Lab Notes Connection Lab Podcast

Lab Notes Episode 9 - Isn't that interesting?

June 02, 2022 Russell Hamilton Season 1 Episode 9
Lab Notes Episode 9 - Isn't that interesting?
Lab Notes Connection Lab Podcast
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Lab Notes Connection Lab Podcast
Lab Notes Episode 9 - Isn't that interesting?
Jun 02, 2022 Season 1 Episode 9
Russell Hamilton

Lab Notes Episode 9 - Isn't that interesting?

The best content in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t communicate. Value propositions live and die by how they are offered and received. In this episode two more amazing guests offer their process turning powerful theory into great practice.

On this episode, we talk to: 

Breanden Beneschott Cofounder and CEO, Mechanism Ventures LLC 

Michelle McComb CFO, Bluecore Retail Marketing Technology

Conversations revolve around how they are practicing and what they are discovering based on their Connection Lab Experience.

For reference, here is the Connection Lab Six Box Model

About Lab Notes - the Connection Lab Podcast - is an ongoing conversation with people who have been though a Connection Lab workshop, an executive development program or through a Leadership Journey program. For everyone who has ever been to a workshop of this sort and had a useful experience - but are still working on turning that experience into a conscious practice - this is a show designed to support your effort and remind us all that we are not alone.

If you want to be a guest on an upcoming episode email us at

More information is available on our website

Show Notes Transcript

Lab Notes Episode 9 - Isn't that interesting?

The best content in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t communicate. Value propositions live and die by how they are offered and received. In this episode two more amazing guests offer their process turning powerful theory into great practice.

On this episode, we talk to: 

Breanden Beneschott Cofounder and CEO, Mechanism Ventures LLC 

Michelle McComb CFO, Bluecore Retail Marketing Technology

Conversations revolve around how they are practicing and what they are discovering based on their Connection Lab Experience.

For reference, here is the Connection Lab Six Box Model

About Lab Notes - the Connection Lab Podcast - is an ongoing conversation with people who have been though a Connection Lab workshop, an executive development program or through a Leadership Journey program. For everyone who has ever been to a workshop of this sort and had a useful experience - but are still working on turning that experience into a conscious practice - this is a show designed to support your effort and remind us all that we are not alone.

If you want to be a guest on an upcoming episode email us at

More information is available on our website

Announcer (00:00):

From little mountain sound in Vancouver, British Columbia. This is Lab Notes. And now here's your host, Russ Hamilton.

Russ (00:07):

Hello. Welcome to the program. This is Lab notes, the Connection Lab podcast. I'm your host, Russ Hamilton. Let's take a breath. Ah, if you are a participant of the Connection Lab workshop, welcome back to the gig. If you are curious about Connection Lab and looking to hear what participants are saying, welcome and way to do your diligence. Good job. If you're here looking for Correction Lab, you've made a typo - that's a spelling podcast for grade three students, and that's a different show. Oh, spelling has two Ls. He in let's open with some optimism. Let's shake off worry and despair for a moment and share some optimism. I am very optimistic about the world today and the future. I'm happy to share why I'm optimistic because everyday I get to see people choose courage. I watch people be brave and I am moved and inspired by them.

Russ (01:06):

Think about it. I run communication workshops. I mean, yikes. The participants in these events are nervous, reluctant, but determined. In these workshops everyone takes a turn presenting to the group. We've done a writing exercise. People share what they've written with the audience. Some people think it's no big deal. Some people though are facing their worst fear. When we finish with one participant and the group applauds them like crazy, the noise dies down and then the moment arrives. Who's next, the person facing their worst fear goes cold. Their hands are shaking. They've stopped breathing. And this is on zoom. They don't wanna do this. They would rather be anywhere else, but they slowly raise their hand. It is an act of astounding courage, and I am honored to be in their presence. I see it over and over again. I've seen it hundreds of times. And my optimism, my faith in humanity is restored.

Russ (02:12):

Every time, people of different color, religion, gender background, then practice connecting with each other in a way that lets the audience drive the experience, not the stress of the moment or their content. Curiosity about the audience becomes a safe place for even the most anxious presenter. I'm reminded that safety is not the absence of threat - safety is the presence of connection. We can do this people. We can fulfill our potential. Our team's potential, our business potential all of it. We can do it. Okay. I'm gonna breathe. We have two guests on the show today, two participants who were both nervous <laugh> but chose to be brave. And now wanna talk about their experience and their practice. Our first guest is a lovely person, a dedicated student, an amazing leader. He's a dad, he's a partner, a horse lover. He's also the CEO of Mechanism Venture Capital, a very passionate and unique venture capital group, which we will get into in a moment. But please welcome to the program. Breanden Benneschott. Are you well, are you thriving?

Breanden (03:26):

I'm great. Thanks for having me.

