Episode 281

Ben Interviews Michael on How to Grow as a Leader

In this episode, Michael gives very practical takeaways about how you can become a better leader.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend. On today’s episode, we are flipping the script. I’m here with Ben Pickard today, and he actually is interviewing me. Not only is he taking on the role of the interviewer, he actually dressed like me. He’s wearing same flannel shirt, backwards hat and glasses. So if you get to watch a video version of this, go take a look at Ben and I dressed as twinsies.

But he interviewed me because I attended a leadership conference recently where I came back with a ton of takeaways for what makes effective leadership and what makes us all develop as leadership. Leaders over time. So I hope you enjoy a few takeaways from this conference. I think they’re very practical takeaways about how free, how you can become a better leader.

So enjoy this interview of me. Have fun.

Welcome to the business for unicorns podcast, where we help gym owners unleash the full potential of their business. I’m your host, Michael Keeler. [00:01:00] Join me each week for actionable advice. Expert insights and the inside scoop on what it really takes to level up your gym. Get ready to unlock your potential and become a real unicorn in the fitness industry.

Let’s begin.

Hi, fitness business nerds. Welcome to another episode of the business for unicorns podcast. I’m your host other Michael Keillor and today the tables have turns because I’m clearly not Michael Keeler. For those of you who can see the video, I did my best Michael Keeler impression, but I’m Benjamin and Michael spent a lot of time, decades, even diving into best practices for leadership, not just reading some books, but actually getting a doctorate in the subject.

And he just got back from a. Amazing leadership conference in Vancouver, Canada, of all places. So we figured why not get him to be a participant on the podcast and see what he has to say for all of our benefit. So, hi, Michael, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for [00:02:00] being here today. Hi, Ben. What a privilege and an honor it is to be here.

I think you did an amazing impression. So Bravo, did you write down the intro or did you just know it? I just, that’s just what I. That’s just what we do. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. I’m so excited to tell you about the leadership conference I went to. So thank you for having me. Thank you. So to kick us off, because I’m the interviewer today and this is my show, I guess my biggest question before we get to the actual like nuts and bolts of what did you learn and how do all our Jim Ohner friends apply it is what started your, or what piqued your interest in leadership as something that you wanted to study?

Yeah, yeah, good question. I don’t know if I’ve said the answer to that question out loud on this podcast before, so what a fun start to this interview, which is, it’s, I find myself throughout my whole life, if there’s any theme in my life in terms of all the different jobs I’ve had, all the different places I’ve worked, and all the different interests I’ve had, is that I’m often interested in [00:03:00] leading, like I’ve often got pulled into positions where I’m some way Leading at the front and I’m sure some of that has to do with kind of my positionality.

So my, like my identity as a cis white man also puts me at the front of the line for being chosen for leadership. So some of that has to do with it, but also I’m interested. I like the stress of leading. I’ve always liked the stress of a blank page of starting from nothing and having to make something.

And that’s often what leaders have to do is they’re given a challenge. Or an opportunity and have to make something happen. And for a lot of people I know that’s incredibly stressful. Like they really don’t like either that freedom or that pressure. And I like both like that. So for me, there’s a theme in my life of leadership and up until probably not until my.

Late thirties, did I really recognize that as something maybe early thirties, I’ll give myself more credit, but early, early thirties to recognize that as something that like, Oh, Michael, you can study this and [00:04:00] get better at this. There are books, there are courses, you can have coaches and mentors, obviously been a coach myself for about that same amount of time.

And, and it’s really maybe been the last, I don’t know. 10, 15 years that I’ve thought about being interested in leadership as a topic, both a theoretical topic and a practice. And so that’s as short as I can make that answer. Did that make sense? That makes sense. Yeah. It sounds like you had a natural affinity towards it or your employers had a natural affinity towards pulling you towards it for a variety of reasons.

And in the last decade or so, you’ve decided to really lean in and not just. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to do, continue education and read some books, but you’re really learning it from, from the horse’s mouth. Yeah. Yeah, 100%. And I feel like I’ve learned just as much from the practice of leadership over these last few decades as I have from like formal education, both in undergrad and grad school and now doctoral program and books and courses and certifications of all kinds.

Like I’ve learned [00:05:00] equal amounts from like the kind of scholarly. Um, research and learning as I have from like just being in the damn trenches, doing it all day, every day. And I think that’s part of what makes my, hopefully I tell myself this, I tell myself that’s part of what makes my approach unique and even on this podcast, I hope that I bring both like theory and practice to the conversation so that entrepreneurs like us can have a more evidence based approach to doing good work in their gyms every day.

