Intentional Leaders Podcast with Cyndi Wentland

Leadership Lessons: An Interview with Karen Knab, Executive Leadership Coach and Conflict Resolution Expert

January 21, 2024 Karen Knab, Knab Consulting Episode 128
Intentional Leaders Podcast with Cyndi Wentland
Leadership Lessons: An Interview with Karen Knab, Executive Leadership Coach and Conflict Resolution Expert
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever witnessed a leader transform a conflict into an opportunity for growth? That's exactly the kind of transformation Karen Knab, former marriage and family therapist turned leadership coach, specializes in. Her journey from passive to assertive leadership is inspiring; it's a masterclass for anyone at the helm of a business or team. In our candid conversation, Karen dissects the challenges of progressing in her career and how she gained the necessary tools for effective management and decision-making, providing a mirror for us to examine our own leadership style.

It's a common myth that career success and interpersonal skills go hand in hand – but Karen is here to set the record straight. We strip down the nature of conflict to its core, revealing it as a neutral event ripe with potential for positive outcomes if navigated correctly. With Karen's insights, we explore how creating a non-judgmental space for vulnerability leads to stronger client and colleague relationships. This episode redefines conflict resolution, advocating for a shift in perspective towards embracing diverse experiences and responses as a pathway to personal and professional growth.

In the realm of leadership, empathy emerges as a non-negotiable trait. Karen and I share in our perspective that it is an essential quality of a human-centric work culture. For those ready to lead with integrity, courage, and empathy, Karen's insights and the resources discussed in this episode offer a beacon of hope and guidance on your leadership journey.

Be the Best Leader You Know

Perform with Power, Lead with Impact, Inspire Growth

To sharpen your skills and increase your confidence, check out the Confident Leader Course: https://www.intentionaleaders.com/confident-leader

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the Intentional Leaders podcast. This is episode 128 and it's a leadership lessons interview with Karen Nab. Welcome to Intentional Leaders. This podcast is not just for leaders, rather for anyone who wants to make an impact on the world, professionally or personally. My passion and purpose is to provide tips, tools and resources that I've learned throughout my career working with large and small organizations, profit and non, and also as an entrepreneur. I've had the joy to teach thousands of individuals who, like you, are trying to navigate this crazy and complex world. So here's to doing that successfully and intentionally. So we have a special guest for this episode of the Intentional Leaders podcast, and her name is Karen Nab. Karen provides therapy for co-founders, business partners and leadership teams, and I just want to welcome you to the podcast today.

Speaker 2:

Thank, you so?

Speaker 1:

much, cindy. I want to let people know how we connected, because both of us are entrepreneurs and we got connected through a wonderful marketing code.

Speaker 2:

She's been a wonderful help. I'll give a shout out to Justine Beauregard for connecting us and also for the work that she's done with me and also with you.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and the reason I was so interested in your background is because you provide therapy and you're shifting into more of the business world. When you think about that shift that you've made in your work, from the more conventional therapy to working in businesses, particularly around conflict for leaders, what prompted that change in your career and trajectory of your career?

Speaker 2:

So a couple of things. One well, first of all, I have been a marriage and family therapist for over 18 years and with that a lot of work with couples, with families in groups and a lot of interpersonal conflict. That's essentially the role of a marriage and family therapist is to be somewhat of a referee, a mediator, helping people kind of understand how to proceed with conflict in a helpful manner, because a lot of folks just don't know how to do that. That is my background. I have extensive experience doing that. The second piece that made me want to shift was in one of my roles as a clinician. I was elevated and promoted to a leadership position in a behavioral health center, right underneath the executive director. So I was the program director and, as it turns out, I also became the HR manager.

