A conversation with Emily Elrod; President @ Workzbe.
“So I would design all this stuff and if something went wrong, they always blamed the people. And I’m like, this is interesting. So whenever I went to the people side, it was very different to see that in essence, we create the environments for the people, especially if we’re in the HR or the leadership spaces. And so how people didn’t look at that, they didn’t look how it was designed. They did not look at how it had been engineered or crafted. Is, is this actually meant for a human to succeed in? And so that has probably been one of the most fascinating things for me, is helping people to deconstruct policies and procedures and even looking at the people’s side and just their habits that they’ve created. And how do we actually get it where people can show up, collaborate, perform, and have fun while doing it?” –Emily Elrod
In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Emily Elrod about her experience helping organizations of people work better together, stress, and self-care at work. She shares some thoughts on why organizations should prioritize like-hearted over like-minded teams. Later, Emily explores topics like positive deviance, how to leverage dopamine, and progress over perfection. We then discuss what it takes to keep calm at work and emotional regulation. Listen in for more interesting thoughts on ways people, places, and things go from stressed to strategic.
[1:30] How Emily Got Her Start In Helping Teams Work Better Together.
[10:04] Why Like Hearted Is More Important Than Like-Minded
[23:00] Why Progress Trumps Perfection
[31:50] Some Tips For Emotional Regulation
[40:40] Understanding Your Working Environment
Links | Resources
Emily on Linkedin
About the Guest
Her clients describe Emily Elrod as energetic, wiser beyond her years, and a person that gets things done. Her husband describes her as a blonde, good momma, and animal philanthropist.
But if you ask her, she is just a lover of humanity, dark chocolate, and nouns as she will gladly nerd out with you on ways people, places, and things (aka nouns) go from stressed to strategic as she helps them perform at their top potential.
She has a background in ergonomic engineering, Human Resources, and Wholistic Human-Centric design. She is blessed to own a company called Workzbe that works with high-performing, high-pressure teams of all sizes to create WISE work environments where people show up, collaborate, perform, and have fun while doing it.
About Voltage Control
Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.
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Douglas: Welcome to the Control the Room podcast, a series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures to the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes, while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting.
Thanks for listening. If you’d like to join us live for a session sometime you can join our weekly Control the Room Facilitation Lab. It’s a free event to meet fellow facilitators and explore new techniques, so you can apply the things you learn in the podcast in real-time with other facilitators. Sign up today at voltagecontrol.com/facilitation-lab. If you’d like to learn more about my book, Magical Meetings, you can download the magical meetings. Quickstar guide, a free PDF reference with some of the most important pieces of advice from the book. Download a copy firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today I’m with Emily Elrod of Workzbe, where she works with high-performing teams, high-pressure teams of all sizes, to create wise work environments where people show up collaborate, perform, and have fun while doing it. Welcome to the show, Emily.
Emily: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Douglas: Oh, so looking forward to this conversation. If the pre-show chat has any resemblance to what we’re going to do, it’s going to be a good one. So I want to get started here with, let’s hear a little bit about how you got your start in doing this work of helping people collaborate and have fun and just be higher performing.
So I have a very interesting weaving story that comes with it. So my father designed a lot of the machinery in the textile industry. And so I followed in his footsteps. I was an engineer, an ergonomic engineer. I don’t have a degree in it, but I have been doing it since I was 16. And so if anybody’s maybe in the textile, I helped create the RES and then redesign some of the splicers and [inaudible 00:02:14]. So I did that and then I have the best dad ever.
And why I say that is because he looked at me one day, he goes, “Emily, you’re amazing at what you do.” He goes, “But you don’t love it. So you need to go do what you love.” And so I joke that I love people more than machines on most days. And so now I have a master’s in health science physiology. So basically the engineering of the body. And from there, I went and did some wellness in the wellness world and then branched out and do a lot of basically the human and organizational performance. So that’s how I got here.
Douglas: Excellent. So I’m really curious in the world of textiles and the kind of working with the machines and just the design work, how do you think that shaped your view of things as you started to work more in the world of humans and how the human body works and people?
Emily: So it was fascinating. So I would design all this stuff and if something went wrong, they always blamed the people. And I’m like, this is interesting. So whenever I went to the people side, it was very different to see that in essence, we create the environments for the people, especially if we’re in the HR or the leadership spaces.
