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ET-010: Leadership that minimizes anxiety and builds reselience

With Chester Elton

ET-010: Leadership that minimizes anxiety and builds reselience

and your host Wayne Brown on August 30, 2022

Episode notes: A conversation with Chester Elton

One of my mentors used to always say,

“you can acquire great knowledge and bypass a lifetime of searching, if you just learn to listen after ask the question to the right people.”

And in this regard, in this episode today, I encourage everyone to listen intently as the career and life advice doesn’t get much better than this.

Our episode today is such an important topic as the world tries to learn to cope with uncertainty around extreme change. It’s titled “Leadership that minimizes anxiety and build resilience”

Here’s an extract from our conversation…

“How am I doing? Where am I going? What’s my next step?” So answering those questions, “How are we doing? Where are we going as an organization? How am I doing, and what’s my future look like here?” Boy, you answer those four questions. Anxiety comes down real fast because that takes a lot of uncertainty around our company, the industry, the market, and then me personally, our team, and where am I headed. 

Today’s Guest: MR. CHESTER ELTON

In today’s episode, our guest is very well-known worldwide in Leadership and coaching circles, he’s the co-author of 14 books and loves to dress in bright orange shirts to match his company’s Carrot branding. I refer of course to none other than the incredible Mr. Chester Elton.

Chester is a #1 New York Times Bestselling Business Author, Organizational Culture, Employee Engagement, and Leadership Expert.

He is recognized today as one of the most influential voices in workplace trends and has spent two decades helping clients engage their employees to execute strategy, vision, and values.

In his provocative, inspiring, and always entertaining talks, Chester provides real solutions to leaders looking to build culture, drive innovation, and enhance wellness. His work is supported by research with more than one million working adults, revealing the proven secrets behind high-performance cultures and teams.

He has been called the “Apostle of Appreciation” by Canada’s Globe and Mail, “creative and refreshing‚” by the New York Times, and a “must-read for modern managers” by CNN.

His books have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold more than 1.6 million copies worldwide. Chester is often quoted in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fast Company, and the New York Times. He has appeared on NBC’s Today, CNN, ABC, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and CBS’s 60 Minutes.

In 2022, the Global Gurus research organization ranked Chester No. 3 among the world’s top leadership experts and No. 3 for organizational culture.

He is a member of Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches and is a Thinkers 50 Coaching Award winner.

Chester is the co-founder of The Culture Works and a board member of Camp Corral, a non-profit for the children of wounded and fallen military heroes.

He serves as a leadership consultant and coach to firms such as American Express, The World Bank, Zoox, Momofuku, and the New Jersey Devils of the NHL.

He is most proud to be the father of four exceptional children, and three delightful grandchildren, and married to the amazing Heidi for almost 40 years.

   ♦ The Culture Works – Gostick and Elton

   ♦ The Gratitude Group | Leadership & Tools For Happiness in Healthcare

   ♦ Chester Elton | LinkedIn

   ♦ Anxiety at Work – the podcast

   ♦ Leading with Gratitude with Chester Elton on Apple Podcasts

Chester Elton’s book – Anxiety at Work:

This book is one of many that have been best sellers. Other titles include All In, The Carrot Principle, and Leading with Gratitude. And it is the first one where there are three co-authors, Adrian Gostick, Anthony Gostick, and Chester.

The following link will take you to the Amazon book site where you can read the intro.

Anxiety at Work: 8 Strategies to Help Teams Build Resilience, Handle Uncertainty, and Get Stuff Done

What You’ll Learn

The book presents eight strategies for Leaders who should be taking employee well-being as seriously as their bottom lines. Due to time, we only cover several of the strategies and the first of these is about the uncertainty being a trigger for anxiety. You open with some quite alarming worker statistics and then detail six actions that leaders can take to reduce the anxiety-triggering effects of uncertainty.

Two other strategies stand out for me:

1st identifying unhealthy perfectionism. This one sounds a like challenge for many reasons, not the least due to the pressure or belief the leader probably holds themself about being judged.

And 2nd (well it’s actually two strategies) looking at standing up for marginal groups and ensuring inclusive work cultures.

Here is the full list of the 8 strategies covered in the book.

  • Uncertainty triggers anxiety.
  • Overloading workers leads to elevated stress levels and burnout.
  • Support younger workers by coaching them as they learn and grow their careers.
  • Unhealthy perfectionism harms teams.
  • Help conflict-averse workers by creating a culture of psychological safety.
  • Be a supportive ally to team members from marginalized groups.
  • Create an inclusive work culture; social exclusion causes psychological harm.
  • Express gratitude to improve workers’ moods and motivate them.

Final words of wisdom from Chester:

“I would just like to reiterate words of wisdom from my father. He had a huge impact on me. My dad was my best friend and my first manager and my biggest cheerleader. And I just loved his attitude. You always felt better about yourself after you spent some time with my dad, and it was a wonderful gift that he had. And that saying, “Be good to everybody, everybody’s having a tough day,” I think is a wonderful way to end the podcast.

