At The Scale Coach for Founder CEOs, Brent works with entrepreneurs and leaders who are growing the size and impact of their businesses to tackle local and global challenges. Many of his clients are motivated by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and a desire to lead in ways that feel authentic, inspiring, and personally fulfilling.
He and his clients share a belief that leadership goes far beyond delivering financial returns, with ecosystem stewardship being a core responsibility.
Living Room Conversations: Lead Together
Rhea = Rhea Ong Yiu (Host)
Brent = Brent Lowe (Guest)
RHEA: Hello, everybody! Welcome to episode 15 of the Living Room Conversations. I’m your host today. My name is Rhea Ong Yiu. I’m a catalyst at LIVESciences and yeah, what is the Living Room Conversations and why are you here? Well, we thought like you know, let’s just have a casual conversation around topics that is most important to you around work, around organizations, around society and how we show up, basically. And yeah I’m really thanking to all our viewers in Youtube and LinkedIn and Facebook live. Thank you for joining us this afternoon. And I’m really excited because our guest today is one of my favorite authors of all time and I’ve read their book a year ago when they launched it and to this day it has become a very important resource for me in the work that I’m doing in the transformation space so really, really grateful for that. So yeah, well, without further ado I’d love to invite Brent over to join me in our living room today. So Brent is the author of Lead Together, a book that is really focused and how we can yeah how we can impact the workspaces and the challenges that we tackle in the workplace boldly and but with intention, right? Brent, welcome to our living room.
BRENT: Rhea, it’s so nice to be here and good to see you again.
RHEA: Yeah very good to see you again. So Brent one year after the book. Welcome to our living room. Tell us, where are you today and how are you showing up to this conversation?
BRENT: Well physically first I’m just outside of Toronto, Canada and it’s a bit of a gray day today, a little rainy here so we’re just starting our day and where am I from – maybe a journey one year in after the book. More curious than ever. This was really the third iteration of the book that we launched a year ago and every time that we launched a book it made us more curious, took us deeper and that’s where I find myself again as we’ve had the opportunity as myself and my co-authors to explore this topic.
It just opens more doors every time we think: ‘Oh that’s how it gets done! Oh no there’s three more doors to open, to explore and go deeper and further’ and more people that we get to meet, more stories that we get to hear and and that’s where we’re at on our journey right now.
RHEA: Thank you. Thank you so much Brent. And thank you for, you know, joining us here in our living room. Before we go into some of the questions that we have I have prepared for you I just want to say hi to some of our viewers I see Romina from Canada and also Melanie, I see Jen. Welcome and thank you for joining our conversation this afternoon please feel free to shoot in your questions, engage with us and talk to us join this conversation, yeah? So yeah, my question is like, you mentioned like you know I have so much curiosity more than ever and it’s also an ever evolving topic right? So have you like, reflected over the last year, what were the biggest learning for you around this topic?
BRENT: There have been so many. And I think a couple of things come to mind. One is how when we’re writing the book we, for me anyway, personally, it’s very easy to get into a theoretical mode and really be trying to distill a story that points in a direction and shares a perspective and then over time we get out in the world to practice and try some of these things and bounce up against reality and understand how on the pages of a book things can sound simple and straightforward and once we get out in the world, it can be a little bit more challenging. And so when we were writing the book we really this time around did our very best to include as many stories and a lot of those stories reflect the challenges that the individuals, the leaders that we were profiling faced and the courage that it takes to step into these ways of working which really is what led to the the subtitle of the book: ‘The Bold, Brave Intentional Path’ because it really does take a willingness on someone’s part to be bold to start something, to be brave and go against the norm and to be very intentional to be planful in what is it that I’m ultimately trying to help evolve here.
So I think that that’s one piece. And then maybe the other piece is the the variety so that when we wrote the book the book ended up being bigger than we had intended and that our publisher really wanted. They really wanted a smaller book and we could easily write a book twice that big with the number of different stories and perspectives and so we provided within the book as many stories as we could and for every story that’s in there there’s two or three or four more that we could tell that are slightly different. So everybody’s finding their own path and a lot of the paths are very similar but there are nuances for every organization.
BRENT: It’s hard to pull that apart and tell that story in the book.
RHEA: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. You know when I was reading the book I really found myself
like you know this, when we were in like high school or something you’re reading this book called like you know, follow your own adventure kind of like – choose your own adventure and it really felt that way for me because I was like jumping from one topic to the other based on what really interests me at that point in time and I found myself like, being in an assignment where I
felt like ‘Oh I think I can go back to this specific chapter because I read something there that would kind of apply to the situation I’m facing at the client, at the moment’ and that was really I think that was really why I value the book so much.