Speaker 1:

So look at you wearing all those hats.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, as a clinician, and I was also doing clinical work, so in that role I was essentially promoted for my potential and my experience. But there were a few other people there who also thought that they should have been promoted, and when I was promoted, I then had to manage them, and so there was some outright jealousy and what turned out to be some undermining behaviors in that situation, and so, as a new leader, I was passive at the beginning. I wanted to get a lay of the land, I wanted to understand what was going on, but in that I really wasn't making enough decisions. I wanted people to like me, I wanted to be seen as friend or an ally, and very quickly there were things and decisions that got made that I did not agree with because I was not making them Other people were making, and so I learned about this concept of passive leaders passive leadership and I realized that I was quickly becoming a passive leader in my own team, and so I did some research, I got some mentoring and realized that I needed to learn how to be more assertive in that situation. I needed to work through whatever fear I had or insecurity and push that away so that I could be a better leader and I knew I had good ideas and I had a lot of experience, but I just hadn't been in that role initially. So I was really inspired to get over my insecurity and become more assertive for the good of the team, for the good of the organization. I really put the team first and that helped me so so much. So in doing that, I became much more comfortable in my leadership role. Between now looking back between that experience of overcoming my own issues as a passive leader to become much more assertive and all of my experience working with conflict and teaching people how to manage those interpersonal issues, I combined those two things working in the business sector because I also feel like there's a need for it. I can make a bigger impact and I love the idea of working with more folks and helping them in the way that I got help back in the day.

Speaker 1:

What an interesting story, because as a therapist, you're observing dynamics and then saying, okay, how can people get more effective? But it's a whole different thing to look inside yourself and see those things Like oh man, look at what I'm doing and that's not working very well. But there's a lot of self-awareness that comes from that and when you think about that experience for you, when was the point where you became self-aware of oh my gosh, I'm not showing up in the way that I want to and what I'm doing is not as effective as it could be? Like, how did you get there?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think it was in reading an article, probably. I mean, this was probably 2010, 2011,. So the internet was around and there were articles on leadership already, which was great, and I read an article that said a lot of people get promoted into a management or leadership role because of their skills, but they don't have the training in management or leadership, and what happens is that someone below them who has a loud mouth or more aggressive starts to get their way and the trajectory of the team goes in that person's direction, but the problem is is they don't have all the information that you do as the manager. They don't have the birds eye view, and so the decisions that they want made, or things should happen, are coming from an ill-informed place and could actually be damaging. And that paragraph per se was really like oh wow, this is exactly what's happening Is these people that are working with me or on my team are not aware of all the things that I'm aware of, and they're making decisions from a very ill-informed place, and I need to stop that, because it's not helpful for them. It's not helpful for the clients that we're serving, and so I really felt a passion to get over my own fear and insecurity, and I didn't see it that way at first. I didn't realize that that's what was going to happen if I tried to be more passive or tried to be well-liked per se. So I think passive leaders there's a lot of misconceptions that they have around why they're doing what they're doing and they don't realize the damage that they're essentially causing when they're holding back or being reluctant to make decisions or being reluctant to say well, one of the characters that they don't really. They don't either reward or give consequences. Passive leaders kind of don't do either of those things a lot, and so when people don't get feedback good or bad they don't feel like they're kind of directionless, they're rudderless. Teams start to kind of do their own thing. There's no general strategic plan. I mean, there's a lot of qualities of passive leaders that we could talk about some other time too. That is fascinating, though I didn't want that to happen in the organization that I was working in.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, of course not, but I think that's pretty cool. It's because that is a form of courage that a lot of people don't have, one that introspection to say, oh my gosh, I'm actually doing this right now and it's a disservice to my team and to myself, because you were put in that place for a reason and you're right about the research on new managers and leaders and why they get promoted. A lot of people aren't taught leadership and management and all those things, and that's what I've dedicated most of my career to helping people understand how to do it. I think that's a really intriguing concept and good for you again to have the insight and the courage to be able to change that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thank you for using that word. You're right, that was very courageous. I felt like I had to shore up and get in there and do the hard thing day in and day out until it got easier, right Until I had the practice and I felt the confidence and I knew that in the long run doing the hard thing would pay off. But initially that was what I recognized was I had to push through this discomfort and I did feel uncomfortable. People were upset with me. Those two folks who thought they should have had my job were unhappy with my assertiveness initially and had to take some steps and one worked out and the other didn't in the long run.

Speaker 1:

But and that's another story, yeah, I know we can have lots of stories, yeah.

Speaker 2:

But it's true, it does require courage. Leadership does require courage, and that is really. I'm glad you said that, because that is what I talk about too with folks when I work with them.

