Lab Notes Connection Lab Podcast

Lab Notes with Russ Hamilton - Episode 3 - Curiosity

April 08, 2020 Russell Hamilton Season 1 Episode 3
Lab Notes with Russ Hamilton - Episode 3 - Curiosity
Lab Notes Connection Lab Podcast
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Lab Notes Connection Lab Podcast
Lab Notes with Russ Hamilton - Episode 3 - Curiosity
Apr 08, 2020 Season 1 Episode 3
Russell Hamilton

In this episode we hear from:

  • Cathy Hawley - Chief People Officer, 
  • Saudia Ganie - Technical Recruiting Lead at RStudio, Inc. and 
  • Jim Conrad - President of JCA Communications.

Cathy Hawley paints a vision for her staff - and leading with curiosity was key. 

It took shouting out loud at Russ during her executive program for Saudia Ganie to get the concept of being seen and heard. 

And, old radio friend Jim Conrad discusses that red light stress zone, and the importance of sharing vulnerability and providing safety.

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.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode we hear from:

  • Cathy Hawley - Chief People Officer, 
  • Saudia Ganie - Technical Recruiting Lead at RStudio, Inc. and 
  • Jim Conrad - President of JCA Communications.

Cathy Hawley paints a vision for her staff - and leading with curiosity was key. 

It took shouting out loud at Russ during her executive program for Saudia Ganie to get the concept of being seen and heard. 

And, old radio friend Jim Conrad discusses that red light stress zone, and the importance of sharing vulnerability and providing safety.

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.

Lab Notes:   0:00
from Little Mountain Sound in Vancouver, British Columbia. This is lab notes. And now here's your host, Russ Hamilton.

Host:   0:07
Hello and welcome to lab notes. I am your host, Russ Hamilton. Thank you so much for joining us. Lab notes is the connection live podcast. If you've been to a Connection Lab workshop or an executive development program or leadership journey, or perhaps another workshop with another methodology, chances are you took notes, and what we encourage you to do on Lab Notes is to join the show either in person, on Zoom or radio or any way you like and open those notes and let's go over the notes. Look at the notes you took for yourself to find out how was your experience, what was valuable about it, and how is it affecting your practice? Now we're gonna hear from people at all levels across the spectrum of the marketplace and hear about how they're practicing and how their experience is affecting how they're moving forward and the impact they're trying to have on the world. On this episode, we're going to talk to Cathy Hawley. Cathy has been integral to the Connection Lab experience in the development of our process, and we're so grateful to have her on the show. She's in Salida, Colorado will also stop in Plainfield, New Jersey, and we're going to talk to superhero recruiter Saudia Ganie. She's gonna tell us about her experience in the Connection Lab program and talk about how she's moved on and how her practices changed and and what she's trying to create in her professional communities. We are also, for the first time inLab Notes, in studio with our first guest right here at Little Mountain sounded Vancouver, British Columbia, gym. Conrad is going to join us from J. C. A Communication. He is voiceover extraordinaire. He's a dear friend of mine and has been for many years. He's never done a Connection Lab program, but he's been a part of the conversation for decades. I'm very excited to hear from him and find out what he finds interesting about what's happening now and also listen to any questions he might have. Let's see how that conversation goes. Let's get started. Thank you for joining us. Cathy Hawley, where are you right now?

Cathy Hawley:   2:02
I'm in Salida, Colorado.

Host:   2:03
You are a mom and a partner and a community builder and, oh, shall we say, a Senior People Executive -- You have been in that function for a few businesses now. You are one of the people who's really been influential and integral to the development of the Connection Lab offer.  I'm just very grateful to have you on the program.

Cathy Hawley:   2:28
Aw, that's so nice Russ.

Host:   2:30
You're very welcome. So that said, what I like to do is invite people to talk first about their experience as a participant. Because you've had experiences in a variety of levels with this methodology --- and it tends to begin with the experience as a participant. So do you remember when you were on stage and trying to connect with an audience in a Connection Lab workshop?

Cathy Hawley:   2:55
I do. It's funny because I have been through a lot of Connection Labs in different ways. Going back to the very first one is interesting, but I do remember, and I remember the feelings of it and even in the middle of it, feeling and knowing deep down this was a really impactful learning experience and development experience.

Host:   3:15
I'm trying to remember who else was in your group because we're talking -- it's gotta be six years ago now.

Cathy Hawley:   3:20
I was thinking it was six or seven years ago, Yeah, I was thinking that Jane was supposed to be there, but didn't make it. And Catherine was there for a while, but had a family emergency in the middle of it.

Host:   3:31
That's right, in the middle of the workshop something happened and became relevant. How do we show up under stress?

Cathy Hawley:   3:38

Host:   3:38
In a room where we're all contriving the experience when all of a sudden, reality just jams in there and you get a chance to talk about it or not. I'm just thinking about seeing you up on stage because you've done so much. And it's easy for me to blur my memory around this. Do you have the one sheet? The Lab Notes menu.

Cathy Hawley:   3:58
I have it. I don't have it in front of me.

Host:   3:59
Did you take a look at it? it's just the Six Box Model. All it is is a prop right for our conversation. I'm wondering if you know, between the three primary questions and the three primary relationships and the other questions and distinctions on that menu, what is triggered for you? What kind of leaps out for you as you're developing your practice as you do every day?

