02 Jul July 3, 2019 – Online Education Guru & Gay Leadership Dude Dr. Steve Yacovelli and Emotional Mindfulness Dr. Ronald Frederick
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Dr Steve Yacovelli – “The Gay Leadership Dude” and Author of Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of Their Jungle – Read interview highlights here
‘Help me understand,’ is the phrase that I tend to go to, because when you approach things from ‘I am just trying to expand my
mind, I don’t want to mess up, you educate me,’ people will always go with you.
Dr. Steve Yacovelli is Owner & Principal of TopDog Learning Group which is a learning and development consulting firm. It specializes in e-learning development, leadership development and training, change management, training measurement, diversity management and training, executive coaching, and corporate education strategy. Since 2002, he’s focused his energies on building the dog house, working with awesome clients like The Walt Disney Company, IBM, Bayer, Tupperware Brands Corporation, George Washington University, The Public Library Association, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Ohio State University, and AT&T.
Dr. Ronald Frederick – Author of Loving Like You Mean It: Use the Power of Emotional Mindfulness to Transform Your Relationships
We used to think that your brain is what you’ve got, and your brain cells start to die off as you get older. That’s not the case. We see now that it is new experiences that shape our brain.
Ronald J. Frederick, PhD is the co-founder of the Center for Courageous Living in Beverly Hills, California and a founding and senior faculty member of the Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) Institute in New York City. He has provided innovative and experiential therapy to individuals and couples for over twenty years and actively teaches and trains psychotherapists. Ron’s writing has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Clinical Psychiatry News, and the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology. He has been interviewed on FOX News Radio and Montel Across America, and quoted on CNN.com. He is a recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Maylon-Smith Scholarship Award for his research on the fear of intimacy.
Highlights from Steve’s Interview
I’ve been in the leadership space for about all of my career. We’re talking three whole years now, and about 25 or so years. And I was watching while working with good folks, a whole bunch of really cool names of past and current clients. And I started seeing patterns of behavior on what was making leaders really awesome, things like effective communication, having empathy, really bringing their authentic selves to work. And I started doing a little research, saying, “Well, these are the things that people are really resonating with.”
And I was looking at my brothers and sisters who are in leadership capacities in some way, shape, or form, who are part of the LGBTQ community. And I wonder if there’s a correlation between some of the shared experiences that a member of–I’ll just use the term gay community to mean everybody. But some of the experiences they have, for example, coming out, the LGBT community is one that is a–you people call it an invisible minority, meaning you don’t necessarily know when you meet someone, if they identify with that community or not. It’s through the process of coming out that you know. You have to have courage to do that, you have to have some emotional intelligence to read your audience, if you will. And if you look at the broader leadership landscape, those are the exact things that all the leadership experts are saying, “Hey, if you got that, you’re awesome.” And so that’s what the book is all about. Of course, my straight brothers and sisters will get some stuff out of it, but it’s speaking directly to the members of the LGBT community.
In the book, I use the term being part of the “other,” because if you boil it down, every single human is in what we call in-group and out-group throughout their life, some of us are just more in that out-group or that “other” more than others.
One of the things I talked about in the book, so that I identified just six competencies, because six competencies still filled up 356 pages or something. But they were the top six that, as I started looking at what I see is important in the leadership space, in general, these are what I wanted to focus my energy on.
The first one was authenticity. And you’re seeing a lot of that in the workplace in general. If you’re authentic as a leader, meaning you’re not faking it, you’re not putting on the company’s mask, and being the company parrot kind of thing. If you’re authentic at work, you’re much more successful. And ultimately, the best thing to say for any leader in the entire world is if you build trust, you’re a good leader. And so if I’m being authentic, I’m actually building trust with my team members and those around me, because I’m telling you who I am. I use an example in the book, in a lot of my leadership workshops I had a client who was moving to an open office space. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. I’m sure your listeners are aware.
Well, this was several years ago, before a lot of this awesome research came out about its efficacy, and how successful it is. But the company line was, “Hey, leader, read this memo that says we’re breaking down cubicle walls, and you’re all going to be in one giant happy space.” So a lot of leaders look at that and are like, “Oh crap, this is what I want to do.” But they have to honor the company’s higher ups, who made this decision, and take that new virtual memo and share it with their team. So I use the example to say, you’re reading that memo, and you don’t read it like this, “We are going to have an open office, it will be really great for us to communicate even more effectively,” people can see through that when you’re not authentic behind the words. But an authentic leader would say, “You know what, we’re going to go to an open office environment. I’m unsure of this just as much as you are, but you know what? Team, we’re going to figure this out. I will make the best of it.” That’s authenticity. And that that’s for anybody to really be successful to build that trust in their team.