Speaker 1:

What I think is so interesting about that courage to change dynamics that are established and I'm confident you know that from just human interactions. But when we do change ourselves and try something new and courageous and, as you said, we experience discomfort or awkwardness, other people don't want us to change. You know, it would have been easier for them, for you, not to change. So then, when people press against us, I think that's where the real courage comes is the steadfastness of your beliefs to go in that direction, regardless of the pushback that you got, because when we change ourselves, some people don't want us to change.

Speaker 2:

Oh, 100%. I couldn't agree more. Can I say one more thing about that? Oh, absolutely yeah. So, acknowledging that right, and you and I coming from a leadership, mentoring, coaching, consulting space this is why we do what we do is because we know that when leaders are forced to change or they want to change, having support, being able to bounce ideas off someone like us to be able to say this is what I wanna do and I'm kinda worried, I'm not sure how it's gonna go and we can say to them you know what? I support you, I think you're on the right track, I'll be here for you. Let's check in after you send that email or after you make that announcement. And to have someone who's on their side, in their corner, I think makes those choices to be courageous easier, and without that it's easy to fall back into old behaviors and old patterns.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, it's an excellent insight, and I think for a couple of reasons. One is because it can feel so isolating when you're isolated and feel like I need to change this thing but, as you said, there's no support for it. Like, yeah, keep going, keep trying, it's gonna be okay. It's like that little cheerleader on the side, in a way, and the support on the side and an accountability buddy on the side too, and I think all of those things, but in a very compassionate, supportive way, are helpful for all of us to be, able to change and shift. So you do a lot of work with conflict and I teach on conflict. They're very common practices. I utilize the Thomas Kilman conflict assessment that talks about people's different styles and whatnot, and my understanding of the work that you're doing is you're really trying to help people go below the surface not just their conflict style, but about the discomfort and tension associated with more, maybe deep seated conflicts that people are experiencing. What I was so curious about is what are some strategies you use to help leaders do that and also how do you make that safe for them? Because those are some pretty complex issues. To admit, as a leader, I don't know what to do or I don't know how to navigate it. So that whole safety piece I'm curious about as well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So one of the assumptions that I make when I'm working with people is that they are doing the best that they can with what they know and if they knew better, they could do better. So I don't come into meeting a new client with the idea that just because they're smart and successful and they're clearly successful in certain areas of their life, that they have underlying knowledge about this other area, because they're two separate things. I mean being successful in the workplace and making good business decisions isn't necessarily connected to being in touch with your own self, your own self-awareness or your interpersonal skills. Those two things, they're silos. You have to sort of develop all of those things separately. I really try to not let anybody feel shameful or embarrassed if they don't know anything or they don't know something that I'm sharing with them. I really try to decrease that. I wanna build a trusting relationship with my clients so that they feel like they can share what they don't know, so I can teach them what they don't know, and so I also emphasize, similar to you, a lot of education, so educating people. That conflict isn't actually the real problem. People think it's the problem, it's a neutral thing. To me, all conflict means is that two people, for example, are coming to a situation or looking at an issue from two different backgrounds. They come with two different histories, two different personalities, two different experiences of that issue, and they're looking at the issue and they're saying I have this experience versus I have this experience, that's all. Conflict really is Now, what do we do with that? What do we do after? That Is more of what people think of as the problem and that's how do we resolve it? Right? And so I like to just sort of say conflict and not seeing things exactly the same isn't the problem. For example, when people think about the holidays, yeah, people have really warm, fond memories. They have a nice connection to their family, they had nice experiences, maybe they were in a good economic situation and there were presence all around and things like that. And then there are other people who really dread the holidays. Right, they didn't have a good family situation, they maybe didn't celebrate, maybe couldn't for various reasons, and just don't look forward to them as an adult. And so what does that say about the holidays? Absolutely nothing. The holidays are just the issue or the topic, but it's what people bring to that issue or topic from their own background, their own experiences. That informs how their reaction to it. People want to make the holidays the problem. The holidays are a neutral topic, what we bring. So that's one thing that I try to educate people on. And then the other thing is to say some people had just never had a positive experience with conflict resolution. They have no idea that it's possible to have a win-win outcome from a conflict. Right, they think it's win-lose. And then it's sort of like, why bother? Nothing good is gonna come of this anyway. So maybe that leads to a lot of passivity or avoidance around dealing with conflict. When you don't have that experience, I wouldn't blame someone who just said I don't think this is a why would I bother spending time on this when there's never gonna be a good outcome? But then again it's that education to say I hear you, that's your experience and there's a lot of other ways to do it and there's a lot of people that know how to do it differently and you can learn it too. And that's how I start with people who have more deep-seated issues around it, because that's typically why is they haven't had any sort of positive experiences.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so a couple of things that you said are so powerful. One is that the situation itself at the heart of whatever is the disagreement, or we're seeing something from a different view is a very neutral thing. Holidays are neutral, business decisions are neutral. There's all of those things that are neutral. And then we bring our experiences that shape our perception of it and how we're thinking about it and our emotional reactions to it, and we make all those stories in our heads about what it means, and that's what we bring to the table. Is that in those disagreements and you also said too part of the reluctance to deal with those things is a lack of education or knowledge that it can be okay? And I've read research that says when you can resolve conflict with someone else and you had a success with it, it builds trust so strongly that you're more connected. But I think sometimes people's reluctance to do it is I want to get along with Karen, so I won't deal with this with her, as opposed to if we successfully navigated it, we might actually have a better relationship, rather than me avoiding it. So true, but it's so scary, as you said, if they don't have that kind of education around it or the tools to deal with that, then why bother?

