In this episode we talk to Heidi Harris - People Leader, Learning & Leadership Development Professional, Executive Coach at Validity in Las Vegas, Nevada Brianna Connelly - Director of Data Engineering at Integrate in Wheat Ridge, CO and Brenda Imes - Organizational Development Specialist at Canpotex Limited in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Each conversation revolves around their take on personal and professional development and how their Connection Lab experience is informing their practice: Heidi Harris shares her experience both as a facilitator and a participant of this work- at the same time, discusses the benefits of relationship over content and its vulnerability as well as her practice and competency of letting go. Then, we hear from Brianna Connelly and learn about her Leadership Journey confronting self-judgement, discovering her new feedback practice, the healing experience of her off-Broadway debut and finding another way to look at Hello's and Goodbye's. We wind up the conversation with Brenda Imes who loves the practice and shares its impact on her work developing the culture and workforce at Canpotex that strives for programs that create safety and where all their employees can become their best selves. Each shares her ah-ha moment as they discuss their struggles and successes engaging with their audience.
Conversations will revolve around how they are practicing and what they are discovering based on the Connection Lab Six Box Model.
Lab Notes - the Connection Lab Podcast - is an ongoing conversation with over 1000 graduates of the various Connection Lab programs about their practice in communication, presentation and leadership. This opening episode features interview with three executive from around the world who are each deep in the Connection Lab methodology and eager to discuss those practices and the nature of their own personal and professional development.
If you want to be a guest on an upcoming episode email us at email@example.com
More information is available on our website www.connectionlaboratory.com
From Little Mountain Sound in Vancouver, British Columbia, this is Lab Notes and now here's your host, Russ Hamilton.
Hello, and welcome to Lab Notes, the Connection Lab Podcast. We are very excited you're here. Thank you so much for tuning in. We have a great show for you today. I'm really excited about everybody we're talking to. We're gonna visit Las Vegas, Nevada, and a very extraordinary woman Heidi Harris who has been through a program and, well, she had to be a participant and learn how to facilitate and design at the same time. Then, we go to Wheat Ridge, Colorado, where we talked to Brianna Connelly, a fantastic executive ---a young woman who's starting a new gig and she's gonna tell us about her leadership journey and that transition into new employment. Then, finally, we go to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to talk to Brenda Imes. Brenda works at Canpotex in Saskatoon - not only is she a participant, but she's helping us create a conscious culture at Canptotex and beyond so I want to celebrate her and the organization. It's gonna be a great conversation. It's gonna be a great episode. Thank you so much for tuning in. Let's get started. We are on the phone now with Heidi Harris in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hello, Heidi. Hello. How are you?
Heidi Harris: 1:17
I'm doing great. Thank you. It's great to be here.
I'm so glad you're joining us for this conversation. And for these conversations, you've been, well, a pioneer for merging Connection Lab with a variety of other methodologies and systems and co creating a leadership journey for one of the companies you used to work for. You're now the head of talent and development at Validity. Is that correct?
Heidi Harris: 1:44
That's correct. Previously, I was at Return Path and there was an acquisition, and I am now working at Validity - very excited about it.
Great. Let's talk because you are really unique because you had to both be a participant in a leadership journey program which lasted nine months and you were also a designer and a facilitator for another cohort in the same program. So you had this schizophrenia going on, and I'm very curious about your experiences as a participant. What do you remember about your experience as a participant in the Leadership Journey?
Heidi Harris: 2:28
It's really interesting that you bring up the point around the dual role that I was playing because I remember managing the distraction of the dual role, which was completely relevant to what I was learning as a participant. I think, especially as leaders, we are often called on to play multiple roles and put on and take off multiple hats and sometimes wear multiple hats at the same time. It was actually great practice for me in developing my leadership to be able to manage through that and be able to think about what is it that I'm trying to learn and get better at myself as I'm growing as a leader. And, I would say to myself ---let's focus on that right now, which I'm gonna make a mental note of, that little thing I just noticed in the curriculum design that we might want to change later---and then back to me. It is the practice. I think in a lot of ways, when I think about the concept of how do I show up under stress, and how do I want to show up under stress, I am mindful of the different audiences that we need to be mindful of. It was a great practice for me to have that duality in play.
So that's what comes up for me is duality. Although what you're describing is one objective after another, right? Duality is actually two things which are true in the same place at the same time. What you're talking about is "Oh, I just had a new experiences as a participant," and then, "Oh, I'd like to reflect on what just happened with the perspective of a facilitator and a designer." It's kind of splitting hairs, but at the same time, duality. This idea that two things can be true in the same place at the same time is just such a mind blower?
Heidi Harris: 4:34
I think that's interesting. I'm visualizing you in front of the room. I'm visualizing you as a participant with some personalized content you've created. What do you remember about that experience?
Heidi Harris: 4:51
I remember I had a really clear intention around what I wanted to practice. Specifically, there was a piece at the end of our first session with the group where we were putting together a business presentation and we had spent two and 1/2 days or so learning a lot of skills around Connection Lab and having to put them into practice presenting a business presentation. We invited the whole company or was it just the Colorado office? I can't remember.
London was online and all the offices worldwide were invited in. Many showed up.