Russ (03:27):

That's fantastic. So I sent you the one -sheet here, the Six Box and all the prompts. Is that interesting to you? Is there something on there that kind of sparks your Connection Lab practice? Or can you reflect on old notes or old memories or old conversations? What's interesting to you about the Connection Lab practice?

Breanden (03:47):

You know, something that has stood out to me a lot is I've never, I don't think I've ever said this out loud before, but your advice to describe things as 'interesting' <laugh> and I think for the, for the longest time I thought that interesting was almost like a garbage word. Like you're not really saying anything, but in some ways that's almost like the point <laugh> it's, it's interesting. Like when instead I usually like would jump to that's bad or good or something that was almost stressful and then instead realizing that it's a tool to sort of channel stress or tame, stress, sort of between, I don't know, stimulus and response, you have choice. And just by saying, 'Isn't that interesting?' not only are you kind of going from, I think it's right brain to left brain and kind of naming as taming and for me who I'm starting to realize that I run on anxiety in a lot of ways.

Breanden (04:50):

Just being able to say something like 'interesting' at first gives me the second to breathe, not be judgmental sort of process, like choose how I wanna respond. Like choose how do I wanna show up under, under stress? And really almost like I started to think of it as almost like meditation on demand. Mm-hmm <affirmative> where meditation to me is a practice being effortless or non-reactive. And when you close your eyes and you meditate and you have thoughts, it's don't react to them. It's oh, there's that thought? Interesting. And there it goes. And I don't know, I found that to be one of my favorite takeaways from all of this and you, every time we interact a dozen, maybe multiple dozens of times, when I'm talking about things and that are wrapped up in, you know, some judgment of like this is inherently bad or not, or even just sharing sort of my, how I'm processing things and your reaction is so often deep breath.

Breanden (06:00):

And 'Isn't that interesting'. And I take so much comfort in that. It's like, yes, it is. That's not a garbage word. This is a, this is a wonderful tool. At least for me, where in your constant stress and definitely care about how I show up under stress and I'm trying to get better at that. And to me, that's been one of the most profound things here and realizing that it's almost this, like I said before, meditation on demand, like what a cool concept. Cause it doesn't have to be just when, when we're speaking say 'isn't that interesting'. It's like you have a million things going on in your head at all times. And they're often stressful if you're me and that extra step of giving yourself permission to say, 'isn't that interesting?' Like how freaking helpful <laugh> how simple .

Russ (06:48):

That's so amazing. And I love that so much. I have so many questions about that. Are you cuz it's almost a tonic for the judgment right and wrong, good and bad up and down, right? Yes. Are you noticing it in contrast with your normal responses to stress, which is, that's not right. This is not good. This is bad, bad, bad, or this is awesome. It's the best thing that's ever happened. Is this a, is this pulling back observing more? Is it a, is it a reaction when you say isn't that interesting?

Breanden (07:22):

Yeah. Well I think you said something that I really like, you said this on our very first conversation and several times since where 'you can't be judgmental and curious at the same time and it's interesting', like calling something interesting. And then for me, it's trying to understand why is it interesting? It just catalyzes curiosity versus default judgment. Like this is good or this is bad or needs to be fixed or something else. And I don't know for me, it's being a little less reactive- makes things less stressful.

Russ (08:01):

Beautiful. Are you noticing it in others are how they show up under stress and then they judge the crap out of you and themselves. And are you modeling for others? Are you transparent about your practice around the word? Interesting.

Breanden (08:14):

Yeah, it was actually the other day I was working with a colleague who I respect a lot and she was describing something that I can't remember if it was great or if it was a problem that needed to be solved. And I responded deliberately you're in my head, in that moment and said, isn't like, isn't that interesting? And her reaction at first was kind of like, uh, you, Breanden, interesting's kind of like a garbage word. Right? <laugh> like, it doesn't mean anything <laugh> and, and it's funny, I've heard Tim Ferris and some other people say the exact same thing. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I, I stopped there and I told her a lot of what I just told you mm-hmm <affirmative> like, actually I totally disagree. I, I used to agree, but I found a ton of value in it.

Breanden (09:05):

And it's not because it helps you figure out whether something's good or bad or what to do about it. Right. It's deliberately taking a pause and like meditating for a moment before you do that. And, then you're just giving yourself this foundation to choose how you want to show up under stress or how you want to react to this. If you even do need to react to it. Right. Which I think often times you don't, but if you're type A and kind of go getter, then your default is I'm supposed to have the answer at all times. And if I don't, that's stressful and I need to react and I need to solve problems. And that's just not always the case. I guess

Russ (09:43):

The phrase with interesting is almost an answer unto itself - in a way it is a judgment. It is cuz you're saying, oh, it's not less than interesting. It's interesting. And it can be its own answer. Right? Yeah. And it might not be the answer that somebody was expecting or hoping for cuz they want a transactional response here. But the fact that it's interesting means it has a gravity to it. Oh, if it's interesting, like legitimately interesting, then I get to look at it closer. I get to weigh it. I get to test for density, for temperature, you know, what is this response that's happening right now? Is it grounded in something measurable or is it all just collective opinion? If it's interesting, I get to explore it versus if I'm noticing how I show up under stress and I'm like, oh Russ, you can't ever say that you can't ever do that. And then I push it out of my consciousness specifically because I don't wanna see how I'm showing up under stress. I don't wanna know that about me. I can push it outta my consciousness. And that's where a bunch of anxiety and stress and depression and other bad things come from is the energy it takes for me to push how I respond to stress out of my consciousness.

