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Story-Driven Leadership with Donna Lichaw

September 1, 2020 by UX-RADIO

Story-Driven Leadership featuring Donna Lichaw on UX-radio


Welcome to UX radio the podcast that generates collaborative discussion about information architecture, user experience and design.

Donna Lichaw is an executive leadership coach, the author of The User’s Journey, an international speaker, and tin robot collector, serving leaders in the product design and tech community at large. Her mission is to help leaders who don’t fit traditional models of leadership in tech, especially women, LGBTQ plus, and underrepresented folks use the skills they already have to unlock their superpowers and make a greater impact at work and in the world. Whether she’s working with changemakers at storied tech companies like Twitter, Disney, and Google with innovators that progressive nonprofits like w NYC and Central Park she helps leaders their teams and companies find their story and bring their best story to life.

Here are your hosts Lara Fedoroff and Chris Chandler.

Hi, and welcome to UX radio. I’m your host, Lara Fedoroff.

And I’m Chris Chandler. Today we’ve got a conversation with Donna Lichaw and author, executive coach and many other things. And we’re very excited to have you on the program today.

Thanks, Chris. Hi, Lara. Hi,

Donna. I was wondering if you could start off by giving us a little bit of your personal history, your journey, how you got involved in UX to begin with, and anything you’d like to share with the audience?

I got into UX I think before we knew what UX was I have been working in, in the tech world since probably 1996 or 95 was the time I built my first website back in the early days of AOL and HTML three and I think it was before animated GIFs came out that was momentous when that happened. And I spent years working with startups and corporations on the in house, side on The external consulting side building websites in New York and London and kind of all over the place. And over time as the web started getting more and more complex, and moved more into user experience and product strategy, as we were building more like apps on the web, not just like brochure websites, but really more complex things. And then as mobile became a thing, I started working a lot in mobile product development. So that’s, I guess that’s how I got into UX in the early days in the 90s. My job title was always something made up like webmaster or information architect, and then that evolved and that changed over time. But yeah, I was always interested in really just exploring and tinkering with new technologies and new things and seeing what we could do with them and bringing information out to the world. And that was a big thing. I will say along the same journey. I was a filmmaker. Specifically a documentary filmmaker. And my interest was always talking to people and uncovering, like really cool things beneath the shadows of the everyday. And so eventually, overtime after working in tech for a long time, when user experience became more of a thing for me, it was kind of an aha moment of like, oh, I’ve already been doing this. I know how to talk to people. I know how to uncover the cool things beneath the surface. And I know how to then construct a story out of what we’re building. And in the case of film, you’re making a film, but eventually, with product developments, and web and app and software development, it was okay, let’s build a product that has this story as well.

And so what would you say is the hardest thing about telling a really good, compelling story.

So the hardest thing about telling a compelling story is and this is something I didn’t learn early on in film school. Unfortunately, I learned it much, either, which is the hardest thing about telling compelling stories is rambling and not getting to the point, I do that all the time. So I’ve probably just done that. But stores have a structure. And there’s a very clear, concise architecture to it. And the more concise you can be about how you present that story, the better So, but sometimes we kind of go off on tangents and into details that don’t move the action forward. And it’s stories really are all about action and conflicts and, and goals and results. And so if you can stay on point, keep to that structure. It’s a lot more engaging to people on the other end. And

Yeah, I just want to say what a revelation it was when I first heard you speak and read your book. I worked at Disney for 10 years, and there was an incredible story culture. And we in the digital group, right, we sort of stumbled our way around about how to use that story background to produce the digital products. So that was quite a revelation to me. 

I love your point about stories. It’s great having a standard structured way of telling a story. I think you mentioned on Twitter recently that people should bring that diagram of narrative story structure to every meeting into every encounter. So it’s more than just building digital products. Right?

