No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results
This Webinar has been approved for SHRM and HRCI Re-Certification Credit.
Cy Wakeman Reality Based Leadership
Most leadership philosophies are grounded in two completely faulty assumptions — “change is hard” and “engagement drives results.” Those beliefs have inspired expensive attempts to keep change from being disruptive to employees. What these engagement programs actually do is create and reinforce feelings of victim-hood and leave employees unprepared to adapt to real changes that are necessary for the health and profitability of their enterprises. Rather than driving performance and creating efficiencies these programs fuel the Emotional Waste, Entitlement, and Drama that drags down organizations.
This is backwards. And expensive.
Over the past three years, Reality-Based Leadership, Inc., in partnership with the Futures Company, conducted proprietary research in our client organizations such as Cisco, Medtronic, New York Presbyterian, The Nebraska Medical Center and Bayer. The findings affirm what we’ve observed in our 20+ years of experience doing Reality-Based work in hundreds of organizations: when employees indulge in distracting drama, learned helplessness, low accountability, lack of self-awareness, and ego-driven behavior it comes at a significant cost to their organizations. We now know it can easily consume up to three months per year of each employee’s time — potentially billions of dollars annually in the U.S. alone. That’s the Drama Quotient.
Cy proposes a radically different approach to leadership. Changing the ways leaders think and the strategies they use in their work is a serious and critical economic issue. A leader’s role shouldn’t be — cannot be — to motivate employees. That is a choice employees make. Instead, a leader helps others develop the great mental processes they need to eliminate self-imposed suffering and choose to be accountable for driving results.
In this high-energy session, Cy will weave our new research into a narrative that provides leaders with:
- Case studies showcasing large wins. Like the turn around of a large finance team who delivered an organizational transition slated to take three years in just seven months, and how a large cohort of ICU nurses to decreased their eye exposure to HIV and HEP C from five incidents per month to a single incidence in eleven months – a dramatic change in the safety of the nurse working environment.
- Strategies for eradicating entitlement with great tools such as the Engaged Action Planning Tool, and the Negative Brainstorming Tool which changes the energy of entire group meetings from “Why we can’t” to “How we could.”
- Ways to develop highly effective mental processes in their teams and to hold all team members accountable
- Practical, easy-to-use, tools that can be used right now to promote self-reflection and awareness
- An entirely different way to administer and utilize engagement based upon listening to the highly accountables
It is time to redefine leadership with science and research, to teach leaders strategies and tools that will actually work in their modern workplace. Leaders and organizations deserve to have a new understanding of what greatness looks like and how it can be fueled. No Ego delivers that call to greatness for all. It provides the roadmap to thinking differently about leadership and employee roles and actually delivering results, not in perfect circumstances but in today’s world.
Cy Wakeman is a dynamic international keynote speaker, drama researcher, New York Times best-selling author and trainer who has spent more than 20 years cultivating a revolutionary approach to leadership. Grounded in reality, Wakeman’s philosophy teaches people how to turn excuses into results and transform unhappy employees into accountable, successful members of the workforce. Through her prolific work with companies such as Bayer, New York Presbyterian, National Institutes of Health, Hallmark, Verizon Wireless, TD Ameritrade and Wells Fargo, Wakeman has helped eliminate tired, impersonal management techniques in favor of a reality-based revolution.
An expert blogger on FastCompany.com, Forbes.com and The Huffington Post, Wakeman’s ideas have been featured on the TODAY Show, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Business Insider, The Daily Muse, Success.com, and SHRM.com. She’s written two books, Reality-Based Leadership: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace, & Turn Excuses into Results (Jossey-Bass; 2010) and The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace: Know What Boosts Your Value, Kills Your Chances, & Will Make You Happier (Jossey-Bass; 2013).
Wakeman is a highly sought-after conference headliner and holds a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speaker’s Association, placing her within the top 3%of speakers. For more information, please visit http://www.realitybasedleadership.com.
Read the Full Transcription of “No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Drama, End Entitlement”
Jenifer: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to this month’s edition of “HR HotSpot.” I’m Jenifer Lambert with TERRA Staffing Group. And it is our pleasure to host this monthly webcast. This is a free gift to you, to our clients, friends, and colleagues. And our goal is to bring to you great information, great speakers, great content that you can take back into your business to help you manage one of the most complex parts of business, and that’s the people aspects of your business. And so this month I am really, really excited. I’m always excited to introduce our speakers. We have great speakers. This month, though, I’m extra excited because I’m bringing back this month a speaker who has been with us before, she is one of our top-rated speakers of all time on our webcast series. And I first heard Cy Wakeman speak at a conference. As I told Cy, she blew my mind because it was the first time I had heard a speaker speak such bold truth to an audience of leaders who needed to understand their own contribution to their challenges. And so I’m not gonna go too deep into that. I want to get Cy on very quickly because she’s got a lot of great content to share today. Let me introduce her here in just a moment.
Before I do, we plan to use the entire time delivering great content to you today. So not planning to have time at the end for Q&A. But there will be information at the end about how you can connect with Cy and her work. So we’ll make sure that you have that. We also have information at the end about recertification credits. This session has been pre-approved by both SHRM and HRCI for recertification credits. We’ll share that at the end. We’re also recording today’s session and we will be sending all of you a link to this recording so you can listen to it again or share it with other people that you think would benefit from it.
So let me introduce to you Cy Wakeman. Cy is a dynamic international keynote speaker and drama researcher. She will tell you more about that. She’s also a “New York Times” bestselling author and a trainer who spent more than 20 years cultivating a revolutionary approach to leadership. It’s grounded completely in reality, which I love, and Wakeman’s philosophy teaches people how to turn excuses into results and transform unhappy employees into accountable, successful members of the workforce. Yes, please. Done a prolific work with companies such as Bayer, New York Presbyterian, National Institutes of Health, Hallmark, Verizon Wireless, the list goes on and on.