Breanden (10:54):

Yeah. I also find that for me, if it just stopped there by saying, isn't that interesting and that's it that that'd be underwhelming, but, I think for me, 'it's interesting' is like an opens the door to asking why. And if you're asking why then you're, you're curious, if you're curious, not judgmental and when you're not judgmental, you make better decisions and you can be more objective about things. And, to me that's been my number one takeaway from working with it for the last couple of years is 'how do you show up under stress? 'And yeah, this is like a really neat hack I was not expecting

Russ (11:39):

Amazing. Right. And being curious and judgmental. Have you ever caught yourself telling yourself you're being curious while being judgmental?

Breanden (11:48):

<laugh> <laugh> No, never

Russ (11:51):

<laugh> and we are done here. Thank you, Breanden. Thank you.

Breanden (11:57):

<laugh> Doesn't sound like something I would do.

Russ (11:58):

This never happens. Yes.

Breanden (12:00):

Yeah. All the time, right? Yes.

Russ (12:04):

Cuz I do too. I'm so glad you say that. Cuz that I catch myself and some what sometimes I say isn't that interesting sarcastically, cuz I'm so angry. I'm so frustrated. And I'm like, oh, isn't that interesting Russ. But I think even that has value cuz I'm still doing muscle memory. I'm still practicing muscle memory. Even if I'm saying it sarcastically and people bust me for it. And then we just have a big laugh cuz I'm like, I'm just off the hook. So frustrated right now that I can throw furniture around. Isn't that interesting? How far can I throw this chair? Oh my God. Right? Yeah. So being curious and judgmental. So how's that going? Is that a practice choosing curiosity?

Breanden (12:44):

Yes. And I've been trying harder, especially over the last couple of years to practice being curious. And I think part of being, being curious is not making assumptions or being curious about the assumptions that you're making. And I find that a lot of, a lot of stress, especially like interpersonal type stress comes from making assumptions about the other person or what they know or think or intentions, et cetera. And trying to be curious about that is, again, just, it sort of takes the judgment away from it. And I find helps give benefit of the doubt in areas as well, where you're like, okay, that made no sense or that somebody's making really poor decisions or something like that. And saying like, I wonder why I'm just being curious about it. On the one hand, again, takes the stress to hold down about this interaction or whatever this problem is. And really like fineses the like solutioning as well because you, you go into a confrontation or a situation with other people and I think it just sort of exudes humility when you're coming in, not making a bunch of assumptions, but you've also kind of like pre contemplated why they might be in this position and you come across as much more invested in them as a person and sort of dealing, seen and heard from the first few moments of what might otherwise be like a pretty tense interaction

Russ (14:15):

When it's needed the most, when curiosity is needed, the most is in high stress interactions. Yeah. High stakes interactions. This is when we need, this is why we practice when the stakes are low. Yeah. Practice being curious and using the phrase when the stakes are low, that way I get some muscle memory. And that way, when I'm in a situation where the stakes are higher or much higher, my body has a memory of going, oh, do I wanna be curious here, judgmental and, you know, is this an interesting situation or is something else going on?

Intro (14:44):

If you're scrolling or just joining us, we are talking to Breanden Benneschott the CEO of Mechanism Venture Capital.

Russ (14:51):

And what I wrote down, as you were saying that is, am I open to new information? Right.

Breanden (14:58):

That's a big one. I ask people that pretty regularly now, ever since you said it and I wrote it down and cause I definitely value receptivity a lot and worked with people or interacted with people who are just absolutely not open to new information. They made their up their minds a long time ago and that's, that's it. And, at this point they're opinion shopping at best. And,

Russ (15:25):

That's we call it, we call it decision based evidence making

Breanden (15:29):

<laugh> yeah, yeah.

Russ (15:31):

<laugh> right. Made the decision. Now I'm just gonna collect the evidence to support the decision I've made.

Breanden (15:36):

Yeah. So not only do I find those types of personalities, like pretty insufferable, it's just, they don't make great colleagues. Don't make like good business decisions, good interpersonal decisions. Just don't that's not how they're made.

Russ (15:52):

So what happens when you see an older version of yourself in somebody who's convinced that they're open to new information when in fact they are not

Breanden (16:04):

In the older version of myself, what do you mean?

