03:28 Monique: Alright, Michelle, so thrilled to have you with me today on the Tuesdays with Coach Mo podcast where we’re really trying to bring new insights and resources to young professionals out there who are on the, let’s say in the pursuit of fulfilling their executive ambitions and so keeping in mind where we are now as a nation, I don’t know another word for it but I’d suggest our nation is pretty much in a crisis and what do you think is needed to bring these opposing people or parties together?
04:00 Michelle: What an incredible question to start off our conversation.
04:05 Monique: Yeah, big question.
04:06 Michelle: It is the $64,000 question. Firstly, let me just say thank you for having me, it’s so great to be here and be in a conversation with you and to support your listeners. What we’re experiencing in our country at this moment, a lot of people would say, “This is new, we’ve never been here before.” But the reality is that much of what’s happening, we have been here before and we have been here for quite some time. What is different is that we are starting to see more diverse people coming to the conversation and more people wanting to be allies and supporters and change-makers to help transform the systems and structures in which we’re finding ourselves. But here’s the thing that happens, in our culture, our country culture, we are Westerners, we are Americans and Americans like things quick, fast, and hurry. We like to go straight to the outcome, to the product, and fix that. So we look at a system, a rule, a law, a statued, a process and we say, “We need to fix that, that will help us treat people better, that will help us hire better, that will help us promote better. When in reality is, is it those are symptoms. Those are outcomes of the people who create them. So I always say that one of the things we have to do is a reverse engineer from the place that we want to be and by reverse engineering, we have to start in ourselves. And so, when we look at the sort of landscape of what’s happening in our country we have so many people rooted on one side or the other. It’s reflective of our mindsets and binary thinking, it’s up-down, right-wrong, black-white, yes-no. When in fact we know that the world is full of shades of gray, shades of color, shades of experiences. And so you think and you see this sort of contrast in this sort of conflict in these opposing ideologies and what gets lost in all of that is the fact that we’re all human. We all have different life experiences and here’s where stuff gets sticky, because of our life experiences, our traumas, our biases, our celebrations, all of those sit in some kind of cellular way as memories in the body and then we bring all of that into the virtual and physical doors of work. So, we stand rooted in our judgement and certainty, rooted in our positions, when what we need to do now, to help bridge and be bridges of differing ideologies and communities and people is to move from that and into places of discernment, curiosity, and shared interest. And the way that we do that is by holding ourselves accountable, not just other people, we’re very good at holding other or trying to hold other people accountable and here’s why: we love to be judged by our intentions but we always judge other people by their impact. And so all of us have probably said when we have offended somebody or done something that had an outcome that we didn’t anticipate “Oh, I didn’t mean that, that wasn't my intention, or what I meant was” and we say that as if that should be enough and that should be okay. But people feel an impact, people live and experience impact, and so one of the things I think that would be helpful to bring us all together is to begin to break open this mindset we have about otherizing people who are not like us. And the thing that makes it challenging is that we are biologically hardwired. Some of your listeners may be familiar with this; only a couple of decades-old research work around the brain in Neuroscience and what we know is that we are hardwired to scan for threat and we are also hardwired to be in community and connection so we hold this crazy tension between the two so when we, our brain perceives somebody who’s not like us, who thinks differently, who behaves differently it is processed as a threat unless the other part of the brain responsible for executive functioning kicks in and can say, “Wait a minute, maybe that’s not a threat. Let’s have a conversation” So being curious, disrupting our own biases and holding ourselves accountable, allowing us to open the door to civil discourse and discovery and being intentional about our own education, how do we be an ally and be in partnership with one another in a way that doesn’t enable a hobbled system but one instead that promotes and creates together a transformation of systems and connections.
09:15 Monique: Hold on. I am jotting that one down. Nice. So, Michelle did you coin the term? Or is this new? But the word otherizing really stood out for me in your remarks.
