Courage to be Curious with Adina Tovell

What Does a Leader Wear?

October 13, 2021 Adina Tovell, Amy Steindler, Patricia Omoqui Episode 162
Courage to be Curious with Adina Tovell
What Does a Leader Wear?
Show Notes Transcript

In the classic movie, Annie, the Boylan Sisters sing, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” But what about a leader? What does the leader need to be ‘fully dressed’ for the role? In today’s conversation with Patricia Omoqui and Amy Steindler, we unpack what leadership looks like, whether leaders have to don a specific way of being in order to be effective.

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You know, we as humans have such a deep need to belong. And so many of the studies have shown I don't know if you're familiar with the Asch experiment. So the Asch experiment has shown over and over again that people are going to conform to the group 75% of those who take part in that experiment, conformed to the group, because we like to be liked, we want to have approval from others. And oftentimes, I also think that our systems are designed to reward conformity, right. And so when people are trying to climb a ladder, trying to have a sense of success, they're often very worried about showing unique parts of who they might be, that don't fit with the culture. And so they disguise themselves, they will blend in kind of to the mask, I was thinking about the masks that Amy was talking about with, you know, the mud and the sticks and all that blend in so that you don't stand out too much. Because there could be a penalty for that.

Hi, this is Adina here with today's episode of courage to be curious with Edina tell Val, and it is October. So we, as you know, you've been listening, we are talking about masks. And we are talking about the things that we hide behind facades that we might put up, and why we do that, and what it means to come out from behind them. And because we're in the leadership strand of our podcast today, we're really talking about how this plays out in leadership contexts. And I think more and more even as this pandemic has unfolded, and it's moved us more from in person experiences with each other even more unto virtual experiences with our with each other, that this topic becomes even more important, right that even if we there was kind of masks up, or we had a sense that what people were trying to do when we could see them face to face, we might be able to enter in reach a personal connection in a different way or read other parts of their body language or something like that, that would be more revealing. But now that we're virtual, it is so much easier to hide. And I'm sure we're gonna get into that it's so much easier to hide fact you can even hide literally by turning off your screen when you're on a meeting. So you know, it's so much easier to hide. So we want to talk a little bit about this the hiding the mask wearing, what the impact is at the leadership level. And I have two guests with me, Amy Steindler that many of you are familiar with emotional intelligence coach, and then we have tread Patricia and oh my gosh, Omoqui, Omoqui you were close to me. Okay, I'm okay. With us today. And Amy, you're familiar with, you've been hearing her on the podcast and Trish is new with us today. And she works with leaders as a leadership coach all the way up to the C suite. She leads really powerful professional development, and leadership training. She is a positive psychology advocate and trainer as well. And she is also passionate about inclusion and belonging. And part of our pulling down these masks and stepping out is an important component of creating environments that are truly inclusive and create a culture of belonging. So it's so relevant to what we're talking about. Thank you for being here, Trish. Thanks for having me. And Amy, so good to have you back. It's so great to be here really looking forward to this one.

So let's start off by talking a little bit about the current situation and how the pandemic and us being much more virtual with people has impacted our ability to be seen our willingness to be revealed to each other, and our even in our ability to actually hide when we don't want to be. So let's just talk about that first. And then we're going to talk a little bit more about our masks. But I'm curious Trish, what have you noticed that has changed in the course of the last year and a half or so? Yeah, so I think that in the realm of the virtual there are ups and downs related to COVID. So the the upside that I have seen in working with leaders from being virtual is that in some ways, there are a lot of things that they can't hide, because it's right in their environment. And so in some ways, I think masks have actually had to come down and off because of the realities of juggling kids in school babies crying in the background because they can't go to daycare. So I've actually heard from many people that they feel as if they've become more human during this time and more real in certain ways. On the other hand, though, I think that it's been hard for people because they haven't been in person and they haven't been able to make the deeper connections with one another and had as many opportunities in those social and informal moments, to be able to show more of who they

are in those ways. So in some ways, I think it's boxed people in to only show certain parts of themselves, but it has brought out things that people would not have known about one another. Because this world of life and work is so intermeshed at the moment.

Absolutely, I think you're I love that you brought those two together, because I think that's absolutely true when we can see people's personal life around and it comes right into the meeting, it does give us a different sense of empathy and connection with each other. Amy, what have you found?

I think my experience has been just like Trisha is I think she's spot on, I think the executives that I'm working with, have tended to bring their whole selves to the one on one sessions anyway, in a whole different way that I can't really explain it other than to say that, you know, they are comfortable in their home environments. And I think that allows them to open up a little bit more.

I'm also hoping and wondering, and this again, coming from my own experience, but this has been a challenge on so many levels, right, it's been a challenge at emotional level, psychologically, spiritual ages are everything about us having changed and my hope is that it actually has maybe inspired a little bit more grace and us to to be able to see ourselves and see each other a little bit differently. And that maybe that piece has lightened us a little bit and said, I'm willing to be revealed to you in ways or to have you be revealed in ways that we might not have thought about or bleed into before.

But let's backtrack Just a minute. And I want to talk about this notion of masks because at the end of October, you know, lots people, we have fun, we go to Halloween parties, we put these on, we have the Day of the Dead, you know, and all of these different rituals. And Amy, I know you've been doing a little bit of thinking about this, too, is what are the reasons we actually wear masks, you know, historically, what role did they play in our culture?

