Tag: Q&A

Q&A with Anese Cavanaugh, author of Contagious Culture

As a fantastic follow-up to Mindy Hall’s Q&A early this month, Anese Cavanaugh is here to continue the conversation of living with intention – both in work and life – and even takes it a step further with “how you show up matters.”
Anese is the award-winning creator of the IEP Method® (Intentional Energetic Presence®) as well as an advisor and thinking partner to leaders and organizations committed to creating significant positive impact, authentic leadership, and healthy cultures. Cavanaugh built the IEP Method to help people unlock even greater leadership potential, collaborate more inspiringly, create more openly, intuit more bravely, and lead more joyfully and effectively.
As a leading voice on intention, energy, and presence in leadership, collaboration, and cultural optimization, she’s devoted to helping people show up and bring their best selves to the table in order to create impact in the world while feeling amazing doing so.
  
PAUL: Let’s start with the first word in the title of your book: Contagious Culture. How can leaders be contagious?
ANESE: First, it’s important to remember that we are having impact in every moment – either positive and contributory, negative and depleting, or beige (nothing, just blah). And that impact is contagious. It ripples. It affects others. People take our lead and will “match” our energetic state. (Even unconsciously.)
The leader sets the tone by the mood and energy he or she brings into the room or into any conversation. Simplest way to look at this is that we’ve (likely) all had the experience of being in a conversation with someone else where we’re in a good “space,” the person we’re talking with isn’t, and all the sudden (or slowly) we start to feel our mood, our space, and energy shift/drop/deplete. We’ve just matched that person’s energy. Their energy is contagious. People do it with us, we do it with them. We’re all contagious. This super power can be used for good or evil.
You’ll also see contagious leadership in terms of the way someone talks about another person or a situation – the strongest energy will often “win,” so often times something that starts out as a somewhat neutral conversation will turn either highly positive or negative based upon the leader’s opinion and energy on the topic/person.
Assumptions, gossip, beliefs, talking smack, talking beautifully, focusing on the negative, focusing on the positive, complaining or leading, taking an “author” stance or a “victim” stance – these are all contagious and can catch on like wildfire.
 
PAUL: Can you describe what intention means to you and how to best practice it?
ANESE: To me an intention is putting my mind to what I want to have happen. It is claiming emotionally/mentally/energetically what I want to happen in this next moment, this next meeting, this next conversation, this project, this relationship, etc. It doesn’t mean it will always, but when I set the intention and show up in a way that supports it, I’m much more likely to create that outcome.
You can set intentions at the beginning of the day or before any meeting or conversation for what you want to have happen, how you want to feel, the impact you want to have –anything. It can be as simple as the thought and internal proclamation, or you can go through the process of writing it down. You can set intentions with your partner (personal or professional), with your team, or with your clients. I even set them with my kids. One of the three components of the IEP Method® (Intentional Energetic Presence®) is the “ability to create intentional impact.” There is a “5-Steps to Creating Intentional Impact” framework that I teach in our courses and also in the book Contagious Culture.
 
PAUL: Please share three of your most powerful teaching ideas.
ANESE: 1. How you Show Up matters. Your presence is your impact. No matter how brilliant you are or high level your position, if your presence is such that it leaves people feeling anything less than safe, connected, and inspired – your brilliance will only take you so far. And it works the other way; you can always optimize impact and results by being even more aware and intentional of how you Show Up and how you impact others. Small shifts go far. Who you want to be and how you Show Up communicates far more than skills. To quote the lovely Maya Angelou, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” This speaks to the intention, energy, and presence of the leader.

The Leadership Trifecta: Impact + Self-Care + People. In my work I’ve found there are generally three types of leaders:

the one who is great at their craft and creating impact and results; however, they’re burnt out, exhausted, and compromising their own well-being and self-care and personal relationships. (Has “impact” but not “self-care.” Not sustainable.)
the leader who is great with self-care and “balance” but is not great at creating impact and results and not that effective. People like them, but they just don’t get it done. (Has “self-care” but not “impact.” Not sustainable.)
the leader who has the impact AND self-care piece down; however, they leave “dead bodies” wherever they go (worst case scenario), or they’re just not great at influencing others and getting people to follow them. This is the kind of leader who does great things but at the cost of people, morale, and cultural health. This is also the kind of leader that people follow because they HAVE to (job, paycheck, etc.) vs. they WANT to (inspired, on purpose, safe, etc.) (Not sustainable.)

You need all three elements. They don’t have to be perfect. But being in awareness and in process helps a lot.

