Today’s show is about 3 Habits to Become A Magnetic Leader with Special Guest, Andrew Sykes. Listen to the show on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play.

Andrew [00:00:00] The way we think about this is that, you really are your habits, and so, if you’re interested in becoming a magnetic human being, you need to think about the habits that define such a person.

Don [00:00:16] My name is Don Rheem CEO of E3 Solutions and author of the book, “Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience That Drives High-Performance Cultures.”

Don [00:00:25] I speak across North America on the neuroscience of engagement and I’m passionate about helping leaders at every level create engaging workplace environments where employees feel safe, recognized and valued. Employees who feel safe are happier, healthier and more productive.

Don [00:00:43] Each week, my team and I take on topics impacting managers and we offer solutions to your biggest workplace challenges. And, you’re listening to Thrive By Design, a podcast created by E3 Solutions to give managers, CEOs and leaders the tips strategies and tools needed to create an engaged culture at work.

Don [00:01:07] Welcome. I’m your host Don Rheem CEO of E3 Solutions. This week is especially exciting because we’re launching our special guest series where we talk with subject-matter experts one-on-one about critical workplace topics and challenges.

Don [00:01:23] Our guest this week and next is Andrew Sykes, an expert on leadership organizational performance and business development and the CEO of Habits At Work, a Chicago-based firm that helps people create and master high-impact work habits.

Don [00:01:38] Andrew has spent over a decade researching workplace habits that make business performance thrive. Over the years, he’s created a powerful, actionable framework for habit change. And, today he’s going to speak with us about three fundamental habits within that framework that create and support magnetic leadership.

Don [00:01:58] Welcome Andrew and thank you for taking the time to be here.

Andrew [00:02:02] Don, it’s a pleasure to be on the show. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to talk to you.

Don [00:02:06] Andrew, you’ve dedicated the many years of your career to coaching leaders and organization,  really at all levels, to learn and master the power of habits to create thriving high-performance employees and companies.

Don [00:02:20] For our listeners who might be new to your work, can you briefly recap the 11 habits, just for context, and then perhaps we can turn our focus to the three habits we’re going to talk about in this episode around creating and supporting magnetic leadership.

Andrew [00:02:36] Don, the way we’ve thought about this is to look at the research literature and people’s experience at work to ask which things do we do repetitively over time, of course, we call these habits, that really make the biggest difference to how people show up and stand out at work.

Andrew [00:02:54] Is there evidence that says some things make you an effective, magnetic productive human being a leader? And, the answer we’ve come to is that, yes indeed there are, in our view, eleven habits that define the highest level of performance.

Andrew [00:03:10] And, many of them will occur for you as things that are quite obvious. It’s a little bit though like driving a car. Many people are able to drive from A to B, but not many of us are racing car driver levels.

Andrew [00:03:24] And, there’s a difference between good enough and mastery. So, the habits that we look at our habits in which if you become a master, you will completely stand out and be extraordinary compared to everyone else.

Andrew [00:03:37] They include things like running effective meetings. We spend half of our life in meetings and most of us complain they’re terribly unproductive. It includes how you present ideas and tell stories. The habit of solving problems and keeping your word, how you negotiate so that you get what you want and others get what they need.

Andrew [00:03:56] And, we’ll be talking about next week the habits of prioritizing self-care and choosing to do the right things at the right time—planning and prioritizing.

Andrew [00:04:04] The three we’re going to talk about today though are the three that really make people stand out and have people be attracted to you. They are number one, the habit of getting good at getting great at anything. That’s the habit of giving and receiving feedback. Number two, the habit of listening empathically. And, number three, the habit of posing the right questions to unlock new pathways for action for yourself and for other people.

Don [00:04:30] We’re lucky enough to continue our conversation with Andrew in the next episode as we explore habits around performance and self-care which is the subject of your book, “The Eleventh Habit: Design Your Company Culture to Foster the Habits of High-Performance,” and you can look for that book link in our show notes.

Don [00:04:47] Andrew, of the three habits you just mentioned that support magnetic leadership, can we break each one of them down for our listeners and just talk about what they mean and their significance?

Don [00:04:57] What is this habit number one, a deliberate practice with feedback?

Andrew [00:05:03] This is the habit that has you become a master at whatever you choose to become good at. And, if you think about what we are attracted to in other human beings it’s often that they are extraordinary at something.

Andrew [00:05:16] They’re the Tiger Woods of golf or they’re the Meryl Streep of acting because they are just so much better than everyone else and the question is how do you become remarkably good at something?

