Tent Talks Featuring Billie Mandel: AITA – Tech Industry Edition: Top 5 mistakes well-meaning people are making RIGHT NOW in their jobs that make their workplaces more toxic, how to stop, and what to do instead

Tent Talks Featuring Billie Mandel: AITA – Tech Industry Edition: Top 5 mistakes well-meaning people are making RIGHT NOW in their jobs that make their workplaces more toxic, how to stop, and what to do instead
Billie Mandel
CEO, Chief Instigator
Mandel Creative
Billie Mandel is a multidisciplinary social scientist, leadership coach and team collaboration expert with 30 years’ international business experience leading software R&D teams to innovate, grow and create more effectively together.

On Thursday, August 24th at 5:00pm Central, Billie Mandel joined us for a live Q&A session: “AITA – Tech Industry Edition: Top 5 mistakes well-meaning people are making RIGHT NOW in their jobs that make their workplaces more toxic, how to stop, and what to do instead.”

Session Notes

Here are the main points from the Tent Talks session with Billie Mandel titled, “AITA – Tech Industry Edition: Top 5 mistakes well-meaning people are making RIGHT NOW in their jobs that make their workplaces more toxic, how to stop, and what to do instead:”

Billie Mandel focuses on the well-intentioned yet harmful behaviors people exhibit in tech workplaces that contribute to toxicity. She outlines the top 5 such behaviors and offers tangible solutions for each, from avoiding complicit bystander tendencies to fostering transparent communication.

Top 5 Well-Meaning Behaviors That Create Toxic Work Environments

  1. Complicit Bystander: Often rooted in people-pleasing or conflict avoidance, this behavior can have detrimental effects on teams and individuals.
  2. Workplace Gossip: Though often unintentional, gossip can have a corrosive impact on work culture, especially in startups where roles and power structures are fluid.
  3. Perfectionism: Aiming for flawlessness not only hampers individual growth but can also make leaders the “creativity ceiling” of their teams.
  4. Lack of Role Clarity: A nebulous definition of roles and decision-making processes can lead to workplace stress and confusion.
  5. Listening to Criticize: When people listen with the intent to appear smart, rather than to genuinely understand or connect, communication breaks down.

Deep Dive Into Perfectionism

  • Perfectionism stifles authenticity and induces fear of failure, keeping team members from reaching their full potential.
  • Leadership that enforces perfectionism can lead to employee attrition

Effective Communication

  1. Inviting Criticism: Leaders should use open-ended questions like “What am I missing?” to invite team input.
  2. Counteracting Power Dynamics: To build a culture of transparency, leaders should model vulnerability and invite team members into their problem-solving processes.

Strategies for Navigating Complex Relationships

  • Personal anecdotes from Billie illuminate the complexities of relationships that are both professional and personal. The key takeaway is to set clear boundaries and be acutely aware of the potential impact on your professional roles.

Approaching Difficult Conversations When You’re the Problem

  1. Acknowledgment: The first step is admitting to the mistake.
  2. Framework: Use the “Situation, Behavior, Impact” model to discuss the issue.
  3. Actionable Steps: Sometimes an apology isn’t enough, especially in DEI contexts. It’s essential to take steps to do better.

Strategies for Inclusivity and Anti-Toxicity

  • If you’re privileged, use your platform to amplify underrepresented voices.
  • Focus on continuous improvement, particularly through actions, rather than mere apologies.

Additional Insights from Billie Mandel

  1. Leadership and Vulnerability: Inspired by Brene Brown, Billie recommends showing your own mistakes as a way to establish trust within the team.
  2. Gossip Trap: Be cautious with who you vent to. Gossiping, especially to a boss, can be destructive.
  3. Backstabbing Dilemma: When receiving feedback about someone, it’s responsible to ask, “Have you talked to them about it?”

Recommended Reading and Resources

  • “Mindset” by Carol Dweck
  • Billie Mandel’s coaching practices

Actionable Tips for Improvement

  1. Set Boundaries: Clarify roles and boundaries, particularly in complex relationships.
  2. Choose Vent Buddies Wisely: Keep professional and venting relationships separate.
  3. Encourage Open Dialogue: Create an environment where team members can directly communicate with each other.
  4. Be Cautious with Feedback: Redirect negative feedback to the concerned individual.
  5. Acknowledge Mistakes and Learn: Take actionable steps to improve, particularly in DEI contexts.

