we all listen to each other's experiences, what would you say that people would be able to hear to be the same in common? Neil Lawrence: I'm practicing it as a kind of think about it now. So I'm, I'm aware that I'm slowing my body down, that I am slowing my thought process down and opening up even across a zoom link to you Stephen. 'cause I do that. And allowing space for what you are saying to emotionally connect with me rather than just this, be a podcast interview if you like. There's something about that because what's needed will come from the conversation again, if we just trust that the other person is not the enemy, if the other person is the solution, then being able to think together and recognize there might be differences of opinion. But if we stop this thing of entitlement, which has become a noose around on x, I think it will be helpful. I mean, yes there are basic human rights that all of us should be have equal access to, but also there are very serious differences of experience. Like my, so thinking about disability, my, I hate the word normal, but let's just use it for sake of argument. My normal wouldn't be someone else's for me. Yesterday we took the dog out for a walk, which we haven't done for a couple of weeks 'cause he's developed arthritis. And during that walk my legs went, fibro wise again as a result of the PTSD episode that I'd had the day before the, the fibromyalgia kind of intensified. I was literally staggering around looking probably like I'd had about 10 points of, of Guinness or something and kind of laughing about that. And I said, and I said to my partner, I can't believe I've got used to this. This is like, I was thinking about people that maybe hide when they're in that situation, but just the freedom to stagger and to nurture myself when I got back home 'cause I was in pain. So there's something about being able to relate to each other's experiences I keep writing on, on LinkedIn at the moment. I've noticed when I'm doing these posts, don't call me brave, don't feel sorry for me. I'm not asking for that. I'm not asking for you. I'm just sharing. It's like this is not a judge, it's not a valued judgment to be had about this. Can you connect with where I'm at without feeling the need to do anything or judge. Stephen Matini: The one thought we can call it compassion that I have Oftentimes that put things in perspective is when I become mindful of the fact that all of us bear this humongous question mark, which is the journey of life. You know, we bear this thing of eventually one day we are gonna die. That's a huge thing to go through life, you know, so many question marks and as you said the beauty of life, but also the, the tremendous challenges of life that inevitably sooner or later all of us are going to face. You know? And when I look around and I feel lonely and I look at people that I don't know thinking, oh wow, they really share my same destiny. Eventually at some point they're gonna run through the same thoughts. And I feel so compassionate. I feel, oh my God, I, I wonder how they're going to feel. I wonder how they're going to react. I wonder if they're going to feel as lonely as I do. That thought for me really does the trick every single time that I get angry or, or something. You know what? Underneath this is our common destiny, our shared journey. And it really is the same and really put me in a different perspective. It somehow helps me calming down it to be more understanding of people. Neil Lawrence: I love that Steve. It makes me realize it's, so, there was that moment wasn't there at the beginning of lockdown where it looked like people were gonna reach for a kinder life afterwards. And looking at it from a mindfulness perspective or a Buddhist perspective, we have this moment where we could no longer pretend we could micromanage life and being faced with, you know, they, one is that life is uncertain and two, that it's finite. We're faced with this real understanding of both of those things. The fact that people have rushed back into to try and recreate the life there was before. When we don't have the resources we have before even, and it was too much then makes me feel really, really sad. There was a moment where if we could bear the uncertainty and bear that realization that we're all gonna die and live with that fruitfully, that life could actually become different. But it seems like we can't, what mind, again, not mindfulness has been able to do is make me realize that home is me. And that's true for all of us. You know? So being at home is being at home with me at that point. I wanna open the door and let other people in and need and want to have a really rich number of connections of friends and work colleagues. So I think, I think there's something about that. It's a struggle, but the idea that I don't matter, I'd find that really, really reassuring. That doesn't mean I can't make a difference, that I don't have great connections, but you know, I'm here I live, I'll die. I said don't need to need a legacy. I don't need to have this amazing trajectory that has done X, y, and z. I just need to be able to be here. I'm lucky enough to still be here after surviving that car crash. So every day's a blessing, every minute's a blessing. If I can reach into it and see it and nothing else matters, acceptance then actually opens the brain up to being able to think about what we can really do. So what, when I was growing up, my first crush, remember it so clearly was Michael J. Fox, she'll also tell you how old I'm and him kind of disappearing off the screen in the late eighties, early nineties. But reemerging in his spin city, which was the sitcom he came back to do is is written by Bill Lawrence. I love Bill Lawrence. He did Scrubs, he's done Ted Lasso recently shrinking. And Michael J. Fox is so funny in that, so, so funny. And then finding out when he, you know, spoke about Parkinson's for the first time and now I realize as a middle aged guy, God he was young, he was really, really young. And that recent incredible documentary, you know, that's shown on Apple plus that he did about his his journey. I find that so inspirational. Here's, here's the guy that for the first I, I remember it, I went to see back to the future, I remember being in the cinema, I just couldn't take my eyes off the screen and then crying on the bus on the way back going, oh my God, I like guys even wrote a jokey country in Western song in the sixth form about him. There's this deep, this kind of connection that I kind of feel just, just kind of watching. Not in a stalky one, but I find his whole journey and the fact that, you know, his marriage has survived all of that and his kids love him so much. It just, I find to me about that inspirational even down to his mobility. 'Cause You know, he drops a lot. He falls a lot and dyspraxia is quite a big part of what I've got. But you know, very clumsy. If my chronic fatigue is really high, yeah, I can trip over things. And I was in the middle of teaching and I fell asleep while I was talking maybe, maybe so bored, but boring myself, but actually felt my eyes going. It's like, oh my god, this is serious. And I'm being told I couldn't take a cup of coffee into an invigoration once as well. And I was like, and you don't understand I need this coffee. They were like, no, it's against the rules. And I said, okay, but I'm warning you I'll probably fall asleep. And probably did. I think there's something about that acceptance piece which doesn't yeah. Which doesn't mean being passive and certainly not in terms of advocacy around disability or whatever positive world we can find that hasn't got a dis in it around it. My mobility. Stephen Matini: I'm curious about something that I read when I did some, a bit of research about you, the notion of finishing, which is, you know, people struggling with completing task. Does this fit in any way, shape and form with what we are talking about? Neil Lawrence: Yeah, I think so. You know, the idea of niching I found really difficult when I started in business and, and set my own company. Because I do work across the board and I work on a wide range of different kind of issues from very personal ones to, you know, very, very career focused ones and everything in between. And it felt like a good fit, particularly after working with someone who's living with A DHD who specifically had that issue around how to either not get too hyper-focused or then how to give the brain the nugget it needed to keep going to get something done. So I kind of put it in there. But we now live in a world where people are petrified of finishing anything. Everything, you know, things feel so daunting and overwhelming partly 'cause I think the number of things that we're expected to do on any given day is, is is far too much. And the number of interactions and the, and the avenues for interacting again is far too much. We've definitely gone for quantity over quality of communication. I think the pandemic has really not the stuffing out of everyone in terms of the idea of getting stuff done. It's started off as a kind of recognition for me as a neurodivergent as well. My dyscalculia means that sometimes I lack focus, sometimes I forget what I'm talking about. Sometimes I find it hard to put things in a logical sequence and definitely organization in terms of time, date, where I need to be. All of that have to input that into my brain. 'cause The bit that where wires should be isn't there. And I'd, I'd done it. And I remember being surprised about 10 years ago when both my husband and one of my closest friends said, you are the most organized person I know, but because my brain is chaos, I don't see it that way, but actually it's true. And then I thought, well actually I'm probably a good person to be kind of helping people with this stuff. So it started from a neurodivergent perspective, but now it feels like it's a, it's a global problem that there's far too much and people feel under prepared for doing it. So for me it's about confidence, about giving people the confidence but then crucially for them to work out that they have the skills there all along. If someone had been there and it had been a safe enough environment for the, for them to be able to dig in. It's not that I don't give tools, obviously I do, but only if someone else hasn't got what they need. And most people do most of the time. So reintroduce the idea that we can do stuff and actually we can say no and we can rebuild the world, our world so that it's manageable. Stephen Matini: If I had to use a label for you, if I have to, I would say that you are exquisitely British in the way you self-deprecate yourself, your sense of humor. Yeah. That, that's, that's probably the only one that I would use. Neil Lawrence: That's interesting. And I've been, I've been told that before as well. And maybe there is a bit of me putting myself down before someone else does. I think more these days it's, it's the opposite. I kind of, it's not that I think I'm important, we've already covered that. But I do think that when it comes to white elephants, I'm really good at spotting them. And my life path has given me skills and care enough to be able to really help an enormous number of people, an enormous number of contexts, which yet is bad marketing copy, but is great in terms of what I actually do. So even when I am putting myself down, I kind of, I, I don't feel that, I feel like I'm able to have enormous impact and I'm wanna do much more of it too. You know, this is still year three, year four of my journey with this. So I feel really positive about that. I don't have a filter for that stuff and I don't understand why other people would. So, you know, I will say things like, I had a really bad experience with PTSD this weekend and now I've got the fibro repercussions. I probably say that two or three times today. And I see people get nervous, particularly if I'm working, I'm working for them. Like bosses gonna go, especially in the wellbeing industry. It's like we're all supposed to show we're shiny and I have nothing wrong with this. What is the point of that? You know? Oh yeah. But if, you know, if you with PTSD, people won't trust. You're like, well I'm surviving it. So for me it's just the logical thing and I want to bring those white elephants out. That's important to me. 'cause Those are the things that oppress me when people don't talk about them. Some people can't talk about them, I don't think. It's not like, I think everybody has to, and I've had that particularly in the L-G-B-T-Q community. Like you have to come out. No, I don't. I can choose where and when I do it, thank you. But I do think just being able to be honest and open with the stuff that's important to me or just feels like it's not talked about is I find, I find that helpful. Stephen Matini: Neil, I have one last question, which I always love to, to ask. We, we talked about so many different things and all these things are interconnected among all these things. Is there anything in particular that you think there are listeners should be pay attention to as a biggest takeaway from the conversation from your point of view? Neil Lawrence: I think I would go to the, to my two little photos that I use on LinkedIn a lot. So one, do less plan, less be less. And the second one connected to that is that you are good enough. I'm good enough. And so are you, let's just start from that and then see what happens. Stephen Matini: That's beautiful. Thank you Neil. This is wonderful. Thank you so much for this lovely conversation. Thank you.
31:31 2/7/24
Disability: States of Ability - Featuring David D'Arcangelo
David D'Arcangelo is the President of Arc Angel Communications, a Limited Liability Company that is a Disability Owned Business Enterprise. Legally blind from a young age, David is a passionate leader, advocate, and policy maker for people with disabilities and underserved populations. During our conversation, David emphasizes the power of positivity, love, and constructive discourse in addressing societal challenges and building bridges between differing perspectives. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over  Sign up for a Training Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen Matini on LinkedIn #DavidDArcangelo #diversity #positivity #blindness #ArcAngelCommunications #podcast #PityPartyOver #Alygn #StephenMatini #LeadershipDevelopment #ManagementDevelopment   TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: As we are approaching the end of the year, usually for me it's a, it's a moment of self-introspection. I tend to calm down a little bit, and just revisit all that I've done during the year. I also think about, all right, what I want the next year to be. So, I don't know if you gave any thought to 2024, but do you have any special wish for the year to come? David D’Arcangelo: Peace. I'm a bridge builder and so to me it's just bringing people together. You know, it's kind of ironical. Oftentimes people who advocate for change the most are the most adverse to it. The worst fear of a planner is that the plan actually goes into action. So I'm all about action. I'm all about getting things done and getting results and improving the human condition. So, and sometimes when you do that, you get to change things and not everybody likes that. People say they like it, that they like the change, but then when you go ahead and change it, maybe they don't like it as much. So to me it's about building those bridges and just staying positive, you know, that we can't control a lot. One thing we can control is our attitude. So I choose to be positive. Stephen Matini: What do you think people resent the most about change? David D’Arcangelo: Yeah, it's a great question. I don't know if they resent it. I think it's, people like to build archetypal metaphors in their head of what something is or isn't or is going to be or could be. And when that doesn't happen accordingly or exactly how they envisioned it, that creates conflict and that conflict is unsettling and everything else. So I try not to do that. I try not to have those prejudices really, and who knows what the next moment will bring, you know, it's like you gotta live for the moment. Stephen Matini: So it's about having the right expectations. David D’Arcangelo: Yeah, well, having no expectations really. Well, that can be challenging. It can, because I mean, you need to be pragmatic and plan for your dinner and plan for the seasons changing and plan for short and medium and long term things. So to me, it's the blend of being pragmatic, but also really not expecting much because nothing is guaranteed. All that's guaranteed is now this moment further than that. It's just everything's up for grabs. Stephen Matini: Sometimes it is discrepancy between what we want, our goals, our wishes, and the way things are. And I think it's a fine balance between finding contentment in the present moment while at the same time thriving for something else. How do you personally strike this balance? David D’Arcangelo: Sometimes better than others! Because You do get caught up in trying to think about the future or reflecting on the past. Future performance is usually an indication of past performance, but we're here on the now, so it's taking some measure of where we've been and that experience and being able to reflect on it. Particularly if you've made mistakes, you know, we're all, nobody's perfect and whatever failures we've had, I think it's trying to learn from those so that when you do them again, you're better, right? So having that past experience, trying to apply it towards future behaviors in the now and having that balance, like you said, is to me that's really one of the keys and one of the, if you can find that secret sauce in life, I think that's close to it. Stephen Matini: You mentioned already your mission, which is to improve the human condition, and actually it's one of those traits that you share with a lot of guests of this podcast, people that have made service the very center of their life. How did this mission enter your life? I mean, is it something that's always been there? Is it the result of something that happened in your life? David D’Arcangelo: It's always been there. I didn't always know it was there. It really comes down to fundamental bedrock convictions. And that is, you know, do you believe in God or not? I'm not very religious, but I'm very faithful. Anything that I have, yeah, it's from me, but I'm only the vessel for it. Any of the good things that happen, I really can't take credit for any of the bad things that happen, that's from me, that's on me. So I start with myself, what can I do to be better? What can I do to be more positive? What mistakes did I make that I want to change for the future so I don't make them again? And to me about improving the human condition, you can do a one person at a time, or you can try to be involved with policies that impact many. And I've done both, and I try to do both. And whether it's the one person or whether it's the many, I just try to stay positive and constructive and move things forward from that. But make no mistake about it, particularly in the realm that I've been in, which is disabilities. The disability itself can be very challenging. Those challenges are manifested in many ways. And it's a scale. We are all in various states of ability. And that ability manifests itself in so many different ways. And for some people there is great suffering on one end of that spectrum. And on the other end there's no suffering at all. And there's complete enlightenment and most people are somewhere on that spectrum. And just because you are on one place at one point in time doesn't mean you're not gonna be on another, it's a sliding scale, right? We're all in various states of ability. Stephen Matini: Has disability ever defined who you are? David D’Arcangelo: The best way I can answer that is, it's not my full definition, but it's part of my definition, right? You know, but who would I be if I didn't have this disability to encounter? I Because particularly I find with people with less apparent disabilities, which by the way I think is a very significant amount of persons with disabilities have non apparent disabilities, meaning when you encounter them, you would not necessarily know that they have a disability or not. And I'm probably one of those people, most people like, well, what do you mean you're legally blind? You can see, yes, I can see. And so can the large majority of people with blindness, most people who are blind have some usable vision. Now that's toward one end of that spectrum. I'm, you know, I'm probably barely legally blind, if you wanna put it that way. I'm 2200 with my glasses on, but that is still legally blind. And so oftentimes the greatest discrimination I face is from other people with blindness. It's a both a compliment and an insult at the same time. It's a compliment basically saying, well, you don't present as blind. And so all of the things that I've done to ameliorate my blindness, people don't recognize that or don't see that, and that's kind of the insult of it, right? The good side is, wow, look how high functioning this person is. The bad side is, well, wait a minute, what do you mean you're blind? So you know, you take the good with the bad and it's about education and giving people an understanding of our human condition that we are all in various states of ability, whether it's any of the prevalence, types of disability, hearing, seeing, cognition, mobility, you know, all of the different types of disability. Stephen Matini: Would you say that the biggest challenges that you have faced in your life in terms of disability, did they come from within, or was something that came from the outside? David D’Arcangelo: Yeah, the great stoic philosopher Epictetus said that one of the keys to life is to break things down into one of two categories. Internal things that you can't control and external things that you can control. I try to not spend resources and effort and time on things that are outside of my control. So I try to focus on things that are within my control. Now, within disability, I was born as a person with a disability. I was born with a rare eye disease. And so that's out of my control. You have to play the hand, you're dealt. Other challenges have happened, some of which were within my control, some of the mistakes that I made, or choices that I made, and then others that I didn't and I was just involved with, for one reason or the other, life happens to you. It's a mix of both. And to me it's how do you face that adversity? How do you embrace that adversity? To me, I start with me, what did I need to do better? What should I have done better? It's about my self responsibility. Because if you're gonna get the good things from self-reliance, you need to be prepared to take the more challenging things as well, because nobody's perfect. Again, when you're presented with something, whether it be good or bad, you then have choices. What are you going to do with it? To me, if you choose to be positive and you choose to use it for a positive, good, well that's the way to go.That's the path to go. And that's the path that I've tried to go down. Stephen Matini: It’s so easy sometimes to feel like a victim of circumstances and situations. How have you been able to shy away from that? You seem to me you've been really, really accountable for your own life. David D’Arcangelo: Well, I don't think it's shy away. I think it's embracing. There's no time. There's no time to procrastinate, there's no time. But the present why we have is now. So you've gotta deal with it. Now whether you like to or not. And just a couple of other maxims that I've developed and and really learned over time is that there's a saying that I've developed and that is the path to prosperity is paved by perseverance. You've gotta hang in there. Nothing good comes as a result of some whim or trying something once. No. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, one of the best athletes, one of the most influential people of the 20th century, didn't make his high school basketball team. He got caught, but he knew he had talent and he knew to develop those talents. He had to work, and he had to persevere and have adversity. And now here's the other thing with adversity and perseverance is what adversity is for. You may be different for somebody else, somebody else might not consider that adversity. Likewise, what somebody considers adversity and it's viewed as adversity may not be considered as adversity as others and vice versa. So you know, we're all in various states of ability. To me, one of the keys is you've gotta persevere because everybody loves sunny days. Can you stand the rain when it starts raining and storming? And what are you gonna do during those times? So that's what I really think is just staying positive, because that's what you can control. Ultimately, we become what we think about, right? So if the things you focus on all day long, if those are positive things and you have goals and plans and, and you take actions to accomplish those, you will accomplish them. It's not maybe you will accomplish them. It's a law of nature that that will happen. So to me, if you stay positive and you have righteous goals, then you will achieve them. Stephen Matini: If you have a somewhat bad day or a day in which that perseverance, that faith seems not to shine as strong as others. Is there anything that you do that brings you back into alignment? David D’Arcangelo: Again, it's coming to terms ahead of time that, not if, Stephen, but when, because we all will encounter those days. It is part of life. Life is challenging. Being a human is challenging. Like think about where we are right now. And if you were to be able to have a baby and not instruct that baby what to do and just leave that baby with no, how long would that baby last? All reliant upon each other. We are at this place in time, because everybody has decided to share knowledge, share information, and you know, that's how that then spurs technology and and so on and so on and so on. So we are all in this together. And every human that has ever been born is unique and there will never be another person like that person. There never has been. There never will be. Now there's qualities of it and we're all within, you know, a certain variation of it. But we are all completely unique individuals. And so each human condition, each state of consciousness that everybody's experienced is completely unique and different. So again, it's not, if it's when you encounter challenges, how are you going to choose to handle them? You know? And what is your guidestone, what is your north star? To me it's God. And it starts with that positivity, that love. You know, I have a belief that love, not the kind you see on a Hallmark card, or you see in some romance movie, yeah, it's that, but it's so much more than that. I really believe it's, you know, if you were to put it on the periodic table, it's more prevalent than hydrogen. It literally is the force that binds everything in the universe together. And I think science is finding that out. I think, you know, with superposition and quantum entanglement and things like that, to me that proves God. They called the Higgs boson on the God particle. You know, to me it proves God proves love, because love is more powerful than anything else. And that's where it all starts. Now you can choose to embrace that and be positive and endeavor to be all of the things that in the hierarchy of love come off that beauty and truth and all of the things that are subordinate to love. Stephen Matini: You know, that binding force that brings us all together these days, it seems to be quite challenged by the fact that everything is so extreme. You and I talked about this last time, everything is so polarized, black and white. So how do you bring these two dimensions so opposite, you know, together so that we can all be more loving? Where would you start? David D’Arcangelo: You have the choice. You control your thoughts, your mind. Never let love, never let positivity get more than one or two steps away. Anybody who's listening to this right now, I want you to, if you are experiencing challenges of any kind, and that is a scale, okay? That is a scale of despair all the way from one very intense suffering side, all the way up to complete joy in the highest right? That is, all of those emotions are a scale. Well, anytime you find yourself falling on the, the low part of that scale in any way, whether it's mild, whether it's severe, you need to purposely think of positive things and good things and love. Now, whatever that is for you, whether it's being on a beach, whether that's hearing your mother's voice or your child's voice, or petting your dog or whatever the case may be, that's where you need to bring yourself. And you should never really get more than a couple of steps away from that. Stephen Matini: How do you bring this attitude into your own negotiations? You've been part of policy making and I mean, I cannot think of a setting more divisive, and divided as it is right now. How have you been able to bring this wonderful energy that you have, so that the conversation keeps going? David D’Arcangelo: Yeah, it's difficult to explain, but ironically, the more I get attacked or the more negativity I get, the more positive I get. To tell you the truth. It makes me want to redouble my efforts towards bringing that. Again, when negative things happen, and I'll take the blame. I don't want anybody else to take the blame, but when positive things happen, it's less about me and it's more about, even though I might've been the impetus for it or whatever else, it's more about the team. It's more about, you know, all of the people that took part in all of those good things. Because public policy, and particularly the implementation of public policy can be very complex because what you're trying to do is you're trying to take the wishes of either a legislative body or you know, some other regulatory or executive function, and you're trying to translate that into policies for many. And these programs aren't put together to serve one or two people. They're put together to serve thousands or, or you know, tens of thousands or millions of people. And with so many different use case scenarios that can be very challenging and complex to solve for. I have a podcast of my own “Save as ABILITY.” And on that, we've been talking about things like these programs and the, you know, the disability laws that have been put in place over time. Those are all well intentioned. That is your government trying to put programs together to help people, to help improve the human condition, to reduce suffering. But invariably what happens is bureaucracy gets involved or time goes by and these programs get outdated and, and what was relevant at one time may not be relevant now. And so you've gotta change that as you're changing that people who've relied on that are like, wait a minute, what are you doing? You're changing that and that's gonna, you know, so that is the complexity. Albert Einstein said, politics is more difficult than physics. And sometimes I agree with it, although I did get, I, I'm proud to say I passed with a D plus in physics and it's a bachelor of science at Suffolk University. Well, it's very difficult learning math when you can't see the board and you can't see. So that's in my own defense, Stephen. Stephen Matini: Would you say that it's harder, easier, the same, being part of policy making today that it used to be? David D’Arcangelo: I first got involved with policymaking as an aide in the state senate and working in the governor's office 20, 25 years ago, somewhere around there on how you wanna look at it. So I do recognize that back then there seemed to be much more COMETY, and not comedy, but comeTy, you know, agreeance among discourse, that the discourse was a little bit at a higher level and people could agree to disagree. And there's less of that now. Now part of that is a good thing, but much of that is also a negative thing. And I'll explain that. So the part that's a good thing is now everybody has the devices, right? Everybody has the phone and access to computer and everything else. So what used to be kind of behind closed doors or mystified or confusing, now everybody has at the touch of a couple of fingers and in a couple of minutes people could talk like experts on these subjects. That's a good thing, getting the information out there and, and people taking part. However, the challenge is the system over hundreds of years has evolved into one of sausage making. And I think people understand the analogy to there. Everybody loves the taste of a sausage, but you don't want to see how it's made a lot of the time. And so all of that sausage making gets put on display for everybody on social media through the mainstream media. I mean, to me, we have three major problems right now in society. The first one being the media, number one major problem we face. The second one being the decentralization of responsibility. There's a much less self-reliance now, and that to me is a major problem. And then the third is this two big to fail attitude. Now if you go out there, that's, those three that I just mentioned are probably not on anybody's list. So I'm maybe, you know, a few years ahead of the curve here, but I'm telling you, those are the three biggest problems right now. Government and all of that other stuff is way down on the list. But the manner with which we get information right now is the number one challenge facing the world and individuals in the world today. Because the information, much of the information being put out by the mainstream media is, there's really no other way to say it, but it's not fully honest. And the way the system has evolved is the, the mainstream media provides what I call infotainment, where it's information passed off as legitimate news, and it's really not. It's really entertainment. It's information that becomes entertainment. And to me that is a much different thing of what it was and what it should be. I really believe that all, and I'm using air quotes journalists right now, they should shut, have to pass a test. They should have to meet much more rigorous standards, particularly for being objective and unbiased. And then there's gotta be a way that that government can intervene to incentivize it so that it's not driven fully by ... bias, you know, because right now information is bought and paid for, and news on a drug, or news on a story comes through the lens of some big corporation trying to, you know, influence the narrative. That's a major, major problem because what it does is it prevents the full truth from coming out and it prevents people from being able to form an objective opinion on their own. Or it inhibits, I shouldn't say prevents, it inhibits significantly. And so, you know, that to me is the major problem encountering society today. Stephen Matini: There's a lot of confusion around the notion of freedom of speech, and I think people use that very lightly sometimes. I can say whatever I want, whenever I want, it doesn't matter, there are not consequences, but there are always consequences based on what we say. Our words have an impact on people, ideas have an impact on people. How would you explain to someone in a way that is super simple, what freedom of speech really is? David D’Arcangelo: People have a choice, they can believe in God or not. Now, I don't pass judgment on people who don't, but you need to come to that conclusion on your own. And if you believe in God and you believe in love and love is the highest thing, if that is the case, then you cannot believe in secrets. There's a very significant part of our society that believes secrets are okay. I don't believe that. I am not one of those people. Because of that, I am a free speech absolutist. Now, are there very parsed out specific scenarios that you can draw to be able to say, okay, not all information should be available to everyone all the time. Yes. I'm not saying give the nuclear codes to everybody, okay? However, when it comes to information that is not life threatening or you know, is not like to that extent, then it should be shared and it should be free. That's what our society is based on. More freedom is better, less freedom is worse. It's that simple. So I, I just don't believe that there should be secrets. I believe that, you know, there was an axiom that had developed, but maybe was true at one point in time where a person is smart people are not. I don't think that's true anymore for the developed world, particularly for, for anybody that has these devices, that is not a true statement because access to information now is higher than it's ever been. And so it's up to the individual to have that responsibility. I'm a big self-responsibility, self-reliance person. So that's what I think it's the responsibility of each person to make up their own mind on what they choose to believe. Stephen Matini: At the beginning of our conversation, you mentioned the word peace. What would you say could be the most accountable thing that all of us could do on a personal level to contribute to move towards peace? David D’Arcangelo: Today is a day of reflection for me. December 7th Pearl Harbor Day. Think of all the lives that were lost, and really why did we fight that war? Why did America, why did the allies fight that war? It was to bring peace. It was to bring freedom. It was to make sure that people weren't oppressed. Peace is one word, one concept, but it is really so dynamic and comprised of so many other things under peace, there is truth, there is honesty, there is justice. In order to have peace, you need truth, you need honesty, you need justice. So if you want peace, when you need to be honest, you need to seek the truth, pursue justice, that's when we will have peace. By the way, here's the other thing. In terms of human existence, we are at a very peaceful time. Yes, there's terrible conflicts going on and I don't want to dismiss what, what's happening in Israel and Africa and other conflicts around the world. Those are, those are terrible and devastating, and I wanna work to fix those. However, in the grand scheme of world existence, we've never been more prosperous. There's never been more people, there's never been more access to clean water, to quality food and housing and shelter and the level of living and the poverty levels and everything else, all of that has increased and increased significantly from just the past 50 years, a hundred years, keep going back. So we've gotta keep that in context to, you know, like if you go back to the middle ages or you go back even further, the devastation and the, the complete, you know, horror that used to occur. You know, so we are in these prosperous times and unfortunately sometimes all of that prosperity, all of the goodness that goes on, all of the wonderful things that to me, I only, that's what I see the most of on a day-to-day basis. But that tries to get out weighted by this corrupt media that is pushing these narratives. If it bleeds, it leads as a, as a, you know, axiom on the news, right? And there's just so many good things going on that far outweigh the bad things in the grand scheme of planet earth. Stephen Matini: So it seems to me, based on everything you said, that love, honesty, and positivity are key ingredients. David D’Arcangelo: 100%, yes. Let's start with love, because all good things are derived from love. Love is the highest thing. It's being proved by science. Love is a real thing. It is a tangible power. Everything else that is good. Justice, truth, honesty, beauty, all of those things come from love. In a hierarchy, love is the highest thing. That to me is where you start. And don't let yourself get more than one or two steps away from that. Stephen Matini: David, I'm so grateful for the love that you shared with me in this conversation. Thank you so much. David D’Arcangelo: Oh, thank you. Well, those differences can bring us together. Diversity is a good thing, including different viewpoints is tremendous. Think how boring life would be if everything was the same for everybody. I believe in discourse for solving problems, but way you make things better is by disagreement. And then guess what though, the other side of that, just disagreement alone doesn't get you there. You disagree and then you compromise. And right now the disagreement is weighing down the scale more than the compromise. When I try to add compromise, when I try to build those bridges every day, and so, you know, a lot of what I'm saying here might be controversial or cutting edge or whatever, but I'm sorry, I'm sticking with God. I'm sticking with positivity. And you know, even when I get attacked, that makes me want to be even more positive. So I would encourage everybody, if you need that, contact me so I can help you find it. It's there for you though. It's your choice to be positive. That's what I'm doing. Thank you, Stephen. I wish you well.  
32:17 1/31/24
Cross-Functional Synergy: Common Ground - Featuring Simona Orsingher
Simona Orsingher is an Italian executive who has developed a successful career in both Operations and Business Development, two functions that can sometimes clash within organizations. While Operations emphasizes efficiency, cost control, and stability, Business Development focuses on growth, innovation, and revenue generation. Finding common ground between these two functions entails developing shared goals and effective cross-functional communication, especially when dealing with short-term versus medium-term strategies. As a professional whose career has combined both Operations and Business Development functions, Simona highlights the significance of being true to oneself, maintaining transparency, and finding a balance between rationality and emotions in professional relationships. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session Alygn is Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen Matini #simonaorsingher #operations #businessdevelopment #pitypartyover #podcast #alygn #stephenmatini #leadershipdevelopment #managementdevelopment TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: Simona, would you mind sharing with our listeners where you grew up? Simona Orsingher: Until the age of 18th I lived with my parents on the lake of Cuomo. The other side of the lake were the one for Alessandro Manzoni. And then I moved to Ireland for a couple of years. I lived in Dublin and then Londonderry, which is where I basically learned to speak English.  Once back, I moved to Milan for 15 years, more or less because I then found a new job. I moved first to Torino and then to Moderna for four years. And now I am back on the lake of Cuomo, but in Cuomo at the moment since 2020. So right before the pandemic. Yeah, that's my background.  So I come from the province, but then I immediately felt the need of moving into the world, meeting new people, experimenting new things, and seeing new cultures as well because the dimension of the lake was a little bit too tight for me. And even though I still have some connections in France over there, I feel like I'm a citizen in the world, not exactly a citizen of the lake. Stephen Matini: So when people ask you where home is, you know, what do you say? Simona Orsingher: I don't have a home, I don't have any roots. That's something that's, that really impressed me sometimes because normally you have like left the heart in your hometown; I didn’t. Probably, among all the places where I've lived, the one that I consider my home is Moderna for some reason. Because I felt so well there. I was so comfortable and I felt loved and welcomed. So if I have the chance to go back, I would run to go back to Moderna. Stephen Matini: And when did you find out what you wanted to pursue professionally? Is this something that evolved over time? How did that happen? Simona Orsingher: Well, it started when I had my first work experience in Milan. I used to work for some months on international company. And there I recognized that that was what I wanted to pursue. Meaning work with foreigners, speaking in English, going more and more into corporate details and understand how that type of work in general in a corporate environment would've worked and if it fit to me.  And then from there I said, and I realized, yeah, that's what I want to do. And that's what I pursued from that time going forward. So I've always stayed within corporate environments, international environments. So working like in EMEA roles or international roles rather than working just for Italy for example. Stephen Matini: Because your professional background is really interesting. You combine two different routes. You combine the business development part and the operation part. And sometimes in companies, these two functions may not necessarily things see things, you know, eye to eye. Sometimes people get really tribal and very defensive about what they do. So how did it happen with you? How come you pursued both? Simona Orsingher: It was like a smooth swift if I may say from operation to business development. I've always worked in functions which were in the middle, if I may say, because I started as commercial operations specialist and then move to a commercial operation manager role, ending now in a business full business development role, a global business development role.  And this happened because I think that of course you have to be in a place that encourages the teamwork between the two functions. So when we speak about supply and demand or demand and supply process, well this is something which is now very common in corporate environments. But when I started it was not that much.  So as you said, both of the functions are very defensive. So normally business development is the one who rushes rushes. We have two invoices, invoices, invoices and operation is saying, no, we can't do this, we can't do that. So like it's the Mr. No-No.  But in the end, when you work together, you understand that they can't leave without each other and they have to find a common way of understanding things. And this is where I started. So moving from operation to business development happened throughout like 15 years. So it was not something out of the blue.  I've understood working within commercial operation that I had a commercial acumen myself that I was able to discuss and negotiate with customers, even if I was formally working within operation.  And in my previous role, I realized that it was not just my impression, but it was my manager's impression, it was customer's impression. And sometimes they have specifically asked me to do, you know, negotiation and to speak about business.  So I like the fact that I had my commercial operation background when speaking to customers. So I already had in the back of my mind what could have been done and what could not have been done. So I was not over promising things to customers. I was sharing, let me say, a common success ahead because I knew where I could have been comfortable with them. So that was probably the key part of the success, which I've already used in my current role, which is the thing that ultimately led me to gain this new position as global business development manager. Stephen Matini: It is interesting because oftentimes I describe to clients, and I mean it most of the time as some sort of joke that companies only want two things. They want to make money and they want to save money. So the making money component would be, you know, the business development part and the saving money would be the operation part. For anyone who works in a company that somehow struggle in finding a balance between these two functions, what would you say that could be a first step? Simona Orsingher: To speak, to organize meeting and to go through each other figures and targets. Because sometimes, and if this is done on purpose, targets are done irrespectively of each function and they are done to create a sort of internal competition.  I don't agree with this way of doing because no one is going to benefit out of it. Because if commercial operation wins, then business development will lose something and vice versa. So there should be a common understanding, a common basis and common targets.  The commercial operation targets should compliment business development target and vice versa. That will be the first step to me. So meet, have a discussion on the direction we have to take together and not separately. And it's key that all the people are on board with that.  So there should be a sort of servant leadership from commercial operation and from business development because yes, it's true. Salespeople are the one who basically brings the money in, they bring the money, but they don't bring the profit. The profit is made out of what commercial operation is doing because then the cost sustained to run the operation is going to deduct from the revenue that is coming from business development. So there needs to be really a common path to follow together. Stephen Matini: Sometimes the main problem is the fact that the leadership, the culture of the organization is very, very sales driven and sometimes can give the impression to people they are in business development, in sales, that they are the most important function, you know, and then all the other functions feel, you know, a bit resentful. So from the, from the point of view of the leadership team, what could they do in order to create a culture that is more cross-functional? Simona Orsingher: So nowadays the quality, diversity, inclusion, it's like the flag of each company and the first, very first step they have to do towards equality, diversity, inclusion is write this. So you can't expect in a company where salespeople are considered like rocket stars and all the others are just, you know, white collar doing the job that the white collar are happy. So they have to treat both in the same way.  For example, long-term incentives or short-term incentives shouldn't be that different between business development and commercial operation or any other function in the company. In some companies there are even retreats for business development people or salespeople in general. While there's nothing for the rest of the employees, well that's not fair.  So the first step would be to treat people equally in this sense, in the way you approach them, in the way you explain thing, in the way you share your targets, the strategy and the vision. Everybody has to be on board and business development, they need to understand. And to do that, this has to start from the leadership team. So the senior VP in a company, they should start treating the salespeople the way they treat the other ones and vice versa.  Otherwise it's a sort of lead by example. You can't expect white colors and let me say non-sales people to be so happy because they're the first one to be treated not equally compared to the business developers. Stephen Matini: And also it seems to me that, that discrepancy, that big gap becomes even wider when leadership has a very short term strategy. They have to create results right away better than thinking longevity, you know, a sustainable future in which you really have to plan everything accordingly. Simona Orsingher: Yeah, playing a little bit ahead, let me say, I mean medium-term strategy, not that short-term strategy because of course if it's so short, well everything has to be in a rush. And then of course you want to see numbers, numbers, numbers straight away. Stephen Matini: You said that one competency that is very, very important to do your job is the ability to build relationships. And to me you represent the perfect balance of someone who's incredibly great at organizing, numbers, but yet at the same time it has the empathy, it has the emotional intelligence to understand people. Is it possible to be really well-balanced to have both or what? Simona Orsingher: It is possible? I think there needs to be a component which is a given. Either you have it or you don't. But some people they have it, definitely. But then you have to develop it and you have to work on it.  So a good step for me was to step back from my professional role and try always to be in the people I'm speaking to shoes, to me that's the empathy. So in the end, I'm speaking to a human being. You are a colleague, you are my manager, you are my peer, but you are a human being.  So I don't know what happened to you like one hour before we're having this conversation. Maybe you had a very bad news, maybe you're not in a good shape today. I don't know. So I always tend to be very delicate when speaking to people, even if I'm decisive and even if I always say what I need to say, I don't like to take short track or hide behind things. I think I'm transparent. And I think that transparency is something very important when it comes to business.  But on the other end, I never under evaluate the fact that we are human beings. We have emotions. Even if I believe that in professional relationship there should be always this right balance between emotion and the rational emotion are there so you don't have to a hundred percent hide item.  This is what helped me, I think. So I never took things too seriously and this is another thing in the end, it's just work. So today I'm doing this, maybe tomorrow someone will decide that I'm not useful anymore and this is the risk that I'm taking and everybody should take that. So it is just work. We are employees and this is a part of being employees. And once you do take this as a fact, I think you can work differently. But if you are expecting to be in the same role forever, if you are expecting your employer to treat you always in a very good way, well that's really the road to pain. Stephen Matini: I agree with you. I think that bonding with people and developing relationships ultimately helps everyone overcoming any change, any difficulty. One thing that I see a lot in my job is executives, managers dealing with employees they are somehow reluctant to change for whatever the reason, you know. Sometimes people display hostility, the inability to move on. If that has ever happened to you, what would you say that is the first step to help an employee that seems to go through a difficult time and be unwilling to change? Simona Orsingher: Well the first thing for me would be to speak to these people and understand why. And if I'm able to understand why, and if these people are telling me why, then we can decide together how to find a different path. So how to make the situation turning in their favor.  Sometimes it's possible because there is this common willingness to change things. Some other times it's not possible. So people are just reluctant to change, they're tired, they don't want to invest anymore energy or time in anything. Well at that point, if you can, you should move those people to some other roles.  If you can’t, and in the majority of cases you can’t, well you just use, even if it's not the right word to say, but in the end that's what you're doing, use them for what they're good to do. I'm very pragmatic, so I try, I give my best, but then if it doesn't work, okay, well I try to get the best out of it. That's my strategy.  In the end. I mean, we're not in school. I'm not your support teacher, okay? I'm your colleague. You are an adult. I am an adult. You always have the choice to make you're free. If you don't like a situation anymore, well just go find something else. But if you decide to stay here, well then you stay here at my condition. Stephen Matini: Why do you think so many people seem to believe they do not have a choice? Simona Orsingher: It's comfortable. They know they have a choice, but they don't want to choose because choose to move from something, even if this something is not good for you, but it's something that you know. So deciding to choose and move to something that you don't know ... for someone, it's unbearable. They can't do that.  I don't blame those people. I mean, we don't always have the same approach to life. But again, if you don't want to choose, well then you accept the fact that you are here at someone else condition, and you stop complaining, otherwise you leave.  I mean, things are always simpler than what we see, always simpler than what we see. So you have the opportunity to go, you are free. We're living in a country and we're living in a part of the world where you have freedom and you can really choose what you want to do. And you have the chances.  Maybe not that many chances as there might be in other countries, in Europe or in the us I don't know, in Australia, wherever. I know Italy as a place to work is not probably the best in the world. Okay, because we have a very Italian culture here, but you still can choose. Stephen Matini: You went through a lot of professional challenges in the past. Have you ever felt that you didn't have a choice? Simona Orsingher: I never felt that. I felt I had choices, which I didn't like because I was expecting more for me. But I never felt, I never had the choice. No, never. Because at a certain point of time I could have decided, for example, to start my own career as a freelance. That was a choice, which at that time I didn't want to do. But I never felt I had no choice. Stephen Matini: So, I give you a scenario. Sometimes it does happen that leadership has a difficult time communicating their vision, their strategy, and to reach everyone throughout the whole company. And somehow the people, even like factory employees that don't feel included, they feel voiceless. They feel they don't have a choice. They don't matter. In order to create something that feels more synergetic in which everything flows beautifully, what would you say that they could do in order to engage everyone, including the people at the bottom, so to speak, that feel voiceless? Simona Orsingher: Well, first of all, let me say that I don't think that they are voiceless. Maybe they feel voiceless, but they're not voiceless. We have in Italy, and I'm speaking about the experiences that I had and also my current experience, I think probably the most unionized together with France companies. So unions are very present and these people, they all have a voice.  So they're not voiceless, they feel voiceless probably because they don't speak the same language and probably because they're more focused on things which are not relevant to the one who should hear their voices.  I would suggest to speak up and continue to speak up, but not only through the unions, I would suggest and to speak up themselves, to ask these people to have a meeting, to ask their managers to organize sessions all together where they can even confront each other, but at least let their voice to be heard in a more genuine way. Because when you have a mediator, which in this case is the union, I feel and I saw it, that sometimes the message is changed. That's probably the reason why. Then they don't feel really heard, but they have their voice. And I think that a direct channel is always the best thing. This has always worked for me.  So I have never used the unions or any other mediator. I did it by myself. And I did it truly, I did it fully because I didn't want anybody else to jeopardize the content of my message. I wanted to be, you know, true to myself first. Stephen Matini: And from the point of view, let's say of the CEO, of the executive, you know, leadership team, what could they do in order to have a first step towards the people that may feel voiceless? Simona Orsingher: Well, they should step down from their throne probably, 'cause some of them are really like a character somewhere in the air. So some of the senior managers are seen like this. So not even humans, but they are.  And in the end the people at the bottom, they don't even realize that the one at risk, it's not them, but it's the one on the throne. So they should probably start to communicate to these people in a more direct way.  Of course, they cannot meet one by one, but they can have exchanges with some representatives, but not the unions again, some representatives amongst the, these people at the bottom. It comes to communication, it comes to speaking. Stephen Matini: For anyone who's interested in a career like yours that combines operations and business development. What is the advice you would give them? Simona Orsingher: Is to be curious and ask. Ask questions. Ask to meet people. Ask to introduce yourself. Ask to go out and visit a customer. Ask to speak with colleagues from the manufacturing. So you have a 360 view of what is going on, how things are working. So you need to know bits and pieces of everything because when you are in front of a customer, you represent your company. So you can't allow yourself to say to a customer, well, I don't know. Well, you should know. And if you don't really know, genuinely don't know, you are very professional and you say, well, let me check this out because I'm not sure and I don't want to provide you with the wrong information. That should be the right approach. And always let your voice to be heard. So speak up if there is something that is not letting you feel uncomfortable when say it to your manager, speak. Because if you don't do it, nobody will ask your opinion. Nobody, you have to sponsor yourself because there won't be anybody who will help you. And you have to count on yourself only. That's what I have learned.  I had good managers, I had great managers, I must say, and I've learned from some of these people. But in the end, they gave me the, the tools, but it was me using those tools. It was not them. And this is the approach that I'm expecting from people working with me. So I don't have to, you know, spoon feed them at 40 years old. No, but still I see this adult people who need to be spoon fed. Stephen Matini: Simona, in your experience, what you just described, the importance of really courage, speaking up, developing relationship. Have you ever noticed gender to play any role in this dynamic? Simona Orsingher: Yes. Well, first of all, you have to be aware that if you speak up, there might be consequences. Because if you are always transparent as I am, sometimes you say things that the people you are speaking to might not like. And if this person happens to be someone higher in your organigram, it might cost you something and it cost it to me. I'm okay with that because I want to remain true to myself.  Going back to your question, there is a difference because normally when a male colleague approached a meeting, a discussion, speaking up and even raises, raising the tone of his voice or the volume of his voice, that was accepted somehow because it's expected. Because it's a way to show your power, to show your confidence.  When it's a woman doing that, still for what I've seen, it's perceived as oh, Jesus, she's having like a crisis. She's nervous today. It's not the right day for her. Well, it was not even the right day for him, but it was not noticed.  So it's not because maybe I'm raising the tone of my voice, which normally I don't. Okay, but let me say, I'm changing the way I speak. So if I am nervous or or if I am upset, you will notice it, okay? Because I'm not, as I'm speaking right now, I would be different, but it's because I'm saying something that I really care about. It's exactly the same for a male colleague. But there is still this difference, definitely. Stephen Matini: And yet so many women when they get at this point, they feel that they have to mimic their male counterparts in order to have a voice. So the question would be, what is the right voice for a woman? Simona Orsingher: The right voice for woman is being calm and say the things supported by facts and data. I mean, expecting the other people, well, even not to listen to you, but that's how it's going.  And definitely not mimic your male colleagues because I don't want to be like my male colleagues. I am not them. I'm completely different. I have my own personality and I don't like to raise my voice if I want you to hear my opinion. I want to stay calm and normally I do. So that's how women should behave because if you mimic one male colleague, well in the end you will always be remembered by a copy of someone and not something new.  Stephen Matini: And what you just described probably could become a point of reference also for male executives. Simona Orsingher: Yes, it should be. So if you think about the personal assistants, and let me say the executive assistants. 95%, even more of the cases are women, and 95% of senior managers are men and men, so these senior managers are relying on women to do their job.  The relationship they're having with other peers, with customers, maybe with the board. so, with, you know, VIP people. And some of the cases, these relationships are led by the executive assistants because she's the one who has to manage tension, manage missed appointments, manage a change of schedule.  So dealing with some people who are maybe upset because the CEO changed his mind at the last minute, and she is the one who is managing this set situation or difficult situation with customers or peers or whoever is going to meet the CEO. But nobody's thinking about it, I think. Stephen Matini: Have you ever heard the saying behind a great man is always a great woman? Simona Orsingher: Yes. Stephen Matini: Okay, let's update it. Let's upgrade it. What would you say? Simona Orsingher: A great woman can only manage a great man. So I would of course place the woman on the spotlight and not the man, because in the end, even if she's in the backstage, she's the one doing the job. Stephen Matini: Well, maybe I'm thinking could be behind a great person, there's a great person. Simona Orsingher: Yes, we are speaking about people, we're not speaking about women or men, but as a woman, well, I must say that we're still far behind in Italy. So this topic is very sensitive to me. Stephen Matini: I'm not a woman and I will never understand fully what it means, but when I hear what you said, it really makes me boil inside. It feels so unfair. It really feels incredibly unfair. Simona Orsingher: I don't even remember in how many meetings I was and I was the only woman in there and I felt like really invisible and men even took the liberty of speaking like if I was not even there. And it was perfectly normal to them.  And the sad thing is that for some women is normal this way, but it's not. So if we really want to move on on this, we have to break this. And women first, they need to have the courage and to be brave enough to speak up even in this situations like saying in a meeting like this, hello, I'm still here with you. Can you please stop? Stephen Matini: Well, first of all, I think any organization should have a Simona and I truly mean it. I have not worked with all my podcast guests, but you and I, we had that opportunity and I really truly believe that everyone should have someone that tells you as it is, you know, with kindness the way you do, because it's just wonderful. So we talked about bunch of stuff. If you had to point out one that you believe our listeners should pay attention to, out of our conversation, what would that be? Simona Orsingher: To be true to yourself? Always. It's you. It's good the way you are. It's not your problem if everything around you is not as you were expecting. In the end, even if you are going through challenges, difficulties, redundancies, promotions, whatever, it's just you.  And you have to stay strong because inside yourself, that's what I keep on repeating to myself every day, I have a value, okay, never mind what I do, what I'm doing now and what people think, I know that I am worth. So that's the thing that I would like to, to say to people.  And just today, I saw a post on LinkedIn, I follow the Female Quotient, which is an organization sponsoring of course females around the world. And there was Simone Biles, the gymnast, the us and gymnast. And she did something which is extraordinary last week because she did like a jump, which normally is done by men. And so she was asked, so you are the first Michael Phelps of or Usain Bolt of, and she said, no, I'm the first Simone Biles doing this. And that was something that impressed me because that's exactly the sense of what I've said. It's you, it's just you.  So you have to stay true to yourself because especially in corporate environments, almost everything is fake, because we are all on a big stage. All of us, we're all singing our song. Sometimes you have, you are in the top 10, some other times you are at the bottom of the chart, but everyone more or less get the chance to sing the song. So everybody has to, you know, show up and try to do its best. But in the end, you have to really take care of yourself because nobody else will do it. Nobody else. Stephen Matini: Simona, you are a jewel. Thank you so much for sharing all of these insights. Thank you. Thank you very much. Simona Orsingher: Thanks to you Stephen.
