Getting Out of Your Own Way and Conquering Imposter Syndrome
In this episode, I talk with Blair Glaser about how to get out of your own way when growing your business and overcoming impostor syndrome. She is an executive consultant and leadership mentor and a licensed psychotherapist. Blair has been transforming individuals, teams, entrepreneurs, and couples with her unique mentoring process for over 20 years. Blair has consulted with executives and teams at corporations such as Estee Lauder, JPMorgan Chase, Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, and a host of nonprofit organizations. We talk about:
- why delegation and decision-making can be tough for women entrepreneurs, and “authorizing yourself” to take control
- the myth of balance and setting expectations and boundaries in your relationships
- how not to let impostor syndrome and self-esteem issues get in the way of growing your business
“It’s about stepping into your authority. In business, it means that you understand the role that you’re in as a business leader. You understand what’s required of you, understand the outcomes you’re going for, and advocate for those outcomes. You really authorize yourself to make requests, to follow up, to course-correct with yourself, and with somebody else who is not meeting the expectations that you’ve set up. It is being able to find creative ways to hold yourself and other people accountable – stepping into your authority is a big phrase, but it really means authorizing yourself to go for what you want.”
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JM: Hi, Blair. How are you today?
BG: Good. Nice to talk to you, how are you doing?
JM: Yeah, it’s good to talk to you too. I’m good. We’re getting lots of rain so I don’t know if you can hear it in the background but we’re finally getting much needed rain so that’s good, we’re good. I’m super excited to talk to you. You have a really interesting business and I think you have so much information that this audience wants and needs to hear, stuff that every woman entrepreneur deals with sometimes. Tell us a little bit more about what you do, Blair.
BG: I like to say that I help mission-driven and small businesses grow through leadership and strategy.
JM: I love that, that’s huge. Let’s break that down a little bit. When we’re talking about leadership, are you working with them on how they’re leading their teams? What does that look like when you’re working with your clients?
BG: Exactly, it’s how they’re leading their teams, how they’re maintaining a sense of their vision, and how they are connected or not connected to the mission of what they set out to do – even if it’s a product that they’re delivering, there’s always a brand promise – and how are they keeping an eye on that. Those are some of the things that I do with business owners and business leaders of non-profits or small businesses that feel connected to making the world a better place.
JM: Ooh, I love that. That’s so good. You’ve got that ripple effect where you’re helping lots of people make big impacts. That’s good stuff. You have a psychotherapy background, right?
JM: And that’s where you started. I imagine that’s probably kind of playing into your practice. How does that help or how does that play into what you’re doing with your clients?
BG: I understand oftentimes when people, leaders, especially, are frustrated that the team isn’t flowing the way they want or their directions aren’t being accepted the way they want. I understand sometimes the way that things are being received and how organizations are processing information that can be useful and can be destructive. I’m able to also understand just how difficult leadership really is and therefore make people feel that they’re not so alone or incapable when they can’t move things forward in the exact way that they want to.
JM: That’s huge. I think that happens a lot. A lot of the women entrepreneurs that I speak with, it comes up in almost every conversation. Actually I will say, there are very few people that I talk to that are like, “Oh, yes, I’m really comfortable leading my team. It’s great. I love the whole team and everything’s just flowing and everybody’s happy,” that almost never happens. Where do you think that hang up comes in? Why is that such a common issue?
BG: Oh, God.
JM: Are we opening the gates?
BG: Oh, God, yeah. I mean there’s not one answer. I think the saying goes like this, “If you’ve seen one organization, you’re seeing one organization.”
JM: It’s all very unique to the person.
BG: It’s all very different, yeah. But I’ll tell you some themes with women that I’m sure your audience can relate to. Number one, women somehow feel that giving feedback or asking for the bar to be raised on work is somehow going to make them look like they’re being a tough bitch boss. That inner conflict gets in the way of clean leadership. That’s one example that I can see around women.
Another is that, there are certain ways that the organizations have developed that when a leader starts to really bring people together to make a change, all sorts of weird things start to happen that aren’t really about the leader or the leadership but it will feel like it is. That’s the point where executive coaching is essential because otherwise, you’re going to get buried in a team’s projection, honestly.