Quotable Quotes

  • “Critique is 100% that for creative teams. The hardest thing to teach people, but the most valuable thing to teach people, is to crave that discomfort.”
  • “Sometimes you’ve just got to forgive yourself but do better.”
  • “I seek my own consent first. Somebody asks me to do something at work. Am I willing to do this thing with the amount of knowledge that I have and the amount of support that I have?”

Session Transcript

[00:00:43] Chicago Camps: Welcome to Tent Talks Bille. Would you please introduce yourself to our audience?

[00:00:47] Billie Mandel: I am super happy to be here. I’m Billie Mandel. I am the CEO of Mandel Creative, which is a lesbian, feminist, anti racist learning and development company. We primarily do one on one coaching and team coaching for creative and technical teams that want to be better.

[00:01:05] Creativity, innovation. Continuous growth. I was a first wave UXer, so I’ve been doing this work for almost three decades now, and I’ve been out on my own for about three years.

[00:01:17] Chicago Camps: Billie, with your extensive experience in the tech industry, could you share your top five examples of well meaning behaviors that unintentionally contribute to a toxic workplace?

[00:01:27] Billie Mandel: I absolutely can. I’ll give you the list and then we can break them down slowly. I will tell you, narrowing it down to five has turned out to be a little bit more challenging. I reached out to several subgroups in the community that I am part of and folks had a lot to say about these. So just because yours didn’t make it in doesn’t mean that’s not an equally valid AH thing that people do out at work that shouldn’t be done. So feel free to ask if they don’t come up.

[00:01:58] I think the short list looks like at this point, number one is the complicit bystander. The corollaries there are people pleasing and conflict avoidant. So we’re going to dig into that real hard. So many kind meaning people end up really digging themselves and their teens a big hole that way.

[00:02:17] Complicit bystander, number one.

[00:02:19] Number two, I’m going to say workplace gossip. Workplace gossip. Our environments are intense and too many of us unintentionally engage in. What ends up being gossip that really pollutes the environment around us?

[00:02:36] Number three, perfectionism. And on the leadership side, that looks like taking the pen out of people’s hands. No, you gotta let people struggle, come on! Perfectionism in the people leader, in yourself, usually leads to bad stuff. We can break it down a little bit more.

[00:02:53] Number four, I’m gonna say, maybe a little bit spicy. Lack of willingness to provide role clarity, decision making clarity, or what we’re doing in this meeting clarity. If you think you’re being easy, fancy-free, go with the flow, just let people do what they do, it’s not going to go well for you or your team, especially as you start adding on pressures like stockholders for example.

[00:03:23] Lack of role clarity or even, I’m going to say not only the lack, but resistance to putting in role clarity, decision making clarity. Bad news bears.

[00:03:33] And the last one, this one might be a little bit more obvious, but it might be harder to spot in yourself. Listening to criticize or look smart rather than to understand or build connections.

[00:03:44] One of the most shocking things that I have found in myself over the years that I have had to work really hard to correct is perfectionism. Because it is 100%, it’s the antithesis of good leadership, it’s also the antithesis of growth. Frankly, it’s the antithesis of happiness.

[00:04:02] Perfectionism is usually enforcing on yourself an extrinsically motivated Idea of success, idea of how you’re supposed to be. And it’s an authenticity killer in yourself as a leader. One of the most shocking things that I see over and over again, though, is that people don’t realize that as a leader, just as a parent, your kids, they do what you do, they don’t do what you say.

[00:04:28] Most of the jargon and the talk, fail fast, fail easy, let him fail, doesn’t make a damn bit of difference, because when it comes down to it, most often, there’s an expectation, you deliver a thing, and you’re rewarded for delivering the thing to the person’s expectations. One of the most controversial things that I say to leaders in my coaching practice very often is, if your team gives you exactly what you expect, you have become the creativity ceiling for that team.

[00:04:59] If your team gives you exactly what you expect, you’re leaving money on the table. You’re leaving innovation on the table. This idea that everybody has to be a rock star, everybody has to be a legend, everybody has to only show “A” work, means that people don’t take risks to show things that are unfinished.