And so how people didn’t look at that, they didn’t look how it was designed. They did not look at how it had been engineered or crafted. Is, is this actually meant for a human to succeed in? And so that has probably been one of the most fascinating things for me, is helping people to deconstruct policies and procedures and even looking at the people’s side and just their habits that they’ve created. And how do we actually get it where people can show up, collaborate, perform, and have fun while doing it?
Douglas: Absolutely. That’s a really profound thing to wrestle with, because how often do we hear they’re set up for failure?
Douglas: Right. But at the same time, who takes the time to step back and say, “Hey, are we designing our system so that we support people better and that they’re not kind of just destined to never succeed?”
Emily: Oh yeah. And it’s really important within that is like, I remember working with a Fortune 500 and my thing is if I’m ever in a room, I do not want to be in a room with all the yes people. If I’m with yes people, we have an issue, because we have no discussion we have no conversation, really, just nodding of heads. And that’s not what I’m about.
So they knew this. We always talk about hot conversations. We want to have humble, open and transparent. We’re going to have these. Well, we surveyed 32,000 people and we asked how stressed you were. This was before the pandemic. And before the pandemic, 67% of them said that they were stressed out. I was like, “Okay, yes, we’re finally going to get to attack this.” And then one of the people in the executive suite said, “Well, we didn’t ask if it was U stress, good stress, or bad stress.”
I’m like, y’all, walk into your facilities. I can quickly tell you, there is nobody smiling. They don’t interact. I said, “And you have their heads down like they’re robots.” We can argue this all day long, but I’m going to let you know, that these people are stressed and it’s shutting off the learning centers of their brains. And you’re getting the minimum amount of habits, that you have conditioned these people to be basically robots. So it has been a different world to bring this to, but it’s a slow progression that I’m beyond excited to continue to see the work grow in.
Douglas: I love this idea or this notion that the learning centers are getting shut down. And I think that not enough companies and leaders are tuned into the fact that every interaction that we have at work, if we’re doing knowledge work is a learning moment. We have to be in a learning state of mind to do good work. And that was actually the impetus behind our workshop, design workshop, because we wanted to use learning experience design principles, learning science, to help shape how people think about having meetings and doing sessions. And so I love that you’re tuned into that, because so often people aren’t paying attention to the fact that man, we got to support them and keep them in a learning mindset, because if we’re not in a learning mindset, then we’re just going to stagnate.
Emily: Exactly. And it’s so important too, is also understanding like people have different styles of learning. So interesting story that, well with me, we said this in the pre-show too, is that I should know what it’s called because I have it, but there’s only 5% of the people in the world that can’t see images. So if I tell you, some people don’t even have to close their eyes and it’s the most annoying thing, because I even try to close my eyes to figure it out. But say I tell you to look at an apple, can you see the apple? Can you tell me the color? Can you spin it? Most people can.
Well, in my learning style, how my brain works, I can’t do that. So the visual aspect that people are so like, “That’s how we start learning, is visual.” I’m like, “Y’all, I can’t visualize something if I wanted to.” And the irony of this is that I went to my mother and I was like, “Hey mom, can you do this?” And she’s like, “No.” Then I went to my husband, the rest of the family, they’re like, “Oh yeah.”
And I was … the first person I went to, she was exactly like me. So I guess it’s genetics. I don’t have a clue. But all this to say is that, it was probably genetics, I’m about to tell you something else. My daughter, her learning style has been very interesting. I have an eight-year-old daughter. And so for two years, they always say she’s the hardest worker. She just can’t comprehend what she’s saying, or she can’t comprehend or keep it.
Well, we actually did some testing on it. She actually has a processing disorder. And so her processing disorder allows her not to do amazing at learning if I’m having to read all the time. So there’s so many facets of learning and how our brains are designed from, I like to hear, I’m very good. I can walk in a room and I can hear it. And that’s just, that’s my natural style. That’s my daughter’s style. But you give me a piece of paper and I have to read it, uh-uh, it’s not me.
Douglas: It’s really fascinating. The research bore out that while there are maybe favorite learning styles, that everyone learns from all different mechanisms. So if we lean in with a very diverse and supportive style, where it doesn’t matter what the neurodiversity is in the room, we’re going to support anybody where they’re at. It actually helps everyone, because it turns out the diversity of approaches helps people integrate better. Because even if you have a preference for auditory, there’s still benefits from seeing some text, even if it’s … maybe there’s a point where you get overloaded. Right? But I thought that was really fascinating that the efforts to help an individual actually ends up helping the whole, because we’re supporting them in different ways.