Yeah, you know, I went into the research with the hypothesis that it was about storytelling and

yes, out, right. So there's this whole bunch of other things that came through history. So starting with the earliest preserved masks, right, these are the earliest preserved ones that are like 9000 years ago.

But there are some that undoubtedly came before that. So what they're thinking is that the first masks were like mud, and branches and leaves. So you could be camouflage either during a hunt, or maybe when, you know, warring factions came to rape and pillage. So there it was for, for camouflage. Early on, I mean, we know this from the Egyptians that were pigments, right, so those were for enhancing beauty.

There were funerary masks to hide the face of the deceased. There were transformational kinds of masks used in rituals. There's even you know, protective masks, you know, think about the goalie, the hockey goalie, and then revelry, right Mardi Gras, which I love this idea. So when you want to behave in ways that are not socially acceptable, you hide your math. So um, I personally have a hard time holloween because I'm not as familiar with my alter ego. So some people are right, so I see people out there and then I'm like, okay, that you kind of wish you were a little scary.

But in general, I sort of netted it out to four areas, right? It's there to disguise to protect, to enhance or to transform. And I think those four might give us some structure for the kind of conversation that we want to have about why a leader might head in that direction. So I'll say it again, enhance disguise, protect transform.

I actually think that does right, that's beautiful. And it lays out and I think we probably see all of that. So Trish, let me ask you to weigh in on that. And why don't we take let's take these four, let's use them as our organizing principle here. And in leadership. Let's start with disguising. What are the masks that leaders were in an effort to disguise and what are we discussing?

Hmm. So you know, we as humans have such a deep need to belong. And so many of the studies have shown I don't know if you're familiar with the Asch experiment. So the Asch experiment has shown over and over again that people are going to conform to the group 75% of those who take part in that experiment, conformed to the group. Because we like to be liked, we want to have approval from others. And oftentimes, I also think that our systems are designed to reward conformity, right and so when people are trying to climb a ladder, trying to have a sense of success, they're

often very worried about showing unique parts of who they might be, that don't fit with the culture. And so they disguise themselves, they will blend in kind of to the mask, I was thinking about the masks that Amy was talking about with, you know, the mud and the sticks and all that blend in so that you don't stand out too much. Because there could be a penalty for that. And so you know, what humans are naturally wired to want to belong. And so sometimes we adapt to that point. But there's such a tremendous cost to fitting in, there's an emotional cost, I think there's a mental toll. It drains our energy physically, when we're constantly trying, whether we realize it or not. And I don't even think most people realize that they are constantly shifting and conforming to the group, it's a powerful thing, once you do realize it, I think, because then you start to have opportunity to decide how you want to show up. But not everybody is even tuned into this level that they're even have a disguise on.

Yeah, and I love the relationship between the disguising for safety and that issue of belonging, because those are what our deepest need, as you've described is we want to belong in the group we want to belong, where we are, and how tolerant is our community of who we are in any ways that may fall outside that realm of conformity. And I know that in, you know, organizations that I've worked with to that that's a big concern for people is how far can that go? If I say something in certain realms, does that mean I get overlooked for promotion suddenly, or if I show up as a certain way, as suddenly I'm not chosen for specific opportunities or positions. And so this piece and I'm moving, we're gonna want to circle back to it is what do we do with that? Like, right now we've identified the issue, but what do we do with it? We'll circle back to that a little bit later. And I think it's very, very real for a lot of people.

Amy, is there something you want to share here around this piece of disguise and why people disguise themselves and organizations?

You know, I love what Trisha was saying, and I'm sort of a little bit up in my head right now thinking about conformity versus belonging, you know, what's the line? How do we tell the difference?

Because we're here talking about, you know, how do we create a sense of belonging for everyone without I think Trish Tell me when I'm wrong, but without asking for conformity, right? Because we want diversity and belonging, not conformity and belonging. Right. So I wonder how you wonder how you think about that Trish? Yeah, well, I was thinking about a Bernie brown quote that I love. She says that belonging is not about changing who we are to fit in. It's about being who we are. Right. And so this whole conforming, is shifting who we are to fit in, as opposed to allowing ourselves to show up in the unique way, and that that's acceptable to show up with our uniqueness. You know, I was thinking though, that in some ways, I see people being very savvy, and choosing to fit in and play the game in the way that gets them the best result. And you kind of can't blame people for doing that, because the systems are somewhat designed that way. And so perhaps also there, there are some people who are putting on disguises on purpose, because they know this is how the system works. And that's okay, and others are just going along and not realizing the options. But it's very it. They say that in organizations where people are conforming, and trying to fit in that engagement is lower. And often people are more actively looking to leave because of the cost the the toll that it takes on people having to conform. Yeah, and the last thing I think I want to say, and then we'll move on to the next reason we wear masks is this piece about

there's trusting myself versus trusting the organization. Hmm, right? You know that in terms of do I trust that if I reveal my full self, you know, can I trust in myself to do that and to accept who I am to bring who I am. But then there's the other piece that you're referring to here is can I trust in the organization around me to accept that? And if I repeatedly get the message back that the answer to that is no. Right? I either have to conform for a survival or I need to leave. And I want to underscore that because I know that all three of us do work with organizations around organizational culture. And it's interesting, it's such an incredibly broad term. But when we really think about it, this is the essence of it is does the culture of the organization support the diversity within the organization, those people to be at their best so that they can contribute the most they have toward the greater good? And if the answer to that is no, everything is limited, and it becomes unsafe, right it becomes an unsafe place.

