Ep 35: The Ghost Ride To Better Leadership

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In this episode, Bridgette and Irvine explore how previous generations of our family influence us in our daily lives both at work and at home.


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SHOW NOTES

Don’t forget to check out Irvine’s You Tube channel with new videos every Wednesday on emotional intelligence, resilience, and leadership.

Check out Irvine’s new book Leadership Lessons From The Pub.

Check out Bridgette’s book which she co-authored with Bod Duggan  Resilient Leadership 2.0.

And as always, don’t forget about all the mind-blowing free resources some of which are mentioned in each episode. 

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Irvine (00:03):

Well, welcome everyone to the Resilient Leadership Podcast, where everything we talk about is aimed at helping you lead with a greater sense of calm, clarity, and conviction, even in anxious times. Uh, my name is Irvine, and today, as always, I am joined by my co-host and collaborator, Bridgette Thuerer. Bridgette, how you doing today?

Bridgette (00:25):

Well, Irvine, I’m doing very well. Thank you for asking. As we record this particular episode. It’s a gorgeous spring day in the DC area. Skies are blue, sun is out, warm temps. I love springtime. I’m just excited about this topic. Mm. Before you hit the record button, we were talking a little bit about it and I’m just excited to dive in cuz I think it is one of those topics that our listeners will not have heard that much about. Hmm. Why don’t you tell ’em what we’re gonna talk about?

Irvine (01:00):

Well, today’s topic is called The Ghost Ride to Better Leadership.

Bridgette (01:06):

I love that

Irvine (01:07):

Title. Yeah. The Ghost. We’re gonna go on a ghost ride. Okay. Now, we’ve all heard the term, you know, we’ve all heard the term that you may have some ghosts in your closet, which of course refers to the issue of having secrets in our past that we would prefer to keep secret. But the reality is, and why I use the title is that the past does influence us. It’s not just our immediate past. You know, everyone can think, oh, yeah, yeah. My, my, my experience has influenced me growing up in a family, but it’s wider than that, that it’s even broader to, to bring in past generations. And this is something that I think is very rarely mentioned when it comes to leadership. You know, we’ve all heard the question is, are our leaders born or are leaders developed? The reality is, is a little bit of both, because what we’re finding in some research is that our genes do determine certain outcomes in our life, our physical appearance, how our body functions.

(02:02):

And we’ll dive into that a little bit today. But also, our environment shapes us, and it’s our family, our culture, all of those and the experiences of our life really embody who we are today. Now, you might be thinking, let me just, the, the, the warning sign. Oh my God, we’re gonna be diving into our past and all those secrets and all that trauma. You know, I, I just wanna put a caveat here. I think at times we automatically think that if you do any exploration in your past, that you need to go and see a therapist. And rightly so, there are some people who have had maybe some very traumatic events in their past life and have trouble dealing with that. And of course, therapy is a wonderful, wonderful option. But I think for most people, it’s a wonderful and exciting opportunity to really explore the past.

(02:50):

And you don’t necessarily need to ha go through a therapeutic intervention to do that. And so that’s what we’re gonna explore today. We’re gonna explore our past and explore where we’ve come from. Now, many of you all know that I come from Ireland. In the Celtic world, we have this beautiful felt presence of our ancestors, and we call upon them. And so, in conversation, I can remember growing up in conversations, we would talk at length about ancestors that gone before us. Hmm. We talked about them as if they were present. Hmm. It wasn’t about, you know, oh, th this is some and people that were present to us. And I think that’s a very, very beautiful, because it’s a reminder as well that past generations do influence us, do influence our our families rut. I’m curious, how does this all resonate with you?

Bridgette (03:41):

Well, I love that tradition that you just spoke of, and I had not heard about that before. It’s really quite lovely. You know, this notion of the felt presence of past generations. And, you know, in this podcast and really in all the resilient leadership training programs that we do, we, we look at the issue of leadership through the lens of our relationship systems. Right? So really what, what you’re talking about there, Irvine, is the fact that we are all born into a family system from the get-go. Nobody gets born into an island where they’re by themselves. I mean, we function and grow up in a family system. And from the very moment we are in that system, we begin to get shaped in profound ways. Now, we know this, but I think as you mentioned, what is perhaps not understood as well is the connection between our family of origin and even past generations.