Heidi Harris: 5:36
420 people were invited to this presentation and I was being very mindful of the concept you teach around our relationship to content because I know I can get very focused on my content, maybe overly so at times. As I was working with my team, I observed that happening because suddenly we have an audience of executives and colleagues doing a presentation and suddenly it became about the content. I remember having a bit of fun with one of my colleagues because my view - and I felt very strongly about this - was I actually don't care that much about the content. I don't care if it is good or well thought out or showcases my strategic thinking abilities. I really wanted to practice what I wanted to practice.
What do you remember about what you wanted to practice?
Heidi Harris: 6:47
I wanted to practice connections above content.
Heidi Harris: 6:52
Really creating that connection between me and the audience and helping them feel seen and heard made our presentation much deeper in many ways. As I had done this previously, I didn't want to be distracted by the content.
And how'd that go?
Heidi Harris: 7:11
It went really well, I think. Well, it went well for me.
Heidi Harris: 7:19
Because I got to practice what I wanted to practice. It was funny because I remember even talking with my group a little bit afterward, and them saying where content could have been a little better. It felt really good to let go of all that, to let go of all the expectations a little bit. I was thinking about the idea that you teach around permission to fail and succeed, and it was very free to give myself permission to not be so focused doing it the way people are expecting me to do it.
Well, that lands really well on me. I mean, predictably. Has it re-occurred to you, our attachment to content? Have you seen how you or others show up under stress in terms of your relationship with your content? Does it dominate in other areas since that experience, have you noticed?
Heidi Harris: 8:33
As I think about that question, I think it dominates a lot in many places for myself and for others. It's been an interesting experience in the last couple of months because I am noticing myself in some ways letting go of the content to a point. I've been thinking about that saying -- I'm probably gonna get this wrong, which is fine --"The enemy of good is great." It's like if we're striving so much to be perfect, we're actually missing what's good? I've been giving myself permission recently to say "What's the problem we're trying to solve," and then "let's find the best way to do it that's efficient, that's not going to create all kinds of unneeded extra work, that's really going to be good enough for what we're trying to achieve without driving ourselves crazy, trying to go overboard." If that makes sense.
I have to breathe into that because it's a profound reality for me and for almost everybody. I work with this idea that my relationship to my audience, the competencies associated with my relationship to my audience are the same as the competencies associated with my relationship to my content, that if I work harder on my content, my audience will feel seen.
Heidi Harris: 10:09
...and they don't. So you know what I'm gonna do is work harder on my content, right, because that'll really get them...
Heidi Harris: 10:21
And, when it doesn't, they check their phone, they don't feel seen. They don't feel heard. They don't feel necessary. We're not co creating anything in the room. We're not collaborating in any way. Somebody's just trying to jam content through somebody's ear.
Heidi Harris: 10:35
Heidi Harris: 10:37
And we all do it.
That's been my experience and it's fascinating because even people in the room who have just had a profound experience connecting with people in the audience and getting people to raise their hand and giving feedback to a presenter and saying ---I've never felt so seen by you. I've never seen you bigger, stronger, more powerful. I would love it if you could continue to put connection with me and others ahead of your content. I think that's where our goals as an enterprise can be reached. And they (the audience) go - Wow, that is such powerful content. Let me write that down and lean on my content even further. It's almost like a muscle memory, like my body remembers, to emphasize content and filter everything through the importance of content.
Heidi Harris: 11:29
Well, I think there's something safer about content then relationship.
with a human being.
Heidi Harris: 11:39
with a human being.
I think you're right. Then I think now we're talking about vulnerability.
Heidi Harris: 11:44
What do remember about that, connecting with the audience one at a time.
Heidi Harris: 0:00
Yes, I remember feeling more comfortable with it than I thought I would be with being able to connect with people as I was up in front of the room speaking. I am aware with myself that I'm not that comfortable showing vulnerability which is something I've been more aware of - let go a little bit.
Is that what you're trying to get better?
Heidi Harris: 12:27
Yeah. I'm trying to be like Elsa, let it go.
Are you gonna burst into song? Are we gonna do something choreographed? Did I miss rehearsal?
Heidi Harris: 12:37
I think I'll save that for later.
I appreciate that...
Heidi Harris: 12:39
Heidi Harris: 12:44
I am getting better at it. I think it's a difficult line to walk in a way between wanting to show up as an expert and as someone who's credible and who has a perspective about what has to happen around strategy, to meet the goals and drive the business and to bring that self forward and show vulnerability. I know intellectually the two are not mutually exclusive, their symbiotic and yet feel exclusive sometimes.
In support of what you just said, 'I'm in my head'. This idea that in my mind, connecting with somebody or inviting somebody into relationships silently and just being curious about them is terrifying.
Heidi Harris: 13:35
It is just terrifying...Oh, my God. I don't want I don't want them. I don't want to be in relationship. I've been in relationships and they are not right in my mind. I've worked myself up into assuming that relationship with somebody where we each feel seen by the other and not just looked at or less - is the greatest threat in the world. This is why facilitating this work I call it being a lifeguard because you're sitting up there in the wooden tower chair and you're watching people in the pool and you're making sure nobody goes under too long because they are facing tremendous fears up there around vulnerability. Then, they actually connect with somebody, somebody raises their hand and says - I totally feel seen by you. And not for nothing, I really like having your attention. I really like feeling seen by you. And it's like...well, that's not half is bad as I thought it would be. That's impossible. Let me try somebody else. Then you move on to the next person and they go...Oh, look at that, wow, you're so great when you just are curious about me.
Heidi Harris: 14:40
And then that's the essence of collaboration.