Emily: Yeah. And it’s the energy, that’s the thing that we talk about is what’s your capacity? So if I’m at a max capacity, you want to give me the most or the easiest to interpret at that time. However, if we create the environment where I’m not having to utilize as much energy, or if I have somebody in the room that has a different brain than mine and that pops over and I may not be the best communicator, but I have somebody that sees my brain and sees my mind or my facials. Especially on my team, they can read my facials and they know, “Hey, I need to pop in for her. She’s not getting this.” And how beautiful it is to have also the team effort. And what I say is, I don’t want to be like minded. I want to be like hearted. And we have a general mission to conquer whatever it may be, but we can help each other together within our different diversity of thoughts.
Douglas: So what’s your advice for teams that are wanting to have more of that? Maybe they aren’t noticing that someone on the team is struggling, or they’re not in that mode of finishing each other’s sentences. What are some initial steps they can take to start getting there?
Emily: So we literally created an assessment for this. So take the WISE assessment. That’s one thing, because that’s what we’ve found, is that it’s the coolest thing whenever everybody gets to break down on what their natural least amount of energy style is. So it’s even everything from do you need direct communication? Do you need sugar coating? Or are you the … some people may say there’s sandwiches and they’ll try to give feedback. There’s so many different facets of conversations that can take your energy in a meeting.
And sometimes the smartest people in the room may not have the emotional intelligence. And so making sure that there’s cues along the way for those people that … I joke there’s one of my clients, I always say she has 70 different tabs open in her brain. She was an Olympic athlete. She also runs an amazing business, manages over half a billion dollars with an amazing team and everything. And it’s just her brain. Her brain has all those tabs open. And I have to remind her, “Hey, close a few of those tabs and look at people in their face.” It’s just natural training things and getting people in the room. And I guess the other thing is, that’s kind of what we do too. We go into the rooms and facilitate the leadership meetings or facilitate conversations where you have, to break down silos is what we say.
So if I have somebody from marketing and sales, they can sometimes not like each other. So how can we bring them together? And first you got to kill the animosity. You have to make it where it is a safe space to talk. That serotonin gut checks in the body. And how we start all of our meetings off is either through some form of gratitude, because it releases something called oxytocin, which allows for connection. We call that the loving grandmother or wins. We want to know what are the wins of the week. In this past week, what have … you got to come with one, because we got to actively, it’s so easy to find the negative, especially if we don’t like each other in a room and finding those wins really make the difference.
Douglas: Yeah. That is something I love to do. And have you looked at positive deviance or appreciative inquiry at all?
Emily: I have a little bit, but not to the extent to talk about it.
Douglas: It’s really fascinating. The research bears out. When we focus on the positive and what we want to amplify, it’s effective.
Emily: Oh yeah. And that’s the thing, is it’s that cliche where energy flows, mindset goes or whatever, however it goes. But that’s very imperative, if we don’t find the good. For me, all I need it for is to get an oxytocin boost or a dopamine. So dopamine in the body, we call that the rah rah cheerleader. And if you want to know how I got all these names, is I taught it to my kids who are seven and 11 at the time and they taught it back to me.
So they came up with the names, they get the credit for it. But dopamine, that helps focus. It gets a bad rap sometimes on how it gets these quick hits or like Facebook or some form of social media, whatever. But it actually helps increase focus. So I want to start off any meeting with a place that I can make it safe. They can feel safe. I can get some form of a dopamine and if I can get it even better, I’ll take an oxytocin hit, just so that we can start that connection. We can break down and create a space where people can actually talk and not feel like they’re smothered or they don’t have a voice.
Douglas: Yeah. I was going to bring up earlier. We were chatting and you talked about caring and connection. And you just mentioned connection again there, so I was already kind of drawn back to that point around just the importance of having some generosity and some softness with our coworkers.
Emily: Yeah. So that’s been very interesting lately. And one of the trends that we found in 2021, but we’re seeing it also flow through in 2022, so one of the major people trends in 2021 was the increase of animosity towards one another. So which is the decrease of connection. Oxytocin, again, the loving grandmother. If you think of puppies and babies, is actually what makes Pitocin, if you have a spouse that has … or ever had to see childbirth or lived in childbirth, Pitocin is actually what gets the cycle going? And it is oxytocin.
And it is the reason why we have love at first sight. And it is what brings that connection piece that comes together. So how is a human designed and engineered? We’re engineered for that, we have to feel connected. You may have hear about belonging or whatever these other phrases, but we have to have that.