Cathy Hawley:   4:21
The first one jumped out at me. Well, they're all connected, right? The first one jumped out at me first --- and so a little bit of context -- I started a new job about two months ago. I have a People Team is now six people. It's a great team and good people, some are new and a couple who have been there for a long time. They're really good team. My job coming in is to really help understand the business as it is now. Also, paint a vision for where we want to go and help my team figure out what that means for us.  What do we do every day? What does that mean we do for the business to help us get there? And so that's the context for me for how I'm thinking about what I learned from my last role of how do I show up under stress, well....I want to come in and just do it all and drive forward, know exactly what we need to do and just get it done. Knowing that that's not the right approach, I need to make sure that everybody has a voice in the process and that they embody as I am to what it is. And, the vision along the way will change because they bring their own unique contributions to it. That's my recognition of how I show up under stress.   I'm working now to make sure I am showing up in a different way --- being inclusive and asking questions and being curious, and also still knowing that we need to get stuff done. So being able to put enough pressure  to press and to drive forward while also giving the time and space for people to contribute -- that's the one that comes up for me is how do I show up under stress and then how do I want to show up under stress, and can I work between those two.

Host:   6:14
Well, that's loud and proud for me. Doing a podcast is kind of a new endeavor for me here and organizing and producing and all of those things.  I think in a way, I really lik, and I think Picasso talked about seeing things as a child. Seeing everything as a new thing all the time because we can get stuck in a rut. Our predisposition starts designing how we meet the moment, the moment can be over-determined how I show up under stress and how I might choose to. In a way, it's new all the time, But you're dealing with something really, quite knew. Have you noticed anything new about how you're showing up under stress?

Cathy Hawley:   6:57
Yeah. I mean, because I'm being intentional about it and asking for feedback. I have a couple people who are close enough to that I can ask them for help in this as well. I think I'm showing up to my team in a in a better way,  in a in a way that helps them see that there's a level of stress that's productive, right? So a level of stress to know we're going to do something different and hopefully the engagement to say they could be part of it.  There's still a couple of things that I would, you know -- it's a journey, right? There's still a couple of things where I really I wish I would spend a little more time with each person instead of getting caught up in some other things. How do I make sure that I'm spending the time with each person? But, then, also balancing that with, do they need me or would it be better if someone else was spending that time together? So kind of talent balancing that, trying to figure out what the right approach is based on what people need what they think they need, what's going to help them be most successful. I think I am being intentional about it. But I haven't haven't asked my team in the last week or two.

Host:   8:07
So what comes up for me is the question whose needs am I in service of here? Because I want to meet people where they are, but is that my need or have they asked for me to come and meet them where they are? Have I introduced that question? Have I asked people to meet me? I'm wondering how I am modeling for them and whose needs are I in service? That question has come up in several of my coaching conversations recently because people in an effort to practice, and always with the best of intentions, all of a sudden there needs start to eclipse. I had one client who went on vacation with his wife. This is a while ago now and started asking the waitress at the resort, how long have you worked here? And where did you go to school? And how many other of your schoolmates work here and is the wage good? And how long is the hotel been open? And asking question after question after question to this poor young woman who is just trying to pour their water and get out. And so his wife kicked him under the table and he he shouted out, 'What? I'm being curious. Russ told me to be curious.' And, later when we talked about it, he he told me about the whole thing and he said, 'Should I not be curious? What did I do wrong, Russ?' And I said, 'Well, we try to avoid the right and wrong. What my question is, is whose needs are you in service of as you're asking this woman 35 questions in a row? And, yeah, me?'

Cathy Hawley:   9:36
Exactly. And the interesting part too is what I sometimes find is that people have an explicit me that they stated, but it might not be what they actually need.

Host:   9:47

Cathy Hawley:   9:48
And that's that's the tension sometimes. I think that,  some people on my team might say they want more time with me. They have said that, right? They want more time. They want this, they want that. But I don't know that's actually gonna be more beneficial to them because they might have better benefit by having less time and doing more themselves and chilling in that space themselves. So, there's that balance there of  what is the true need versus the stated need and what's best, what's best for both of us in that situation?

Host:   10:20
So that's the voice of experience, because there was a version of you 20 something years ago that when somebody said, I need more time with you, you would have just calendared more  time thinking that it was literal and only through experience are you now saying, Okay, so that's that's entirely possible that I'm happy to give you more time. But is that true, is what you're asking for more time with me? And so the question I would ask after that is 'What does that allow for? What would more time with me allow for?'

Cathy Hawley:   10:51

Host:   10:52
And then invite them to answer that question?

Cathy Hawley:   10:54
Yeah, it's a good question. 

Host:   10:58
What have you noticed about how people have been through a Connection Lab workshop program or Leadership Journey? And we should talk about that? How does that affect the business?

Cathy Hawley:   11:07
I would say so we in this particular arena we didn't have a lot of metrics around before and after.  I will say that I observed with people is that in the Connection Lab piece, there's two or three benefits that we had from that -- one of them is those people who took the course together, had much deeper relationships with each other then they had in the past. So whether they were in the same part of the business or different parts of the business, they built relationships that were deep. Then, when they did need to work together in the future, they had that foundation of trust to work on. That's a really powerful thing for a businessman especially when you have people across the company. I think at the end we probably had about 50% of people who had gone through Connection Lab and so that these relationships were really important. I say the second thing was the language. People speaking the same language. If you know I have taken a Connection Lab, I'm talking to someone and I can look at something and say, well, how do you show up in her stress? So I'm asking someone how you would show under stress, who were you in service of -- just that shared language is powerful. It helps with shortcuts to things. I don't have to have a half-hour conversation to you about why it's important to know how you show up under stress. You already know that, we could already have that conversation. And, it helps with professional development. Those were the couple and then the third one,  this is related to leadership journey as well,  it develops in everybody their leadership skills. Whether they're a formal leader or not, they show up differently. They can think more about  all those questions of how do I show up? Why does it matter how I show up? Am I a teammate? What is my my relationship right now? How do I want to show up? What's in service of me? What's in service of my team? The ability to translate that into day to day and ask those questions, makes teams more effective as well.