Heidi Harris: 14:45
So when you're designing an experience when you're trying to solve the problem, the word that comes up for me is 'Are we collaborating on it?' Because if we're collaborating on it, if everybody in the room is contributing to whatever it is we decide we're going to do, then we all own it. It doesn't matter who the authority is, whose badge is the biggest.
Heidi Harris: 15:05
...and that's where enterprises can apply strategy like they've never been able to before.
Heidi Harris: 15:12
I love this conversation because I think that maybe not even realizing it this is part of the shift that I've been trying to make and how I work and what I've been working on to get better at - is that shift from content to audience. And how are engaging our stakeholders and working with people as we go along in the work. I've joined this new company that hasn't been around that long. They're still building a lot. We started talking about leadership development and I was brainstorming with my team and we said, 'Gosh, how do we get leadership development off the ground?' The thought occurred to me - what's the vision? Do we have a vision for how we define leadership? Through our conversations, the idea we came up with was to engage leaders from different parts of the organization that had come through acquisitions or had been hired to work at Validity and engage them in conversation of how would they define leadership? And, then, through that process, our next step is to share that with the executives to get their input on 'How do you think about leadership? And how does this resonate with you? How do you want to define a vision for leadership for our company?' It's been a really interesting process and experience to co collaborate.
Well, and that's the...
Heidi Harris: 16:39
Engaging people in the process has been really amazing especially to see what they've come up with. And then it's practice. A 1,000,000 times a day I remember, 'Oh, yeah, that was very content focused'. I still have, like so much in my journey, to keep progressing.
Amazing. Isn't that interesting, right? It's not right. It's not wrong. It's not good. It's not bad. It just is, and it's so interesting. What's the best thing that can happen is another great question. If our subject is leadership that you've rolled out into the room, what's the best thing that can happen for our organization and aim high, aim crazy high and then just start writing down what they say.
Heidi Harris: 17:22
God, I love that question.
Do you have any questions?
Heidi Harris: 17:25
...that I should use that question more.
I'm offering it to you.
Heidi Harris: 17:30
I'm taking it.
Yep. Nice. It's like go fish. If I put a card down, you can have that one. Do you have any questions for me?
Heidi Harris: 17:36
Oh, do I have questions for you?
Heidi Harris: 17:41
Not right at this moment. I will think about that.
If you do have any
Heidi Harris: 17:43
I'm a text away.
Heidi Harris: 17:45
Yes, I love that.
So good. Heidi Harris from Validity. Thank you so much for joining us today!
Heidi Harris: 17:51
You bet. Thank you so much Russ.
Absolutely- more to come. So if you're tuning in because somebody recommended it, but you've really never had any experience with Connection Lab and you've never been to a workshop and you don't know what we're talking about - you can get more information at our website www.connectionlaboratory.com. It's got a ton of information. What we do is communication, presentation and leadership development in a series of workshops, executive development programs and leadership journey programs. You can listen and you can read along. You can also contact us - we want you to know that you're welcome. And, I really appreciate you tuning in. Let's continue our conversations today - we're talking to Brianna Connelly. Hello, Brianna. You're working for a new organization. You've just made a transition. Can you tell us who these people are and what is the enterprise?
Brianna Connelly: 18:39
Yes, my new company is great if anybody follows sports or the Olympics. It's Jeremy Bloom's company - the former Olympian and a former NFL athlete. Amazing. Yes. And, I have been hired to help them create a data strategy and unearth all of the amazing value that they have.
So good. Brianna, you are a graduate of the Leadership Journey. Can you speak to what you remember about that experience? What's top of mind for you?
Brianna Connelly: 19:11
Of course, I think that experience and that journey allowed me to be observational about myself in a way that wasn't judgmental so that I could progress and move forward and get better at things that I noticed that maybe I wanted to get better at -- instead of guilt and shame about not being good at it or not showing up how I wanted to .
I'm shaking my head in agreement. Boy, does that resonate for me? Without judgment or correction....what have you noticed about how you show up under stress? And how is it different from how you would choose to?
Brianna Connelly: 19:53
Yes. Well, I think in the past I would sort of react and, then, I feel really guilty about reacting maybe not the most awesome perfect way that I could have. The cycle would just repeat, and I wouldn't really know how to get out of it. I feel bad if I tried to think about it, because, then, I think about how I sounded like an idiot or whatever it is , you know, too sassy or something. I felt that I would never make improvements because I'd feel bad, I'd just shift my thought away from it because I don't like to spend a lot of time in sadness or negative emotion... wanted to get on out of there.
Let's book it. Even if I have to fake it...
Brianna Connelly: 20:36
Exactly. And so this really allowed me -- if I do react, it's not a negative. It's, okay --interesting I showed up like that. What could I have done differently? What can I do differently? Is it controllable? And, it's just made it really easy, especially when starting a new job -- where you're being fire hosed when you're under a microscope by a lot of people who have advocated for you to be there. It has just been good to look at it and say 'I'd like to show up this way instead of another way.'
Amazing. So, what do you remember about getting up on stage?
Brianna Connelly: 21:17
Well, I remember the first time we got up on stage for lack of better words, a total shit show.
Let me get a pen.
Brianna Connelly: 21:27
Yeah, exactly. I think nobody stood out and said, 'Oh, you're just a natural', right? Including myself. It was just forced, I think the achievers in the group were trying to do that, then, there was a component of the group that was just falling apart. I think in terms of getting up to start, we didn't know how to breathe. We didn't know how to connect. I didn't know how to connect with an audience. I would just start talking.
