Embracing our Humanity: Accepting Vulnerability and Authenticity
About This Episode
In the workplace and our everyday lives there is often immense pressure to appear as if we have all the answers and be devoid of showing any weakness. But we as humans are emotional species — sometimes we may not feel ‘okay,’ and we are not always perfect. Jez Rose, renowned behavior expert, broadcaster, and award-winning writer, speaker, and host, joins host Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek to discuss accepting our own vulnerabilities and authentic selves inside and outside of the workplace, sharing that it’s okay to be imperfect.
Interested in further exploring different resources mentioned in this episode?
You can watch Jez Rose in Skillsoft’s Perspectives 2020 here.
And finally, read host Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek’s blog article “Love is Never the Wrong Decision” here.
The views expressed by guests are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft.
Michelle BB 00:00:07 Welcome to the edge, a Skillsoft podcast, and now a video podcast for learners and leaders alike. In every episode, we engage in candid thought provoking conversations on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace. And today we're going to talk about being authentic and vulnerable as professionals, as learners, as everyday people. And let me tell you, I'm, uh, feeling a little bit vulnerable being on camera this time. So I want you to think back to a time when you were in a meeting, whether that was in-person or virtual, um, perhaps in reaction to a tough question, a call for ideas or an impasse that required somebody to recommend a way ahead. You felt deep down that you had something to say to the group, but, but you stopped. You didn't say it. Why maybe the sentence on the tip of your tongue, wasn't a stunning projection of confidence or the perfect advice, but you wanted to say it, but couldn't you had, yeah, I had a sense or a moment of vulnerability and you just couldn't get out.
Michelle BB 00:01:05 Or perhaps the answer in your mind was, I don't know the way ahead, or I think we need help. What stops us from saying how we really feel, or being who we really are? You know, I read a report from Deloitte that revealed a major gap between what leaders and their employers believe two-thirds of leaders say they have created environments at work that are empowering. These leaders believe their employees can be themselves and innovate without fear of failing. However, only one third of employees agreed. So two thirds of leaders believe that they've created this empowering environment, but only a third of the people who work for them actually believe that. So what's behind the disparity. Well, I mean, I'll tell you saying what's on your mind. Isn't easy. Although, you know, sometimes we it's there. We want to say it when we're encouraged to turn on that resolute, that infallible work persona we often do.
Michelle BB 00:02:05 So because we are afraid and let's face it. We do this in our personal lives as well. You know, it, it takes, I think a level of earned trust for people to feel like they have permission to take risks, to try new approaches. And this is where leadership really needs to come in. Now, look, I don't want to do this really huge preamble here because we have an amazing guest today. Who's going to be far more eloquent on the topic. And he is an expert. Someone who leads by example, when speaking about authenticity and vulnerability, by studying it, living it and helping others do the same. Jess Rose. One of my favorite people on earth is a renowned behavior expert, broadcaster award-winning writer, speaker host, and yes, master beekeeper. He is the author of six books, including flip the switch, achieve extraordinary things with simple changes to how you think and has deep experience as a behavior insight advisor, delivering keynotes workshops and hosting conferences.
Michelle BB 00:03:05 And that's actually how Jess and I met, right? We were thrilled to have him keynote Skillsoft's 20, 20 perspectives. And if you didn't see him speak there, what are you waiting for? You can head to our website and you can watch it now. Now, well, maybe not now, I want you to watch this first now getting to know Jess, I was inspired by his ability to help people navigate and deal with life's messy and complicated challenges. And frankly, he made me laugh and I'm not talking about little giggles. I'm talking about big, big belly. Laughs. Oh, um, Hey guys, just one minute. Can we just, can we just hold for one minute? Cause I think that this is really important. Um, Jen, I bought something...
Michelle BB 00:03:48 Wait a minute if you, if you don't like this one, hold on, hold on. I don't know if this is really your style.
Jez 00:03:54 Hold on here. Oh yes. That one. It goes through your decor.
Michelle BB 00:04:05 So Jess, I won't wear this the whole time, cause I'm not sure we'll get through it, but I want to welcome you to the edge. It is so great to see you again, although without your share head dress. So I thought I'd bring my own and you know, I have to say, I had really hoped that our next meeting would be on your farm.
Jez 00:04:22 Yeah, that would be lovely. I'm loving the fact that there may be people that are tuned in now and haven't got the context of the head dress and they're so looking at you and going what the, I mean, this woman is unhinged. Look, she is just I'm feeling place now.
Michelle BB 00:04:46 Well, okay. So let's, let's
Jez 00:04:47 Tell everybody, let's tell everybody why.
Michelle BB 00:04:53 Hi, I am wearing set headdress. So people probably don't know this, but when Jay, when I was going to interview Joe's for the very first time before perspectives and we were going to have a chat, I did a little bit of research, right? We always do our research. It's important. You have to know who it is you're going to talk to. So I found Jess, you know, on LinkedIn, I found his Ted talk and I actually found him on Facebook. And I watched a video of him celebrating his birthday by himself, where he wore a magnificent, I mean, I'm stunning, Cher, like head dress. And so when we did our first podcast together, I said, Jess, you must wear that to Skillsoft Skillsoft perspectives. And so he put a poll out and believe it or not, everybody told me I'd wear the headdress. So he did. And for that, I just felt like I should reciprocate.
Jez 00:05:45 I love it. I love, love it. I love it. We need photos. We need like, uh, photos of us, both in them as like a pot.
Michelle BB 00:05:53 You know what I think we will do that. I think we will do that. We'll capture photos out of this and I'll find the one of you from we've got that great. One of you from perspectives. Um, and I'm gonna, I'm going to take it off now because I'm just not sure we're going to make it through the episode. Otherwise it is stunning though.
Jez 00:06:09 Like you've got a third eye there. It's amazing.
Michelle BB 00:06:13 Yeah, I know. I know. All right. All right. So, um, look, you know, as I mentioned, I have had the pleasure of getting to know you, your passion for nature, um, your keen sense of empathy, especially here and your sense of humor. Um, but you know what, I, I know I didn't do you justice, so I want you to tell your listeners or our listeners about yourself and, and maybe even something that might surprise them.