So let's go on

To the second one that we wear the masks to protect ourselves. And I think that there's definitely a relationship here between the protect and disguise. And the way that you know, we've looked at it. But I'm thinking, what else we might be thinking about the ways that we protect ourselves and organizations as leaders, and I have a few things that come to mind right away. But Patricia, what do you want to say about this?

Well, perhaps there's some times that we are simply aware of protecting our own energy, right, protecting ourselves from the the politics that we know we're going to face, protecting ourselves from some of the nasty comments or the drama and the difficult things that are said in meetings. So maybe again, in a positive sense, there may be a value to putting on a mask so that you can do self preservation. But that, again, that I think it goes hand in hand with the disguising that, again, you're not showing up as authentic, necessarily, or as fully who you are. But you're using that as a survival mechanism to navigate situations, to preserve yourself and especially now, during COVID, with the demand on everybody's energy and emotion and you know, the level of fatigue and languishing and near burnout, you know, sometimes wearing a protective mask makes a lot of sense, and is done in wisdom. What do you think, what would you add Amy? You know, I love that. And I wish that's how I was using it to protect myself, but in the mask that I've worn to protect myself, have been more to protect myself from being known because,

you know, if someone knew how sensitive I was, if someone knew how insecure I was, if someone knew that, I had this lovely protective mask that said, I am so competent, and I don't need anybody's help and I'm just going to continue to soldier on and I'm going to get things done and I'm successful, they wouldn't know that behind that was someone who was dealing with her own pain and her own

history of, you know, not being enough. So I think in terms of protecting ourselves and I so I recognize it, because I have my own, I see a lot of people behind that protective mask not only to protect themselves from what Trish was talking about, which is the drama and the politics that you know that the hockey pucks coming towards your face, but also so that they don't actually know. They can see you fully. Yeah, I would love to piggyback on that, Amy, because I think that's really true in a lot of many of the leaders that I coach, right, it's this one is a sense of worrying about what if I'm found out what if I am not as good as I think as others think I am right and so there's this hiding that can happen. And it's around that's when there's this big opportunity around belonging to yourself and knowing who you are and coming into congruence with that and owning, owning, owning that but many many leaders that I coach and it's often surprising you know, some of the seemingly most confident leaders are behind the scenes when you're getting the opportunity and the privilege to coach them you're finding out that there's a lot of questioning that's going on, about worth about worthiness about value about whether they truly have what it takes to be playing in the realms that they're playing in as leaders so yeah so that mask comes on to not get found out that that takes so much energy doesn't it when you're wearing it hiding worried you know that constant worry of what if I What if they discover something about me?

Right and it goes back to Renee Brown's work on shame right? That's you know, let me protect myself from speaking my shame because I really don't want that part of me to be known I'm sorry I do you know, I interrupted you go ahead. No, no, please but I was thinking about you know, that imposter syndrome which is what we're describing right? And so let me wear a mask that everybody can believe in you know, because I'm not sure if they'll believe in what they would see behind it. When you were talking trash about the masks for protection and of course we're in a pandemic now right? Oh, we're all wearing masks right? You know it's become part of you know, our culture it's become politicized it's become a lot of things right. But there was this interesting thing and I remember walking around the Mount Airy neighborhood where I used to live and there would be these signs up that would you know, trying to help people about the best practices and mask wearing and they were you know, it was saying if I'm where if somebody else is wearing a you know, the mask how much protection there is if I'm wearing the mask, so if I'm wearing the mask and somebody else isn't I'm actually not getting very much protection at all right? If they're wearing the mask and I'm not but you know, I'm getting more protection and if we're both wearing masks, it bumps up to like, you know, what, at the time we were thinking like 95% protection or something like that. So it was this interesting thing you know, when we both put them on now, we're protected.

And it's so counter like to what we're talking about here. But the idea that a mask can be both helpful and protective. And it also becomes a barrier because at the same time I walk around that same neighborhood, we're keeping each other safe, we're keeping ourselves safe by wearing these masks. But at the same time, it creates a distance like people who used to stop on street corners and talk to each other, or you know, things like that, we're just doing less of it, because it becomes this very visible reminder of kind of dangers that can come if we get too close. And so I think if we bring that into this realm, anything that protects us also creates a barrier.

And unless consciously used maybe, unless consciously use Well, I think with the conscious using part, I guess I were thinking this through out loud, I think the conscious using part might be

it's still keeping something in a distance. But it might be that that's the wiser choice in the moment, right? Like, is it actually not creating a distance? Or is it that have given all the circumstances This is the wiser choice is for everybody to stay a little bit protected? Like we are now, right? You know, we're choosing these things to say a little bit protective, because we've decided of the two costs or consequences that this makes the most sense for us.

So I don't know I'm thinking about it out loud. I think the mask always has to create some sort of separation, but we may determine at certain points that that is the wiser choice in the circumstance, I don't know. But we can actually debate that a little bit and see what you think.