The IEP Method® itself is another powerful component of what I teach. Too much to go into here (see book or another program), but the idea is that we have huge influence over how we Show Up and our Intentional Energetic Presence, and there are ways to set us up to do this well. Those ways are in the IEP Methodology.

 
PAUL: If you had an audience full of new professionals, just joining an organization, what advice would you give them?
ANESE: How you Show Up matters. Period. For yourself AND for others.
This includes for other people in leadership and collaboration, but even more so for yourself so you can Show Up well and sustainably and cleanly for others.
For you (and ultimately for them): Take care of yourself. Do whatever you need to do to make sure that your body, your mind, your heart, and your spirit are in good shape so that you can lead well, feel good, and be the best instrument of change possible.
For them (and ultimately for you): Be intentional about your impact. Be in service of the other person or the team or the work you’re doing. Get out of your own way in terms of fear or ego and “am I doing it right” and focus on what will serve this human most.
When you have the foundational IEP and are Showing Up well for yourself, it makes it easier to be in service of and clean and clear for others.
 
PAUL: And on the same coin, if your audience were a room full of CEOs, what advice would you give them about interacting with the younger generation joining up?
ANESE: Don’t get caught up in the “Millennial Story.” See them as humans. Show Up with and for them. Ask them to Show Up with you, with each other, for themselves, and for the mission at hand. Connect them to purpose and WHY they matter and WHY their work matters in your organization; co-design roles and how you’ll work together; be flexible about designing what schedules look like so they can bring their whole selves to work – healthy and well and inspired; and do not get sucked into any story that says they are somehow harder to work with or don’t care. The younger generation needs to be seen, heard, called forth to create impact, and know that what they’re doing matters. Very much like any aged human being in your organization. 😉

Q&A with Mindy Hall, PhD, author of Leading with Intention

There is much insight to gain from Mindy Hall and her answers below, but perhaps my favorite is her personal motto: “I want it to matter that we met.” It is obvious to see through her work as CEO of Peak Development Consulting and author of Leading with Intention: Every Moment Is a Choice that she truly believes every interaction is an opportunity, that every action has an impact, and that one person alone can make a difference.
Read on below, and you can also find Mindy at Peak Development Radio, the Growing Your Organization blog, and through her contributions to Entrepreneur.
 
Paul: I love the concept of intention and I often express it in my work as “this shall be.” Would you please explain the power of intention as you see it?
Mindy: Leading with intention is built on a foundation of awareness—of ourselves, our mindsets, our impact on others, and of the context in which we operate. It is about being mindful of how we “show up” in the world, what tone we set, and having both an understanding and ownership of the contribution we make to any dynamic.
 
Paul: You have over 25 years of experience in developing leaders and working with some of the country’s top companies – what are the signs of someone not working with intention?   
Mindy: Most leaders come to their leadership more from an intuitive place than an intentional place. Don’t get me wrong, there are many leaders who do quite well from an intuitive place, but time and time again I have seen the impact of leaders who don’t just rely on intuition and old patterns of how they lead but rather make a conscious choice of how they are going to lead. It can be small things like how present a leader is when someone is talking with them; or as large as shaping the whole culture of an organization. What leaders model is what companies become, and the tone they set has a direct correlation to the business outcomes that are achieved. When someone is not leading with intention, they are leaving tremendous potential on the table for their organization to be more.
 
Paul: What’s the first step to becoming more intentional?  
Mindy: The first step in becoming more intentional is in ratcheting up your self-awareness of how you “land”/how you “show up” in an interaction, how you are experienced. When I coach executive leaders, I focus my efforts around three layers of growth – you can think about it visually as three concentric circles: The innermost circle is Awareness, which is simply the cognitive aspects of understanding one’s behavior…having the awareness to see how you are impacting others. Integration is the next concentric circle, and it represents the behavioral element of turning that cognitive data into action – intentionally choosing how you want to impact others and then doing what you say you want to do. Embodiment is the outer-most circle, and it represents consistency over time. It’s like any new thing we are trying to do; it takes understanding how to do it, then doing it, then repeating it over and over again until it becomes a new way of operating. It’s like deciding you want to get physically fit; you have a cognitive understanding of what that will take (perhaps a couple more days at the gym per week or a few more runs in the park), and then you start to incorporate that behavior into you routine. As you do that consistently over time, it becomes a new way of operating.
 
Paul: Like most people, I worry a lot about technology and multi-tasking – and how they seem to be eroding our ability to be present. How can we get back to treating each moment with the attention it deserves?
Mindy: To me it’s simply about making the choice to do so. I think we have forgotten the simple truth that we are 100 percent responsible for how we behave in this world. Circumstances may dictate curves in the road sometimes, but how we show up in the face of those is entirely within our hands. How we choose to be present or not is entirely within our control.
 
