It is often said that something not broken should not be fixed, though that does not always apply to business strategies. If entrepreneurs keep their tactics unchanged for a long time, it will eventually become stale, and that’s where a beginner’s mindset comes into play. Dr. Diane Hamilton is joined by Heidi Spirgi, the Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Cornerstone, in discussing how every business setting must always embrace change by thinking like a beginner all over again. She also emphasizes the importance of diversity in the workplace and how the current pandemic pushes everyone to adapt.
If people within a business cannot perform at their best and leaders cannot connect well with their members, nothing will ever get done. Therefore, everyone must have a proper grasp of their skills to cause an effective cultural change. Dr. Diane Hamilton talks with Scott Peltin, the Chief Performance Officer and Cofounder at Tignum, about how leaders can improve their impact within their team, use curiosity for better performance, and reframe mindsets to challenge biases. Scott also explains how understanding cultural change can also be applied to everyday life.
I’m glad you joined us because we have Heidi Spirgi and Scott Peltin here. Heidi is the Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Cornerstone and Scott is the Chief Performance and Cofounder at Tignum. We’re going to have some interesting performance and strategy discussions. We might even get into curiosity, perception and a lot more.
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A Beginner’s Mindset With Heidi Spirgi
I am here with Heidi Spirgi who is the Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Cornerstone. She came to Cornerstone with over twenty years of experience in the HR technology industry. She previously founded a consulting firm, Knowledge Infusion, which was acquired by Appirio. She’s worked on the product, practitioner and consulting side. Now, she is leading the strategy and marketing divisions of Cornerstone. It’s nice to have you here, Heidi.
It’s great to be here, Diane. Thanks for having me.
I was looking forward to this. We have a mutual friend in Ira Wolfe. Anybody who knows Ira has got to be okay so I was looking forward to meeting you. We have a lot of things that you and I both are passionate about, some of the same things. I thought this is going to be fun to find out a little background on you because I want to find out how you got to this HR technology path.
It’s an interesting and somewhat unexpected path. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of a lifelong VP of sales. I always said, “I will never go into business. Business is boring. It lacks creativity and innovation, and all the things that I’m passionate about.” I thought I was going to go into politics and studied political science. I then found a passion for the arts. I got my Master’s in Art History and was an art curator at the beginning of my career.
I wound up working for the second largest collector of contemporary art in North America, Peter Norton. Some of you may know the name. He was the inventor and founder of Norton Computing that invented the Norton antivirus and many other groundbreaking technologies back in the ‘80s. He ended up selling his business to Symantec. He made a lot of money and started becoming an art collector. He asked me to set up a database for him. I was like, “What’s a database and why would I do that?” That has nothing to do with my interests.
Long story short, through that, I discovered how creative technology can be. Fast forward many years later, we realized that technology creates the world as we know it. To me, it’s a highly innovative and creative function. That sparked at that moment. I wound up working as a business analyst at Swiss Bank Corporation in Zurich for my first real technology job, and then at PeopleSoft for several years. What I learned and discovered, which is what continues to motivate me to this day is how fascinating, exciting and inspirational it is to think about the intersection between people, the human experience and technology.
Technology does inform our world in many ways. We have to be thoughtful. I believe we need the best brains and apply them in the right way on that problem because when applied well, it can improve human existence. That’s been my through threads. I’m not a technologist nor an engineer, but I’m passionate about how can we improve the world at large through technology. I believe if we can improve the lives of people at work, we can change the world for the good. That’s been what has kept me in this space, despite having initially no interest in business and technology, and a lot of passion for changing the world through politics or the creative artistic experience.
That’s an interesting background, especially with some of the major companies. I would love to have had some of your jobs. It sounds fascinating. My husband is from Cleveland. He’s from Wickliffe. You’ve brought up a couple of things. I worked with a lot of consultants, leaders and different people to develop curiosity. Part of it, I found what stops people from being curious is they have fear. They make assumptions and tell themselves certain things, but also technology. They can over and underutilize it. They also have an impact on their environment or everybody with whom they have ever come in contact. As I looked at curiosity, I’ve researched mindset. Carol Dweck’s research was very important, but you talk about fostering a beginner’s mindset with your team. I want to know what you mean by that.
Before I came to Cornerstone, I took a two-year sabbatical to prioritize other things in my life, other than my work world. I got into yoga during that period and discovered this concept of a beginner’s mindset. A beginner’s mindset is originally a Zen Buddhist term. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject. It’s approaching every subject or every encounter in life as a beginner would, with a complete open mind, lack of preconceived notions, a lack of bringing an expert’s mindset to the table, which means I’m bringing all of my years of experience, all of my knowledge to bear on this problem, which in many cases can close the window of innovation and openness.
