Episode 155 – Arrive and Thrive: Impactful Leadership Practices

Episode #155
Original Air Date: 06.20.2022

35 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Susan MacKenty Brady

Having arrived at a position of leadership, do you find you are just managing to survive because of overwhelming pressure from family and professional lives? Listen in for advice on how to flourish in your leadership role as your best self, inspire excellence in your team, and lead a highly fulfilled life. “Arriving” is everything required to get into a position, but to stay successful, it is necessary to embrace the skills needed to “thrive” in that position. Our guest Susan MacKenty Brady is the co-author of Arrive and Thrive: 7 Impactful Practices for Women Navigating Leadership.

In this episode, Susan shares useful advice for all genders on how to thrive and succeed in a top job. Susan explains what can get in the way of our ability to lead from our best self, and she offers guidance for investing in self-development. Other topics include embracing authenticity, cultivating courage, and a practice called reflective sense-making. Listen in if you are ready to hit reset on the way you work in order to create a more equitable team environment and flourish in your leadership role.

Susan MacKenty Brady is the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Chair for Women and Leadership at Simmons University and the first Chief Executive Officer of The Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership. As a relationship expert, leadership wellbeing coach, author, and speaker, Susan educates leaders and executives globally on fostering self-awareness for optimal leadership. Susan advises executive teams on how to work together effectively and create inclusion and gender parity in organizations. She is passionate about working with women at all levels of organizational leadership to fully realize—and manifest—their leadership potential.

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Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"... we can’t control and change other people.  It’s annoying, but it’s true.  ... But we can make choices about how we show up.  ...we want to narrow the gap between the time we are triggered and the time we react, enough to take pause between stimulus and response.  That’s it."

- Susan MacKenty Brady

"... your best self is where your strengths and talents, both character strengths you’re born with as well as things you’ve worked on that you’ve become good at, come together with where you feel called to add value to others, which comes together with where you feel joy and vitality. And when those three things converge, I would argue that you’re in your best self zone."

- Susan MacKenty Brady

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The podcast by project managers for project managers. How to flourish in your leadership role as your best self, inspire excellence in your team, and lead a highly fulfilled life.  “Arriving” is everything required to get into a position, but to stay successful, it is necessary to embrace the skills needed to “thrive” in that position. Listen in for useful advice on how to Arrive and Thrive and succeed in your leadership role.

Table of Contents

01:47 … Arrive and Thrive – The Book
04:15 … Who Should Read this Book?
04:38 … Co-authors and Collaborations
05:54 … Skills to Thrive
08:36 … The Harsh Inner Critic
11:29 … The Self-Centering Practice
15:19 … Thriving and Combating Systemic Barriers
19:53 … Lead with Our Best Self
22:37 … Cultivating Courage
25:16 … Instill Courage in Others
27:18 … Becoming More Self-Aware
29:34 … Reflective Sense-Making
31:44 … Susan’s Lessons Learned
33:56 … Get in Touch with Susan
34:57 … Closing

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  … we can’t control and change other people.  It’s annoying, but it’s true.  People don’t like to be controlled.  But we can make choices about how we show up.  So what we want to do is we want to narrow the gap between the time we are triggered and the time we react, enough to take pause between stimulus and response.  That’s it. 

WENDY GROUNDS:  Welcome to Manage This.  This is the podcast by project managers for project managers. I’m Wendy Grounds, and with me in the studio is Bill Yates. 

BILL YATES:  Yes.  Our guest is Susan Mackenty Brady.  She is the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Chair for Women and Leadership at Simmons University, and the first Chief Executive Officer of the Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership.  As a relationship expert, leadership well-being coach, author and speaker, our guest Susan educates leaders and executives globally on fostering self-awareness for optimal leadership.

WENDY GROUNDS:  The reason we’re talking to Susan today is she has sent us a book called “Arrive and Thrive:  7 Impactful Practices for Women Navigating Leadership,” which she has co-authored with Janet Foutty and Lynn Perry Wooten.  You know, women who arrive at the top should be able to thrive at the top.  There’s a lot of talk about how to get there.  But then once you get there, are you just surviving, or are you thriving in those positions as women in leadership?  And so we hope that this is going to be a really helpful book and a helpful conversation to women who are project managers and trying to figure out how to flourish in leadership roles today.

