For companies with a multi-generational workforce, it is oftentimes difficult to find a common ground, especially in terms of workplace trends. Chester Elton’s work revolves around helping clients engage their employees to execute strategy, vision, and values by providing real solutions and building team dynamics. One of the systems he has developed is job sculpting which helps drive productivity by getting people to do what they’re passionate about. Treating each other with respect also goes along way. He teaches that you must challenge the idea, not the person. There are countless challenges for leadership today. Jacqueline Carter tries to address some of that with her company, Potential Project. Jacqueline provides customized leadership and organizational training programs based on mindfulness. She says leaders who promote a people-centric culture are more likely to thrive and not just survive.
We’ve got two bestselling authors on the show. It’s going to be fascinating because we have Chester Elton and Jacqueline Carter. Chester is the bestselling author on so many lists, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times. His books are All In, The Carrot Principle and The Best Team Wins is his latest. Then we’re going to speak with Jacqueline Carter, who’s also a bestselling author. She’s written several books. She’s the author of One Second Ahead and her latest book is The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results.
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Driving Workplace Trends with Chester Elton
I am with Chester Elton. He’s one of today’s most influential voices in workplace trends and has spent two decades helping clients engage their employees to execute on strategy, vision, and values. In his provocative, inspiring, and always entertaining talks, number one bestselling leadership author Chester Elton provides real solutions to leaders looking to manage change, drive innovation, and lead a multi-generational workforce. Elton’s work is supported by research with more than 850,000 working adults revealing that proven secrets beyond high-performance cultures and teams. Elton is a co-author of New York Times and number one USA Today, Wall Street Journal best-selling leadership books All In, The Carrot Principle and The Best Team Wins. His books have been translated into more than 30 languages and sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide. It’s so nice to have you here, Chester.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here with you too.
I’m looking forward to getting to know more about you and your work. I didn’t realize you were a part of that group. I’m curious to talk to you guys about what you do with Marshall Goldsmith and all that. Maybe we’ll get a chance to touch on that. I’m very interested in talking about what you do because I watched a lot of your videos. You are funny by the way. You have a great style. I could see why people would want to hire you because you’re very funny and smooth. I know you’ve done a lot of work with culture and global training, so you’re called the Apostle of Appreciation. I’m curious how you got that title.
When we wrote The Carrot Principle, it was reviewed in a bunch of different newspapers. The Toronto Globe and Mail, which is Canada’s largest newspaper. In reviewing the book, it adopted me and my co-author, Adrian Gostick, as The Apostles of Appreciation. We loved the title so much, I kept it. What makes it fun is Adrian and I are both Canadian. I was born in Edmonton and grew up in Vancouver, and he lived in Montreal and Edmonton. To get props from your country’s biggest newspaper was fun. it’s always better when somebody else gives you the title than the self-proclaimed. We have revivals and we get people singing hallelujah and amen. It’s been great fun.
You’ve got your latest book, The Best Team Wins: The New Science of High-performance. I’m curious what you mean by the science of high performance.
Adrian and I, our journey was we started in recognition. We went to culture, and that was our book All In. We figured out if you didn’t get the culture right, the recognition didn’t matter. In every great culture we looked at, people are not doing just what they were good at but what they were passionate about. We developed an online assessment in a book we self-published called What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions to Work. From that work, it was very clear to us that if you get the culture right, you get the right people in the right jobs doing what they’re passionate about. The promise of the culture, whatever it might be, innovation, customer service, on-time delivery, promise is kept by the teams that are closest to the client. We looked at that and said the dynamics of today’s workplace in teams is so different. It’s almost like everything you learned about teams over the last ten or fifteen years, you need to put to the side.
There have never been more generations working in the workforce at the same time. There’s still a few traditionals. You got baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y. You got millennials, you’ve got Gen Z coming in. That dynamic in and of itself is so different than we’ve ever had before. Then you talk about diversity and you look at not just race and gender, but look at diversity and traditions and locations. You got gate employees and temporary employees. You’ve got a mobile workplace, you’ve got different languages, and so on. All these dynamics come to play. You’re the team leader. How do you deal with that? We talk about the new science. We didn’t just look at it from an experiential standpoint. What we also wanted to look at was the data. Over the years, we’ve collected over 850,000 engagements surveys. We have 50,000 of our own motivator’s assessments. What are the different motivators for a generationally and bad location and industry? It all came and coalesced around what we found to be these five disciplines of the new team dynamic. That’s the science behind the five dimensions.
I’m working on my own assessment because I’m writing a book on a curiosity. That’s challenging to create the assessment like that. I’m curious how your engagement surveys different for something like from Gallup’s. Did you find that you needed to adjust based on different things that they were or were not including?
