The Positive Impact Of Having Conflict with Dr. Liane Davey And How To Work Stronger with Pete Leibman

Productive conflict is a type of conflict where the issue that comes to the table is resolved. It moves your organization forward and is productive for your team. Dr. Liane Davey is the New York Times bestselling author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done, a book where entrepreneurs and employees can get insights as she educates about productive conflict and conflict debt. Liane joins us for an in-depth discussion about productive conflict, as well as how cultural and personality differences can affect your definition of respect. You’ll also get to learn about the Valentine’s Day effect and how it is relevant in your working environment.


Should you work smarter or stronger? Pete Leibman is a consultant, speaker, and bestselling author who has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and In an interesting conversation, he emphasizes why working stronger is better than working smarter. Sharing some tips on how you can manage your daily tasks, he points out why never-ending to-do lists can lead to stress.

TTL 434 | Productive Conflict


I’m so glad you joined us because we have Liane Davey and Pete Leibman. Liane is a New York Times bestselling author and she has a new book. Pete is a consultant, speaker and bestselling author and he has a new book. I’m anxious to hear about their new books.

Listen to the podcast here

The Positive Impact Of Having Conflict with Dr. Liane Davey

I am here with Dr. Liane Davey, who is the New York Times bestselling author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along and Get Stuff Done. She’s a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review and organizational psychology expert for Quartz magazine. Her latest book is The Good Fight: Use Productive Conflict to Get Your Team and Organization Back on Track. It’s so nice to have you here, Liane.

Thanks so much, Diane. I’m thrilled to be here.

We have a lot in common and we have a lot of the same interests. I love organizational psychology and I’m curious what got you interested in that?

It goes back to really early. I used to love factories and I was into things like a TV show I watched when I was a little kid that used to show you how they make crayons and how they make Q-tips. I got interested in business that way. When I ended up not to have the math skills or physics skills to be an engineer or any of those things, I switched to the machinery of the modern organization which is teams. That’s how I arrived at it, being fascinated by business and then ultimately being fascinated by people at work.

My PhD is in Business Management, but yours is in Organizational Psychology. I often thought about doing both. It’s so fascinating and I crossed it together when I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence. I’ve seen a lot of psychology majors write similar things to what I’ve written. The psychological component of understanding is so important in the business world and there’s so much to be learned from that. You’ve also cofounded 3COze Inc. and you’re an advisor of business strategy and all these things for top companies like Amazon, Walmart, 3M, SONY PlayStation. I think about the list of companies and associations you’ve worked with. You get this great book. To be the New York Times best-sellers is a big deal. How hard was it to write another one after that?

[bctt tweet=”The most common conflict is the failure to prioritize.” via=”no”]

I find writing books a joy. I love it, but it’s all-consuming. I had written a book before You First as well and there were six years between each of them. I only left four years between having children, so that gives you a sense of how big a commitment to writing a book is. I wasn’t daunted by it. After I wrote You First, there was one chapter about conflict in You First, and everybody seemed to go to that point. Everybody wanted help with that and wanted to talk more about that. It was obvious to me that the lack of conflict was something that was an important message. It was not a message that was out there anywhere else. People kept saying, “You think there needs to be more?” I knew very much that I needed to write it and it was then collecting the stories, the tools and the energy to write another book. I do love writing books. I loved getting them out in the world, talking with people, hearing their stories, how they react and how the ideas resonate. It was a matter of finding the right time to write another one.

I know the joy. It is hard and I give you a lot of credit because it is tough. When you talk about productive conflict because you’re saying people go, “We need more?” What’s productive conflict as compared to just conflict?

I use the word productive because it’s supposed to connote the idea that it moves you forward. That’s the most important component of productive conflict. It moves you forward. I would say it moves you forward both for the organization. Productive conflict is the type where the issue that comes to the table is resolved and it allows you to move. There’s a bit of decisiveness associated with it, helping you be productive as a business. Productive conflict is the kind of conflict that is productive for your team. It strengthens trust on your team as opposed to eroding it. That’s another characteristic of productive conflict. The third one is much more personal, which is its productive conflict when you go home at night, you look in the mirror and you’re proud of yourself. Those three things. It gets you to the other side of issues and helps you move forward. It strengthens trust and it increases your self-confidence and your pride in how you’re showing up in the world.

You talked about many things that I researched and that I find fascinating. When you talk about trust and conflict and all that, it all ties into our perception and how we get along based on our perceptions of each other. Trust keeps coming up when I researched that. We don’t put enough focus on the importance of trust sometimes.