09:30 Michelle: Yes, so it is not a new term. I’ve been using it for a while and then stumbled upon the work of John A. Powell from the Othering and Belonging Institute formerly the Hoss institute, I believe. And he talks about othering and belonging. For several years, I’ve been using the term belonging and unity, and when I first introduced that concept people were saying “ Well why don’t you use diversity and inclusion?” and I was like, “because to me those are like tactic”. That’s sort of things you get to when you have people who feel like they belong and they are in unity they don’t have things like diversity and inclusion, like these things would naturally coexist when you have that as a lived reality and so people belong and we create categories of people, there are us and them, those us people and people. So John A. Powell’s work that I’d stumbled upon in the last, probably a year to a year and a half has given me more language to express what it is I’m thinking and that is exactly what we do as I mentioned a few moments ago because the brain does categorize and that’s its job. It wants to be efficient, it wants to keep us safe and so it looks at people, places, situations, conditions, and puts them in a category of other or us, threat, safe. And so we’re doing this all the time and part of it is an invitation for us to disrupt some of the misinformation that is calculated and predicted by our brains because it is only pulling from our narrow life experience and so if we’d had a bad experience with a particular person or group of people then as the brain predicts what will happen in the future it pulls from that experience set so we have to be aware of that so that we don’t continue to otherize which then sort of lends in to and creates stereotypes, enables and grows bias and then the outcome of the systems process these inequitable applications of opportunities, rules, laws and everything else associated with that.
11:37 Monique: That emerges from that, absolutely. And so in your work, share your approach to whole-person leadership. What makes it distinctive?
11:47 Michelle: So, I think we all travel through the world in the same kind of sequence and same kind of quadrants for example. And so, I look at self, family, community, and the world of work and that’s typically the things that we go through before we get to the world of work. And in each of those quadrants, each of those stages and phases of life, we are building life experience, information, and data, we are collecting sort of wounds and traumas and ideas and ideologies that sit inside the body and they compound on one another. So when I work with people, it’s not enough just to say “Hey, I’m trying to get from manager to director, can you help me do that?”. Well, one of the things, you know, that we have to disrupt is again this American and western notion of “I just want that outcome without reverse engineering to look at what’s the foundation, what’s the inner world like that’s impacting the outer world. So, we will look at these sorts of quadrants around self, family, community, like how am I showing up? And the bedrock of this is really cultivating our self-awareness, so I do a lot of the work in around the emotional intelligence framework, but I describe it often as emotional intelligence can be like the car, right? The vehicle. And inside that car, the passengers are, you know, sort of full of mindfulness and its compassion and its your sort of your values and your purpose, all these things that help allow the framework of emotional intelligence to be the vehicle which you express those things but self-awareness is the most important foundational element because if we’re not aware of what’s happening in the internal conversation, the mental narratives, the inner critic, the biases. All those things, if we’re not bringing attention to those then we don’t know how to manage ourselves adequately, efficiently, skillfully, which then means we don’t really effectively interacting communicate with others and I often explain awareness as sort of as three concentric circles with the innermost circle being self, the next one being others and the third one being the ecosystem, and the ecosystem shifts depending on where we are, it could be our family, it could be a community, it could be work, it could be another country it could be anything. But that level of awareness at the center travels to all the other levels and it creates the glue or the thing that breaks down and breaks apart those relationships. So starting there, first and having a level of compassion towards yourself and others. And often some kind of courage, because there’s going to be vulnerability that pops up and even in that these things, often people would say “ but these are soft, I don’t really need these I just need to get that done, whatever that is”. And my approach is how you do what you do matters. And this way of being informed your way of doing and there’s this really wonderful quote, it is very popular. Many people have heard that I use it all the time in my work and she’s known to have said that “people will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel” and we are feeling beings not just thinking beings, we often feel our way through the world and so we have to get those pieces straight for the outer expressions, the outer work to create coherence, cohesion and equitable opportunity for all.
15:58 Monique: And of that in your approach, what in your experience is proving to be, let’s say amongst the most challenging for those you support and, you know, pivoting from that in terms of a bigger picture, in terms of ROI or let’s say impact? But first in the journey, what in your experience has proven to be most challenging in general for most people?
