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Human-Centered Leadership and Your Growing Business

Transcript 

Kathy (host):  

Hey there, and welcome back to Help! My Business is Growing,  a podcast where we explore how to grow and build a business that is healthy and sustainable. I'm your host, Kathy Svetina.

 

Kathy (host):

One of the trending management concepts that got a lot of attention in recent years, especially because of the pandemic, is Human-Centered Leadership. It means leadership that puts humans, particularly employees, first and prioritizes them as much as the company's mission KPIs and goals. Whereas in traditional management, the priority is on profitability, meeting deadlines, and achieving results, but in the Human-Centered Leadership, it acknowledges that to get there, you actually need to manage people - and people are not robots. They have their human needs, and they experience burnout. Why is this important?

 

Kathy (host):

Because in a growing business, where change is happening at a fast rate, your employees can really experience that burnout if you're not careful. You want to ensure that your most valuable company resources - your team, and your employees, are staying engaged, motivated and happy so that they can be productive.

 

Kathy (host):

But the question is, what does this human-centered leadership look like? And how do you incorporate that into your business? Because you know that on this podcast, I like to be actionable. And I do not like management jargon. We're going to be breaking that down piece by piece. What does it look like, and what does it mean. But before we start, I want to remind you that all the episodes on this podcast, including this one, come with timestamps for topics that we discussed, and they also have their own separate blog post. If you're in a hurry, and you just want to scan what we talked about, or just want a quick preview of the episode to figure out if it's worth your listen (trust me, it is). Go check that out. You can find the timestamps and the blog link in the show notes.

 

Kathy (host):

Today, my guest is Rachel Lipton. She is a Co-Active Certified Coach and a Founder and CEO of Rachel Lipton Coaching. She supports executives, emerging leaders, and teams to thrive in today's workplace and understands what individuals and organizations need to function effectively on the human level. She has a decade of experience working with organizations to significantly elevate their leadership development and organizational effectiveness. Join us.

 

Kathy (host): 

Welcome to the show, Rachel.

 

Rachel (guest): 

So happy to be here, Kathy. Thanks for having me.

 

Kathy (host): 

I'm so happy you're here. We're going to be diving into some really meaty subjects here. But first, as the business grows, the owner often thinks that they have to do all of the things. And it's a really, really tough position to put in yourself because you feel like you have to have all the answers. And no one has all the answers, right? So that's the time when a lot of times, the inner critic comes out and says, "I really should have known how to do this, but I have no idea. I'm really not good at this. Maybe I'm just not cut out for this business." I want to ask you, like, what are some of the things that you think, what is this inner critic comes out? And how do we actually silence that? How do we work with that?

Rachel (guest):  

Yes, yeah, such a great question. Thank you for asking that. Because everyone, this is pretty much universal. Everyone struggles with the inner critic, and especially when we step into leadership roles, whether we're seasoned leaders or new leaders, the inner critic is there, and a lot of the sort of the voices that you just brought up, "I'm not enough.  Is this right for me?", really come from a place of coming into safety. Often our inner critic has been ingrained in us because it's trying to protect us from something. Whether that's the failure over and over ability or physical safety even. A lot of the ways that we're conditioned as children and beyond have really shaped what kind of voices come up for us when we step into the limelight when we step into leadership roles. And I mean, leadership in a very broad sense to I don't mean, just executives, I mean, anyone who's coming into. If you're doing anything in the world, you're managing a team, and you're trying to work on a project, you're working with clients, anything that can really bring out the inner leader with us. A lot of folks that I work with, I worked very a lot with inner critic work, and the inner critic can really get in our own way.

 

Kathy (host):

Yep.

Rachel (guest):

And we often don't know it. Sometimes people really internalize the inner critic like, "Oh, this is me, this is who I am." And so a lot of the work that I do with people is really separating that, like these are voices that have been sort of well-worn neuro-pathways, like kind of the go-to defaults. Sometimes people let the inner critic drive their decision-making, and that's when and takes a dark turn for individuals and for teams and organizations.