Just be aware that people are struggling out there, and they may look great on their Instagram and they may look great on their Facebook page. Everybody’s got something. Be kind, be grateful, and be of service. “How can I help?” I think is a great question.” “How can I help?” And when you’re serving other people and you’re not focused on all your woes, ’cause I know you got them, it does lighten the load and it makes everybody’s day a little better, so be good to everybody. Everybody’s having a tough day.”

0:00:00.5 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m Wayne Brown, and welcome to The ET project, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, who we’re affectionately referring to as “Team ET.” In today’s episode, our guest is very well known worldwide in leadership and coaching circles. He’s the co-author of 14 books and he loves dressing in bright orange shirts to match his company’s carrot branding. I refer, of course, to none other than the incredible Mr. Chester Elton.

0:00:40.7 WB: Chester is a number-one New York Times bestselling business author, organizational culture, employee engagement, and leadership expert. He’s recognized today as one of the most influential voices in workplace trends and has spent two decades helping clients engage their employees to execute strategy, vision, and values. In his provocative, inspiring, and always entertaining talks, Chester provides real solutions to leaders looking to build culture, drive innovation, and enhance wellness. His work is supported by research with more than 1 million working adults, revealing the proven secrets behind high performance cultures and teams. He’s been called the “apostle of appreciation” by Canada’s Globe and Mail, “creative and refreshing” by The New York Times, and “a must-read for modern managers” by CNN.

0:01:39.0 WB: He is co-author of the multiple award winning bestselling leadership books, including All In, The Carrot Principle, Leading with Gratitude, and Anxiety at Work. His books have been translated into more than 30 languages, and have sold more than 1.6 million copies worldwide. Chester is often quoted in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fast Company, and The New York Times. He’s appeared on NBC’s Today, CNN, ABC, MSNBC, the National Public Radio, and CBS’s 60 Minutes. In 2022, the Global Gurus research organization ranked Chester number three among the world’s top leadership experts, and number three for organizational culture. He’s a member of Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches, and is a Thinkers50 Coaching award winner.

0:02:40.7 WB: Chester is a co-founder of The Culture Works, and a board member of Camp Coral, a nonprofit for children of wounded and fallen military heroes. He serves as a leadership consultant and coach to firms such as American Express, the World Bank, Momofuku, and the New Jersey Devils of the NHL. He is most proud to be the father of four exceptional children, three delightful grandchildren, and married to the amazing Heidi for almost 40 years, so with such an impressive set of credentials and a wonderfully warm individual to boot, I’m sure you’ll forgive me for running a little over our targeted 30 minutes in today’s episode. In preparation, please remove any distractions, make yourself comfortable, and be ready to capture the abundance of insights as you listen to Chester Elton and I discuss the topic of leadership that minimizes anxiety and builds resilience, we know that you’ll enjoy.

0:03:49.9 Speaker 2: Welcome to The ET project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor Wayne Brown as we unpack an exciting future together.

 0:04:08.4 WB: Team ET, today, we have an extremely special guest, and I’m very excited to introduce you to none other than Chester Elton. Chester, welcome to The ET project, I’m extremely excited about the conversation we’re about to have.

 0:04:25.1 Chester Elton: Oh, man, listen, thanks for the invitation. I know it’s gonna be a lot of fun ’cause you’re here.


0:04:32.8 WB: I like you very much already. Thank you, so typically, I would start by asking if you have any fun facts that you would like to share with our listeners?

0:04:43.2 CE: Yeah. Well, you and I were talking before we hit “record.” We just had our annual family reunion with our kids, and it was just great fun, we’ve got a little lake house in Upstate New York in this beautiful Adirondack Park, and it was just so much fun, we’ve got four kids and three grandkids, everybody was there, we took the obligatory family photos, jumped in the lake, and it just really… I was talking with my wife this morning. It just really brings home the importance of family and surrounding yourself with the people that you love and not taking them for granted. One of the books we wrote recently, it’s called Leading With Gratitude, and my wife and I have a wonderful tradition at the end of the day, we ask each other, “What are three things you’re grateful for today?” And of course, the week that we were up at the lake house, we had many more than three things to be grateful for, so that is just a really fun fact. And this month we’ll be happily married and still madly in love for 39 years, so it’s my 39-year wedding anniversary this month.

0:05:47.6 WB: Unbelievable. Congratulations. And it sounds like you’ve picked up a little bit of a cold.

0:05:54.4 CE: Yeah. Well, when you got three little kids, they’re sort of carriers, little petri dishes. So yeah, I’m feeling a lot better today than I did yesterday, so your timing for recording this podcast was good, Wayne.