Speaker 2:

Right, and you and I know the benefit of dealing with conflict, right, I mean, that's why we do this, and so it is so exciting to get people over all of those different preconceived notions, over all of those problems, if you will, to get to eventually being able to have a positive experience resolving a conflict with some of the care about, or someone that they need to work with, and it is just so gratifying because, you're right, the relationship is stronger as a result and there is more trust when someone can respond to your concern and really want to meet you halfway and really wants to work it out as well. That's just such a beautiful thing and I think we need more of that in not just our family lives but our business lives and the world around us Absolutely.

Speaker 1:

And to take that into the business world. I mean, you've had a lot of experience working with people in, as you said, marriage and family and those situations. I see the stress, the dysfunction, the challenges that are associated with it in the business world, because that's been my world for so many decades and people's inability to resolve it, and especially at a more senior level, has a big effect on them being a role model for conflict resolution and them being a good role model for the things that they need to be managing inner personally to be a good example For people in their organization. So I think the inability to do this becomes part of the fabric of a culture in a way if people aren't doing it well. And that's why I was so interested in your work, because I thought I've seen it endlessly in organizations where this doesn't get resolved but people don't even think about. Gee, maybe I could get educated on this, Maybe I need some help to deal with it, because again then I would have to admit and be vulnerable to the fact that this is a problem and I'm not good at it. That's hard. That's back to that courage, Right, I'm going to have the courage to say that.

Speaker 2:

And also back to passive leader. In my experience working as a therapist, I would say that that is the bigger problem with resolving conflict, or creating conflict, is people who are more passive and who avoid it. Somebody who's more aggressive or at least more verbal, right, and even if they're frustrated or they're angry, there's more to work with. Yes, yes, you at least know where you stand with that person, that leader who maybe is a little more controlling or micromanaging, you know where you stand, you know what they want. With passive leaders you really don't. And so they leave a big vacuum and so people fill that vacuum in all sorts of ways. Some people start to overperform to kind of fill in those gaps, and they may be making good decisions, but they may not be, you know, in the absence of the true leadership, the leader making the decisions. But it's also true that when people don't feel like you're really present, they stop respecting you, you stop being able to have influence over them. When you seem checked out and you seem to not care. And that's the truth in a family as well. If there is a member of a marriage or there's a parent who seems checked out and like they don't care, people stop really being interested in their needs or wants or opinions about things, and it's really detrimental. And so leaders can't take that for granted. Their presence and how people want to see them and hear from them and know what they think and hear that feedback Right. I mean that's we could talk about feedback a lot too, where, if you don't know where you stand in your position and your leaders not giving you feedback good or bad it's really demoralizing. The apathy can set in eventually. You know, if that's the case over long periods of time.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and that was another connection you and I had was the book the Empathy Advantage and this concept of leaders needing to show up, connecting as human beings with their employees and having to show up with that sense of I'm here for you, I'm interested, I see you as a valued partner and, as you said, that I'm fully present and available to you for you to help you, as not just employee but a human being. And I think that's a daunting task for a lot of leaders who one don't even know that that is a vision, an accessible leadership vision. Or two, I have no idea how to do that. Or three, I don't want to do that. That sounds hard and that's not how I wired it all. You and I have talked about those concepts and I think that's going to be hard for leaders to be able to transition into that kind of mode, for sure.

