Having bought broken companies and fixed them, Brad Sugars was known as the “turnaround kid” during his younger days. Now, a big part of his life is writing books and coaching. He started the ActionCOACH brand in 1994 in Brisbane, Australia which is ranked as the Leading Business Coaching Franchise by Entrepreneur magazine and operates in more than 70 countries with over a thousand coaches around the world coaching more than 15,000 businesses. Brad gets into the shift in how people have approached coaching and shares the importance of finding out the best business strategy which will determine the growth factor of your business.
A lot of the things that we assume to be true about self-awareness are actually wrong. What is self-awareness? Where does it come from? Why do we need it and how do we get more of it? Organizational Psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich has a fifteen-year career where she’s helped thousands of leaders improve their self-awareness and success. She’s built a reputation as a fresh modern voice in the business world by pairing scientific grounding and human behavior with pragmatic approach to professional development. In this episode, Dr. Eurich talks about the benefits of having more aware leaders and how personal development plays a role in it.
We have Brad Sugars and Dr. Tasha Eurich. Brad is the Founder and Chairman of ActionCOACH. Tasha is an organizational psychologist and a New York Times bestselling author. They both have such interesting backgrounds. What we’re going to talk about is right up my alley.
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Growth Through Business Coaching with Brad Sugars
I am here with Brad Sugars who started ActionCOACH brand in 1994 in Brisbane, Australia. The company is ranked as the Leading Business Coaching Franchise by Entrepreneur magazine and operates in more than 70 countries, has more than 1,000 coaches around the world and coaches 15,000 businesses every week. It’s nice to have you here, Brad.
Diane, it’s such a joy to be with you.
I’m looking forward to learning more about you. I was expecting a little bit of a stronger accent. You’ve got a little American influence.
I moved here many years ago. I officially became an American citizen. I did the naturalization, but I married a Boston girl and now has five kids all American. I thought I better join the tribe.
I’m interested in what you do because the franchises are interesting to me, to begin with. The coaching aspect and the whole connection of that is definitely a fit for this show. You’re known as The Turnaround Kid. I want to get a little bit about your background.
It was a long while ago when I was called The Turnaround Kid. In my late 40s, I doubt anyone would refer to me like that. When I was young, what I did was bought broken companies and fixed them that was my thing. These days, more of the entrepreneurial side of me because while coaching and writing books is a big part of my life, most of what I do is buy great little companies. They might be in one city though. I can do what Ray Kroc did in The Founder. I go out there. I chase those businesses that are one single business. I bought a cleaning company down in Melbourne, Australia. It’s now all across Australia and across the UK. We’re bringing that to the US next. Down in Houston, I bought a property management company. It’s all across Texas and we’re in the middle of a deal to put it all across the country. I love teaching. I love writing books. I love business coaching, but also I get my entrepreneurial itch every now and again. I have to keep going.
You definitely have an international experience. That’s interesting to me because I write about several things. One of them is perception. I’m curious what you’ve found culturally is different in business coaching throughout the world.
It’s interesting because if we look at the cultural differences where we go into Asia, the bigger businesses will accept coaching. The smaller businesses are very much more education-based. Here in the US, you go into coaching at any level of business. Emerging markets, we find it’s the bigger businesses going into it first and the smaller business is second. What I’ve noticed over coaching because I started business coaching many years ago. In the beginning, it’s like, “What is that? Is that like consulting?” Yes. It’s consulting that only we do. It was like, “If you’re failing, you need a coach.” That there was a whole era of that. Now it’s come to a full circle to a point where your people realize that if you’re successful, you want to coach. That’s what you want to do. It’s been interesting to watch that shift in the way people have approached coaching.A mentor is far more easygoing. A coach, on the other hand, is tasked to do a specific job, and that is to get you to be successful. Click To Tweet
I teach a lot of business courses still and I put little clips from these shows in it. One of the classes I teach, we talk about the differences between mentoring and coaching. How do you see them differently?
It’s interesting because I get asked that question a lot. Normally, they’ll throw consulting into the third part of the mix. It’s like, “Consulting is usually fairly specialized.” Someone comes in and is a specialist in an area and comes in and fixes it for you and leaves type of thing. Mentoring is a far more an easy-going approach to it. I’ve mentored a few people over the years. If they call and ask for advice, I’m happy to give them some advice but I’m not chasing them up. A coach, on the other hand, is someone who is specifically paid to do a specific job and that is to get you to be successful. Success looks like for you. If you look at a sporting coach, they’re not there for a short period of time. They’re there for the entire time.
You may change coaches, but you’ll always have a coach for that team to succeed. That’s probably the simplest way to try and establish a bit of a difference. The biggest thing I see is that a good business coach will have a systematic methodology by which they take you through success happening in your business. I remember when I wrote the book called The Business Coach, it was after we had coached about 13,000 companies to success. I sat down and said, “We should write the recipe because this was our recipe of how you create business success.” My latest book, Pulling Profits, is about how do you create exponential business growth from the smallest company to the biggest. It’s the process. I am a firm believer in breaking things down into step by step for people, giving them the model to fall on.