The data that we looked at, it was 850,000, that’s a database that was generous generated by Willis Towers Watson. It was a global database which and they gave us access to it to then take a deeper dive particularly in the cultural side, and then ongoing on the teamwork side. The assessment, we had developed by Jean Graves and Travis Bradberry. They were the two that developed the Emotional Intelligence 2.0. You’ll love this, you talk about cultural fit. When we contacted them and said, “We see a need for a motivator’s assessment.” You get the Myers-Briggs, that’s who you are. Gallup StrengthsFinder, that’s what I’m good at. What we felt was missing was that passion piece. What we found, particularly in senior executives, is that they good at what they did and well compensated, but their passions lay elsewhere. As we develop this assessment to be able to identify passions, we developed a system called job sculpting. There are certain things that we can get you to do that you’re passionate about, maybe offload or reduce some of the things that you’re not as passionate about. It drove incredible satisfaction at work and it drove incredible productivity.
It was a lot from that database that we said if we’re building a team, we want to make sure that we’ve got some things in common, a common language. Family is important to us, social responsibility, and team building. Then we want diversity. I want somebody on my team that’s a caregiver. I want somebody on my team that’s just focused on the customer. I want somebody on my team that worries about the money. That became interesting as well as where do we have disconnects or areas of cautious. In other words, if pressure is a big motivator for me but not for you, that’s going to screw up the team dynamic. A lot of that research, case studies, and science went into identifying these five disciplines of the new team in the workplace that is so dynamic.
I spoke for Forbes at one time with Travis Bradberry. I didn’t get a chance to meet him there, but I’m interested in anything emotional intelligence-based because I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence. The fact that you had them create your survey instruments is fascinating to me also. Also, I had a done a lot of training in teams and I saw that you wrote that 80% of employees’ days are spent working on teams. Is it that high?
It is. There are so few solo practitioners anymore. The business and the world is just so complex. There are very few jobs that you can say, “I’m just going to have one person do this all by themselves.” There’s got to be some support, some team. What we found is the teams without borders were the most dynamic and the most efficient. In other words, they were teams that were able to break through the style and break through different departments in the organization to get things done. That’s all about being passionate about your project and wanting to make a difference, and then being able to have the rapport and the skills to reach out to bring in the right people for a successful project.
I know you’ve done so many different training sessions with teams in different things that you do. In the work that I’ve done, as a Myers-Briggs instructor in some of the things that I know, I just found that the more diverse the teams were, the more interesting the product they created, but then the more issues you had with people getting along. How challenging did you find these? Teams keep changing too. You’re on one for a while and then you finally get the dynamic down and then you got to go to another one. Is that something to deal with as well?
Absolutely. One of the disciplines that we have is in high-performance teams. They have a culture where they could challenge everything. That’s easily said and hard to execute. We had a case study of Bell Helicopter where Mitch Snyder came in as the new CEO and said, “We make reliable helicopters. They are engineering wonders. It’s a helicopter. How cool is that?” The design was lacking. What he did is he says, “We’ve got to change. Military contracts and the meetings are great. Our clients just don’t think we have cool design.”In today’s world, it’s not good enough to have a functioning product. There’s got to be a cool factor. There’s got to be an appeal. What he did is he brought in designers from sci-fi movies and video games, these imagine engineers as they call it, and said, “I want you to work with my aviation engineers. I want you to create the next generation of helicopters.”
You can imagine how the aviation engineers that had been at Bell for decades felt about these young guys coming in that show design cool space ships for movies and video games, but they don’t actually have to work. It’s all just pretend. The dynamic there was interesting and he said when they first got in, there was not a lot of respect. There was a lot of mocking. The engine aviation engineers would say, “Here’s the latest product.”The design guys will say, “What if we made it look like this?” They say, “No, it won’t work. No, it won’t fly. No, that will crash.” He said, “It was like a ping pong ball back and forth.” They had to put in some rules around that. This is what is helpful, particularly when you’ve got a lot of movement on your teams.
What are the rules of engagement? We tapped into an interesting study done by Google. There are over a hundred teams at Google, they want to find out what was the dynamic of the most innovative teams. It was like a 190 teams over five years, and called it The Aristotle Project. What better place to study innovation than in Google? The number one element you had to have on your team was emotional security. I had to feel like if I voice an opinion or I participate, I’m emotionally safe. I heard this interview on NPR.As they were going through this first step, the interviewer said, “Can you sum up emotional security and emotional safety? Sum it up in a few words.” He goes, “Yes, I can sum it up in two words. Be nice.” Be nice to each other and treat each other with respect. Challenge the idea, not the person. Nobody laughs, nobody mocks. Every idea has to be considered. They started to lay down these ground rules. Respect went up, communication went up. It was safe.