Yeah, it’s more than digital products. And I think I learned that the, I want to say I learned that the hard way. But in the end, it’s all worked out. Because what happened over time as I went out on my own as a consultant 10 years ago, eight years ago as a digital product consultant and what my focus was, became really helping organizations and companies find the stories of the products that they were building so that they could build more successful engaging products. And what I found over time as I worked with more and more successful companies and people higher and higher up in leadership at those companies is that they would bring in and we’d start working on their product and they’re always too telling me how our products or products are kind of fine. That’s not what we need help with. And I was often confused because what they would tell me they needed help, which is what one person said it really clearly one time, I was a leader at a fancy tech company. And he said, “Well, what’s my story?” Because, you know, you talk about having the users be the hero of a journey and customers being the hero of your journey and bluntly told me like, I don’t feel like a hero. A lot of days when I come to work, and I come in, and the director of engineering doesn’t want to hear my ideas, or my team is a little deflated. And I’m not sure how to support them. And I started hearing these things, more and more, and it occurred to me that and actually, I think it came to a head one day where an executive at one company said something like, you know, our story matters, not the user story, and I think I responded, no, your story doesn’t matter and I went home that day thinking, You know, I don’t think that’s correct. Your story does matter. But I wasn’t sure how to help people really figure out the personal side of working in tech and I had worked with an executive coach. So I knew that like, what these people needed was coaching, but I just wasn’t sure. You know, when people kept saying, well, what’s my story, I kind of started on my own journey, essentially, where I kind of went out and figured out okay, there’s got to be a way to find out these people’s stories. And, and that’s essentially what I focused all of my work on right now. My entire business is really helping leaders find their own story, and helping their teams and organizations find their story so they can all move forward and ultimately do the things that they’re tasked with doing, which is typically putting products and services out into the world but the ecosystem is bigger than just products. Stories are everywhere. Everything is a story. And I do think it all comes down to that clear architecture in terms of, you know, bringing that diagram to every single meeting. I mean, every meeting I ever have with a client, we’re uncovering the story of either the conflict they’re having that day at work or, you know, challenge they’re having some with someone or something they want to accomplish at work and they’re not sure how or just their general superpowers and kryptonite and, and it’s all story and it all still comes down to that architecture. So, yeah, there are times when I feel like I’m a little bit wacky, but you know, saying everything is a story. And that diagram will help you solve any problem ever. But if I keep coming back to it, it’ll help you solve any problem ever.

So let’s look an example of taking an executive from zero to hero.

I like that from zero to hero, as an example, someone might come to me and they typically they’re in some kind of a new position or they have that opportunity to kind of reimagine their position in their organization, which I think is a very tech-centric thing. We get to change our jobs all the time and make stuff up. And we’re often changing jobs all the time and promotions happen. And that’s not so often someone comes to me, they’re in some type of leadership or management position, and they just don’t feel confident in one leading the organization, even though they know they could do it, but they just don’t. Yeah, they don’t feel confident. And two, they’re often a little fuzzy on what their job should be. And I think that’s, again, also a tech thing. A lot of these jobs are changing all the time. And just because you got a promotion doesn’t mean there’s like a checklist and a clear roadmap of what you’re supposed to be doing. And so what we do first when I work with people is because I’m a curious person, I want to know what their story is. It’s what I call an identity narrative. This is really the story of you. Who are you? What makes you tick? What powers you? What is your kryptonite? What are your superpowers? And what do you want to accomplish at the end of the day? And so once we’re clear on that, that becomes almost a roadmap and a guide of how they can go forth and accomplish anything. And a lot of this mirrors the product development work that I previously did. And I sometimes do with my clients as well. It’s that for a product, that’s what I call the concept story, that’s really that core story of who you are or what a product is, and why it matters in the world. Then once I’m clear on what their core identity narrative is, then we start plotting journeys. And what’s cool about that is we get to use the same techniques that all of us are familiar with. And I know listeners here are familiar with the user-centered design approaches, design thinking approaches, agile, lean, whatever you want to call these things, but the general idea is that we come up with a vision of where you want to go and then we come back to the beginning and figure out what are all of the hypotheses that we have? What are all the requirements that we need? What is super risky or scary that we should test right away? And how do we move forward in a way that we’re constantly collecting data to make sure that you’re on the right path? And not spending six months doing something that was a complete mistake? Yeah, that’s essentially the gist of it and then because I have a design background and a tech background and a product management background, I’m you know, we whiteboard when we can, if we’re remote will, I make people stand up their wall and we’ve posted notes and big flip charts or if they have a whiteboard, we could do that. Or if we’re co-located, we’ll jump on a whiteboard. And it’s very tangible, very visual. And the idea is, we prototype what we can in the room in a session, and then in the two weeks in between when we need and then when I’ll see you next you’re going to go out and prototype some more and collect data, make sure you’re on the right track. So it’s essentially a design project, which is pretty fun.