That’s why that’s my end goal here. Yeah, that’s awesome. For those of us who probably won’t be pursuing a doctorate in the subject and are getting the majority of our experiences in the trenches experiences as becoming better leaders in our business, maybe you can start to share some of the takeaways from the conference you’re at that will give us some of the actual evidence based practice of how me and your listeners can become better leaders.

Yeah, for sure also do this before I answer that great question is I want to make sure that people who are not watching the video Are told at least out [00:06:00] loud that Ben is actually dressed like me today Before this call he was like, do you have a flannel you can put on and I was like, yeah, I got some flannel So we’re wearing a board just to paint a picture for you.

We’re both wearing a black checkered flannel. He’s Wearing some glasses and a backwards hat. It’s basically like we’re late to the game, but it’s like our very own Halloween day here on the podcast. We also, I think, have the same desk chair. I got mine on sale at Ikea. I don’t know if yours is also Ikea.

And it’s not, but it looks very similar, close to the same. And I have a dying plant in my corner and you have a thriving plant in your corner. So this worked out real good. It’s good. It’s good. So your question was the conference. I went to something called the International Leadership Association, International Conference, and it was in Vancouver.

And this is basically just for context, like who these people are and who was there was a couple thousand people. And the conference is unique in that they try to bring together people in the leadership world from different places. So there’s scholars, people who work in academia, studying and [00:07:00] writing about.

There’s people who work in universities and teach, there’s people who work in corporations and are contractors or consultants or in house training professionals. They try and bring basically scholars and practitioners all into one conference to share what they’re learning. And that’s unique in the world.

There’s not that many conferences that do that. try to get together that kind of diverse of a group of people studying a single topic. And it’s really valuable for that reason. So all the takeaways I’ll share with you, some of them today were from people on the scholarship side. Some people were from on the practitioner side and some people are hybrids like me, but I think that’s useful context to know here that that this conference is a little bit of both.

Yeah. Usually it’s academics talking to academics or. People who are in a position that we just assume they have good leadership skills, like you must be good at this. You’re a CEO. Come talk to us. Exactly. Exactly. Often it’s just industry specific conferences where leaders just get up on stage and talk about the good work they did, or they share stories about why they’re a good leader.

They share stories about the change they made in the organizations, which is valuable and [00:08:00] powerful. And in some cases, amazing work. Or you get to conferences where it’s just all the nerds. And I say that with love, I’m one, all the nerds just talking about their papers and standing in front of posters with very complicated graphics and talking about the latest theory or model that they made or, and in this conference, there was both, there was literally conversations with both of those individuals talking about both.

The practice and the theory, which is my sweet spot, which is why I made it all the way to Vancouver to go to this. And I’m now a member of this association, but let me get started. I think there’s three things. I don’t have to do a part two. Cause there’s a lot more than three things I took from this conference, but I’ll start with this first one because the first one is something I’ve said on this podcast before, and I thought it might be good just to double down on this idea.

And you’ve heard it before, Ben, which is the idea that almost all leadership development. Almost any way that you can improve as a leader or start to become a leader. All starts with self awareness. And I’ve done a whole dedicated podcast to this idea that self awareness is one of the [00:09:00] cornerstones to leadership.

And it was absolutely, I went to maybe a dozen, maybe 12 or 15 different talks over the presentations over the, over the few days I was at this conference and almost. Every single one at some point talked about the importance of self awareness in leadership, because without it, you have leaders who have behaviors that are really working against their goals.

If people don’t understand how they’re showing up for other people, the impact they’re having on the people around them, the impact they’re having in meetings, the impact they’re having. And their digital communication, the impact they’re having on their culture, the impact they’re having on their larger community, if they don’t understand how their behavior impacts people around them, it’s really hard to get anywhere.

So leaders. First and foremost, maybe above all else, have to have some way of developing self awareness. I’ll pull up there so you can maybe ask a question. I’m not [00:10:00] good at being interviewed. I want to ask, answer, ask my own questions. I also want to hear it. So I’m like, Ooh, carry on. Yeah. So for those, for the listeners who haven’t listened to the full podcast on developing self awareness.

Do you have the quick and dirty, like one, go listen to the podcast and two and three, here’s how you start approving yourself words. Yeah, it’s, it’s really simple. It can start, uh, give you like a few things along the spectrum. The easiest thing to do is start being curious about yourself. That means journaling.