Jez 00:06:36 Oh, wow. Okay. Well, 30 seconds then. Cause I find it really boring talking about myself. So, um, I, uh, trained in, in human behavior. So I worked for the best part of, uh, I guess 12 years as a behavior insight advisor. So extensively my job is to understand why people do the things they do and how to change them for the better. Um, did a bit of research that formed the book, flip the switch, which was, uh, into what the difference was between ordinary organizations that didn't really necessarily achieve very much, uh, and groups of people and extraordinary ones. Why was it that some people knocked it out of the park and some people didn't was that behavior or was it learned? Could we do anything about it? Um, I then, uh, I grew up in the countryside and then moved to a decommissioned farm it and I instantly became something became really connected with nature.
Jez 00:07:26 And so I started a two year research study into the impact that nature has on human health, wellbeing and behavior. It's a little bit more articulated in the media now, but at the time it really wasn't, you know, there's a landmark study in the seventies that was done, which proved that interacting with nature can be hugely beneficial for us. And then a few little things here and there, but nothing, you know, nothing really significant. Um, and that space is where I've been since, because there is so much more work still to do. And, uh, it's an incredibly exciting one now to come full circle. Uh, you know, when you've got a farm, you get a wonderful opportunity to different stuff. And so, uh, I started commercially keeping, uh, honeybees to re-introduce the native British honeybee into this country. I'm in the UK. Um, and, uh, there's a little, little diversion I spent about six years presenting kids TV in the UK. And then I do some, I came out of TV and I do some other broadcast stuff now, uh, on adult TV, that, that, that is an adult TV. That's just like as in not killing. Okay.
Michelle BB 00:08:25 I, I, you know what, we weren't even going to clarify that, but okay, thank you.
Jez 00:08:29 I should really, if you're gonna add quote and it's, you know, could be construed as what those air quotes mean. Right. I just thought I need to level with you that, um, before people start searching and I can't be responsible for waiting to find, um, you've already mentioned the headdress. People could link those two together and be like, Ooh, what is she? Who is she interviewing on this thing now?
Michelle BB 00:08:51 I hope everybody realizes that when they get, you know, just when they're watching this, I think first and foremost, if we, if we brighten somebody's day with a little bit of levity, I will feel like we have done our job does
Jez 00:09:03 Well. Sure. And I suppose that is the last sort of five, 10 seconds. The lens to bring us back to where you started buying the farm has been the worst thing I've ever done in my life, but also equally the most rewarding. Um, it was just the most emotional financial, I mean, it was the quickest route to bankruptcy. I could think of like, if anybody just doesn't want any of their money anymore. And once you know their doctor to investigate them for a brain tumor that turns out to be stress, uh, heart disease that turns out to be stress, um, to flare up a cancer scare, go buy a farm. Like it is the quickest route you can do. Um, and so that is why I hid all of those things. And from working in TV and also with corporate organizations for the best part of my life, I sincerely believed that everybody had to be perfect. I, since I totally bought in to the toothpaste commercial, uh, you know, bright, shiny teeth suit, perfect hair, manicured, everything, nobody let's not talk about emotions. Let's just talk about corporate strategy and everything being perfect. Right. I totally bought into that. Um, and it was the vulnerability of being, you know, financially broke and the health scares and just being stripped, bare being here on this farm that I realized actually, that this was all false and that the real things in life are what really matters. So that was
Michelle BB 00:10:29 Well, thank you. And, and, you know, I, I applaud and appreciate your willingness to come on and be both authentic and vulnerable because, you know, look, I think a lot of people can relate to that right now, especially, you know, the pandemic has shown a light, I think on all of us or it's created this, this new lens through which we look and in a lot of cases, there are things that we cared so much about before that we just couldn't give a little bleep about. And I think this is a family friendly show. So I'll say bleep. And I recognize as well that some of that is spilling over into our work life. I mean, I will tell you, we know people are under tremendous pressure, both at work and in home and leaders in particular, they've got to project this, this strength, right. This conviction to employees. But what if they're not feeling it? I mean, what if they, they too are suffering? We don't know who's sick. We don't know what's going on in their personal lives. We don't know how the pandemic has affected them financially or otherwise. What do we say to leaders about the fact that it is okay to be vulnerable and it is okay for your employees to see you perhaps less than perfect.
Jez 00:11:49 I wish there was an alternative to the word vulnerable. I'm really struggling with that word. It is so emotionally hung up. Right. And I haven't found the alternative yet. They're the most colloquial version of I've heard is it's okay to not be okay. Right. Um, uh, so the thing about vulnerability is this right? Most, most people in management or leadership roles, we're very good at something else. Um, and so they were a really good salesperson or they were a really good HR manager or director or whatever, uh, sorry, uh, HR lead, um, or whatever, technical, operative, whatever. And somebody said, you're really good at that job. Why don't we take you out of that job and make you a manager, which is a totally different job, right? That's like being, I don't know, a Baker and saying, Oh, I'm going to set up my own business while running a business.
Jez 00:12:37 And being a Baker are two very different skills, right? Just because of the fact that if you want to be self-employed, they have to come together. So, you know, the fact of the matter is there's an awful lot of people that are in leadership or management roles that at their very core hand on heart, don't feel that they have all the answers to the problems. They don't feel 100% confident in their role. Um, and that's why their bookshelves are full of books, right. Even though they had some leadership or management training, they're still buying who moved my cheese, they're still buying, you know, top 10 leadership strategies or whatever. So there's this weird perceived, um, pressure as a human being that you need to have the answer to everything you need to, um, be able to lead people. And, and that, if you don't, you aren't worthy of that role.
Jez 00:13:24 It's almost this weird self pressure that we put ourselves from heaven forbid, anybody should say, I'm not really sure what to do. I don't know the best direction, you know, and actually the irony irony, the irony is we say things differently over here. I'm sorry. I'm just thinking as I'm talking very differently specifically here. Um, so the, the irony is that there, there is this vulnerability that we need to tap into this authenticity. Let's, let's kind of talk about that because I think fundability is a scale what's vulnerable to one person is going to be very comfortable for another. So to move yourself into that space, you've got to find a point on that scale that you're comfortable with. You know, you don't have to share things intimately personal about your personal life. If you don't want to, that's not about, you know, you don't have to do that.
