GoalSpan Logo
Nov 16, 2021
play_arrow pause

29. Principal, Gostick and Elton, LLC

29. Principal, Gostick and Elton, LLC
Jeff interviews Chester Elton, a top expert in workplace culture and employee wellbeing. Chester has over 650 thousand followers on LinkedIn, is the author of 14 books, including "Anxiety at Work" & "Leading with Gratitude", is a Member of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches, an Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker, and the Founder of the #findyourgratitude Community. Jeff and Chester unpack the nuances of anxiety in the workplace and how it affects individuals and organizations. Chester shares how the costs of unaddressed anxiety at work are very high - a staggering $40 Billion dollars a year in the U.S. He talks about key strategies that lead to work environments with the best chance of reducing workplace anxiety. Jeff and Chester discuss how the strategies companies implement either increase or decrease anxiety at work, and how to create workplace cultures that combine high productivity with psychological safety. Where to find Chester Elton: Anxiety at Work Podcast – Listen & Subscribe https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/anxiety-at-work-with-adrian-gostick-chester-elton/id1549312484 The Culture Works - Website https://www.thecultureworks.com/ WeThrive Together Community https://www.wethrivetogether.global/


Intro: Duration: (01:55)

Opening music jingle & sound effects

Jeff Hunt:

Hey everyone. I'm Jeff Hunt, and this is the Human Capital podcast produced by GoalSpan. My quest on this podcast is to uncover the deeply human aspect of work. One of the ways we can truly value Human Capital is to unpack and understand employee mental health and wellbeing. Healthy work environments include having a deep understanding of the nuances of anxiety.

And how it affects both individuals and organizations. The opposite is also true. If we don't recognize or deal with anxiety in a healthy way, the costs are high. A staggering $40 billion a year in the U S. Today, we have a guest who's going to help us shed some light on this topic. We get to talk about strategies that lead to work environments with the best chance of reducing workplace anxiety.

We will discuss what the causal factors of anxiety at work are, and how we can create cultures that combine high productivity and psychological safety. My guest is Chester Elton, who is a guru in this space. If I may say so myself. Chester has spent two decades helping clients engage their employees and organizational strategy, vision, and values.

He is the author of anxiety at work and leading with gratitude. And he's a member of Marshall Goldsmith, 100 coaches an executive coach himself, keynote speaker, and the founder of the find your gratitude community. Welcome, Chester!

Chester Elton:

Hey thanks so much for the invitation, Jeff. It's going to be great to be with you today.

Jeff Hunt:

Well, I can start us off by saying, having, just read your book and finished it last weekend. I can say it's excellent.

Chester Elton:

Thank you very much.

Topic 1. Who or what inspired you to get into coaching? (01:56)

Jeff Hunt:

I just so appreciate this resource that you're bringing to the world of work. And actually, I'm going to read the full title because it's worth mentioning it's: Anxiety at work eight strategies to help teams build resilience, handle uncertainty and get stuff done.

And so, we're going to unpack this book, but before we do, let's jump back to the beginning of your career. Was there one person or event that inspired you to ultimately get into this space?

Chester Elton:

Absolutely. You know, it's really interesting my career, I grew up in sales. I always loved sales.

I’m very service-oriented, you're solving people's problems. And to me, there was something magical, almost spiritual. When you came to an agreement and somebody actually gave you cash that was the ultimate affirmation that your product was valuable, you know? I was working for a company a recognition company out of Utah and the CEO at the time as kind of Kent Murdoch recently anointed as the CEO and he and I hit a nice relationship.

I was running a sales territory out here in central New Jersey. And I'd been doing some projects our company was basically a service company, and we were starting to expand into some other things. And I did a project with a consulting firm for a pharmaceutical company. In New Jersey, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting the pharma company.

We had a wonderful engagement, you know, they had all this strategy, they had all this philosophy. It wasn't just about a recognition platform or a recognition program. It was really about the impact and so on. And so I called Ken, I said, Hey, Ken I engaged with this consulting company and they sent me a book that outlines the strategy that makes them thought leaders in their space.

I said, gosh, at the time the company was 70 years old, we had all kinds of great data, but we were kind of the greatest little company that nobody had heard of, we kinda liked being behind the scenes kind of. And I said Kent, no one has written a definitive book on employee recognition that leads to employee engagement.