0:06:08.2 Speaker 2: Excellent. And unfortunately we’re doing audio only, and I would love the listeners to be able to see your fantastic brightly colored orange shirt. I very much love the whole parent principle and the trademark that you and Adrian have established, it’s incredible. Anything around the world at the moment exciting you, whether it be business related or…

0:06:40.2 CE: Yeah. I’ll tell you what I find really interesting right now, Wayne, is that the business is so much in transition, I have a son that works at American express, for example, he works in analytics for them with their engagement surveys and so on. And people still trying to figure out, “How much time do I have to spend in the office? How much time can I work from home? How do I do that family work, life, harmony, balance integration?” Whatever you wanna call it. He went into work today, for example, today’s one of the days he goes in, and I think he goes in Tuesdays and Thursdays. And while it’s nice to be able to work from home, I find that it’s just good to be around people too, that we are community animals.

 0:07:26.4 WB: Yes.

0:07:26.4 CE: And the opportunity to be around other people… Now, the problem is, he’ll go in and he doesn’t know how many people are gonna be there, I mean, the floor he works on probably holds 400 people. And he says, “Dad, I’m lucky if there’s 30 people there sometimes.” So I find it fascinating as we start to morph into, “What does work look like?” Another son lives down in Dallas Texas. He works for Goldman Sachs, everybody’s in every day, so their mandate is, “We work live, in person, in the office.” So that’s what’s really fascinating me right now, is, “How do we figure this out?” And then on top of all of that, Adrian Costa who’s my co-author, we’re speaking more than ever now, I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand for people to meet in person.

0:08:15.9 CE: Yes.

0:08:16.2 CE: So you layer over the fact that the airlines haven’t figured out how to get back and running. It’s rare that you take off and land on time. And so trying to figure out travel schedules and I think of business people that are trying to get to and from clients and consulting companies, so there’s still a lot of uncertainty, there’s a lot of figuring this out, and every company a little differently, so that for me right now is really fascinating, I’m looking forward to seeing how that all fleshes out.

0:08:47.5 WB: Do you have any personal opinion about what it will look like in 12 months from now?

0:08:54.0 CE: I really don’t because every industry, every organization is different, I’ve got a tech company for example, and we’ll talk about this, I’m sure, generationally it’s interesting as well that they’re saying, “Hey, right before the pandemic, we spent all this money on this beautiful new headquarters and we want people in it.” You might get… It’s like you buy a brand new car, you never get to drive it.

0:09:18.6 WB: Yes.

0:09:19.1 CE: And yet the HR folks and the analytics say, “Yeah, but we had our best year ever, like with everybody staying home. So why will you mess with that?” So I think each company is gonna have to look at their culture and say, “What do our people need? What do our customers need? And then what do we want on top of that?” So I think everybody’s gonna have their own journey, and of course there are some industries, you have to show up. If you’re in manufacturing, you can’t do that from home. Right? If you’re in the restaurant business and you have a restaurant, people have to show up at the restaurant, hotels and so on, so every company, every culture is gonna have their nuances, and that’s where I think it becomes really important for leaders to really listen. Listen to your customers, listen to your people, listen to your communities and make good choices.

0:10:19.3 WB: And there’s a lot of uncertainty around that situation at the moment, which is a lead into the book, and we’ll come to that very soon. Before we do, I would love to get a little insight to part of your career journey, I mean on paper, it’s a fantastic journey, I’m sure you’ve had your ups and downs like everybody, but from our business perspective, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you to share some of the highlights or anything that stands out for you, and it’s only just starting, I believe.

0:10:54.5 CE: Yeah, we’re only 25 years in.

0:10:57.2 WB: Yes.

0:10:58.5 CE: So I grew up in sales, I grew up in a ridiculously happy family, by the way, I have four older brothers and two amazing parents, and my dad was in broadcasting and he always said, “Look, nothing happens till somebody sells somebody something. Get into sales ’cause salespeople understand the marketing, they understand products, they understand customers, they’re where the rubber hits their road.” So I grew up in sales, and I loved selling, I sold media time in Detroit and New York, had an opportunity to then change careers and go into selling for a recognition company called OC Tanner, and that’s where I got into employee engagement and recognition and so on, and I loved it. It was making a difference. Well, I loved selling media time. It was hard for me to connect the dots, how selling a commercial in Columbus, Ohio was making the world a better place. Right? Recognizing employees for their longevity, their achievements, their patents and so on, that really resonated with me.

0:12:00.7 CE: Well, as we started to get into it more and more, I had a project with a consulting company and I wanted to learn more about their company, and he said, “Look, you wanna learn what we’re doing? Read this book. It’s written by our senior VP of HR.” And it was called The Employee… So funny, you think I’d remember this, but it was The Employee… The Talent Equation, something like that. And he overnighted it to me. And I thought, “This is brilliant, your whole philosophy encaptualized in this book.” And positioned them as the thought leaders. And so I called our CEO and I said, “Hey, this is a really good idea, we should write the definitive book on employee recognition. We’ll be the thought leaders, I won’t have to cold call. People will call me looking for my advice ’cause we’re the thought leaders.” And it was so interesting. His name’s Ken Monarch. He says, “Ooh, I love that idea. Go ahead, write the book.” And at that moment, Wayne, it was like, “I don’t think you heard me.”