JM: Yeah, it’s tough when you start to have lots of personalities coming together and people are coming from different backgrounds and experiences and bringing their hang ups to work with them. I think for me and for a lot of the women that I talk to, a common theme is becoming too friendly and I know I’m guilty of that. I really am aware of and enjoy my emotional connection at work and it’s really tough with employees because you want to be very close. What do you suggest in those situations? Is there such a thing as too chummy? Can you have your boundaries with your employees and still be very friendly? How do you view getting close with your employees?
BG: Yeah, the third answer that I was actually going to give you about what’s most common in organizations when things go wrong is that there’s a lack of role clarity. That means that either the people who are working don’t really quite know all that they’re responsible for. For example, the label vice president means that there’s a certain amount of authority but your role is not your title.
I want to share that for two reasons. One is because most often, when things go wrong in organizations, there is a lack of role clarity. That speaks to what you’re talking about when you get really chummy with your employees and they start to think that you’re their friend more than your boss. What I recommend in those situations is two things. One is it’s really good to be able to delineate to say, “Okay, now, let’s have social time. Let’s go out and have a drink,” or “Let’s talk about it later,” and then when you’re back in the office to sometimes say, “Okay, I got to let you know we gotta get going on this. I’m in boss mode now.” To be able to distinguish between the two modes can help but I will say that I do think it makes it easier if you do have a professional persona at work when, I’m speaking of one person, one leader who would like to get a little too drunk during happy hour, made it difficult for her to come back the next day.
JM: We’re not supposed to do that. Yeah, that is tough especially when we start to not remember all the conversations. That’s not good, that’s not good.
BG: Yeah, yeah.
JM: I laughed because my first company is a social company and in any type of marketing and advertising, I think we tend to see the people who, there’s a lot of pressure to make the money and get the return on investment and we’re a group – certainly not to generalize because it’s not 100% of the people in the industry – but generally speaking, we’re a group that knows how to blow off steam I’ve seen it.
One of the things that we spoke about previously in another conversation was imposter syndrome and that actually comes up as a theme a lot with the women that I speak with. It’s funny because sometimes there are women who’ve been in their careers for decades and they’re still dealing with imposter syndrome. I really think that points to the fact that it’s not real, it’s something that we’re telling ourselves like how do you make it in business for many, many years and still doubt your worth and your ability, do you see that? How does that play into issues with leadership when you’ve got imposter syndrome and how do you deal with that?
BG: You can’t make your imposter syndrome more important than what you need to do.
JM: So really staying focused on your mission. You stay purpose driven.
BG: Yeah, you stay purpose driven. You just make your task more important. I wouldn’t concern yourself with making it go away. I think that’s kind of an uphill battle. The only thing I think about imposter syndrome as a big secret is that when it’s up really big, that means that you’re on a growing edge, that means that you’re out there to use Brené Brown’s terms, you’re in the ring, you’re in the arena. If you weren’t on your edge, if you weren’t pushing yourself, then you wouldn’t feel imposter syndrome, you’d be comfortable. It’s a good sign if you have it, just don’t pay attention to what it’s trying to tell you.
JM: I love that. I think that’s so good. I do think that staying purpose driven is the key to so many things like all of those fears and frustrations, it’s the thing that makes us resilient and that’s why it’s so important to really understand your why. Some of the conversations that we have on a regular basis with our clients is really knowing what your why is because it kind of brings you back down to earth when you’re floating around with the anxiety and the imposter syndrome. That’s so, so good. I love that. That will definitely be in the show notes, making sure that you don’t let your imposter syndrome get bigger than what you need to do.
BG: Yeah, I want to say one more thing about it. If you’re finding yourself really, really crippled in a systemic way and nothing I’ve just said really changes anything, one of the things I recommend in those situations is that it’s possible that what you’ve chosen to do is indirect conflict with your nature and you might want to bring on a person to carry out some of the tasks that get your anxiety to the point where you can’t function. That’s not a failure, it’s just an honest assessment of limitation.
JM: And playing to your strengths or finding somebody that can compliment you.
BG: Yeah, exactly. If you’re just such a die-hard introvert and you cannot find it to public speaking and it causes you an undue amount of distress whereas affecting other areas of your life, you may want to partner with someone who’s going to be the public face.