It’s important as people in this world and organizations think about building their culture, which is how do you value openness, a lack of preconceived notion and a lack of expert mindset versus the opposite? It’s pretty exciting if you begin to delve into it. A lot of mistakes that we make in the business world and that the world at large are based on, “Even if it’s an underlying mindset, we’ve always done it this way,” or, “That’s how things work here. That’s the best practice.” One of my pet peeves is the term best practice because there is really no best practice. There are emerging practices. Organizations should always be learning.
People should always be learning so new practices should always be emerging because the world isn’t standing still. What was maybe best yesterday is certainly not going to be the best tomorrow. In order to define tomorrow, because the world around us is changing, we need to think about tomorrow, whether that’s tomorrow is, how does our organization, our team, or even a process function or operate? We need to come to that big challenge and that question with a beginner’s mindset and an open mind, the way a beginner or a child approaches the world.
Curiosity peaks in early childhood and it start to plummet throughout life. That is because this beginner’s mindset starts to close off. People start to rely too much on their existing knowledge and their past experience versus coming to every question, opportunity and situation with complete openness, and listening and learning. The old adage of two ears, one mouth is essential to the beginner’s mindset.
You bring up many things that everybody’s trying to do to unlock innovation. It’s almost like you’re coming to play golf and you’ve learned this bad golf swing and you have to start all over again and learn all these different things. It’s almost easier to come into an industry and not know anything because you do have that beginner’s mindset, but a lot of us have this baggage or this way of looking at things. I encourage a lot of people when I do my talks and training to look outside of their cubicle, industry and the silos in their industries even. Do you see a lot of examples of companies going and looking at outside industries for ideas or do they pretty much go by the book of what’s been invented in status quo thinking?
That is one of the biggest mistakes that companies make in terms of looking at competition and benchmarking their performance and all attributes of their organization. It’s that they tend to look too much at peers. Similarly, we make a mistake where we hire too often industry insiders particularly at the leadership and executive level. I’ll speak candidly from the world of HR technology. We have so much to learn about technology in the workplace from other industries, and how do we serve our employees and our people at work differently. We have so much to learn from how other industries operate.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. One of the things that we’re working on at Cornerstone and looking at is the way people learn in the world, not just at work but as more importantly outside of work, is very different from how people learned in the past. The challenge for corporate learning functions nowadays is, how do you enable employees to always be learning? How do you enable the intersection between work and learning on a continuous basis that it’s not something separate from work, but it’s part of work?By improving the lives of people at work, the world can be changed for the better. Click To Tweet
Therefore, how do you get the right learning in front of the right people at the right time? That’s a problem that’s been solved already by content marketing. If you look at what marketing has done and how anyone has used Instagram, Facebook, and the power of marketing in identifying patterns and attributes, we understand about the individual person, personalizing ads in the case of marketing, and how do we get the right ads to the right people?
Marketing is well ahead of Corporate America in terms of how do we get the right learning and content to people. That’s an example where looking at other industries, there so much to be learned and gained from that. We hired a new Chief Product Officer. We deliberately made the decision to hire someone without the domain expertise of human capital management software. He comes from Adobe and Marketo. There’s so much good to be gained there.
One of the things that I like to talk about when I’m trying to encourage innovation in the various companies I’ve worked for is, if you think about what happened in Florence during the Renaissance and the explosion of innovation that we saw, it wasn’t random. It wasn’t coincidental. It wasn’t by accident. It was a deliberately cultivated environment that gave yield to the Renaissance. The Medicis were a banking family in Florence. They funded creators from a whole wide variety of disciplines, artists, sculptors, poets, scientists, astronomists, philosophers, financiers, painters, architects. They brought people from all around Europe together.
They cultivated an extraordinary environment of cognitive diversity, people with very different sets of experience, backgrounds and talents. They brought them together and created a conversation and a community which gave birth to an absolute explosion of innovation. Companies have so much to learn from that because by bringing together a bunch of like-minded people who have the same set of experiences, knowledge, interests, talents and passions, what they’re going to get is more of the same. You’re not going to get that breakthrough of thinking.