0:13:01.1 CE: It was like, “You should write the book, and I would benefit from said book.” Right? And that’s when he said, “You know what? You’re a smart guy, figure it out.” Isn’t that a wonderful challenge? And so for like a year, I played with ideas and chapters and so on, and my wife even jumped in. And then he called me back and he said, “I’ve been thinking about that book idea, I hired a writer, I know you’re not a writer, you’re a salesperson, I’ve hired a writer, his name is Adrian Gaustic. Introduce yourself and write the book.”

0:13:33.1 CE: Well, Adrian was born in England, but grew up in Canada, I grew up in Canada, we had that hockey thing in common, and a year after we met, we dropped a book on Kent’s desk called Managing with Carrots, and Kent said, I love being king, you say stuff and it happens, which is great. Well, we sold 30,000 copies, it’s a lot of books.

0:13:57.6 WB: For sure.

0:14:00.9 CE: And then we were off, as you know, now we’ve written 14 books together, we’ve sold 1.6 million copies, they’re in 30 languages, we’ve spoken I think in 50 different countries around the world on employee engagement and culture and leadership, and to the point of… Back to the carrot principle, and managing with carrots and so on, what was really gratifying is the common thread that we found throughout all those areas of great cultures, leaders, and teams was gratitude, and of course, our mascot is the carrot. Right? So I wear orange every day, it’s the brand.

0:14:38.1 CE: And so that’s the journey now, to your point, the ups and downs. It sounds like a fairy tale. Oh, challenge, write a book, sells a lot. As you well know, that no one has overnight success, it was 30 years in the making. Right? And learning how to write and how to get a book published, and pitch the book and sell those books and speaking and so on has been a wonderful, arduous, hard journey, you’d have occasions where you knock it out of the park, and you have cases where, “We missed the boat on that one, we didn’t pay attention.”

0:15:20.3 CE: So I appreciate the question. It’s a longer answer than I was planning on. That’s the journey, and I’m sure executives can relate to that, that you try it, what works, jump on that, continually try to reinvent yourself, and of course, 14 books, 14 different ideas on, “Where are we going? What’s important? What do people need?”

0:15:42.5 WB: And we could throw the rest of the questions out and just keep talking about that topic, I love it, we won’t, I hope we will keep proceeding, but it’s a nice segue anyway into the discussion around the book. Before I dive directly onto the book itself… When I look across the general theme of the books, the 14 books, for me, it looks like there is a central theme, and it’s around leadership, establishing a culture to understand and respect people. And now I don’t know if that’s correct or not, and I would love to be corrected if it’s not, but that was one of the strong messages that comes out to me at least.

0:16:27.0 CE: I think it’s spot on, Wayne, I really do. It’s so interesting how the dynamic of leadership has changed. Adrian and I talk often and we say, “Gosh, if you’d asked us five years ago, ‘What are the attributes of a great leader?’ We would have said, ‘Look, great communicator, paint the vision, get people to follow,’ and on and on, now particularly highlighted by the pandemic, as so many things have been, that if you don’t have empathy as a leader, if you can’t lead with empathy, if you can’t lead with gratitude, none of those other things matter. Your people have to believe and know in their core, that you care about them. You care about them, you care about their families, you care about their careers.”

0:17:15.0 CE: And I know that’s hard to do when you’ve got big organizations and you’ve got pressures from the market and so on, and supply chain, and there are times when the mandate is that 10% cut across the board or a 20% cut across the board. The thing is as we’ve looked at organizations that have gone through hard times in particular, that when they have the trust and the faith of their people, you can navigate that much better. You can really navigate that much better and have a clear vision, and people appreciate that. There are tough calls and sometimes their careers are part of that tough call. Empathy, I think you’re spot on. If I care about you not just as a worker bee… I’ll never forget, we were at a conference presenting, and the question went out is, “What do you expect from your leader?” Isn’t that interesting? What do you expect from your leader?

0:18:11.8 CE: And the comment that really has always stuck with me is one that said, “I don’t want my leader to just make me a more efficient worker, a better worker, I want my leader to help me become a better person.” Well, that’s a huge shift from when you and I got our first jobs. It was, “How do we please the boss?”

0:18:34.5 WB: Yes.

0:18:34.5 CE: “How do we please the customers? The customer’s always right.” Right? And now it’s, “Maybe the customer isn’t always right. In fact, often the customer isn’t right. Are we gonna defend our people? Are we gonna defend our brand? Are we gonna make the right choice for the culture for the brand instead of tipping everything upside down because we get a customer that wants something outrageous?” So that empathy piece and the listening piece has become really, really important.

0:19:05.1 WB: Very nice. Well, let’s jump into the book itself. It’s not a new book, it came out around May of last year, I believe, 2021, called Anxiety at Work, and the book covers eight strategies about how to build resilience, handle uncertainty and get things done. You mentioned in the book, anxiety and the whole topic around employee mental health. And one of the quotes you mentioned is that leaders need to take employee wellbeing as serious as their bottom line results, and I love that statement because I think that’s really at the core of where we are in this world at the moment.