37:03 1/24/24
Time Management: Weekly Resolutions - Featuring Chantal Souaid
Chantal Souaid is the creator of “The Weekly Resolution® Planner,” a time management tool that allows consistent progress without the cumbersome weight of perfectionism. Chantal's schedule is very tight as a business entrepreneur and a mom of young twins. She believes that any goal and dream is achievable with consistency and the awareness that the most crucial step is to enjoy the journey as it unfolds. For Chantal, staying in the moment holds greater significance than chasing perfection, firmly asserting that consistency sustains momentum while motivation initiates the trip. Chantal Souaid is a three-month BARKAT Entrepreneur program graduate, an application-based 100% scholarship offering for Middle Eastern and African female entrepreneurs, and part of The Goddess Solution by Puneet Sachdev. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for Live Session  Managerial & Leadership Development - Contact Stephen - Connect with Stephen - #ChantalSouaid #TheWeeklyPlanner #TimeManagement #Lebanon #StephenMatini #PityPartyOver #Alygn #LeadershipDevelopment #ManagementDevelopment #OrganizationalDevelopment   TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: Was there any person or any event in your past that somehow have impacted your professional choices? Chantal Souaid: So I'll tell you about three things and I combined them all and I called them the tipping point in my life. And these things were: one, I delivered twins prematurely, which I wasn't expecting.  Two, living in Lebanon, we had the political economical financial crisis.  And three, the project that I was running, they just told us that they are closing from Lebanon to go to another country.  So when this happened and all these three happened at the same time, I said, you know what Chantal, maybe this can be your wake up call for you to do what you've always loved, which was train coach and help people live better lives. Stephen Matini: Were you able to jump on the new idea right away or was it hard? I mean, did you have to take time to process everything? Chantal Souaid: So let me tell you, I've had the blog since 2008. I used to and still like to write too much.  But it took me time to see how I will present myself to the world as an entrepreneur. Because for me, I've been employed an international development project for a very long time.  So what I did, I said, you know what? I was very good at putting New Year's resolutions, and these New Year's resolutions weren't working obviously because I had twins, things were going a bit different and I was a productivity trainer at the time and people used to joke with me and say, you're a productivity trainer, wait until you have kids. The year was starting, it was 2020 and I didn't put in years resolution. And I was thinking, you know what? I don't want to put in years resolution. And at the time, my only goal every single day was just to take a bus for a mom with twins, breastfeeding them, taking a bath was the best thing ever.  So then I thought, okay, I'll make a like a weekly challenge. And I said, okay, if I try to do this and then if I do it every single week, then people would like support me with the follow through.  At the time I didn't call it “the weekly resolution”, so I said, I'll call 2020 weekly challenge. So I decided to film myself announcing the challenge and just posting it on my social media.  And I started it. My husband was very generous in filming me at the start and I said, I'll do it for the full year. I didn't have any plan. I didn't know what every week the challenge would be, but I said, if I announce it to people then I'll have to do it because I'm someone who really cares about what I say, what I said to myself.  Then every single week I started putting a video out and saying, this week this is what we're going to do. So the examples were very simple, like this week say thank you more or look at someone and say how grateful you are for what they did. So it started very simple.  Then Covid hit Lebanon and then the challenge was already going on. So people were more engaged. I had more people joining in. Somehow, sometime around April I decided, you know what? Everybody is joining in. It's very interesting. And I said like, okay, if I go and tell people I want to help you achieve your dreams, the first thing they will tell me, okay, And then when did you achieve your dream and why am I going to listen to you? So I decided to achieve one of my very, very, very early dreams, which was creating a planner and the planner at the time I decided to call it the “Weekly Resolution Planner”.  I have a copy here with me, it’s the second version of the planner. And I thought, okay, this planner would be the crown on top of this year. It would help the year finish at the happy note. And this was it.  I did the first version of the planner then the year after another version. And that's like how the story unfolded of me opening up and then being able to start my coaching business, coaching and training and selling my planner and then just moving from a full-time employee into an entrepreneur. Stephen Matini: The whole time management arena is not necessarily the focus of what I do as a coach and as a trainer. But you know, I do focus on soft skills. So time management comes up all the time. And the one thing that I've noticed over the years is that when you touch time management, you touch a really soft spot for people. And very often people come up with the millions of different reasons why they cannot do what they want. So, in your opinion, what is it that some people somehow, like yourself, you keep going, and other people, they simply settle for something that is not necessarily representative of what they want? Chantal Souaid: I'll tell you like two ideas about that. As I was doing every single week, my husband would come and tell me, Chantal, you don't have a plan until the end of the year. How can you keep on going? This is like every week you're just deciding on what you want and every week you're just reading more and then deciding what it's better if you had a plan. And then I told him if I had a good plan that I'm not implementing consistently, that's not something good.  On the other hand, if I had a regular plan and even maybe a bad plan that I was implementing consistently, this is way much better.  So what I had was a regular plan, which is to post every single week a challenge, but I was doing it consistently. And then I remember an interesting quote that I like that says something along the lines that motivation gets you started, consistency keeps you going. And at the time my image, my self image as a professional was very important. And that's why when we are talking about goal setting, you always ask who will you tell about your goal? So I announced it to the world.  Now I'm someone, the world for me isn't like 1 million followers. The world for me was my family and friends and my close connections. But even if I said to these people that I'm going to do this for me as a value honoring my, my word is something very important. So this got me going.  If on the other hand I said, you know what, I will film every week a video and once the videos are all 20, then I'll announce it. Me knowing myself, I wouldn't have done it.  So going back to my husband, he used to tell me that if it were up to me, I would put the plan, I would film the videos, at least half of them, then I would go for it. So this works for him, but for me, I know that if I put myself out there, if I tell the people and then every single week there's nothing that will stop me and I can do it, this is what would help me and this is how I move through it.  And this is how I usually notice that this is the only way that I can get motivated because I have to put it out there and then once it's out there I will not block out unless I change my mind and nothing like this has ever happened. So each person needs to know. Stephen Matini: And what if someone is not consistent? Is there anything else that people could do? Let's say I'm not someone that consistent, but I have good intentions. Is it still possible in your opinion, to get your dreams, you know, out of your drawer if you're not consistent?  Chantal Souaid: A lot of people are not consistent and this is a very big problem and people come to me all the time about it. Being consistent doesn't start. If you're consistent, you wouldn't take any help.  The problem is how to start on the path. If your why isn't very strong, And if people don't feel that like really they want to achieve this dream, they will never achieve it. Yes, Lewis says, if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. And this is true.  So the problem is that the majority of people don't know where they're going or don't know what their goal or what their dream. Thus they can't consistently implement anything.  If they know what their dream is, And if they are adamant about doing it, then consistency can start simply by faking it in the start. But setting like a a small plan on how it'll go and then I can tell you how the weekly resolution can help them achieve it consistently every single week. Stephen Matini: Have you always had clear what you wanted, or is it something that you learned along the way? Chantal Souaid: A lot of times there were a lot of things that were very clear for me and other times things were not as clear and I didn't know where I was going, especially when I was starting my business and having the kids and me being, trying to get used to being a working mom and being a mom in general.  So a lot of these things weren't as easy. But what I learned along the way, and this is a a long learning process, was to just trust myself and trust the process and trust the universe.  So for example, there are some things that I know that are part of my values. What I'd like to do, for example, for me, ever since I was very young, I knew that my mission on this Earth or what I would love to be doing was to help people and help myself lead a better life. So of some moments it was the big picture umbrella. But then somehow I'm learning to embrace the meaning of the moment. Every single moment that I'm going through, for me to discover myself better, to discover myself as a mom, as a business owner in this country.  So these pieces of the puzzles, I'm just putting them in the dots, and I learned something very interesting. If something is very hard and if I'm trying and trying and trying to work at it and it's not working and maybe I should like stop what I'm doing, either look into another direction or just think outside the box because somehow this is the universe telling me this is not the road you should be taking. Stephen Matini: A lot of what you're saying is something that me personally I learned later on in my life. One example could be even this very podcast, if I had to do, let's say 20 years ago, I think I would've been so obsessed about doing it right. I would've probably waited longer to start it. I would've been incredibly critical paranoid about anything that I did. It's about being in the present moment. And so I do hope you know this podcast and many, many other endeavors will do well, but I'm more focused on now, enjoying the process, doing my best, knowing that the next episode very likely I will do better. Very likely when I look back, you know, six months ago, I would say, oh wow, that was kind of cute what I did, I would never do that. So it really is a process in which you have a sense of where to go. But as I always say, you have to get your hands dirty. Chantal Souaid: And so you're saying this is something very important because somehow a lot of people who are very professional, who are very accomplished, who value accomplishment as a value in their lives feel as you said, that we need to do things in the perfect way.  But then little by little, as we grow older and more mature, we realize that perfection sometimes isn't in the minute details. It isn't like in the way for example, my hair is done today. It's in me being present now as I'm being with you. If someone comes and gives us this recipe when we're still young, somehow we wouldn't really own it.  And you can go and tell someone who is very young to do this and they will say like, well this is a crappy person, what is he saying? But on the other hand, when we live it, when we feel it, it gets something that's so internal. This way we can actually live it and understand it. And you're very right. Stephen Matini: Well also you are a mom, you have twins and I can barely take care of myself. So for me, like all of you moms are truly superhero. And I'm not trying to just to be nice, but realistically is so much work.  So to any woman that maybe has kids and maybe would like to not just to being a mom, there's nothing wrong about just wanting to be a mom, but maybe they also want to be a professional. Maybe they want to be an entrepreneur as you are. What is your suggestion as a first step to get it all? Chantal Souaid: Okay, so here I can tell you about the own three life balance concept. So as I was doing the weekly resolution planner, I had to create a concept for life balance because for me at the time, my life wasn't balanced. I had the twins, I was working from home, either I had the challenge and I was trying to live this life balance to to see how all this works out for me. And it wasn't as easy.  But then all of a sudden I realized that the day that I woke up at five and I did my morning routine before the kids woke up and before my work started, I was much happier. I was giving better and somehow the kids were nicer and the kids were calmer and everything was much better.  So I kept testing it and then I realized, that in life and in my life and the life of every person, mom, not mom, every person, when I am better, when I'm giving myself oxygen, then I can help and give back. And I always like the example of when we are in, in an airplane and the flight attendant gives the safety instructions and then she or he says, in case of oxygen drop, put your own oxygen mask before assisting others. So I'm giving them a favor when, when I'm taking care of myself. Then we have three other important pillars. One is environment. The environment can be my home, my surroundings, my family. If someone has a dorm room, it can be their dorm room and if someone has a big mansion, it can be their mansion and we have a relationship, it can be love and social. Then we have fulfillment. So in fulfillment we have money, we have a career, we have hobbies and fun and we have learning and growth.  If I'm giving every single day, and this is what the planner does, if I draw my vision board, and I say this is what I'm doing to myself, this is what I'm doing for my environment, my relationships and my fulfillment. And then we put a beautiful vision for all of it. Then every single month I'll ask myself, okay, what am I going to do this month for myself? What am I going to do for my environment, for my relationships and for my fulfillment? Then we ask the same question every week, then every day Stephen Matini: If someone somehow cannot find time for herself, right? Like I just can’t. What would it be a first step they can do in order to carve some time for themselves and overcome the sense of guilt? Chantal Souaid: So hopefully I would know this person, I think I would shake them, I would tell them, God forbid if you were to die now what would happen?  And then they would stop and then they would say like everything would fall apart. And then I would say, okay. And then after it falls apart, and then after like nobody eats and after nobody does this task and after like a while, like someone else will be able to do it, someone else would be assigned to do it.  The problem with all of us is that we have a lot of expectations. We keep looking at Instagram, we keep looking at Facebook, at all the social media and we compare our lives to others and we want to do stuff like others. So we want to get this very big salary.  This person when asked them if you die, and then what would your life amount to, I'm sure that this take them to the core for them to remember that everybody can do their job.  And this is something that I learned it the very hard way. I kept wanting to be working to be doing stuff, but then I realized one day anybody can do anything related to my job, but no one would fulfill my role as the mother of my kids, Eva and Christopher.  And the moment I realized this, it like lifted a very big heavy burden on my back. And every single person have has like a very private story about their lives and they know that they can say stop, and they don’t need all the money, they don't need all these things and they can calm down.  So to this person, if they cannot carve time for themselves, to take care of themselves, then then one day they would collapse and go to the hospital and then somebody would have to replace them in a not nice way. Because if I were to offer the world, I better offer the world the best of me, not what's left of me. And if the person is not taking care of themselves, they will be offering what's left of them. Stephen Matini: I agree a hundred percent. And it may sound as such a final thought, but  the one thing that I always repeat myself is, and I'm really highly mindful, the more time goes by is, my time here has a deadline. So hopefully, you know, it will happen far in the future. But realistically I know as a fact that will not be here. I will not be here forever. Stephen Matini: And the most important thing of all is not to waste my life. You know, I think it's an important reminder, it's a gentle reminder. I call it that I will not be here forever. I may worry about this, I may get cranky about that, but you won't be here forever. It somehow puts everything the right perspective.  Chantal Souaid: I try to enjoy what I do without even obsessing excessively. Is it gonna work? It's not gonna work. Is is this gonna happen? Will I get there? Well, hopefully I will. But now all that matters is truly how I spend my time. Have you always been this way or is it something that as you mentioned, became heightened as a result of you becoming a mom? So no, I haven't been always this way. I think motherhood has had the, its its biggest lessons on me. So when I was at work, I was very adamant, I was very strict, I wanted things to be perfect. I didn't have any time to waste what stuff. I was hardworking as you were saying. And then I was doing everything to be perfect. I was working with an international development organization and from an organization to the other project to the other, we had donors, we had beneficiaries, we had stakeholders. Customer service was like a hundred percent. An email wouldn't go without an automatic like spelling check. But then as I became a mom, I started realizing that life cannot be this way.  I do admire whoever can keep life this way and still be a parent. But somehow my priorities have shifted. I realized that before having kids, my main focus in life was to prove myself to be a very good professional. When I became a mom, I realized my accomplishments don't define me. So the title, I was a Middle East and North Africa Director, which was very sexy and very interesting and very big. And I thought to myself like what? I'll be now a trainer, a coach. Like it was like so small for me and I said, I'll be a mom, just a mom. It was very like, don't get me wrong, but somehow it was like very small for me.  Then I realized I don't have to be any of this. I can just be myself. I like I am me. So this change helped me and it took a long time. It didn't come easily. And when I realized this, then I knew that this was my ego speaking. My accomplishments don't define me. My title doesn't define me because one day I can have a very big title and the other day if I don't, then I'm in my less. No, I'm not less, I'm much better because I'm myself and this wasn't the case at all and I grew into becoming this person and they say like the kids teach a lot, like having kids. And I, every single day I still learn. And it's an ongoing process and I think if we stop learning, we stop growing. And then what's the youth? Stephen Matini: You are part of the Barkat project, which is a a phenomenal initiative. How did you come across the project? Because I talked to Puneet Sadchev, who started the project. I thought how incredible the fact that he's supporting entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa. How did you learn about the project? Chantal Souaid: So I am part of a group called Lebanese League for Women in Business. Among this group, they send a lot of announcements, but somehow when I saw this email and I read about it, the name was Shakti Barkat, and I was thinking like, wow, I like the name, I read about it. And it was something very interesting and I felt that yes, we women, entrepreneurs need to support each other.  And as a coach, I know the impact of coaching. And at the time I was feeling that as a mompreneur always. And I was finally thinking about it yesterday, like a mompreneur, the way I define it, as an entrepreneur mother whose priority is her kids.  So going back to you and I thought that, okay, this is this thing that I needed. I wanted my business somehow to be a priority. I wanted to be thinking about my business with other people. And somehow we are all in this boat together.  My struggles are struggles of someone else. Even if someone isn't married and doesn't have kids, but somehow they have maybe have an another type of a baby or another type of something that they're taking care of. It can be a family member, it can be a side project.  So I felt what a beautiful and empowering thing for me to be part of such a program to learn from a professional like Puneet and also to be learning and sharing me among all the other ladies that are part of this program. So for me, I know that we started in June, we have until September, and these are the months where I will be focusing on my business.  We put a deadline, we put the, like our intentions for the program, both professional and personal, and then somehow this framework, this like very nice framework and me knowing that I'll be meeting with these people one week as one week know knowing that if I had a problem, I will be following through with it.  This alone, as simple as it can be, other than what's happening during the coaching session was very important for me. I set goals, I set intentions, I write my gratitude, but somehow my business isn't always the top priority.  And for me, putting my business as number one during these four months has been phenomenal. I've never been coached for my business. I've been part of different types of trainings but never been coached. Puneet is so good in how he coaches is us. So he might be giving a hotspot for someone and putting someone on the hot seat and you'd think that like he's just coaching these people.  And then somehow as the session goes, he would've coached all of us and we'd all come out after this question with this specific person with like list of things that we need to be working on.  Stephen Matini: Thank you so much for sharing all this with me. And my wish for you is to be around for as long as possible, so that yo can help as many people as possible because you're really fabulous. Chantal Souaid: Thank you. Thank you Stephen. And thank you for opening up this opportunity for people to listen to you, for people to come over with you. You cannot imagine how sometimes just listening to a podcast of yours can change the life of people.
24:17 1/17/24
The Power of Words: Speak Green - Featuring Dr. Claudia Gross
Dr. Claudia Gross is a German consultant and trainer who lives in Cairo, Egypt, and has a soulful humanist approach to business. Our conversation revolves around the transformative potential of language in fostering positive connections, understanding, and personal growth. Inspired by approaches such as Nonviolent Communication and Positive Psychology, Dr. Gross emphasizes the concept that words create worlds.  Dr. Gross is the author of the first Speak Green book, Words Create Worlds: Cultivating a Conscious, Life-Affirming Language. The idea is to move away from "red language," which is divisive and instead embrace "green language," which promotes harmony and positive communication. By speaking green, we can move beyond binary thinking, embrace a variety of viewpoints with greater ease, and cultivate empathy through language.  Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen #claudiagross #speakgreen #language #pitypartyover #podcast #alygn #stephenmatini #leadershipdevelopment #managementdevelopment TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini:Claudia. You are in Egypt. So how's life in Egypt? Claudia Gross: Life in Egypt is also very different to what I was used to and I think about Germany, you know, like, so a totally different planet if you wanna say that. And I love it because it's so interesting and inspiring.  Being here, living in a totally different culture, being emerged and surrounded by it. Here there are so many opportunities to contribute. This is what I also love.  For me, Egypt's like a huge catalyst of my own development. Everything I currently am,  who I am and what I do is based on this fertile soil of the desert country. So for me, living in Egypt has been a very fertile, inspiring and reconnecting experience, reconnecting myself to my roots. Stephen Matini: Do you think that you would have become the same type of person if you never moved to Egypt? Claudia Gross: I can't imagine. Just the other day I actually thought that I'm very grateful for this kind of destiny or force in the road that brought me here. I have been here since 18 and a half years. So if this period was a human being, it would be a teenager with a driving license.  And when I think about, for example, the power of language that I'm so passionate about, I see this here in in Egypt, an action every day. Even if you just say good morning, good morning in Arabic would be something like wishing you a morning full of light or full of honey, or full of yes. mean if you're responding to this, you would actually aim for saying something that is even sweeter or brighter. And I, I see this a lot.  There's also some things, some words we would not say, things we wouldn't say simply because that's part of the culture, and because we think that it brings bad luck. So being immersed into this kind of environment where the power of words can be felt and seen every day in every conversation definitely contributed to who I'm currently. Stephen Matini: How have you discovered along the way, the power of language, the power or words, how did you get interested in words as much as you do today? Claudia Gross: The initial moment that I can recall that changed everything was when I was sitting in the traffic jam in Egypt and like a particularly long one, really dramatic. And I was surrounded by signs telling me what not to do. So I got like, don't be late, don't miss this appointment. And signs on the streets saying, don't whatever cross here, don't turn here.  And I was like, Hey, listen, you know, I mean like, could you please stop talking in red language to me, if not helpful? What I would love to know is like, what can I now do? Where can I turn? Where could I go? And I mean, I could not just leave my car behind the walk. So this is what happened.  And when I then arrived at the place where I was having dinner with a friend at this time, I was like telling her this experience and suddenly it's like sketching down a couple of red words and green words and this is what happened. This is where it started.  And then retroactively, I realized that since I can think when I was highlighting texts and textbooks or when, when studying something, especially in English, I was always starting to highlight something when the not part was over and when it was focusing on what to do, suddenly I understood that I had it in me for a while, but it just woke up in this particular traffic jam. Stephen Matini: Is this what you refer to as a speak green? Claudia Gross: Yes. For me, speak green. Why have I chosen this? It's because really an opposition to red language in, in comparison to how people talk a lot. When you think about Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of non-violent communication, you would call it hyena language and giraffe language.  For me, what was like closer to my heart where these two languages and also like traffic signs, like read for, hey, wait a moment stand still pause, reflect, is this really how I wanna say it? And then coming up with the green alternative and to go for that. So also this complementary of these colors was important for me in that moment. Stephen Matini: Claudia, I wanna ask you, I understand perfectly the concept. I was wondering, would you mind to provide an example of a sentence that uses red words and how to turn it into green words? Claudia Gross: Oh yeah, certainly. The classic example is that for centuries we are focusing on “no war.” I've been in a Picasso museum where he was also referring to manifestations and demonstrations in the street, and they were all having this posters of no war, no war.  When I seen this in the black and white movie, I thought, like, so long we're going for in war, when actually what we really in the bottom of our hearts are desiring is peace.  So for me, no war is written in red and peace is written in green language. And that's also an example for moving beyond these negation and looking at what do we really want. Because our minds as we now move from neuroscience, cannot see something that is negated. It first has to evoke it like war or war and they're like, ah, no, no, that's not what I'm, that's too difficult. We better focus on what we wish for. Stephen Matini: You told me about this last time when we met, you talked about the difference between a “yes” and “yes, but.” But would you mind explaining the difference between these two approaches? Claudia Gross: Yes, certainly. For me it was one of these discoveries of higher communication, because the experience of “yes, but” something that we all share on a day-to-day basis that someone seems to agree yes and, but then feels like a slap into our face or a close door. We experienced this, but for a very long time I just thought like, well that's the way we say it. This is how we talk.  Until I was introduced in a workshop to the option of “yes, and”. And I goosebumps when I think about it because it's like, what this is adding a new idea. This is not pretending as if you're first agreeing and then contradicting.  And later then I learned that in improv theater they have a rule on stage that they will not say no or yes, but they will always say “and” so that the game or the the show continue. Stephen Matini: In your experience working across different cultures, do you find it easier or simpler, this specific attention towards in one culture versus another or it doesn't matter? Claudia Gross: I think it matters and I think that all cultures are, all languages have different preferences. So I'm already like a bit concerned when we're trying to translate my book because some things I think they're not translatable from English to any other language, be it German or French or Arabic, you know, they where, where I have an idea of what I'm talking about some in the different languages and this what I, that people around them and their examples might be very cultural specific. So some things might not be that we cannot generalize them or things that I could say in German, they actually do not work in another language or a word play that works in English. We can't translate it.  So we would rather put it in brackets or like adding whatever footnote to explain it. But in general, I think this sensitivity or the awareness for the power of language is available in all languages that are using prayer, that are using holy words that are not saying special words because they could bring bad luck.  So I think actually it would be, would be present all around the world. And I'm for example, not saying worldwide because I learned from Buckminster Fuller that this would be pretending that it is a flat earth and I believe it's globe. That's why I'm also speaking about around the world or globally, but not about something worldwide. Stephen Matini: Have you ever heard, I'm sure you did, about the Sapir-Whorf theory or communication? Claudia Gross: Yes. Stephen Matini: I remember when I studied it the first time was the notion, you know, based on these colors that essentially the language that we speak, you know, color and tint anything the way we view the world. And I thought it was an incredible theory. The theory has been discussed, has been disproved in many different times. But still what's interesting when I try to learn a new language and I see the same text, I see the grammar. I always have the feeling that I'm putting on sunglasses, a language, the specific structure, really deeply condition how I relate to people.  Stephen Matini: Words these days seem to be weaponized. Even the whole controversy about freedom of speech. Oftentimes we see endless amount of examples of cancel culture because this person used the wrong word, maybe words that were said years prior in a completely different context. To me it looks like a big gigantic mess of polarized ideas. From your perspective, what could it be a first super small step that all of us as a global community could take in the right direction to build bridges through the use of words? Claudia Gross: Open your ears, have elephant ears, and open your hearts so that you have a giraffe heart and then have a conversation.  And I also see this a lot what you're describing, that people are losing also friends or family members over discussions over one particular word. And that's a real pity because what we want to be cultivating our conversations, especially with those who are thinking and acting in a way that is totally different to ours.  So instead of like emptying my friends list of those who think differently than I do and are not agreeing to how I see the world, it's actually super important to reach out to them and to have the conversations and to widen our horizon, widen our perspective, and be more in this careers mode of like, wow, isn't that interesting?  And I believe for me, like when I, when I'm listening to all of these developments, I'm also very much inspired by the integral model by Ken Wilber. So I see this evolutionary development of human beings and I can, based on their language also see and hear where they're coming from.  And therefore I think it's also very important for us that yes, we are all the same and different. Yeah. So we have different backgrounds, different understanding of what's different connotations, so better and a peaceful environment of coexistence and curiosity, then losing those that would be perfect alley for us towards change in this world. Stephen Matini: Two concepts, they're really important to you in terms of some of the positive impact of using a specific type of language. A green language has to do with you call it like a pluralism and gender positivity. These two components seem to be really important to you. Would you mind telling me more about these two? Claudia Gross: When I think about pluralism, just very basically I am thinking really in plurals, very often people only give me one option and I'm interested in getting more. I wanna have a choice. And so therefore I believe it's really important to move beyond the binary, which then means like it's not zeroes or one, it's not yes or no. It's not only tea and coffee. And I believe this is important to express this also in language.  When I'm facilitating coaching, I give people at least three choices or more only with the intention of moving beyond the binary. And for me, when I then I think about gender, it's something similar. I mean, I, I'm German, I grew up with a language that actually has, that has three articles. I also take this one as one of the reasons why for me, pluralism and a variety is a lot easier to grasp, to understand, to connect to than for others. And having said this, being able to express ourselves in more than only one language also helps because depending on the language I speak, I'm a different person. Stephen Matini: Freedom of speech is such an important thing. And when people tell me what to say and not to say I feel that I get silenced. How would you respond to this type of criticism. Claudia Gross: There were already situations where people ask me exactly about these points, you know, where they were like, are you now trying to police us? And I thought like, well, it's so far away from my personality to police anyone in anything.  And for me, this is also where I then thought about and I thought what I really do is highlighting language that is not anymore in harmony with our consciousness and offering alternatives.  And when I started this, green was just like the language that came up and red as well. There were also moments where then thought like, oh goodness, you know, now you're creating polarities and it looks like green is good and red is bad. And that's also how I mean it, but I do not mean it like with this erect index finger teacher, teacher telling us, you know, how to speak now, that's not my intention. My intention is not to program anyone with my language. I'm, I'm not trained in NLP, even. So my, my origins of this whole initiative really come from a totally different direction.  And therefore what I do is I offer for everyone who's really stuck in my perspective, like someone who's, who's like extremely fluent in red language.  Very often these people cannot imagine green language because no one in their surroundings speaks green language. So what I actually do is, in my perspective, I am increasing the horizon. I'm doubling the space of, of vocabulary and life ultimately, and I'm making offerings and they can choose them, yes or no, totally up to them. And it's possible that what I offer this today, next year I might offer you something else because I have my language also has evolved.  And the way I see it currently is really like a yin and y sign. So as if it was a red young that needs a green yin as yeah to be complete, to also add different energy to that. And only when these two are coming together you have the circle, then you can strive for oneness.  But as long as you are like in this kind of whatever ocean of red language, moving on and understanding what else is possible is too far away. So this is what I'm now currently answering and I, I've seen it in so many people when they realize how they could not even see it.  Just the other day, we are now preparing a conference in a panel, in an event in the UK and one of the aspects of this whole event is about strengthening business and the outdoor. So I was listening to the conversation, I was like, oh, that's interesting outdoor, say this again, out-door and in-door. You don't even mention the, which is really interesting. So it's defined by the door, look at it in front of your door or inside of your door. But I mean this does not necessarily need to be nature at all.  So these little things, you know, and then, oh yeah, interesting. So one word can be so powerful and its could be then reframed, reformulated in something that is more life giving. Here we’re, the journey continues. Stephen Matini: Yeah. Because a door is something that separates, kinda the example you gave before, no war and peace, you know, outdoors and nature. Absolutely. I'm thinking that maybe this oneness that we so much all want, peace actually it is not oneness, but it's fragmented in infinite variations. Claudia Gross: Every country you travel through with every culture, even in your country you visit, there's so much variation. They do things differently. And being aware of that is being rich.  And I believe that's also something that is related to speak because what we do is we're increasing the circles around us. It's not only about myself and my family and my neighbors and my working place, which is already a couple of circles, but the moment I'm able to embrace more people and at a certain point reach like be it my country, be it the region we are in, be it like the rules low, suddenly it's a totally different perspective.  And this means also that if I'm then whatever, separating and segregating the waste in my house, I don't do this for myself anymore. I do not do this for the garbage man anymore, or the garbage person, or whatever is a better word here, they are called ‘zabaleen’, you would do it for the planet for the seventh generation of grandchildren. So I believe what happens with these experiences in different countries, realizing exactly as you said, opposite, 180 degrees different from we were used to. In Germany, we would not marry our cousins here in Egypt, people do that. It's the extreme opposite and it's for the respective cultures, it's the way people are living.  And I believe being able to hold the seemingly opposite in our mind at the same time. And at the beginning it's only two and then after a while it's even more because then you see how they, they're done in different cultures.  I believe like we're really growing new connections on our brain group, becoming more compassionate for others. And it's a lot easier then to support others in seeing it, having these conversations and those who can't travel, who don't travel, who do not, don't ever have the chance make these experiences, but by sharing our stories, they come close to them. Really they do this.  I mean, I'm vegetarian and I'm drinking everything, tea and coffee without sugar even this is already a pattern disruptor. Really? Does it have taste? Can you do that? But that's, no one does this, you know? I'm like, well, I mean at least I do it and I can assure you, you know, it's better than four spoons of sugar in your tea. And I think it's first about the past pattern structure and then integrating it all into ourselves and being aware of there might be no single truth. Stephen Matini: I keep thinking as you are describing such important concept, it's a big exercise in empathy, understanding that the world is not you and it works differently than you. And you can still enjoy anything that is not you if you make an effort to get out of your shoes and know for a while basically. Claudia Gross: And you see the word empathy just crossed my path yesterday when we spoke about equality and equity where I've seen a title and I, sorry, that I don't recall in which workshop this was, but there they also spoke about diversity and equality and inclusion and belonging. And they didn't say equality or equity, they said empathy.  And I thought like, how cool is this? Because it's not anymore about people with each other, it's about having empathy with each other, really meeting human to human. And I think this is also another evolutionary step in language on our behaviors that at a certain point it's not anymore about doing things because it has to be equal. We'll do them because we have like hundred percent empathy with other people.  And equality at the end of the day is also not the goal, we're striving for justice and for fairness, which means that it can be unequal, but it's just, and it's fair. So you know, I mean these concepts, they're really sometimes mind blowing, but I can see them on a spectrum of evolutionary development of humankind and human beings themselves. Like being more and more able to embrace this kind of complexity. Stephen Matini: I have a funky question. I love languages, you know, and I wish I had all the time in the world to learn every single language. They're just wonderful. But you know how difficult it is, you know, it takes time. Do you think that if we had one true common language, all of us spoke the same language while retaining all the other languages, but if all of us, you know, terrestrians spoke at least in one same language, do you think would be easier? Claudia Gross: While listening to your question, I thought about Esperanto they trying to to create an artificial language that we all could speak. I love that you added that all the other languages would continue because I would, this would be my major concern that we give up this world that we have when we are speaking exactly the same language.  We're under the illusion that the others understand us because then they're fluent in our language, especially with mother tongue and we, when you're traveling, we feel like an immediate connection to those that are speaking our language. But on the other hand, this can also be a huge illusion.  When I'm speaking with people, what we do now on this English bridge, which is not my mother tongue, I would make more effort to make sure that I am really understood or I would also ask more questions, especially in very personal relationships.  So therefore I believe not speaking the same language could increase our understanding because it supports us also in understanding ourselves and the other and the space between us. And very often I feel very understood by people who are not speaking my mother tongue and absolutely not understood by people who speak German. Stephen Matini: I love when you say illusion, it really is an illusion. Is there anything out of anything we said that you think that our listeners, the people that will listen to this episode, will be important to pay attention to based on your experience of the power of words? Claudia Gross: Yeah, that's a good question. First of all, I think what we all need to be aware of now more than ever, independent of words, but I think it's really important to highlight this, is that we are experiencing a change of era. So one era is ending and the other one is beginning and they're overlapping.  So we’re currently in a phase where both developments are overlapping. Yes, we’re hospicing the old and they’re midwifing the new, both at the same time. This means that we have a huge marketplace and spectrum variety for what we are also experiencing now regarding language is I do not think that there's the right language, and I wouldn't go for right and wrong. When I think about red and green, for me it's really about what is limiting and destructing or inhibiting life and what is giving life and supporting whatever self-development and so on. So this is how I would see it, and therefore I would always only make offerings. That's one of the rare situations where the word always actually work. Because normally I'm saying don't say always, don't say never. So I'm contradicting myself. But what I wanna say is that it's about offerings, it's about adding a perspective and also inviting others.  See this as well. When I'm working, when people speak in a lot of negative language where I'm like, okay, how would we reframe that? You know, how does that sound without the not? That's an invitation and they can draw this path. And if they're absolutely not able to lose, I can see if I can assist them. And if it still doesn't work, we can see how we then continue with each other. You know, what is needed. I would never, ever impose it on them. And this is the thing that I would like people to take with them, you know, like experiment with it, be inspired by it. See how powerful it is, and it's also not just the, the word itself, it's also the vibration it brings in. Yeah.  For the book I had recorded word showers, like hundred red words and hundred green words. And just listening, just recording the red words was unpleasant, you know, while the green words had a totally different aura and frequency.  So therefore be curious, be aware of your own language. Do not believe everything you think. Be an author for your own lives, co-author our future. So that's the spirit which everyone to approach this field of language and contribute to it. If there are words that are not in harmony anymore with how you see it or would love to say it, come up with a greener alternative. Stephen Matini: Claudia this was fantastic. Thank you so much for these important insights, for spending time with me. Thank you. Claudia Gross: With utmost pleasure.