To me, that is a way of cultivating the beginner’s mindset because when you intersect a sculptor and an astronomist, and you sit them down, you can almost viscerally feel the new ideas that result from it. I’d love to picture these conversations that occurred in Florence. It’s how innovation happens. It’s not from expertise. It’s from the intersection of diverse minds and backgrounds, combined with a lack of preconception.
You bring up many interesting points. I had created a brand publishing course for Forbes before I left at the Forbes School of Business. It was such a challenge back in that time for them to figure out how to get this message across at scale and make it personalized. I have to agree that marketing has done a lot to get into that mindset of how you reach your customer, how you reach even your employees in this different way. Back in the day, I had written my dissertation on emotional intelligence and I got certified in all these different personality assessments. One of them I used to give was the Myers-Briggs, which people don’t give now so much.
When we put these teams together, it was dull if you had everybody who was all the same on a team. Whatever they would create would be boring. You’d give them Legos and they’d build a boring house. You put a team together where everybody’s diverse. You give them Legos and they build you a castle and a moat and all these cool things. You get this diversity, but with that diversity and more creative output, you get much more conflict. That’s what is important to learn about curiosity and the other person to develop empathy to understand people from their perspective.
In my further research into perception, I saw it was a combination of IQ, EQ, CQ for Cultural Quotient and CQ for Curiosity Quotient together. I hear a lot about AQ as well, which is Adaptability Quotient. I’ve had people on my show, a great company called the AQai out of London, and different people who do this research about adaptability. I saw that you do some stuff with adaptability. Why do you think adaptability is going to be important?
It’s funny because I started to get interested in the topic of adaptability before the pandemic and before 2020. The easiest way to describe why it’s important is to look at what has happened to businesses and to people, humans at work in 2020. The amount of personal, professional and organizational pivot that we have all gone through in the last several months is astounding. There was a survey done on CHROs and they asked the question, what is the number one most important skillset that you believe your organization needs to focus on, hire for, cultivate, etc. in 2020 and beyond? The answer was tolerance for ambiguity. Tolerance for ambiguity has everything to do with adaptability. People who are able to adapt are able to tolerate an ambiguous world.
2020 is extraordinarily ambiguous. The reality is I expect that ambiguity to continue because it’s not just the Corona virus that is yielding a tremendous amount of ambiguity, but it’s politics, climate change, and the speed of which technology is driving change in every industry and segment. It’s being able to adapt and be comfortable in the unknown. Sometimes I get the question of, what’s the difference between AQ or Adaptability Quotient versus EQ or Emotional Quotient?
The way that I think about it is that EQ or Emotional Mastery helps people. It is very important and it will never go away, but it helps people react and deal with change. It’s still a reactive stance to change versus a proactive stance to change. AQ allows people to truly not just react to and tolerate change, but it gives them the ability to drive change, to become change agents, embrace change, counter change with confidence and resilience, and to see change as an opportunity, not as something to navigate through. It’s a very different mindset about change.
Organizational adaptiveness is one of the most important things that leaders need to seek, build and cultivate because organizational adaptiveness is going to require not only the people, but all of the structures, all of the processes, programs and systems. All of the things that we have built as defining the infrastructure of our company needs to be able to be very adaptive to the environment that we live in and to pivot, not just to react to the environment, but to be part of that change. I always say to our customers, change is the only constant. Either change is going to happen to you or you’re going to be part of the change, and you’re going to drive that change. The businesses that thrive and sustain, and people who thrive in their work environment are people who are going to be driving the change and not be the victims of it.
It’s such an important skill. I’ve talked to the people who’ve created these adaptability quotient scales. Part of what they had incorporated was curiosity in some of that. I’ve talked to a lot of people about what comes first, curiosity comes first before motivation, drive, innovation and engagement. Where does it play a part in adaptability? You have to question things. You have to have that desire to know how to react and when to react. What part do you think curiosity plays in adaptability?
It’s foundational. In order to adapt your business, yourself, your role, your skillset, you have to be willing to grow, to stretch, to change, to learn. The foundation to doing those things is curiosity. It’s hard to make yourself grow, learn or change if you’re not curious about what’s on the other side. Curiosity, I do believe is a foundational human mindset or capability that enables the process that people need to go through, which is grow, stretch, change, which can be uncomfortable.