 

Rachel (guest):

Helping people recognize what's happening in the internal landscape—and then bringing out other voices, what I like to call the inner leader. And like really who you are and your authentic self. That's sort of the balancing that the antidote really to those inner critic voices. And so I work a lot with folks with those tools because it comes up so often and anything that we do both personally and professionally.

 

Kathy (host): 

And you mentioned that the inner critic starts to drive decision-making. And I know this is you can see it happening, you recognize it, but always if you don't know how to switch lanes, I call these lanes like mental pathways, you can really go down the wrong path. What are some of the things that you have seen that really work for someone who recognizes that there's happening to them? But what is it that they can do to stop it and to reassess and switch that mental lane so that they don't go down that path?

 

Rachel (guest): 

Yeah. What I like to tell people is that, like the inner critic, voices will be there. It's not necessarily about just squashing and silencing them. Because sometimes, if we do that, they'll come out even louder. Right? It's really acknowledging. First is identifying the voices like. That's the very first step. It's often the very first step to many things, right? It's just awareness of, oh, this is the inner critic voice, just name identifying. And naming is really the first step.

 

Rachel (guest):

And then sometimes I have people make a funny character for their inner critic. What that does is that it kind of makes it silly and kind of outside of who you are as a person. For example, I have like an alter ego inner critic who's like the bad cheerleader behind the bleachers, that plays hooky and smokes behind the football stadium, and she's like this character.

 

Kathy (host):

I love it!

 

Rachel (guest):

Some people will make up a character that exists. Maybe in media or some people will make up a character that just comes out of their brain as I did. And that really, that really helps shift the energy. "Oh, you know, that's the rebel cheerleader coming out, or that's Karen," or whatever name people give it. Sometimes there are multiple inner critic voices, right? As time goes on, we identify what those are. Sometimes giving it a silly character helps us identify, "Oh, that voice is coming in. Okay."

 

Rachel (guest):

And then also identifying what the motivation behind that voice is? Why did that come up? Maybe that's like, I'm a people pleaser, and I'm afraid of letting somebody down. That's a big one, particularly with women. Many women are socialized to be people-pleasers or caretakers, right. We don't always like sometimes that becomes so ingrained in us that we don't realize that that actually can be detrimental to what we are actually really want. What's actually soul-nourishing to us, and not just trying to please others. Once we start recognizing those voices, then we can kind of get to "Okay, what now? Who am I?" I'm pointing to my heart because this is where my inner leader lives in my heart space. Who am I at my core, and who do I want to be? Who do I want to become? So a lot of what we think about as leaders is 'do, do, do.' We have our big checklists. We're always in the doing space. We're easily in the headspace and what I tried to do is help people get into more of the body space and into the being space. I'm finding that people are really craving that now.

 

Rachel (guest):

After two years of the pandemic, a lot has happened to people. People are now saying, "This way of life isn't working for me like I'm really craving." No one says I'm craving being, but that's what they basically are saying "I want more space and time. I want to prioritize me. I want to prioritize my health and relationships and connections,  with my community, and all the things that are really back to basics." And so that's a lot of the work that I work with people because a lot of people come to me, and they want to make a decision, and they want it all wrapped up in a beautiful little bow.

 

Kathy (host): 

It doesn't happen that way, right.

 

Rachel (guest): 

It's giving people the tools to be able to be in a mess and being more present. I'm also a yoga teacher, and so that really aligns so well with the coaching work because the more that we can become present with ourselves, the more we exude presence with others and the more that we can step into our own power and then we have to feel that not only in our mind but also in our body. It's really that alignment.

 

Kathy (host): 

This reminds me when you were talking about doing and being. I had a coach a couple of years ago, and I thought it was pretty profound. She said, "If you make music if you think DO and BEs as two music notes. If you just hear do, do do, it's a very, very dull type of music, and if you hear be,be,be the same thing, but when you have doo-be, doo-be, doo, it makes really nice music, it makes it very easy to listen to, and it's very joyful and enjoyable. Having the combination of do and be you makes the life really happening for you.