[00:05:19] One of the most terrible things that I have to tell my students and graduate students when they’re leaving school and going out into companies is that as much as I can tell you, you have to show low fidelity work, you have to show sketches, you have to show unfinished work. You have to invite other people into your problem space when things aren’t so baked that it’s too expensive to incorporate what they have to say.

[00:05:43] At least nine out of ten of the corporate design reviews or design critiques that I’ve gone to, 100% people showing high fidelity, shiny shinies. There’s no way that you are growing as a designer. There’s no way that your team is overall giving its collaborative, creative best if you’re only willing to show stuff that you think looks prettier, that you think is going to please the boss.

[00:06:12] So that’s from the individual contributor side. That’s where perfectionism gets ugly. The other thing about perfectionism, and I’m going to tell you. I reread this book (Mindset by Carol Dweck) every year. I encourage all of my coachees, individual and team to read it, and, often I hear from folks that could have been an article. The tldr R is, you gotta let yourself fail. Most of us have some ideas of, but I can’t, and only people who are talented can.

[00:06:44] Perfectionism is a really good excuse to stay small. It’s a really good excuse to stay small and to stay afraid. And most of the folks who I know who are stuck in fixed mindset, myself included, when I was stuck in it, which was not too long ago, really, that I discovered that there is work that I can do to Increase my own ability to try things that are new, try things that I’m not good at, to be willing to stink at things and have it not mean anything inherently about my worth as a person.

[00:07:21] It’s the most powerful concept and it’s hard to root out in ourselves. So I think perfectionism is, it’s also one of those that In a job interview, it used to be considered an eye rolling flex. Oh, what’s your greatest flaw? Oh, I’m a perfectionist. I’m just too good. But it’s not like that. If I’m a perfectionist, I am censoring out all of my most valuable ideas, all of the perspectives that make me as a diverse team member valuable. If you and I and Brad and Lisa and whoever else, we get together and we put our brains together, we should create something that is a surprise to all of us. It’s bigger than the sum of its parts because we are adding our perspectives to each other.

[00:08:11] That’s what collaboration is supposed to be. But too often because of Perfectionism, people pleasing, the way that our corporate power structures are set up. What we’re going to do instead is do the work that we think is going to be accepted. Do the work that we think is going to make somebody else say that we’re good.

[00:08:29] It’ll make your soul die a little bit after a while. I wish somebody had told me early in my career, you cannot just show what you think other people are going to accept. You’re undercutting so much of your own value and your own power when you do that. So 100%, if the leaders are doing that, your whole work environment is going to become performative. Oh, I see what’s valued here, rock stars and legends. I see what’s celebrated in our team rituals. Oh, you’re a rockstar. You’re a legend. Look what you did.

[00:09:08] My best friend and my business partner, Josh Silverman. He brought me the most eyeopening concept from one of his coaches recently. The failure cake. And now I want to make failure cakes all the time.

[00:09:22] I want to have a wonderful ritual for, I tried something totally half assed that had a chance of working. It totally did not work, but it opened up all these new lines of inquiry. It opened up some lightness and willingness to experiment. There’s so much that when you’re willing to risk looking stupid.

[00:09:45] you’re able to do collaboratively and creatively. That’s a lot on perfectionism. One other thing that I want to say about it, from a leadership perspective, the worst damn thing you can do. You might think you’re saving the company’s bacon. You might think you’re saving your reputation. You might think you’re saving the customer account.

[00:10:09] I had a client do this once and they wanted me to come and do some critiques, teach them how to do critiques. They had a big account with a significant enterprise company, whole team, designers, developers, product people, they’ve been working on it for months.

[00:10:26] The night before the client presentation, the boss says, none of you are gonna be needed. I’m gonna do it myself. He stayed up all night, this guy, and redid his entire team’s work, and within a couple of months, all of the best people had gone elsewhere. Not worth it.

[00:10:50] The last thing I wanna say about perfectionism: a leader with perfectionism who enforces it in that way and doesn’t let their people make their own mistakes, present their own work… Okay, I’m not going to vent too hard about it because obviously it’s a pretty infuriating kind of situation, but what I do want to say is the best thing that you can do to stop being that guy: actionable, structured critique that you participate in.

[00:11:18] The best thing that you can model is: my work also needs other people’s perspectives at the right time in a structured, useful, actionable way. So I’m going to model it by inviting you into my problem space. Power dynamics, particularly in bigger, more hierarchical organizations, are going to create that kind of dynamic.