So let's move on to the enhanced because how masks can enhance the you know, experiencing, you sort of talked about this. So you know, different colorings and things like that that could enhance religious rituals that could enhance maybe how much of ourselves we felt we could bring forward. So you know, how can these masks that we wear in leadership positions actually enhanced, either our influence or impact our confidence?

I was thinking about that earlier today. And I was thinking that when we use masks, almost like I was thinking about a shape shifting kind of thing, right. So oftentimes, when we're working in organizations, you have to work with a wide variety of people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds. And so I think you can remain in your authenticity, and yet at the same time in wisdom and care and kindness, for others, do a bit of shape shifting, and maybe even mask wearing in a playful way. And in a powerful and consciously powerfully chosen way to show up in a way that you can best relate to another being and maybe even in meeting them where they are. I was also thinking about it's just to be playful, a little bit about it, right? Like it doesn't all have to be serious. I know a lot of times when we're working in organizations, everybody's very bogged down and serious but maybe that there's also some kind of a playful and fun element and a decorative element potentially of how we do want to show up on any given day, right trying on different emotional states trying on different styles of communication, trying things on and I know I work with a lot of leaders to start experimenting in how they show up so perhaps there's there's something good something playful that could be done with masks as well.

I love that I'm all for playful and thinking, you know, to piggyback on what you're saying, Trish? What if What if the mask was intentionally consciously there to bring forward a specific trait, right so I wear eyeliner so that my big brown eyes are more visible. So what if the mask was something to just enhance a trait that was helpful might be playful just might be one of my better skills are traits that I want to make sure everyone sees so I you know, it's writ large on my face.

And connected to that I was thinking about

the way it might help us own a specific trait. Again, back to your playfulness if I know that and I don't really have an example here but if I know that I tend to overthink things I'm gonna say I've got my overthinker mouse on here I'm gonna you know I'm gonna bring that forward and play with that a little bit

so yeah, I think that for me that makes a lot of sense I do a lot of work with organizations and with leaders and I leverage Clifton Strengths Finder I also leverage the via so from a positive psychology perspective when we know what we are really good at right? And then I'm asked could be used to kind of enhance to your point make it pop even more in a in a powerful way, right? It's but it's when we're not fully aware of those things sometimes that we end up overusing it or not coming across well, so it's almost like wisely understanding and navigating. Knowing your

unique qualities and traits, and then being able to bring them to the table in a, in an interesting way, in a way that's even more impactful.

Yeah, so instead of like the devil's advocate hat, we put on a specific kind of mask and cop to it. I think that's the the key and the Kadena keeps, you know, sort of alluding to this, that the consciousness of a nutrish that the idea that we're aware of it, and we are consciously playing with it, and we're putting it in front of everyone and saying, hey, let's see where this goes.

what came to mind for me, when you were talking about Strength Finders, I was thinking, what came up for me was internal family systems. So this idea with inside each of us, we do have multiple personas. You know, we're not just one one flat personality, and we have so many different things we can draw from. And so even within leadership, you know, sometimes the command and control is actually appropriate for this specific situations. Sometimes it's the collaborative sometimes. So there's these different personas, they're actually effective. And so a strong leader, and an effective leader is able to say which one of these makes sense in this situation. And then putting that mask on in that moment actually really enhances and elevates the level of effectiveness and leadership, as we've now other trifecta of us have pointed out here, it's the consciousness with which we do it. So that it's not something we're just doing unconsciously or out of fear, we're doing something to specifically enhance the impact that we can have any given moment.

So it's interesting with them transform?

And how masks can transform things. So I don't know, Amy, can you give us any examples from the research that you did? How are masks used to transform yourself that came out of ritual, right, so going from one state to another, I think of things like coming of age ceremonies, you know, I think of, you know, boys becoming men or warriors. And

so I wonder just in terms of our, you know, structure for leadership, you know, if it might not be one of those sort of fake it to make it moments like, I'm going to put this mask on now, you know, maybe I've gone through the crucible, and I've become the warrior. And then that's why I get to wear it, or maybe I need to wear it so that I can go through the crucible. So that's how I'm thinking about it is, you know, one of the times when I've had to and I do this every day, and I it steps out of belonging actually into something you said that reminded me all that, that there's a moment in which we need to decide that we belong just as we are.

And once I started doing that, it was sort of a transformational mask, I'm going to put on this, this cloak of belonging, and just put myself in the middle of this and assume out.

And it's I don't know if I can think of a time when that didn't work out for me.

You know, because it put me in the position of saying I'm making the decision to belong, I could also make the decision to say, you know, what, not so much.

I don't belong here to want to belong here. But there's this conscious moment of I decide that I belong as I am. This is what you see.