Jez 00:14:17 Um, you make the choice based on the things that you feel uncomfortable, but it is about pushing that comfort zone. Right. And write a note real quick on comfort zones is that we make our own comfort zones. They are entirely made up like your comfort zone is based on where you are comfortable talking or acting with it. And so if you made the zone, then you can make it smaller or bigger. Uh, so the very fact of the matter is we have complete control over whether we feel comfortable or uncomfortable. It's just that we feel the need to move that comfort zone massively all the time, rather than just a tiny little bit. So, um, you know, one of the things I would suggest that we start to think about across the board leadership, or not as you start to think about what you are willing to be vulnerable about.
Jez 00:15:03 Um, so perhaps it could be as simple as everybody looks to you and they say, okay, Mrs. Leader, what are we going to do? Like, ah, crap, crisis chaos point. You tell us, we need to know, uh, maybe that's the point that you say, I don't know myself specifically what we should do, but why don't we decide as a team, what collectively we feel is better for all of us in order to move forwards, because that's not showing weakness. This is the annoying thing. You know, I often wonder you are going to have to stop me because I'm going to go off on one. Right?
Michelle BB 00:15:37 Keep going, keep going. Good.
Michelle BB 00:15:40 I wish I had some popcorn right now. Like seriously,
Jez 00:15:44 W you know, it's, it's almost as if organizations are worried that if they allow people to be, to bring emotional emotions in or to, to share emotion, that they're going to walk into the staff from, there'll be people with their forearms over their foreheads. And they'll go in the know it's all too much. And they're walk into the boardroom and they'll just be miss SCARA everywhere. And people rocking in a chair and it's like that. Isn't, you know, we are sentience emotional species. That that's what we are. And to block emotion out, to say that you can't demonstrate emotion in some way on the varying levels is tantamount to, I think, abuse. And I think it's disrespectful to the human race, to the, to the species of, of human beings. And I think it's disrespectful to individuals to expect people and to not nurture them, to be a bit more in touch and be human. You don't have to cry at work. You don't have to be angry at work. You don't have to do it. It's not extremists it's about saying actually, do you know what? I don't feel so good today. I feel a bit deflated today. I feel a bit Nair. I feel, you know, one of the best things we can do every morning, you say, how do you feel you wake up every morning? You say, how do I feel?
Michelle BB 00:16:54 You know, I really like that. You know, I think this kind of, how are you has become really generic, but the, how do you feel? No, really? I mean like, how, how are you? I mean, what are we going to say? I don't, um, I'm not great, but if you say, how do you feel? It might give people a moment pause to say, Hmm, how do I feel? Maybe take stock because you know, let's face it. This world has gotten a little bit crazier. I think, um, everything is magnified during this pandemic because w we're not going as many places. I mean, that's pretty clear. Um, we are, I'm going to say the word locked up with the same people every day. And I, I love these people, but I kind of sometimes need to get away from them. And there's really not an opportunity to do that.
Michelle BB 00:17:39 And I say that with all sincerity and a little bit of humor, but truly we are, we are in this same tight circle without the ability to really connect in person with people. We have jobs still, and we are trying to manage children and jobs and school and work and take care of our people. And they'll tell you it, as a, as a manager, as a leader, it, it can get tough. And there are times when I don't have the answers. And frankly, it's a, it's a little harder than I would like. And so I wonder now, and I guess the question for you is, do we need to, maybe over-rotate a little bit as leaders and think about how to help our employees with their mental wellbeing. Do we need to really provide more resources, more access, or just open a door for people to talk about how they feel? Because I, I worry that we're not there yet. I worry that we still, that we might want to ask that question, but we're not doing it yet. And we're not helping people through what is really a challenging time.
Jez 00:18:44 Yeah. And it goes, I think the thing, the reason for that is because w and, and th the interesting thing from my point of view from a research point of view is it's very different geographically across the world. Certain countries are much more allowing of let's use the term emotion, um, and others much more restrictive, but I think it all comes down to that fear of change. Right. It's okay. So now we're saying you can be a different person at work. Well, yeah, this feels like we might be losing control over these, these people. Um, but it's not fear it's trust. You mentioned trust in introduction, and that's where all of this hinges on it's trusting that you yourself have value and worth, you know, we all have a voice. And if we have a voice, then to be able to say, you don't agree with something is okay to be, you don't have to agree with everything.
Jez 00:19:42 And that's okay. And equally, if you disagree with something, that's okay, too. It's about how we agree and how we disagree. That will move us on behaviorally and culturally as a group. And as an organization, you know, w we are adults, you can have six people around a table and someone can say, Oh, I'm not so cool on that idea, actually. And everybody else can be respectful of that, but you don't have to agree with it. You know, I have friends of almost every, actually that's a mass exaggeration because there are something like over 200 religions or something like that. But all the main religions, I have Jewish friends and Christian friends from various different variations and Catholic fringe and seek friends and Hindu friends and, and agnostic friends and atheist friends. And, but I will respect them greatly, you know, I don't have to.
Jez 00:20:30 So you have to choose where your level is. So at one extreme, we've got, I like blue, or my favorite colors, yellow. You're an idiot. I'm not talking to you. You know, that would never happen. Would it? So why do we get, uh, here's one idea for a marketing campaign? Here's another, I don't like that one. I like this one. And then we end up with some weird kind of atmosphere. Yeah. Where just because you don't like, is that okay? It's okay. Not to like either of those and it's okay to be genuine and sincere is here's the example I often give when you're dating. Um, very often what happens is at the very top end of a relationship, people let things go, okay. Because they are really vested in the idea of being with this other person. So they tend to ignore some of those behaviors and whatever.