If we were to write that book, we would be the thought leaders and my job would be so much easier because people would then call me for advice instead of me calling them and saying, Hey, you need my advice. Right? As salespeople do. And he says, oh, I love that idea. Well, go ahead. Write the book. And I said, Ken, I don't think you understood what I just said.

We, as a company like you, write this great book. And then I benefit from this book being the salesperson. And he said you know what Chester? You're a smart guy. Figure it out. Wow. Yeah. What a great challenge. Right? So I thought, okay, well, he's the CEO he's said, I should write a book.

I should figure this out. So I start, over the next year, titles and chapters, and what would this mean? What would that mean? And he calls me back and he says, I've been thinking about that book. And I think you should write it. I just hired. His name is Adrian Gostin introduce yourself and see what happens.

Sure enough. At the annual sales meetings, Adrian grew up in Canada. I grew up in Canada. We had that hockey thing going and we've been fast friends ever since 20 years down the road. We've left that company. We're on our own. We have our own consulting and training company. We’ve written 14 books as at work was our 14th book, several word, New York times, and wall street journal bestsellers.

We sold, I think it was 1.6 million copies there in like 30 languages. So yeah. Is there that moment? That was my moment. You're a smart guy. Figure it out. Ain’t that great?

Jeff Hunt:

That's so great. It just shows you how one person can have such an effect.

Chester Elton:

Oh yeah. And he supported me. He said, by the way, I know you're not a writer I've hired a writer.

Well, he made it possible, you know, great leaders, they remove obstacles. The biggest obstacle was, I think I was a B student in English. If I was lucky I go to my high school reunions. They go, you're a best-selling author. Well, I'm a coauthor. My, my coauthor is really the writer. Oh yeah.

Okay. That makes sense. Now I believe you.

Topic 2. Workplace anxiety (06:18)

Jeff Hunt:

Let's talk about this in a little bit more pragmatic terms. I want to jump into the book and have you set the table for us on workplace anxiety. How prevalent is it today? And what problems result when it's not addressed?

Chester Elton:

Sure. A great, great question. You know, Jeff, it's really interesting for 20 years, Adrian and I have been studying workplace culture, leadership teams and so on what makes for a healthy culture?

Well, when COVID hit, it was really interesting that you can't have a healthy culture, a productive culture. What we call an all-in culture is if people are suffering from anxiety or, mental illness, or just stress. So when COVID hit and everybody locked down, our publisher called us and said, look, you've got time.

What are you guys working on? Cause we had just released leading with gratitude just in time for COVID. And that did very well for like three weeks. And then it kind of fell off the end of the table. So, Adrian had actually been working with his son. Anthony had suffered from anxiety from a very young age and he kept saying, look, my generation, this is all we talk about you old is you never talk about it.

I'm telling you this is a big deal. So, they brought me in, and we'd always been Gostick and Elton, right? And except for this book, it’s Gostick and Elton and Gostick. Anthony is a millennial. Has interviewed dozens of millennials for this subject? And this is where the data set the table for.

It became really obvious that we needed to do something about it. Pre-COVID about 18% of employees said that they suffered from some kind of anxiety disorder, mental health disorder, one in five, basically. Middle of 2020 survey again, it jumps to 30%. That's a 30-year workforce. Now Anthony was right employees in their twenties.

It was 42%. Now you're approaching half your workforce. And then when we looked at what happens when you don't feel safe talking about it. 50% of millennials and 75% of gen Zed or gen Z. We're Canadians, we say Zed, right. Said that they had recently left a job for a mental health issue. Well, we know that turnover is expensive.

We know that finding employees and good employees, once you find them, you want to keep them. So why are people quitting? Like why are they quitting their jobs? And this was the number Jeff that was shocking. Only 10% of employees said they felt safe talking about it. Only 10%. That means 90% are like, there's no way I'm going to admit that I'm suffering from any kind of disorder that I'm stressed, that I've, you know, my generation is we never talked about it.

And in fact, if you ever did talk about it, it would end your career. Our generation is you got a problem, rub some dirt on it. Get back in the game. You know, we'd play football, you'd get knocked out. Everybody laughed. They'd give you smelling salts and say, how many fingers am I holding up?