29:42 1/10/24
Courage Unveiled - Featuring Dr. Cynthia Pury
Today, we delve into the world of courage and what it truly means to stand up for what you believe. Our guest is Dr. Cindy Pury, Professor of Psychology at Clemson University and an expert in the psychology of courage.  The episode explores the interplay among fear, bravery, and honesty, revealing why courage doesn't conform to a single, standardized model. Our conversation explores bravery, honesty, and the nuanced nature of courageous actions, emphasizing individual uniqueness. Dr. Pury warns against using courage for harmful ends and shares leadership insights for fostering a supportive environment. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen #cynthiapury #courage #psychology #clemsonuniversity #stephenmatini #podcast #pitypartyover #alygn #leadership #management TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: When did you decide what you wanted to pursue professionally? Cindy Pury: So I drifted into college without having any clear idea what I wanted to do. I had a major in public relations, I didn't love it, but I couldn't think of anything else.  And I got to college and the very first day of class, John Kihlstrom, who was our intro teacher, talked about hypnotism. And I was like, oh! And then we started talking about emotions and I was like, oh! And the whole thing was so interesting that I decided to double major in psychology.  And I clearly remember one day my junior year of college, I believe I was sitting in a windowsill studying in one of the big campus landmark buildings. And I had two exams to study for a psychology exam and a journalism exam. And I remember looking, choosing the psychology book and thinking, boy, I wish any of my journalism classes were as interesting as this. In graduate school I studied emotional theory and emotional disorders, particularly anxiety disorders. And around the same time the director of our honors college asked me to do an honors seminar about fear and horror. And I thought, great. Okay, sure.  And so I put together all these things and I went at the end, by the time I got done looking at my class reading list and stuff, I thought, wow, that's really depressing. We need to end on a more positive note.  So some kind of irrational fear that you have, what do you do about that? Those are anxiety disorders. We have a whole big bunch of treatments for those. So let's read about the most well supported version of that at the time. So I had a section on CBT.  Then what can you do about some kind of thing that you have a fear of that is rational to be afraid of? Well you can reduce whatever the risk is in that situation and really there's not much else you can do to reduce your risk. Well you can behave courageously. And I thought there's like no research on this at all. And I started conducting research on courage and I haven't really gone back.  During my pre-doctoral internship I worked at a veteran's hospital with a bunch of people who had combat related PTSD and I was struck by how they talked about things that sounded very courageous but they weren't calling them that.  And also how some of the things that they were really continually distressed about seemed to be kind of a function of what Jonathan Shea, the year after I finished my internship, coined the term moral injury.  It seemed to be kind of a combination of moral injury and almost like a failure of courage that was bothering them. And so I've been interested in this for a really long time and it turned out to be a really natural fit and I found I was just super interested in it. And so I've stuck with that. Stephen Matini: Simply put, what is the link between fear and courage? Cindy Pury: The link between fear and courage is actually a little bit more complicated than just saying that fear is standing up to courage, 'cause a lot of people say “courage is standing up to fear,” but also they'll say, you were fearless and courageous. And it's like, but those don't fit.  So what we've done is we've taken a step back, me and my colleagues, we've taken a step back from the fear and think about the risk part instead as being central to courage. And this I think eliminates an awful lot of the problem. It doesn't have to be actual risk, it can be perceived risk.  One of the things we know for sure about people who are highly fearful, either dispositionally or just in the moment, is that whatever it is feels much riskier than perhaps it really is. So that happens when folks are afraid of things that aren't really that much of a risk. It still feels very risky. It can feel risky in a really unusual kind of way.  So one of my participants in a courage study wrote about something she did that was courageous, that was smushing, a spider that was in her house. She thought it was courageous that she worried about how if she hadn't done anything, he would come back and get her. And it's like I knew that she knew like most people with specific phobias, she probably knew that spiders aren't smart enough to do that, but it felt that way.  Finally, it helps explain situations where someone describes something they did they that they call courageous. And they'll either say that they didn't feel that much fear in the moment because they were very focused on doing whatever they were trying to do.  Or sometimes they described fear, but their fear has more to do with the fear of whatever bad outcome they're trying to prevent typically for someone else who they love or otherwise care about.  So if a a small child who you love wanders into the street, you're going to be much more afraid of something bad happening to that small child most likely than yourself. Stephen Matini: Is there any difference between bravery and courage? Cindy Pury: The difference between bravery and courage, if your listeners are familiar with the VIA or the Values and Action System, is that the VIA’s bravery component is standing up to fear or difficulty in a particular way. And so it has a lot to do with that emotion and it doesn't have to do with how you aim it.  So I would argue that it would be possible for someone to have an isolated strength of bravery but use it in a completely inappropriate way.  So, if you imagine two people who are equally afraid running into a house fire; cool, they're equally burned and equally likely to die, they're in the burn unit, they're in adjoining beds.  The person in bed A ran into the burning house to save a baby, that person is likely to be hailed as courageous and publicly hailed as courageous by other people. The person in bed B ran into the burning house to make a really cool TikTok video. People aren't likely to say that person's courageous. Stephen Matini: What is as of now after many years of research, your own definition of courage? Cindy Pury: My own definition of courage at this point is that it involves taking a worthwhile risk. So it's got to be taking, it's gotta be a voluntary sort of thing. It's a chosen action. It's not something that just happens to you, it's something that you choose to do. And I suppose I could extend it to choosing to take a worthwhile risk.  It's also something that is risky to you. It also is worthwhile. So it is something that is proportional to the risk that's involved. Risking your life to save the life of another is definitely courageous. Risking your life to pursue some incredibly personally valuable goal can be courageous if you the observer or you the rater shares that value of that goal.  Risking your life for a very trivial thing in a way that need not have happened that way does not feel that way.  A few years ago there was someone who literally did run back into a house fire to get her season baseball tickets, which could have easily been replaced and in fact the baseball team said, we're replacing your tickets but just know we would've replaced these anyways. So that doesn't seem terribly courageous.  I've taken that a step further and I've looked at people who've won the Carnegie Hero medal, which in the United States is a big civilian award for bravery and for the Carnegie Hero medal.  I looked at one year's worth of it, and in that one year most people who won, saved the life of another person, and they themselves were alive.  Some people won dying while saving the life of another person.  Other people won dying and the person they tried to save died, nobody won, when the person they tried to save died, but they lived. There's this sort of hindsight bias that that was worth it.  We have other data on that too where we just made up stories and the stories changed. So like you move to another country for the perfect relationship or the perfect job and A) it works out and 10 years later you're still married or B) after about a year you see that you're really not compatible and you split up, that second person is not likely to see themselves as courageous. Stephen Matini: So if I understood correctly, there seems to be cultural and contextual differences that it impact what people perceive as courageous. Cindy Pury: Oh absolutely. Absolutely. And they'll vary based on both cultural values and individual values and they'll vary based on both cultural threats and individual threats.  And so, if you are in a culture where being perceived as showing any sign of fear is like a terrible thing for you and you're willing to get up and speak in public, that may be more courageous than if, if you're like, oh, okay. Sometimes people are afraid and they go on and it's cool.  Or if you are raised in a culture where showing any sign of sadness as a man is perceived as negative and you're crying in public and you're a man, that's gonna be much a much bigger risk in some cultures than in others. Likewise, the values of course change from culture to culture.  They also change individually. Charlie Starkey, Laura Olson and I just published some data looking at how courageous Americans rated two women who did sort of different things.  A few summers back, Kaitlyn Jenner publicly came out as transgender, and Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same gender couples.  Not surprisingly the extent to which you agree that marriage should be between one man and one woman and people should adhere traditional gender norms point you in completely opposite directions in rating if that woman was courageous or not. Stephen Matini: As you're talking, there are different scenarios they play in my head particularly about what's considered to be socially courageous. And I'm thinking about organizations or the example of Kaitlyn Jenner. Some of them they say, I'm openly gay but at work, I'm not because you know, that's not the place where I could do that. So from your perspective, should I be more courageous, or what? Cindy Pury: It would depend on so many different things about how the person sees their job. I'm gonna make up a super extreme example here.  So if the person's spouse, who they love, is unable to work for some reason, and they are providing all of the means of financial support for their family, and they go out to work every day in a homophobic environment, and put on their mask to get money so that they and their partner can live a decent life, that could almost be seen as courageous.  Doing exactly the opposite. For them, jobs aren't plentiful and they would never find anything that would support them in that way. It might be courageous for them to stay closeted.  Similarly, in an organization that specifically goes out of its way to say we are a proudly WOKE organization and we welcome all of our LGBTQIA+ employees and in fact here's our gay employee association and people in the gay employee association actually have kind of a leg up, then that risk is just obviously a lot lower. Likewise, if you are seeing yourself as strongly committed to advancing the rights of other people by being an example yourself, which I think from what I have read arguably is a large part of the reason why we have so much more acceptance in society today, which I personally really welcome, is because people have been willing to step out and say I'm gay, I'm still the same person that you knew before and I'm still just as competent as I was before and and all these other things and here is my life and I am willing to be an example, that could also be part of it. Stephen Matini: So it seems to me that courage oftentimes ignites when someone is willing to go against the grain. Cindy Pury: Yeah, certainly in terms of any sort of a social thing, that definitely would seem to be the case. And social risks are huge. We're very social creatures and our social risks feel every bit as real as physical risks and do every bit as much of the same sort of jazzing up your autonomic nervous system and feeling really awful and feeling a sense of dread. We definitely feel that way about social things also.  Personal courage I think is a real big thing and when you know the person's full story, sometimes their actions make a lot more sense.  I mentioned I worked at this VA hospital. I had a patient who before I was even studying courage, his goal during treatment was to wrap a Christmas present for his child. That doesn't sound like very much but his whole backstory was that the worst thing that had ever happened to him was over Christmas time.  Every December it reliably resulted in terrible flashbacks for him and he avoided every reminder of Christmas whatsoever to avoid being reminded of this very terrible incident in his life. So he came in and he wrapped a Christmas present and he wrapped it in a session with me and while he was wrapping it like he was crying and his hands were shaking and he was sweating and we had to have a bucket nearby 'cause he thought he was gonna throw up, but he did it, at the end he's like, I'm sorry, I'm such a mess, something, something about being weak.  Well, before I started studying this, like almost a decade before, I said that was really brave, because I knew what he was going through, in order to do it. Stephen Matini: If someone is not that courageous, or let's say wants to be a little bit more courageous, where do you draw the line between, what I'm thinking of doing is courageous or just being stupid? Cindy Pury: That is such a good question. It is a fine line between brave and stupid.  The place where I saw that drawn most clearly was a story about this family out, I think in California or they were at least driving in California. They were driving along one of the twisty roads by the coast and the little kid threw a teddy bear out of the window and it fell down a cliff.  And so they stop the car, one of the parents gets out of the car and goes down the cliff to try to get the teddy bear. That parent gets stuck. The second parent then, leaving the child alone in the car, goes down the cliff to try to rescue the other parent and also to try to rescue the bear. They're both stuck and then rescue had to come out and helicopter got them and the family went on their way. Had it been the case that the first parent had rescued the teddy bear, this would just have turned into a story about how much mommy and daddy loved you.  It's always going to come down to someone's personal values and their personal values are funneled through their societal values, but the risk also matters a lot. So is this a risk that you are taking just for you, or are you taking this risk for other people?  So, the second parent who got out of the car leaving the child alone should have thought it's not that smart to leave a child in the car by themselves, because this was a kid that was young enough to have a teddy bear and a tantrum, that also matters.  I had an interesting conversation once with a student who was a police officer and he said that for him confronting someone who may be unhinged with a weapon is a lot less dangerous than it is for me. And I'd say I'd have to agree with him. So the question is, is it less courageous for him to do that than it would be for me? In a way, yes, but also he signed up for this career that required that sort of training and that sort of regular confrontation.  But definitely people are inspired by reading about what other people have done and seeing what other people have done and being told the stories of what other people have done. And a motivating sort of thing is when you see someone, especially someone who's similar to yourself or believing in a similar cause or ideally both of those things, if you are reflecting on something they did that was courageous, much like your friend, you're more likely to be inspired to go, I can do this too. Stephen Matini: Just that based on anything we talked, courage is not a clean cut. Cindy Pury: Absolutely not. It's wickedly hard to measure because either you end up with scales that simply ask you how courageous you are and how much you stand up to fear and you don't let fear or risks stand in your way, or you end up with scales that have what in psychology we call double barrelled items, where you have to be willing to do this for that, that requires two sorts of things instead to be in alignment rather than just one, and so it's not as clean. So it has turned out to be a difficult thing to measure.  I don't think we're likely to find that there are people who are uniformly brave and people who are uniformly cowardly. I don't think we're going to find that. I think everyone has their own individual constellations of things that they think are really worthwhile to do. Some people are very career-focused and they will do all sorts of things for their career, for their organization, which are different things obviously. And other people are not. Some people are very focused on personal advancement and they're willing to do things that are growing and enriching and feed their curiosity and their need to know other people aren't.  Some people really see the value in some particular kind of artistic or other personal expression. Other people don't see it as being as important to them. Likewise people feel differently about different kinds of risks that are out there.  The distribution of things that people are afraid of is not kind of random and people have different amounts of risks for different things. So for me, I do public speaking all the time. I routinely teach classes of 300 or so people. If you told me I was gonna give a speech to 300 people tomorrow, I'd be like, sure, that's fine. So it depends on the individual and the situation. Stephen Matini: Is there any correlation between courage and honesty? Because we're talking about values ... Cindy Pury: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of people describe courageous actions as being very high on integrity, which is a component of honesty. And certainly you may need to be courageous in order to be honest about something. And the coward, the less courageous action in a situation may be to cover it up or to lie about something.  It's somewhat contextual but for most people, most of the time honesty is probably the thing that they would feel prouder of, and would be better for society if we were honest. And so, in those cases, definitely. And in studies that we've done our typical study, we ask people to describe a time they acted courageously and we get a wide variety of responses.  Some of those responses definitely involve honesty. So another response that we got commonly were people who went and got needed treatment and needed to be honest. One of the steps in that is being honest with yourself and with other people. Especially if it happened when they were younger that they needed to go get treatment for their eating disorder or whatever it was. Stephen Matini: If I said to you anyone who's willing to fight for what he or she believes in, is courageous, would this be a fair statement? Cindy Pury: Yeah, I think so. Would I wanna give them the accolade of courage? Would I be happy to see that they won an award for valor? No, not necessarily, depending on what they were fighting for, 'cause Sometimes people fight for things that I think are terrible, and in that case I'm not going to be calling them courageous.  I can guarantee you though that every instance that I've found of someone being called courageous in the public press, or in the semi-public weirdo space that the Internet inhabits, if they're being called courageous, the person who's calling them courageous agrees with the goal of what they're trying to pursue and agrees in some way that they are taking a risk. Stephen Matini: You said it at the beginning of this conversation that ,your interest for courage began because you did not want just to focus on fear, you wanna focus on something that this seemed to be more positive. After all these years of your research, of your experience, what would you say that is the main reason why you are still passionate about courage? Cindy Pury: I think it's still interesting and I find the stories very uplifting for the most part. And also I've been motivated to write any number of book chapters by a warning that I wanna give people, which is that courage can be used for very bad things. Many people who have done just atrocious things believe that they're acting courageously and they talk using the same language that people use when they talk about courage.  Silk is a famous researcher who studies terrorism and in interviews with incarcerated terrorists and the police officers who stop them, both describe their actions in very similar ways, that fit the definition of courage.  I was struck by this when the Virginia Tech shooting happened. I still remember very clearly I was on an overnight sleepover field trip with my middle daughter and I just had caught little glimpses of it like on my phone. And I waited until she was in the bathroom taking a shower to like actually watch any of it. And he issued this creepy manifesto that was on a videotape and I was struck by listening to it how he sounded like a crazy evil version of my participants.  My participants at that time were almost all, were all college students, so they were all about his age and the way he described what he was doing, which was killing other people, sounded very much like the way my college student participants described taking an action that they thought was courageous.  And so I also feel very compelled to always put that message in there that, just because you think something's courageous doesn't mean it's not a bad thing. Just because you feel courageous doing it, doesn't always mean it's a good idea. And that doesn't necessarily mean it's stupid. I would say there's kind of the two bands, there's almost like two labels.  One of them is like stupid courage, where it's like I'm gonna run into this burning building to get a zillion TikTok followers, or I'm going to quit my job just to stick it to the man and now I'm unemployed and have no career.  Or I'm going to be brutally honest with this person who I dearly love. I'm just gonna be honest all the time with them. And that might not help our relationship actually and I might end up losing it. That sort of courage, I put it a different bin, than the things that are objectively meant to do bad. Stephen Matini: So we can say, the end does not justify the means. Cindy Pury: No. And if the end doesn't justify the means, then that is not a thing that we should say is courageous. But again, with the warning you might feel like you're courageous and then it turns out maybe you really weren't. It's a whole big picture. We need wisdom in order to properly evaluate these things. Stephen Matini: We talked about different things, so many different components of courage. If there’s anything that you believe that our listeners should focus on based on anything we said, what would that be? Cindy Pury: One of the biggest takeaways that I've gotten from doing research on courage is appreciating how unique everyone is, and recognizing the unique ways in which everyone has been courageous. I would argue everyone has been courageous.  Everyone has taken a risk that they think is worthwhile. That risk varies from person to person and what they think is worthwhile varies from person to person.  One of the things that happened I think during Covid is that we saw risks that people never considered on their job suddenly being present on their job, and the extent to which people were willing to engage in those risks for their job, which had changed, changed.  And ordinarily there's a lot of self-selection. People who are afraid of public pushback don't typically go into roles where there's not a lot of public pushback. They're not necessarily going to sign up to work for a politician. But a lot of healthcare workers found themselves in that situation, and a lot of educators found themselves in that situation. A lot of school board members are still finding themselves in that situation where school board in the United States at least used to be a very non-controversial kind of a thing.  When Covid happened, suddenly almost everyone's job involved that, and that was a negotiation, and I think what I saw personally, and what I saw professionally was a mismatch, in how much people wanted you to pursue the goals of the organization, and what they thought your risk tolerance should be for something, and what the individual employee's risk tolerance for that was, or sense of riskiness about that was.  And that sense of riskiness depended on two things. Broadly speaking, it depended on their actual risk level. So you might be immunocompromised and you haven't told anybody that, or you might live with someone who is medically fragile and you haven't told anybody that. And also just how much people have their own perception of what they're comfortable with. Those are somewhat separable things, but I think a lot of the misunderstandings that I saw in organizations at the time were due to that change.  So I guess from like a leadership perspective, being aware of what others in your organization, what the people you are leading find risky and find valuable, that may differ, and their picture of what that is, may be different than yours.  My other tiny little bit of leadership advice is don't be the reason why someone else needs to be courageous. If you are so intimidating that your employees need to work up courage to come and talk to you, that's problematic. But we all know that those leaders are out there. Stephen Matini: And maybe it's their way of believing that they're being courageous in some sort of tough or strong, you know? Cindy Pury: Absolutely. And I have definitely seen this. That's really not such a great strategy. Let them save their being courageous for other sorts of things that are more valuable to the company rather than just having to come to you. Stephen Matini: Cindy, you taught me so much today. Thank you so much. Cindy Pury: No problem, Stephen. This was super interesting.
31:57 1/4/24
Continuous Learning: Chain of Learning - Featuring Katie Anderson
Leadership consultant Katie Anderson believes fostering a continuous learning culture within a leadership framework can lead to better outcomes and engagement.    In today’s episode, we will discuss with Katie the challenges of shifting from a command-and-control to a learning approach, the role of purpose in leadership, and the impact of adopting a growth mindset. A culture of learning involves reconnecting with a sense of purpose, asking more open-ended questions, and creating a psychologically safe environment where mistakes are learning opportunities. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform: Spotify - Apple Podcasts - Google Podcasts - Amazon Music - Podbean - Listen to Katie Anderson’s podcast Chain of Learning Get Katie Anderson’s book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen Matini #katieanderson #chainoflearning #kbjanderson #podcast #pitypartyover #stephenmatini #alygn #leadershipdevelopment
30:11 12/27/23
Sustainable Future: African Startups - Featuring Yvonne Mose & Jeremiah Mabiria
Yvonne Mose and Jeremiah Mabiria are two entrepreneurs passionate about sustainability, working towards environmental solutions, and creating positive change to protect the planet and foster developmental opportunities in Africa.  Yvonne and Jeremiah founded MOMA Renewable Energy (former SBIKE), a company that produces bioethanol cooking fuel from food waste to address energy and environmental issues in Kenya. Their business aims to reach rural Kenyan households and contribute to reforestation efforts.  Yvonne and Jeremiah represent the rising potential of African startups and the need for support in achieving a more sustainable and interconnected world. Yvonne Mose is a three-month BARKAT Entrepreneur program graduate, an application-based 100% scholarship offering for Middle Eastern and African female entrepreneurs, and part of The Goddess Solution by Puneet Sachdev. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen Matini #yvonnemose #jeremiahmabiria #MOMAReneaableEnergy #SBIKE #entrepreneurship #africa #kenya #sustainability #stephenmatini #podcast #pitypartyover #alygn #leadership #management ... TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: You, Jeremiah, you grew up in the US. And you Yvonne, you grew up in Kenya. But Jeremiah, you are also Kenyan descendant, correct? Jeremiah Mabiria: Yes, we're actually from the same region, from the same community. It's just that I had to ate and relearn the language and do a lot of that when I came home. He just migrated when I was six years old. Stephen Matini: Jeremiah, how was growing up in the States? You know, having parents from a different country? Jeremiah Mabiria: It was interesting. It was interesting to be different. I came from a place here where I was like everyone else. We were very young, me and my brother, we were very quick to assimilate and become American. We kind of had to relearn being Kenyan I would say more so than learning to be American. It was natural. Stephen Matini: When people ask you where do you feel home is, what do you answer? Jeremiah Mabiria: Minnesota's home, that's where I grew up. But here Kisii (Kenya), is also home. There's a connection that I feel when I'm here. My easy answer would be that I have many homes. I'm lucky enough to have lived in many places and have many help. Stephen Matini: Yvonne, how was for you instead to grow up in Kenya? Yvonne Mose: For me growing up in Kenya is I think everything that I know, all that I know about life and it was really good growing around my people, my culture, my parents come from a very low income background.  That's why I got the motivation about who I am and what I want to work on. I think it has really formed the kind of person that I am right now. So yeah, but growing is really interesting. It has 47 tribes I believe. I didn't miss out on anything culturally. Stephen Matini: How long ago both of you met? Yvonne Mose: Yeah, about two years. Stephen Matini: When you met, could you sense cultural differences between the two of you? Yvonne Mose: For me, yes because Jeremiah talks different. He is very American in his ways, but it was a good surprise Stephen Matini: Somehow. Both of you have developed over your life an interest, a passion for sustainability. How has that happened? Were there any specific people, any specific event in your past that has somehow made you sensitive to the sustainable agenda? Yvonne Mose: For me, growing up in a poor background, especially in the rural areas in Kisii, I saw how it was hard for my family and even my neighbors to get access to clean cooking fields.  So for me that kinda shaped who I was because I saw how, how much time it took from me going out to play with my friends or even going to school to study. Growing up, that gave me an idea what I wanted to do. So I was very environmental focused and that's even what I pursued in my university for my degree.  And then getting to meet Jeremiah and through him getting to meet his dad who somehow convinced me that employment is not the way that I will want to go and if I wanted to make more impact I should start something by myself. Like create a startup, create a business that will make more impact in the community. And that's what made me who I am today. Jeremiah Mabiria: For me, sustainability something that it came maybe from the education system. I remember the campaigns and we had the blue dumpster for the plastics and the green ones. It was taught in school but I think as I got older it became a lifestyle. That's when through the education system learning that the planet's coming to an end and we keep buying iPhones and new cars and we don't think about what the cost of that is.  If there's gonna be change, then I would have to be part of that. I have to be one piece in creating that change. Meeting with like-minded people along the way through groups at school and and college and campus groups. And that's what really sparked my interest.  We have the advantage of not having messed a lot of things up is in the West. It happened a long time ago. Here we have a chance to stop it from happening. We have a chance to create industries while thinking about what these industries do to the environment and mitigating some of the ill effects that they have. So that's what really drove me, especially when I came home to make sure that I was in sustainable energy. Stephen Matini: Oftentimes the whole notion of sustainability and capitalism and growth, you know financial success, are seen as opposite. What is your view about it? Yvonne Mose: I think when you think about impact, most people think about charity work and I think that's not what it is.  Google is a tech company that has so much impact on people without being a charity organization per se. So for me, when I think about impact, I think about the basic needs for the communities like housing, clean energy, water, health services.  Those are services that you can start and you can make sure that they are accessible to the low income households or or even to the low income communities. And at the end of the day, for as much as your organization is also get making profit, you are also thinking about the community at large impact and profits go hand in hand. Stephen Matini: Do you foresee to be easier, you know, moving forward, having this company in Kenya or you think would be harder in the US? Jeremiah Mabiria: I think it would be easier for sure. What we're doing, we're experimenting a lot, we're trying new things and what I've found is that the Kenyan government, when we have gone to ask for the regulations or to be certified, they kind of let you take the lead. We don't know what you're talking about, we've never seen this. You do it and then we will regulate you.  So it's very accommodating 'cause it's a smaller government and it's a government that is hungry for development, they're hungry for anything that moves a needle forward. So they're very willing to accept.  Whereas in the US it's a very regulation heavy system and so trying things that are outside of the box requires a lot of money because you have to do massive amounts of research, massive amounts of work to make sure you meet the regulations. Here the regulators work with you, they need you. The US the government is so large that I don't think they need any one. Stephen Matini: Would you mind explaining the idea behind your company, SBIKE? Yvonne Mose: Since SBIKE was born so that we can have the most social and environmental impact as we can. We currently produce boca biofuel, which is a bioethanol based cooking fuel out of food waste and food processing byproducts.  We make an environmental impact as much as we make a social impact and our product are priced solo, that it is accessible to the rural low income households who are actually our target customers.  So currently the households use charcoal and firewood to cook 'cause those are the fields that are affordable and accessible to them. And if you compare our biofuel to charcoal, which is even more efficient than firewood, one liter of biofuel burns as much as three kgs of charcoal and one liter of biofuel goes for about let's say 90 cents US dollars and one kg of charcoal goes for about a dollar. Yvonne Mose: That also makes an impact. They get to save as they cook with our fuels. It has health benefits but only byproducts from it are water and CO2. And while we cook with the wood fields, the byproducts are so the smoke and this particulate matter which affects health.  So yes, our organization is mainly focused on the impact that we can make more than let's even profits. But we are also profitable because a little by field we produce it at about 60 cents a liter and we sell it at 90 cents, which makes our profit margin at about 50%. As much as we are making profits, we're also making so much social and environmental impacts. Stephen Matini: How has been the reception of your consumers, your company? Jeremiah Mabiria: Our problem currently is production. We have increased capacity twice since the first machine we fabricated and we have never been able to meet demand and this isn't an isolated area of Kisii county that we chose as our pilots area in the sub county.  We haven't even fully launched into the full county or the region, but we cannot meet the demand in just the area that we're in. And we have requests, we've had meetings with the county government where the request is how quickly can we spread it out and which is why we're we're busy fundraising to see if we can build a proper launch facility. Stephen Matini: If someone is interested in helping you out, what could they do? Yvonne Mose: Currently I think the thing that we need most is to scale up production. So we will need help in scaling our production, that's expanding our current facility, purchasing new production equipment and also product packaging. And even as we scale up we want to start branding and marketing. Jeremiah Mabiria: I think it's just the fundraising in order to get the things that Yvan has mentioned, able to get us in more households and serving more people quicker than we would with the slow national growth. Stephen Matini: For people to use ethanol, do they have to have a specific stove? Jeremiah Mabiria: There is stoves available but for the rural low income households what we found is there's a company in Kenya that focuses on the urban areas called “cocoa networks” and they have a stove that they sell for about 15 dollars.  But in the rural markets where we serve, most people make a dollar or two a day day on average. $15 is what they need to save up to pay for school for you for one of their children. It is just too much money for them to invest in a stove.  But ethanol is combustible in any container. If you think of serving lines at buffets, they use ethanol to keep the full warm, it's just a container with fire. We have been reusing tins and we've been showing and training our agents to train the customers on how to reuse tins that are used for cooking fat and other things that they already have and to use those as the stove.  So they have a ELY ethanol stove that they get for nothing but the time that they invest in making the stove and they can just replace it whenever it rusts and it costs them nothing extra which allows them to actually buy the ethanol. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to reach them because the stoves that are manufactured are entirely too expensive. Stephen Matini: Like a typical interview question , ideally if everything went accordingly to your plans, where would you like to be five years from now? Yvonne Mose: So ideally we would have reached all the rural households in Kenya. That's very ambitious. Currently we're only serving the Western region of Kenya with actually a smaller part, which is the Gossi region.  So ideally in five years we would've reached the whole of Kenya, we would've had more social impact and we would have started already producing biodiesel, which is actually the product that we are currently piloting.  And we would have gotten our production up so that we could supply of bio ethanol so that we could supply industries and also the cook stove companies that make the cook stoves because currently they actually import ethanol into Kenya. There's no company that produces ethanol at a large enough skill that they can support the demand in Kenya. Stephen Matini: Just to make sure that I understand, you said it biodiesel? Yvonne Mose: Oh yes, biodiesel. So currently we're piloting biodiesel which is made out of bio ethanol and waste working for, from companies that make foods using cooking oil, that deep fry foods.  Let's say like oil waste from KFC or even from trigger foods or even from tropical heat, the people who make the crisps. So yes, we are currently trying to pilot biodiesel, which is also we've, we have realized it's a niche in the market in Kenya. Stephen Matini: Do you also have other sustainable projects in your pipeline? Yvonne Mose: Our efforts to restore the environmental degradation count as a sustainable project. It doesn't bring in any profits but we as a company actually committed to donate 1% of our proceeds to land restoration. So that means reforestation.  So we support community-based organization, women, women organizations, youth organizations and even the local county government in their efforts to replant trees in the county.  We as a country have a 10% aim for mini forest cover marked to reach. So as a country we haven't reached it but the county that we are based in, which is KC County, we are current, we we're currently at 15% forest cover and 26% tree cover. So we are trying to maintain that or even grow that Stephen Matini: As entrepreneurs, you could have taken so many different routes and I understand how your life experiences, as often happen with a lot of entrepreneurs, have influenced your choices. But the life of an entrepreneur can be difficult. Is there anything that both of you do to pick yourself up when things do not seem to go well? Jeremiah Mabiria: Not just Yvonne, but having a good team around you, having a good group of people who see things the way you see things and are looking towards the same goals as you do like everyone else, I have low days, I have days where I don't wanna go to the office, I don't wanna find out that the machine is broken .  But once you remind yourself of why you're doing it in the reason, it's easy to get up in the morning because the goal is much bigger than myself and whatever I want to accomplish personally, there's something much bigger that we are trying to attain in conjunction with other companies like ourselves all across, which is show that it is possible to make money while doing good I think is an important thing to highlight in Stephen Matini: Yvonne. What, what do you do when you feel, ugh, this is so hard to bring your energy up? Yvonne Mose: I remind myself that there's no one swooping in from out of nowhere to come and save me or to save the situation. So I just have to power through it.  And I think also having a team around me, especially the team that we're building, we don't have offices. Let's say no one is in charge of anything, particularly it's on paper, yes, but we all help each other out.  If I realize Jeremiah has a problem that he needs to solve and he needs somebody else to help him or a different I to look at it, that's what we focus on. That's what we work on.  So yes, having an A team around me that supports me and knowing that through me and through my work I'm supporting other women to come up. That's also what gets me outta bed in the morning. Stephen Matini: Yvonne, one of the things that it's not easy is to find good people to select good people. How do you do that? How do you make sure that you find the right people for your team? Is anything that you do, anything you look for? Yvonne Mose: For me, I think it's just gut feeling. Currently the only management team that we have are the co-founders. So we're in the management positions. The rest of our team are our, our production staff and maybe the people in our supply chain.  So when it comes to getting someone to work with us, what we go with is our gut feeling and also is before giving out a contract, we integrate someone into our organization and we work with them let's say on ... actually on a three month probation period. Seeing how it all goes, seeing how they interact with each other and how they work with each other. And then from then that's when we commit and give them our contract. You can't always get it tried all the time. Stephen Matini: How is it to be the female CEO, in Kenya? Yvonne Mose: Kenya as a whole is very accepting but Kenya has so many different regions, especially the Gossi region and I think we are also a patriarchal society.  Being a CEO and getting into rooms with people who don't take you at face value or people who don't take you seriously has become kind of a challenge. And I think actually that's what motivates me.  I try to like our production stuff that I've talked about, it's purely women. I try to integrate women into the workspace into my organization, putting them in positions whereby if they go to a room later on when they grow and they want to start their own startups or get into other or employment opportunities, they can actually be listened to and people will take them at face value. So as much as it's challenging, it's also a challenge to me trying to make sure that in future that doesn't happen to other women. Stephen Matini: And also one of the challenges is the fact that both of you share a personal relationship and a professional relationship and that's not easy. Jeremiah, how do you keep these two important relationships in line? Jeremiah Mabiria: They're very separate and they have a life of their own. We sat down and we were very intentional about how we created our work personal life balance. She's my boss when we're in the office, I take direction. That's our business relationship and I take that seriously and we have a separate relationship when we're at home and we make sure we give both those things equal time not equal time, but enough time to grow and each of them need to be nurtured in their own way. Stephen Matini: You know, I get it a good vibe from both of you. Yvonne, you are strong but you are very kind and I love the fact that Jeremiah, you come across as some sort of guardian angel that support her. You know, it's really wonderful. So have a good vibe that this is gonna be wonderful moving forward. Yvonne Mose: Thank you. That describes us actually. Stephen Matini: I wanna ask you Yvonne, how did you come across the Barkat program? Because I think it's a wonderful social initiative. The founder Puneet, I also interviewed for the podcast and when he told me about the intention of the program to support female leaders, entrepreneurs, I thought, oh wow, this is incredible, you know, to support women in the Middle East and in Africa. How did you learn about the program? Yvonne Mose: When we're talking about things that have made me who I am today, Punit and the Barkat program is a major part of it. Jeremiah and I had a discussion and I was working as a project manager and doubling with the organization, but then we realized it was time for me to focus full-time organization.  We as a team sat down and we decided I'll be better placed as the CEO. Jeremiah was going through some things online and then he saw the ban program and we realized that will be the perfect program to introduce me into the market, get me to be the best version of myself.  And we saw Puneet qualifications and credentials and it was so impressive. So yeah, we just came across it on the Internet and we decided to apply and through the program I have become stronger, I have become more confident, I have learned how to channel my energy into my work and in everything that I do and in have everyone that I interact with, especially my coworkers and my support staff and I'm really grateful to have met him. Stephen Matini: Are you still part of the program or you completed it? Yvonne Mose: I completed the program about two months ago but I am still part of the network. So once you have graduated from the program, you're not cast out completely. So we have a community, the Barkat community, we still interact with the ladies from my cohort.  So yeah, it's a community that keeps on growing. I was actually very lucky to be part of the first cohort. So the current cohort that's continued is the second cohort. We are community and we help each other out. He has has managed to bring women leaders from every part of Africa and made them into this group that supports each other in their daily lives. Stephen Matini: What would you say that it could be a first step, based on your experience, for anyone to explore the entrepreneurial route? What could they do? Yvonne Mose: For me it'll be just start. There's never going to be that perfect moment. There's never going to be enough money for you to do it.  If I was to wait until I was at the perfect position to start my company, I will have waited until I had a hundred million dollars in my account so that I could start off with a big company and make all the impact that I wanna make. So for me my, my advice would be to just start everything else will fall in place.  Do all the research that you need to do, get to know your strengths and your weaknesses and actually get people on your team. For as much as it's I dunno, people view it to be a good thing to be a solo founder, I found value in having co-founders, people who can compliment me because I realized I don't know everything. And I think that's a very important thing to know.  And also when you're talking about the energy people channeling the energy, I feel like most women feel like for them to be hard or for them to be taken seriously, they have to portray masculine energy. But if you channel who you are and you channel your energy into whatever it is that you're doing, it'll definitely be successful. Stephen Matini: What would you say that are your strengths, which is your biggest strength? Yvonne? Which one is your biggest strength? Jeremiah? Yvonne Mose: I'm empathetic. I tend to feel the people around me and I tend to try and make people the best versions of themselves. Jeremiah Mabiria: I'm lucky enough to have, I can see things, I can be able to see the possibilities and not the impossibility.  So when we're talking about opening a factory in a rural village in Kisii, it's very easy for me to see how this is possible and why it would work and why this is a good thing and actually some steps to getting it to happen.  Even some of my co-founders were like, are you sure? Yeah, I would say that. Strength wise it's just being able to bring the team around, communicate to them what is possible. Yvonne Mose: Today we were driving from Nakuru, we had a meeting in Nakuru so we're driving to Kisii and we saw a factory and Jeremiah told me all the cars in the world and all the money in the world, I don't want that. All I want is that. He sees possibilities where I don't see any. I think that's actually also what attracted me to him. He's someone who sees far and I think that's what I needed in my life. Stephen Matini: For those listening to our episode, is there anything that would you like for people to take away from our conversation? Something that you deem to be really important for them to keep with themselves? Yvonne Mose: Africa is coming up in the market and in Africa we have so many startups that are coming up and also youth who are driven to make the world a better place and we shouldn't be overlooked. I think we are coming up and we are going to be hard. Jeremiah Mabiria: We have moved out of the dark ages that we were in and I see so much hope everywhere I look not just in our organization, but when we go for meetings and programs and you hear the interesting things that people are doing and the unique and innovative projects that they're starting. We just need a little bit of a push, a little bit of a help, big hand from the rest of the world. But I think we are ready. I think we are ready to finally join the rest of the world. Stephen Matini: Thank you so much for your vision. Thank you so much for your empathy and I truly hope for all that you are seeing to come true because there's a desperate need for more sustainable and more balanced world. So thank you so much for spending time with me. I appreciate it. Yvonne Mose: Thank you to you Stephen.  