TTL 434 | Productive Conflict
You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done

I can do a quick little thought experiment to show you the importance of it. Let’s play this game. We’ll get all the readers to play this game with us. Imagine you had to create a presentation that’s going to your boss’s boss, so that’s important. You say to your boss you’re done and your boss says, “Share it with everybody on the team,” so you do. The first person to respond to you is the person on the team who you don’t trust, and everybody can think of one. First, you take a deep breath in and another sip of coffee, but then you open the email and the message says, “I got the draft presentation. I caught a couple of mistakes. I have some ideas on how to make it better. I’ll come by your desk at 3:00.” The minute you get that email you’re either angry or embarrassed and what everyone tells me is, “I think I’m due for a dentist appointment at 3:00.”

Now, try this. Get that person out of your head and instead replace that person with the one who you trust most on your team, the one who you always walk out of meetings with to calibrate, “How did you think that went?” That person, and now I say they respond to your message and you click and open their email and it says, “I got the draft presentation you sent. I caught a couple of mistakes. I have some ideas on how to make it better. I’ll come by at 3:00.” You say, “Thank goodness you saved my bacon and I didn’t send it with mistakes to the boss,” and you think, “You have ideas. You think my work is cool.” At 3:00 you’re refilling the candy dish. That’s why trust matters because our brains are wired to take a neutral message and pass it through the part of our brain where we keep the baggage. That’s where we decide if this is a hostile message or a friendly message.

Every part of your experience of a team comes from that question of, “Do I trust or not trust?” It’s not an objective reality. We only get the email once, we think that we’re reading it objectively and logically, but when we try that thought experiment, we immediately realized that. I call that the mother-in-law effect because we have teammates where it’s very much like our mother saying it and they say it, “That’s fine.” We have other teammates where it’s more like if your mother-in-law said the same thing, it makes you defensive from the get-go. It’s a little thought experiment that helps us all realize that whether or not I choose to trust somebody on my team is going to affect how I interpret everything they do and whether I can get value from that relationship, etc. I am with you. Trust is so fundamental.

As you said that I was hearing the voice of how you would even say it in your mind, whether it’d be sarcastic, the tone. You change the tone of how you’d read it. I do that thing with people when they read me something and they go, “What do you think this means?” They’ll read it in a voice and I’m like, “I don’t hear that voice when I’m reading it because I don’t know this person. Why are you adding that voice to it?” A lot of it ties into my work with curiosity, what you’re talking about. What holds us back from being curious is our assumptions and the things that we tell ourselves in our minds that we’re not going to like this. They’re going to turn this down. They’re going to reject this. This is going to be bad. We have that voice that talks us out of everything. I love that experiment, and I definitely would probably be sharing that one because that’s a great thing to talk about when people talk about trust. I think that we have so much conflict in the workplace. Everybody’s freaked out about the different generations and whatever the things that they think are causing the conflict. Is there a cost of having not enough conflict?

That’s what The Good Fight is about. This idea that I’ve labeled conflict debt. It’s so funny I’m getting all these comments on social media about, “What a cool term. As soon as you said it, I knew exactly what you meant.” Think about it like a credit card debt. There’s something you need but you can’t afford it, so you just put it on your card. If you’re like most people and you’re saying, “I’m going to pay that off the first paycheck that comes in, I promise,” things pile up. 70% of Americans carry their credit card debt month to month, then the interest piles up. it compounds and it becomes debilitating. Take that same concept and apply it to the conflicts in your workplace. How many times a day or a week do you bump into something and you’re like, “I need to say that I hate it when the person does that. I need to say there’s an issue in that plan and there’s a risk. I can’t face it and I don’t want them to think I’m not a team player or I don’t want them to think I’m not nice?” We let it pile onto this conflict debt.

It’s all the issues that need to be surfaced and resolved that instead, we allow to go unspoken. Like credit card debt, conflict debt piles up interests. The most common conflict that I see at senior levels in organizations is the failure to prioritize. We could make trade-offs, we could set priorities, but then it would be an uncomfortable conversation and the sales guys will freak out. We just don’t, we say everything is important and that’s a major conflict debt, but the interest we pay on that debt is that we dilute our resources over far too many projects. We end up with workloads no one can manage. We create burnout. Our short-term disability rates are skyrocketing. This conflict debt, this initial issue, which is, “We’ve got to decide, is this initiative more important than this initiative?” That original conflict is now not even obvious in what is this compounding interest of mistrust, burnout, stress and all these things. It’s a fundamental problem.

[bctt tweet=”There is not one way of behaving that equals respectful.” via=”no”]

At the organizational level, that lack of conflict is certainly leading to a lack of innovation. If we don’t allow different ideas to come into tension with one another, we don’t innovate, it’s increasing the risk in our companies. If we’re not able to point out issues, risks or assumptions in our plans, then we just go forward with things that are risky. There are various costs to that conflict that even for our organizations, our businesses, but for our teams, the trust issues, the stress issues for our people. It is a massive crisis facing organizations is that we have failed, we’ve forgotten that conflict is required in organizations. We’ve made it a dirty word.