0:19:53.4 CE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, you need to take it seriously because it does impact your bottom line. Right? Turnover, engagement, productivity, innovation, all comes back to having highly engaged employees. Well, how can you be highly engaged if you’re worrying about mental health? We start the book and we don’t talk about it often, when we do podcasts and I think it’s an important element, is, we debunk a bunch of myths around anxiety, and I think that’s important. There are generational differences, my generation, look, when we played sports and somebody got knocked out, we all laughed, we gave him some smelling salts, and send them back in, “Rub some dirt on it, suck it up, turn that frown upside down, I’ll tell you what, cheer up, try that.” And it was very very much misunderstood. Right?

0:20:50.8 WB: Yes.

0:20:52.6 CE: And now with so much more information and so much better education, we can debunk those and say, “You know what? This isn’t something that you can just say, ‘Stiff upper lip, just march out there and get it done.’” There are a lot of things going on. And generationally, I’ll tell you, if you look at the cover of the book, it’s the only book where we have three authors. It’s always been Gostick and Elton, now it’s Gostick and Elton and Gostick. Anthony Gostick, Adrian’s son, really pushed us to write the book. He said, “You guys talk about culture all the time, do you ever talk about mental health?” And we said, “Oh no, are you kidding? Not us, you know that we’re not gonna touch that third rail, that’s death on the tracks.” And he said, “You oldies never talk about it, he goes, my generation we start every conversation with, ‘How are you doing? How are you holding up?’”

0:21:46.6 WB: Wow.

0:21:47.5 CE: And the numbers board out, it’s so interesting. Pre-pandemic, 18%-19% of people said they suffered from an anxiety disorder, so one in five, you get end of 2021, middle of 20… And it’s 30%. That’s a pretty big jump, now that’s everybody. You look at millennials or workers in their 20s is what we parsed out, it was 42%. You’re getting close to half. Your young workers are suffering from some kind of anxiety disorder. Now, everybody gets anxious. Right?

0:22:23.7 WB: Yes.

0:22:24.0 CE: And sometimes it’s a good thing, gives you the impetus to get up and get going. A disorder is when it’s that persistent worry that keeps you from doing your job. So you’re looking at 42%. Well, as you dig deeper and you talk about your bottom line, 50% of millennials and 75% of Gen Z or Gen Z, as you’d say, have quit a job because of mental health reasons. And by the way, why do they quit? Because only one in 10 employees feel safe talking about it in the workplace. You think about it, 90% of your employees that are suffering won’t talk to their manager or supervisor, and why do you think that is, Wayne? Why don’t they talk about it?

0:23:08.1 WB: Well, I’m guessing it’s stigma, it’s fear of consequence.

0:23:14.2 CE: Yeah, absolutely, I’m gonna be seen as weak, can’t handle the pressure, not gonna get a promotion, not gonna get a raise, not gonna get that plum assignment, and so that fear drives them deeper into, “I can’t talk about it, I can’t share with anybody, so better for me to just quit, take some time off, go find another job.” And that’s very sad, I think, when there’s that much lack of trust in a workplace.

0:23:47.8 WB: It is for sure. The first strategy you talk about in the book is around uncertainty and dealing with uncertainty and how uncertainty is one of the, I would say, the prime triggers for anxiety. You’ve mentioned the statistics but you also give a number of actions that leaders can take in addressing this uncertainty. There’s six in total in the book, but are there any that stand out for you in today’s environment where we are at the moment?

0:24:24.4 CE: Oh, absolutely. Look, uncertainty is the number-one driver of anxiety. It’s why it’s strategy number one. Right?

0:24:31.7 WB: Yes.

0:24:33.1 CE: Very few people get to the end of the book, so you put the good stuff up front. So that idea of uncertainty, we talked to leaders about saying, “Look, annual reviews are going the way of the dodo bird. Right?” Check-ins become really important and checking in often, so communication needs to skyrocket. Even if you don’t know, you need to tell people what you don’t know because when there’s a gap in communication, those gaps get filled with rumor, innuendo and fear, and none of those are positive and none of those are productive, so we really encourage leaders to say, “Look, your employees in times of uncertainty need certain questions answered on a regular basis, not just at the beginning and the end of the year.” It’s, “How are we doing?” Not, “How’s the company doing?”

0:25:24.8 CE: I love town hall meetings that are held on a regular basis. American Express, by the way, is a great example of a company that is wonderful at communicating to the masses and to the one. Their CEO has regular town hall meetings, lays out the numbers. “Here’s how we’re doing, here are the issues, here’s how we’re addressing it, here’s where the market is, here’s how we are in relation to the market.” And right down to, “Here’s how it’s gonna impact our health plans, our bonus structures, our growth strategies.” I mean it’s fabulous, and then he opens it up to questions and he says, I love this, “Here’s my cell phone number, text me, call me.” There’s 40,000 employees at American Express. Now, because he’s so open and honest and transparent about it, he doesn’t get deluged because… Why? He’s answered most of their questions, so, “How are we doing? Where are we going?” And then really important, “How am I doing, and what does my future look like here?” It’s so interesting that millennials in particular, the younger workers that are coming, now quite established actually in the workforce, they don’t like to be micromanaged in their work. They love to be micromanaged in their careers.