What was fascinating about it is that they started producing incredible designs and products. When you know the rules of engagement, it helps. We’ve done a lot of interviews in our book. People said, “What was your bigger a-ha?” I said what my big a-ha was how important soft skills still are in the workplace, that “be nice.” When we look to build these great teams and get the right cultural fit, we look at resumes, we look at education experience, and we look at GPA in school. We don’t spend nearly enough time on what are their soft skills like? Is this somebody we can work with? Is this somebody that when they show up, we’re going to go, “Brendan is here,” as opposed to, “He showed up again.” Everybody’s got the flu and he’s the one guy that didn’t.
They say they are hired for their hard skills and fired for their soft skills, basically. You’re hired for what and you’re fired for what you do. If you can’t play nice, that’s huge. To me, that’s a big glue that holds it all together. I reviewed the program when I was MBA program chair. The biggest thing I said we needed to do was incorporate was more soft skills because you’re not getting them so much in universities, and then the companies aren’t is well prepared to do it. I saw your talk where you were talking about how the number one reason people leave the company is their boss. That’s such a huge factor because their skills are bad. You said people take less money to get away from a bad manager, and it’s true. I don’t think we’re training people well enough. What are you doing to help people with their soft skills?
At the beginning we’re talking about Marshall Goldsmith’s 100Coaches.He invited me to be a part of that. I didn’t realize it’s a big deal. Marshall and I have known each other. We see each other at conferences from time to time. He and I both made this guru list, the top 30 gurus in leadership. He is number one in coaching, and I am like number five in organizational culture. What I love about Marshall’s approach is he does coach soft skills, and how he gets to stake holders involved. I love that whole process where I say, “I’m going to work on this behavior.” You’ve got to let everybody in your team know as well that this is what you’re working. It’s like something simple. You got to stop swearing. It’s not just the swearing, it’s that they just eviscerate people. They’re mean. I can have a goal to stop swearing. If I keep it to myself, then I don’t swear for six months, but I’m not checking in with people. People may not notice. Then I swear one more time, “Chester, he’s got a little potty mouth.”I’m working on not swearing and check in with them and say, “If you noticed, I’m not swearing.” Then when you slip they go, “He just slipped. He’s actually been doing well.”
A long answer to your question is when you start working on people with their soft skills, you’ve got to give them the coaching and the training and the tools to deliver on that niceness. At the beginning of our book, we talked about the International Space Station team that was headed up by Chris Hadfield, another proud Canadian. He had this diverse team, with three Russian cosmonauts, two American astronauts, and he’s in the middle. Different generations, different languages, and different backgrounds had all the technical skills. When they went up, and they do this six months at a time, you get six grown men in a very confined space for six months. He said, “We over-delivered on every assignment we had. Yes, we were smart. Yes, we were prepared.”
The biggest factor to him was the one unwritten rule they had. I think about this for developing soft skills. He says, “Every astronaut was required to perform one random act of kindness for every other astronaut every day.”You think that’s just silly, just got to get the job done. He said, “That builds a culture of caring.”They’re not big things. “I’ll clean up, I’ll cook dinner, let me help you with the calculations. I’ll take that shift.”He said, “The message is I care about you. I’m on your team. I’m cheering for you. I’ve got your back, and I love you.”
The research outcome is he said, “We never had a heated argument. We never had hurt feelings. We never had an emotional blow up. It wasn’t because we were technically proficient, it’s because we cared about each other.” That’s a soft skill. You start to put things in there, like your culture. We debate the idea, not the person. It’s going to be emotionally safe. We talked about in our book about managing to the want. I know what you’re passionate about. I know what it is that you care about and it’s going to be different for every person. Old school is we treat everybody the same, that’s fair. New school is you can’t treat everybody the same because everybody is not the same way. These guys grew up in Russia, you grew up in Oklahoma. It’s going to be different.
I often talk about how you can’t do the old ways of the golden rule. It’s the platinum rule, because you got to know how they want to be treated. You don’t treat them the way you’d want to be treated. When you’re talking about the astronauts, what comes to mind is an episode of the Big Bang Theory where the guys all had to gather up in the North Pole and they all want to kill each other by the end of it.
Some of those skills or what you’re talking about would work in a marriage. In a way, you’re thinking about the nice things you can do for one another to avoid these conflicts. You meet so many people where they’ll go, “You want to know what your problem is?” They start with all this negative tones. All the things you’re talking about are just so important. It just seems like such common sense. Why do you think people lack soft skills to begin with?