BILL YATES: Yeah, I can attest.  There’s great value in this book, regardless of male or female.

WENDY GROUNDS: Susan, welcome to Manage This.  Thank you so much for being our guest.

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  Thank you for having me.

Arrive and Thrive – The Book

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, we’re excited to talk about this book. To start off, won’t you tell us why you wrote this book?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  You know, there’s two answers to that question.  You want both?  There’s first a real answer about how it came to be, which was because I am not an academic.  I have been in business and specifically in leadership development.  I’ve been a student and teacher of leadership since I can recall.  I’ve a Master’s in Behavioral Science and Leadership Education.  And I have to say, when I came to Simmons University and was awarded the endowed chair, it’s the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Chair for Women in Leadership, my first question is what does one do to be worthy of an endowed chair in an academic environment?  Because I actually didn’t know that non-PhDs were awarded chairs.  Apparently it’s more common than we know.

But my answer was whatever you want it to be. So it was actually around a talking circle with two senior partners from Deloitte and the current President of the University, who awarded me the chair.  And we’re all C-level.  We’ve run organizations.  We’ve run business units, or we’ve arrived in leadership in many ways.  And the conversation was actually about the morning that we all had and how still hard it is to sort of have your own feelings, navigate conflict, keep it all together, manage the home front in the morning, come to work, da da da da da da.  I said, “There’s no forum for senior women to have this conversation, and it’s lonelier at the top.”  You know?

And one thing led to another, and I thought, maybe we need to do the next-generation book.  So I’ve written extensively about advancing women and what organizations can do to help equity across all identities, advance in leadership.  My former book, “Mastering Your Inner Critic and 7 Hurdles to Advancement” was about sort of the invisible hurdles women struggle with to advance.  This one came to be with my co-authors Janet Foutty, and Lynn Perry Wooten. And the three of us pretty quickly unearthed these seven practices about thriving.  And so, I have to tell you guys, there’s been so much survival lately.  We survived the pandemic, unless of course we had loss.  Everybody’s fatigued.  It was so joyful to think about what is thriving and how can we help women in particular step in and thrive more, as opposed to just surviving?

BILL YATES:  That’s good.

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  Long answer.

Who Should Read this Book?

BILL YATES:  No, that’s good.  So who should read this book?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  This was a debate I had with my co-authors.  Look, the book’s title says “7 Practices for Women Navigating Leadership.”  There is nothing in this book that a man would read and not think, “Well, I could probably use that, too.”  So look…

BILL YATES:  Yeah, very practical.

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  It’s written for women.  And I hope allies of all genders read it.

BILL YATES:  Excellent, absolutely.

Co-authors and Collaborations

 WENDY GROUNDS:  Susan, tell us a bit about your collaboration on the book.  Who were your co-authors, and how did you team up to write this book?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  Janet doesn’t like I say this, but collectively we’ve got 85 years of leadership experience, the three of us.  Janet Foutty is – so you know that Deloitte’s a partnership.  Janet Foutty is the executive chair.  She runs  the U.S. operation for Deloitte.  It’s a huge job.  And she has really made it in a very male-dominated industry and has a very unique point of view about business and about the kind of business that Deloitte is and how her leadership was impacted by that.

Lynn Perry Wooten is a scholar and an academic.  She was at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan before she went to Cornell to lead there.  She is one of few African American women who preside at the top job at a University.  And she is well published.  So it was such an honor to partner with Janet and Lynn.  I learned a lot from the two of them, writing this book.  I played somewhat lead author.  They were collaborators, and they took lead on some of the practices because frankly it was more their expertise than mine.  It was a total collaboration in the end.  And a village of people helped us to create this.