I’m thinking of a chart I’ve seen on stressed to de-stress. Is that the term for the low stress to high stress? You want to have some stress if you’re too far one way or another, you want that bell. Is it the same thing with this that we need a certain amount of conflict, but if you do too much, it’s too much and you do too little, it’s too little and then you end up stressed and unemployed and whatever else that comes up?

There are two dimensions to it. There’s the amount of conflict. That’s different from the quality of the conflict. I would say we want lots of conflicts. We want what I call high frequency, but low impact conflict, lots of it. You’re stating now as a fact what the data are that suggests that’s true. That’s a conflict. Putting a little tension on somebody’s posted facts. We want lots of that tension on teams which is a good thing. What we don’t want is friction. That’s where the conflict becomes personal. It is loud, aggressive or circular where you go around without resolving it if we say it’s not just more or less conflict. I would say the amount of conflict can be high if the impact of that conflict is low.

It’s how do we think about productive conflict and have lots of little bits of conflict all the time. If you go back to the credit card conflict debt metaphor, you say, “Every time we come to an issue that needs to be resolved, we need to pay in cash.” If I pay in cash and never let it pile up, then it’s never going to be the big unpleasant, festering conflict that leads to passive aggressiveness, that leads to hurt feelings. We want a very high frequency of conflict, lots of little conflicts all the time. We just want to make sure that it’s low impact and it isn’t the conflict that’s leaving a dent in people.

I’m picturing how people would say, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you anything,” because they’ve held on this resentment.

TTL 434 | Productive Conflict
Productive Conflict: If you want to have productive conflict in an organization, tell people what good looks like for you. Tell them up front before it happens.


That’s a funny story in the book. I talked about this in terms of Valentine’s Day so people can picture this. My husband and I decided many years ago, not to do Valentine’s Day, but I have funny conversations with friends about Valentine’s Day, “How was your Valentine’s Day?” It turns out if I say, “What was your ideal Valentine’s Day?” they’ll paint this whole picture of what was an ideal Valentine’s Day. Something no one could have guessed. What was perfect for them would have been totally different than what was perfect for me. I say, “Did you tell him that that’s what would make a great Valentine’s Day for you?” “No, he doesn’t know me well enough by now.” I call it Valentine’s Day effect.

I say we are waiting for people to disappoint us. We do that in teams all the time. We have a picture in our minds of how we would like it to be treated or what would be a great presentation or what would be a meeting that was worth going to. We don’t say a word. We keep that all in our heads and we sit and wait for people to disappoint us. To me, it’s a major mantra if you want to have productive conflict in an organization. Tell people what good looks like for you. Tell them up front before it happens. Don’t fall victim to the Valentine’s Day effect because then you’re just going to be unhappy. It’s going to erode your trust with somebody who had no chance of pleasing you. They have no idea.

It’s so interesting because everybody’s perception of how they want to do business, of what success is, and everything in life, perception ties into so much and how we work on teams. That was one of the reasons I found it interesting to take a lot of the personality assessments, the Myers-Briggs and the DISC because you know what you are. There’s something strange to me if you don’t know what you are. Finding out what other people want and what energizes them and what helps them, that to me is the big value in taking some of these assessments. I think so many people just assume that everybody is going to be looking at things from the same perspective that they’re going to be looking at them. It’s different with cultural awareness. Don’t you think that’s one of the biggest challenges?

The Good Fight lays out a method of communicating with one another that helps us deal with cultural challenges, personality differences, but also cultural differences. The way I talk in the book about, “How do I give somebody some feedback that the way they’re behaving isn’t working for me?” that’s one where it’s important to be aware that there are style differences and culture differences. One of the examples I give is eye contact. For a lot of North Americans, eye contact is important whether we feel respected or not. Eye contact is linked to respect. For many of us, it’s tied to respect in that we believe that if you respect me, look me in the eye. You can hear your dad, “Look me in the eyes.”

It turns out culturally in other cultures it would be very offensive, particularly for a direct report to make direct eye contact with you. That would be challenging. It would be strong. It’s important that we not say, “How come you’re disrespecting me?” if someone stopped giving us eye contact. We need to say, “You aren’t making eye contact with me when I speak with you. For me, it feels like you’re not hearing me.” Much more effective cross-culturally to call out the behavior and let the other person help you understand how to interpret their behavior. Unfortunately, we interpret behavior badly. I had a direct report years ago and she had grown up in East Germany. She used to come into my office, I was her boss. She was very curt with me and it was hurting my feelings.

