Do you have a personal pit crew to fuel your career?
Is it possible to take worry-free, unplugged vacations?
Would you rate your peer relationships as outstanding?
Mindy Mackenzie is a speaker and advisor who has served as the Chief Performance Officer of Beam, Inc. She has served in various senior HR leadership and organizational development roles at Jim Beam, Walmart and Campbell Soup Company. Her new book, The Courage Solution: The Power of Truth Telling with Your Boss, Peers, and Team, is filled with practical advice and tips to improve communication with your colleagues.
Mindy’s perspective provides a roadmap for success in relationships at work. I recently asked her to talk about her current work.
I wrote this book in answer to a crisis. And the crisis, from my experience, is that the thing that companies and individuals need most they often get least – and that’s the truth. And I saw it again and again and again even though I worked for three fantastic companies (Walmart, Campbell Soup and Jim Beam). So there was this crisis. The crisis was the absence of truth. Why? Because people didn’t have the courage to tell it. People were afraid of the consequences. So I wrote this book to show them how to tell the truth diplomatically but effectively. I learned that myself through trial and error to the point that I earned the nickname the Velvet Hammer.
Is “truth telling” getting more difficult these days?
Truth telling is always challenging because people like to be liked and agreed with. And telling the truth many times runs counter to that – so you have to know how to do it right. But let me pan back for a moment and make a broad statement. I think truth is the commodity in shortest supply in the corporate world, and it may be the most essential commodity of all. Why don’t people tell the truth? They are afraid of the consequences. I wrote this book to cure them of that fear. Because without the truth, no company or individual can survive, let alone thrive.
Why You Need a Personal Pit Crew
What’s a personal pit crew and why do you recommend one?
A pit crew is an external group of people committed to your success in your work and in your life. The analogy to a race car driver is apt because while they are driving the car, they have an entire team of people dedicated to helping them stay on the track going as fast as possible. Same with navigating a career. Going it alone is a bad strategy. You need to have a small group of people you trust and respect that you can go to for advice, support and practical help. The most successful business professionals I know all have their own pit crews, even if they don’t label it that.
Name It to Claim It
Would you share more about your advice “name it to claim it?”
If you want to achieve something or advance in your career, it helps immeasurably to be clear about your destination. Spending the time to get clear and know what you want and why is a massive accelerator to attaining it. That’s the “naming it” part. So when you are asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” for example, you will have a ready, well-thought-out answer. When you know what you want, you can then engage others in helping you to get there. To claim it.
Take Worry Free Vacations
Many people will read your chapter on vacations and say, “Worry-free, relaxing, unplugged vacation? Impossible!” How do you respond to those who say it’s impossible?
I say it only feels impossible because you’ve never done it and likely have never seen anyone around you do it. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible for you – it just means it is scary, uncomfortable and foreign. But if you want the big pay-off – which is to truly relax, refresh your energy and perspective, have unfettered fun (which is aided by not having any responsibilities) and come back to work feeling great – then you choose to be courageous and work through your discomfort. Taking the steps laid out in the chapter really work. You just have to be brave enough to try.
Develop Extraordinary Relationships
You share so many tips on dealing with the boss. What are a few strategies to consider to develop a healthy relationship with your boss?
Number one is to change your mindset that your job is to make your boss successful, always remembering that they have more responsibilities, pressure and accountabilities than you do. Number two is to get in sync with your boss as quickly as you can by knowing what issues they are wrestling with every week and bringing them solutions to those problems. And number three is to tell them what you really think – tell them the truth – but do it in a way that they can hear and act on it. If you’ve done the first two steps, then it will be far easier to do the third.
This may sound basic but it really works. The first thing you’ve got to do is fall in like with your colleagues. To find characteristics and attributes that you respect, admire and enjoy. And the fastest way to do that is to have people over to your house for dinner. Getting out of the work setting shifts the energy and gives everyone the chance to lower their guard, be more real and for you to get to know your colleagues. This will require vulnerability (and hospitality!) on your part, but having people into your home to share a meal with you and your family is a super fast way to build a positive connection. Old fashioned? Yes. Does it work? Absolutely.
What’s the biggest mistake people make when hiring?
Not being disciplined in the interview process. There is no perfect hiring process, and there will always be hiring mistakes. However, you can greatly minimize this occurring if you take the time up front to define what you want and need and then interviewing accordingly.
The Courage Solution: The Power of Truth Telling with Your Boss, Peers, and Team