Host:   13:01
I'm breathing. Breathe. If you're listening, breathe. Fill your lungs from the bottom up. It's so good. What's the difference between leadership and authority in your experience?

Cathy Hawley:   13:13
Leadership you can't forced it on somebody. In fact, if you're following me, I'm leading.

Host:   13:23

Cathy Hawley:   13:23
I can't  tell you to lead. I can't control that.  Whereas with authority, in theory, I could tell you need to do something a certain way. And, my formal authority on something, chances are you do that in that way because I told you to.

Host:   13:36
Right. Nice. So you don't decide for me who I follow. You do decide what the definition of my job is and what the needs of the business are in context with my relationship with you in the business,

Cathy Hawley:   13:49

Host:   13:50
I think that's a really useful distinction, too. And, I think as you talk about how people develop their leadership skills that they don't decide for the audience who's following them in terms of their practice. They don't control the audience's experience of them. And I worked with a lot of people who are still unconsciously trying to control the audience's experience of them.

Cathy Hawley:   14:12
Yeah, and life would be so much easier.

Host:   14:16
Wouldn't it? Life would be so much easier if I could just reclaim the energy that I'm spending trying to control my audience's experience of me. Well, and I get to reclaim that energy and reinvest it in the things that I do control, which is the quality of my offer, the quality of my invitation. What about the new organization? What are you learning? How are you learning?

Cathy Hawley:   14:44
I'm learning by just being curious -- not assuming I know anything. This organization has a pretty rich history there. They are 25 years old. They have, they were founders  first in the business. They really started this industry. There's a lot of depth of knowledge. There's a lot of people who've been there 15, 20, 25 years, and it's a lot of experience there. So, I'm trying to be just curious - asking lots of questions. I have been there two months so far. I spent probably 80% of my time just in listening mode -- listen, observe, pay attention to what's going on. It's really, really fascinating. And, that's what I'm finding is that people are really open. People like to be seen and heard right. So every every person I've talked to whether one-on-one or in groups has been appreciative that someone taken the time to understand them, their roll, their history. Obviously, it's not as deep in that I spending many hours with each person, but it's starting that relationship and starting to understand the history. Then, I think, okay, and make the plans that we develop are then watch much more robust because they're built on a more clear base then, if I hadn't been asking the questions.

Host:   16:09
I'm tempted to ask you about the scalability of the three questions, but I'm not sure that's a fair question in this context. How does the organization show up under stress? How does it want to show up under stress? What does LRN want to get better at?

Cathy Hawley:   16:24
Yeah, it's interesting I mean, I do think it's scaleable to some degree. I think that the organization a lot of how an organization shows up under stress is around its formal leaders and have a formal leadership under stress that kind of and waves through through the population, especially if they've been there a long time. It's interesting. We have one of our offices that I'd say is more steeped in a kind of culture there a little bit removed from the from the headquarters. And they, they probably steer a little more toward how they show up in her stress than their formal leaders do because they're so they're so closely connected to the values,  they understand the values, they believe in the values, and they believe in  what we call the leadership framework, which helps people understand that what behaviors are really strong. A strong leader exhibits -- and a strong leaders mean that anyone in the organization is a leader -- they really I'm embrace that so fully --- that I think how they show up under stress is that they can take stress a little bit more and then be thoughtful about it and then react to it. There is not this not a quick knee jerk reaction to stress. But there's been more a change in leadership in the headquarter side and I'd say that part of the business probably mimics the leadership styles of the people who've come and gone than the part that's farther removed. It's been interesting. I think you can look at and organizations and say how did they show up under stress? There may not be just one answer, though. Maybe depending on your your context, your geography, your role -- that kind of thing.

Host:   18:13
Oh my goodness, yes, well, how many ways can we be under stress? How many forms of stress are there? And, if that's a long list for us as individuals, it has to be a long list for the organization as well. A really responsible question is -  what is stressful for me -- because what's stressful for me might be different than what stressful for you. You could be totally chill in the kitchen or at the office, and, I'm stressed out about something, I'm panicked because you're not stressed. You're panicked because I am. I come in kind of vibrating, like, why aren't you more upset about this? And, you're like, Why are you upset it all about this? And all of a, some consciousness around what is stressful for me? And, that is scaleable to the organization. What is stressful for the organization? And how do we diagnose? Why don't we diagnose what the organization is going through? That question is coming up more and more with the businesses that I work with because they diagnosis. I'm reluctant to say it, but really poorly. Their awareness, their self awareness as an organization is not great because they don't have a practice of asking these questions.

Cathy Hawley:   19:27
Yeah, it's interesting.  I think you can tell by asking questions and talking to people. You can tell what causes people an individual stress, which is different in the organization, right? But then you can start seeing a pattern of stress throughout the organization and see what causes people's stress and what doesn't. I think that is the key part to keep asking questions and listening to the answers. I think you can do that in a survey to a degree that you can run a survey, you can listen to them as long as you're really listening and people trust it and you can get some of that out engagement survey type data.