Jez 00:21:18 And then when the relationship seems to have gone somewhere there in kind of six months time, and you're still together, those things start to unpick. And you say, actually, would you mind not that really annoys me when you do that. And can you, can you just say that differently? Because when you talk, that sounded really great, cause it sounds like you're sharing at me or can you not do that? And understandably, the other person says, well, where did this come from? We've like all of a sudden, like six months later, you want me to change my behavior? Because at the top end, you weren't truthful and honest with yourself. You weren't genuine. You weren't vulnerable enough to say at the very beginning, Ooh, actually that doesn't quite sit with me. He, we should talk that through and do that. So that there's a consistency in our behavior.
Jez 00:21:58 And that's the same at work. You know, if something doesn't sit right, we should be able to say and need to be able to say for our own mental health and that of our colleagues that, you know, maybe this isn't, this isn't right, right now, you know, I don't feel so good about this. And it's good to come in and be honest and vulnerable and say, I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the weather. I didn't sleep very well last night, but I feel a bit, I just feel a bit rubbish today and for other people to rally around and say, Oh, that's okay. You're allowed to, I feel pimps today. That's okay. Because it's, you're human, that's normal. Let's show you some of these great targets we've got, let's play this video. We're going to be with you today. Let me get you a coffee and you pick those people up.
Jez 00:22:36 Right. So this idea that, um, that you can't be okay is really important. We need to start admitting that we're, um, we're not okay with something or we don't feel okay or we do feel okay. Um, but going back to my point, I said before, because I want to ask you a question as well is, okay. The very first thing in the morning, you know, how do I feel today? Or go into a meeting? How do we feel, or collectively as an organization, how do we feel after you've answered? How do we feel? The next question is, how do I want to feel? You know, how, how do we feel better about this? Because you have a choice, you don't have to be miserable about something, right? And it takes time sometimes to shift emotionally from one space to another. But the fact that we're not even talking about this, infuriates me, Michelle, inferior it, people say to me, I'm going to quick rant.
Jez 00:23:26 And then I promise we'll carry on. Um, people will say to me, they call these things soft skills. And they say, you know, we're going to get Jess to talk about kind of the soft skills of, uh, you know, kind of emotional intelligence and yada yada. And I'm straight away. I strip that right down. And these are not, these are core essential skills about being human. And we would have a lot less mental health problems. We would have a lot better leadership and we would have a lot stronger cultures, as you quite rightly said, that piece of research has been around for a couple of years now. I looked into it before and I didn't believe it. That's why I pulled it apart in search. It was that how can there be such a discordance between leadership and their people? Um, so anyway, anyway, I'm sorry. I've drank.
Michelle BB 00:24:09 Look, I, I like it. We actually, I don't love the term soft skills. We actually refer to them as power skills because I feel like they are powerful. Right? Well, and look, I didn't make, I didn't come up with that. I didn't come there. There's a, uh, Josh Berson I'll give credit to Josh Berson, but, but the point is this, I love this notion that they are power skills because they make us more powerful at home in the workplace, soft skills, diminishes them as a skill. And that's not it. You want to have you, you, you want to be strong. And then look, it's not just this sort of emotional piece. It's also things like communication and collaboration, the ability to work with other people, right? Those are skills that we must have in today's workplace. And if we're not giving them to people, they're not going to be effective in their job.
Michelle BB 00:24:56 If we're not allowing them to learn these things, if we're not providing the tools, just because they can do the job, kind of what you talked about with the Baker and the owning the business. It's really helpful. I said to my daughter, and now I'm going to go off on a little rant. I said to my daughter, she's a senior in high school. And so she's selecting college, although I'm not gonna let her leave. Um, she's selecting college now and she doesn't know what she wants to do. Right? She has no idea. And I said, get a business degree at a minimum. If you have a good solid business foundation, then you can find the thing you love and do that too. But you should, you should be able to know how to run a business and, and understand sort of the financial implications of, of being able to manage and run that business. And so I think you can't have one without the other. You can't just do the job if you don't have these other critical power skills to go along with it.
Jez 00:25:53 Yeah. Well, or release, let's not call it a rent. There's all, there's your, there's your integrity and your honesty. That's your, that's your truth that you're going to bring to today's podcast. And that's another thing, you know, maybe we should start talking a little bit about or changing the names and the language that we use around all of this stuff, right? Because it's, it's not about being weak. It's not about being, um, you know, not having the answers or that it's not, you know, the vulnerability can be a positive thing. Vulnerability is just about being laid bare and saying, I'm not going to put these blockers in these walls up. And these barriers, um, you know, any therapist of any kind traumatic therapy, relationship therapy, <inaudible> therapy, whatever personal therapy, they will tell you all of the same thing that if you were very good at human beings at, um, particularly actually in, in the UK, British people are probably the worst of all cultures for this stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on, right?
Jez 00:26:51 You just pack them into a little box like that, push them away. And if we ignore them, roll them into a little ball and we'll just kind of hope that they go away. But of course they never do. They sit there like a Jack in the box. And at some point when you least need them to do, and when you least want them to, and when you're least expecting them to, they will explode out of that box, like a Jack in a box and they will rugby tackle you to the ground and say, you're going to deal with me and you're gonna deal with me now. Um, and that's where most midlife crisis happen. It's where most stresses at work happen, because you've been trying to suppress and hide something that is normal, that is emotional. And the longer you leave it, and the longer you try to pretend, it's not there, the worse it gets. So, um, it, this for me, Michelle is about being human. That's all it is. What is it to be human? Right? We are vulnerable. We are creative. We are loving, we are loved. We are obsessive. Uh, we are ambitious. We are a beating heart. We are human. Um, and it's okay. And we should embrace the fact that we are human.
Michelle BB 00:27:51 I love that. I love that. I, you know, and I think, I think we forget that. I almost want to put it on a little post-it note on my computer and I, and I, and I actually mean that because I think that as we go through our days, it's really, really easy to get caught up in the moment in the, what we're working on, um, in the way that we think others perceive us. And we forget right. That everybody, Hey, we're all going through this together. I, I do want to ask you a question because this is something I've been worrying about a little bit, and I think you might actually probably be able to provide some guidance. You know, we're in the midst of a pandemic. And obviously again, that has limited our ability to do things. And I worry as we head into winter, we're in the Northern hemisphere, um, where I live, uh, in the Northeast, it's going to get dark and gray and probably a little gloomy for a few months, um, and cold, very, very, very, very cold. Um, what would be your guidance, you know, as we think about this need to, or, or the fact that we can't connect the fact that we're not outside as much, the fact that, you know, we're not in nature at this moment, what are the little things that we can do during these winter months, maybe to help raise our spirits? Because we can see kind of, I think a light at the end of the tunnel, but I'm not entirely sure. Like, I just want to get through the next two to three months.