[00:11:46] I have a magic word question for that. My magic word question: what am I missing? What am I missing?

[00:11:53] If you as a leader whether it’s formal leadership or informal leadership, if you’re just that person whose personality is so dynamic that people gravitate towards asking you what you think and wanting to get your input, they’re also going to want to please you.

[00:12:09] They’re also going to want to please you. So it’s on you to make sure that they’re not just telling you what you want to hear because otherwise, why did you hire them? That guy who yoinked the whole team’s presentation the night before showed all of these people that their work was absolutely useless, that he could have done it all.

[00:12:28] So why do they even bother? The way you show them that it is worthwhile and safe to traverse that power dynamic is by inviting them into your problem space and demonstrating that you wouldn’t dare assume that your work has all the blanks filled in. You wouldn’t dare ship something without asking other people, “hey, I know my work is Mired in my own biases my own perspectives my own heuristic shortcuts. Help me see it. What am I missing?”

[00:13:02] I do have a canvas that I’ll take into teams and teach them how to do this and how to build that. It’s like when you first start doing Pilates and you have to find that transverse abdominus muscle and you’re like, there’s a muscle? There’s a muscle for teams to build the resilience to invite each other into their problem space and understand that they’re better together when they shine a light on the valuable part, but they have often have to learn to do it. And starting with the leader, starting with the leader modeling, I am inviting you to tell me what I’m missing by admitting that I’m missing something will usually get people to be willing to tiptoe across that divide.

[00:13:42] Chicago Camps: Can you share an example where a well meaning action unintentionally resulted in a toxic outcome and how could the situation have been handled differently?

[00:13:52] Billie Mandel: I’m going to model the thing that I was just telling you to model. Brene Brown and her leading with vulnerability thing. I’m a huge fan and in terms of leadership, the thing that I’ve learned is show your own mess, show your own mistake, but always show what did you learn? What were you able to do afterward?

[00:14:12] I want to pick one that’s about gossip and that relates to power dynamics. The thing about gossip is we all… We’re under pressure, we’re in these intense organizations, we have these projects and deadlines that we don’t necessarily have visibility into who else is doing what and what are the variables.

[00:14:32] We don’t always have visibility into what our leaders are up to. And sometimes that’s going to cause annoyance, frustration, conflict, and usually we find that we need to kvetch a little bit, and the more pressure you’re holding, the more business risk and responsibility you’re holding, you probably need to kvetch.

[00:14:55] In my earlier career years, it bit me in the ass once or twice that I was not as discriminating as I could have been in terms of who I bitched to about what. In particular, the dynamic when, if you’re in a startup in particular where people’s roles change a lot and somebody might be your peer one day and next week they’re your boss and then the week after that they’re your boss’s boss.

[00:15:23] That kind of environment where the power dynamics change a lot but you don’t necessarily feel it happening while it’s happening can make those bad choices about who I bitch to even worse. I did this recently by accident with my students. In my teaching job at California College of the Arts, my best friend is the chair of the department.

[00:15:47] So he’s my boss. In our client work, I’m the CEO of the company and he’s a founding partner. So we’ve got these very different dynamics and we’ve also been friends since we were little kids. We met on the bus this summer when we were 13. There’s a level of familiarity and a level of blurred boundaries that I wasn’t even aware of.

[00:16:09] So my student had this client project to do, and they were really concerned about being able to run this research session with some stakeholders. And they wanted to leave class because they needed to go and do this interview, but they weren’t as forthcoming as they could have been later in terms of the way it sounded to me was that the client was not really cooperating, not really making themselves available in the way that one would hope when you become a sample client for a class project.

[00:16:41] I screwed this one up because I, in a very off the cuff way to my friend said, “Hey, what the heck is going on?”

[00:16:52] Like, why are they not meeting their agreements? I don’t want to let them exploit the students or give the students a hard time or not meet their agreement. And then suddenly my friend is there fixing it and my students come back to me and go, “Why the hell did you escalate it to the chair?”

[00:17:09] Oh shit, I forgot my own. Rule, my own understanding that first of all, if you’ve got feedback for me, you give it to me and especially you don’t go to somebody’s boss. You don’t go over somebody’s head unless you really want it to blow up. This happened to me once on the other side in a startup. I came to join a startup when it was about to raise a series B.