You brought up your new book, which is Pulling Profits Out of a Hat. I’m interested in that because when you talk about exponential growth, can you share some of that process?
It took me a couple of years to put this book together because when I first sat down, what happened was a friend of mine said to me, “It seems like magic the way these companies like Ikea and Amazon keep growing all the time. It’s got to be magic.” I looked at him and said, “We live here in Las Vegas. You’ve got to be kidding me. You think magic is real.” He’s like, “You know what I mean.” I said, “Go watch Penn & Teller and come back and tell me if you think.” The point that he was trying to make is that there’s got to be something uncovered. For a couple of years, I worked with one of my top coaches, Monte Wyatt, to put this book together about what are the core disciplines. I use that word specifically because if you look at the disciplines, strategy, business development, people, execution and mission. Each of them is not something you get right once and it’s a done-type thing. It’s a discipline. You’ve had the discipline of people to keep managing and leading the people well with the discipline of execution, the planning, the systemization, the management, all that stuff.
A lot of people think they’ve checked something off their list and they don’t have to do it again. That doesn’t work that way. Does it?
You would love to think that was possible. What if we did it once and it worked forever? It does to a degree. Look at the big companies that have had to learn that lesson well from IBM to Microsoft. Let’s look at Microsoft’s evolution over the last few years, a new CEO all of a sudden now evolved into a big company that’s changing the way they’re doing business dramatically. We see it everywhere.
When you’re talking about growth in companies, we’re seeing companies that are giving up profitability to get growth. What do you think of that strategy?
There are two sides to that equation and one is that if you’re going to be growing and expanding geographically, absolutely. I’m okay to give up profits to invest those profits for geographic growth and take on other countries and other markets and new things. If I’m growing in my own region and I’m giving up profits and saying that the reason I’m giving up profits for growth, maybe we need to re-look at your marketing plan around that stuff. The reality is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I’m definitely an and person, not an or person. How do we get that and that? That even comes back to the questioning. Some big companies use that as an excuse. We didn’t hit profits. Let’s say we’re giving up profits to go for growth right now. Not that I’ve ever seen that happened, but I know some of the companies I’ve invested in where it’s like, “If that’s what you are saying, we’re pulling out shares and we’re going somewhere else.”
I want to get back to those five disciplines because we touched on them and they’re important. I deal a lot with the people aspect, but can we go through each of them?
Let’s start with the mission. You mentioned the people side of it. None of these are exclusive to each other. The old five have to co-exist if we want the exponential growth. The mission is about the word love in business. Is it about do your customers love doing business with you and do your people love coming to work? If the word love is foreign to your business, expect your business to be in trouble in a few years’ time especially with the generations we’re moving into. The Millennials are definitely the Y Generation. Why is something happening rather than what is happening and how is it happening type thing. We need that mission to be more than something on the wall. We need engaged employees.
I filmed that entire video book, which is on my LinkedIn, on my Facebook with Marshall Goldsmith and Mike Thompson and Richard Maloney all about employee engagement. It’s interesting to sit back and see these companies where they’ve got great strategy and marketing’s fantastic. There’s no heart and soul in the business. That’s a lot of what we look for in companies that are getting that. That’s one of the starting points behind. If I moved to then people, my philosophy on people is simple. You build your people. They build your business. Don’t build your people and your business stays about the same.
When I go into it in the book, it’s about how you recruit, hire, induct, train, lead or keep the best people. How do you do that? I don’t know about you, but Diane, when I first employed people, I was lost as a young man because I honestly believe it’s the CEO’s number one job is recruiting. If you’re a great recruiter, you don’t have to do much work. I currently own nine companies and I run them in twelve hours a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have my meetings with my CEOs. I do that based on the fact that I’ve built amazing people. I’ve recruited well, trained and mentored to be great.
I had to learn the lesson as a young man. My dad, I went to him. I was maybe 20 or 21. I said, “Dad, I can’t get good people.” He looked me dead in the eye. My dad is a very blunt man. He came from an accounting background to run his businesses. I was like, “I can’t get good people.” He looked at me and said, “Brad, you get the people you deserve. You’re an average manager running an average business. No great people are going to look for you. You’re the highest caliber employee. You think you’re going to get average.” You can tell where I got my motivational streak.
I sit there and he was dead on the money. It’s like great people want to work in great companies that are doing great things. That’s why I talk about the mission and look at mission as a major function. Because in this day and age, people want to mean to the work they do. They want it to be more than a paycheck and they want to have something that they go to work for or feel like they’re achieving something that’s adding value to the planet, humanity, that community, to themselves. That’s where I invest a lot in building the people so that I don’t have to do as much of the work. You build them, they do it.
We’ve got mission and the people. What are the others?If the word “love” is foreign to your business, then expect your business to be in trouble in a few years’ time. Click To Tweet
Let’s go execution because people need strong leadership. Leadership is a part of the people’s side of the business. Execution is where you get into the management, planning, systemization, management. Management has disappeared almost on our planet. It’s like somehow in the ’80s or ’90s, management became a dirty word. The One Minute Manager was probably the last decent management book. That’s why we see many books on execution because they’re like, “Management doesn’t exist.”