BRENT: Oh well thank you. And you know I do the exact same thing, Rhea. Like I have the book right here beside me every day and I’m going back to it and when we started, writing my aspiration for the book was to write the guidebook that I wanted to have beside me because this isn’t the way that I always worked. I came to this way of working much later in my career and I still find that I sometimes get drawn back to more traditional ways of working that I know are not maybe as healthy or as helpful but that’s where I go first. Almost like when you’re learning a language, sometimes you can think of something in your native language first before going to your second language and so for me, the book is still a place where when I’m thinking about a
topic I go back and I refresh my thinking around you know okay what’s what’s the second language way to say this?
RHEA: Yeah. That really nice and I mean there were like over 60 stories in there that were interwoven in kind of a nice way. Was there ever a specific topic that kind of for you, this whole year of 2022 where we’re facing a different challenge being virtual, being not in our normal pace. Is there anything that kind of like ‘Oh these were like very important stuff that I keep coming back to in this moment’?
BRENT: There’s two chapters in the early section of the book. One is resistance to change and the other is transition stages and both of them really speak to the humanness of how difficult it is for us to change. As humans we tend to gravitate to what we know and what we like and what we’re comfortable with. And this is really, this period of time has thrown so much of that up in the air. And for some I think it’s been very exhausting. And you know, change can be tiring when we have an abundance of energy, we can often push through change. And when we don’t have that amount of energy then it can be really challenging. And right now, I think a lot of us because of the pandemic are finding that we don’t have the same level of energy that we’ve maybe had in the past at the same time we’re being called upon and invited and being provided the opportunity to change so it’s it creates a little bit of a tension of you know, I want change, there’s this healthy, new different way of working which seems sounds interesting and I’m curious about it. And at the same time do I have the energy to embark on that journey.
RHEA: Yeah. Yeah, that is really true like in this moment we’re changing and we’re also adapting to something that is quite unknown and quite unprecedented in a lot of ways, I have seen, in some of the the places that I work with people having this constant like ‘oh I’m really struggling because there’s one change after the other’ right? We’re changing the model and then tomorrow we’re changing my role and then the next day ‘oops we decided we want to
it is because we don’t agree with that decision’ and it’s always this like uncertainty. How is that for you in your space?
BRENT: I do think that, that in many ways is the definition of the new way of working and it will be something I think that over time we get more used to and more comfortable with. So much of our work is based on the concept of prototyping and trying something out for a while seeing what works and evolving a little bit. I often use the phrase in our work that we’re about evolution not revolution. And so it’s let’s try a little shift, see how that feels, see how it works. And then let’s shift a little bit again and try that for maybe three months and see how that works and you know keep shifting and keep shifting and you know, that we’re doing that much more
BRENT: -than ever before I think in history. And so it is really taxing us in some ways and it’s creating a huge opportunity. So just watching you know how much evolution are we doing and how much can we handle it at one time.
RHEA: And also how much silence can we take for a little bit of time as well right?
BRENT: Mhmm. Absolutely.
RHEA: Yeah and- yeah. Because I really picked out one of the things that I read from the book was that you know, if we do things in small pieces not that it has to be like huge changes all the time, but if we do small things, in small pieces in a rhythmic fashion we will somehow feel it’s not really necessary to make it like a big deal out of it.
BRENT: Mhmm. I love the the saying that goes something like ‘we often overestimate what we can achieve in a day, a week, and a month and significantly underestimate what we can achieve in a year and a decade’ and so you know when we think about little evolutions they can feel very small and then when you add all of those up again and again and again it leads to something that’s quite profound.
RHEA: Yeah indeed well I’ll take a pause quickly. Because there are a few questions coming in and Sabrina asked ‘what provides people with energy to engage in change in your experience?’
BRENT: I think one is involvement in the change and the opportunity to participate in deciding what the change is and you know, historically when we go back to a traditional system, a very rigid hierarchy; most decisions are made at the top, by people in power positions. And often people that don’t actually have to live the ramifications of the changes. And so it’s very hard then to be somebody who is having change forced for the lack of a better word on to them rather than being somebody where I can participate and co-create the change so I understand why we’re changing, I understand how we’ve got to the place of: this is what we’re going to try so what we’re going to experiment with. I can see what my role is, I can see how I can contribute and participate and with the mindset of we’re going to prototype I can see that this isn’t necessarily forever. And I think that’s such a huge thing because when somebody else makes a decision for me and says: going forward this is how we’re going to do things. That’s just- there’s a whole bunch of dominoes for the rest of my life that kind of fall in my mind right? Versus saying ‘we’re going to try this for three months and I’ve been able to co-create that
change as part of a group and knowing that at the end of three months I’ll have the opportunity to contribute and figure out what the next iteration- did we like that? Do we want to keep doing that? Do we want to change it again?’ so I just think participation is such a critical element to that.