Close enough, go back. Well, it's a whole different ball game to use the football analogy. And this generation is going to save a lot of lives because of what happened in our generation ulcers, dysfunctional relationships, divorces. Right? So it was really interesting. It really became apparent in our work and culture that we had to address this issue.

And that set the table. Is there a need for it? Absolutely. Is there a stigma attached to it? It's still incredible. So, we talk about leaders, three things, normalize the conversation, de-stigmatize mental health, and be empathetic. So long answer to a very good question. Hopefully, that sets the table for your listeners.

Jeff Hunt:

It does. And by the way, those three things are just the right things to do anyway, right?

Chester Elton:

Yes. You know we laugh that our work always comes back to common sense. That is an uncommon practice.

Topic 3. How can companies help reduce the anxiety employees are feeling? (10:16)

Jeff Hunt:

So true. There are different ways that employees can experience anxiety or things that contribute to anxiety. Some of those things are company contributed elements and others are outside of the organization.

And so I'd love for you to just spend a few minutes talking about some ways that companies either contribute to or help reduce the anxiety that people are feeling.

Chester Elton:

As we looked at cultures and companies and organizations that are doing it well, they had a lot of things in common. One is that they were great communicators. A lot of work has been done at the Harvard school of business, on psychological safety, which I think is great and really important. I think with COVID we've had to up that game and raise that bar to emotional safety. So, how do I make it emotionally safe to talk about? First and foremost is if the leader is vulnerable and sets the stage. We've done a lot of work with Walmart Canada, a hundred thousand employees, the chief people officer there is Nabeela Ixtabalan.

I share her story because we have permission. She said, look, I introduced myself as a recovering workaholic that I put so much pressure on myself. I mean, my motto was there'll be time to rest when I'm dead. And was getting by on three, four hours sleep never said no to any assignment, always delivered rocketed up the promotion thing cost her dearly emotionally.

It cost her marriage and so on. And so it's interesting. So she tells her story and becomes vulnerable and says, I don't want this to happen to you. This is what happened to me now. She got an interesting push back that she shared with me, one of the employees said, well, easy for you to say now you're the chief people, officer, all that crap that you said is crap.

It got you to where you are today. Would it have happened if you had taken this other road? And I loved your answer. She said, yes. I honestly believe I still would've made it here. It would have taken me longer and that's a trade I would make. So that conversation alone now says. My boss has gone through this. She's sharing it with us. It's safe for me to share my story too. So that was number one. Does that resonate with you?

Jeff Hunt:

Absolutely. And I think that vulnerability is something that immediately starts building trust and it allows other people to share vulnerably about what's going on with them. And then we're actually treating people with compassion and empathy in the workplace.

And then if I understand it correctly, they're actually willing to work harder. If necessary, but do it in a way that's balanced and we're communicating openly and authentically, right?

Chester Elton:

Yeah. And it's interesting because you know we're in the world of soft skills and so many managers say, look, a soft skill is a nice to have, not a must-have.

I mean, the hard skills are what I want. I want people that are hitting it hard every day, checking the boxes, and getting stuff done. And our answer to that is, yeah, listen. Not a great strategy. You'll get stuff that you're going to burn people out. They're going to be overloaded. Trust me, you get the soft skills, right.

The hard skills follow. As the night follows day. Right? So it’s interesting little Shakespeare there. Cause that was the one class I got a good grade. The whole idea here is they say, look, I don't have a degree in counseling and psychology and all this stuff you're asking me to be vulnerable.

Well, I don't have that disorder. So how do I do it? I don't want to be the father confessor. I just want to get stuff done. So we say, look, here's one thing everybody can do. When your employees finally feel safe enough with you to talk about mental health, to talk about anxiety, they know you don't have a degree.

They know you're not a psychologist. Here's what they want you to do. And you can do it. They just want you to listen. Just listen, let them tell their story. We can all do that. And that's the first step to empathy. Brenee Brown’s written so wonderfully on this subject says, look be vulnerable, be empathetic.

And it starts with listening. I know that your problems are different than my problems, but I'm gonna tell you a couple of things. You are not alone. We can work through this together. I am here. I will listen. We will figure this thing out together. You can do that. And that helps de-stigmatize.

If we said, look, I was out skiing and I wrenched my knee, I literally need 10 days to rehab. We'd say, absolutely. What are you kidding? Take care of yourself. The same person comes in and says, look, I am just mentally, physically, spiritually exhausted. I need some time off just to reject.