[00:17:37] There was a small team there already that had been led by a product person, and they had finally gotten big enough to have a head of design and to have me come and start growing the team. But it was messy because they were used to working directly with the person who had become my boss. And of course, as a company is trying to raise, you’ve got more and more pressure, more and more projects.

[00:18:04] I added people to the team and my leadership style is very different. I want to empower people. I had them paired with each other. I wanted to let them make decisions and let them screw up. And these young people, one of whom it was their first job out of college, were intimidated because I was their boss, and because I’ve got a big personality, and because I really had a different leadership style from the person who’d been their boss before.

[00:18:33] The mistake, the tragic mistake in that case was that you go out for a drink with this person who is your friend, who is now your boss’s boss, hey, how’s it going? And Billie’s not bossing the way we expect her to boss. And things got ugly pretty fast.

[00:18:50] In both of those cases. In terms of what you could do differently and what I learned from both of those cases. Thing one, don’t go over somebody’s head ever for any reason. If you’re having trouble with your direct line manager and it’s like an HR issue, that’s a different story. But know that it’s a real escalation. Even if you say it in a casual way, even if you have a casual friendship with that person.

[00:19:14] If you say something to somebody’s boss, they have to take it seriously. And it’s going to become an escalation. So there’s going to be some unintentional toxicity that is happening there. I think the other thing that hides underneath some of this, I think I’m just venting to my friend, but really I’m engaging in workplace gossip, and it’s going to get ugly.

[00:19:39] It’s when I bitch to everybody and I’m just bitching and not taking my own growth seriously and not looking at what my part is and not looking at what is within my power to change to improve the situation environment really gets toxic for everybody. And I think that’s one of those that’s really common for people who are unhappy, people who are in a tough situation, people who are not that good yet at advocating for what they want.

[00:20:10] For whatever reason, if you’re frustrated in your situation, if you’re bitching indiscriminately and not doing anything for yourself, you’re poisoning the pool for your peeps.

[00:20:22] Overall, what I like to see on my teams that I coach and in my classrooms and In my family, same deal. You can’t stop people from venting if they need to vent. And you should make sure you’ve got a couple of good ones. And frankly, your vent buddy shouldn’t be your boss. It puts too much pressure on that relationship.

[00:20:46] I have one client who had a person who was their peer become their manager. And the client realized too late that they should have changed who their vent buddy was because the venting was putting way too much pressure on their ability to collaborate and on the former peer’s ability to the employee grow and succeed at the company.

[00:21:12] So pick your venting partners judiciously. Don’t make one of them be your boss. And frankly, in most cases, I think this is especially true from a leadership perspective, if somebody wants to come bitch to me, which frankly they do, I’ve got a good solid shoulder, I’ve got a good listening ear, people come and vent to me.

[00:21:33] And I’m willing to do it if I’m going to hold space for you to blow off some steam and make a decision on how to approach this. But if I am feeding the flames, if I’m going to let you bitch, and I’m going to go say to that person, Oh, somebody on the team said that you think a lot of yourself.

[00:21:54] This one happened to me. This one also haunts my nightmares. Somebody on the team said that you think a lot of yourself, and I agree. Is that actionable feedback that helps me grow in my role? No. That’s gossip that then shows me that my manager doesn’t have my back and that there’s somebody on my team who has it out for me.

[00:22:16] Totally destabilizing. Totally destabilizing. If somebody’s bitching to you, I think the first thing that you said is really great. Do you need to vent or do you want advice? What kind of session is this?

[00:22:28] ’cause that’s really what do you need? How can I help you? But also in a professional environment, it is totally okay to say, I’m willing to listen to you vent if it’s for the purpose of helping you figure out how you’re gonna handle it with that person. Gonna save you by going in and trying to give that person backhanded feedback that’s not actionable.

[00:22:51] That poisons the team so much that, frankly, several years later, I haven’t rebuilt all of the friendships that I had on that team because I don’t know who the backstabber was. I’ve rescued some of those friendships and some of them are the richest friendships that I have. That have come from my professional life, full stop.

[00:23:11] I know none of those people was the backstabber. You can make yourself crazy. Who is the backstabber? If it’s gossip, if it’s somebody’s opinion, opinions aren’t actionable.