JM: Right, for your business. I think of cold calling, first of all I just think it’s obnoxious but there is a time in my business where I thought, “I’m the leader and I have to do all the things that I expect everybody in this organization to be able to do,” and I hate it. For one it’s just like conflict with my personal code. I don’t want some stranger calling me like, “Figure out how to warm me up before you solicit me,” but I finally realized there are just some things that it’s just not a personality fit, it’s just not the right thing for me.
And sales in general was tough because it’s just a necessary function for your business to grow especially when you’re starting, not everybody has the resources to go out and hire an account rep, a salesperson, or outbound call team, everybody doesn’t have those resources. You’re wearing all the hats in the beginning essentially. I remember for me in the beginning, one of the really tricky things for me was really any part of the sales process so it gets better overtime with practice. But sometimes you are better off finding somebody that can complement your strengths and weaknesses. That’s great advice.
Let’s talk a little bit about low self-esteem because I know that’s something that you work on with your clients. Do you get into sort of where that is coming from and how do you not let it stop you from what you need to do? How do you not let your self-esteem get in the way?
BG: Okay, again, that’s one of those situations where it’s very personalized and very individual so I will speak to it broadly. But if somebody out there feels like I haven’t answered their question, I would love to get in touch with them because I do think that there are situations with self-esteem that are unique to each person.
One of the things that I’ll say is that I think that you can work on it, and work on it, and work on it and it will find a way in again those moments when you’re really coming into yourself where it can present itself again, be very tricky. One of the things that I think I like to think about and explain to women is that you’re building a bridge from the low self-esteem to what you want to do and that takes time. I’m speaking a little bit hypothetically so bear with me.
But let’s say you have a really great product idea and you don’t feel like you have the chops to make it happen or put all of your resources into it and you’re held up. You wake up everyday with your to-do list and you don’t do it. You find yourself not doing it. You can do some therapeutic work on your self-esteem that might be useful for you to find out where it came from, why it’s so important to you. That’s useful.
But another thing that you could do is really look at the impact that you want to have and how you’re going to move forward even when not feeling on top of the world. That’s where some serious training happen. We have to build those skills.
JM: I love that because that happens all the time. You have days where you wake up and it’s just not happening today but guess what, the world doesn’t wait. I think that’s important to understand whether it’s low self-esteem, anxiety, imposter syndrome, or frustration. You have to figure how you’re going to get the big girl panties on, get up, and move it forward even when you’re not feeling it that day. I think that is such a good advice.
I do love that you talk about therapy. I am kind of perpetually in therapy as an adult and I think that just like the rest of my team, you need a good CPA, you need a good business attorney, you need a good coach. I have a business coach and I have a therapist and I talk to them both regularly because those things that are hang ups in your personal life tend to align with the hang ups sometimes that you have in business. I love that you say maybe it’s something that you should be looking at in therapy. I definitely agree with that.
Talk to me a little bit about commitment to vision. I think a lot of times when we talk about business, we compartmentalize like we’re different people from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM or something. But I think when we’re maybe not feeling as committed or we’re struggling with committing to our vision, it happens in different places. I know you talk about commitment too, your vision, your health, and your relationship. Talk to me a little bit about what that looks like when you’re seeing one of your clients struggling with that.
BG: I can give you an example that I think would be useful. There’s a client I have that has a phenomenal idea that would require a lot of time and a lot of public presence but it is phenomenal and it is timely. Originally, our work was contracted to focus on that and then some other things happened. But of course it kept getting the back-burner overtime so we really got to bring in the question of commitment to this idea and what was theway of her commitment to it and once the commitment is really there.
I think women know this a lot from their relationships because things go wrong in relationships and if they’re really in it and they’re really in love, they can find a way to work it. I think that as the same attitude that you want to cultivate towards your business, “Can I commit to this? Can I open to receive what it will bring me?” That’s always a big question. “What discomfort am I willing to stand in to make this happen and see it through?”
JM: That’s a big question that I think most of us don’t think about when we’re starting businesses.
BG: That’s right.
