Ed Evarts is the author of Drive Your Career: 9 High Impact Ways to Take Responsibility for Your Own Success. In this interview, we discuss: leading with empathy, how to be a driver with your role (not a passenger), ways to take responsibility for your own success, when to put on the brakes, and the power of curiosity
After the Interview:
About Ed Evarts
Ed is the author of Drive Your Career: 9 High Impact Ways to Take Responsibility for Your Own Success. He is a leadership coach, team coach, strategist, podcast host, and the founder Excellius Leadership Development, based in Boston.
Read the Transcript
This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes. While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview
Deliberate Leaders I am your host, Allison Dunn, Founder of the Deliberate Leaders podcast dedicated to helping leaders build strong, thriving businesses. Each episode we feature inspiring interviews to help you on your leadership journey. And that makes me very excited to introduce our guest. Today, we have with us Ed Evarts. He is a team coach, strategist, podcast host and author. He is also the founder and president of Accelerate Soleus Leadership Development, which is based in Boston, his newly released book, which is titled Drive Your Career, nine high impact ways to take responsibility for your own success. I am very excited to have this conversation with you here today. Ed, thank you so much for joining us.
I’m thrilled to be here. Allison, thank you for welcoming me on your podcast.
Absolutely. So let’s I like to kick these off with a deliberate conversation. And I guess my question for you today is what would be your number one leadership tip for our deliberate leaders.
You know, I think the number one word for this decade is empathy. And they it’s a little bit of a softer word, or a lot of people don’t see the value in respect to being more empathetic in the workplace. Yet, I believe based on my own work experience, as well as the work that I do with clients that being more empathetic is a strategic strategy, that this is a great way to build relationships, to build engagement, and to really meet people where they are so that you can influence them more positively. So a tip I would provide leaders today is to you know, read an article, read a book, you know, Google today, you can put in a word and get a million responses. But figure out you know, two or three ways that you could be more empathetic, and start practicing it in the workplace, I guarantee you, the greater empathy you show, the greater influence you’ll have at your organization.
That is a wonderful tip, I personally have found myself trying to tap into just really understanding like, you know, being frustrated, waiting in line, knowing that we are short and like just being like, thankful that the person who is serving me is in a good mood, and they’re doing the best they can. And so there’s a lot of areas in our life where empathy is just as powerful.
It is. And you know, that’s the beauty of it, you can practice it anywhere. So it’s not only just in the workplace, but you know, as a consumer, as a family member, as a neighbor, right? You have to demonstrate opportunities for empathy. And so if you’re looking to get better at relationships, it’s a great thing to work on and practice, you know, as a business professional.
Yeah. So how, so let’s build on that. So how can people find ways to build empathy as an individual in their role and things? Like what are some go to tips that you would suggest that help people keep that front of mind?
Yeah, well, the hardest tip, in my mind is actually noticing that somebody may be behaving in a way that requires you to show empathy. I’ve worked with clients who consider themselves to be highly unsympathetic. And you know, a person could come into their office crying, and they wouldn’t even notice. But and, you know, their goal is to look for ways to be more empathetic. So the first thing is to really figure out, you know, how can I be more observant in respect to people I work with people that I see every day, you know, people say we spend a third of our lives at work, that’s a lot of time spending other people’s, so you should have a good sense of kind of who they are and how they operate. So, you know, step number one is identifying that somebody is behaving or seems to be acting in a way that’s a little bit different. Step number two, is really approaching them. And I’m a big believer in asking for permission. So you don’t just come in and say, Hey, what’s wrong? But you say, hey, you seem to be a little bit different today, you know, are you open to talking about it, because a person who gives you permission to talk about it with them is more likely to be candid and honest with you than somebody it’s approach and say, Hey, you seem upset, what’s going on? So noticing it, and then asking for permission or two great steps in order to, you know, kind of start the conversation where you can demonstrate empathy with the other person.
One of the techniques that I am, I witness a lot is noticing it and then assuming it has something to do, like with me, as opposed to you, right? So I love that reversal of getting permission, acknowledging what you’re visually seeing and then getting permission back and talk about it, not assuming it’s with me.