 

Rachel (guest): 

I love that metaphor. That's beautiful.

 

Kathy (host): 

And it's stuck with me. Every time I see myself, I run a business too. I see myself being into the doing, not the being, and just life becomes very just kind of monotone. I've noticed that if you are really stuck in the doing, that's when the inner critic comes out would you say? It really comes out? Because you don't have that space?

 

Rachel (guest): 

Yes, absolutely. Yes. If you were in just do, do, do mode,  we get into like sort of rigidity, right? It's got our checklist. We have things to do. And even our bodies get constricted if we start noticing it.

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah.

 

Rachel (guest):

And it's really the balance, right? I like that you talked about the balance because also, if we're in the being space, if we're just kind of just hippie-dippie kind like not actually taking action and moving toward who we want to be, and what we want to do. We're also missing a really important piece, too. It's really that balance. But I tend to focus more on the being because we are already good at the doing. Our culture tells us that this is what we need to do and be. And we don't always know how to be in the being space.  A lot harder and in the culture that we've been grown up in. And so that's where we really need to find the balance. I love that metaphor is just perfect, so synced for like, really finding the balance and like the musicality and the highs and lows of life, right? And to keep the aliveness going and not just the flat notes.

 

Kathy (host): 

Yeah, and the highs and lows of business, because nothing in business stays constant, and that's the one constant you will have. Nothing will stay constant. Everything will ebb and flow. You are having that space to permit yourself just to be. I always say even though I'm a Fractional CFO. I do finances but what I see with my clients and the people that I work with and I help is that when they're so stuck in this doing, they do not take the space to really think about how is this affecting me as a leader? How is this affecting me as a business owner, it affects their energy, and their energy affects their teams. Every single thing that you do eventually turns out in your money and your finances. So really taking care of yourself means that you're taking care of your business, and you're taking care of your teams.

 

Rachel (guest): 

Absolutely. That is really profound. I think so much of what we do as leaders really start with the inner landscape and what's going on here. And the more work that we do on the inside, the more that that exudes to the outside. It's kind of like a domino effect, right? Like, especially if you're in a leadership, formal leadership position. We've all been around leaders who are exuding a certain kind of energy that might be more negative or even toxic, and like how that ripples into the culture of the organization.

 

Rachel (guest):

If we've had leaders that are inspirational and motivational, we know that kind of energy and what that feels like. And so that is what's so important about doing that being work. As leaders in organizations, we want to have the traditional metrics of success. If we want to hit the numbers, if we want to have high-functioning teams, we have to do the inner work. We have to be able to exude that to others and bring others along with us. Sometimes we also do that in our work with teams, right, and like what's going on in the system here. And so leaders that are willing to put themselves in that vulnerable place and have that open communication with teams end up being the leaders that really can move organizations to a whole another level and are transformational leaders. We don't have enough of those in our world. We need to help people get there because people can get there. They just have to be willing and know themselves and find the skills to be able to do it.

 

Kathy (host): 

Yeah, and we talked about- This is very much into what I would think is a human-centered leadership approach. I want to unpack that; what does that really mean in reality and in practicality? How do we get to that if someone says, "Okay, I understand the benefits of it? I see that how it's going to benefit me how it's going to benefit my business." What are some of the things that I really need to start doing? Or how do I start being to show up as a human-centered leader?

 

Rachel (guest): 

Yes, I love that question. Because sometimes we throw a lot of terms around.

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah.

 

Rachel (guest):

Hot topics, and it's hard to like bring it down to earth and really unpack what it means. I really appreciate that question. I think again, and it starts inside. What are the skills that we need? We need listening skills. Sometimes leaders tend to be the people that are always jumping in or okay with being in the limelight or might be very charismatic. But there's actually a lot of power in listening and stepping back.

 

Rachel (guest):

Learning how to share power with others. Even if we're in different positional power is in a hierarchy, in organizations. How do we also shift our mindset that our role is really to grow and develop other people? It's a very different type of approach. It's almost like a servant leadership approach to working and not just the traditional model of the leader knows all and that all the decision making goes through this one person. We know that model isn't working, and a lot of organizations are restructuring so there is more distributed leadership.