Wait a minute. You knew this was a high-pressure job. We told you it was going to be hard. Now you're telling me you can't do it. I feel like there's a little bait and switch going on here. Why don't you just hunker down? Why don't you download a meditation app? I've heard that's great.

Meditate a couple of times a day. Ten minutes, no longer, we need you available. If you were to come to a friend and confess that and they said, Hey, download an app or just suck it up, buttercup. I don't think you'd be friends for very long. And I'm not saying as a manager, you have to be everybody's best friend.

What I'm saying is you're going to lose those people. Now you got a real problem because now you're, short-staffed. Now, what are you going to do? Spend a little time upfront listening, invest the little time around normalizing the conversation. De-stigmatizing the conversation and listening with a little bit of empathy, easy to say, hard to do.

Jeff Hunt:

It is it's such a great reminder though because it's really what people want most, isn't it? Is just to be listened to.

Chester Elton:

Yeah, is my voice heard? Does my opinion matter? You know, we talked about healthy cultures is a place where I believe what I do matters and I make a difference. And I always like to add to that. And when I make a difference, somebody noticed and said, thank you. As you know, in the eight strategies we talk about in the book, the eight strategies, gratitude.

And this is where the science became really interesting Jeff, because, you know, you discover that the human brain is not wired to keep you happy. It's wired to keep you safe. That's why we look for danger everywhere. That's why we've got all these things, you know, it's, I joke with my son.

I said every now and again, when your kids are crying in the backseat, take him out of the car seat and just snuggle him. And he says dad that's not safe. So, yes, I know that. I also want to point out the fact. You've been alive for 35 years. You've written in my car, literally thousands of times, how many accidents have we been in? Granted. There is a chance it's, it's almost the same chances as getting hit by lightning. So don't dare take your kid out of the car seat. Now I know this is not good. This is not good advice. Take your kids out of their car seats. See what I'm saying is that we're wired to keep ourselves safe, not happy. So one of the ways that you kind of rewire your brain, as you say, I can't be in a state of anxiety and a state of gratitude at the same time. So instead of looking for all the danger, I'm going to take a minute and look for all the things that are good in my life. I love this great quote from a guy named Russell M. Nelson.

He says, counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems. I just love that advice. You can't be in that state all the time. I get that there's danger out there. Absolutely. You know what? There's also a lot of good things out there. Take a deep. Count those for a minute, give your brain a break.

Jeff Hunt:

Exactly. And we can return to that state as often as needed. And every time we returned to that state of gratitude, it's a little stress reducer, isn't it?

Chester Elton:

Yeah. And I think one of the big messages that we need to send to employees everywhere is, look if you need some time, take some. The biggest message is you're not alone.

The biggest thing that happens as we start to fall on crazy times we're overloaded, we're anxious. We're not sleeping. We don't want to talk to anybody because we don't want to appear weak. I'll solve this on my own. No! And a friend just the other day texted me and she says, we just, I just need to take a break and I just leave me alone.

I'll be back in a couple of months. I don't deserve your friendship or your praise. Just let me work this out on my own. And it was so funny. We were texting and I went, Nope, that's not the way friendship works. The way friendship works are if you're in a deep dark hole. I'm going to climb down to that hole with you to make sure, you know, you're not all alone.

We can work through this together. The worst thing you can do, it's like in a restaurant, when you start to choke, they say, whatever you do, don't go off by yourself. Because if you really start to choke and you're all alone, there's no one there.

You can't perform the Heimlich, maneuver on yourself. It takes two people and the airlines, what do they say in a crisis? Put your mask on first, then go help other people. So all these analogies that I know you've heard a hundred times the idea of this point. If you can get that message across that I will listen.

I will care. And you are not alone. Those are monstrous steps forward to creating a safe environment where people feel safe about talking.

Topic 4. Dealing with anxiety as a manager. Is it ok to take a proactive approach? (20:14)

Jeff Hunt:

Yes. And we need to be reminded of those things a lot, just to really adopt them as a cultural attribute we need to be reminded. So I want to bring this to the perspective of a manager for a minute. So, I'm a manager and I notice one of my employees is anxious and it's manifesting itself maybe in a number of different ways in the work environment, but it's very clear to me. Is it ever okay to ask an employee if they have anxiety?

