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I Can’t Say *That* at Work — with Molly Tschang

Molly Tschang

Have you been in a meeting and can’t get a word in because one person is monopolizing the conversation? Or left your boss thinking about all the things you should have said but didn’t? Or finally mustered the courage to speak up only to get your idea shut down?

In this episode of Women Amplified, communications expert and creator and host of the Say it Skillfully podcast Molly Tschang will help you say THAT and more at work — in a productive and positive way.

Learn actionable strategies to change the way you and your colleagues interact for the better and eliminate the frustration that goes with not saying what is on your mind.


Molly TschangMOLLY TSCHANG is the founder and CEO of Abella Consulting. She helps senior management to Win As One—which companies often never even try to do—guiding them to commit to each other’s success, build powerful chemistry to lead together, and maximize value created. Tschang is also creator and host of the Say It Skillfully® radio show/podcast and video series, TEDx speaker, and member of Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches organization. She serves on the boards of several privately-held companies and the Cornell Engineering College Council and is a CornellTech guest lecturer on teams and leadership. Tschang has held executive leadership positions at Cisco Systems and US Filter, where she led the integration of over 80 acquisitions globally and helped management navigate rapid change and uncertainty in high growth environments. An advocate of social enterprise, she served as the executive director for NetHope and is an elected fellow of The Royal Society for Arts (thersa.org) and board member of Community Solutions—2021 winner of the $100 million MacArthur Foundation “100 & Change”award for accelerating the end of homelessness. Tschang holds a BS in chemical engineering from Cornell University and an MBA from UCLA with a focus on entrepreneurship and is certified in organization and relationship systems coaching (ORSCTM), stakeholder centered coaching, predictive index, and talent to value—created by former Blackstone operating partner, Sandy Ogg. In her downtime, she enjoys tennis, yoga and cooking with family and friends. @mollytschang

Celeste Headlee

Celeste HeadleeCeleste Headlee is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Racism—and How to Do It, Do Nothing, Heard Mentality, and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @CelesteHeadlee


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Episode Transcript

Molly Tschang:

So Celeste, so great to meet you. It’s Molly Tschang, and I am an executive advisor and in a one liner, I’d say I help senior management to win as one, to commit to each other’s success, build powerful chemistry to lead together and maximize value created.

Celeste Headlee:

Which is already a little disruptive, isn’t it? Because executives tend to be competitive and society tends to lionize the people who are aggressive and movers and shakers and do things on their own. Right? The so-called self-made man. So how do these conversations about winning as one, how does that go?

Molly Tschang:

Well, I think it goes great and I appreciate you bringing up the inherent tension because you know what got us here, doesn’t get us there, so the win, win, win in my own silo only goes so far. When you’re at the very top, ideally you’re going for the one and one is 11 effect. It’s funny because lots of times it is men on a management team who do a lot of sports and I use the sporting analogy because it’s exactly that. You can have a team win with one star player, right? But if you can really ignite all to figure out how we work together best, you can get sustained high performance. People want that, so I think if there’s a disruption, it is in the mentality of, “Hey, we’ve got to be really real with each other,” which means vulnerability, a must for trust. You say that word with people and they’re like, “Ooh, no,” but that’s how we know we’re real. You do this all day long, Celeste, right?

Celeste Headlee:

Yep.

Molly Tschang:

So when you can get people to be who they are and trust, they can actually have the conversations they need to have. Because we want to play to our strengths and avoid our weaknesses, but we can’t actually work around them if we don’t know them. So for me, when I’ve given folks the chance and the space to be who they really are, they always go there because people are pining to be who they really are and loved and respected, even though if it isn’t a perfect story. So I would say that it’s something that people really want. It’s frightening for some people, it takes a lot of courage to commit mistakes and you’re not perfect and what have you, but it’s real and I think at the core, people do want to be real.

