WENDY HANSON: It's so wonderful to have you all with us today as we build our management and leadership skills. Thank you for coming to the podcast. I have a wonderful guest today and we're going to talk about Working Your Assets Off: Stop Working So Hard in Business and in Life. Wow, what a title. That is a new book by Allison Tabor.
Wendy: So let me tell you about Allison before I bring her on. Allison is the owner of Coppia Advisory, a successful executive coaching and consulting business. Allison helps business owners, executives, and their teams in the areas of leadership, interpersonal communication, and strategic planning. Allison also facilitates for the International Women Presidents Organization. She leads two peer advisory groups in San Francisco Bay area, these are women presidents and CEOs of multi-million dollar companies.
Wendy: Additionally, she is a group leader for Provisors, a community of professionals who serve their clients as trusted advisors, and share the highest standards of integrity, performance, and accountability. So you all know that a woman who is this busy has really had to figure out how to stop working so hard and still get a lot done. So thank you for joining me today, Allison, welcome.
ALLISON TABOR: Hi Wendy. Thanks so much. I'm really happy to be with you this morning.
Wendy: Yes, and I'd love to know, what was your inspiration behind writing this book?
Allison: I think it came from a couple places. Primarily working in and being in the company of extraordinary people, that no matter how much success and no matter how great things seemed to be in various areas, there was this working hard energy that was around them. And just noticing that no matter how much success they were experiencing, there was always this underlying drive that somehow they weren't not doing enough, getting enough, experiencing enough, creating enough. And it was a bit of that mentality of having to work really hard to enjoy things. And while others were feeling somewhat guilty, or almost like it seems surreal, why is everything coming so easy to them? It was almost like this imposter syndrome of, "Wow, I must not be doing anything right, because everything is coming together too easy and I'm not working hard enough, so how am I enjoying all of this?"
Wendy: Isn't it so ironic? When it comes easy we look at it and say something must be wrong. Rather than when have to work harder and push. And I can relate very well, and that's why I loved your book. Yes, because I think I'm one of those people. And you work with so many successful executives on so many different levels, it's so fascinating that you see this come up over and over again. One of the things that I've seen in self-improvement books, they always want you to work harder. You have a different strategy, if you do this and work harder you'll get more, and this, but you think that's a bad idea. Tell us about that.
Allison: Yes. There's a fortune being made on trying to get the public to embrace all that's wrong. And I say, no, "embrace your suck" as I call it, which is rather than trying to be amazing at everything and hyper-focusing on your deficits or the areas for improvement, I say, "No, that's okay. If you realize that you have areas that you're strong in, focus on your strengths. And if you have areas that you're not as strong in, instead of trying to overcompensate and force the process, just accept that. And it's okay to not be great at all things." It's important that if you're relying on success for that particular talent or skill then you need to replace it through some other means, someone else or something else. But to be reliant on it and trying to force yourself to become extraordinary at everything is just a setup for failure.
Allison: And that's probably why, even though billions of dollars are spent on these books, why are we still faced with such challenges like low levels of joy and satisfaction and engagement in the workplace? Why? Why is that, if there's so many extraordinary books that teach us how to develop our weaknesses? I think that's just perpetuating the problem.
Wendy: Yeah, I am certainly a big proponent of people using their strengths, and the word "suck" brought me to an interesting remembrance of when we do planning and strategic planning with teams often, and we bring a team together, we use something that, God, I learned about 20 years ago that they used to do with bands. If they were ad-libbing a band on a stage and they wanted to bring someone up from the audience who played guitar, they'd ask them, "What are you good at, and what do you suck at?" Because they want to set them up, and I think teams need to do that too.
Wendy: That's what you're pointing to. You go around and say, "What are you good at, and what do you suck at, and let's use your strengths so that you can really make a difference."
Allison: They were onto something.
Wendy: We don't do enough of that. They were onto something, and this was a long time ago. I think it was something from old jazz clubs or something, but I have loved it ever since. Now part of how you set up your book is it was around what you referred to as lies and truths. What's behind lies and truths?
Allison: Well, I find that sometimes people speak in such terms of always, never, and they have a belief system that I think is supported by a lot of things, things we read, things we hear, and we create this belief system as if it's the truth. And then, is it really, and do we challenge that? And so I use the term in terms of lies because that's somehow the traditional way in which we've done things and the way we were told to expect life to unfold. And so I challenge that and I call it lies and truths. And then I introduce a new idea, another way of looking at something, and try to have a little more expansive thinking around perhaps a stereotype or a belief system that isn't really serving us.