Skills to Thrive

WENDY GROUNDS:  There’s a distinction between arriving, which is everything required to get into that position.  And then you need to stay successful once you’ve got your position.  You need to embrace what you call the “skills to thrive” in that situation.  So can you take this personal now and highlight one or two of your skills that have helped you thrive in your position?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  Well, it didn’t come easy, but I suppose I’ve done a better job of listening.  My grandmother used to say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason, Susan.”  For an extroverted expressive, I have to tell you, leadership can be tricky because we can miss nuance, right, and interpersonal nuance.  I would say I’ve had a focused intention on developing my own emotional intelligence and narrowing the gap between my intention and my impact, which I’m happy to dive into because leadership is a relationship.  It’s a social construct.  And so there’s all this room for subjectivity.

What I find is a lot of smart, well-intended leaders get involved in whatever they’re doing because of technical interest in whatever their functional area is.  And they get annoyed with and/or struggle with the subjectivity of relationships, which is obviously mastering some of those skills as leadership.  So that’s the student and teacher in me.  I’ve been working on that stuff for a while.  That’s number one.  So that’s interpersonal between me and others.

The other, I’d say the second thing that has helped me a great deal is my relationship with myself, which is how do I manage my thoughts and feelings such that I can come from a place of warm regard and respect, even if I disagree with you.  Not just for you, but also for me; right?  So I think we get triggered out of feeling good enough about ourselves, and we get triggered into feeling like other people are disappointing us.  All day, every day.  Like it is what it is to be human.  You should have seen me with my daughter this morning.  So learning the speed of the return to healthy warm regard or compassionate center, or your best, most grounded, centered, aligned self.  Doing that consciously and quickly will help you navigate all relationships in your life, not just work.

So I’ve taken those two things on:  intrapersonal, understanding my thoughts and feelings and how they impact my actions; and interpersonal.  I’m a learner.  There’s no perfection at this, guys, because people are unique and different.  And so what works with an approach with one person you work with probably might not work with another person.  And so this is tricky business.  But I think that those two things have both aided me and been my – they’re my vocation, my interest.

The Harsh Inner Critic

BILL YATES:  Yeah, it’s like, and to your point, you’re never done; right?  You’re always working on it.  One of the things I appreciated in the book was just your transparency, talking about how you had to face that you were being too hard on yourself.  I think you used the word “brutal.”  You know, “I was brutal to myself.”  Which I think a lot of us, or we’ve got that perfectionist tendency, and especially if we’re leading teams.  There are so many times we come out of a meeting where we’re kind of beating ourselves up, going man, I should have handled that better, or I should have seen that coming, or I should have been better prepared.

It’s almost like a badge of honor we wear, you know, I’m really hard on myself.  But to your point, you talked about how that then comes through in how we treat others.  That’s an aha moment for some people when they’re reading this book.  Your transparency, saying because I was brutal on myself, then this is how it manifested in other relationships.  Then I was hypercritical.  I was losing my cool with people.  And so I appreciated the way you set that up.

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  I’m so glad you raised that.  You know, it’s funny, I specialize in difficult.  And I have a consulting friend calls me the “jerk whisperer.”  Leaders by and large don’t derail because of functional incompetence.  They derail because of relational incompetence, okay, because they underestimate or overestimate or produce something that just doesn’t work.  So when it comes to harshness, or be the critic, what I have found is yet to meet a leader, even those who are called “bullies” or have bad impact or who just people don’t really like, who wakes up in the morning and comes to work to be a jerk.  Like I have yet to find somebody who purposely does that.

What I have found is plenty of people, all genders, who come to work and say, you know what, I strive to do this really well, and I push people – of course I do – to do it really well.  Like that’s the perfectionist.  Or I just wanted it to be done this way so there’s control.  Or I didn’t want to talk about it, so I just didn’t say anything.  So it’s like, people have no idea.  So it does come from what we think and feel drives what we say and do.  And the first two books I wrote were about the inner critic, mainly because mine ran rampant for so long, mainly towards myself.  But the energy can be, you know, the inner critic is equal opportunity jerk inside our own head; right?  It can be pointed at us or pointed at others.