(04:43):

Those systems, how they’ve shaped us, and then how we show up as leaders. Hmm. I’m thinking of a guy that I coached a couple of years ago, and he was involved in kind of a difficult triangle with his boss and his peer and his boss and his peer had very different styles from him. They were much more bombastic and loud, and he was much more introverted and quiet. And despite my attempts to encourage him to speak up, he just didn’t. And so I got this hunch, and at one point in a coaching session, I said to him, how did your family of origin when you were growing up, how did you all deal with conflict? And he just went completely silent. And he said, oh my gosh. And I said, what? And he goes, we completely avoid it. Conflict. We suppressed it at every turn.

(05:32):

And he is like, do you think that’s part of what’s going on here? And I said, perhaps. Right. And so his style as a leader was shaped by this family dynamic. And there’s so many examples of this, I think about organizational systems. They too have a past mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, you know, we don’t just walk into a job and decide how we’re gonna act and how everybody else is gonna act. Because that organization has been shaped by generations of leaders in many cases who have ingrained particular values and behaviors. I was thinking of a person that I worked with who was brought into an association as a, essentially the c e o said, I want you to be my change agent. And so he had this mandate to shake things up, but guess what? He was so surprised, <laugh>, that that organization had some ways of doing things that went back decades.

(06:32):

And he inherited those as he came into that organization. So could he just press a button and magically change everything? No. The presence of the past was there. So it shapes us in ways both known and unknown to us. And hopefully we can help our listeners see how their lives and their leadership are being shaped for better and maybe sometimes for worse by our, our past. Okay. So yes, it definitely resonates with me. And Irvine, we often try to share some neuroscience. And I’m curious what you have dug up around the neuroscience about the presence of the past

Irvine (07:18):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So this is interesting because I think what happens in neuroscience very often there are what we would say old wives tales, or there are knowledge out there that’s never really had a scientific basis, but what this is one of them, you know, kind of the, the past impacts us. And there’s some fascinating research from the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta and what they found, um, with mice, which is often used to replace humans. And so the, the replication there is, is really quite accurate. That they were trained to avoid a smell past what they find, that they were trained to avoid a smell, and it passed onto their grandchildren. So the, the mice were trained to avoid or to fear a similar smell to cherry blossom. And what was interesting is it even appeared in, uh, the DNA sequencing and that changed and they now, the newborns had a sensitivity to the cherry blossom scent. Fascinating. Which is incredible. It’s just fascinating, you know, and I just wanna, I pulled a quote out of their research, which I thought was just amazing, you know, because it talks about changes in the brain. And it said, the experiences of a parent, even before conceiving markedly influenced both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations. Wow.

Bridgette (08:39):

Wow.

Irvine (08:39):

<laugh> passing it down. The nervous system we’ve talked about the nervous system. You know, I had a professor who used to say, you know, the, the best gift you can give your your team is a well regulated nervous system. And that’s true. And, and, and yet our nervous system, even the makeup of our nervous system is inherited. It’s not, we just don’t begin the moment we’re born. We actually inherit that. Yeah. So I think that’s absolutely fascinating. Me too. Yeah. And I think it also brings up the question, well, what do we inherit? What kind of behaviors is passed on? Because now people think, oh, well, let me think about that. I wanna pull up a few of them. That’s for people to consider. And so the, the first one I want to think about is the values and beliefs that are passed down. And th these are passed down generation to generation within a family at times.

(09:30):

It’s interesting because we, we are unique and, and yet we are influenced by those values and beliefs. And I think, you know, it’s important to identify what are some of those underlying values and beliefs. You know, people will say, well, education is the most important thing. Like how many families, you know, say that’s all about education. All about education. And what’s really interesting then is, well, there’s a belief, but what’s the assumption beneath that? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> what’s going on? And maybe the assumption is, you need to be educated if you want to get ahead in life.

