FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

05:09  Monique: So, as we talk about new leaders and their role within organizations, Morag. What makes relationship cultivation so important for the new young leaders?

05:19  Morag:  Well, it’s not just the new young leader. Cultivating your professional network and relationships at work is critical for all of us because what I’ve learned in my career is you can’t be successful in business or in life unless you successfully nurture your relationships at work. And when I was starting out in banking, where I remember being told, “It’s not personal, it’s just business,” I believed that, and it’s wrong. So, the sooner that you can start being deliberate and thoughtful about how you show up as a leader, how others feel in your presence, how you feel in your own presence, the sooner you can start to cultivate those relationships that have your back, not just on the good days when it’s easy, Monique, but on the tough days that we all face. When we dropped the ball, we made a mistake. When we need to have feedback, we need to hear it. That’s when these relationships truly come into their own. So, this is not a nice to do. It’s a critical need to do for every single one of us.

06:22  Monique: Well, and what I’m finding is, young leaders tend to want to model what they see around them in the organization, and they want to be right. They want to do good work. And so, anything that may give off a sense that they’re creating some assertiveness tendency, some pushback, they tend to refrain. And I know in a coaching scenario, I’m often reminding them, they hired you for a reason, whether it’s a pushback. Pushback is welcomed it’s how you do it. So, from your perspective, what let’s say best practices or examples do you have of an organization that really has all about cultivating relationships at work?

07:03  Morag So, I have an amazing client in Michigan. I don’t know whether I should mention their name or not, but I will tell them afterward. And here’s what I love about that organization, is that they have overly invested in that sense of team, pride from the leaders of the organization right through to the new entrants, that how it feels to come to work, the sense of team is as important as the work that we do. And if I go back to my banking career, when I was lending money to all sorts of companies, different stages of their evolution, different products, everybody comes to the table with, “Ooh, I’ve got a fantastic new invention. It’s going to make us all rich. Look at my cash flow forecast, all of the numbers. It’s going to be fabulous.” When I actually stepped back and looked at what makes businesses truly successful, yes, this is important. But the ones that really excelled were the ones that also invested in how the business got done, which is every experience from the customer experience to the new hire experience as I’m onboarding through my career because that is what tells the stories and makes things sticky and removes a lot of the hurdles that slow down business every single day.

08:20  Monique: And it does slow down because people are in their head and they start getting fearful, and they start thinking one way. I just yesterday talked to an organization, it’s a nonprofit. And they were two leaders who are trying to figure out how to build a more trustworthy relationship between their teams. So, I started inviting questions about how they’re structured and sort of things. Their structure doesn’t set them up for success in terms of working together. And so I’m like, “Well, the two of you can’t really wish it to happen. You have to have an organization that has practices in place.” And I said, “Well, what evidence is there that things aren’t going well, that things aren’t trustworthy?” So, I’d ask you, what is the evidence of when things are going well when an organization is cultivating relationships in the right way?

09:11  Morag You look forward to going to work in the morning. How about that? We’ll just start with the basics. You look forward to going to work. That creativity and innovation happen because there’s still competition when we have what I describe as ally relationships, but it’s a competition that raises the bar for you and I. I mean, you think about the conversation we were having before we got onto the podcast about how we could both elevate each other’s businesses. That’s the goosebump moment. And you certainly know when it’s missing because you go home at the end of the day, or you walk out of the bedroom in a 2021 style and say, “You won’t believe what happened at work today. You won’t believe what Monique said or did.” And when we’re blindsided by words or actions of a colleague, if we’re hesitating to make a decision, if we’re guarded with our opinion and not providing the feedback others need to hear, then that is certainly a sign that you don’t yet have the organizational culture, the team culture, or the one-on-one relationship that you need to ensure success.

10:14  Monique: How do organizations get into this place of finding themselves of… is toxic the right word to use? I mean, how do organizations misstep on this front of cultivation?

10:25  Morag Toxic is a great word to use. And SHRM recently published data that said, much to my heartache, two-thirds of employees in the USA, two-thirds report that they have worked in a toxic environment. And toxic varies from person to person. It can be, “I’m getting in your face and effing and blinding.” It can be the, “I need that by yesterday and I don’t care about what’s happening in your life. Just get it done.” There are different symptoms that demonstrate a toxic environment, but the reality is, we end up in a damaged relationship or a toxic environment one conversation at a time. And that’s the conversations we choose to have and have inelegantly or the conversations that we choose not to have because there’s career risk or we don’t feel confident. And then all that does is it gives implicit permission that that behavior is acceptable. And so we behave our way into a toxic environment. And the only way out is, again, one conversation at a time, and having the courage and vulnerability and the curiosity to understand, how did we get here? And back to your point, in your example, earlier with your client, where are the systems and processes and attitudes keeping us stuck? And then individually and collectively, how do we affect change? And change happens. It starts with me. I can wish that the brilliant jerk in the next office was nicer to me, but I can’t change them. But I can change how I can show up. I can change the next time they have an outburst at me saying, “Hey, can we take a time out? It feels like we’re butting heads. Here’s how I expect us to work together.” And that language doesn’t cut it for me. And that’s how we start to effect change by drawing a line in the sand, but role modeling what we’re looking for in terms of an ally relationship and saying “no more” when it’s presented back at us.