Let's breathe now, filling the lungs from the bottom up. So good. What else do you remember?
Brianna Connelly: 22:04
Gosh, just honestly you want people to succeed, that has been such a huge thing for me moving forward. People want you to do well. People want you to show up in a great way. If you solicit help and advice and get feedback from them, you can continue to grow. It's just been really fun to be able to know that that I could get better with others feedback without it being awkward.
Amazing. How are you talking to others? Are you modeling this? Are you transparent about what you're working on and what your methodology is?
Brianna Connelly: 22:50
Yes, It's actually been really easy to start a new job because I can lay my cards on the table and share - this is what I like to get better at, or hey, I'm open to feedback at this time. This allows me to build trust pretty quickly. And, I can also ask others, are you open to feedback and are there things that you know I can help with? I think in this I've learned to ask a lot more questions of myself and others instead of just making assumptions. I'm really good at creating these grandiose stories in my head. Often when I just ask a question, it's not true at all or it's simple and not that way.
Are people allowed to say no when you ask if they're open to feedback?
Brianna Connelly: 23:39
Absolutely. And they totally do. Yes, and I ask that question 'Are you open to feedback?' on family members. My mom will say, 'No, I'm not open to feedback.'
It saves us time. 'Mom, are you open to feedback?' 'I am not open to feedback.' Okay, let's carry on. I'm not gonna waste my time. I'm not gonna start a fight. I'm not gonna try and force something on you. If you're not open to feedback. Let's let's move on in the conversation?
Brianna Connelly: 24:06
Exactly. For others as well at work, especially those who have gone through Leadership Journey, it's definitely a common thing to ask, 'Are you open to feedback?' And someone will say, 'I'm not right now. '
It's a very generous answer, right? And it's also a very generous question. Are you open to feedback because when it comes to feedback and you may remember I talked about this, I divide feedback into two categories - solicited and unsolicited. If we have a practice of asking for feedback, 'Are you getting what you need for me? Is there anything you need more of from me? Is there anything you need less of for me?' These are feedback questions that I can practice on a regular basis or in a periodic basis, or even, twice a year - and that way I solicit feedback. That way, I'm asking for people to talk to me about how I'm showing up for them, and that way, if I have a pattern of it, the data I'm getting is so vast, I don't need to hold it as precious. When I have a feedback conversation, like twice a year, the feedback I get is sacred. It's precious, it's it's weighty, it's heavy. But, if I have a daily practice of just kind of checking in with people, then, all of a sudden, I have this huge database and that becomes its own practice in its own value. The other side is unsolicited feedback. And, let me tell you something, if somebody in my world is gunning for some feedback here, the way they're behaving, the way they're talking, the way they're showing up...and, boy, they better stop that or I'm gonna have to say something...now all this energy is built up and it continues until finally it just explodes. This idea that unsolicited feedback is a volcano, and somebody's sitting there, having a tuna sandwich and somebody goes, 'I have just got to freak out...You've got to stop chewing so loud' or whatever it is...but chances are it's something quite different. And, of course, it comes across as a threat. Feedback is either solicited or unsolicited - that's a big division in the world of feedback. And, of course, there's other places to go, but that's kind of a head of the river for me. Does that resonate for you?
Brianna Connelly: 26:19
Oh, definitely. It's changed the way I deliver and receive feedback so that it's not that big explosion or that...'Oh, thank God, here are six months of grievances.' Like Frank, George Costanza's dad, Frank has got a lot of problems with you people....
That's Festivus, right? Building up over months, this feedback conversation can dissolve trust. It can also dissolve healthy relationships. It can dissolve productive relationships, which can be very difficult to recover from. All of a sudden we have a cultural issue because somebody blew up in the board room because they just couldn't handle something. There was no solicited feedback practice, and I don't think what we're talking about is a shock to anybody. I think it's pretty familiar, but there's a methodology that helps us avoid it. How else do you talk about this?
Brianna Connelly: 27:20
Oh, goodness., honestly, it is just a journey, right? I often like to brag, that I've put on an off Broadway play. We did it! Two things: One nobody understands, my sheer delight was counting down and waving your hands and feet. I think only people who have done it will understand how it brings me so much joy...
It took me a second to kind remember what you're talking about.
Brianna Connelly: 27:52
...that's the physical warm up we're talking about.
Brianna Connelly: 27:56
Yes. As a group, we've done before really, really intense meetings or a layoff or anything Giant, but the main thing that I talk about is just how it was a journey. We first met in July and then about nine months later, we met again. It was an entirely different group, which over those nine months, had the ability to learn and execute and kind of beef up on new skill sets. When we got there in April, nine months after the first time we met, we just were completely different processors. We reacted differently to things. We interpreted things differently. We had trust with each other. It was just an amazing thing to grow so much in nine months and to be reminded of things that maybe used to bother us or used to feel really bad about--and now it wasn't the same.
Our last workshop was very intense because the company you were working for got acquired. There were people in the room who were now redundant and that news literally landed for some people the night before. So if the question is, how do we show up under stress? Well, I I think I just became redundant in my company, and now I'm totally freaking out. So there's no stress to that point had been contrived for this environment. Safe stress, contrived stress. This was capital "R" Real. And we gave the option to your group to bail. Is there a better way you'd like to spend this two and 1/2 days in New York City like maybe searching for a job -- and nobody did. Nobody left and I thought that was quite a testament to the group and to the quality of work we were doing because they said this is more valuable finishing what we started than going on some job website or making phone calls because we can do that tonight or whenever. But, I really want to know how this finishes. You had a very unique experience. When you say we did an off-Broadway play, can you describe that for people listening? What does that mean?