Bridgette (10:02):

Interesting.

Irvine (10:03):

Yeah. And then another one you hear often, you know, be caring and considerate of others. My mother, this was one of my mother’s mantras. Yeah. That, to be kind, to be considerate. And you know, the message there is relationships are more important than anything else.

Bridgette (10:16):

I love that.

Irvine (10:18):

Yeah. And another one is, I had a friend, this is a note. Let, and he always, he’d say this at work, cause never let them see you sweat, <laugh> never let, that was let. And it was, it was, and he said, and he would actually say, my grandfather, you know, he would talk about kind of this being passed. And my grandfather would always say, never let them see you sweat. And you know, what’s the assumption there is maybe, you know, being successful means having a stiff upper lip. Don’t let them see you in anxiety. Don’t let see you in words. Oh, yeah, yeah. And here’s another one, which, uh, I, I giggled, you know, when I think about it, which is you must be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or you’ll embarrass the family. Right? Yeah. And so, you know, the assumption there, it’s your responsibility to keep the family standing.

(10:59):

Yeah. You know, it’s you. Yeah. Now that really resonates with me, not because of my own family, but because of my husband’s family. Yeah. Who is Filipino, they immigrated and his mother, who is a force of nature, let me tell you, she is a force of nature. And she was, you know, very adamant that they would become doctors. And I remember Fred, you know, we saying, well, I I think I wanna be an architect. No, no, no, no. There’ll be no architect in this family. There will, it’s only gonna be doctors. And if you don’t wanna be a doctor, you can be a dentist. Wow. You know, and this, this, the message is being passed. And of course the all are, there are five in the family, four MDs and one dentist too. It’s interesting, you know, the messages and the values that are passed now. Yeah.

Bridgette (11:39):

And sometimes it’s explicit like, you know, Fred’s mother. Yes. And sometimes it’s implicit. Oh yes. Right. Where it’s just in the air, you know, that we breathe. Yes. Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m, I’m thinking, you know, what you said jogged a memory for me about a belief I inherited. So, and I guess I would say the belief was to treat every human being with dignity and respect regardless of their race or ethnicity, like dignity and respect. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And my dad was the one who embodied that and taught us that. And it jogged this memory. So I’m a little girl and we had a nanny. My parents worked six days a week and we had a nanny Florence, she was African American, and she took me to the country club pool and I was having a great old time swimming around. And then she came over and said, we have to go.

(12:33):

And I was like, we have to go. Why? I’m just, I don’t wanna go. And she says, we have to go now and come to find out later, cuz I heard my dad bits and pieces of my dad on the phone reaming out the country club. We were asked to leave because she was black. Mm-hmm. And it angered my father so much. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him that angry. Yeah. It’s, and I don’t have a lot of childhood memories, but that one stands out loud and clear. And my older brother was home at the time, and I remember, you know, him sort of being in the midst of all this. What’s interesting is that my older brother, who’s retired now, but was a teacher, a history teacher, really has also been a civil rights activist for most of his, uh, adult life. And so, and, and I minored in recent American history, but I also took a lot of courses in civil rights movement and all that kind of stuff. And I trace it back to that particular incident and how my father reacted to it. So yeah. The presence of the past is, and these values and beliefs are passed down to us. And then at some point we get to choose whether we want to continue with those inherited beliefs and values. You know. How about you Irvine? What’s, does anything come to mind for you in

Irvine (13:59):

Yeah, you know, what, what’s interesting is, um, so within my family, you know, we, and I think I’ve shared with listeners in the past, there was a lot of traumatic incidences in growing up in Northern Ireland. One of the things that, that was unspoken, this, this was certainly not spoken out, but it, it was understood. We did not delve in the past. Hmm.