I love that expression, I’ve referred to it often. “This is common sense that is uncommonly practice.” A lot of it comes back to your first manager. A lot of it comes back to what is the culture that you’re in. We watch our bosses. If we want to be a boss, we look at the way the boss acts and we act like the boss. It’s got to start at the top. Culture always does. We look at those behaviors. Soft skills don’t get as much attention because we just don’t see it enough. You look at the great cultures. The difference between good leaders and extraordinary leaders are the soft skills.
The great leaders care about their people and their people know they care, and because they know they care, they care back. They won’t let you down. They give their discretionary effort. That’s the science part. It’s behavioral. You’ve got to set the tone. That was what was so much fun looking at these different teams. We just did a fun interview with Bill Manning who’s the President of Toronto FC. He had great success in Salt Lake City, one of the smallest markets in the MLS. It took him to two championship games and they won the cup. He gets hired to go up to Toronto. Toronto has a rabid fan base. Lots of Europeans live there and they love soccer, but they had very little success. They bring Bill up and he talked to his 65 employees.
These sports teams don’t have as many employees as you think. I said, “What’s, the one thing we should all be driving towards every day?” He says, “I got 65 different answers. I gathered everybody together and I said, there’s one thing that we’re all headed towards. It’s an MLS cup. That’s it. It’s simple. Everything we do from the food to the ushers to security to the in game experience, it’s all around this culture of excellence that’s going to win us a cup.” Here’s a team that had never made it to the playoffs, and his first year they made the playoffs. Second year, they got to the championship game and lost to Seattle. Last year, got to the championship game and won. It goes down as one of the best seasons in the history of MLS.
They had the best record in the regular season so they won the Supporters’ Shield. They won the Canada Cup, which is the nation’s tournament. They won the MLS Cup. As I’m talking to him about all the things he did, recognizing people every month and empowering people to be innovative, he talked about all the little things they did and the little things that they created. “We pick up the trash. We make sure that we look at our customers in the eye. We don’t let anything escape. If a kid’s having a hard day, we go over and we help the parents.” They said, “Bill, you’ve had phenomenal success. You keep talking about the little things.” He said, “Everybody does the big things. You have to do the big thing. The difference between good and extraordinary is always the little things.”
You have had such great interactions with so many amazing companies. I saw how you’ve consulted with American Express, AT&T, Avis, and the list goes on and on. I’m sure you get to hear some amazing stories and you share them in your books that have been just a very successful. I’m sure a lot of people want to know about your latest book, how they could find it and how they can reach you. Can you just share all that for everybody?
We have a wonderful training company called The Culture Works, TheCultureWorks.com. You can get a lot of our white papers and stuff there. Our books are available as they say, “find bookstores everywhere online in Amazon.” We make sure we always have good placement at the airport for those of you who travel. I can be reached on LinkedIn, as well as Adrian. We’ve got a great presence there. We have lots of followers. We publish regularly about research and excerpts of the book. One of the fun things we did with this book and we do it with all our books, is the back section.
There are 101 tips on how to engage your team. These are all tips that we got from people that we’ve worked with. They’re real life. It’s not like, “Have a toga party. Have a toga party and bring pizza.” These are things that people actually did. What we’ve done is we took the audio files because we read our books. If you want Audible, which is a great way to listen to a book, we took those little 90-second clips and we’re posting them on LinkedIn. If you want a little 90-second audio clip on a tip on how to engage your team, it’s there, we’d love you to tune in.
I am looking forward to seeing how well your book does. I’m sure it’s going to be amazing like all your other ones. Thank you for being on the show.
We always say, the more books you buy, the more books you loan. Buy as many books as you can.
Thank you so much for being on the show.
The pleasure is mine. This was great.
Mindfulness Leadership with Jacqueline Carter
I am with Jacqueline Carter who is an international partner and North American Director at Potential Project, which is the global leader in customized leadership and organizational training programs based on mindfulness. Potential Project works with Fortune 500 companies such as Accenture, Microsoft, Lego, Nike, EY and KPMG among others across multiple countries. Jacqueline and Rasmus Hougaard who is the founder and managing director at Potential Project are the authors of One Second Ahead and their latest book is titled The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results. It’s nice to have you here, Jacqueline.
Thank you so much, Diane. It’s great to be here.
I love anything associated with understanding the mind and a potential of people and what they’re capable of achieving. You have written some amazing books. I was looking at some of the data out there and I read that $46 billion a year is spent on leadership training, but Gallup shows that 82% of employees find their leaders uninspiring. I’m curious why you think that there might be a gap there. If they’re spending so much money, why aren’t they getting better results?