Celeste Headlee:

I love the fact that this episode is called “I Can’t Say That At Work” because it ties into what you’re talking about. One of the things that prevents people from speaking openly and honestly at work is fear, fear of how they will be seen if they say whatever that is they are afraid to say. I wonder in your experience, what is a commonly the source of that fear? Is it people’s past experience being either shut down or getting a negative reaction, or do you think much of that fear just comes from our own self conscious thoughts?

Molly Tschang:

Yeah, this is so fabulous. I did a whole 90 minute webinar on this and the idea of being able to speak up is really grounded in being at one with ourselves, being in good relationship with ourselves first. What happens is when people don’t want to speak up, it’s generally like … well, the other person doesn’t want to hear it. It generally tends to go external and I would offer for folks all the issues we have with other people start within. There’s something about it that maybe it’s something about our own self we don’t like, but it really starts there, and the fear … So let’s just say there’s a percentage of workplaces out there, Celeste, where I get it. The bosses really don’t want to hear it. You’re there to just do what they say and it’s not safe. Okay?

Molly Tschang:

So I always, when I had to say it skillfully, I’m like, “Look it, Molly is not telling you to put your head on a chopping block if indeed it is not safe.” Right? There’s proof that people say something, boom, you’re fired. Now, if that is the case, which I hope is relatively rare, I really would just want people to ask, “Why are you staying there?” Is that a place where you can really flourish, can you be yourself? Can you grow? Can you help others grow? If you have a reason that you have to stay, okay, but I think for a lot of people, that’s where the issue is in those kinds of environments.

Molly Tschang:

Now, woosh, take that away, because most environments are not like that. Most of the bosses, all the bosses I work with, actually do want to hear the truth. It has to be conveyed in a way that lands and gives them a chance to hear it. So I think the fear part often is in our own mind. “I don’t want to look bad. I don’t look stupid. I don’t want to offend somebody and have them look bad. I might be wrong.” So I think having people think about, “If I’m holding back, let me get in good relationship with myself. Why am I holding back?” Don’t make myself bad or wrong for it. Be at one with it and say, “Look it, am I making up? Does my boss get out of bed and say, “You know what? I’m going to make it so scary. No one tells me what I need to hear.” I don’t think so. So I make light of it a bit and when I talk to people, they do a lot of this and people, they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re right.”

Molly Tschang:

Then I would offer that it seems to be okay to not say what you think needs to be said. You can “get away with it,” and this is where I say to people, “Look it, if your boss is acting in a way that isn’t serving the whole, okay, it’s not helping the whole, and they don’t know it, and if you don’t tell them, it’s actually not their problem. It’s actually yours. Because you’re not helping create transparency for that.” So it’s on you, in a skillful way, to help someone appreciate that, “Hey, the world may be a little bit of a different reality than you think. I may not be right either, but I just want to throw that out there,” those conversations tend to go well, because you’re helping someone grow.

Celeste Headlee:

What if your problem is 180 degrees from that? Because you talk about the smartest person in the room syndrome. What if you are the type of a person who feels you need to add to every conversation, that you need to have an opinion or a view or perspective on every topic that comes up. How do we avoid that?

Molly Tschang:

So this is great. I think the first is that person knowing that that’s going on for them. So for everyone around them, we’re like, “Oh my God, here he or she goes again.” Right? Showing compassion, and we’ve all done things that we don’t really know that we’re doing that drive other people crazy. So have compassion. This person may not actually get that that’s what they’re doing. So the awareness is the starting point and that’s all of us to help the person. So it’s pulling that person aside and going, “Hey Morgan, I get you’re such an expert on this. I’m noticing something in the meeting that may not be what you want to have happen. Would it be okay to share that with you?” So you’re asking permission and then you just share. “My experience is this and here’s the impact I think it has on you,” meaning why isn’t it good for Morgan?