Wendy: Yeah. One of the things that I noticed, you have such great quotes in here when you open up chapters, like Truth Number Eight: "How is easy when you know your why." We talk about that a lot as coaches, Allison, we always ask people to give context, explain your why. And Simon Sinek, who I'm a huge fan of too is, "Achievement happens when we pursue and attain what we want. Success comes when we are in clear pursuit of why we want it." Talk a little bit about what you learned, you must've learned a lot when you delved into these chapters more deeply.
Allison: Yes, and I think when you know what your why is, the rest of it comes easy. And I'm a very intentional person, and in spite of being intentional, there's a time and a place to just put all of this active planning and moving aside for just a minute and spend some time really doing a little bit of introspection to get clear on what it is that you're driving for. What is it that is fulfilling you? Because sometimes we can be so good at executing and scratching something off our to-do list, and I think we feel instantly gratified if we're finishing a task, but yet that task is not necessarily tied into what our why is, what our purpose is, and how it's going to fulfill us.
Allison: So I almost feel like we have to slow down for a minute and we have to get a little clear, more clear, so that we can speed up. And it's not just this race, it's almost like, okay pause, regroup, why are you here? What's your outcome? What matters here? And that allows you to be more focused and aligned with your why, so that you have the right momentum. Because you could have momentum and headed in the wrong direction.
Wendy: Yeah, wow. I took two great things away from what you just said. And one reminds me, another blast from the past, I was coaching sales teams at Google many years ago and Rick Crew, who I still stay in touch with, he was being coached and he said just what you just said, he coined the phrase, he said, "You have to slow down to move fast." Now I get it, rather than always just moving fast, and the checkoffs of our to-do list.
Wendy: One of the things on on our 360 at Better Managers, we look at best practices according to Google Project Oxygen is one of the sources of the research, and it says, "How often do you take time to reflect?" And I think about 80% of the people say never. And during that reflection time what I'm hearing from you is that's when you've got to come to your why.
Allison: Yes. And I think oftentimes there are people who get so caught up with, how am I going to do this? And I think your how becomes so clear once you know what your why is, and we don't have to have it all spelled out. It's just like, okay, if you just focus on when you're looking at creating something, why do you want that? Suddenly everything just starts to appear. The right people show up, the right opportunities show up, and it all falls into place. And I find that sometimes we're beating our head against the wall trying to do things because we're starting from the how we think we should do it. And really it's an in/out versus out/in.
Wendy: Yeah. You also, you do a lot with DISC, which explained very briefly what DISC is and how we communicate with others, and expectations around that. I love that chapter, so tell me a little bit more about that.
Allison: Sure. You're probably talking about Chapter Four, where the lie that I introduced is that you should treat others the way you want to be treated. And that's a perfect example of, it was a well-intended virtue that was extolled, of course you want to treat people with respect because you want to be treated with respect. And of course you want to treat people with kindness, because you would like to be treated kindly.
Allison: What's happened is we've taken it to an extreme, where we go around interacting with people with our one-size-fits-all approach. So if you're a person who likes lots of information you may overwhelm people with too much information, when perhaps the person you're interacting with really wants you to just cut to the chase. Or the opposite, where perhaps you are a person who really needs very little information and you're a driver, let's go, let's go, let's go, and that person that you're interacting with needs more information, so they might feel pushed along, and unheard, and rushed.
Allison: So in that chapter what we're talking about, as far as DISC: DISC is a tool to help us to better understand that we all have different communication styles, and that it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. Yet we tend to do that, we go around expecting people to be like us, we communicate with people in the form and approach that we would prefer, and that often leaves people feeling unheard, which is not what we intend, but it often is what happens.
Allison: So DISC is a tool to better understand the different styles that is applied across all people, and it helps us to understand, are they people oriented or process oriented, extroverted or introverted? So that's an oversimplification, but it's really a way to understand that we're hardwired in our own unique way, and the tools is a user-friendly way to be able to just decipher that code so we can communicate with more understanding and impact.
Wendy: Yes. I've done the DISC with people, and done an activity at a training, and it's so fascinating to hear people say, "Now I get why John is the way he is. Oh my God, I thought he was just being hard to get along with or pushing back." But the style, if we can, as managers, look at people's style and really make sure that we are speaking the language that they need, the detail that they need, or maybe it's, we're better off if you and I go out for a glass of wine and have a conversation than if we're going to put our heads down at our desk. There are so many nuances to this.