26:54 12/20/23
Collaborative Relationships: Collabor(h)ate - Featuring Dr. Deb Mashek
We engage in a thought-provoking conversation with Dr. Deb Mashek, business advisor, professor, and author of the book Collabor(h)ate: how to build incredible collaborative relationships at work (even if you’d rather work alone. Deb shares her unique perspective on collaboration, highlighting its importance in various settings and debunking common misconceptions. She believes that when people collaborate and learn from diverse perspectives, they can increase their effectiveness by embracing new resources, viewpoints, and identities.  In our conversation, we explore the key ingredients of a successful relationship and dig into seeking growth through connections with others. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen Matini #debmashek #collaborhate #collaboration #podcast #pitypartyover #stephenmatini #alygn #leadershipdevelopment #managementdevelopment   TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: Deb, I am going to the origins, sort of speak, of your life. And one thing that I read, I think it was in your book was that three factors, which included your parents, your PhD, and your upbringing in a trailer park, have been your inspiration to learn and focus on collaboration. And I thought that was really interesting. Deb Mashek: Yeah, absolutely. So I call those my three great teachers of collaboration. So the trailer park piece is, I grew up in a double wide trailer in North Platte, Nebraska and there's some people like, Ooh, trailer Park, that sounds horrible.  Thought it was fantastic because what we had was this play mat, which was the trailer park. So we had a chain link fence that said we couldn't go beyond it. But other than that, the kids were really left to their own devices.  So I grew up in the seventies and in the trailer park would spill out at, you know, 9:00 AM and we had to figure out together how we were going to play, what we were going to play, what the rules of our play were going to be. And if somebody violated the rules, we figured out what those consequences were. And that person who violated those rules had to figure out how to make amends and words through play. We learned the social skills necessary to live and work to do, to be with others. So that was the, the trailer park piece.  And then both of my parents throughout my life struggled with alcoholism. So it's kind of a, a perverse sort of teacher of collaboration. But one of the things kids who grow up in, you know, within these neglectful households or households that were had a lot of addiction and whatnot is you figure out, I mean you still have needs, but the parents in that environment are not particularly well equipped to be able to provide for your needs.  And so I figured out really early on how to form connection with other adults outside of my family who were then able to provide for needs. Whether that was fair enough friction, sometimes it was food, sometimes it was clothing. It was very often things like rides to school and things like that. But it was through relationship and through being able to connect with others that I was able to get those needs met. And those are incredibly important skills when it comes to collaborating and figuring out what, what somebody else's needs and interests are and being able to monitor those and being able to state yours in a way your needs and interest in a way that is accessible and interesting and even palatable, I guess, to other, to other people. So that was important.  And then the third one you mentioned is the PhD. So it was never assumed that I would, you know, go to college, much less graduate school. And it was just by virtue of getting to interact with a lot of really positive teachers, great cheerleaders throughout my life. And when I got to graduate school at Stony Brook University out in Long Island, New York, very first seminar I enrolled in was the Psychology of Close Relationships. It was taught by Arthur Aaron and I was the dork in the class who I read every single paper assigned I, my hand was raised for every discussion, I had things to say, and I just absolutely fell in love with this research, you know, that that, well first of all I had no idea that there was a research area dedicated to the psychology of close relationships. So that was really cool to discover.  And then to read this research, I totally fell in love with it. Like it was just really powerful. And I realized like, oh, there is knowledge out there about how to do relationships well. And I think I hadn't grown up with a ton of models of that. So there was also this personal void that I was able to fill in some way through the academic literature. And so I kind of came at that relationship development through the side door. And those, all three of those experiences I think were critical for how I ended up studying and thinking about and helping people do collaboration. Stephen Matini: When you say relationship, are you thinking about any kind of relationship or are thinking about a specific type of relationship, like personal relationship, professional relationships? Deb Mashek: The research area that I was in was about romantic relationships. So when I would teach the psychology of relationships, it was about picking up, breaking up, everything in between. That's what I had been researching.  But there's also research literature on everything like parent child relationships and friendship development and workplace relationships. So any time you have that sense of us notion that there's an us involved, that is relationship, there is a research literature out there about it.  But I started in romantic relationships and then it was in my research fellowship that I started to think about jail inmates. And then when I eventually became a professor out at Harvey Mudd College in California, I started to think about or the, the students' sense of connection and relationship with their dormitories, their residence halls and their sense of connection to the campus. And it wasn't too long later. And then I started to think about how institutions can be in relationship with other institutions and that you can start to form collaborations. And it turns out to me one of the really big fabulous insights I had, and I'm so grateful that it dawned on me, is that those theories that govern a lot of the individual diadic relationships, the people are still involved at the institutional level.  So it's not really that the institutions are collaborating, it's that the people in the institutions are collaborating and those same people have hopes and dreams and fears and anxieties and needs and desires just like we do dally. And so figuring out how to leverage those exact same theoretical models in service to these collaborations that ended up being really valuable in terms of how I could be useful to people. Stephen Matini: As of today, based on all your experiences, all your studies, when you think of the word relationship, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Deb Mashek: That's such a good question. I'm a mom, so right away i, I go to my relationship with my child. All relationships is that sense of mutuality, that sense of coming to care for and contribute to the wellbeing of somebody else. And also expecting that to happen in, in return that there's reciprocity, mutuality, care, concern.  When people look back at the end of life and they talk about their highest highs and their lowest lows, often they end up talking about relationships. That relationships are pain, relationships are exquisite and fulfilling and loving.  Thinking about our work histories too, it's, I remember the colleagues that I loved working with. The second thing that really popped for me is the role that expectations play in terms of that there are all these scripts out there about how relationships ought to be or should be.  We're like these are the good relationships and whether it's the Hollywood manifestations of those, there's like that one really good relationship. We all know and we're trying to have our relationship look like theirs. Oh my gosh, there's so many ways we can fall short of expectations, ours and others when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Stephen Matini: So if I had to ask you what in your opinion are the ingredients of a good relationship, what comes to mind? Deb Mashek: The theory that I do most of my research under would land on exactly the same two. So the idea is it's called the self expansion model. And the idea is that we're all seeking to increase our efficacy in the world, meaning our ability to achieve our goals, our dreams or whatnot.  And how we do that is by seeking out and taking on as our own, our new resources, new perspectives, new identities. And that relationship is one of the ways we do that. It's called including the other and the self.  So imagine you are and I are in a relationship over time I come to see the world through your eyes, your perception of the world starts to change and enhance. Because of our relationship, I start to take on new identities. Maybe that's the identity of the us or the we or that of the couple. So relationship is a way of becoming more energetic in the world or being able to take on the challenges. You can imagine two circles, but this is me, this is you. And as those circles become closer together, that us that shared interstitial space of the Venn diagram, that's part of who I am.  But there are parts of my circle that are not you, and parts of your circle that are not me. And that's actually, that's how the wealth of other perspectives and what can come in.  My dissertation research many, many moons ago actually looked at this idea of feeling too close in the context of a relationship. So feeling smothered by closeness. And when I asked the circle question of the people who were in my study, people were saying, I feel suffocated by the other person. I don't know who I am.  You don't wanna do anything that takes away the autonomy and individuality and identity of the other. Likewise, if they start doing that to you, you feel less than you feel minimized, you don't feel yourself. That's a really yucky place to be. Stephen Matini: Of all possible titles for your book. You chose a funky title, which I love, you know, Collabor(h)ate. How did you come up with it? Deb Mashek: Yeah, so Collabor(h)ate. Some people love that title and some people hate it, but I figure at least we're talking about it.  I personally love collaboration. I think it really is this incredible tool, but having also been in a heck of a lot of collaboration, some of them that have absolutely vibrated with amazing energy and good effective outcomes and whatnot, others have been absolutely miserable.  As a psychologist, I think we have to talk about the hard stuff if we have any hope of making collaboration more bearable and more productive for more people. So I put the H in the title so it's, you know, instead of collaborate, it's Collabor(h)ate, thinking it's my way of giving voice to the hard stuff that's in there and it's by giving voice that we're able to make it better. Stephen Matini: Is there something specific that as of now is dear to you that readers should pay attention to? Deb Mashek: Yeah, so for me there are a couple parts, but I can say them quickly and I think they'll make sense. The first one is that collaboration is essential in the workplace.  The second one is that collaboration is actually really hard to do well there are a lot of moving parts, there are a lot of ways that we get it wrong and a lot of negative consequences if we don't get it right, it's hard to do well.  And the third one is that we don't teach it. So very few of us have received any formal professional development in how to be good collaborators. So what we have learned, we've picked up by osmosis or we've learned on the job trying to watch other people who don't necessarily know what they're doing. And so we pick up their bad habits. Some of us may have gone to business school where there were a lot of group work of people think back to their own experiences in doing that group work. Was there formal instruction and how to do it? Well, most people say no and a fortunate few say yes. We I think have this cultural misunderstanding that relationships, you're either good at them or you're bad at them.  So for instance, we don't teach people how to be good parents. We don't teach people how to be good friends, how to be good romantic partners. Sometimes we find ourselves in the therapy room and think, God, we get some of that tutelage. At least in the United States, parents often go to prenatal classes where you learn how to do labor and delivery and then once the baby pops out, suddenly it's like you, you're supposed to just know how to parent, which of course we don't.  But I think the same is true of collaboration. We're not teaching people how to do it. And so that was the, the big thrust of the book. It's like, well here, here are some really concrete strategies and things that you can and should do to make these relationships better to take the H out. So you know, to make these collaborations less painful, more productive Stephen Matini: Based on what you said, I’ve noticed there's a lot of common misconception about collaboration. You know, a lot of things people like to give an example, collaboration is great, but in organizational setting, if you want to be collaborative most of the time you must have time.  You know, the whole notion of collaboration is for us to discuss an option that does not exist in the present moment. And very often to get to the point you need time. And so if you're under a time crunch, well then very likely someone has to make a decision.  What would you say are some of the misconception that you've heard from people about collaboration that doesn't help them out? Deb Mashek: The one that you're talking about elevates for me. So the idea that somehow collaboration is the right tool for everything and that we should always be collaborating and it's like collaboration, let's do it.  So that's a misconception 'cause it's not the right tool for everything. There are some situations where you need to move fast, you need to move within as an established structure and hierarchy. And so you go.  The other misconception is that collaboration just means working together as though any form of working together equals collaboration. That's actually not true. So there's a whole continuum of different ways that people work together, whether it's networking where you're just exchanging information or there are ways of taking a step up where you're both exchanging information and modifying your work in some way to achieve a shared goal.  And then eventually you can get to the level where you're also sharing resources, whether that's people power or knowledge or money or equipment or space. And then there's this other level which is collaboration where you're truly learning from the others in that group so you can become better at your job. And so the magic of what you can create together is something that none of you could have actually done on your own.  And then there are all these mistaken beliefs and I'll just kind of rattle them off about collaboration. One is that you know, if you want a ton of collaboration in in your organization, all you have to do is hire collaborative people. It's actually not true.  Another one is if you want a lot of collaboration, all you have to do is have really great tools and processes. So really good project management, really good project management tools and then you'll get great collaboration, not true.  And then the third one, and this is at the organizational level, is this one that says, you know what, if you want tons of collaboration in your organization, just declare collaboration, a core value put out on your letterhead, paint it on the side of your wall in the office. You know, it takes way more than a a little bit of spirited energy around a keyword to create the conditions for that complex behavior to really manifest. Stephen Matini: So if a client comes to you, and says my people don't collaborate, they're not accountable and I really want them to work together, what is the first step to move in the right direction? Deb Mashek: I come at it as a social psychologist. So I'm a researcher at heart, that's really hard to shed that armor.  My first step is assessment. So whether it's go in and talk to as many people as possible and kind of a qualitative research way to figure out what really is governing up the works. I wanna talk one-on-one with people. I don't want anybody else to be in the room because I don't want the social dynamics and the power dynamics and the coded language to get in the way of what people really need to say. You know, when possible, I love running a quick survey and figuring out is this a people issue? Is it a relationship issue, is it a tools and systems problem or is it a culture issue?  And on the culture side it can be anything from the boss says we're supposed to be collaborating. That collaboration is absolutely not possible or it's onerous.  They say everyone's doing it, I don't see it anywhere. Or they say they want collaborative behavior, but the only thing that's rewarded around here is individual performance. Individual effort. And what gets rewarded gets repeated. And so I'll start to look at, you know, what are the incentive structures actually in place and are those at odds with collaboration? Because typically they are, you can't say you want one thing and then reward another Stephen Matini: Has it ever happened to you to work with a group of people, let's say a team. And somehow the team worked well together and was able to figure out how to be more collaborative. But the team is an organizational environment that is not collaborative, let's say with no cross-functional synergy. Is it possible to have pockets of collaboration within an organization whose culture is not collaborative?  Deb Mashek: And just the way you described it, so there can be these pockets or these isolated moments or where you might have a particularly charismatic connector. There's like a little synergy around this one charismatic person. Or it can be there's particular leader who's created the conditions within their division or within their department for this magic to happen.  And that's all great and then everybody else wants it on that team. But of course, you know, in most organizations you need those people to be moving back and forth across teams or looking forth across division. So people will tell you, they'll describe it to you, yeah, when I'm over here this is how we work, but outside of that bubble, this is what it really looks like.  And so organizationally, if you know, if you're driving for more collaboration, you wanna look inside under the hood of that group that's working well and figure out what's really happening in there to make that possible. Stephen Matini: There are so many project management tool, there's a plethora of stuff that people can use from Slack. I mean you name it. What, what would you say that could be a first step in order to ensure that in terms of tools you foster the information sharing. Deb Mashek: First part here would be to not confuse a good tool with just adoption of that's gonna create collaboration. So in other words, don't put too much stock in the tool itself being the thing that's gonna fix the collaboration.  Number two, I think it's valuable to have organization-wide decision around these are the subset of tools that we're going to use. Because otherwise what can happen is every individual team within the organization starts adopting their precious tool.  What that means is that any artifacts that they create will be locked within that tool and it will constrain any individual's ability to move over to other teams because like, oh well that's not the way we do it. Or I know what you're talking about with this new tool I've never used.  The third piece of advice would be think very carefully about what you're really asking that tool to do. So I personally love the virtual whiteboards, like a mural or a mural. I use those every single day. I keep trying to adopt things like Asana and click up and Monday and it just doesn't work with my head.  But if I were on a team that required that I would of course have to learn it. But does it make sense for me as a a small business owner to adopt all of these tools? No, it might for a large corporation.  Another piece of advice, for instance, if you're using say Slack or even Google Drive or something like that, is create some structures around how those channels or how those storage places will be used.  So create some shared vocabulary, some shared naming conventions, shared folder structures, anything like that that are, that's gonna make it possible for your future self to find the relevant information or for the person forbid you get hit by a bus, for your other collaborators to be able to find that important work that you are doing. Stephen Matini: And what I've noticed, I've noticed that every single group that tends to go towards whatever makes sense to them. And I've noticed that the simpler the tool, the more likely is going to be adopted. When something is overly complicated or it takes an extra step, people simply don't use it. Deb Mashek: All of us are busy. And so when a new tool comes on board, it takes real activation energy to get us to the point where we can use it. And if we really, really want people to adopt a new collaboration tool, we have to give time, you know, figure out a way to give time for people could to be able to learn it and to integrate it into their workflows and some patience with ourselves and others. 'cause It is hard.  When I was at Heterodox Academy, we adopted Salesforce and oh my God, it took people like slapping my knuckles to get me to actually document emails and whatnot because I was out of the habit and it took forever. I don't even know if I ever really truly got up to speed on it. I had the best intentions, I was the executive director, I was the one who made the decision that we were adopting this dang thing. And I struggled. I heard just this week a a guy who teaches people how to be effective on connecting through social media. He dislikes Calendly because it makes you appear lazy and that you're not, that you're trying to automate relationship building as opposed to truly being present with that other person and saying, you know, you let me know what can work for you.  Here are some options that that email back and forth or LinkedIn back and forth is actually part of the relationship building. So I thought that was a valuable perspective too. I dunno that I wanna forego in all situations, but I was thinking, well yeah, I could, I could see that. Stephen Matini: You said something about intellectual humility. Would you mind telling me something more? Deb Mashek: Yeah. So intellectual humility is this idea that knowing that we can't possibly know everything, and by virtue of my mere humanity, I am limited in my knowledge, I'm limited in my perspective. I can't know everything, nor should I know everything.  And for me it opens up then this possibility that it's through relationship and through doing and being and creating alongside other people who see the world differently. That's truly how we come up with the well-rounded perspective.  So if we were on video, I would show you, you know, a coffee mug and hold it in one direction and say, what is this? And you might say, oh, it's just the shadow of it. For instance, you would say, oh, it's a rectangle. Or you might say, oh, it's a circle or something like that.  And it's only by working alongside other people who have a different vantage point on the problem that we're truly able to weave together a holistic understanding of what the problem is and thus the solution that needs to be created to solve that problem. And so to me, intellectual humility is one of the foundational cornerstones of effective problem solving, effective collaborating. Other pieces, there are curiosity, so wondering and being sincere when you ask somebody else how do you see it?  So from whether it's from your disciplinary lens or your cultural lens or your seniority lens or the division that you're in and thus the interest that you're advocating for, what really elevates for you about this problem? What are the key variables we need to be thinking about within this solution?  And there are so many stories of ego and the bravado where, you know, people assume they have the one right answer or they strong arm their perspective into the group and it shuts other people down. It shuts possibilities down. Like it really forecloses certain considerations before they've even been considered. And I think intellectual humility is the key to doing this all differently. Stephen Matini: How do you keep that humility? Because it seems to me that a lot of people as they age, they become more convinced of knowing. they become even more black and white, somehow, instead of humility to me is a mixture of bunch of things, including curiosity, giving yourself a chance, you know, how do you keep that humbleness? Deb Mashek: Here's something I do again, if we were on video, I would show you that in my notebook on the front page, I always write the question, how do you see it? So for me it's a reminder to ask other people or their perspective on something, scanning the environment and finding those things that tweak your intuition that you're not sure how in the heck can this reality or can what you just saw doesn't lap on or map on, or could it map onto some preexisting notion?  So this for instance, is why I love going to magic shows as a way of triggering the intellectual humility where the thing my brain is telling me, I just saw, I know for a fact it can't truly be true, which means I'm missing something. So reminding myself that I, I don't know at all in that situation, letting that sense of awe come up.  And the third one that I love is when I encounter someone who sees the world really differently than I do, rather than turning away and distancing, I lean in closer and say, tell me more. How did you come to think of that? Where does that belief come from?  You know, that for me has been really important in my advocacy for viewpoint diversity on college campuses. It just this idea of we've gotta, we've gotta be surrounding ourselves with people who see complex issues, whether it's policy issues, political issues, how we're gonna solve social problems.  I need to hear from as many different people as I can and not, not necessarily so I can come up with the right answer, but so that I have a, a better hope of understanding the problem in the first place. Stephen Matini: What would you say that truly is a simple step to people that cannot be more at the opposite, to somehow advance to a different level? The story just quickly was that I previously was a, a full professor of social psychology out at Harvey Med College. I was tenured at the top of my career. And then the 2016 election happened in the United States presidential election.  And there were a lot of people who were so surprised that Donald Trump won and they couldn't believe anybody would've voted for this person. And this I think was especially true on college campuses and we saw a lot of people shutting down and be like, oh man.  And what I saw is, okay, as an educator we're not doing what we need to be doing to help our students encounter a diverse range of perspectives. And long story short, I ended up walking away from that tenured full professorship, moving cross country as a single mom.  My kiddo was eight at the time. I moved from California to New York to help launch this organization called Heterodox Academy, which was or is still focused on advancing viewpoint diversity and constructive disagreement on college campuses.  And what I learned in that work is that the two simple things are ask other people how do you see it? And two, to ask how did you get there? Why do you believe what you believe? In other words, I'm not trying to convince anybody of anything. What I'm only exercise there is can I see through somebody else's eyes for even a microsecond in a way that opens up my understanding of the world. Stephen Matini: As of now, professionally, you have so many projects, so many things. What would you say is the most important endeavor for you now that takes a lot of your time and attention? Is it something you're doing now, something you're building for the future? Deb Mashek: Yeah, so what I'm doing now is I am a collaboration consultant, which is hysterical to say at dinner parties for two reasons. One, collaboration is kind of a fuzzy word and consultant is actually a really fuzzy word also. So people are like, I still have no idea what you do.  So what I do is I work with organizational leaders to deliver high stakes collaboration across silos and stakeholders. So you know, it, it includes things where you need people from different sectors coming together or you need people from that division in that division to work together or there's something involving a lot of money or other resources or there's a huge reputational hit at stake or some really big strategic advantage to be gained if we're able to work together well.  And I love being at the ground level when those are building up. I think people tend to underestimate the importance of some of that ground setting. So I often get called in when things start to fall apart. So I do both some of the crisis management of getting a collaboration back on track though I really love being there at the ground floor to help build it and to build it well. Stephen Matini: Does it ever happen to you as a result of your commitment, of your work, that your energy gets depleted. If if that happens to you, when you feel down, is there anything you do in order to bring yourself up?  Deb Mashek: It really does get hard. I mean if it was easy, everybody would do it. And if it was easy, everybody would do it in a sustainable positive way. But they don't because it's hard. And I think it's worthy of that hardness because, and this is one of the things I do to bring myself back up is I, I ask, so why is it worth it?  Why is what we're trying to do worth this slog worth, this incredible activation energy that we're putting into it to get this thing rolling? And for me that's very uplifting because I can see like this thing we're trying to do together could not exist unless we were doing it together. It's worth it because it's gonna solve a big problem in the world. It's going to offer a really cool innovation that's gonna bring in a heck of a lot of money for the company. If we can figure out how to work better together, we're gonna end up with staff who are more engaged and more constructive. They're gonna stick around longer. So there's like this more morale and wellbeing argument. So whether it's timelines or bottom lines or wellbeing or innovation, this collaboration thing really matters. And that to me is very uplifting.  The other thing I do when it really, really gets challenging is I go into my hidey hole and hide out and be alone for a little bit to re-energize. So as that whole together apart thing again too, where you need the separateness in order to do together well.  People are messy, we're all messy, we're inconsistent, we're unpredictable. Things trigger us, different needs will be activated at any particular time and it might change over the day or over the week or over the month. And so there are so many moving parts. And to to care enough about not just the individuals who are involved, but also the project or program or service, whatever it is you're trying to create, to be able to track all of that movement and then optimize your engagement. Stephen Matini: We talked about so many different things. Is there anything that would be important in your opinion for our listeners to take away from this conversation? Out of all the things we talked about? Deb Mashek: Ask for input on how you are as a collaborator. Ask your direct reports, ask your supervisor, ask your peers, what is it like to work with me and what would be helpful if I did differently or better would make it easier for us to work together. I think that's important.  And then along those same lines is take seriously your professional development and this whole collaboration thing. So whether you're a top executive or the brand new individual contributor, chances are you haven't learned as much as you could or will need to learn ultimately in this domain that that's gonna make you just even more of a rockstar than you already are.  So it's worth it to invest in in that development. So you benefit your team benefits your organization does. And I would say society as a whole does when we can work better together. Stephen Matini: Thank you so much for sharing your ideas, your hard research, your experiences. This is really, really, really great. Thank you. Deb Mashek: My pleasure. 
32:59 12/13/23
Conscious Creativity: Cut Loose from Perfectionism - Featuring Michael Sjostedt
Michael Sjostedt is a wellness facilitator who uses art-making for self-reflection, personal growth, and team dynamics.  Our conversation explores how engaging in creative activities can help individuals and teams better understand their thought patterns, deal with perfectionism, manage stress, and enhance communication.  Michael highlights the importance of self-awareness and the value of using creative exercises to improve our approach to work and life. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session ALYGN Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Connect with Stephen #michaelsjostedt #artmaking #making #emotionalintelligence #cutloose #podcast #pitypartyover #stephenmatini #alygn   TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: What is your first memory of Art? Of Art making? Michael Sjostedt: My very, very first memory of art making was in the early eighties elementary school. I don't remember the exact age, but I was drawing schematics of underground homes, 'cause I watched this show Omni, it was a science show and they were doing a piece on underground homes and how much better they are. And it was so modern and so cool.  And I would take huge sheets of paper and draw like a dome. And then I would draw a line as like, here's the ground. And then I would draw the house under it. So it was basically almost like a dollhouse. If you looked at a dollhouse and opened up. It's just got all the different rooms that you can see sliced up. And so that's what I would do. And the top dome was always like my sunroom. So I always have a lounger in there with me on it. But they were ridiculous. They were fun. And that was a very early sign that I was very into design, modernism, new ways of being.  So in the early nineties, clay beads were huge. Kids would wear 'em at concerts, buy 'em at bead shops were huge in the early nineties. So a friend of mine taught me how to make them. And at first I wasn't very good. Everyone else had kind of gotten the process down and I was a little sloppy. But the process itself was still very meditative. There was a start, a middle and an end. And yet within all of that timeframe you could be very creative, you could try all kinds of different designs.  And within a few months I showed the same friends what I had made. They're like, what have you been doing? They're like, are you working 24/7 on this? I'm like kind of, I was so into the  , contemplative aspect of it. It was the most satisfying thing I'd I'd ever done at that point. And from there people are like, wow, that's incredible. I wanna buy one. I'm like, oh cool.   And at the high point, I was 19, I had no business training, I just had a natural instinct for this. And it happened at a good time because it was like the start of summer school break. So I would make these beads, mass produce them for like eight to 10 hours a day, listen to music and just pump 'em out.  And then I would take a day and hit the road and go to a town that was, had bead shops or other stuff going on. And I would get accounts. So at the high point I had 14 wholesale accounts. I had custom orders. I was teaching monthly classes at an art supply store. I was vending at fairs, I was smuggling necklaces into Lollapalooza and other concerts. I would pull out my necklaces, you know, from my cargo shorts, wave 'em around.  It was such a good overall learning experience. Something you can never learn in school. One thing I really took away from that too is that if you really want to learn something, you really have to do it yourself. You just have to mess around, give yourself time, give yourself space. And if you still love it, it's gonna improve. Stephen Matini: I think that a lot of people are so afraid is, is this gonna work? It's not gonna work. That they simply do not think that it's a process. What have you witnessed working with people and helping them, using art making? Michael Sjostedt: What I've seen in recent workshops, I've taught, I'll provide an exercise and people will just start messing around because to them it's low stakes. We're just cutting a paper, we're having a good time and we're experimenting.  And they're like, oh my god, what is this? If the combination of elements isn't what they're used to and they start messing around and they don't like it, they literally hold their heads. They're like, oh my God, I can't do this.  And that negative self-talk could have a perfectionistic voice to it or a tone to it, but it could also just be, I don't know how to start. This is so new to me, I don't know where to begin.  And so I often have to quickly identify that. And so I ask questions, I'm like, okay, tell me what's going on, what isn't working for you? And I, I stick with what's in front of them. I don't get into their head, you know, I'm like, what are you thinking? Because that comes out by what they're saying. So you really have to listen.  You kind of have to like bring people back down 'cause they're really in their head and it, it's a good reminder. Like these low stakes workshops are such an eye into how we operate into how we think and how we talk to ourselves, our narratives.  If you could examine this reaction that people are having, you know, if they can self-examine when they're in this moment, when they're feeling this build that self-awareness muscle up, then they take it into a higher stakes environment like their job or their work.  So if you can take this self-awareness into your other parts of your life and talk yourself off a ledge, you could make your life easier. You know, it doesn't have to be this fraught, I need to quit. This is terrible kind of stuff.  So workshops like this are so helpful. And I'm not saying you have a breakthrough with every workshop or you have a meltdown or any of that stuff, but they do happen. Stephen Matini: Based on anything you say, it sounds that your workshops become some sort of a mirror in which people can see themselves. What makes you different compared to other facilitators? Michael Sjostedt: First and foremost, the name of the workshop is called Cut Loose. And the whole concept is to come and have fun and to do something new, try something new.  The MoMA and the Mat are not gonna be calling you after the workshop, so lower your expectations. You know, it's really just an exercise to do something new and fun and to take a digital break, take a break from real life use art making as like a contemplative, meditative process. There's many ways to meditate.  When I work with the class, I give them exercises, but I let them, there's room for interpretation. Some people love that. Some people are like, wait, what are the rules? I need the rules. Working with those people are really interesting 'cause I could be that way too. I'm like, I need to know if you have an expectation, I need to, I need to know what the things are. It's interesting to work with so many different personalities and to be able to kind of accommodate the different personalities.  So what I do is after we we're done an exercise, I, I'll kind of eyeball a few students who have very interesting interpretations of the exercise and I'll show it to the class with their permission and talk about what I like about this and talk with the student about what they were thinking, how they feel about the outcome. And to show the other students, here's another way to think about using these materials. Like I like how they use this design element. I liked how they use this face or this color and really talk about it. So different things come up for different people, you know, other people have mentioned difficult things that they're going through. And one woman said in a, in a recent class, she goes, I'm gonna start collage journaling because she's navigating a complicated life transition right now and talk therapy is involved in in her transition. But there was something about making without any heavy expectations of this needs to be presented in a certain way. It's really just using, making as a tool to work through whatever's going on, but also to take an active break for yourself.  Stephen Matini: I think it's wonderful and it's wonderful because I think it's quite applicable also working with organizations and teams and managers. You, you told me in the past that sometimes you do use this approach, you know, in a more work type of context. Do the same rules apply or have you noticed any other type of dynamics? Michael Sjostedt: If you're burned out or if you're stressed or if you're under the gun or if you're dealing with difficult personalities, whether it be coworkers or clients or whatever, that combination can be very tricky.  Talking about what, what you're dealing with, with whomever, you, your supervisor or a colleague or something. Don't wait until you are telling yourself, this stinks, I quit, I hate them. If you jump right into the negative consequences a result or, or really attach yourself to the negative narratives around what you're feeling, it makes it that much harder to get out of the situation that you're in.  So really developing a practice that helps you shine a light on your negative narratives, especially if you take yourself out of the work environment and give yourself a, a creative exercise.  You know, this is where HR and wellness folks and activity directors and you know, anyone who's, who's working on morale on teams, this is a good exercise because yes, it's a, it's a chill break. You get to chill out but also things will come up and you, and you have to be ready to respond to that. And you're like, oh, that's interesting, that narrative, maybe write that down. You know? And that's something I do in my workshops too. I have people write down how they're feeling before, during, and after the workshop.  I really got to notice how I think about thinking or how your narrative is so deep and ingrained and not questioned. It's just habitual. These workshops are a speed bump. They're a pause because you're out of your element. The narrative is that much closer to the top. It's more conscious. It's not this subconscious thing. And so you're able to identify and hear it better and name it. And if you can do that, have more of these speed bumps and build up that habit and those and those exercises, your day-to-day can be a lot easier. You really kind of have to really evaluate how you talk to yourself and what your narrative is. And if there's a certain slant of perfectionism or negative self-talk or passive aggressive or, or whatever it is that's gonna make your life that much easier. You're going to recognize the patterns and recognizing those patterns just allow you to then question or shift.  I was also thinking of how difficult feedback can be receiving feedback and receiving feedback. If you've already got a predilection of beating yourself up of perfectionism coupled with not knowing where to start, that's a deadly combo. And a blank page can be really deadly.  It's really hard to look at that and get what's in your head onto there. And that's why creative making and exercises is so helpful to tell yourself, okay, here's a blank piece of paper. I'm gonna give myself 10 minutes. I'm gonna cut up a bunch of images, I'm gonna put 'em together and just see what happens.  And then you kind of look at that experience and you're like, I did it. I got something down. And that's a starting point. You started, you didn't just sit and ruminate at a blank page. You weren't paralyzed by like all the flooding of things. So a blank piece of paper will always be in front of you in life no matter what you're doing. Getting unstuck is tricky given all that else is going on in your life and your in your mind. So to give yourself some space, give yourself a break and go and go easy on yourself when you're starting, the experience will be that much better. You'll be able to develop that habit of going easy on yourself when you're doing something and hopefully the end result will be better than expected. You've got a different mindset, you've got a different energy that you, you put into these exercises. And that's really what I'm starting to realize when I work with students is develop these speed bumps for yourself. Develop an awareness tool of how you talk to yourself.  You know, they're really sitting and meditating, you know, or listening to a guided of meditation or, or being by yourself is great too. Having a contemplative practice is great, exercising is great, taking a break, whatever that means is great. But a, a form of creative rest, which I like to call this ,making with a clear start, middle and end without any big expectations other than the joy of the process. And to really kind of examine before, during, and after of what's been going on, what's been the shift.  And if you don't take time to stop and question how am I talking to myself, you're not really gonna change. You're not really gonna evolve. But it really does come down to how you notice what you're saying to yourself and what you do with that information. Stephen Matini: When you facilitate these workshops, you know, you are basically their catalyst, you know you are their Dumbledore. What would you say that a manager could learn from your experience as a facilitator of these workshops? Michael Sjostedt: Switch up the questions that you ask, especially if you're working with someone that you're frustrated with. If what you're communicating isn't clicking, think about the questions you ask yourself. Switch that around and listen for any questions that are accusatory. Why didn't you do this? Why isn't this happening? Blah blah blah. That will shut the other person down.  Really question your own narrative around what's going on. Question the questions that you're coming up with in your head and try to take the person out of the project. If they deliver something that isn't what was to spec or on the brief or what was needed, et cetera, et cetera. Just look at the work. Don't look at the person at first.  There may be a time where you do have to look at the person and that's another story. But even that can be done in a more human way.  But look at the work and be like, tell me about the start, the middle, the finish. What were the elements? What were the components? What was going on? Interesting how we landed here, could we talk about that? It's really how you communicate about the project versus, there you go again, I told you blah, blah. You know, getting into bad parent accusatory thing.  And so how exercises like making like a workshop with your team can be helpful because it can kind of spotlight team dynamics and it can spotlight how people think.  You know, it can, because when people are at work, they're also performing.  And so these workshops can kind of make people more real. They're not performing, they're just being themselves having fun.  So questions will come up, narratives will come up, habits will come up, things will just come up as you talk about things. You get to know the person better.  Our dynamic and energy is very interesting. I wonder if we did this instead moving forward for our work projects and what could change and what could shift, you know? So it's kind of like a, it's play, but it's also role playing in a way of what an ideal state could be. And that's gotta shift in the workplace because how you treat yourself and others makes a huge difference. You get better work out of people, you get better work outta yourself. It's the more enjoyable, the morale's higher, et cetera.  And other things will come up, you know, other things like, oh wow, your energy around this collaboration is kind of interesting. What's the point? What is everyone's bandwidth? What's everyone's mental state? Because you don't want to come in with any expectation that this is the a panacea that this is gonna fix whatever's going on. No, it's just a tool to kind of, it's a speed bump. Stephen Matini: We talked about so many angles, so many important things. Is there any specific key takeaway, something that you deem for listeners to be really important they should pay attention to? Michael Sjostedt: When you're embarking on a new creative endeavor, be conscious of how you talk to yourself. Write it down, say it out loud, record it because it's a very interesting view into yourself. It's something you don't do for yourself. It's habitual. And if you're stressed out, if you're burned out, if you're frustrated, how you talk to yourself is gonna affect your energy. It's gonna affect how you think about anything.  It's gonna affect how you communicate with other people. It's gonna affect how you talk to yourself or how you talk about yourself or how you think about a project. But also how making can just kind of help you get unstuck from either habits of perfectionism, habits of not knowing where to start task paralysis, how you manage a creative team or how you manage a project. There's just so many applications. So be conscious and have an intention about here's what I wanna learn about myself when I start this project. And also be honest with how you feel during and after. And also, collage is just one of many tools. It's just one of many vehicles to do this.  You could do a group cooking class, we're gonna make a loaf of bread together. Take everyday activities. 'cause If you go into an activity already stressed out with this intention of like, this is gonna relax me, you're gonna end up with this burned and then you're like, oh, I suck. I knew it. I'm bad at this. I can't do this. I'm not creative, I, I can't, blah, blah, blah.  You gotta go easy on yourself. Realize that you're stressed out and burned out. Don't put so much weight on the exercise to kind of solve whatever it is is going on. It's a way for you to kind of just take a break and notice what's going on. Again, I don't wanna put too much heaviness onto the act of making or whatever it is you're making, cause again, that can add more stress to someone. But really going with an intention, a light intention to start with. Even of just, I just wanna mess around. I don't care what it looks like after, I just wanna have a good time. But still notice like how you're talking to yourself and what the difference is before, during, and after. Stephen Matini: Michael, Thank you for our conversation because for me it's a speed bump today. Michael Sjostedt: Great. Stephen Matini: It is, thank you. I've learned a lot.
21:10 12/6/23
Negotiation: Turn the Tide - Featuring Seth Freeman
Seth Freeman is an award-winning negotiation and conflict management professor at New York University and Columbia University.  In his book, "15 Tools to Turn the Tide- A Step-by-Step Playbook for Empowered Negotiating," Seth provides practical tools to navigate conflicts effectively, guiding individuals to create value, strengthen relationships, and approach negotiations with empathy. In the episode, Seth emphasizes "winning warmly," ensuring that negotiators can achieve their goals while considering the other party's needs. Seth believes combining strength and kindness can lead to better outcomes in conflict resolution, even when disagreements remain. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session ALYGN Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen #sethfreeman #15toolstoturnthetide #negotiation #conflict #leadershipdevelopment #managementdevelopment #podcast #pitypartyover #stephenmatini #alygn ... TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: When did you decide what you wanted to pursue professionally? Is that something you've always known or unfolded over your time?  Seth Freeman: Well, as I often say, I used to practice corporate law. Now I enjoy my life. I was a very unhappy corporate lawyer for six years, and through a series of life events, I found myself trying just as an experiment to teach a class to paralegals on securities regulation.  Nobody wants to learn securities regulation, so I made it a little fun and they loved it and I loved it. And that was a revelation. I said, well, all right, I'll do it again. And ditto. And then I said, well, maybe I could teach corporate law and ditto. And now I've got a stack of reviews of students who said this was really great. So I started to pursue it, and that led me to Fordham Business School and I taught there. And along the way I became pa interested in mediation, which led me to teaching negotiation. And that led me to teach at New York University, and that led me to teach at Columbia, and that led me to teach around the world.  Stephen Matini: So what, what do you think that was missing, like at the time that you were not having fun?  Seth Freeman: Well, I think I had to unlearn some things. I think I had understood that the purpose of work is to work more, and that you can get interested in anything. And so just find whatever's enjoyable about it and find something that you're reasonably okay with and just, you know, do it and don't, you know, don't worry about trying to find your calling or anything like that. And all of that proved to be in my hands, very unhelpful. And I was chronically miserable and I felt very bad about that. I said, there must be something wrong with me because I just find this work so boring and stressful and I'm not very good at it. So there must be something wrong with me. And what I now realize is that Albert Einstein's remark is right, you know, he said, if you ask a fish to climb a tree, it's not gonna do very well, but if you put him in the water, it'll swim brilliantly.  That was me. I was definitely doing work that I really wasn't called to do. And this idea of calling became a critical realization. What am I called to do? And that takes some real introspection. It takes some prayer, it takes some, some, some exploration. But what do you know, 30 years later I rejoice in this. The idea of retiring to me sounds awful because I just love doing this. Stephen Matini: You know, in hindsight it's so much easier to see what happened. So if you had to do it all over again, would you say that could have been possible for you as a younger professional to find out earlier on what your direction could potentially be?  Seth Freeman: Well, I'll answer for myself and separately. For others, for myself, I'm very grateful. I did not know, because what that would've probably meant was I would've sought a PhD and I would've found myself doing some rather obscure scholarship and some rather obscure place and perhaps getting into this work to some degree.  But I wouldn't have been primarily teaching, I would've been mostly focused on scholarship, which I love as an avocation, but I would not want that to be my primary focus. And that is what it is, what it means to be a, a tenure track academic. So it was a, a real mercy for me to discover this indirectly to first get a law degree in practice and discover what I don't enjoy doing. But it turns out that printed on the back of every law degree is a stamp that says good for a second career in academia.  For others, what I would recommend is make little bets, try different things, information interview. And those ultimately proved to be very valuable for me, along with understanding what it means to have a vocation if possible. All that I think would be my advice to others.  Stephen Matini: And then you focus on an area which is not necessarily something that a lot of people love, which is conflict management, negotiation. What was about that area that spoke to you?  Seth Freeman: You know, I took a vocational test when I was a corporate lawyer just to see if somebody had any perspective for me that I had missed. And they said, you have too many interests and abilities, so there's not gonna be one subject or field that will work for you. You're gonna need to basically build a three-legged stool and try to do several different things or take on a an enormous task. And that might occupy your interests and skills better, like say world peace. That was kind of a throwaway line. But here I am 30 years later and it's a term of art that I try to avoid whenever possible. Cuz world peace can be such a cliche. But how do we get along is such a remarkably rich and varied question. It, you can bring any field of study to bear on it. It's the richness of it, the depth of it, the practical usefulness of it.  I can walk into a kindergarten or I can walk into the United Nations and I have or anything in between and talk with them about what I'm working on, what there is to learn. And they go, yeah, this is useful, this is interesting. Let me tell you my situation.  And as a result, what I'm learning is that it opens almost every door. If you want. If you're interested in psychology, you've got this history, politics, law, economics. This subject covers all bases. So that I think is why it remains so fascinating for me.  And most importantly of all, the sheer joy of seeing people go from being afraid or on the other hand, very arrogant and finding a way to work together with others that's powerful and gentle at the same time is just delicious, to be able to see people create more peace and prosperity and harmony, I never thought I could do that and I could do it. And what a difference that makes. Stephen Matini: You know, one thing that I've noticed speaking to different guests for the podcast is how, for so many of them, what they decided to pursue was either a response to a problem they had an issue, something that they struggled with, that somehow became their life calling. Do you think that we are better off or what in terms of how we get along as people?  Seth Freeman: Well, there's several ways to answer that. One is that one of the least well known and most astounding developments in your life and mine, is that the world is doing better than we have ever done in our lives.  In 1961, John Kennedy talked about a global alliance north and so east and west that can secure a better life for all mankind against the common enemies of man, tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. Now, this is no observation about John Kennedy, it just notes that those goals seem completely unreachable and lofty. But fast forward to today, and what we discover is that tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself, not withstanding some of the headlines we dread, are actually in better conditions than at any time in human history.  Two billion people have left extreme poverty in the last 20 years. It's unbelievable. Deaths due to disease have fallen off. Literacy rates around the world are way higher than they've ever been. Many diseases have been cured. It just goes on and on and on, and it's just not widely known.  And if you think of all of those as part of what the larger definition of peace is, then things are actually in a better place than you would've ever dreamed. And yes, there's less war and deaths due to war than there've ever been notwithstanding Ukraine, notwithstanding in the Middle East and all and and such, not to trivialize that at all, but in general, we are doing better. Now, does that mean everything's hunky dory and that I'm out of a job? Absolutely not. Could it change tomorrow? Absolutely. And there are all kinds of interesting questions about why this is so, and you might be familiar with a book by Steven Pinker, “The Better Angels of Our Nature.” And he talks about how the violence has declined for the last 500 years. And just to the point in the Middle Ages in Europe, the murder rate in most villages with something like 70 per hundred thousand, today it's two per hundred thousand. It's unbelievable how violent our ancestors' lives were, and we're not living that way.  Stephen Matini: Why do you think there's so much emphasis on the negative? It's impossible to read the news that all that we hear is just a celebration of negativity.  Seth Freeman: You know, my grandmother used to say, if it makes you happy to be unhappy, you should only be happy. And there can be a tendency for us to court that which makes us unhappy. It may have something to do with story mastery. We feel the need to master something that's disturbing or distressing. We run to it to learn it. And so we don't have to feel the fear anymore. Whereas if something is good, we're kind of almost programmed to go, okay, I don't need to worry about that anymore. And we don't discuss it.  Now that's just one brief level of discussion. It's also the nature of news itself. Not to say anything politically, but the nature of news is something happened that was big and noteworthy and the changed things. And typically it's negative and often explosive things that answered that description.  How did we cure polio? Well, it took years. There were certain people who were key to doing it and they eradicated it around the world over the course of several years or smallpox, but there was no one moment where that happened. And so it's much harder to craft that into a news story.  And so each year I curate a list. I, I usually find it online, something called 99 Good News stories that you didn't hear about. And some of it's a little political, but some of it's really wonderful like science breakthroughs and discoveries and the decline of tyranny, poverty, disease, and war.  And you go, oh my God, why didn't I hear about any of this? Hans Rowling is a demographer from Sweden. He passed away a couple of years ago, but he had a whole thing called the greatest PowerPoint presentation of all time and even wrote a book about it. And it shows how remarkably the world has advanced in the last 20 years. But he found that most western audiences, including journalists and scholars, had no awareness of this. And often when you tested them, they would score worse than chimpanzees. And the reason is because they're reading the news. So for example, if you read the New York Times, and then I ask you, what's the likelihood if you catch Covid that you will be hospitalized?  The average New York Times reader would say 50%. Turns out the answer is 1.5%. So here's even the New York Times, and yet readers are kind of being led to believe their problem. And I, this is not a comment on how serious or unserious Covid, this is an order of magnitude difference in understanding of what the, the risks are. And it's not specific to the New York Times, it's not specific to that issue.  There are lots of issues I can name where almost every time you have a percentage in the headline, there's some misleading quality to it. And so you have to read with great care and you wanna check the footnotes, you gotta check other voices who has the time for that? And so as a result, we wind up hearing the negative and just assuming it's true, Stephen Matini: How do you overcome polarization? What could it be a one first, a super small step?  Seth Freeman: If you're asking on a macro level, what can I, or what can you do to change the tenor of the times that we live in, in a great nation like Italy or the United States? I don't think there's a lot, at least in the moment. Although we can certainly plant seeds and we can live a life that looking back we feel glad and and hopeful.  But on a one-to-one basis, I do think there are things one can do. And indeed, I've been teaching one vein of this to my students for the last three or four semesters. And I teach them a very simple method. It's quite counterintuitive. And then send them out and I invite them as an optional assignment to try it to have a, what I call a hot topics conversation about a political issue that they're an eight, nine or ten about. And that someone in their life is a one, two or three about, you know, opposite sides. They care about it. So there's a lot, there's, there's something at stake. Somebody they very much disagree with, can they talk about it?  I would guess 60 to 80% of the time they come back and say, that went way better than I expected. And it went way better than my counterpart expected. We both enjoyed it. We felt closer to each other afterwards. We didn't necessarily change either's mind, but my counterpart said he was energized, he enjoyed this, he wants to do more of it. And in the process they sometimes say, I learned things. I thought there was no possible thing they could say that would make a difference. And they go, oh my gosh, I learned something. I hear that. And I go, what a delight, what a joy. And I've seen students do this, literally the world from New York to Pakistan, to Korea, to Haiti, to China. It doesn't matter what the culture is, it doesn't matter what the issue is. They've talked about everything and they've still had these experiences. So it's kinda a test of concept. You can do this and it's not that hard to learn.  Stephen Matini: So basically what is it they did? And they made it possible was about listening? Was about not trying to convince the other person that they should change their mind?  Seth Freeman: Very good. Each of those is part of it. But it really comes down to just three little words. And just as a side note, this is my next book, not the current book or it's part of it, but the three little words that they're using are paraphrase, praise, probe. Lemme say that again. Paraphrase, praise probe. And the idea is you get onto a hot topic and you start by just listening when the other one is finished talking about his view on the issue, you see, lemme make sure I understand that. And you say back what the other one says, so well that the other one goes exactly.  And then you praise, you actually intentionally highlight something non-obvious that you can truthfully say you learned or appreciate about what the other is saying. Does that mean you're agreeing with them? No, but almost invariably there's something, in fact probably several things that this person has shared that is worthy of praise and that takes a little discipline.  And if there's absolutely nothing, then you go back and say, say more. And eventually you discover, I don't agree with this person, but this person is really caring, really cares about children's safety here. Or this person really cares about justice or this person really cares about the free speech and these are worthy things to care about. Now their conclusion may be opposite line, but those are worthy things to praise so you can praise them.  Then you ask a question, not a prosecutor's question. Isn't it true? But a question that a child would best ask, like, can you help me understand this? Or when you use this word, what do you mean? Or Can you gimme an example? Or how would we falsify that? Or how could we test that in really simple questions? And then you just repeat the process.  Now, eventually you do share your view. By the time you do, you have built such goodwill, such trust, such validation. The other one is interested in reciprocating and you've modeled for them the very kind of conversation that you would like.  And the conversation turns out to be delicious and you can go anywhere you want with it, but it's a lot better than the arguing. And I can speak with some confidence about this cuz I went to argument school or law school and I know that's a great way to alienate people and bother them. Stephen Matini: Anything you say is very kind and very positive. Would you say that kindness and being positive could be part of these formula on how to negotiate?  Seth Freeman: Paraphrase, praise probe gives you a tool, dare I say it, to structure intentional respect and kindness. The basic thing I teach my students is the goal here is not to change someone's mind, but to touch their heart and to be 3% more loving.  It turns out that that's often one of the best ways to change somebody's mind eventually. And a good example of this is Darryl Davis. Darryl Davis is a 50 something African-American jazz musician, rhythm and blues artist I should say living in southern Maryland. And over the course of about 10 years, he built relationships with a number of members of the Ku Klux Klan. And in one-on-one conversations with them, the way he was with them was such that they left the clan. In fact, many left the clan. Hundreds left the clan because of the way he was talking with them and essentially doing what what I'm describing. And they would give him their clan outfits and he has a whole closet, dozens, dozens of clan outfits because they renounced their racism and apologized.  And he said, I never ever set out to get any of them to leave the clan. I just wanted to engage with them human being, the human being, and ask them, how can you hate me when you don't even know me? And that gradually destroyed their misconceptions.  Stephen Matini: Seth, how do you preserve your energy? Because it's not easy what you do. So how do you stay positive? How do you stay kind, particularly when things get tough?  Seth Freeman: The truth is I'm not up against a lot of toxicity. I'm not up against a lot of animosity. I'm not putting myself onto social media in situations where people are prone to act like snipers. I'm actually in a very fortunate place and I have to speak with respect and humility about those who aren't so fortunate. But I can tell you that there are people who I've had the privilege of getting to know, who are dealing with incredible toxicity and they're succeeding.  That's hostage negotiators. I've had the privilege of getting to know the leaders of the New York Police Department hostage negotiation team, and they've come to my classes, we've had interviews, they're kind of become friends.  They'll tell you that there are specific learnable skills that make a difference. And it can be horrible to be talking to somebody who's got a gunpoint at the head of a 10 year old boy. And yet they succeed. Not always, but they succeed. And how do they cope with it? Well, they have a team with them. Partly they have training, partly they're doing a lot of the same things that I would, I was just talking about paraphrasing, very big part of it.  And one of the things that's crucial in this work is taking a break. When you're overwhelmed, getting out of there, finding a way to detox is very important. There's an old misquote, never go to bed angry, terrible advice because what's the chance that drunk and exhausted at two in the morning? You and your significant other are gonna work it out. You know, if you're just take a break and you might do much better.  So there's no one thing that can protect one from toxicity, but that's one of the reasons having an array of treatment options is such a big deal. Stephen Matini: What would it be in your experience the best way to approach that, when you know that you have something that could potentially change things for the better, but you are afraid of voicing them out?  Seth Freeman: In a sense you've just framed the thesis of the book or the challenge that the book seeks to speak to. Sometimes I refer to this as Godzilla. How do you negotiate with Godzilla?  So it may not be somebody who's mean, but somebody who is so powerful that it feels like I'm Bambi and he's just gonna crush me. How do I actually engage with this person in a way that's gonna be at least have a chance of being constructive and successful.  In a sense, every tool in the book is designed to help with that. I'll start with the very first one. I had a student who got a phone call from her client, biggest client of her, of her company, represented by a woman named Brenda. And Brenda said, hi Janice, how's the project going? Oh, it's going great. We're gonna have it for you when you asked in 60 days. Yeah, that's what we're calling about. We need it in 30 days.  And she says, I really don't think that's gonna be possible. Would you please check cuz we really need it checks? No chance comes back, says, I checked, there's really no way she's not happy. Brenda's not happy. She says, all right. She hangs up. Long story short, her boss calls and says, if you don't give us this project in 30 days, you're gonna lose us. And with that, the company would die itself and the boss has no idea what to do. And Janice is with him when that call comes in and she says, tell him you'll call him back. Okay, but you're gonna have to come back in 20 minutes. Okay, so now we've got Janice and her boss and the boss calls everyone else in and says, we've gotta do this, we've gotta get this done in 30 days. And everyone, but Janice says, we can't.  The boss says, you've got to can't got to, can't got to. They're in a classic impasse and the clock is running. Now what would you do in a situation like this? That's the very question you're asking me, Stephen, what would you say to your boss? Your boss is clearly freaked out and essentially his boss is freaked out what to do?  Well, what Janice did was to deploy the first tool of the book and it transformed the problem from an impasse to a dare I say it, a negotiation that allowed them to develop a counter offer. And the counter offer was so satisfying to the client that the client said, you guys are rock stars. You're gonna get more business from us a lot more cuz you're fantastic. And the calls ended happily. Janice was a hero. How do you do that?  Well, I couldn't do that in a crisis by myself. But what Janice used essentially was the first tool of the book. And the first tool of the book is the key to solving that kind of a problem.  Stephen Matini: When I looked at your book, how did you come up with such a great name for every single chapter? Because none of them is what you would think a book on negotiation is, you know. How did you come up with these great names?  Seth Freeman: Well, it's very, very kind of you and I'm pleased to hear you feel that way. That was not what I came up with. My editors said come up with something short, pithy and catchy. And I said all right, so, I came up with these things. Yes, he said, that’s what I want.  Stephen Matini: ”Decide with three birds in the bush;” What is that about? Seth Freeman: That is a tool that's designed to answer the biggest, the most frequent question I get from students during interview season. And that is, professor, I've got one job offer. It's not very good. I have till Friday to get back to them. I don't expect to have another offer anytime soon, but I really don't think it's a good offer. What should I do? Do I have to take it?  And that reveals a real flaw in what we negotiation instructors teach. What we teach is that when you're in a situation like that, you should develop your BATNA and that means your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. The only problem with that, although it's good advice on its face, you do research, you get creative, you come up with something that makes you stronger, that's great, but I don't have time for that. I've got till Friday and I've been looking and I haven't gotten, you know, maybe in a, in, you know, a month or two, but I got nothing right now. So what that implies is that you should take any darn offer if you got nothing else. Cuz the conventional wisdom is you walk away if and when your BATNA is better. But here your BATNA is zero. Does that mean you should take an offer for a dollar a year? Obviously not. But what do you do?  So the tool you're asking about is designed to help better answer that question. And in essence what it's asking is, alright, you have a bird in the hand, right? But what if it's reasonably likely that in the next two, three or four months you could very well get three birds in the bush, should you let go of that first bird? And the answer is, well, very possibly yes. And the tool walks you through a systematic way to wisely discern what your likely near future prospects are and to discount them in a way that recognizes both logic and the human heart and the practical wisdom of somebody older, wiser, and smarter than you.  And you put those together and you come up with a good estimate of what I call your notional BATNA. You don't have it now, but in 2, 3, 4 months you may very well. And that's the logic that most business people use to make critical business decisions.  How does a game designer design a game? Very often what they have to do is assume that a microchip will be powerful enough in 18 months to do what it right now can't do. And they build toward that. Now that takes a certain burden of hand three in the bush way of thinking. And there's a lot of decision science that's designed to help you think this way too. And what I've done is adapt all that into this tool. Stephen Matini: Do you think it's possible to negotiate anything if the other person doesn't sense some sort of humanity on your side?  Seth Freeman: Oh, it's absolutely possible. And one of the reasons why we need to know how to cope is because a highly aggressive or obnoxious or manipulative negotiation practice or conflict management practice is a high risk, high return bet.  It's very risky. It can cripple your reputation, it can alienate people, it can blow up, it can really, I don't recommend it at all. And it's tempting and that's why people do it.  So one of the most scary examples of this is Soviet style bargaining tactics. For example, in June, 1961, John Kennedy goes to meet for the first and only time with his opposite number from the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev. And 90 minutes after they first met Kennedy walked out of the room shaking like this, and his, his his aide went, what, what, what? And he gets into the car and he melts down and he later said this was the worst thing that ever happened to him. John Kennedy, a man who, who nearly died twice in the hospital, a man who was nearly killed in World War II, a man, his brother was killed, his his sister was institutionalized. This was the worst thing. Why?  Cuz Nikita Khrushchev practiced the most aggressive and severe and menacing kind of negotiating practice there is. And it harrowed Kennedy and it can work at least in some ways. So that's why you can't just assume that everyone's gonna be nice. Our goal is to be strong and kind. If you're just kind, you can wind up like Kennedy shaking and ruined. If you're just strong, you can wind up like a, a Soviet premier, you know, just all the strength and and awfulness that comes with that. But if you know how to combine these seeming opposites, you can be hard on the problems, soft on the person. And that's one of my aspirations for the book. It's certainly not original, but my op my goal is to make that much more operational, to make much more accessible in real time when you most need it.  Stephen Matini: Is there a word to point out what you just said? The strong and the kind.  Seth Freeman: There are people who embody this quality. I'm not sure there's a single word for it, but you know, the people who I find who are most able to bring these qualities together are people like Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. They had this, this remarkable capacity to do both and it seems impossible, but they literally changed the course of history, saved entire nations saved millions of people. And so it can feel like, well I'm not Martin Luther King, I'm not Nelson Mandela. No, actually you can do what they did on a more local scale. Very much this in the same way, because these are not lofty tasks, these are very accessible tasks, but it takes just a, a little training or a little, you know, some tools to help you do it.  Stephen Matini: Is there any specific hope that you have for readers, for anyone who decides to read your book? Is there anything you would like them to take away?  Seth Freeman: Oh, I'm very ambitious for my readers. Well, as for my students, I end with this, go make me proud. And my intention is for them to do wonderful things. As I often say to my students, and as I might say to my readers, when you win the Nobel Peace Prize, remember me in your speech. Even that is just a small ambition, truly because I want them to create more peace, prosperity, justice and success for themselves and others in every walk of life. This is something that literally an 11 year old child can, has learned to do and demonstrate remarkable maturity, wisdom, and graciousness in the process.  And I've also seen companies create literally a hundred million dollars in savings in the course of a year, and yet do it in a way that left their suppliers saying, you guys are great. We love you, we wanna work with you more. Seems impossible, right? But there's a word for those sorts of results. And the word is shalom, which is, you know, is a Hebrew word. And it doesn't just mean what we usually think it means that often is translated as peace, but it really means “wholeness” or the full flowering of human potential and the nourishing of human aspiration, harmony, understanding, prosperity, justice. Seth Freeman: All these things are daily longings. And if you take those lofty words and put 'em aside and you listen for other words that we find in business life, in political life, everyone is longing for these things. They just have different language for it.  But my aspirations for my readers to actually be able to speak to a boss in this way, in a way that might help the day or help the company survive and thrive that can help them talk to friends more lovingly and still nudge them toward a wise and different outcome to discover hidden paths to opportunity that people think are nowhere to be seen.  Stephen Matini: Maybe based on what you said, the word wholeness could be the word that could put together the kindness and the strength. I always had this sense that when two sides are battling, it does require a much larger, holistic vision, you know, to get somewhere else. Because as long as you stay in the little confined space, nothing is gonna happen. So that's a word that somehow really resonates strongly with me.  Seth Freeman: When we're most in conflict, we're most seeing things through a pinhole and we're seeing ourselves and not seeing the other or seeing the other as an adversary and an implacable flow. It was Stalin who famously said, get rid of the person. You get rid of the problem. And so we can usually think of the other person as roadkill. And there's a lot of negotiation advice or wisdom out there that basically nurtures that view. And I wanna be careful here because it's certainly important to advocate for yourself and to claim a goodly portion of the wealth. And the book very much talks about how to do that. It it actually gives you specific tools so that you can do what I call winning warmly. You can create a lot of wealth and claim a favorable portion of it. That's a wonderful ability too.  And isn't it fantastic that not always, but more often than you might think, we can actually care for the other well as we care for our own people really well. And that's a state of affairs that never ceases to delight me and my, those who I know who do it go, everyone is so much better off. Stephen Matini: Do you think is it just so happened that your book came out this year? Or is there reason why this year and not two years ago, three years ago, five years ago?  Seth Freeman: The funny thing is that I started writing it as recession was starting up. And this was about three years ago and it was originally titled “Negotiating Recession.” And my agent and editor said, this is a bigger book than that. This is a perennial, this is much more to offer than just in the narrow circumstances where times are tight.  And so we expanded it. So you know, it's not just an economic tide that you wanna turn. There are all kinds of others as well. As long as they're human beings, they'll be, I'll have full employment because conflict is just part of human nature and it really is like fire. If it's out on your rug, it can burn your house down. But if it's in your fireplace and your stove, it can heat you and, and feed you and help you live. So the question is how do you tend it?  And the tools are probably very timely because certainly people are distressed about all sorts of things right now. And the book can speak directly and immediately to that. But 5, 10, 20 years from now, I have every confidence these tools could still be very useful.  Stephen Matini: So Seth, we talked about different things and there are so many different components, important components about negotiation and conflict management. What would you say that it is the one thing that would be important for our listeners to pay attention to in order to better handle their own conflicts?  Seth Freeman: I’ll run through a few basics that I think you don't need the book by itself to learn. I think many books will tell you there's some key principles. One of course is what you're doing so well and that's listening. There's ways to do it and there are ways to really do it. Actively listening. Preparation, knowing your all, your BATNA. These are principles that you'll find in, in many, many books.  My fascination and what animates the book is not nearly giving people the principles, but doing what you got when you were in school. When you're, when you were in school, your teacher didn't just tell you the alphabet, she didn't just tell you how to read.  She covered the wall with tools, little templates, little mnemonics, little reminders, little charts, little graphs, little things that could remind you to that, that what teachers call scaffold your learning so that you have a structure, a framework that you can take with you that can make it much easier to retain and use this work. I would say it's those principles, but also crystallized in the form of usable tools or sayings. But that said, I think just transcending any one book, I would say it's a little mind shift from the idea that we are necessarily adversaries to the idea that we actually might just be able to collaborate in ways that we are both happier with. And I'll give you one very specific example.  Consider the supply chain or purchasing agents and suppliers. I was talking with Abe Ashkenazi, who is the head of the Association for Supply Chain Managers and he said, for the last 50 years, purchasing agents have lived by the motto, I gotta get it for a dollar less.  And he said, that method simply won't work today because the supply chain is too complex, it's too fragile, witness Covid and all the upheaval that that's led to. And there are so many ways that that can cripple you, that purchasing agents and suppliers have got to learn a different way. Well, I actually know consulting firms and my own clients who have learned to do that. They've learned this more, better, different way. And it's literally created billions and billions of dollars in value and much better relations, but it's still a secret.  So in a sense, this idea who cares about nicey nice, this is actually a competitive advantage as well as something that can make you more humane. And I leave it to my listeners and readers to decide, which is more important. But the good news is that you can have both. You can actually thrive and grow more humane in the process.  Stephen Matini: Seth, thank you so much. Conflict is such a, a big part of our lives. That's how we learned. That's how inevitably springs from relationships. So I really appreciate you taking the time to talking to me and to share some bits of, of your book and much more. So my wish for you is for this book to be still relevant 20, 30, 50 years from now.  Seth Freeman: Thank you so much, Stephen. You've been a wonderful interviewer. You've, you've made this a conversation and a delightful one. You've brought out insights that don't usually come out in these sorts of conversations, so I credit you with all that. I you know, blame me for any deficiencies and thank you so much. I've so enjoyed it.