So animosity was very interesting in 2021 that came up. We weren’t with each other and oxytocin also comes through high fives, touches, or extreme vulnerability. So if I’m very vulnerable and tell my story about maybe a mental illness that I’ve had, or how I had a kid out of wedlock at 21. Those will get you one, curiosity, but two also a connection because she just said that? And getting into spaces, not everybody can tell their story. For me, I can, it’s more of a relieving thing as well.
But if we have troubles in the day and understanding, which actually leads to the 2022 trend that we’re seeing, as we call it the superhero syndrome, which is really fascinating, in that people feel like they have to save the day. They have to save everybody and they don’t have the people that they can come to and just take the mask off and they can just be a human. And that’s what we talk about.
It’s like, you don’t need to be a hero, stop that mentality. You are a human. That’s what you’re designed to do at first. And creating that space, just sometimes people just need to get things off their chest. And that’s, some of the most successful business leaders I have, have meetings morning check-ins, where they create a safe space. Everybody gets to talk and ironically it’s in the healthcare industry, they get it. It’s been a hard, hard two years. They get it off their chest and then they go do the work.
Douglas: So I’m really fascinated by this uptick in the hero kind of mentality. Any insights into where that came from or why there’s an uptick there.
Emily: So the uptick is specifically, we’re saying it in more of the doer … people who get things … high performers. We’re seeing it high in high performers. And also with people that say yes a lot. And so they’ve said, “Yes,” they’ve helped. They’ve done. They keep doing. And now it’s like, “Whoa, I’ve got this title of hero and then I need a pop back.”
Or for example, I do a lot within mental health and mental fitness performance aspect of it, because we find that, that’s a really one of the big drivers that can impact performance. Well, for me and even my team, I’m hearing the darkest stuff I’ve ever heard, about people want … kids having to drive across state lines to go see and talk with their kids, because they’re actively thinking about suicide, to domestic abuses and things I’m like, “Whoa, we’ve kind of opened up the floodgates.”
And so those type of people, me and my team and other people that just care and they’ve listened and they want to support and they want to help. They don’t take time sometimes to do it for themselves. And to what we say is refill that cup up. They’ve emptied it all for everybody else. And so they preferably don’t even know that they need it at times too.
Douglas: Gosh. Yeah. About four and a half years ago, I was doing a design sprint for an organization that was hoping to get some more insights into a service they were building for caregivers. And so on testing day when we were interviewing and learning from the caregivers, there was a consistent thread I was hearing from the caregivers, which was this notion that they didn’t take time for themselves.
And there were two people that specifically said that they would cry in the shower, because that was the only place they felt safe to cry, because they couldn’t cry in front of the person that they were giving care to, because it would upset them. And then they didn’t … and it’s, that’s probably one of the most just tear jerking moments I’ve had interviewing people about their situations, is this idea that, wow, you’re sacrificing yourself to the point where you’re crying in the shower.
Emily: Yeah. And it is so … and that’s the thing, that’s where my heart comes from, because we know that work is a fifth leading cause of death. We design that to be. And that’s the thing is, how can we step back? And again for ours, it’s to be wise. We think everybody should be well, they should be intelligent, not just with just smarts. It’s emotional intelligence and process improvements. Insanity curses are the number one thing that we see, is people, they want to do better, but they keep getting trapped in habit loops or policy loops or procedure loops.
We think everybody wants to be safe and not just physical safety, but that’s a psychological safety. Can you speak up? Can you tell somebody in your area that, “Hey, I’m struggling today.” And it’s not going to be something where they get knocked on their performance. And I’m in performance management. That’s what I do. And what I feel like is the final one is E, is empowered. Whenever you combine all those together, people do perform at their best, hands down. Time and time again, when people feel and all those questions around four major chemicals too, is when they’re designed and put in right environments, they will succeed.
Douglas: It reminds me of the other thing we’re chatting about in the pre-show when you were talking about the prefrontal cortex and I got excited, because I’ve been always really fascinated by the study that was done around musicians that play scales or compose music. It activates the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and people that are doing improv or playing and more free, it’s the medial prefrontal cortex.
And it’s fascinating to me, because when we’re doing that composed, that structured, that process stuff, the critic comes out in, we’re more judgemental. Whereas in the other, we’re more attuned to language and creativity. We can understand each other better. We can find novel solutions. And so the actual processes we put in place to make work more efficient, could be the very things that are making us more exhausted, have more animosity, et cetera.
Emily: Oh it is, a hundred percent. I will go to my grave saying that, just because there are things of understanding that how, and ironically, is you also can train people for this. So there’s a part of it is to, we joke, we want people to stay in between nausea and excitement. So whenever we stay in between that phases, it allows us to grow those areas. It allows us to grow our ability to tap into creativity.