Host:   20:07
I think the pattern is critical, I think, specifically to find out here's how we systematically show up under stress as an enterprise. Isn't that interesting? Notice the similar reactions to similar stresses. I just think that's that can lead to a more accurate diagnosis. This is fantastic.

Cathy Hawley:   20:28

Host:   20:30
Cathy Hawley, the Chief People Officer at LRN. You are a rock star and very generous talking to me today. Do you have any questions for me?

Cathy Hawley:   20:38
Oh, yes. I always have questions for you.

Host:   20:39
And, yet, now that I put you on the spot...

Cathy Hawley:   20:47
W ell, so many of my questions are well like.... okay, I'll ask you more generalized questions....most are questions for you are  more personal like --- Okay, help me figure this out.  But, let me just let me just say this becauseI  want  to put in a point for this. So,  you've been our partner at Return Path for a number of years, maybe six or seven years, different iterations of that over time. But I'd say that I feel like your partnership was equally as valuable as Connection Lab by again that consistent coaching and development and asking people questions and helping us think differently about things. And, then that last time you mentioned the Leadership Journey, we ran the nine month  leadership program that I've heard more positive feedback from, and I personally feel like it was the best leadership  development experience I've ever been a part of. Nine months of reflection, work, strategic work, individual work and group work and leadership,  just amazing, and culminating in a really deep personal experience for people that I would say the feedback was that their leadership style in their leadership impact was significantly better at the end of that program then it was in the beginning. So I'll mention that, and I'll say that that's the value I see, and, I like working with, working with Connection Lab. And, it's my question for you -- then it's like a bigger level what are the trends you're seeing? What's what's happening in the in the business world where you think Connection Lab can make a unique impact?

Host:   22:24
So first I'll say thank you for being so generous talking about that, and I totally agree that our Leadership Journey program is the watermark in my professional experience --- changing a group of people in a culture at an organization for the better. The second part is I feel the methodology is getting really strong now, and I think it's ready for the larger audience. I think it's ready for more facilitation, more people around the world getting better at leading groups and helping others discover and fulfill their potential as human beings. This podcast is a part of that. You've been critical in the development of the Facilitator Development program. You and specifically your appetite because you didn't let it go. Very many years ago, you said, Russ, I want to facilitate this work. And I'm like, Oh, that's a great idea. That was like in 1953 and you've been so patient. You've been so generous. I remember you like creating docs and just pounding on the door, not letting it go. Now this year, next quarter, we're going to begin the process of developing facilitators and certifying them. So you are. You represent what I think is happening around the world, which is a relentless appetite to understand more and to discover and practice a methodology that is actually useful. When I say that, I mean, look, there's a lot of useful methodologies out there. What I want to do is connect what's valuable about all of them and simplify that process for people who are just coming into this, they have an appetite to be not only better people, but better professionals, better partners, better community  members, I think through this framework there's there's that opportunity to do that and I feel like we're responding to an appetite in the world. So in brief the audience, the global audience is informing the process and the content of connection. And for that, I'm extremely grateful as it should be. I have to practice what I ask others to practice more. That's it. Amazing. Thank you so much. We'll let you carry on with your day. And I know I will talk to you again soon. This has been fantastic. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Cathy Hawley:   24:37
Thanks for us to talk to you soon.

Host:   24:38
Cool. So if you're listening to this and maybe somebody recommended you tune into this podcast. First of all, thank you for doing so. If you want to get more information and find out more about what we're talking about, specifically, you can go to and that has the menu that we discuss with the Six Box Model and some of the questions and distinctions. Also, you could just visit the website It breaks down everything that we offer and talks about client experience. It talks about all the programs. All the information is there. If you want to find out more -that's the place to go. I want to welcome to the program. Saudia Ganie. Hello, Saudia. Saudia, you are a master recruiter. She says sure.... I'm your audience so I'm allowed to think whatever I want and that's what I think. You're also kind of an HR  senior. You've got a long history in human resources. You've also got some history in diversity and inclusion programs -- you ran that program for one of the companies that we worked at together.  Now you're doing recruiting? Yes. Ah. How's it going? Just quickly. What are the headlines?

Saudia Ganie:   25:50
Oh, so far really great. Hired a lot of people. Work is great. Outside work is great. Good.

Host:   25:58
Good, good. We're going to talk about your Connection Lab experience. You remember that?  As a participant, yes, she says emphatically. Yes, Yes, I remember it. I tried to forget, but I cannot

Saudia Ganie:   26:12
A few years ago, but I remember.

Host:   26:14
Yes. We had a little executive program where I would bring in audience. What do you remember about that experience? What do you remember about being a participant of Connection Lab?

Saudia Ganie:   26:25
What do I remember? I remember asking friends to get involved because you needed audience members. I remember shouting in a room, shouting at you, specifically, to get better on my projection skills, and monologues and a lot of conversation.

Host:   26:46
Yes. Okay, I think we're done here. Thank you so much. Oh, shouting in a room, Why were you shouting in a room?

Saudia Ganie:   26:58
So that I could be heard.

Host:   26:59
Right. You identified there was something you wanted to get better at around that. Yes because under certain kinds of stress, you can be kind of quiet. Yeah. Yeah. And so one of things that we wanted to identify and maybe as a practice was what does it mean to shout in a room and get louder and just to hear my own voice be loud? Yeah. What us to remember? Because we did three sessions. We did three executive sessions.

Saudia Ganie:   27:28
Yeah, I remember the first session was in a group setting.  There's a lot of getting in front of the group and engaging with the audience and learning about what the audience needs, essentially.

