614 Tevis Trower:

What is your most precious asset as a business owner? Could it be your product? Your IP? Your systems? … …Sure, any of those things are assets, and it is the people on your team that make all those things possible.  So again, your most precious asset? It’s your people.

MELINDA

I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an innovative entrepreneur and futurist who has made it her business to foster greatness in business leaders – helping them to understand and leverage their most precious assets, the people who make success possible.

Tevis Trower is known as a “corporate mindfulness guru for the new millennium”, helping major corporations from Disney to Morgan Stanley optimize their teams and culture. CEO and Founder of Balance Integration Corporation, Tevis has been heralded as a “breath of fresh air in leadership development” by Forbes Magazine – and she focuses her work on helping executives find work/self-integration, wholeness-based leadership, mindfulness, resiliency, mastery, innovation, and radical success.

So much to talk about today, so I can’t wait to introduce you to Tevis! First…

Every day your people come to work – or login at home – and each one of them spells the difference between success and failure. So are they the right people? In the right jobs that align to their true talents? Are they getting the direction and feedback they need? Are they fully bought in to your mission and values?

We talk a lot about entrepreneurial leadership and company culture on this podcast – because companies that succeed have teams that are excited about the work because every day is fulfilling and fun. So how do you create such a culture?

Tevis (teyvis) Trower is a leadership futurist and executive coach who is pioneering a new way forward for corporate leadership worldwide – whether at Disney, Morgan Stanley or emerging growth startups.  She’s been featured in

Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Glamour, Yoga Journal, CIO, Pink, Real Simple, Crain’s, Financial Times, WWD, MSNBC, Fox Business, NY1, and CNN, and her book The Game-Changer’s Guide to Radical Success was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the Top 12 Books for Compassionate Leadership. She teaches Business Creativity & Personal Mastery at New York University, and serves on the boards of the American Diabetes Association, New York Yoga Teachers Association, and Conscious Capitalism-NYC.  Tevis has created and facilitated global executive immersions for prestigious organizations including Harvard Business Review, Young Presidents Organization, PWC, Bloomberg LP, Viacom, Google and The Economist on executive alignment, legacy and impact, conscious leadership, imposter syndrome, innovation, and the role of corporate culture in fostering radical success and engagement.

Today you’ll hear how to be a great team leader, why superheroes suck at leadership, and how to leverage your most important asset: people

Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Tevis Trower.

Melinda Wittstock:

Tevis, welcome to Wings.

Tevis Trower:

I’m so happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Melinda Wittstock:

Me too. I’m really intrigued by something that you say, superheroes suck at leadership. Okay, so most entrepreneurs have to be a little bit foolishly confident to create things out of whole cloth. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing your own stuff and forgetting that your team-

Tevis Trower:

Melinda, we can go ahead and say the word narcissism.

Melinda Wittstock:

Oh gosh. Are all entrepreneurs narcissists by definition? Is that what you think?

Tevis Trower:

I think it takes a dose of irrational faith in one’s own ability. I think it does take that.

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah. I mean, you’re talking to a serial entrepreneur here and I know that that’s true because countless people tell you all the reasons why you can’t do it. There are so many things that make it so hard. If you don’t have that belief, if you can’t envision it, there’s no way it’s going to happen. You need that to succeed as an entrepreneur, but on the other hand you can’t succeed without a great team. How do you balance that?

Tevis Trower:

It’s a juxtaposition between what creativity theory would be the leap of faith, that confidence, and the courage to move beyond fear and self-limiting beliefs and still not become a jerk.

Melinda Wittstock:

Right. Okay. This is interesting. Is there a difference between men and women in this, in terms of the propensity to become a jerk?

Tevis Trower:

Well, let’s look at toxicity. Because the propensity I think is there, the forms are different, 0.1, 0.2. How much have women co-opted how they operate when starting a business to mimic and emulate what they’ve been told a ‘leader’ is? All of this makes this a much more complex conversation than just how are women and how are men? I mean, you’ve probably done this too because you’ve started X number of really successful companies. But you’ve probably studied. You’ve probably gone to the think tanks. You’ve probably gone to the CEO, the masterminds and stuff. I have too, and I’ve sat around the table and I’ve listened while we’ve talked about concepts like vulnerability, and empathy, and humanity, and collaboration, and engagement. We’ve talked about them.

