Episode 2: The Reinvention Mindset (transcript)
Several months into the pandemic, something went missing from supermarkets across North America. I know, I know, you’re having flashbacks to the great toilet paper shortage of 2020…but I’m not talking about that.
Millions of people were all of a sudden baking bread. And they were buying every. last. bag. of flour, which meant that now, it was flour that was impossible to find.
And if social media was any indication, people weren’t just making any old bread. They were baking a complex bread called sourdough. So complex, that you need something else that’s hard-to-find — sourdough starter. It’s like a science experiment, treasure hunt, and baking class all rolled into one.
So…what does any of this have to do with work, and the employee experience? The point is this: during the pandemic, many people, stuck at home, got curious, they tried new things they never would have tried before. Some of them came out of it with new skills, and new interests. And now that a lot of you are going back to the workplace, the question is this: what will be..your sourdough bread…at work…What new things do you want to try?
I’m Dr. Sonia Kang and this is For The Love Of Work…an original podcast about the employee experience, made possible by Rogers. On today’s episode: reinvention.
VOICEMAIL – MAJOR PHONE FILTER, CANNOT BE SUBTLE
Hi Sonia…umm I had all of these ideas during the pandemic, about things I wanted to do when things went back to normal. Right now I’m a project coordinator at a corporate real estate company…I was thinking about maybe something more modern, I dunno like maybe a tech startup. So I was gonna do all of this research, and then we went back to in-office work, and honestly it just started to seem so overwhelming.
This listener message is one of the reasons we need to talk about reinvention because when I say “reinvention” I don’t mean a total 180.
You or your world don’t have to completely change. There can be real opportunity in staying put, but shaking it up a bit, trying new things. Maybe it’s learning new skills in the same role, or pursuing a position in a different department. For some people, it could be a promotion. A chance to become a team leader. Whatever it is, this could be a great time for a reset, a fresh start.
So, today we’re gonna learn a bunch of stuff: how to figure out what you even want to reinvent, and the best mindsets for success. How to rely on your strengths and passions. And then how to do what you need to do to bring about that reinvention.
We will also hear from a literal rockstar about the techniques he used, to overcome a pretty big obstacle, during the pandemic. ___________________________________________________________________________
DC: It’s absolutely possible to reinvent yourself within your job and not necessarily leave it. [00:28:30]…
Dorie Clark teaches at Duke University. She says we should all make reinvention a habit.
DC: [00:01:30] it’s a little freaky to jump off the proverbial cliff and try something completely new. And so you can often make for a much gentler landing and smarter and better choices if all along.. [00:02:00] You can experiment around the edges and keep sharpening your skills so that you can actually ascertain in a low risk way whether this is actually the path that you want to be exploring and be developing the skills so that your transition into it, if the answer is yes, is actually much simpler.
One of the ways you can explore what’s around you, Dorie says, is by networking. But this networking is more like a critical hunt for information.
DC: what does the data analytics team do? What does that look like? What’s your average day like? Do you like what you do? what’s the culture in your department?..And by having these conversations, [00:39:00] you can actually get a better sense of, would you like that work?…
The networking can also help you to reverse engineer the job description, by asking people, “what do I need to be able to do? What kind of training do I need? And what can I bring to the job?
DC: [00:39:00] Once you get a sense, okay this sounds really good, this is what I want, then networking as much as you can, within that department is helpful. Because you want to have a lot of internal allies… speaking to the boss and whispering in his or her ear and saying, Hey, for this new position, don’t hire outside you know, hire this person right here. They’re awesome. They’re great.
This is the first step in a workplace reinvention. But there are a couple of other essential ingredients to choosing your next role. For those I’m gonna tell you a story a friend of mine likes to tell. Actually it’s based on an ancient Greek parable……about two animals that live in the forest.
FOREST: BIRDS, RUSTLING OF LEAVES, MAMMALS – ESTABLISH A FEW SECONDS
One of them is a fox. He’s slick and cunning, as foxes are, but also scattered and inconsistent, running in multiple directions, trying to do a million different things at once – chase down a rabbit, redecorate his little den, I dunno, fox stuff. The other one is a hedgehog, and the hedgehog’s different.
