It’s easy to give up when things get hard, but we should always focus on our goals and vision to rise to the top amidst the difficulties in life. Join Rodney Flowers as he sits down with Executive Coach of Handel Group, Ben Anderson, for a conversation about enriching your mindset with positivity and motivating yourself to be the best person you could be. Driving change is not an easy road, but it is possible with the right entrepreneurial mindset. Ben discusses executing leadership strategies to drive change in an organization. He dives into the different ways to effectively manage our personal and professional situations and how we could motivate ourselves and develop resilience to overcome any challenge that could be thrown our way and unleash our full potential.
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Leadership Strategies To Maintain Your Peak Performance And Drive Change With Ben Anderson
As always, I am excited about this show. I have a very special guest with me. He is a leadership coach with an international reputation advising CEOs and their boards on talent and human performance strategies. He moved to Silicon Valley over twenty years ago drawn by the creativity, innovation and transformation occurring in this technology zone. His mission is to help leaders, their teams and their organizations build the capacity to bring their full potential to their businesses and compete to win. Without further ado, let’s welcome Ben Anderson to the show. Welcome to the show, Ben.
Thanks, Rodney. I’ve been excited about this conversation.
As am I especially we’re talking about leadership and human performance here. We’re talking about how we can build our talent. That’s an interesting topic given the transition that we have gone through and the transition that we’re going through. I’m not sure from your point of view if that has taken on a new meaning. Leadership has always been a hot topic in business but given some of the things that have occurred with COVID-19 and social injustice, perhaps those topics have taken on a new meaning. I’m interested to know your spin on leadership as it relates to current events and your outlook towards organizations and businesses because we’re all going through a shift.
We’re trying to figure a lot of things out, which places a lot of emphasis on leadership driving change, leading change, how we navigate this opposition and these challenges that we have and how we cultivate the talent that we have. Leadership plays a big role in that. Things are changing. We’re looking at human performance a little bit differently. There’s a book that I’ve read called Humility is the New Smart. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that book. I enjoyed reading that book because it talked about what organizations and businesses are going to be looking for in terms of hiring employees, what type of skillsets are they going to look for. Things are changing so rapidly with the advancement of technology that a lot of certain jobs are going to be replaced. Organizations are going to be looking for certain types of skillsets. Soft skills and people skills are becoming more important. I noticed a lot that I’ve unwrapped there and I’m interested in getting into these types of conversations with you to hear your perspective on them.
I do work with leaders and chief executives in environments here, particularly in technology. I do work in some of the worlds of high-level sports. I get exposure to one team, in particular, the New Zealand All Blacks. I come from New Zealand so I’ve had some insights into that organization that went from 125 years of winning and playing rugby to suddenly no games. You can imagine what that could do to an organization. It’s been incredible. You mentioned a book. One of the books that I have pulled from my shelf and read deeply in 2021 is Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. Do you know it at all, Rodney?
His grandson, Alex Vesely, and I have done some work in 2020. Alex trained with Viktor. We wanted to look at what is the meaning we can find in this challenge. We’ve had multiple challenges in 2021. When you’re a chief executive of a growing company, you had COVID and some of the social and environmental challenges that we’ve all confronted, that puts you in incredibly tough places. It is a crucible that they need to work through. Being alongside those leaders, I’ve learned a huge amount. You talk about humility. I’ve learned a lot about how some of these leaders have had to look at this as a situation where they don’t know what to do and they’ve got to get comfortable with not knowing what to do.Focus on what matters the most in your life and shift your mindset to be the best you could be. Click To Tweet
That is hard because it’s hitting them mentally, emotionally and physically. They can’t be in the office. They can’t run away and hide. They’ve got to step up and they’ve got to find their voice and their resilience. One of the big things we’ve discovered in resilience is this space of belonging and how we quickly got to get these organizations and these teams, although they’re not sitting in the same room, beginning to refocus on why they belong as a team. That means we’ve brought them in to think, connect and quite frankly appreciate each other.
We found that one of the fastest ways to get that intimacy and that connection is the reflection on why they joined in the first place, why did they join this company and why did they join this team. Whatever platform we’re working on, Zoom or whatever alternatives are out there, looking in the eyes of the people that they have worked with and sometimes new members of the team. What do they appreciate about those people? Why are they there? What’s the mission?
What we’ve discovered in this time is that the leaders that are having more success have gone back to some of the fundamentals of why they are on the planet, why they are building their companies and what’s the importance of having meaning and purpose. Every one of us has had moments. It’s interesting to watch the emotional journey that different members have had. No one’s been in the same place at the same time. Some have gone through major grief while others who are more introverted enjoyed being in their office caves. It’s phenomenal and interesting. Leaders are having to learn to become coach-like. At times, they’re having to be strong.
I know I’m riffing a bit here but I’m trying to throw some interesting insights into our space. What I have noticed is that we’re having to show direction. We saw some strong leaders quickly come out and give some direction in terms of dates when they might be back in the office, for example. Not knowing but they knew that giving certainty. Are we going back soon? Is it August 2021? That giving some certainty decluttered the minds and helped families organize around schools, homeschooling and their lives by putting some certainty. In this world of belonging, certainty matters.