But the underlying assumptions that oftentimes drove the choices my colleagues would make would oftentimes be command and control. “Oh, you can’t tell them how the money really works. Oh, you can’t let them weigh in on that conversation. Oh, you can’t slow down to get their input. You have to make a decision or they’re not going to think you’re a strong leader.” All these really dated ways of being in business. You started out our conversation by bringing up the superhero thing. Now, the thing about the superhero assumption in my mind is you think of Superman, or Batman, or whoever. There’s some kind of threat that’s coming into Gotham or to Metropolis and all the townspeople go, “Oh no, what will we do? What will we do?” And Superman or Batman, they fly in and they say, “Step aside, I’m in control. I will fix this.”

Now you have to say to yourself, is that really the model of leadership? Because if we’re talking about engagement and we’re saying that when we build an organization we want the best talents, the best skills, the best insights, the best competencies. That’s what we’re paying our people to bring every day. Then we’re saying, “Step aside, I’ve got this.” The tools in our toolbox are going to outweigh the tools in everyone’s toolbox.

Melinda Wittstock:

You can’t recruit great people that way. That’s the thing. Because, by definition, if someone is really, really great at what they do, they don’t want to be second-guessed all the time by somebody who’s not. Just because you’re the founder or you’re the CEO doesn’t mean that you have their particular expertise. I mean, I look at it as enable people, give them what they need to succeed, let them go, allow them to fail as long as they learn, get the hell out of their way, but set the vision and create a culture of collaboration, and authenticity, and accountability so people know what kind of results, what kind of metrics, what they’re going for. Everybody’s aligned on vision, but people are allowed to be their own company of superheroes.

Tevis Trower:

Well, this is like the true leader that steps forward, blows a whistle and goes, “Hey, everyone, there’s a threat. Let’s all get together, huddle.” You go into the huddle and you start swapping ideas. But you said a really important thing and that is, communicate the vision, which sometimes our organizations have a stated vision or they’ve got their BHAG, or they’ve got their why, or they’ve got their whatever buzzword that we’re all supposed to.

Melinda Wittstock:

It’s on the website but it’s not lived.

Tevis Trower:

Well, I don’t really think it’s the why. I know Simon Sinek fans all over are falling on the ground going, “What?” Yes, yes, why is important. But what if we have a why and then we task everyone involved, every stakeholder, and that includes your vendors, it includes your contractors. It actually includes your customers, and we give them a voice and a how. Because if we’re asking our customer, “Hey, here’s my why? How can I serve you such that I’m making this why happen?”

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah, because if it’s just the why, yeah. I mean, the why is important for sure, but I love what you’re saying about the co-creation, particularly with customers, and also extending that out to vendors and whatnot. Because then everyone literally is on the same page and you’re getting the best solutions from the people that would pay you.

Tevis Trower:

Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:

You’re understanding their problems and what would actually work from them rather than presupposing from that kind of superhero on high that you think you know everything yourself.

Tevis Trower:

Not only that, but most whys are structured around something bigger. It’s like the BHAG. They’re structured around… there’s something almost altruistic. There’s something about a better world.

Melinda Wittstock:

Right, “We’re going to change the world. We’re going to make a dent in the universe.” That’s awesome, but how do you bring that home to the here and now?

Tevis Trower:

If your accounting clerks are not empowered to ask themselves how, and if they don’t have KPIs and priorities. Because that’s the other thing that I see a lot is, it’s kind of amazing, particularly in legacy organizations. Startups, a lot of times, don’t have KPIs because it seems like everything’s an emergency. Flip side, the legacy companies oftentimes don’t because they’re coming out of a command and control kind of heritage. If they were started in the ’50s or the ’80s or whatever, they just said, “Oh, the rich dude at the top of the function is going to tell you what to do every day.” But what’s interesting is that, when you actually sit down and say, “Okay, we are going to create some KPIs and we’re going to really focus on one or two.”

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah. What’s the priority? What’s the results of the work?

Tevis Trower:

Yeah. Yeah. Not just a KPI, but actually a priority KPI, right?