And what we were talking in the pre-show too is about cortisol. The angry coworker. While we say it, she’s angry. It’s because she gets a bad rap, because she’s only been talked about as fight, flight or freeze. Well she actually has three other responses, one mask, the other one’s care, and the other ones connect. But again, going back to the connection, she can help you tap into that innovation.
In the work that I’ve done with sports teams. One fascinating thing within sports, I work specifically in the baseball realm the most, is that if I have a baseball flying at a shortstop, I don’t want him to think at all. Because if he has to think and take steps over, I want it to be shut off. I want him to be able to go on habits. So whenever that prefrontal cortex is shut off, you’re going basis in habits.
But there’s this cool thing too, is there’s something called the amygdala. And I just call her Amy, because nobody remembers the amygdala. And she only, her purpose is to answer three questions. Is this causing me pain? Is this something I need to do right now? Or can I see it differently? And if you can get to that question of, can I see it differently, you have a greater chance to be able to open up to those innovative and creative. Or if we’re in work environments where it needs yesterday, I got to have it done. It’s now, it’s a priority, it’s a priority. Answer this message now, this chat, the Slack, whatever’s coming at you, you’re just shutting down and you’re just going to turn into a robot.
Douglas: There’s also more opportunity to have regret, right? If the process is coming at you and then it breaks, it’s like, “Oh, well …” there’s a clear, it didn’t do the thing it was supposed to do, versus when we’re in these more explorative modes, there are no wrong answers.
Emily: Oh, I love that you say that too, because it makes me think of one thing that we talk about a lot, is progression, not perfection. And really leaning into that. And we don’t even say goals anymore. We call them experiments because whenever you add a twist of curiosity and you take away some of that perfection, and again, these are habit based, because we’ve been conditioned since childhood, you need to make the A’s, you need to like hit the home runs, you need to do perfect, perfect, perfect.
Literally this morning, my … we pray every time we go to school and my son, he was praying, he goes, let me ACE this test. I was like, “No son. I was like, I don’t need you to ACE your test. I just need you to do your best. That’s all I need from you,” because this perfection if I don’t get these grades, I won’t get to the next level. And it’s just this perpetuating of perfectionism that just needs to be gone in my opinion.
But it’s not yet, because we’re humans and we have systems designed around it. But the progression, having the shame or guilt that can be attributed to not hitting certain levels, especially whenever working with high-performing teams is so constant. And again, if we were going to go back to that superhero syndrome, that’s another thing that exacerbates it.
Douglas: Yeah. 100%. It reminds me of even just the idea of having a goal post says that there’s a right or wrong answer. It’s going through here, but saying experiment opens us up to learn other things that we haven’t anticipated that we would learn. So just that framing alone helps us open the horizon on what we’re able to accept as an answer.
Emily: Yeah. And it also with the facilitation. I’m doing one on a five-year, three to five-year strategy. I like to do three. My preference actually. I like to do quarterly strategies, but on this group, person’s looking for future thinking. And one thing that they always can get stuck on is that it’s got to be perfect. We got to hit it to the side, got to hit the mark, got to hit the mark.
And so what we’re actively doing in this one is, “Hey, this is just an experiment. We’re going to see. It’s fluid, it’s agile. We can move, we can bend with it. But this is what we’re saying with the best amount of knowledge that we have to date on what we think will get us where we want to go. And throughout the process, we’re going to keep looking at it. We’re going to hold it accountable, but we’re going to keep looking at it and change when needed.”
Douglas: That’s why I love the quarterly stuff, to your point, that cadence, even though we set a three year thing, if we’re looking at our quarterly experiments, to use your word and then looking at our three year, we can kind of constantly tweak and adapt. And that way, when three years rolls around … the three years is always this elusive thing, that’s always three years away.
Emily: I know. It’s so funny. I’m like, “Oh, y’all.” I was like small steps, small steps.
Douglas: That’s right.
Emily: But I get it. I get it. I guess it may be that I can’t visualize and see these pictures in my brain. So there’s fun ways that you can elicit these out. One of my favorite is what magazine cover do you want to be on the front of and using that as, what would the article say inside of it? What would the front page look like? What would be the title for it all? And what award would you win? So using those ways to be able to elicit an image from the people, because that’s not where I’m at.
Douglas: Yeah, I love the cover story mock up, is what we call that. But I love the idea of pre-mortems, so many people do post-mortems, but if you can tell the story before it happens, then we can tap into some real passions around, hey, what could we be?