Brianna Connelly: 30:08
Yes. We had in less than two and 1/2 days to create a story, write a play, cast people, and direct the show that includes the music, the lighting, everything. I mean, we were walking around New York City looking for a mini drum kit and symbols and a harmonica for props. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of stress, but it was incredibly enjoyable after nine months of learning how to show up under stress.
People listening are like - so what - are you doing Les Miserable? What was what was the play about? What was the theme?
Brianna Connelly: 30:52
If I recall our deep story, we actually connected it I think with the acquisition Oh, right. And our's was about this kind of big ego but washed up rock star who had sort of bailed on his band and was gonna go start something else. Then he realized that they were gonna put on one last show, so, it was gonna be the greatest show with all of the emotion and gratefulness about being with this group of people and being able to create and then getting closure on the band. The last show. There were lots of just silly, ridiculous things. And I'm sure only we as a group knew, but it was very healing. And I think it was for that group closure in terms of like you said, a lot of people we had to say goodbye to.
Remember that exercise - Goodbye. Hello? Yes, that was intense.
Brianna Connelly: 31:48
Yes it was.
Do you say goodbye and hello?
Brianna Connelly: 31:50
I do. And leaving this job. I left over the holidays. In terms of Hello - Goodbye, I did it in cards and e mails and connecting with people when I could. And it was interesting to see it across all kinds of mediums that there was a new Hello?
How are you with Goodbye - Hello?
Brianna Connelly: 32:12
I'm a lot better than I was. I have had losses personally and professionally that I think I can look at in a different light. Now, there is always a new thing, right? It's kind of the grateful part of saying goodbye to what you had in all of the goodness. And, then, also the opportunity to say hello to something new and to not always be excited, but it's bittersweet to say hello.
Well, it kind of takes us back to the beginning. Right? Am I so emotional about saying goodbye that I'm not present for saying hello?
Brianna Connelly: 32:54
Right. Does the person I'm saying hello to feel seen and heard. I get to start again, and the cycle gets to begin again. So again, it all comes back to practice. It's all just practice.
Brianna Connelly: 33:06
Yeah, it really is.
Do you have any questions for me?
Brianna Connelly: 33:09
When is Leadership Journey 2.0?
So good? I'm actually talking to the leaders of the original design of Leadership Journey and their new company. And so you can imagine there's quite an appetite because it's a watermark. The conversation's already taking place and you're part of the Connection Lab network worldwide. We have over 1000 graduates worldwide now and that's one of the reasons we wanted to do the podcast because we needed a central place for people to tune in. Listen, participate, text, email and a place for us to hang out and practice and just shoot hoops and warm up. And so all of that information, how this continues to progress, will all be transparent. I'm gonna offer all of it. And I will tell you that on top of this podcast, we're also doing a facilitator development program for Connection Lab. We're encouraging people who are interested to contact us about becoming a facilitator. We're looking forward to launching that program later this year. Continuing to grow and learn and try and practice what we ask others to practice. That's it. Brianna, thank you so much for joining us today. It is always such a treat to talk to you. I really appreciate your transparency and what you're trying to get better at. I look forward to further conversations and let the journey continue.
Brianna Connelly: 34:36
Thank you. I can't tell you how much I've grown and just how much I appreciate you. I would not be the leader that I am or could be without these skill sets.
High-five Briana. Thank you.
Brianna Connelly: 34:51
Talk to you soon.
Brianna Connelly: 34:53
Bye. Lab Notes is a practice room for Connection Lab participants for audience members, executive program clients and anyone else who has participated in one of our leadership journeys. We talked with guests about their experience, their practice, their success and failure. We support everyone trying to get better in the process. Check out the Lab Notes menu online at podcast.connectionlaboratory.com. You're also welcome if you've never done a Connection Lab workshop and really have no idea what we're talking about but you think maybe we might be on to something. I invite you to inform our process and are content by texting us at any time. 646-780-9946. Or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to be a guest on the show, you can email us at email@example.com. We are back talking to amazing people. And we're very excited to have Brenda Imes with us. Welcome, Brenda.
Brenda Imes: 35:56
Thank you. It's awesome to always connect with you.
So nice of you to be here. You're contacting us in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Brenda Imes: 36:05
In frozen Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Yes. It's minus 40 with the wind chill. Seriously. It's a very, very cold day, but, you know, we're made of prairie stock and we're used to it. It's amazing.
Well, the first question pops to mind is how do I show up under stress? For me, minus 40 counts as stress. Oh, my goodness. So we're talking about the Connection Lab experience. You did a workshop not quite a year ago in I was up in Saskatoon and we did several workshops. You work for Canpotex, correct?
Brenda Imes: 36:44
Say, what do you do for this organization?
Brenda Imes: 36:47
My role is the organizational development specialist.
Nice. You were a big part of orchestrating my coming up there.
Brenda Imes: 36:56
I was. Actually, one of the reasons why we hired you is ,well, if I could step back a bit.... Canpotex - we're such a diverse workforce, our offices are in five countries. Luckily, I'm so fortunate, we have amazing people here, and we believe in the continuous growth and creating a culture and environment where all of our employees can become their best selves. I got to know you through our leadership development and you were hired to teach our senior executives and directors. Because you did just such a phenomenal job there, we needed this training with all of our employees, especially when we invest in leadership skills and competencies in all of our employees, regardless of their position. So thus our relationship began.