Speaker 2:

Right, we were talking about how that is the wave of the future with leadership, right, when people have the ability to come and go from companies a lot easier due to virtual work and hybrid environments, it's just that much more important for someone, an employee, to feel tethered to the organization through their manager and leader, and if they don't feel that, it's just one step easier for them to walk away because they don't feel that connection. So, helping leaders develop empathy, particularly leaders who are used to just sort of sitting you know, I'm going to do my own work over here. I don't really have time for people problems. Yeah Right, I don't really have time for any of that. They see that as an imposition to the other work that they're doing instead of seeing it as a part of the work that needs to happen. And so part of the work that you and I do likely is to help them see the importance of saying no, this is actually part of your work, they're not separate. You have to spend time every day and every week on your people or else risk a lot of problems later on and you're going to be confused why they're happening. But I'm not. I'm going to know why they happened. You're going to be confused and I'm going to tell you right now don't be confused, because this is what's going to happen if you don't take this more seriously. So being able to predict is also important as a leader.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. It is funny. But it sounds funny to say I'm a leader or manager and I'm focusing on the work and dismissive of the people, because how do you produce literally anything without the people? And what could be more important in terms of your task than the people surrounding you that you're leading and supporting? To me there's some irony and humor and all that, but again, I don't think as leaders or managers and you've said this they don't know what they don't know about how they're showing up or that there is a different expectation or choice that could be made and there's consequences to that mindset and not showing up in a more human, connected way. And that's the part that I find. It's just that People are fascinating.

Speaker 2:

Right and being able to help them with that, to say I see where you're coming from, I see this work is important to you. People feel like they're a problem and you don't want to deal with them. But let me help you zoom out, let me help you back up and let's take a bigger picture, view what it looks like to me as an outsider and then being able to reflect that, yes, your view is true in the smaller version of the world, but if you take a bigger version of the world, it's not so true anymore that you can't take people for granted.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely, and the ability to give them that perspective and a bigger picture view is, I think, a lot of the value of therapy or coaching is the ability to see the world in a different way and reframe it in a different way. As you said as well, what are the consequences of staying on the current path? So, when you think about myths myth about therapy or coaching what are some things that you hear or that you perceive? People think myths that you would want to dispel?

Speaker 2:

Well, the biggest one I would say is that we don't need to do anything because if we just ignore the problem long enough, it will go away on its own. Oh yeah, that is one of the biggest things that I encounter with people who have endured sometimes really chronic issues around conflict not just weeks, but maybe months and years. Is that well, it'll just go away on its own? And that is absolutely 100% a myth. It does not go away on its own. I've worked with clients therapy clients who have talked about grudges they've held for decades with family members right. And you're not generally working with coworkers for decades. But imagine if someone could hold a grudge for over 10 years. People can certainly hold grudges for weeks and months and perhaps years in a workplace.

Speaker 1:

I know that to be true, Karen Right.