40:25 11/29/23
Career Development: What’s Next 4 You? Featuring Frank O’Halloran & Judith Asher
Frank O'Halloran & Judith Asher are executive coaches and trainers with over 25 years of experience in leadership and communication. Their podcast ‘What's Next 4 You, launching in early 2024, is a testament to their dedication to helping people perform at their best and to helping younger professionals discover their talents and calling. Judith and Frank point out that the traditional educational system often neglects essential life skills, such as communication and relationship building, maintaining a positive mindset, cultivating gratitude, and embracing challenges with optimism. For Judith and Frank, developing good habits that boost productivity, seeking help, learning from mentors, and embracing continuous feedback are essential for constant growth and success. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session ALYGN Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen Matini #frankohalloran #judithasher #whatsnext4you #careerdevelopment #pitypartyover #podcast #alygn #stephenmatini #leadershipdevelopment #managementdevelopment TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: I want to ask you how, when, the two of you met? Frank O'Halloran: Judith, how did we meet? I think it was with our babies. Judith Asher: Yeah. We met as parents, not as professionals. Stephen Matini: And when did you start working together as professionals instead? Frank O'Halloran: Judith's husband, George runs a University of Human Rights on the Lido and he asked if I would come and give three lectures on communicating to the master degree students. I did and Judith came along and listened to each one of the three lectures.  My client needed me to bring another trainer with me for one of the sessions that I was doing for them in a little town near Barcelona. Judith and I were taking our babies in their carriages over a bridge and she just happened to say, “Hey, how's work going?” And I said, I'm a little upset because I can't find someone to bring with me to do this training in Barcelona.  And I looked at her and I said, but you could come and do it with me. We have 30 days. You just have to do exactly what I say. And of course, Judith was a natural at this, so she did really well on her first time out. Then the rest is history. We've been working together ever since and now the babies are 20 years old. Stephen Matini: Oh wow. So it's been a while now. Frank O'Halloran: A long time, like 19 years we've been working together. Stephen Matini: Oh wow. That's a long time. So, and now your last project together, it's the podcast. When is it gonna come out? Judith Asher: The plan is to have it launched sometime in the early autumn. We are working actively on setting up a bank of interviews, getting things all lined up. So we've started actually producing it, but we're not going to have it go live for another couple of months. Stephen Matini: So the name is “What's next for you?” Was it hard to find this name? Judith Asher: Oh yeah. It's hard to find a good name. For us, we were first inclined to go for something that involved the word career, you know, like looking for a new career, how to find your best career. That was a big part of the idea. But then after talking to some various friends and thinking it over between the two of us, we realized that actually people don't have careers like they used to.  And just the idea of a career is this notion of like the “posto fisso,” as we would say in Italy, you know, that you find one thing and that's the thing you do and you're gonna do it forever. Just find that one job you can do and repeat for 50 years.  But now it's not about that. It's actually more what's next for you. Like what are you doing now and what could it be? And you have to be adaptable. And it clicked that it made more sense really for the point we wanted to make. Stephen Matini: Of all possible topics that you could focus on, why did you choose as your target 18, 33-35 years old, young professionals? Frank O'Halloran: In our training business. Judith and I work doing soft skills training, mostly communication with corporations that you would know the name of if we mentioned them. And lately we've been working with a lot of young individuals, all right, people in university and people starting their career.  And they get very attached to Judith and I and they ask us very basic questions about, you know, how do I know what careers are out there? How do I know what to say if I go to a networking event, how can I ask somebody to help me out or how do I find a mentor? And if I find one, what do I say to the mentor?  We kept getting all of these questions and to be honest, even our first idea was we should write a book for young people. Then we thought maybe a podcast would be better for them than a book. That's how we switched over to doing a podcast. Stephen Matini: When both of you were younger, when you were in that situation of not knowing exactly where to go, did you have anyone that somehow was able, was important, someone to look up to that guided you? Judith Asher: You know, I'll answer for myself that like you Stephen. No, not really. I would've loved it. And you don't know what you don't know, right? So I didn't know that I should even seek that out. The idea of finding a mentor or talking to people, asking what they do, speaking to my friend, you know, my friends' parents or my parents' friends, you know, like sort of just using my own little network.  Just the idea that I even had a network that wasn't the era we lived in. Just kind of feel your way forward. I did an internship when I was in graduate school and the head of the NGO I was working with, she ended up being my mentor, but I was so clueless at the time that I don't think I really even realized she was my mentor. But that's what she was doing and she helped me set me up for what was my first career, which was in the area of public health, which I worked in for many, many years. Frank O'Halloran: I am a little fortunate because I had lots of people helping me out. I think maybe I just came across as so clueless that all these people I came in contact with said, Frank, let me give you some advice here. Or Frank, did you think about this or did you think about that?  I have been blessed my whole life with people helping me, pointing me in a direction, encouraging me, supporting me. I saved my whole life. It really started when I went to university.  I just, professors and other people I had to work during universities. It was easy. I went to school in Manhattan, in New York City, I worked uptown in an office and I must say everybody just took me under their wing. I wish that kind of thing for everyone. Stephen Matini: For someone who's clueless, what would you say that could be the first step to take? Frank O'Halloran: Because I was totally clueless. I grew up in a very poor, in a very poor neighborhood, in a very provincial town. So I was really clueless when I got to New York. And I think for me the thing that helped me the be the most was just to be positive. I would always ask people about what they did and show like a real positive energy towards finding out more. Stephen Matini: Judy, how would you answer the same question that I asked, you know, to Frank? Judith Asher: If I go back to that internship, which for me was a turning point in my life, I grew up in Montreal. I did some graduate work in Toronto and then I did an internship in New York City again. And when I got there, this was done unconsciously. I mean, I wasn't planning on doing this. This wasn't a strategy.  We had the first meeting at this NGO for women's reproductive health and rights, which was what was my interest area and what I was studying at the time. And I was in this NGO that I thought was really doing amazing work in the world. I was just so happy to be there. And at the first meeting when they had like the Monday meeting and they introduced the new intern, I said, Hey everyone, you know, I'm Judith. I just want everyone to know I don't know anybody in New York. Judith Asher: I have no friends, I have no social life, which means I'm pretty well free all the time.  So what I wanted to say was, I'm available to help anybody who needs help with anything. Like here are the few things I'm good at. Like I'm good at editing, I can speak French and English, I can help to pour coffee. I'm, it's no problem.  I'm happy to be the person to show up on a weekend when there's a press conference. You know, get the coffee, get the sandwiches, put the chairs out and like anything really. And then after that I went and I reminded people, oh by the way, do you need help? Or I'd hear someone complaining of being overworked. And I just always continued to say that. And what happened in the end was this was the start of my whole career. I got to know everybody there. Judith Asher: I got to know what they did. I found it really fun. I got to do a lot of things that were sort of interesting and fun that I otherwise wouldn't have done.  And then eventually the UN called one day and ask the CEO of this organization, listen, we need somebody to come to London, like ASAP, we're shorthanded for a global conference and we just need someone who's flexible, who's willing to do anything. And that's what happened.  I flew to London and that was the start of my international public health career, you know, so really it did come from that giving out of the energy. And also, and this is something Frank likes to talk about and I think he's really right about this, it was also a focus not only on, oh I'm here and I'd like to learn this and I'd like to do that and this is what I wanna suck from all of you.  You know, Frank often talks about like don't only put out in the world what you wanna get from others but what you can give. And even though I sort of had nothing to give cuz I was just very young without any experience, that energy of here, I'm willing to give anything I possibly can. It did come back to give me some good karma. Stephen Matini: Do you think you can teach energy to people? Judith Asher: I mean I think you can teach mindset. I think you can give a lot of guidance on what's a good mindset and what's a bad mindset. So if your mindset is everything sucks, there's no opportunities. I'm from a generation that lost two years in Covid and I'm just doomed. If you have that kind of mindset, you give off that energy. Frank O'Halloran: Yeah, I think you can teach it. And in fact, in all of our classes that we design, we start with the mindset, all right, what's your mindset for negotiating or selling or presenting to people? And I think you can give examples to people of what would be a negative vibration or a positive vibration in certain interactions. Judith Asher: I'll add just a little comment about all our young clients, the ones in college, the ones in their first stages of their careers, the ones in their twenties. Often when we talk about mindset, people will say after like why didn't nobody ever point this out to me? I have been thinking wrong. Like nobody taught me this. Why are they trying to teach me algebra? This is much more important. Stephen Matini: People in the future who are going to listen to what's next for you, your podcast, we would you like them to take away? Frank O'Halloran: We'd like them to take away a few things is one, don't despair. Things work out. And you can control that, to a certain extent by what you do, what you say. And we'd like them to walk away with their mind a little bit expanded about what's out there, what possibilities exist, and real practical examples of how people did it.  Stephen Matini: You think it's harder now for younger professionals to find their way in the world compared to the way it was before, particularly now after Covid? Judith Asher: I mean a couple of things to say on that. One is, you know, yes, because Covid did put a kind of cork in people's development. So for two years a lot of people who were at the prime of their young lives missed out on some very important experiences. And I don't mean just like the problem with homeschooling and remote learning, I mean those kinds of relational experiences interacting with adults, with professors or you know, in internships or volunteer activities, interacting with peers.  Just so that lack of emotional development has probably set people back in terms of emotional intelligence as well. So that's something to be compensated for. I think young people would do very well to not feel stressed about checking every box as they move forward. You know, I've gotta get to university, I've gotta do this, I've gotta do that. But actually to take a little more time for the kind of thing you talked about, Stephen, figuring out what brings you joy, figuring out where you show up at your best. Judith Asher: So I think that's one point.  And the second point, and then Frank, you can add, it's kind of counterintuitive in a way. You'd think wow, you know, the world is open to me, there's a globalized workforce I can find work anywhere that's amazing. I can work in any time zone, I can go live where I want with remote work.  But as most of us know who are a little older, you know, that much choice is not necessarily a blessing, right? This is for many people, even more complicated because on the one hand I can start thinking people from all over the world can apply for every job on top of it. So there's global competition, they have other skillsets, maybe it's overwhelming the number of possibilities someone can be anything and do anything. It can be even harder than a much more simpler time where you just needed to figure out the thing that could help you make the money you wanted to make to do the things you wanted to do. Frank O'Halloran: You know, it's like going into a store to buy a bag of potato chips and there's 50 different flavors. , you just sit there for an hour trying to figure out which one you want. That's true. Judith what you said.  I also think that Covid produced the kind of work from home environment that most companies find themselves in. I was just in this big office building in Boston and there was no one there. A friend of mine's son lives alone and in apartment in Brooklyn, he wanted to go back to the office like he wanted to work with his colleagues. So now he goes into the office and nobody's there.  Stephen Matini: The thing is the gap between what colleges teach and what people actually need in order to have a career, it seems to get bigger and bigger and bigger in terms of what else can be done in order to make the transition more seamless? Frank O'Halloran: Stephen, I think there's a lot of things that could be done. I think some universities are really trying to do those things and put people out in work, experience programs, things like that. They set people up for internships.  The thing is that if for, for a university to do that, they have to put a lot of effort into it. It's a big job to do it well. And I know here in Venice where we live, the kids who study “Economia e Commercio” (business), they have to spend, I think it's three or four months or 150 hours working in a company.  So the school will get them an internship doing that. But if they don't take charge of it, the university gets them a job like carrying suitcases in a hotel. They have the program, they have the idea, but they don't put the effort into it. I think more effort could, could be done like that.  And also with companies could benefit more from the internships if they put more effort into really providing the interns with good work experience. Judith Asher: You know, I, I'll add one thing in. I think those are all important ideas. I'm married to a university professor so I'm keenly aware of some of these things.  I think one of the things that could be done in a positive way is for professors or anyone teaching to take a little bit of time, it probably doesn't require that much time. I mean, I'm thinking about this as I'm saying it, but if there could be some conversation about how what we have learned in this class are transferable skills, what could you do?  Let's just have a big open conversation, a brainstorm activity even. It could be, you know, a kind of lab outside of the normal class time, but explicitly helping people pull out what they've learned, the soft skills, the hard skills, how they could transfer it. Because I think this is what really seems to Frank and I what's missing cuz even young people who have all sorts of talents and skills and abilities, they don't know that their skills and abilities. Judith Asher: If I was the person who was the one who on my own organized the ski trip at Christmas time, you know the “Settimana Bianca,” do I know that in the work world that's called stakeholder management, you know that I'm happen to be good at that. That I, I love pulling people together, finding a, something that everybody can agree on and executing a project that's called project management.  There are a lot of things that young people are doing both in school and in their extracurricular activities that they don't understand how they can market them, but they are marketable. So I think there's like a little wedge that needs to be placed. So people like you, Stephen, who are teaching of course, maybe the more forward thinking ones can start doing that and then that can rise from above where students say, actually this really worked in this class. Could we have that in every class? Frank O'Halloran: Well usually what happens in academia is you ha you're being taught by academics now you, you Stephen have business experience and all of that. And then you go in and you teach part-time at a university.  But most professors studied their whole life and then they taught for the rest of their life, right? So they don't have that practical experience and I guess find it challenging or maybe it doesn't even occur to them to try to help the students close that gap. Stephen Matini: Both of you, you had a lot of experiences with underprivileged kids and communities, throughout your life. Would you say that maybe some of those experiences have been the, the inspiration to what you're doing right now? Judith Asher: I'll say something first on that. I'd say for myself when I was doing my graduate field work, I lived in Uganda for a year and I did field work like out in the jungle on adolescent reproductive health and rights. And that was a life-changing experience for me to see how questions that are asked everywhere around the world. And I knew how they were asked in Canada cuz that's where I came from, how they get asked and answered in different cultures and access to information and the lack thereof changes everyone's lives. So that I think has been a big part of everything I've done in both my public health career and my coaching and training career is knowing the value of information and then also knowing the value of the information one has. I'd say that, and then Frank and I, we we take part in a charity project together. Frank O'Halloran: Student and I and a bunch of our friends put on an English pantomime, which is a musical comedy, which is based on a fairy tale. It's always good versus evil good always wins. The audience participates. There's a sing along, it's full of local jokes. It's about the lowest form of entertainment available to the public.  We put that on every other year in Venice for the babies who have to live with their mothers in prison. Because in Italy, if your mother is a criminal and you're up to seven years old, you have to go live with her because you can't separate the baby from the mother even though the mother is in prison.  So the kids have to live in prison and we have three women on our, my island here, the Giudecca island in Venice, who help these kids to have a normal life. So they take 'em to football, they take 'em to ballet lessons, they take them to school because the government system just doesn't provide that. Frank O'Halloran: And they get better furniture, better toys, better equipment for them in the school. And we have all of our friends working to put on this show to raise money to help these women.  Stephen Matini: What would you say that is your main drive to start this podcast? Why this podcast? Why this podcast with this soul? Frank O'Halloran: The main reason is that Judith and I have always had a big affinity for young people. Even though we're parents, we're both very good friends with our children's friends, you know, they come to us, they call us, they ask us for help with this or they talk to us about that. So I think just naturally we have an affinity for young people.  Judith Asher: Now at this point in our careers, after having worked with business leaders and companies of all sorts around the world and really having a global viewpoint on this, we would like to spread some of the information we have, some of the knowledge we have because meeting these young people, hearing how they feel, they're kind of on the sidelines and they don't know how to step into their lives and no one around them is able to help them.  And we feel, oh, like actually we have all kinds of things we can add and we can contribute. And a podcast seemed like a good venue for that. You know, I sometimes think of it as what if I could hold a cocktail party like an “aperitivo” with all the most interesting people that we've had the occasion to meet. Cuz we've heard everybody's career stories along the way. Judith Asher: What if I could hold that huge cocktail party and invite a whole bunch of young people to just mingle and get to know them and feel in the know that's the image of our podcast to me.  I mean, being happy should be the goal, but I don't think a lot of young people are exposed to that idea. Like, what gives me energy? What do I really love doing? What does bring me a feeling of happiness and then how can I translate that? That is not the criteria most people are thinking they're supposed to apply to themselves.  So it's good to have it. And it doesn't take that much for a young person. I mean, I was young, you know, you guys were young, it's sometimes one person and just their energy, their attitude can spark something in you that you hadn't explored before. So it doesn't take that much to truly change something for somebody. Frank O'Halloran: Well, no, I was just saying about one of our guests who was sort of stressing out about her career. She was in university and one of her mom's friends said to her, think about something you're interested in that you think you would be happy doing for two years or a year and a half and do that. And she said that took so much weight off her shoulders, it gave her a new way to think about things. I thought that was brilliant, that advice. Stephen Matini: Is there anything specific that you do to get over your misery? You know, that's the notion of Pity Party Over. Frank O'Halloran: One is I just read the newspaper and I find out all the horrible things that are going on in the world and these people who are suffering so much. So I just say, all right, knock it off.  And the second thing I do, I, I'm a big meditator. I've been meditating for about 18 years now and part of my meditation has to do with gratitude. And I'll tell you, it makes a huge difference. It doesn't, if you can just list 10 things you're happy about, it changes your whole outlook. Judith Asher: I agree a hundred percent about the gratitude part. This is a very important life skill. Again, that's not really being taught anywhere unless you happen to listen to some podcasts or seek it out.  You don't hear that that is a life skill. So I'd say gratitude is one, and for me at least, exercise is another one because we talk about that getting into a state of flow, finding yourself just completely present in the moment because anxiety and worry, this is about thinking about something you'd screwed up in the past or something that you fear in the future.  And I think that exercise is like meditation. It's another way to just get outta yourself and be in the moment and then you feel better and you benefit from all those hormones and chemicals in your body on top of it. So I'd say that's probably a big one for most people. Stephen Matini: So we talked about different important things, for younger people. We talked about the mindset, we talked about positivity, the energy, gaining practical experience and such and such. If I had to ask you, what would you say that there are the five main competencies that now younger people should focus on? Frank O'Halloran: I would say start with the soft skills and in particular your ability to express yourself. That is something that can serve you in so many different jobs, so many different careers. Judith Asher: Number two I'll add on are what we would call relational skills. Again, in the soft skills, rap, rapport building, feeling comfortable communicating with other people. And back to your earlier questions, Stephen, I mean post Covid and with the smartphone taking over everyone's lives and how, I mean, young people often they've lost the art of conversation.  It's been a long time that they have been exposed to that. So really learning that it's not just the art of conversation in terms of those, those skills that Frank just mentioned, but also how to build relationships, how to show up and get people to like you and bring your best self forward. Stephen Matini: I loved when you said gratitude and happiness, which people will not think about, but those are massive skills to have, you know, connected to so many other things and so little we talk about those, but they're imperative, they're really, really, really important. Frank O'Halloran: Yeah. And you can be grateful for a very simple thing, you know, , it doesn't have to be that you won 18 million euros in the lottery. The other thing that I would say is to do a little reading. One interesting thing to read about is developing good habits. A habit is not something that's tough for you to do, it's something that's easy for you to do.  So if you put in a little effort, develop good habits, be a little disciplined about it, then that can get you through a lot of difficult times because you can fall back on those good habits of, you know, getting up, being focused, answering the emails when they come, you know, whatever it is that's important for your job. Judith Asher: Now that I'm hearing us talk about it, you know, some of these things kind of go in conjunction with the others because the most popular course at Yale University is called the Science of Happiness.  It's the most popular course in the history of the entire university. It's so popular that they've done spinoffs online. The teacher, the professor who's this incredible psychologist, she teaches this for high school students now, but there's a reason people are seeking this out if they're exposed to it.  So I think that's just the first point. And my second point was thinking about how things move together. Gratitude, relationship building, happiness. I mean if you get into the habit of telling people that you appreciate something very specific about what they did for you, be that someone in your close circle or someone in your professional circle or student circle, you will see that that boomerangs back to you, right? Judith Asher: Cuz that helps build relationships. So just being in the right mindset and then, you know, mindset leads to gratitude, leads to learning how to express that.  And that actually you should say those things out loud because they also will help you in the end. They'll help that other person and then that makes you feel happier and then you'll see doors open for you.  So that kind of cycle, again, these are to me the most crucial life skills. I'm trying to teach these to my own children and we're trying to give this off in whatever way we can in the more formal trainings that we do.  And if you, Stephen can give this to your NYU students, again, you know, once they receive it, maybe they'll realize they should get that more as well. And there can be those ripple effects. Frank O'Halloran: Don't be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes young people think, oh, I'm supposed to know this or I'm supposed to know how to do this. But if you go up to someone and you say, Stephen, I know you've had some experience with this, could I have a coffee with you and could you explain how I should approach this one for, you're probably gonna be very happy to have that coffee. And I think that's a big lesson for kids to learn that you can ask. Judith Asher: That has something to do also with whatever school system they've grown up in. Cuz as the three of us know, you know, some school systems are a little more authoritarian and young people are not brought up in that system to think, hey, I can approach an adult and say, I don't know something.  Actually it's exact opposite. They think they have to know everything before they can in fact approach an adult. So there is some unlearning that has to be done for some people to be able to feel comfortable even doing that.  Cuz I think, Frank, you're totally right. You know, most people will feel perfectly happy if they're asked for advice and if they don't have time, they'll tell you that I don't have time. And then the la next skill, and the last one I'll add in is learn to not take things personally. Judith Asher: If you can learn that most things people say to you that are hurtful actually are a them thing and not a you thing. You know, that lesson I wish I had learned a long time ago, and again, that's something I'm trying to teach my kids now because it's, it is a life skill to know that you should not take things personally and even the hate you get online and all of this really, most of it has nothing to do with you.  And if it does have something to do with you, it won't hurt you and upset you. It'll inspire you to change something. So when someone tells you something useful, it should feel bad, good or good, bad rather than just bad. Stephen Matini: Your podcast, it sounds like a place where people are going to hear a lot of things, they're not conventional. Both of you have had this big career with leaders, you know, training leaders, coaching leaders and such and such. If I had to ask you what is it one thing that you have heard more frequently from leaders, one observation that you have made working alongside so many leaders, what comes to mind? Frank O'Halloran: For me working with them and one thing that's always impressed me is that when I show up, they want to learn something. Now I can't tell them how to run their companies, but I can help them with different areas of running the company. They have to take care of the whole thing. But when they're very interested and want to learn and realize there are things that they don't know and could learn from me, that I think is a great characteristic. Judith Asher: I'm gonna add something completely different. I agree Frank with what you say. One thing I hear leaders say is that there is a generation gap between the, like speaking of young people, that there are always going to be generation gaps, but there truly is a generation gap with the post Covid, post smartphone online reality.  That is something that needs to be addressed, not from the top down, but in all directions. So young people themselves have to enter and get into the workforce ready to dialogue with the leaders, to find how can companies be most successful? How can we all be successful in a way that manages that generation gap? Stephen Matini: My last question to you is for anyone who's gonna listen to this episode, is anything specific that you would like people to take away from our conversation? Something that you think it is important other than listening to your fabulous, “What's next for you” podcast? Frank O'Halloran: You have the ability to do this and it's not as difficult as you think. Judith Asher: It's exactly that. And do things, be productive. Do the things you love and don't worry what it's gonna add up to. If you are active with the things that activate you, that is where it will lead you to what you want. Stephen Matini: No, I'm, I'm really excited about your podcast because it comes from seasoned professionals and a lot of the fact that you're taking really different types of routes. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Frank O'Halloran: Thank you Stephen. Judith Asher: Thank you Stephen.