Allison: Definitely. And I think with the truth that I introduced in that same lie is that people want to be treated the way they want to be treated, and how they want to be treated is going to be different. And how do we know what it is? Well, there's ways to find out, including observation, asking them, DISC, a variety of different ways. But that's the ultimate connection with human beings is we all want to be heard, no matter what style we have, and how we feel heard varies. I might feel heard in a completely different way than you feel heard.
Allison: And we often make it personal, so if we interact with someone who isn't like us it feels almost antagonistic, and it's like the person's not trying to antagonize you, they're not trying to make your life miserable, they're just being them, while you're being you. And if they're not similar it's going to be a rub.
Wendy: Yeah. And people don't always have an opportunity to gain these insights if they haven't been exposed to different ways of looking at it, and different tools that you can use to look at your team. So it's something for managers to think about, how do I get to know my team members better? And how do they communicate?
Allison: Well that's in the spirit of working their assets off. It's you as a manager would want to know of course yourself, and a manager would be able to lead to the strengths of their team. And one of the strengths will be also their communication styles, not just their skills and their abilities, but if, for example, if their communication style is, let's say they're extremely extroverted and they love to interact with people and they draw energy and fulfillment from interacting with people, but a manager assigns them to a task where they have to sit behind a desk and do data entry for three weeks and not interact with anyone, that's very unfulfilling and that would not work well.
Allison: Whereas you could look at the opposite, let's say a person was very analytical and really enjoyed problem solving, and then you say to that person, "We're going to move you over here, we need you to go out and shake hands and kiss babies, and be on the business development trail with us," and that person's going to feel stressed, just like the other person would be stressed out of their comfort zone.
Wendy: Right. And when you give people the right work to do that matches their strengths and their communication, it doesn't feel like work, and they'll get so much more accomplished.
Allison: Right, the productivity goes up, the engagement goes up, the sense of just collaboration, it's a win all the way around.
Wendy: Yes. One of the other things you have in the book, Allison, that I really loved is the flower. On page 32 you talked about the the parachute book.
Allison: What Color is Your Parachute?
Wendy: Parachute, and I love that.
Allison: Yes, it's a classic.
Wendy: Yeah, tell me a little bit about that, and why that's important? Because it seems like, I don't know if I'd be interested in doing that now, I have a job, et cetera, but there's a reason to stand back and look at what color your parachute is.
Allison: Definitely. Well, when I first used What Color is Your Parachute?, actually it was not for a job search, although that was the primary intent behind that book, was a great career-seekers guide. And yet, it's a great career transition guide as well. And in my situation I was just winding down from having owned and led a structural engineering company for 23 years with my husband, and this was my next chapter of my career that I was looking at. And I thought, before I start to make any active moves to take the next step in my career I'm going to pause. And that was one of my pause and reflect exercises, and that allowed me to look back at all of the different experiences that I had and capture in a real anecdotal way, what were some of the things that were really fulfilling and really positive experiences, and then you look for the different themes.
Allison: And the flower exercise itself allows you to develop that through this illustrative design where you have different petals of your flower. One petal has to do with, well who do you want to work with? Do you want to be around people, do you want to be around academians? Do you want to be around entrepreneurial-spirited people? Do you want to be around ... who is the who? And then you have the geography, where, and you slowly start to just paint a picture of wow, this is your ideal setting, this is what excites you and charges you. And then of course the core of the flower is the core of you, the things that are your non-negotiable. I'll call it fuel, the fuel that fuels you, so things that you want and need in your career and in your life.
Wendy: And I love one of the petals is also about values, because I think this is another thing that people don't realize, if they haven't sat back and thought about what are my values, what are my non-negotiables? I have a strong value of integrity, if somebody questions my integrity it's like a physical confrontation, it's awful. Because that's really a strong value that I have. And I think when people can sit back and think about what their values are, and how do I honor those values ... What's some way that that people that are listening could think about what their personal values are? Are there any exercises that you recommend?
Allison: A really simple way to start is think about people that you really appreciate, and admire, and respect, and what are the values that they are displaying for you? And often it's a clue to your own. So if you say, "Wow, I really admire so-and-so," well what is it about that person that you admire? What are they exhibiting in their behavior? And it often leads to these examples, "Well I really admire John over here because John is just so responsible and so committed. I value responsibility." Or, "Mary over here, I really just value her ingenuity, she's just amazing," so maybe ingenuity. Whatever it is that you are finding yourself drawn to in others often is a beginning clue as to the things that you place a value on.