It’s too tactical. We need to think strategically.
I don’t know why but people are like, “You don’t want to be a micromanager. That’s a bad thing. You’ve got to be a leader.” It’s like, “In my world, management is about competent, productive employees.” If there’s a lack of competence, if you’ve hired someone new, they don’t have competency. You need to micromanage that new person until you coach them, mentor them and build them up to be a competent, productive employee. They need less management. Management is still necessary on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis with these people. Lazy managers ended up working twice as much because they’re putting out fires and blaming their staff doing what I did as a young man saying, “I can’t get good people.” That’s where execution doesn’t happen.
Even if you look at the planning, I try and teach business people across the planet, but the most important business plan is the one-day plan, “What are you doing tomorrow?” If all of your staff don’t have a plan for what they’re doing tomorrow written down before they leave the office or the shop or wherever it is now, tomorrow won’t be productive. You can’t achieve a one-year plan if you don’t know how to break it down. All of the businesses we coach must have 90-day plans. All of their staff and the CEOs of every company must operate on daily plans and on weekly plans because your 90-day plan isn’t going to happen unless every day you hit your targets-type thing. Those very basic fundamentals that lead to real execution and your systemization.
I was in North Carolina. I was chatting with a group of businesspeople up there. One of the gentlemen came to me after and said, “Brad, I have a problem. My staff is inconsistent. Some days they do a great job and some days they do an awful job.” I said, “Show me the checklist they’re following.” He said, “We don’t have a checklist.” I said, “Maybe that’s why.” He was like, “What do you mean?” I said, “Have you flown in the last month?” He said, “Yeah, I got on a plane the other day.” I said, “Do you think the pilot followed a checklist?” He said, “I hope so.” I said, “Good because they like to succeed 100% of the time. Maybe if you wanted to stop to succeed 100% of the time, you would give them a checklist too.”
He finally got the point, biz dev and strategy. Biz dev is your sales, your marketing, your customer service. In this day and age, everything we learned from marketing several years ago, some of the core values are still the same. The majority of its shifting and every day, I know I’m sitting in a class learning ClickFunneling and people were like, “Brad, you’ve got all these companies. Why are you learning ClickFunneling as well?” How am I going to hire someone to do good ClickFunneling if I don’t learn the stuff first? These are some of the basics. It’s interesting because if you go into a company that doesn’t have massive growth like they’re on standard growth levels, sales, marketing and customer service can be okay.
In this day and age, if you want exponential growth, a simple example, I was asking a business person, “What’s your Google rating?” He looked at me and said, “What do you mean?” I said, “What’s your Google rating? What’s your rating for your company on Google?” He said, “I don’t know.” I said, “If you don’t know your ratings, if you don’t know your rankings, if you don’t know your testimonial values, if you don’t have all of these things happening on a regular basis for your customers. If you don’t build in content that’s based on your customer’s rating, you as the best in the world, you’re out of business in a few years’ time. People are going to pass you over.” People have to understand that marketing has shifted so dramatically and that’s why I go into a deep in the book about how to do your sales, marketing and customer service change now from what it was years and years ago.
It’s changed a lot. You mentioned Marshall Goldsmith. It’s, “What got you here won’t get you there,” mentality.
Marshall wrote the front for the book, Pulling Profits Out of a Hat. When he wrote that book, I remember it transformed my thinking. I got success, now to keep success I’m going to have to change. There’s a big difference between the two. Business development, there’s a core of things that used to work that if you stop doing them, that’s crazy as well. It’s simple referral stuff. What are you doing for referrals in your business? The average business, you go in there and say, “How many referral strategies do you have?” They look at you like you’re stupid. Who’s the stupid one? The guy asking the question or the one with no referral strategies?
I may have to use that in my curiosity discussion.
I find it interesting that you’re allowed as many strategic partners in business as you want. How many did most businesses have? None. You’re allowed as many advertising methodologies as you want. How many do most businesses have? One or two. It’s crazy that we don’t treat marketing or business development overall because even with sales, most companies you got to say, “Show me your sales break down. Show me the pipeline the way it works or gives me the drawing on the board of your sales process broken down step by step.” They look at you and they go, “We call people.” If you don’t have a broken down step-by-step, how are we going to fix every single step and add a marketing piece to every step, add follow-up processes and questionnaires and all of these things that make customers buy and want to interact with you?
It’s so frustrating. You see a lot of that where they’re doing tasks every day at their job that they have no idea of why what they do ties into the overall goals of the organization at all.
Diane, the work you do is amazing. If anyone is reading this for the first time, you need to subscribe to these shows. It’s phenomenal what you’re doing. Thank you for doing that. Every single time you go into a business and you start looking at it from the outside. This is one of the reasons coaching works is because we’re on the outside looking in and we walk in and go, “Where’s this and this?” They look at you and go, “I didn’t even know we needed those things.” That’s not because you’re a bad business person, it’s because you’re inside the forest. You can’t see what needs to be done. That’s an important aspect of it. Which one do we miss?