33:13 11/22/23
Teamwork: The Improv Approach - Featuring Caitlin Drago
Caitlin Drago is an executive coach who uses improvisation to get people to communicate and work effectively as a team.  Caitlin highlights how the principles of improv, such as yes and..., making each other look good, and building trust, can be applied in business, team dynamics, conflict resolution, and personal interactions. Caitlin is the founder of Inspire Improv & Coaching Inc. In her book, "Approaching Improv: Communication and Connection in Business and Beyond," Caitlin shares that the principles of improv aren't just for the stage; they have a remarkable impact on improving communication, teamwork, and conflict resolution within organizations. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over to overcome long-term challenges and enhance your managerial and leadership skills. Do you have questions about this episode? Say HI to Stephen Matini via email or LinkedIn. This episode is brought to you by ALYGN learning and organizational consulting firm specializing in leadership and management development. Sign up for a free Live Session. #caitlindrago #improv #communication #trust #teamwork #pitypartyover #alygn #stephenmatini #leadershipdevelopment #managementdevelopment   TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: When did you develop your interest in acting? Caitlin Drago: Ooh, that's a good question. The first thing that came to my mind is when I was little, I remember when my mom would make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I honestly don't know if I did this out loud or just imagined it in my brain, but I would go through like a commercial for this peanut butter and jelly sandwich and like the different components of it and why it was so great. I should probably ask my parents and Zoom, this all happened in my mind or was I acting this out? So I think that's like the first time that I can pinpoint to where I started acting theater bug.   Stephen Matini: How did your parents react to your desire of pursuing acting? Were they supportive or what? Caitlin Drago: So my parents were very supportive of my interest in theater and acting when I was in school, in elementary school and high school, I didn't do a lot of theater in school. I was more involved in the Odyssey of the Mind program.  There is a world competition, so it does exist internationally, but basically you have a small group of kids, maybe seven or eight, and you get a problem that you have to quote unquote solve and you make a skit about it and you have different parameters that you have to solve this problem with it and timeframes and budgets and all of that.  So you're making your own eight minute play and then bringing that to competition. And then in high school I did do some more theater in school and did some community theater and things like that. When I was deciding what I wanted to go to college for, my initial thought was to go for music therapy because I was really into music and also really into psychology and human behavior. And so I thought that was a nice combination. So there was a lot of support around that. And then when I ended up auditioning for different colleges, I got accepted into a lot of the music programs.  But there was one school where they had a music theater program and a music therapy program. And so I thought, Ooh, I'll do a double major. At that particular school I, that was the one place that I didn't get accepted on the music side, but I did get accepted for acting. And so it was one of those, I'll always wonder if I don't try and see what could have been.  And there was a lot of support from my parents there. When I graduated I did a couple of contracts with some children's theaters and then I wanted to be able to, you know, go somewhere, set down some roots and California was it for me. And I remember my mom saying, you're looking at this through Rose Cut Glasses. Glasses. She's a kindergarten teacher. So she's got those things. And there was still support, but it was just that concern for, you know, I just want my kid to be okay because I didn't have a job lined up or anything like that. I just had a couple of friends who I was getting an apartment with that was understandable. But overall there has always been a lot of support for my different endeavors.  And when I decided to leave my full-time job to start my own business, which was a similar feeling, I'm sure as a parent to your kid saying, Hey, I'm gonna move to la I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen, but this is what I wanna do. I knew enough about myself and enough about communication at that point where I knew what the natural reaction from a parent would be.  I was a parent at the time, I had a 10 month old and I said right at the top of the conversation, what I need from you is your support and encouragement. And I could feel my mom swallow back all of the things that I'm sure she wanted to say and instead gave me that support and encouragement, which I am ever so grateful for.   Stephen Matini: And so if your kids decided to pursue acting, would you react like your mom? Caitlin Drago: I hope that I can react like my mom in the second iteration. I also know what it's like to be a mom , so I'm sure that there would be some of that. Yes, I want you to do what makes you happy. I also want you to understand the risk that you are taking.   Stephen Matini: In hindsight, the only route that I believe matters for all of us is the one that once you embark, you will be able to be driven and determined enough to continue despite challenges. And any, any path is challenging. I think it's much harder when you push in a direction that doesn't feel like yours. That's what I had to learn the hard way. So do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? Caitlin Drago: I think that as I've grown older, I am an introverted extrovert. I do get a lot of energy from talking to people. And if I am working from home all day and don't talk to anyone at the end of the day, do you feel a bit drained? However, if I go out and I'm around a bunch of people or if I'm facilitating something for a full day, I absolutely need to have that recharge time. Nobody talked to me, let me just decompress and be by myself.   Stephen Matini: My surprise when I did a theater was to see how many people, how many actors are very, very shy, very introvert. The stereotype would be, oh, you must love the attention. What has been your experience working with other professionals, other actors? Caitlin Drago: I would say the majority are probably on that extroverted side. At the same time there are introverts in there and I think part of it is because the real skill that's required of actors is being able to be present and zoning in on the person in front of you. And that's something that both the introverts and extroverts can be capable of and really thrive in.   Stephen Matini: When did you start doing improvisation? Caitlin Drago: I probably did a workshop somewhere in high school, or you know, even growing up in the summer I went to a camp, it was called Theatrics. And so we would play different theater games and, and so I'm sure that improv was in there just wasn't labeled as such. 'cause We were kids.  Where I really got into improv more in a formal sense was when I lived in Los Angeles and I knew those basics of we say yes and we accept what's put out there and we add onto it. We stay away from no and we try to look for what can work.  When I was at an audition for an improv character at the Universal Studios theme park where we were auditioning and someone yelled out, make each other look good because on stage there were a couple of people who were, you know, just trying to vie for the spotlight 'cause we were auditioning for a job and in doing so they were kind of throwing the other person under the bus. That idea of make each other look good really clicked because it's like, well of course we can't both be up here fighting for the spotlight. That's not gonna work. It's just gonna make everyone feel uncomfortable. But if we both agree to try to set each other up for success, try to set each other up for a laugh, then we both end up looking really awesome in the end.  And so that was reiterated when I started taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles. And what was interesting was there's four levels and they're like main curriculum. And the first level is fun, you're learning yes. And you're learning how to make each other look good.  And then the second level, you start learning the structure of the Herald, which if you think about it, is kind of like the structure of a sitcom where there's three different stories and they all kind of interconnect. So you're trying to do all of this with a team and somehow without like having a huddle to the side and figuring out what you're going to do. And that felt like a math class every time I went because there was a formula to it and it felt like your brain was going to explode by the time you left.  But for someone like me who, although I am creative, I do really enjoy having a structure and some parameters to work within, that's where I really thrive. Tell me where the box is, tell me what the rules are and then I can go,   Stephen Matini: If someone feels a super anxious about the idea of trying improvisation, what would you tell them? Caitlin Drago: I would tell them that it's not about being funny, it's just going to happen because of the rules of improv. And hopefully if you have a great partner, they're gonna be there to support you again, it's not up to you. We're there to make each other look good.  So the more we put our focus on the other person, the less self-conscious we are about ourselves. The other thing is that they're already doing improv all day every day. No one woke up with a script this morning. I don't think, you know, I always say it's just you're sharpening a tool that you already have.   Stephen Matini: So what are the rules of improv? You already mentioned a couple of them, but if you don't mind provide an an overview. Caitlin Drago: The two main rules are first that you always say yes. And so what that means is if somebody throws out an idea or a concept, you accept that as the idea of the moment and you build on that. So if I were to say, Hey Stephen, I love your red hat, you would say, yes, you love my red hat and I am going to wear it to the picnic this afternoon.  So that's, you know, accepting that that yes, yep, I'm wearing a red hat Now what our natural tendency is as humans is not always to say yes to, especially if it's unexpected or if it's an an idea that's uncomfortable or we're just not really sure how it's going to pan out. We say no and we reason why it's not going to work. Or maybe we don't even listen to the whole thought the other person is putting out there before we squash it. And so within the world of improv, what that would look like is if I said, oh Stephen, I love your red hat. And you said, I'm not wearing a red hat, I'm not wearing a hat at all. And now you are uncomfortable and I'm uncomfortable. And probably the audience that is watching us is uncomfortable.  And so what improv does is it challenges us to skip over that no reflex and go to yes and at least look for what can work versus what can't work. When we translate that into how that can look in regular conversation, it doesn't have to mean that I'm going to say yes or agree to everything that yes can mean.  Yes, I'm here. Yes, I'm present. Yes, I'm listening to you and I'm going to maybe reflect back or validate what you are saying and then I'm going to add on to that conversation instead of trying to push the other agenda that I came into the conversation with or the idea that I'm trying to get through. The other big rule is that, like we mentioned, we, it's, we're always looking to make each other look good. So when I go out on stage, I'm not thinking, what's the funny thing I'm going to say? Everyone's gonna think I'm hilarious.  And the best improviser here, what we're doing is understanding the strengths of the other people on our team and looking for ways to set them up for a laugh. And so if you've seen an improv show and you see the person who's getting all the laughs, they're a good improviser, but the person who's setting them up for the laughs is the really, really great improviser and that's the kind of person that we wanna be when we're on a team.  Sometimes we think that we have to take on everything ourselves, especially if it's a leader , when there's probably people around us who have special skills and talents and passions that they would love to be able to use. So it's about being mindful and again, understanding what the strengths are of the people who are around you and what they wanna try and what are the things that they wanna get better at, and giving them opportunities to do that and letting them step into the spotlight and being willing to play a supportive role when necessary.  Again, understanding that if we all do that we can all use our talents and our creativity and our passions and grow and learn. We do it with a little less pressure and a lot more creativity and a bit more fun.   Stephen Matini: Why do you think people so often seem to be so oppositional? You know, it's all about box and divisiveness. Why do you think that is? Caitlin Drago: I think it's from our survival brain, especially when we are under stress, which the world is a stressful place. And so when we're in that state, especially if our brains are triggered into that fight flight fawn mode, we're built to look for the threat and to see anything, even if it is objectively neutral as a threat or as something that is scary.  And so it's a lot easier to see what's not going to work and to say, no, I'm not comfortable with this. It takes intention to skip over that, no, or acknowledge it and then you know, let it pass.  And to instead choose to look for what could work and to be curious about something rather than squashing it right off the bat. And in doing so, what's really interesting is that by being the person who you know, that if you go to them, they're going to listen to you. Maybe they're not gonna go along with your idea, but they might ask questions about it, they might help you to find the holes they might, you know, see where what could work there. Through that you're building trust with that person and they know that they can come to you with their great ideas and also with their awful ideas.  And the bonus there is that they're likely going to come to you sooner if there's a problem and sooner like when you can actually do something about it versus being afraid of what your reaction might be. And so putting it off and putting it off until it's gone way too far and there's nothing anyone can do about it. I   Stephen Matini: Think what you do is brilliant because you're describing what any team in any organization should function. You know, when they innovate, when they try to collaborate, when they try to do whatever. What has been your experience about improvisation and using it with managers? How do people react to this amazing tool? Caitlin Drago: Well, at first when I come in and say, Hey, we're doing improv, people aren't usually, you know, standing on their cheers and cheering. And so it requires that I first start by being really explicit about the purpose and letting everyone know what those guardrails are.  We are here to learn , we're here to connect, we're here to be better communicators. It's something they're already doing. It's not about being funny and there are rules. It's not just going to be a free for all. I'm not going to say, hey, go up there and go.  I also make it a rule that unless I'm asking someone to volunteer to help me show how a game is going to be played or how an exercise is going to work, I don't ask anyone to come up and perform on the spot. We do everything simultaneously in small groups or in pairs. So nobody has to be worried that, oh no, when am I gonna get called on and I'm gonna have to go up without a script and do this .  Once we put that into practice, once everyone knows what to expect and knows what the rules are and what our purpose is here, then my next order of business is to get people laughing because that's going to help to bring people, you know, if they still are in that fight or flight mode where we can't take in information and everything is a threat, including me as a person in the front of the room, what laughter is going to do is it's going to help to reduce that cortisol, get people connected, activate that part of the brain that allows us to learn and try something new and actually take in new information.  And that's the wonderful, that's the other wonderful piece about improv is that that laughter doesn't end after an initial warmup exercise or whatever. You know, it continues throughout just because of the nature of improv. Even if we are using situations that hit very close to home that are, you know, so that it's really something that's applicable, they're going to get to practice these concepts to an extreme. And because it's to an extreme, there is probably going to be some silliness in there.  They're also going to be able to decide what they wanna take away and be able to scale that back in a way that makes sense for them. But that laughter is woven throughout so it's keeping our brains open and it's allowing us to learn and connect and build trust and all of those wonderful side effects that laughter can bring to the learning space.   Stephen Matini: Well you train and you work as an actress for a long time, so you are a master in emotional intelligence, you know. Of all professions. I've always seen actors at people, they are such a a people connoisseur because you have to embody a person, you know, more than really any other profession in my opinion. So if someone seems not to be that great in terms of emotional intelligence, you know, for whatever the reason they don't have the great self-awareness or that ability to connect to people, can they still do an improv exercise successfully? Caitlin Drago: I think so. The improv exercises are a way to gain self-awareness without having it be so pointed or feeling like they're being singled out or attacked. You know, I like using the example of the one word story 'cause it's really simple. It's really easy to envision.  So if you imagine a group of people, they're standing in a circle and they're telling a story going around the circle, each contributing one word at a time. Pretty simple, easy game. They can have fun with it, hopefully things kind of go off the rails a little bit.  Something silly happens, they laugh and at the end we can ask, what did you notice about that experience? What was interesting, what was fun? What was challenging about it? And it's a way for them to notice, oh you know what? I was kind of thinking ahead or I was not paying attention so much to the person before me 'cause I was figuring out what I wanted to put through.  It's a way for them to notice things about themselves. It's an inroad to that empathy and through that to that emotional intelligence without it being something that is so direct, you know, they get to learn through an experience and pull that out themselves.   Stephen Matini: What about using improv, let's say with a team of people that needs to improve a teamwork, let's say, and they have a huge trust issue. Can you still do improv with someone that you don't trust? Caitlin Drago: Within the confines of a workshop? Yes, because I'm going to make sure that everyone's following the rules so we practice everything to an extreme so they can see what it's like. You know, I really hold everyone to those rules of we're here to make each other look good, we're here to say yes. And they can try that out and see what that looks like, even if it's with someone who they don't feel a lot of trust with.  And maybe through that experience of both of them having to connect with each other, having to be present with one another, and really being held to that idea that I have to listen to what you say, I have to accept it and then I have to add my own idea to what you said that gives them that training ground to maybe start to build some of that trust. I   Stephen Matini: Think everyone should do this thing seriously. I mean, I cannot think of a single person that who would not benefit from it. Have you ever used it with kids? Caitlin Drago: Oh yeah, , I have two kids. My son asked, what do you do ? And I told, and we played one word story and he really enjoyed it. And you know, when we're in the car, like, mom, can we play one word story? And so, you know, we'll play, but just in terms of some of those practices that aren't so overt, kids come up with lots of ideas.  And especially my eight year old, he's a big ideas kid. I want to foster that creativity and that wonder and that problem solving within him. There are times where he throws out an idea and my initial reaction is absolutely not . But in that moment I have to kind of take a step back and say, okay, what about this might work? Is there a little piece of this that we could agree on and build from?  How can I challenge myself to instead of defaulting to no and making him feel like, oh well anytime I ask mom about anything, she's gonna say no. So I'm just gonna stop eventually. And that's gonna, you know, erode our own trust and our relationship. Where can I look for where the possibilities might be so that we can work together to come up with something that we can both agree upon.   Stephen Matini: Is it possible to improv on a specific issue the team is having? Let's say the team has a dynamic they they cannot quite resolve. It can even be an interpersonal conflict or whatever they might be. Can they use improv as a way to explore possibilities, alternatives, different endings? Caitlin Drago: I think so. So I have a full program where, you know, we start with the basics of improv and then on top of that we can add on some of those skills that people might already have a basic understanding of like having difficult conversations or giving and receiving feedback and looking at how we can infuse the improv approach in there and make those conversations even more effective.  When it comes to the conflict resolution, I will ask ahead of time for what are some experiences that you've had either with other people on your team or with the people that you serve, either you know, internally or externally.  And let's play with that and see what it looks like if we are defining that mutual goal and then trying to say yes and throughout that conversation. And what is really fun about when those conflicts come up is because people are being forced to say yes and repeat back what they heard and really understand the other person's argument or perspective and then add on their own to that. A lot of times we skip right over the finger pointing and get right to getting on the same page and trying to have a collaborative conversation to work towards a solution. So that's one answer to the question. I think the other answer to the question is, I like to play a game called worst idea.  And so sometimes when there is an interpersonal conflict or something that people are struggling with, when you ask, okay, well what do we wanna do about this? We have that pressure to come up with the best idea right away. If I say, what is the worst idea that you can come up with?  It gets them so far outside of the box, it's no, I don't want this to be the thing that you're gonna end up doing. Like tell me something that would get us kicked out of the company , you know, what is the worst thing you can think of? And then from there the challenge is to look for like what's that little piece in there? What is that little spark of maybe an idea that might work? And how do we build on that little spark so that we can gradually work it back to something that might be something that is feasible, but we didn't have to start by coming up with something that was brilliant, we could take that pressure off. And so that's another way to use improv to find out, you know, what those other outside of the box solutions could be to something that feels extra sticky. I   Stephen Matini: Love it because it seems to me that you help people stop being boring adults and to go back to be playful and resourceful and open, which is beautiful, you know, and then somehow at some point we seem to lose it. But for the reason that you pointed out, everything gets so complicated and boring. I wanna ask you, the title of your book is Approaching Improv Communication and Connection in Business And Beyond How the Idea came about. Caitlin Drago: So I knew that I wanted to write a book for a while. I wasn't exactly sure what, and for a long time I put pressure on myself because I know there's the other books about using improv for communication and its application and business.  And so I thought, okay, I have to come up with something completely different. I was talking to a friend about book writing and you know, shared that the reason that I was feeling stuck was that I thought that it had to be something completely new and novel and you know, I can't write the same book that someone else did and that friend gave me the permission to go for it because it was going to be from my perspective with my stories, with my insights, and specifically for the people who are drawn to me and the way that I teach and speak and relate.  Once I had that permission to, it's okay if it's in a similar vein of other things, it's still yours. I was able to kind of go and ended up really enjoying the process. I, I know that when, when people say like writing about, oh, it's such a drag and it's just, I liked it. Well   Stephen Matini: Probably because you, you were in the process, you were more about enjoying the, the process of learning how to do this rather than the final outcome and whether or not this would've been something amazing, which I think it's the best way to approach any project, you know? Caitlin Drago: Exactly. Yeah. And I think once, once that lens was put on in terms of think about the person that this is for, who are you trying to help and having it be through that lens of, oh, is this going to be helpful or versus is this going to be brilliant?   Stephen Matini: So let's say I read your book, what do you hope for me to take away from your book? Caitlin Drago: I hope that you can take away an understanding of those basics of improv. What does it mean to communicate and lead with that yes and mindset and this idea of making each other look good. What are the ramifications of that? How do you exactly do that? Because there's a lot of ripple effects that come from putting that into practice.  And then I want you to, like I mentioned before, to be able to take what you already know about certain communication skills, like giving and receiving feedback, having difficult conversations, communicating through change, and being able to apply the improv approach to those conversations to make them even more effective. And finally, I want you to be able to understand the cultural ramifications of this. What can this look like if it is something that is shared culture wide or you know, company-wide?  And for you to also have some of that encouragement because I know that this is not something that is easy and so I want you to have some encouragement there too. In improv we have this concept called follow the fear. And so it's that idea that, you know, if you have an idea that's a little scary, instead of letting that keep you from doing anything, you step into it anyway and you share it because you need to.  And the reason that I titled it approaching improv is because again, I know that it's not the easiest thing to do , and I wanted to make it something that can be approachable, something that anyone can pick up and take something away from and implement right away.   Stephen Matini: When we talk about improvisation, I assume that always entail to have at least two people that go back and forth, back and forth. Can improvisation be used also with the dialogue that I have with myself? Caitlin Drago: I think the answer is yes. There's some statistic where if you have an idea or an inspiration and you don't act on it in some way within five seconds it goes.   Stephen Matini: Well, I I experience it every single day because I share with you that I'm writing a book. Caitlin Drago: Yeah. So in that moment, if you got one of those inspirations and you used this improv approach and said like, yes to this and what, what in this can work and how can I take just a moment to try to build on that idea? What might that look like for your writing process? That can be rhetorical or you can share. It's such   Stephen Matini: A wonderful thing because interestingly enough, in the business world, we love to think in terms of processes and systems and we come up with all sorts of different rules. But life these days moves us so fast that they oftentimes all these systems and the structures are too heavy.  They simply do not react to changes super quickly. And I love what you bring, you really are the Tinkerbell of the corporate world, because everything you say is so applicable to such a wide number of scenarios, you know, from team dynamics to innovation, you name it.  But yeah, I love it. It's a simple structure and then understanding that all of us together bouncing back and forth, we can create something that you know, does not exist, did not exist before. So it's beautiful. So we talked about a lot of different things. If you have to point out to our listeners something that is really dear to you that you hope for them to take away from our improv podcast episode , what would you say? Caitlin Drago: I think that, you know, especially if you're, if I'm thinking about something that's dear to me, underneath all of this is people connecting through listening. If we could all slow down just a little bit enough to really take in what someone else is saying, again, it doesn't have to be that you agree with everything that person is saying, it's that we look for the humanity in it.  We use our empathy to try to understand what they're saying and to look for some of that common ground, even if it's underneath what they're saying and underneath that, to be able to build connection through listening. And one way to do that is so you can't say yes to something that you didn't hear. And so throughout someone's day, if they were to, you know, go off and take a listen to this and then say, oh, okay, what's something that I can do today?  I would say to look for something that you can say yes to or say yes to a part of. Even if you don't end up doing it, your brain is now focused on the positive and looking for what can work in looking for where you can connect with somebody else. So that would be the, the more practical piece of what they could actually do. Today   Stephen Matini: I'm a huge fan and I hope your book to be a smashing success for everybody to read it. , thank you so much for sharing with me this important conversation. Thank you. Caitlin Drago: Thank you for having me.
35:49 11/14/23
Delegation: Scaling for Success - Featuring Zahra & Nourhan Sbeih
Delegation is one of the most critical skills for managers, as it creates time for strategic thinking while empowering others to grow. This episode's guests are Zahra Sbeih and Nourhan Sbeih, SVA Agency's founders, providing professionals with highly skilled virtual assistants to save time, increase productivity, and focus on strategic tasks. Zahra and Nourhan discuss the struggles when delegating tasks, such as perfectionism, control, and difficulty differentiating between short-term time investment and long-term time-saving benefits. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over to overcome long-term challenges and enhance your managerial and leadership skills. Do you have questions about this episode? This episode is brought to you by ALYGN learning and organizational consulting firm specializing in leadership and management development. Sign up for a free Live Session. #zahraSbeih #nourhanSbeih #delegation #virtualassistant #avaagency #beirut #lebanon #podcast #pitypartyover #stephenmatini #alygn #leadershipdevelopment #managementdevelopment    TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: So in terms of your interest, in general, have you had the same interest growing up or not, or were you that different? Zahra Sbeih: Oh no. Way different.  Nourhan Sbeih: We still don't have the same interests.  Zahra Sbeih: Yeah, we have the same values and sometimes people would tell us that we like talk very similarly to each other because we spend a lot of time together. But in terms of like hobbies and like personality wise, not much similarities there. Stephen Matini: Where did you get your work ethic from? Nourhan Sbeih: I've always been very sensitive to consequences and my impact on other people. Taking that into consideration means I'm always kind of sensitive or aware of how my output is being perceived, how I'm making other people's life easier. I know that this is leaning more towards people pleasing, but it's served me well.  I'm setting boundaries in some places, but in terms of performance, I was always aware that I need to be putting out the best image of me, what I feel is the right thing to do.  And so when I got my first job opportunity, I was like I don't need to know what the rules are, all I know is that this output I feel is good. I wanna be perceived as 1, 2, 3. And so I just oriented myself towards that end goal of how I wanna be perceived and it's served me well so far. Zahra Sbeih: I agree with you but I think there is like also a playing factor when it came to our dad. Our dad is also a business owner. We are amazed by his, like how hardworking he is and his work ethic towards his employees and towards his company and he's just been like a role model to us throughout our lives. I would say I got a bit of her work ethic also.  He's very disciplined and he used to say, if you expect your employees to come to the office early and you're not even that, what are you doing? He was saying you can't preach to them about punctuality or work ethic and you stay in bed till 12:00 pm. So he's always that person that's like you need to kind of match the work that you're preaching. Stephen Matini: The same thing happened to me. I believe that I'm a combination of my mom and my dad. My father was also a small entrepreneur, you know, he used to import silk from India and from the north of Italy, so it was a distributor.  And my mom, she became eventually basically an HR Director. You know, she studied as a nurse and then she ended up managing a bunch of doctors and nurses, and both of them, the example, their work ethic, you know, how strict and kind they worked with people, you know, still resonate with me every single day. You know? When did your professional path merge into this venture that you have together? Nourhan Sbeih:: We didn't know at any point that this was going to happen, that this is where we were going to lead a virtual assistance agency. We just knew at a very young age that we wanted to go into business together in the future. We wanted to build something on our own and somehow life ended up here in this career path. Zahra Sbeih: Although Nourhan has studied law and I've studied economics, it's a bit different than what we currently do in our business. But yeah, funny how life is.  Nourhan Sbeih: You know, this is why we, I think the general advice is don't get too hung up on labors, but I studied a marketing degree. I have to do something with marketing, or I studied law so I have to be a lawyer or I have to do something with my law degree because that would've really shut us off from opportunities.  What helped is that we weren't expecting much when we first started. We were like, well this is a gap in the market that we can possibly adjust with our skills. Should we like try it out, we'll continue on our usual path and we'll see what happens there.  I guess the return was surprising. It, it was really needed. There was a lot of demand in the market and it took over, and keeping yourself flexible in that way to what comes up and where your passion is taking you, where your skillset suddenly that you's also important. Stephen Matini: That's a good point that I wish more people knew about because a lot of people think in terms of roles as you said, career path rather than focusing on their talents and what resonate with them.  Like myself actually I found it out really later on in my life. You know, I made a lot of I wouldn't say safe choices but very logical choices and only later on I finally said that no, I want to capitalize on something that truly resonate in my heart.  You are an agency that focuses on helping people that really struggle with delegation. What have you learned so far about the struggles that managers go through as far as delegating? Zahra Sbeih: There are several that come to mind. One of which could be the fact that they feel like they can do it themselves and it's takes a lot of time for them to give it to someone else and teach that person and give them the explicit instruction. They could have done it in that time.  You know, this is one of the things that we hear sometimes. Also like having the sense of like perfectionism and like control. They have a way of doing something and they wanted to, they're just so focused on that process.  So when they do delegate it to a virtual assistant and they see her or him doing it in a different way than they would, they kind of like, no do it in my ways. They're like kind of focused on that.  That's exactly it. Just to elaborate a little bit that the two major issues is they don't differentiate between the time that it took to do this task when they delegate versus how much time they're gonna save later on. And this is something that early on I tried to explain that delegation is not about on this task right from the start you are saving time, it's a long term investment in your time. It's I'm going to spend more time now explaining my preferences, my workload, but later on I don't have to do this again. So that's the first thing.  And the second is exactly what Zahra said is that they forget that I need to give them the goal, or I need to give them the context. For effective delegation, you're bringing someone in, especially when it comes to SVH, we give them a lot of training and they're, we try to add value. We can't add value if you are also dictating the process because then I won't be able to identify gaps for or opportunities, for optimizing, for streamlining. I'll be able to do it because now I'm following a manual. That way they're really missing out on what delegation can do for you and your business because that person has a unique perspective and they're creative in their own way and they're a third party so they're not biased to a particular process yet.  And that's why when when they're delegating, tell them don't delegate a task, delegate a responsibility, empower them, give them your goal. So tell them the end result that I want is this. See what you can do with that. And this usually yields best results, gets them to really achieve things. But that takes trust and this is why we focus a lot on building trust with our partners and with our clients. Stephen Matini: After we record this episode, I'm going to send the audio to Jack, Jack who's my editor and he's fabulous. And we started working recently because I had been editing most episodes myself and then at some point I said, I just cannot continue doing this. I love editing, so much fun, but really it's time consuming. And then you know, I'm not an editor.  I found Jack and when we talked and Jack is gonna listen to this, he's gonna , he's gonna laugh, we discussed about how we're gonna do this and he said, well you can tell me what you want to cut, the edits to be or I can do it. And he said in a way that was so nice, he said, well I would imagine if you're trying to delegate this, you don't want to be the one that tells the editor exactly what to do. And I said absolutely. And you know what? I don't want this to be exactly the way that I want. I want anyone who contributes to bring some flavors. It doesn't have to be my way. And I have to say the most freeing thing obviously, you know, you have to communicate well, you have to let go.  The control freak in me had to let go, but now you know, I feel fine, you know, I feel I can give it to him and it's something is off and we can discuss it quickly, but it's such a relief. And also I don't feel as lonely, you know, because sometimes the entrepreneurial path can be very lonesome. Nourhan Sbeih: That's true because a, what we do is also psychological support that emotional support that know, you know with this scope, with your work, with your business, a lot of things come up. Make sure you know, challenges, problems.  Knowing someone is there to give you a hand is super important. There is a flip side to that because there is delegation and that's good and effective and leads to growth. But there is also something that we've also noticed as a problem, which is delegation by abdication and abdication is different from delegation.  You have the flip side of a manager who's controlling and wants to control the entire process and so he's not getting as much result, which is a manager who's telling them, there you go, I'm not gonna look again up until things start falling apart. Why? It's not because that person was not trustworthy, is not skilled or anything of that sort. But because abdication kind of implies that the manager did not give enough context, is not empowering them, giving them enough accountability and so they're kind of doing it in a non-constructive way. They're removing themselves from the equation and that also does not end well.  So I would say these are like the top three problems that we face when it comes to delegation and that managers usually we give them a heads up like watch out for this, we're optimizing our processes internally but we want you to trust the process and these are the things that we look out for. Stephen Matini: I love what you said. It's such a good point. It's a crucial point and I call this concept the right distance. It's like you know, you're not too close, so that you micromanage people, you're not too far and you abdicate and it's completely lack of management.  One word that we, we said a bunch of times, we talked about control, you know control, control, control. So if someone is used to do everything herself, whatever for whatever the reason, what would you say that is the first step in order to relinquish some of that control without having a panic attack? Nourhan Sbeih: Usually what I do, what we do is we tell them no pressure. Tell me what kind of tasks usually are time consuming for you. And we do that audit and then I take one or two that we know that we do really perfectly and that are very deliverable based. So they're not like kind of a recurring task or anything of sort.  So that would be anything from particular design, a particular research data, a video edit, something of that sort. We take this deliverable that we know we do really, really well and we tell her before we start, how about we do this just so that we break this preconceived idea that no one can do it as well as I. Particularly when it comes to like a creative task, that's where we find the most hesitation because it's so subjective. So with these tasks I like to start with them to break that barrier because I check what they used to do, just so I get a sense of their preference and then we assign a VA (Virtual Assistant), we're so blessed, we've doing amazing. And that usually does the trick, and then later on the things that are recurring, representing them in communication, so, community management, email handling, these are also always the most stressful things to delegate.  And what we start with is, hey, how about we do a guide for you, as if this guide based on our conversations with you and what you want and previous emails that you have, lemme create a guide that has your total standardization of recurring messages, recurring emails, so that we prep templates for you.  And that also gets them more warmed up to the idea of delegating because they already approved a scenario.  This is a like don't overwhelm I guess the client or the manager by taking everything in one go and jumping into it, because then psychologically, even if the output is good, there's resistance to accepting it, we take it slow and we take deliverable base first. Things that are recurring and subjective and personal, sorry. We create some standardization, some templates, some guidelines and that also warms them up to the idea. Stephen Matini: So basically you are a psychologists of some sort. Nourhan Sbeih: I swear I used to say this all the time because it really does matter a lot. We're working with humans not only internally with our VAs, but we're also working with humans who are stressed out, who are overwhelmed, who are super ambitious and overachievers.  They have a lot to deal with, not just externally but internally that they're struggling with. So all these different dynamics we've had to learn over time how to navigate all of it. You know, you were talking about empathy earlier, that was the key, that was like the aha moment that we just need to understand that they're going through something and try to fit our support within these circumstances. Stephen Matini: How do you find the two of you, the right distance between the two of you so that you don't step on each other's feet? Zahra Sbeih: Well, when we first started we each like assigned responsibility. We knew what our strengths, key strengths are. So for me, for example, it's my people skills. I love to work in a team, I love to work with people. So naturally operations was like my scope, dealing with internally the team and all of that. That was my part.  Nourhan is like a great negotiator, she's a strategist. She comes up with ideas and plans and all of that. So she's the Managing Director. She gets us, the clients, she get comes up with ideas for the growth of the company and all of that.  We manage to like each separate our roles in a way, handle our own responsibilities and consult with each other when needed. And it has worked very smoothly since the start. It's been amazing.  Like we can't step on each other's scopes because our hands run with our own scope. We had to jump into this trust because we're sisters that was very easy. I would say if it's founders that are strangers or even if it's friends, I'd say a contract, a founder's agreement, codifying these things, putting a third like an objective accountability system will do miracles for you and it has nothing to do with your trust to your partner. But starting on that will take into consideration all scenarios that you may face in the future. Stephen Matini: In Italy, a lot of businesses are family based and then eventually grow, grow, grow, become this big monster. And I've always wondered how people strike a balance, you know, and it must be beautiful to know that someone of your family's right there with you. But at the same time, two different level of relationship. Zahra Sbeih: Nourhan and I have learned to separate like the personnel from the business. So when we're working, we're business partners, we're not sisters and that has helped us like along the way I would say.  Nourhan Sbeih: It wasn't instantaneous, I was over time trial and error and vocalizing our boundaries. Sometimes we're driving back home in the car and Zahra wants to me, she wants to tell me something work related. I'm like, Zahra, my school requires making a lot of big decisions. Like I'm not making a single other decision and Zahra's the same.  Sometimes I'm like discussing to her something that I'm worried about and she's like, I'm outta the office, sorry , check in with me tomorrow morning. So I think your partnership with your team also expressing boundaries and vocalizing those things and not being afraid to do so. Stephen Matini: Has it always been easy for the two of you vocalizing your boundaries? Because that's something that I had to learn. I mean really I had to learn because I was a mess. Has it always been easy for you? Zahra Sbeih: To be honest, no, not for me. It takes a type of personality to be able to be that confrontational and to express your boundaries.  Well Nourhan was a natural, like she's very verbal with how she's feeling with how like she communicates. Whereas I not so much, Nourhan has to get the talk out of me at times I'm not very good at it, but I was very lucky and blessed to have like such a partner and sister because she really, she helps me become better to express my boundaries more. She encourages communication, which is always helpful from a partner.  Nourhan Sbeih: Totally right. I've always been the kind of person who doesn't mind confrontation and so I've never ever had an issue with expressing boundaries because I would think whatever reaction they have I'm ready to face. But also what helps if you're on the other side of that spectrum and Zahra is one of them, she's aware of that and she expresses that that hey, I'm not very confrontational. So we also set up systems for that, which is some recurring check-ins, I've learned and maybe this will help someone who's in a partnership with someone that's not as confrontational. I've learned that when it comes to Zahra, don't ask the big question first, break it down simpler of of cooks her outta her, shell slowly .  So I wouldn't come to Zahra and say, what's upsetting you? Did it bother you that I did this? I would say, how it's your day, how did this thing go? What happened when this person told you this? And so it's like micro questions that add up to her coming outta her shell and then she like just expresses herself. Yeah, but it started with self-awareness. You can't help someone if they're not aware like what the problem is. Stephen Matini: The one thing I wanna ask you about the whole notion of upskilling, you know, learning within organizations, because oftentimes people get so busy with operational staff that they literally have no time for learning for themselves. Very often they say, yeah, I would love to be more strategic, I would love to be to have more time for this and that, but I, I'm the only dude here. There's nothing I can do. And I believe that one of the most incredible advantages of an agency like yours could be helping people you know. With that, would you mind explaining a little bit more? Nourhan Sbeih: Actually this is exactly what we put the whole agency on. What happens is, and this is something that we fell into Zahra and I, which is that we have a concept for a business. We start the business and we end up doing the day-to-day tasks, right? We become the technician and our own business.  When we first started, Zahra and I, we got super sucked into this dynamic where we're doing, let's say VA, we were the first VAs in our VA agency and so we're taking on clients until we figure out that this model is working and we're doing the thoughts and we got lost in this for a year and a half.  We were stuck there because then when we were trying to expand on hiring people, we were doing both and we felt like we're too in it to accept. Again, remember when we were talking about the process versus the end result, we were stuck kind of holding onto the process and wanting people to do it. Just as we have done why we evolved and how our evolution impacted the service that we provide. We try to explain to the entrepreneur that you, what you're contributing to your business is that innovation, that entrepreneurial spirit, your managerial skills. So you'll creating systems, organizing things and your creativity.  Now those three things actually require some space. You require some time to recharge, you require some time to reflect, you require an eagle eye view of things and you're not so in it. And so what we say, Hey, have you been doing enough of this?  What's a time audit like? Like what is your day like? And most of the time it's not. And they freak out when we tell them, hey, schedule some free time. Relax because it's important for your work because there's this culture of if you're not busy all the time, then you're not actually successful in this hustle culture. So we tell them the VA, you as the entrepreneur and manager of your business, create a system, create an order, that's fine. Focus on that and that will allow your VA the operations of the day-to-day things without any issue. And it will run.  Let's take our business as an example. I know all businesses in the backend kind of look the same. So imagine that Zahra and I were doing the customer service as well as the marketing, that's digital marketing for our agency as well as actually handling client accounts.  When would we have time to network? Think of strategic partners if we need to expand to a new department. And all this requires, you need some space from the day to day because if I'm replying to emails all day, I'm gonna get this false sense of satisfaction that I did something in the long term. I didn't do anything for my business, it wasn't helpful, I did not serve its best interest in the long term. Zahra Sbeih: This is the difference between like working in the business versus on the business. So in the business is the technician work, it's the day-to-day tasks that are not really contributing to the growth of the company, but whereas working on the business, you're being strategic, you're having a moment to reflect on everything and coming up with the ideas for the growth of the company.  Nourhan Sbeih: And no business can scale by the way or growth. If it relies on your presence, that means you have a job. It's a coincidence that the job, like you're your own boss but then you still have a boss don’t you? Then this is the dynamic that you want. It's probably more stable to go to find yourself a corporate job, right? That shift in our mindset after a year of struggling because it really sucks the passion outta you. That really made all the difference because then we were able to step back and create a business that runs smoothly even if we're not there. Stephen Matini: You know, while you are talking about is something that I learned, God, after a lifetime of trying millions of different things. I'm kind of thick compared to where you are. But essentially now what I do that works incredibly well for me after trying Excel files, you name it, all kinds of fancy stuff. See this one there's a piece of paper, so it's green and red.  The red stuff is basically the operational stuff, the green stuff is the strategic stuff. And what I do, I do it the night before, literally for one minute and I take like the back of a printed sheet, you know, something that I, I don't want to throw out. So I, I take this sheet, I ripped in four different parts. So the size is this, it has to be this size, it has to contain some information but not that much.  And then a minute, you know, I write and allows me to, okay, tomorrow this is the stuff and this simple distinction red and green allows me to see there's enough strategic stuff where I'm drowning, you know, as you said into operational stuff. Honest to God it works wonders. It's not about managing my schedule, it's super simple a minute and then in my head everything is clear and the following day I go, you know? Nourhan Sbeih: I love that, that is it. Lemme tell you something, this is it. And if you have a VA, you already did the hard part. Okay, you identified the things that potentially you can delegate later on to your team, to your VA. So yeah, good.  Our whole business is about delegation. Our way of thinking has been conditioned to be as such. So for example, when I'm planning a project, I now automatically plan it again. So I automatically, when I'm writing the project down, I don't get specific, I draw a general map and then later on I duplicate the template.  So there's a template now if I ever have to do this project again and then I get into specifics and delegate it. This takes over time training, but this is the right way to do it. And creating as a business owner systems that you can replicate. So if your time is really precious and it's, it's especially as a business owner, if you're spending time on something, you have to make sure that you're not gonna do this again if you don't have to.  So if it's a email reply and it's something that you can standardize, save it for later. I love taking notes. If it's a project done, digitize it, replicate it as many times and you can customize later, that's fine. But still you're not starting from scratch.  If you're starting from scratch then you haven't been codifying enough, you haven't been digitizing your life enough these days. It's a waste of opportunity, it's a waste of time. Even if it's a notebook, you don't have to digitize it, but for searchability purposes, my only advice would be open your notes up, keep it digital so that one search button would just bring up whatever to do list that you had that day and maybe you forgot something or anything like that. So it helps. I use every note. Stephen Matini: What advice would you give to anyone that has been postponing the idea of going after their dream? The dream of you know, being an independent professional, having a company, pursue whichever project, which advice would you give to that person?  Zahra Sbeih: You know, this is something that Nourhan mentioned earlier about overthinking. They should not overthink it, they should just go with it. Go for it because you are gonna like spend, I don't know, a year planning and focusing on the details and just time is running by while someone else is doing the same idea and perfecting it and growing while you're still thinking about the details.  Trial and error has served Nourhan and I along the way. We sometimes went with the flow and and figured things out as we go, but the most important part is that we started, we are trying, you know. Nourhan Sbeih: And you're never gonna expect how it's going to be like you're never, no matter how many, how smart you're or how much you're prepared or how much advice you get, you are going to make mistakes that later on you're gonna look at and you're like, it was so obvious. It was obvious. I shoulda done something else. And this is important because when I'm talking to younger entrepreneurs now, yes it's important to have a passion. Yes it's important that you love what you do, but it's also important to know that whether you're working on your own or you're self-employed or an employee, it's always gonna feel like work. Because it's work, it's hard work.  You're not gonna feel the same about it consistently all the time. Sometimes it's gonna bring so many challenges. You're gonna be like, why am I doing this? Why did I put myself in this position? That's fine. Even if you're following your dreams, you're gonna pass through these moments. And I wish that I knew this when I first started so that I'm not, I don't feel like maybe I'm in the wrong place.  I wasn't in the wrong place, I was just not aware that this is normal, that it doesn't feel good all the time. Especially the entrepreneurial journey. I mean the problems that we face, Zahra and I was just super unexpected way beyond what we thought we were able to handle and we handled them and it was okay. Stephen Matini: It's a process, you know, it's a process that requires getting your hands dirty and trying stuff. I think when I was younger I was mortally afraid of making mistakes, you know, so I definitely, I overthought the whole thing now, you know, maybe because of the experience I not what the heck it is.  I try to approach it as rational as possible and then I think okay, you know, for today this is the best I can do it and maybe it's just stupidest thing as you said and one day I will look back but as of today, this is the best that I can do.  Having this bar, you know, super high, I have to get there and if I don't I'm going to be bad. Such a loser. You know? Now that, well hopefully I will get there. I have a dream, you know, I have a goal like all of us, but I'm more interested in the process and making sure that, am I really enjoying this with all the, you know, tribulations and difficulties? And then the answer is yes. Well then I continue, the answer is no. Well then you know, maybe there are some adjustments. Nourhan Sbeih: I 1% agree with that, especially the part where you said reflect. If it's no you're not feeling the journey, although sometimes you're not gonna feel it, but if it's been consistently not being felt , Stephen Matini: The whole notion of gender and age and any other traits that make us different is something that really doesn't matter. For you considering the context where you grew up in everything, did any of these components matter? The fact that you're a woman, the fact that your age, the where you were born, I mean has any of these things somehow impacted the way you think, the way you are? Zahra Sbeih: I don't think it directly affected like in a very straightforward way. The fact that we're women or our age played apart. But there were times where we kind of went through things and we had a thought, you know, if we were men, would it have been easier for us. If we were older, would it have been easier that situation? So we wonder at times. I wouldn't say it has a played a part like directly.  There was no roadblock in our way and we're very grateful for that because we live in a time where it's never gonna be a roadblock. There's always another way to make it happen. But something that wasn't very nice to go through. So when we first started we were 22, 23.  In our society it's not really that essential for women to be making something depends on every family. But we weren't raised on the idea that you have to be financially independent, and when we first started we weren't taken seriously whatsoever. Nourhan Sbeih: I dunno what the reason is. Even from our families, we were like, okay, can we get like some advice or we want advice or anything of that. So we wouldn't even get advice because they'd say like, just go have fun. Instead of us pitching a business idea to capable women pitching a business idea, it was two little girls trying to play office.  That was kind of how we felt in the moment when we were getting this kind of input. Just go have fun, it's fine. So we wouldn't even get advice and that was a tough pill to swallow at the time. Now I think it's because our identity is in our business.  Some people might say that's not a good thing, but we felt like we built something that reflects our values, our work ethic, how we like to do things as well. It's very structured and we have to figure things out from scratch so we, it's not outdated because this is all new answers that we have to come up with, but there's a success story for every gender, for every age.  I wouldn't say that it was an issue, it's just it was a bummer. It was a bummer in some moments, especially when you go into a meeting with a client, they're like taken aback. Oh and you feel like it kind of brought the whole negotiation or the whole deal to a halt, but again, confidence focusing on your value makes you push through and it wasn't a roadblock in any way. Stephen Matini:  I wanna ask you something about the Barkat program because you're part of these fabulous program, which is a social initiative to support female entrepreneurs, you know, in Africa, in the Middle East. How did you come across the program? How did it happen? Zahra Sbeih: We were in in a, like a WhatsApp group for women leader organization, I'm not sure. So they sent a broadcast about this coaching program called Barkat. It's focused on things that I would want to develop in myself, like leadership skills, also the networking opportunity that would come with it, getting to know other women entrepreneurs in the Lebanon.  So I thought of it as a really good opportunity to maybe apply and see if I get selected because I think they only accept six women. So I applied through the form, I got an interview, I did the interview with Puneet, who's amazing and then I got selected and I was really, really happy for the opportunity. It's going really well. Stephen Matini: What would you say that has been the biggest contribution so far of the program to you as a female entrepreneur? Zahra Sbeih: The support system that this program has provided, like getting us six women together in a cohort and getting to know one another, sharing our experience, it's been really enlightening. It makes you feel like you're not in this alone and people are going through the same things as you.  Even though the industries are different and the businesses are completely different, but somehow the core challenges are there for all of us and just having this support system where you could share and get advice has been incredibly helpful. I think this is the main thing that I really loved about the program. Stephen Matini: When you need to center yourself. We were talking about that before, like you know, carve sometime for yourself. What do you do? Do you meditate? Do you pray? Do you walk in nature? What do you do? What do you need to center yourself and to replenish your energy? Zahra Sbeih: At times of maybe stress or when I wanna just like take a step back, I would maybe go for a walk. I step away from whatever situation that is causing me any kind of negative feeling. I step away from it, I go, I leave the place, I go and think I sometimes I just listen to music. I like listening to something distracting myself. Could be a podcast, could be music, it could be whatever, an audio book that is usually my way of stepping out. Or alternatively I go to Nourhan like Nourhan, I want to rant , please, let's go have the ranting situation.   Nourhan Sbeih: Definitely us having a mini panic session helping but also like it's relevant not to a particular like crisis moment. Having hobbies is important. Definitely it has kept me sane. So I would say I go to the gym regularly that helps. Exercise is super important. When I move I feel like whatever hormone neurotransmitter, I'm not very sciencey, but whatever is happening that's causing me stress, it's really like flushed out.  I enjoy my reading session so my, I don't have a particular time slot within my day for my reading session. It's more of an intuitive thing. So sometimes I just step aside with my book and I read and that also centers me because I've tried meditation. Have you been there, Stephen? Have you tried meditating? Stephen Matini: I tried a bunch of them. I've done a lot of mindfulness. The one that I prefer the most are the dynamic meditations. Like, you know, walking in nature, I do it also the static one, but I noticed that eh, just after a while, God I have to stay still, you know, instead nature works wonders with me.  Like even last night I was so miserable, I've been working a bunch of hours, I was tired, I was cranky as hell. Something happened at the end of the day that really upset me. You know, there's this park, you know, close to my house where I go and I go there by myself when there are not many people around and somehow that really does the trick, you know, it just thoughts stop. I start breathing correctly and then my intuition kicks back and then by the end of the walk, all right, it's not that bad. And the reason I'm asking you is because a lot people feel like meditation or that the classic meditation does not work for them. And I'm one of those people and I really gave it a shot because it's important to kind of declutter your mind in a way.  Nourhan Sbeih: And I found that reading for example, does that. Music does that for Zahra and forcing my brain to focus on this page. And so I am centering myself. People need to also, again, forget about labels, forget about what you're supposed to do, try a bunch of different things and see what works for you. Stephen Matini: Is there anything that we haven't talked about so far that you feel would be important for our listeners to know? Nourhan Sbeih: Two things. The first thing is when we started working and we work remotely and when you're working remotely with someone, it's way different from working with them in person when there is tone and there is body language and you're not imposing your own disposition onto their disposition.  We were like very put off by the people we're working with communication style. We were put off by their texting style. Maybe they as well felt like we're very remote from them. So we're not really human, we're someone behind the screen. It takes on a different psychology as well when you're dealing with something like that.  And I think what served us really, really well over time is to have that empathy there. That our clients are ambitious, perfectionists, stressed out, overwhelmed, overachievers. And this is a very difficult combination to have. And so sometimes they don't have to send emojis, they don't have to keep complimenting, they're trying to make things happen, they're trying to make mountains move. Understanding that helped us a lot, especially 80% of our clients are women. And what we noticed is they don't get as much allowance when it comes to not being nice.  Although I swear when it comes to our clients, the men do not even attempt to put on emoji, say a kind word, excessive compliments. Our female clients do that and I've noticed it as a pattern.  But even when they're overwhelmed and they don't do that and the VA might be like, wait, is she being mean? Is she upset? I'm like, listen, this is like kind of societal conditioning on, you have some empathy, she's busy, she's busy, it's remote work, it's normal.  And also on the other side, we also tell our clients there is a human behind the screen that we want you to connect with because support will be different if you connect with, and that's where our whole setup is based on have direct contact, know this person, name, background, preference, whatever, but also set recurring video calls that helps. And you have direct call access whenever you wanna hear a human to talk to. That impacts overall the dynamic between you. So focusing on people, focusing on empathy, understanding what the other person is going through and how you're meeting them, where they're at at the moment. Circumstances are different, is important.  Zahra Sbeih: I do agree with what Nourhan is saying, it kind of made me think about our relationship or the VA's relationship with the client. Usually we do build a bond with them and the VA becomes kind of like the best friend of the client. And it has happened a few times where the client is like, let's like talk on a personal level, let's keep work aside. I feel like talking to you, getting to know you. So they do build that bond and it helps because sometimes you just want to talk to a human being and it's not all work, work, work. Stephen Matini: Now, I understand why you talked even last time when we met about empathy, why it is so important. I completely understand it; it's true. It's something that comes up a lot with my job. The misconception people have – "oh, it's not in person." You know, digital is not empathetic. I said, you know, I could not disagree more. If someone doesn't want to be here, it's not, you know, I've had plenty of people in front of me sleeping, during a training to give you an example. Yeah, I think empathy is absolutely important.  Nourhan Sbeih: When it comes to digital work, it's more crucial because you're operating so many preconceived ideas and assumptions, so many that you need to like almost, you feel like you're physically suppressing these assumptions that are coming outta nowhere or she didn't send an emoji this time.  So I feel like she's being rude, when actually the sentences don't impose any assumptions on what you're breathing.  And so empathy here is more important so that you give the other person that room to be human.  The second point is, it's okay to ask for help. I need entrepreneurs and ambitious people to hear this. You are not less of a success if you're coming up with ideas and someone is executing them with you. So you're not 24 hours in a day busy doing emails and writing emails and replying to messages and doing these operational things. That doesn't mean you're not successful as an entrepreneur reading your jobs to come up with innovative ideas. So if you're sending emails all day, doing meetings all day, how are you coming up with these ideas? Don't relate your value to how much you're getting done on your own. And do ask for help. There's no shame in it. Rallying people, empowering them, working with them alongside them is the biggest determiner of success.  I got asked this a lot, which is, what's the key characteristic of your clients that you've seen that determines how successful this client is or ends up being? And I always say that they're a team player, they expect some kind of characteristic that is outside this like super disciplined or incredibly intelligent.  It's literally just someone who works so well with a team who such a good team player and it's very collaborative, she's very collaborative and this really makes all the difference and determines how successful their business ends up being. These are the two things. Stephen Matini: I have to say that you must have a really great dad and I have to say I don't have kids, you know, but being twice your age, if I had kids, I would love to have two daughters like you. You are awesome.  Zahra Sbeih: That means a lot.  Stephen Matini: I love this conversation we had. I think it's gonna help a ton of people. And I listen to a lot of people and I want just to say that your wisdom is really ageless, you know, it really is. You know, you said a lot of things that will make even more sense with time being someone that talks with a lot of people. I'm really, really so pleased, you know, and I've learned a lot today. Thank you so much.  Nourhan Sbeih: You're gonna make me cry.