(14:19):

We looked forward, we got am with life and that was it. Wow. And we were resilient. And it wasn’t felt as oppressive or anything, but it was just an understanding. You know what, yes. You know, we always look forward and, and I have that there, there is a, I have to be very careful that I can be overly optimistic Yes. In the sense that I’m always, if something goes wrong, and of course the danger in that, of course you don’t explore what wrong or you don’t explore kind of different things like that. And you always look ahead and, but, but I have definitely that, that was unspoken and, and yeah. We always looked ahead

Bridgette (14:50):

And I see that in you and what I hear you saying is it’s both a strength and can be a vulnerability.

Irvine (14:59):

Absolutely. Yes.

Bridgette (15:02):

Well, we’re gonna talk more about strengths and vulnerabilities, but another thing that I think can really shape us that starts in our family of origin are the roles that we play in those families growing up. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right?

Irvine (15:16):

Yes. Totally.

Bridgette (15:17):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it’s like, were you the jokester, were you the peacemaker? Were you the decision maker? Were you the rebel? We all played a role. I think that my role probably was peacemaker mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then as I got older caretaker, cuz I, my father was an alcoholic, and so I did some caretaking for a while. Both of those roles I can see shaped me. But, you know, again, let’s connect this to leadership. So how might the role you played in your family of origin shape you as a leader? Well, one thing that I always found fascinating is the, um, statistic that the majority of US presidents have been firstborns or firstborn sons.

Irvine (16:06):

Hmm.

Bridgette (16:07):

So clearly from the get-go Right. They were in a role of leadership in their family of origin in some fashion that must have prepared them in some ways. Right? Yeah. Yeah. And this is kind of an interesting thing. Like apparently no US president has been an only child. Hmm. Now, if you’re listening and you’re an only child, I don’t want to discourage you, <laugh>,

Irvine (16:30):

You gotta break them old go there doesn’t, this is not inevitability. Yeah. I don’t

Bridgette (16:34):

Wanna discourage you, but clearly the, not only the beliefs and values we inherit, but the role we play shapes us and, and can shape us as, as leaders. How about you Irvine? What was your role in your family brought,

Irvine (16:48):

You know, there? So there was definitely a peacemaker, but there was another role as there, which I recognize and I’ve come to appreciate is that I was the, the intelligent one. Hmm. That, that it was always like, oh yeah, so like, ask Irvine, he’ll know. It’s an interesting role. And I, I’ve seen that being in leadership both as a strength, but then also as a pressure, you know, that that all I need to have the answer. And if I don’t have the answer, then in some way there’s something missing. And that, that has been a pressure for me mm-hmm. Yeah. Of, of that in the future. Yeah. But I can definitely, that, that was part of my role growing up. Oh, he’s the intelligent one

Bridgette (17:25):

Boy. Interesting. And of course that would go right into feed into an, a imposter syndrome because Yes, if you don’t have all the answers, then you’re an A imposter.

Irvine (17:35):

Correct. Correct. Or even when I’m planning a course, oh my God, it is such torturous at times that, that I will have like 10 times information that I really need <laugh>, so I’ll over prepare over, you know, so it’s, but it’s all this know kind of this need to have the answer. Yeah.

Bridgette (17:51):

That is so interesting. All right, so values and beliefs, roles that play. What else?

Irvine (17:58):

Yeah, let me throw one other one out, which would be boundaries. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think, you know, our families really impact how we think about structure, how we think about boundaries. But you know, when you think about it, my family was really pretty a little loose. You know, it was kinda like anything goes, if dinner was half an hour late, that was fine. You know, if, if I can remember my sister bringing in like two friends and my mother would be like, okay, come on in. You know, it’s two, why not they have two or 10. It’s all the same. And, uh, so there was, there was this looseness, and I remember growing up, I had a friend whose family was totally the opposite. I mean, it was almost like 180 degrees. It was very rigid and, and boundaries could not be crossed. Like I would never, I was never even told, but I would never show up unannounced to dinner.