Unlike the fox, the hedgehog tries to keep things simple, and lets one big idea or goal guide everything she does. She’s all about focus…some people are more foxy, moving in many different directions and pursuing multiple goals, and some people are more hedgehoggy, guided by a single, uniting vision.
My friend, the guy who likes to tell this story, is also the guy I make this podcast with, and he’s all about that hedgehog life. Jim Reid is the Chief HR Officer at Rogers.
[SK: So, the hedgehog is super focused. It sees the world very clearly. How can this translate into our work experience?
Jim: Well, the personal hedgehog really comes from being at the intersection of three circles.. Circle number one is making sure that every day, you play to your genetically encoded strengths. [00:00:30]..Something that differentiates you, your deep strengths…Circle two is passion. Think about when you get up in the morning..What kind of work do you love to do every single day? And circle three is about making a living. [00:01:00] This circle is more important when you change careers or when you start careers. So, when you think about the hedgehog concept, the most important circles for your day-to-day work are circles one and two, SK: [00:01:00] So, as people return to the office or continue remote work, how can we use the three circles to reinvent ourselves and reach our career goals?…
Jim: I think the beauty of this framework is that it’s simple, it’s easy to use. And once you’ve done the work yourself..validate it with people who you trust, [00:04:30]..and say how do you see me? Do you see me with these genetically encoded strengths? Do you see me with this passion? And then, once you’ve got it, you lock it, and you never deviate from it…because focus, when you come back into the workplace, drives impact, [00:03:00] and impact drives success.
TRANSITION – FOREST – DEFINITELY NEED IT TO COVER AWKWARD SIGN OFF ABOVE
As you conduct your critical hunt for information, keeping in mind your strengths and passions helps focus your search for new opportunities. And then the real work begins. For that you will need something the brilliant Angela Duckworth calls grit.
Angela Duckworth: I define grit as the combination of passion and perseverance for long-term goals. [00:28:30]
Angela is a professor of psychology at the Wharton School, and the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
Sonia Kang: So, let’s say that you’ve been working in a company, the same company for five years, doing one job. But during the pandemic, you picked up a new interest. So, I don’t know, coding, let’s say. What steps would you take to pursue that direction, if you also want to be gritty?
Angela Duckworth: I think you have to ask the question, do I think there’s some chance that this could grow into something more serious?..And if the answer is yes, then I do think there would be cause to maybe take a sabbatical from your work and try it out and try to get your supervisor to give you more responsibility in that area. I think if you introspect a bit, oftentimes you know that which is something [00:50:00] you would like to do more of and that which you had a good run and you’re not going to be baking yeast bread every day for the rest of your life, but you’re really glad that you tried it out for a few months. So, I do think that some experimentation and some pivoting is fine and healthy…But I’ll just remind people that so many gritty people are driven by a need to be excellent..And that just [00:50:30] means that those thousands of hours of practice and improvement and focus are by necessity..crowding out other competing interests. I, for example, read a little poetry over the pandemic. And I started cooking more with my Instant Pot, and those are fine, but I’m not going to pick those up in earnest and have two or three hours of my day with that, because otherwise I wouldn’t be a very good psychologist.
Sonia Kang: Like the Angela Duckworth Instant Pot Youtube channel.
Angela Duckwort: You will not see an [00:51:00] Angela Duckworth Instant Pot cookbook, I promise you that.
Once you’ve decided on a path to a new department or a promotion, it takes a lot of practice, improvement, and focus. But the way we think of “effort” can make a big difference in how we stay in the game. Especially when things don’t go our way, at first.
Angela Duckworth: Usually, the reaction of people who fail to achieve their goals is quote “I’ll try harder.”
Just trying harder is based on the idea that we already have the natural abilities or willpower or motivation to conquer a challenge. Some psychologists call this a fixed mindset.
The problem with the fixed mindset is, if you hit a wall, or you don’t achieve what you want, you can feel like a failure, right, because you were supposed to have what it takes inside of you already. When people think like this and they don’t succeed, they can end up abandoning their goal.