I found a practice that changed my life that helped me master my own narrative.  And I’ve been practicing it for almost 15 years now.  And I still, you know, what used to set me off, I used to ruminate about it for a week or days or hours or minutes, I now can notice it and think, oh, girl, that’s not a helpful thought.  What’s going on?  Right?  So like my inner critic has always been a pretty big personality in me.  And I have my inner well-being coach.  It’s finding her muscle which is really fun.  And this book helped her.

The Self-Centering Practice

BILL YATES:  Just asking.  Is this your self-centering practice?  Is that the one you’re…

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  Yes.

BILL YATES:  Describe that.  This is in the book.  This goes right along with your point.  Describe that practice that you use.

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of elegantly simple; right?  It’s just four steps.  The first is you’ve got to notice when your inner narrative is negative.  Right?  Whatever that is.  And it could be, I’ll tell this story for those who have in the listening audience teenagers.  It was sort of mid-pandemic, and so we were in our groove of our family working and living and schooling from home.  I have two teenage kids.  And I came downstairs after a day of work, when I already had had lunch and cleaned the kitchen, and the sink was full of dirty dishes.  And so I negotiated in my own mind, do I want to yell for everyone to come down and clean the kitchen?  Or will I do it?  And I thought, you know, I want to get dinner started.

So I opened the dishwasher, and somebody had laid a plate, saucer-like, on the lower drawer of the dishwasher.  And I can’t describe what happened next, but I think if a movie camera saw me you would say that I lost my ever-loving mind.  And I called an immediate intervention with my children.  I had them come downstairs.  It was mostly just annoyed, irritated, I mean, I went right to they’re entitled, they think I’m here to wait on them, they don’t pay attention, to I must be a horrible mother because I am about to launch adults into the world who do not know how to place a dish in a dishwasher.  I want to make sure they know.  But like all of it was super intense.

And because I, you know, my kids know my work, and I’ve been talking about this work, they’re both standing there looking at me.  They’re like, “Mom, you are not leading from your best self right now.  Are you in your compassionate center?”  And I was like, “I’m going to kill you guys.”  I mean, look.  We get triggered.  So the first thing ideally, here’s the good do; right?  Ideally I would have noticed the chaos and the saucer-like dish in the dishwasher.  They know I like to maximize space in a dishwasher.  It’s one of my things.  And they didn’t do that just to piss me off.  And I push pause the minute I hear myself go riled up.  So should, shouldn’t, should have, supposed to, those are your red flags.  All you’ve got to do in step one is notice.

Step two after you notice is take a hot breath.  And, you know, this could be a walk around the house.  It could be literally breathing and centering.  It could be take a couple days, I mean, if you’re really upset about something, you should not have a conversation until you’re back to sender.  So second is breathe, take space, take pause. 

Third is then we have to get back to compassion. So channeling some warm regard for our self and for others.  I’m not a terrible mom.  They’re not terrible entitled beastly children.  And then the last step is to sort of get curious, and think about what is it that we need to maybe shift or change or what I need to communicate in order to make sure this doesn’t happen again; right?  So had I done all of that, which I opted not to in this moment, as you know, I think it would have gone better.

So it’s notice, first notice the swirl.  Take a timeout.  Channel some compassion, which is the hardest thing I’ve found for women in particular to do, but also men.  Then you can exercise some curiosity and explore what about the situation needs to shift?  So I just want to remind our listening audience and you guys that there’s only two choices when we’re confronted with a difficult person or a difficult situation or something that’s irritating us.  We can either move to accept it, or make moves to change it.

We can’t control and change other people.  It’s annoying, but it’s true.  People don’t like to be controlled.  But we can make choices about how we show up.  So what we want to do is we want to narrow the gap between the time we are triggered and the time we react, enough to take pause between stimulus and response.  That’s it.  And you could do this quickly.  I’ve spent a long time learning and practicing how to do this. 

BILL YATES:  That’s outstanding.