Rachel (guest):

But it's also how do we deal with conflict? How do we have constructive conflict? And how do we manage our own emotions and have self-regulation around that, and then be able to get our support systems to maybe if we need to talk about whatever's coming up outside of the organization that we do that, but how do we find the balance between being our authentic selves, and managing ourselves so that we're not putting energy out into the organizational culture that could be negative or that could be toxic. It's not about toxic positivity, it's not that leaders need to be happy and joyful all the time Leaders need to be real. Leaders need to be vulnerable because vulnerability is strength. If anyone is familiar with Brené Brown, we know that she's done a lot of work on vulnerability.

 

Rachel (guest):

Sometimes folks see vulnerability as weakness. But actually, it takes a lot of strength to be vulnerable. The more that leaders can listen, and be vulnerable, support their teams, and have the mindset of growth, both not only for their teams but also for themselves, and know that things are going to change. They're going to have to roll with the chain, that they don't have to hold things so tightly, that they don't have to make all the decisions or have all the answers when they can. When they're able to let go a little bit and also collectively vision with the team, and those are the leaders that are going to really be able to be human-centered. They're going to see the results from that because employees pick up very quickly, like the energy of leaders and their genuine intentions. Understanding and helping leaders alike shift their mindset that it's not just about them. It's not just about the external metrics. Still, it's also very much their role is about developing the team, that everyone can collectively be better together, and then the external happens because the internal was developed.

 

Kathy (host): 

That's a great explanation. And you talked about the vulnerability there. We hear this all the time being vulnerable, being vulnerable. But how does that really look like in practice in a business sense because a lot of people think that it's just sharing about their personal lives and essentially being buddy-buddy with your employees, which can really, really backfire, especially as the business is growing, and you're going to have a lot of changes that you're going to have to be implementing. If you are on that friendship relationship with your employees, they can start to resent you. I've seen that as well. What does that really look like a vulnerability in the business sense, especially in a growing business? Do you have any tips on how to be vulnerable but appropriately vulnerable?

 

Rachel (guest): 

Yeah. Oh, I love that. Yeah, I think you're right. There are these buzzwords, just be vulnerable, be vulnerable, be vulnerable, but I think appropriately vulnerable is the right word because it's not always appropriate to share what's going on in your personal life. I think sometimes organizations that become like family can also act like family, and family can also have very high conflict relationship-

 

Kathy (host):

And dysfunctional.

 

Rachel (guest):

Yes, right. There is that boundary. Of course, we can be friends with our colleagues, but we also have to It is important to be able to separate a little bit those relations, the friend relationship with a business relationship. What I mean by being vulnerable is not necessarily that talk to their colleagues like they would share with their therapist. But it's more about being willing to make mistakes, that it's okay not to know, that it's okay to say, "I don't know the answer to that right now. Let me think on it, or let me get back to you, or can you help me figure out what the answer is? Or let's figure it out together?" That's vulnerability in a business sense. Being transparent, having open communication. The more that we kind of gatekeep information from people like that also creates toxicity. How are we vulnerable enough to be transparent about what's going on in the company?

 

Rachel (guest):

For example, the company is going through a rough time financially. I know often leaders want to protect their employees and not like have everyone come into with assumptions about what's happening. But to be very honest with people and say, "Here's what's going on. Here's what I think the reactions might be. But I want to let you know, this is where we are, and here's how I'm going to support you." And that's vulnerability. There are sometimes emotions that come up at work like maybe there's a really tough client or something. I think we've all cried at work; I know I have. Or maybe there's something personal in your life, and you just can't, it's so raw that it comes out, right, but like, being willing to have those moments to connect with somebody and just say, "Hey, are you doing okay? What you can do to support you?"