[00:23:24] There’s my mic drop. Opinions aren’t actionable. It doesn’t matter whose opinion it is. As a manager, there’s only one answer. If somebody comes to you to give you unsolicited negative feedback about somebody on your team.

[00:23:36] As far as I’m concerned, I’m really opinionated about this. You might disagree. Certainly, some people might be up in arms. I’m opinionated as hell about this one.

[00:23:45] The only thing to say is, “have you talked to them about it?”

[00:23:50] It’s the only thing to say. I’m willing to sit here with you and coach you on how to give that person feedback. I am willing to help you get really clear on situation, behavior, impact, and what you might ask for. After you’ve had the conversation, I might even be willing to participate in some kind of facilitated activity to reset roles or whatever it is, but I’m not going to carry the message for you, especially not anonymously because that is one of the most poisonous things that a person can do in a professional environment.

[00:24:28] Chicago Camps: How does one approach difficult conversations when they realize they might be the a-hole in the work environment?

[00:24:34] Billie Mandel: The first step is recognition. If I realize, oh, I screwed that up. Oh, I might have really screwed that up. Like with my students, when I unintentionally escalated to the chair, something that they were actually handling very effectively for themselves because I misunderstood.

[00:24:54] Situation, behavior, impact. Owning it straight up. Owning your impact. And shutting your trap and being willing to listen to what they have to say about the impact.

[00:25:07] That’s how you do it. “Hey, can we talk? I think I might have screwed something up, and I’d like to clear the air.”

[00:25:15] It’s always going to be the way to start.

[00:25:18] I think some of these scenarios are going to be harder than others, and some of them you won’t be able to clear up with an apology, right? The complicit bystander one. Some of the most challenging experiences that I had during my almost 30 years in house on software teams. Some of the loneliest, most difficult meetings were, I came in to present something that I had worked on collaboratively with folks, somebody else torpedoed it and my people didn’t speak for me.

[00:25:56] In one of those cases, like, all right, I let the boss who was a several levels higher in the hierarchy than you who happen to have a domineering personality characteristic. I let that person steamroll you and I didn’t intervene. I apologize. I’d probably still take those apologies for those folks in the room.

[00:26:22] But sometimes you just need to figure out how to do better and do it. Particularly in DEI cases, frankly, if you sat there and let the senior most dude in the room take credit for what the one, one woman of color had to say, or steamroll her and not let her get another word in edgewise. Or, you haven’t heard what she had to say, and you were facilitating and you didn’t ask.

[00:26:50] Frankly, shut the F up, learn something, do a little bit of reading, little bit of research on your own, and do better. And do better might look like amplifying somebody’s perspective, “Hey, I haven’t heard the rest of what Jean had to say, and I think it’s relevant to this topic, let’s listen to her.” Using your power for access might be the only thing that you can do.

[00:27:16] And doing it enough times that they can tell that you’ve learned something, that might be the best you can do. Like sometimes you can’t have that cathartic apology and be forgiven. Sometimes you’ve just got to forgive yourself but do better.

[00:27:33] Chicago Camps: In your work through Mandel Creative, how do you incorporate these lessons into your programs?

[00:27:38] Billie Mandel: The most important key to all of this is to understand that when you come to do collaborative work with other people, you are actively trying to combine your perspectives and approaches and set of experiences into something that’s bigger and better than the sum of its parts. The essence of creativity is making unexpected connections, and you can’t make them if you are guessing about what your role is, how you’re allowed to participate, how decisions are made, and those things are just left up to who is able to be the most forceful and the most toxic.

[00:28:18] Teaching people this new perspective that you have to build comfort with discomfort. It’s like going to the gym. A lot of my clients, particularly on the teams are men. Like where are my weight lifters? Where are my people who go to the gym? When you go to the gym, if you lift weights, you know that you’re going to do three sets of eight reps at this amount of weight.

[00:28:41] And you know that the seventh and eighth rep are going to burn. You know you need that burn so that maybe tomorrow you can do 10 reps. You are willing to incur that discomfort for the value that you receive. receive. Critique Is 100% that for creative teams. The hardest thing to teach people, but the most valuable thing to teach people is to crave that discomfort.