Thriving and Combating Systemic Barriers

WENDY GROUNDS:  A little while ago we did a podcast, Episode 132 with Jody Staruk on women-led construction projects.  Jody works as the project executive at Consigli Construction.  And we discovered that women make up 10 to 11% of the construction industry’s workforce.  And so, you know, what came out of that podcast was a lot of really great advice from Jody.  But also she had overcome some barriers to get to where she is.  And I do think you can maybe talk to that, that how can women thrive while they’re combating systemic barriers within their career path?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  Well, first of all, my first advice is don’t go it alone.  Okay?  We’re just not meant to do much alone at all.  In fact, if there’s one sort of red thread between all the seven practices, it’s none of these practices are meant to be practiced in isolation.  Neither is leading when you are not in the majority.  So if you find yourself in an underrepresented population, however you define that, and last I checked, if you woke up woman, you are in an underrepresented population at work.  Even in healthcare, which is dominated by women, because we still have a massive disparity of leadership.

So I’m talking about people in power at work.  If you’re not represented in the majority, I think you can kind of bank on the fact that the jig is rigged a little, not in your favor.  Like the whole concept of leadership, hierarchy, workplace norms, processes, these were built in a structure, an era that doesn’t really exist anymore.  It was before we really thought women could and should earn their independent livelihood.  And so some systems and processes and deeply held beliefs don’t actually serve for the inclusion and equity of women in leadership.  And so I think one thing is to be aware.

So the first is don’t go it alone.  Like it’s okay to talk about, hey, does this hit you the same way as me, so have your peer group friends.  The other is to speak up and speak out.  Like this process I think was created to have this impact, but it actually creates that impact. 

You know, when I’m talking to senior leaders, executives who would like to see more women in their industry, and want to know from me how to go about making that happen, I often recommend formal sponsorship programs because what it is is it’s taking what is the good-old-boy network, which is the socialization of people like you, and saying, hey, you know, Joe reminds me of a younger me, I’m going to, like, take him under my wing, and just formalizes that until it becomes sort of more implicit and formalizing that for women and people of color so that we can get the kind of sponsorship.

And sponsorship I just define as sponsors open doors for those who wouldn’t have access to leadership, leadership opportunities, to growth opportunities.  And they lead the way in sort of carrying your card.  I often get asked by women how can I make a difference in navigating my own advancement?  And I think there’s a lot women can do.  And there’s also a system in place that requires executive leadership to decide that they want their culture to be a place where women can thrive.

So both have to happen at the same time.  If women just do our work and the system stays the same, we’re not going to see progress.  And if the system changes, but we don’t do our work, we’re not going to see progress.  And by “our work,” I mean, if you can’t tell me five things that make you fabulous, you have work to do.  If you can’t tell me the last time you asked for help with something, or disappointed someone, you have work to do. 

You know, women think it’s selfish to ask for things for their own needs.  But there’s no research that says we’re worse negotiators than our male counterparts.  In fact, I would argue there’s evidence that we’re even better because we’re less likely to sacrifice relationship in favor of the substance.  We want both.

So I would say it’s a tricky thing for women in leadership in an industry where there’s less than 15% of us in leadership.  Talking about it is important.  And I would say, you know, I’m anti-blame and shame about men.  I think most men, most men that I’ve met in the working world woke up man.  That’s their big crime.  And they just don’t know how to be on the topic of women’s leadership at work; right?  It’s a risky topic.

And so what I would say in the spirit of walking inclusively in your leadership job is go sit down and have some vulnerable conversations with people.  How is it going?  What do you need from me?  How can I be supportive?  What kind of allyship do you need?  That’s what I want from men.  And we women have to invite them in; you know?  Come on, let’s talk.