That sounds amazing. I want to pull out so many follow up questions about but the first one I want to pull out as you started, and it’s something you talked a little bit about on Twitter recently, which is confidence, right? So we’ve had conversations before on the show about imposter syndrome and about the people not feeling like they’re adequate enough to apply for a job. But normally, when we have those conversations or night, it’s been about beginners. And you were recently talking about taking ownership claiming the title of a product leader, I wonder is sort of like what sparked that conversation.

someone tweeted something about people claiming the title product leader versus not claiming the title product leader. And what ignited for me was something that I’ve seen with a lot of my clients and also with the industry at large for me, probably about 80% of my clients are women and they often Come to me already in a leadership position, but not feeling like a leader. And what that means is that the title often doesn’t reflect what they do. And the words they use to describe themselves doesn’t reflect what they do, versus a lot of the men who come to me who I absolutely love. So I don’t mean this in any kind of pathway. I don’t mean to turn anyone away today, but the dudes who come my way, often the term what is the term stumble up into leadership positions, and again, I don’t mean this in any kind of bad way, but they’re often recently promoted, and they’re like, I’m not sure I want to make sure I’m capable, you know, am I missing anything? What’s going on? Do I have the skills I need? Where the women often have a different perspective of like, oh, I’m not sure I am worthy. And I don’t know if I can do this job. And often there they have one title below what they should have in the first place. So it’s sort of this mix of If not really owning that designation as a leader. And in the product world, we see it a lot. I mean, there, I can’t tell you how many 20-year-old white dudes I’ve seen heading up products in their organizations, whereas the so many women I’ve known who’ve, you know, have 15-20 years experience, they’re still like, kind of product manager or something. And it’s just like, there’s a big disconnect between owning and so this is what I call owning your story, owning your story, or having your story written for you. And so owning your story is being 20 years old, saying, I’m a Product leader, and you’re doing it whether you are or not, that’s what people hear. And that’s what people, those are the responsibilities they give you. Those are the jobs you get. Not owning your story is being 35, 40, and saying, I’m not sure I’m a Product leader yet, even though I’ve been doing it for 15 years. So I just went off on Twitter and that struck a chord for me.

I mean, I love that because I think you sort of highlight Both the individual psychology as well as the structural issues at play there. So owning your story, what’s the first step to owning your story? If you had to say one thing, to all the people who are already product leaders out there that don’t know it, what would you say?

You know, that’s a great question. I think the first step to owning your story is really first finding your story. And that for me, because I come from the background that I do, it has to be data-driven. Okay, there’s a little bit of aspiration and a little bit of data there. So for example, when I wrote mine, I’m not going to call it my first book, because I want to write another book. So this is where stories start right now. I’m saying when I wrote my first book, that’s me convincing myself that I’m going to write a second book. And so when I did that, I hated writing. And I always said that I was never going to, you know, probably not going to get married. I wasn’t so into the institution of marriage and didn’t I wasn’t really sure if I was going to have kids but probably not. And definitely never going to write a book. And the reason why I thought about that is that I used to be in academia, and I really wanted to be a full-time professor, but I was like, I’m never gonna write a book. So I’m not going to even go down that path. And a bunch of years ago, I started feeling like I needed to write a book. I was doing my story mapping workshops and keynoting around the world. And people kept asking me about these workshops. Is there a book, I can read about this, and I never had that book. And so I started feeling like, I needed to write the book. And what I started doing was saying, I’m writing a book. And I just started putting that out into the world. And once I did that, it happens, you know, so the first step it could be, that was a little bit aspirational, but it was also, you know, I was gonna do it. I’m an author, I’m writing a book. And then people started calling me an author while I was writing the book. And I, you know, there’s a little bit of imposter syndrome there. But when I thought about the data, I was like, well, I am technically writing a book. So I am an author. I’m not a published author yet, but I’m an author and so these stories, you know, it’s a mix of aspiration and data, but they’re things that you can check. I’m trained as a Gestalt coach, which is an offshoot of Gestalt psychology. And there’s this concept in Gestalt psychology. I know it comes up in design a lot with like, placement, and other things. But that’s kind of the tip of the iceberg. The stuff that I care about is how the brain functions and understands experiences in the world. And so what if thought psychology says is that to fully understand any experience, you need to look at what you think about it. So that’s in your brain, you need to look at how you feel in your body. And so those are feelings, but often they’ll uncover what’s at the core of it, which is, how you feel in your heart, the emotional experience you’re having. And so if you think about a statement like I’m an author, A prototype, you could say it out loud, and then run a quick, rapid experiment and see, okay, what did you think? Well, I’m not sure if I’m an author. Okay, how did that feel? uncomfortable? How did it feel in your body? It made me very jittery. And then that’s a prototype in a test that you can then test over time, three months later. Okay, how does it feel? Oh, I’m starting to feel a little calmer as I say this. And so that’s the really the first step to finding your story is to figure out whether it’s aspirational or existing. Yeah, what is your story? So one thing in terms of confidence that I find with the leaders who I work with is that in terms of data, we can mine, we can mine your past experiences at work, and figure out what makes you tick and what successes you’ve had and then uncover your story that way. So that it’s not just us saying Yes, I’m a leader. How does it feel terrible Okay,

