Strong for Performance Podcast
008: Unleash Your Creativity by Challenging Beliefs and Thoughts
In this special one-hour episode, Coach Extraordinaire Steve Chandler shares brilliant tips that can help you on two levels – with your own personal growth and in your work with clients. Steve is the author of more than 30 books, and Meredith has read 12 of them, each one outstanding in its own right. In this interview, Steve takes a deeper dive into the golden nuggets contained in his latest books, CREATOR and Right Now. You’ll want to listen more than once to capture all the valuable insights Steve shares here about future vs present, being playful vs serious, and other contrasting concepts.
- Questions you can ask current and prospective clients to go deeper in your conversations
- How to help clients remove the labels that limit their identify and actions
- Why the concept of an “inner critic” is just plain wrong
- How to help someone pull a future event that feels scary into the present moment so it becomes positive and exciting
- The best script to bring with you into a sales conversation
- How to slow down and see opportunities that are right in front of you rather than striving for the next big thing
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Read the Transcription
Hi, and welcome to another episode of the Strong for Performance Podcast. I’m your host Meredith Bell. And today I consider it both an honor and a privilege to have with me, Steve Chandler. Hi Steve. Welcome.
Hi Meredith, thank you for having me.
Well, I’m delighted to have you and I want to explain why, to me, I use the word honor and privilege, and it’s because you have been coaching me virtually and informally through your books over the last five years. I’ve read 12 of them now, I’ve been counting.
Steve’s published over 30, and I can’t keep up with all his books, but I can tell you that every single one of them has wisdom in it that has helped me be more effective as a human being and as a business owner. So I want to thank you, Steve, for what you have contributed.
Well, you’re very welcome.
… to my life. And so what I’ve done for today is I’ve prepared some questions. Steve doesn’t even know what they are, but one of the things he has such a gift for is writing in very clear, beautiful language that compares different ways that we can be and how we can show up. And many times he presents this in terms of contrasts. So that’s where I want to focus today. But let me back up a moment and just say, Steve has been the coach of many of today’s top coaches. He’s been at this quite a few years, and he’s always willing to be vulnerable and open about his own struggles. In fact, one of the things I think I enjoy most about his books is he often says he’s writing them for his own personal growth and his own journey. And so we all benefit from the things that he writes as he discovers them.
He also is the founder of what used to be called the Coaching Prosperity School, and it now has a new name, right? Advanced Client Systems, which is for people who already know how to coach. They simply want to grow their businesses more, and they want to be more financially successful. And I think the kinds of transformations he’s brought about there have been pretty remarkable, and we’ll talk about how you can learn more about Steve at the end of our program today. But right now, Steve, are you ready for me to jump into my questions?
Yeah. I’m ready.
Oh, good. So the first one is, because we have people who are coaches and consultants who are interacting with their clients and they need to ask good questions, what are some of your favorite questions to ask either prospective clients or people that you’re working to help them go beyond the superficial and really look deeper?
Well, I like to allow curiosity to lead me to the next question. So no matter what someone says about how things are going in their business, I like to have them talk more and feel safe to tell me why they think that’s going that way. And so if somebody says anything like, “I’m not very good at communicating with my business partners,” or, “I have some issues with communication or time management,” I want them to simply talk more. So I’ll say, “Tell me a little bit more about that.” Or, “Why do you think that is?” Or, “What have you done so far to correct that? What have you tried? What has not worked?” So if somebody’s talking to me as a coach, I want to know what’s the depth of their frustration on whatever they’re revealing that they would like help with. So I don’t want to just simply say, “Oh, communication, well, that’s something I specialize in.” I want to keep the questioning going, and no matter what they answer, I want to be curious about that answer.
“We tried this, we brought in these people, we did Meridian tapping, we tried that.” “Well, why do you think that didn’t work?” And so this allows people to share their belief system, and share what might be limitations and how they see the world and potential that’ll help me as a coach.
I want to bring up one of my favorites from one of your books. It said, why do you believe this hasn’t happened for you yet?
Yes, I love that question.
It’s great, and I’d love to hear why that is such a powerful question when you’re having a conversation.