Lead with Our Best Self

WENDY GROUNDS:  Susan, in your book you write about the seven impactful practices for arriving and thriving.  I’m going to just run through what they are, and then we’re going to talk on one of them.  The first one is investing in your best self.  And then embracing authenticity, cultivating courage, fostering resilience, inspiring a bold vision, creating a healthy team environment, and the last one is committing to the work of an inclusive leader.  We’d like to touch on the first one, investing in your best self.  What are some of the things that can get in the way of our ability to lead in our best self?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  I love the question, thank you.  I have categorized four sets of triggers.  Interestingly enough, the four sets of triggers aren’t in the book.  But we do talk about triggers.  And that is, you know, we wake up, we want to have a great day, and then any number of things happen.  We might turn on the TV and see a major decision by the Supreme Court that hits us, or a potential world war starting, or a humanitarian crisis.  So that would be external large factors, or a colicky baby that we can’t control.  It might be other people’s behavior. There might be somebody we live or work with that triggers us because of the stink they put out, the words or the mood or the whatever.  That’s the second, so other people’s behavior.

The third is our own behavior.  Maybe we intend to make better choices for ourselves, but we’re not.  So we’re not paying attention to our own well-being.  And then the fourth was really our thoughts and feelings and the narrative in our head that reacts to and can ruminate about all of the other three categories and more, you know, about how we are less than or others are less than.  So those four triggers disrupt and catapult us out of the best part of our self.

But I just want to define “best self” for us so the listeners know.  And that is, you know, your best self is where your strengths and talents, both character strengths you’re born with as well as things you’ve worked on that you’ve become good at, come together with where you feel called to add value to others, which comes together with where you feel joy and vitality.  When those three things converge, I would argue that you’re in your best self zone.  And it’s not feeling like you’re better than another person or less than.  You are in your groove.  It might be the things you do or the time you spend when you lose track of time.  Like us right now, like I think we’re all probably like having fun and being in our best self, just doing this.

And so what we want to do is we want to Velcro to her, and we want to know us at our best self.  And then when we get shot out of our best self, we are at most risk of reacting or saying or doing something we will regret.  So we want to get back as quickly as possible, and that’s really what the first chapter is all about, first knowing your best self, and then returning to your best self.

Cultivating Courage

WENDY GROUNDS:  We’d like to touch on another one, cultivating courage.  The project manager requires courage.  They have to make decisions.  They have to commit to stand behind their decisions, often in the face of opposition and uncertainty.  Can you talk about how to cultivate courage?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  So the first thing I would say is that courage is not the absence of fear.  It’s the presence of probably some vulnerability.  And the cultivating courage sometimes can be best fostered when borrowing courage from others.  So, when I wrote my first book, I had the “Who am I to do this?”  I had the “How am I going to do this?”  And “How am I going to call the people who I need to have help?”  And I realized, you know, it’s been done before.

So most of the time when we’re facing something that feels like an obstacle or something that requires courage, it’s a risk.  And most of the time I think humans overemphasize the fall of the risk if the situation doesn’t go well, and underemphasize the fact that we’re really resilient humans.  And so, the worst-case scenario is we learn, we have a setback, it kind of goes in.  That’s why the resilience chapter is right after the courage chapter because when we do have a setback, when we exercise courage and take a risk, and it doesn’t go in ways we thought. We learn from it.  We grow from it.  And we don’t come back to the person we were before.  We actually come back as more mature, more wise, more practiced.  And we can share our resilience stories.

So courage is critical if we’re going to thrive.  It takes courage to take care of yourself.  It takes courage to ask for help.  Oh, probably if there’s one thing in the whole chapter on cultivating courage that I was most delighted by and surprised by when we were doing our research is the study on asking for help, that we humans underestimate by as much as 50% how willing other people are to help us. 

And so if the act of courage is say, “Wow, I’m going to have to inconvenience him and him and him and her,” and we frame it as “Would you help me make this happen?  I know this isn’t what you want to do right now, and I really need this to happen and here’s why,” like if you appeal to people’s helping sensibility, you’re apt to be able to walk through your courage moment with more support.

BILL YATES:  That’s a great point.  I think many times we underestimate how much satisfaction others get by being able to help us; right?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  That’s right.

BILL YATES:  That’s a great point.

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  When’s the last time someone asked for you for help, and you were like, oh, god.  You know, it’s, “Oh, you want my help?  It’s an honoring thing.”