We’ve got five, mission, people, execution.
Strategy, I like to think of a strategy. If I can give it the simplest analogy of it. Most people look at the word tactic and think strategy. You’re going to do Facebook advertising. That’s a tactic. It’s not the strategy. The strategy is the overall business. How do you sell what you sell? How do you package it? How do you position it? How’s the business structured for international growth? When I say to people, “How are you going to open in India? How are you going to open in China?” They look at you and go, “I don’t know.” I said, “That’s where your strategy is now incorrect.” Let’s imagine I was in the music business. I can go into the music business. I could be the drummer in the band. I could be the person that owns the bar that the drummer in the band plays at.
I could be the manager of the band, the production company or I could be Spotify or I could be iTunes. It’s the strategy you go to business, which determines the growth factor of your business. In fact, strategies have four main components. Leverage, which is my definition of leverage is to do the work once get paid forever. That defines your product or service. Are you getting a customer once and they leave or do you get a customer once and they stay forever type thing? If you look at Apple, that’s a prime example of a company that went from no leverage, make a computer once, sell it once, maybe you’ll get another sale in several years, but they made such good computers. That’s how long it took for someone to come back and buy another one. They went to the music business where they make no music. Talk about a genius, Steve Jobs. He didn’t believe in, “Do the work once, get paid forever.” He believes to do the work never, I get paid forever.If somebody doesn't want to meditate, it doesn't mean they can't be mindful. Click To Tweet
They’ve never made a song. They’ve never made a TV show. They don’t make any movies, apps. They made a few that they messed up most of those. They live with two other people and they take $0.30 or $0.40 on the dollar card of every single one. The second part of the strategy is scalability. My definition is the next sale costs less and is easier. If the business gets harder as you get bigger, your scale strategy is incorrect. The final two are opportunity size, which is a geographic question for most people. How big is the opportunity? If it’s not billions, you’re going to struggle if you’ve got ten competitors to make the size of money you want to make. Finally, marketability is that something that people are buying no matter what? Why did I buy into a commercial cleaning business? Do people need cleaning of their office, their gymnasiums, etc.? Yes, they do. It’s an easy business. No one can buy it on the internet. You can’t find that one on the internet. They can’t ship it to you. You’ve got to come and deliver. That’s my fastest version ever.
As I’m reading some of the stuff that you’ve done, I had a couple of questions. First of all, is Sugars your real last name? That’s a cool last name.
My dad’s family came to Australia and my mom’s family came on the second fleet. They were the Gibson family. My dad’s family came to Australia. They changed their name to Sugars because they lived in North Queensland, which is very famous for sugar.
ActionCOACH used to be Action International. When you write ActionCOACH, the coach is all in caps. I’m curious why?
Firstly, Action International was a name I started when I knew nothing about branding as a young man. As we had to get branding, I was like, “I’ve got to change this.” The coach had to be in the business because that’s what we’re in the business on. I wanted to be in there. We put the word coach in all capitals for a simple reason and that we wanted it to be about the coach, but you needed to take action. We keep it from that philosophy. People read a book and they come to my seminars or they get me to come and speak at their companies and stuff. I say, “This is fantastic. I hope you’ll add a great seminar.” The judgment of the seminar is what are you going to do next? What actions will you take on this? I love it when people say to me, “You’re such a great speaker, but I’m happier when people come up to me after the speech and go, “I’m going to do this and this based on what you’ve told me.” That to me is exciting as a speaker. The other stuff is, “That’s nice.”
A lot of people reading are consultants. Since they are and maybe their business isn’t doing as much as they’d like to do, would they be a good a match for maybe doing a franchise as an ActionCOACH?
The ActionCOACH franchise is a wonderful opportunity. Most of the people in business coaching, their biggest challenges, they learn to be a business coach. They didn’t learn how to run a business coaching business. That’s the difference. In our franchise, we teach you how to run the business of business coaching. It’s like anyone can go to dental school doesn’t mean they’re good at running a dental business. The same goes for coaching. I’m not sure why, but we assume because we’re good coaches, we’re going to be good at running our own business and rarely do I find that to be the case. That’s the first thing that I would say. A lot of consultants out there, the biggest challenge is that they don’t have a team around them to turn to when they do have a challenge that they don’t understand.
Why am I not getting sales? I miss this sale. Why am I not getting it? This is in any business. Being in a mastermind group, and that’s part of what being in a franchise is, you have a built-in a mastermind group, who can help you with things when you’re struggling. Our business is a simple advantage of the most. We have more than 1,000 business coaches on our team around the world. What they all naturally love doing is helping people grow. It’s a good community from that perspective.
I was fascinated by all the work you did. I was excited to see your latest book. I’m glad we got a chance to go through it as fast as we did. We hit some good, important topics. A lot of people are going to want to know how they can learn more about what you’re working on, about ActionCOACH and Pulling Profits Out of a Hat.
They can jump on any social media and find me other than Pinterest. I’m not a Pinterest guy. I’m more business so LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or they can jump at ActionCOACH.com or even BradSugars.com. All of them will find me pretty easy. We make it easy for people to find us out.