Chester Elton:

No. Quick answer to your question. And by the way, if you're a manager and you are noticing those things and you can tick that good for you because generally speaking high-performers, in particular, are really good about hiding it. We've all got friends that have finally confessed. Look, I suffer from anxiety my whole life, and we think you're the last.

I would think that's ever had a bad day in their lives, let alone suffer from anxiety. So we've developed some really great language around this and look for clues. We sometimes write it off as one that they're having a bad day, they're having trouble with their kid at home, whatever it might be changes in behavior.

Like you just mentioned their work isn't up to their normal standard of excellence. They’re maybe not participating as much as they used to. They're showing up late and they've never been late before those are clues instead of coming up and saying, by the way, I listened to Jeff Hunt's podcast and you have all the signs you're anxious, aren’t you?

The language that we love is what I've noticed. You know what Jeff, I've just noticed a couple of things and you make it work-related. I've noticed you'd have a tough time getting your work in on time. Look, if you're overloaded, let me know. So, we can work things out.

Everybody's doing more with less. Everybody's you know, dealing with all kinds of restrictions. And are we in school? Are we not in school? I really appreciate that. So is there anything I can do because I've noticed that it isn't. And then as the conversation evolves, you say by the way, if there's anything else you didn't need to talk about, know that I'm here, know that you're not alone.

Now, the language I've noticed is translated to those that hear it. And the translation is, I care. Isn't that interesting? When I say, Hey, I've noticed Jeff this and this and this, the translation is oh they've noticed. They care because they're paying attention to me in my work. So hopefully that's a tip.

That'll help you start the conversation in a non-threatening way.

Jeff Hunt:

And once again, it goes back to people wanting to be seen and heard. And so that's a method, just like what you're saying, that you, as a manager, are seeing the employee and you're hearing them and you're not doing it in a, in a sort of insulting or invasive way. You're doing it in an invitational way.

Chester Elton:

Yup. You're inviting them in it's a very soft invitation other than, wow, you have all the indicators. It's not a great way to start a conversation.

Topic 5. How to do performance management anxiety-free? (23:25)

Jeff Hunt:

Let's talk a little bit about the intersection of anxiety and performance management. This is such a sensitive topic to so many people.

And of course, I run a performance management company, but one of the things that is a good discipline in organizations is to assess performance regularly, but there are dysfunctional ways to do that. So you have things like the broken, dysfunctional, annual performance review, but how can organizations create an environment that transforms that, and what does it look like?

Chester Elton:

Well, I think this is something your company does really well. You know, you're encouraging check-ins. Just regular check-ins and it doesn't have to be the hour-long, you've prepared for a week bringing your PowerPoint we'll put it up on, it's check-ins it's, 5-10 minute check-ins.

Hey, you got a minute. I just want to check in with you really quickly. I know you're working on these three projects. How's that going? Do you need any more resources? Is there anything that's gonna cause you to maybe miss your deadline? What can we do to help? Those kinds of things, rather than like you say, the annual performance review at the beginning of the year, I give you your quota, and then 12 months later, I check-in and say, by the way, how did that go?

Oh, wait a minute. You're not the same person. Oh yeah. That guy quit, you know? These regular check-ins are really important. And like I say, it can be fairly informal. I think you need to have those formal check-ins as you profess as well, where we go through in detail and we've got our reports and we look at the data, those informal check-ins though.

Hey, just checking. Hi, how are you doing on this, this, and this? And by the way, how's the other stuff going, we're coming to the end of the school year. You're gonna need some time for graduations and stuff like that. No, you know enough about your place. I tell ya, the best leaders, Jeff, the best leaders know their employees' stories.

How did you get here? Now, what are you hoping to accomplish here and why? And then the best question is, and where do you want to go from here? Scott O'Neill is one of my favorite leaders of all time. He just stepped down to take a break here as the CEO of Philadelphia, 76 years in the NBA. And one of the things he says is to know your employee's dreams and help them get there.

He said you're going to have this conversation. One of your employees is going to say, you know what? I want to go to the moon. And you know, your job as a manager, help them get there. You help them get there. You may not get there, but I gotta tell you who doesn't want to work for a guy that wants to help me get to the moon.

You know, what it is? It comes back to that gratitude thing. I want to know that you're cheering for me and if you're not cheering for me, why? Why are you not cheering for me? I'm cheering for you.