That was one of the big questions that we started out when we were trying to figure out what are the challenges for leadership today? Why are we spending so much money on leadership development, and what are organizations getting for it? It comes down to a couple of things. Leadership today is different than it was even five or ten years ago. It’s harder now and there are a couple of reasons why it’s harder. Number one is because as we’re looking at all of the different dynamics within business today in terms of globalization, complexity, radical change, and major disruption across any industry. It is hard for any individual, let alone any leader, to keep up.
At the same time, most of us are inundated with distractions and devices and information overload, making it very difficult for us to stay focused and to stay present. At the same time, we’ve got this next generation of employees that are saying, “I’m not sure that working for the same company for the next ten to fifteen years works for me. I want to be engaged. What are you doing for me?” We’re just at this inflection point where one of the things is it’s challenging to be a successful leader today. That was what we set out, is to try to understand what are the challenges for leaders today and what can they do to be able to be more successful and not just survive, which a lot of them are just surviving in today’s environment, but how do they actually thrive? That’s good background for us.
You mentioned people wanting to be engaged. Marriott has got this engagement score of 80%,as opposed to the global average of 13%. What do they know that the rest of the world doesn’t know? Did you look into that? That was in some of your literature I saw.
Marriott, you told me it’s okay for me to share the secrets. The secret is so simple. They have a business philosophy and we spoke with Arne Sorenson who actually wrote the foreword for the book. He’s just an incredible man, but this is part of Marriott’s philosophy since they started as a pop shop in early days. Their philosophy is, “If we take care of our people, they will take care of our guests, and business will take care of itself.” Instead of focusing on their shareholders and they’re very accountable to their shareholders, which all organizations need to be, first and foremost, their commitment and their focus is on their people. That was one of the things that we saw.
Organizations that we believe are going to be successful, not only now but in the future, have an extremely strong people-centric culture. If you look into this, this focus on shareholder wealth, and quarterly results and all of the pressure that some of the organizations are facing now in terms of very short term financial returns, it has only happened in the last ten, fifteen years. What we’re seeing now is organizations that are able to look for the long-term and able to put people first and have people-centric cultures, which is not easy to do, but it’s very possible. That’s what we’re seeing and that’s what Marriott does. That results to over 80% engagement scores. It speaks to how well they take care of their people and put their people first.
I was always wondering if this was true because I stay at a Marriott, they have the best beds. They only carry Pepsi products. I don’t even know if you’ve ever talked about any of this with them. I’ve asked when I’ve stayed there, and they always tell me that they at one time needed a loan and Pepsi bailed them out and they’ve always been loyal because of that. Is that a true story?
I don’t know for sure about that one. One of the things that I found and I challenge all of your audience, when I stay at a Marriott, which I do quite often because they’re one of our clients and we love them, no matter whether I’m speaking with somebody serving me in the restaurant or the front desk or a housekeeper that’s coming in to clean my room, they look right at you. They smile at you and they look you in the eyes. They don’t just look down and pretend they’re not there. They ask questions like, “How are you doing today?”They wait and see what your answer is. They do seem to care. It is around recognizing, and this would be something for any CEO. You’re not the one that’s working directly with your customers. Even as important as you are, looking at who it is that’s greeting your customers on a daily basis, if they’re not happy and engaged and feeling proud to be part of your organization, you’re in trouble.
Engagement is a hot topic right now, and so are emotional intelligence and some of the things that we hear about for leaders. It was interesting that Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, said that empathy is bad for leaders, but compassion is good. What do you think of that statement?
It is a great statement because it’s good to get conversation going. It’s not that empathy in and of itself is bad. It is very important that as leaders that we can empathize with our employees, of course that’s important. The difference being in the scenario that I would give to you is let’s say you and I were working together. You came in to my office and you saw that I was completely overwhelmed. I had a stack of emails and papers and reports I need to get through and I was just feeling miserable. You wanted to be a wonderful, empathetic leader and you came in, you said, “Jacqueline, it looks like you’re having a bad day.”
You sat down beside me and you were miserable with me. That would be empathy. Maybe I would feel great a little bit because you are resonating with me, but it wouldn’t help address the problem. What we talk about, and this is also what Jeff talks about, is the strategic importance of compassion. Compassion is different. Compassion is basically saying, you come into my office. You see I’m struggling, and you think, “What is it that I can do to be able to help Jacqueline suffer less?” Maybe that would be starting with empathy saying, “Jacqueline, it looks like you’re having a tough time,” but it’s taking a more objective view of how to alleviate the challenges. It’s as opposed to suffering with, it’s looking at how to suffer less basically.