The idea of belonging is a key topic here that accompanies leadership. I was on a podcast and we were talking about identity and understanding your purpose and your why. Why do you do what you do? Why did you start the organization? I agree with you that this pandemic has allowed a lot of people to reflect on that. Either repurpose, refresh and restart or relaunch themselves as it relates to that purpose. We’ve seen some great things come out of that. There are some great things to have come out of these situations.
When you talk about social injustice, there are a lot of conversations that are happening as a result of that. To me, that is one of the things that have occurred from this pandemic is re-baselining and at the same time, as we move forward, it’s important that we reflect on that because a lot of people may be struggling with that a little bit. That was an issue even before COVID started for a lot of people but it’s more important now.
That energy around, “What do I have to offer? What is my contribution? How can I support what’s happening now? How can I contribute to it? How can I change it? Where do we go from here? Where do I fit in?” In a space of uncertainty, that is the most important level of certainty we need in order to go forward. If we have that and we can offer that as leaders and if employees have that, we start moving in a direction. We can start making some level of progress beyond where we are.
It’s so interesting that you talk about identity. In our coaching, we think of identity big time. It’s important. Rodney, you have an identity and I have an identity. I call it our inner game, our belief system, the theories we have, the history you and I have. I’ve got New Zealand roots. I go back ultimately into the Polynesian environment that I was brought up in. It’s interesting that I bring that history into the space and into the room. I have a certain identity that is different from yours and different from others. Identity is important. This has been a great time for us to go and dig into our beliefs and what’s important for us.
The social injustice and all the stuff that we’ve seen is deep. For many of us, we’ve never walked in the shoes of some of these people. We don’t know what it’s like. We can only imagine the challenges and the pain. I’ve got kids and we’ve all had to step back and ask the big questions, “What’s going on? What do we stand for? What are we not going to step over ever again?” It’s been an incredible journey for me personally and for my family.
My wife has a certain lineage that it was amazing how the experiences brought through things that have happened to her as a kid, coming from a family that had different ethnicity. It was an interesting experience. We talk about teams. Teams have an identity as well and we need to be thinking about what’s the identity of our team. What we’ve noticed in this world of uncertainty and ambiguity, leadership is more important than ever before. Where we sit back, look at these leaders and teams we work on, we work across the board globally and we work in education, not-for-profit, medical teams and sports teams. People often ask me, “What do you see? Is there magic inside?”
What we all look for is a leader with following, people will follow soul before the goal. Leaders with deeper souls are so valuable to us because we need to follow someone. We all want to be doing work that’s worth doing and it’s meaningful work. That’s different for every single one of us. Good leaders help their teams, employees, members, volunteers or whatever it might be. Their investors understand that this is meaningful. Everybody’s doing meaningful work.
From the barista making beautiful coffees that have to be delivered through a little cubby hole on a plate that they don’t touch and they see there’s the barista at 10 feet away. Watching that barista still make beautiful coffee and make an effort to put that little heart on the top as my guy does. That matters. He’s doing meaningful work and he’s sending a bigger message. We’ve got to build cultures, Rodney. We’ve got to think about the cultures that we’re creating. Leaders are creating cultures that are worth contributing to that we want to do it.
People have to be welcomed, Rodney. We’re seeing people joining companies. The first meetings I ever have are digital through Zoom like you and I are meeting. They’re not meeting in the flesh. These are sometimes senior people. How do we welcome them? How do we make them feel valued? We’re watching teams take much longer to onboard. We did it with a serious team. Three new members of a high-powered team joined for the first time. I never met anybody. This is the exact team in the flesh. We spent a morning just getting to know each other. The new members talked about their history, lineage, parents and moments that were awesome in their lives, their biggest challenging moments.
The welcoming group shared the same but they went even further. They shared their 2020, what it was like in that company, what were the highlights, what were the lowlights, what were the moments that were, “Are we going to stay in business? Are we still going to be around?” It was phenomenal having that experience. That never would have happened before. Teams are important and I’m going to put my team lens on. We’re all in teams. Families are teams. Churches are teams in a way. These groups come together with a common purpose and mission and we feel we belong to but it takes work.
We’ve got to step back and we’ve had a moment in time where we can step back and reconsider and relaunch into this new space, which is different. Who knows where it’s going to go? This is the time we need to pin our ears back and go for it. We talk about high-performance. High-performance means high functioning, bringing the best out in people and wanting to contribute, do worthwhile work and grow. The old Black rugby team got this from Shackleton’s Journey, which is a wonderful journey. They talk about being a Viking with a mother’s heart. Sometimes we got to be tough and directional. Sometimes we got to hold people accountable but we can do it with heart and caring. This is a moment in which I’ve noticed that those that are prepared to step up, hold space and be leaders are in great demand.
One of the things I want to highlight here is focusing on what matters most and you beautifully explained how connection matters. These teams are taking longer to establish that level of connection needed to function as a high-level team. Given that we are in a social distance environment, it’s important that we connect. Going back in my experience since this change, I’m thinking about what has shifted for me and imagining what’s shifting for other people that are operating in this digital environment.