0:26:45.5 WB: Okay.

0:26:46.6 CE: “How am I doing? Where am I going? What’s my next step?” So answering those questions, “How are we doing? Where are we going as an organization? How am I doing, and what’s my future look like here?” Boy, you answer those four questions. Anxiety comes down real fast because that takes a lot of uncertainty around our company, the industry, the market, and then me personally, our team, and where am I headed? Does that make sense to you?

0:27:14.1 WB: I love that, I’m gonna try that tomorrow with my team.

0:27:16.8 CE: Excellent.

0:27:18.5 WB: I have a large percentage of millennials www and Gen Zs. Another couple of strategies that stand out, and unfortunately, we’re not gonna get through them all, but another one is around perfectionism and the unhealthiness of being a perfectionist in particular, for me, this resonated very loudly because that’s one of my sins during my own career. How do you overcome this as a leader, particularly when you have pressures from your own bosses that expect nothing but the absolute best?

0:27:54.8 WB: Every time, yeah. It’s so funny, I remember, in university, we would do the mock interviews as you get to be a senior, in your internships and looking for jobs and so on… And there was the classic question back then, “So what is your biggest flaw?” And of course, the answer was, “I just work too hard, I’m just a perfectionist, I just won’t… I refuse to fail.” Obviously, just canned questions. Right? And of course, it’s so unhealthy because you can’t… No one can be perfect on everything.

0:28:28.0 CE: And unfortunately, with the advent of our digital lives, whether it’s on TikTok or Instagram or LinkedIn, wherever you go, that everything has to look great all the time. Our children are all exceptional, I speak five languages. Every holiday I take is just off the chart. Magazine, vacation magazine material. Right? And of course, it’s not true.

0:28:57.4 WB: Yes.

0:28:58.1 CE: It’s not true. And so again, back to the leaders, you’ve got to take your people and be very specific on, what level of good do you need? Now, sometimes just good is good enough. We tell the story of Anthony in the book, where he’s a super-smart kid, and I’ve known Anthony since he’s six years old, struggled with anxiety his whole life, we have a child that has struggled with it as well.

0:29:25.6 CE: So not only was this an important book for us to write as far as culture and business, very personal for both Adrian and I. And very interesting that he was given an assignment. He works in a lab with DNA and genome and all this super-smart stuff that Adrian and I can’t spell, let alone pronounce. And his assignment was, take these 10 year old DNA samples and extract the DNA. And he goes, “Okay.” And they gave it to him over the weekend. Well, he’s only getting like seven outta 10, and he’s freaking out. Right? And he keeps doing it over and over and over again. Well, Monday comes, and he’s not sleeping, he’s not eating, and he’s gotta tell the head of the lab that, “I can only get seven outta 10.” Well, the head of the lab says “Seven outta 10. That’s great. These are 10-year-old samples,” and he goes, “Why wouldn’t you tell me that? Why wouldn’t you say, ‘By the way, these are 10-year-old samples? You get six or seven outta… And you’re killing it.” Right? Because without that information, he’s just gonna do it over and over and over again. So sometimes you just say, “Look, I don’t need a 90-slide PowerPoint with animation and video, I need a one-page, six bullet-point document.” That’s all I need. Don’t get crazy.

0:30:46.4 CE: Now, if it’s a billion-dollar deal, yeah, we’re gonna hunker down and make sure that every piece of information is researched and backed up and everybody’s presentation… So that again is the communication piece. How good does it need to be ’cause sometimes just good is good enough. And again, that lowers anxiety. I’m informed, I feel good, and we’re headed in the right direction.

0:31:15.5 WB: So the clarification within the communication needs to be there.

0:31:24.4 CE: Exactly.

0:31:24.5 WB: Yeah, perfect, I’ve bundled two together here, I got a little bit greedy, but I figured they go very nicely together. One was talking about marginal groups, and the other was talking about inclusive work cultures. Again, this is a very topical discussion piece at the moment with… We’re all talking about diversity, inclusion, equity, and it’s the right topic. As a leader, is there anything that stands out that we need to be really cognizant of and make sure that we pay attention to when it comes to that topic?

0:32:05.6 CE: Absolutely, I think we’ve all had the experience of being the other. I mean, if you’ve ever been in junior high school, at a dance, we all get that there’s that anxiety that, “I don’t fit in.” Right? Now, imagine feeling like that all the time. You’re maybe the only woman on the team, you may be the only person on the team whose English is your second language. Right? You may be the only Muslim on the team that’s got to figure out where to go to pray during the day, dietary restrictions, on and on and on. Right?

0:32:42.9 CE: The thing that leaders just need to be aware of, and again, this comes back to leading with empathy, is that you need to lead by example, you need to make sure that people feel included.