Russ (16:06):

Was there a version of you that was convinced you were open to new information when you were not?

Breanden (16:11):

Oh yeah. <laugh> <laugh> right.

Russ (16:15):

Sound like that, right? Never Russ never, I don't know what you're talking about. Um, so when you see it in somebody else, a young professional an executive, when they are convinced that they are open to new information when clearly they are not, do you see, do you empathize with them a little bit and go, oh, I remember that version of me <laugh> or is something else happening?

Breanden (16:40):

Interesting. I think there's definitely empathy there, and, more so, then before we started our work. And I think maybe it's just my personality, but seeing others make mistakes that I've already made in the past can be frustrating

Russ (16:59):

Of course.

Breanden (17:01):

And just realizing that the everybody arrives at like this at the given moment via their own path. And trying to remember that the everybody's is different than mine, um, has been, it's funny, given what I do now, especially that's a daily dose of humility for right. Oh, like can't make that assumption because we're from totally different backgrounds. Right. And you talk about it. And even if somebody's not super open to information, what I try to do is you peel back the layers, find common ground, and build from there. And at some point you diverge, you try to figure out, what does this mean? And a lot of times what, what I find of value is trying to out if you're making a business decision then you just don't agree on it, let's say, you can break it down into like type one or type two decisions.

Breanden (17:56):

So type one is irreversible you like getting married is supposed to be a type one decision or type two is, it's two way door, like if going in doesn't work, go wow. And, most things I think get categorized by default as type one mm-hmm um, when we're actually type two and approach and having a discussion with somebody who's not open to new information, let's say, and getting to that point where you've established some common ground and now you're figuring out like, all right, where you truly diverge and saying like, okay, well, is this type one or type two almost everything's type two, especially if you're creative. And, then, at that point it's all right, well now let's test and learn and, and set this up in a way where you have to be open to new information because that's what the test is for and I don't know, I'm starting to get a lot of mileage out of that approach.

Russ (18:51):

Love it. What are you trying to get better at these days? What competencies are you trying to get better at?

Breanden (18:54):

I'm trying to get better at everything, but, competency still is 'how do I show up under stress?' Yeah. I I'm still there. Yeah. I I'm an extremely shy person, like very introverted and really like unreasonably stressed out about things like public speaking. Yeah. And I've, I haven't quite cracked that. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and in some ways I try to view it as, okay. So if this isn't just gonna go away, can I reframe it as a, as a positive mm-hmm <affirmative> um, I'm out of my comfort zone person. A person I trust a lot once told me that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. And so does that mean that I'm living when I'm uncomfortable and I'm doing these things like speaking, et cetera. I still feel I have a few different unlocks or epiphanies that I need to reach in order to be really where I want to be in terms of the showing up under stress. And, that's what I'm trying to get better at.

Russ (19:58):

Nice. Do you have any questions for me?

Breanden (20:01):

I think we've had an unusual journey in that you and I met days before lockdown started happening, right. With COVID and the traditional connection lab approach. Would've been me flying up toNew York and being on stage in a heavy in person component. And you and I are, what is it 3000 miles away? And have, I don't know if we've ever even been closer than that, and, certainly, I've never met in person, et cetera. And so we, we talked about this, a couple years ago and decided to give this a shot kind of experimental or experiment a bit and try it virtually. And I also think I had a, perhaps unique, goal here where was less like it was really about tackling the anxiety stuff, especially around public speaking versus kind of content and audience. And, from a lifetime of feedback, felt like I was pretty good in those departments - could certainly be better, but to me it wasn't problem number one, mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, I'm really curious from your perspective how this went kind of virtual versus in person and what you've learned from that,

Russ (21:24):

I am regularly shocked at how impactful this work can be over zoom. I say that because my predisposition around this, I discovered that I was a theater snob <laugh> I was an in person snob, cuz I've had people for many years saying Russ, we have to do this virtually. I work with first responders in Europe for the refugee crisis. I work with people in south America. I work with people who are dealing with high stakes, low money situations. And they've been saying, if you could do this online, then we could really expand the work. And for years I said, oh yes, I know, but you'd be missing out on the magnificent in person theatrical experience. And, it is magnificent, but I had my head so far up my backside on that, that it was embarrassing. I didn't trust the methodology fully.

Russ (22:15):

Right. I, I was scared that the methodology wouldn't wouldn't have the same or similar impact. Um, so I had to do all that learning and it was shocking and it was brutal and bruising and a huge relief because what's interesting is when you're exploring the principles of the performing arts, which are pick a number, you know, 10,000 years old, you know, some of the oldest theater in the world and audiences gathering and storytelling. And I mean, it's just a magnificent, rich history of theater. And the fact that those principles transferred fairly easily to film and then television with a camera and a microphone and quality of relationship. And we have our favorite movies and we have our favorite actors and actresses. And we feel seen by them when they're on film and I'm watching a movie that's 60 years old and I'm leaning into the television set and I'm like, oh, don't go into that door.