If we take in more time to make sure we have that connection, there are other things that we’re not doing that perhaps we don’t need to do anymore because now, there’s a focus on what matters most. Connection always mattered. It always was a concern. We’re in a space where we had to take that time to connect. The reason why I’m spending some time on this is that when you look at sports teams that win especially sports teams that win consistently, there’s a high level of connection among the players, coaches and leaders of that team. There’s a high level of communication up and down the communication channels.There’s no shortcut in life. Don’t give up when you encounter a minor disruption. Click To Tweet
It’s not just the talent. We’ve seen teams have a lot of talent but they don’t have that connection. They don’t play well together because there’s this lack of connection. We talk about what matters most. That’s maybe the most important thing when it comes to teams functioning at a high level and then with leaders as well. I’m a leader, I’ve had times in my career where there has been a struggle and I wasn’t as productive and effective as I could have been.
I found that when I have that high level of connection with an employee or an individual, there’s a high level of productivity and outcome and results that we want. I’m putting this in perspective here. When there’s a high level of uncertainty, one of the things you may want to focus on is the connection that you have amongst your team because it could foster so many things. It can foster innovation, productivity and progress. If it’s not the most important thing, it’s certainly at the top of the list.
It’s probably the top of the list after purpose and mission. The top sports teams call it the cohesion quotient like you’ve got emotional intelligence. For example, you’ve got the IQ, EQ and CQ. This cohesion level is an input for success. When I sit there with these high-performing teams, they spend a lot of time on the design up front. Before they even get on to the field of play or the business environment or the surgical teams we work with, they sit back and design upfront. Everything from why they’re there and who’s there. What’s my role? What are my responsibilities? What are my accountabilities? How often are we meeting? What’s on the meeting agendas? What are our values? What are our rituals? What are our team agreements? How are we going to connect? When are we going to connect? It’s all designed upfront.
This is called intimacy as well but this level of intimacy and cohesion is not always we get on all the time because we’re challenging each other. We’re holding each other to account, to be responsible and being authentic. All those things create tension but there’s a level of cohesion that comes as an input into success and functioning. This cohesion factor, which is alignment, time and connection, not always in terms of hours and minutes but in terms of moments in time where we’re truly connected is important.
What we’ve found back to your whole point about resilience comes through the journey together, these amazing experiences that we go through. Resilience comes not in spite of but because of these experiences. Some of the toughest times that I’ve been through, the mates that were around me whether it was a sport, our friends around me, the business associates, colleagues or my wife, Victoria or the kids, the challenges we had that we’ve been through. We reflect back on the experiences that made us resilient. It happened one morning. I was sitting there preparing for our call and my son who is doing an honors program in English. He’s so proud of the work he’s doing. He’s always working hard.
He’s getting feedback and he got an email before he went to bed from his professor at 11:30. He said, “I’m not sure you’ve answered this in the right way,” so he couldn’t sleep all night. He comes down in the morning and he’s like a bear with a sore head. He’s going off about, “Maybe you shouldn’t have done an honors program.” By the time we got out to the other side of the conversation, we got to the meaning in this, the beauty of getting feedback and the importance of having moments where we’ve got to dig back in. He loses a Saturday because he’s going to do redo his paper but it’s okay. We’ll have that moment.
When it is delivered back, we’ll sit around the fireplace and we’ll have a yarn about it. He will think, “I’m glad that happened. I got feedback and I learned something. I hadn’t answered the paper in the right way and my professor gave me the feedback.” He’ll be resilient. I said to Victoria, my wife, afterward, “Thomas went back to his bedroom to do his paper. There’s going to be another moment of resilience for this kid. He’s going to come back and he’s going to be at this next level of meaning.” It’s what happened. Whereas as a coach, I want to help people and fix people. I wanted to step in and say, “Thomas, how do I help you? Don’t worry about it.” I have to catch it and he has to feel it.
We’re there to support him and he knows we’re here but I also want to say, back into the space, it was okay for him to dump on us. He needed to be heard and I had to bite my tongue because I’m a fixer. I would want to fix him and help him, “It’s okay. I’ll help you and we’ll get through it.” He needed the space to express his moment. As I was walking upstairs to specifically have this call, he said, “Dad, I love you. I got it. I’m out the other side. I’m head down. I’m going to get out of this and I’m going to do the best work I can.” I thought, “Great.” I watched him do this loop. He was resilient. He knew we belong to a family. We gave him space, he worked it out and he’s back in the game.
Those feelings that we have that we need to express are energy. Energy is always emotion. These emotions that we have, we have to let it flow and come out because if we don’t, it disrupts the flow. Good on you for allowing him to have his moment and feel that and then get it out. Now he has space for something else, a better, more positive and productive emotion to come forward. You talk about redesign, redesigning the rituals, roles and players. Taking a look at the organization or the team as a whole and identifying what needs to be adjusted, what needs to change, how do we need to adapt. Do you think that organizations need to look at themselves as a whole especially leaders as we communicate and lead employees? What’s your take on this redesign as it relates to leaders and organizations?