[bctt tweet=”People have to be a little cautious about looking for the latest fad.” via=”no”]

Finally, one day I got up the nerve to say, “Do you not like me?” It was great because I said, “You don’t even come in and tell me how your weekend was or whatever.” She laughed and she said, “Where I come from that would be so disrespectful to use the boss’s time with chitchat. For me. I’m showing you respect by not engaging in small talk.” It was a great lesson, so much of the advice in The Good Fight is built to be cross-cultural. There are these situations where you’re going to have people from different cultures or with different styles. Instead of you believing that they’re either respecting you or disrespecting you and laying that on them instead. It gives you the language to share with them how you’re interpreting their behavior. Give them a chance to tell you that, “That wasn’t my intent at all.” We can start to understand one another better.

There were many things you’re saying that is interesting to me. The eye contact thing always bothered me when I was a pharmaceutical rep. A lot of doctors don’t look you in the eye when you talk to them and it used to drive me crazy. I was watching the Elizabeth Holmes Theranos on HBO and she never blinks. She just stares right through your soul as you would look at her. There’s an extreme one way or another. It’s interesting to look at how respect comes across. I know with my son-in-law, he came from another culture. He’s from Lebanon. I can’t tell you how different his personality is with me when I first met him. I asked him about that and it took me about seven years before he opened up so I could know him well. He said it was disrespectful in his country to show that sense of humor that I have, which is probably dark and pull out there. What he was doing was respectful and I feel much closer to him because he can be himself. He doesn’t have to play any game to make me feel he’s respecting me because I want him to be himself.

The word respect is such a loaded word. If the readers can take this one little takeaway that there is not one way of behaving that equals respectful. If you can understand that somebody else may be trying to show you respect in the exact opposite way to what respect means to you. I was on another podcast and I was trying to share this with the host and he basically was like, “There is one version of respect and that’s being candid, being direct, that’s respect.” I was like, “The irony.” There are people for whom diplomacy, providing more context is how they show respect and how they expect to be shown respect. If we can get away, if everybody can stop for a moment and in a moment where they feel disrespected, just use that curiosity that we’ve been talking about and say, “What if it’s possible? This is how they’re showing me respect and I’m interpreting it as disrespect?”

If my dad respected you, he showed you by teasing you mercilessly. That’s how you knew you were in. Once you have a humiliating nickname, you’re good. Yet somebody else who came from a more diplomatic family, you think of your son-in-law, that was mortified that I’m blowing it. “He doesn’t like me.” If we can stop and understand that we have very different definitions of respect. If we feel disrespected, it may in no way because the other person is trying to disrespect us. In fact, it could be because they’re trying to show us respect in a way that’s completely counter. We would all get along better in this world if we understood that one simple concept.

I can relate to the family thing. My son-in-law’s sisters had their religious practices to wear the hijab on their head. My brother in our family, when they’re showing that they like you is he picks you up and hugs you. He would pick them up and hug them in the air. That is so against what they would want. As I’m watching I’m like, “Please don’t do that,” but they understood though. They were cool about it because they were very open-minded. A lot of people don’t have that sense like the guy you’re talking about when you’re on their show is that I’m right, you’re wrong. I want to get rid of that thinking so badly because it’s so easy to do that, to think this is the only way. Just because it’s your comfort level, it doesn’t mean it’s everybody else’s comfort level. I love that you were touching on this. A lot of leaders can use some help doing that. How do they learn to get that way of thinking?

The biggest thing is to talk it out. Just to start to say, “I feel disrespected.” The way I train people to talk is you can say anything subjective you want about yourself, but don’t say subjective things about other people. Don’t say they’re disrespectful, don’t see they’re rude. That’s all judgment. If you were experiencing something you’re interpreting as rude, figure out what it is. Start to talk about what you see. You’re not looking at me while I’m speaking to you, and I’m feeling you don’t want to hear what I have to say. Training that very simple thing, that’s something your audience can do.

They can interact with people and as they’re talking about people, never tell somebody else what they think or how they feel or who they are, and we do that all the time. We tell other people what they’re thinking. You think this is stupid or we tell them what they’re feeling. Your inpatient or we tell them who they are, you’re rude. As soon as you do that, it becomes adversarial and you put up a wall. It’s training people to say, “You can talk all you want about somebody else, talk about their behavior, talk about what you see. If you’re going to be subjective, instead of saying ‘You’re rude,’ say, ‘I feel hurt. I feel ignored,’ as subjective as you want, as long as you’re talking about yourself.”

That’s great advice and you’ve got so much good advice in this book. A lot of people are going to want to know how they can get your book and find out more about you. Is there a link or a site or something you’d like to share?