[00:29:07] In fact, to know that without the discomfort of checking your perspective and your bias against other people’s, without that discomfort, you’re leaving money on the table, you’re leaving value on the table, and frankly, you’re not growing as a professional or as a person. You’re probably going to be increasingly bitter about it. And feel disempowered.

[00:29:29] The whole source of growth, the whole source of growth mindset is the willingness to try things that might look stupid, to try things that you might not be good at yet, to lift those weights, even though it hurts. The other technique there is to be able to recognize and to have the courage to speak out about unproductive discomfort.

[00:29:53] So when you’re at the gym, if you have done one rep too many and something goes ping in here, you’re like, Oh [00:30:00] shoot, I better stop before I blow out my rotator cuff. You can discern helpful pain from unhelpful pain. And teams have to start discerning that as well. Helpful pain, knowing that you’re going to be wrong the first time, and seeking out the perspectives of others to fill in the blanks on your problem space.

[00:30:22] Unproductive discomfort. Everyone’s so busy being nice and polite and quote unquote professional in some way that is artificial and externally defined. The discomfort of, Oh, the boss just said something really offensive. And nobody is willing to open their trap. You have to be able to discern between those types of discomfort, have the courage to embrace the one, and stop.

[00:30:55] And frankly, the more experience, the more power, the more privilege, the more… I’m gonna say extroverted because… Very often, those of us who are extroverted, we take up space and folks are going to be listening to what we have to say. You have to use your voice to create space for doing the right thing.

[00:31:18] And to question, “why do we do things the way we do? Are we getting the value that we want to? Are there ways that we can change and grow so that what we do is more effective together?” Those are the types of principles that I’m teaching my clients all the time. And I’ve got my… Secret weapon questions.

[00:31:38] ” What am I missing?”

[00:31:39] ” What are you afraid I’m missing?”

[00:31:43] I’ve got some heuristics that I use. If we’re gonna sit down in a meeting together, we’ve got enablement criteria. What do we need to walk out of here having done, discussed, or decided so people can do their work afterwards? Teaching people to have the courage to challenge expectations, assumptions about professionalism to have the courage to say, if I’m going to ask you, I’m going to join your team, how do we make decisions on this team?

[00:32:12] You’re like, oh, we just talk about it until we agree. Absolutely not. It’s on me to come back to you and say, that doesn’t work for me because that doesn’t give me the security to know I expect you to participate and add value in this way. If I don’t know how to do my job and I’m just guessing, we are both wasting our time.

[00:32:33] So really teaching people to discern those things together and individually is really important.

[00:32:42] I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned for myself, both personally and professionally, that I impart to all of my clients, both individual and team. It’s useful in every situation. I seek my own consent first. I seek my own consent first. Somebody asks me to do something at work. Am I willing to do this thing with the amount of knowledge that I have and the amount of support that I have?

[00:33:11] Circumstances, am I willing to say yes to that? I’ve got to ask me first, because nobody else is gonna. I’ve got to ask me first, are they offering me enough value to be willing to take on this extra thing? This often comes up in things like office housework. Just saying yes to everything people ask of you at work is not going to get you ahead, especially if you’re already feeling a little bit overburdened.

[00:33:38] I’m going to seek my own consent first. My boss asks me to do something, a client asks me to do something, my peer. Am I okay with this? Who might I harm? Am I going to harm me? Is it okay with me? It turns out that when both leaders and individuals ask themselves, is this okay? And are willing to engage in the questions that come up next, you have a lot healthier of a team environment.

[00:34:06] Frankly, since I’ve started doing this for myself, both in my personal and professional practice, I experience way less resentment. I live a life that is almost free of resentment and I never expected that was going to be possible. It’s pretty awesome. One of the foundational things that I’ve had to do is just start by seeking my own consent first.

[00:34:28] And this of course is why you need diverse perspectives because who else to bring a feminist consent-based perspective, than your friendly neighborhood, Jewish, lesbian, feminist coach.


Event Details
AITA: Tech Industry Edition
August 30, 2023
5:00 pm
August 30, 2023
6:00 pm
Tent Talks Featuring Billie Mandel: AITA – Tech Industry Edition: Top 5 mistakes well-meaning people are making RIGHT NOW in their jobs that make their workplaces more toxic, how to stop, and what to do instead On Wednesday, August 30th...
July 2024