(18:44):

Like, you know, I would just always go back home and there was messages around food. I mean, he actually told me that if he turned up late for dinner, that he didn’t get dinner. Wow. That was that rigid. Wow. Yeah. Yeah. And I remember, you know, even like who you’re allowed to boundaries around who you can hang out with. Not that I, like, I grew up in Northern Ireland, which was a very divided society, and Catholics kept themselves, Protestants kept themselves, my father let me hang out, hang out with, with Protestants. That was very, I didn’t realize how unusual that was. Hmm. So even that has, I think, become a real gift to me in later life of a real curiosity about others and an openness to others. And yeah. So I, I, I think that’s an advantage. And, and you know, then that when you think about it, like in organizations, you know, sometimes organizations can be very bureaucratic, very rule driven.

(19:35):

Yes. And that, that really fits in with some people that they like, that they like the structure, they like, I mean, I’ve coached many clients who, who they’ll say, oh, I love the structure here. It’s very clear. I have clarity and, and you know, I know what to do, et cetera. Where it’s stifling for some other people. Yes. It’s, I can’t function. I need to break the rules. And, and then you’ll find them maybe attracted by startups where, where things are a lot looser and we’re kind of making things as, as, as we go along and, and we avoid structure because we want last rigidity. And, and so even that can impact, you know, the comfort level and even the organizations we’re attracted to join.

Bridgette (20:12):

That is fascinating. I had not really thought about the connection between what kinds of organizations are we attracted to join and lead and the nature of our family experience relative to boundaries and rigidity or looseness and all that. Very, very interesting. Yeah. And my experience growing up, I think my family was more like yours. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> more open, more fluid in the, in those boundaries. For sure. And as I think about it, you, I’m really drawn to startups and, and actually not right when they’re a startup, but about five years, you know, they make it mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they make it to the five year mark. Gotcha. And I just, I love that because I, I can work with the senior leaders and get my hands around it, and there’s not a lot of bureaucracy yet, you know, in place. Mm-hmm.

Irvine (21:07):

Yeah.

Bridgette (21:08):

Yeah. So that makes a lot of sense. And then, you know, I even look at my own children who professionally two out of the three, I think are joined to smaller, more dynamic organizations. Mm-hmm. They cannot abide that bureaucracy.

Irvine (21:23):

Yeah. I love it. So let’s just move on. Now. We’ve, we’ve, we’ve kind of mentioned a little bit about seeing some of this inheritance as strength and vulnerability and readers, uh, or listeners, sorry, may not be aware that, uh, Bridgette actually has her own book, uh, with her colleague Bob Duggan, which is called Resilient Leadership 2.0. And I love the way that you talk about this, a chapter in the book, which is really powerful. And you talk about this inheritance as a strength or potentially a vulnerability. So talk to us a little bit more about looking at these and these different things we inherit as a strength. Yeah.

Bridgette (21:59):

And, and let’s kind of change our perspective a little bit and look at it like inherited strengths that organizations can have, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, as we’ve talked at length about ourselves individually, but as we said, organizations are shaped by the presence of the past. And they have had either a leader or many leaders who have shaped the beliefs, the values, and the ways of automatically functioning and reacting to the pressures and anxieties of the day.

(22:34):

And so, you know, you can have organizational strengths that lie in what we call the rational system, which is, you know, more about like the physical, tangible, concrete things we can manage. And then you can have strengths in organization that are really in the emotional system, which is about how people handle anxiety and stress. So let’s just throw out a few, for example, a strong capacity for risk taking that could be a strength that has been inherited in an organization, uh, probably from the original leader, or maybe a spirit of playfulness, even in the midst of tension and uncertainty that could be a real strength of a particular organization. Or how about just the innovative spirit? Mm. Right. Some companies are just darn good at that. And you and I have talked about how during the pandemic, that particular strength, which was no doubt, something that was in that organization as a result of leaders, right? Over time mm-hmm. <affirmative> that came full front and center, and they were able to capitalize on it. And so I think that that’s what’s interesting is to step back from wherever we work, whether we work in a startup, we work in a large organization or something in between. And get curious and think to yourself, what are the strengths of this workplace that I’ve inherited, particularly the strengths in the emotional system, and how can I tap into those? How can I leverage those? Right. What do, what do you think, Irvine?