Instead of that, try something called an experimental mindset where we stop only trying harder and look for better ways to do things.
For people in the middle of a reinvention, dealing with all of the ups and downs that come with creating new habits, goals and work flows, there’s another mindset that will come in handy for the long haul. It’s called a growth mindset, and it came up when I was telling Angela about my eldest son.
Angela Duckworth: How old are your kids?
Sonia Kang: One is two and one is six.
Angela Duckworth: Okay.
Sonia Kang: So, a really good example of this is I play flute…and so I was playing it. And then he came in and he was really interested and he wanted to play it. And it’s so funny, he took it as if he’ll be able to take it and play it.
Angela Duckworth: And just start playing.
Sonia Kang: Yeah, totally. And he obviously, can’t even make a sound on it. And he was so disappointed. And I’m like, “Why would you think that you could just do this?”..[00:26:30]
Angela Duckworth: Yeah, what did you do as a mom when you realized that your slightly perfectionist six-year-old was counting himself out of a musical career?
Sonia Kang: Both my husband and I are just all about reinforcing growth mindset as much as possible, [00:27:00] and also reminding him about the things that he’s learned by practicing, like all of the other skill that he’s acquired.
That’s one of the biggest goals I have as a parent, to help my son develop that growth mindset. And it involves getting comfortable in “liminal space”, which is the space we occupy when we’re making a change, or moving toward a goal…like learning to ride a bike or for you, at work, completing a new certification so you can move into a new role.
Angela Duckworth: What kinds of skills would you point out to a six-year-old and say, “Hey, look, you got better here.” My hard drive got rewritten.
Sonia Kang: One of the things right now, so he’s learning how to ride his bike without training wheels. And he’s super disappointed that he can’t do it right away. So then, the comparison that we made is to a scooter. He [00:27:30] couldn’t ride a scooter at all. And now, he’s like a scooter pro…
Progress is often slow or subtle, so we can be in that space for a long time, and it’s scary because there’s a lot of uncertainty. And this can be one of the reasons people with fixed mindsets give up, to get out of that uncomfortable liminal space.
Sonia Kang: One of the things we talked about last season was resilience. And when we’re talking about resilience, we talk about this exact [00:33:00] thing, that resilience isn’t about just not being stressed. It’s about getting better at the recovery so you’d still feel like that stress response, but it’s just practicing that recovery over and over and over. And that’s what makes people resilient. Because this is another thing, resilience and you talk about resilience as part of grit as well, that people think you have it or you don’t.
Angela Duckwort…: to the extent that we’re talking about matters of psychology…sometimes people think like, “Well, yeah, but you can’t change your personality.” Well, that’s not true. [00:35:00] Look at the graphs of how people’s extroversion [00:35:00] even changes..how their conscientiousness changes. So, I like that you’re dispelling the myth that resilience is something fixed about you and you either are resilient or you’re not.
Sonia Kang: [00:52:00] I love that so much. Thank you.
Angela Duckworth: Yay.
Okay, let’s take a moment here to go over what Angela was talking about. Recognize when a fixed mindset isn’t helping you at work. Adopt an experimental mindset where you try new ways of doing things — and that should be an ongoing process. And approach challenges with a growth mindset, the fundamental belief that you can improve, over time. And that might be a looooong time.
If you want to reinvent, there’s gonna be a learning curve, and how well you deal with that depends on your mindset…your passion…your perseverance. These are the building blocks to resilience. But, in this case, not resilience to overcome adversity, but instead to seize an opportunity.
We are going to hear two stories about this. One told by Chris Murphy, a member of the rock band Sloan. That’s coming up in a bit. But first we’re getting back to Dorie Clark. In her book titled Reinventing You, she tells a story about…
..Richard, a financial journalist working in Miami. One day, his newspaper announced they were adding a food and wine section.