Emily: And that’s cool. Again, that’s that innovation, but you have to have that safe space. And the one thing that we always talk about is reality check, because we’ll get into this inventive … it makes me think of my son. My son is, his nickname is Young Sheldon because he is ridiculously smart. And one thing that he’ll do though, is he’ll have these amazing ideas about creating hovercrafts and all these other things. And it’s, it’s a great idea, baby, but is it real? Is it something in this grandiose thinking and how can we help, that’s why I like design thinking, because it makes it go out, and then in, out, and in, out, and in. Is how I describe it.
But it’s also where we have to look at reality. With the things that we have today, which also comes with the money that we have and the world that we’re in, is this a realistic goal? And not even is it a realistic goal, and you have the smart goals and whatnot, but is it something where we can continue looking at, is it like revisable? Is it things that we can come back and be like, hey, again, going back to the experiments, can we just scratch it all? Or how do we need to make this better?
And so that’s what I always think about, is my son. And it’s just, it’s cute to watch him. And I love to do it. I don’t want to be the killjoy, but at certain times, man, and again, my father invented a lot of stuff that makes carpet or the textiles and all that stuff. And so within that framework, that’s how my father got to be as successful as he was. He actually started, the coolest thing is he started in junkyards and he started building a 1972 Firebird. And from the Firebird, he learned how to craft, and how to weld, and how metals bend. And he just continued to grow it.
So I don’t ever want to squash innovation. However, in facilitations, you have to have a target list, a task list at the end, from my point of view. And so it’s that double edge as a facilitator, is how do we get to these targets, but also allow them to have the ideation and time to have that?
Douglas: To me, it’s the arc that we’re creating and making sure there’s moments to support both, because if we’re getting too convergent or we’re getting too … if we’re introducing the constraints too early, it will stifle.
Emily: But here’s the coolest thing. So I work within a marketing group as well. And so for my brain, I like blank sheets. Favorite thing. I want to create it. Ironically, all of my thinkers or the, we call it creative strategist, they wanted rules, they wanted boxes. They wanted a template. And you give them a template and though they’re going to go to work on it.
So that is the other interesting thing is too is again, going back to the beginning, know who’s in the room and what is their brains needing? My, preferably blank sheet. But if somebody needs a template, can we give that to them? And how do you know when it’s that … it’s a dance. When to give, when to take, how does it work? And so that’s the beauty of the work that I think we both do, is just, it’s so cool and creative, it’s never the same, humans are the coolest in the world. I just love how they work. And that’s, I guess why I do what I do too.
Douglas: Yeah. Yeah. And you mentioned the sports teams a moment ago, but we also talked about high pressure teams. So things like emergency workers, and you talked about your frontline healthcare stuff or your background there. It just strikes me that quite often, being able to regulate your emotions is not always something that folks are trained in or capable in, but certainly people that are drawn to that emergency work or have experience doing that, have built up those capabilities.
Emily: Yeah. And this is probably going to knock me for this one. I hate to say and control the controllables or in controlling the room and how it is, because it’s not as easy as you think. So if I tell you to think about your favorite food, you’re going to start salivating. There’s certain things that we do within ourselves, especially within high pressure, it’s just, our body is just responding to it. And some people say, “I don’t make emotional decisions.” No, every decision you make has an emotion attached to it. And you can thank the amygdala for, I call her Amy.
So it’s thoughts, lead of feelings. And those feelings will lead to actions. And over time, those actions will become habits or behaviors. But you don’t skip steps. You have to go through that. And again, going back to Amy, you can decide which way she can go, if you can see it differently. And sometimes we don’t even know that we’re just skipping steps, like emotional decisions on why do I want to eat pizza for today? It’s because I had a stressed out day. Or we also know some cool nerdy facts on this. We know that 5:00 AM shoveling snow is the number one time for a heart attack. Monday scaries, why does that also creep up?
We also know that if you didn’t eat healthy in the morning, that around 10 o’clock and then if your lunch wasn’t good at two o’clock, you’re more likely to go for a coffee run to keep yourself going throughout the day. There are so many things that if people understood how hard it is to control these aspects, along with there are people way smarter than I will ever be, that are working on the back end to help you make decisions for yourself within the feelings aspects of it.
So that’s the one thing, is just understanding that feelings are going to be there. We have to make a space. We have to make a pause for them, but we can’t avoid them. And that’s the number one thing I think I see, that’s probably my most frustrating is that just avoid a feelings. They shouldn’t be in work. No, they’re there. You can just thank your physiology for that.