Melinda Wittstock:

Well, this is so important because when you think of people coming to work every day, often… because it’s some really junior people. It’s almost like the beginner’s mind. You can see something that leadership doesn’t see because they’re so invested and now attached to the idea whether it’s an ego attachment or whatever it is. Especially when there’s success, some of the accolades start coming in so you start just thinking you know it all. That is a trap that it’s so easy to fall into. I find, often, really, I don’t know, junior people, or an intern, or somebody at the mid level of a company, or whatever often has a fresh perspective and can see something with a different eye that you just can’t see. Why would any CEO want to be blind if they don’t have to? I just never understood this.

Tevis Trower:

Well, there’s a couple of ways to think about this really. I’ve seen this too in my own company, that I’ll bring people in and I really have to be mindful of, how am I allowing the weight of my experience to stand in the way of possibility?

Melinda Wittstock:

What a beautiful way to say it.

Tevis Trower:

That’s a really humbling moment.

Melinda Wittstock:

Well, it is humbling. You see, this is the thing. I think the most successful people actually, I think after a while you start, I may be just burnished by the experience of entry pioneering, you-

Tevis Trower:

I like that word.

Melinda Wittstock:

There is a humility involved in it because, just in all honesty, there’s so much beyond your control. Things are constantly changing. You’re always learning. There’s a competitive environment. There’s constant innovation. I mean, and in that, and then people and people’s needs, all of that. To not actually have a humility, I think it gets kicked into you. Either you’re willing or events transpire to have you flame out, or get kicked out of your company, or the company fails. I mean, it’s as simple as that in the end.

Tevis Trower:

Well, I want to tell you a story that involves two very different organizations.

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay. This is good.

Tevis Trower:

One is the US Army and the other is Chanel.

Melinda Wittstock:

Okay, wow! Okay, so different.

Tevis Trower:

I go to this think tank years ago in Cambridge and Peter Senge who wrote The Fifth Discipline and he’s a major leadership guru. The Fifth Discipline by the way is self-actualization. We’re all sitting and we’ve just done all these exercises to get in touch with ourselves. I’m probably the youngest one there, I’m one of the only females, and I’m sitting next to a Colonel at the Army War College. This is one of the guys that drives policy of what kind of leadership skills are they going to be teaching to the leaders of the armed forces in action, in combat. We’re talking and he said to me, this is way back when. This is over 15 years ago. He said to me that they had adopted a policy of empowering people on the ground to make the calls, to make the decisions.

Tevis Trower:

I was like, “Wow, that’s amazing.” Because you think about command and control, everything’s got to come from the top. You think about a military structure. He said, “If we waited for the generals to sit with stuff our clocks would be cleaned. We’d be dead in the water because everything is happening so quickly and the ability to disseminate, not only the tactical, but the emotional intelligence, is happening in the moment.” One of the things they trained their leaders to do is to feel confident and feel trust with their people. What?

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah. But you have to. I mean, here’s the thing is when you trust somebody they feel empowered.

Tevis Trower:

Oh yeah. Well, and they definitely feel it when you don’t. When you don’t trust them, they are never going to give you their best. Because even if they’re trying to, it’s going to be laden with fear and insecurity and it won’t be their best, even if they think it is. Here’s where Chanel comes in. I got brought into this engagement at Chanel and they were getting their clocks cleaned because, lo and behold, they had done some studies and learned that all the young tech 30-somethings would come into their store and they wouldn’t be taken seriously. Those same young tech 30 year olds with platinum cards would go into Burberry or Dior or whatever and they would be treated well.

They realized they had a culture problem of profiling clients obviously, “Will they be able to buy a $2,000 or a $10,000 handbag or not?” But what was really happening was the fact that the brand had only become an idea and not something that was being embodied throughout. Now, when you think of Coco Chanel, former ‘dance hall girl’. Poverty, hunger, really slung in and out, and she creates a brand because she believes that luxury is a spiritual need. When you think about that, oh, luxury is a spiritual need. Well, that’s a why. When you turn to everyone in the organization and you ask them… because the people who work at Chanel, they’re just people who, for some reason, that brand speaks to. For some reason that brand makes them go, “Oh my God, that is the epitome. That is the pinnacle.”

But you go to work every day and you go through your politics and maybe your boss isn’t that skillful at being with other people, or maybe there’s some competition over who gets to the white haired lady who’s carrying an Hermes bag because you know she’s a good target for your next sale, blah, blah, et cetera. All that happens every day. What we did was we literally took the entire boutique organization for North America top down. That’s the other thing. A lot of times the senior leaders think they are exempt from this deep digging. They say, “Oh yeah. Here, let’s put everyone through this,” but they themselves stand aside because they think they’re already living it. That’s a serious problem. That’s where, you know that the organization is lacking the humility and has actually moved into hubris. Which is a danger zone for organizations.