Wendy: I love that, because I had not thought of it from that perspective. I've done a lot of values work with people, but think about somebody else and what it is that you really appreciate about them, yeah, that's a great way to unearth -
Allison: That's a real easy way. Of course there's a lot of of of self discovery work you can do, and it's just getting clear, the actual flower exercise was a way for me to unearth my core values. And that was through, in this case, it was capturing, really writing a paragraph on different times that there was some sort of a real strong connection to an emotion of feeling really great, feeling fulfilled, feeling purposeful, whatever that strong emotion was, what was going on?
Allison: So one of my core values for me is advocacy, and I realized that through that exercise, I live to advocate, so I advocate for my clients. I've actually volunteered as a court-appointed special advocate for the foster youth, so advocacy is just in my being. And I don't know that I could have labeled that, I knew I was about fairness and justice and to the point of sometimes being righteous too, there's definitely this cord of justice and fairness, but really what's underneath that is advocacy. And I got through that through some self-reflection and really just exploring.
Wendy: Well, I would say that you really live your value, because when you look at the work you do with the Women Presidents Organization and Provisors, the basis of that is really advocacy, and helping people find their own worth, helping people get connections. So yeah, when you stand back and look at it, you're in the right and perfect place. Isn't that true?
Allison: It sure feels like it, thank you.
Wendy: Yeah. What has changed for you since you wrote this book? Because there are so many things that focuses in here, using strengths, what has been the biggest shift that you've seen in yourself personally since writing this book?
Allison: Boy, that's a good one. What have I seen change? It's the realization of for me two things. One is the realization that no matter how complicated a subject, no matter how seemingly challenging something is, there's a way to approach it in simple terms. So I'd say one thing is the reminder is that sometimes we make things more complicated than we need to, and I think the book was a reminder of how we can say complex things in a simpler fashion. So the book itself, you can get through this book in an afternoon, it's an easy and practical read as opposed to some of the texts that I've read where I start and stop, and start and stop, and I can't get through it. So speaking, living, and thinking in terms of simplicity, I think the book really left me with that reminder, it was a good reminder. That's one area of change.
Allison: And it also just reinforced this belief system of just going out there and making an ask. I think sometimes people who tend to be advocates can also do, and be doers, and perhaps it's harder to ask and receive because they're just doing all the time. So the other part of the book is really inviting and embracing the support and assistance from people around me in the community. So that's been been really amazing. Writing this book involved other people, and bringing things to the table, for example, where they can work their assets off. Having somebody who volunteered to say, "Oh, I am really good at editing, can I be a second pair of eyes and read your book, and be an additional editor?" And I thought, wow, okay, that would be welcomed. And so it was a reminder of not only working your own assets off, but really leveraging the assets of the people around you in your community, especially when they're offering, because it's a gift to them when you say yes and you allow them in.
Wendy: I love that example, because a lot of times people will offer things and we think, "Oh you don't really have time to do that," and we need to take people up on it when they want to be part of our team, or part of our community, or making things happen. That's a wonderful example. I would suggest to people when they look at this book, because there are 12 truths and this goes by what you were saying about simplicity, I would take a chapter a day and read it and see how you make it real. Because sometimes what I do when I'm reading books is I'll hear all this information, and then I'll kind of walk away and not put something in action.
Wendy: But I love your book because it has case studies, and it has things that are clear and inspirational that I could say, "I'm going to take this one, and I might even take one for a whole week and play with it, and journal about it and write down. Because I think, at least for my learning style, that's how I get things in my bones. Anything else that you would suggest to people as they look at this? Because you could have a nice afternoon read by the pool, or by the fireplace depending on where you are in the world, or you could take a little bit at a time and digest it. Any other things that you would suggest?
Allison: Well I think they could read anywhere they want in the book. I don't think they have to start with Chapter One. So that's the other thing is if you want to just jump in at Truth Three and then jump into Truth Eight, they each stand on their own, each chapter. So I think that might be a fun way to read it or reinforce it if you'd like.
Allison: There's one chapter I think that, and they're all important, maybe one chapter I really like to just point out I think is super helpful because it has a lot to do with our mindset, we can have all of the tools, and all of the right people, and everything really aligned for success, and if we don't actually bring the right mindset to the experience that's going to sabotage and interfere, potentially if not probably. So I'd say one of the chapters that's really important is the chapter I have on gratitude, and the value of gratitude.