Right, right. And, you know, that is one of the key definitions of empathy, which is, you know, kind of putting yourself at their level, so rather than expecting people to always to come to you, or always behave in a way that you expect, you know, if somebody is having a tough day, and it may be for personal reasons or professional reasons, going to their level and saying, hey, you don’t seem to be yourself today or you seem upset about something, would you be open to talking about it? You know, the person might say, No, you know, I’m not really in the mood right now. Or, you know, yes, I would love to be able to talk to somebody about this issue. And then you can talk with them about the issue that they’re experiencing, offered to help in ways that you can, and try to get them back on track, right, so they can keep moving forward and feeling good about it. So, you know, I think it is about kind of meeting them where they are, versus you expecting them to always kind of come to your level. Right.
Excellent advice. So let’s dive a little bit into your book. So what advice would you give listeners who are wanting to be more of a driver and less of a passenger within their role?
Well, you know, this book came Allison from my 13 years as a leadership coach. And I began to observe four or five years ago that there were certain stories or experiences that I was sharing with more and more clients. And so these nine behaviors really are the pieces of advice or experience that I’ve shared with most people, most often. And it wasn’t purposeful. I wasn’t like creating these opportunities to share these stories with them. But it happened just naturally. And so whether they are a supervisor, or a mid manager, or a CEO, or president, you know, these pieces of advice are things that they need to know and be aware of, in order to be more of a driver of their career. And so the catalyst of it came from my experience in working with people that many of them were passengers, that they were in a role or in a situation, it wasn’t exactly what they wanted, or wasn’t working out the way they thought it would. And they needed to kind of take the wheel and decide where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, right. And, you know, part of it has to do with tenure, right? That you get to a certain age and level where you’re like, Hey, I don’t know if I’m doing what I thought I would do with my life. And I want to be more of a driver of my career. And some of it might be functional, that you’re moving in a particular direction and isn’t the direction that you’d want to move in. So, you know, these nine pieces of advice are designed to help people. Two quick examples I’ll give you, the first chapter is called How to have a positive relationship with your boss. And the importance of having a positive relationship with your boss cannot be understated. You don’t have to be best friends, you know, you don’t have to go out for margaritas on cinco de mayo. But you do need to have a positive relationship so that they think about you positively because a boss who thinks about you positively is more apt to give you projects and visibility and opportunity than a boss you don’t have a positive relationship with and if you don’t get along with your boss, and if any of our listeners are not getting along with their boss, they should be thinking about two or three things they could do differently in order to have that type of relationship. Do you want me to keep sharing others?
I was hoping if you would sum it in some way, kind of do a high level overview and then pick the like the top few that you really feel like would be great takeaways for today. So they could take action?
Yeah, so Well, the first one would be ensuring that you have a positive relationship with your boss. Some of the other high level areas we talked about are being the most curious person in the room, playing the hand you’ve been dealt, when you look at the workplace you’re in recognize what it is what it is, but how do you play that hand, recognizing that life’s a bell curve, that there are going to be people who love what you do. But there may also be people who don’t like what you do, and how do I address the people who don’t like what I do, versus the people you know, that do like what I do. So those are, you know, some of the chapters that we talk about in the book to help people really focus on being more of a driver of their career, the first chapter and they’re not in order of importance. You know, I think any nine could be of helpful to people, you can start at the last chapter, which by no great coincidence is called, you know, it’s also all about empathy. So I do have a chapter that talks about empathy. I have a chapter that talks about feedback. You know, these are all great skills that great leaders need to have. So we’ve talked about, you know, how to be a positive, you know, how to have a positive relationship with your boss, we’ve talked about how to have empathy. You know, my other quick favorite chapter is playing the hand you’ve been dealt. And so like a poker hand, you can’t decide the hand that you’re going to be dealt in the workplace that when you are working your environment is what it is. And there are pluses to where you work and there may be some negatives to where you work but regardless of whether your workplace There’s pluses and negatives or more negatives and pluses. It’s the hand you’ve been dealt. And so like you I work with clients to figure out how to play that hand. Right? So what are you going to do about the hand that you’ve been dealt? And how do you ensure that you’re working to make it a more positive work environment for others.