Anyway, we take the whole, the entire North American boutique from the shipping dude to the head of each store, and we walk them through what this really… Why did you want to be here? This is way before Simon Sinek by the way. Why did you want to be here? And then we tied it back to how. How do you bring that to life? How do you embody that? Not only with customers, but with each other. How do we bring this alive? Because it’s in every glance, it’s in every ask, it’s every, “You’re welcome.” It’s in everything. The North American organization commissioned this and we executed it across the country. The assumption was, Asia is never going to go for it, it’s too touchy-feely. France is definitely never going to go for it, it’s too touchy-feely.

But the beauty of it was that these are human truths. When you hold human truths as being a leadership strength and a competitive strength in the marketplace, it becomes really hard to ignore. Within a year the entire program was adapted and executed in Asia, which is the most important market or was at the time, for Chanel, and eventually it was rolled out to Europe. I think that the days in which we think that human wholeness is somehow separate from leadership competency, I think those days are hopefully fading in the rear view mirror.

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah. But it’s interesting though, because for an entrepreneur it’s so much easier to pivot quickly and change and create mindfully, right from the get-go. But for a major corporation to make these changes, I mean, it comes to change management. That’s hard. I mean, how many of them actually managed to turn the super tanker and be able to really step into this? I mean, I happen to think that a lot of companies that are big and powerful will be extinct if they don’t, and quickly. Because it’s really what consumers, great team members. I mean, really this has been driven by Millennials and Gen Zers who won’t work for a company that’s not like this, right?

Tevis Trower:

Oh, Melinda, watch what happens next.

Melinda Wittstock:

I mean, it’s just-

Tevis Trower:

With the shift of the hybrid workplace and are the legacy companies going to drop the ax and force everyone to come back. How does compensation work if you are being paid a New York salary but you relocated and now you live in Des Moines? There is going to be compass-spinning like you have never seen over the next 12 months.

Melinda Wittstock:

I really think that’s true. I mean, I think of Podopolo my company, it’s a podcasting app, the very first social one. It’s a big opportunity, a big play, really innovating a lot. But we had to create a team on Zoom during the pandemic. Our team is global, so between Zoom and Slack. The challenge was, “Okay, how do we create this great culture where a lot of us have never actually physically met? And yet we have this amazing culture, and how has this come to be?” It was very, very top of mind to me, and perhaps because of the challenge of the pandemic it made it maybe more top of mind than it would have been, I don’t know that. But getting the right people in place, really empowering them, aligning people on vision, just what we’ve been talking about. Giving them the space to innovate.

As the CEO, reminding them continually the values, “Okay, so how are we being that? What are we doing that’s consistent with that? What are the KPIs?” But beyond that, just having fun. Really allowing people to be themselves. Now I think, wow! Okay, so we get back to normal, whatever normal is. Where would our office even be? Because we have people all over the United States. We have people all over the world. We have people in Kosovo, and Brazil, and Nigeria, and Pakistan. I mean, what? Do you know what I mean? Where’s the corporate office of Podopolo? I have no idea.

Tevis Trower:

Yeah. Well, and so often where the corporate office is creates a cultural meta that influences. It’s like the marinade for the thinking. It’s funny that you brought up startups and how culture can be crafted with much more agility. We just did an offsite, virtual, for a small company called MikMak and they’re just over 100 employees and this woman is killing it. Her name’s Rachel Tipograph, and she is just building… they’re killing it on all their metrics. Their raises are through the roof in terms of the money they’re getting. But already at only 100 employees there’s an us and them. There’s, “Well, I was here when there were only 30 employees and I could talk to Rachel any time. Why is it getting so bureaucratic? I used to be the head of this, but-”

Melinda Wittstock:

Oh man. That’s a difficult transition. I’m already thinking about that. Say we’re like 25 people now. By the end of the year, assuming all goes well.

Tevis Trower:

I hope it does.

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah. It’s going to be like 80 or something, getting close to that 100 number, and it does change the culture. How do you look at that when you know you’re going into that rapid scale? You could see what the pitfalls would be because either you’ve lived them in your previous companies or previous experiences in corporate say, or whatever, from books, or from interviews like this. You know what could be in store for you. What are some steps to take, I guess, to stop that us and them kind of thing from creeping in?