Well, it’s powerful because it reveals the client or potential client’s worldview. It reveals how much causation they are seeing in circumstance and other people. It also reveals how permanent they believe their characteristics are. So most of the work I do is moving people off of characteristics they think they have into patterns of energy, and various actions that can be taken in a different direction that will set up a new pattern and a new habit force in another direction. So it’s no longer part of their identity, they’re not locked into, I’m this way, I’m that way, and they’re overly labeling themselves that traps them in a sense of restriction. I want to open that up to pure possibilities. So any questions that go in that direction, like the one you mentioned is going to reveal a lot.
Well, since you brought up the idea of labels and identity, that was one of the things I really wanted to go into with you today because it’s a common theme from the very first book of yours that I read, Reinventing Yourself, up to your most recent one, Creator, and also, Right Now. I loved in Right Now how you talked about peeling off the labels that we put on ourselves. And I think that with the emphasis on taking these personality tests and other kinds of assessments that tend to describe characteristics even if they’re strengths, you point out that those often don’t serve us well. And so I’d love to have you talk a little bit about that particular topic.
Sometimes those tests, and the Enneagram, and various tests can be useful as a starting point. They can illustrate a pattern, but I think it’s really important that people aren’t locked into that and seeing that I’m that way and that’s just the way I am. And so I’m trapped with that characteristic or that label about myself. The reason I didn’t talk to that client or customer who had difficulty and upset with the company is because I’m an introvert. And so people take these labels and restrict the possibility of action, creativity, and it gets to be absurd after a while, and it gets to be counter-productive. And so I like to open that up for people. I was with a group, a business group of high tech engineers and we were working on ways of communicating with other people in the company that were more open, more compassionate, more based on understanding other people.
And they were trying to tell me that they were engineers, they were techies and geeks. And so they didn’t have that capacity. They weren’t people-people. And so that came very hard for them. And so I would ask the question, “If your little daughter runs up to you crying, do you say, sorry sweetheart, I’m a techie. There’s nothing I can do. I can’t hug you. I can’t relate to you.” And they would say, “Oh, of course not. I wouldn’t do that.” And so then I would help people see, well, what if you took who you were being in the moment your daughter came to you and opened that up a little bit. Because if you can be that way there, you can be that way with someone in another department who has a complaint about your department. It’s not something you’re locked into. So that’s one of the reasons why I’m really interested in helping people—in a funny way—lose their identity and open up to unlimited creativity that’s really what they have.
Yes. And the contrast you make with the whole identity and labeling is being more creative and being able to create yourself. I would love for you to relay the story, and I don’t remember now which book it was, of the fellow that said, “I never finish anything.” So he was labeling himself from that perspective.
Yeah. So he had that story about himself, “I never finish anything,” and I said, “Okay, so are you wearing shoes right now?” And I knew he was a hiker, and he said, “Yes.” And I said, “Are your shoes tied?” “Yes.” “So when you first put your shoes on, were they tied?” “No.” “And you started to tie them and then you finished tying them?” “Well, yeah, I finished.” “So, okay, so that’s something you finished. So did you finish high school?” And I knew he had because he played baseball at a college, and he said, “Yeah, I finished high school.” And after a number of questions we discovered together that he finishes almost everything. So my question to him was, “If in reality you finish almost everything, how does it serve you to walk around the world with a belief that you never finish anything? How is that in service to you having as happy and productive a life as you would like to have? Because it’s obviously not true. It’s a mythology you carry about yourself.”
And he ended up saying, “Well, I’m talking about a certain project I guess, or I’m talking about this.” So it’s really helpful for people to see how many stories they carry about themselves and other people in their company or their family especially. I ask someone, “Tell me about your wife, tell me about your relationship, your husband,” and they have this list of characteristics. “He’s this way. He never does that. He’s not appreciative.” And the next thing we know, that other person doesn’t have a chance, that person doesn’t have a chance to be appreciated because they won’t even be interpreted that way.
That’s so powerful when we start really examining the stories that we tell ourselves and that we believe, and one of the, I think it was in Right Now when you talked about inner critic, because I’ve used that phrase myself, I’ve even written an article about it, how we pay attention to this inner critic. But the way you wrote about it and described it was like a slap in the face of like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve been doing this, attributing this to like it’s a real character.” So it would be helpful, I think to me and our listeners, to have you speak to the way that you perceive and like to talk about that whole concept.