Speaker 2:

And so we want to really get a better sense and some people can work through it. Some people they do their own work and they get over whatever resentment or frustration they might experience. And some people are really great communicators and they address the issue assertively and works out one way or another, but at least they feel like they did something on their end and they can feel peaceful about that. But there's a whole lot of other people who don't have those skills and who need some guidance, mediation, mentoring, coaching around how to help them bring those topics up and for the other person to receive them properly. So I really love working with people who are in a dyad, for example, to people, and I can facilitate because I want there to be a good outcome, and so I want to coach people into how to even respond when somebody brings you a concern assertively, how to not get defensive, how to not shut down, how to not be argumentative. In doing that, the other person could also have a better reaction and almost maybe apologize for their part, right. So we want it takes two people to create a conflict, and so by being able to moderate that discussion and coach people and help people, there is a very clear path to conflict resolution. There's one way to do it, and if you'd be from that, it goes off the rails and you're back to where you started. So not to make it sound too foreboding, but people really need to be skilled at this, and if you're skilled personally and you can do it on your own, you're great. I would love everyone to be able to do that. When that isn't the case and you don't feel that skills, someone like me or you is there to help with that, right.

Speaker 1:

So mostly you, because I think it's interesting what you said. And I want to circle back to something else, and I mentioned this earlier just because I want to change doesn't mean if you and I are in a conflict and I'm trying to change that, you're going to respond in a way that helps. How do we partner in this? And you said something so important about the work you're doing. When you work in dyads or with teams, you're teaching everybody how to establish a different and a new and a healthier and more constructive pattern of communication across the relationship. It's not just me to you, but it's you and I together, and I think those are the parts that are so important in the work that you're doing. Is you're able to facilitate that in a way that helps not just someone individually, but teams or pairs? I know a lot of people in the business world who may have tension with someone else, or they have stress or they're holding grudges towards someone else that they work with and have to work with every day, and that's a hard stop to be in.

Speaker 2:

It is, and I've worked with plenty of individuals and I can help them and coach them and do roleplays around how to speak up and be assertive on their end. But I can't guarantee that when they go to that person they're going to get a good reception. And it is discouraging when you don't get a good reception and it's still worth doing. But to be able to facilitate both people's responses and help both people and have the person who took the risk haven't be received well and then have both people feel good at the end, it's so beneficial to both people and it doesn't always happen on its own. We coach people to be assertive and they do it. There isn't a guarantee that it's going to go well and to be able to guarantee, or at least almost guarantee, that it'll go well if I'm involved is really worth it in a lot of these situations.

Speaker 1:

So you said something too earlier about that. People endure and they believe that it's going to go away. And when you said endurance, I think sometimes people see endurance as a strong characteristic of a positive thing. I would. I'm an endure and I've gone through leadership assessments. In terms of determination or endurance, I'm probably like a 98. I'll keep going. That strength overplayed is also difficult then to resolve conflict, because I'm just going to push through it and endure it and I'm going to persist in a determined way to not either let it bother me or affect me. But then underneath the surface it's always there and that isn't a healthy approach to it. But I think some people take pride in the endurance.

Speaker 2:

Right, and I think you're absolutely right, that to a point it's helpful and then, beyond a certain point, it starts to backfire and it turns into what I think I would call stubbornness. Yes, right, that's the flip side of endurance. The thing that's more negative, the negative association, would be stubbornness, and stubbornness isn't a good thing to bring into a relationship that you want to be healthy and functioning and positive. I mean, stubbornness has no place there. And so that idea of endurance and enduring challenges only works to a point and then doesn't work anymore, and that's when people fall into things like burnout or maybe like really stressful situations, chronic issues, maybe they have a breakdown. I mean, that's the results of endurance. Nobody can do that forever.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, right, yeah, and so Also wondered about and that's what I wrote on my paper is endurance leads to sickness over time, because you can become physically ill from unresolved conflict, whether that's personally, whether that's professionally and not being able to navigate through it. Maybe you don't have the opportunity to resolve the conflict with that person. But the ability to forgive and let it go, I think, is also a process and experience that people don't know how to do, because they feel like somehow, in forgiving people, I'm condoning what happened, as opposed to forgiveness is I'm letting go of it so I can move on in a healthier way. And I guess I wonder what your perception of that is, and is that something you help people with? Is forgiveness Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