Topic 6. The sandwich approach (26:12)

Jeff Hunt:

Talk a little bit more about that feedback and how important it is. Why should we get rid of the sandwich approach?

You know, when you're talking about feedback, I know you guys mentioned this in your book, but why is that not constructive doing the sandwich approach?

Chester Elton:

Yeah. Good news, bad news, good news kind of thing. We used to laugh that we were doing this for the hospital and they talked about bedpans.

You know, the worst job in the hospital is you got to do it, right. And they talked about that sandwich per se. You know it's beautiful bread, you know, baked by an Italian artisan. A little bit of cheese and garlic on top, right? That's the bread. And then you put this crap in the middle. Would you ever take a bite out of that sandwich?

Say, well, it's crap in the middle, yeah! But the bread. Do you see? Yeah. I'm still, no, I'm still not going to think about it, I don't care how good the bread is. This idea that we sometimes surround horrible news. One of the great leaders that we studied, a guy named Gary Ridge. I'm actually going to spend some time with him next week in San Diego with WD 40.

He talks about that. We don't make mistakes. We have learning moments. So little, we have no crap. We just have learned. Anthony Gustick, Adrian’s son said, he's a scientist. He's studying DNA and genomes and he's a really smart kid. He said, you know, science is just failure with notes.

It's just failure with notes. So this idea that we have problems to solve. And we're going to solve the problems. You are not the problem. We have a problem. So when you take that and you have that philosophy in that culture, there is no crap. There are just opportunities to learn. Nobody feels bad about making a mistake.

Now you don't want to be making the same mistake 10 times in a row that tells you something, right. We want to all pitch in and say, Hey, what are we learning? How do we do it differently next time? How can we prevent it from happening again? Gosh, that's a culture where everybody feels safe. So yeah, there's no need for the sandwich approach because trust me, no matter how good that bread may taste, you put crap on it.

Nobody's taken a bite, nobody.

Jeff Hunt:

So the end of the day, if I have feedback for an employee, it sounds like it's best to just approach them with that feedback in a way that hopefully, they can hear. And I'm checking in with myself before I go deliver that, to make sure that I'm not emotionally charged and that I'm in a good place.

And then the likelihood that they will hear it and we'll end up with a productive conversation and a better outcome goes up. Right?

Chester Elton:

Yeah. I love the philosophy of the great executive coach Marshall Goldsmith. He says, doesn't give feedback. That's in history. That's in the past. Give feedforward. Here's what happened. Here's how we're going to deal with it going forward. So I'm going to give you a feed-forward. What's happened we can't change that. What we can change is how we react to it, how we correct it, and how we move forward. So, yeah, it's a much healthier approach to any kind of situation, by the way. It works great with your kids.

Jeff Hunt:

Exactly. Yeah. One is a backward-looking punitive approach and one is a forward-looking coaching developmental approach.

Chester Elton:

Exactly. And that's a great word coaching, are you coachable? Cause we're going to coach you and by the way, you're going to make mistakes, you know? And nobody's perfect. Like nobody. And if they say they are the one thing, you know, for sure is they're not telling the truth because nobody's perfect.

Topic 7. How do companies contribute to anxiety? (29:53)

Jeff Hunt:

What are some ways that companies contribute to anxiety?

Chester Elton:

What a great question, overload well look, let's back up. The number one strategy is dealing with uncertainty.

That is the number one cause of anxiety. So one of the things companies do badly is they don't communicate enough or often enough or in enough channels, there are still some old-school managers out there it's on a need-to-know basis, Jeff and you're never going to. Employees particularly now there's a lot of uncertainty.

Do they want to know how am I doing? Where are we? Where do we want to go? And how do I fit in that plan? So those are the questions you need to be constantly answering. And that comes with lots and lots of information, lots of communication, and in different ways. Townhall meetings, blast emails, maybe you got a company Facebook platform.

Those are ways that you can be on a regular basis and consistently. And if you don't know the answer to the question, say, Hey, I don't know we're working on the answer. We'll get back to you. And then, by the way, get back to them. So yeah, that's the first thing companies do about it. The second thing is overload.

They just keep haunting on and say, look, you knew it was a high-stress job when you took it. And you're on 24/7. Well, that can work short-term, the problem is it doesn't work long-term so again, what you and your company do so well, those little checks. How are we doing?