Tevis Trower:

What we did, because one of the big things, going back to the Superman syndrome, was it was fostering a victim mentality amongst people who didn’t know how to exist, how to craft an identity that was comfortable to them in whatever was emerging. We were listening to the words of just the buzz on the street. We were looking at the surveys. We were looking at the exit questionnaires, et cetera. We realized that there had been fostered a victim kind of a mentality where people were standing around with their arms crossed, figuratively speaking, going, “Make me happy. Make me happy. Why aren’t I happy? Why aren’t I happy?”

We thought about it and we thought, as humans, we forget that we are a part of culture. When we disempower ourselves because we’re waiting for Superman to go full circle, because we want a fairy godmother CEO or a benevolent overlord CEO to come and make everything perfect. It really creates an emotional black hole because of the habit of discontent. We’re always going to be able to find a hole.

What we did was we actually pulled all 100 employees onto Zoom and we talked about the collective responsibility of shaping culture. We worked through a couple of rounds of this. We broke people up into breakouts. We had a wonderful whiteboard tool and people ideated, what do they love? What do they not love? What needs to go? Through that we distilled two things that the company was going to commit to. By forcing people to focus on two things, every group had to come up with two things and then we did an aggregate, what are the top two things to come to the surface? But by forcing people to really constrict what are the most important two things, you create an economy of energy. You can’t say, “Oh, but there’s this. Oh, but there’s that.” They have to ask themselves those bottom-lining questions.

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah. Yeah. This is so, so important because the other thing though too is how to avoid silos. By bringing all those folks together, you start to foster a collective understanding of… well, empathy really, in terms of understanding, okay, so this is what the salespeople need to succeed, okay. But this is the perspective of the tech people. I use that example because that’s usually the biggest.

Melinda Wittstock:

Or just even between marketing and sales there could be silos. How to get that sense of empathy. What’s really cool is when you start to get cross-disciplinary collaboration where just having somebody step into a different scenario or department, or whatever, and they can see something with fresh eyes and they learn something that they can apply back in their own area and trying to make that happen. Tony Hsieh, I guess the late Tony Hsieh from Zappos. I mean, Tony, I knew, just wonderful how he created that culture at Zappos was extraordinary. I mean, he used to talk about creative collisions.

Tevis Trower:

Ooh, I like that word.

Melinda Wittstock:

The architecting, say, an office space where people would actually run into each other that otherwise wouldn’t.

Tevis Trower:

Well, this is super important. For one thing, the way that we did the MikMak was cross-functional absolutely. In fact it was random. The rule was everyone had to speak in their small group. But here’s what I think we’re going to go to post COVID and in hybrid work world, is we’re going to go to a replication of agile. Agile is going to become the rule and it will be hybrid. Some people will go into the office and some people won’t, and very few I think are going to go all the time, and very few are going to go never. There will be almost a SWAT teaming around specific timings and specific initiatives in which small cities ‘spontaneously’ emerge in all-inclusive kind of locations. That team is going to work their tush off for a couple of days, a couple of weeks, whatever.

That’s really going to become the connective point in which involved people from various functions come together to determine direction, KPIs, priorities, focus, et cetera. I think it’s going to be really exciting and invigorating because it allows for that positive adrenaline, the eustress as opposed to the distress. The eutress of, “Great we’re coming together, we’ve got something to accomplish. We’re going to burn it out.” That kind of creative surge, and then the normalizing and adapting through a healthy infrastructure of process and procedure, et cetera. I think it’s going to be really exciting.

Melinda Wittstock:

I think so too. We’re excited as people get vaccinated we’re going to have our first team retreat. Everybody’s so excited about it. We’re going to do a lot of this work, but also just have a lot of fun and have enough time to just really, really connect. Then we committed as a company, as long as we’re completely virtual, to do that quarterly. And I like that you used the word agile because that’s a really iterative way of testing ideas really, really quickly.