Well, we can go back and look at experiences where you have been a leader, and where you did it not only Excel and accomplish things and make an impact, but enjoy doing it and did it in a way that fills your heart. And so, this technique I borrow from, again, it’s a design technique, as I’m looking at the high-value experience, and often it’s something that you do when you want to figure out why do customers love this thing? Or why do they complete the checkout? Or why do they convert you look at what’s the high value, that experience that they had? And then you look at paving that cow path and seeing Okay, how do we make more of those happen? And so, yeah, the best way to find that story I find is to go mine your past, look at data and see. Okay, what is your story? And then if the experimentation starts of realizing, okay, how does that feel to you? Using me as an example, like, even though I said I hated writing when I looked back at my stories from my childhood I used to write science fiction stories when I was little. And all I ever want to do is express myself and I was a musician. And I always kind of made things up in my own way and do things in life, you know, outside the box, and I never followed instructions and all these things that I thought were holding me back when I actually went in mind my past and saw what my story was, I realized, oh, okay, I’m the perfect person to write a book about this wacky concept that everyone thinks is completely insane, but it’s completely right on so we can use design thinking skills, find that story and figure out what you want it to be.

Yeah, it sounds like uncovering that process itself would help people gain confidence, understanding what works well, and then how to apply going forward. It is and it’s a common technique

that I’m not and if you’ve ever taken any like strengths, profiles, or done anything. Through, maybe HR or grocery, I’ve worked with a coach. And they’re like, ways to uncover your strengths and see who you are, that exists. But what I find is that when you have a story to attach those strengths too, then it becomes more real to you. And you not only own it but then you see how to apply it in the future. And so when I get a piece of paper, and they’re like, yes, you’re very analytical. Like, I don’t know what to do with that. And then, you know, someone asked me, What are your strengths?” I’m very analytical and need to hear that, you know, but beyond you have a story, you can more likely feel it, own it, and then transpose it to future experiences.

I have been really struck in the conversation talking about your background coming from film, but the other word that you keep using is data. So it’s interesting because that’s something I think about all the time being located in LA. I will say right that there’s a traditional and long-standing disconnect between the technology digital industry and the entertaining In industry, and one of the things you just have me put my finger on part of it is script is a is something that’s eventually done and finished, you’ve got control, you can manage the whole thing. But your digital products are never finished really. And so like that feedback loop is something you really don’t get in the film world as much.