Jez 00:29:20 My heart is bursting. I love being asked this question so much. Um, I get to keep that,
Michelle BB 00:29:25 Is it a good one or was it kind of that, Oh, I got to answer this one again. No,
Jez 00:29:29 This is an amazing one. I love that so much. There's so much, but I'm going to keep this short and brief and cause this is, this could be a workshop. Um, so, um, number one is there is a, a huge amount of research about light. You need to get yourself a sad lamp. Seasonal affective disorder affects more than 80% of people in the UK and something like 87% of people in the U S so this is a thing you probably don't even know you have used to in our grandparents' days used to be called the winter blues. It's exactly what you're talking about, right? Is this waking up in the morning and it being pitch black and you think, Oh, do you know what? I just don't wanna get out of bed. You get to four o'clock in the afternoon in this country. I don't know what it is.
Jez 00:30:10 Depends where you are actually time zone wise in the us. And it's suddenly that it's like someone turns the lights off outside, but you still got a struggle on for an hour at work till we can leave the office. Yada, yada. So sad lamps are phenomenal. They, um, there's an alarm clock type thing. Mine's got bird music or the radio, or you can plug a USB stick in it. Mine's quite old. You give better ones now. And essentially what happens is it's a soft, warm light that gradually starts to, uh, um, get brighter over a period of like 30 minutes, 45 minutes. So as you're asleep, it mimics behind your closed eyelids. It mimics the rising of the sun to gradually stimulate your brain. Now, the difference when you've got one, if you forget to set it one day and the alarm goes off and you wake up and it's like, absolutely dark everywhere.
Jez 00:30:55 And you're, it takes you ages to get a bed you're halfway awake. By the time the alarm goes off, when the sad lamps done its thing while you were still asleep. Um, so definitely look at sad lamps. Um, secondly, there's a ton of research that has been done. Um, and I've a part of that as well, that has proven scientifically time and time. Again, just how important nature is a problem is when you get to fall and winter is colder. Uh, the days are shorter and it's not as easy or as enjoyable to interact with nature gorgeous when you can, you know, when you get those lovely kind of full days where the sun's shining through and you're all wrapped up, there's an old fishermen saying in England that there's, there's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. Um, and so you, you, you get the right clothes on, get outside, and it's fine, but start to get more house plants in your house, bring nature into your house because the presence of house plants both on your desks.
Jez 00:31:49 So we did a study, uh, now this is almost three years ago, if you have a pot plant on your desk, um, and by pipeline, I mean, a potted plant should just kind of, you know, I mean, if you just make clear exactly what I mean by that. Um, so a house plant on your desk, um, it has been shown to increase productivity, happiness levels and efficiency by 15%. So just one plant on your desk. So bring loads more house plants into your house. Um, you can touch the leaves, clean the leaves, spray them. And I have a ritual every Sunday morning where I've watched all my house plants. It means I get contact time with nature. You're seeing nature all the time. And then of course, don't forget contact because kinesthetically, um, your sort of circadian rhythm is looking to eat more. So you want to put on fat reserves as you head into the winter, that's normal for our species, but you also want to hunker down.
Jez 00:32:35 So we tend to want to sleep more, but social contact so critically, right? So we'd become probably globally, quite good at this kind of digital communication, right? Even if it's speaking over the phone, make sure that you tried to get in a regular routine. Remember we're creatures of habit. So you want to try and create a routine where, you know, if you used to do, I don't know, soccer on a Monday evening, you now phone a friend on a Monday evening so that it is regular. Every time you've got that nice regularity through your routine. So those are my three top tips in terms of social contact, contact with nature and light.
Michelle BB 00:33:08 So I have to ask you, and, and I'm going to share a little bit of vulnerability here. So forgive the camera because I think you and I will look when we first spoke back at the beginning, the onset of the pandemic. Yes, I had this routine. I had all these things I was doing. I'm like, I'm in good shape. I was, we were doing family zoom calls. Every Sunday I had bought, I bought plants. Remember we had this discussion about plants. Those plants are gone, they're dead. Um, which is a real, I don't even, I feel bad to please. I feel awful. I feel awful. And the one back there went away too. I'm worried that I was so gung ho on these rituals or these, these things. And I've lost my way a little bit. So this is I think, a moment to reset, but I wonder if that's happened for people where we had the best intentions at the beginning of this, it was new.
Michelle BB 00:33:56 It was novel. We were trying new things. I can't even find Bea Arthur anymore. Now I'm still putting food out for her. Bea. Arthur is the bird just in case anybody wants to know, but I can't find her anymore. So I feel like these things that maybe we did at the onset of the pandemic, where we just had the best intentions it's waned for so long. And it's, it's, it's I think wearing heavy on so many of us. What advice? I mean, is it, is it just a question, you know, just pick yourself back up and get started again. What would you recommend?
Jez 00:34:27 Stop this nonsense. Listen to yourself, Michelle. You can't just look, you, you can't on one hand and say, I'm going to be vulnerable and then come out with, Oh, what did you just pick ourselves up? And, you know, come on, get back to it, get back on the treadmill. You should do it. You've got to listen to your authentic,
Michelle BB 00:34:44 The treadmills, the treadmills, not my problem. That's the other thing. And I tell you, no. So here's the, here's the one thing that's been consistent. I probably work out more than I've ever done in my entire life.