Many people want to feel like what they do is important. They want to know how they’re doing. They want feedback. They want all these things to feel they’re part of the overall company’s goals and objectives. I’m writing a book about the importance of curiosity, so I was interested in what you are talking about. Neuroscientists have found that by training our minds we can change our brains. I would like to hope that there’s hope for people who don’t embrace curiosity enough. What do you know about training our minds to try to change our brains? I know you had some of that in your literature. I’m curious of what you found on that.
The amazing thing about the brain is that we are not stuck. Maybe it’s two decades old now, but researchers and neuroscientists used to believe that basically you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks. There was great brain development up until about the ‘20s, and then you were pretty much stuck with the brain that you had. Now, they realize that is so false. Our brain continues to rewire and change throughout our entire life. In your 90s, you could learn a new language. Your brain is not limited. What is limited is definitely our habits. Our habits are very strong and they’re very difficult to change. Our brain basically shapes based on how we use it. If we only see things from our habitual mind or habitual perceptions and our biased ways of looking at things, we will not see the creative opportunities. That actually is not only habit, but it’s actually the way the mind naturally works. We tend to want to see things the way that we’ve always seen them because it makes our brain and our mind feel more comfortable.
What we know, and this is why it’s so exciting, is that we can train ourselves to be able to be more curious. A lot of things that we talk about in the book is we can train ourselves as leaders to be more focused. I just mentioned compassion. We can actually train ourselves to be more compassionate. When I say train ourselves, I’m not just talking about in theory, we could actually hook you up to an FMRI scan and over a series of weeks do a specific training exercise. They can see that the area of the brain that’s responsible for caring about other people and connecting with other people, essentially compassion, through training actually grows similar to the part of the brain that’s responsible for focus. Not only do we know the brain can change, but we actually know some of the tools that we can do to train it in ways that will be beneficial for us as human beings and as leaders.
I love anything that’s brain related, that you can actually see progress. You talked about changing our habits. What’s involved in the training and changing? Can you share some of that?
The first thing is to say that the training tools that we introduced are simple but they’re not easy. The reason why they’re not easy is because habits are hard to change. From a brain perspective, you think about our behaviors. The researchers and scientists say that 95% to maybe 98% of everything that we do is based on habit. That’s a good thing. It means that I don’t have to think about how to pick up a pen. I know how to do that, I do that on habit. There are just so many things, so it is very hard to overcome habits. Anybody that’s tried a new diet or a new exercise regime, you know exactly what I’m talking about, but it is possible. The most important thing to start out with is motivation. Many of us have New Year’s resolutions. You make a vague commitment to it or maybe make a serious commitment to it, but you need to be motivated. More than motivation, you need to be very specific about it. This is actually a research into how to help your brain make new habits, being as specific as you can.
What are the actual steps that you are going to do to be able to make that change happen? Some of the training tools like for example, to be able to enhance your focus. If you do feel as a leader that you feel overwhelmed and distracted sometimes. There’s focus training that you can do and it’s very simple. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s ten minutes of daily training where you’re focusing on an object of your choice. Your mind naturally wanders because it does and you flex your attentional muscle by bringing your mind back to the object of your choice. You do that again and again, and that’s the mental gym. It sounds easy but it’s hard for those of you who have tried it. That basically rewires the brain so that you create new neuropathways so that next time and next time it gets easier.
It’s fascinating that you bring up motivation in the process because when I was researching the differences between drive and motivation and curiosity, it seems like it helps if you’re curious to start that motivation. They’re all interconnected. The whole process is fascinating to me. I’m curious on your input on that.
It’s also curiosity combined with belief in your own potential. If I think that I can change and I’m curious about whether I can be more of a leader that I want to be, I do think that it also comes down to belief. For a lot of people, what limits them is that lack of a belief. Then comes the motivation and the drive to be able to actually say, “I know I can do this. I’m curious about it. I’m going to make sure that I put the steps in place.”
In my research, I found that there are several things that stop that belief. A lot of it is fear, a lot of it is our surrounding, people that we grew up with, people in school or inadvertently having to stick with curriculum, that we were just put on a different track. I find it very interesting, the different things that have halted our beliefs and in what way to accomplish.
In our book and in our work with Potential Project, we’re a global organization. We bring these mind training tools into organizations around the globe, one of the things that we think is so important in terms of changing habits, is surrounding yourself with other people that also have that same belief. Not only looking at it just from an individual perspective, because it’s quite challenging for us. That’s why if you want to go on a diet, they say see if your partner will do that with you. If they’re eating desserts and having a great time, it’s going to be harder than if you guys agree to do it together.