That means maybe recording some of your conversations with permission and consent, of course, of those involved. Let’s just say you have one on ones with your team on a regular basis. Once in a while, ask the person you’re one on one. Hey, is it okay if I record this? I’m trying to get better at. Being a leader, being a manager, whatever you, I’m going to use those true terms interchangeably for today, but they are different.

But regardless of you listeners, if you think of yourself as a leader or a manager, I think self awareness matters in both. And so journaling is one, even things like meditation and others, but then starting to get some feedback either from [00:11:00] yourself by recording yourself, audio or video, doing your job. Or starting to get feedback from other people, all the way up until things like 360 or multirater feedback, where you’re strategically asking multiple people in your sphere of influence to give you feedback about how you can improve.

Those are the ways that we try to close the gap between how we see ourselves and how others see ourselves, see us. And that’s the self awareness gap that we all have, and we all try to need to close as much as possible, or at least understand the gap better, right? So like, how Ben sees me might be different than how my husband sees me, hopefully in some ways.

Which also might be different than just my friends, or people I used to work with. And so, it’s up to me as a leader to understand. At the very least for the people I’m leading or attempting to lead, that what the gap looks like, how I see myself is different than how they see me to understand that gap and then close it when it’s not useful.

It doesn’t have to be a hundred percent aligned, but I think that closing that gap [00:12:00] more times than not allows for better outcomes. So I think there’s a big spectrum of things from self reflective things like meditation, journaling, et cetera, to giving yourself feedback on your performance by videoing, recording it, et cetera.

All the way to getting feedback from other people, including something like a 360 feedback process. Great. That sounds awesome. Yeah. It sounds like curiosity really is the center of this web. Curious about yourself, curious about what other people think of you, curious about how you can rate yourself really comes down to curiosity, which.

I’m hearing this where it leads to the self awareness. Yeah, 100%. You have to be genuinely curious to just explore yourself and ask yourself these, the foundational question of how are my behaviors really working for me and for other people? And how are my behaviors really not working for me and other people?

And that’s a big question. You can spend a lifetime continuing to try to answer that question, but if you’re not genuinely curious about improving your impact on those around you, then you have no business trying to be a leader in the first place. That’s just, [00:13:00] it’s pretty baseline. If you have no interest in how the way you show up impacting other people, regardless of your intentions, we hear that language a lot.

That’s become a little bit of a meme over the last five or 10 years of your impact matters more than your intention. You can have best intentions in the world, but if your impact is harmful to people, then your intentions don’t fucking matter. And so I think that’s the leaders got to get over that when I’m trying my best and that’s not what I meant.

And it doesn’t matter. Do you know what the actual impact is? How other people think about that new policy you put in place? I do it for their best interest. Okay. Did they think that? You have to genuinely be curious about your impact on others as a just baseline starting place for leadership. And that was echoed.

Like I said, in almost. Every presentation that I gave everyone’s solution to improving leadership on some level, start with the leader’s own self awareness. Yeah. That’s a powerful takeaway. Yeah, I think it’s huge. I think it’s huge. And there’s a lot of cliches we have about this topic, right? Which [00:14:00] about that sentiment, I should say, which is that the solution always starts inside you, right?

There’s some, I’m sure there’s like memes and little wall signs. That’s the answers inside you. It’s like, you know, Wizard of Oz, like the answers in your own backyard this whole time. And it’s true when it comes to this topic, right? Yeah. If you want to get better as a leader, you got to start with yourself, my friend.

And that’s often not where people start. They start with, Oh, if something’s wrong with my leadership, there must be a problem with my followers. Yeah. And maybe there is, but maybe it’s you, maybe both with special prize. Yeah. That’s the first takeaway. That’d be the fitness equipment, like having all the presenters basically say in different ways, start at the same place.

That’s akin to going to perform better or another fitness conference. And every single speaker gets up there and says. Vi lateral squats are bad, you got to move to single like, you might not love that. But if that’s the entire theme, it’s probably something to that. [00:15:00] Yeah. 100%. 100%. Well let’s get into the, let’s get to the takeaway.

So you said you had three things, some might be part one, some might be part two. Let’s start with the first one. So I, yeah, so I think self awareness, I think is the first one. And that’s like the main takeaway was there was a theme running throughout the whole thing. So that’s the first one. The second thing that really came was not a theme, but it was from a specific speaker.