This was so much fun, Brad. Thank you so much for being on the show.
It’s been a wonderful pleasure. I look forward to hearing feedback from everyone who reads the book and what they do base on what we talked about now, not just what they learned.
The Role Of Self-Awareness To Success with Dr. Tasha Eurich
I am here with Dr. Tasha Eurich. She is an organizational psychologist, researcher and New York Times bestselling author. She’s built a reputation as a fresh modern voice in the business world by pairing her scientific grounding in human behavior with a pragmatic approach to professional development. She’s got an amazing TEDx Talk. She’s on the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, New York Times. They can’t not find you, Tasha. It’s nice to have you here. I’m glad to be one of them on the list.
Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to chat.
I was excited because I’ve loved having anybody who’s associated with Dr. Goldsmith’s group. You have 100 coaches. Everybody’s amazing. Bob Nelson invited me to your event here in Scottsdale. I don’t think I got to meet you at that event. I got to meet a few of you. Everybody is genuine and interesting. I was looking forward to our chat. Thank you for being here.
Thanks. We’re a weird, wacky, wonderful family. We’re happy to have you as part of our crew.
It was fun to meet everybody. You’ve been recognized from a lot of groups, the Thinkers50. I know I’ve had some interactions with a lot of them and your books just gotten recognized. You’ve written multiple books, but your first book was bankable leadership. That was on the New York Times bestselling list. Your latest book, Insight, is fascinating to me because it’s getting tons of recognition. You talk about self-improvement, self-awareness and a lot of the stuff you touched in your TED Talk. I want to talk about your background a little bit. What got you interested in all of this? First of all, what did you write your dissertation on? I’m curious.
No one has asked me for several years. This is a big day. It was on the difference between virtual leadership and face-to-face leadership and how teams typically perceive the fairness or unfairness of their leader differently. They tend to have more exaggerated reactions, whether it’s positive or negative, depending on whether they’re working virtually or not. It’s funny. It’s a good example of why I loved academia and why I was happy to be there for a few years teaching, researching and getting my PhD. I felt passionate about bringing some of the work that I was doing into the business world. There’s not a lot of people who merge that science and that practice. I talk about my dissertation. It was like on the head of a pin. What I’ve tried to do since then is make what I’m looking at more relevant to executives, CEOs and to companies who want to use this research. It sounds like you did that a lot better than me for your dissertation.
I don’t know about that. I’m with you on wanting to research and combine it with the real world to behaviors and making it more accessible and not so scholarly boring. There’s a room for that. In the real world, people get turned off by how intense it can be to read a peer-reviewed journal. I love what you’re doing. That’s a fascinating topic because I write about perception. I’ve worked virtually forever. What were the most exaggerated things? Were they more fearful of them or were they thinking they’re nicer or meaner? I’m curious about that.
In the virtual teams, we found that they had more exaggerated reactions to the behavior of their supervisor. If you think about it, you don’t have as much information when you’re working for someone virtually. You can’t see their body language. You’re not running into them in the cafeteria like you are when you work face-to-face. We discovered that when a leader is unfair, virtually people react more negatively to that unfairness. By that same token, when they’re fair, they get a lot more benefits from it. You can think about virtual leadership as being more exaggerated in the results you get. A behavior may be that people wouldn’t respond too much if it’s face-to-face, people are going to read into it more. They’re going to respond. They’re going to make often up crazy conspiracy theories that are a lot more creative than the truth about what you’re doing. To me, that’s valuable for leaders to keep in mind.
It ties into everything. I could see why you’d go into self-awareness and awareness in general based on that. I worked for a company. I can remember in the 1980s, they used to rate us on our concern for impact, which was ahead of its time, of how much we cared, how we came across to other people and how that impacted us. Being in sales, it makes sense that you don’t want people not to like you too much. What led to your interest in studying self-awareness?
I’ve been an organizational psychologist for several years. I kept seeing the same pattern over and over. I got to work with these successful, brilliant people as Marshall does, whether they’re CEOs of a large public company, whether they’re an early-stage entrepreneur. What I saw was when they were willing to commit to seeing themselves clearly to understanding who they are, what their values are, what drives them, what makes them happy? By the same token, understanding how other people see them. They were able to achieve a whole new level of success and confidence and performance in their teams. What I discovered after a little bit of dorky lit review, we don’t know as much about self-awareness scientifically as you would think.
It’s the management buzz word that we toss around all the time and there are all these platitudes about it. I was surprised at how thin our knowledge was. Probably, it was about a few years ago now, I convened a research team and naively said, “If no one has definitively figured out what self-awareness is, where it comes from, why we need it and how we get more of it, I’ll do it. In retrospect, I laugh about that because what I thought would be a couple of studies, maybe over the course of a year became this five-plus-year research program where it almost still feels like we’re scratching the surface. For our purposes and maybe what we talk about, one of the most interesting parts of our research program. We read thousands of journal articles and surveyed people all around the world, but we found 50 people who didn’t start out as self-aware but who were able to achieve a high level of self-knowledge.