Well, people love having this permanent, negative thing called my inner critic. And my question is, what are you talking about? Are you confusing a fleeting thought that says, “Oh, I didn’t do that right?” Or, “I should have done that differently,” which is a fleeting thought with something more pervasive and permanent about you. Something even more negative and creepy. This being living in you that is an inner critic. It’s like a monster or a zombie or something, and you give it life every time you talk about it. And the way I hear you talk, you carry it with you everywhere you go, your inner critic, as if it’s a real being, a real thing. And all you’re talking about is fleeting ephemeral thoughts with no substance at all until I grab on to them, I give them significance and meaning. And I attribute them to this aspect of me that I’m now calling my inner critic. So my question with people who talk that way is, is that serving you? Is it even true?
And these are questions that a lot of times we don’t ask ourselves, is it true? We simply hear the voice or hear the thought and accept it. And one of the points that you were making there is that you have one thought which leads to another, which often leads to another. And then you’ve got this running set of thoughts, each one more critical than the last because they’re evaluating the thought you had before.
That’s right. Yeah. And they become, they crystallize into a belief, these little fleeting thoughts, I gather them together and I crystallize them into a negative belief about myself. And then that belief next time it shows up is bigger than a fleeting thought because I’ve made it that way. It’s a mind-made phenomenon. But when I wake up to how creative that is, that I just made that up, it’s like reinventing yourself. It’s waking up to the fact that whatever this self is that I present to the world that has been invented to begin with, it’s been made up, and it’s not a permanent thing. You see people change all the time. And so that’s what I like helping people with is finding the freedom they have to create whoever they need to be, whatever way they need to be in any situation so they’re not locked in, they don’t have this heavy sense of personality that they’ve heard from other people.
We hear it from our family members. If we ask family members what we’re like, they have a story and they’ll list characteristics. He’s this way, he’s that way. He never finishes anything. So we hear that growing up and we believe it, we start adding that to the self-concept that totally denies the energy of creation that’s there, that’s really there for us.
Yeah. That is so true. There’re so many stories we’ve adopted about ourselves that we carry with us sometimes for years. One of my other very favorites of your books is Fearless. In fact, it’s the first one I bought. And your whole premise there is this idea of, we hold ourselves back a lot of times because of jumping into the future and worrying about what might happen. And one of my favorite sentences, in fact, I’m not sure it was from Fearless, I think it was from Right Now, but it ties in with it is, what does it mean when you talk about pulling something out of the future into right now? How can people use that idea to get past or work through some of the fears or worries they tend to entertain?
Well, I want to know what I can do right now. So let’s say I have to talk to my team, I have to give a talk at our retreat, and I’m a leader. And I’m thinking, “Oh no, I’m not a good public speaker. I have stage fright.” I’m worried about my talk, and I’m stressing myself out. No. If I’m coaching that person, let’s take your talk in the future. Let’s bring it in to the present moment and let’s work it right now. “What is your talk? What do you want to say?” “Well I want to say this, and I want to talk about that.” “Oh, that’s a good idea. Write that down. What else?” And now we’re working with this future fearful event. We’re working with it in the present moment, and it’s not so fearful anymore. It feels exciting and good. So that’s one of the things I like to help people with is taking something they’re afraid of in the future and pulling it into the present moment and taking a closer look at it. And if you need to rehearse it or if you need to understand it better, let’s do that right now.
Can you give me a couple of examples of how you coach some of the coaches that you work with to do that for themselves? What are some of the things they tend to be concerned about, either fearful of or worry about as it relates to in the future?
Well quite often a coach will have an upcoming conversation scheduled. So I’m going to be talking to a CEO about his company and the potential of coaching his company. And I’m really worried about, I don’t know what to say or what agenda to bring to the conversation. And so they bring so much agenda and they worry so much about what they’re going to say when they meet this person that they can no longer hear what the person is saying. And so what I like to help coaches with is a willingness to show up empty to a conversation, a willingness to show up absolutely empty. Now coaches think, “Oh my God, if I show up empty, I’ll look like there’s something wrong with me, or I have brain damage or something.” But really if they are willing to experiment with that, all the good ideas, all the things they already know from experience coaching leaders or whatever it is, that’s there, that will come up when it’s appropriate, when it fits, or when someone asks about it.