Douglas: The thing I’ve personally found helpful is just to hit the pause button. There’s a moment that feels like maybe it’s emotional or even if I’m not detecting it, introducing pause buttons just in general can be helpful. And most recently, I’ve been using scheduling a lot of emails lately and even Slack messages. And it’s really fascinating, because it’s not only nice for the team not to receive emails when I happen to be working later on the weekend or something. But also it’s been really fascinating to know if there’s any regret after sending it. For instance, if I’m really debating on whether or not I want to speak at this conference and I send the message saying, “Thanks for interest, but I can’t do it.” And then I have immediate regret after sending it, then I can undo that message, because it’s scheduled.
Emily: It’s the best. It really is, because it gives you time to reflect. So I love schedule send. It’s one thing that I do. So all my people, if you get a message at 8:00 AM, that was totally me schedule sending and working at times I probably should not have. But the one thing is, is that the other day I actually, me and my team, again, I work with psychologists, people in the background. So I can’t hide this stuff and they’re going to call me out.
We are straight up safe zone. I love, love, love my team. But the other day we were talking about something and apparently I was visibly getting heated with it. And again, what I said in the beginning, we like to have hot conversations. But one thing that I’ve learned, is that when heat starts to rise and specifically with me, I’ll feel my body get warm or my hands could get clammy or my heart rate.
When I start to feel that, that heat is also for me can be hurt, ego, assumptions or temper. If I see any four of those, I need to like walk away, because quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to become angry is something I try to live by. And sometimes I, again, it’s hard to control when you have a passion for something.
And my team, ironically, one of my guys, John he’s like, “Hey Emily, subconsciously, I think this is getting to you, because you’re a little bit off.” I was like, “Dang it.” But again, it’s the beauty of having somebody in the room to tell you, “Hey, why is this owning you? Why is this doing something different for you?” With curiosity and not judgment, because it goes back to that thing that you talked about earlier, is the guilt or the shame that can be associated with it, if you don’t pause.
Douglas: So I think there’s a quote and I believe it’s, it might be Sir Brigham Young of all people, said, “He who takes offense when offense was not intended is a fool, but he who takes offense when offense was intended is an even greater fool.:
Emily: I like that. It is true though.
Douglas: Absolutely. But it’s, I always like to tell people, assume positive intent, man, because we don’t know when we’re misreading something. And even if it 100% seems like someone is out to get us, that’s where that animosity creeps in. And if we assume there was negative intent and then we even scowl or our facial expressions get the best of us, then what are they going to do the next time we say something that might be easily misunderstood? And then just boils over, that animosity just leads to more animosity.
Emily: Yeah. And it also goes with the assumptions. Somebody said, always be careful with that, because you may look like the first three letters of the word.
Douglas: Yeah, that’s right.
Emily: And just continuing in on how dangerous those can be. But that’s again, that’s how our brain is designed. Our brain is designed to categorize. Our brain is designed to use less energy, to be able to do these things. So which actually goes back to what we talked about earlier, is taking that pause, taking that break, because you need to rest and reset. Nobody can go full out. That’s not, again, that’s not how we are designed. So making sure that you have those breaks throughout the day, making sure that you have, especially if you’re facilitating an all day, get people moving. I love, love walk and talks, before our conference that we’re doing, our summit is chewing chats.
Get on to be doing some form of movement or walk and talks before the meetings. How can we get people to be … and I learned this actually through my husband. There’s actually a lot of science behind it too, but I’ve been married, next week will be nine years. And I got so frustrated with him, because I would sit down and I would want him to talk to me and he’d be like, “Sorry, not happening.”
But we’re avid outdoors people. And so we would go to our farm and we would walk and I can’t get that man to shut up. And I’m like, “How did this happen?” And understanding getting in again, spaces where it’s safe and people can flee if they want to. So I think that’s the other aspect of it. If I say something that’s triggering to him, he can just run and go have fun with one of our cows and just make a new, “I got to get on the tractor right now,” kind of excuse. But also it allows for more blood flow to the brain, so that you actually have the ability to have the energy, to have the conversations
Douglas: That’s right. Everyone’s space is going to be different. And how do we take note of that and support it?
Emily: See, again, going back to the WISE assessment that we do, we actually ask that question. So we look back and we dive in deep about, what is your habits usually in school. So for me again, outdoors person, that hunting stand is the quietest place that I always was at and I love to be outside, outdoors. So I would always go and just go to the stand and do hours of work. But if you put me in an environment like a coffee shop, I am horrid at it because I want to hear all the conversations and I want to people watch.