I think I was willing to make sure now I maybe I have this wrong, but I think it is right, Amy Cuddy's work, right. She's the one who talks about posture and stance. And, you know, whenever I've watched her TED Talks, and her read about her work is you know, some of it is this is what we're talking about right is that we may have a certain stance or way of being that we're most acclimated to, that feels most comfortable, but it might not be bringing us the results that we want. And so in her work, it's like let's transform, right? how you're going to position yourself your body language and I know even I recently had a photoshoot and the photographer's like, put your hands on your hips like this, which is not a very usual thing for me and take a space and I'm like that's not usually my thing either. But all right, let's take a space right and you know, and things like that and just see what that looks like. And it does bring out and enhance and actually transform a moment and you know, I think of her work when I think about this transformation because the way somebody can literally just by making those some adjustments to some part of them. I know I work with people a lot around and this was big for me in the beginning of this pandemic when we all got on zoom is because we can see ourselves right all the time is we're conscious of what does our facial expression look like to other people.

And if I were not paying attention to my facial expression and a visual way, like a lot of people the lips sort of go and then droop downward and can actually have a pretty off putting experienced

Somebody's on the other side. And it's just our resting face, it's just the way the muscles rest naturally. But if somebody is watching it, and they're listening to watching how I'm responding to something, there can be at all kinds of interpretations. And so even this has made me really conscious about literally, really activating those muscles around the side of my lips to keep them turned up. So that people don't inadvertently assume that I'm really disgusted or upset or whatever, something with what they're saying. So I think those have been some of the things that came to my mind to around transformation.

Trish, I was gonna, I think the power of so when I'm doing I'm coaching people all the time, right? And what is your coaching, you're helping people go from one state to another state, whether that's in being or doing or thinking. And so playing with tools of transformation. So to your point, Amy around putting on a cloak of belonging, or leveraging the physical stance, or playing with one's imagination and starting to be able to visualize yourself in that next state. So there could be power in I watched my six year old, you know, and I brought, I brought, you know, Spidey mask today. But, you know, she can go from being herself to putting this on, and turning into a superhero in a moment. And so there is this transformational element of putting on different things to try something out. And I think that it can be very empowering for leaders to try on a new quality to try on a new way of expressing themselves to see to your point Edina had to see how are they showing up with their, their presence, their body language, their facial expressions, whether it's in person with someone, so there, there is a way to maybe purposefully leverage a vision of who we want to become and step into that. And it may feel uncomfort, it might feel like wearing a mask for a while, until you're able to assume that as your natural state, right, until you begin to truly embody that. And it becomes habitual, in a new way. So perhaps there's a way to leverage masks or costumes, right to dress up and become who we want to be in the world. In our next phase.

I just have to share this little story in it when you brought out the mask that your daughter wears. And then we're talking about wearing these different costumes. So I know a lot of years ago, now I was living in Singapore, I was working at an international school and it had been a British military school before it converted over into this other environment. And there was there were uniforms, most of the rest of the world wears uniforms in schools. And so all the students were in uniforms. But then there was something called Mufti day. And I know a lot of companies have taken on with a prom dress down days or whatever, and things like that. So in the school, it was Mufti days, and we use it as a fundraiser, the kids would actually contribute to dollars or something, and they got to wear their regular clothes instead of their uniforms. And it was amazing. As an educator in those environments. Everything was different on those days, right and uniform, there was this, you know, unit, but there was this, I didn't have to worry about that. Right? There was no consciousness because it really was pretty uniform. You know, everyone wearing the same thing. There were jewelry restrictions, everything like that. And so attention was focused elsewhere. But it was interesting on these Mufti days, how much time kids would spend planning and then thinking and then who they started to show up as on those days was something that was a really big deal. And you could see the difference, you know, you could see them trying on different things, can I show Can I get to school? And can they see me as this, you know, in this outfit that I'm wearing, and so, you know, this piece about being transformed and the way we look, the way we show up the way others perceive us. And I know that when dress down day started, right? I mean, I This was also another experience like but there's a difference in how we might show up internally, given what our uniform is on the outside versus when we change that to something else. So I love the fact we've talked about facial expressions, we've talked about clothing, we've talked about mannerisms, we've talked about, you know, different parts of our leadership, family systems, or strengths inside that we can leverage here. So I think as we're

kind of we've been talking about this, what I would love to do is maybe think about how would we summarize, you know, ways that we think people can consider masks in a healthy way in workplace environments in leadership roles, and what strategies can we offer for peeling off the ones that are really meant to cut that are holding us back? How can we come out from behind those, and then how can we you start using them effectively. So yeah, some of our best strategies around that. So like Trish, somebody

offer that up to you is, you know, leaders listening? What would you offer? Yes. So the question on how, you know, when it's when a mask is holding us back, how can we what can we do with that? What are some opportunities. And I think for me, I see two major opportunities when I'm working with leaders. The first is around this self talk, the inner voice, you know, so many of us are plagued with the voice of the inner bully is what I call it, the inner critic, many people refer to it, you know, where we're constantly beating ourselves up for who we aren't, we're constantly picking ourselves apart. And I see that as leaders begin to discover often how they're, they they're not congruent with themselves, they're being so hard on themselves, they start to wake up to see the pattern that's going on, and then open to this new opportunity to maybe start looking for the good in themselves, then when they start to embrace the good in themselves, and they start to feel more confident in who they are. And then that inner dialogue shifts, I see people start to open the mask, and reveal more of who they are and get more comfortable and more relaxed and not so uptight and, and tense in trying to operate in situations. The other thing that I think often holds people back is having a fixed mindset. And so it's this whole thing of being afraid to fail. And and then thinking that if they fail, and they make an error, or they make a mistake, that that means that they're a failure. And they don't want to be revealed, if they think they're going to be found out to be a failure. And so this opportunity of shifting that into a growth mindset where we realize we're human, you know, to learn to grow to become good at anything, we've got to experiment. And experimentation is messy, and to allow oneself to have a little bit of messiness. Now, that's hard in organizations where that is unacceptable. Yet, I see many organizations trying to move in the direction of having a growth mindset. But at least internally, if our dialogue is we're embracing ourselves in this process of growing into who we're meant to be that I think the mask again, falls away, and you can just be you flaws, and all, none of us are perfect, you know, we're perfectly imperfect. And that's kind of the fun and all of that, and then the mask can fall away, because you're just being who you are, you're bringing your best every day. And you're kind of self compassionate to your own being, which is key for taking off the mask.