If you’re curious about what’s on the other side, you’re excited by the opportunity to learn something new or do something different. Even though there will always be some discomfort in change, that process will be a positive experience because you’re curious about what’s on the other side. I completely agree that it’s essential. One of the questions is, what can organizations do to help their people cultivate curiosity? What can organizations do to help their people adapt in a way that they feel safe and secure?What was the best yesterday is certainly not going to be the best tomorrow. Click To Tweet
Some of the things that I work on with my teams and I try to bring into the companies that I work with is this whole focus on creating a sense of trust. Allowing for a sense and notion of risk-taking and celebrating failure. Ensuring that teams, people, my team and any team understands that adaptability requires being highly iterative, and trying new things you’ve never done before. I use a term OSM, the “oh shit” moment. It’s been core to how I manage my teams.
I asked people to co proactively cultivate, identify and create OSMs. It’s that moment where you’ve never done something before. You’re not sure if it’s going to work. It’s a grand experiment. It’s naturally going to create anywhere from a mild sense of anxiety to a high level of fear. You jump off the cliff and you say, “Here we go. We’re going to give it a go.” The only way organizations can encourage people to take those kinds of risks is by not only tolerating failure but also celebrating failure. One of the rituals I have with my teams is we call out failures. We call out and celebrate OSM. Some work, some don’t, and what did you learn and how did that feel? What did you take from it?
There are many kinds of failures. Some are not to be celebrated, but some are to be celebrated. All of the live events in 2020 have been canceled. As a company, we acquired SADA software, our number one competitor in the space. We threw our first global virtual users conference. We had over 20,000 people register. Prior attendance maxed out between the combined orgs at around 5,000. It was very big for what we had previously experienced. We were seeing all kinds of failures in the industry and like the technology fails, people couldn’t register or people couldn’t get in. A lot of companies started canceling their users’ conferences.
I went to our executive team and I said, “It’s the right thing to do.” We’re covering all the bases, but it could still fail. If it fails, it doesn’t mean that the team has failed. It simply means that we tried something new, a tremendous experiment, and there are some risks associated with that. You can’t have a breakthrough moment without tolerating risk. Fortunately, it worked out extremely well. We learned so much and got such positive feedback from our customers.
We think it will become a permanent fixture because it was such a positive event for our customers. We got such tremendous feedback, and that was a grand experiment. The culture of accepting risk and failure, and then ensuring people’s trust, that you have their back when we do fail, is essential to creating the environment in which people are willing to adapt. We could have opted out and not adapted to our new world because of the risks associated with it.
That’s a great example. I wrote about something very similar in my latest book on perception about how one person went into a sales call with another person. They both came out with completely different viewpoints if it was a success or a failure. The one who saw it as a success, it was because of everything they’ve learned from everything that happened that the other might see as a failure. That’s exactly how I see it too. That’s a great story. This has been interesting. I always had such interesting people to suggest. I was looking forward to having you on the show. I wanted to see if you wanted to share how people could follow you and learn more about what you’re working on or what you’re doing. I know you have a podcast. Anything else you want to share?
I do have a podcast. It’s called HR Labs. It’s available on all the podcast channels so please check that out. You can follow me on Twitter @HSpirgi. I’m also on LinkedIn. If you’re interested in following Cornerstone to find out what we’re up to, we have a tremendous blog called ReWork, or you can follow us on Twitter @CornerstoneInc or at our website on CornerstoneOnDemand.com. More importantly of interest to the full audience, we also have a website which I would encourage you to visit. It’s called Cornerstone Cares, and that can be reached at Cares.CSOD.com.
It’s a free learning platform available to the greater public. We’ve launched it in March 2020 in response to the pandemic. Since then we have launched free online learning courses on stress management, COVID-19 safety, interviewing techniques, and offering for people whose careers or work have been impacted by the pandemic. We also launched a free unconscious bias training out there, which we launched in response to the social unrest that we saw sweep across the world over the summer. That’s a site that we’re going to continue to keep open and available to the public because we believe there’s much value in learning to address some of our world’s biggest problems.
I knew you were doing amazing things. It was fun to chat because we both liked some of the same areas of interest. Some of this behavioral knowledge is so important. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Thank you, Diane, for having me. It was so much fun. I look forward to a future chat.
Cultural Change In The Workplace With Scott Peltin
I am here with Scott Peltin, who is the Chief Performance Officer and Cofounder at Tignum. Tignum is the world leader in helping business professionals rule their impact. I am fortunate that I got to speak at Novartis as did Scott. I’m very excited to have you here. Welcome, Scott.
Thank you. It’s great to be here with you.
I was looking at your background. It’s pretty impressive. I know you have a book that I’m interested to get into. The title is Sink, Float or Swim. You’re a highly rated speaker and high-performance experts. We’re going to have plenty to talk about. Before we go into all of that you’re doing now, I was hoping if I could get a background on you. What got you interested in performance and what led up to this?