17:43 Michelle: Yeah, well I think it’s busting the myth of what compassion is and what mindfulness is, and people have these incredible misperceptions or misconceptions about what they are and, you know, and imagery and media don’t help, right? When mindfulness comes up people think “Oh, I saw on Time magazine somebody sitting on lotus position on a conference room table that looks ridiculous to me, I don’t want to do that” and then compassion is like “Oh, I saw this little vignette or mem we’re somebody who’s giving somebody a hug?” and yes it can be those things but it is not just those thing and P.S I have been meditating since I was seven and I’ve never been in lotus position and meditation is distinct from mindfulness. So there are all these things that have to be clarified so people understand why it matters and how it’s applicable and relatable to them. So the three things I often do is give a baseline understanding of what we mean when we say these things, mindfulness does not equal meditation, there are many ways to be mindful and to have a mindful presence as you move through your work and family and other aspects of your life. And compassion isn’t always soft and warm and fuzzy, sometimes it’s direct and it’s fierce. And so when you give yourself permission to understand the spectrum of what these things can mean and how they can help and form your way of being that then elevates your way of doing people start to really get curious. And so these are not soft skills as I tell people I don’t even like that term, these are essential skills, they’re essential business skills, they’re essential leadership skills because everybody can think of someone that they’ve worked with who may have been a high or top performer may be in sales they have the biggest deals, maybe in law, they were the biggest revenue partner or whatever it is. And they leave scorched earth behind them, nobody wants to work with them, nobody enjoys being in their company and nobody trusts them. So, there’s no psychological safety, the culture may be toxic in terms of their contributions and the climate of that culture is untenable. And I make a distinction between culture and climate. Cultures, the accepted norms the behaviors and climate is that how does it feel to be in that culture.
So one of the things that we do when you think about all those things and unpacking and sort of deconstructing some of the myths and then reconstruct what’s sort of is authentic, purposeful, and in alignment with values, one of the things that we have to do because we work in organizations where there’s accountability there’s revenue, goals, and targets there perhaps are investor analyst calls that happen quarterly after publicly traded. And so one of the things that I often do when I talk to an executive is they’re saying, “Listen, I’ve got to make these numbers, I’ve got to answer to the board and I’ve got to answer to the street or private investors. And so what we look at is what do those numbers look like? And as you’ve heard me say multiple times I’m a big fan of reverse engineering I come from the tech center with a tech attorney and then work with the tech sectors the businesswoman and so I use that terminology, that’s what we need to do. Okay that’s where we want to go, let me show you how we get there, and what I’ll do is that I’ll give them a glimpse, there’s a wonderful book that was written maybe seven or so years ago at this point by Raj Sisodia and two other authors called Firms of Endearment and what they did was they did research over several year periods to look at companies who operated in this inside out way and compared their performance to the S&P 500 and they measured them over a three, five, ten, and fifteen-year period and what they find is that these Firms, these Firms of endearment outperformed the S&P 500 in many cases by more than a 1,000% so we know that this isn’t only a good thing to do but that also is a beneficial and financially rewarding way to show up in the world as an organization, so you can do good and be good.
22:10 Monique: Nice, that’s powerful. And that was Firms of Endearment I’ll be sure to include that resource in the show notes for today’s episode. Now, thinking about, you know, the young professional who is on the track they may be in a role that is preparing them for a bigger leadership step and more direct reports that sort of thing and so if they’re either a solo contributor or may just have one or two direct reports, what advice do you have for someone who’s wondering “What can I possibly do to make a difference even at what I’m deeming to be some low-level in the organizational hierarchy?”
22:52 Michelle: Yes. I love this question because this is so common. People think “well I’m only a coordinator, I’m only a manager, what can I possibly do? Who’s going to listen to me?” and the first thing I say is “You are there for a reason. You matter.” your voice matters, your contribution matter. And silencing yourself or withholding doesn’t do you justice and it doesn’t contribute in a beneficial way to the organization. That’s not to say that every contribution is going to be a homerun but this is how we learn, this is how we co-create as teams, as departments, as organizations. We contribute, and your life experience is necessarily going to give you a different lens, that lens and that expression of it is going to then find its way to navigate your ecosystem, your organizational environment and you’ll find a way to then express things that help move the needle forward. So I say lean into your power, lean into your voice, grow your confidence and find mentors and coaches that will help you. And it doesn’t have to be a formal coach outside of the organization because some people cannot afford that not everybody has that kind of access but there are many people inside organizations that can serve as mentors unofficial or official as well as coaching you, and if you are a people manager then I invite you to lean into coaching as a manager. And that helps to develop your people as well as yourself and it tells people that you look at the bigger picture beyond your own achievement orientation, right? So achievement orientation’s about what do I want for me? What are the things I want to achieve? And you always have to remember to keep that in balance with the achievement orientation of the team and of the organization so it doesn’t come out of alignment, when it comes out of alignment, you are then only for yourself and there is nothing that any of us ever do by ourselves. We stand on the shoulders of those before us and we are meant to reach back, reach down, reach up, reach sideways to bring others with us. It takes patience and, you know, our self-esteem can get knocked around quite a bit in this journey but we get back up. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are modeling and living the way that you believe is important and you can transform the game rather than say enable a game that doesn’t work for all.