Oh, well, you do TV shows, which is fascinating. So with movies, you don’t and I think that’s why certain movies come out. And when people are like, Oh my god, how did that ever go from a script to production and then out into the world, because that is so bad. But what you see, I think the benefit of that, to me, shows have, I love thinking about Parks and Rec as, as an example, one of my favorite TV shows, and they’ve both got down over time, which is the story arc development. So that’s like the equivalent of our journey, user journey. And then character development that’s like, the more the inner workings of the character and what’s their story and when How are they showing up in life? Where are they going? And in their first season, Leslie Knope was the main character. And apparently people hated her. And the show didn’t really do that well, and like, the general consensus was that she was kind of annoying. And it was unfortunate because she was the main character of the show. And I think it was a half-season so they were even luckier they got to do a half mini-season. So the writers were able to go back to the drawing board and really think Alright, what’s wrong with Leslie? How do we make her own as a more likable but that’s like a double-edged sword when you’re talking about a woman in leadership, which is like, how do you make her more likable? Oh, my God make her smile, you know. So luckily, the writers were not thinking in terms of cliches, like make her smile, make her friendlier. But they went back to character one on one and we’re able to say, Well, what is our what our goals, like, what motivates her and what gets in her way and those are the buildings Have a good character. And once they were able to flesh her out more like a real character, I would say it was a real person, but it’s one of the same, and the characters are based on humans, that’s the best characters are like humans, it’s gonna be able to flesh out thing, actually, the second season it gets going, and then all of the characters get fleshed out and everyone’s moving forward. And then the story arcs are engaging and, and it’s funny and ends up being if any of you haven’t seen it, go watch it. It’s such an awesome show. So yeah, TV shows get the benefit. And they use data. They’re able to, you know, rely on external data and then internal data of Wow, we don’t like her either, and we make her more full character.

That’s awesome. I love that show, too. Speaking of leadership, what do you think makes a good leader?

That’s a good question, too. I think what makes a good leader is knowing your story. So that’s who you are. What powers you What does not want power you what gets in your way where you want to go. And then using that story to move everyone you work with and everyone you engage with. So people you work with and then people externally and your, your customers, your universe, whoever is part of your universe, using that story to move everyone else forward, which often then involves helping people find their stories, the people who you work with, and your customers. So that’s the, you know, the world that we come from helping customers find their stories. And big picture it trickles down into ultimately building your business as a story as well as making sure everyone is clear on what they’re building. Why, how, and how it’s moving. Everyone forward and that’s something Christy brought up Disney that’s one of the ways that I originally got interested in the leadership topic was looking at companies like Disney and trying to reverse engineer will have a story trickle down throughout the entire company there. And it’s, you know, came from Walt Disney. In the early days, he was a storyteller and a story mapper as well. He was very into the architecture of stories. And that’s the company he built. And it had a very clear story that was ultimately all about him and what he wanted the impact he wanted to make in the world. So yeah, know your story. help everyone find their story, help your business, find that story, and move that story forward.

I don’t know that Walt gets enough credit for inventing the idea of a storyboard. But what I think of is the critical innovation right in the way that he was able to sort of getting the story out in an outline, card format, with sketches and everything, but as a way to arrange that linear story collaboratively in a grid. And like I think that’s the technique I’ve used the most before, branching out as other people like you started connecting the dots.

He knew what was brilliant about that. How he used storyboarding as well as he used it for movies but then Disneyland the original Disneyland he storyboarded all of Disneyland and that’s kind of amazing when you think about it, this is the third book I’m gonna write in my series, which is the story-driven business. So we’re gonna start with story-driven leadership and then story-driven teams and then the story-driven business. But yeah, he story storyboarded Disneyland. So they in drawings on cards on a wall, they put themselves in the shoes of every visitor who would visit from the front to the gate of the castle is through to every exhibit to make sure that that story arc was there for every passing again, not every possible path you could take through the park, but the key ones and it was very architected, it still is with kind of key paths that the still Imagineers that the imaginary.

still use storyboards if they’re building a new attraction or a new park, it’s still really deep in it. In this method, executives are experiencing the experience. But now I want to flip back over to the other thing I’m wondering, again, as you talked about bending this practice to individuals and coaching, what are some different types of data or examples of data that you use in the coaching process?