 

Rachel (guest):

Again, that goes back to the listening skills and a lot of asking questions of people like the curiosity. These are skills, and they're also mindsets, really being able to be curious and develop and grow people. So that requires vulnerability, too, because if we hold things close to us and we're constricted, that doesn't serve us very well. But the more that we can open up and be transparent and communicative, ask questions, be okay with not having all the answers, being okay with not knowing that things are going to be emergent. We don't always know what's going to be right in front of us or in front of us in two years, and just doing our best. A lot of that is like holding things less close and really involving the team in that collective problem-solving.

 

Kathy (host): 

And then also brings in this whole team feeling of "Hey, we're all on the same team. We're all in this together." And I would think that, at least from what I've seen, from my perspective here, when I come into the business is the businesses that have that in place, at least a little bit. People really pull together through hard times, especially COVID happen. If you really have someone that's willing to be vulnerable, that's willing to be open and share with their teams appropriately. Of course, it establishes that we are all on the same team. We're all in this together. Let's pull this through. And it can work like magic.

 

Rachel (guest): 

Yes, it is. I mean, it's simple but hard. It's a simple, simple concept but hard to do. Because we're not trained in those ways. We haven't been taught to think in those ways at work. And so I think now's a really interesting time. Because of the pandemic, I think people are awakening to the fact that we need compassionate leaders. We all went through something collectively. Eventhough everyone had a different individual experience, we all went through a collective long, difficult time, and some of us still are.

 

Rachel (guest):

Having that experience together can either be very disruptive in terms of relationships or bring people together. I think as we've seen the great resignation, a lot of people are leaving organizations because of organizational culture or because they're realizing, "Oh, my God, I want to be more in the being space. And this is not what I want to be doing." And that's okay. Because with disruption will come new creation. I think we have a big opportunity now, especially if you're a leader in an organization, to reshape how we think about relationships at work, and really keep that more at the forefront of things and really support people in their growth and in their learning. To be able to stay in that learning through listening and curiosity, and vulnerability, those are really the skills that we all need to be able to come collectively together and really have strong teams.

 

Kathy (host): 

I always like to ask this one question of all my guests if someone was understands the concept of it, understands some vulnerability understands the listening skills, but it's really hard to bring it down, like where do I even start? How do I do this in practice? What's my next step? How do you implement this? What is like the first step that you should be doing and something that you can do in the next week or so to get you closer to that? And what are the next steps after that so that you can start to implement that in your business? Is this someone that should work with a coach like there's some courses or something that they should be taking? How do you bring that in and say, I understand this, I want to implement it, I want to get better? What's my next step? How do I do this?

 

Rachel (guest): 

Working with a coach is huge, or having somebody external to your own head and your own environment to mirror back to you what's going on, and help you stay on your own agenda where you want to move toward in the world, is really powerful. And we all need that because we can't always see ourselves wholly or what's going on because we have these habits and behaviors that are what like well-worn neural pathways. We need someone else to help us see what we can't see. Having a coach is super powerful, or being in a cohort of peers, potentially with a coach. I was also so when I evaluated leadership development programs, the two most important things people said were one-on-one coaching and the cohort learning. Peer learning were the two most powerful components for them in transforming their leadership. We don't do anything alone. If we try to do things alone, it often backfires. Trying getting the support that we need as leaders is a huge step. But I'd say aside from that. There are ways that we can how you ask what leaders can do right now, the next week?

 

Rachel (guest):

Well, one thing is just to step back and start noticing. Maybe be more quiet, see what's going around in the landscape? Maybe it's the Zoom Room for a lot of folks, right, but like, just begin to notice, what's the conversations? What's the tone? What are people saying that they need or want? Taking that curious approach? That's something we can if we're intentional about it. We can turn that on; we've all had curious moments, right. Bringing it back to maybe even when we were a child. When we were children, we were a lot more curious if you're as adults. And so if there was an experience that felt like oh, kind of wonderous, and like to bring that sense back, and how you still have that sort of sense of wonder and curiosity in your work, because that really opens up whole new realms. When you can genuinely be curious, you can really ask good questions coming from a place of not assuming and just really wanting to know and be of support. Those are things that we can start practicing right now. Not everything is going to be perfect. We have, as I said, we have these well-worn neural pathways. We have old habits that are going to come up still. It's starting to be able to notice what's happening and then step back and say, "Oh, I'm not taking a curious approach. I'm going to bring the curious approach back into this. How can I ask open-ended questions? How can I listen more." And those are the things like right away. We can just as soon as we come back into presence and notice, rather than let the mill have all the to-do list, and the phone calls like sometimes we just need to step back and breathe. It's amazing how much the breath can actually just ground us. The amazing thing is we have these great tools in our bodies already that like require. They're free. We have to use them to live. We have to breathe, and that can help us get into those curious, approachable mindsets that can really help us start being the leader that we want to be.