Paul: Your philosophy is that “I want it to matter that we met.” This is a fantastic perspective for anyone, but I think it may be particularly helpful for young people starting off their careers and developing their networks. Can you share a bit more on this?
Mindy: Every interaction is an opportunity; every action has an impact; every moment is a choice.  I am a big believer that one person truly can make a difference in this world and that, although our challenges may seem large and overwhelming, if we focus on affecting the universe of people that we are in contact with on a daily basis, it is much like a pebble in a pond with ripples that emanate, impacting not only those we are in contact with but those they are in contact with as well.
 
Paul: Your blog post – Meet Your Heroes – reminds me of the notion of not settling for less than what might be possible. Please tell us about this concept.
Mindy: When I started my doctoral program, our university president stood up and said, “You are not getting a PhD; you are becoming one.” He encouraged us to put ourselves in the circle of people we admired – the authors, the theorists, the practitioners – to reach out and be in conversation with those individuals. The story I had about these people was that they would not make time for someone who did not have the same status; my story could not have been more wrong. It pushed me to move beyond my self-generated perception and opened up wonderful doors and opportunities for learning that otherwise would not have been possible. It boiled down to simply pushing beyond my comfort zone.
 
Paul: A big part of your expertise is learning. What are some of your best practices when it comes to learning?
Mindy: For my own learning, I am a big reader. Right now, I’m reading Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School by Idris Mootee. He describes design thinking as the “search for a magical balance between business and art; structure and chaos; intuition and logic; concept and execution; playfulness and formality; and control and empowerment.” It’s stretching my thinking in lots of good ways.
 

Q&A with Chris Taylor of Actionable.co

Chris Taylor spends his days working to change the world of work – one conversation at a time – through his company’s flagship program, Actionable Conversations, as well as the book summaries and thought leader interviews at ActionableBooks.com.
Founded by Chris is 2008, Actionable.co started off as a passion project and has since turned into something much bigger. On his site, you will find access to over 1000 summaries of business books in bite-size format, all for free. Each summary consists of a brief overview of the book, one key message, and two ways you can easily integrate that message into your life in five minutes or less.
Below are Chris’s thoughts on the importance of building relationships in the workplace, getting the most value out of a book, and his takeaways from spending an entire year reading a book a week.
Enjoy!
 
Paul: You are a big advocate of relationships, especially at work, and say they are the #1 engagement factor. What are some best practices that you’ve learned over the years?
Chris: When we consider the fact that we spend more waking time with our colleagues than we do with our spouse on most given days, it’s wild to think how little time we spend proactively cultivating relationships at work. Beyond the transactional “I need this, you need that” interactions, one of the simplest things we can do to improve relationships is to engage in what my business partner refers to as “middle talk” – something that lives between the “small talk” about weekend activities and discussing the weather and the “big talk” about life purpose, deep desires, etc. Middle talk, then, is about the work we do, the impact we’re having (both with external stakeholders and our immediate working groups). Structuring in as little as one hour of “middle talk” conversation per month can help a team feel more connected and better heard, understood, and appreciated by their peers. This, in turn, drives employee engagement.
 
Paul: What is the best way to get people to value conversation and make it a priority?
Chris: Like most good habits (exercise, diet, sleep, etc.) the true value is experienced, not told. We recommend that clients make the first three conversations mandatory, with a conversation from the outset that engaging in these conversations will be a personal choice… after each person clearly understands the value (or lack thereof) that comes from the regular interaction. Frame it from the outset – we’re going to have three conversations over the next three months as a group… then we can decide (individually and as a group) if there’s value in continuing to have them. From what we’re seeing right now, 92 percent of teams decide to continue the conversations after those first three. The value of conversation is a fundamentally human need… we just need to be reminded of that sometimes.
 
Paul: In 2008, you decided to read one personal development book a week for an entire year. What were some unexpected outcomes of this project?
Chris: There were a couple major advantages for me in that project. First and foremost, I was amazed by how many other people gravitated to the idea. Not the idea of “reading” a book a week, per se (lots of people have done that or more), but in the act of applying one concept from each book to my life and/or business. We live in a time of information overload – there’s already, freely available, way more content than any one of us could consume in a lifetime. The value is not so much in knowledge collection so much as it is in knowledge application. Others saw value in the logic of consuming less but applying more and chose to engage in the conversation, which led to the business that is now Actionable.co.
The second outcome from the project was a natural connection to a world of thought leaders and passionate content experts. As I finished each book I would write the author, thanking them for their work and sharing a link to the Actionable Summary I had created with my key takeaway from their book. No ask. Just a connection and stated appreciation. As a result, I was fortunate enough to forge some great connections, many of which have expanded into deeper relationships and friendships today. Thinkers like Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Susan Cain, Sir Ken Robinson, Simon Sinek and more were gracious enough to invite me into their homes and professional circles. Those connections have heavily influenced my life and business practices.
 