She has helped organizations eliminate tired and personal management techniques in favor of what she calls a reality-based revolution. She’s an expert blogger on fastcompany.com, forbes.com, and Huffington Post, and her ideas and featured on programs like the “Today Show,” “The Wall Street Journal,” “The New York Times,” and, again, the list goes on. She’s written two books and she has another book that is being released, we’re in pre-sales now, it’s being released this fall. She’ll tell you more about that. We are delighted and privileged to have with us this morning Cy Wakeman. Take it away, Cy. Welcome.
Cy: Thank you, Jen. It’s always such a pleasure to be invited onto “HR HotSpot.” I really, really appreciate it. And I’m especially excited today because all of you that are joining us and, hopefully, you’ll pass on the recording to this webinar as well, get a preview of some really exciting and also concerning things that we have found in our most recent research and that we’re publishing in the book “No Ego.”
We’re gonna focus today on how leaders can cut the cost of drama and end entitlements and drive big results. And we’re gonna go even more specifically to the role HR has played in actually fueling drama, and creating entitlements, and inhibiting results. Even though we’re trying to help, we might end up hindering. And so I’m excited to talk about our latest research, and how HR can start thinking differently, and really acting differently and pulling different initiatives and cleaning some things up. So I’m very excited about that. And again it’s some of our most recent research, so we’ll take it away.
About 10 years ago, I became known as a drama researcher, which was kind of a surprising title to me, but that’s really what I do. I look at emotional ways, which most people know as drama. We know it’s a type of waste in the workplace and we call it the emotional waste. And when I first looked at 10 years ago, through a variety of means, we found that the average person spent 2 hours a day in drama. And this is two hours a day walking around, going, “This is sick and wrong. This should not be happening,” tattling, gossiping, resisting change, withholding buy in, stepping down rather than stepping up when it comes to accountability. Just behaviors and ways of thinking that inhibited success or were disruptive or destructive. And when I say disruptive, I don’t mean disruptive in the phenomenal way that we can disrupt and help. I’m talking about disrupting and hurting.
And so we knew that that was an enormous opportunity, when you do the math of two hours per day per headcount, that should have been mind-blowing. And we went back when we’re going to…when I was working on the book, and we wanted to update this research. Because I just assumed that with all we have done in our organizations with leadership development and employee development, of course, this number would go down. So we partnered with the Futures Organization, and they handled the survey and research process for us. But we went out and we asked HR leaders as a group, other leaders in all industries, and employees to help us quantify how much drama there is today in the workplace given all of our efforts over the last 10 years.
And what we found, really, became a word we throw around to the office is called terri-mazing, like terrifying, because it’s getting worse, but amazing, because I think we’ve really been able to quantify an opportunity for HR to make a radical difference not just in the workplace culture and engagement levels but in the workplace bottom line. Our new research shows that the average person spends 2 hours and 26 minutes, we just rounded that up to 2 and a half hours per day. Over the last 10 years, the number has increased significantly from 2 hours to 2 and a half hours.
Now, when I say 2 and a half hours a day is the average, I don’t want you to think there’s a large range so that this average hides in, you know, someone who has 20 hours a day of their 24, to someone who has none, the range is very tight. This is the human condition that, unless we are looking at this as emotional waste, and using good mental processes to eliminate that waste, we are ending up with 68 hours a month, 816 hours a year in drama, in pure waste from our talents. Now, if you could just scratch pads out and do the math, and you take 816 hours per headcount, per salary and benefits, per support mechanisms and all of that, you can see that in the average organization, this is millions, and in the average industry this is billions of dollars of waste that we, in HR, are uniquely positioned to help eliminate.
The scary thing about this, though, is that much of what we have been doing is actually fueling the drama, not diffusing the drama. And so much of what we’re doing with good intentions is actually hindering and harmful. And that’s what’s mind-blowing to the average HR practitioner, is we’ve been taught ways to approach engagement, ways to approach change, ways to approach accountability and feedback and development. And we’ve really gone out and been the evangelists on what we thought were best practices. But what I’ve discovered in my research is best practices many times are just conventional wisdoms that we’ve passed on without ever really looking at whether they created the return on investments or the impacts that we wanted them to. We’re all doing it. We all think it’s the best. But I’m not sure given how our modern workplaces arranged that we’re doing, what actually is gonna have the highest best impact. And that’s what I wanna talk to you about today are ways in which we in HR need to think differently and act differently to really, you know, take what’s terri-mazing and take the terrifying out of it and deliver amazing impact.
So we asked in this survey, not just if we wanna quantify the amount of time spent on drama, which is profound, we wanted to understand what were the key sources of drama. And so, as we listed out different types of places where people saw drama happening, and we got these responses back. We found out that ego is actually the largest source of drama in the workplace.
Now, ego is scorekeeping, tattling, gossiping, bitching, moaning, whining, venting, venting, venting, venting, venting, believing that our issue is not ourselves, but our circumstances. Really flawed thinking, where people are unaware of how often the ego shows up at work and how often we are bruising the ego, we are shaping the ego, we are engaging the ego, rather than bypassing the ego and going to the best part of oneself, which is beyond the ego. And we’ll talk about that in a minute. But a whopping 30% had to do with ego.
Twenty-three percent has to do with lack of accountability. And I don’t think that’s any surprise to us. I think it surprises most of us haven’t thought about ego in the workplace. And ego isn’t confidence, which is, I have some confidence in my abilities. Ego is when I believe I’m the best and the only and that the world should work according to my say. But accountability, I think we all struggle with these complaints or this request from the leaders that we work with, that there’s a lack of accountability. But accountability is a word we throw out a lot. But it’s probably the most misunderstood concept that I know of right now that’s really hot nature marketplace. So we’re gonna talk about lack of accountability. But we’re gonna talk about it from a different understanding of how accountability is built because a lot of accountability that engages the ego today creates more tattling. If you see something, say something, it creates more judgment. If somebody is not doing what they’re supposed to do, then with judgment, you identify it and report it or intervene on it. There’s this level of ego that comes into the typical accountability teaching that really, again, fuels drama.