Jez 00:34:56 Yeah. Yeah. Me too. At the minute, actually I have to say, um, I'm enjoying it very much. Sure. Um, so listen, it doesn't matter. We are all the time we change our lives change every day. Where is the one thing we're scared of most particularly in, in business, in work, um, you know, the concept of change is the thing that you get most pushback from, um, because it pushes us out of our comfort zone. It's the fear of the unknown. And it's not actually the fear of change. It's the fear of trust, trust that it's going to be okay. Trust in ourselves that, that we can deliver. So, um, that no two sunsets are the same. Every time your phone updates itself, you have to, how to navigate through it. We are experts at dealing with change. Your music can change because you decide you want to explore a new artist, right. Um, black violin, by the way. Awesome. Um, so, um, I know, right. Okay. So come on, keep on topic. Um, so yeah, the, the fact that you've gone through a period of change, whether it be influenced by external influences, like I dunno, forgetting to water the plants or ignoring them or whatever. And so they die.
Michelle BB 00:36:04 I didn't, I did not ignore them. I swear to God, I did not ignore them.
Jez 00:36:08 Plants don't just die, but we'll glaze over that. Um, so, but they might not have liked it where they were. All right. But, but anyway, um, I'm not giving him remunerated horticultural advice. So the point that I think you embrace that, some things not the same, you know, we can't control that. So find something new and if you liked it, we'll then take that as a moment to say, okay. Yeah. Do you know what? I kind of let that slip a bit because things keep going, we get carried away with other outside influences. Do you know what? I forgot that we did that. And I really liked it. I'm going to put that back in again, here's something to do to reset Michelle, grab yourself a notebook and a pen and write down all of the things that you enjoy in life. All right. And it could be, you know, walking, your dog could be sat having 10 minutes with a cup of tea. Just you, uh, could be family time reading a book, whatever
Michelle BB 00:37:01 We don't do T here, you know that, right? Like
Jez 00:37:04 You don't know, UST is terrible. It is horrific. I might do a course on how to make tea. It is. Yes. I normally take my own.
Michelle BB 00:37:13 I don't blame you because I mean, we are coffee drinkers, but yeah. So take a coffee. I didn't mean to interrupt the ahead.
Jez 00:37:20 No, no, no, no, no. You should have done this. Great. Um, so, so yeah, so you write a big list of all the things that you enjoy doing in life, but they're very specific to you that can be tiny or big and next to them, you score them from one to 10, right? Um, in terms of how often you are doing them or interacting with them now. So if you've completely forgotten to, you know, so, Oh, I loved having those plants on my desk. So that would be a zero now, right? Because they're not physically there. Um, uh, could be, you know, zoom calls with the family. I love that. Oh, that's a two. Cause I hardly ever do that. Then what you'll have is a brilliant plan in front of you. Some of them will be higher scored where you're doing them more often, some of them lower scored and you can go, okay, I can fix it. I can look through and find the ones that I'm not doing very often and fix that, make time to do those things again. Um, it's a really great, simple way of just reminding yourself, just kind of getting a bit of a sense check of where you are in life a little bit.
Michelle BB 00:38:14 I like that a lot. And I think that is something I need to do because I, I was looking at the other day and, and as I said, I, I had become this sort of avid bird watcher. We have lots of different birds here and a lot of them are actually still around. Cause we've had a warm spell and I missed B. I forgot all about her for a period of time. Um, I, I wish her well, I hope she is, is doing well. But I think that this idea that maybe some of the things that I had done early on that I really enjoyed that I let lapse probably need to be prioritized now. And I just love that concept. Um, you know, I've asked this question, I know I asked this question of you before, but I'm going to ask you again because look lot, a lot has changed since we spoke months ago.
Michelle BB 00:39:03 And this is a question that I ask everybody, and I'm just, I'm fascinated by the responses. I actually plan to write a piece on it. And I've said that several times, because I have learned so much about what people are taking away from this pandemic, um, this time, what they've learned, um, what they've stopped doing, what's important to them. And it's really been amazing. I'll tell you the number one thing. People are truly grateful for no traffic. It was like, it's been the number one response, no traffic. So yeah, no, it's, it's, it's, it's amazing. But the things that people have started to do have just been so interesting because there is a little bit more time. We are not spending as much time traveling to and from work. Um, we are not able to just go out and walk them all as maybe we might have been, um, it's allowed us, I think, to look at things a little bit differently, maybe we give ourselves a little more grace, maybe not.
Michelle BB 00:40:05 Um, but I definitely think it's shifted our perspective. I think people have taken up new hobbies. I had a wonderful guest. And if you haven't listened to this one, I absolutely encourage you to do. Um, we had Gerard Peter Shay from Canon on, and he talked about this biking across Europe to support education needs in Africa. And he did a 2,500 kilometer bike ride because he wanted to shed light, bring light to this, um, challenge that education it's not accessible to all. And especially now we see the disparities, um, between those who have, and those who do not. Um, so for him, this was something that he was able to do during the pandemic that maybe, you know, he, he, I know he had planned to do, but was still, you know, it, it allowed him to train and go do this, which I thought was wonderful.
Michelle BB 00:40:56 So Jess, I do have, you know, this final question that I have been asking all my guests. Now I know that I have asked you this before, but it has been a few months. Um, and I have to tell you, as I've asked this question, it's actually a three part question. Um, the answers have been absolutely amazing. I have learned so much about people. I have learned that the number one thing that people are so grateful for as a result of this pandemic, no traffic like seriously, no traffic. Um, and so I'm probably gonna write a blog or a, maybe even a book about, um, the, and this particular three-part question, which is what have you started doing since the onset of the pandemic that you're grateful for? What are you stopped doing? And you're grateful for that too. And again, that's where the traffic comes in. And as we continue to navigate this, this world, which is ever changing, as we start to see that the light at the end of this tunnel, and I think we are, what are you going to continue to do that you might not have done before? Again, the answers have been phenomenal. And my sense is that probably some things have changed since we last spoke. So start, stop, continue.
Jez 00:42:11 That's a very good question. I love the start, stop, continue concept. I use it all the time, but in a different construct. So I love this. What are I started doing? I have started being a, and this is so cheesy because of what we're talking about. I have started, um, a massive program of self care. I give so much to other people that I didn't really recognize before, and that sounds a little pious, but I mean that in an authentic way, you know, that's part of my job is to create content and create advice and guidance for other people. But actually you've been pretty bad at doing that for myself. So, um, there was a, um, a period of the over the last nine months, we've been a number of, of very challenging times in my life. Um, a lot of loss, uh, physical loss and emotional loss and that loss of people and whatever.