I don’t have to bring that in and make sure I talk about it. That’s already there. But what happens in most coaching conversations with a prospective client is the coach is listening to his own thoughts about the other person. So the other person is talking about his company or what his needs are in the world of coaching, and then the coach is listening to his own thoughts about that, not really listening to the other person. So quite often a coach will miss what the other person really wants. And that happens often when a coach gets an email from a leader and the coach says, “So I got this email, and he’s agreed to talk to me. And so I’m going to talk to him about these, about what I offer and how I teach this.” And I’ll say, “Wait a minute, show me that email again. His email says that this is where he needs the most help. He’s revealing the one thing that if you could help him with that, he’d hire you in a heartbeat, and you just passed over it because you’re so focused on yourself and what you’re thinking about what to say to him and how you’re coming across that you can’t hear where the real need is.”
And so even though you’ll be impressive, and he will say, “Wow, you’re impressive. I see why people hire you. You’re an amazing coach, and you’ve told me about these accomplishments and capabilities you have, then I’ll get back to you on whether we’ll hire you.” And then the coach says, “He never got back to me.” Well, you didn’t listen to him. You didn’t really connect with him about something that would have helped him because you were listening to your own thinking. And so that’s primary in working with coaches and, for years, I did not work with coaches at all. I worked with corporations and I went in, did group coaching, leadership coaching, and sales training for corporations. And so over time, I began to see that when people came in to try and sell them training and coaching, it was all talk. It was all trying to make an impression. And then the potential client had nothing to base hiring the coach on because there was no connection.
There was no sense in the client this coach understands what we’re up against, this coach gets it. This coach knows what we need. Because that coach had no way of knowing what they needed because they were so focused on how they were coming across.
It’s so interesting that you mentioned that because my very favorite chapter in your new CREATOR book is the one about co-creation in conversations. And you had learned from someone that you have been working with about trying to make yourself invisible in the conversation so that the focus becomes that other person. And I think that’s what you’re really talking about. I think it’s our own insecurities and need to make the impression when we get our ego involved thinking, “I’ve got to do this right, and I’ve got to say the right things.” As I was listening to you talk, what seemed to be missing is that emotional connection with the person so that they sense you really get them as human beings. So will you talk a little bit about that whole co-creation and becoming invisible?
Yeah. And it takes practice, and it takes a realization through a willingness to experiment with it that when I show up empty and I enter my client’s world, that all decisions made about whether to hire me or how to use me to help the company or help that person, all those occur in the client’s world. They don’t occur in my world and in what I’m saying. It always happens over there. So that’s where I want my consciousness to be. And so what occurs when I drop out of the picture, when there’s no Steve Chandler in this exchange anymore, there’s no me trying to maintain a me for that other person to be impressed by. That what occurs now is a complete connection, a co-mingling of our attention, our consciousness, and agreements get co-created that way. And the same happens in personal relations where people try, so somebody in the family has a problem. And rather than really hearing how the problem feels to them and really understanding how they see what’s going on, I’m trying to solve the problem for them quickly.
I’m trying to make this problem go away. And the other person, even if I’ve given them a good solution, they walk away feeling like not only do I not understand them and what their life looks like and feels like, I don’t even want to, I don’t have any interest in understanding them. So people say, “What’s the best script to use when you’re trying to get someone to hire you as a coach?” And the best script to use is words like, I hear you, I’ve been there, I understand that, and that’s the best script. Instead of, “Well, I can help you do this, and I’m good at that.” And so it’s the connection that has people want to work with the coach. It’s the sense of, I’m feeling understood by this person. This person understands what, exactly what I’m up against. And there’s also a sense of non-judgment. One of the problems people have with coaches is they get a sense because the coach is trying so hard to demonstrate superior wisdom to the other person. Like you should hire me because I know better how to run a company or how you should be in life. I’m bringing superior wisdom to your world.
That sense is a loss of connection and they become afraid, they feel judged. So someone is talking about how they’re trying to get along with somebody and the coach is pointing out a better way to do it and they’re feeling judged. They’re feeling like, oh, I’m doing it wrong and you’re going to show me how to do it right. And then their emotional response to feeling judged is either to clam up and say, “Well, it’s not that big a problem really.” Or to defend what they’ve done and get defensive. Their ego gets defensive. And so that sense of judgment is something that coaches don’t realize they’re putting on another person.