There’s also a lack of buy-in where people have come to believe that buy-in’s really optional. And we’ve allowed them to believe that when we do something called favoring preference over potential. We know that resisting change is still a major issue. And I’ll talk to you today about our approach to change and how we’ve really coddled people. It’s the one competency that we have been teaching since the 1980s. And I don’t know what other competency we’ve given people over 30 years to get good at, and that we still have this much drama coming from resisting change. And interestingly enough resisting change is really an act of the ego because we need to resist change, otherwise, we might be discovered as unready for change. And so it’s really a protective…it’s the egos way of saying protected. And we’ll talk about those science.
And then lastly, this whole concept of engagement and how organizations are trying to earn engagement. And I really think that we’re a little off cue on the engagement piece as well. So I’m gonna talk about our response and approach to these five sources of drama, and ask that you think a bit differently about our current approaches. And I’ll give you some ideas in how we can clean up and refresh and renew so that we do a better job of capitalizing on these two and a half hours a day, that we could conserve the energy and upcycle into results, engagement, happiness, success, all the things that we’re really looking for.
Now, interestingly enough, when we took…we were shocked, quite honestly, when the number came back so much larger than it was 10 years ago. So we wanted to take a look at what people have been…you know, how they’ve been approaching it, what they’ve been doing today. So we asked everyone involved in the survey if they felt that they got enough training and development opportunities. And it was resounding, almost 70% said, “Absolutely, we’ve had plenty of opportunities.” And we said, “Do those skill sets that you’re learning, those new competencies you’re developing, are they useful when it comes to dealing with ego and accountability and lack of engagement and withholding a buy-in when people are resisting change?” And they said, “No, that they aren’t.” And in fact, when asked if they felt it was a productive use of their time to be even dealing with this stuff, most leaders said it was a complete waste of time.
So that confused us that there’s all this drama, but people have plenty of development. And, in fact, we just took from what ATD just put out, and we looked at if, in fact, that’s true. And the hours that we’ve spent in training per employee between 2011 and ’15 has increased, and so have the courses that are dedicated to training leaders, they’ve increased, and also the dollar amounts that we’re spending have increased. And then we look at engagement, which is kind of our holy grail, right? We believe that engagement is something to pay attention to, it leads to productivity and results. Engagement, over the same time period, has remained really flat.
And so when you look at all of the investment made, and all of the things we talk about when we go to engagement, and all the times we sell senior leadership on investing in training and development, and we get concerns that they aren’t quite as excited as we are and that they’re frustrated by the lack of results, they’re frustrated by real lack of results because what this tells us is that what we’re doing in our training and development isn’t really working. The traditional tools and programs that we’re being taught and that we’re teaching to others are not working at the end of the day to diffuse drama, to really address the sources of emotional waste in the workplace. And that we’re really called to examine all that we’re doing in HR and say, “Folks, what got us here is not gonna get us there. It’s not working. We’ve got over, you know, six years of data, we need to take a look at this.”
And so my team here at Reality-Based Leadership works their tails off, not only in our research but gathering brain research and the best of other research in positive psychology and quantum physics and everything you can think of. And we really try and translate the best research into what would be more helpful in our approaches. And we really believe that the leader has a whole new role.
The leader’s role is not about inspiring and motivating others. In fact, I would tell you as a past therapist, that you can’t inspire another person, you can’t engage them, you can’t create happiness. When I was told my job was to keep people engaged and that, you know, engagement really is workplace happiness, I was in charge of their happiness. As a therapist, I thought that was insane because you can’t make another person happy. Happiness is a choice, engagement is a choice. We call that codependency if you actually believe the illusion that you can change the way that other people are feeling, they’re really in charge of their own feelings.
Now, you can move to a higher level of consciousness, which may impact their frequencies that they operate on. But that is in reaction to your work, not your work on them. So we started to look at this and we said, “You know, even motivation, I can’t motivate another. Reality is the best motivator.” And most leadership is really coddling people from reality, buffering reality, protecting people from their relationship with reality because we work on perfecting circumstances rather than work on growing the people. Now, what do I mean by that, protecting someone from reality?
If I’ve got a son who forgets his backpack, and I’m really worried about what the teachers will think of me and I wanna make sure he has everything he needs at school, I would, you know, leave my job and go get the backpack for him to make sure that he had all the tools he needed that work and that he was well cared for. Now, a better parenting approach, when someone’s told me they forgot their backpack would be, “Bummer, what are you gonna do about that? How are you gonna move through today without your backpack? What’s your plan to make sure you remember that in the future?”
I’m now allowing that child to take on some natural consequences and they could experience what it’s like at school without a backpack. They get to build an awesome plan based on self-reflection, about how they’re going to move differently throughout the world. They get pretty skilled in organizing themselves at the age of 12 around what they need to do to work. That’s my job as a leader, as well as a parent, is to connect people with their own realities that they co-created so that they get good information. So that’s kind of a deep way to say that we believe that a leader’s new role is to help employees eliminate emotional waste by facilitating good mental processes.
Now, if you think about just waste in the workplace, we are focused a lot on waste. And waste in the workplace is really something that we focus on as far as lean and, you know, rapid-cycle improvements, like we are eagle eye on even getting just seconds removed from a throughput process and manufacturing. And yet, when we look at the resource of human beings and talent, we allow profound amounts of waste to just exist without any type of intervention.