Absolutely. And something I want to point out, as you talked about the safety that's required it because we are afraid of failing, we've gotten acclimated to doing things a certain way, perhaps we've remained safe to a certain degree by doing it this way. And that fear of failure and the capacity for organizations to make room for mistakes failing, or just learning right, the steps and growing and developing. And I think that's one of the things you know, not in a self serving way. But one of the reasons coaching is so important, right? One of the reasons that having safe spaces where you can practice and try things on I know I'm imagining all three of us do a lot of role playing a lot of kind of practicing and giving people opportunities to try things on in different ways in order to develop some confidence. And I know that in, you know, some of the work that we do around the communities of practice, which are really about people taking on something new that they're learning and having a cohort to come back to where you're not in real time perhaps, but you're in a safe space to say let me try this out with you guys first, or let me you know, try something little and see what happens. So I think for organizations interested in really supporting that, it's looking at what structures not just throwing us out there into the deep end and say, okay, we know lessons know, whatever, just go swim, but to actually creating structures that are safe, that are safe and really supportive of this kind of work.

Amy, what about you? What can people what strategies do you have for people who are to maybe remove those masks and then to begin to use whatever tools they have effectively? Yeah, you know, I think about things from with an emotional intelligence lens all the time and a language lens. Those are the things that I go to, if I'm building a foundation for people to do what Tricia saying or has said so beautifully, you know, to get to the point where they can let that mouth peel away. So

before we take the mask off, I think we need to have the emotional vocabulary, the emotional literacy to know what we feel,

right to have that language to be able to describe that to ourselves even to nobody else, you know, so so I think you were talking about you know, we're all human. And we need to use the language of humanity, which is the language of emotion. So my strategy for most of my executives, I mean, these people have achieved great

things in their careers, but can't tell you how they feel other than bad, good. You know, and I think challenging people to get very nuanced about what it's like to be who they are. So that then they can take the mask off and be that, that they know what that's like.

And I gotta agree with you and you know, no practical strategies, a coach or a community of practice to be able to have these conversations and that psychological safe space, you know, whatever that means, and to be able to create that psychological safety for ourselves, right, because we, we keep thinking that safety comes from outside security comes from outside, and it doesn't, I mean, we want people to create the conditions for us to be able to manifest our own feelings of safety and security. But when it comes down to it, it's up to us. So there's a lot to learn on that path to letting go

of the mask.

So as we're, you know, kind of coming to the end here, and I'm thinking about this, I love the trajectory that we've gone. And Amy, you really laid it out for us. But we talked about what has historically been the role of masks right? to disguise us. So we're not us and people can't necessarily see who we are, or we can play you know, something else to protect us from things that might feel dangerous, coming our way to enhance how we show up and who we show up as and how we bring our best selves forward. And then really to trance form, things, you know, to transform an experience to transform ourselves. And I think as a takeaway from this is a really great question just leaving people percolating with his, you know, what is my relationship to masks as a leader? And how can I begin to use this understanding of masks more effectively, to have the impact? I want to have? long question, but you know, wanting to leave everybody with something that they can really wrap their heads around. So

I want to move into the part of this that we sometimes laugh and have really good time with, which is kind of the unexpected questions.

What is it that we can you know, find out, ask that will bring out something about each of us that maybe you don't already know, we usually have a pretty good time with this. So I know a little something about each of you. So I'm going to throw this question out there, I will start this time, which is not usual. But just to get us going, is Trish, I happen to know a little bit about your background as a professional basketball player.

And so if you could share a couple of top lessons that you learned about leadership from your peers as a basketball player, what would they be? Wow, that's a great question. So yes, I played in Brazil, England and Sweden. So I'd say the probably the biggest takeaway I had from those experiences was adaptability. So the cool thing about basketball is it's like a common language, no matter what verbal language you speak. So I would find I found anywhere I went, if I played basketball, I could make friends. But then going to different cultures and studying the differences between their belief systems and mine, understanding, like the way people showed up and express themselves. So in Brazil, you know, seeing the joy that came out of life was so cool. It was very different than what I had grown up with. So I found the best of that and began to integrate some of that into myself, but opened myself to new experiences. So the curiosity and maybe the willingness to go outside one's comfort zone as you're living and breathing in different cultures and interacting with people from all over the world really brought me a tremendous amount of real learning to bring to leadership and to just be able to understand other human beings in a new way. I love that love that and I have a question about basketball.