My background is a little bit odd in the sense that I spent 25 years in the fire service, and I retired from the Phoenix Fire Department as a division chief. I always had my hands and my mind into this concept of how can human beings show up at their best even under the highest stress. Even when the cost of not being a high performer can be devastating. I went to University of Maryland and my initial degree was in kinesiology. Even then I was looking at biomechanics, human movement, and how we could be better athletes.Either change will happen to you, or you're going to be part of the change. Click To Tweet
I took a little side trip for 25 years into the fire service. I got my Master’s while I was there and continued to work on performance mindset, and how important the mindset is to how we perform. When I retired, I moved that over to a different population. The problems and the concept of what is going on in the human brain and body when we’re going from meeting to meeting, when we’re trying to be our best day in and day out, when we want to walk in the door at the end of the day and have the biggest impact on those we love. That fascinates me and that’s what Tignum was built all around.
I have some friends in the fire department. Scott Wilkins was a friend of ours. He worked here in Phoenix. He was in Mesa Fire Department. I know we’ve had some interesting stories. Were you part of when the Prescott fire and all that went on?
That was after I retired. I was out of the country traveling with clients. I remember seeing that and thinking, “That was devastating.” To have a fire that loses one firefighter, which happened to me several times during my time in the fire service, that’s already devastating. To have a fire that you lose nineteen people, that’s catastrophic.
It’s sad. We hiked up to the top of Thumb Butte and we had a nice little memorial thing up there in Prescott. It’s very inspiring what the fire service can do. People give up their lives. You’ve learned a lot about resilience working in what you were in before. I could see why that would be a focus for you. I was looking at some of your clients. I worked for AstraZeneca for twenty years. I saw you have a lot of pharmaceutical companies on here like AstraZeneca, GSK and Novartis. You were working with IBM, AOL and Intel. I was looking at who’s who. How did you get such big clients? How did you reach that level of success?
The other funny part about that is we’re a 100% word of mouth company. We have no marketing. We have no sales team. What happened was we got an opportunity to work with Sandy Ogg and he was the chief HR officer of Unilever at the time. They were facing one of the biggest HR transformation still in history. He had 3 or 4 people on his team that looked like they were going to not make it, which was the impetus for the book, Sink, Float or Swim, which they were sinkers. Yet they had this huge talent and huge potential. As human beings, they weren’t doing the things that would help them show up at their best. Sandy took a chance and hired us. As it turns out, Sandy is a very influential guy.
When people start talking about and start seeing like, “What did your team do that changed them so profoundly?” They asked and you know how the business world is. You work with someone in Novartis and then they go to GSK or AstraZeneca or start a biotech firm like Denali that wants to cure Alzheimer’s. Before you know it, you’re a little bit here and there. That’s been the most fun journey of all is to see where we can go and the people we’ve gotten to work with.
You have a co-author, Jogi Rippel. Does he work with you as well? Did you write this book in addition to or on the outside of that?
No. We work hand in hand. We always joke that we’re brothers from a different mother because he’s from Germany and I’m from Washington, DC but lived in Phoenix for a long time now. Our paths crossed at Athlete’s Performance that trained world-class athletes. He had this idea for taking them. It was his baby, his idea because his father had passed away from cancer. In our meeting, I shared with him that my father also died at 53, not from cancer but died young. I started sharing with him my passion for human performance. He was sharing his passion for helping top executives, not wait until it’s too late to invest in themselves.
His background is in marketing and communication. When you take someone like my background, I’m a scientist, exercise physiology, and performance psychology. You connect that with the emotional side of how you communicate and share ideas. It was an amazing company together and very unlikely because our paths on a cross for three days. It shows that maybe there’s nothing that’s not predestined. I don’t know.
It sounds like you are very much interested in what I’m interested in. Performance and the behavioral aspect at business is challenging. I still teach for a lot of different universities. We talk about culture and how it trickles down. If you have a certain culture at the top, it’s very hard to change. When you work with these companies, I imagine they come to you because the top has bought into the need for cultural change. Have you ever tried to hit it in the middle and can you do that? Can you change the culture throughout the company, without the buy-in from the top?
The cool thing that we do is we often work with a leader in their team. It is always better when it’s supported from the top. I do have some examples of times where the leadership didn’t 100% support it. It was very frustrating and it could only go so far. Each team has its own culture, and that’s one of the things you learned in the fire service. If you’re on Engine 21 versus Engine 3, although you’re in the same bounds, the unique culture of that setting and the leadership are unique. When you work with a leader who wants their team to be what we would call sustainable high impactors, showing up at their best and making the best impact, then you can create a culture even within that team. That’s a cool thing to do.