Number two, the second competency, courage. Courage is universal for any leader. You plop a leader into those difficult conversations. I know you just had a conversation on effective feedback not too long ago. It’s exactly that it’s having the courage to provide that feedback. And in a lot of corporate organizational settings, when someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, I have feedback for you.” Most people say, “Feedback is a naughty word,” where it’s really not supposed to be. If you approach it correctly, feedback is a really awesome way for people to develop and grow and do things more effectively, more accurately, with better results, etc, etc. So having the courage to go up to somebody and say, “Hey, I had some feedback for you, when you led that department meeting the other day, there were a couple things you missed, and next time, let’s make it better.” That’s cool feedback. But a lot of leaders I see just don’t have that courage to have some of those more difficult conversations. So there’s an example of that.
I’m gonna bring up the point that you said earlier, because it’s a really awesome one. It’s when people can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. You know, it’s not simply empathy. They’re very different. That’s not what it is. Empathy is being like, “Wow, that’s got to be really challenging for you. I never thought about it from your perspective.” That’s building trust with your team, when you can approach somebody and say, “I didn’t realize that that was really difficult for you. Because gosh, it was so easy for me. Tell me more.”
Number four is communication. I talked about it in the book. Every leader has effective communication skills and all that good stuff, but the way I look at it in the book is I use the phrase inclusive communication. Meaning that as I’m having my conversation as a leader, I want to make sure that the words I’m using, the phases I’m taking are inclusive to all of those around me, because a great way to disenfranchise a team member is to not use inclusive communication. For example, I do a lot of public speaking, and little tiny things go a long way to being an inclusive communicator. So I might say, “Hey, let’s talk about the senior executives of a typical company.” When she goes up to the medium and starts deleting, dot dot dot, what I just did there was not falling to my typical unconscious bias to say, “Yo, he falls into leadership role as the executive.” It’s those little tiny nuances that really make you much more inclusive as a leader and build that trust and rapport with your team members.
You might see things on people’s email tag lines in their subjects, or you’re talking to somebody and you’re at a conference and they have pronouns, preferred pronouns, she, her, you know, he, him, they, their. It’s what it’s doing. It’s allowing people to identify themselves and not get pigeonholed into a discord that started before Europeans settled the US. The Native American tribes across the nation had seven different “genders.” And so if you think about it, there’s nuance, things that we already have in our society, but they aren’t necessarily seen as equal in some facets of the world. And there’s also a thing called the Kinsey Scale, which you might have heard of, where it’s zero through six or seven, where on one side, it’s someone who’s completely and utterly heterosexual. On the opposite side, it’s someone who’s completely and utterly homosexual. And it’s in their seeds of gray in the middle there. So it’s not a disorder. Then you might hear the term binary. That’s what the pronoun stuff that you’re seeing happen now is, we’re allowing those people who maybe don’t fully identify as one side or the other to have their place at the table. And that’s just being inclusive. I always approach it that a lot of people come up to me and they’ll call me the HR police. But they’re like, “Steve, I got this issue.” And I said, “What?” If you approach something with just an open line authenticity and say, “Look, I’m just trying to be better, help me understand.” You will never, ever, ever get fired from that.
“Helped me understand,” is the phrase that I tend to go to. Because when you approach things from that, “I’m just trying to expand my mind, I don’t want to mess up, but you educate me, person who’s experienced this,” people always go with you. And they’ll see your intent, versus the perception that you might have if you don’t approach it that way.
I think the only thing which is where communication ties with empathy, is that inclusive communication piece of it. So that might be right. It’s just because you’re trying to be more aware of including others within the conversation, versus one side versus the other.
Number five is building relationships. And this one, I do see as there is something about the experience of being an LGBTQ person that sometimes forces them, us to go out and build relationships, foster community. It’s not the given, you’re in a work setting. And I’ve had this happen early in my career. I worked within corporations and organizations, you try to find your tribe, and as a hidden minority, sometimes that’s harder to do, to reach out and find your place. But I think there is a lot, I mean, you look at the contemporary research around building relationships, and, gosh, it goes way back to never eat a meal alone kind of thing. That’s what you’re doing. And the way you foster relationships is you build rapport with people, you have this connection. I also think to it has to do with the social cues that a gay person, using the general term, has to maneuver through in their development, as a white dude in my fraternity back in undergrad, I wasn’t aware of my authentic self. But you start to develop these cues as you start to figure yourself out like, “Hmm, is that somebody who I can have a chat with, do you think they’ll understand?” Let’s build that rapport and relationship and see what that looks like. And I think that does flex those leadership muscles for an LGBT person versus some other folks out there.
Number six, last but not least, is building culture. And the way I talk about building culture is more about having to change or influence culture within the workplace and beyond. So when we think about employees in the book, I phrase it looking at how you facilitate the change of the internal organizational culture to be more inclusive. And I think having the sensitivity, the empathy, things of that nature really do play into having that ability to look and influence or push the organizational culture to be more inclusive, and to move in a direction that it should to honor diversity and inclusion.