RHEA: Yeah I completely agree with you and if I may add something there as well, what I have been consciously, very consciously doing and actively doing is to breathe a sense of creativity into how you engage that participation right? So maybe gamify it, do something that is just beyond the tile basis that you see on the screen. Because truth is virtual it’s really that it’s causing a lot of fatigue for many people so we try to kind of really break that space and find means to kind of bring people along in a journey that is not ordinary. And it’s not like I’m just showing up to a meeting.
BRENT: Absolutely I couldn’t agree more. And I think that over time we will just keep finding new ways to do that within this virtual environment and there will be more tools to help us do things like gamify. There’s so many things that historically we knew that we could do if we had everybody in a physical room together. So many fun activities that we could do and we’re still in that process of learning how we can do it when everyone’s remote. I do think that the benefit of the the remote element is often we’ll find in groups that there’ll be a significant number of people in one location but maybe a couple of other people who aren’t in that location and there was a real imbalance in participation and so with this environment it does allow everybody to be more equal and contribute so now we just need more tools to help that happen.
RHEA: I completely agree with you and I think to quote one of the conversations I had with one of the leaders he’s like: ‘wow this really evens out the playing field for us’ because he’s one of the core executive team but he’s sitting somewhere in India and a majority of his team sitting somewhere in Europe right? And then you know to just bring your voice into that is so much difficult than it is today because now it’s kind of: oh everyone’s at home so everyone has like
a space to actually speak about their own topic.
BRENT: Absolutely. The other thing that I like about this environment is that we talk a lot about, in our work, about wholeness. Bringing our whole selves to work, really getting to know each other building a bit more, intimacy with each other and it’s now so Rhea, I’m assuming you’re probably at home and you know so I get to see a little bit of your life outside of work and often
it’s not unusual for you know, either kids or roommates or whatever to be walking around. So you just get this sense of oh I get to understand this person at a deeper level than when I just see them in a boardroom at an office.
RHEA: Yeah, I agree. Maybe in a while my dog will show up and you get to give see him too yeah [Laughter] Yeah, so there’s another question on the chat and maybe yeah this would be really nice to ask as well there are entrepreneurs listening in on the conversation so what advice would you highlight as the first to consider and think about and maybe implement?
BRENT: So the first thing that I would say is you know, every organization really starts as an organic ecosystem at the earliest stage. So when you have one or two or three people it’s very organic it’s like if Rhea, if you and I decided we wanted to do something together we would just you know, get on zoom together or sit at a in a coffee shop and start talking and you’d say ‘I’m going to do some things, I’m going to do some things’ there’s a lot of entrepreneurial energy and creativity and then what happens as an organization starts to grow is so if let’s say you and I were working together and then we had maybe eight other colleagues at some point somebody’s going to come along and say ‘you know what I think that you’re at the point where you need managers there’s just too many people now for either of us to manage on our own’ and so at that point we might decide to start telling people okay you’re a manager of this you’re a manager of that. In that moment we’ve just made a decision that most founders of businesses aren’t aware that they’ve just made and that is I’ve decided I’m building a traditional hierarchy. And the domino impact of that decision is significant and specifically for founders, one of the things, that most of my work is with founders and small organizations that’s that’s the work that I do and you know what I consistently hear is I really like I like the entrepreneurial energy and the creativity and I want to keep that alive.
And when we make this decision, all of a sudden we’ve actually started to strip out the very thing that we said that we would really like. So the the first thing I encourage founders to do is just ask the question what kind of organization do I really want to build and what do I really value and is the system and approach that I’m using to build my business aligned with that which I say that I want to build and that I say that I value. And for most individuals they’re not even aware that there’s a decision to be made there because we all have grown up in very traditional hierarchical systems and so we just naturally feel like that’s the next thing to do, not realizing that there are options. So that’s number one. Sorry, did you want to jump in Rhea?
RHEA: No that was really yeah I think that was very insightful for me because I was even like unconsciously thinking like ‘yeah makes sense but not really’ I mean for us we don’t have hierarchy right? In LIVESciences are like all about circles and working together and like smaller teams and as such. And it has worked for us but we also don’t know if it will work for everybody
right? There’s always the culture at play, there’s always the time zones at play which is also the challenge that is just natural for this open virtual global environment that we have now.