You write about Sink, Float or Swim, and you talk about sinkers. You break people into three categories, the sinkers, floaters and the swimmers. How do you know which one you are?
In the book, we give some examples of what are the things that a swimmer does, a floater does, and a sinker does. The idea is not to categorize people because that can also be a little demoralizing in a sense. The idea is that everyone can move from the left being a sinker to the right, being a swimmer. The name came from when we were looking at all of our data during the last recession in 2008. We realized that on one side, there were these people that were struggling. Many were burning out. On the other side, there were these people that got better and better even under high stress. They got stronger. They had specific strategies they were using. Many of the ones that we were teaching. Some that we learned from them what they were doing.
We started benchmarking that against, what is the high performing special operations guys do in the military and what do athletes do? In many ways, the idea of human performance in business is about 30 years behind these other places. That’s what we started to realize. We then realized there was a huge group in the middle, which was the highest opportunity. They were trying to keep their head above water to make it through today, this week or next month. They didn’t realize that they could be better. We started to show them that was a product of the choices they made, day in and day out. If they just became more aware of those choices, they could move to become a swimmer.
What you talked about is tied into some of the research that I did with curiosity. I know you spoke at Novartis’ Curiosity Month as I did. I’m curious what your topic was of how it’s tied into curiosity, first of all.You can't have a breakthrough moment without tolerating risk. Click To Tweet
We look number one at mindset as a built by mindset skills. Curiosity is one mindset skill, which means it can be grown. It can be practiced. What I tried to do is get people to be curious about themselves. To get simple, I’m curious about what I do before I go to bed that maximizes the quality of my sleep. I’m curious about how movement can activate my brain and not only make me smarter, but make me more creative. I’m curious at when I know a moment is coming like I have a critical one-on-one meeting, how can I add curiosity to that and make myself more curious about that person, and more curious about what success would look like. Suddenly, my relationship changes.
Since we know that all human performance in teams is built on relationships, and relationships are built by moments, then my curiosity in that moment is a big impact differentiator. That’s what we did. Even getting people curious about food because so much what you hear about nutrition is about deprivation, “Don’t eat that. Don’t eat that much.” You want people to get curious about what foods wake you up, how the enjoyment of food, the partnership with food, the relationship with food changes the way you eat and all of a sudden, it’s a different dance.
My next book that I co-authored with Dr. Maja Zelihic is based on perception, and curiosity plays a big role in perception in the workplace. That would be your perception of the food of being an enemy or something you can work with. If you look at perception, it’s a combination of EQ, IQ, CQ for Cultural Quotient but also CQ for Curiosity Quotient. As you ask these questions in the workplace, teams are much more able to work together. You do a lot with energy resilience, stamina, mental agility, fulfillment and growth. I was looking at some of the stuff that you maximize. Do you deal with training them in the areas of perception or curiosity, or is that a by-product of the other stuff you do?
Those would be mindset skills. The four areas we focus on is mindset, nutrition, movement and recovery, and how you integrate those four things. The more your performance is a peak performance, one where you can make a big impact, the more it’s mindset driven. That mindset has to be supported by the food you eat, the recovery that you get, and the movement that you do. A lot of our stuff is built around how do you build a high-performance mindset. One of the big skills in building a high-performance mindset is reframing.
Reframing is an exercise of building a new perspective. It’s being able to put something, whether it’s a problem, a story, your self-talk or even your self-image. You put it in the middle of the table or walk around it, and give yourself a different perspective. Look at it from different angles. That’s often an exercise we’ll do with people even around their bias because you can’t change your perspective if you don’t understand your bias.
One of the problems we see now, I’m sure you see also, is people’s fatigue levels are high and especially their emotional fatigue. Fatigue forces the brain to double down on our biases because bias is an efficiency tool. If I don’t need to think different, that will take energy. Why would I spend energy that I don’t have? I’m going to double down on my bias. We see that everywhere in society and leadership, which is sad right now. Coming back to reframing and making sure that I have the energy to challenge my bias, walk around and look at these things from different perspectives is huge.