It’s a great way to co-create with customers. It’s something where you learn things super quickly potentially, and if they’re not working you can also ditch them quickly, which is also important so you don’t make these errors that take on a momentum of their own off into a cliff or whatever. I think one of the things that women do bring to it, going back a little bit earlier in our conversation, as long as women are not bought into this, “I’m going to pretend I’m a guy,” when we’re really leveraging some of the intrinsic strengths we have around empathy or intuition, or just more collaborative those sorts of qualities. When we’re really stepping into that and owning that. I think we do potentially have a great advantage as CEOs and leaders, what do you think about that?

Tevis Trower:

I mean, we spoke earlier in the conversation about men and women and their tendencies. I think that, than any psychologist, any philosopher, any wisdom tradition will say that we all possess both the masculine and the feminine, the linear the nonlinear. That either extreme can become toxic. One of the things about corporate cultures, or let’s call it organizational culture, is that the assumption is that the linear is more valid. I think what’s really been born out by creativity theory, by countless studies and analysis of what are the breakout companies and how did they get there? Even bringing up the Tony Hsieh example, what a case study in fostering humanity and risk-taking and just outrageous. “I’m going to make this company, and then I’m going to buy a pair of shoes after I get the order,” kind of thing. I mean. I think that the one thing I have to say to female leaders is not to second-guess their gut so much.

Melinda Wittstock:

Right, right. Well, because the gut is actually incredibly important. How you are feeling about things. I go back in my career and I think of just the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made have been overriding, allowing my analytic.

Tevis Trower:

Oh girl.

Melinda Wittstock:

… what I already intrinsically know in my bones.

Tevis Trower:

Yup. Yup. The ability to either work with a coach or create some disciplines that foster the power of discernment in you. Men and women both need this because both of us experience emotional triggers that mitigate the voice of wisdom inside of us. That mitigate that insight, that skillfulness because of our egos. Men do it and women do it, and if you have a pulse you’re doing it a lot of the time. But whether you work with a coach, or whether you join a mastermind, or whether you do a lot of self study, you have some self-inquiry practices to help you really discern, “Where is this just me being triggered and what is really the underlying truth that will help me to steer forward? What is the most skillful way for me to steer forward given what the situation is?” Not what my emotions are, what the situation is. I think that’s a really important skill [inaudible 00:35:23].

The other thing, you use the phrase earlier beginner’s mind. I agree with you. It’s so important to shut up and let other people talk as you and I have been talking this whole time. I’m like, I just wish everyone listening was talking with us. But be the last person to talk. Ask a question and then shut up for 20 minutes. Because the other thing that really needs to happen is we need to be fostering beginner mind within ourselves so that we can continue to create new neural patterns so that we can create the skill of curiosity. Because curiosity is a skill. It’s an innate part of human nature, but it gets dulled down by our nervous system.

The folks I work with, a lot of times I task them with doing things that scare the socks off of them. Doing things that feel really uncomfortable, doing things that they’re not the expert at, “Oh, I can’t do that. I’m not good at it.” Okay, that’s exactly what you need to be doing then. If we only do things that we’re good at, then how do we learn humility? How do we learn that not being good at something isn’t a death sentence?

Melinda Wittstock:

Well, this is so funny. I mean, some of the entrepreneur groups that I’m part of actually make it a point to make us do things to get out of our comfort zone. Whether it’s like learning the trapeze. Literally I did the trapeze. I was terrified, but did it. Okay, so then you did it and you think, “Oh man, I could do that.” The other one was swimming with sharks. That was hilarious because the sharks could give a crap about us. They were really uninterested.

Tevis Trower:

Wait a minute. I have to ask you because I’ve done trapeze too for the same reason, I’m afraid of heights, I like to push my envelope. Were you amazed at how heavy the human body is when hanging from a metal bar?

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Tevis Trower:

I was like, “Jeez.”

Melinda Wittstock:

Well, actually my biggest lesson from the trapeze is just do as you’re told. If the a ays, knees, put your knees up right now, don’t think about it. If he says, let go, you let go right now. You don’t say, “Oh, should I let go?” You know what I mean?

Tevis Trower:

Yeah, yeah. This is not a moment for opinion.

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah. Because the people who are truly in flow and just listened and just did it, could do it. I mean, it was a really interesting kind of lesson. But yeah. I mean, I think all these things are really important to just find ways to get out of your comfort zone. I mean, just even something as simple as just changing your mindset by brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand.