They can go to If you go there, there’s under the books tab you’ll see about The Good Fight and there are lots of information about it. It’s got all the links to buy it at your favorite retailer, whichever one’s your favorite. On there, under the blog, there are about 450 articles on about how to deal with this stuff at work. My YouTube channel has videos on things like what do I do if I have a passive aggressive colleague or what if somebody keeps gossiping. is the jumping off point, but the YouTube channel is also going to be helpful. The Good Fight is chockablock with what words do I actually say? How do I approach this? What if it’s my boss? How do I have conflict with my boss? How do I speak the truth to power? All those things are all going to come through

It was nice to have you on the show, Liane. This is interesting and it’s everything I’m interested in and I’m sure everybody could use this advice. Thank you for being such a great guest.

It’s my pleasure. I had a blast, Diane.

How To Work Stronger with Pete Leibman

TTL 434 | Productive Conflict
Work Stronger: Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work

I am here with Pete Leibman, who is a consultant, speaker and bestselling author. He’s been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio and CNN Money. His latest book, Work Stronger: Habits for More Energy, Less Stress and Higher Performance at Work, is an Amazon bestseller. It’s nice to have you here, Pete.

Thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be with you.

I am interested in your book. It ties into a lot of the things that I deal with in my consulting and my speaking. Everything that you write about is fascinating to me and I want to get to your book. In case somebody hasn’t seen you or know about your work, if you can give a little background on you and how you got interested in this.

I’ve always believed that there’s a big connection between energy and resilience and performance, and before writing Work Stronger, I had worked as an Executive Recruiter at Heidrick & Struggles one of the world’s top executive search firms. My main job was to identify, interview and assess executives for leadership roles. It was very apparent to me that there are many leaders clearly facing tremendous pressure in the world that we live in. Many of them are working incredibly long hours, feeling they need to be on 24/7. My main message and goal with the book is to try to show people that there is a better way. I spend some time in executive search and that exposed me to a lot of the challenges that leaders face.

I imagine it would. My sister’s a recruiter, not for executives, but I’ve been around a lot of recruiters and had a few of them on my show. I know how you have to know everything when you’re in that position because you see what everybody’s looking for. Your book is interesting because your core message of working stronger, we hear don’t work harder, work smarter. What is working stronger as compared to working smarter?

There are a couple of things. It is all about how to achieve more in less time and with less stress but working stronger is also including the physical components. Looking at this from a mental, psychological and physical perspective, the reality is many leaders when they are working longer and longer, what they choose to cut out is taking care of themselves physically. Many of them are not aware of how that can impact them mentally and psychologically. Maybe that’s how working stronger is different than working smarter is including that physical component as well.

What advice do you give for the physical aspects? Is it eating or is it exercising?

There’s a framework I talk about in the book called the Stronger Cycle, which is four key areas on how to achieve and sustain higher performance. Those areas are fuel, sweat, focus and renew. Those first two areas with fuel and sweat are talking about nutrition and exercise. We all know that that’s going to impact us physically, but many people don’t understand that those areas have a tremendous impact on you mentally and emotionally. That third area of focus is all about your mental energy, your attention and how you’re structuring, going through your day and potentially handling distractions, interruptions and staying focused on top priorities.

[bctt tweet=”Being more mindful at work and outside of work leads to clearer thinking.” via=”no”]

That last area, renew, is all about sleep, mindfulness and disconnecting, which is becoming harder and harder in the world that we live in. That’s making time to do that is going to impact you not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Those are the four key areas. A point I’d make on it is I was speaking with a CEO and he referred to my book as a book on balance. I said, “This is not a book on balance. This is a book on high performance.” These areas, if you take them more seriously, you might be able to achieve balance. That could be a byproduct, but this is going to make your brain stronger. It’s going to make you better at your job. For many leaders, with everything on their plate, some of these areas can sometimes get pushed to the back burner.

I’m relating to how they impact me. If I eat too much carbs or whatever, which I tend to do. It makes you very light headed. You don’t think as clearly. There are many people that have their ideas of what’s good to eat. I was a pharmaceutical rep, my husband’s a physician. We have a little bit of a background of all this research out there. For me, I know what works for me and a lot of people get so used to eating badly that they don’t realize how much it impacts their brains. That fuels such a huge thing, but for me, the biggest thing is the renew. If I don’t sleep, I’m just toast. You hear all these people that can go three, four hours. Are you one of those that can go three, four hours and be fine the next day because I’m not?

I’m not. I’m a big proponent of getting quality rest too. You look at the research when somebody who’s getting three or four hours of sleep a night, studies have shown that they perform cognitively just like somebody who’s impaired from drinking too much alcohol. People can fuel themselves artificially through caffeine and energy drinks. Can you rally for a day or two on that? Yes, but you’re not going to perform at your optimal level if you’re not getting that quality rest day after day.

I saw Tony Robbins speak at an event I was at not too long ago and he does this ice baths in the morning. What are you doing something extreme to get your brain or body going like that?