Russ (23:12):

I care about the character - I care. And I've seen it before, but their quality of relationship is so good that I feel seen and heard. So, the fact is that these principles transfer seamlessly from theater to film and television. And that's what zoom is. It is a camera and it is a microphone. And when I state my intentions and I say, I'm being curious about somebody right now and I say their name. And then I surrender responsibility for their experience of me. I don't decide what their experience of me is. I'm just gonna be curious about them. What color their eyes, what color their eyebrows, what shapes do I see? And, then that person raises their hand because they feel seen - that moment of reclaiming the value of human relationship. I cannot tell you the impact of that when I saw it the first time and you were one of the first experiments with that.

Russ (24:01):

And, and then I lean back on the name of the company. It's a Connection Lab. It's a laboratory for a connection. Our entire function is to practice, explore these boundaries. Where do people feel seen and heard under what conditions, what are the practices? What does it mean to reclaim the value of human relationships? What does it mean to dive into the essence of collaboration and co-creation um, what does it mean to connect pre-language pre culture, right in this age of diversity and inclusion, what unites us before we are divided by, you know, gender and age and religion and color, what binds us together? And the answer is that we can feel seen and heard around each other and suddenly all those things downstream become less important. Yes, I can acknowledge your autonomy and I can acknowledge the community that we're all a part of, so that it is an epic transition for me.

Russ (24:56):

And now, as I told you, as in our, you know, earlier, in our warmup conversation in the green room, I, we just finished our first in person workshop in two years, we were down in Seattle working with this great company and we just had a great time. And now I'm back and we've got a bunch of online workshops and we're graduating a bunch of new facilitators. They're getting certified and yeah, so business is booming and it couldn't be better. And the fact that we can transmit and transform this to an online experience is extremely valuable. So thank you for being in our laboratory for that and participating. And I'm glad to see and continue to hope that it will be of benefit.

Breanden (25:35):

What a wonderful answer mm-hmm, <affirmative>, haven't thought about that from 10,000 years of in person theater.

Russ (25:41):

Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I studied theater history, so I know all these amazing plays and the study of the human condition from south America and China and Africa and India, how they've been exploring the human condition for thousands of years through theater. And these are great plays, great pieces of theater. And, then now we have zoom and can we transform? Can we practice these great, you know, practices of connection and being curious instead of judgmental and invitation and offer, instead of trying to control my audience's experience of me and having none of that infringe upon my authority, whatever it might be in the business. And, so, I just think, yeah, the whole curve has been amazing. So this has been an extraordinary lesson for me, and I'm very grateful for it.

Breanden (26:31):

Awesome. I'm grateful too.

Russ (26:32):

Nice. One last question. Are you gonna listen to this podcast? Are you gonna listen to your own conversation with me?

Breanden (26:39):

Yeah, I am totally.

Russ (26:40):

Nice. Fantastic. Breandan you rock. You're very generous. Thank you for joining me in this. Thank you for participating. I look forward to our next conversation and go out there and crush it, man.

Breanden (26:52):

Me too. Thank you so much.

Russ (26:54):

Excellent. That was Breanden Benneschott the CEO of Mechanism Venture Capital. If you wanna find out more about what makes Mechanisms such a unique venture capital group, go to You can send a ping to Breandan. Let him know you heard him on Lab Notes and get the conversation going from there.

Announcer (27:12):

You're listening to Lab Notes, part of the Connection Lab network for more information about our workshops and executive development programs email us at or go to our website

Russ (27:26):

Okay. The beat goes on. Our next guest is another amazing person on the executive team at Bluecore retail marketing technology. They are doing very interesting things in that field. Please welcome to the program, the amazing Michelle McComb. Michelle, you are a parent, you are a partner, you are a horse lover. Um, and you're the CFO and CPO at Bluecore. Is that correct?

Michelle (27:54):

That is correct.

Russ (27:55):

Amazing. How did we meet? Do you remember?

Michelle (27:59):

You know, that's a really good question. <laugh> that is a great question.

Russ (28:02):

I feel good about it.

Michelle (28:04):

Yeah, I am. I, you know, I remember us chatting early on. Where you kind of shared with me what Connection Lab is all about, but I don't remember how we were introduced.

Russ (28:19):

I remember

Michelle (28:20):

Come on, then fill me in.

Russ (28:21):

Our buddy, Matt Blumberg at Bolster.

Michelle (28:25):

Oh, that's right.

Russ (28:27):

Mat Blumberg introduced us over a year ago. And you know, that whole team at bolster with Kathy Hawley and Katie Berger and Ken Takahashi, and they're just doing an amazing job and they thought we should meet you.

Michelle (28:40):

That's right. Six degrees of separation.