12:25  Monique: Well, and that’s where I think structure and hierarchy and power positions come into play and really affect, in particular, young professionals because they’re more inclined to go back out on a job search then have that conversation. And I believe it’s, prepare yourself, create a scenario where it’s a time that’s working for you, but have the conversation.

12:49  Morag:  Now, with a caveat, if you are the new leader in an organization, and it’s the CEO 10 layers above you, you’re not going to step up and say different. I get it because there’s a career risk for you. The reality is, though, for everybody at a leadership level that sees that the CEO is role modeling these toxic behaviors, there’s a career risk for them because their leadership reputation is being impacted every day, because at the water cooler when we used to go to work and have those things. It’s the, “Did you see what happened today, Monique? Why did they let it happen?” And here’s the thing that everybody listening needs to understand, whether you are brand new as a leader, brand new into the company, or you’re that CEO, we are all the ‘they’ to somebody. And so, if I can’t change the CEO because it’s too many layers away, making sure as a new leader, as I sit down and inherit my new team, that we’re having this conversation not just about what needs to be done, but how are we going to work together to do it. Sitting down with you one-on-one and saying, “Monique, I’m excited to be your new boss. Here’s what you need to understand about me. I’m not just a people person. I’ve got 15 years of finance. Here are my hot buttons. This is what I look like under stress. So, please let me know if you think I’m getting stressed. And by the way, Monique, what do you need from me as your boss to help you to be at your best?”

14:13  Monique: Exactly. And that is often missed.

14:16  Morag Yes. Because people are afraid that they’ll think, “Oh, well, they are soft and squishy.” I’ve worked with Monique for 10 years. She knows. Or maybe you do, but let’s make the implicit explicit. Or maybe you and I have known each other for 10 years. We worked on this project over here, but now we’ve reconnected in a new company or a new project over there. And the rules of engagement here may be slightly different from the rules of engagement over there. So, again, make the implicit explicit. And if you’re going home at the end of the day, you go, “Oh, you won’t believe what happened,” you’re having the conversation with the wrong person. You’ve got to have the courage to choose to have that conversation at work with the person or with the people around you who can make a difference.

14:59  Monique: Yeah, because one of the things I’m finding is organizations oftentimes promote and put people in manager jobs that really have not developed managerial or leadership competencies. And so the toxicity that they’re putting out really can affect an individual’s lifelong career because they are so ill-prepared. And I think Gallup’s research about the manager that came out last year spoke to this, and that the research proves that longevity may get you the big seat. or just sometimes you’re filling in, there was no one else to take the job. And well, since you’re there, why don’t you go and take the responsibilities? And there is a cost to bad management starting with relationships. And what I love, what I hear you say is that managers and leaders, and I’m leaning into the young leaders who listened to this podcast and even other high achievers, is that it is part of your expectation to be vulnerable for those who are there to support you and the organization. And so asking “What is it that you want from me,” you’ve got to sometimes slow it down. I recognize we’re all moving at a rapid pace, and that speed is costing us. And I imagine it’s costing us in terms of relationship equity that we get to build up because people are really spending time getting to know one another. I love the banking analogy you gave off the top about, "Nah, it's just business!" 

16:30  Morag:  And here’s a thing for me. It’s like listening in, the leaders, the young leaders here might be thinking, “Well, that won’t be me.” And I was coaching a leader only last week. And there is a fine line between my misunderstood genius and you just don’t get it. And at best you’re thinking me a brilliant jerk, or it was just thinking me a jerk. And nobody in, like, I’ve been doing the people side of the business now for 20 years, nobody gets up in the morning thinking, “I want to be seen as an adversary. I want to make Monique’s day as sucky as possible.”

17:05  Monique: Yes. Horrible. 

17:06  Morag Sometimes that happens and it can be a difference in style. Hey, I spell things with a U and an S because I’m from England. Well, I’m not trying to be difficult. It’s just different. But if we don’t have a conversation around, we’re going to use American English as our standard corporate document language, then I’m going to keep putting them in there. And you’re going to keep seeing it as a spell check error and you’re going to be going, “Oh, Morag.” But again, without the feedback, I might never know, because to me, that’s how I was taught to write and speak English.