Have you got enough resources to actually deliver on the promise? Do we need to bring in more people? What's going to cause you to miss this deadline? If anything. So I think those two things are things that companies tend to say, Hey, We put it in the company newsletter. We've got the posters on the wall.

What more do you want? Well, I need a little more than that. And secondly, is the overload. We do it with our top performance, cause they never say no. So we keep piling it on absolutely.

Jeff Hunt:

With the organizations that do this really well. What's the ROI? Because you get the C-suite executives.

They're looking at the financial implications. If I'm a for-profit organization, what's the ROI that they see when they create cultures with psychological safety and resilience?

Chester Elton:

The great resignation, I'm sure you've heard so much about it or the great re-evaluation, people have had time to really kind of figure out what's really important in my life.

And do I really want to go back to that job that drove me crazy? And so this idea that you've got to check-in and I've got to feel safe that I've got to have that ROI at the end is leaders that will just listen. The numbers, I think it was the hay group. If I'm not mistaken said, managers that will listen to employees are 65% less likely to burnout less likely to burn out, those that don't are two and a half times more likely to have people quit on them.

So that matrix alone and turnover should be incentive enough. The other benefit of course is now you've got anxiety levels are lower. Engagement is higher. People are refreshed, they're innovative. And the return is two times higher than companies that don't. So you say, how can we get a competitive advantage?

Well, the competitive advantage is care about. Now, we've always known that now we've got a very specific thing that's going on that we can address and bring all those tools. And it's around mental health and anxiety, at Walmart, Canada, Walmart US, their number one priority this year is mental health for their employees.

And they talk about it all the time. Knowing that my company has made it the number one initiative, I can take a deep breath. I go, okay, well, I'm going to put you to the test when I'm overloaded. I'm going to let you know and now I want to see what are you going to do about it?

Jeff Hunt:

And I can also contribute to a culture where we get really good at that.

Chester Elton:

Exactly. And I can be an ally. I can be an advocate when I see coworkers that are still afraid to talk about it, I can go and say, listen, I've noticed that there's a lot going on it. You know, it happened to me too. I went to the villa. And boy, I gotta tell you the company. They will live up to their promises.

They did it for me. They'll do it for you. How great is that?

Jeff Hunt:

It's fantastic. Becomes a place that people are very attracted to work for. Recruiting becomes much easier. Turnover goes down. There's so many great byproducts that result.

Chester Elton:

And you know what Jeff, and I know, you know, this I'm preaching to the choir. It's just the right thing to do.

Jeff Hunt:

It goes back to the very beginning of our conversation.

Chester Elton:

WD 40 they're number one values do the right thing, he says “and if you can't do that, none of the other values matter”. So do the right thing. And I as we're on this tangent here, I think leaders, those of you that are listening and coworkers, we have an obligation to each other.

And I know this is going to sound a little weird. We have an obligation to send each other home happy. Now why, because of the ripple effect, will you know that when you've had a hard day, when your opinion doesn't matter, people aren't listening to you, they're treating you like crap. They're giving you impossible deadlines and no resources to get it done.

You're frustrated and you're angry. And where do you take that? You take it home and the ripple effect and how you treat your spouses and your partners and your kids and your pets, right? It's all negative. And the opposite is true. You have a great day where your voice was heard, you were involved in a great project.

You had the resources to get it done. You had a customer that raved about your service. You go home and you are ready to embrace the most important part of your life. So, the University of California did a study. They said employees that are engaged and happy at work, are 150% more likely to be happy to engage in their personal lives.

Wow. Game set and match.

Jeff Hunt:

Yeah. It reminds me of a recent guest who had just had on the podcast, Daniel Harkavy, who's the CEO of building champions, which is a coaching organization. He said his number one job every day is to turn on the light switch on people's hearts. And that everybody has a light switch on their heart.

And my job is to either turn it on. You can turn it on or you can turn it off. And so what you're describing Chester is, the opportunity that we all have to turn that light switch on and the broad implications, it has both at work and at home when we do it really well.

Chester Elton:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I've interviewed Harkavy.

He's amazing. And the guy you just said, well, he just gets it and then has executed on it and sees tremendous results. So yeah, after you've bought anxiety at work and leading with gratitude and read those books by his book, it's fantastic. It should be on your shelf.