In Handel Group, we have amazing methods of coaching. We teach in 40 yards in major universities around the world. It’s all about design thinking and designing. You and I are designers. You’ve designed your life, your show and creating the space to invite me into your sacred space to have this conversation. We’re all designers. You’re modeling design. It’s a great frame for every one of us to be thinking about as designers.
Chief executives are some of the best designers in the world and that doesn’t mean always creativity. Designing, in our Handel language, we will call authoring their futures, writing their futures. I’ve seen this in real cases in the sports world. Particularly if I become a young major rugby player representing New Zealand All Blacks, I’m given a black book. That has the history of the game and the history of the team because as I come into it, I’m borrowing the jersey for a period of time. My dream is to leave it in a better place than where I got it from.
As I take the jersey on, the most wonderful thing about that organization is they write their futures. The black book that you have has that first twenty pages and then the rest is blank and I design my future, who I’m going to be and what I’m going to do. I like to think in life and in business as a simple model of me, we, go. You talked about redesigning. As a leader and as a family member, it starts with me. I’ve got to take the close look at myself. Self-awareness is a master skill. Where am I? Who am I? We are redesigning. You’re changing whether you know it or not. Unconsciously, you’re changing, growing older and picking up habits, good, bad or indifferent.
Isn’t it amazing if we begin to look and say, “I’m going to change and I’m going to design who I want to be.” This is the authentic self. Many of us have been conditioned away from who we are. As I’ve got older, I’m finding more about myself that is more authentic because we’re conditioned. I remember being told, “Go to school and get a meal ticket so you can learn how to make a living.” I went and studied stuff that probably wasn’t my authentic self but it meant a meal ticket.
How are you finding this out? What are you doing that is bringing that level of awareness to you?
Journaling, taking space to think and being around people inspire me to take that space to slow everything down. That’s one of the things that the COVID space has given us. It takes discipline. In high-performing environments, we call it altitude. Everybody does it a different way. In our coaching world, we encourage people to reflect. We are big believers at the Handel Group in writing things out so that is journaling and thinking. When I’ve had a bad day, I dump it all on a page and I get it out of my head onto a page and I see what’s the truth. If you get it out of your head, Rodney, you’ve got a bubble above your head that’s probably truthful.
When it comes to putting it out there, we don’t. We hold it. We’re too afraid and scared to. We think that if I tell you exactly what I think, you’re not going to like me anymore. You’re going to think I’m weak. The inner dialogue, that bubble above everybody’s head is generally the truth. We just don’t tell it. Learning what’s in that me-space of who I am and what I’m about is an important time through meditation, reflection, journaling, long walks in nature, removing yourself from the busyness and getting off your devices. We’ve got to slow down. There’s no shortcut.
It’s like going to the gym. You’re not going to get improvement in your fitness level and your weight level or whatever you want to do in life if you don’t have some level of clarity around what you want to do, why you want to do it and the commitment and the discipline. This is why the process is important. One of the psychologists I work with says, “Mindset is queen. The structure is king.” What we’ve learned is we’ve got to be structuring in these things. There is no quick fix. I’ve got to have a structure in my day.
I talked about rituals. I’ve got to have space to reflect and that goes both at a self-awareness level but also at situational awareness level. Have moments to step back. I happen to be in a family that is spiritual and have spent years working on their stuff in practice. I’ve got a head that runs 100-mile an hour and I’ve worked at workaholic tendencies. I’ve struggled on this no matter how much is around me. I now have a ritual. I wake up and I do have an espresso or two. I sit down with my yellow pad in a quiet room and I reflect. I see what comes out. “Where am I? What’s going on?”
You talked about the book and one of the first portions of the book is who are you. We’re getting back to that topic of identity, which is a big proponent of leadership. When it comes to knowing who you are, is that something that is chosen on a moment-to-moment basis for you?Be careful of what you say because some words can be incredibly damaging. Click To Tweet
I’m practicing this. It’s a mastery game and it’s on forever. It’s interesting because I was reflecting a lot on the difference between values and principles. I’m working with a couple of teams that are having challenges and I wanted to take them back to values. What is value? Why do we have values? People talk about standards, values and principles and it becomes, “What do they all mean?” I got up at about 2:30 AM one time and had a chamomile tea as I was thinking about my own values. I’m in the business of change and the business of supporting people to unlock their potential. Here I am heading off well into maturity and I’m beginning to think, “What are mine?”
It is moment by moment. We do have an identity and a set of beliefs that are important to us when we can lock in on what’s important and what we value at a level of behavior. The principles are the rules of the road. The things like, “I value connection, which means I’ve got the principle of integrity and honesty.” It means I’ve got to be mindful when I’m interacting with you, for example. I don’t know if it becomes automatic. If I value a deep connection with you, Rodney, it’s important for me to be in support of this conversation as best I can to be authentic, connected to you and support you. You do the same thing in reflection and connection back to me.
Also, I’ve got to be living my principles. You asked me a question and for me to be in integrity and to be as truthful as it’s important for me to be, I’ve got to be moment by moment checking myself. That takes moment by moment stuff. This is what they say, “Be careful about what we say.” That whole thing about watching your words, what are you saying and how words can be incredibly damaging. I noticed with some of the most amazing leaders I work with, they’re conscious about what they’re thinking and what they’re saying. They’re careful about what comes out of their mouths because the wrong word can have a stinging impact on somebody, for example.