JM: That’s a really big question. “What are you willing to do?” I love that. “What discomfort are you willing to stand in?” I think that’s kind of what sets the girls and the women apart in business sometimes because you do deal with a lot of financial turmoil, coaching teams, dealing with vendors, and dealing with clients. I think when you can be resilient to that, that’s when you know that you’re built for being in business because it’s not easy.
BG: No, it’s not. I know Ande Lyons love to talk about it, the myths of entrepreneurship is some kind of glorified thing. It is very stressful and it is a warrior training.
JM: It really is. Ande’s interview is so funny too. She told something to the effect of go play in traffic, if you can deal with that, you can be in business like, “Yup.” That is what it’s like some days.
Talk to me about decision making. I know for me personally, this is really tough. I would say probably 90% of the time, I’m pretty decisive, I know what I want. It’s like yes, no, bang-bang. I mean I’m delegating. I’m doing the things that I need to do to get there. But then on occasion, when there are those big decisions, I can be such an overthinker. I can go from this end of the spectrum and talk myself back into the end of the spectrum. Sometimes it can be really paralyzing I think especially once you make a big decision, those details start to fall into place. But when we’re making those big decisions sometimes about our businesses, it could be crippling. What advice do you have for somebody who’s struggling with making decisions in their businesses?
BG: I think that what they need to be looking at is their relationship to risk. Similar to the commitment that’s required and the resilience that’s required to be in business, you also have to be able to tolerate quite a bit of risk, personal risks, financial risks, and emotional risks.
The first thing I would do is look at the relationship to risk and understanding that no growth happens without it. Then like you suggested earlier, you want to get some good advisers in your court. If you don’t have a board, then you want to be having a makeshift board, that partner, that girlfriend who’s also in business. Do you want to use them as a sounding board, someone who’s a mentor who’s been there before. If you have a business coach, that’s always a good place to run through the scenarios.
First, you need to accept that there’s risk involved then you want to get some good counsel to really hard decision, not too much. Then back to what I said earlier, you need to commit. You really need to step into, follow it through, let it fail spectacularly, and learn if that’s what needs to happen.
JM: Follow through, I love that. Those are the times where it’s, “Did you win or did you learn?” It’s all a big learning curve. That is excellent advice. I think a lot of times, it comes down to it and we are maybe not as tolerant of risks as we think that we are so I do think that it’s excellent to think about that relationship to risk and know no growth without it. Those are really the times that we’re stepping outside our comfort zone so that we can grow. Great advice on decision making.
I love the idea even if your board is your girlfriend or your girlfriends who are also in business. I know for us we have the Catalyst Founders Group and within that group, it’s become very, very tightened. There’s an oath to confidentiality and just being able to sit down and kind of vent or talk to other women who have experienced what you’re going through and to be able to get sometimes just to like not even know that you’re alone really helps just to know that other people have gone through that or are going through that. But then to be able to get their perspective of other people who have done it or have been doing it longer is huge, so it’s very good advice.
BG: Huge, yup. Even when you get the advice from someone who’s done it before, sometimes it may reinforce what you know in your gut and you may say, “Yeah, they did it this way and it happened that way for them but I don’t know I’ve got this gut feeling,” that’s what strengthens that. When you listen to other people and you pay attention to what’s happening inside yourself, you get clearer on your own clarity.
JM: I love that. I’ll just tell you, we played this little game in my marriage. My husband and I – it just got very juicy, it’s not that juicy – we played this little game where if we’re going back and forth on a big decision, any decision really, we could be at dinner. For example, “Oh, do I want to get the fish or the steak?” I’m like, “You want the steak?” “No, I really want the fish.” It’s like you just get an answer whatever somebody tells you. It gives you a strong feeling one way or the other even if you don’t agree with the advice. I think that is a fun way to look at it. It’s like, “What would you do? Do I agree or don’t I agree? Did my gut go for that or was that like, ‘Woah, no, I really don’t want the steak.’” Good advice there.
We had a little conversation about you transitioning your business into your coaching several years ago and some of the financial and branding turmoil that came along with that. I think that is interesting to talk about because I know when I re-positioned my business and even when I started Catalyst, it’s like I had been known for, I had my marketing company for like thirteen years and all of the sudden, I start Catalyst and it’s like nobody knows me, nobody knows the Catalyst, it’s like starting over and I didn’t anticipate that. What were some of your experiences when you transitioned into these services in terms of the finances and the branding?