Paul: One big takeaway I’ve read was that “ideas are only valuable when applied.” What made you come to this conclusion? And are Actionable Books reviews a product of this belief?
Chris: When I started the “book/week” project in 2008, I was a year off the heels of a failed business venture that had sent me down a pretty dark path. Over the course of 2007 I consumed business and personal development books at a voracious pace – three or four a week… but nothing was changing. I was learning a lot, but my life was the same as it had been at the beginning of the year. I realized (around September) that while reading might be fun/interesting/distracting (pick an adjective), unto itself it didn’t create value. It was only through the act of applying what I’d learned that I could make any difference in my life. So, on the dawn of 2008, I decided to change my strategy – (a) slow down the reading pace, (b) identify the key concept from each book that I wanted to practice, (c) build a clear test activity that I could repeat daily for the week, and (d) communicate the plan with a group of individuals who could hold me accountable to the exercise. Then I was able to proactively reinvent the way I interacted with the world.
 
Paul: What has been your favorite book to review?
Chris: Tough call. I’m a big believer that the right book at the right time for the right person has the power to unlock untold latent potential. So I’d be hesitant to recommend or comment on one specific book for the content’s sake. That said, I remember reading Steve Farber’s Greater Than Yourself shortly after meeting Steve at his home in San Diego. Live texting with him while I was reading the book was pretty memorable. It added a whole new dimension to the book.
 
Paul: Can you give us some advice on the best way to get value out of a book?
Chris: Don’t get caught up in trying to suck all the value from the book. A well-researched, well-written book will have 15+ gems that you could apply. But you won’t. Not all of them, at least. Better to focus on the one thing that you want to apply from the book. Write it down. Commit to a time frame and a new habit. Try it out and reflect. One idea applied well is infinitely more impactful than a lot of “maybe someday I’ll use that.”

Q&A with Geoff Colvin

I’m honored that Geoff Colvin, author of Talent Is Overrated and the recently released Humans Are Underrated, found some time to speak with us about his books.
I love Geoff’s writing for several reasons: First, it is interesting and captivating. Second, Geoff offers perspectives that are both empowering and different. Third, his ideas have always given me a new focus for both my own growth and for my training programs. For example, in his first book, Talent is Overrated, the notion of deliberate practice resonated with me. And in his most recent book, his description of empathy as the key interpersonal skill of the 21st century is enlightening and spot on.
For me, if I can get one transformative idea from a book, it’s worth the read – and both of these books offer much more.
 
Paul: Geoff, thank you for your time. Talent is Overrated is one of my favorite books because it offers affirmation that we can all be extraordinary. What is it that really separates world-class performers from everybody else?
Geoff: It is this idea of deliberate practice, and more particularly the willingness to do it day after day for years. That’s what the world’s greatest performers in every discipline have in common. It’s important to note that the key to great performance is not what most people think it is, which is a natural gift – a one-in-a-million special ability that you’ve either got or you don’t. That’s the meaning of “talent” that is overrated. The researchers in this field agree that talent in that sense doesn’t count for much. Some even say it doesn’t exist.
 
Paul: And what can those of us who want to be really good – but don’t see ourselves as world-class performers – take away from your book?
Geoff: That’s a great question because the truth is that becoming truly world-class great demands an intensity of commitment that leaves almost no room for the other elements of life. Most people don’t want to do that, and you can’t blame them; maybe they can’t afford to devote years to deliberate practice. But that’s okay. The message of the research is that we can all get much, much better than we ever imagined. There’s no required minimum investment in deliberate practice. More is better, but any is good. It isn’t easy, but you’ll be amazed at the payoff.
 
Paul: Please tell us more about deliberate practice.
Geoff: It’s a very specific activity and not what most people think it is. Here are the elements: 1) It pushes you just beyond your current level of ability – not way beyond, because then you’ll be lost, and not within your current ability, because then you won’t grow. But just beyond. 2) It is designed for you individually at this moment in your development. That means it will change as you get better; one reason many of the world’s best performers employ teachers or coaches is to keep redesigning their practice as needed. 3) It can be repeated at high volume. This actually changes the wiring in your brain. 4) It gives you continual feedback. You can’t get better if you don’t know how you’re doing. This is another reason great performers have teachers – to give them objective outside feedback on their performance.
 