You’ve used the word mindset a few times. In my research in curiosity, I use Carol Dweck’s work on mindset, which was instrumental of having a growth versus a fixed mindset. As you’re talking about this, what came to mind and you mentioned self-talk, the four things I found that keep people from being curious are fear, assumptions, which is that self-talk or what we are saying in our minds, technology and environment. Those are the four factors. You talk about bias. We hear a lot about confirmation bias and it’s something that we’re having a hard time getting around right now. Do you make any suggestions about it in general? A lot of what we read is their Facebook or social media or their news station. We tend to listening to the same things that confirm our bias, but at work that’s a little different scenario. Do you ask them to work on this outside of work as well, or is this within work focused?
All the strategies that we teach apply equally away from work and at work. That’s one of the very important things that we push. Impact is impact. This whole concept of overcoming what we already think, one of the ways that we do that is we first try to get people to realize that none of us can outperform our own self-image. Therefore, own yourself image, create it and make it the way you want. Don’t have a default self-image from your parents, media, social media, friends, and all these other places. If you don’t allow others to define who you are, you’re already ahead of the game.
The second piece of that is we are very big in what we call intention setting. How do I want to be perceived? What do I want you to know? How do I want you to feel? Imagine if I’m going into a situation where I want to be perceived with a growth mindset, a person who’s open and willing to challenge my bias. What do I want you to know? Although I may have opinions, I’m open to learn from you and I’m curious about what you have to teach me. How do I want you to feel? I want you to feel trusted, listened to, heard, loved or whatever that is. When I add those intentions, I prime my brain to step outside of what I already know. That’s a couple of techniques that we found have been pragmatic but powerful.
I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence. Empathy is a huge part of emotional intelligence. The ability to be curious and ask people more about themselves, not only do you get a perspective unlike your own, but you’re able to build that empathy to appreciate their perception and their perspective. I don’t think a lot of people want to try and find out what other people are thinking. They don’t even think to go there. How do you get people to think to even go there?
One perspective that we try to get people to think about is your perspective on competition. If your perspective of competition is war, then there has to be a winner and a loser already, “I have to be right. You have to be wrong.” What you find from the research, even in athletes, is that can be very destructive. It leads to cheating. It leads to shortcuts. It shortens your career. It leads to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. If we can reframe that perspective to competition as partnership, “I need you as my competitor to help me be my best. You inspire me. We’re in this journey together. Even if I want to win and you want to win, that’s okay because I appreciate you as a competitor.” You see that in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in tennis. You’re seeing that more and more.
We get people to look first with that perspective, how do you see competition? When you realize that when you see competition as partnership, everything becomes more fun. You become more curious. You’re a better collaborator. You build better relationships. You’re healthier. You burn out less. When you see that and you see a Roger Federer who can have such a long successful career, and you compare that to some other tennis players before who had very short careers because they had huge anger issues. You say, “There’s something interesting there.”
I’m thinking of Jimmy Connors or some of the others who were getting a little angry at some of the stuff. They still were successful to some extent. Is any of it a game or a show? Did you find that a lot of the athletes did have anger issues?
There’s such a thing as controlled aggression. Learning to use aggression as an impetus to build energy or focus. We do know that stress is the greatest human performance enhancement tool there is. It has a point, but it’s not sustainable. That’s the problem. If your entire perspective is one way, then it’s not something you’re using for a short moment to get a burst of energy. It is ruling you. It’s changing your self-image. That’s the difference. Even for my executives, sometimes I get angry at myself because I didn’t prepare it like I should have. I use that to fuel me to get better to push myself out of my comfort zone. You talk about potential. I want to unleash my human potential.Don't have a default self-image from your parents, media, social media, friends, and all these other places. Click To Tweet
I can only do that and sometimes I’m disappointed. That’s another piece of it. We’ve been a little bit poisoned to think that the only emotions that I should feel as a human being are the good ones. I should be happy, fulfilled and loved. We forget that sometimes sadness, despair and anxiety, those emotions teach me a lot. Embrace those also. When I embrace them and I don’t fear them, then my perspective on them is a positive perspective even though it doesn’t feel good, and that’s okay.
A lot of companies are dealing with a lot of people who are fearing the situation right now with COVID and their job security. You’re here in Arizona as I am. Now, we can’t travel and you’re not very much at least. How has that impacted your job and the people with whom you work? Is there a new focus that you had to dwell on in your training programs because of that?
We went virtual as we probably all, which is weird but it’s cool also because it created some opportunities that I noticed that we could make a bigger impact in some areas. One thing I noticed is it takes way more energy as the presenter because you don’t get the same energy back. It’s much harder to multiply my energy and get my energy multiplied back. Because we studied this area so much and we’re coaching many high performers and executives in different arenas, one of the things that we do is that you get to share what your observation is.