The same is true from an organizational context for you as an individual leader to look at it just for yourself. It’s hard. That’s why at our programs, we stress the importance and the value of bringing it into your culture and bringing it into your teams and making it part of the collective. We know we are social beings and we can support each other and help each other without the self-limiting doubts and underlying beliefs. We can build each other up on all those days when we’re not so sure we’re going to be able to step up.
Everybody’s got their days. I teach a lot of courses that deal with how people perceive themselves. We get into performance appraisals and if they should do yearly appraisals anymore. Younger generations tend to want more instant feedback or at least that’s what they say quite a bit. I’m curious, you wrote about Accenture. They discarded their performance management system for 425,000 employees. What did that entail? Do you think that their performance management systems that people are using are effective, or do we need to relook at what we’re doing?
I could answer that in one word. Yes. I’ll give you a little more. It’s not just Accenture. There are many organizations, Cisco is another global organization that we work with. When we spoke with Francine, the CHRO, she said she walked into the board and basically said, “We’re scrapping our performance management system,” because the same reason as Accenture, they found that after years of using it, it just simply wasn’t working. The reason why it wasn’t working is because basically managers hated it. It was these annual reviews that they hated having to prepare for, and the employees hated it.
It would just end up being demotivating for everybody, and it didn’t serve the purpose of being able to support performance and development. You mentioned the next generation wanting more feedback. In some ways, they’re wanting more engagement as well. They want to know how they’re doing. They want to improve. An annual performance feedback and looking way back in time simply doesn’t cut it. What we’re saying is that organizations are putting people first and having what we call the truly human leaders.
What we’re seeing, and this is what Accenture looked at, is having more meaningful conversations. That includes having conversations that are tough where you say, “You didn’t do a great job, or at least I don’t think he did a great job, and here’s why and here’s what that maybe we could do differently. What are your thoughts? Let’s have a conversation.” That would always have been a great thing. That’s not something new in terms of human beings who want to have meaningful conversations with each other.
One of the things that’s a challenge now is that in our business culture, which many organizations are busy, one of the things that has been lost is those opportunities for powerful, meaningful conversations with a manager that puts away their devices, turns off their computer, and is just fully present and what we call fully mindful with their employees to be able to have a rich and meaningful conversation, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, and fully being present and being there.
You mentioned mindfulness and that’s a huge issue. I have several people that I’ve talked about that on my show, the importance of it. You’d also deal with selflessness and compassion. I notice you’ve written a lot of different things. You’ve written before with Rasmus and I’m curious how you two decided to start writing together, and what drew you to these topics.
We have two other international partners with a global organization. We’ve been doing this work for over a decade now in terms of bringing mind training tools into organizations. The first book, One Second Ahead, was something that we just saw so many people were engaged in mindfulness. I know that you’ve had many wonderful speakers talking about mindfulness. What they were looking at is how to make it practical, how to apply it to emails, how to apply it to meetings, and how to translate it from the sitting practice into something that could help me in my day to day work life.
That was the first reason and that was our first book, One Second Ahead. What happened as we continued a lot of our work with leaders is we were finding that leaders were struggling. The mindfulness practices alone simply weren’t enough. We went out and interviewed over 250 C-suite executives. We assessed 35,000 leaders around the globe. What we found was that just being present and just being mindful when cutting it, what we found was that the qualities, selflessness, which has been about others, not about yourself, and compassion which we talked about, that intention to be able to help and to alleviate the challenges that our people are struggling with in their day to day work.
You are definitely doing some amazing work. I’m curious how long it took you to do all that research.
Two years. It was very extensive. It was amazing we were able to partner with Harvard Business Review Press. They were just an incredible partner with us. They helped us gain access to such a broad scope. The survey participants that we studied were from 72 different countries. We were able to get a very wide cross section in terms of research and being able to come up what we hope with was some great tools and findings for any leader in any organization in any country.
I’m fascinated by what you guys do. When I write, I always have like, “I need to write about that,” and then you start thinking of future books. Do you guys have future books in mind now? Does this open the door to more research?
Absolutely. As you can probably imagine, we just published The Mind of The Leader and yet already there are ideas for new books. We’re going to hold off on sharing what any of those might be right now because our families and people in our organizations would probably not be happy with it. I do want to say that even though our names are on the book, this has been a global effort. There’s a team from Potential Project folks that have all participated in doing interviews and doing the research and helping us through the edits. We are just very blessed that it was relatively easy for us to be able to put this together because of all the great support we had.