So I’m going to quote my sources here because I want to make sure that I’m giving credit where credit is due. But this speaker, and I don’t know how to pronounce her last name, but I’m going to try. But her name was Vanessa Castro Villaliz. It’s V I L A L U Z. So thank you, Vanessa. It was a great talk. And one of the things that Vanessa talked about, she said, she was talking about what makes leadership development effective.

How can we, as people who try to develop leaders and become leaders who grow over time, what makes that effective? And she said a lot of things, but one of the things I thought was a really powerful takeaway, and this is a good one for all of you listeners, is that she said that leaders, leadership development in many ways has to start with [00:16:00] the leader.

Having an identity, forming a narrative about yourself as a leader that includes your ability to grow. So what I mean by that is that you as a leader, if you want to grow and develop as a leader, speaking for you, you have to think about yourself as I’m someone who is living this life as part of one of my roles as a leader.

And in this role, I am capable. Of developing and growing. I am someone who can get better over time. I am someone who can learn new skills. I am someone who can learn from my mistakes. I am someone who can be challenged and change my mind. What we’re talking about here, if I had to summarize this takeaway is that I am, I see myself as a leader who has a growth mindset, right?

So now, and this is, this kind of goes hand in hand. It nestles really beautifully into this idea of self awareness. It’s really hard to develop leaders who don’t see themselves. As people who are capable of growth, who are capable of and interested in growth. So you have to develop a narrative, a [00:17:00] story about yourself and your identity and your life that is driven by this fundamental principle that I am someone who develops myself.

I am someone who’s capable of learning, right? I am someone who can and will grow. I’m someone who’s actively seeking out opportunities to be challenged, seeking out opportunities to learn. And in, through all of Vanessa’s research, as she talked about, that was a real throughline is that people who went into leadership development programs and did not succeed, people who were maybe just put into leadership development programs because of their employer or whatever the case may be, the ones who didn’t succeed often at their.

Base didn’t see themselves as people who were capable of learning and growing. They had just a fundamental narrative about themselves as the learners that was contradictory to the thing that they were put in that program to do, which was learn and grow as a leader. Is that making sense, Ben? Yeah, that’s.

incredibly [00:18:00] powerful, like it starts with that growth mindset. And it sounds like if I’m hearing you properly, that if somebody wants to go from maybe being less of a good leader to a good leader, it starts with an identity shift it’s this might be an appropriately or an inappropriately simple parallel, but like the difference between trying to say I’m trying to stop smoking and I’m someone who doesn’t smoke, they’ve made that shift.

Yeah, exactly. It starts with that fundamental question that I think we ask a lot in fitness, which is who do I need to become to achieve that goal? Who do I need to, so if you want to grow as a leader, the question is, okay, who do I need to become? What is the identity I would need to take on to be someone who runs a 10 million business, who do I, what, what do I need to embody?

What are the skills, the characteristics, the habits of the person who is capable of achieving that thing I want to achieve. So it’s very much in the mindset world. Thanks Carol Dweck. [00:19:00] And I think it goes to the idea that we have narratives about pretty much every identity. That we take on or is given to us in this world.

You have a narrative about yourself, Ben, as a man. You have your, a narrative about yourself as a Canadian. You have a narrative about yourself about, you know, a father, right? And so one of the narratives that I want to invite our listeners to think about is what is the narrative you have about yourself as a leader?

And so that narrative include your ability to grow and develop In that role, wearing that hat, do you see yourself as someone who can get better and better at doing that thing? That’s the question. That’s a wonderful question. It’s a good one, right? Yeah. It’s a good one. And something that, candidly, Ben and I have been in some ways talking about without naming it as such, as we’ve been talking about the growing Business of Unicorns over the years, and talking about our growth strategy for Business of Unicorns, you and Mark and Pete and I have had a conversation recently about who do we need to become to be the kind of people who are running this company if it was [00:20:00] twice as big?

Yeah. If it was 10 times as big, and that’s the kind of narrative that’s really powerful to have yourself about yourself as a leader. Yeah, and so I obviously don’t have the same evidence back to understanding around leadership, but. From what I have learned, one of the cool parts about having narratives is if you’re listening right now and you have a narrative that like, I’m stuck in my ways or I don’t really grow or this thing is hard, the beauty of a narrative is you can craft a new one and it shows up in, in menacing ways.