One of those observations is people are tired, but it’s a different type of tired because we’re not traveling so we don’t have jet lag. We’re not sleeping in different beds. If you look at people, their sleep quantity has gone up. Probably about 45 minutes more a night, most people have added, but their fatigue level went up and they couldn’t figure it out. What we’ve seen one thing is that sleep quality went down. Why would that happen? One reason is the fatigue that they’re feeling is both cognitive fatigues, brain fog and emotional fatigue.
When we have emotional fatigue, we tend to have more ruminating thoughts. We tend to be more sympathetically dominant so our fight or flight is engaged. Therefore, we don’t have the quality of sleep. Helping people realize that what you’re feeling is normal. The strategies that you use for physical recovery are quite different than emotional recovery. Let’s get the right strategies for the right type of fatigue.
Do you deal with meditation in that realm or is it more eating or exercise? Do you get into that depth?
Meditation would be one. Most people think so commonly and this helped us understand this better, is people would say something like, “Scott, five years ago, after working with you guys, I started exercising more and that gave me way more energy. Now, I find I’m not as excited to exercise. I don’t feel that same energy all day. Why is that?” They would say, “Eight years ago I started meditating and I meditate every morning for twenty minutes, but now I find I’m frazzled still on the day and I still feel overwhelmed. Why isn’t meditation working anymore?”
We would tell them, “Both of those are still very viable and great tools. What it’s telling you is things are changing and you need more tools. You need the right tool at the right time.” I’ll have a lot of my clients now do a five-minute meditation in the middle of the day as a cognitive reset. We’ll change movement from being high-intensity to also being a recovery tool, or using some novel movements where you have balance in three-dimensional movements as a way to activate your brain when you’ve been sitting in front of a computer the whole time. We’ll build in emotional recovery things like planning for fun, and making sure that you’re talking to someone, and reflecting on what you did well and keeping a journal about what you learned. Learning shows that the energy I’m putting into something is paying me back. It’s easy to forget that when you’re overwhelmed.
Those are all important points in a time and we need a lot of this advice. You do some amazing things. It’s nice to know you’re here in Arizona. I don’t meet a lot of people on my show from here. I was looking forward to having you on. A lot of people would like to find out more about Tignum and you. Is there some way they could follow you?
If you go to www.Tignum.com, you’ll see our Tignum Thoughts, which is our blogs. These are experiences that we had with clients thinking that if this was one person’s challenge, it’s probably many people’s challenge. It’s similar to what you do. You want to share how we can help people. You can also find our book there. You can find it on Amazon. If you go to our website, you can see how to reach out to us. We always love the conversations. We’re not on any of the blog casts or blogs or insider universe right now. We have a digital platform called Tignum X, meaning the multiplier. Everything is not always easily available, but you can always find us on our website.
It’s so nice of you to do this, Scott. I was looking forward to it. You have interesting background on everything that you do, and great success with all those amazing clients. Thank you for sharing it.
Thank you, Diane. It’s great meeting you. I hope one day we can meet face-to-face since we live in the same area.
Wouldn’t that be nice? If I ever leave my house again.
I’d like to thank both Heidi and Scott for being my guests. We get many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can find them at DrDianeHamilton.com. You can find us wherever podcasts air, and on all the radio stations listed on our site. I enjoy having behavioral experts. Some of the topics that we get into on the show are fascinating. If you’ve missed any past episodes, check them out. I hope you enjoyed our guests. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
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About Heidi Spirgi
More than 20 years of experience helping organizations unleash the power of their workforce by identifying and implementing innovative talent practices and technology. As Chief Strategy + Marketing Officer at Cornerstone, currently leading the company’s global marketing functions, driving strategy and innovation for the business and helping to define the vision for the next generation of Cornerstone’s solutions focused on talent experience.
Experienced in leading teams to drive change and create new ways of operating with a people-first mindset with the goal of building companies, teams and customers for life! And passionate about rethinking how work gets done in the future, how companies can motivate and engage talent, and how businesses create innovative cultures and teams built on cognitive and demographic diversity. Let’s share our experiences to connect on technology, the future of work, talent management, and opportunity and inclusion, my biggest passion.
About Scott Peltin
Scott Peltin is the founder and chief performance officer of Tignum, a company that helps executive clients achieve their full potential. He’s worked with CEOs, C-level executives, professional athletes, and many top leaders to improve their performance and sustainability.
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