Identity is something that I love. In our coaching work, we spend a great deal of time on relationship to self. The most important relationship you have on the planet is the one you have with yourself. If you were in a relationship with yourself, would you be a good partner? That’s where we see through our inner dialogue and our patterns. Do we yell at ourselves? Are we tough on ourselves? One of the most incredible things about working in a high-performance environment is how hard people are on themselves, Rodney. I don’t know whether you’ve experienced this as you kicked off your show and how you felt about the first one. I’d love to know what your dialogue was saying.
I thought it was horrible. The first 25 to 30 of them were horrible. I understood their purpose. Without that first 25, I wouldn’t be here, we’re over 200 now. Getting back to identity, what you were describing being present, standing in integrity and watching your words are things that we have to choose to do. When we talk about authenticity, a lot of times, we feel authenticity as being our real self. It’s how I am but that’s not true authenticity. Authenticity is being real with yourself. Now you have an awareness of how you are and therefore, you can make a decision moment-to-moment consciously about who you want to be and how you’re going to be.
I can’t imagine that all of these things that describe a great leader like being good to ourselves and being in integrity. One hundred percent of the time it’s not you because that’s not possible. You have to choose who you’re going to be in these situations that we’re in and what type of leader you got to be. I’m having this conversation with you because I want to learn more. Identity is a sliding scale especially as we raise our awareness. We grow and we develop, we uncover certain things about ourselves, which is when true authenticity is present. We will become even more real with ourselves as our awareness is raised.
Once I have that level of awareness, it goes back to the question, “Who am I going to be?” Maybe that level of awareness is some level of insecurity, fear or improvement that’s necessary. To say, “This is how I am,” is not authentic. That’s not being responsible if you’ll ask me. To be responsible is to check that. That’s a choice. As we grow and as we experience certain things and situations in life, we have to continuously decide who are we going to be, at least that’s what it was for me. I harp on this a lot because of my accident. One of the things that helped me navigate that in a positive way is deciding the type of person I’m going to be in the face of this diversity because the default position was to give up, have pity for myself and just go with the status quo.
That’s an incredible awareness you had and an amazing moment. Viktor Frankl talks a lot about that impulse. There is space between the energy or the impulse and how you responded to it. What do you think it is? Where did it happen for you? You could have given up but you didn’t.
There are a lot of variables in that equation. One of the biggest variables is vision. I’m seeing something that I wanted despite the opposition that was on the field. I see my touchdown and my score and I was willing to fight for that. That led me to, “Who do you have to be in order to obtain that goal? Who do you have to be to navigate that opposition? To get where you want to go, what type of person would you have to be?” This philosophy that I’ve used, I use it for everything. For example, even with dating, you say, “I would like this type of lady.” You have these criteria or characteristics you want for a mate. That’s great you have that. You can write that down. That’s what you’re seeking.
The question is if that’s the type of lady or spouse or significant other you want, what type of person are they going to want? What type of person would that type of person that you’ve described want? Do you fit those criteria? Are you willing to be that type of person to have the type of person that you want? Are you willing to be the type of person to have the vision that you want? For example, a millionaire. We can study millionaires and there’s some common thread with millionaires, successful CEOs and prolific leaders. We have to ask ourselves, are we willing to take on some of those characteristics, ways of thinking behaviors, habits and rituals? Do we want to be them? No. There are some characteristics about them that supported their success. Are we willing to take that or explore that for ourselves?
That was a strong dialogue your readers must go back and double down on because you talk about personal philosophy and that is important. We all need one. We can’t live other people’s philosophy. We need our own. We’ve talked about identity and awareness. This is a lifelong journey. It’s not a one-and-done. It’s emergent. It does begin to turn up in our lives. Personal philosophy is important. The work we do is around love and partners. It’s so interesting. Even when I’m in the business world working with leaders and teams, we work on many areas of their life. It’s not just on spreadsheets, OKRs and sales numbers. We’re all integrated so it’s every part of us.
What’s interesting is people often ask me of the twelve areas that people work on their lives to be in good condition to live a fulfilling, important and impactful life. What’s the order of them? They will differ a bit but 90% of the time, you start with self. The second is health and wellness. We might start on a business conversation. “How do I show up stronger with my board? How do I relate better with my boss?” The truth is, quickly, we find that they’re not optimum in their relationships because their self is off. Their relationship with themselves or the health and wellness, mental, emotional, spiritual wellness is off.
The third one is love and partnership. People are either in them or not in them, in one but don’t want to be in it, in one and it’s not a good one. Within 30 minutes in my coaching sessions with leaders and execs, they quickly are like, “Most of my mind is taken out with my relationship. I’m so lonely because I’m not in one.” You said something important about being you and you talked about dating and as you begin to have a vision of what would work for you in terms of a dream. We talked about designing because you do design your love, it’s important to design who you want to be in love with and connect with as a mate.