BG: Sure. Before I get into that, I just want to say what’s so funny is that when I was a psychotherapist and looking to grow myself into more of a thought leader, I would speak to a number of marketing professionals. Ultimately in our conversations, it turns out, they all wanted to be therapists. They all really wanted to be doing the counselling work and I was like, “Oh, really? I want to be moving into the business development work,” so it’s so funny.
JM: That’s hilarious. I think marketing people like to think they know human nature like, “We’re all manipulating you in the advertising.”
JM: Like, “Oh, I actually want to help people. I don’t want to just manipulate you, I want to help you.”
BG: Yeah. I mean I call myself a recovering psychotherapist because I’m so steeped in the worldview of analyzing situations and people through a psychological lens which is one way of looking at things and one way I appreciate it. But coming into the world of leadership and organizational development gave me a different perspective on things which I found extremely useful. Part of it were easy. I used to run empowerment workshops through women that were psychological, emotional, and spiritual in nature and some of those women had leadership positions in big companies so I was able to make a transition that way.
Another thing that I started doing was to help therapists brand and market themselves and that became a business development piece also. But the work wasn’t constant in the same way it was as a therapist where I had a number of clients and basically I understood my monthly income based on those clients, give or take vacations, sickness, and stuff like that.
JM: How did you deal with that uncertainty?
BG: I tried to walk my own talk. I understood that when the bottom fell out of my regular income that I was going to have to hussle. I was going to have to be patient. I was going to have to find different strategies, all things that were not easy by the way but definitely challenged me to trust myself, to trust that I was learning skill that I needed to be able to call in the bigger executives, that with each job I did and with each retreats for organizations that I run, I was really building my chums and my reputation. And that proved to be true. But it was not fast or as fast as I would have liked and it was stressful.
JM: It is stressful. I think too it’s really that trusting the process is so difficult and I can look back over the span of my career as an entrepreneur and I can see how each thing, each uncomfortable experience moved me forward and I don’t know that it would have been a huge consolation at the time. But now I look back in retrospect then I can see where some of those uncomfortable situations moved me forward into the next thing that I was then able to do.
I think many times, when we feel like giving up, those are these times that we have to realize it’s temporary. That feeling, if you’re doing all the right things and you’re staying committed to your business and you’re being consistent, those moments of discomfort are temporary and that’s when you have to move through it rather than stop all the time. If we keep stopping in our tracks, we don’t ever make it.
BG: Yeah, I really like Seth Godin’s perspective on this in a book he has called The Dip. He really helps you identify those moments where it’s time to get up and walk away or when you’re really just experiencing this crisis moment before everything is going to open. If you haven’t read it, it’s a good one to have in your arsenal of things to share.
JM: It sounds like a great book. I love Seth Godin and I’ve not read that one. It’s such a huge topic. It sounds like it’s a great book. We’ll make sure that we link to that in the show notes, that and the Brené Brown TED Talk on getting into the arena because that’s another great one. Thank you for bringing those up. What are some of your top tips for women entrepreneurs?
BG: This is a tip but it’s a broad process and it’s really my tagline which is about stepping into your authority. Stepping into your authority in business means that you understand the role that you’re in as a business leader. You understand what’s required of you. You understand the outcomes that you’re going for and you advocate for those outcomes. You really authorize yourself to make requests, to follow up, to course correct with yourself and with somebody else who’s not meeting the expectations that you set up. It’s being able to find ways, creative ways to hold yourself and other people accountable. Stepping into your authority is a big phrase but it really means authorizing yourself to go for what you want.
JM: I love that. I love the thought of authorizing yourself because I think it kind of also goes hand in hand with the imposter syndrome of, “Who am I? Who am I to do this? Who am I to ask for this? Who am I struggling to delegate something to somebody?” Like you said earlier, I think we talked a little bit about, it’s not asking a favor, it’s running your business. It’s leading your team. I love that authorizing yourself, it’s just an interesting little way to kind of flip the way that you’re looking at something to give yourself that authority. I am the person to do these things, I’m authorizing myself. I can’t wait to use that with real authority, that would be great. I authorize myself.
BG: Yeah, otherwise you’re just waiting for permission that’s never going to come because the best part of being an entrepreneur is that you’re the boss.