And what I know as a therapist is that we can have wonderful diversity. And that diverse population, though, can use good mental processes, just like we expect them to use good manufacturing processes. That we can get far less variance in the drama and the emotional waste and the responses that people have through processes. And so as I’ve introduced this to leaders, leaders are so refreshed by this approach, they get very excited, because this means there are some sanctioned processes that we know that successful, happy, engaged people use, the high accountables. We know that there’s processes and tools we can teach, and we know that they’re quick hallway conversations. And at once you develop these processes in your people’s abilities, that they’re much more skillful to move through their reality.
So a lot of you that have heard me talk know I start with a baseline that just says, “Let’s understand the human condition, so you understand better your role as a leader.” So most of us are expected to deliver aggressive agendas, that’s the line going up to the right. And we’re expected to do that with limited resources. Now, if you’re a human being, and you’re already feeling a little overwhelmed and you don’t have good mental processes, when you are asked to do more with less, right, you kind of go through this chronic shock syndrome, where you are consistently surprised that we’re always asking you to do more with less. But there should be no shock there, that’s just called capitalism. And we should always be gaining advantage and learning and then recycling that learning into producing better results.
But when people are asked to do more with less, the first thing they do, if they have the human condition, which we all have, is they fantasize about quitting. They fantasize about being the Walmart greeter guy or they fantasize about winning the lottery, where they start to believe that other workplaces are different. And a lot of vendors feed into this fantasy because we have people saying that people leave their work, their jobs because of their leader. And I would tell you that people leave their jobs and then blame their leader because there isn’t a place where you have perfect leadership.
And so I may quit and step down, and I really blame my circumstances and do what I call BMW driving, which is bitching, moaning, and whining. And then I collude with others who believe the same and we convince ourselves that our issue is that we don’t have the right reality and that, “If only reality were different, I would be successful and happy. If only I had a different job, a different boss, more resources, better communication, a better IT group, better software, no manual workarounds, colleagues that cared as much about quality as I did. If only I had a different job, a different boss, different colleagues, and different support tools, I would be amazing.
And I hope you see the flaw in this logic because where HR tends to jump in, is we take those lists of terroristic demands, and we say, “Oh, my gosh, you’re right, employees. If only we could fix your reality. Well, let’s develop your leaders and let’s make sure that we’ve got the staffing you need and let’s really focus on how we can get the resources you need. And if we can’t get those, I totally understand why you would be dissatisfied.”
And this approach reinforces the belief that our circumstances are the reasons we can’t succeed or the reasons we can’t engage. And our circumstances are not the reasons we can’t succeed or engage. They’re simply the reality in which we must succeed or engage. And most people disengage and have lack of success, not because of reality, but because their skill set isn’t developed to succeed in the current reality.
So imagine if I was trying to navigate the world today with a flip phone, which some people still do, if I had a flip phone and I am so frustrated because I can’t get on Instagram and I can’t text as fast as you guys, but I had skipped 27 upgrades, right, you might be wanting to change my reality that makes sure that we don’t use videos because some of us have flip phones and we need to stick with the old methods to accommodate everyone’s preference. When, in fact, the potential for the business is, if everybody can be on smartphones, we could do innovative, fantastic things. The problem with the person not keeping up has nothing to do in the fact that we send videos out, it has to do with the fact that they skipped 27 upgrades, and that we’re still trying to accommodate them.
When people are focused on changing reality, and if only I could make our circumstances more perfect, then people would engage. If only I could, you know, make sure that everybody had a leader that was caring and listening to them, then, you know, we definitely would get results. The research actually has proven that to be untrue. One’s results and happiness is related to one’s level of accountability, not to their environments. And this has been well proven. And so our job is to not just run out and fix reality with the same mindset we used to create it. Our job as HR and leaders is to impact the way people think, that consciousness level that they operate, to really interrupt their thinking, reveal the truth, and have them move in some different ways. And the best way to do that is to move people out of ego, which is venting and blaming reality, and move them into self-reflection, which is, “What can I do to be more skillful in this reality?” And then through that self-reflection and development, we grow people to be more skilled and successful in their current reality.
So the focus moves from this wishful thinking that reality were different to a radical acceptance that reality for a moment is as it is, and that the one thing that is unlimited to this human potential. And that it’s just about my ability to see things differently, to move beyond ego and get into my most innovative part of my brain, to get self-reflective and ask what I can do, to stop judging, start helping. All these things I preach move people away from focus and blame on reality and put us into a very changed mindset with which then, that higher level of consciousness, we can take a look at reality and see if there’s innovative ways that we can continue to impact it, but it’s not the condition, it’s the addition on that skill set.
So the first thing that we really wanna focus on in HR is how often, when people give us a list, that if only we change something in reality, they could deliver more output or more success or more engagement, that that’s an emotional blackmail. And I would tell you, you can’t buy people’s love. And that if you’re trying to change reality, you are attempting the impossible. And that if someone’s engagement, their buy-in, their level of accountability, if that is dependent on conditions around reality, then that really is not agile, nimble, it’s a conditional way to work.
So one of the things that we believe in is what we call ego bypass tools, questions for self-reflection. So when somebody is focused on reality and how reality is unhelpful or wrong, in order to move them from reality into self-reflection, and hopefully changing their mindsets, we like to use questions like, “What could you do to help?” So if somebody comes in and says, you know,” Alex has not given me the reports I need and something needs to be done, and this is the third time he’s done it.” He’s venting, which is ego. I would just bypass that by saying, “It sounds like there’s some information that you need that you don’t have, what would be the next thing that you could do to help?” And focus on, “Well, I could call or I could make it easy to get me the information.”