It’s interesting, given the topic of my book, people are always asking me about the latest fad or extreme stuff. Personally, I am skeptical of some of that. I look at those as more advanced strategies. For most people, honestly, the basics are going to give them such a big return. A lot of people are looking at fasting or some new diet or some trendy workout or ice baths. Could those things provide value? Yes, but honestly, focusing on the basics first is probably going to give you a bigger bang for your buck. People do have to be a little cautious about looking for the latest fad and not building a solid foundation with some of these core habits.

I know mindfulness is such a hot topic. Daniel Goleman was on the show and switched focus a little bit towards that. I’ve had a lot of others, the mother of mindfulness as well, Ellen Langer. Some people focus on meditation or mindfulness and it can get turned off because they’re like, “I don’t have time for that stuff. I can’t do it.” What do you say to people who are critical of that?

Just the word mindfulness is misunderstood and a lot of people make it out to be more complicated than it is. My definition of mindfulness is deliberate, focused attention on the present moment. Any activity can be mindful or mindless. Meditation is a formal way to practice mindfulness, but you can practice mindfulness while you eat, while you exercise, while you work. You could also practice mindlessness. If people are turned off to mindfulness, maybe because they think it has a religious connotation or it’s spiritual and they don’t understand it. It’s about bringing that focus to whatever you’re doing, not ruminating about the past, not worrying about the future. This is all easier said than done, but the benefits of being more mindful at work, outside of work, it leads to clearer thinking. It leads to less stress, it leads to more energy, better sleep, stronger immune system, and the benefits go on and on. People can approach mindfulness. Meditation is one way to do it. It’s not the only way.

TTL 434 | Productive Conflict
Productive Conflict: One of the biggest sources of stress for a lot of people is the never-ending to-do list.


When you’re talking about that, the interruptions, distractions and things that get us off of task, one of the things you write about is the impact of technology. How is that impacting our ability to concentrate?

It’s making it a lot harder. I’ll give you an interesting stat. There was a study conducted by UC Irvine. It found that the average person who works in an office either switches tasks or is interrupted every three minutes and five seconds. That’s nineteen times an hour. That’s over 150 times a day. Technology clearly can improve our lives and careers in many ways, but it’s also what causes a lot of these interruptions and distractions. That’s something that people have to be very conscious of is how you’re using technology and are you using it or is it using you? Thinking through how you go through your work day and trying to make sure that technology is interrupting and distracting you all day long.

We need to work like athletes. What does that mean?

Working like an athlete is a mindset, but I give you a couple of practical examples. At the start of my career, I worked in pro sports. I worked in a front office for the Washington Wizards, the pro basketball team in DC. One part of my job that always fascinated me was watching the pros warm up before a game. One thing that athletes do, the best athletes in the world all have a deliberate ritual to get themselves in the best mental, physical and psychological state before their game begins. If you think of most people who work in an office, you’ve got 250 game days a year. If you’re working five days a week, let’s say 50 weeks a year. My question to anyone reading this is what is your pregame ritual?

What are you doing between that time when you get up and when you get to work? Is that setting you up to being your best possible state? I think the answer for most people is it’s not. It’s maybe chaotic. It’s stressful. It could be mindless. You’re stuck in traffic, whatever it is. You’re getting to work, you’re already flustered. The day hasn’t even begun. Working like an athlete, one practical example is when you’re being deliberate with that pregame ritual and how you start your day. It has such a huge impact on not only how you’re going to perform in the morning, but it’s going to set a tone for your entire day.

You’re bringing up something as a kid. My dad had this chant he used to say before we do our swimming. It was all gibberish. It was a funny thing though that he’d make. You had to say it before you swam, but then he’d shove a pixie stick down your throat and make sure you swam faster. I don’t think that was the good part of the ritual, but he had good intentions. You have a productivity tool I wanted to talk about because a lot of people, if they get motivated to get their day going, they do the right chance. They get prepared. They still get off track. What’s the one-page productivity tool that you offer?

It’s something I call the Work Stronger Day Planner. One of the biggest sources of stress for a lot of people is this never-ending to-do list. We have this list of endless task. A lot of days the list gets bigger because we added stuff to it. Conceptually, if people are not doing this already, one thing that might be worth considering is at the end of each week, look at everything that’s on your plate. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish and what you can realistically get done by the end of the next week, and then forget about everything else until you do the same process next week. You take that never-ending to-do list.