BILL YATES:  Exactly, yeah.

Instill Courage in Others

WENDY GROUNDS:  You talked about courage being directed toward meaningful action rather than overcoming fear.  Now, as a leader, how can you cultivate that courage in your team members so that they can become more autonomous?  We’ve had a project manager email us, and he wanted advice.  He wanted to figure out how to get his team members to be more self-governing, to have the confidence to make decisions.  So how can we instill that courage in others?  Once we’ve kind of figured out how to be more courageous ourselves, how can we instill that in others?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  Yeah.  I think where I go with this is wanting to better understand why they’re not.  So starting with a real inventory of what are your enablers?  When you do exercise courage, what enables that?  And what are your blockers when you don’t?  And that helps any leader or manager remove barriers, if they can; or manifest the enablers that allow for acts of courage?  I feel at this point, I know my style of leadership is very consultative.  So I feel like I stand shoulder to shoulder with everybody on my team and feel like we’re in this together.  And my job as your leader is not to tell you or dictate how.  My job is to coach when you need it.

But my big job is to remove barriers that prevent you from bringing your best self to work.  And exercising courage authentically, you know, standing in your strong resilience and accomplishing what you want to accomplish that makes you feel valued and that brings value to our team.  And side by side with that is when I can understand better your strengths, and we do mention Gallup and StrengthsFinder quite a bit.  Lynn, my co-author, she’s a certified coach, and she’s a big fan of StrengthsFinder.  I’ve come to love Strengths.  I think that probably the best thing you can do if you want your team to lean in a little bit more, take more risks, go faster, give their discretionary effort, et cetera, et cetera, is find out what their strengths are and what the blockers are and the enablers are.

Becoming More Self-Aware

WENDY GROUNDS:  Another important thing is you talk about some tips on working on yourself, how to become more self-aware.  What is some useful advice you can give us on that?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  The first piece of advice is decide that that’s important for you.  And I find myself oftentimes trying to explain to leaders, well-intended leaders, why they do need to take themselves on as their own first project.  Let me put it in terms of emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is about recognizing and responding to your thoughts and feelings and then recognizing and responding to another’s thoughts and feelings, mainly emotions.  Sounds pretty simple.

The problem is when we don’t even take time to recognize where we’re coming from or what we need and want, we’re apt to lead to a point where we’re fatigued, disappointed, feeling down, not great.  And so one of the things I’d love to see change is instead of this bragging of how much we do and how much self-sacrifice and how much we’re killing it and overdoing it, is I want to start hearing people’s well-being stories.  Like gosh, you know what, I exercised three times this week, and I’m not at risk of running a marathon or winning any competitions, but for me that’s self-care; right?  Or I took a break.

So many women that I talk to particularly are like, oh, girls’ weekend, you know, once a year, spa weekend, or I treated myself to a night out.  That can be part of your well-being, self-care.  But knowing what it is that you need physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, it’s really hard to have other people meet you where you need to be met when you don’t know what it is you need, at home and at work and in relationship.  So it’s important that we think about that.

And a lot about the authenticity chapter or second practice has a good place to start is around understanding your values.  And there’s several exercises in the book where we talk about it’s really understanding self, like what is your proclivity?  I mentioned a couple of my favorite assessments that helped me understand myself better; you know?  And knowledge is power here, guys.  Knowledge is power.  So we can start to say, ah, that’s my preference.  Is this okay for me or not, how we’re going about this?

Reflective Sense-Making

BILL YATES:  Just as you were speaking it made me think of a very practical step that I was discussing with my son.  I have two adult sons.  He was trying to think through how to track something.  And I said, it’s journaling; right?  Even in this journey it’s journaling.

For me, as I was explaining to him, there’s this thing that I’m tracking every day that I’m doing, and I just put it literally just in the notes app of my phone.  You know, every day I just want to go in quickly and register how I slept the night before or some physical thing that I’m trying to accomplish.  It takes some discipline because it’s kind of a pain to, oh, yeah, I’ve got to remember to enter that, or I forgot to do it yesterday.  But by having that, you know, after a while you build up this history.  And it’s like, oh, wow, that was a good day for me.  And this was, whatever, how much sleep I got, or this is what I ate.  Just capturing that information.