44:15 11/8/23
Positivity: Overcome Limiting Beliefs - Featuring Keith Storace
Keith Storace, an Australian psychologist and consultant, shares his experience helping clients overcome limiting beliefs and focusing on the positive to create meaningful lives. Keith highlights the power of the poetic principle in shaping our reality and emphasizes the importance of authentic relationships in our personal and professional lives. In therapy and leadership, Keith emphasizes the importance of understanding others, embracing their strengths, and fostering meaningful connections. Keith maintains a Psychology and Consulting Practice at kikuIMAGINATION® working with individuals, couples, families, and groups; conducts seminars and workshops; and consults on mental health, professional development, and leadership. Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to Pity Party Over to overcome long-term challenges and enhance your managerial and leadership skills. Questions about this episode? This episode is brought to you by ALYGN learning and organizational consulting firm specializing in leadership and management development. Sign up for a free Live Session. #keithstorace #positivepsychology #appreciativeinquiry #beliefs #positivity #podcast #pitypartyover #stephenmatini #alygn TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: Keith. We met at this stage of our lives, right? But as you look back, have you always been this way, the way that I see you? Compassionate, warm. Keith Storace: I'm reluctant to say yes because it might make me sound as though I am big, noting myself in some way, maybe not in childhood. I dunno if I was as compassionate as I'm now as I was in childhood. 'cause I was too busy being a child and all the great things that come with that.  But I've always wondered about things from a compassionate perspective, and not that that's easy because I think compassion is when you remove yourself from the middle of your life and put someone else there, as temporary as that might be.  My perspective has really been shaped and molded by many wonderful people in my life. I just paid enough attention at the time. I don't know why or how, but I was paying attention to the heart of what they wanted to get across.   Stephen Matini: When did you decide the focus of your career? Did it happen early on? Later on? Keith Storace: There are a number of things that happened, a sequence of things. It wasn't until I was in my mid to late twenties that I connected the dots and thought I need to pursue psychology.  One of the earliest memories was when I was 14, I read the book by Kahlil Gibran called The Prophet,, and there's one line in it where someone asks the prophet what is work? And his response, or at least the shrunken version of his response that I remember in my head was work is love made visible.  And I remember thinking at 14 when I read that line, wow, that's what I want. That's the kind of job I want. I had no idea what that looked like, but I love the line work is love made visible. And I wondered, is that possible to have a job where you can do that? What does that look like?  As I grew up, I realized, well, you can enter the religious life, you can work as a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist. You can even do it as a pastry cook. You know, it depends what you are passionate about. That was the beginning of me beginning to wonder about the kind of work I would do.  I wasn't aware of psychology at the time. I didn't know what psychology was. That didn't happen until a few years later when I was in high school. I have this wonderful teacher who asked us, or the assignment for class was we had to come up with a project that was about life. It could be anything. It could be trees, it could be whatever we wanted it to be, but it had to be about life.  And my usual approach to any project or homework was to leave till the last minute. I wasn't very good. I was too busy interested in what adolescents are interested in. So I left it and I realized on the Sunday the day before the project, the assignment was due that I hadn't done anything.  So it was close to midday on the Sunday and I rode my bicycle to the local library, which closed at midday, and I ran in, we didn't have computers back then. I went through the little index cards to try and find something.  And I remembered watching on television a few weeks earlier, a documentary by Jacques Cousteau on “pearls.” And I thought, pearls, that's life. That's about life. I'll write about Pearls. So I couldn't find what I was looking for. I went to the desk, the lady at the library desk announced that the library was closing. I was the only person left. And I said, I need a book on pearls. And she said, oh, I think we've had one just returned. I got the book, she stamped the little card. I went to my bicycle, sat on retreat, started raining, the library closed, and I started to read this book on pearls. I thought, okay, I need to come up with something for handing in my assignment.  And the book wasn't about pearls as I thought it would be. It was about a man who was called Pearls, but he was the father of Gestalt therapy. So it wasn't a book about pearls, it was about Gestalt therapy. And I was so angry at myself. I had my own mini pity party in my head. I went home, I threw my bike against the garage wall and, and I forgot I had the book in my bag, which was just a very sort of a hessian kind of bag. It was very soft material bag. And it started raining. And early evening I realized that I'd left the book in the bag and I ran out to get it. It was soaked. And I started crying and my mum overheard and she said, oh, you can use my hair dryer.  So I had this book opening up the book, drying every page. And as I'm drying it, I started reading it. I didn't understand most of what I read, but one thing that really came across the gestalt therapy was saying that we are parts of a whole, our behavior, how we feel isn't looked at in isolation.  So I ended up writing, I dunno how, but I ended up writing a project on people and Gestalt therapy for the assignment. I received an a triple plus, and I had the Gestalt prayer, what they call the Gestalt prayer on the front of the project. And the teacher had written just underneath the A plus, she wrote a couple of words from the Gestalt prayer, which was, I am me and you are you. If we happen to meet and get along, that's great. If not, that's great as well. And she happened to be of the hippie era. So she really understood what I was trying to get across in my assignment.  But it did a lot for my confidence and the way that I understood community and people. And that was my first inkling that there was something that was called psychology that existed that was in the back of my head and it kept brewing.  You know, there were other incidents that brought me to that conclusion that I really needed to study psychology which I really feared because of the statistics. I was never good at math, but I quickly realized statistics is not mathematics. It's a language. Once you understand it, you can really bring some wonderful information together to make sense of the world.   Stephen Matini: And how did you get closer to positive psychology? Last time when we met, you talked about your reluctance for the word abnormal, which is something that in the industry, in the field is not longer used, you know, in many instances. Did it happen earlier on and later on af after a while that you worked? Keith Storace: I'd heard about positive psychology, but it really came into being in my own understanding, I guess when I was studying psychology, that early stage of studying psychology where everything was labeled as abnormal, abnormal psychology.  There's a place for that in the scientific world, but we had humanistic psychology. And I didn't really come across positive psychology until I was introduced to appreciative inquiry, because that really focuses on the positive core, the difficulty I had with the term abnormal.  I remember speaking with my supervisor at the time, what happens if a client feels as though they're being labeled as abnormal? You know, they might come across the term. And she challenged me to come up with another term.  And I was sitting in the student cafeteria at university and I overheard one of the students talk about her appreciation for what she's learning. And it dawned on me at that point that appreciation psychology rather than abnormal psychology was a better fit for what i I was concerned about. And that was way before I came across appreciative inquiry. But when I did come across appreciative inquiry, it was via the five core principles. And that's when I started to understand more about positive psychology. You know, because a lot of people ask me, well, I hear about positive psychology, but where's the therapy?  What's the therapy associated with positive psychology? And I struggled with that as well. You can look at what positive psychology offers, which is people often understand it as well. It's about feeling good and being grateful and looking at the good in things.  And a challenge isn't a problem, it's a challenge or a problem isn't a problem, it's a challenge, all of that. But how do you engage with that in therapy? And that's why the five core principles or the classic principles, that's why I think they're really powerful because that's when I started to, to use those principles in particular in leadership, I began to question whether I couldn't use those somehow in one-on-one therapy.  And that's how I, I started to develop the appreciative Dialogue therapy program with positive psychology. I came to know it because of my question around how do I use positive psychology in therapy? And the answer really came through appreciative inquiry.   Stephen Matini: So for those listeners who do not know, appreciative inquiry belongs to positive psychology. And it's a whole approach that focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses in rather than deficits. What you were mentioning, the five principles, and if I remember correctly, they are constructionist, anticipatory, poetic, simul, , and positive. Are you attached to all five of them? Or, or there's one of the five, the somehow speaks volumes to you. Keith Storace: They're all fantastic, they're all brilliant and they're all powerful. When they're used together, they're amazing. But the one that stands out for me as a psychologist and as what I learned growing up is the poetic principle.  I often, in my early days of inquiry, I used to say to people, I even wrote this in one, in an article I wrote, what was David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva, who, who developed appreciative inquiry back in the eighties, what were they thinking? How did they come up with this? This is exceptionally wonderful. I didn't learn this in psychology.  The poetic principle in particular says that what we focus on becomes our reality. In simple terms, that's, I mean, you can really extrapolate it more than that as a psychologist. More importantly, as a human, I see that at work every day. If you are thinking of something that is on your mind the whole time, if you are working on a dream, that dream is working on you, even when you're asleep, when you move, move deliberately to bring that to life in the world, it's just brilliant. And for me, the poetic principle stands out because it's really what the Appreciative Dialogue program is about. It's bringing to life in the world. What matters most to individuals. I mean, we've seen it big time post Covid, and we're still feeling the ripple effects of post covid and especially in Melbourne where we had such a long lockdown. In total it was nine months.  But I saw clients through that time, and I always came back to the poetic principle because during Covid and post Covid, what people are talking about is, I don't want to go back to my pre covid life. I, I need to do something different. We've heard about the great resignation globally. I don't think it's about the great resignation, it's about the great personal revolution or evolution. It's really wanting to move forward with who I truly am. Again, I probably sound really passionate about the poetic principle, but that's why, you know, what we focus on becomes our reality. Listen to anyone who's achieved what they've really wanted to achieve in their lives, and they will tell you, I can't believe I get paid for doing what I love doing for doing what defines who I am. And they quickly say, that's my purpose in life. And I say, well, yes, at the moment it's your purpose in life, but I think that's your bliss. Our purpose over time changes, but that's your bliss.  That's where you are in the moment. I mean, there are 10 principles for people who are listening. There were the emergent principles, which are valuable as well. I certainly don't want to minimize those, but it's the classic ones, the five core ones that drew me to a appreciative inquiry that shaped my behavior as a leader and certainly crafted my approach to therapy, which is all about relationship as Irvin Yalom that wonderful American therapist says that the relationship is the therapy. And that's so true. You can't fake a genuine relationship. How do you ensure that that's going to happen? Not just as a psychologist in therapy, but as a leader in leadership?   Stephen Matini: It seems so complicated for a lot of people. Business is made of a lot, a lot of different things, it's a very complex type of thing, but really it boils down to relationship with a lot of different stakeholders. You know, one thing that you said when you're talking about poetic, you said that what you focus on, essentially you manifest. And yet a lot of people have such a difficulty understanding what is important to them to get the clarity.  Even myself, I would say I've always kind of known what I like or what I did not like, but for the longest time, it was so difficult either to have the courage, maybe greater clarity about what I want to pursue, which is something that I have right now, you know, in my fifties, and I never had it before this clear. And then last time, you and I talked about limiting beliefs. Are the limiting beliefs that do not allow us to see it or, or anything else. Keith Storace: Limiting beliefs are a good way to start because limiting beliefs are the result of how we've somehow interpreted the world around us and believe the world sees us. It may not be true. The thing about limiting beliefs or negative core beliefs is that they're there for a reason. I really try and get the client to understand the importance of what they believe their core belief is.  So we do this exercise, I've developed a, a series of cards. I used to have it as a questionnaire, but it's much more fun having a series of cards and I have words on them. And, and the client will say, look at the card and say, I am. And if it says unworthy, it's a bit like a Likert scale in the either almost always or almost never. And there are a couple in between. So eventually we filter down to seven core beliefs and then eventually filter down to one. And I make it my task. When we do that exercise, I make it my task to make sure that I don't end up taking the card with me. So I have to somehow convince through the narrative that emerges between us. I have to think of a way of a client agreeing that they are not a hundred percent unworthy once they agree to that, and they usually do, because, you know, I mean coming to therapy first and foremost, well, if you're a hundred percent unworthy, you wouldn't have believed that you had a right to come to counseling .  But once we establish their core belief, and look, I I have to say this point, I always say this in therapy, a belief by its very nature is something that is not true. If it was true, then it would be a fact. People don't say, I fact I am unworthy. I get them to look at the importance of the power behind the belief. We often hear how powerful a thought is, and yes it is, but I say a belief is far more powerful because quite often we dunno what we believe it's there in the background, but we dunno what it is getting at least some sense of what a client's core belief is.  Then I ask 'em three questions and again, consider the five core principles of appreciative inquiry. But the three questions are, I look at a person's energy their relationships and their sense of future. I know it's not a feta complain, but I say to people, these are the three things that make us who we are. They're the three things that make us human and deal with experiences in the way that we do. So by energy, I asked the client, and you can ask this yourself about the life you are living. And I did this through covid during the pandemic, but in terms of core beliefs and limiting beliefs, I asked the person, does your core belief energize you or does it exhaust you? He or she will think about that. And then I ask them, does your core belief build relationships or does it isolate you?  And the third one, does your core belief reveal a welcomed future or an unwanted one? Now, usually if the first two are negative or what I call negative, which is I'm exhausted and I'm isolated, they're not gonna have a good response to the future one. Now, it is frightening for some people when they do this exercise because when someone is deeply suffering from self-doubt, they don't see a way out in many ways, and this is why a lot of my work focuses on limiting beliefs and self-doubt.  So once a person has answered those three questions, I then get them to contemplate a time when they were doing something that was good for them. And I call this the create change exercise. So I asked 'em to think about a time in their life where they created a change that in turn created them. At that point, they don't necessarily see a connection between what's going on on for them in terms of, of self-doubt. But they do come to understand that we get there eventually.  And sometimes there's hope happens over several sessions. So it's certainly not immediate, but I'll ask 'em to create a change. Think of a time where they created a change that in turn created them. And then I asked them three questions. Who or what inspired you to make that change? What did that change look like in your mind before you even began to move toward making that change? And who is involved in helping you bring that change to life?  Everyone has a story as little or as big as, as it is. Everyone has a story. What I'm really doing is looking at how they allow themselves, how they enable themselves to be inspired, how they enable themselves to imagine, and how they enable themselves to collaborate, especially with imagination. That goes a long way to build resilience. Once we have this story, I then go to talk about what I refer to as the seven positive stimulus statements. I call them stimulus statements, because for me, that's positive psychology.   Stephen Matini: Like a mantra. Keith Storace: Yeah, each statement becomes a mantra. And, and usually as you asked me, and so rightly so, which of the five core principles stands out for me? And, and the poetic principle, again, it stands out for me because what we focus on becomes our reality. So the seven stimulus statements is to inspire that in the client. And then we've moved into the three questions, you know about inspiration, imagination, collaboration, and then the five, the, sorry, the seven stimulus statements.  They're about belief, imagination, perseverance, success, possibility, foresight, and action. And each one says, belief says belief influences choice. Three words, simple idea, but it's true. And we discuss that by unraveling a story that the client has. And we usually go back to the story, but the create change exercise, you know, okay, you told me that you decided you wanted to have a life change or see change. You were working as an engineer, for example, you decided you wanted to do something completely different. We look at how belief influences choice in the light of whatever story they've, they've given me with imagination. We are who we imagine ourselves to be. That again, leans into limiting beliefs and core beliefs. So self-doubt is that preoccupation, you know, having that fear of failure and self-doubt on its own won't stop you.  Self-Denial, on the other hand, will, because self-denial is an action. And I don't mean self-denial in the way that psychologists talk about denial. You know, where someone who is grieving is denying what's happened or what life's gonna be like. Now it's self-denial where you stop yourself from moving toward how you want your life to be. And that's an action. So self-doubt is a belief, and self-denial is an action. So how we imagine ourselves to be the second positive stimulus statement and which is about imagination. If we are steeped in self-doubt, if we are steeped in the limiting beliefs, then that's how we see ourselves and we won't progress. I often use the image of someone who has a basketball and there's a basketball hoop. If the person who doesn't believe in themselves thinks, well, there's no point in me trying to get this basketball in the hoop because I'm hopeless, I'm not worthy, it's not going to work, then they'll have a half-hearted approach to getting the ball in the hoop. And of course, because of that half-hearted approach, it won't go in.  And then they'll say, you see, I was right. Perseverance there is no failure, only frustration. Now, a lot of people disagree with me about that. Oh gosh, you know, you should embrace failure because you learn from it. And I'm saying, I'm not saying not not embrace failure, but someone who's suffering from the fear of failure, then they need to reframe what failure is. And the way I help them reframe it is to say it's not a failure, it's a frustration. I do this a lot with university students. You failed an exam, okay, that's gonna frustrate you moving forward because you have to reset it or you may need to do redo the semester. It doesn't mean you failed your intention of eventually working in this field. It just means it's frustrated the process a little bit.  You know, we talk that through and they generally understand what I'm getting at when I talk about that. Success is not limited to natural ability. You don't have to be naturally gifted to do what you want to do. If you really want to do it, then it's going to take a lot of hard work and some people will have to work harder than others. But that's the, the notion of success possibility. You know, with positive psychology and appreciative inquiry, the positive emerges through the possible. People often think it's the other way around. We begin to see possibilities when we are in a positive state. And that's true, but where does it begin if someone is not in a positive state? So let's look at what's possible.  And we've already started looking at what's possible because we've done the create change exercise, , and then foresight, which is a little arithmetic. I give them H plus I equals F. That's from my statistics days. And I made up that little formula. Basically it's asking, or it's saying that hindsight plus insight equals foresight and people do ooh, when they hear that, when I actually write what it means on the board.  But hindsight plus insight equals foresight. If you can get that right, then you're on the way. And I, and I highlight for the client how they've already told me that because in their story, the create change story, they've given me the positive call. The client might not think they have a positive call, but there it is. And action. Our goals are only as achievable as the actions we take toward them. So those seven stimulus statements are to stimulate the kind of conversation that the client will believe. Again, going back to belief, the client will believe what those statements are really wanting the client to grasp because the client has told me their their create change story.  When I give talks about this people, their first question usually is, but what if a person doesn't have a create change story? What if a person truly can't think back to a time where they created a change that in turn created them? And my response is, well, firstly, I've never encountered that There have been clients who have struggled and they've struggled because they try to think big. You know, what's a big change that I created in my life?  And that's not about a big change. It's a tiny, it's a tiny change. It can be big if you've got one. Sure. The reason I call it appreciative dialogue, which is really an offshoot of of appreciative inquiry, is that it's an intentional conversation with a positive direction. And that in itself gives me my answer to how is positive psychology,   Stephen Matini: How long does it take to someone to change a limiting belief? Keith Storace: Look, it really varies. The program that I use, depending on the nature of the client situation, it can take between six and 12 weeks to, I wouldn't say completely change their beliefs. Some people are really stuck with their beliefs. So I try and get them to understand, let's not focus too much on moving on from your belief. Let's focus on moving on with your belief, which really suggests managing it and controlling it. You know, you've heard that saying, we teach what we need to learn.  For me, that's my life lesson, how to really deal with my own self-doubt. So sometimes people can't move on, sort of leave it in the background. So it's about controlling it and understanding what it actually is. It's not hard, but it does take patience. As I started out saying, the relationship is the therapy. You have to really wanna be there with this client. You really want to be able to walk in their shoes, you know, and understand what it is like for them. Because I haven't experienced everything a client has experienced. I've got my own experience of life. So I probably make it sound simpler than it is. I, I have to say too that I do use evidence-based, I call it my therapy triangle. There are three approaches to therapy that I use that underpins everything I've talked about.  And that is existential therapy, solution focused and cognitive behavioral. I now embed those three therapies because, and it's a really strong triangle because existential, the existential approach says individuals create their own meaning. Solution focus says elements of the desired solution are usually already present in the person's life, hence the create change story.  And cognitive behavioral therapy says behavior change is the result of a change in one's thoughts and beliefs. Again, we're looking at core beliefs now for the client. I don't talk about that with the client. I don't say I'm using this triangle of therapy, but I do say to them, there are three things that, that we're gonna look at that will eventually manifest in your life in a way that you'll be able to move forward and use this whole approach in all sorts of situations in life.   Stephen Matini: It's very subjective. Also, the, as you said, you know, how long it takes. Is it, it depends. It varies. You covered a lot of really important things and thank you so much, first of all, for being so generous with this conversation. If you had to highlight one main takeaway for a listener, something that, based on anything you said that you deemed to be really, really, really important as a starting point, what would you say that is? Keith Storace: I would love for listeners to spend a good amount of time if they can, whenever they can immersed in the things that matter most to them. Because the gratitude that emerges from that kind of experience is an affirmation of who they are. When who you are is brought to life in the world.  In this way, the people around you will not only come to know you for who you truly are, they will also in one way or another be infected by you, in a beautiful way and benefit from the good in it all. So the more you become your true self, which is what we're all meant to be, the more others will benefit from that.  And if I had to talk in leadership speak, I would say that when people are encouraged and supported to engage in work or study that resonates with their strengths, values, and what they enjoy, they in turn feel strong, valued, and motivated to produce good work. You know? And this ultimately benefits who they are and their mental health and social relationships. What matters mostly is who you are. And that's what we all want to know.   Stephen Matini: Thank you, Keith. This has been wonderful. Keith Storace: Good conversations. Appreciate with time and this has certainly been one of them. Thank you.  
31:38 11/1/23
Resilience: Bouncing Forward from Adversity - Featuring Sara Truebridge
Sara Truebridge EdD, is a researcher and author specializing in resilience.  Sara is the Founder of EDLINKS, an organization whose mission is to educate, support, and sustain a global community by embracing the resilience of humanity.  By recognizing the whole person, encompassing the cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our being, Sara emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to growth and development. Sara encourages us to follow our hearts. When we align our actions with our passions and values, we unlock our true potential and contribute to the oneness of humanity. Listen to this episode of Pity Party Over to learn how to boost resilience and the significance of humor in difficult situations.  Spotify Apple Podcast Google Podcasts Amazon Music Podbean Subscribe to Pity Party Over to overcome long-term challenges and enhance your managerial and leadership skills. Do you have questions about this episode? This episode is brought to you by ALYGN learning and organizational consulting firm specializing in leadership and management development. Sign up for a free Live Session. #saratrubridge #resilience #edlinks #positivepsychology #appreciativeinquiry #podcast #pitypartyover #stephenmatini #alygn ... TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: So Miss Sara, for those who are going to listen to this episode, would you mind sharing where you grew up? Sara Truebridge: I grew up in upstate New York. A lot of times when you say New York, people think of New York City, but I grew up outside of Albany, the capital of New York. And so it was very suburban. Stephen Matini: And when you and I met, you talked to me about your upbringing and also how early experiences have inspired you to dedicate your life to others. So were there any special people, any special events that somehow contributed to the way you are? Sara Truebridge: Yeah. thank you for asking about that Stephen. It's so funny cuz people say, where did you get interested in contributing or being of service? My answer to people is I came out of the womb that way.  My mother and father, I grew up in a home that dedicated themselves to service. And so it is very cellular to me. So my mom especially, I would come home and never know who would be in my home because very often my mother would find someone who needs a bed to sleep in at night. Sometimes it would be someone who needs food or needs a meal. So it wasn't something out of the ordinary for me. Like I said, service is ingrained. It's who I am. It's part of my being. Stephen Matini: What was one of the, one of the biggest bombs that you dropped to your parents growing up? Sara Truebridge: . Oh my god. Shall we start with the A’s, we’ll go through the alphabet . Oh my god. One of the later ones was when I was a young adult and I took time off of work to travel the world. I, you know, donned a backpack and traveled world. That didn't surprise anybody in my family. That was normal. That was like, oh, okay. But what did surprise, it took me a while to share this with my family is that I did a lot of hitchhiking and the hitchhiking that I did was in areas that normally women traveling alone probably don't hitchhike. And so yeah, that was a bomb. And I don't know, yeah, I waited quite a while to share that. Why worry, why have them worry? Stephen Matini: I was a good kid. I was very obedient until I reached 18 years old and out of the blue I said, hey, I'm gay and I'm going to live with my boyfriend. That was downhill from there. Sara Truebridge: . I love it. Did your parents accept that? Stephen Matini: The answer is yes. And my whole life, I've never really experienced any form of discrimination, believe it or not. I mean, I've seen it around myself.  Like, to give you an example, it has been difficult with the families of former boyfriends. You know, those families were not super accepting or they were half accepting. So I've seen that, but I've always been a firm believer that the biggest probably battle that you combat is within yourself.  You have to be okay with yourself. And if you're okay with yourself, that sends a very positive message out there. And so my philosophy approach has always been, this is who I am. I did not decide to be this way. If you have a problem with this, if you wanna talk about it, we can, but it's your problem.  Because my problem so to speak, is I have to live life this way. You know? And with that in mind, that's how I have approached everyone. Well, you know, and it's really beautiful that your parents that had to come from somewhere. And so I'm sure your parents infused you with a sense of pride and you know, strength and resilience. It's funny because I often tell this story, which is very interesting. You know, my work is in resilience, that's where my doctorate was. That's a book I wrote about blah blah blah, resilience.  I had a fascinating experience where when I first started teaching, my first teaching experience was in a high school teaching English as a second language. These were the days where there were chalkboards, they weren't whiteboards. So that kind of dates me. When I first came in to this classroom, I walked up to the chalkboard and I wrote, you know, the typical, my name, my maiden name was Brownstein.  So I wrote on the chalkboard, Ms. Brownstein, and I introduced myself, you know, and with that, a young student, the young man stood up, he was very tall. He walked into my face and spit right on my face and said, I'm not going to be taught by a Jew.  That was my day one on teaching day one, first day on the job teaching, I realized I had 28 other students in the classroom. This one student came up spit on me. And so, you know, what I did was he goes, I'm not gonna be taught by a Jew. And first I wiped spinoff and I said, oh, I guess you're not gonna be taught by anyone. And then I calmly went over, those are the days they had intercoms and phones in the classroom. And I went over and I just called the office and I said, someone has to be escorted out of the room. But to my point of discrimination, and it comes outta nowhere, right? I mean, and then you think deeper and oh no, there's always a story, you know, somewhere. But it's how we react in the moment. Right? Stephen Matini: How did you keep your love for teaching after that incident? Sara Truebridge: It's interesting, I haven't thought about this in a while, but when that incident happened, it wasn't about me and it wasn't about the student who did that to me. It was about the other students in the class who witnessed that.  They were the ones who I had empathy for. Like it was all about them. And I wanted to make sure they were okay with what happened, that they didn't worry about me. You know, I'll be okay. When that incident happened, it didn't turn me away from teaching. It showed me how much I needed to be a teacher.  To me it's not about reading, writing, arithmetic. It's, are you a good person? Do you have a good heart? Is service going to be a part of who you are? That's education to me. It's funny because although I started with high school, I primarily ended up teaching the primary grades, kindergarten, first, second, you know, third. And that's where my niche was with teaching. And it's so funny because every single year at the last day of school, I'd have my little second graders sitting on the rug at my feet, right? And I'd say to them through my tears, I don't want you to remember me as the teacher who taught you reading. I don't want you to remember me as the teacher who taught you math. I want you to remember me as the teacher who taught you how to love yourself and others. That to me is the biggest part of teaching and learning. Stephen Matini: My elementary school teacher, Ms. Lombardi, still lives in the neighborhood where I live. And when was it? Like a few years back I went to see her after many, many, many, many years. And she was exactly the way that I remembered her. She was not like a teacher “mom”. She was professional. She was very assertive. But you could sense that she was always on your side, but she was demanding. When I saw her said that, I truly have to tell you that you are very likely one of the most important people of my life because the way that I think, the way that I am has been so deeply ingrained in me by you. You know? Sara Truebridge: Oh, I love that. You know, it's so funny you should say that because we as teachers don't always know the impact that we have on our students. What you just described, I still get from students, they track me down and they'll say, oh, you have no idea. And I won't, I won't. I'll be like, oh my gosh.  I have a student for instance, who went into teaching and I have her in kindergarten and first and second grade I looped with students where you stay with them. She had a personality, she was a pistol when she was little and then she's like, I'm a teacher now because of you. So I love that you went back and visited your teacher and that probably meant the world to her too. Stephen Matini: It's a tough job. I think teaching. You know, I've been teaching for what now for 13 years. You know, I teach second year college students and I love teaching, but as you said it, very often you are not quite aware of the impact that you have on people.  It did happen a few times that people actually, several times the students from, you know, years before, they reached out through emails, some of them I met them in person and they shared with me how those moments together have impacted their lives. You know, and that's really the, I think the biggest gift that anyone can give you. Sara Truebridge: In the work that I do, and in the research, it's so interesting because in many ways the research that I do, I call it “the,” "the” research, you know, because the research bears out the importance of caring relationships. The research bears out one person can make a difference in your life.  Stephen Matini: What is your definition of resilience after so many years studying it, you know, working with resilience? Sara Truebridge: One of the things like the most simplest definition that I used to say is bouncing back from adversity. I have changed what I say now. I say bouncing forward from adversity because I want to express that it's not only bouncing back, but it's thriving, bouncing forward and thriving.  And I think with being a strength-based practitioner that I am and researcher bouncing forward is what I want people to think about the healing process, the bouncing forward. Now that's the simple definition. Then there's a very formal definition about the external strengths, the systems, the internal strengths that we have within ourselves.  So there's a very formal definition that I use, but for the simple definition I'm sticking with bouncing forward from adversity. And you know, another interesting thing in the academic world in the definition of resilience, there are academic researchers who will say that resilience is about bouncing what they say back from significant adversity. I do not use the word significant because I have a strong belief. Everything is a matter of perspective. Who am I to say what was significant to you? You have your own life story. What's significant to you may not be significant to me. So that's where I sometimes differ from other resilience researchers.  Where I will recognize adversity being what the individual identifies as adversity. I don't say it has to be every day. It could be something that a daily stress experience you have to deal with tapping into your resilience.  I always say if you take anything away from when I talk about resilience, I want people to understand it is not a trait. Resilience is a process. It is not a trait. In other words, everyone has the capacity for resilience. It's not a matter of do you have resilience, it's a matter of what can I do to help support you to tap into your resilience cuz it's in there. And the question is, has it been tapped? And we don't want to say that you have to tap your own resilience. There are so many systemic and environmental factors that are barriers to one's resilience. So we have to look at systemic issues as well. There's the researcher in me, right? Stephen Matini: The one thing that somehow I don't think I've ever read much about is the notion of courage based on your infinite knowledge and wisdom way more than mine. Have you ever researched or studied the notion of courage, of being courageous? Sara Truebridge: You know, it's so interesting that you should bring that up because you know, I just wrote something and in my book I have a section where I talk about words matter. And when we hear words, a word can elicit a feeling or a behavior and courage.  We talk about in resilience, what are some of one's inner strengths that they draw upon to support their resilience. And courage is definitely one of those inner strengths that one draws upon to support one's resilience, it helps to support it.  And also by engaging in your resilience, you develop courage. So it goes both ways. It's not only something you have that supports your resilience, but the resilience can support your courage.  I think it's really important for me to encourage others to create and sustain an environment that allows people to be courageous and to stand up for who they are. Stand up for others and express their acts of courage, words of courage. Stephen Matini: If I understood correctly, there is an element of practicing all this, the more that I do it, the more I become resilient, the more I become courageous. So it's something that you have to actively do. Sara Truebridge: Exactly. I love that. It's a process. And it's not even linear. You know, we all have experienced times where we can tap into our resilience easier in this time than last time when whatever. So again, it's a very dynamic process. Stephen Matini: You said the resilience is bouncing forward and I love that. And so sometimes I look at myself, but I, I see scars, you know, I do see some scars here and there that I dragged from the past experiences and those scars, yes, they're dear to me. They're important experiences, memories. So as I look at my scars, what would it be the best attitude to look at scars? Sara Truebridge: The scars, you know, in a resilience framework, it's like multiple scars. They can build up you. It's like calcium, you know when you have a break and it builds up and you know the break builds up stronger.  So sometimes when something happens it can strengthen one's resilience. Cause you are able to look back and say, wow, I made it through that experience. And you focus on what did you draw upon that helped you get through that experience as opposed to, oh poor me. You know, that type of thing.  Now in that same vein of talking about, as you call them scars, I don't know if I would necessarily use that as the word because, again, I identify as a strengths-based practitioner.  I recognize trauma. We all have experienced trauma.I am not discounting trauma. But what I like to focus on, part of resilience, the work in resilience is reframing. And I like to reframe words. And so instead of focusing on trauma, I encourage people to focus on healing.  Trauma is such a deficit based word. At the same time, I do not want anyone to misinterpret me in negating trauma. Yes, trauma exists. It's not putting on rose colored glasses. It's not saying, oh you'll be fine. It's saying no, you know what, that sucks. Now it's validating the trauma. But moving forward towards healing. Stephen Matini: I have been a seeing a therapist for more than a year now. And one of the thing that I come to learn through this experience is to, I don't know if it's the right definition, normalize my trauma. Which means not to downplay them, not to label them, but still see them as part of life and to create this space to see them and to learn from them, which has been so simple but so crucial. Sara Truebridge: I love that you're saying that because so often, and I said it before, people think resilience is oh, everything's gonna be dandy, unicorns, cotton, candy, and you know all the fun, you know things and let's be super positive.  Well no, resilience is being able to validate. Yeah, you know what? That sucked! Or validate. You know what? Yep, you have gone through a very difficult time. But you know what, you didn't kill yourself. You're alive, you're here today. What made you wake up the next day? What did you draw upon? And it is dark, it's not forgetting, it's remembering so that you remember and you engage and validate and move forward. Stephen Matini: You have such a strong energy and you said it, I was born that way. . How do you preserve your energy, particularly when things may get extra tough? Is there anything you do? Sara Truebridge: I know for one thing, my humor. My humor gets me through a lot. And it has come up in times where I don't even expect my humor to come out. But I know that humor comes out naturally as a way to support my resilience.  I was in a really, really, really bad car accident, a head-on collision. I was airlifted and they didn't think I was gonna make it. And I was airlifted to the hospital. And when I got to the hospital, they put me on the, you know, stainless steel table in the emergency room and all these doctors came in and huddled, the car was wrapped and I was wrecked. I was a mess. And so they have me on this stainless steel table, they start cutting my clothes, they start at the pants, you know, and they start cutting my clothes cuz I was a wreck. They start cutting my clothes and through the strength that I have, I say, “My mother would be so proud of me!” I said, “I have on good underwear.” Stephen Matini: . Sara Truebridge: Well the doctors, they started laughing, but they're saying to me, you've gotta stop cracking jokes. You need your energy. You have to stop cracking jokes. And so there I am close to my deathbed and I'm making jokes, you know. Stephen Matini: I have this thing, I've always had it. When a situation becomes tough, I have to make fun of it. I don't know what it is, you know? But I have to, it's not really downplaying it, it's not that I'm trying to make it into something that it's not, but it just irreverence that I have. You know, you hear the stories of newsrooms and hospitals and dark humor, you know that people like just what you said in order to every day deal with things. How do you deal with trauma? Day in, day out, day in, day out? Humor does have a role. Stephen Matini: Last time where you and I met, you talked about something that I kind of resonated with me, which is the, the whole notion of the whole child. Would you mind telling me more about it? Sara Truebridge: Here's the thing, the whole child, there's cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual. Those are the components that we all have. When we recognize all those elements, then we are recognizing the whole person. When I talk about the whole child, it's recognizing all those components in a child.  And in education people are throwing around just like they're throwing around the word resilience without really understanding it. They're throwing around the term, oh, we recognize the whole child.  However, traditionally in education, they recognize the cognitive, physical and we're getting really good with the social and emotional. But we're petrified of the spiritual because people still equate spiritual with religious. And it's not, it can be, but it's not. We all know the four year old that has awe and wonder and curiosity. We know that those should be within us always, but for some reason we lose that. And I really say that unless we embrace the spiritual aspect of our being and we as educators incorporate that into who we are as teachers and look at that, then if we are not incorporating the spiritual component, then don't tell me you're working with the whole child.  Do not be afraid of that component. That component, if you leave it out, you're not recognizing the whole child. I do a lot of work and you know, I'm grateful that the social emotional components have become so prominent and you know, center stage in education.  A lot of times in education we talk about passion and the heart. It's touching the heart as much as the head. As a matter of fact, I often say the heart is the portal to the head. It's so interesting. So the whole child, I feel the whole child has to, you recognize the cognitive, physical, social, emotional and spiritual. You know, that's the head, the heart, the body and the social and emotional.  You know, some people will say, well, isn't social emotional enough? And I say no, because social emotional deals with the outside. It's relational. Spiritual, it's looking in and it's recognizing the unity of the globe, the unity of our being, the connections we have with each other, the connection to something greater. Stephen Matini: As you said, the words can be divisive. You know, they have different meaning to different people. And so yes, some people may have a different interpretation of what being spiritual means. Sara Truebridge: I really want people to recognize that when we talk about spirituality, we are not talking about religion. And again, that's not to say religion can embrace spirituality, but spirituality does not have to embrace and talk about religion. Stephen Matini: No, it's interesting because in my job, this conversation happens, you know, all the time. I work often with people with different cultural backgrounds, I never know what word to use, you know? So I do use that word, soulfulness, spirituality, spiritual. And I try to emphasize the fact that my approach is very secular. You know, I'm not pinpointing to any specific philosophy and religion. Yeah. Sara Truebridge: I think personally that this movement that we have seen and I was part of for social, emotional, learning, to get integrated more into education and to become more of a more, we're on the cusp of doing that with spirituality.  We are going to see, cuz it started already, that people are becoming more accepting and like you said, you know, whether it's soulful, whether it's spirituality, you know, whatever word you use, it's finding that component that is part of who we are that we cannot dismiss. Stephen Matini: I have one last question, which is to anyone who is thinking maybe a younger person dedicating their lives to servicing other people, to be helpful to other people, either as a teacher, whichever capacity, what would it be an advice that you would give to them? Sara Truebridge: The advice I would give is follow your heart. Listen to you. You know, I have another TED talk and in that TED talk I mention, you know, people who are older listen to them. They have wisdom. There are a lot of times people will say, oh you should do this, or oh you shouldn't do that. And I say, listen to them. They have wisdom. But at the end of the day, follow your heart. That's sometimes is the most difficult thing for anyone to do, is to take the time to listen. What is it that your heart and soul are saying to you that makes you be the whole person? Stephen Matini: This is wonderful. Thank you so much for spending time with me. Sara Truebridge: Thank you.  