Russ (28:42):

Amazing. So quick shout out to bolster and that amazing group. And then we ended up doing a bunch of stuff together. We ended up doing a couple of workshops with the leadership team.

Michelle (28:53):

With our executive team.

Russ (28:55):

Yeah. What, tell me, what do you remember about that? What do you remember about our experience?

Michelle (29:01):

Wow. Well, here's what I'll tell you. So got super great feedback. I'm gonna tell you that because it was so engaging. If you do a little walk back on memory lane, cause it was a, like a year into my joining of Bluecore, I had picked up responsibility for the People Team, and coming together into an executive team in COVID. So a hundred percent remote, the rest of the executive team had been, um, together before pre COVID. So it interacted together. I was the newbie and the remote one. And, so, really found it as an opportunity for all of us to engage in something meaningful, that we could then, come together in a more remote way and improve some skills. And then I could also selfishly get to know my executive team better.

Russ (30:07):

Nice. So that's lovely. I love that. That's what you were in service of to introduce this work and honestly, you know, brave and optimistic, cuz even though we had a lovely chat about it, you didn't know, certainly they didn't know what they were getting into.

Michelle (30:23):


Russ (30:24):

Yeah. <laugh>

Michelle (30:25):

You gotta kind of put yourself out there don't you in these workshops?

Russ (30:28):

It's so true. We did two workshops. We did module one, we did module two. What do you remember about module one? And it's okay if the answer is nothing Russ.

Michelle (30:38):

I do remember, so it was kind of setting up how traditionally you get very connected to your content. Right. And so it was actually, how do you think about that relationship with your audience over over the content? And so what I do remember was you had us write about what, our leadership, what we wanted, our leadership legacy to be that. And, so that was something where we all got to share and learn a bit about each other. Amazing. So, you know what? I like that there was something you said that stuck with me in that part when we were doing the session is you said that you can't be curious and judgmental at the same time. And I love that because, I really felt the curiosity anyway, over judgment because then it's actually a very positive way to get to know others versus, and especially if you're engaging in new relationships, you don't wanna be judged. I don't wanna be judged who wants to be judged. So instead, it's like a really positive way to look at something of, I want to get to know you audience, whoever that happens to be colleague new person, whatever. So,

Russ (32:09):

And I, as an audience member, I want to be seen, I have an appetite to be seen. So if you're legitimately curious about me, some real basic need of mine is already satisfied that I feel that you are being curious about me and I feel seen. And because of that, trust builds and opportunities to really collaborate and co-create start to grow. And I just think that's an amazing moment. I remember people were very judgmental about their content. It's a seven minute writing exercise. Oh yeah. And everybody's like, oh, this could have been better. Oh, I wish I'd had more time. And everybody kind of obsessed about their content a little bit. And then during the actual exercises themselves, the content turned out to be magnificent because it grew in impact because everybody prioritized relationship with their audience ahead of relationship with their content. It's almost counterintuitive, right? If I want to emphasize and maximize my content, I kind of have to let my grip on it, go a little bit. And in fact, invest in the person I'm communicating with and trust my content, which I think was challenging. But wow, what a payoff.

Michelle (33:13):

If I recall correctly, cuz you know, spent a year, there's a lot of information going through my head in a year. But if I remember correctly, we did it once, right where we read our content. And, then the second time we did it, where we were, we did the like be curious, look into our audience, pick someone like not pay as much attention to the content, but pay more attention to when we were looking into the audience, people would put their hand up if they felt like they were being seen. And, they then also paid more attention, like to what you were saying.

Russ (33:55):

And then we did a month later Module Two, we did Demand and Call to action. What do you remember about that one? Yeah,

Michelle (34:03):

No, I love that one actually because it was around, if I'm right, like there were games that we played too, like linger longer. Is that one of 'em

Russ (34:18):

That's one of em

Michelle (34:18):

Linger Longer and Permission to Begin. Yeah. There was there's some others too, but what I remember was all around finding the action verbs and like pick a favorite word. Is that one

Russ (34:29):

That's right. That was actually in Module one. But that's the audience gets to pick their favorite word from what the presenter says, repeat it back to them. And then the presenter waits to hear what word it is and then repeats it back to them and oh, just everybody is seen and heard.

Michelle (34:44):

Yeah. But I think though it was collecting your action verbs. Right? So that you could, when you're engaging with whomever, your audience was to understand the call to action. Right. That was, I thought that was huge because when you are communicating to let's just say a broader audience. I use this in particular working when we did town halls with our company was - are we just sharing information or is there something that we want them to do? I spent time looking and trying to figure out when we were doing our presentations, what are we asking of our audience? How were we bringing them into the conversation?

Russ (35:33):

Amazing. Uh, what scene did you do? Do you remember?

Michelle (35:37):

I remember it was the Billboards, right? The catch him, remember catch him. Yeah.