Paul: The subtitle of your new book is “What High Achievers Know that Brilliant Machines Never Will.” There seem to be a number of books about robots and the future of humanity right now – Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots, Jerry Kaplan’s Humans Need Not Apply, John Markoff’s Machines of Loving Grace – what do you think has prompted this?
Geoff: A couple of things. One, machines are now doing tasks that many of us thought machines could never do; driving cars is the most obvious example, but there are plenty of others, such as analyzing documents in legal cases faster, cheaper, and better than human lawyers. People are starting to wonder: What can’t these machines do?
Two, the impact on jobs is becoming more noticeable at a time when wages haven’t been rising much. Until recently, machines mostly took over jobs in factories and back offices, out of sight of many people. But now machines check us out at the supermarket and check us in at the airport. Again, we wonder: Where will it all end? That anxiety is what’s prompting all these books.

 

 
 
Paul: In your new book, Humans Are Underrated, you argue that as technology races ahead, certain human traits and skills will become more valuable – empathy, collaboration, creating relationships.
I think I would personally get a low score when tested for empathy, and my wife, Cindy, would probably agree. How might I get to work on being more empathetic?
Geoff: First realize that you can get better; empathy is not an immutable trait but a skill that you can improve. A great way to begin is by putting down your digital devices every so often and talking to someone in person, paying particular attention to what that person is thinking and feeling. Research shows that this simple activity will sharpen your empathy. Sounds easy to do, but many people find it difficult in our hyper-connected age; they think it’s inefficient compared with texting or emailing. Well, just do it. In addition, read more literary fiction; research shows that this also improves empathy.
You can have some fun gauging your empathy and related skills by taking a quiz I devised at www.RoboEconomyQuiz.com.
 

 
Paul: In the current world of political correctness, it seems we’ve lost some of our advantage by considering everything to be the same versus honoring distinct differences. One in particular I find to be both common sense and a wonderful place for awareness—gender differences. In this newest book, you point out that women have an advantage over men in a couple of areas. Please explain.
Geoff: In the skills of personal interaction – empathy, social sensitivity, collaboration – women on average are better than men. Lots of research supports this finding, but do we really need the research? Don’t we all know it from our life experience? That doesn’t mean all women are better than all men at these abilities; they aren’t. And people of both sexes can get better. But it’s a fact of life that on average, women are advantaged in the high-value skills of today’s and tomorrow’s economy.
 
Paul: In the context of making a difference, what is it that men need to be working on, in your view? And women?
Geoff: Most men need to be working on these fundamental interpersonal skills, starting with empathy, as I’ve already described. Many women need to work on the confidence to use their interpersonal abilities, to offer a perspective that others around them may not be used to hearing. Increasingly, that’s exactly what those others need to be hearing.
 

 
Paul: Why do teams matter more than ever and what really makes teams work?
Geoff: Teams matter more than ever because more of the world’s work is being done by teams. As knowledge expands and complexity increases, teams are the only way to accomplish what needs doing. And the key to team effectiveness isn’t what most people think – motivation, cohesion, even leadership. It’s the social sensitivity of the team members, research shows. The best teams get a lot of ideas on the table – no one dominates – and they can read each other well enough to reach a rapid consensus on each idea. That’s much more important than team members’ average IQ, for example.
 

 
Paul: With more team interactions taking place on-line, why should team leaders be worried and what do they need to do to have a powerful group?
Geoff: Sometimes teams have to work online, but we know that the most creative, productive interaction takes place in person. That’s when we engage all the deep interpersonal processes, many of which we aren’t even consciously aware of, that cause a team to become more than the sum of its parts. At the very least, teams should make sure they get together in person from time to time; that experience will improve their online interaction.
 
Paul: Tell us about the power and impact of storytelling.
Geoff: Companies have generally devalued storytelling in favor of charts, graphs, and bullet points. Those things are important, but if you want people to act, they aren’t enough. There’s an old saying that logic leads to conclusions, while emotion leads to action. And there is no better way to engage people’s emotions than by telling them a story. In fact, it’s very difficult to do it any other way. Many companies are beginning to realize the power of story – to understand that we are hardwired to respond to stories – and are deciding that just maybe stories could hold a lot of value for them.
 

 

 
Geoff Colvin is senior editor-at-large at Fortune and is the author of both Talent Is Overrated (2008) and the new book Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will (Portfolio; August 2015).
 
 

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