34:07 10/23/23
Speak-Up Culture: When Leaders Truly Listen, People Step Up - Featuring Stephen Shedletzky
Our guest today is Stephen (Shed) Shedletzky. Shed is a Speaker, Leadership Coach, and advisor. In the episode, we will discuss the importance of creating a safe and inclusive environment where individuals feel comfortable speaking up, sharing their thoughts, and being vulnerable. In his book “Speak-Up Culture: When Leaders Truly Listen, People Step Up,” Shed Shedletzky explores psychological safety, employee voice, and the benefits of fostering a culture where everyone feels safe contributing. Listen to this episode of Pity Party Over to learn the transformative power of psychological safety and its impact on productivity, creativity, and innovation.  Spotify Apple Podcast Google Podcasts Amazon Music Podbean Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Matini Connect with Stephen #stephenshedletzky #shedshedletzky #speakupculture #psychologicalsafety #leadership #inclusivity #workplaceculture #podcast #pitypartyover #stephenmatini #alygn TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: When did you decide somehow or when did you get a sense that what you're doing now is what you wanted to do? Have you been doing this for a long time? Stephen Shedletzky: For me, it really began back in university. So I took a number of courses with a particular professor who I loved. He's a Kiwi from New Zealand by the name of Dennis Shackle. And he was a professor on leadership, on organizational behavior, on public speaking.  There was distinctively one class I took of his called “Advanced Presentation Skills” and at the end of the first class he showed a clip of Martin Luther King Jr. Giving his eye of a dream speech and he said, okay, class, your assignment for next class is to prepare a five minute talk and attempt to match Dr. King's passion. No small request.  So I was at school in a Canadian university, so there were people who spoke of their love of their favorite hockey team or of curling. There was one person who spoke of their love for mid chocolate chip ice cream. Stephen Shedletzky: And so I knew that if I really wanted to speak with passion, there was only, there were only a few things I could speak about and one of them was overcoming my fear of public speaking.  So I grew up with a stutter, I still have a speech impediment, I married a speech pathologist, good choice more so for my kids than for me personally. I gave a five minute talk on this universal fear that you know everyone, you know, it's the good old Jerry Seinfeld joke of the number one fear in North America is public speaking and number two is death. So we'd rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy, which makes no sense whatsoever. And so I gave this five minute talk on my experience of failing as a public speaker. There was a moment in French class in grade two when I couldn't say the word “très," which is like the third fricking word you learn in French. And that was sort of a low point. And from there I got the help that I needed to feel more confident speaking publicly, whether it's this one-on-one, a small group or in front of a large group.  I gave that talk and that was sort of the itch for me of, ooh, I wanna do more of this because it was the first time in my life I gave a talk and it actually felt that it impacted others in a positive way. It wasn't promoting something, it wasn't about me, it was about service.  And so from that point I was hooked in terms of the speaking piece. And then I got into coaching and organizational behavior just from connecting with people who shared similar values and and beliefs and sort of figured out my career path by looking at the people that I admired and wanting to emulate them. One of them being Leanne Davey who introduced us as well. Stephen Matini: You know, when I went to Emerson College in, in Boston, it's a communication school, I believe it's the oldest one. The first class that I took was “Advanced Professional Communication” and I decided to take it with a bunch of people, they were just unbelievable. And this professor would give us like this bandaid you would put in your arm and it would change color depending on how nervous you were.  It was a temperature sensitive type of thing and everyone had it black, you know, pitch black and terrified by this class. So it was really, really hard. And the first thing that I did it, I felt really nervous, but somehow there was a moment that I screwed up and people laughed but we're not laughing because I screwed up but they were laughing at something I said and there was something in my head that went, you know what? This maybe is not supposed to be as hard as I thought it was, you know, anyhow. So it was the click that made the whole difference. And from the moment on I learned that I don't feel a hundred percent comfortable but I can still connect with people, you know, generally authentically speak from a place that feels real to me. And when I do that, you know, the nervousness goes down.  So when you did your speech, you know, in the moment was anything that clicked in your head somehow it was any, anything that somehow you learned? Stephen Shedletzky: So a couple things come to mind. I mean one, I very distinctively remember that talk and where I was standing in the class and where a few students were. I had one of those, there's like the part of your brain that just does and then a part of your brain that thinks.  I sort of had one of those like outer body experiences where I was doing the thing and also reflecting on like, wow, this is fun and I think I might be effective. I attempted to like hush that cuz it was getting in the way of performing and doing and giving and serving.  The other thing that just came to mind, Stephen, from what you just shared is, I don't know the stats or the science on this, but I believe it to be true and it's from our own experience. I think that's so often we are so concerned about what others think of us, that everyone is just wasting time thinking about what other people are thinking of them. Stephen Shedletzky: So when giving a talk or doing work or working on your craft, whatever it might be to work on focusing on service and giving rather than what are other people thinking of you.  Because everyone's busy thinking of themselves. Like a quintessential example of this is you walk into a meeting late, and you walk in and you're so mindful and you're so quiet and you're like, oh, what are people thinking of me?  But if you notice the body language of others when you walk in late, they'll often sit up straighter themselves because they're thinking about, ooh, what's this new person thinking of me? So everyone is wasting time thinking about what others are thinking of them focus on giving, focus on serving, focus on being effective for yourself and for others. Stephen Matini: Now is it better when you have to give a speech, do you feel, or do you still feel nervous? Stephen Shedletzky: Of course for me though, that's just data. You know, if I don't feel nervous, it means I might be lazy or don't care. And so for me, nerves or anxiousness or excitement, that active energy for me is just data for me that this matters.  I want to do as good of a job as I can. And for me, when I'm giving a a talk, I mean my rule, which I learned from a mentor, Simon Sinek, which is only talk about things that you care about and only talk about things that you know and care is more important than know.  You can say, hey, I care about this. I don't know everything but I want to give it a whirl, you know, and work with me here. And so I only wanna speak about things that I care about and I only wanna speak about things that I know at least something about.  And so the nervousness is also around there is something that I've experienced or that I know that I want to attempt to transmit and help others have a similar experience. So for me, the nerves are around being the most effective that I can be and giving what I feel that I know about and care about so that others might care about it and know about it more as well. Stephen Matini: One thing that stood out was the fact that if I understood correctly, part of your, let's say mission is to help people feel safe. And I thought it was such a nice thing. Tell me more. Stephen Shedletzky: One, I'm flattered and thank you. It's such a basic human need and when we feel safe we are more likely to flourish. I've reflected on experiences in my life when I've been in rooms or environments or in relationships or in a company or a culture or in a congregation or in any sort of form of community where it feels safe and where it doesn’t.  When it doesn't feel safe, we waste energy on protecting ourselves from each other, from other people. And it is such a waste. It's a waste in productivity, it's a waste in energy, it's a waste in what could be creativity and and innovation.  And then I've also reflected upon moments in relationships, one-on-one groups, communities where I do feel safe, where I have permission to potentially even say an unpopular or a hard or vulnerable thing to share or raise a concern. And it is met with curiosity and openness and a desire to learn and improve and it just feels healthier and better.  And I'm not talking about communities that are homogeneous, I'm talking about diverse communities where as many people as possible from all different walks of life are valued as human beings and are treated as if their voices do matter because they do. I prefer those environments not just for the benefits to our mental and physical wellbeing, but also from a business perspective. It just creates better results. Stephen Matini: You mentioned about the speech impediment. Was any other event or people that somehow were really important for the way you think today? Stephen Shedletzky: There's one individual and I write a bit about him in in the book that I have coming up this fall called “Speak Up Culture.” His name is Dr. Robert Kroll and he just passed away a couple years ago unfortunately.  So there are a couple of pivotal moments in my journey with my speech impediment three come to mind right now. So one was that French class when I couldn't say “très” in front of the class and for me that was, that was a low, I don't know what it was, but I went home that day from school and I said to my mom, we need to get help.  I first became aware that I had a starter in around grade two. It wasn't that bad. We tried some interventions, they didn't go so well and so we just kind of ignored it for four years. And then I had this moment where I'm like, hmm, this is gonna get in my way for my future. Stephen Shedletzky: You know, I just knew that for some reason. And so I shared with my mom, we need to actually get on this, I need help. And so that summer, it was a summer of grade six, I was a 13 year old kid and I went to, I think it was a two or three week, maybe even longer sort of intensive stuttering camp with an organization that is still around today called the Speech and Stuttering Institute.  I remember I took the subway to downtown Toronto for the first time on my own, like it was a big sort of coming of age thing. And then I joined this class, I was the youngest there. There was one other young man who was 14 years old from Ottawa. And then everyone else was older. There were a couple people, one was probably in his mid twenties, couldn't land a job because he couldn't speak in an interview. Stephen Shedletzky: There was another gentleman, his first name was George. His last name was very complicated because he was Sri Lankan. I remember in one of the classes, Dr. Kroll took him bit by bit and again, we need safety in order for this to happen cuz it was hard work.  He took him syllable by syllable to help him pronounce his own last name. It probably took 15 minutes, but it was the first time George ever said his own last name. And like his pride and joy and relief was palpable. Like it was amazing.  A few things happened in that stutters program. One was a bit of a relief and even sorta guilt or survivorship shame or guilt in the sense that I realized my stutter wasn't as bad as some others. I was thankful that I was getting early intervention. I saw how Dr. Kroll facilitated and created a really safe space for experimentation, for failure, for trying, for innovation. Stephen Shedletzky: And then I began to mentor and serve others that one 25 year old guy who couldn't land a job even though he was well educated, it was a bit of a big brother, little brother relationship, and we would sort of trade crib notes on some things that we would both try to better manage our stutter. And it was a really special relationship. I don't remember his name. If you put in front of me in a lineup, I probably wouldn't be able to to pick him. It was, you know, that was a a really big thing.  The last thing I'll share is, so a year later, the next summer I resumed my regularly scheduled programming, if you will, and didn't go back to this stutter camp. Not that I was healed, but I had some strategies to work with as well as I had more confidence and I had an opportunity to take part in a summer camps theatrical production. It was kind of like Saturday Night Live. There were skits and improv. It was a lot of fun. And so I had a fairly big role in this production. So much so that the staff picked me and I believe two or three other campers and performers to go down to the dining hall where the entire camp, all campers and staff, about 450 people were eating dinner.  And we created this little skit and commercial to invite them up to this mandatory evening program to watch our performance. And we made this little ditty, this little skit on the lawn outside of the dining hall. And my character had a complicated last name and I couldn't pronounce my character's last name in this skit. And the other campers and the staff member who brought us down were like, they called me “Shed” back then, they still do today. And I was like, Shed like, what's getting into you? And I was nervous and I was stuttering. I couldn't say a complicated word. Time ran out. We had to go and do this skit and my worst nightmare happened.  I stuttered in front of 450 people, like I failed abysmally. And the thing with the stutter is kind of like a finger trap that the harder you try to force a word out, the harder it is to do it. And so I tried, I tried, I tried, I finally pushed out this word, this last name, and it was as if either nobody noticed or nobody cared.  And so it was the best thing because I took a modest reasonable test and my worst fear ever happened. And I didn't die right? I didn't die, you know, I was totally relieved after that little skit. We went up and performed that night and I performed without a hitch and had a blast and it was fantastic.  And I remember that feeling of elation and joy after the fact. It was just an amazing moment of the awful thing happening and didn't matter. So those are sort of a few pivotal moments and from then on I kind of didn't look back and I still do stutter. I still stammer over some words, but it is what it is and I embrace it. Stephen Matini: You know, I am completely ignorant about stuttering. Stephen Shedletzky: So this is my understanding of it. So we don't completely know there is a hereditary link, more males stutter than females typically. So I'm very proud of my heritage and I come from a long line of stutterers. My dad overcame a stutter when he was a kid, my uncle, my grandfather. I'm sure if we keep going back, you know, there is a hereditary component.  You can treat it, you can work with it. There are strategies that you can employ to make it better. Also, we know that a stutter does get worse the longer you leave it untreated. And if a child becomes aware that they have a stutter, it can impact their confidence even more. So that's what we know about it. Stephen Matini: For me it shows up mostly when singing. I don't know what the heck it is. Your voice going out is something that I love. I love singing, I love sharing, but it also evokes this tremendous amount of fears. This story that you're telling me, have all these experiences, have somehow made their way into your book? Stephen Shedletzky: Yes. So first, a couple things just to double click on. One, one of the hacks to beat a stutter is to sing. So one of the therapies is you sing because when you do sing miraculously, the stutter just disappears and you can actually treat the way that you speak as if you're singing. Cuz oftentimes speaking can be very melodic.  So anyway, but one of the fun things that you can do is to sing, to be the stutter. But I think Stephen, you're also speaking of the vulnerability of sharing one's self, the vulnerability of sharing your gift, or your art, or your emotions, or your feeling.  It's also the vulnerability of leadership to step up and stand for something. This definitely has come into my book, it's one of the inspirations of my book, which is, you know, I've called this book SpeakUp Culture and the two sort of main inspirations are one, growing up with a stutter. Stephen Shedletzky: I know what it feels like to be voiceless and as well being in relationships, whether it's in work or outside of work, where there is a speak up culture and how marvelous it is and how great it is for relationships and results, as well as being in cultures where there isn't a speak up culture and how stifling it is both to health and results.  And the other thing that I think really from this conversation is infused and highlighted in the book as well, is that I am not a fan of the term fearless leader because it doesn't exist. Everyone has fear. Fear is normal, fear is biological. Fear is actually designed to keep us safe. Fear is a risk modulator. When we feel fear, it's our body saying, look out, something's going on. Whether real or perceived. Rich Diviney, who's a retired US Navy Seal wrote this book, “The Attributes,” which is a brilliant book. Rich taught me that if you come across a fearless leader, that's the one who's gonna get you killed. So I harp against this term fearless leader. And for me it's all around how do you feel the fear? Use the fear as data and then choose how to progress, which could be lean in and keep going. It could be get out of there, it's you know, fight, flight, freeze.  But for you, when you feel that fear and you're like, no, breathe into it, I want to communicate, I want a voice, I want to sing, it's worth it. It's worth that connection. It's worth that it expression. We find something either internal or external to us that is worth that risk of fear, worth that risk of vulnerability. Stephen Matini: Vulnerability is such an important word and somehow it's not that popular in the business world. With leaders oftentimes there's this misconception that you got to be fearless, you have to be perfect, you have to be, you know, sturdy or whatever, whatever.  So in your book, you could have taken so many directions, when leaders truly listen, people step up. But then the critical point is once my voice is out, is the leader going to listen to it? And that very often, you know, is a problem. So of all possible directions that you could take with your book, why this one? Stephen Shedletzky: So I've been on the speaking circuit for many years working with Simon Sinek and sharing his work, start with why, infinite game, leaders eat last. And so I have been asked many times over the 15 or so years that I've been speaking, when are you gonna write your book? Because I guess keynote speakers write books. And my response was always if and when I ever come across something worth writing about.  I never wanted to write something for the purpose of being a keynote speaker. We've all, you know, seen those books that are written not cuz it's a message that really needs to be shared. It's just something to stay relevant or sell at the back of the room. And I never wanted to do one of those or do that.  So at the beginning of 2021, I decided to say yes more. I just made, you know, based on just some things that were happening in my career and my life, I just said, you know what I'm gonna say yes to more opportunities that come my way and just see what happens. And so one such opportunity, a guy by the name of Barry Engelhardt who's become a friend, he's at a St. Louis and he's involved with the Local Society of Human Resources Management chapter there, SHRM. And he reached out to me, it must have been spring of 2021, saying, Hey, we're doing a virtual conference in the fall, do you wanna speak?  And I said, yeah, well I'll do my content even though I didn't really have content. And so that summer, so a few months later I got an email from the organizing committee saying, we're so excited for your talk. You know, please click on this link and fill out your talk title and description. And I went, oh snap. And so I remember sitting on the couch, this would've been just about two years ago, being like, what can I do and what can I talk about? And I had already become fascinated in past years and really leaning into psychological safety. I'd listened to one of Adam Grant's podcasts on Speak Up Culture, and I'm like, I think there's something here. And sort of my introduction or my access point to the topic was the Boeing 737 Max tragedy, which is one of many, I mean we saw it again with the Titan submersible most recently time and time and time again, so many of these disasters or tragedies could have been avoided with healthier internal cultures.  Ones that actually encouraged and rewarded, made it safe and worth it for people to share their ideas, their concerns, their disagreements, and even their mistakes. And both in these two instances of the 737 Max, with Ed Pearson being the most vocal person who spoke up and eventually became a whistleblower at US Congress and in the Titan submersible, both of those whistleblowers are people who spoke up were punished and fired. Or in the case of Pearson, he retired early cuz it was just too hard to keep going in that culture. And so that was sort of my, my access point. And the more I learned about it, the more I began to form a point of view on it.  So when I first started writing, I fully thought that I was rebranding psychological safety. For me, I'm a huge fan of Amy Edmondson and her work. I'm a huge fan of employee voice of psychological safety. For me, some of the terms were a little bit too academic and I felt as though they were putting sort of a white lab coat on a very human experience and emotion.  And so I leaned into good old Zig Ziglar's quote of, people don't buy drills that buy holes. And so I'm like, if psychological safety is the drill, a SpeakUp culture is the whole, so let's talk about what you get as a result. Now, as I dug in and begin forming my own point of view on it and researched more and leaned into an amazing team who helped me with that, we realized that psychological safety is one piece of a SpeakUp culture.  It's not just psychological safety, it's also a perception of impact that before we speak up, we consciously or subconsciously ask two questions. Is it safe to speak up then? Is it worth it? And what's really interesting is if you have psychological safety, but it isn't worth it, like you might speak up, but that's like telling a friend who is an alcoholic, you know, you should really stop drinking. It's like, yeah, of course you might feel safe, but do you feel like it's gonna lead to any meaningful change? So there's this interesting dynamic of, obviously we want it to be both a perception of safety and a perception of impact, that it's worth it, right? We don't want it to be that bottom left corner of the quadrant where it isn't safe and it isn't worth it. That's an unhappy marriage of both fear and apathy. I've been there, it's debilitating and it's no fun. I've seen others there, right?  That high safety, low impact is really interesting. It might speak up, but it's not gonna lead to any meaningful change either because a habit that's too hard to change bureaucracy or a systemic issue.  But the really interesting one to me is low safety, but high impact. It's really hard for me to speak up, if I speak up, it's at personal risk to my job, my reputation and my relationships. But I feel connected to stakes that are too important for me to remain silent. And that's when you get courageous leadership.  And so I learned that it isn't only about psychological safety that leads to a speak up culture. It's also about a perception of impact. And sometimes if you have a perception of impact that it's worth it to speak up, you feel that it will lead to some positive change or result. You're willing to take the risk even if it isn't safe to do so. And that to me is really fascinating and interesting. I highlight a few of these people, ed Pearson, Kimberly Young-McLear, who's a retired US Coast Guard, both of whom spoke up as courageous leaders to their own personal risk. Stephen Matini: Like a lot of people, I had to learn to speak up a little bit more, you know, to be more assertive, to say what I had to say. For many, many years I practiced what I thought was speaking up, like being assertive, telling you no, not to this, not to that.  But only recently I'm learning what we talked about before. It's not just saying no, but also you have to make yourself vulnerable and to tell the other person what is that you want. At least let's have a, a discussion about something else.  So it's not to that, but for this to this and that, yes, I'm completely open and it's just weird combination of being, you know, sturdy to say no, but also to be vulnerable, to say, hey, but maybe we can go that way. Maybe we can create something more beautiful and more representative of both of us.  Stephen Shedletzky: It's both though a willingness to be open to the fact that you are worth it and that it matters to you. It's also connecting to the stakes of it will lead to more fulfillment, healthier, better relationships.  So there's a fun example I use in the book. So the strength of a culture is determined by the clarity of its values and then the degree to which those values are behaved. We have a little bit of a culture and maybe more than a little bit, we have an organizational culture in this home.  My wife and I are the partners. We have two subordinates, our children who are seven and four, and we have a few values that are really fundamental that make the relationship between my wife and I strong. Perfect? No, strong. And my wife and I, I described in our wedding speech that we're different where it compliments and similar, where it counts, right? We have shared common values and beliefs, but we're different people with different strengths and perspectives. But the things that we agree upon are we are helper people, we can always help others and we can always find other helper people.  The second value and cultural pillar is we treat other people as the human beings that they are. Even if we don't like them, we still treat people with respect. That's a second one. And we're willing to prove to our kids we do that, we have to model that behavior ourselves as well.  And then third is we are allowed to talk about our emotions, especially the hardest ones. Those are our three values. Now, if I invited a guest into our home, regardless of if those values are posted on the wall or not, which they aren't, but I've put in the book. So now they're at least written somewhere. And that guest, let's say they're a prospective client, and if that dinner goes well, I will have a new contract, more food on the table. Hooray, right?  If that guest comes into the home and disrespects treats my children and my wife as lesser than, I have a choice, do I have a meaningful and hard intervention with that guest, even though they're a prospective client in the moment or thereafter? And essentially say that behavior isn't tolerated. And if we're gonna do this, I need to see a shift in behavior.  Which by the way, if I let them walk all over my children and my wife, what does that say about these cultural values that I've put out? I'll only live them when they're convenient to me, regardless of if they're convenient to you or not. I'm putting profit ahead of my values and my people and my purpose, right? But if I take the risk to speak up because something matters, like the health of our relationships matter, I'm proving to my subordinates and to my partner that these values aren't just nice to have as they're imperative and I'm willing to have them cost me money or cost me something valuable to have a sacrifice with them.  And then that prospective client will either walk out and we have more leftovers and they're like, you know what? You're totally right. And display some humility and they're a fit.  And so I think you know, what you're pointing to is when we display the courage to actually set boundaries, share what matters to us, try to invest in relationships, right? The definition of a toxic relationship is the more you invest in it, the worse it gets. And the only person responsible for that negative outcome is you. That's a toxic relationship. A healthy thriving relationship is one in which both parties take responsibility for the health and maintenance of that relationship. And the more you lean in and the more you share hardships or opportunities, the more that relationship improves, which means it could evolve and change, you know what, we should shift or end this relationship or this job isn't the right job for you. Those are all can be healthy, progressive outcomes. So just a few things that come to mind there that is it worth it? And do you have enough value in yourself and value in the relationship to actually go there? Stephen Matini: Based on where you are now in your own personal journey, what is still difficult for you in relationships? Stephen Shedletzky: Oh my God. I mean, speaking up is never easy. It's funny, I dedicated the book to my wife and at first the dedication was to Julie who makes it easy to speak up. And then I went, no. And I changed it to, for Julie, who makes it safe and worth it to speak up because it is never easy, you know?  And to walk around in this human experience thinking that you never have to have difficult or hard conversations or conversations that take courage would be foolish. And so speaking up is not about fearlessness, it's about us creating less fear in our relationships. So, you know, I'm definitely, definitely imperfect , you know, I definitely have a gap between what I say and what I do.  I just had one yesterday, I let a partner down, I told them that I was gonna do some research and do some work on some things and have it ready for our next meeting. And I totally didn't do it. And she said, Hey, have you done that? And I'm like, nope. And that is on me, I'm sorry. And they were like, all good, let's do it now. And we did it in the moment and now I have work assigned for me to do for our next meeting, and you sure as hell, I'm gonna do that work.  And so if I was holier than now and didn't apologize and made it their problem, what does that do? I apologized twice. I apologized in the moment and by the end of the call I said, you know what, like again, I'm really sorry I gave you my word that I would do something and I didn't do it. That's on me and I'm gonna be better.  And now I have a choice of do I actually close that say do gap and do the work that I said I'm gonna do next time. So, you know, being human is not about being perfect, which is a faux-topia and boring. Being human is about embracing our imperfections and working to improve all the time. Stephen Matini: When I did the episode with Leanne, we were talking about something similar and essentially she said, you know, this whole relationship, this whole conflict, it's a messy business and it's supposed to be messy and you're supposed to screw up, you know, meaning it's not about perfection. Stephen Shedletzky: And the dynamic changes, you know? So my wife and I will have, you know, a hard conversation around how to better parent our kids. And then our kids aren't static , they grow, they evolve, they change the world around us changes. So it takes constant maintenance, it's dynamic as well. Stephen Matini: When your book is gonna come out. So let's say I buy your book, I read it. Ideally, what would you like for people to feel once they close the book? Stephen Shedletzky: So for me, I wrote the book specifically for leaders, not necessarily by title, but by behavior. So the book is written for either a very senior leader who has the title and who has the authority, and quite frankly, the expectation to behave as leaders for leaders in the middle, and I often think we bash quote unquote managers, but managers are essential and we need them.  There's a lot of sort of conversation in the zeitgeist of like management bad, leadership good. And it's like, no, no, no, we need leaders to behave as leaders and we need managers to behave as leaders. And managers are essential. They're the only layer in an organization that has multi-directional influence. They can influence up to peer side to side and to subordinates down. And so it's also for managers who have either had great, or let's be honest, probably mostly awful experiences with leaders and who want to lead better. And then it's also for people who may not have a role or title of leadership in the moment, they're committed to the practice of learning how to behave as a leader. And I want this book to help when people close the book, I also want them to know the truth and the fact that how they show up and how they behave has influence on others. That a SpeakUp culture isn't relevant only for lines of work where it's a life or death line of business, like aerospace, healthcare, military law enforcement, or making submarines, that if you are in a role of leadership, we know this from UKG and the National Institute of Health, that our relationship with our direct supervisor has more of an impact on our health than that of our relationship with our family doctor or our therapist if we have one. And it's at par with our relationship with our life partner.  For any leader who's like, yeah, but like I don't work in a life or death line of work you do because you have either a life feeding or a life depleting impact on the people around you. And so none of us are allowed to say, I'm a great leader. Like if I say to you, Stephen, I'm a really great leader, I invite you to run away from me. No one can claim themselves to be a great listener, a great leader, a great teammate that is bestowed upon by the group.  If others describe you as a great leader or a great listener or whatever it might be, it's because of how your behavior makes them feel. And so I want leaders by title and behavior that when they close the book at the end for them to realize, huh, how I show up, what I say, what I do really matters and I'm gonna work to be better. That's really it. And when you work to be better, the people around you are healthier and are more likely to thrive. And so are your results. Stephen Matini: Based on anything you said, I would not be surprised if your book somehow found its way with the niche, a target that you haven't even thought about. You wrote it for very specific people, but what you're talking about, you're talking about voice really, you know, and all the beautiful things we covered. So that's something that I guess all of us can relate to it for sure. We talked about a bunch of stuff, for people who are going to listen to us, what would you like for them to take away? Is anything that is dear to you that you would like for them to pay attention to? Stephen Shedletzky: I really just admire and love the vulnerability in this conversation. You know, we showed up, there was a tech issue to start, you know, there's nervousness. It's like, it's all good. Like, I didn't care. We're here, we're here to do the thing. You know, Leanne, my dear friend, spoke so highly of you and said that, you know, you do great research and prepare great questions. So, we had a chance to meet and do a pre-meeting where we couldn't help but fill a complete 30 minutes and it's like, we should have recorded this conversation. This was, you know, and so for me, I just, I love it when people show up as they are and own it and show up with vulnerability because vulnerability is positively contagious. Vulnerability to me is, is showing up, wearing both our strengths and our weaknesses on our sleeves. And vulnerability is essential for teamwork. For you and I, we're a team, we're trying to create what we hope will be a valuable conversation for others. This is team. It's a group of two or more people working toward a common goal or objective, goal or objective, a conversation that adds value to others. For us to be most effective, we need to be aware of what are each other's strengths, what are each other's weaknesses, because we know who should step up and who should step back in certain moments.  So yeah, I hope listeners will realize that vulnerability is actually a source of power if used appropriately. And vulnerability doesn't mean sharing all the things all the time to all people that could be oversharing or not suitable for work. Vulnerability is about context. Stephen Matini: Shed thank you so much for doing this with me. I, I've learned a lot and I feel that it was the best time for my Friday. Thank you, thank you, thank you Stephen Shedletzky: , my total pleasure such a joy and I look forward to this coming out and serving and helping your audience and look forward to sharing it with mine as well.
39:12 10/17/23
Entrepreneurship: Ideas Bigger Than Fear - Featuring Mona Makkawi
The fight for gender equality still has a long way to go, with half of the world’s population facing cultural biases sedimenting over centuries. Our guest for this episode is Mona Makkawi, founder of Konsult, a consulting, advisory, training, and coaching firm based in Beirut, Lebanon. Mona highlights the importance of entrepreneurial ideas greater than fear and limiting beliefs. With a persistent, stubborn, and culturally aware attitude, Mona has successfully positioned herself as a kind and strategic voice in a male-dominated consulting world. Mona Makkawi is a three-month Barkat Entrepreneur program graduate, an application-based 100% scholarship offering for Middle Eastern and African female entrepreneurs, and part of The Goddess Solution by Puneet Sachdev. Listen to this episode of Pity Party Over to learn how to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams despite limiting beliefs and societal expectations. Spotify Apple Podcast Google Podcasts Amazon Music Podbean Subscribe to Pity Party Over Sign up for a complimentary Live Session Managerial & Leadership Development Contact Stephen Connect with Stephen #entrepreneurship #monamakkawi #konsult #lebanon #beirut #entrepreneurship #femaleleader #barkat #podcast #pitypartyover #stephenmatini #alygn TRANSCRIPT Stephen Matini: So I'm very happy to be here with a female leader from Lebanon. Mona Makkawi: It's my pleasure. Stephen Matini: Mona. For the listeners, for people that do not know you, so would you mind telling me a little bit about your background, where you grew up? Mona Makkawi: I grew up in Beirut, and I grew up during the Civil War. My parents used to move us a lot from either within Beirut or to the mountains where it's safer. This is why I had to change a lot of schools. This is why I became so good with people because I, every time I needed to meet new people and get to know them. And the downside was that I didn't hold onto my friendships a lot. But the good side was the diversity gave me this skill that I used later in my career. Stephen Matini: To connect with people. Mona Makkawi: Yes. Stephen Matini: When you were young, is this the future that you envisioned for yourself? Were you thinking something else for yourself? Mona Makkawi: I've always thought that I would be a doctor, a surgeon, but I wasn't interested in science when I, when I grew up. So I shifted. I've never imagined that I will have a, an office job, but I knew I would do something to be of service for people. Stephen Matini: Were there any people or events in the past that made you understand it, that you wanted your life to be of service to people? Mona Makkawi: I'm the eldest among my siblings. And you know when I was little, my mom always told me to take care of my brothers and sister. I think I used to do it well. I used to like it. So maybe this was and for what I will become later, because later I was involved in HR throughout my career for almost 20 years. So it was rooted somewhere in my past. Stephen Matini: Were you aware about any gender discrepancies? I mean, in being a woman versus being an a men professional? Did you understand, did you sense any difference? Mona Makkawi: To be very honest, I've never tasted it. And in my house we've been raised very equal because my mom or my dad never asked us to do anything for our brothers, such as prepare food or do anything. No, it's, it was, you do it yourself. So I grew up never having to deal with this kind of differentiation. And even when I joined the workforce or the workplace, I never felt that because I'm a woman, I've been treated or, or getting paid less. It never happened to me. Stephen Matini: Would you say this is something that is the result of the way your family brought you up or is something that women in your country experience? Mona Makkawi: Specifically in my house, because my dad and mom, they believe in equality. But to be fair to my country, we have our labor law that indicates that the women should be paid not less than a man. I mean, there might be certain practices here and there, but the common knowledge is you get what you deserve. Stephen Matini: In Italy. In terms of laws, in terms of gender, yes, the law protects both genders the same. However, I would define this culture to be very masculine, in many different ways. There is space for both men and women, but still, you know, in the corporate world, somehow female professionals and then female leaders seem to have to put three times the effort of the male counterparts. How was your experience working in the corporate world? Mona Makkawi: Going back to the subject of breaking the glass ceiling, because I hear it from my colleagues or from my friends, they've been facing so many struggles, especially when they, when they want to reach a higher position. But I've never faced this maybe because my choices were so defined and maybe because in my head I was strongly a believer that I deserve this much. So when I negotiated, let's say my packages or so, I always knew what I want and I always asked for it. So maybe this is something that influenced the way how people treated me at work. Stephen Matini: Have you ever felt somehow hesitant about having your voice heard? And the reason I'm asking this question is because oftentimes I see people feeling a bit fearful. You know, what is it gonna happen to me if I say exactly what you think? I don't know. Have you ever felt hesitant? Mona Makkawi: Actually, no, because I always go prepared and I always say what I want when I see an opportunity to help someone or an opportunity to, to develop people around me. So I never had this hesitation or fear towards my managers. I always prepared myself, and I always was so structured about how I ask for what I want. Stephen Matini: How do you prepare yourself? Is there anything specific that you do to make sure that you enter the conversation structured and prepared? Mona Makkawi: I'm a big planner. I mean, I plan conversations in my head even. So I prepare myself for all scenarios. And I start to imagine if they say this thing, I would answer it this way. If they reject in a way, I will have another argument. So I always prepare my, in my brain, all the scenarios. Stephen Matini: This is huge deal for a lot of people because what I see with my job, I see a lot of people, as I mentioned, they're really afraid of saying what they think. They always are fearful about the potential consequences. And it's a such a tricky thing to live, because if you don't say anything, you're going to end up feeling that you are in some sort of a jail. You know, you feel like a pressure cooker, and if you say something, the question is what is it gonna happen? How am I going to be perceived?  But as a colleague pointed out, actually, this is someone that I interviewed for this podcast. Her name is Linda Hoopes, and Linda focuses on resilience. She made a comment that I love that she says, you always say no to something even when you don't say anything, even when you don't make your voice heard, you always make a choice. And when you don't say anything, you say no to all those opportunities that could have happened if you had said something. Mona Makkawi: Sometimes our fear of being judged is what stands in the way of us asking or saying what we want to say. Yeah, I guess I trained myself not to listen to this part of the brain that's telling me you are being judged. Stephen Matini: How did you decide to start your own business? You were in corporate and then at some point you decided to start your business. How that happened? Mona Makkawi: The idea started in 2008. I was in a job that I hated. I was so frustrated all the time. I had a very tough manager back then I decided I should pursue a higher degree in HR to develop you know, my knowledge, my skills and all that. And I joined a program to study HR at the university. The moment I started this course, I felt that my life is changing and I have to do something about it. I've met a group of amazing people, trainers and HR people, and even my teacher who was a doctor in HR, I said to myself, I need to benefit from this God sent gift. And I started to structure my, my first business, which was Management Solutions Lebanon, an HR consultancy to provide solutions for small to medium side businesses in all HR related topics. Mona Makkawi: And because I needed help, so I asked my colleagues and my teacher if they could help me in this endeavor. Of course, they were very, very kind. And it started just like that. I remember my first project came from someone who doesn't know me. We were in a friends dinner. He heard me talking about it, and he had a friend who needed this service, and, it happened. So it was amazing how it started.  Back in 2009, I had my own business for like couple of years. And then I went back to the corporate because I had been head hunted by, by a Canadian company to handle the Middle East, and everything related to people development. And I thought it was big opportunity for me to learn and develop my skills even further. And it took me like 12 years to, to get back to reopen my own business again. But this time I developed the concept. I recreated the name. I mean, it's now it's consult and we work on developing people through consulting, coaching, and training. Stephen Matini: Desire, your energy, the second time that you decided to start your business was different compared to the first time? Mona Makkawi: I've never felt that I'm the perfect employee throughout my whole career, although I've been really enjoying my time and working from all of my heart. But I always had this idea of doing things my way, you know, working for someone else. It's very different from having your own practice, and I'm sure you know that. Stephen Matini: Yes, I do. If someone had the desire to start a home business or his own business and whoever the person is, what is a practical advice you would give to them? Mona Makkawi: Being very persistent and being very stubborn about not quitting, not stubborn about the process because sometimes we have to change course, we have to adjust, we have to be agile. Being persistent and not taking no for an answer. And challenging the economy and the financial situation of the country and everything. So the idea needs to be bigger than the fear. Stephen Matini: That should be written as a tagline. When you and I met, you said that as a female entrepreneur, you have to work as super, super extra hard in a field that is more male dominated. Can you tell me something about what that is? Mona Makkawi: It's known in Lebanon or in the region that consulting is a male dominated profession. You can work in a consulting company, but it's hard to own a consulting company and getting big projects. I had to really prove myself in this area. And because, you know, sometimes you work with the Gulf and they are more comfortable working with a man than dealing with the women they used to be. I mean, now they are getting really much better on this area, and I can acknowledge this very well. I had to work very hard and be very attentive to details. And because, you know, any mistake would have cost me a lot. And you know, building a reputation in this field, it takes time. I mean, it's hard. Prepare yourself and lobbying and having lots of friends and in order for you to be known and to get projects, and I had to join, you know, all the organizations that foster and empower women led businesses here just for me to be known and to be heard. Stephen Matini: You know, there's a lot of talk in general about differences between gender, you know, if a female leader is different compared to the male leader. Being a woman, does it give you any advantage compared to your male counterparts? Mona Makkawi: To be very honest and objective, I had bad female managers and bad male managers. So, you know, I used to work in recruitment for the companies I never recruited or never have been biased for gender towards another gender. I mean, what everyone needs in the, in the workplace is someone to do the job and to be good at it and to excel in it and to differentiate themselves in a way. I don't think gender when I work. So I'm really neutral about it and people can feel that. I am a human being who's equipped in this area and who's very knowledgeable in certain area and who can help. This is how I think of myself as a contributor to any solution I give to my clients. Stephen Matini: Based on what you say, it seems that when we are faced with any sort of potential discrimination, which could happen for a bunch of reasons, including gender, it seems that maybe the biggest step is work that we need to do within ourselves. Mona Makkawi: It's a matter of culture, because I would not be a hundred percent correct if I said we have to work on ourselves and everything will be okay and all the doors will open. I mean, it's a matter of culture as well. I mean, there are certain cultures in the region that still think less of a women. I mean, even worldwide, the glass ceiling is not broken yet and women still face the same discrimination that they've been facing ages ago. I mean, I've been working with family businesses a lot during my career and I know that they favor their sons more than their daughters in the workplace. So how I react to it is that I don't consider it, but how the society and the environment reflects it on me. This is their issue. I do what's mine in this area, or I change what I have the ability to change. Stephen Matini: Have you noticed any differences throughout your career when you coach one or the other gender? You know, when you help a female executive compared to a male executive? Mona Makkawi: Sometimes women know what they want more than men, maybe because they have fewer options, so they know what they want and they work harder to get it. Stephen Matini: And what about male leaders? Because last time when you and I talked, you talked about that throughout your work, you got to understand some of the distinctive traits about coaching and, and consulting and training male leaders, you know, in South Arabia. What are some of the features that you noticed? Mona Makkawi: Perceptions are changing, especially now I'm working on a project with young Saudi leaders and you can see that they have totally different views about everything. They are more diverse, more inclined to the concept of diversity and inclusion. They are more welcoming to the idea of having women working with them. They started to even include women in decision making. Some of them, they have no problem being led by a woman, which was surprising for me because being led by a woman creates ego battle inside the head of some man, yeah, you know? Stephen Matini: To your daughter, based on anything and everything that you have learned as a woman and as a leader, what are some of the biggest lessons that you pass to her? Mona Makkawi: She's even stronger. Her character have been developed in the past couple of years, very surprisingly. I always tell her to be kind to herself first and to others. We, we've never been taught to be kind to ourselves. We've always been taught to be strong, to be competitive. Maybe they taught us to have this, the traits of men in order for us to survive. And this is very tiring for a woman because it conflicts with our divine feminine nature. I always tell her to be kind to herself, to love herself, to appreciate that she's a woman and she's different and she'll always be different. And this is ok. Stephen Matini: I could not agree more. Kindness is such a, an underestimated quality because maybe in, in the eyes of some people could be seen as naïveté. To be kind to ourselves and to be kind to others requires a lot of strength. You know, a lot of strength when things get difficult, you know, really, really difficult for whatever the reason. How do you stay kind to yourself and others? Mona Makkawi: Things that I do that help me stay grounded are, you know, meditation and I pray and I always try to not to lose it. meditation helps a lot. It makes you detaching from whatever's happened. And I journal also, ao whatever is bothering me, I I learn to write it down, process it and letting it go. Stephen Matini: And what's gonna be next for Mona? Mona Makkawi: I'm also a dreamer. I have lots of dreams and lots of aspirations. So I hope that I can help as much people as I can. Well, you know, whatever I'm doing, either through coaching or training or you know, or even companies as, as a consultant, I really want to deliver value to people because this is what impacts people's lives. Stephen Matini: For those who are going to listen to this episode, for people that somehow feel that they may not have a voice or they will like to have a voice or maybe they would like to start their own business, what would it be a first step in your opinion, based on your experience, to move forward? Mona Makkawi: First to know what you want and to really do the research. Cuz sometimes we have crazy ideas and we start to go after them, and then we do not do our homework really well and we fall short. So you have to be prepared in terms of knowing everything, seeing, trying to see the full picture, being prepared will help you not to overcome all the obstacles, but you will be prepared.  I mean, you will, you will anticipate what's coming and maybe you change course or do something else. So knowing what you want and being very consistent and persistent, you know, and this is what makes any difference in whatever you do.  People told me that I will never make it. People told me that I will never be a good trainer. People told me that I will never deliver anything and if I were to listen to all the voices that were saying anything negative to me, I wouldn't have done anything in my life. Always listen to your gut. Your gut is very supportive to you and it guides you. Listen to your intuition. Try to shut the noise because you know, sometimes we are very concerned about the noise and we tend to forget our voice. So this is very important. And always be true to yourself. Whatever you want to do. Be true to yourself. Know your weaknesses and work on your strength. Stephen Matini: Mona, have you ever doubted your instinct? Because that's something that me personally, I did it for the longest part of my life. Have you ever trusted your instinct? Mona Makkawi: I've always trusted my instinct because I'm a very intuitive person, but sometimes I used to fear a lot and I don't know from where this fear is coming until I learned about limiting beliefs. So I started to identify if this is the limiting belief that is giving me this fear and is stopping me, or is it something else? And this made all the difference. Stephen Matini: What do you do to identify your limiting beliefs and understand that it is a limiting belief and not just the truth? Mona Makkawi: I start to ask myself from where this coming? Is there anything that supports this idea or thought that I'm having? If things were different, what would be my reaction or my response to it? All these questions, you know, will help you dig more or more information in your head and inside of you. And nobody knows you the way you know yourself, and all the answers are inside of us. We just have to ask the question and they told us something in the coaching school that is, you don't know what you know until you say it. Stephen Matini: I believe that we all have a different interpretation of reality. You know, we all have a different understanding of what reality is and what is good for us. I tend to agree with you that probably the person that can know us the best is ourselves. You know, nobody else will ever experience ourselves the way we do, at least for people like me. That took a long time to gain self-confidence. Sometimes as I, you know, pointed out, it's difficult to have the trust, you know, to listen to that intuition. So if someone is not particularly intuitive or maybe doesn't have the much self-confidence, what would it be? A first step to feel more in touch with yourself? What would you suggest to do? Mona Makkawi: Of course, to see a coach, A coach can help you a lot. Certainly for people who are not into it or who don't know how to structure their thinking in a way, or if they have, let's say, limiting belief or obstacles or if they are facing anything. I mean, coaching is an amazing tool to make this shift inside of your head. You know, everyone has capabilities and areas inside of them that they just need to tap on them in order to discover them. Stephen Matini: In my coaching career, I had different people that have been super, super important in helping me out. Mona, we talked about different things. From your perspective, what would you say that is something really important that would you suggest to our listeners to pay attention to? Mona Makkawi: The voices inside their heads and the intuition, of course, the patterns in our lives are very important, but we tend to forget about them. Stephen Matini: Do you think, is it possible for anyone to become more aware of those voices and in making some shifts? Because some people seem to be really resistant to it. Mona Makkawi: Yes, because even if it is tough on others, it's, it's our comfort zone and people are resistant to leave their comfort zone. I mean, through coaching, I believe that any shift can happen because through the questions that the the coach ask, they can tap into areas in your inside of any person that the person doesn't know exists, not having the willingness to change it's rooted somewhere else in their subconscious mind. It's their defense mechanism towards something. Maybe this is how they've been raised. So they developed this throughout many incidents and this is where the coach interferes and trying help the clients to decode what's happening inside of them. Stephen Matini: I don't know if I should call it competency or simply quality, but I'm talking about courage. If someone is not particularly courageous, as some people seem to hesitate, you know, to leave the comfort zone. What can they do to take a first step to feel a little bit braver? Mona Makkawi: I believe they need to redefine courage inside of them because sometimes we have different definitions for, for things because what courage mean to you, it's different than what it means to me and or what it means to somebody else. So I believe that maybe defining or tapping into this definition will help the person understand it more and maybe either embrace it or overcome it. Stephen Matini: I love that because the notion of courage is often associated with, you know, being fierce. You just keep moving, you move forward. But it's not necessarily what a courageous act is. Mona Makkawi: Exactly, because you can be courage, but when you will not throw yourself to lions, this will not be courage. This would be something else. You know. Even in the corporate world, I mean, being courage, it doesn't mean that you have to face the CEO or saying something against someone, you know, this is not smart. Being courageous is something that will help you maybe maneuver. Stephen Matini: I believe exactly what you said before, it is a mix about assessing the situation, be well-prepared about the dynamics, and at the same time to have a, a good understanding of yourself. A big chunk of me, me personally, becoming more courageous involved, to give myself permission to feel all that I felt, to experience all my contradictions and to be okay with different parts of myself that somehow I was running away from, you know, to understand that there's this space and time for, for everything, even to feel fearful and somehow being more okay with all those parts of myself have made me braver. Also, it gave me the ability to understand the situation better and to understand people a little bit better. Mona Makkawi: And here is not necessarily a very bad thing. It makes you prepare more, it makes you more vigilant and more, you know, aware of whatever you might face. Stephen Matini: Mona, you have seen a lot of things in your life. You know, you were telling me about your upbringing and what it means to be a woman and to continue to believe in yourself and building what was important to you. As of today, what is the one thing that it makes you feel fearful? Mona Makkawi: The unknown. The fast pace that the world is shifting into, because everything is moving very fast and, and this is maybe something that sometimes I feel uncertain about what's next? Maybe because of that. Stephen Matini: When I met you said I think the whole point is to leave this place better. The way that, that we found it. Actually very often when I feel uncertain, what gives me courage and gives me hope is just my contribution. You know, I focus on what I can do today and then what value I can bring today. And of course, I don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow or what can possibly happen five years from now. You know, I simply tend to focus on how I can contribute and somehow that gives me a lot of peace. Mona Makkawi: Yes, living the moment, I mean, this is very important. Yes. When you live in the moment, you don't pre occupy your mind with the future, which not happened yet, or the past, which you cannot change. Being present and being in the moment, this is what we have to focus on. Stephen Matini: Do you think that your daughter is going to pursue your same career or something else? Mona Makkawi: I don't know. She's very influenced by me, . I mean, she's studying business now in the university. I would love for her to pick whatever she likes, you know, it doesn't necessarily that she follows my steps. Of course, she will be welcome to to join if she wants to, to do anything else, I would support her. Of course, she has this ability to coach people even though she doesn't, she doesn't do anything about coaching. Stephen Matini: Mona, you joined the BARKAT Entrepreneur program created by Puneet Sadchev, who had the pleasure of interviewing for the podcast. The barca program is a social initiative to support female entrepreneurs in Africa and in the Middle East. What motivated you to apply for the BARKAT program? Mona Makkawi: Actually, it was through an organization, it's called L L W B, Lebanese Meet for Women in Business. So it was through them. They send usually their members any opportunities for either development, training gatherings and so on. I read about the Bar project and I found it very interesting because first it wasn't local, and second, it was, it was the first time for me to, to be coached on the business level. The concept is to connect women leaders, I mean women business owners, SMEs, owners in Lebanon together. So it was for me, great opportunity on all levels.   Stephen Matini: How has participating in the BARKAT program influenced your personal growth and leadership skills as a female entrepreneur? What's been the biggest takeaway for you?   Mona Makkawi: The group coaching is something really different and it's beneficial on all levels because you, you are not only working on your issue that you have in mind, but you also can listen and learn from the group. It's a learning experience for for anybody that's listening and the work that we, that we do outside of the coaching sessions is, is what matters and what's making the, the, the biggest difference. Because we have assignments to do and we have to support each other, creating, supporting groups, creating morning gratitude message that we send on Slack. So we have like certain things to do that are helping us. Stephen Matini: Mona, thank you so much for spending time with me. Mona Makkawi: Thank you so much, Stephen, and I really enjoyed our conversation. Thank you so much.
31:03 10/9/23

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