You did a clever reversal of, “Here’s what I want but I’ve got to be the human that that person would want to be in love with.” People don’t think about that. “I want that. I’m going to go get one of those.” One of those is going to want a certain profile and it’s going to be reflected back in. I’ve got to think about, “Am I going to be that person that that person will want to fall in love with?” That’s an interesting way back to self. “What am I doing to be the best self I can be that’s going to attract into my life everything from the home I want to live in, the community I want to be in and my health that I want to be with?” It’s all about relationships. That’s what we’ve talked about in terms of intimacy. If there’s one thing we could work on, it’s these relationships to self, environment, lineage, community, politics, whatever it is.
Our goals, visions and dreams.
It’s the relationship with. There’s a slight distinction between to, which is often used and with. For example, time. Time is one of the areas we work on because most people are like, “There’s not enough time. I haven’t got this.” They’re running around so we stop them and say, “Imagine time was a relationship. It was your boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, wife or husband. Would you want to be in that relationship?” Few people would want to be in that relationship but they are. You used the word energy before. It’s because they’ve got the wrong energy on it. They’re in that place where they think there’s not enough. “Everything’s not enough. I can’t get enough. I’ve got to squeeze them in. They squeeze me in. I’m tired.” It’s the whole deal but it’s all about the relationship with time.It’s important to meditate and self-reflect through journaling, long walks, and removing yourself from the noises of life. Click To Tweet
What you’re explaining can be classified as an identity because when you’re talking about these things, diving into energy, rituals, habits and characteristics and trying those things on, you are modifying your own personal profile of who you are. Some of those things feel good and some of them don’t. You try them on and you may not be willing to keep them on but at least you know. You find out things about yourself.
I’m going to use football. It would provide some clarity to what I’m talking about. How many times have you heard someone who’s an all-American sports player in high school who’s a running back but he gets to college and the coach says, “You might be a good running back but you could be a great wide receiver.” This guy hasn’t tried on wide receiver plays. He’s never done that. He knows about it and he can do it but his focus has been running back. He gets to college and the coaches put him in that position. Perhaps he struggles with it for a little while but after a while, he gets the hang of it and finds that he’s more productive and more dominant on the field as a wide receiver than a running back.
He could play both positions if you wanted him to and if the team needed him to because he was willing to put on that profile to adopt that philosophy. His training changed a little bit, maybe even his diet and networking. He’s probably hanging out more with more wide receivers, learning the plays and watching films differently. He’s doing a lot of things differently. This is a different person. It’s the same person but he’s taking on some different characteristics. His identity is somewhat shifted and modified because he’s opened up his aperture to new and greater things.
When it comes to leadership, we have that same opportunity to open up our aperture to certain goals, visions, dreams, outlooks or results that we want to accomplish that require us to take on different things, to modify our profile. Without doing that, you can’t progress. If you’re reluctant to take the look at the play, run the route or practice, you don’t even give yourself a shot. You don’t give yourself the opportunity of possibility to be great in that position because you’re not willing to take on that level of identity. It requires that level of identity and understanding and clarity in order to experience a level of success in that area. Circling back, that’s what I mean. We have to adopt and adapt new identities as we progress, move forward and grow and evolve in life because it allows us to increase our territory. It allows us to experience more.
To add to that because people are wondering, “That sounds like a lot.” Some people might think that sounds like hard work. There’s a couple of things here. The one word that we find is incredibly powerful is curiosity. Not judging but getting curious. We’ve found that people suffering from major post-traumatic stress, for example, which is gravitationally pulled down into negativity but there is such a thing called post-traumatic growth, which you’ve experienced. You’ve come out of it in growth. The one word we would say differentiates the two is curiosity. You got super curious about what could be, what could happen and how could. Not judging it but we’re getting curious.
As individuals, as we go explore our identity shifts and we look and to reveal the filament, impact and connection to our lives, we’ve got to be curious and try things. Be self-compassionate that we’re not going to get right every time. We’re going to drop the ball, we’re going to run the wrong direction, we’re going to get fouled, we’re going to make someone angry and we’re going to hurt somebody. We’re going to do stuff. We’re humans. We’ve got to be compassionate with ourselves just as we know that having compassion for others is important and it’s different from empathy.
Ben, one of the things that I experienced in life especially having a disability, is that it’s not normal. There’s a lot of things that not many would classify as normal in my life that are not normal. In the beginning, that was depressing for me because now I am abnormal. I’m ostracized. I’m not in the main primary group seemingly but when I was able to get over that normal social standard. I asked myself a question, who defined that? What is that based on? What is normal based on? Someone defined getting it right. If someone defined speaking, for example.
This is a real-life example. If you say it this way, if you pronounced it this way, that’s the right way. If you don’t do it that way then you’re wrong, you’re not effective and I don’t agree with that because it’s not what you say, it’s more so how you say it and the impact that it has on someone. You can say something correctly and not have any impact or you can say it incorrectly that’s not the standard but yet people get it and change is a result of what you said.
There was a hesitation in starting this show. A hesitation to speak and write because of all of that. When I quickly got over that because it’s a social standard and social standard and the demand to get it right and if you get it wrong, you’re frowned upon. That’s what’s holding us back in my opinion. It was holding me back when I was able to overcome that and be okay with not getting it right. I’m more so interested in the effect that it has. I’m going back to football. There is a play that’s designed. I’m supposed to run.