I’m sure it was quite a project. You guys have such a reputation and such great customers that you work with and your background. It was interesting to hear about what you’re doing with all this. If somebody is listening to this and they want to find out more about Potential Project as well as your books and your work, how would they go about reaching you?
The best way is our website, www.PotentialProject.com. There you can find out not only our organization, but also specifically about our books and specifically with The Mind of the Leader. One of the things that we are launching is a global leadership network. Any of you leaders out there that are interested in what is this all about and interested in being able to connect with other leaders who are also curious about how they might apply this to their own leadership and also to be able to find other resources and tools, you can find that all on our website.
What do you mean by a global leadership network? Can you share any more about that?
Starting off to be able to connect to other leaders, one of the things that we’re looking at doing will be having launch events for The Mind of the Leader. A part of that is bringing together people that are interested in talking about these and making them not only a course, but there’ll be a presentation on our leadership and on our findings for the book, but also the opportunity to have Q&A and discussions. We’ve already started those, and they’ve just been amazing. People saying, “What does this mean for me?”
Finding people not only from a global perspective that are interested in being able to share and provide input. We’ve got a group with on LinkedIn to be able to do that. We’re also looking at strategic locations around the globe to be able to have events. For example, a half day or full day workshop and those kinds of things, to facilitate more opportunity for people to get together. Leadership is tough, but when we bring people together, it makes it so much easier. That’s one of our goals and our objectives for creating the leadership network.
Thank you so much, Jacqueline. It was so nice having you on the show. This was so fascinating.
Thank you so much, Diane, for the opportunity of. It was a real pleasure speaking with you.
My thanks go out to Chester and to Jacqueline. It’s inspiring to talk to just these well known in inspirational leadership consultants and speakers and authors. All the people on the show have just been so interesting. I hope that if you’ve missed any past episodes, you take some time to go to DrDianeHamilton.com. If you go to the top or the bottom, you can get to the radio show or the blog to have a written version of it. You can get it both ways if you’d rather have it as a sound file or as a written file. Please sign up to receive future episodes. If you want you can also get us on iTunes and Roku and iHeart and just about any place else. Just look for Dr. Diane Hamilton and Take the Lead. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
About Chester Elton
One of today’s most influential voices in workplace trends, Chester Elton has spent two decades helping clients engage their employees to execute on strategy, vision, and values. In his provocative, inspiring and always entertaining talks, #1 bestselling leadership author Chester Elton provides real solutions to leaders looking to manage change, drive innovation, and lead a multi-generational workforce. Elton’s work is supported by research with more than 850,000 working adults, revealing the proven secrets behind high-performance cultures and teams. Elton is co-author of the New York Times and #1 USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling leadership books, All In, The Carrot Principle and The Best Team Wins. His books have been translated in more than 30 languages and have sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide.
About Jacqueline Carter
Jacqueline Carter is an International Partner and North American Director at Potential Project, which is the global leader in customized leadership and organizational training programs based on mindfulness. Potential Project works with Fortune 500 companies such as Accenture, Microsoft, Lego, Nike, EY, and KPMG among others across multiple countries. Jacqueline and Rasmus Hougaard, the Founder and Managing Director at Potential Project, are the authors of One Second Ahead and their latest book is titled The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results., One of today’s most influential voices in workplace trends, Chester Elton has spent two decades helping clients engage their employees to execute on strategy, vision, and values. In his provocative, inspiring and always entertaining talks, #1 bestselling leadership author Chester Elton provides real solutions to leaders looking to manage change, drive innovation, and lead a multi-generational workforce. Elton’s work is supported by research with more than 850,000 working adults, revealing the proven secrets behind high-performance cultures and teams. Elton is co-author of the New York Times and #1 USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling leadership books, All In, The Carrot Principle and The Best Team Wins. His books have been translated in more than 30 languages and have sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide.
Jacqueline Carter is an International Partner and North American Director at Potential Project, which is the global leader in customized leadership and organizational training programs based on mindfulness. Potential Project works with Fortune 500 companies such as Accenture, Microsoft, Lego, Nike, EY, and KPMG among others across multiple countries. Jacqueline and Rasmus Hougaard, the Founder and Managing Director at Potential Project, are the authors of One Second Ahead and their latest book is titled The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results.
- Chester Elton
- All In
- The Carrot Principle
- The Best Team Wins
- One Second Ahead
- The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results
- What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions to Work
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0
- Chester Elton on Amazon
- Chester Elton on LinkedIn
- Potential Project
- Arne Sorenson
- Potential Project on LinkedIn