But other people, that’s what they need. I have a group that’s so funny where one of the people, everybody was getting frustrated with her because she always had the music on and it was her music that she liked. But the other people around them, they weren’t accustomed to that. But come to find out she was a coffee shop style person. That’s what she needed. She needed that quiet background noise. And so understanding our learning environments, what do we also need within that aspect? Some people need it like library. Some people had to go to the library and study. So it’s their own, just how they’re designed and their habits and what it has created them to be for today.
Douglas: So you mentioned the summit and I want to provide a little bit of space here for us to talk about that, because I know you have that coming up. I try to keep it fairly evergreen on the podcast so that even if someone’s listening to this six months from now, it’ll still be applicable. But there’s still, in the case of your summit, it’s still a ways off. So I think there’s plenty of time for folks to listen before and perhaps you’re doing it every year. So even if someone listens, maybe there’ll be another one coming up. So tell me a little bit about what you’re doing and what you’re excited about?
Emily: So the summit is something that I’m beyond excited about, because it’s a two day interactive summit, where we are bringing people in, HR, ops, safety. And what we say is we’re bringing people that are like hearted, not like minded. And we’re all around this mission that we believe that work should be designed for people to work and live wise, which is those well, intelligent, safe, and empowered that spoke earlier.
And so just the first day is all about self. How do we do that for ourselves? And then the next day is all about org. How do we do that with our policies and procedures and our people that we have? But I just love that it’s finally being talked about, one in such a greater space. And just for us, our mission is to create a space for accountability, connection and life impacting results, not just for here and now, but for seven generations to come. And this is us getting to live out our mission, actively creating a space for people to come and create those connections.
But then also have the accountability to go back and say, “Hey, you know better now. You do. So go do something with this.” And so that’s just more people that understand how humans are wired, what is the design? What’s making us and making your humans do what they’re doing and then you’re getting frustrated with them? So bringing just a lot of cool people together to talk about it.
Douglas: Nice. And is that going to be in Atlanta?
Emily: No. It’s going to be in Chattanooga.
Douglas: Right on, right at the mountains.
Emily: Yes it is. So if you’ve not been to Chattanooga, we always … everybody that comes here is like, “It’s the friendliest city.” And it is. It’s beautiful. It is outdoorsy. If you love anything outdoors, it is absolutely perfect. So not only for that, but also just to come learn and it’s just a cool community. It really is.
Douglas: And where can folks find out more about the summit?
Emily: They can find out more @workspeed.com. And so if you look up Work WISE Summit, so we will be doing it in September and then the hope is to continue this all through. So it’s technically, it’s our first one. So we are nervous as all get out, but it is something that we’ve been praying and thinking about for years. And so we’re finally doing it.
Douglas: Wow, excellent. Exciting times. It’s always fun to launch a new program and an inaugural year for a summit, it’s an exciting, fun opportunity.
Emily: Well, thank you so much.
Douglas: Well, want to make sure that we leave some time here for you to send off our guests with a final thought. So what would you like to leave them with?
Emily: That’s a good one. I think the biggest thing that I would leave people with is if you’re probably listening to this, that you’re probably one of those high performers, because you want to get all the information and just that you know, I’ve been doing this for years. I know Douglas has been doing this for years. We have days we struggle.
The one thing that I think that’s the most frustrating that I get is, you’ll hear if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. No, you’re going to work. You’re going to work a lot. It’s going to take a lot of energy, but in the end, it’s worth it. And so, but while you understand what it is worth it, you also have to understand what’s not worth it. And being very diligent and understand what you need to say no to.
So biggest thing, I think that I’ve been harping on the past two weeks and that’s what I’ll leave you with, is please default to no and defend your yes. And so as you go, and if you want to, if you’re in a room that you’re being asked to do things default to no. And it’s okay, it’s not on your self worth. Sometimes you need to pause and look back at you and what you need. If you were a cell phone, if you pulled up your cell phone right now, could you see what the battery level is? How about for yourself? Do you know what your battery level is? Dive into that and default to no.
Douglas: Wow. Awesome. Thank you, Emily. It’s been a pleasure chatting and I hope we stay in touch and talk more soon.
Emily: Oh, we will. For sure. Thank you so much. And thank you to all the listeners.
Douglas: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control the Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. If you want to know more, head over to our blog, where I post weekly articles and resources about radical inclusion, team health and working better, voltagecontrol.com.