That is really profound from the perspective of looking at how is a coach best able to interact with someone else. And when we step back and look at… And I had to just grin when you were talking about the other person feels judged like a family member. Steve, I remember when our daughter was in high school, so this is like 20 years ago. She had been babysitting a neighborhood kid and got home and she was all upset, and I did exactly what you just described. I listened to her describe the situation, then I jumped in with my solution hat, right? Saying, “Oh, well, here’s what you need to do.” And she said, and bless her heart, we had a good enough relationship. She could be honest with me and say, “Mom, I already figured it out. I just needed you to listen to me.”
And 20 years later, I still remember that because it taught me then, and I was doing training, teaching people communication skills. And I thought, “Man, I really blew it with this very important person in my life.” But the fact is we can slip into that so easily when it’s part of what we do. The people we care about, we don’t want to see them suffer. And so we want to help them get to the solution as quickly as possible. But you are so right about the listening piece. And that ties in to the next thing I want to ask you about because for me, this was the most profound sentence that I took away from this wonderful book, The Prosperous Coach, which I’ve probably sold at least 50 copies of that for you over the years because it’s such a wonderful book.
But here’s the sentence, the question to ask, and I do this with any phone call, I’m getting ready to have with a new connection or somebody that I’m talking to about our software. How can I serve this person so powerfully that they never forget our conversation for the rest of their life? And when you think about it, that question ties in very nicely with what you’ve been talking about. Because if you’re really serving that person, they’re not going to remember a conversation the rest of their life where you’ve done most of the talking.
No. And they might not even remember any kind of good advice. They might remember for the first time feeling okay that the situation stresses them out. Because most coaches say, “Well, that shouldn’t stress you out. That’s only your thinking. And so I can show you how not to be stressed.” And so the person is now feeling judged by that even though the coach is innocent trying to help a person see the true origin of stress, but what the coach is missing in that premature attempt to deliver wisdom without really hearing how it feels to be that stressed and really connecting with it. “Yeah, I get that. I can see that. I can see where that would be extremely stressful for you, but that would be stressful for anyone. You’re not alone in that. There’s nothing wrong with you.” When you mentioned your daughter, that’s a great example of trying to make someone’s feeling go away.
Like in families, it also happens in businesses. People show up and somebody’s upset. “I’m upset because I didn’t make the cheerleader squad or the football team or something.” And the parent says, “Well, you shouldn’t be upset. A lot of people try it out. I don’t know why you’re upset, or I don’t know why you’re angry about that.” And what’s missed in that kind of communication is no one ever got a feeling wrong. And yet we try to make how someone is feeling wrong. There’s no, someone says, “I’m really scared about this job interview.” “Oh, you have no reason to be scared about that.” And what happens then is the person who is feeling, “Not only am I scared, but it’s wrong to be scared, and I must have some kind of weakness that has me be scared when this superior coach is telling me, I’ve got no reason to be scared.” And nobody ever got a feeling wrong. Once a feeling is there, it’s there. It’s not wrong.
And that’s why we call it a feeling. It’s already there, and we’re feeling it. And so it’s really important in coaching to meet somebody where they are and join them where they are and then go from there instead of attempting always to come from a superior place of wisdom to the client.
Well, let’s get a real example of how you might approach somebody if they came to you and said, “Oh, I’m really upset over,” let’s say it was a coworker or a direct report that responded inappropriately or made a terrible mistake, and the person you’re coaching is really upset over it. Instead of saying, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” what would be your approach?
“Well, I get it. I get how upset you are. That must really feel dismissive and like you don’t count. I get how you feel that. And so let’s slow everything down. Let’s look at what’s possible here. Let’s look at what they must be feeling to have sent that email. And let’s look at given that you received such a hurtful email, what would you like your response to be? And I get that your first impulse is defensive. You want to hit back, well, you never did this, and you were late with your report, but given the relationship you’d like to create with this person over time, given your willingness to see that for them to send something like that, they have to be in a lot of pain and insecurity and agitation. What would you like to create to heal the situation?” No, I would take more time than that. That’s a quick version of it, but that’s where I want to go so that we have mutual understanding and not just combative two egos going at each other.