And we hear this all the time in coaching conversations. You hear people say, you know what? I’m not really a finance person, so I don’t really look at my bank account or I’m not really. I’m not really a marketing person. So I don’t know. I can’t really do that. I’m not really a social media person, but they have all these narratives about what they’re good at, what they’re not good at.

I’m not really a numbers person. And what they’re doing is they’re putting up all these walls around their identity, setting up all these barriers that just as them constantly telling themselves [00:21:00] that they can’t do these things. And in many ways, it’s a coping, right? It’s a. coping mechanism, self protection mechanism, because that’s new and scary.

And I don’t think I’m good at it. I’m just going to say that I don’t, I just don’t do that. Instead of waiting in discomfort in some cases, not all cases, right? Some people should just go get a bookkeeper. Don’t get good at the numbers, right? But some people should challenge themselves. and stretch their identity to take on new identities over time.

And maybe one of those identities is I’m a powerful leader who, who uses my skills as a leader to make my business a better place. And I’m capable of learning and growing as a leader over time to be responsive to my business needs. That’d be a great story to tell yourself over and over again about who you are as a leader.

Yeah. But it also sounds like the type of business people want to work at. Like I, I don’t want to work in a gym again, even as you’re saying this. narrative about the person who becomes this leader in mind. But that sounds like a pretty good gem. Yeah. Yeah. 100%. And all the research shows, even from this kind of mass [00:22:00] exodus of people leaving during, leaving their jobs during COVID, this great resignation, all the research that’s been done, there’s been a ton of research about the great resignation, of course, because it was giant movement in, in the workforce.

All shows that the people, the reason people laugh, they named as basically toxic workplace culture. And the number one thing impacting their. So called toxic workplace culture was their direct supervisor or manager, the relationship with their direct supervisor or manager, which is the only leader. A lot of people know at work is the person that you report to directly is, was a sour one.

It was a sour one. And the behaviors of that person are the primary thing that drove them from those jobs they had during COVID, which just goes to show that those, those are leaders who were not open and not self aware enough to hear that the people that they were following them. Not by choice, but by title.

Yeah. They had what we call positional authority that they didn’t want to follow them. There were ways that person was behaving that they weren’t curious about that really turned a lot of people off and resulted in people [00:23:00] just leaving that those companies on mass and it’s still the case. It’s the COVID just exacerbated what is always and always will be an ongoing challenge, but anyway, let me edit myself and say, should I share the third one?

Yeah. The third takeaway. Yeah. I can keep talking about it. We got 10 or 12 minutes. Let’s, let’s do one more. Okay, good. I can keep talking about tangents, but you want to give a rosemary a spot to cut and be like, tell us about the third one either way. I think having the people hear us, it’s totally fine.

We did talk about beforehand that. We wanted to just record the conversation because I’m obviously exceptionally interested in what you’re learning. And I imagine a lot of other people are too. So this part doesn’t get cut. It’s because it’s genuine. This is exciting to us and it’s part of our continued growth as leaders.

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I’ll share that one more thing. So I’ll just to recap. I said that the first thing was a theme and all the talks, which was self awareness as being critical, which is something I’m already on the radar and I did a whole podcast about it. So go listen to that. The second thing [00:24:00] was this idea about if you want to grow, continue as a leader, or you want to manage, you want people in your organization to grow as managers and leaders, they have to have a narrative about themselves as seeing themselves as someone who has a leader who can grow.

That was the second one. The third one is maybe a little less pithy because there’s multiple takeaways from this talk. This is from, I think, a faculty member at Frostburg University. His name was Jeffrey McClellan and Jeffrey McClellan talked about a few things. The first thing he talked about was he really sees that leaders have a dual operational role.

This might sound obvious, but it’s useful to put words to this thing that you might already know. But he saw this dual role as leaders as being leaders responsible for two things, responsible for strategy and responsible for culture. So I’ll say that again. Leaders, operationally, at least Mr. McClellan says, might be Dr.

McClellan, I forget, says that leaders really have a dual role. They have to have one eye on the strategy. Are we doing the right things? Are we in line with our mission, vision? Are we have the right people in the right seats? Are we setting the [00:25:00] right goals? Are we tracking the right metrics? Are we doing all the things that need to be done to get the business where it needs to be?

And then have one eye on culture. Which is, again, a little bit more of the, it’s the people part, right? Is it very clear how we want people to interact? In this business, the values we want them to embrace the kind of processes and SOPs that are in place to tell people how to do a good job. Do we have the right rewards in place to, to tell people they’re doing great?