Another thing, if somebody is really wound up, most of the time we’re upset about something that never happened. It’s a story we created. And our stress is more from our story than our reality. So we asked questions like, “What do you know for sure?” Which helps people edit their story. And once we get back down to reality, a simple question is, “What could you do next that would add value?” So if you wanna collude with me and you grab me in the hallway and you go, “Cy, my boss is a micromanager and he calls hundreds of times to check up on me and he treats me like a child. And he doesn’t trust me and he’s just trying to find a project he can cut, he’s silent for dollars, and this is gonna end up hurting my career.” I would just use, “What do you know for sure?” And take out any judgment, assignment of motive. And when you edit that story, you would get down to, “My boss called and checked on a project and I let him know I was behind.” So everything else was made up, that he’s a micromanager, that’s all judgment. So if I can get people down to, “He called and I’m behind on a project,” then it’s so simple to say, “What could you do next to add value?” “Well, I could look at my plan and find a way to get back on track and change my priorities.”
But one of my favorite ones is, what does great look like? So whatever somebody comes to me, and they’re venting, I ask them simply, “If you were great right now, what would that look like?” And everyone knows what great looks like, because that’s the standard they judge everyone else on. But I want them to hold themselves to that standard. So I might say, “What would great look like?” And in the first example, Alex might say, you know, “If I were being great right now, instead of tattling to you, I would talk directly to the person they didn’t get the information from. And I would be brainstorming ways that we could make this a more seamless transition because we need to do this monthly.” And then I could say, “Awesome, go be great.”
Now, these coaching questions are important, because they actually bypass the ego, they move beyond the ego, they help us embrace reality, and they call people to greatness. And so one of the first things I wanna talk about as a source of drama is this ego piece. Now, your ego is not your amigo, we joke about that. But I want you to really understand ego.
So all of us have kind of in the frontal part of our brain an ego. And even though my new book’s titled “No Ego,” I’m not sure that’s a state we can all get to in our lifetime. But we definitely wanna move beyond ego. And the ego is your filter on reality and it corrupts the data, it corrupts everything you see. So if somebody walks by and doesn’t say hello, your ego doesn’t just rest with that. It says, “She’s rude. Ever since she got that job she thinks she’s all that,” and a bag of chips. Your ego is just constantly narrating the world, usually looking for insult where there isn’t any. Because your ego eats anger for lunch, it needs anger to stay alive. So it needs to stay mildly irritated about most things, a little disgruntled and a bit judgy. So your ego is really the source of judgment.
And what I tell people, if they want my best advice, is to stop believing everything you think. Now, that separates us from our ego when you realize that your ego is a constant narrator, but you’re just the one that can hear the narrator and that you have a choice whether you believe what the ego is narrating. If you believe that version, it opens up all sorts of worlds, because the ego is like wearing a bad pair of prescription glasses. It really distorts your view on reality, it’s not to be trusted. And the ego really is out to play a lot of work and it’s destructive.
And it’s a core expectation that one has good mental processes to move beyond ego, and into that part of our brain that’s more centric to our innovation, our collaboration, our great ideas, and all the things we hope to teach people in the workplace. But if you’re trying to teach and develop people and learning and development through the lens of the ego, they will always find a way why it won’t work. They will always find an extreme, “We’ll take this case, trainer, and tell me how to work this through.” See, the ego’s always working to negate and protect itself against good mental processes, against accountability, it’s very situational. Because it really wants to stay in a state of, “I am the victim and other people are the issue and that I’m at the mercy of my circumstances.”
So one of the things that’s so important to understand is that venting is the ego’s way of avoiding self-reflection. Now, this is very meaningful to those of us in HR because we have whole offices for people to come vent. We hold step down meetings to go listen to people vent. We do manager simulations to listen to people vent. We have employee relation offices to listen to people vent. We encourage leaders to have open doors, to encounter venting. And venting is the ego’s way of avoiding self-reflection. See, the ego’s about the age of two years old. And a two-year-old, it has a unique lack of capability. A two-year-old can’t have two main focuses at the same time.
So if a two-year-old is holding a bottle of water and you would like to get that water away from the two-year-old, the worst thing you could do would be to grab it. Because you will now be dragging a two-year-old around by a bottle of water. That direct confrontation, that direct threat will have them play defense, grab on to it even greater, be more attached to it than they ever were before. So if you’re smart, if you’re wise, you would not grab the water by the way from a two-year-old, you would give them something else. I might say, “Do you want to take a look at my air pods? They’re really cool, they fit in your ear.” Now, when I present a two-year-old with a decision to make, a water bottle or new, my air pods, which I’m holding in my hands, you guys can’t see, the two-year-old has to drop the bottle of water to pick up the air pods. It cannot hold in its main focus two things at the same time, is how we actually check for child development around that age.
Now, that was a way of moving beyond and really doing a bait and switch. It’s a wonderful technique to use when you wanna get something away from a two-year-old. Well, the ego’s about the age of two. So if I’m using traditional HR mechanisms like performance reviews and feedback, I am grabbing for that bottle of water. Because what I am telling the person in front of me is that I’m about to really bruise your ego. And the other thing is protect you, I don’t wanna do that either. What I wanna do is use a way that I can bypass your ego to get to the best part of you, that thinking part of your brain.
Now, self-reflection comes from the thinking part of your brain, venting comes from your ego. Like a two-year-old, a person can’t vent and self-reflect at the same time, just like they can’t hold a water bottle and both the air pods at the same time. They’ve got to choose when they’re mutually exclusive. So the best way to move out of venting is not allowing venting, it’s not more venting, it is to get you into self-reflection.
So what I want you to hear loud and clear is our advice to leaders and our willingness to believe that venting helps is adding an enormous amount of drama and ego-based behavior into our workplaces. Venting feels good on the short-term, but it is not a lifestyle. Crack cocaine feels good in the short-term, but I think we can agree it’s not a lifestyle. So this venting, what we know from the research is that venting begets more venting. Venting actually creates neural pathways that are fed by negativity. And so they keep those neural pathways from itching so much, we just need to add more negativity. Venting doesn’t help. And I hear people all the time say, “But Cy, don’t you think people need time to vent because it’s some release?” And I would say, “No, I don’t.” Venting, most of the things we vent about are things that never even happens, they’re a story.