Host:   27:42
Right, and especially in contrast to what my needs might be.

Saudia Ganie:   27:46

Host:   27:46
And under the stress, the contrived stress of whatever contrived or whatever content you created, getting up in front of room, and under that stress -- whose needs am I in service of here?

Saudia Ganie:   27:56

Host:   27:57
Yes. Do you remember the games we played?

Saudia Ganie:   28:00
I remember some of them I remember there was one - was it linger longer? You had to make eye contact with someone and think they would raise their hand or raise your hand when they felt seeing. And then there was another one where they would put their hand down, when they were kind of okay for you to move on.

Host:   28:20
Right? Yes. In a service of the exercise was put connection with the audience ahead of your content and so you got up on stage and the first time you did it, you kind of read what you wrote and did your best to share, which you had written. Then, we talk to you about your experience, and you kind of shrugged and said, it is what it is. And, then we talk to the audience and they kind of shrugged and said It is what it is. She seems very nice. Did you feel seen and heard? And they went- kind of no. Then we actually created an exercise where you had to get them to raise their hand one at a time before you could give them a sentence of what you'd written. To do that, you had to be curious about them. What color of their eyes ? What color are their eyebrows? What shapes do you see? Then invite them silently into a relationship. When they decided they felt seen, they would raise their hand one-at-a-time, and only then when they raise their hand were you allowed to give them one sentence of what you've written.

Saudia Ganie:   29:19

Host:   29:20
Then you had to go on to the next person and do it again and do it again and do it again. The game you're talking about, I don't know if you played it or somebody else played, it was linger-longer, which, is, instead of getting permission to begin one sentence, one sentence at a time for one person at a time, you had to linger-longer. You had to give a person a thought of what you had written, a sentence, and then invite them into relationship. When they were ready to let you go, they would raise their hand.

Saudia Ganie:   29:49

Host:   29:49
You didn't decide when the relationship was over. Remember what was the second session about? Because the second one was a little more private. What do you remember about that? Now we're introducing the monologues when you did Do you remember the movie?

Saudia Ganie:   30:06
I don't remember the movie.

Host:   30:08
Dead Poets Society because that's when you had to raise your voice.

Cathy Hawley:   30:12

Host:   30:12
And you did that monologue over and over and over again. And the exercise was 'What's the demand in that monologue?'

Saudia Ganie:   30:19
Right? I remember when we would, when you would, hand over the sheet of paper with the monologue printed out, and I would have to underline certain words or phrases and basically try and identify what the demand was. What could it be? Yeah, yeah,

Host:   30:37
And you did, and you started cause one of the ways to identify what the call to action could be in a monologue is to circle the action verbs. Do you remember that conversation, the difference between passive and active verbs.

Saudia Ganie:   30:47
Yes, a little bit.

Host:   30:49
Good. I love that. We're taxing your memory here. And not for nothing, it's totally fine if you say, Russ, I don't remember any of this. I was kind of wasted, which I know wasn't true. But it's okay if the answer is I don't remember, because the reason I ask people about what they remember is I'm really curious how we learn anything. How do we learn anything and it's okay to go, I don't remember what happened. It doesn't mean that my behavior hasn't been modified because of that experience. I'm just not conscious of it, or I remember every single detail about it. I'm really curious about how we learn. And, so this is why I ask you and so many other people I'm talking to you about what you remember and permission just to go I don't know, man. I don't remember but slowly were gathering memory and we figured out Good Will Hunting. Now I visualize you circling action verbs and the conversation about passive verbs and action verbs. You remember any of that

Saudia Ganie:   31:46
No, I remember at one point asking you if a certain word was actually an action or a passive verb.

Host:   31:57
What's the difference between an action or a passive verb? I think that's a really valid question. And the only reason that comes up is because I'm just in the room so many times with so many business leaders who use, who think they're calling their teams to action with passive verbs, right? And you know, the metaphor I like to use is the sergeant in the trench during the fight of the War, and he looks at his platoon and he says, 'Consider attacking', which they do. And, after careful consideration, we  decided not to do as it's not necessarily in our best interest - versus 'Attack!" Would the action verb versus the passive verb

Saudia Ganie:   32:39
Yeah, and you know, now that you bring it up, I might not remember kind of the specifics of the conversation, but I've seen how hey, it's played out in my career after we had that session.

Host:   32:52
Can you speak to that little bit?

Saudia Ganie:   32:53
I feel like it's a 1,000,000 little things. Even a small thing I can think of right now is like writing an email and what's what's the ask in that email and, you know, language is super important and so are the words I'm using going to elicit some sort of action, or is it going to be more something that someone thinks on but doesn't really do anything about? I feel since that specific session, I think more about that, when I when I'm communicating with other people,

Host:   33:34
I remember you had to do a speech at a conference not long after that, we did a session specifically dedicated to creating your offer.

Saudia Ganie:   33:43

Host:   33:44
Do you remember that?

Saudia Ganie:   33:45

Host:   33:45
Tell me about it. Tell the story.

Saudia Ganie:   33:46
So we did a kind of a little practice or maybe a week or two weeks before the talk was supposed to be. I remember being nervous first because that was that was the first time I was practicing in front of another person. I remember at the end of saying everything that I wrote out, you asked what's the call to action? And, that was all I focused on up from that moment to the point where I actually gave the talk, making sure that that question was answered at some point throughout the talk - it was like a 20 minute speech or something. I remember the call to action was kind of the biggest piece of feedback and advice that you gave me to focus on for that speech.