Amazing. High-five. Right there. Okay, good. So it's all theory. All of these conversations, everything you've heard about me, everything you've heard about Connection Lab. Then it's your time to come into the conference room at the hotel in Saskatoon. You and several other people showed up and suddenly theory becomes practice. Yes. What do you remember about that moment and the beginning of our workshop?
Brenda Imes: 38:33
I remember the very first thing, we were all nervous. It was a very small group. I think you made the max classroom size eight, which is a great way to create that psychological safety. What you did was you asked us to tell a story that no one else in the room knows about right.
Brenda Imes: 38:56
So-and-so from finances was Scrabble champion. Who knew? Or, so-and-so from operations lived in Norway. Doing that exercise alone expanded our concept of each other who we are as human, which I thought was phenomenal.
And, then, we got to add to their name. What we found surprising about them, right? So, Scrabble champ. Right? So for the rest of the day, we'd say, Oh, there's this person and there's the Scrabble champ and everybody would laugh and go.
Brenda Imes: 39:44
That's such a great thing. Then you asked us to explain the content, right? How do we show up under stress? How do I want to show up under stress? And what do I want to get better at? Then you had us had us write our leadership journey. Our leadership legacy.
Yes, a writing exercise - 10 minutes,
Brenda Imes: 40:15
10 minutes, 10 minutes only.
For something that deserves a manifesto.
Brenda Imes: 40:20
And how was that experience for you?
Brenda Imes: 40:28
Well, I think it's okay for me. It put me in a place of vulnerability because... oh, my goodness, I never thought of this - What does that mean? What is your leadership legacy? I think it's because of the word legacy, such a huge, epic word, what does that mean? So you're you're immediately put in a place of vulnerability. Because you're in a place of vulnerability, you're in a place of high stress.
That makes sense.
Brenda Imes: 41:02
Why did you use that as your opening exercise?
So if you look at the Six Box Model and - I don't know if you have that in front of you -the three questions which you've already mentioned how do I show up under stress, how do I want to and what I want to get better at and at the bottom three are the three primary relationships. When it comes to communication, we have three primary relationships in play. Relationship to self ---How's my breathing? My hydration? My sleep? My relationship content? What is my content? What do I make every day? What artifacts do I create every day? And what if they're just conversations, do those count? What value am I bringing to the enterprise? What education and experience am I bringing to work and how do I value it? And how does work value it? So anyway, that's all relationship to content. And then there's relationship to audience---does my audience feel seen? And who decides? Who decides If I'm the presenter and you're the audience, who decides if you feel seen?
Brenda Imes: 42:02
Well, the audience decides.
The audience decides if they feel seen, right. What I wanted to do with the writing exercise is to ask a profound, heavy question because I want to emphasize the power of our relationship to content because the purpose of the exercise was to pull away from that and invest in relationship in the audience. If the content were light, it would be easy to do. But if the content is heavy and meaningful to me because people got up there and talked about their kids, they got they talked about their family. My leadership legacy, you know, is really kind of important thing to me. And so the piece of paper in my hand became really important to me, which is again contrived stress, because the purpose of the exercise was to connect with the audience, emphasize connection with the audience ahead of your connection to the content. People would say 'Sure, No problem.' And then they struggled. The reason I asked such a potent question was to add weight to the bar. The truth is, everybody in the room is really good at creating relationship, but in the in the context of separating what makes up communication, deconstructing communication into self, content and audience, we got to have what I thought were really valuable conversations about where our attention went under stress when we were presenting in front of the room and where it went was to content, right? And I said, Okay, that's not the purpose of the exercise. The purpose of the exercise is to try and connect with the audience. Wow. Yeah, and that's what you did. And that's what everybody did. So does that answer your question?
Brenda Imes: 43:58
It does. And it's a great refresher because, there are so many things that were happening simultaneously, with me, it was I was how do I show up under stress -- my breathing is fast, my heart rate is fast. Yeah.
Let's take a breath now.
Brenda Imes: 44:24
Let's take a breath. Exactly. I'm under stress right now. It's interesting. Why is that? I'm in my safe space in my office. I'm just happy happening to have a conversation with you, but let me take a deep breath.
Let's breathe. Like live bear. It is. Thanks. High-five.
Brenda Imes: 44:46
I thought this is it in action. This is what we did in your session in action. So it's a practice. It's not like a one off where we've taken the session. No, it's a constant practice --- you're simultaneously under stress, you're also thinking about the content, but what is the relationship with with the audience? Have I invited them? Are you being seen and heard?
Remember, I don't decide. I might be asking the question, but I don't decide for you. If I don't decide as the presenter. What am I responsible for?
Brenda Imes: 45:28
As the presenter? Yes. The presenter is responsible for the invitation of the offer.
Right ....the invitation of the offer. That's it. That's all I'm responsible for. I don't decide for you. If you feel seen and heard, I can want you to feel seen and heard, but I don't decide when you do or don't - that one thing where our autonomy ends and the nature of our community begins,
Brenda Imes: 45:53
....that's where communication lives - that was the ah-ha moment for me as well.
What else you remember? Because now you're both presenter and audience, right? You took your turn as a presenter, but you also didn't go first. There were other people.
Brenda Imes: 46:13
Exactly. And what else did I remember?
Yeah. What else do you remember? I love to ask this because I'm always curious how people learn.