One example of data is, imagine you’re someone who is kind of quiet at meetings. But you’re, you’re the team lead, and you feel like a failure because you shouldn’t be quiet at the meetings that you’re running. And so you’re, you know, you feel like a terrible manager. And like, this is really no good and possibly, you know, your manager has said to you, hey, you should speak up more and everyone keeps saying you should speak up more. So, if we’re using meetings, as I’ll say that the canvas to run an experiment, it could be reverse engineering votes wrong and what you really want to accomplish in a meeting So is the goal to speak up in a meeting? Or is the goal to move your team forward and make sure that they’re clear on what they’re supposed to do after the meeting so that you’re moving your project forward. So if it’s just if the goal is you have to speak up, then that’s it. There are no experiments around, you have to speak up, and you have to learn how to do that. But if the goal is to move your team forward, then we can reverse engineer All right, well, what are your superpowers based on your story that we’ve already identified? And how might you apply those superpowers in a meeting setting? And so let’s say you’re someone like you’re shy, you don’t really want to speak up, but you’re a researcher at heart. I mean, quite an introverted researcher, but it means that you ask really good questions because you’re a curious person. And so, if that’s something that we uncover, might be something that you can apply in a meeting setting, then the experiment would be and this is what I do with clients, I don’t offer the experiment because I’m telling them what to do. And there’s a lot of resistance there. And I don’t want to tell people what to do. But also, there’s so much neuroscience and psychology that says that people don’t want to be told what to do. And so I’ll have them come up with an experiment. Okay, how can we test that? Could you research superpowers, be something that empowers you during meetings if you’re meeting forward? So you might say, Okay, well, Alright, next time I run a meeting, which is tomorrow, I’m going to sit back and I’m going to chill out and not stress out about speaking up. But anytime I’m confused, or anytime I’m curious, or anytime I’m not sure what our next steps are, or anytime I’m wondering if everyone in our meeting understands what we just talked about. And anytime I want to be clear that anytime I want to know Do we know what our next steps are? And what are we doing next? I’m just going to ask the question. I’m not going to wander in my head, but I’m going to ask the question. So that’s a really quick, easy experiment. You could run and eat. I need even two weeks to do it, you just do it the next day. And then you see how it goes. And usually, you don’t need to adapt those experiments much past that, because you do it once and you’re like, oh, that was not so bad. Okay, I could do that again. And sometimes you might run the experiment and realize, wow, I hated that. Okay, let me try something else. And then you think of another experiment to run. So that’s an example. It’s almost like using real life as a canvas for testing things in the wild. I’m going to change the topic over a little bit to the recent craziness in the world. And you talked in one of your recent blogs about remote meetings and facilitation and navigating your way through that. And one of the things that you pointed out was around balancing engagement and accountability. And I wonder if you could talk to that a little bit. For teams who have not been remote but who are now in remote It’s something that comes that’s been coming up a lot, probably half of my clients, and traditionally and it increases every year. Now it’s 100%. But half of my clients traditionally have been working at remote, like completely remote distributed organizations. And so they’ve had a lot of stuff already figured out. But there were always these challenges that would come up where, how to put it as they would sometimes rely on slack too much. And everyone was so afraid of FaceTime and bothering people with meetings that they would over-index towards slack. And it ended up like there were certain things that would have just been easier as a five-minute conversation. And so it might be like, there’s someone who’s working for you, and you’re not sure if they’re getting their work done on time. You’re not sure like, what kind of what’s going on, and there’s a lot of ambiguity there. And so what I found for those folks is that they often realize, okay, sometimes a quick call or And often they start doing it by phone to just like a quick call a quick check-in, or maybe a five minute stand up with, you know, this person every day or whatever it is, would help that. You know, that’s what I found with the remote folks who have been doing it for years. But bad things happen on slack. And I know what happened last year like that a company away from the suitcase company like there’s some crazy shit that happens on slack that really should not happen on slack like very important memos that get leaked to the press and, and things that really should have been an all-hands meeting and a discussion and a conversation that’s facilitated by professional You know, that’s something that comes up to sort of tie stories into it. It’s like, there’s so much room for interpretation with written words that if it’s more complex, the meaning gets lost in something like slack. And I say slack because email, no one wants to use email so we people use email last but then and select the I think the stories often just get misconstrued and transformed to things that they’re not. And for the folks who are suddenly remote, that’s tough because I think working remotely as a company is something that is a cultural thing that organizations have had a long time to develop. And you can’t just change the culture of multinational corporations like that. And so it is something that I think people are struggling with, which is adapting to being remote and figuring out Alright, what is our mode of communication? And how do we operate as a team? So it’s like, you’re going back to the drawing board and figuring out like your team code and your team superpowers and how best to function but it’s important because it’s it is a new context, and a new way of working and you do have to go back to the foundational stuff.