We called them self-awareness unicorns because my research team was jokingly telling me like, “These people don’t exist.” I said, “No, I promise they do. I’ve seen them. I’ve worked with them.” What we found from the self-awareness unicorns is a lot of the things that we assume to be true about self-awareness are wrong. The book I wrote on it, Insight, has had the goal of dispelling a lot of myths and helping people understand what the scientifically supported path to self-awareness is. The benefits are clear. It was the path to get there that we needed to help make a little bit clearer for your everyday leader.
I love that you address this in your TED Talk and anybody that hasn’t seen that, it’s great. You had a commanding presence. I loved how you spoke. As you were talking about this, you started to say, “We shouldn’t ask why that? Why isn’t the right question.” I’m like, “I’m a curiosity expert. Why aren’t we asking why?” I’m like, “At least you’re asking a question.” For a second there I was like, “Aren’t we supposed to ask questions?” We’re asking the wrong questions.
That was what was so surprising to me too. In my TED Talk, I talk about this early survey that we did where I was assuming that people who reported that they spent lots of time self-reflecting would be more self-aware. To me, that was the easiest, most obvious thing we could possibly find. Not only did we find that people who thought about themselves a lot tended to know themselves less well than the average person. We also found that the more people self-reflected, these are a couple of examples, but like the more stressed they were, the more anxious, the more depressed, the less satisfied with their jobs and relationships even felt less in control of their lives. I remember going like, “Maybe self-awareness is bad.”If people aren't having strong reactions to your work, ask yourself if you're really being creative or putting something out there of value. Click To Tweet
As we dug into this, we thought that even some research before we discovered this, that sometimes when we introspect, we get focused on the wrong things. If we ask ourselves like, “Why did I yell at my spouse?” What we’ll do is we’ll usually find an answer that feels true to us but is very often wrong. There’s a lot of evidence that I found surprising that we can’t get to our unconscious selves as easily as Freud, for example, would have made us believe. What happens is we ask ourselves these questions, we have the wrong answer. We don’t know that because it feels true and we start acting based on that information.
To me, that was one of the most interesting discoveries and what we realized with our unicorns is they were still asking questions about themselves. They were asking slightly different questions. Instead of saying, “Why did I yell at my spouse?” They’re saying, “What part of that argument did I own? What did I learn from that I can use in the future to be a better partner? That difference between forward-looking and getting sucked into the past and action orientation versus getting spun up and things we can’t control, that seemed to be an important insight.
You brought up some great things. I know a lot of people who get in that mind trap where they obsess almost narcissistic ruminating, going over and over in their mind the same thing. I have so many experts on the show who are mindfulness expert. Even Daniel Goleman, who is no super emotional intelligence expert, is now touching on mindfulness. I do want to get into that, but I did like your talk of how couples argue over. I want you to know my husband says you’re supposed to load the dishwasher from back to front. I’m like, “That makes no sense to me.”
It seems like it was something people could relate to including me.
There are all these things that we think we know is the right way or the wrong way. I’d love to ask, what can we do? What’s different instead of focusing on the things going in a spiral? A lot of people do that. That’s why mindfulness is such a huge topic. I’m not a mindfulness expert to any degree at all. In fact, I was teasing Daniel Goleman when he was on the show that I was listening to his book on audio. I had it on double speed when he was saying, “You need to calm and slow.” I don’t think I’m doing this right. Do you feel like you’re a mindfulness expert at all? How does that tie into what you do?
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with mindfulness and meditation in particular. I don’t enjoy it. It’s not fun. I went to the Shambhala Mountain Center, which is this world-famous meditation center. I took my little sister who’s a big meditation devotee. It was miserable. I was like, “When can I get out of here?” I realized that it was doing me a lot of good. For me on the meditation front, it’s always a push-pull. I’ve found ways that make it easier that I tried to do it. I speak for a lot of people that are Type A perfectionist, always going when I say it’s hard.
The evidence is clear that from a self-awareness standpoint and a general health and wellbeing standpoint, it’s absolutely worth it. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on meditation. What I would consider myself, as knowing a thing or two from a scientific standpoint is non-meditative mindfulness. This was something that I hadn’t given much thought to before I started working on the self-awareness project. What I wanted to answer as the question was, if somebody doesn’t want to meditate doesn’t mean they can’t be mindful. The good news is there are a lot of things we can do that don’t involve sitting in the Lotus position. That’s not something we’ve wanted to. I talk about a bunch of tools in the book, but here’s an example. We learned from a couple of our unicorns that are powerful mindfulness tool.
It understands what’s happening in the present moment without judgment, being able not to get sucked into rumination is reframing. For example, if something bad happened to you, I give the example of a woman, one of our unicorns worked in a call center for several years. There was an announcement that the call center was going to shut down. She was out of a job overnight. Instead of asking herself like, “Why is this happening? This is terrible.” She started to ask, “Is there any good that can come with this? Even if I don’t see it right now, can I reframe the situation to be something that can make me better off?” What she ended up doing as a result of that was getting a much better job and finally finishing her undergraduate degree. That’s a simple example. Anytime we can look at what’s happening in our lives, even if it’s a good thing and say, “What’s a different lens that I can see this through?” It’s an excellent way of increasing our mindfulness.