Topic 8. Lightning round questions (37:09)

Jeff Hunt:

Absolutely. Okay. Let's switch to some lightning-round questions.

My first one is related to Thanksgiving, which is right around the corner. And you actually wrote a book on this. You have an organization about it. So I would expect you to know the answer. What are you most grateful for?

Chester Elton:

You know, I am so grateful for so many things. I keep your gratitude journal and I write in it almost every day.

I give myself a little grace when I am missed, and I'm just so grateful for the amazing people in my life. Adrian Gostick my coauthor is so funny right before we did this, we were talking, we were working through some stuff and I said, Adrian, I just don't want you to ever think I take our partnership for granted. You know I keep a gratitude journal and I just want you to know how often your name shows up on my list. And by the same token, my dad and I used to joke that the one thing we both had in common is we married a well above our station. And my wife is my north star and my chancellor of the Exchequer.

She's my biggest cheerleader. And wonderfully patient with me. So two of the really important people and I could go on and on, my kids, my grandkids, and so on, but I am really grateful for being surrounded by amazing people. I've been truly blessed.

Jeff Hunt:

What is the most difficult leadership lesson you've learned over your career?

Chester Elton:

That you've got to make decisions faster, particularly on people. Adrian and I, made that mistake too often. We think we can work around somebody who's toxic. We can work around the situation. No, give everybody the chance, to buy into your system.

We saved the Ford motor company. It says, look, this is our culture. And we really want you to buy in. And if you can't buy it, that's okay. I mean it really is, if you're not going to get it, that's okay. You just can't work here anymore and we will wish you well. He says I've never fired anybody. One of my toughest, because I think that people can be redeemed.

Hope against hope and in most cases that's not the case. So cut the cord, quicker, sooner than later.

Jeff Hunt:

Who's one person you would interview if you could? Living or not.

Chester Elton:

I've had this question before and I've answered it badly every time. And I finally have come up with the right answer.

At least for me is I'm the youngest son of the youngest son in my family and my grandfather, David Horton Elton was a remarkable man. He was a lawyer. He ran newspapers. He was mayor of his little town in Southern Alberta Lethbridge for eight years. He was a poet. He was an extraordinarily gifted public speaker. By the time I was old enough to meet him, he was too old. And I would love to sit down with my grandpa and have him tell me his life story in his words. I mean, that to me would be such a gift.

Jeff Hunt:

That'd be remarkable. What's the single most important thing you would want our Human Capital listeners to take away from our talk today? If you could distill it down to one or two things.

Chester Elton:

Yeah, that you're not alone. I just love that message. You are not alone. There is always somebody that is cheering for you. And when you are in those dark halls and those places that we all go to the way to pull yourself out is to know that you have people around you that care for you, that cheer for you, and they would do anything for you.

All you have to do is ask. And I get that asking is hard. We all want to serve, we don't want to be served. So let me share context with you. Hopefully, we'll make it easier. Adrian and I do a lot of executive coaching and we coach CEOs and they've always got to be on. They can never have a bad day.

People say I don't want to ask for help. So, really, you don't. When people ask you for help, do you offer your help? I love serving. I go, how does it make you feel? It makes me feel great. So great. Why would you cheat someone else out of that? Let them serve you. You will benefit and they will feel great when people offer help or when you need help, please ask for it.

Everybody wins and I know that's hard and yet it's the right thing to do.

Jeff Hunt:

Such a great illustration. Thank you Chester so much for coming on the show today and sharing all these insights with us.

Chester Elton:

Hey, you know, it's been a delight. Clearly, you've done this before, Jeff. I loved your questions. I love the flow.

And hopefully, a couple of things that we talked about today, will benefit some people anxiety is the number one issue in the workplace today. We've got to figure it out. We've got a normalize, de-stigmatize, and empathize. And if we did that today, Jeff, we did some good work. Thanks for inviting me.


Closing music jingle/sound effects

Jeff Hunt:

Thanks for listening to the show this week. We release new episodes every other Tuesday. Let me know what you thought of this episode by emailing humancapitalgoalspan.com. Human capital is produced by GoalSpan. Subscribe, wherever you get your podcasts. And please share this podcast with your colleagues, team, or friends. Thanks for being human kind.

Human Capital — 29. Principal, Gostick and Elton, LLC
replay15 play_circle_filled pause_circle_filled replay15