Do we have the right mechanisms in place to, to, uh, To corral people who are not acting in accordance with our culture, right? And so that’s a high level overview. And the reason I mentioned that as a takeaway, which is, I don’t think kind of rocket science here, but I, it’s nice for all of you listeners who don’t maybe think about how you do leadership on a regular basis to just think about how much time do you spend in a week on the strategy?

And how much time do you spend in a week on the culture stuff, right? How much time do you spend making sure that the ship is [00:26:00] pointed in the right direction, and everyone has what they need to succeed, and you’re doing the right things to get to the next best place? And how much time do you spend to make sure everyone’s coming along for the ride, that they’re working well together, that they’re showing up in a way that supports one another, that they like being there, that they’re developing positive, growth oriented relationships with you and each other, right?

How much time are you spending on both? I think it’s just a really great framework. Yeah, that’s a great way to look at dividing your time because most business owners and we’ve all said this ourselves, it’s usually on the business or in the business and it’s like in the business we’re training or following up with leads and on the business would be building those systems.

But now if we can separate it into like a different paradigm of viewing it around strategy and culture and yeah, that resonates strongly with me. Yeah. And I think, and this is something we talk about a lot with Unicorn Society members is that we have them do a weekly meeting. That’s called the Weekly Mission Control Meeting.

It’s part of our framework for Unicorns process and that weekly [00:27:00] meeting can, weekly meeting. Oh, I can’t say it that fast. That Weekly Mission Control Meeting, slow down Michael, is all about the strategy. That’s all about what are our goals? Are we doing the things every week that we said we were going to do?

Are we doing our actions? We’re tracking our metrics, our metrics going in the right direction, right? And that’s all about the strategy. Separate from that, we also hope that people are having team meetings where they can come together and get to work on our relationships and. Performance as a team, they’re having one on one meetings where they’re building that growth fostering relationship with the people they manage.

They’re also recognizing people for doing good work and rewarding them. We’re also developing people who are not doing good work and giving them that feedback. So we talk about all the All, all the actions, all the behaviors that are necessary to do both. And I think it’s a good paradigm. The other thing that Jeffrey McClellan shared in his talk was all about having difficult conversations.

And this is a topic I could come back and talk about a whole one about. Cause it’s one of my favorite topics, but the thing that he said, I thought was really valuable that I’ll share here is. When it comes [00:28:00] to having difficult conversations in your business, you should be always asking yourself as a leader, what are the difficult conversations I need to be having and what makes them difficult for me?

It’s a big part of developing self awareness. What are all the difficult conversations I really need to be having and what makes them difficult for me? That’s one takeaway I’ll leave with you. I think it’s just, that’s a good question to ask. That’s a great question. Yeah. And then the next thing that he said, which was really valuable is that those questions, those difficult questions will always be difficult.

The only way you make them less, a little less difficult is with preparation and practice. That’s it. There’s no world in which, as a leader, you’re going to do something. You’re going to find some magic pill or magic wand, and someday those difficult conversations will no longer be difficult at all. It’s just never going to happen.

Difficult conversations are difficult for a reason. You should explore what those reasons are. There are many reasons that it could be difficult. And for the most part, they can get easier. But almost [00:29:00] never will you find those difficult conversations we’ll get. Completely comfortable, right? As an example, and I’ve done a lot of preparation and practice for a lot of conversations, you know, so disciplining someone, an employee is always going to be hard firing.

Someone is always going to be terrible, right? Um, helping someone else build some self awareness by giving them challenging feedback, always going to be hard. The only thing that makes all those kinds of conversations less hard, or even having different. Client conversation, when a client’s pissed, those are hard.

You can make them less hard by preparing for those conversations in advance and practicing having them. And even if you prepare and practice a lot, which you should, they’re never going to feel 100 percent easy. And it’s a reality we should just, we should get in touch with. We should really just get in touch with that reality.

Is that landing, Ben? Yeah, it’s absolutely landing. It’s [00:30:00] not like anyone’s coming up to us in Unicorn Society saying, how do I never have a challenge with this, my business again? Or how do I never have a challenge with my employer, my clients again? But I do think there’s probably a subtext to that of I’m not good at it.