Would love to kind of dive into the first one and then the handout? So what I’m identifying two or three things that you could do to improve your relationship with your boss, what happens if it’s not being reciprocated?
So right, there’s no magic formula that says, hey, if I do the following three things, every boss is going to fall in love with me. First off, there are bosses who will never have a great relationship with just based on their style, and how they’ve developed professionally and their agenda, they just might not be the type of person whom anyone can have a close relationship with. So knowing that, and acknowledging that is very important. And this kind of goes back to playing the hand you’ve been dealt, if the hand you’ve been dealt is that you work for a boss who is impossible to work for, you have choices to make in respect to your career. And if I were driving my career, I would want to acknowledge that I want to be in a workplace where I can have a positive relationship with my boss, because I know I would have better experiences and better outcomes. So I need to decide, do I move elsewhere in the company where I can have a better relationship with the boss? Do I leave the company and go find another environment where I can have a better relationship? These are all important questions that people need to consider. You know, one of the outcomes of playing the hand you’ve been dealt is bluffing. And I will tell you, Allison, that most of my clients are bluffing, they’re pretending things are better than they are. And a lot of them have to do with boss subordinate relationships. So acknowledging that it might not be as good as it could be doing certain things proactively to try to improve it are important, but there are going to be a percentage of time and experiences where they’re just never going to get better. And you have choices to make as to how you want to drive your career and make progress.
I love the fact that you’ve kind of pointed out I mean, there are a lot of people buffing out there for sure. And therefore being a passenger in in their own career, what tips or guidance would you give, if you love the organization, maybe your direct supervisor or leader is not necessarily a strong connection for you? Is it okay to go around?
So, you know, it is something that actually in my book, raise your visibility and in value, I talk about a leader whom people don’t get responses from, who has become a black hole. And one of the key outcomes of that is people go around the boss, because if I can’t get answers from you, or you’re never going to respond to me, I still need to answer so I’m going to go have to go elsewhere. You know, I don’t personally believe that that’s a good behavior. Because I think that erodes things that are happening in the workplace. And if you start going around people, like adds drama and complication, you know, I’m a more transparent person. And so I believe diving straight into the situation, and working with an accountability partner, a friend, a family member, a coach, whoever, to construct a conversation to have with your boss to say, Look, I don’t want to go around you. I don’t want to speak to others about things you and I should be speaking about. What can we do differently in our relationship, if you’re interested in participating, and how we can improve this, because this is something I’m experiencing? I’m going to guess and this is oftentimes true, Allison that if I’m experiencing it, others are. So it’s like, it’s not just me, you know, oftentimes people think, Why is it always me? And in reality, it’s not just you, it’s other people as well are all experiencing it. You know, I don’t act differently with different people. I treat everyone pretty much the same. So now I believe that you shouldn’t ideally go around people, you should work straight on the issue and try to resolve it. Okay.
Yeah. Good, good.
When should individuals realize that it’s time to actually put on the brakes?
So a couple of answers, you know, one in respect to you know, how to have a positive relationship with your boss. You know, putting on the brakes might be this idea of folding, where if it’s just not a good work environment, if it’s not a good culture, if it’s not a good fit for you, it is okay. To find another opportunity that might be a lot of people think of work as a relationship, and I don’t want to break up, right. So I’m gonna keep trying to make it work even though nobody else is playing. And I help people that at some point in your career, There is no magic or secret formula behind recruitment, you just might need to say, look, this isn’t working for me, I need to pause and move on elsewhere. I also have a chapter in the book that talks about pausing and pausing is this idea of putting on the brakes, which is a behavior where you spend more time upfront. And through pausing thinking about what it is you want to work on, and how you want to work on it, especially if you’re working with a team, rather than starting too quickly, and then having to clean it up at the end, oftentimes making you late to a client deliverable. And so this happened to me, oftentimes, during my corporate career, it happens all the time with my business clients, that they kick things off. They’re highly articulate, they’re high energy, it’s a Go, go, go. And they go. And then they realize later that people weren’t clear on direction, people weren’t doing a great job because of that lack of clarity. And so they had to go back and fix or redesign things they had worked on. And ultimately, they have to go to the client and say, Hey, we hit a snag, or we’re having some issues, you know, we’re going to be a couple of minutes late. So this idea of pausing is allowing others to catch up to where you are as the leader, so that you can ensure we’re all leaving, you know, at the same point in time and moving in a consistent direction.