Allison: And it's mindset and gratitude together, but if you have a mindset that includes the belief system around being grateful, not grateful for everything when it's all perfect, but grateful for things where they are, as they are, and then building on things that that you want to build on. But I think the importance of gratitude and having a regular practice of gratitude, I think is a huge game changer. It was for me and for many of the colleagues that I've been fortunate to experience their success. It's just a common denominator in many people's success, so I would say that's a real important one to read.
Wendy: Well, I have to say that's one of my favorites too, because I am a great believer that gratitude, how you look at things and just being able to have some gratitude about it, there's actually a quote I have on my wall that's from Brother David, who is the CEO of gratefulness.org, it's a nonprofit that's been around for a long time, purely about gratitude. And it says "It is not happiness that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us happy."
Allison: Ditto. Yes, yes, and yes, That is great, I agree.
Wendy: And I was telling you earlier, I had a little accident yesterday and I'm on crutches. And so it was a great time to have gratitude, because my cousins were visiting me and I was able to say, "Well I'm so grateful this happened while they were here, because I can't walk and get crutches out of the closet that I had from an old accident, I'm so grateful for this." And my cousin was looking at me, I think like, "Wow, what's she talking about?" But to me it really brought this, this could be so much worse, I'm so grateful that under these circumstances I had this, and it's going to be a couple of days and I'll heal. So I think our perspective and gratitude is life-changing all the time. And when we show gratitude to people at work they rise up to the occasion, and I don't think we use that tool enough.
Allison: No, it's actually one of the most underutilized, and it's such an inexpensive tool, which if you think about it, in terms of engaging your employees and your team when you're trying to connect with your team members, oftentimes we're kind of stingy with our compliments and stingy with our gratitude. Maybe we're afraid that they might suddenly get full of themselves or whatever it is. Somehow we're afraid we're going to become less powerful or something, but when you give the the appropriate, whatever you want to call it, your compliments, or expressions of gratitude, and you're feeling grateful for things and you're saying that out loud, it's such a great way to engage and inspire your team.
Allison: And oftentimes now that's more important than the money. We think we have to keep throwing money at people to make them happier. If that's the case, then why do we have, year after year after year of higher pay levels, but we still have disengagement in the workplace? Why do we have that situation? I think it's perhaps pointing to how we're managing people, how we're motivating people. Are they working their assets off? Are we leading to their strengths? Are we expressing gratitude? All of that.
Wendy: To bring a few of your points together, when you express gratitude, be specific about what it is you're really grateful. Don't just say, "Wow, I'm so grateful to have you on my team." "I love how you come to work in the morning and you raise everybody's spirits, and you're always reaching out," because from a neuroscience standpoint that's going to sink into me, and I'm going to say, "Wow, I want to do this more because that felt really good."
Allison: Yes. And I would add to that too, one of the things that I hear a lot and I cringe, which is, "Good job." I feel like when someone says good job it's like all that's missing is the pat on the head like a puppy dog. Instead of saying good job, it's like, "Hey, I love the way you handled the such and such on that project." Or, "Wow, the way you spoke with so-and-so. That was just so eloquent," whatever it is you want to acknowledge. But this good job, good job, I know it's well meaning but it doesn't land as intended in many cases.
Wendy: Well said. I totally agree. Yes. So our listeners, if they want to get more information about you and your work and about getting the book, what would you like them to do?
Allison: Well there's a website for the book called workyourassetsoff.com. They can go to the website, there's lots of great information there. And the book is on Amazon, I would love to have your readers go and get a book on Amazon. I would also love it if they'd consider leaving a review, and if they have any questions or want to discuss anything about the book I'm always welcoming of people reaching out. So my contact information is on my website as well, workyourassetsoff.com.
Wendy: And if they have questions about WPO or Provisors, I bet you would answer those too.
Allison: Absolutely. I welcome any types of a reach out, whether it's about the book or questions in general, so feel free.
Wendy: Great. Well thank you, Allison, for taking the time today and sharing this, because we all have to stop working our assets off and make life a little bit easier, and sit back and enjoy and be reflective. So thank you for this today, very inspiring.
Allison: Thank you Wendy, what a pleasure.
Wendy: Have a wonderful day.
Allison: You too, take care.