0:32:54.2 CE: I’ve got a wonderful leader, Adrian, I do a lot of executive coaching these days, A credit union in Seattle, and when it came to DE&I, and I know there’s a lot of different acronyms you can use for inclusion these days, to lead out, to show up to those groups and say, “Hey, you’ve got my support, I may not know exactly what you’re going through, I can relate to what it feels like.” And that’s really an important way to phrase it. “I know what it feels like to not feel included, to feel like an other, and I wanna make sure that you don’t feel excluded.” So we talk about it in the book, about those social connections, which become really important.

0:33:37.0 CE: I remember being in an organization, and because I don’t drink or smoke, early days in my career, there were lots of stuff after hours that I just didn’t get invited to. Well, you can go to a bar and have a Coke. You don’t have to knock back the shots. And it was really interesting that it wore on me after a while, I kept, “Well, how come I’m not… You guys are talking about all this stuff you’re doing and hanging out,” and of course you get business done in bars, you get business done on golf courses and so on, and if you’re never invited, there’s part of you that feels like, “Am I not good enough? Is it my personal hygiene? What is it?” So leading out and creating those opportunities that say, “Hey, look, we’re gonna make sure that everybody feels comfortable.” And lead out with that.

0:34:29.0 CE: The other thing about inclusion and community is, you’ve gotta be able to talk about stuff, are you making it safe to talk about your life? Particularly now that you’ve got hybrid, you’ve got in-person, you’ve got working at home, sometimes all you’re gonna see is that 2 x 2 screen, little box, and so again, checking in. And it’s really interesting, you never wanna say as a leader, “I get the feeling you’re really anxious,” ’cause they’ll just say, “Oh, no, no, no, not me. Not me, boss, I’m good.” The language that you should use as a leader is, “I’ve noticed.” And it’s just a very easy way to enter in. “You know what, Wayne? I’ve noticed that for somebody who’s never, ever late, you’re starting to show up a little late. For somebody who never misses a deadline, you’re starting to… What do you need? How can I help?” And it’s always on the business side, ’cause you’re the business leader. “Hey, I’ve just noticed, what do you need? How can I help?” Well, when you say, “I’ve noticed,” that gets translated to, “I care.” “Oh you’ve noticed, Oh, you do care.”

0:35:39.5 CE: “You know what? I gotta tell you, boss, these deadlines are just ridiculous, I don’t have the resources I need, I’ll tell you what, If we could push that out a little bit or I could get a little more resources… ” Now, now we’re talking. Now it’s safe. So the idea of, “I’ve noticed,” and “We’ve got a community,” really, really helpful. And if you can tune into that as a leader… I hope a couple of those tips help. Yeah.

0:36:03.2 WB: Yeah, so it’s the whole psychological safety discussion as well that factors in here.

0:36:12.2 CE: It is, and we’d like to raise the bar a little bit on that, Wayne, I’m a big fan of psychological safety, “My voice is heard, my opinion matters.” I think emotional safety is the new standard. “And is it emotionally safe for me to talk about the fact that I’m really worried about my mom and dad? They’re isolating over and over again, I’m worried about my kids. They’ve lost a year at school, they still don’t feel safe, they’re getting bullied,” whatever the… As you know, addiction is up, self-harm is up, abuse is up. Those things are real, and they’re real for… Like my dad used to say, “Everybody’s got something on their chest. Everybody’s got something. Everybody’s worried about somebody.” And so his phrase was, “Be good to everybody, everybody’s having a tough day.” And I think if that’s your mentality going in…

0:37:10.5 WB: Yeah, very nice.

0:37:11.5 CE: It’s very helpful.

0:37:12.3 WB: Yeah, I’m gonna ask you in a moment for some key takeaways, but is there anything that you would love to touch on in relation to Anxiety at Work, the book that we haven’t spoken about that’s very dear to you, that you would like to mention?

0:37:28.2 CE: Thank you for that question, Wayne, because I mentioned earlier that the common thread that we sew through everything was gratitude. And it’s so interesting to us that as we took a deep dive… And we talked to a lot of counselors, we talked to a lot of psychologists and psychiatrists, that as humans, we can’t hold two emotions at the same time. You can’t be happy and sad, you can’t be anxious and grateful, so I’m a big fan of rituals, and what are some of your gratitude rituals? I mentioned one that my wife and I have. What are your three things at the end of the day? I have a tradition, I carry a little gratitude stone with me, I know this is just audio, but I keep it at my desk, I put ’em in my pocket, just as a reminder that there’s always something to be grateful for, and I have a tradition that I actually pass these little stones to people, whether it’s the flight attendant that’s done a great job or whoever it is at the grocery store that’s checking out a million people and trying to make ends meet. Simple acts of random kindness, and those traditions and rituals of gratitude, I think are so important. Whether you meditate or you pray or you read your Scriptures or you’ve got positive affirmations.