Irvine (24:20):

Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s interesting. I remember an organization, um, that I was working with, and it was my first time in person with them. We’d done a little pre-work. I remember them talking about, you know, we, there’s a lot of really serious issues we’re facing. So my expectation was that I would walk into this meeting and there would be, uh, a seriousness about it. There’d be a heaviness about it and anxiety, because certainly some of these issues were very anxiety producing. And I remember walking into the room and being absolutely struck by the presence I felt, which was a lightness. There was a lightness there and, and, and a, and a joy, almost like a little playfulness. Mm. And and as the meeting went on, yes, it was very serious. But I, I swear I’ve never heard as much laughing in a three hour meeting as a minute <laugh>.

(25:11):

It was so striking. And, you know, when I, I did coach, uh, one of the leaders of the organization, and one of the things that I found out there was this tradition that this, this lightness had been passed on, that one of the, the founder of the organization had been loved, loved, you know, humor and, and brought it in. And there was this ability to laugh even in the face of, you know, even in the face of, of anxiety. And in fact, one of their core, core behaviors, or one of their core values was that we will laugh every day. Wow. So was this playfulness that had being passed on, that was, it was so, and I’ve never seen it as distinct in that organization as, as another organization isn’t that organization

Bridgette (25:50):

That is really neat. I mean, what a, yeah. Beautiful strength. Right? And we’ve talked a lot about Yes, absolutely. Managing anxiety by being a step down transformer. And one of the ways to step down the anxiety and uncertainty that surrounds us is by bringing laughter and lightness and joy, uh, to the mix. That is really neat. Well, of course, you know, we inherit strengths as human beings, as individuals, and as organizations, and we inherit vulnerabilities, of course. Yep. Right. And you know, you were mentioning one of your things that you inherited, which, you know, this whole thing from your family of origin about move forward no matter what, you know, and an optimism. But you recognize there was a vulnerability about that too. So from an organizational standpoint, in your experience, a consultant and as a coach, what vulnerabilities have you seen play out in some organizations?

Irvine (26:50):

Yeah, such an interesting question. And I think, you know, some of these will not be unfamiliar to our listeners was we’ve talked about them before. But, you know, um, one of the things I like to say, and you mentioned this a little bit about conflict. You know, I always say everyone has a conflict story. Every organization has a conflict story of how they deal or don’t deal with conflict. And, you know, sometimes it can be the overuse of conflict. So, I mean, I have been in organizations which, oh my god, I mean, everything is a conflict and it’s exhausting. And then the other one, which is just as exhausting as is conflict, is avoided. There is no, at any time an issue arises, it is shut down because there is a fear of where this may lead to. And, and I think both of those are, are present.

(27:36):

And I think, you know, when a new, I remember I was coaching a new hire in an organization a few months ago, and, and they got it. They, you know, they said to me, oh, I, I, I can’t go down that. And I said, why can’t I, why can’t you go down? Well, it’ll be conflictual, and do you have a problem with conflict? No, I don’t. But then why can’t you do it? Well, it’s no one does it. So, so even someone who came to an organization who had no problem with conflict themselves, that wasn’t, you know, that wasn’t the issue. Oh. But they caught the message, yes. We don’t do conflict here. And so it could, for me, it was so palpable of, of, of that inheritance being caught by someone who themselves didn’t even have that vulnerability, but they absolutely embraced it in a way. Yeah. Because that was the culture.

Bridgette (28:19):

Yeah. Now, you know, it’s funny you mentioned the word culture, because what I was thinking as I was listening to you is maybe some of our listeners are going equating this with culture. Yes. And yes, it’s related, but it’s not identical because you can have cultural values, but underneath and what is deeper and more systemic are those automatic reactive patterns that live inside individuals and organizations. And they’re deeper than culture, right? Yes. Absolutely. So in that example, maybe they have a stated cultural value around leaning into conflict productively, but the, the automatic deeply ingrained reactive pattern is something else.