DC: And Richard said, wait..I want to do that. And they said, well, kind of sorry, Richard, we need you on oil and gas, that’s your job. And he said, okay, okay, fine. He said, I’ll do oil and gas, but I will volunteer [00:29:30] to do food and wine…All of a sudden, Richard was this [00:30:00] authority on food and wine. And he would get into all the cool places, try all the cool things…And, he told me, there was this sort of unexpected ancillary benefit, because all the people that he was dealing with regularly, in oil and gas, and in mortgage backed securities..[00:30:30]..They’re always looking for cool places to take their clients or to go out for dinner. And so Richard became like their concierge…So it meant that all the other reporters, they might or might not call them back. Richard, they always called back, because he was worth talking to. And [00:31:00] so it made him better at his day job as well.
Richard had a passion, and when an opportunity happened organically, he applied perseverance to it. Now that’s Grit. But he also managed his workplace relationships to put himself in that position, and that’s the next lesson here. Once you’ve gathered all of the info you need, run it through your strengths and passions filter, and committed to the proper mindsets, it’s time to put your cards on the table.
DC: one of the challenges at work of course is that for anyone who works inside of a company, your boss has a picture of what you should be doing or what is most valuable. And that may [00:13:00] or may not perfectly overlap with what you think is most interesting or most valuable…having a conversation with your boss about the areas that you want to learn more about, that you want to go more into, it feels risky for people sometimes. They might think, “Oh no. They’re going to be worried that I’m disengaged. And I don’t like the current thing that I’m doing.” But actually on the contrary, it is fairly rare for people to be proactive and self-motivated enough to identify the areas that they’re really engaged in. And so [00:14:30] when you go to your boss and say, “Hey, I really like this. I really want to learn about this.” It’s actually really impressive. Because frankly, most people just do not have the get up and go necessary to do that [00:44:00] So, you need to be very, very explicit about what your goals and your aspirations are…the key is they’re not going to do the work for you. But if it’s a really good boss, they want to help you achieve your dreams. And so if you can count on them as an ally and sort of bring them into this [00:37:00] process, and just be honest with them and let them know, look..I would really appreciate your help in thinking this through with me and figuring out how we can do this.
[00:15:00] I was thinking that maybe what our company needs is to start a video podcast. And I would be glad to spearhead that initiative. If you’d be open to letting me do that as part of my job..[00:15:30]..Now at first, is this going to mean you have extra work? Probably…But if you do it long enough and well enough, it actually you can make the case that whatever you’re doing is essential enough that it warrants its own attention. [00:16:30]..And they can hire somebody else for the previous task or delegate it to somebody else.
But even if we have this new vision for ourselves, and our bosses are onboard, the way other people view us might get in the way.
DC: [00:48:00] And so, if you really want to make a transition and you want to be not the sales guy, you want to be the HR guy, we have to get them somehow to think of us differently. So, what is this actually look like in practice?… start posting about topics, sharing articles that are interesting in the talent field, writing your reactions to it. Whatever it is, that is a [00:48:30] way that you can begin in the back of people’s heads to plant the seed and like, “Oh, well, that’s funny. Yeah. I guess he’s been posting about HR stuff for a while now.” It begins to change that perception.
Oh yeah, we talked about this last season, in our episode on standing out. This is the concept of an employee brand and how we can use social media to influence opportunities. Dorie also says, use every chance to tell people about your new pursuits or roles.
The next step is to look for sponsors. People who can recommend you for things you want, or generally just talk you up to decision makers. This can be your boss or maybe even someone you’ve had a good conversation with. Speaking of bosses, reinvention is essential for them too.
DC: if you are a good leader, it’s almost impossible to be a stagnant leader. [00:50:30]…As a leader, we need to model for other people, the process of learning, and growing, and evolving… you know if everyone who’s in a leadership role is actually conscious about looking [00:51:30] for ways, small, continuous ways to be learning, and growing, and reinventing themselves, it’s an extraordinarily powerful message to send throughout the organization. And it makes it far more likely that your employees will listen to that.
Slow change over time, a series of ongoing reinventions, looking for those areas we are passionate about that also play to our strengths. They help us to grow, and help us to lead. But sometimes we can get thrown into change, like our next guest.