What kind of language would you use to be able to kind of get that positive pause opportunity? Like how do you present it?
Well, I think a large piece of it is about transparency, as well, as somebody who wants to pause, right, I can’t force anyone to do something they don’t want to do. But if a leader says, Hey, Ed, I do think we should invest more time, upfront versus later, I’d say great. And what I would suggest that they do is at team meetings, if they’re sharing ideas, or if they have the time and action calendar they’re working on and they’re ready to go. They say, hey, we’ve got our time and action calendar, everybody shaking their head that they understand and know what they want they need to do next, it seems like we’re ready to go. But before we go, I want everyone to take a few days, I want you to visit the time and action calendar, I want you to visit your objectives and goals. And next week when we meet again, I want to hear from you questions, observations about what it is we need to think a little bit more about before we pull the trigger? Even if it’s me repeating something I’ve already said it’s okay for me to repeat something because oftentimes, leaders will say something. And because I want to be complicit and a good employee, I’ll say yes, I understand or Yes, I have it when I don’t write. And I always think about I’ll figure it out later, right. So, you know, it’s providing people this window of opportunity to come back. Before we go, to ensure we’re ready to go, right, it’s making sure people heard what I said, versus just shaking their head, like I got it, and they don’t. So a large piece of this, Allison has to do with leader role modeling, which is me demonstrating the behavior that I’m expecting of others, which is if there’s anything I’ve said that you don’t understand, I’d love to hear that next week. So I can go over it again. Because it’s more important that we start off, well, then just go and have to clean it up later.
Fantastic. You have brought up curiosity and curiosity is one of my core values, and just something that has been kind of magical, I guess, in my life because of that approach. So if we if you wouldn’t mind sharing your thoughts on the power of curiosity?
Sure. You know, I first learned about curiosity in a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, you know, probably one of the first books on leadership style, written by Stephen Covey. And in it, he lists seven habits. And habit number five, is seek first to understand then to be understood. And unfortunately, in most corporate organizations, we do the opposite. We work first to be understood. And then if we have time, I’ll try to understand you. But you know, first I want to be understood, right? So curiosity is all about understanding where other people are coming from, where they’re getting their ideas, why they think about what they’re thinking about, know, where are they coming from before I start sharing my perspective, and the beauty of it is that the more I know about others, and the more I understand about where they’re coming from, and why they’re thinking what they’re thinking, the better My position is going to be because now I have more knowledge to work from. If I just share what I’m thinking and nobody else has talked, it could be a minefield of issues and problems and different perspectives. And again, if everyone’s being complicit, they’re going to say, sounds good. And off they go when they all don’t really agree. So curiosity, I think is a key leadership behavior along with empathy regarding how to ensure that you understand others, before you expect them to understand you.
As Do you think that Curiosity has a balance in the conversation of speaking and listening? Is there any perfect ratio on that if being curious, but then also stopping to listen?