You brought up a great example of doing that is changing the way we look at things. When you talked about your Amazon reviews, you want to share that? I relate to that and a teacher too because they rate you too as students.
I would go through my evaluations when I was teaching and 50 of them would be great and one of them would be mean. I could never focus on the other 50. You and I both know there’s a lot of interesting science behind that. In general, I’ve discovered that a lot of things I thought were productive thinking were exercises and the rabbit hole of rumination. The example I gave in my TED Talk was, one day I woke up and for some unknown reason decided I was going to read my Amazon reviews for my new book. Most of them were positive, but a couple of that stand out was like one lady said, “This woman talks way too much about herself.”
Another person said, “I only read ten pages and this book is already in my goodwill pile.” I’m laughing about it because I’ve had some time. Mark Twain said, “Humor is tragedy plus time.” We let ourselves go sometimes or at least I did. To me, that felt productive. I was like, “Why are they saying this about me and why is this happening? Maybe I picked the wrong profession and maybe I am somebody who is not putting out anything valuable.” None of that was productive. That if we circle back to this idea of not all introspection is helpful when it comes to our self-awareness or wellbeing. That’s been a huge insight for me in this process because we’re thinking about ourselves doesn’t mean it’s helpful. It doesn’t mean it’s helping us know ourselves better.
Many authors can relate to what you’d said with that because it’s hard on social media. Every time I interview someone who’s a political candidate or something and I’m like, “I am dreading” because no matter what you say, they’re going to think you’re one side or the other no matter how the middle of the road you try to be. It’s a tough time. In fact, I was thinking of your Amazon reviews because I had Rich Karlgaard on and he has a new book, Late Bloomers. I thought because somebody had mentioned it’s better to have 4.2 or whatever was the perfect thing on Amazon because if it’s five, everybody thinks it’s planned and it’s people you know.
I started to look up new books that were released. I looked up Rich’s to see what he was. It was not as high as mine. I think that’s impossible because this book is amazing. I looked at one of the negative reviews. He got a one because some guy thought the way he described the war or something as random and weird that it had nothing to do with the book at all. I thought maybe we need a couple thrown in there to have your rating go down. Some people will buy more books, but it probably helped him in the long run. It was fun to look at what people write for other people’s books too. We do care what other people say. When I researched curiosity and what kept people from being curious, I found that it was four things, which was fear, assumptions, which is a voice in your head, technology and environment. That voice in your head is strong. How do you get past that? What tips do you give people to overcome that ruminating?
The first thing I’ll say is throughout the course of this research project, one of the things I discovered is like most people, I was not as self-aware as I thought. There are some things like oddly comforting about that. We’re all going through this journey. What I come back to in those moments where I’m trying to talk myself down is about Brené Brown’s work and how she talks about being in the arena. At the end of the day, to your point with the Amazon reviews, if everybody agrees with what we’re doing, is it that valuable? Are we making decisions based on what we think people will like rather than what we think is valuable or honest or true? I hadn’t heard that data about the 4.2 on Amazon. I love that because it’s a metaphor. As a straight-A student, anything below a five was a failure to me. This is very helpful. Otherwise, hopefully you’re not irking most people, but if people aren’t having strong reactions to your work, I would ask, “Are you creative or are you brave? Are you putting something out there like a value?” That’s the story I try to tell myself over and over. It works many of the time.How we see ourselves and how other people see us are both important, but we shouldn't be weighing one over the other. Click To Tweet
Brené Brown spoke at SHRM, which I also spoke at. Our ideas of what people talk about or whether we’re interesting interested in what something is about or what our voice in our head tells us. I was guilty of thinking I wasn’t that interested in listening to what she had to say because I heard the word vulnerable. In my mind, I’m like, “That’s like mindfulness in away.” I started listening to her. I’m like, “She’s great.” I let this word was fluffy in my mind. We get these preconceived ideas. I like the thing that you said about everyone if they all agree, is it valuable? Part of what I found with curiosity is your company isn’t a curious company. If you’re in a meeting and everybody’s agreeing, you’re not going to end up being innovative. Nobody’s bucking status quo thinking.
This subject that you got into is interesting because self-awareness is a big part of emotional intelligence. There are two aspects to it if I understand myself or if I understand you. It kept coming back up when I was researching perception, which is interesting that’s what you originally studied. How does our self-awareness tie into perception in dealing with other cultures? If we’re aware of ourselves, but if somebody else isn’t aware of themselves and you’ve got to do work with them, does it help you?
That’s an interesting thing to tease apart. The first thing I’d say, sometimes what’s beneath some of those questions is this idea of like, “Can I make other people more self-aware? Is there anything I can do?” Unless it’s your job, unless you supervise that person in a formal setting, I usually recommend channeling that energy into your own journey. Anytime whether it’s a cultural difference or a personality difference or whether we have to work with someone who’s un-self-aware, which 98% of us work with at least one un-self-aware person according to our research. A lot of it is focusing on a mindful way to be your best self, to be driven by your values, to live your values, to make sure you’re understanding the impact you’re having on someone else without taking on any of their baggage.