GUITAR RIFF SIMILAR TO “THE GOOD IN EVERYONE” OR “MOTOR CITY MANIACS”
KILL RIFF Chris Murphy: Hey, my name is Chris Murphy… [00:00:30]..and I’ve played for 30 years in the rock band Sloan. [00:01:00]
ONE MORE RIFF
Sloan is one of Canada’s most successful bands. They’ve put out hit records and are used to playing shows for huge crowds. Which is exactly what they were doing in late February slash early March of 2020 when they were forced to put everything on hold. At the time, many bands were told they might not tour again until 2022. That’s a long time to be out of work, and it wasn’t just about the money.
CM: [00:05:00] I get a huge charge out of touring and we do it a lot and I meet people all the time I’m over validated constantly. So it’s really fun for me.
Chris and his bandmates kept busy with small projects like releasing old b-sides, and cataloguing old recordings. But then Chris heard about a Canadian start-up called Side Door Access. It’s a platform that lets musicians play solo shows online from the comfort of their own homes.
CM: [00:14:30] My mentor actually through my decision to do it was Steven Page, formerly of Barenaked Ladies. He was doing one every week…You know, he’s got a real fan base. He was really engaged with them and he was trying to play different songs. So I tried to copy his thing.
But for Chris, there were two challenges. Chris had never performed solo, because he didn’t want it to overshadow his work with the band.
In a way, I’ve shut down the idea of trying new things.
The other challenge was more technical. Broadcasting a quality show from a laptop in your living room is actually really difficult. Even more so for a musician at Chris’s level.
CM: when I’m on the road with Sloan, we have people that take care of everything. The format is walk on stage and everything has already set up. I used to plug things in 25 years ago, but it’s a new world for sure. [00:16:30]..And so I needed my Zoom to be able to see the program that could take a multi instrument thing. So I had to get another third program which makes it so that Zoom can see logic…And then I had to buy a 200 foot ethernet cable…
So, on the night of the show, Chris was sitting in his living room. Guitar on lap. Five minutes to go, and the mic still wasn’t working. But then without warning it did.
CM: I was terrified to move, I had wires everywhere, my 200 foot ethernet cables strewn everywhere like a rat’s nest. And then I see the cat coming in…The cat is going to screw everything up, can somebody come and tiptoe in here and take this cat [00:22:00] out of here.
Ha! This totally reminds me of online teaching. Does it sound familiar to you too? Maybe you’ve had a kid or pet make an awkward Zoom appearance?
Anyway, despite the stressful start, the show went off beautifully. 700 people came. Many of them die hard fans who knew each other from all the concerts they’d been to, talking to each other in the chat.
CM: [00:09:30] So that was scary for me, but worthwhile and I’m glad I did it and I ended up doing five of them…It’s given me the confidence that maybe I could..add that to my repertoire, I could play by myself…having the [00:29:00] excuse to do these solo shoes during the pandemic has given me the confidence to play in the real world.
ONE MORE RIFF FOR A FEW BEATS TO CARRY TRANSITION
As exciting as the idea of reinventing yourself might be, it can also be really intimidating. So intimidating, in fact, that it might prevent you from even trying. In this episode, we’ve tried to make reinvention less intimidating by breaking it down into some of its critical ingredients, just like you might’ve done with your sourdough bread.
You need to identify your passion, something that captures and sustains your attention, and apply perseverance to it. That’s grit. Keeping in mind that overarching vision and thinking like a hedgehog keeps you focused and grounded in your goal.
And perhaps most important – your sourdough starter, if you will – is having the right mindsets. Truly believing that you can learn and change and develop, that’s growth mindset, and being willing to work through challenges and roadblocks by trying new things, that’s experimental mindset. Intentional and focussed networking can help you to figure out how to get where you want to go, and might score you a sponsor as a bonus. And, finally, once you have those ingredients mixed in, sometimes reinvention is about facing your fears and just going for it, like a rockstar.
REPRISE GUITAR RIFF TO THE END
Thanks for listening. I’m Sonia Kang. And this is For The Love of Work, an original podcast made possible by Rogers. Find us at…for the love of work dot c-a. Talk soon.