Jez 00:43:00 And my dog, um, early on this year, my 13 year old Labrador, my kind of wing man, my right right-hand pal. Uh, he had to go. So, um, in that period, I lost a lot of weight, two inches off my waistline actually, um, because of stress and anxiety. So I've been on a weight gain program and a workout program to define muscle, um, underneath here. I mean, I know I looked puny and like super skinny underneath it. Oh, you could do your washing on my chest. I mean, just, it is ripped is an arm, duh statement, Michelle. Um, that's the plan anyway, that's the plan? Um, I booked a tattoo. Um, uh, so we already have, I already have a small tattoo on my arm, but I booked a half sleeve. Um, yeah. Um, yeah, I know, right. It's going to come from my, uh, my pack.
Jez 00:43:53 I say I use it to unpack very loosely where anatomically your pack would normally be, um, down my bicep again, it's just a regional geographical description. Um, and then to roughly my, my t-shirt line, um, so started, self-care the things I want to do that are gonna make me feel good. Um, that's what I started doing. Um, I'm aware it is absent in a lot of people's lives. I have stopped saying yes to so much stuff. I turned down a lot of interviews, a lot of writing requests, a lot of requests for my time because I realized I was trying to cram my life full of stuff, not for me, but to make other people happy too. Cause I didn't want to let people down. And the, the result of is an incredible amount of pressure and amount of less time for stuff you enjoy.
Jez 00:44:36 So that's why self care didn't happen before, because I didn't really have time for that. But if I cared mostly, it was trying to feel good about the fact that I was making or helping other people achieve their goals or, or you know, their time. So, um, that, and you asked lastly for continued, didn't you, what am I going to carry on doing? Um, and I think the carry on thing, and this, this is the bit that I think probably is going to sound a bit tweak for this podcast, but it's true. Isn't going to carry on being authentic because I put out a blog post earlier on this year, um, about something very personal to me. We don't, we can talk about it, but we don't have to talk about it. I don't want to go off topic on it. Um, but I'd never been that open and honest about my personal life before, and I really wasn't sure how it would land, but I just kind of instinctively felt that I should do it.
Jez 00:45:29 It's about like what you said before about following your instincts right. And saying, this feels right for me. So I'm gonna say it right. Um, uh, we can, you know, within reason you can repair most things, you know, unless you're doing something super extreme and the feedback was phenomenal, not, not so much about the context of what I was writing about and about the sharing that I was doing, but it was more about thanks for being honest. And for giving us an example of somebody saying, this is me, this is, I'm going to be honest about this, and you should be honest about you as well. Um, and so then I've done that a few more times and every time it's not necessarily about the thing that I'm sharing about things, aren't going well in my life or challenges I'm having, but the feedback has been, it's so lovely to hear authenticity and to, to see it because we're living in this crazy world of Instagram and falseness and filters and excuses and justification and, and betterment, trying to compare our chapter one by someone else's chapter 25 and then wondering why we feel so insecure about it.
Jez 00:46:36 So that's what I'm going to continue doing. I'm going to continue being a voice and an advocate of authenticity.
Michelle BB 00:46:41 I love that. And you know, I are so in the spirit of being authentic and even vulnerable, I will share, you know, I wrote a blog post, I think a week and a half ago, maybe two weeks ago. Um, that was very personal and I've never, I don't tend to share that kind of thing publicly because it it's it's uncomfortable. But, um, I had to write it. It just poured out of me in a way that just didn't. And I went back and I re-read it yesterday or the day before. And there was so much pain in that blog post. So just so everybody knows my, my eight year old Akita and I'm a dog person, I'm just a, I'm a huge, huge dog person. We've had rescues forever on a Thursday. We found out that she had bone cancer and the following, she had to have her leg amputated and there was no time.
Michelle BB 00:47:33 Oh, I know there was no time. Um, because the cancer had not yet spread, which is, which is not good, you know, really good. But, um, it was, it was easy to make the decision. I mean, it was easy. It was, it was like, okay, boom, boom, boom. Like decisions are easy. Decisions are easy, consequences are hard. And so I wrote a post about that. They all know really. And I wrote a post about that because I didn't feel in the moment we were making the decision, like this was a difficult one, but when I saw her for the first time and the leg is gone and she's struggling to get up, it was, it took my breath away and I felt this need to get it out of me because I felt like I wasn't being authentic by just being okay. And, and letting people believe that there was nothing wrong with me.
Michelle BB 00:48:20 And yet there was something really, really wrong in my household. Now I will tell you if you could see her now, like she's jumping, she's running and she's so much happier. Well, here's what I learned. So my younger daughter did a bunch of research. So for everybody out there, dogs can go without a hind leg. And in fact, they put most of their weight on their front legs. So 60%. So my sweet little dog, not little dog, she's huge. She's like a hundred pounds, 110 maybe. Um, but my sweet CAUTI is like amazing jumping around, running, playing with her brother. She doesn't care that she lost a leg. You know what she cares about that she feels better that she's not in pain. And so it was such an important lesson for me because it reminded me that we have to w w we have to make these decisions, but in doing so, you know, we know that there are going to be consequences, but, but maybe they're not all bad. And maybe we just have to be open and honest with ourselves about the fact that it's okay. Not to, as you said before, not to be okay all the time, because we, this too shall pass. Because again, I mean, if you, I w she's not here, she's in the other room, probably sleeping, but if you saw her, you would just be amazed at how happy and satisfied and fulfilled she is. So anyway, that was my, my dog story.
Jez 00:49:46 Well, thank you for sharing that. And what an amazing example of exactly that we've spoken about. There's one thing there that we didn't speak about to touch on real brief and that's time, because, you know, time is hard to, to human beings, want to fix stuff all the time. Um, and the hardest thing sometimes is to do nothing. And because sometimes there's some thing that we do cause we're so desperate to fix stuff can make things worse. And very often we just have to trust that time is the right thing to do, you know, putting it back to a work scenario, if you, uh, um, pregnant, congratulations, um, then you know, you'll go off on maternity leave and you will have a baby and that's that supported. And if you have a physical accident, either at work or at home, that's understood and it's supported, and yet ironically you can't, or in most organizations, it isn't felt that there is a safe, comfortable, or supportive environment to work in at to say I'm feeling really stressed and overwhelmed today, or I'm feeling that I'm just not feeling it.