And many times I think for project managers, it’s if we could be disciplined enough to say, okay, we have status meetings all the time.  Okay, the status meeting that I had this week versus the one I had two weeks or three weeks ago.  How did it go?  How did it compare?  What was different this week versus two weeks ago, three weeks ago?  And how can I make sure that when I show up into this meeting with these key stakeholders, I’m bringing my best self?  Just by doing simple stuff like journaling and tracking this information, it helps us get to know our self better.

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  Yeah.  I’ve love to build on that.  There’s a practice in the book we call “reflective sense-making.”  And you can do it in micro ways, right, every night just saying how did my day go.  But when I reflective sense-make, I tend to like to do a situation like you’re talking about, about a topic.  What I have found to be so useful is having two categories which are what worked well and even better if.  And you can engage other people and their views on what worked well and even better if.

I mean, it’s an after-action review.  It can be an after-action review on a project or a step of a project or a meeting or even an entire year in review.  Our learning as adults happens in reflection, when we think about track, form habits around how did that go?  And we don’t do it enough.  And so I love that you are talking to your son about tracking, like that’s just cool.  It’s an exercise of self-management.

Susan’s Lessons Learned

WENDY GROUNDS:  What new learning did you discover writing this book?  What have been the lessons that you’ve taken away from this?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  I mean, we don’t have enough time, you guys.  I geeked out about so many of these practices because I led all the initial research and then shared with co-authors, and we kind of distilled it down.  I guess I was inspired by the chapter on inspiring a bold vision because I tend to be pretty confident, and I see around corners.  It’s one of my strengths.  I have been bold in inspiring bold visions.  And so I wasn’t really interested in this chapter, to be honest, because it’s just a skill that I’ve never struggled with.

What I found out, though, was fascinating to me because people will ask how do you create a vision.  And I’ve never understood because I never really researched it before.  It turns out the simplicity of that answer happens to be in what might need to change.  And you don’t have to be the person to discover what might need to change, but if you’re open and transparent and sort of can have that psychological safety which we talk about, is you can have an environment where people bring to you, not complaint, but gosh, this is something that needs to change.  And then you can explore on how the change needs to happen.

So you don’t have to come up with the problem or the solution.  But when you circle around a problem or a solution that can make your project or your system better, or remove a barrier from the project or the system, then you can start talking about it and painting a vision for what’s possible or communicating what’s possible if we make this change in these ways.  And so I think what got me so excited is it’s so teachable. 

And it’s not this big, like, scary thing, like I have to be a visionary.  It’s like comes right from what we were just talking about for an after-action review.  It’s like, well, in my list of what worked well, what would enable all those even better?  And in my list of even better if, what could we do to remove some of those barriers?  We’re all of a sudden in a vision conversation. Everybody’s a visionary.

Get in Touch with Susan

WENDY GROUNDS:  If our listeners want to find out more about your book or what you do, how can they reach out to you?

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  Easy one-step process.  ArriveAndThrive.com and all of my other work and the work of our Institute for Inclusive Leadership at Simmons University is at InclusiveLeadership.com.  So we have all sorts of goodies for leaders looking to improve their interpersonal inclusive leadership capability and for women to step more into their leadership in general in their life.

BILL YATES:  Thank you so much for your time.  This is an impressive book.  And just the fact that you could collaborate with two others and take all the information and experience and then bring it down to these seven practices, that’s impressive.

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY:  You don’t do something like this for yourself, that’s for sure.  I really want this to help.  I wish I had these tools a while ago.  And I’m really glad they’re available now.  So I hope our readers enjoy it, and I hope your listeners enjoy “Arrive and Thrive.”  So thank you so much for having me.

Closing

WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  Thank you for joining us today.  You have earned your free PDUs by listening to this podcast.  To claim them, go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs and click through the steps.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

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