Well, I love that perspective. You know, I don’t know if there is a mathematical relationship, but it is a balance between curiosity and listening. You know, if you’re a terrible listener, then what’s the point of asking a question, right? So you have to ask a great question. And then you have to go silent, and listen to what the person has to say, whether you agree with them or not, this is not about agreement. This is about understanding. So it’s important that I understand your perspective, even if I don’t agree with it. So as you know, as somebody who does this work and for whom curiosity is a core value, when you ask a good question, you’ll get a good answer. And that answer will create an opportunity for another question, right? So you could be a great leader who never tells anybody anything, that you just ask questions, to help them come to their own conclusions. You know, we hear the example oftentimes of great leader when someone comes in and says, you know, Allison, I have a problem what, what do I do? And the great leader says, Why don’t you tell me what your options are? You know, what, what do you think? And it might be? Well, I don’t know, that’s why I came to you. And I’d say, Well, why don’t you think two or three options and let’s meet about it this afternoon or tomorrow? I’d love to hear what you’re thinking it, you know, the answers might be before I share with you what I’m thinking. So it just creates a better relationship creates more engagement, more empowerment. You know, curiosity, I just believe is one of the most underutilized skills. I have challenged with it sometimes because I love talking about what it is I do. And oftentimes, I’m not curious enough to understand who I’m talking to, you know, before I make great progress.
Great insights. I’ve got one final question that I’m going to open it up to you to see if there was anything else we wanted to share. Knowing that we have, or at least in the US, kind of a labor shortage challenge going on right now. How can people take the careers that they’re in and create higher impact where they are knowing that there’s this also other challenge of there’s not a there’s not enough support? There’s, you know, there’s a drain kind of going on? So what are your insights? What are you seeing? And what would be your guidance?
Well, that is a very big question. I know. But, you know, I would tell you that first there’s a degree of self awareness that people need to have about their cert, their situation and where they are in their career and how they are doing. And it’s really more of a self assessment. It’s not a comparison to others, people love to compare themselves to other people’s titles and other people’s compensation, other people’s career path, etc. But it’s really about yourself, and thinking about and building yourself awareness about where you are and how it’s going. You know, certainly in drive your career, you can find some ideas and suggestions on things that you can do to be more of a driver of your career. But I’ll tell you the number one thing that I would do, if I were one of those people, and by the way, everybody believes themselves to be busy. Anytime I’ve asked anybody in a corporate organization, how is it going, I wish I had a nickel for every time the person said, busy. Oh, I’m so busy, we’re so busy. Everybody is busy. And part of it is that as organizations grow, they have less people doing more. So it’s not more people doing less, they have less people doing more. And as people get laid off, they don’t replace them, they now have less people doing it. Right. So now my job is doubled and tripled. But the one thing that I would do is I would find an accountability partner. And this is a friend or a colleague or coach or somebody whom I could work with to ask me these questions and explore deeply, you know, what my interests are, where I want to be what I want to be doing, create a simple basic time and action calendar. It might be have a conversation with my boss, it might be update my resume, you know, whatever it might be, and hold me accountable to it. The challenge we have as business professionals is not having ideas. Again, we could Google leadership style, professional behavior and get millions of responses. We don’t need more ideas. We need ways to convert ideas to actions that I really do. And so an accountability partner is somebody who can help me ensure I take action and that’s What I would do?
Do you have any final closing thoughts that you wanted to share that I didn’t think to kind of ask your tip?
No, I really enjoyed speaking with you, Allison. Again, I think there are behaviors people can do that maybe they’re not thinking about today because they are so busy. You know, I would do a self introspective type view of how busy Am I work? Am I finding time to grow and develop as a leader? And I don’t mean by attending a training program, but you know, and I work with a colleague to help get better at what I’m doing, and really be self reflective so that you can decide how you can be more of a driver of your career, where do I want to go? What do I want to do? You know, those are great questions that each of us should ask ourselves so we can ensure that we’re moving in the right direction.
Fantastic. I will make sure that I include a link to your book in the show notes. What are the best way for people to follow you?
Yeah, I would go to excel Yes, calm. And that’s e x e double l. i s Comm. There’s everything there. That certainly is of interest to folks, of course on LinkedIn and excel as leadership development is on Facebook as well, so you can connect with us there.
Fantastic. Ed, thank you so much for joining us folks who have listened today. I hope that you enjoyed this episode and encourage you to share any of your aha moments from this episode in the comment section. And thank you so much.
Allison, it was great speaking with you today. Thank you,
You as well.
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