BRENT: And I, you know, I’m very clear. Like I have with the clients that I work with, we have all
sorts of different client systems some are still more on the traditional hierarchy side trying to you know, kind of loosen it up a little bit to some that have no hierarchy – no fixed hierarchy I would say and are very organic. It’s just I think bringing attention to the fact that let’s make it a conscious choice not an just something that happens automatically. And then from there
the what we’ve attempted to do and lead together is provide examples of things to try. And I think that’s so much of what how entrepreneurs are really wired, is let’s just try things. Let’s fail fast. All of these things that have helped build the business in the earliest stages let’s keep those things alive rather than all of a sudden realize, or deciding that oh we’re going to start fixing things and making things very static and that we don’t have to do that. That’s a choice. And there’s lots of people out there that we can follow what they’ve experienced experiments that they’ve tried.
BRENT: So keep that mentality alive in your structure and how you build your business just as much as how you think about marketing your business and generating sales and figuring out what your product is and all of those things do that in your organization structure as well.
RHEA: Yeah. No, I definitely completely agree with you. I mean never like hesitating to try out something but also like knowing that what are the repercussions of trying out right and having some expectations set around that it’s always good because it could go both ways and the cool thing is that you will find out.
BRENT: That’s right.
RHEA: Right. And I think here for this Living Room Conversation we just said like ‘yeah let’s just try out’ and who knows we’re already on our 15th episode. And that’s and- it’s a- it’s really something that we have been learning from so much. The conversations have been supporting many of them, the people that we work with, they’re able to access the content and it has just been bringing that back to the community right? And it’s not something that we sell as a content, it’s something that’s accessible to everybody and just look back.
BRENT: Yeah, absolutely. I love that as an example.
RHEA: Yeah. Great. and yeah so you know that I’m really curious now. Like there were a few topics that were in the book around what was it: the power distance, power structures, the power over and stuff. How did you come to this part? Like what brought you there?
BRENT: So I will say first off there is nothing and lead together that we invented. So we will take credit for no original content what we’ve aimed to do is take the best that we’ve learned from a lot of different people and bring it together into one place. And so this is content that we learned along the way as well that really resonated with us and the concept basically, is that there’s four different types of power. So there’s power over which is what we find in the traditional hierarchy it’s the adult child relationship where if Rhea, I’m your boss then I have power over you which means your power is undermined and then you might have somebody reporting to you so then you have power over them but I still have power over you right? So it’s very much that adult-child, adult-child.
BRENT: And then there’s power between which is or power four which is this sharing. So it might be let’s say I have my organization Rhea, you come in and join and for the first little while you’re still learning and so it probably makes sense for me to keep a little bit more power while you learn and create this safe space for you. Another great example outside of the work environment is where we care for people in our family who maybe are ill at the time and aren’t in the best place to make decisions so we’ll make decisions on their behalf.
Then there’s power with which is where okay I’ll take these decisions and you take those decisions and so I’ll have power over these things, you have power over those things so we’re taking power and dividing it up. Those three are all examples of where power is a specific thing which is being divided. So in the first one I’m keeping all the power, in the second one I’m keeping all the power but I’m doing it on your behalf, the third one, we’re sharing power but it’s still a fixed amount of power and then the last one is power among which is we all can be powerful and we all can have and share and step into our own power.
And that really is how a lot of what Lead Together is all about. It’s well- how exactly do you do that? Because when we think about power as something that if we say okay I don’t want to build a structure where power is consolidated in one place. We can’t just say let’s just get rid of power you know, it’s not something that is going to go somewhere on its own. So if we want to change the dynamic, that power has to go somewhere. And so what we do is we say okay well let’s associate the power with roles, and let’s associate the power with structures, and that’s a power associate the power with agreements, and things like that. So that people understand how it’s the underpinning system that has the power, not the individuals themselves. And so that’s so much of what Lead Together is all about as well how- ‘that sounds great Brent but how exactly do you do that?’ and that’s really what we aim to show, is how different organizations have gone through the process of trying to move power from people into structures.
RHEA: Yeah and I love that right? I remember having this conversation with Tim and he always says like hey you know in self-management does not mean there’s an absence of leadership, there is always a need for leadership and that also means like even if you delegate power, there’s leadership around, there’s a structure around that to happen.
RHEA: -to make it effective. Yeah I really like that. And there’s a question, a follow-up question from Jen around like what is most prevalent today because I also read this from the book that like power among is something that is kind of not prevalent in this day and age but how about like with a shift in remote work for most of us has there been an acceleration on this coming?