[bctt tweet=”Setting a plan in advance allows you to have a little bit of closure at the end of the day.” via=”no”]

You’re going to shorten it down to what you want to focus on for the week and then use that shorter list for the week to set priorities for each day. You’ve taken everything on your plate. You brought it to the weekly level, then you brought it to the daily level. I can talk if you want a little bit more detail in terms of how to set the daily priorities. Going more detail on that, I encourage people to think of their day in terms of three different types of tasks. The first category of the task I would call a scheduled commitment. That’s a call or a meeting. It’s something you’ve already agreed to. I’m going to make the assumption that the call or meeting is a good use of your time, but it’s something you agreed to. That’s the first thing is you look at what’s fixed in your schedule for the next day.

The next thing you do is you identify some unscheduled priorities. These are high-value activities. They may or may not be urgent. They’re generally activities that you’re going to complete on your own. You ask yourself, “If I only had one more hour outside of my scheduled commitment, what will be the most valuable way for me to use that time?” Depending on how much time you have outside of those calls and meetings, you maybe asked yourself that question a few times. You’re trying to identify maybe three to five top priorities for the day. What you do is rank them in priority order and you estimate how long you want to devote to each task. By going through that, you’re going to have a lot more structure than just working off some to-do list where you might have two weeks’ worth of work on there, there’s no prioritization, you have an estimate of how long each task is going to take. This is a much more intentional and manageable way to structure your day. Those are a couple of quick tips in terms of putting that together.

I schedule everything on my calendar just because I have maybe four hours of interviews a day and then I teach, and I do all these other things. To make it easier for me, I keep everything in my Google calendar type of thing. Is there a particular planner that you suggest? Is this the tool that you’re talking about in the book? Do you say put it into some other tool to remind you?

I am very old school. I do this on a piece of paper. If you’re traveling, you could do it on an index card and you could have it in your pocket or purse. Personally, I like to see it on a piece of paper. I find that if I put stuff in my online calendar and I don’t have that open, I might miss something. I like to write it out and then you can also cross stuff off and crumple up the paper at the end of the day and throw it in the recycle bin. That further helps you bring some closure to the end of the day when you draw off the next day’s routine. For me, it’s going through that process on paper, I find more effective. You can do it in your Outlook or some other calendar. It just depends on somebody is on the go or if they have a preferred way of setting up their day.

I’m wondering what you tell the people who like to plan the plan and never do anything but planning. How much time do you suppose to spend on this? Some people will get carried away with how they can be.

One thing that is a good practice at the end of the week and this came up with a number of the CEOs who I interviewed for my book in terms of how they structure their week, maybe blocking out an hour to look at everything on your plate, establish some goals and priorities. In terms of setting priorities for each day, that should be a five to ten-minute activity to close out the day. It shouldn’t take that long. As you get better and better about structuring your schedule and your time, it should get easier, but that should not be something that’s taking you more than five to ten minutes at the end of the day.

You mentioned the CEOs in your book and how they started their week. Who did you interview? Was there anyone that stood out of how they did things that were unique or different? What stories do you have to share with that?

TTL 434 | Productive Conflict
Productive Conflict: Exercise literally changes your brain for the better. It can slow cognitive decline.


I don’t know how unique it was, but Chip Bergh, CEO at Levi Strauss and that’s what he told me. He said he likes to pretty much go through that process. I think he said sometime Sunday night for him, probably because a lot of stuff’s coming in Friday and Saturday. They could change what he had planned for Monday. What he does is he blocks out some time and he asks himself, “What do I want to accomplish? What are my top three to five goals?” He said he uses that to drive his daily priorities. He also said he journals about it, so he’s got some accountability. He can look back at it. The one example, other people, for instance, might want to do that on Friday. Maybe they take a stab at it on Friday and things might change. They could change overnight but setting that plan in advance at least allows you to have a little bit of closure, at the end of the day. For many people, it’s this never-ending cycle where one day bleeds into the next and you’re chronically checking emails and texts and there’s no separation or chance to disconnect and get some fresh ideas.

You mentioned Levi Strauss and I’m sure you take these into companies when you work with them. I’m wondering some of the ways you work with companies with this.

My main program is a program that’s called the Work Stronger Signature Program. I’m either taking a leadership team or a group of maybe 15 to 25 people through a workshop in terms of this Work Stronger methodology. There’s also an assessment that people can take before the workshop to get a snapshot of how strong they’re working. For a lot of people, it’s eye-opening. After the workshop, there are some additional tools and support to reinforce and drive the change. One thing I’d say to people is you can be successful without doing some of these things that we’re talking about, but they’re going to make you even better. It’s all about reaching that next level.

You mentioned assessment, and I created an assessment to help people with curiosity. I’m curious, did you create your own assessment and what kind of things are you looking at with that?

I did. It measures somebody’s habits in terms of those four areas I mentioned: nutrition, exercise, focus and productivity, then sleep and mindfulness. People take it and it takes three minutes. It’s a quick assessment and then they get a score. For a lot of people, they may score lower than they’d think. That suggests that more of their habits are working against them rather than for them. That’s a big part of working stronger. It’s about identifying and changing behaviors that are holding you back. I’m not saying this is the only way you can be successful. I’m saying, if you can make a couple of changes, you could be even better. That’s one of the core messages.