That’s a wonderful example. I love that. It’s so funny. Every time you’re bringing up something and you use a certain word, it reminds me of another question I wanted to ask you about because another one of my favorites that has really helped so much, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve used this, is this idea of slowing down and not moving quickly from one thing to another, to another. And it happens with so many situations. And the one that I’m thinking of that’s especially relevant for coaches was a story, I think it was in Wealth Warrior, where you were coaching this fellow that was, I think he was a speaker and a coach and a consultant, maybe all in one. But he had gotten this speaking gig for like $3,000, and he was all excited about it and he came to you, but he wasn’t happy and settled with that. It was like, “I got to hurry up and get the next client.” And I want you to talk about what your approach with him was because it was very much of a slowing down.
Right. Yeah. So people are always trying to get into their own future rather than seeing what’s really present for them right here. So he was saying, “I need to get the next speech, and I need to get the next client. I need to go talk to people who don’t know me and who don’t know what coaching and speaking is and try to get them to be impressed and intrigued enough by me to open up to a conversation to having me come in.” And I said, “Wait a second. What about the people who are having you come speak at their annual retreat? Those are people who have already accepted you, already granted you enough status to talk to the whole company. They would be all open to talking to you prior to your talk about other ways you could help them. You now are part of that event. You have a captive audience right there, and you’re moving on trying to get new people.”
And one of the things coaches miss is that their current relationships have more potential to get them new clients and expand their reach within a current company than all this racing around trying to become known, trying to get my name out there, trying to find new people as if this were just one big race trying to get into my own future. So the key thing with someone like that is, let’s just slow down and look at what you have already and let’s see what else is there. And he slowed down and talked to the people who were bringing him in, and he said, “I’d like to come in a day early and talk to some of your managers about what’s going on in their departments so that when I give my talk, I’d get a better idea.” And they said, “Sure, that’s wonderful.” So he was able to create relationships inside that company that he didn’t even realize was sitting right there for him because he was not slowing down. He was straining against the present moment always, there must be a better now than now.
That’s a great way to say it. And he ended up with a sizable contract if I remember correctly.
Yes, he did.
When you look at the time he would’ve invested trying to go after other business when this was right in his own backyard based on the work he had done. I think that’s so critical. This whole idea of recognizing, right now where are my best opportunities based on people I already know? The other thing I loved was that exercise you and Michael O’Neill did in one of your workshops where in an hour you gave people a break and they were ready to write down what it was you wanted to do. And you said, “We want you to go out and make money, make as much money as you can in the next hour.” And what happened? What happened to the energy of the room right there?
Well, they were scared. They were like, “Oh my God, you mean NOW? I mean we’re here to learn how to do that in the future.” They were at a financial freedom seminar that Michael and I were giving, and they were hoping to learn things that they could use in the future because the future is not, it’s like, and we said, “No, go make money right now and then come back in the room and tell us how much you made.” “Well, what do you mean? What are you talking about making money now?” And they panicked, but they did it and they were amazed at what occurred when they started communicating with people, offering services. They didn’t want to come into the room with nothing. And one woman, we were at a resort, she went around the resort and sang songs for people, and they gave her money. She said, “I’m doing this exercise and if you like my song, you can give me something. If you don’t, that’s fine.” And she came back with more money from that hour than she made in all her complicated coaching schemes.
So what we wanted to wake people up to was their own resourcefulness in the world for making money, for growing a coaching practice, for whatever it is they want to create. Their resource of resourcefulness is present right now. They don’t have to do all these crazy convoluted ways of trying to get people to recognize them, and people say, “I got to get my name out there. I’ve got to get better known.” It’s the celebrity coach syndrome. I’ve got a blog now, I’m posting on social media and I got this, and I’m doing that, and I’m on… And so I ask, “How is that working for you?” “Well, I know it’s going to pay off sooner or later. It’s a numbers game.” And I say, “But there’s an individual you could be talking to right now who if the conversation were really helpful, they would write a check and start working with you. And that’s what you’re not doing.”
Yes, it’s looking at what are they not doing. And the last thing, because I know we’re getting close to the end of our time, but I just have to get to this one, which is being playful versus serious. Because I tend to be a more serious person. I take my work very seriously, but there was a line in Wealth Warrior that just popped out at me which was, a serious person is a wealth repellent. And I was like, “Whoa.” So I would like you to just take a couple of minutes to talk about why that is and why having a more playful attitude about your work or about anything that you’re doing is better.