Andrew [00:05:26] And, for most people the answer is, well, it’s lucky, it’s born-in talent. But the truth is it’s not. It’s hours of what we call deliberate practice with feedback. So, what is deliberate practice? It is practicing intentionally, with the focus on how you can improve using feedback in order to improve. And the way to distinguish it is from repetitive practice, which is just doing the same thing over and over again.

Andrew [00:05:54] In work we call that experience. And, what we’ve noticed is people with a lot of experience are not people who generally are masters of their art, because experience in our view, is the enemy of mastery. Whereas deliberate practice is the genesis of genius.

Andrew [00:06:12] And, there’s a beautiful story to illustrate this. A very strange guy named, Laszlo Polgar, decided to conduct what some people think is a Frankenstein type experiment, but really is a master clinic in this idea that deliberate practice can create greatness.

Andrew [00:06:28] He had three daughters and he coached each of them, since he’s a chess player, in the art of playing chess. And, over a lifetime they became respectively, the world’s champion, the second-best and the sixth-best women’s champions on the planet.

Andrew [00:06:44] And, you may say well you know that’s genes and they were just lucky to be born into that family. But when you study that story you’ll see that it was years and years of deliberate practice with feedback and it’s really the feedback that’s magical. So, if we pull this apart, the habit that we’re looking for, is how do you ask for receive and use feedback?

Don [00:07:07] That’s great. Andrew, let’s talk about the second habit, empathetic listening. What is empathetic listening have to do with magnetic leadership and why is this important to creating an engaged and successful workplace environment where people thrive?

Andrew [00:07:22] There’s an old saying which says, to be interesting, which is an aspect of magnet magnetism, be interested.

Andrew [00:07:30] And, what it means to listen to someone is to pay attention to them. We tend to think we listen with our ears but the reality is when we are judging whether someone’s listening to us or not, we’re looking at whether their eyes are focused on us, whether their body language and face is reflecting how we’re speaking and what we’re saying.

Andrew [00:07:47] So, we think empathetic or empathic listening is three things. It’s, of course, listening to what someone says but it’s being able to empathize and feel with how they feel based on what they say. And, then even to dig beneath that and to look for or listen for what really matters to those people in their life, what are their concerns.

Andrew [00:08:09] And, if you can recreate for someone how they are speaking, what they feel and what really matters to them, you’ll leave them feeling not just heard but completely understood and gotten.

Andrew [00:08:21] And, we have evidence from our experience our own personal experience that listening is essentially falling in love.

Andrew [00:08:30] Just think of someone who you consider to be an extraordinary listener. And, if you can think of that person, ask yourself how do I feel about them? And, I would bet anything that your response is, I love them, I admire them, I like them, I think they’re great. It’s almost a golden rule that those who listen best are the people we like trust and admire the most.

Don [00:08:52] I couldn’t agree with you more, Andrew. I did a TEDx talk and one of the things that got picked up the most and was this line, the future of work will be defined more by how it feels than how it pays. And, someone just sent me a picture over the weekend of a billboard outside of San Francisco and Berkeley. And the sign said the future of business is about feeling.

Don [00:09:18] And, I thought wow, who would put that up? But it was one of the big sort of cognitive consulting companies that deals with numbers and process and technique and here, even, they are coming around to this felt sense of what it’s like to be at work. And, of course, we want someone to listen and pay attention to us and be empathetic. That’s that’s awesome.

Don [00:09:37] There was a third habit, then, for this magnetic leadership. Tell me about the third habit.

Andrew [00:09:43] The third one is an interesting one. It is posing the right question with curiosity.

Andrew [00:09:49] And, just like listening, we think we’re good at asking questions and indeed human beings ask are good. We ask good questions all day long. But, there are a class of questions we call, powerful questions, that unlock for people new insights and new pathways for action that they couldn’t see before.

Andrew [00:10:06] An example of that is the Kimpton Hotel Group. They’re known as the leading boutique hotel. In fact, they coined that phrase. And, they are not only the greatest rate of return for shareholders in their industry, will provide that, they’re known for every guest, every day, having an awesome and unique experience.

Andrew [00:10:23] And, for every employee ranking them as one of the best places to work.

Andrew [00:10:28] And, the reason for that is twofold. Number one, they make a big promise to employees. They say, if you can think it we can do it. But the responsibility that comes with that promise is helping employees to figure out, how can we think to be more innovative?

Andrew [00:10:40] And Steve Pinetti, one of the co-founders, has spent four years going from one hotel to the next coaching employees to ask a single question. What’s one thing I can do right now to make this guest, that’s in front of me, experience either awesome or unique?

Andrew [00:10:58] And, of course, the answer changes every time and that’s how they’ve scaled unique and extraordinary experiences. Just one little question, you won’t find it on their brochures or a website but it does animate the entire organization. It is their secretive competitive advantage.