Host:   34:37
I still remember what it is.

Saudia Ganie:   34:39
That makes one of us. 

Host:   34:45
I still remember that speech. I still remember your call to action because you spoke about how the tech world was not a reflection of value that you could relate to. That you were walking into offices with $1,000,000 chandeliers, that you were walking into offices that had omelette chefs and priceless paintings on the wall and these enormous expressions of value to this organization that we're not meant for you because you kind of came from a middle class situation and kind of fought your way through school and fought your way through post secondary and to become the person the professional that you were. And these environments were expressing value in a way that not only you couldn't relate to, but was kind of pushing you away. You didn't feel invited by organizational expressions of value to participate and contribute. If anything, you were being reminded that this, in fact was not for you that these businesses were not for you. And so the call to action was to all tech businesses, and anybody who could hear your voice, was to express value better, express value that resonates with your workforce, right? This is the background where we come from. And I said, Well, what does that mean? I remember you asking you, what does that mean? Express value better. And you said, you know we should be doing at the company you were working for a the time is giving away code writing workshops to kids who can't afford it. We should be giving it away. And then, with their permission, we should take their picture and hang them on the wall. Let's express value in the community. Let's express our relationship with the people around us and the people who want to be a part of this industry and create artifacts around that and then mount them on the wall and hang them from the chandelier. And let's talk about how we express value. So you I remember towards the end, you were rehearsing it and you were pounding your fist on the table saying, Express value better. That's my demand on the tech industry. And I just remember folding the book up and saying, I'm ready to do exactly what you're saying. How do I do that? But that's where call to action and demand. Now that your audience feels seen and heard, what's the call to action? It was sweet.

Saudia Ganie:   37:03
It was a good talk. I remember that.

Host:   37:05
Yeah, well, people seem to like it. And you've done some sense, right?

Saudia Ganie:   37:08
Yeah. A couple after that? 

Host:   37:11
What else have you noticed after our program?

Saudia Ganie:   37:14
Yes, since Connection Lab. I think in in general, just there's been a change, I think, and how I present myself. Definitely more confident. Connection Lab sessions will do that to you, help build that confidence. I remember when I started Connection Lab, public speaking was, I think, like for everyone, so nerve racking. I was a little bit afraid of it, but I knew once I would have to give a talk or whatever it is...I could do it. It wouldn't be the best experience for me personally, but it would get done and after Connection Lab, I feel like just that experience and so is so much easier. And, the the fear of stage fright like that still exists, but the way that I manage those feelings, I feel are different. I look forward to it now, when when someone's like, Oh, can you give a talk at this company meeting or lead this meeting or do something like that, where you're kind of more leading whatever the conversation is versus sitting back. And then, just from the session where I had to shout all the time, I feel like now I definitely know when my voice is being heard versus nodding and how to identify that and make the appropriate change.

Host:   38:42
So the audience informs your process in your content. You are co-creating in real time.

Saudia Ganie:   38:47
Yeah and that was another big takeaway from Connection Lab, not focusing on the content so much. In the beginning. I feel like since our sessions, whenever I have to present anything, or even, you know, go into an important one-on-one meeting or something like that, I focus more on my audience, and it's just lead to better conversations. There's still some focusing on the content before and being prepared, but not obsessing over it.

Host:   39:22
So are there people in your world who are still kind of obsessed with their content? Do they ever ask you for feedback?

Saudia Ganie:   39:30
Yeah. Feedback on the content. 

Host:   39:34
Because they think they're asking for feedback on how they're showing up and how relatable it is. But what they're saying is, Was the content relatable?

Saudia Ganie:   39:42
Yeah, or what changes can I make to this slide so that it comes across as more relatable or easier to understand or something.

Host:   39:51
How do you speak to that now?

Saudia Ganie:   39:55
I say, forget the content. You know --- give whatever feedback I think's appropriate for what they're doing on the content specifically, but then I try to shift and get them to focus a little bit on their audience. I feel like now I ask a lot more questions about who the audience is and then for the person I'm speaking to it kind of gets some thinking about that because they might not have thought about their audience prior. And how what information they're giving to this audience, how it could be best received and it just give some new ideas into how they could do their presentation.

Host:   40:39
So good. Well, in a way, you become a practicing facilitator.

Saudia Ganie:   40:45

Host:   40:45
Right. Not that you don't coach generally. I mean, I think you are a very good coach, but I think with this framework I think not only do we become better communicators and better presenters, but we also become better audience. When somebody has the guts to ask for feedback, and I cringe when I say that because my hope is we can help co-create a world where people asked for feedback all the time.... it's just that we collect really good feedback questions; Are you getting everything you need from me? Is there anything you need more of? Is there anything you need less of? Do you feel seen and heard? Do you understand my call to action? Whatever these feedback questions are, let's collect them and share them. But I think we get better his audience to. And I think that's critical to help create better presenters in a professional context.

Saudia Ganie:   41:29
So, yes...

Host:   41:30
I'm just gonna say it sounds like you're doing it.

Saudia Ganie:   41:31
Yeah, and even since Connection Lab I'm in the audience, I feel like I make it a point to put the electronics away and pay attention to the presenter or whoever is speaking because I know like they're nervous. And if they have, like, one person that can look at and connect with it might make it go a little bit easier and give them that little boost you know that they might need and not something I learned through Connection Lab before that, I just wasn't aware.