So I remember from when we were in elementary school learning how to play basketball that if if you were responsible for a foul and the ref points that you you have to raise your hand like you raise your hand.

Do you have to tell me I think they were telling you that maybe as a youngster, I don't believe you have to acknowledge it. In fact, most of the time we don't because we're mad as players that they called us for about a we did not we don't think we committed so I'm not raising my hand for that. I'm sorry.

ruins my whole theory about

basketball players are because they always raise their hand for the fall. I made my head so unhappy. And what position Did you play Patricia? What was your bio?

I was a center and a power forward. So I'm six feet tall. So that worked really well in high school. And in college when I went and played professionally, I was used to being the hall and I was only six feet and I was playing against women who were six foot eight inches tall. So I became very small very quickly. It's all relative, apparently. But I was like a post player. So playing real close to the basket and I have a very nice little hookshot that I can score over many people, even people who are taller than me, and you still play today. I don't I shoot around I tore my ACL just before I got pregnant with my first child and never had it repaired. So I'm not allowed to go on a basketball court and I've come to peace with that though. I do miss it. It's such a huge part of who I have been in the world.

Wow. All right. We'll share ACL story some other time.

Hey, so Amy, I haven't been one of your things. Oh my gosh, I believe it is kayaking or paddle boarding right? So I'm looking for your leadership wisdom that stems from your time out on the water. What do you have? Oh my god, there's a million of them, ma'am. You know, you've got to be conscious of wind and weather, you know what's happening in your environment. So that may be the metaphor for reading the room. You know, what's really happening around me?

I paddleboard so that's about balance, you know, what happens? Am I willing to take a risk to do something interesting on the paddle board, like a headstand, which I do on my paddle board, I have a video of myself doing it in the ocean. And yes, it's pretty amazing to have that moment. I mean, it's probably trust, like movement of the hookshot where it just goes over the people heads where you've taken this risk, and you've done this thing that Hail Mary, maybe it'll work, but who knows. So I think it's about balance. It's about reading the environment. It's about building strength slowly, right? So if I get out there in the beginning of the season, and I just, you know,

I can't think of the word but you know, just kind of go at it hard. You know, I'm not going to last very long. So how do I how do I build my strength up every season? And there are different seasons. So when I paddleboard in the spring versus the summer, the fall? You know, how do I have to how do I have to prepare for that? So yeah, gosh, there's a million good metaphors so for Lee I gotta ask then about how do you prepare to do a headstand on a paddleboard is that one of the better ones would be turn off your phone? But I don't think

right now. Do you practice in your living room to do a headstand on a paddleboard? Or how does that work? So

the first time I did a headstand on my paddleboard, I hadn't done one on Leon in a bazillion years, and I just got a wild hair and thought, well, let's see what happens. It could be kind of funny. And somehow my body remembered.

And so, you know, now every now and then I'll do one on my own before.

I'm getting a little older. So the stakes are a little bit higher. But yeah, there's so many things that are possible that we don't even think of.

And I'm gonna balance, like, there's this sort of perfect thing. And there's, there's a constant adjustment. You know, you can't see me if you're only listening after the audio. But, you know, when you wave figure with my hands, it's not stillness, it's a constant adjustment. And I think that's another good leadership lesson, you know, how often is a leader, making small adjustments to stay in balance to stay, somebody said something about integrity or alignment earlier?

Because I'll go on for another. I know we're not paying you. I'm stopping you, because our time keeps rolling here. So, Amy, in terms of questions, what questions do you have for us?

Well, I do want to know more from Trish about the leadership lesson in the brilliant hook shot that goes over people's heads.

The lesson of that, yeah, the lesson of that is that you don't have to be the tallest. And you don't have to be the strongest, that sometimes finesse and technique can get you over the giant and allow you to score anyway. So there's, there's many different ways to go about scoring and getting to your goal and you have to find the right one for that moment to be able to do it and to do it well and to not hurt yourself.

All right, Amy. Any more questions?


The question I have for you, I love this idea. I'm big on internal family systems on irfs. And I always walk around telling my clients, you know, we contain multitudes, right? So is there a an internal character or voice inside of you that asks you to wear a particular mask? Ah, an internal voice and sudden not the direction I thought you were going to go? Okay, an internal voice that asks me or demands for me to wear a particular mask? I think actually, it's not. What's coming to mind. First and foremost is not necessarily I guess it is, it's a voice that sometimes competes with my, you know, authentic voice, which is, you know, doing this work, and this kind of, alright, be public out in the world, put your things out there. And they're kind of these expectations of how you do that. And then there's what's most important to me is to be genuinely me, and make sure that what's rippling out in the world is really authentic, have good value, or have good service into the world and contributing to greater good. And so every so often, I discover, I look in the mirror and realize, are you stuck in the side of you, or that voice inside of you that says you have to do certain things a certain way and have it appear a certain way, because that's how industry expectations are, versus peeling that off and just being me and living with, you know, sometimes the story that comes up and wonders if that's enough. So I think that's sort of what goes back and forth for me, and I don't know, you guys are both shaking your head. So maybe you experience a little bit of that.

There, I don't know, or you're just having an empathetic response to me, but, you know, you know, but I think that that's what sort of in every so often I'll look in the mirror, and I'll be like, Oh my god, you're wearing that mask again, that is, you know, this one that the external world is you think they want to see, and you got to get that off.