To execute this play, I get the ball, run through the tackles. My lineman is going to pull, he’s going to get to the hole before I get there. My fullback is in front of me. They’re going to pick up the two linebackers. My tight end is going to pick up the wide receiver and I’m going to have a lane to the touchdown. It never happens that way. There are times when things break down in the play. It’s not right but you don’t stop because it’s not right. Your job and responsibility are to create and innovate in that experience and produce something that will allow you to move the ball forward. If we focus on getting it right, that’s the focus and you’re penalized because you get it wrong and you’re trying. What good is that? That doesn’t help anyone.
This idea about it has to be right, perfect, politically correct and all of that. If we’re not harming anyone and we’re putting forth our best efforts, can we let go of that attachment and focus on what you said, what matters here? What do we want? What matters most? If we can put our focus on that then we open the space for people to relax and bring forth their best effort knowing that they’re going to be supported if they don’t get it right and knowing that’s not even an issue. The issue is getting down the field. Can you give me ten yards? I don’t care how you get it. You gave me ten yards. That’s what I want. I want 10 yards. You got there backward or you spun on your head, I don’t know but you gave me ten yards. Good job. Let’s get back in the huddle and do it again. That’s what we want.
What you said then applies to parenting in my mind if we could do more of that with kids. I live in a competitive place here in Silicon Valley and you see the drive and the impact on the kids. It’s got to be right. You’re not good enough unless you get it right. It’s challenging for people and I love the fact we’ve got to give things a go. Get out there, try it. Change it up a bit, give it a go and express everything. We’ve got the environment. We talked at the beginning about how resilience does come from trying things. Give it a go, “I didn’t do my best.” We can’t get it right every time. We’re never going to. That’s not authentic.
Whatever we can do, Rodney, as leaders are to create environments whether it’s our homes, communities, businesses or teams is to create environments where we’ve got rituals, standards, vision and goals. That’s all good. We’re going to learn and perform but we’re going to try things. We’re going to discuss it and we’ll agree on how to do it. We’ll go and do, come back, review it and do a post-action review on it. We’ll learn from it and we’ll move on. That’s the environment that you create healthy stuff to show up in. It’s an environmental setup where every one of us can set up a better environment for all that we’ve discussed to show up.
It reminds me of basketball teams. If I’m afraid to take a shot, I’m wide open but I know if I miss the shot the coach is going to eat me alive but it’s an open shot. It’s not part of the plate but I’m open, I have a clear view of the goal and no one is on me but I’m afraid to take the shot because of the coach. Fear of getting it wrong stifles resilience.
It is interesting that some of the better coaches out there are better. There are some of those that create those environments, “They’re going to love you.” They’re going to put an arm around and say, “It’s okay. You took the shot.” One of the world-class sports environments that I’m in, they lose. They don’t go to the pub for some beers. When they go into the video room is when they win. What do we learn? The coaches know that they’re beating themselves up, “Let’s go and have a beer or two. Let’s chill for a night. We’ll get back in the video room Monday and we’ll go through it. Let’s go. Let’s have some fun, bond and go be with families. Let’s not beat ourselves up.”
This is a win back in the video room. “Let’s go. What do we do that’s great?” It’s interesting to see how some of these coaches differ in that way. I saw my son play baseball. You could see the kid that missed the shot, the strike or what have you and you could see the dad, hauling them into the car. You can imagine. My son would often say, “I got a ride home.” What that went on. It sucks the life and energy out of them. All your great work to be pulling this out and doing what you can.
Let’s create an environment where people take the shot. Within reason I get it but let’s take the shot, grow, better and be not afraid to raise our individual flags a bit sometimes. It’s to be a bit quirky, to be a bit different. It’s okay. We’re in the year of the human again. I have never seen so many environments that I’m in focused on how we think about our people from a health and wellness, caring and compassion at a growth perspective.Get super curious right now and love the people that are around you. Click To Tweet
One of the byproducts of this has been the foot is off the accelerator and the spinning cycles that many of us were in have been forced to slow down and think about people, relationships, connection, mental wellness and all the things. It’s been a positive break. I believe that every one of us that has opportunities to support our environments to not forget this and put our heads down again and muscle on through it. We’ve got to keep the space because the better organizations, the better teams that are going to hold on to their people who are going to be more fulfilled and impact the world with those that hold on to their people.
It’s not about giving them extra food, vouchers and yoga in the office. It’s everything we’ve talked about. It’s reality, real conversations, inspiration, checking out who goes at the door and getting into rooms together to what brings the best out of us. What brings the best out of me? It’s okay to bring my patterns. “Here’s when I get frustrated. I’m a control freak. When I’m in my control-freak mode, you know what it’s like.” This is the time. I’m feeling like it’s ramping already. People are getting on with it. People are seeing light at the end of the tunnel and that’s good. Let’s not forget about all the great insights, messages and things, Rodney, you’ve brought into the conversation.