Host:   42:04
So much of this is just raising our existing practice to consciousness. I'm really not teaching anybody anything they don't already know. It's just under stress which of my skills and abilities disappear first. Under stress of Oh, this presenter is just terrible, Oh, I'm cringing --- and they're not terrible people and their content isn't terrible. They just stopped breathing a week and 1/2 ago and here I am checking my email in playing Tetris. So good. Amazing. You're so generous to join the show and to talk to me like this. I really appreciate it. Do you have any questions for me?

Saudia Ganie:   42:37
I feel like I have a general question. When did you start doing this?

Host:   42:41
We started the beginning of 2020. 2020 is a big year for a Connection Lab. I feel like, we've been market testing and lab testing the methodology for quite a while.  The feedback is just tremendous and having a lot of conversations with people who are getting a ton of benefit And, this is what I want my leadership legacy to be. So the podcast is a part of talking to people who've been through the program and inviting people to listen who've been through the program, who we may not get to, you know, for a while. But they want to hear people who have been through the same experience they have, and also people who've been to any freaking workshop. Not just Connection Lab, but if you've got you deserve a freakin' medal for going to a workshop because how brave and optimistic are you to go to something and try to get better? I just want to throw a bone to everybody who's trying to get better at anything in terms of communication, relationship, professionalism, all that stuff. So this is a big part of that, is the podcast. And the other one is the Facilitator Development program. Have you seen the module yet? Have I shared that with you?

Saudia Ganie:   43:54
I think you shared some of it.

Host:   43:55
Yeah. Now we're doing the final touches. I'm gonna share that with you as well, cause I'm eyeballing you as a potential facilitator for Connection Lab.

Saudia Ganie:   44:03
No pressure.  

Host:   44:04
No pressure, sister.  

Saudia Ganie:   44:08
I have another question. Since you're asking me questions, I'm not thinking about this since you've been doing Connection Lab for a while now, how have you seen your practice or the way that you teach change over the years?

Host:   44:21
I would say yes, I would say yes. I would say that the collection of questions and distinctions that I've been experimenting with, I'm trusting more overtime. So now what I used to offer as maybe this is useful, I now offer with, to your point, much more confidence to say, Here's a question that says, Hey, whose needs are you in service of in this moment. When somebody who's clearly in service of their own needs and clearly convinced that they're in service of the needs of the audience, they go, Ha, whose needs a mind service of? That's a really interesting question, and sometimes they'll answer in three seconds or three years. Sometimes questions like that can take a long time for people just to breathe into and go. Huh? Huh? You know what, Russ? I'm not in service of the needs of the person I thought I was, and that can be a salty truth. And so now I need to be with that for a while, so that leads to do you have permission to fail? Or do you have permission to succeed wildly? Should that be what's happening? And then people have to reflect on that, and sometimes they don't and sometimes the answer immediately, and sometimes it takes a long time for people to answer. So the way I have done this and it's interesting because this is what's informing the podcast are these questions, these distinctions, this six box model. When you and I did our program there was no six box model. It was just how do I show up under stress? So that's a really interesting question. How do I want to? Well, huh, That's really uh oh, what do I want to get better at? There was kind of relationship with these, these questions and then, of course, relationships. Relationship to self, relationship to content, and relationship to audience.  In the six box model, all six boxes are touching each other. They're all connected. You can use any question on any relationship, and I find the simplification of this process makes the methodology more potent for people. Which is why I think now is the time for the podcast to talk about it and also it it's better than writing copy for the website. That's it. That's our segment. You are so great for joining me, and it's just so great to hear your voice. And I can't wait until you come and be audience again or you learn and start facilitating whatever the next steps are for us. I'm just so excited for it. So thank you so much for being a part of this.

Saudia Ganie:   46:38
Thank you for having me.

Host:   46:39
Saudia Ganie, everybody!

Lab Notes:   46:41
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 at    

Host:   46:55
So I want to welcome to the show a dear friend and a spectacular professional. And, I would say somebody who is influencing my design of this methodology from how many decades back? So, Jim Conrad is in studio with us here in Vancouver, British Columbia. Welcome, Jim. Thank you for coming

Jim Conrad:   47:13
Thank you. Thank you very much. How long? Well, we first met when you were in the I guess, the radio equivalent of the mail room, which was inside the mascot for the radio station that we were working for, which was called which was called the Fox, the Fox Rocks. And, one of my first gigs, I was driving the van, you were in the fox costume and we were going to, Little Italy, just as the Italian national team had won the World Cup. It wasn't that it wasn't exactly a calm day on Commercial Drive here in Vancouver. Thousands and thousands of screaming Italian soccer fans rocking the van back and forth.  And they're smiling. They weren't about to tip it over and then burn it, but yeah, it was interesting, I guess introduction, to our relationship there. Radio promo and our our beginning of our relationship.

Host:   48:24
What year was that do you remember?

Jim Conrad:   48:25
That would probably be in the World Cup, probably '81. Something like that.

Host:   48:30
Outstanding. You know, I have known each other for a while. And you are somebody who I talk to regularly as a friend, as a professional, as a peer. You've been audience for Connection Lab. You've seen people present, you have not specifically been through a Connection Lab program.

Jim Conrad:   48:47
I have not been through your Connection Lab program, but, I think over the years, in just our conversations both in New York and here and other places, I have actually watched it and listen to it develop in what really intrigued me in what I then therefore talk to other people about, is, that unique sort of theory that you have about presentation.