Irvine (29:09):

Absolutely. Yeah. And then there’s other things, you know, vulnerabilities that come up as well, you know, how do you deal with underperformers? And sometimes, you know, in organizations they’re tolerated or rescued and not dealt with. I remember I was coaching someone around this, and we were talking about accountability and accountability of that, and, and they, they just kept rescuing the person. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And what was a fascinating question, almost like the client you were talking about, you know, talk a little bit about your family of origin. And it was, yeah, we were taught about the strays and everything from animals to humans. Wow. That there was this compassion, you know, and it was, it was overplayed. And so you could see that coming out and, and, and how this person led within the organization. Blame is another one. Oh, how quick are we to blame? And, and the blame game within organizations. And that’s also a, a, um, really interesting in the way that this inherited vulnerability can come out as well. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, how quick are we to blame others?

Bridgette (30:10):

Hmm. Yes. And that reminds me of another vulnerability, which is around how do we respond to mistakes, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, is it, is it like when people make mistakes, man, your head’s cut off for your feet? Are, you know, pulled out from under you? Or is there a tolerance for the kinds of mistakes that we learn from? And that can be either strength, obviously, or vulnerability. We’re talking about vulnerabilities, that whole thing around tolerating underperformers. Man, I see that a lot, particularly in some government agencies where underperformers are protected actually, you know? Yeah. It’s very hard to, to deal with them. Yeah. Okay. So Irvine, how, what are some thoughts or strategies on how we can manage and respond proactively to these inherited strengths and vulnerabilities, whether they’re our own or in our organization?

Irvine (31:10):

Yeah, it’s a great question. So I, I think, you know, we were talking before and I think one of the things we said, you know, let’s come up with a three part process mm-hmm. <affirmative> that will help people. Part one of that is identify the ghosts. Yeah. <laugh>, Bridgette, what do you think we mean by that?

Bridgette (31:25):

Yeah. That’s figuring out how the presence of the past is with you. It’s kind of like that tradition that you mentioned about literally talking about your ancestors, like they’re with you in the room. So, you know, we have these events, these values, these beliefs, these people that are living with us, name them, what are they? And some of them are wonderful ghosts and some of them might not be

Irvine (31:55):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. And then I think the second step then is, so we, we’ve kind of uncovered that, or, or, or at least made sense of that. And then it’s self-diagnosed, really how are you behaving in your team today? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, ask yourself or sometimes, you know, do a little 360 by asking another person. Sometimes we’re blind. Yeah. Sometimes we are blind to some of our behaviors and say, you know, how am I showing up what might be playing out in some of the behaviors in the team today, or some of my behaviors as a leader? And uh, what are some strengths, but then also what are some vulnerabilities? And getting a sense of how that is today. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

(32:34):

And then the third one is to make small changes happen. Now I use the word small because I think it’s so important. And I think neurosciences has taught us that the most effective way for changing behavior is creating new neural pathways. And so rather than try to get rid of old ones, it’s almost create new ones. And so think of some new behaviors that you would like to adopt at work. You know, the simplest thing is to say, I have to stop doing this. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but better ways I need to start doing this. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So another way of kind of, and, and then just choosing that incrementally. Because I think at times, especially in this area, this is going to be patient work. Oh. Because we are dealing with a lifetime of some behaviors we’re just becoming aware of. Right. And to just to be patient with ourselves. And I think just to be aware and to be curious and then just to think about what’s one small little change that I could do. Yeah. And I think that will be, because I think we’ll get very frustrated if we try. I’m gonna stop doing this entirely, you know, immediately. And that’s just not realistic.

Bridgette (33:42):

Oh, it’s not. And I’m glad that you mentioned being patient and that this is a lifetime of work because we’re dealing with the presence of the past. So we have been practicing at automatic level behaviors that have a lineage to them, a long tail. Absolutely. And just understanding that will help us, I think, uh, move forward. You know, when you talked about step two, which is, you know, really diagnosing how you are behaving with your team, one of the things it reminded me of that you can be on the lookout for is when you react to a trigger in a way that is disproportionate to the triggering event, get curious about that. It may mean that there is a ghost <laugh> under there, right? Mm-hmm. I’m thinking of, um, somebody I worked with years ago who reacted in a, uh, just a, a very strong way to what he perceived as a, a colleague disrespecting him. Yeah. When we took a closer look at it, it really was about his own family of Origin’s story. Yeah.