JM: You’re the boss, the buck stops with you. What else? What are some of your other top tips for women entrepreneurs?
BG: One thing I would suggest is that I’d like the perspective that the work life balance is a bit of a perfectionist myth and that you get yourself all wrapped in it, trying to be one way that you sort of don’t end up following through in a big way on the game that you’re playing.
JM: Oh, yeah, totally.
BG: Yeah, you’re on agreement with me.
JM: Yeah, it’s avoiding something sometimes. It’s a way to focus on the things that are doing wrong and how busy you are instead of dealing with it.
BG: Well said, and that life is like a big balancing act anyway so there are times when you’re like pedal to the medal in your business and then there are times, for example, for most women when they have a baby that they’re dealing with something completely different for an amount of time that they need to prioritize and focus on. That would be an example of something that I think I would just say let that one go.
JM: I agree. That’s a really good one. One of the things that we talk about in my household and my family when we talk about that kind of that myth of balance, it doesn’t happen on a daily basis. I have two boys, who as of the time of this recording, they’re almost eight and twelve, which Holy, Lord, the preteen years are going to kill me. But we’ve been married fifteen years, we have these two boys, we have three businesses between us. Then you think about the sports games, the extracurricular activities, time with friends, time alone, self-care, it doesn’t happen on a daily basis as much as I try. I still only have twenty-four hours in a day.
So sometimes instead of on a daily basis, it’s happening more like on a monthly basis. I know for me it’s like with my kids, with all the holiday breaks coming up, I can put the pedal to the medal with some work things now and then I can fully take time off and be present with them. They have kind of gotten into that ebb and flow.
For me I think the way that we manage the lack of balance as it’s happening in our family is that we set the expectation. “We’re going to have a busy week, guys. We’re going to have a babysitter that you love that’s going to be here two nights this week because we have work commitments or things that are happening, but we’re going to spend the entire weekend with you or we’re going to go out to the cabin for the weekend,” or whatever those expectations are.
I think especially those personal relationships start to suffer when there are no expectations or boundaries in place. It’s hard for kids to understand. They don’t always get the concept of time and I think especially when they’re smaller, it’s tough. They tend to have to take the priority and deserve the priority when they’re small. But I think the key for us is that setting of the expectations. That’s excellent advice. We put so much pressure on ourselves for that “balance” and I just think it’s a myth. Just throw it out the window, ladies.
BG: Yeah. Having it all and having it all at one time is really a big trip from times for a lot of people. And social media really glorifies it, I hate to say it does make it look attainable and possible and it’s just not for everybody.
JM: Yeah, absolutely. My first business, red balloon, is a social media company and it’s so tough because I think leadership, especially through the lens of social media in 2018 and beyond, is not about this sort of perfectly curated scenes and settings and the right filter. You’ve got your makeup and your hair done. Sometimes it is, “Here’s the reality of my situation today and it was not good but here’s how I dealt with it,” and giving people those tips and tricks and the things that are working for you, how you’re working through those challenges. That, to me, is true leadership in social media. But perpetuating this myth of the perfect life, everything’s beautiful, orderly, in place, well scheduled, and well timed, it’s a lie. It’s a lie, makes you crazy.
BG: Yeah, yeah. I think that would lead me to another tip which is one of these sayings that sounds much easier than actually putting into practice – although I do have some tips on how to put it into practice that I think are alleviating – which is this idea to not take things so personally. That doesn’t mean to discourage your sensitivity. It just means to listen to your sensitivity in a different way.
For example, if you have an employee that’s sort of acting up and you feel worried, like you’re not doing a good job, and you feel concerned in that way, instead of trying to say, “Okay, I’m going to push you to side because I don’t want to take it personally,” I think what you need to do is say, “Wait, I’m feeling something. What information can I get from this feeling that doesn’t have to do with ‘I’ve done something wrong?’ What feeling is perhaps my employee or vendor or colleague going through that she might have or he might have evoked to this feeling in me? Is there something about the role that I’m in that I have to be in that means that people aren’t going to be happy all the time? How do I make peace with that?”