Host:   49:16
So you have the Lab Notes menu in front of you? Yes. And I think all of your background here is gonna be useful. As you read that---and for those of you listening, just go on the website podcast. and you can check out the menu too. It has the Six Box model. It has the primary questions, relationships, a few other questions and distinctions you and I have talked about everything on this menu in depth over the last many years. What pops out of that page for you now?

Jim Conrad:   49:52
For me in presentation, I would say, how do I show up under stress? I think that's the most important question that people have to ask themselves. Why everybody? Well, because I think everybody has an idea of how they should be. And, then all of a sudden, the stress button gets pushed and all that stuff goes out the window and now you're in survival mode. You know the stress of that--the red light. You know, especially for people, I've seen people not prepared when the red light goes on, especially on television, and have a meltdown. I think it's how do I show up under stress and then, you know, the the connecting one is Okay, Well, then if I really assess how I'd show up under stress, you know, how is that? How do I rate myself? And then, how do I want to? I mean, I want to be I want to be professional. I want to sound like I know what I'm talking about, right? I want to be able to present whatever the content is in a manner that that that is professional. But sometimes I think people get caught up in that, and they forget about their audience.

Host:   51:15
Yeah. So what's the difference between leadership in authority, Jim Conrad?

Jim Conrad:   51:21
I think it's being vulnerable.  I think if I was a manager, I mean, I'm just you know, I haven't been in a corporate environment for many, many, many me. That's how I describe you. Thank you. But I do speak with people who are. It's funny, because when I'm doing a recording session, part of my MO is I always, just because I love the people that I work with you and I and I've managed to cultivate some pretty decent clients for long, long, periods of time by just being interested in who they are curious,  and you know where they live and what their interests are. You know, the recording engineer that I work with in Columbus, Ohio. You know, he owns a couple of apartments and does renovations, and he's just got married. So before the session, before we call the client, we we talk about that.

Host:   52:23
Amazing. So thank you for participating. Thank you for contributing. Do you have any questions for me?

Jim Conrad:   52:30
What do you want to get better at Russ?

Host:   52:33
Great. Thank you for that. I want to get better at trusting the process. And when I say that, I mean, as a facilitator under stress. Sometimes I will say to myself, here, let me learn this for you. Yeah, right. And then I interrupt their learning process to try and speed it up. And all I do is slow it down or block it. So one of things I'm trying to get better at is trusting the process. I'm trying to get better at breathing. Because I find under stress. I stop  breathing. Yes. So that's one of things I'm trying to get better at. Ah, I'm always trying to get better listening. I'm also trying to get better at meeting people where they are, because it's not enough for me to look at them and say it's obvious what you need to get better at that is not useful. What I need to do is see the world and what they're looking at from their perspective, and the set of competencies that it takes to meet people where they are is elusive because each person is different. Sometimes these people under stress are aggressive and hostile and angry. They're hurt. Sometimes they're reluctant and sad and quiet and don't want to say anything. Everybody is different and unique and meeting them where they are. Each person requires different competencies. So what I want to get better at is assessing that quickly and meeting people where they are as as quickly and effectively as I can.

Jim Conrad:   53:57
Now. What is what is the best way when you walk into a room to create a safe space for that process to occur?

Host:   54:05
Treat it like it's inconsequential. What we're about to do is, we're just horsing around. We're just playing a game. Treat it lightly. If I embody an experience where it's really not very consequence of what we're about to do, it's not a waste of time. If nothing else, you'll be entertained. Yes, but let's treat this lightly and then people will take will follow me. They will breathe. They will breathe if I breathe and especially if I'm transparent about saying I'm gonna take a breath because under stress, I tend to stop breathing people in the audience who haven't breathe because they know they're coming to a Connection Lab workshop. They will go, Oh, you're practicing this too?

Jim Conrad:   54:55
Yeah, you're in the process.

Host:   54:56
You're in while you're you're a participant in this and that build safety and trust. Also, something else I do in the room is when I asked them what's the best thing that can happen in this workshop? And people will start with a joke. Oh, win the lottery. I'll write that down. Win the lottery. I write down exactly what they say. I don't paraphrase. Oh, you want to be rich? No, no, I didn't say that. That's a way to distance people. Is, to paraphrase, I write down what they say. And that way they feel seen and heard, and they start. What they're doing is testing the boundaries of trust. Can I trust this guy? Can I trust this experience? And this has been learned over time. Um, but this process invites them to inform what's gonna happen over the next few hours. And they're like, Oh, my God, this is really and that. So to your point out of the gate, the essence of trust and feeling seen and heard, I'm trying to model for them. What I'm gonna ask them to do, I'm trying to practice what? I'm gonna ask them to practice. Wonderful. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you. Thank you. so much for contributing and your friendship and your guidance and help this whole process. I really appreciate it. That's this episode of lab notes. I am so grateful that you tuned in. I want to thank our guests. Cathy Hawley I want to thank Saudia Ganie from Plainfield, New Jersey. She was great today, it is just so great to hear her voice as well. And I want to thank my friend Jim Conrad for coming down and sitting in studio with me and talking about his experience of this work and how it's affected our relationship and everything else. I just think these air great conversations, and I'm so grateful for you for tuning in. I'm so grateful for them and listen. If you want to participate, I invite you to do so. Send us an email at, or you can text us at 646-780-9946. Let us know what you're hearing that's interesting or what you want to hear more of or less of. Thank you so much for tuning in. We'll see you next time. This is Lab Notes, The Connection Lab Podcast.

Lab Notes:   56:54
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 or go to our website

Cathy Hawley
Saudia Ganie
Jim Conrad