Russ (35:44):

Find him,

Michelle (35:46):

Find him, Let Me Do My Job. Right. You know, find him. Yeah. Right. That's

Russ (35:50):

What I remember. Right. Because that's a scene where, you know, the what's her name. Oh, I forget the character's name. But her daughter was killed in the movie and the cops weren't finding them and it's like, you know, and he just wants you to take down the billboards.

Michelle (36:03):

Yeah. And he's like, come on, you're causing a lot of noise

Russ (36:06):

And you, you feel

Michelle (36:07):

...and like I'm doing stuff with

Russ (36:08):

The dentist thumb. Right. Well that wasn't me. Is that what he said? That wasn't me. Oh my goodness, but his call to action was let it go for your own health. For the good of the town. For the memory of your daughter. Let it go. And your call to action was Find Him. I'll take care of the rest. All you need to do is Find Him.

Michelle (36:30):

Find him. And this was, let me do my job. Right.

Russ (36:34):

And, the tension in that scene was so good. Everybody became such good actors because the quality of relationship was so good between the actors. Does your partner feel seen and heard? Right. So all of a sudden call to action and demand only become available as tools when your audience feels seen and heard. That's why those modules happen one after the other, because we're swimming in demands. But, our audiences don't always feel seen and heard. In fact, quite rarely do they feel seen and heard?

Michelle (37:03):

Well, I also think part of it is, are you clear because in some of the role plays, whatever, you could get very good clarity in what that call to action is. Right? And so you could check it against, are you being clear? Do you know, your call to action. Are you beating around the bush? Are you being vague? You know? And therefore that's the message you're sending out to your audience. Right? Which is, I don't know what I'm asking you to do exactly.

Announcer (37:36):

If you're just joining us or scrolling around a bit. We are talking to Michelle McComb, the chief financial officer and chief people officer at Bluecore retail, marketing technology. Welcome

Michelle (37:47):

Welcome Back.

Russ (37:48):

Thanks. You too.

Michelle (37:49):

Thanks. So glad to be here.

Russ (37:52):

Yeah. <laugh> so right when I'm giving a presentation, am I clear on what I want the audience to do?

Michelle (38:00):

Or if not, cause if you think about it, if you're not, if you can't pick some of those verbs, it's highly likely that your audience can't either. And so you're sending them either vague or mixed messages.

Russ (38:19):

As the audience. What I want is for you to call the play. Yeah. Be the quarterback. Call the play, huddle us up and call the play. Is it a run or is it a pass? I'll let you know if I have a problem with the play, but just call it. I work with a lot of executives, the metaphor of the football huddle, right? The quarterback comes in and says, okay, the coaches have come up with what I think is a really good play for this situation. Okay, great. We don't care. <laugh> what your opinion is. Just call the play. No, no. They've noticed a couple of injuries on the other team. And so what they've done is call a play that they think is gonna take advantage of those injuries. Cuz now they've got some second STR dude, we have seven seconds left. You have got to call the play. No, no, no I will. But they've also noticed that there's some patterns that they're doing, right? And so we wanna take advantage of you're answering questions nobody asked. You're turning a 15 minute meeting into a two hour process and our time is so precious call the play. And so I love that. Cuz even that's a call to action is just call the play.

Russ (39:23):

So super fun. Two workshops, are you practicing things differently? Is, are, are, is there, is there a different communication practice as a result of these events?

Michelle (39:36):

I feel that the call to action one is quite particular. Don't get me wrong. The connection to your audiences is also, cuz you have to ask 'Are they being seen?' Right. But the call to action one - what do we want the audience to do? Are we being clear in the demands? That one like, you know, especially when you're, like I said, like when you're dealing with a bigger audience, maybe a bigger group or so forth. The other thing that I would just say is as kind of business changes and so forth, we've had some changes in, in our leadership team and therefore it's probably a good time to revisit some of these tools and bring our new colleagues onto the same page because while you know, three or four of us know how to do this, the others haven't, haven't had the opportunity.

Russ (40:37):

Are there people you want me to meet Michelle? Is that what this is?

Michelle (40:40):

Yeah. You know, Russ, I, we had such fun with you before it was like time well spent. Those of us who know it = right - I, myself, Sherene, Fayez. Right. But I think it's actually good to get the rest of the team on the same page , some of these tools are super helpful. Yeah. In making sure we're communicating effectively. It's funny. I did even write down your isn't that interesting from that conversation with you <laugh> so it definitely has stuck so that you're you're you've got a phrase to invite in instead of a push away,

Russ (41:22):

I call it a handrail cuz in a storm I need a handrail. I need something to hang onto. And so even if I'm saying it, sarcastically, oh, isn't that interesting while I'm throwing a chair across the room <laugh> it's like, oh that is interesting. Oh. And maybe I can catch it in time before it hits something.