Brenda Imes: 46:24
Well, you had such a knack for creating safety under really stressful moments. What I've learned is every single person in that room was vulnerable, including myself. Obviously, we were afraid of making connection to the audience, but we learned how to, and you coached us through every step of the way and encouraged us. What I saw was the the bravery and the courage, even the physical manifestation of how people reacted under stress that was brought to our cognition ---oh, that's what's happening, I see that. Oh, that's what I'm doing. Yes, I get that. And, at the same time, there's the validation from the audience that. If we are connecting and being seen and heard by the audience, then one of the exercises was raise your hand or walk closer. It was profound. It was one of the best learning experience experiences because it was experiential learning. It was learning in action.
So good. Have you become better audience too? Can you speak to that?
Brenda Imes: 47:49
Well, I've become a lot more, understanding and empathetic when someone is presenting. It's important to listen and to connect with them and to nod and to smile and encourage. There are silent cues you give presenters to help them. No, you're doing great. You're doing a good job. Keep going. So yes, when people are presenting, that's all they need, right? I honestly think so. It's not about focusing on their stress, they actually start to shape that relationship with the audience, they are not alone.
Well, and I suspect we both have been in the audience when the presenter was less than relaxed. Right? When the presenter is in their head, when they're judging themselves. Have you been in the room when the presenter opens with 'Okay, so what I've written is really bad, and I'm very terrible at this. Let's get started here...' There with 40 people going 'Oh, no. Oh, no.'. They've already judged themselves or they begin with an apology. 'I'm just so, so very sorry that I exist and that I'm here and that I'm going to do to you what I'm about to do. Okay, let's get going.' My heart just reaches out to them because not only do I want a good experience, but I know how valuable they are. I know how great their content is, and I know how good they are creating relationship. It's just under the stress of this context that it's all just gone down the crapper.
Brenda Imes: 49:36
We all do that right. At some point it's about becoming aware of yourself and the impact that it does have on on creating that relationship with the audience.
What that triggers for me is that awareness - when I notice when I'm being judgmental or curious, because I can't be both at the same time. I can't be judging myself and curious about you --- legitimately curious at the same time. It's one or the other. Whenever I'm presenting or communicating and I'm in my own head, that means noticing how I show up under stress. And, then, the second question evolves, 'Is this how I want to show up? Now what? I want to get better and actually be curious in this environment. So I'm gonna look at somebody in the audience -who there's a chance they're looking at me and they have a smile or their eyes are bright or they're available for connection. If I can practice that competency, then all of a sudden I'm putting connection with the audience and invitation ahead of my relationship with my content.
What's it like to let go of content?
Brenda Imes: 51:03
Well, the thing is, most people who deliver content are usually already experts.
and advanced in their field,
Brenda Imes: 51:13
in their fields, right? Yes. So they know the content inside out. And, once they realize that that they know the content, then it becomes less about the content. And again, the relationship with audience. Yes. Well.
What I'm forced to do is trust the content. Exactly. And I don't trust anything easily. let alone believe that my content is good enough. What I do is go, oh the content is never good enough because I assume that the competencies associated with my relationship with content are the same as the competencies associate with my relationship to my audience. And they are not the same. If I changed the wording on page 38 of the deck in order to improve my relationship with the audience, that's not gonna work. Connecting with the audience is its own set of competencies. And, this process of trusting the content of just going, "look, you know what I mean. And, if you don't, let's co create it."
Brenda Imes: 52:21
What would be valuable to the audience of pick a number 25 50 100 people? What is valuable for the time? We have a lot of time for this. What would be useful and aim high? Because I have a whole deck here. I've got so many pages that so many people have worked on and a lot of expensive graphics, and it's fantastic. I don't mind telling you it's fantastic...
if that's useful.
Brenda Imes: 52:43
Yep, it is. In fact, that alone was influential in how I delivered one of our performance management sessions this time around instead of me doing it, 'Okay, here's a year end performance review process right now. Here are the learning objectives.' What I did was, have year end conversations - everything you wanted to know about performance from conversations. And I did. I wrote no learning objectives. Instead it was 'what do you guys want?' Again the content was developed in real time and turned out very well. Oh, so you go ahead.
I'm just rooting for you.
Brenda Imes: 53:57
Yes, this was because of again what you have taught us. It's a continuous practice, but it is about the audience. What do they need? I know the content of all performance management, but, is the content hitting the needs of the audience. So, it goes beyond. Here it goes beyond content, but it's still very much about the content. You know what I mean?
Well, what I like to do, because people are listening to us right now going "guys the content is really important. This is crap."
Brenda Imes: 54:12
Are we live?
We are live, but recording for a future date.
For the people who are listening to this, they are going, "I don't buy this for a second. The content is way more important than they're framing it" because this is the element that has come up in other conversations. And, what I say about that is, and, I don't know if I told you, I may have, the story of the two Hamlet shows I saw in one week in New York City. On a Monday, I had to go see a friend in Hamlet and it sucked. It was just terrible. It was a dark room. The chairs were uncomfortable. The actors weren't great. It wasn't well directed. The lighting wasn't good. It was a long play and I didn't really care because the actors didn't do a great job. And I found out later when I went backstage to visit my friend, and he's like --Oh, you showed up and I'm like, Yeah, I showed up and he said, You know, I'll buy you a beer. I'm like, No, you'll pay my rent --- that was excruciating long. He said, --Yeah, I know our stage manager quit last week, and so we kind of had to recover. Then, I had to go see another one on Thursday night in Brooklyn, and I was dreading it. I'm now predisposed that Hamlet sucks and Hamlet's a terrible play. I went to go to this magnificent theater and right out of the gate there were people on stage. It was the Danish court, so there's these amazing costumes and live musicians and people dancing and talking and eating food on stage. I felt like I was joining a festival and it was so fantastic. The play was so beautifully directed. The costume designer and the lighting designer and the everybody did such a good job. The play went by so fast and everybody died in the end. People I cared about it and liked died.....