So when people come to me to vent, I’m fine with them sharing feelings. Feelings are one sentence or less. “I’m frustrated that Sarah hasn’t gotten me the information I need.” Everything that comes after that, venting is just a story you made up, “She does this crap on purpose, everybody else agrees, we all have trouble with her. If I did my job like she did her job, I would be…” All of that venting is destructive.
So the first thing I want you to take away is that venting is the ego’s way of avoiding self-reflection. So to get out of venting, we need to get people in self-reflection, and we do that in two ways with great questions. Like I just taught some coaching questions or with some great tools.
Now, self-reflection, actually what we have found, is the mainstay, the greatest cultivator of accountability. It’s the main piece on how accountability is developed. And accountability actually is death to the ego because I can be in no ego when I say, “Here’s my part in this. I haven’t communicated exactly what I need when I need it. And I’ve been unwilling to provide any reminders because I made up a story that Sarah should just know. And that if she doesn’t, she does this stuff on purpose.” So that accountability, what’s my part? Am I not getting the information I need, is complete death to the ego.
So when we think about our role in HR, we entertain a whole lot of venting. Most of our meetings have verbal dialogue, and verbal dialogue engages the ego, it allows for a lot of projection. The ego loves ambiguity, but if you wanna pop the ego, make things visible and conscious. So you either get into self-reflection, or you get into what we call the ego bypass tools, which is all…they’re all featured in the new book. And I’ll also give you a way to get these for free through our organization.
But we move…we don’t even address ego. We don’t tell people to stop venting. We just say, “Wait a minute, what would great look like?” Good mental processes like self-reflection, or a good mental process, like the tool of negative brainstorming, actually moves beyond the ego and gets people within seconds, within minutes, operating of a different part of their brain. And it’s refreshing, it’s drama-free, it’s accountable. But I would tell you that accountability provides people with a sense that they have impact into their own outcomes, which is the greatest force of engagement that you will ever know.
So we, in our company, talk a lot about stop judging, start helping. We expect people to be able to quickly learn the mental processes that move them into self-reflection and move them beyond ego. And our best question is, what can I do to help? Rather than judging. So whenever they feel the surge of energy that comes from ego and venting, we need them to know that, intervene on that, get back to self-reflecting. When I self-reflect, what can I do next to add value? I can come up with two or three things, those become my simple instructions. And that is just my working plan on what I’m gonna do next. If people could incorporate good mental processes, we would no longer need the role of leader in the entire organization.
Now, personal accountability is another source of drama. And I think that we have a lot of misunderstandings on this as well. Many people ask me, “Cy, I would be great if I were just empowered.” And what I tell them is that you need to step into the power you already have. Most of us, it’s our ego who doesn’t speak up in a meeting and then BMW drives in the meeting after the meeting and then ask for more empowerment. If you step fully into the empowerment you have, you show up and you speak up at meetings, you have the power to co-create, you have the power to quit judging and start helping. There is so much power that you already have that you’re not using. It’s two and a half hours a day of your venting and drama and emotional ways. Even just recapturing that amount of energy is power that you could use in different ways.
Then when we studied personal accountability, we think it’s really misunderstood. We have whole courses on how to harbor, kind of lean in your organization based on a different understanding. But accountability is not a skill set, it’s a mindset. And it’s all about, “Do I believe that I can have impact in the world?” And accountable people believe that they co-create their own reality. And this is important because they don’t believe they’re at the mercy of circumstances, they can always find one way that they had impact.
And when we looked at accountability, we found that really had four factors, that it didn’t have a lot to do with ownership, which was surprising, that’s actually third on the list. People in a state of high accountability told us that the key factor to accountability was a personal choice I make to be willing to do whatever it takes without conditions to get the results that we need. Buy in is a verb, it’s a choice. It is something that the person, the employee needs to make. And my job as a leader and in HR is to simply work with the willing. But if you’re not in a state of willingness, the game is over.
So we need to be asking people, “What’s your level of commitment?” “Well, I don’t agree with the strategy.” “Then what’s your plan to get on board and be in full agreement?” “I’m not going to, I don’t like the strategy. I don’t think it’s where we need to go.” “So then what’s your plan to transition to an organization where you do believe what the strategy is?” “Well, I’m not going anywhere.” “Then what’s your plan to get on board?” “I’m not going to.” “Oh, my goodness, you believe there’s a third option.” That buy-in is optional, that you can stay and hate, that you can say and sabotage, that you can stay and consume resources.
And we’ve made buy-in optional from an HR stance on things that should be non-negotiable. Now, I’m not talking run dictatorships. But when people ask me, “Do you want my opinion?” I say, “Probably not.” Because opinions are used to stop the action. What I want is your expertise on how we could make it work, and expertise begins right after the sentence, “Yes,” period. “Yes, I’m all in, now let’s talk about what we’re gonna need to do to mitigate one risk I’m very concerned about that may inhibit our success.”
People need to know that their commitment is their first offering, their first buy-in, the engagement is a choice, and this is where we are way off base in HR. Then if you’re all in, I can teach you resilience, how to stay the course in the face of obstacles and setbacks. Most resilience doesn’t come by developing you as an individual to be more persevering or have more stamina. It’s about getting you to grow an enormous network that you can then crowdsource because, today, the main predictor of our resiliency levels is our network that we can capitalize on. When I get stuck and I don’t know how to move through the next obstacle, I put it out to my network of 10,000 people that I have positive relationships with and my associations I’m part of, and they provide the answers so that I can capitalize on the function of crowdsourcing.