My assessment with curiosity is determining things that hold people back from being curious. Having a baseline is so important because people don’t recognize some of these things impact them. I find that fascinating and a lot of people are trying to make a change and their efforts fail. You said that over 90% of New Year’s resolutions change efforts fail. Why do you think that happens and what can our audience do to increase their chances of making changes last?

That’s a crazy step, but it’s unfortunate. Most people either have forgotten about or given up on their supposed resolutions and goals for the year. There are a couple of reasons why that happens. For many people, it’s taking on too much at one time. It’s maybe being overambitious and overenthusiastic at the start of the year. It could also be maybe not having a strategy. For a lot of people, we set these goals. Things like, “I want to get healthier, or “I want to enjoy life more,” or “I want to have less stress,” and it’s a worthy goal, but it’s too vague. How are you going to measure that if that happens? One practical thing that I would recommend for people is to identify what I call a stronger habit of the month.

[bctt tweet=”Identifying and changing behaviors that are holding you back is a big part of working stronger. ” via=”no”]

That is a specific, measurable behavior. Something you’re going to start doing or do more often or something you’re going to stop doing or do less often. You put your focus and energy in terms of trying to make that as natural part of your routine as possible. It doesn’t mean you can’t also make other changes, but that’s the focus. Anything else is a bonus. If people approach it that way over a period of a few months and you can make some significant changes, it will be a lot more sustainable. You won’t need willpower and the change will be likely to last. Maybe that’s a more practical way than these overdone New Year’s resolutions that you’re not likely to succeed.

You’ve incorporated some of the things that are important as far as health and wellness. You do some extra activities. Do you teach that group exercise class? It was one of the largest in Washington DC. Do you still do that?

I’m a big fitness enthusiast as you might imagine, given that it’s one of the topics of the book. It’s always been a passion of mine, and in my free time, I’m a certified fitness trainer. I teach group exercise classes and then also compete in various fitness challenges and in endurance races on my own.

Your degree in psychology, which is interesting, you were at Johns Hopkins?

I majored in psychology. One of my part-time jobs going back to college, I was a personal trainer for the university. My first client was the wife of the president of the university at that time. It’s something, since college, that I’ve been passionate about giving my own struggles physically in high school. I used to joke that nobody would have guessed then that I’d write a book with the word stronger in the title. After going through my own transformation, I wanted to help other people get stronger too.

Exercise was never a high priority for me when I was younger. When you get older, sometimes you change. It does help me. I have indoor bikes and different things in my house. If you start working and you need to get your brain back, sometimes it helps us to get a little off during the day.

Get those endorphins running. There’s a lot of research that shows exercise literally changes your brain for the better. It can slow cognitive decline. It can help you grow in your brain cells significant mental and psychological benefits to being more active.

My research in curiosity also found health benefits for that as well. It increases dopamine and everybody wants more of that. It’s all about feeling better and being our best. Your book Work Stronger is going to be a real big help for a lot of people out there. It’s already an Amazon bestseller. Your work is fascinating to me and I’m sure a lot of people would want to know how to get in touch with you. I know you’ve been featured on Fox, CBS, CNN Money and all these sites. If they wanted to get ahold of you, how would they do that?

If they want to learn more about corporate programs, they can go to If they want to check out the book, they can go to I’m also very involved in LinkedIn, which goes back to my executive recruiting days. They’re certainly welcome to contact me directly through there also.

LinkedIn has become such a major thing for many people I deal with. I’m sure you probably see a big change in it. It’s great that everybody could connect and that’s probably how we connected originally. It’s wonderful that you’re open to letting people contact you that way and I’m sure a lot of people will reach out to you. Thank you so much for being on the show, Pete. This was fascinating.

Thanks so much for having me and keep up your great work.

I’d like to thank Liane and Pete for being on the show. For any information about curiosity and my work with that, if you want to take the CCI Assessment or become CCI Certified or even buy the book, Cracking the Curiosity Code, it’s all at For any information, if you’re interested in speaking and that type of thing, it’s all at I enjoyed the show and I hope you did. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Dr. Liane Davey

TTL 434 | Productive ConflictDr. Liane Davey is the New York Times Bestselling author of You First, Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done. She is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review and the organizational psychology expert for Quartz magazine. Her latest book is The Good Fight: Use Productive Conflict to Get Your Team and Organization Back on Track.



About Pete Leibman

TTL 434 | Productive ConflictPete Leibman is a consultant, speaker, and bestselling author who has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and His latest book, Work Stronger; Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work, is an bestseller.





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