Jez 00:50:52 I don't know what it is. I haven't got a spark. I've lost my fire in my belly. I don't feel good, or I don't agree with the direction we're going in or whatever. You know, those more important things we don't necessarily talk about, um, so much. Um, there is a wonderful quote in Latin. I won't say it in Latin because I don't speak Latin and I don't, um, by Ovid, um, I won't pronounce it well, but translate it into English. It says, um, uh, be patient and tough for someday. This pain will be useful to you. And isn't that just a wonderful reflection to think, you know what? It doesn't have to be okay every day. You don't have to be okay every day. But if you are honest with that and you accept that and you own the emotion that you feel and control how you think, and you feel it will become useful to you in the future, because we will all be stronger for this. Um, so I guess, you know, my case in point for you to sort of throw this back to you is, is you've shared so openly and honestly, actually a real challenging part in your own home life. That's a very particular thing, but pandemic wise, how are things over there for you over, across the pond, as they say, how have you found the pandemic? How have you coped with
Michelle BB 00:52:10 No. So I'm going to answer this, um, just in the same way, maybe because I don't think I've that you did, because I don't think I've actually gone and done the start, stop, continue myself. So one thing I've started doing, believe it or not, and this is going to sound like, well, yeah, I've started to spend more time with my family. Um, but let me, let me qualify that a bit because before I took this job at Skillsoft, um, I worked for IBM and I loved it. I loved my job very, very much, but I worked in New York. Um, and I traveled to New York every week and I don't live in New York or anywhere near New York to be quite clear. And so, um, but I, I, I justified the travel by saying, Oh, it's quality time. It's not quantity. It's not the amount of time I spend with my kids or my husband or my dogs.
Michelle BB 00:53:01 It was a load. It was a crock, complete crock because I was trying to justify something that he didn't need to justify. I just needed to take ownership of the fact that I wanted to go do that job. And I wanted to be in New York and guess what? There was going to be a sacrifice. And it was a sacrifice that I made willingly. So I have stopped justifying things that I might've done in the past because it doesn't do anybody any good. And it was a complete bold-faced lie. So I've started spending more time with my family. And I'm so grateful for that because I was missing out, I've stopped, justifying those things and what I'm going to take with me. And I'm so excited because this is something that, that I started doing. Uh, at the beginning of the pandemic, I told you, I have a daughter who's going to college.
Michelle BB 00:53:48 She and I have this like really weird practice. Now it's weird for some people, but every weekend we go find a place to get breakfast. And it has to be like 50 miles away. We have to drive to go get there. So we get in our car and it's intentional. And we wake up like super early on a Sunday and we go and she sleeps in the car, but we go drive someplace to have a breakfast. And we can't even really like go sit in the restaurant, right? I mean, you're talking about picking something up. We drove to the best doughnut place ever a few months ago, I'm telling you, and we ordered three dozen donuts. And then we brought those three dozen donuts and he doesn't eat. No, no, no, wait a moment. We then hand deliver donuts to people. We went and gave donuts out to everybody because it was just fun to do a C I know I can eat three dozen donuts. I did have three donuts though. Um,
Jez 00:54:45 The pandemic, you know, people are doing all sorts of crazy stuff,
Michelle BB 00:54:48 But that's just it. Right. But it was fun. And it was something that I'm not sure we would do. Just go for a random drive, 50, 75 miles away to pick up donuts or to pick up those little smoothie bowls or, or whatever it is that we're going for. I think next is popovers. So, you know, um, that's my start, stop. Continue. I have started spending more time with my family. I have stopped justifying things. I'm tired of it. And I will continue to take with me these really special trips because we get time together that I'm never, ever going to get again.
Jez 00:55:26 And how do you feel as a result of that? Any different?
Michelle BB 00:55:29 I do feel different. I feel, um, I feel a lot better in my own skin. Right. You know, I, I don't feel like I have to be this perfect person all the time. My hair, my hair is never going to be done the way that it always was. Um, I don't, I don't wear makeup to work. Most times you're getting the full face. Um, but I, I don't feel like I have to do these things necessarily that I did before. And, you know, I can wear sweatpants or joggers to work and be okay with that. Yeah.
Jez 00:56:06 And, and not justifying it is perfect because you don't have to, the only person you're justifying things to is yourself. And that comes full circle back to what I said before, about your own comfort zones and your own boundaries that you're setting for yourself. Um, and that is driven by our ability to trust and accept who we are. And that is a goal in life that many people will never achieve. They will die without having accepted themselves or appreciating themselves. And I think that is something that all organizations can help individuals do. Very, very simply simply by creating a culture that is genuinely supportive of being human.
Michelle BB 00:56:48 I love that. And I've loved this. And so just because I feel like I'm never going to wear this again, I'm going to put this back on for my clothes. Cause I just, I just, you know, I think it's of pretty, so I know, I know before we go, I want to give a quick plug Jess's book flip. The switch is available on Skillsoft Percipio. Yes. And I want to thank you. And, Oh, by the way, I know you have an event coming up on December 8th on Percipio, a live event, titled nature nurture. So for those of you who aren't yet in Percipio, you can go to our site and get a free trial to participate in this live event. And just on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for, um, being a good friend. I want to thank you for being your authentic self and bringing that to the edge. And I want to thank you for forcing me to go out and get this amazing headdress. Um, I think it's wonderful. And to our listeners, I want to thank you and viewers, actually, I want to thank you for tuning into this. And every episode as we unleash our edge together, I'm Michelle BBI. This is the edge be well.
About Our Guest
Jez Rose is a renowned broadcaster, award-winning writer, speaker and host. He lives on the world’s first certified carbon neutral honey farm, helping to reverse Britain’s honeybee decline. You might recognize him from over 100 appearances on TV and radio!
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.