Molly Tschang:

So if you can get to that point, which is, “I’m trying to be a partner and help you be better and help you be even more effective at work,” that’s going to go well. Morgan’s going to appreciate it. Morgan may not like it, but they will honor the fact that you’re trying to help. You can’t make them receive it. All you can do is go there. So that’s the awareness piece, which I think is the toughest part. Then if someone knows, then it’s this look it. Marshall Goldsmith, my idol, my friend, it’s much harder to actually change people’s perception of us than it is to make the behavior change. So the ability for Morgan to say, “Look it, I got it. It’s an ego thing. It’s a habit of mine. I want to break it. What are suggestions you have?” Ask for help. Ask for help you might need. Morgan asks, “This is what I need you to do.”

Molly Tschang:

It’s absolutely possible to grow if people want to grow. Now, the people who are on the sidelines are thinking, “Ah, Morgan’s never going to change. He can’t do it.” Okay. Well, is that how you would want someone thinking of you? That you have this habit that you’ll never get rid of in your life? So this is where I say we’re all part of the problem, all part of the solution. Celeste, it takes all of us to help each other grow and to be our best and our best together.

Celeste Headlee:

It’s interesting because you’re talking about speaking skillfully, as you do. The name of your podcast is Say It Skillfully, but you’re also essentially talking about how to give and take feedback.

Molly Tschang:

Yeah. That is a component of skillfulness and it is absolutely the words matter. I can give feedback in a way that you can’t, you can give feedback in a way that I can’t. So I think the tricky thing about it is it’s not a one size fits all. Right? Everyone’s unique and you have an opportunity to find a voice that is authentic and effective for you and you can model after some people, but people need to build the skill to take advantage of what’s uniquely you. So I think that the feedback is just one component of it, working through conflict, embracing dissent. We go through all the different scenarios, but at the core, when you peel it all back, it is about I have a me, you, we framework. It’s, “Hey, what’s going on for me? How can I get in a good relationship with myself? How can I let go of what’s not serving me? I may be angry. I may be so annoyed that this person needs this feedback and why do I have to deliver it?”

Molly Tschang:

I get it, but is that serving the work? Because our job is to show up in a way that best serves the work. So I’m big on meditation, yoga. For the folks who might poo-poo that, the ability to be able to let go of what’s holding you back is a really, really key capability for everyone to have. When you’re grounded with yourself, then the you part, you can put yourself in other people’s shoes and see what their emotional experience might be and truly empathize with it, and that’s core to connection, right? When you have connection, you can really start to create understanding.

Molly Tschang:

The we level is who are we together? You and I are part of this podcast, but we’re having a different experience of it. The ability to empathetically understand what it’s like for the other person to walk in their shoes, fundamental to great collaboration, powerful group identity, and sustaining success. That, if you will kind of architecture, helps people work through like, “Wait a second.” It’s simpler than people think, not necessarily easy, but I believe that when people are aware of, “Wait a second, this isn’t really everybody else. I have a role with it.” The minute I think I have a role in it, you know what that feeling is? That feeling is mutual accountability. We’re in it together. Right? To the point of what I think people want at work is we want to feel like we’re winning together and we want to be part of something far bigger than any one of us could ever be. Right?

Molly Tschang:

This is where I feel such opportunity, this great resignation. I’m on the board of a few companies. That’s not a big problem for us, but people seem so mystified and I’m thinking, “Folks, they don’t like working for you.” I’m sorry, I don’t know how else to say it. For people who seem mystified, there’s no connection. By the way, to connect there’s an investment in people. “Hey, how are you? Celeste, tell me a little bit about you,” before I jump into, “Why haven’t you done this? How come this is …” Right?

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah.

Molly Tschang:

Not rocket science.

Celeste Headlee:

Well, so as a leader in an organization, how do I manage those different speaking styles? So I’m in a meeting. I mean, you’ve seen the statistics, the people who talk the most are generally the people who get promoted. We seem to associate talking a lot with a leadership quality. So how do I, as a leader, sort of counteract my own gut instinct in that way, counteract my own biases that way? How do I encourage the people who speak less to speak up? How do I get those who speak all the time to stay a little bit more quiet?