25:36 Monique: So, how does someone know or self-evaluate their readiness for a whole person engagement, you know, I know we’re coming to an end of our time together, Michelle, and this has just been phenomenal how you framed and are laying out the opportunity for being of leadership but how does someone actually self-evaluate their readiness?
25:59 Michelle: I think that this is one of the things that require you to do a little bit of work on your own and be in conversation with someone. So, the first couple things that I think are interesting to do is to sort of think about what’s important to you so really sort of sifting through what are your top and core values, how do you see yourself interacting and sometimes in this way it’s like ‘who’s that one person that’s really challenging for you and look at what you’re showing up in that interaction because one will say that these are my core values and these people that I don’t quite get along well with, it’s probably because they’re rubbing up against some of those core values that you hold. And so, looking at that, looking at potentially, you know, exploring some of your biases, not all of them will be unconscious some of them you’ll be aware of and sort of doing a self-inventory. The next thing I love the idea of a personal sort of leadership commitment or leadership plan, I think that’s critical in all this kind of work that weaves in all these components and then having a conversation with a trusted colleague, friend, a family member, but mostly with someone who will have kind of a holistic lens to the professional application. Sometimes we can find that in the family because we have another sort of professional family member, sometimes it’s a trusted colleague and sometimes it’s a coach or a mentor but looking at that and seeing ‘where are my gaps? What is the kind of human, not just leader, what is the kind of human I want to be? And what does that human leadership look like?’ and as you start to unpeel the layers or kind of pull back the layers you start to gain more clarity. The thing that is really helpful, you start to envision what it is you want, and the way to make that happen is through three key steps. The first is envisioning it in your mind, how do you want it to be? How do you want to be? What are the things you want to do and achieve? The second is writing it down so journaling or taking notes, however, you want to refer to it, that’s important because it takes it from the mental down to paper. The third step is then speaking it out loud to another person. So those three steps help us to do that inner work discovery that then leads to the external impact of doing and creating a positive legacy and sustainability in our work.
28:25 Monique: Nice. Really nice. And that first step of envisioning? So powerful. That’s one of the things that’s an element of the coach certification that I actually trained new coaches on, is how to support your client and gaining that focus and motivation and even if they describe what it is they want, well sit with them, support that, in terms of expanding that such that it becomes real through what thing they will be hearing once they achieve that state, what thing they will be seeing, what are those feelings that will then be coming up and create that space to let someone sort through that discovery. And it’s amazing how then their energy supports them in that.
29:15 Michelle: Absolutely.
29:17 Monique: And make that happen.
29:19 Michelle: Yeah and it’s confidence building, it’s celebration-worthy, and it opens the doors for more, for more unfolding for ultimately for you and those that you touch in your ripple to flourish together.
29:32 Monique: Nice, really nice. Well, Michelle, I can’t thank you enough for your time and your valuable perspective, for our audience heck, for me. It’s just have been tremendous. What in particular stood out in our conversation around the otherizing, that’s powerful and I absolutely will be taking a peek at John Powell’s work and the Firms of Endearment actually providing the ROI, the impact of this body of work, of leaders working from the inside-out and what that means for the bottom line of the organization, and just you and the energy that you’re bringing and how that was resonating with me just during our conversation today. So for that, I bid you adieu. Thank you, continue to do the great work that you’re doing. I will continue to admire from afar and the virtual space until which time we will have an opportunity post-pandemic to get together.
30:36 Michelle: Thank you. Thank you so much.