There’s a lot of work I’ve done about the difference between how we see ourselves and how other people see us. As it turns out, both of those things are important, but we shouldn’t weigh one over the other. That’s a long way of saying if we’re dealing with someone who’s un-self-aware focusing that energy on us, being better, becoming the best of who we are and what we do, that’s the best way to handle that. No matter what difference we’re experiencing.
You brought up some interesting things. You’re talking about the self-awareness. Do you have kids by chance?
I don’t. I have an adult man-baby and a five-pound poodle.
I have two grown daughters. Whenever my kids do something goofy, even as adults, I’m like, “They got that from me.” I’ll hear it in something I do later. It helps me to see some of the stuff I do. I don’t know if I’d ever seen it if I didn’t see it in them, which I find fascinating. When you were talking about how we see ourselves versus how others saw us in 1980, I did take a personality assessment for a job that they asked you that. They’d give you 30 words or something like that. On one side of the paper was to use the words how you see yourself and put the words how you think others see you. I never knew what the right thing to do was. I remember taking it thinking, they should probably be the same or pretty close or there’s something wrong. I tried to make it similar, but I got the job. Maybe that is the answer. Have you ever taken that or know what that is?
I’m familiar with assessments that are like that. Another example would be 360s, where you’re rating yourself on a bunch of different skills and qualities. Other people are rating you. There’s a lot of interesting research on this that existed before we started our process. There’s some disagreement. Some researchers think that in agreement people, in other words, if my adjective is about myself are the same as your adjectives about me, they’re more successful. There are slightly fewer researchers, but there’s definitely a camp who thinks that people who underestimate themselves are more successful. If I take a 360 and my ratings are a touch below where other people put me that I’m going to be a better leader and a better performer. From my standpoint, that oversimplifies the issue.
Here’s why. As our self-perceptions aren’t the only thing that matters, the way other people see us is not necessarily the truth. It’s never as simple as saying, “I’m going to compare my self-ratings to other people who have no bias whatsoever, their perceptions of me.” It’s hard from a research standpoint too because it’s like what is the truth? What I’ve come to is this idea that both matters. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The definition of intelligence is to be able to hold two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time and retain the ability to function.” That’s what goes on there. What we’ve found from our self-awareness unicorns was that they were able to do that.
They would be able to identify in mismatch but they wouldn’t immediately say, “I’m wrong and they’re right.” They would say, “What’s this about?” I tell a story in Insight about a woman. She wasn’t technically a self-awareness unicorn because she didn’t pass all of our tests and took all the research, but she probably would be. She discovered after this horrible performance appraisal process, she got terrible feedback from all of her peers. What she realized was, “These people are out to get me.” She had some objective evidence that that was true. What that told her wasn’t that they were right and she was wrong. That wasn’t the right place for her. She was able to find a different organization that had a much better culture, much more supportive and trusting and collegial. To me, that’s important for all of us to remember is not to oversimplify that issue.
You’re not paranoid if they are out to get you.
God forbid, but every once in a while they are. You’ve got to be open to that.
If people want to find out about their levels of self-awareness or read your book or find out more about what you’re doing, this is interesting stuff. How can people find out more?
What I found is it’s all about them. If anyone who’s reading this is interested in knowing more about their self-awareness, we put together this free, no strings attached Insight Quiz. What I always tell people is it’s a tiny subset of a much larger longer assessment. Don’t make any major life decisions based on your results. What you do is you go in, you fill out fourteen questions. It takes about five minutes. You send a survey to someone who knows you well, they fill out those fourteen questions. Once both of those results are in the system, we’ll send you this nice report that gives you a high-level picture. It gives you a few ideas for how you can improve if you so desire and if anyone’s interested in that, they can find it at Insight-Quiz.com. I am very findable. It’s all about you and much less about me.The way other people see us is not necessarily the truth. Click To Tweet
That sounds like something that I haven’t tried yet and you have such great information. I was looking forward to this. Thank you so much for being on the show.
It was a pleasure, especially with the MG 100 family.
I would like to thank both Brad and Tasha for being my guests. We get many great guests on the show. If you’d like to know more about the Curiosity Code Index or Cracking The Curiosity Code, you can go to CuriosityCode.com for that. I’m glad that you joined us for this episode. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- The Business Coach
- Pulling Profits
- Brad Sugars on LinkedIn
- Brad Sugars on Facebook
- The One Minute Manager
- Brad Sugars on Instagram
- Brad Sugars on Twitter
- Dr. Tasha Eurich
- Dr. Tasha Eurich’s TED Talk
- Daniel Goleman – past episode
- Rich Karlgaard – past episode
- Late Bloomers
About Brad Sugars
Brad Sugars started the ActionCOACH brand (formerly known as Action International) when he was in his early twenties. Today the company is internationally recognized as the leading global business coaching firm and one of the leading and most awarded franchises in the world today. So how did a twenty-something Australian create this global powerhouse? He did it through hard work, determination and a well-organized, systemized approach that leads businesses to profits.
About Dr. Tasha Eurich