Irvine (34:52):

So

Bridgette (34:52):

Great. Yeah. So this is deep work. This is long-term work, and we undertake it with patience. That’s what you’re telling us. Mm-hmm.

Irvine (35:01):

<affirmative>. Yeah. I love that. Patience and a, and a likeness and a curiosity. Yeah.

Bridgette (35:05):

You know, that’s great. Yeah. So Irvine, that three step process is really helpful. Do you have a practice that you wanna leave with our listeners today?

Irvine (35:17):

Well, maybe, uh, um, something that will go along with that three part practice maybe. And that is, you know, identify our strengths. Now, if you’re honest, when you get feedback, if you’re like me and most of the people I have worked with, cuz I see the same trend, even if we’re given five wonderful things and two things to work on, we automatically tend to go to the two things we need to work on. And I really think we don’t spend a lot of time appreciating and naming our strengths because I think our strengths really can take us to the next level. And so today’s practice is really being more deliberate in identifying our strengths and celebrating them, and especially the strengths that we’ve inherit from the past. So, you know, take some time and think about, um, a situation in which you showed up as your best self. Then what would it be a situation perhaps where your skills or behaviors led to a really positive outcome? Think about, you know, how did those strengths make a difference for others? And to what extent are some of those strengths inherited from the past? Can you see those strengths popping up either in your family of origin as you grew up in some experiences that mold you there? So kind of think about that and then think about how might I use that strength even more? How might that strength be used in future situations? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,

Bridgette (36:53):

I love that because it’s, it’s a claiming of a strength. Yep.

Irvine (36:57):

Yes. And

Bridgette (36:57):

It’s also an honoring of the heritage.

Irvine (37:03):

Yes.

Bridgette (37:03):

I love that. And we can do that exact practice with our teams and our organizations to say, absolutely

Irvine (37:10):

What

Bridgette (37:10):

Are some of our baked in strengths that, you know, are just alive and well and have really deep roots in this organization and to name them and to claim them and to honor them.

Irvine (37:23):

Absolutely.

Bridgette (37:24):

It’s a very positive

Irvine (37:26):

Thing. It also creates some great storytelling, which is less vulnerability than say, talking about your own vulnerabilities. People don’t wanna, you know, talk about past family and how the vulnerabilities, but like if you can start sharing a strength that comes from your family, that’s a totally different story to come out. And it’s glorious listening to some of these stories as well. Very powerful. Yeah.

Bridgette (37:44):

And then if we do want to talk about vulnerabilities, we paved the way for that, right? Because we started on a, uh, on a note that in terms of our nervous system is less threatening. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. That’s great. Yes. Well, Irvine, thank you for this conversation. This has been really, really interesting and has brought forward for me some, some memories that, you know, I hadn’t thought about in a while. I hope for our listeners that this has given them some really interesting food for thought to think about. You know, how has the presence of their past shaped them? How does that past continue to shape them and show up in their leadership? And how can they identify and honor their inherited strengths and manage some inherited vulnerabilities along the way? Yeah, it’s been a great conversation. Thanks Irvine. So thinking about our next episode, is there anything you want to say about our next topic?

Irvine (38:47):

Well, it’s interesting, you know, all around us. I hear people talking about being under stress and not having enough time. I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough time. And so next episode we’re gonna explore a concept that maybe we shouldn’t be spending too much attention to the time, but rather the energy that we bring and the energy in our presence. So we’re gonna explore that next episode. Yeah,

Bridgette (39:09):

That sounds really great, because at the end of the day, I think we’ve squeezed out the time <laugh>. It’s Yes.

Irvine (39:15):

Right? Yes. There’s no more to be squeezed. It is dry <laugh>.

Bridgette (39:19):

I look forward to that conversation. Thanks to our listeners for joining us as always, and we hope to see you next time.

Irvine (39:26):

Thanks Bridgette. Appreciate it. Thanks listeners. Bye-Bye.

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