I love that you brought that up, actually, because it's really, really important. I use the word acceptance because it has less of a religious over time. Yes, Good point. Some people might not like that. Except what happened, except who that person is, not because you like it or condone it, but because you can't change it. You're not that person. So accepting people and seeing them for who they are helps you deal with them in a better way for you. If you accept that somebody is just not good at conflict and never going to result, never going to give you a great answer to things like how can you limit your interaction with that person, Once you accept that that's the case over time you've seen that happen over and over and over again and once you accept that, then you can change your behavior, in relating to that person, for example, and that helps you not try to do things that is going to stress you out, that's going to frustrate you and that's going to build more resentment. When this person is clearly telling you who they are, it's just you that's not accepting it. You want them to be different, to change, and you're not acknowledging what they're saying to you without maybe saying it. So people's behaviors tell us and speak to us in ways that their words don't, and so it's a common thing that I work with people on is what are their unspoken behavior? What are they saying but not saying and really getting that as well, and I'll say they're telling you that they don't want to engage with you anymore, For whatever they're dating, whether they're working together, whatever it's like, they don't want to do this anymore. You're not listening. That's the ultimate problem is they're actually not listening because you don't like what they're saying. It doesn't change what they're saying for you to not listen. So accepting what they're saying and accepting people's in different ways is really the end game that helps us all be more calm and centered and healthy and we can focus on the relationships that do bring us energy and that our life giving and collaborative and give us joy. Right, and so the ones that are so stressful. I do find that people tend to fixate on things that they can't change or control, and it's hard for them to appreciate the things that are going well in their life.

Speaker 1:

Good point, because then it overshadows it. It's what we spend the time ruminating about, of course, and the things that aren't going well, because it takes so much time and energy to do that, but it prevents you from being grateful, on the other end, to what you have and the relationships that are meaningful and joyous. For sure, I could talk to you all day long, I agree, but I so admire the work that you're doing and I love the fact that you are going from this more traditional, clinical approach to bringing this into the business world, because, as I mentioned to you like a thousand times and the few times we've interacted, I see a very big need for this and I see the opportunity for people to be more honest about tackling these issues openly and transparently and vulnerably and courageously, because I think we would all land someplace better in terms of leadership and in terms of culture. Now I'm gonna ask you to step back and say, okay, if you think about your leadership qualities that have served you well in your career, and if you think about two or three that really jump out to you that are the most significant for you, what would they be, thank you for asking.

Speaker 2:

Well, the first one is humility and my very first job out of college I was a job skills trainer at a local nonprofit and this was before I even went to grad school for counseling. So I was just like bumbling through as a 20-something and I was teaching this 10-week course for job skills and I remember, even in my mid-20s, thinking I am so glad these people signed up for my class and at the time it was sort of like a numbers game, like you wanted people to be enrolled because then your class could go and if they weren't enrolled then you'd have to like help another trainer or do something else. So I had this awareness of gosh, I'm so glad all these people signed up for my training. The very first day of each of my cohorts I would say that. I would say, look, I couldn't be here if you weren't here, and that would change the energy immediately. I didn't know any of these people. I'm like 25 years old, I don't know anything from anything and it really helped that humility that I brought into that experience. To say I need you like you need me, and I'm aware of that helped immensely. So that's one thing that I think I continue to bring into my work with people and that I do need them as much as they need me, and for different reasons. And then another one that I think is really powerful is the idea of servant leadership, and that was a nod back to the behavioral health center where I worked and needing to be an HR manager on top of everything else I was doing. So I had to schedule all of the team members for their shifts, and so I remember going to them and saying tell me your ideal schedule, like what perfect world. Tell me when you'd wanna work and I'll do my best to give you at least some of it, and nine times out of 10, I can make that happen. Right, I could give them most of what they wanted and, as a result, whenever I needed to fill a shift or staff a holiday or need somebody like filling for me to double ships, whatever, I had no trouble at all getting people to meet me in that place, and I remember thinking why do people make this so hard? Why do managers treat people so poorly and take them for granted and not try to just give them like it's no skin off my nose, I need all these ships filled anyway, so if I can fill them in a way that makes your life easier. Why would I not do that? Right, it's a great question. I remember my senior leader at the time being a little bit annoyed with me. Actually. She said why do you? Yes, and she would say why do you try so hard to please them, like they need to work? When you tell them to work, I was like, listen, like you're not the one who has to fill these shifts, you know, if they don't get filled, my name is on the line or my time is on the line to make this happen. So I'm absolutely gonna do it this way. And I had to question myself to, because, of course, I took what she had to say, I respected her opinion, but then I also thought, no, that's not the right way to do it, and I've been getting great results with getting people's input and working with them for the long haul, and that's how I feel. Good leaders. Look at the long term. I want you to be happy with me. I want you to stay with me. I don't want high turnover. How can I keep you engaged? And so that servant leadership piece of serving them, so that they would then serve me, worked beautifully and I highly recommend it, especially you know what's so cool about what you just said, though, karen.