So yeah, the What should I be versus Who am I,

authentically in this moment? And it's amazing how like, that mask can just sort of slide on, and you haven't even realized that you're wearing it. And then it's like, oh, my gosh, I'm looking in the mirror being like, put that on?

Whose expectations are we here trying to meet? Yeah, and I find that for me, it really is like the morning meditations that I do are the things that ground me when I'm not grounded. When I skip the morning meditation, when I don't pause when I get really wrapped up in moving from thing to thing. That is when I'm more likely to suddenly discover that it has slipped on when I'm really rooted in myself. And when I can take the time, then I can be much clearer. And so I find that those practices are essential, because otherwise that mask just suddenly like oh my gosh, how'd that get there?

Alright, so Trish, you get to ask some questions. Yeah, so we're, it seems like we went down overall a sports theme. So I want to turn it to Edina and say so if what's your physical expression? So I'm not sure if there's some kind of physical, you know, demand or demand of some sort that you'd like to put yourself into to for vitality or enjoyment?

Well, what I most frequently do engage in is my yoga practice. And so that is certainly a piece. But I think when I think about this work, and especially about leadership, I think about the lessons I learned and that I take from scuba diving, because that's really and you know, what I've done a lot of and would like to continue doing more of, and there's this piece about being under the water with First of all, this utter just appreciation of this magical world. And I sometimes want to say, Can I walk into moments with that same sort of sense of magical appreciation that I have, when you first get underwater, and you start to see what environment you're in. And then it's this, you know, the only thing you hear underwater is the sound of your breath. And it's such a beautiful like, if you're somebody who has a hard time being by yourself, it's a you know, it will be a more difficult thing to get into. But when you're there and you just hear the sound of your breath, and you let that rhythm become your guide, because it's not only obviously what's feeding you oxygen, but it's also a big portion of what's determining your buoyancy in the water. So how close you can get to things so I want to go explore something, how close can I get my breathing determines how close I can safely get without either damaging it or hurting myself and things like that. And you know, I think in all the work I do, no matter who I'm working with, I'm always talking about the importance of breath and letting that be what helps to regulate. You know how we're showing up

Where we are in the world and space, and you know how close we can get to something without it then becoming dangerous to our serve something else. So that's, I think, where I really draw a lot of wisdom from. Wow. So you two are in the water in the flow a lot. So Amy, I'll ask you, what's your favorite place to go to either do the paddleboarding or the kayaking?

Well, you know, that's

right down the street here. And I just drop in right over here. I'm lucky that way. But I was thinking as you were asking Edina about you know, her sort of physical expression. And I, I think that the thing that I would do every day for the rest of my life, if I could, is to snowboard. No, there is just something about snow. There is something about that expansiveness of being on top of the mountain and being able to see the runs or even being in the trees, there's just something about blue sky and snow that I would do forever. And we've done it, we've been very fortunate to do a couple of trips to the Swiss Alps.

You know, you wake up in Switzerland in the morning and have breakfast and you ski over to France for lunch, that sort of thing.

And the thing about snowboarding, so the the one major lesson is look there go there, right so when you're on a snowboard, wherever you look, your your body's gonna turn on your snowboard will follow. And I think about that in the trees, right? Because I get scared and we get scared, we focus on the obstacles, right? We focus on the thing on the danger. And if you get scared in the trees, and you look at a tree, you're gonna whack smack into it, right? And so this is the lesson that I challenged myself to whenever I snowboard is, can I see the danger through the corner of my eye, I know that it's there, acknowledge it, but not focus my attention on it focus my attention on the space in between, because that's how I continue to move forward. That's where the beauty and the grace is. So that's my leadership lessons from snowboarding.

I am inspired to go try some new sports now.

I know absolutely. And what I hope that people who are listening are inspired by is to realize the power of questions. Right? We talked about that all in September on the power of questions. But even here, as I'm at if you happen to be watching on YouTube, you may hear it in our voices, too. You know, when we shifted to sort of talking about our topic for today into the personal questions, there was a shifting to because we were communicating and connecting in these very personal ways. And as we're thinking about taking down the masks or removing barriers for connection, how powerful taking time to ask these kinds of questions of ourselves and of each other. And I know that we all have lots of resources. Courage to be curious has three decks of cards, because we know that sometimes How do you come up with the questions is a difficult thing. But taking the time to construct an ask those questions are ways of getting out from behind barriers and finding beautiful ways to connect with each other. So we hope you're inspired to do that and to think really consciously about the masks that you wear, what role and function they're serving for you and how you can use them in ways that enhance and transform in your leadership work. So I want to thank Trish I want to thank you so much for spending time with us today and I'm going to hope maybe I'm going to get you back on and Amy thank you for being a co host with in such a regular here on courage to be curious and so thrilled to have you here

and stay with us through the month of October because in the next podcast we talk about the masks that we wear in terms of relationships and we have a really interesting guests their relationships, not just an intimate you know spousal or partner relationships but also family relationships or friendship relationships too. And it's going to be a really interesting episode. And, and as you're doing this, maybe you're thinking about what kind of cool costume you might have for a zoom Halloween extravaganza in your life. Anyway, thank you for listening and we will be back again with you next week.

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