Yeah, that’s a really great point. I think that in some ways, right? The digital tools remove too much friction. You know, I mean, I don’t know that everybody had this experience, but I’ve heard a lot of people saying why it was so easy for us to go remote? We didn’t realize it. But one day, we’re not remote. And then the next day we are. But because of that, I don’t think people really necessarily are taking the time to think through some of those important distinctions right, like, makes me think, right, that people should have some sort of thoughtful process about what conversations Do we have, together over video? What conversations Do we have or don’t have in Slack, which is a great point here versus email communications? Like I don’t think anybody really thought the channel is just all blurred together. And so people haven’t really thought through the different implications of the communication. And

yeah, and I think what’s really important in what you just said is that if something is really easy for you, it doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone. And that’s where I think it’s really, really important for leaders in any organization to typically be on the pulse of the people working there to constantly be finding out their stories and What’s really going on for them? Because that’s, that’s one story that you could assume applies to everyone. And then you can contrast that to what I’m often hearing on the ground from folks is they’re struggling because their kids are home or they’re not sure if schools are going to close again, or they’re struggling because they live alone, and they’re getting really angsty, and cabin fever, and it’s driving them crazy, or they’re, they’re feeling guilty because they live alone. They don’t have kids and they should be working 12 hours a day or they’re feeling guilty because they have kids and they can’t work even eight hours a day. And so there’s a lot going on under the surface. And I do think the most effective leaders are constantly checking in with folks and seeing how they can support them. On the flip side, the folks below it’s a lot of work, but you can speak up. It’s just that it shouldn’t be on the people down below to speak up all the time. You want to be checking in because even if they seem okay, a lot of people, they’re adjusting. But it’s still now that we’ve been doing this for many months, it’s still, there’s a lot of stress, I’m finding and stress. You know, the neuroscience behind stress is like people just don’t perform at work optimally when they’re stressed. So you’re not getting the best work product. So ultimately, the CNS does impact the bottom line and it’s worth seeing how to support people, sometimes all people need to do is just vent and talk. And then they feel better because this virus is not going away anytime soon, unfortunately. So we can’t fix the situation, but we can at least let people just, you know, process it.

So Donna, after you write your series of books, what would you say you would like your legacy to be in our industry?

I get this often when I give talks or when people read my book or blog posts. I love it when someone comes up to me and says, Ah, I hadn’t thought about it that way before. That’s kind of cool. I want to go try to make people think differently. And it’s a little bit you know, cliche as it’s like what Apple turned into a marketing slogan. But I love making people think differently. I love having people see patterns and opportunities that are there lurking beneath the surface that they didn’t know existed. But that can be really exciting and open up possibilities and opportunities to do great things in the world. So if there’s, yeah, there’s one thing that I can one stamp that I can put on our industry is just getting people to get outside their heads a little bit and think differently about the possibilities.

And so let me just ask you, what’s the best way for people to get in contact with you or find out a little bit more about your coaching services or follow what’s going on with Gianna?

I’m on Twitter, that’s a really good way to reach me and on my website, if you go to and you can find the spelling I assume on the podcast page, my last name is kind of a funny last name. But if you go to, I’ve got a story mapping worksheet that you can download to find your story as a leader. And that’s a really cool exercise that I do with clients. And I give it away for free too, because I like putting things out there. And, and I did that before I decided I was going to write another book, I figured I’m just gonna give it away for free. But you can download the story mapping workshops to find your story as a leader. And I’ve got tons of articles and other things, other worksheets on there as well. And I’m always looking for wonderful leaders to work with as new clients. So if any of you are interested in working with me, definitely reach out.

That’s wonderful. Well, we are happy to promote you and we’re definitely big fans. Thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Thanks for having me, Lara and Chris. It was awesome chatting with you. 

I totally appreciate you, Thanks so much.

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