Molly Tschang:

Yeah, this is perfect. This is what I call balancing the noisies and the quiets, right? The quiets are people … they have amazing ideas and they’re just watching this whole thing go on and they can’t even get in a word edgewise. The noisies are thinking, “Well, no one else is speaking up. I better fill the space.” So part of this is as the leader setting some norms and the value of we want to hear all voices, all voices, including the unpopular ones, because that’s the only way we create an accurate shared reality. We all see the situation differently. There’s very little objective truth so we’ve got to be able to hear all voices. I quote the MIT research that Sandy Pentland did and it’s that the highest performing teams, people speak in short sound bursts roughly equally.

Molly Tschang:

So you just say that, “Listen, folks, we want to be able to get the collective best, so that means short and sweet. So for some of us, we are very passionate and we can go on and we love it and I want you to know that when I see that going on and on, I’m going to give a little Heisman hand, I’m going to say, “Hey, summarize for us because I want to make sure we hear all voices.” So you let people know, “This is how we run the meeting. By the way, I’m part of that too. So if I go on and on, give me the hand wave and I know I need to cut it down.” So if you establish that of the norms, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be part of that. We all have to make this team together.

Molly Tschang:

For our quiets, some of them off the side might be, “Look it, I know that you have a lot to add, Sarah, and this is the thing, we aren’t going to benefit from it if you don’t add. By the way, you’re hurting the team by not sharing and I know you don’t want to hurt the team. It’s okay if you’re not right. Just know even wrong information spurs the cognitive functioning of the team.” So that to me is something that’s a group dynamic. Be really transparent about what the aim is, and then everyone’s accountable to create it. By the way, let’s just talk about this diversity and inclusion thing. When you have diverse teams, you need a higher functioning capability to be able to hear each other, to speak in ways that takes into account that people come from different places. If you don’t have that capability, it’s a train wreck. It’s really hard. You’re better off with a homogenous team because you can’t really get out of each other’s way.

Molly Tschang:

So normalizing this, creating space for folks, maybe English isn’t a first language. Got it. So what do people need to be able to contribute fully, co-create that hold ourselves accountable to it. That’s a sense of really watching each other’s back and being in it together. The management teams that I do that work this, they love it. It’s just way better because you’re not thinking, “Oh my God here, he or she goes,” or, “Jesus, why did you say that?” I think that’s the dumbest thing. You’re able to be really, “Oh, but …” and you’re responsible for it, right? You’re not hallpassing and just whining and moaning and groaning. You have to be able to be productive about it.

Celeste Headlee:

So you talk about conversation killers, and you’ve said that there are three words that kill conversation. What are those words?

Molly Tschang:

Oh, so let’s attribute this to Marshall Goldsmith, my idol. No, but, however. No, but, however, and I’m going to say this, if you put it in the middle of a sentence, that can be okay. It’s starting right out. Celeste comes up. “I think that a blue curtain might be great.” “No, I don’t think so.” Done. You have dishonored Celeste. People are like, “It’s scary,” and it’s not creating an environment that people are going to hear all voices. I have to tell you, I’ve watched him in meetings and he nabs people. I was mortified the extent to which I might start a sentence with no or but in particular. I started being afraid to open my mouth. I said, “Oh my goodness.” I had no idea the habit I had formed. So I really worked at it. It was hard to just ban those words and I get it. It’s a dishonoring feeling, particularly if you’re the boss. Particularly if you’re the boss, and part of it is awareness. Part of it is awareness.

Celeste Headlee:

It’s so funny that you say this because when I do conversation workshops in workplaces, I often do that improv exercise of yes, and, where you say a sentence, “Hey, it’s raining outside,” and then every sentence after that from both people has to begin with the words yes, and. Everyone looks at me like, “This is the dumbest thing ever. This is too easy,” but they can’t stop themselves from saying yes, but.