BRENT: Well if you think about it, so how has power often in an organization been held. It’s well I am sitting at my desk kind of looking over and overhearing what’s going on over there and I like I’m maintaining my power because I can see you, I’m with you in the same place and things like that. And now you know a good portion of our time we’re working without anybody being able to see us, you know, only whoever happens to be on the camera and everybody else is out of the picture. And so where I think a number of organizations are really struggling right now is where they haven’t really started to understand the shift that’s going on that they don’t know what to do exactly. I was talking to somebody this week that- so here in Canada because of the pandemic, pretty much all offices are either closed or optional or have very minimal requirements for people to be in the office unless your role specifically requires it. So most people are working from home and remotely and there’s one company that is requiring everybody to go back five days a week. Although the jobs don’t require them to be there, they want everybody back in the office five days a week. and for me that’s an example of a leadership team that is feeling like I don’t know how to manage if I can’t see everybody if everybody isn’t here. Yeah and so I think for clients that we had been working with that already had adopted a lot of these systems, their business didn’t feel any different because they had already figured out how to empower everybody on the team, to be able to do their roles and participate and collaborate and what have you.
RHEA: Yeah that’s a really interesting insight around the shift right of how the out the external environment impacts the way people are responding to the changes in the organization.
BRENT: Mhmm. Absolutely.
RHEA: -And how to respond to those things yeah. We have a question from Holger. Do you see increasing demand of one-on-one coaching for leaders and team members needed to be more conscious about their habits, behaviors and impacts?
BRENT: Hmm. So that brings two thoughts to mind. So the first one is around the specific question around coaching and yes, there is no shortage right now of a need for good coaching out there and certainly we’re having, receiving a lot of requests. The second part of that question around consciousness I have here, in Toronto in Canada we have a group called Brave Works which is leaders that come together come together about once a month for a couple of hours and these are all leaders that are within organizations that are working in a lead together kind of way and our topic for yesterday, we met yesterday was consciousness and that you know, how much what have we learned about consciousness and how has our consciousness changed, what have we seen with others on this journey, how much is consciousness a key factor in this, and how can we help people who are interested. And it’s a I will say after the two-hour conversation, it’s not like we found a silver bullet answer to that question you know it’s a big one for sure.
But I do think that coaching is a great way for people to explore because I think of coaching as a confidential sandbox somewhere where we can try things and if we don’t like it we just kind of get the rake out and rake over the sand and try something else. And so between having the coaching environment and also having some tools we use a lot in our work the eniogram which is a I found a great tool for helping people just explore what’s the- what lens do I use right now to see the world. What lens am I looking through and what other lenses are out there that I maybe haven’t tried on yet that might have a different impact and as we learn how to try those different lenses on, and see the world from different perspectives, our consciousness just naturally kind of increases.
My biggest takeaway from that conversation was what are the- what are some of the key questions that I as a coach can ask, that help people just get curious about the lens that they’re looking at the world through? In our work we’ve found that we tend to only work with organizations that are either more in a lead together self-managed type mindset already, or have a desire to move in that direction. And sometimes in those organizations there are people who they’re not there they’re really still anchored in a more traditional system and so for us our work is to try and figure out well how can we- how can we help? How can we maybe introduce- we can’t pull or push that that is one thing that I’ve
learned. People can’t be pulled or pushed into consciousness change, but they’re they can be invited. And then it’s up to the individual to take that invitation. So what are questions that we can ask that come from a genuine place of curiosity that can prompt a little bit of just kind of crack a door open that maybe would lead to another question which maybe would lead to another question that helps somebody along that path.
RHEA: Yeah. You’ve probably answered part of Rosanna’s question she’s asking like can you give us examples of conscious language and I guess asking these types of questions is one conscious language that we can start using at the workplace. Any other examples that you feel like ‘oh this would be super important in the workplace’?
BRENT: That other word that I just used: invitation. I think is a really big one because when we’re used to a more power over type of dynamic there is a whole set of words and phrases that come with power over that we’re not even really conscious of. And a lot of it is in a a tell language or an ask language that really isn’t an ask it’s a tell. Right, so shifting to language that much more is of an invitational nature which then leads to the question well ‘what if somebody says no?’ It’s like, great! Now we’re into a conversation around okay why ‘no’ and what does that mean and what can we learn from that and what have you. So I think that’s one piece and then the other piece is consciousness around how much we actually demonstrate care for the other individual beyond the specific direct thing that we’re trying to get done in the moment and really bringing more of that wholeness into the the conversation – the care for the other, we each have a lifetime of experiences and learnings and people who have come in and out of our lives that have shaped who we are and the amount of time that we actually spend getting to know someone else and understanding their journey, their experiences, the people that have impacted them is so small and the opportunity just to open that a little bit more and you know, we’re really big in our work, as I’m sure Rhea, you are in yours as well around check-ins and checkouts. And things that just create that little bit of space for more personal connection and care because then the invitation becomes much easier when it comes from a place of actually care about you, and you know, the invitation’s coming from a genuine place rather than a contrived place.