Andrew [00:11:15] And, so I challenge other leaders to ask, what is the question that drives your organization? That is the key to your sustainable advantage.

Don [00:11:23] Andrew, I see a clear link here between the second and this third habit. If you’re an empathetic listener and you’re really listening, and you’re attuned to the person and with him and present in the moment, you’re going to be asking better questions. Just because you have a better understanding, as you say, of what’s important to them.

Andrew [00:11:43] They are absolutely partners these two habits because when you ask questions one of the things you’re signaling is, I’m listening to what you’re saying and therefore I’m able to ask these follow-up questions. But there’s a beautiful experiment that illustrates how these two come together.

Andrew [00:11:59] Arthur Aron ran a research study many years ago where he got couples together who were strangers and had them ask and answer a set of 36 questions of increasing personal details or intimacy, for a couple of hours.

Andrew [00:12:14] And these were, as I say, people who didn’t know each other. But the questions were gathered from the kinds of conversations we have with our spouses or partners over a lifetime.

Andrew [00:12:23] And, at the end of that, they had each of these two people look into their partner’s eyes, paying attention to them. And what’s interesting about the study is people left with an extreme sense of closeness. Some even going so far as to have fallen in love and gotten married. And, that’s just a couple of hours of listening and asking questions of a complete stranger.

Andrew [00:12:45] Imagine what’s possible if we practice those habits between leaders and employees or colleagues at work, what kind of depth of relationship we can generate.

Don [00:12:54] Well let me follow that up, Andrew. This is our sweet spot of course and we talk about the importance of relationships, but from your perspective in your work with habits, what is the importance of better more effective relationships in the workplace?

Don [00:13:06] How does that, I mean other than the leader becoming let’s just say the leader becomes magnetic and charismatic or whatever, but how does that help business? How does that help the bottom line in your view?

Andrew [00:13:17] Well, we think it’s all about relationships. They drive the speed of sales, they increase your probability of closing a sale in the first place. So, they have a lot to do with how quickly your company grows.

Andrew [00:13:30] But, then if you think about the trust that either does or doesn’t exist between existing clients and customer success agents, it drives retention, profitability in a company. There are less, if you like, complaints that come in because people just trust each other to work things out.

Andrew [00:13:47] When there’s a broken relationship. There’s costs on both sides, the customer and the company. And, of course, we know that inside a company there are extreme costs from turnover, from presenteeism, from poor health care. Often as an outpouring of the stress that we deal with at work.

Andrew [00:14:08] If you go to work every day and you’re surrounded by people you really like and trust and you want to spend time with, it’s almost a given that you will come home each day with a sense of purpose, feeling like this is somewhere I want to come back to tomorrow.

Andrew [00:14:22] And, I wonder how many employees in America feel like that every day? And if they don’t, what I think is missing is extraordinary relationships. So, that’s why I think these three habits among others are so critical, not only for leaders, but for every one of us to practice.

Don [00:14:38] That’s significant. And I appreciate hearing that, Andrew, is something we certainly agree with at E3 Solutions.

Don [00:14:43] So, let me summarize a little bit.

Don [00:14:45] The three habits, the first one was deliberate practice with feedback, and you also highlighted the difference between experience which can be the enemy, gets us in a rut, versus deliberate practice and how to do that and how to ask for and receive feedback.

Don [00:15:00] The second habit was about empathetic listening. You said you really need to pay attention. Active listening, direct eye contact. You want to listen and empathize with what you’re hearing to discover what actually matters to them. And that listening actually equals and leads to strong, healthy relationships.

Don [00:15:20] And, then the third habit, was about asking great questions. And, we talked about how you’re going to ask better questions if you’re an empathetic listener. But the importance of asking questions that draw the people out and help them feel understood and connected.

Don [00:15:32] As mentioned at the top of the episode, the three habits we talked about today are part of a larger 11 habit framework that Andrew has created and we promise to continue this conversation with him in future episodes to explore the rest of those habits. So please stay tuned.

Don [00:15:49] Andrew, any parting thoughts to leave us with from today’s episode?

Andrew [00:15:53] Don, we think that human beings underestimate the power of habits because each on their own is so small. But, if you think about it who we really are as human beings and who we become over time is determined by the habits that we practice.

Andrew [00:16:09] It’s such a strong link that we say that habits are our destiny and this isn’t new thinking. As Aristotle was supposed to have said, we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.

Don [00:16:22] That’s it for today. I’m your host Don Rheem and thank you for listening.

Don [00:16:26] In the next episode of our special guest series we will continue our conversation with Andrew Sykes as he speaks to us about how to prepare to perform and what superstars do that most people miss.

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