Tevis Trower:

Oh yeah. There are so many great… these are all basically creativity practices, and there are some really great ones. There’s a book called Creativity in Business and it’s by a dude, he’s one of my mentors, his name’s Michael Ray. He was the marketing chair emeritus actually at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He started looking at this question of creativity and he’s embedded throughout the book just a zillion reminders of, “How do you wake up your nervous system? How do you be new again?” Yeah, there’s perception walks. The next time you take a walk, whether you’re in a country or a city, task yourself with noticing a specific shape, a specific color. Ask new questions when you see an old friend.

Melinda Wittstock:

Yeah. I mean, really these are all conscious practices in a way. It’s like keep it in the moment because that’s where your power is. So many people are in the past or in the future. They’re not really in the here and now, forgetting that the here and now is what’s creating everything. Just developing that conscious awareness is a really big part and easier said than done, but important. I think that rise in conscious leadership is something that is vital. Tevis, before we go I did want to ask you one other question though about imposter syndrome because I’m curious about that. I think a lot of people experience that. Say they succeed beyond their dreams or they are heading for that, but they do things potentially to sabotage themselves subconsciously. Is a lot of that to do with imposter syndrome?

Tevis Trower:

Oh, wow. Well that might be another-

Melinda Wittstock:

That’s a whole other interview. You have to come back again.

Tevis Trower:

I want to leave you with my favorite metaphor for imposter syndrome, and this has just recently occurred to me. It’s really the Wizard of Oz and the guy behind the curtains. I’ve coached a lot of high performers, a lot of C-suite and C-suite proximate folks who have really been the golden child of their respective organizations. Part of what I’ve seen is that they have so bought into a construct of what they think they’re expected to be, and they’ve curated themselves. It’s been a process of decades of, “What part of me do I snip off, or do I hide, or do I tuck away so that people will essentially like me? So that people will trust me. People like me so that people will give me power. They will follow what I do. They will think I’m competent.”

Tevis Trower:

It’s all a manipulation. What is lost in the process is your access to who you truly are, which is a giant source of energy and creativity, and actually is your greatest gift to bring to the organization. I do not buy into this false dichotomy that it’s either happiness or money. I think that’s the biggest, one of the most destructive constructs that we hold in our culture. I think that having coached these folks who have curated or severed so many aspects of who they are, what happens is there’s this well of suppressed need. Whether it’s, “I really need breathing space once or twice every four hours. My brain gets cluttered, my adrenaline goes up. I start breathing shallow if I go from meeting to meeting, to meeting, to meeting.”

Now, this is something all of us know about ourselves. You overload your nervous system, you’re not going to perform as well. Yet we do it not only every day, we do it for years on end.

Melinda Wittstock:

Oh God, just breathe.

Tevis Trower:

Well, the crazy thing is that it sounds woo-woo until you realize, “Oh yeah, I’m a nervous system that is connected to a physiological system, that’s connected to an emotional system, that’s connected to an immune system, that’s connected extrinsically to countless social systems.” When we think about it through the eyes of a scientist we suddenly go, “Oh, wait a minute. So I’ve forced myself into a mold by severing my relationship with so many aspects of myself so that I can be a part of a social system. I am incapable of being my best [inaudible 00:43:30] because I have forced myself into a mold to be there.” This is just such screwed up logic. When you ask me about imposter syndrome, I think that it is part and parcel of getting… not because it has to be, but it’s a de facto part and parcel for a lot of us of getting into a position of power.

At some point we need to wake up and say, “Okay, I got here, but what did I lose connection with that was voluntary? I didn’t have to lose connection with all that stuff. What is it that, now that I know the cost of it…” because most of us know the cost of what we’ve lost touch with. “Now that I know the cost of it, what am I going to do to take action?” Because that’s when you’re really going to start to emerge and take flight.

Melinda Wittstock:

Oh my goodness. So, so true. Yeah, so Tevis you’re going to have to come back so much more. I feel like we’ve scratched the surface, but what a wonderful conversation. I want to make sure people know how to find you, follow you, work with you. What’s the best way?

Tevis Trower:

You can find me at balanceintegration.com and we’re serving up a free chapter of my book if you guys would like to check it out. I think Melinda is going to have a link for you guys to get it. I’m taking people into the woods to connect to nature and to learn some leadership lessons about that. If you’re interested check out Balance Integration and you’ll see more.

Melinda Wittstock:

Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.

Tevis Trower:

It is such an honor to fly with you.

Tevis Trower
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