Thank you. To flip a stone, we want to create environments that foster opportunity and possibility. That’s where we are. It takes authenticity, breaking down the attitudinal barriers, diversity, inclusion, allowing people to be themselves and express themselves without fear and many of the things that we talked about here. This has been a rich conversation around leadership. I appreciate you being here, Ben, and supporting this conversation as you have. How can people reach you and if they want to learn more about you?
You’ll find me and my colleagues and my team at the Handel Group. That’s the website HandelGroup.com. I’m on LinkedIn. We’re out there. I’m not super social myself but my company is. I tend to operate a little bit in the shadows of the darkness. I haven’t done what you’re so beautifully doing, Rodney, getting out there to make a difference in the world with your platform. We’ve got a wonderful Design Your Life coaching program that every one of your readers can get access to.
It’s all on our website because we know we want to make a bigger dent in the universe and helping the world through coaching and development and putting it in the hands of everybody that needs it. We know that one-on-one coaching is challenging. We’ve got some tremendous digital coaching programs that are available and you’ll find those on our website and get access to those and become the designers. Design your life. Go out there and build your futures.
I’ve noticed that we didn’t even use the word happiness because if we aim for happiness, as some of my colleagues say, we’re going to miss the target. It’s not about happiness, it’s a byproduct of what you’ve talked so much about, is the pursuit of purpose and purpose in life, families and having the right mindset to go and do all that stuff. You’ll see our blogs and I’ve got colleagues that are active on Instagram and Facebook so you’ll see the stuff that they’re writing.
My colleagues love bringing their lived and personal experiences into the world rather than just talking, “Here’s what we’ve done.” What I’ve loved about many of my colleagues is they bring their challenges and they’re in the coaching space but they’ll bring what’s real-life stuff into the space. For you, as a crisis, somewhat of a setback, it has been an amazing opportunity to live meaningfully and change the world for many others.
These pivot moments are creations and you’re designing them. You’re creating this environment for resilience building and people learning about self-awareness and how they might be able to do relationships and do their lives better. You’re creating a place to belong. I’m sure your community is coming back and belongs to this environment because you’re creating a learning journey, which that’s what life’s about. I feel fortunate to have a moment in time where we could travel together, Rodney. I’ll be watching and tuning into your next sacred space moments where you create more meaningful moments.
Thank you for that, Ben. I, too, have enjoyed this time with you from the beginning. It’s been a wonderful journey. I’m intrigued by you and your work. I’m looking forward to staying connected with you and supporting you in any way that I can.
I appreciate that, Rodney.
As we wrap up the show, I do want to ask you one final question. I know you’ve given us a lot already but if there’s one thing that you could give us in the show to help us bounce back from adversity, dominate challenges that consistently win at the game of life, what would that be?
Get curious about what’s going on in your life and use that word and do some introspection around getting curious about your highlights. What you’re getting positive energy from? What’s sucking the energy out of you? Who you like to be with? Who you don’t like to be with? Who you’re inspired to be with? Where do you feel some excitement? I want to encourage people to get super curious. Love the people that are around you, that means stuff to you because that’s what matters.
We’ve all lost people. I know many of us have lost people close to us in 2020. It brought that curiosity that there’s so much goodness and meaning in all of us. I encouraged us to remember the people that are in our lives that we feel are valuable, acknowledge that and connect with them today because tomorrow’s another day and we don’t know what’s coming. Being in that moment to connect and be in a relationship with those that energize you and those that you can energize is important.
Thank you for that, Ben. Ben Anderson from the Handel Group Corporation. Thank you so much for coming to the show and spending this time with us. I appreciate it.
It’s my pleasure.
There you have it, another successful episode. What matters most to you? What are you giving meaning to? These are two powerful and important questions that perhaps you may want to ponder on and get clear especially in a time of so much uncertainty. If we can get clear on what matters most and what means the most to us then there we can establish a level of certainty that could perhaps shine a light, be a lighthouse or beacon of hope, clarity and direction. Until next time, peace and love.
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About Ben Anderson
Ben is a leadership coach with an international reputation advising CEOs and their Boards on talent and human performance strategies. He moved to Silicon Valley twenty years ago drawn by the creativity, innovation, and transformation occurring in this technology zone. His mission is to help leaders, their teams and their organizations build the capacity to bring their full potential to their businesses and compete to win. His clients are many of the leading Venture Capital and Private Equity teams and their portfolio companies.
Ben has achieved business success with a track record of building successful Human Capital businesses in Europe, North America, and the Asia Pacific Region. Most recently he founded Renaissance Leadership and Renoir Partners in Silicon Valley and London. Earlier in his career, he was Executive and Board Director of Robert Walters PLC. The team built the company led it to an IPO on the London Stock exchange (www.robertwalters.com). The company remains public today.
Ben is passionate about supporting his country of birth, New Zealand to participate and achieve success in the North American market. He has been Chairman of North America Beachheads Advisory Board within New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE). He is also a Venture Partner with MOVAC – one of New Zealand’s leading Venture Capital firms.
He says “Growing up in New Zealand we learn a great deal about the domination of the New Zealand All Black rugby team. The All Blacks seek to leave the jersey in a better place and teach the importance of leaving a legacy. We learn that having a higher purpose leads to higher performance.”