The most resilient people have the largest networks and the largest quality networks, and they ask for help early and often. By the time you get to ownership, feedback no longer hurts, because you were all in, you were resilient, you looked for any tip you could find, and you exercised and took action on all those recommendations, so by the time you get to ownership, you’re like, “Please tell me more about what I could do to impact.” The only time feedback hurts is when the ego was half-heartedly committed and was not focusing on how to overcome, instead was focusing on why we can’t rather than how we could. Then feedback and ownership ticks the ego off because it catches the ego in its own game.
So if you have people that are defensive to feedback, that have a hard time taking ownership, it is because you didn’t move beyond the ego, there was no willingness in the first place. And continuous learning is just what happens when I’m so hungry to know more. And I can move beyond ego and we can just de-personalize this and talk about other ways I could approach things. And then I can take that new learning and those new relationships, and I can use that to fuel future success.
Another big discovery for us that we want HR to realize is that when we asked how people developed personal accountability, we asked those who were high accountable. They said they were challenged, not coddled, and that no one protected them, that they experienced their own consequences, their own accountability. They said feedback was probably least helpful unless it came from somebody besides their leader. If it came from a peer or the marketplace, or a true measurement of their success, it was helpful. But what shocked us was that they said that self-reflection was the absolute key to accountability.
And so our recommendations, as you’re teaching people how to give this enormous amount of feedback, is that feedback should be very short, self-reflection incredibly long. What I mean by that is, let’s say that somebody acted up in a meeting and it got back to me and I happen to be their leader. I would call some time out with them. And I would say, “You know, Kate, some people who care about you and care about the success of your group shared with me that, at times, they found your behavior in the meetings, to be imitating.” That’s it. It’s one sentence. Feedback is one sentence, otherwise, you engage the ego. Then I let you completely off the hook, I say, “But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.”
See, modern leadership knows that you’re the expert on you. If I’m gonna hold you accountable, you’re gonna be the expert on you. So I’ll say, “Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. Here’s an assignment for self-reflection. Next time you’re in a meeting and I want you to take your tablet and I want you to turn on the video recording and point it at yourself. And then I want you to review afterwards what you saw and come back to me with three things that you would have benefited from doing differently.”
Now that is such a general assignment, we can give it to everybody. But in this case, feedback was short, I don’t need to engage with Kate. And what I want Kate to do is take a couple of days and self-reflect. And in the book, I give tons of assignment for self-reflection, because when you’re doing all the work, you’re working harder with their success then they are, you’re engaged in the ego. And all of your hard work of feedback won’t ever even make it to the part of the brain that can incorporate it, because you haven’t bypassed that ego.
Now, we also know that sense-making mentoring is important. That as leaders are calling people up to greatness and asking them to self-reflect, they will look to their peers and other leaders to let them back off the hook. And so other leader’s behavior that holds space for the person to self-reflect without entertaining venting from their ego is also important.
I wanna talk about a couple of other places we need to do some things differently before we sign off today. And that is with change and with our approach to engagement. Now, the way we’ve approached change has been very coddling, it’s based on very old information. There are still change management courses out there based on information from the ’80s. It is very inaccurate. Most change management is all about how can I make change least disruptive to the employee. And that is such an old model, Business Readiness, the model we believe in, is how can I make change least disruptive to the business? And this means that we step up as willing and able and ready people, no matter where the organization needs us ago, we’re ready for what’s next. We have a high degree of willingness as the first step in accountability, and we have capability because we’ve been focused on getting ourselves ready.
So there’s a lot of myths around change. And resistance to change really is that work of the ego. And when people resist change, they do what I call try and have preference trump potential. So let’s say that we have new software and the potential for the business is amazing. They can manage inventory better, they can use it for national accounts so that we don’t just have regional accounts. When a salesperson leaves, we can not fear losing customers, there’s so much potential for the business. And then we have a person who says, “I would rather keep my leads in an Excel spreadsheet, they’re deep in my hard drive. That’s my preference.” And if we as an organization and HR work to cater to their preference, because, by gosh, they’re our best salesperson, we have just let preference trump potential and we have negated and given away part of the business case we never owned, and we have chipped in to return on investment that the original decision-makers made the investment based on. So we are always chipping away at the business case when we do fuzzy math about a salesperson being the best salesperson when they aren’t able to use the newest software and we have to cater to preference rather than potential.
Now, there’s a lot of myths around change. People say, “Change is hard. I studied it.” Change is really only hard for the unready. Let’s say you had the guy with a flip phone and you had me with a smartphone. If the organization gave us both new smartphones, change will not be equally hard for each of us. It would only be hard for the person who skipped 27 upgrades. I would be grateful to my organization that I got a new smartphone, I would get my stuff from the cloud and just start using that. The person who had skipped the upgrades would tell you change was hard. But the hardness of change isn’t associated with change. It’s associated with the amount of readiness people have so that they can step up, ready, willing, and able for change.
I also, when I talk about change, people talk about needing time to grieve. And this is interesting to me as a therapist in my early career, I asked people, I’m like, “Why, what happened? Did you lose a spouse or…?” And they would say, “Well, no, we lost our software.” And I was so troubled by that because it occurred to me that we’re using like Kubler-Ross’s theories on grieving and change management courses. While she worked with dying hospice patients, we were working with a change in software. They are not equal. But most change management courses talk about this grief process. So what I tell people is that you shouldn’t need time to grieve. Anything that comes your way, focus on getting fluent but don’t get attached.
The Buddhists tell us that attachment is the source of all suffering. It’s attachment that creates suffering. So I tell people to get fluent but not attached. This is just like foster software, we’ll be back for it, but you have to get fluent in it. And so people like do these big binges and then they settle in and they do a big binge and then they settle in. That is a really inefficient way to work.