17:39 Monique: Yes, exactly. And stick that ‘U’ in there. And you just hit the nail on the head to my next question around emotional intelligence. What is the pathway? What is that journey of one getting in tune with your emotional intelligence? Because I really do believe people are going through life with these blinders on. It’s the way I see the world. It is what it is. You got to just deal with it.

18:02  Morag Toughen up, Cupcake. 

18:03  Monique: Yeah, absolutely. So, how do people get enlightened on their emotional awareness? 

19:15  Morag: So, I love the question, and firstly, let’s reiterate that the technical competence that our school life prepares us for, those are the table stakes that get you in the door and the job, a seat at the table. But if you think about your awesome boss, your best colleague, the people you would jump at a chance to work with, again, when you list out the characteristics, what I found having done that with more than 10,000 leaders around the world is the same pattern. Yeah, they were smart. Yes, they knew their stuff. But invariably, the biggest differentiator of the people that we want to work with is their emotional intelligence, which means they gave me the feedback I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear. They were cool in a crisis. They inspired me, they challenged me. And it’s all the people’s skills. So, how do we, as individuals, develop it? It starts with self-awareness. And it can be as simple as when you wake up in the morning, as your feet touch the floor, as you sign in to your next Zoom call, just take a nanosecond to think, “How am I feeling right now? And what is my intention for this next conversation or this day?” And too often, we’re on a hamster wheel running. We’re not getting attention. Maybe my cat died last night or my kids couldn’t get online to their schooling this morning so I am a little tense. And I arrive at the last minute and I’m a little bit heightened and all you know is I’m a little bit heightened and then you get heightened and then I react because the research shows emotions are contagious. So, if we’re not being intentional, and I started at the beginning with, how do I want others to feel in my presence, how do I want to feel, then you can’t then choose the behavior to leverage that emotion. So, number one is self-awareness, and number two, my hottest tip ever to learn about emotional intelligence, sit down and watch Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. Best movie ever. You’re going to learn everything that you need to know because emotional intelligence is about all of the emotions, not getting rid of emotions. So there you go. Two answers.

21:27  Monique: And so every conversation, every engagement is a chance to cultivate a relationship.

21:34  Morag And that doesn’t mean we have to be Pollyannaish and put a smile on our face and have a good day every day, because I can tell you, I wrote the book Cultivate about the importance of relationships. There’s a chapter on emotional intelligence in there. And I can guarantee you, there are days when I wake up, “Oh, there you go she’s modeling it” Buy it. It’s amazing. 

21:53  Monique: Exactly.

21:54  Morag They will tell you everything that you need to know to diagnose the health of your critical relationships at work. But here’s the thing I wrote the book, but we’re all human. There are days when I wake up grumpy. What I’ve learned is that I will signal that with my team. “Hey, it’s 4:00 AM and I don’t do mornings. I need my three cups of tea or coffee before I start doing perky.” Or if I am a foodie, I’m having an off day as we all do, then I will talk to my team about, “Hey, can you take this client-facing engagement because I’m having an off day?” And on the days that I need them to take my back, they will because they know it will be reciprocated. But it’s having the courage to know and decide, can we manage that in a way that’s going to ensure that everybody is successful or is it going to be a less than experience? In which case, am I going to take a day’s vacation? Am I going to delegate to my team? What other options are open to me? Because gritting the teeth and doing the British thing of just trying to walk it off, I have learned it doesn’t work. We don’t have a poker face because to your point, we’re always signaling. And so be aware and then make a deliberate choice about how you show up and what you choose to share with others so that they can then make allowances or help you as needed.

23:10  Monique: And building on what you’ve just said. You mentioned the Disney Pixar movie, which is phenomenal. And of course, someone just taking some emotional intelligence assessment, what are the resources for young leaders, or really anyone listening, can they help to gain that awareness about their emotional intelligence? What are some other resources I will be providing for our audience in the show notes, contact information for some of the awesome resources that Morag has made available? But what I have found is that sometimes you need some outside..