And when is it going to be easy? It’s that whole, once I do X, then we’ll have Y and just accepting that reality. It’s akin to the question of don’t ask for a lighter load, build a stronger back. That’s yeah, it’s just going to suck for a while. But once you get some reps in and you prepare accordingly to get those reps in, you’re not just having Groundhog Day of your worst version of yourself.

It just becomes a lot less hard. And I can speak to. Michael skill set behind the scenes is you 99 percent of the time in my experience show up with like genuine curiosity and that 99 percent is incredible because I’m probably like 41%. And the other 1 percent is okay. There’s something to explore here.

And, but that’s part of why in Unicorn Society, you’re the go to, how do I have a hard conversation? You’ve just [00:31:00] practiced it a few thousand more times than everybody else. Yeah. That’s it. Just people need to get their reps in. Right. Because it’s about, there’s lots of layers. And again, I can talk about this whole thing, but in short, so much about being good at Difficult conversations is having a little preparation, writing down some notes in advance, thinking through what you want to say, what you want to ask, what you think they might say, what they might want to ask.

Just being prepared to go into the conversation with maybe a structure, maybe some good talking points, maybe some good open ended questions. And then being in the conversation. The thing that takes to so many reps is just regulating your emotional state. Just regulate your heart. Your palms might get sweaty.

Your heart might be beat faster. You might have some brain fog because you’re in that kind of fight or flight, freeze, appease mode. And that’s just biological, friends. Like, you’re not going to stop that. We have to learn how to perform well in spite of that. How to recognize that as really just a part of your embodied experience as a leader.

You’re going to be dealing with that kind of [00:32:00] stress. And you have to be able to push through it and actually Still provide meaningful feedback, still have all of those difficult conversations, in spite of the fact that your palms just get sweaty, and that’s why more and more practice helps. But I want to just get rid of the idea that somehow all those difficult conversations will go away if you don’t address them, or if you address them in a certain way, they just get easier someday.

And they will get easier, they’re just never going to be super easy, there’s always going to be some level of difficulty, and that’s forever, my friends. I hope that doesn’t sound pessimistic. I hope it sounds realistic. No, I was going to say to me, it sounds empowering because I’ve definitely been like, I have to have another one of this.

Oh my God. This is so hard. I’m not good at it. Narrative narrative of all the reasons I shouldn’t or can’t do this thing, but it sounds like the question we should be asking ourselves isn’t. When does this get easy? It’s how do I prepare better so that it becomes easier? Yes, 100%. How do I prepare better?

How do I practice more [00:33:00] so that I lean into the difficulty instead of run from it? That’s beautiful. We could clearly go on all day. I don’t know. So it was a quick recap. I know that was just like from two talks and I went to 15 so we can do parts two, three, four or five through infinity if this is a, yeah, if you find this valuable and you want to learn more about leadership, this is probably the part of the podcast where Michael would say, please comment below and we’ll keep these coming.

Please comment below and we’ll keep these coming. Yeah, for sure. But to wrap up today, you want to talk a little. Yeah. You want to wrap up and talk a little about unicorn society? Cause we’re still in enrollment by the time this podcast comes out. 100%. So the recap of what we learned was one across all the talks from everybody, it all starts with self awareness.

Two is in order to become great leaders, we need to adopt a narrative that says that we can become great leaders and we have a growth mindset and we’re willing to engage in that process. I’m paraphrasing not as well as you sound it. And [00:34:00] three is the balance between the strategy and the culture that is our focus and to get better with those culture conversations, what are oftentimes sometimes difficult.

As we need to lead into it through preparation and practice because it doesn’t get easy. It just gets easier. Beautiful. That was a great summary. Bravo. My friend shows more podcasts

and then unicorn study. So I’ll just say this, that if you’re listening to this, when this podcast comes out, which I think is going to be like the first week or so of November, we’re still enrolling for unicorn society. And we only do this really twice a year right now, which means this is your last chance to get into 2024.

So if you ever thought about coaching with me, Mark, Ben, Pete wheels, the rest of our team. Um, now’s the time to apply. So the link will be down in the show notes. When you apply, it’s just a lot of quick application and you jump on a call with us just to see if you’re a good fit. You’re going to be seeing if you’re a good fit for us.

We’re going to see if you’re a good fit for you. There’s no obligation until after that call. So why not fill out the application and come talk to us? What’s their deadline for [00:35:00] doing that? Yes. Deadline to apply is November 19th. It’s November 19th to get your applications in. But even if we end up chatting after the 19th, as long as you submit it.

The full application by the 19th, you still got a foot in the door,