A lot of people tell me we are change fatigued, there’s so much change, which is like saying there’s so much next or there’s so much future. It just doesn’t make sense to me, which is another myth. But a lot of things we make, a change initiative because we let people skip these upgrades, and they don’t have to do change as their daily job. Most of change is just improving every day, what you do, staying up with modern techniques, being connected in to what’s next, and keeping yourself really ready for the future. But because we allow people to skip that part on their daily jobs, we get so far behind that we have to roll everything into a change initiative, which really creates a lot of problems for us.
Now, the reason that we ruin accountability is because, instead of challenging people, we slow everything down to pick up the most unwilling and the person in the most resistance. And in the past, their behavior resistance corrupts our data. We think that change didn’t work or wasn’t planned out. It actually was lack of readiness. So my advice to folks always is work with the willing, that life rewards the brave and you should reward that brave, too.
And we have a whole course, a whole lot on Business Readiness versus Change Management, and how you can move from Change Management to Business Readiness. And we even have this whole pyramid of readiness on how we keep people on a daily basis in a state of seeking awareness, their own in-chargeness of their own awareness. And then how we only work with the willing, and how we move willing to be really able advocates, and how we only allow those willing advocates to participate.
And so we don’t have drivers without a license, drivers who aren’t aware and willing and advocating. We really are focusing on how you can activate these cool, silent majorities, that your focus isn’t on the resistance, it’s on the curve breakers, and then you can convert that curve breaking into normalized behavior. It’s really fascinating, we have a lot more out on our blogs and other places. But if I were gonna pick a team today, I would choose on willingness and not functional expertise. We can buy or rent functional expertise, willingness to me trumps everything when I’m building teams.
We’ve already talked about buy-in not being optional. So I’m gonna move ahead and end with talking about engagements. And I wanna leave a few minutes to talk about your credits as well. But our approach to engagement has really created a mess. Engagement without accountability creates entitlement. And we are really focused on a flawed view of engagement.
When you look at how we focus on engagement, whether it’s through survey or pulse surveys, or just traditional methods, we do something very odd. We count every person’s vote the same. If somebody’s Vicki victim or Debbie driver, we don’t differentiate on the engagement survey. Their opinions matter the same.
Now, when I’m running a business, if somebody is in a victim mindset, they’re in an ego state, their view of reality is distorted, I don’t want their view. I only want people who are in a high state of accountability, seeing reality clearly to tell me where I could help them environmentally as an organization, or where I could help them in accountability, keep their safe and move other people up to a state of accountability.
We differentiate everywhere in HR, accepting the accountability survey. So any engagement…I’m sorry, the engagement survey. So any engagement survey data you have is corrupted from the beginning, because the average organization has a greater number of low accountables than high accountables, and they’re giving you a flawed view of the world.
We also have the strange thing that driving or perfecting circumstances drives engagement, and that we know not to be true. I talked about that the beginning of this webinar, but we’ve bought into something even more dangerous, that engagement drives results.
Now, there is a place where we could show through the data that storks brought babies. When the stork population would increase, the baby population would increase in villages in Amsterdam. But that would be a flawed interpretation to just think those correlations were causal. What we know is a great harvest causes both storks to show up, they’re migratory, and babies to be born because their survival depends on maternal nutrition. And it’s the same with engagement. Storks don’t bring babies and engagement, storks, don’t bring results, babies. A great harvest called accountability brings both engagement and results. We just haven’t parsed out the data in the right way to reveal this.
But we here at our organization, we actually have an engagement survey that asks questions that can rate one’s accountability level. And then we filter the engagement answers through accountability levels, and we shut out the low accountable, we clean up your data, so that you’re only listening to your high and mid-accountables, and it will completely change the way you see your reality.
Now, if you are loving what you hear, there’s a great way to get on our list. If you text “96000” and you text the word “Reality” you will get an opt-in asking for your e-mail. What this says, it will tell you about my new book, but it also will lock you into some incredible content. We abundantly share on Instagram and YouTube and Facebook incredible videos and memes each week that you’ll get locked into. You can also subscribe to Cy Wakeman on on my YouTube channel and follow us on Instagram @cywakeman.
But definitely, if you liked what you’re hearing, check out our book, our newest book, “No Ego.” You can pre-order it right now. And if you pre-order it through that texting process, we give you four incredible videos to share with your team on the concepts of the book. So I’m gonna give it back to you, Jen. Tell them that they just earned some great credits, and some of the great stuff keep coming up.
Jen: Yes, they did. Yes, these credits are just a bonus, Cy, compared to the value that you brought today with this topic, my mind is turning. And I’m sure many people on this call are experiencing the same thing. Really, really good information. I do encourage you to sign up to pre-order the book if you have not read Cy’s books, I own them, and I cherish them, they’re dog eared. And I also encourage you to take advantage of her offer to text that number and get locked in to get other great free content. I know my team and I have benefited from it a lot.
So thank you so much, Cy, for another great presentation. And as you mentioned, yes, indeed we have pre-approval for both HRCI credit as well as SHRM credit, if we can just move to the next slide. There we go. So this information will be in today’s recording that we will send out to you later today. So look for that in your e-mail this afternoon.
And next month, we will be back with another great presentation, again, by presenters who have presented. I think this is their third time presenting. This is Cris Marie Campbell and Susan Clark. They have a consulting organization called Thrive. And they’re talking about improving employee performance no matter what the job. And these two ladies are also incredibly reality-based. And I think you’ll see a lot of good connection between what you heard today with Cy’s presentation and the approach that Cris Marie and Susan advocate in their leadership talk. So looking forward to seeing you all back here next month. For that you can go ahead and register today to save your spot, and we will get that e-mail out to you later today. So again, thank you very much, Cy, for being here with us today and thank you to everybody else for joining us. Make it a great day.