I always talk about that because the play in both instances was exactly the same. The content was the same, but in the first, the production sucked and it was terrible. It was punishing. The second one was fantastic. So what are the elements? This is why content measures lower on the spectrum and it does not need most of attention - if we trust the content. If we trust that Shakespeare wrote a really good play 400 plus years ago, and there's evidence to suggest that he did, then we need to invest in all the other competencies that help us connect with each other, with clear calls to action and and help us fulfill the potential of what theater can be--and that's true for business content. If we swap out Hamlet for a financial quarterly review or for performance reviews or some kind of thing like that, it's still a play and we can co create it.
Brenda Imes: 56:53
Exactly. Content is important, but my point with the year end review in my particular example is the customization that occurred within that moment of learning that helped co create the audience also made it creative and engaging. What do they need out of this content that will help him be the best that they can be.
So good? What are you trying to get better at right these days?
Brenda Imes: 57:24
Well, I just want to say everything. No, that's a cop out, right? Yeah, no points. I am such an analytical person and it's easy and comfortable for me to be to speak using numbers or some stats or analysis. What I'm trying to get better at is that it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to be curious. It's okay to be not right. And because that is the place where you are always learning....that is all that's gonna be on my mind. As my dad used to tell me - something he always reminded me, was the saying, "Brenda, everyone knows something you don't," and I would remember that. What are you talking about? Aside from the implied humbleness of that statement, back when I actually just heard it, when I heard 'everyone knows something you don't', that kind of began my life long journey of learning and being curious about other people. So I keep that saying close to my heart and especially as an organizational development specialist. I may be trained in the ways of adult education and how to implement good programs, but are these programs fitting the needs of the business and of fitting the need of the people within the business that actually create the value for this business?
Meeting people where they are.
Brenda Imes: 59:17
Meeting people where they are. Yes, you are so much better at encapsulating it in one statement than I am.
No, I'm just taking and picking up you're dropping down . We're co creating this together. I promise you, we're doing it together. It's just great. Do you have any questions for me?
Brenda Imes: 59:40
Well, do you feel seen and heard?
At the moment very much.
Brenda Imes: 59:45
What makes you feel seen and heard?
Well, at the moment I'm responding to your invitation. You ask me questions. You offer me stories, you offer me your experience. I'm asking you questions and you're responding. We're matching each other's language. We're building on what each other is saying. We're giving each other permission. This whole conversation has been an act of conscious co creation, and it's only possible because I feel seen in heard. Do you feel seen and heard?
Brenda Imes: 1:0:14
I do. Can I ask you one more question, please? What is your leadership legacy?
This workshop you attended and the people in the room, There were people in the room who were very shy. You remember? And they were just terrified to get up on stage. And they've been worried for days. They were just terrified because they've got this story about themselves, about whether they know they can communicate it at all or present it all --- how they judge themselves. It's not a kind process. Then they get up on stage and the first time through, it's kind of predictable. With some coaching, they start investing in relationship, and in moments they fulfill their potential as human beings, and they grow physically. They grow emotionally, they become a version of themselves that they've never really experienced before, and the audience sees them the same way. It's that moment when they bond. We are co creating a version of me that I always knew was possible but never really thought would ever happen. And in this moment, it's happening. And, what I want to do is not only travel the world, helping people discover this version of themselves, but starting this year, we're going to start helping people facilitate this work. Nice, right? I love it. All of that is what I want my leadership legacy to be.Yeah, And it is It is so far so good.
Brenda Imes: 1:2:29
Yes, they have for the people that you've impacted here. Again, this is my OD on organizational development and my analytical mind comes out -- the evaluations were phenomenal. It was like 97% positive return on investment. And that was with 23 out of 32 individuals who took the course you gave responded to the evaluation. You had a tremendous impact on Canpotex. We are lucky that we're going to continue that relationship with you.
I'm very excited to come back and see everybody and build on what we did.
Brenda Imes: 1:2:33
Excellent. Brenda, Thank you so much.
Brenda Imes: 1:2:36
You are awesome. Thank you.
So that's our show for today. I want to thank my guests. Heidi Harris, Brianna Connelly and Brenda Imes --- all three extraordinary women who are doing great work and trying to show up better under stress and choose how they might show up under stress and being really transparent about what they're trying to get better at. These are proud members of the Connection Lab network, and I couldn't be prouder to have them on board. And, so are you. Because you tuned in. You listen, so I really appreciate that, too. Coming up there will be in more opportunities. Yes, there'll be another episode in just a few weeks and I hope very much you'll tune into that as well. If you have any questions, you can text us at 646-780-9946. Until next time. Thank you so much for tuning in. I'm your host, Russ Hamilton. This is Lab Notes, a Connection Lab podcast. Thanks for listening to Lab Notes - The Connection Lab podcast. For more information about our workshops and executive development programs, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our website www.connectionlaboratory.com.