When I gave it to my editor, who, which should be noted, she’s a straight white woman. But she was the first person to receive the book in the universe, aside from me, so I was very nervous to get her feedback. And the first thing she said to me, we were on the phone, I’m actually in a coffee shop in downtown Orlando, where I live. And I’m just bracing for the feedback, the impact. We talked about having courage, and she said, “I know I’m not your target audience, but I have an MBA, and this is the book I wanted for my leadership class.” Hopefully, people will be able to read through the stories if they are allies, and not part of the community, and enjoy the book as well.
There’s a bunch of different trends in online education, and I’m not into trendy trends. But we’re getting our stuff together, because when I first started my business, Top Dog Learning Group back in 2008, which was a really awesome time to become an entrepreneur in the economy that was. It worked out, I was happy.
One of the things that I was promoting with clients was to look at online learning. And what was kind of serendipitous at that time is, as the economy started tanking, businesses still needed to teach people stuff. So instead of flying them in to the new centralized HQ, they were looking at different technologies to bridge that gap. And that’s what sustained my business early on. But what you started seeing is a lot of folks embracing that like, “Oh, I need it now.” And that’s what we, as humans, do. We go, “I got to learn something, I go to YouTube, or Google or whatever, to look it up.” That’s just in time learning.
But you fast forward to today, a lot of the trends that you’re seeing are things like just some time learning, which is still there. You see a lot of insurgents in utilization of webinars and virtual classroom situations, that live you, leader in the group kind of leading you through something, but doing it virtually, although all of these have their own malpractice utilization. I’ll talk about that in a minute. But you also see the bite size chunks, I use the term learning top, is like, you go to a Spanish restaurant with the little tiny, small plates, that bite size mentality. You’re never satisfied after one of those, you have a whole bunch of them. But then you’re not really good at one, you really haven’t explored the fried chicken taco in depth yet. You barely know that taco. And you know a little bit about the shrimp taco, but you’re not really damn good at any of them yet. But I had the menu to go back and order more of those tacos.
And the other thing that you’re seeing a lot of is gamification. It’s how you create an entertaining or gaming factor in the concept of learning, especially online learning. So that’s where you see things like badges and stickers, as you go through accomplishments, you have the competition of a leaderboard, not to be confused with lederhosen, that’s a completely different way to do it. Those are the things that you’re starting to see even now in the 21st century.
Such a corporate classroom… organizations are trying to use some of those tactics to get their learners. They know an adult learner sitting at their desk or their cubicle or in the field on their mobile device doesn’t have a lot of time to sit down and learn something. But knowledge is the key to competitive advantage. So how can you get the bite size learning, that just in time learning, out in the field, especially to the people doing their job that can do it better, over time in a format that allows them to not just consume it, but also remember it?
The term you hear a lot of times is blended learning, and this is the strategy that I try to use with my client partners. It’s a combination of the different media, depending on what you can get away with, and I say that meaning like budget, time, location, all that good stuff. What I like to do is, you start out with some sort of synchronous meaning, same time interaction that could be a webinar, meaning you’re still there at the same time as the leader or the facilitator. It could be a face-to-face workshop, if you had that luxury, but you have something like that, you’re doing two things that way. One, you’re getting people in the same “space” at the same time. The one thing that’s challenging with asynchronous learning or the stuff that you do on your own, you lose that social interactivity. And that’s a big giant part of the learning experience. It also helps with your memory, like, “Hey, do you remember when I sat next to that guy, Jim, and we had that conversation after the filter to the thing yet.” So that’s a cool part about it. If you can mimic that in some sort of experience, that’s a great way to do it. What I also try to do is the blended approach, when you follow it up with maybe that self-paced stuff that they do, here’s a three minute video, then here’s a PDF that you’ve downloaded to record your reactions to it; we’re going to bring that into the virtual classroom in two weeks and chat about it.
What you can do instead of that is what I did when I worked for Disney. I worked for the cruise line, and my job was as an internal leadership consultant. This is back in the early 2000s. At the time, there were only two ships, and I would run up with the ship, and I dumped the crew and the leaders into something, whatever I was teaching at the time, and I went off the ship the next day. And while it was good to get some stuff done quickly, it isn’t the best approach. You can’t run on a ship and dump people in your learning and then run away and expect them to remember it.
Elongating the learning is the best approach for any organization. If you want to change human behavior, you can’t do it in a one day class or one hour webinar. You got to really allow the experience to expand over time.
To get a hold of me go to thegayleadershipdude.com you’ll be directed where you need to go. I also have a specialist talk about learning, bridging the two topics we had together, talking about inclusive leadership as well as online learning. I have a little learning topics I’d like to share with your listeners if you go to bit.ly/mopsam _s4s you’ll be able to get to a seven minute, very short module on how to be a more inclusive leader and eliminate silent pollution in your workplace.