JM: That’s such good advice. I’m a person who takes everything personally, absolutely. Very like kind of emotional, not like an emotional wreck person, but like just an emotional feeling person especially at work, I love that emotional connection with people and understanding where they’re coming from and what’s happening for them.
But I think the key is really understanding. I think in some ways, that can sort of be about your maturity as an entrepreneur to realize that it’s not about you and sometimes taking things really personally especially when that is kind of the world view is that we’re constantly bringing it back to what that means about us. But sometimes it’s not about us and I love what you say about taking the time to really think about what are the circumstances for the other person involved.
I recently had a client that I’ve had a pretty good relationship with over a long period of time and got this email where he was just like ripping my head off in this email and I was like, “Holy crap, what the hell did I do to bring this on?” Then I was just like, “Oh, wait a minute, I remember him telling me that he had some things that were happening and he’s in the middle of some big changes in his personal life.” I’m like, “Okay, got it, got it, makes a little bit more sense. Maybe I still need to go back and investigate and see if something was maybe misunderstood or misinterpreted or something.”
But just recognizing that other people have things, we all do that, we all have these times where sort of the emotional stress of life just kind of comes into play in work and personal relationships and it’s good to understand that sometimes it’s not something you need to take personally. You just need to recognize that other people have things going on. Oftentimes we forget that, we forget that everybody has stuff that they’re not telling you is going on with them.
BG: Yeah, sometimes it’s not even about. Let me put it to you this way, I think that there’s a big misunderstanding about collaboration. People think that a collaboration means agreement and sometimes some people are really doing their job. They’re disagreeing with you a lot. It’s not because they’re trying to buck your authority – sometimes it is – but oftentimes it’s their doing their job well and they’re really representing their side and their viewpoint. Then there will be disagreements and dissent that actually ultimately is very creative if you know how to be in that messy place with somebody else.
JM: Do you have advice for that? I mean, I know that’s a really big topic but if you could give one piece of advice on, I know for me with negotiating with larger clients that collaboration and that relationship, those negotiations can get pretty hairy. What is your advice for being with that through that process and not looking at it as, for me, I’m very happy go lucky and I really like to find the win-win situation, for things to go smoothly, for things to feel good, and we’re friendly at the end of the process. But sometimes it does get ugly especially when you’ve not had conflict with someone before and you don’t know how it’s going to end, it’s hard to know how to take it or to not look at it in a very sort of fatalistic way. What is your advice for staying in that moment and not seeing it as the relationship breaking but the relationship, like you say being in that collaborative place?
BG: Right, the first piece is that understanding that true collaboration and to make something really new requires that your viewpoint and their viewpoint be expanded. My mentor has a beautiful metaphor about how the tension of the polarity on a violin for example, from one end to the other, it’s very tense but then this bow comes over and makes this beautiful sound. Tension is a part of the process just to name it as that is helpful, I mean, you can think about childbirth, that one’s pretty intense, messy, and painful thing, but ultimately something new and wonderful is created. It’s part of the process, that’s one thing.
I also, I think ground rules really help in creative and negotiating conversations. There shouldn’t be any room for personal or raised voices, I mean, impassioned voices are different than a volume that’s not appropriate, and that there should be ground rules in place to help you really find the different viewpoints and stick with them.
One last thing that I’d like to say is that instead of immediately going to why, what the person said, it won’t work, or it was stupid, or doesn’t really fit, it’s good to say from their viewpoint, “I can see why that would matter or be able to understand what they’re looking at,” and then share your viewpoint so that there’s a little bit more linking in the conversation rather than just polarity to polarity.
JM: And letting them recognize that you’re hearing them instead of just shooting them down, it’s such good advice.
JM: If only we could teach all the other parties those skills.
JM: Well, thank you so much for your time, Blair. I wish we had more time. You are fascinating to talk to. For listeners, how can they reach you? Where can they find you?
BG: They can find me at blairglaser.com and I love emails so email@example.com but I also have a Facebook following which is Facebook/blair.glaser and there are other social media places that I leave but really email is my favorite.
JM: Perfect. Thank you so much. If you’d like to reach out with me and connect with me, you can do that at brandwithcatalyst.com. Blair, thanks again. I really enjoyed our conversation.
BG: Me too, Jennifer. Thanks so much.
JM: Alright, take care.