Well, when we are playful and we’re playing the game of making a company better, we’re brainstorming playfully about how to create a service or a product for a client. The parts of the brain that light up are greater when people are playing, energy is greater when you’re playful. Imagination opens up when you’re playful because you’re not locked down in some grim serious mission. And so things go better with a more playful spirit. And I’m not talking about trivializing somebody’s important mission, but I am talking about how when we play with an idea, and we brainstorm and throw ideas up on the whiteboard on how this might be accomplished, the ideas are going to be better and more creative than if we see it as such a serious problem, and we are so low in our mood that imagination is no longer being accessed.
Talk about that one instance with a client where the CEO, they had this problem, and I don’t remember what it was, it might’ve been sales were low. And he was just so worried about that, and he wanted to do the more traditional problem solving structure. And you divided the people into two groups.
Yeah. They had a problem with the company, and I said, “Your people are going to solve this faster if they do it from a place of optimism, enjoyment, and playful brainstorming than if you keep telling them how serious the problem is.” And he said, “Maybe in your world, in your California coaching world, that works, but this is a serious business.” So I said, “Well, I want to demonstrate.” So we randomly divided up his people to the two conference rooms across the hall from each other, and we took the problem the company was having. In one group, we said this, “As you know, this is a serious problem, and for the next hour we would like you people to work on this problem and see what you can come up with for us.”
With the other group, the CEO and I went in and I said, “We’re going to do a brainstorm like advertising agencies do, and we’re going to go around the room, and we’re going to take this situation and you’re going to come up with potential solutions, and they can be out of the box, off the wall, they can be funny, we’re just going to keep putting them up there and see what you guys come up with. And we’re going to go around and around the room. There’s no wrong answer, there’s no bad, and at the end we’re going to take a look and we’re going to see if anything’s workable, but we’re going to have fun with it.” And then the CEO and I went away from both groups, and in one room we heard all this laughter and energy and people, you could tell people were really interacting. And the other group it was just silence and murmuring, and it was like people were at a funeral trying to solve this unsolvable problem.
And the group that played at like a brain storm came up with a really fantastic solution that the company used and is still using today. So that was my way of saying to the CEO, it’s not just theory that people in a more playful mindset are going to create things that are more imaginative, more innovative, and even more doable than people who are locked down in the seriousness of their work.
Yeah, I love that, and I think the takeaway for our listeners is if they’re feeling weighted down by an issue in their lives or in their business that’s really been a challenge for them, to step back and take a different perspective with it. And I think that’s the theme that’s run across our conversation today is just being able to examine your thoughts, examine your beliefs and attitudes in order to create and be more open to solutions that you might not have considered when you’re hunkered down trying to figure out how to get out of whatever the problem is. And of course, I love your reference to it earlier, but I know you have mentioned this with your coach Steve Hardison. When you’re faced with a situation, “Given this situation, what would you like to create?” And just that word create brings out a more playful, hopeful approach.
Right. It takes the power out of the problem itself, and it returns it to your own creative capacity. And most people, when they see a problem, they give all power to the problem. How do we solve this problem? This is a terrible, serious, awful problem. And so they don’t access their creativity, they access their fear, their seriousness, and they think they’re accessing their commitment and determination, but creativity is left behind.
That is so true. Just one word makes such a difference. Not calling it a problem. In fact, you use the word project in one place as an alternative, but something different, so the emotional association with it, it neutralizes it.
Steve, I could keep talking to you for hours because you’ve just, look at all the books I’ve referenced in just the short period of time. There’s so much wisdom packed into them and I want to encourage our listeners to grab your latest books. Creator and Right Now are both excellent, but all of them going back, each are worth studying and reading and rereading because I know I’ve gone back to them multiple times. And I do want to put in a plug for your coaching school because you are looking to help people really grow their businesses. And your website, I believe has the information about that and your books and really everything else that you offer. And that is stevechandler.com, is that right?
That’s right. Yep. That’s where it is.
Is there any other place that you would recommend people look for you online?
No, I can’t think of anything. I know your people have better things to do than looking for me online.
Well, I have to say being connected with you on Facebook, you do post some wonderful music because I know music is another one of your passions that we didn’t even touch on today, but music, poems, other writings, even your own writing is very rich-
… and often starts my day off on a really good note.
So thank you again for being with me. Is there any other final insight or comment you’d like to make?
No, thank you. I just want to thank you for making this conversation possible.
Well, I think it was a very rich one, and I appreciate all the things that you shared. Thank you, Steve.