0:38:48.1 CE: I developed a wonderful mantra from reading a wonderful book called Think Like a Monk. I love that book. And it challenges everybody, “What is your mantra?” And so my morning mantra is, “Be kind. Be grateful, and be of service.” And I think that those all help tamp down anxiety, and over and above all of that, who do you have that you can talk to? I am blessed with an amazing wife. Just this morning, we were both going through a bunch of stuff, and just being able to sit down and share your day, “What’s coming up? What have you been through? How’s your cold? Are you exercising? Are you eating? Let’s talk about the kids.” I think the biggest message when it comes to anxiety that leaders can message and that you can message to your family and friends is that they’re not alone, that there’s always somebody to talk to, and boy, having gratitude rituals, whatever your personal health are, you’re going for walks, exercising, meditating, prayers, whatever it might be, and then remembering that you’re not alone, that you’ve got somebody to talk to. If those are your only takeaways, boy, I think those are huge.

0:40:07.7 WB: Fantastic, I’ve taken the Three Blessing Gratitude approach from Martin Seligman, so very similar to what you’re talking about, so very nice.

0:40:18.4 CE: There’s a lot of ways to do it. Find what works for you and stick to it, and the more you do it, the more it becomes who you are, and I think that’s the lovely part.

0:40:29.5 WB: Time is almost up or probably already up. Anything you’re working on at the moment that we should know about? I’m sure there’s a book somewhere.


0:40:39.9 CE: Oh yeah, there’s always another book, and thanks for asking, I don’t know that we’ll get it out. It’s a bit of a labor of love for me, and we’ll figure out something. We’re actually working on a gratitude journal, which I think will be great fun. You’ve probably picked up, I’m a big fan of rituals, I need to go for my walk every day, I need to say my prayers every day, I need to read some positive things and keep on track that way. And the idea behind our gratitude journal is to have something to make you think and put you in that mode of gratitude. And then just daily challenges. What are you doing today to keep yourself on track? And at the end, start your day with gratitude. Reflect on gratitude at some point, and end your day with just writing down… I’m a big fan of journals and in being reflective, I’ve over 40 journals now in my collection. I don’t know that my kids will ever read them. I do tell them that I do put money inside the pages every now and again, so you should go on a treasure hunt at some point. So to me, that’s important, and if we can create a vehicle, a journal that helps people in the ritual of staying mentally healthy and in a grateful state, I think that would be a good contribution.

0:42:03.8 WB: Yeah, yeah. Chester, where would people go to find you? I know there’s a million different sites, but which is the best location to head to.

0:42:15.4 CE: Yeah, thecultureworks.com. The Culture Works is our website where you can find everything about our books, our speaking, our coaching, our training. And follow me on LinkedIn. Every two weeks, we publish a wonderful newsletter called the Gratitude Journal, we’ve been picked up actually a half a dozen times now as the Idea of the Day on LinkedIn, so we’re very proud of that. It’s free, we have over 130,000 subscribers now, and we’re constantly publishing ideas, and we share our books, our friends’ books, ideas, places you can go for resources. So thecultureworks.com and Linkedin, two good places to find us.

0:42:57.9 WB: Alright, we’ll link to those in our show notes, but I’m sure most people know where to find you already, but excellent. Final… Sorry, please.

0:43:07.3 CE: One last thing, and I would be remiss because we’re talking about anxiety at work. We also have a wonderful podcast, Anxiety at Work, we bring in wonderful experts, leaders and so on that talk about how they’ve dealt with their personal anxiety, and their rituals, so. I can’t believe we didn’t lead with that. The podcast, Anxiety at Work, is gonna be a great tool for you.

0:43:29.3 WB: And it’s available through Audible as well as all the podcast platforms, I’m sure, so the final question, takeaways, what would you like to leave? Final words of wisdom, perhaps?

0:43:44.6 CE: Yeah, I would just like to reiterate words of wisdom from my father. He had a huge impact on me. My dad was my best friend and my first manager and my biggest cheerleader. And I just loved his attitude. You always felt better about yourself after you spent some time with my dad, and it was a wonderful gift that he had. And that saying of, “Be good to everybody, everybody’s having a tough day,” I think is a wonderful way to end the podcast. Just be aware that people are struggling out there, and they may look great on their Instagram and they may look great on their Facebook page. Everybody’s got something. Be kind, be grateful, and be of service. “How can I help?” I think is a great question.” “How can I help?” And when you’re serving other people and you’re not focused on all your woes, ’cause I know you got them, it does lighten the load and it makes everybody’s day a little better, so be good to everybody. Everybody’s having a tough day.

0:44:46.8 WB: Chester Elton, thank you very much for the opportunity to have the conversation. It’s been an enormous privilege, and I look forward to… One day, we may do it again, I hope.

0:45:00.4 CE: Oh, absolutely. Call me anytime. Wayne, it’s been a delight. Thank you for the platform, and thank you for getting the message out on how to deal with anxiety at work.

0:45:09.1 S2: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time. Check out our site for free videos, ebooks, webinars, and blogs at coaching4companies.com.

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