RHEA: Yeah. I love what you said with the invitation, it just brings me back to your statement earlier around like how does you know, the the resistance to change happening – if we approach it from an angle of invitation typically what happens is they’re invited, they’re part of the solution so there’s really no need for buy-in because it’s already there, it’s actually given right? And this is like, giving me some thoughts around change management if we continue to apply this invitational aspect to bringing change about how easy could it be to make it stick.
BRENT: Mhmm. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It’s just such a different approach than just saying ‘Go do this’
RHEA: Exactly. I mean of course managing expectations, because there are some commitments that the organizations have to make but yeah on the other hand.
BRENT: Yeah, one of the things I’ll just maybe jump on that for a second is the in my work one of the things I talk about probably more than anything else, is expectation to reality gaps. And whenever there is dissatisfaction in a relationship within an organizational system it most often can be brought if you boil it down and kind of look behind the obvious. There’s probably an expectation to reality gap where somebody’s expectations are higher than the reality that exists and there’s two ways to change an expectation reality gap. Change the expectations or change the reality and most often it’s a combination of both. And a lot of that there’s so much room where we’re assumption making machines as humans and there is so much opportunity for expectations to become misaligned and so just having practices in place that allow us to surface when expectations might be out of alignment and inviting the conversation to get expectations back in alignment is I think a really important and healthy part of this work.
RHEA: Yeah when you spoke about expectations it brought me to a bit like the topic of tensions. Because when you have a gap with the expectations and reality most often, it results to some tensions coming up. What are your thoughts around tensions? And how should we like perceive tensions within our work?
BRENT: Yeah. I think if we make our way our get through a day without some kind of tension we’re probably doing something wrong. You know, it’s just such a natural part of being human in a system where there are other humans and we are not working on this we each have our own brains, our own experiences. And so I think that it’s just a really normal natural healthy part of growing an organization, especially in the work that I do around smaller early stage scaling companies you have a lot of new people coming together regularly. And so you know a system is not never quite stable because there’s always somebody new coming who has a new perspective and a new idea and a new set of assumptions and and what have you.
So that ability to just say this is normal and expected and creating – just making sure that our our systems include ways to surface those tensions. We use in our work a lot the tactical meeting that comes out of the holocracy world and it’s really just a place for people to share what their tensions are based around the frame of what do I need. Because of a tension, normally there’s then I need something to resolve that tension so what is the need that I have. And so many of our clients use that that format and so once every two weeks we get together we facilitate a conversation where people can just surface tensions that they have and I think the healthiest systems are ones where even when it’s uncomfortable, people surface the tensions. The most dangerous systems I think are the ones where the tensions are there and they just never get surfaced because people don’t want to rock the boat, it’s uncomfortable and I would say in our work it’s one of the areas that continues to be most interesting and challenging for us, is seeing how different people, ourselves included, many times are just uncomfortable raising tensions because we don’t want to disrupt the the relationship flow and we’re afraid of what might happen when we raise the tensions and inevitably once a tension is raised, things get better. And so it’s that opportunity and ability to get there. Looks like we may have lost Rhea.
[Rhea disconnects from call]
So let me just see if there are some other topics here in the chat. From Rossana, how can you help people in the workplace who are used to sitting back and waiting for instructions to come down from the top to want to make the effort to contribute and participate? Great question Rossana.
[Rhea reconnects to the call]
I think- welcome back Rhea. [Laughter] So I’m just answering Rossana’s question here. The- I think it needs to be a gradual process of helping individuals build their confidence. One tool that I like using a lot is you know, in conversations is just doing rounds where everybody is asked to participate once before anybody else participates a second time. And that, at least, allows people to practice being heard. And some people it are just like I really the way I’m wired is I really do need somebody to help guide me and point me in a direction and that’s okay. If that’s the agreement that I have with the people around me that this is how I operate, this is what’s most helpful for me, can we have that kind of relationship where you help guide me and help point me in a direction and help give me some support? Which is often you know for younger people who are new to the work environment or people who are making significant shifts in roles or people that just have that personality type. That’s okay, as long as it’s an agreement that’s made and not an assumption that’s made. Because I think we make assumptions a lot that ‘oh that’s just how they like to be treated’ and we just made an assumption and it very much might be that’s not how they like to be treated at all. It’s just in this particular environment that’s the only way that they feel comfortable or they’ve been made to feel comfortable. So we have to kind of work through that to validate our assumptions over time and gradually create opportunities for them to practice stepping in more and more over time and I think over time,
we’ll probably find that they do step in as they get more comfortable. So much of there’s a term that we talk about called learned helplessness which is if we have grown up in a structure for a long time where we are used to being told; whether it’s our family structure or our work structure that we learn one way of being, it’s again that kind of that lens that we see the world through is the only thing that’s safe is for me to wait to be told. And if somebody has learned that because of their own life experiences, that’s not going to change overnight for them. Just being able to create some invitations and some safe spaces for them to start to try and experiment can be can certainly be healthy.