 

Kathy (host): 

You just reminded me there with curiosity. There's a great book, and I read it years and years ago. It's called the Question Behind the Question. It talks about how, essentially, anytime a person asks a question, there's always an intention behind it. In the question might be that they asked, "What is my compensation going to be with this new structure that we're putting out there, especially if your business is changing? And you putting these types of things out?" The question is, really, "Am I going to have enough? Am I going to be valued? Am I still going to matter in this business? So really tuning into that?" It's not just the question that the employees are asking. It's like, "What are they really meaning with that type of question that they're asking?" There's always a question behind that question.

 

Rachel (guest): 

Absolutely. Oh, I love that. That sounds like a great book and a great resource. Because that is so true, we often don't reveal our full true intentions and some of the questions or the responses that we have. And so yes, a lot of it comes down to even aside from compensation. But a lot of it comes down to value and self-worth. Am I being valued in this organization? Is my work appreciated? Am I being invested in? Do people want to see me learn and grow? Or are they here for just profit? I think often comes down to so many things. I work with clients really comes down to value, m I valuing myself, and I'm being valued by others. And so, in an organization that we want to make sure people have that sense of being heard, and that sense of belonging and the more that we can drive toward that, like magic will happen. Because those are like our core human needs. We need to have a sense of belonging and we need to have a sense of safety. If we can create that in organizations, it doesn't have to be a family, but we can still create that in organizations. The more that we can have better organizations, better results like things will naturally there will be a domino effect. Because as soon as we value like our greatest resource, which is people like things start to change.

 

Kathy (host): 

Rachel, this has been absolutely fabulous. Thank you so much for being on the show. Where can people find you?

 

Rachel (guest): 

Yes, they can find me on LinkedIn, Rachel Lipton Coaching. You can look for that. I'm also at rachelliptoncoaching.com. I'm also on Instagram at @rachel.lipton.coaching. You can see a theme there. Yeah, find me wherever, whatever, on LinkedIn, Instagram, or on my website, and I'd be happy to connect with anyone who you know resonated with this conversation or who would like to support. I'd love to have conversations about this stuff. I could talk all day about this. I love this conversation, Kathy, and thank you so much for asking such insightful questions and also sharing the resources from your own experience to

 

Kathy (host): 

You're welcome. Thanks so much, Rachel.

 

Rachel (guest):

Thank you.

 

Kathy (host): 

Thanks so much for joining us. And I hope that you got a lot of good material in this episode that you can actually take into your business and implement so that you're well on your way to becoming a human-centered leader because now you understand how it can help you and your business as you're growing.

 

Kathy (host):

To get even more insights on how to unlock your leadership potential to ensure the success of your team and your business, drop by next week, where I'm going to have a chat with Ronald Reich on how to handle the difficult conversation with your employees. I know this is particularly hard to figure out how you have those conversations that you would rather not have, but you still have to have them. We're going to be walking through the framework and how to actually do that. It's going to be very actionable, and it's a great episode, so make sure that you tune in. Also, as a reminder, you can find all of the previous episodes and future episodes on this podcast, including all the timestamps, the show notes, blog posts, and links to resources. You can find all of this on my website, newcastlefinance.us. And before I go is always a do have a favor to ask. If you're listening to this on Apple podcasts, you could please go to the show and tap the number of stars that you think the show deserves. It really helps other people find it. Thanks so much. Until next time!