23:43  Morag: You do outside. So, I’m going to give you three and we’ll start big. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, the resources that I have developed at cultivateatwork.com are great, and they augment what’s in the book. And your listeners, we’re going to put a special code in the show notes, but you can get a discount on those online resources. So, there’s one. The second, there is a… if you go to another website called Positive Intelligence, there’s a Stanford lecturer, Shirzad Chamine, who’s done a lot around Saboteurs. So, the internal trash talk that can hold us back and there is a powerful self-assessment on that website, it’s free, that I would encourage you to go and have a look at. And again, read his book alongside mine. And then of course there’s the YouTube Ted Talks. But the third tip is simply to ask the people that you work with regularly for feedback and ask them. I have three questions. I call them the relationship pulse check. Question #1 is, what’s working for you? Question #2 is, what’s not working for you? And question #3 is, what’s one thing that I could do more of or differently to help you or our success? And then it doesn’t matter what they say. You get to choose whether or not you’re going to implement that feedback. But just by asking, (a) you’ll get warnings of impending disaster, (b) they feel like their opinion matters. They feel heard. They feel like you care. And therefore, you are making deposits into that relationship to become that awesome leader that they would jump at a chance to work with again. And it’s easy. You don’t have to do it all in the same conversation. What’s working? What’s not? What’s one thing I can do to help you or our success? You ask those consistently, one-on-one in any of your team meetings. I guarantee, you will start to reap the benefits and they will too.

25:44  Monique: You’ve just teed up. For me, one of my most passionate pursuits is helping young professionals on their journey, create their own professional development plan by doing things like this. Because what I find is, we oftentimes get into these organizations and we wait until the organization tells us to put together our annual plan for our goals, our work, and, “Oh, here’s your weakness. Here’s something you can fix.” And I really advocate to step back, look at all of you in terms of what’s purpose-driven for you, what are your strengths, your emotional intelligence, your characteristics, your values, because all of this, when you do that due diligence annually will help create a career that you want, that you’re proud of. I can tell you, many people wake up 15, 20 years into a career and go, “I am so tired of this work. How did I get here? And I’m not really finding joy in what it is I’m doing.” And so, own the process, invite feedback, and get comfortable with getting feedback in a way that it gives you something. And I love what you said. It’s your choice. You can choose to do something with the feedback or not, but I tell you what, I’d much rather find out that information when I was doing my due diligence for myself versus having a company orchestrate a performance review that all of a sudden, it’s like, oh, 90% of the people who work with you just think you’re an ogre 

27:11  Morag And I love that. So, don’t wait for the annual feedback. Make it a day. You have it because you rightly pointed out. Often we’re promoted because we’re the best developer. We’re promoted because you’re the best teller in the bank. You’re promoted for your technical skills and potentially thrown in at the deep end because congratulations you now manage these 10 people. Maybe there’s a training workshop that’s going to be provided or maybe there isn’t.  So, I work on the basis. What’s one thing I can do today to improve my leadership influence and my leadership reputation? Whether it’s reading an article on LinkedIn, commenting on an article that you or I have posted on our blog or LinkedIn. Is it watching a Ted talk for 5,1, or 15 minutes one? It doesn’t matter. Pick up a book. But take control because it’s going to prepare you for whatever is around the corner, whether you’re choosing to go around the corner or your organization invites you to go around the corner with, “Here’s the new project, here’s the new team.” It can, but help.

28:13  Monique: Yup. Agreed. And as we are preparing to draw to a close, I’d really like to put the spotlight on you Morag and understand what is underneath the wind beneath your wings on this topic. Knowing your technical background, it’s where you started. And here you are in this People First! And what really is your motivation? What’s inspired you?

28:36  Morag So, I go back to my opening words that business is personal and relationships matter, and we cannot be successful in life or in our careers unless we’re investing in the human side of the business. That’s why I moved from the numbers to the leadership development work that we do through Skye Team, and now talking passionately through Cultivate and our next book that will be out maybe the end of ‘21, early ‘22, which goes deeper into that Gallup question around, do you have a best friend at work? but it’s how do I show up as your best friend because you need to be an ally in order to get an ally. And don’t wait until that moment of vulnerability or doubt, when the crisis is hitting, to find out whether or not you have allies and a strong team. Make those deposits today so that you can be ready to make the withdrawal when you need it and vice versa. So, that’s what I’m passionate about - the human side of the business. I’ve seen it transform individual leadership careers. I’ve seen it transform teams and organizations. The soft skills are what enable us all to achieve the hard goals.

29:41  Monique: Nice. Really nice. And as we draw to a close, I have a fun question. Okay, the fun question. So, when we get beyond the state of pandemic, where will your travels take you?

29:57  Morag So, I discovered this picture. I know immediately where I’m going. There is a road in Patagonia, so we’re talking about South America, that is lined up on what is known as Monte Fitz Roy. And Monte Fitz Roy is this most jagged tooth of a mountain I’ve ever seen. And I want to drive down that road and explore Patagonia, but I want to see Monte Fitz Roy. I mean, it was a stunning image. So there you go. That’s where I’m going.

30:27  Monique: And I’m so glad to hear you say you were driving because I thought, “Oh, is she daredevil. Is she going to go down on rollerskates herself?”

30:34  Morag: Oh no, I will fly that and then hire the car and explore South America.

30:38  Monique: Nice. Really nice. Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for being here on Tuesdays with Coach Mo.