RHEA: Thank you so much for that Brent. Yeah I apologize for dropping off. [Laughter]
BRENT: No worries!
RHEA: But yeah. Yeah, so a question that’s emerging for me is really in the space of the last year. What are the things that you were exploring in a deeper level around this topic?
BRENT: I think for me, for the most part it’s been the same topic that I’ve been exploring for a number of years now. You know, we’ve discovered so many of these things. I went on my own
personal journey I traditionally was a an HR human resources practitioner in the the old system, old way of working for a long time I have come to realize how much I enjoyed the power of being in that system being an HR person within a traditional system is a pretty powerful position, I have more information than most people, so there’s power and information. I had the power to shape a lot of people’s careers for better or worse, and so there were all of these things that I
had ways that I had been moving through the world. I went through my own journey of self-discovery at times – was not a pleasant journey in learning how to let some of those things go and new learn new ways of working and now it’s like how and I think so many of us in this working, Rhea you can probably resonate with this too is how do we introduce more people, show more people that there are options that are different from what 99% of the world still knows to be the only option. And how do we introduce it in a way that that’s easy to understand, that invites some experimentation and I would say it’s you know, the scariest question that I get is when somebody says ‘so can you explain to me what exactly it means to Lead Together?’ or ‘what exactly Teal is?’ or ‘what exactly self-management is?’ or ‘what exactly self-organization is?’ and they’re expecting a short answer. Because it’s very hard to there’s so many layers and so much depth to this work and so I think for me, for my colleagues it’s how do we continue to introduce new ideas, new concepts, invite new experimentation in this way. That’s why I love conversations like this. It’s one more opportunity to just share some ideas and maybe engage with some new people.
RHEA: Yeah and I also have a bit of insight. What is the outside world asking us right? Too often like in this future work, Teal bubble, we find ourselves in a bubble that we kind of speak the same language, we understand each other. But the actual things that we want to change or outside of that bubble actually do not connect with the same language and this is always some one of the reasons why we’re very eager to kind of reconnect with the world and talk to people because this is the only way we will understand what is the world asking for.
BRENT: Yeah, absolutely. And I, you know, for me I keep going back to the one stat that has been around forever which is 85% of people are disengaged at work. And that number has been that number for a very, very long time. And a lot there’s been so many things that have been tried to shift to that number always within the same paradigm, of the traditional way of working. And for me it’s like okay well there are some other ways when we actually shift the paradigm, it unlocks so much of that and I know within the organizations that we work with the you know, we measure ENPS scores, employee net promoter scores, and they’re fantastic!
Now, the systems are not perfect. They are- there are lots of problems and challenges and
the way that I often describe it is, it’s you know you can have two different cars; one that’s an old clunky car that you know has four wheels in the steering wheel and gets you from A to B and then you can have a really nice electric vehicle that gets you four wheels steering wheel gets you from point A to point B. Both have their challenges. And you know an electric vehicle you have to you have to wait more, you have to sit and plug in and wait for it to charge and all of these things. And so it’s not that any one of these answers is without challenges. It’s what challenges are we choosing to take on because there are the healthier challenges to take on.
If we’re going to have to be you know, challenged in some way, let’s choose the healthiest, most beneficial challenges that we can. And I think that this way of working invites us to say ‘okay the old system 85% of team members are disengaged consistently that doesn’t feel so healthy. This other way of working, it’s not easier, necessarily, but it does seem to have some healthier outcomes at the end of the day’.
RHEA: Yeah. Brent, there’s a question on the chat from Jen. In your experience how often are ENPS used during the COVID period? And are our companies checking in more frequently or kind of false type I guess that’s the question?
BRENT: Yeah. Well so what I can just speak from the companies that we work with and we do tend to do a lot of pulse check surveys. So we to check in monthly with teams, a short number of questions, five or less questions type of thing. Normally ENPS is one of the five that we check in with and really what we’re looking for is trends over time. You know months go up and down a little bit. You know it depends often on who responds to the survey, and whether we get everybody and things like that. So the numbers will jump around a little bit but what we’re
looking over time, what direction are they headed? Are they getting better and that kind of thing. And certainly with people not being in the office as much, not being connected personally as much, it’s a helpful tool just to see how are things going?