Michelle (41:41):

What kinda defuses things too though. Even if in sarcasm, you know that, okay. I've gotta take a pause. You know, it's kinda like that, that phrase that stops everything, stops the chair from being thrown. Cause it's like, let's take a pause.

Russ (41:58):

It creates an opportunity for me to choose in that moment as satisfying as it would be to throw a chair right now. Is that a reflection of the values that I claim matter to me the most and the answer pretty quick. No,

Michelle (42:11):

I think what's interesting also though, is cuz when you say sarcastic is even on some of these things when you're communicating tone matters.

Russ (42:22):

Oh I totally agree with that.

Michelle (42:25):

Yeah. Well and that's, it's also with each other, you know, so Hey, like I said, stressful situations emerge. If I now know to recognize this is showing up, I'm gonna actually be more understanding to my colleague and we'll use that be curious and less judgmental. <laugh> right. Look

Russ (42:45):

At that. You're practicing. Yeah. That's so good. Well, that's amazing Michelle. It's so good to talk to you about this. I love how much you remember about it. I love how it's kind of folded into your practice. Do you, do you have any questions for me?

Michelle (43:00):

Okay. So I mentioned that we did the, the group, the executive team with you a year ago. We have part of us is new and part of us is existing and went through some of your modules. How do you level up then if, if you've got some team members that are aware of let's use module one and two mm-hmm <affirmative> and you wanna progress and you wanna do it? Cause we liked it as a team. Right? Cause having this as an executive team really brought us, I think a similar playing field, a level of awareness, also of each other. So relationship building. So how do you bring new and existing so that we already know some of the, the games mm-hmm <affirmative> so you can't start over. Right.

Russ (43:50):

I would say two ways. Yeah. One is I would encourage you to be coaches. Okay. I would encourage you to be transparent about your practice and, and talk about the games you played and talk about prioritizing relationship with the audience and then modeling it as much as possible. So I would offer you some coaching and the team that has done it on how to do that and how to be transparent. So you can embed your work content into, does the audience feel seen and heard? And this game we played about raising our hand when we felt seen and giving each other real time feedback, we can actually embed in some of the lighter meetings, we can embed those exercises in there and people can become coaches of this work. What you wanna do is meet people where they are though. You wanna make sure that this, what I'm offering is what they want to get better at mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Russ (44:34):

So it actually becomes part of the onboarding process is work like this. So that's part one is I would say people who've gone through it. I would encourage them to be transparent about their practice and that way they coach others. Okay. The second thing is I would open another cohort to say, look, if there's two or three new people, I would get another two or three senior people or high potential people and do another cohort and say, look, we can actually spread this is how we spread it through the whole organization is we do a series of cohorts and now everybody, even though they don't necessarily have the experience together, everybody knows in the organization, whether you've done Connection Lab or not, because they're saying, oh, feel seen and heard, oh you did that workshop. Amazing. Yeah.

Michelle (45:13):

And I'm saying that's that's good. Yeah. Right. Well, I was thinking that what could be useful is that cohort is part of the let's say that new executive leader and their leadership team mm-hmm <affirmative> so that they've kind of, Hey, let's help each other level up because there's new leaders underneath them. So if you think about it too, you were talking about customer, like maybe it's part of our, you know, go to market team is together so that they, can respond to, like you said, customer level conversations in ways is our customer feeling seen and heard, and use those tools in those ways. So I actually see an opportunity there.

Russ (45:57):

Yeah. Me too. Amazing. One last question.

Michelle (46:02):


Russ (46:03):

Are you gonna listen to this podcast and listen to this interview?

Michelle (46:07):

I'm gonna say yes because I want to hear it back. However, I will tell you this. I do not love hearing my own voice.

Russ (46:16):

I think you're gonna like this. I think you're gonna enjoy listening to this. Cause this was well,

Michelle (46:20):

I'm always entertained talking to you.

Russ (46:22):

Well right back at you, my friend, this is amazing. It's so good to see you. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this and Hey, let's book another chat and talk about, you know, bringing more Connection Lab to more people at Bluecore.

Michelle (46:34):

I would like that and I, it was great catching up and I look forward to catching up and seeing how we can work together in the future because I had such fun before.

Announcer (46:42):

That was Michelle McComb, the CFO and CPO at Bluecore. If you have any questions about the leading edge of retail marketing technology at Bluecore go to their website, You can send a ping to Michelle, let her know you heard her on the Lab Notes podcast and want to pick up the conversation. Thank you again to our guests, Michelle McComb and Breandon Beneschott both reminding us that self-reflection and professional development happens at every level of a business and a community. I thank them both for their practice, their willingness to be transparent and for taking the time to talk to me about it. I also want to thank you for tuning in and working on your practice. I hope these conversations were helpful. Useful. Remember, breathe, connect, and be curious.

Announcer (47:29):

You've got this - go team. Thank you for listening to lab notes, the connection lab podcast. For more information about our workshops and executive development programs, you can email us at or go to our website at