Speaker 1:

Again, you got feedback from someone that you respected, to your boss, essentially, that said, why are you doing that? And the easier path would have been oh yeah, you're right, why don't I just schedule them? And you chose the more courageous path to look at yourself and say what am I doing? Is this working? Why am I doing it? And I'm gonna keep doing this, which in some way in the short term harder, in the long term, more effective you would to push back on your manager and say I'm gonna continue to do this. There's courage in that. Again, and saying I'm gonna do something different from what you're suggesting. That's pretty neat.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Thank you, it was nerve-wracking at the time. The young age?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, All right. So you said humility, servant leadership, anything else that has served you well?

Speaker 2:

I mean empathy, right, empathy, absolutely empathy. The need to sort of again work with people where they're at understand their situation. For example, when clients cancel with me if they have a sick kid, it is a no-brainer. I am like, absolutely, that is not under your control. If somebody's like, oh, I misread my calendar and I reschedule you know I double book yeah, I'm not happy about that, I'm not as empathetic in that situation because that's on them. But there are certain situations where we should be empathetic to people and we should be able to understand where they're coming from, to be able to stay present to their situation. It's not all about us. Yes, I'm inconvenient when somebody cancels on me, but what's the reason behind it and can I be understanding to a point? And I absolutely try to find that line and I've had really great relationships with clients over the years, with people I've managed over the years because of being able to meet them halfway in those situations. And I'm not a pushover. I do have a limit and I will tell people when that limit has been reached, not saying that and that you know people to kind of mistake empathy for being a pushover and it's not that at all. Right, I would agree, you can talk about that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I do believe that some people I work with they fear empathy because they see it as weakness or they see it as then someone is gonna take advantage of me and play off my sympathy or something. They get confused about how that shows up from a leadership perspective and because I tend to work with a lot of people that are in the construction and engineering industries, there's a lot of people who focus on the logic. You know they're trying to learn the empathy, but I think that's a very common fear people around leadership is. Then people will take advantage of me. I'll be weak. I'll be, and I won't know what to do with their emotions. Anyway, once they talk to me about them, it's a scary, scary thing. Yeah, yeah, karen. Well, like I said, I think we could talk for days on end and I would love that.

Speaker 2:

I know.

Speaker 1:

What I really wanted to do today is a couple of things. One is thank you for your time and the connection that we have established, because I really see the work that you are doing, and the more I learn about how you do it and how you're showing up in the world, the more value I see in it. And what I hope people take away from this episode is that there are resources available to help with conflict and the vulnerabilities that come with leadership that a lot of people just don't want to talk about. And, as you said, sometimes as leaders and I have been in that space where we just push through things and endure rather than having the courage to face them and to learn something new and not feel ashamed or embarrassed by that vulnerability.

Speaker 2:

I agree, and thank you so much. You asked such wonderful questions. You're such a wonderful listener. I really love our conversation, cindy.

Speaker 1:

I do as well. So thank you for your time. You're very welcome, isn't she great? Well, if you want more information about Karen's services, she is at KarenNabcom. That's K-A-R-E-N-K-N-A-Bcom. She also has on her website that there is a staggering $1.2 trillion annual loss to businesses because of the cost of conflict. So connect with her if you're interested in those services. I hope you do.

Leadership Lessons
Navigating Success and Conflict Resolution
Leadership, Conflict Resolution, and Empathy
Conflict Resolution and Forgiveness Coaching
Leadership Qualities
Leadership
Resources for Conflict and Leadership Vulnerabilities