And then it allows for I think the important thing is when once you do a pulse check is to what are you going to do with that. So don’t ask a question unless you know what you’re going to do with it, so you know are we going to have a group conversation about the results after? Or you know what we don’t want to do with a pulse check survey is set up a dynamic where people think oh the leaders of the organization have asked a question, now the leaders of the organization need to go away and fix this problem. Pulse checks are about providing the whole team with information so the whole team can go away and do something with that information.
RHEA: I love what you said that it’s the whole team right? It’s not the leaders coming up with solutions for everything and anything around the workplace. I think we all have a role to play there and this really brings me to a nice experience recently where of course, there’s this whole ENPS and pulse survey that was run and they have all the results and there were results that were not very, very nice looking. And we really worked to bring a lot of confidence to the client. Hey, let’s do a fishbowl with everybody to see what emerges from that fishbowl around these topics. And really the first response we got was like ‘oh this is so scary!’ Like you know, a fishbowl would mean everybody has the power to actually bring something forward. And we’re like yeah but you know if you embrace that space you can maybe find ways to create something and true enough there were 160 participants. And like really the flow of the conversation was so good that they walked out with so much more engagement and so much more people wanting to participate in finding the solutions.
BRENT: Yeah. Awesome. I love that process. That’s a- that’s a great one.
BRENT: Yeah. Fabulous.
RHEA: Really. Cool, thank you so much for that Brent. And yeah, I’m just checking if we have any questions from our viewers on Youtube and Facebook. Do you have any more questions for Brent here? Lisa-
BRENT: We’ve got about three minutes left.
RHEA: Yeah, indeed we’ve got about three minutes left and maybe I will ask one question. So I’m curious, what’s next for you in the coming year? What are you looking forward to?
BRENT: So, really now that you know, the people often ask are you working on your next book? The answer is no. [Laughter] I’m not not working on another book right now, that’s a big undertaking and I’m still recovering from the last one.
But now what we’re really focused on is how do we make the content of the book more accessible? And so in our business we have created what we call the scale together accelerator which is a 10-month program that works specifically with one organization at a time within the scale together accelerator and help them bring the elements of leading together into a early stage system. Help them build the building blocks. So I know when I we were talking earlier today Rhea you were talking about- you used the word ‘transformation’ I think that’s a lot of the work that that you do. For us, we’re often not transforming, we’re building for the first time. Which is a little bit of a different experience and so that’s a lot of what we’re excited about doing now, is helping organizations to build out their foundational building blocks and the way that’s right for them and most healthy for their system.
RHEA: Very, very nice. Well, I am very excited for you. I think in both sense of the word ‘transformation’ or not it’s really leveling up right? How do we create better workplaces, how do we create better organizations that will support people in the future.
BRENT: Absolutely. Absolutely.
RHEA: Great, well- this has been a great hour. I loved this conversation, so much insights I’m gonna sit on it and process it. And yeah, I just wanna invite everybody if you’re curious, we have a few events that are coming up. And I know there’s to be a Christmas day coming up so we have one last Living Room Conversation, and maybe Ken you can share that. We have one last Living Room Conversation happening on the 14th of December. This is together with Emanuele Quintarelli and Frank Eiselt from LIVESciences. And also would love to invite you to – if you enjoyed this conversation I would highly recommend you to grab a copy of the book: Lead Together by Brent Lowe, Susan Basterfeld and Travis Marsh. You can scan the QR code and just grab yourself a copy and treat yourself for Christmas. This would be a nice holiday read and I can assure you, I really enjoyed reading it, myself. If you want a snapshot of that, I wrote a
review of the book as well so you could find that on LinkedIn. I don’t have the QR code but yeah, you can easily find that on LinkedIn.
So, yeah with that, we will close this session. Brent, do you have any last words?
BRENT: Thank you Rhea. This has been wonderful and I learned a lot today too. I love being asked questions. It helps me deepen my learning and understanding so thanks everybody for the questions. It’s been a real pleasure to be here.
RHEA: Thank you. Thank you so much Brent and to our audience on Facebook and Youtube thank you for joining us this afternoon. It has been a pleasure. Thank you for bringing your questions, your comments and engagement. It made this conversation as if we’re one big space together so thank you so much for that! And yeah with that we say bye bye for now and see you in a few days!
BRENT: Thanks Rhea.
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