Molly Tschang:

Totally, totally. A way to word that is I would say when people hear something from someone else think about I have to acknowledge, whether that acknowledge is yes and, or, “Thank you, Celeste for bringing that up. I never thought of it that way.” Acknowledging that rather than to your point about being right all the time, kind of providing an answer. We want to show how smart we are. We’re providing an answer. Acknowledge that the person spoke up and shared something, particularly if it’s a junior person to a more senior person and it’s tough news, right? I’ve seen people share something tough and you know what the person says? “Who said that?” I’m like, “Oh my God, did you just say that? This poor person mustered up the courage tell you something really hard and you went at them, “Who said that?” I’m like done. That is signal to entire room, “Don’t go there.”

Molly Tschang:

Again, the leader isn’t trying to create an unsafe space. They’re unaware that that dynamic doesn’t engender a sense of welcoming of the bad news. Now, I’m not trying to tell people be marshmallows and mushy. I’m just saying let people know, “Hey, thanks for sharing that. I know it may not have been easy to say. Say a bit more.” For the leaders in particular, the less you talk, the better. So the more you’re asking questions, seeking first to understand, letting people solve, letting people go through their thought process. Right? That’s a win.

Celeste Headlee:

Yeah. I have so many questions about this because I mean, for example, I just finished doing two DEI workshops for an organization. When we had the feedback, the leader, the executive said, “I didn’t like that first one because everyone was talking about how they felt like they didn’t trust management and they felt like there was this gap between employees and management. I just felt like it should have felt more like we’re all in this together.” I wonder how you bring someone around on that by saying, “Look, these are your employees sharing an honest opinion. I’m not sure how to make that easier.” But there is this sort of feeling of both sides. In journalism, we get this both sides. It needs to be equal. That also ends up cropping up when it comes to feedback as well, that there always needs to be both a good side and a bad side to feedback.

Molly Tschang:

Yeah. So there’s a lot of layers here. So let me first take the I didn’t like that. I’m going to use that as the it’s right, it’s wrong. So lots of times it’s a judging. So I’m going to ask folks just be aware when you’re injecting judging right at the outset, because that also impacts safety. It’s very fair to say I didn’t like that. I don’t want people to dumb down their experience. I think for leaders, the opportunity for awareness is saying, “You know, Mike? You are absolutely entitled to your thoughts and the team needs them. One thing I want to share is, and I know where you’re going with that, but the way you came out with that may not have landed the way you think.” Pause. So that you’re like, “What?” Yeah. The thing is Mike doesn’t realize that people aren’t hearing him the way he thinks. That’s the number one problem. Before you figure anything, that’s [inaudible 00:21:42].

Molly Tschang:

Believe me, the leaders I work with, they get that. They want desperately to do the right thing. They sometimes aren’t as aware. So that’s first the opening and then it’s if you were so and so, and you heard that, what do you think they might feel? So to the extent you can get someone to consider, and not that they’re going to know, but just to consider, “Huh? What would it like for the summer intern who’s only been here one day to hear that, what would it be like for them?” So that’s two epiphany things. Then … Okay, this is my general statement for folks. If you can avoid the right wrong, good, bad, avoid the labeling. I think acknowledging, “I just want to acknowledge how it’s so great we’re coming together and being open and honest.” So there’s a positivity about that.

Molly Tschang:

“I’m going to share my experience. My experience was blah, blah, blah,” or, “Gosh, I’m really disappointed. I don’t want to make anyone wrong or bad, but I really wish for X.” So it’s always fair to share our own experience, not to invalidate anyone else’s. But that’s part of the shared reality, right? Helping people appreciate where you’re coming from, and then the intention part. “I really want to create environment where we really are all in it together. I know that I’m part of the problem at times. So I really am welcoming input. What can I be doing?” So again, I’m not here to solve the whole thing, but you can hear how the language shifts a bit and super powerful and still pretty net. Right? It’s not long winded.

Celeste Headlee:

So you talk a lot about … I mean, since we’re in this space, you do talk a lot about the blame game. When you use that phrase, what do you mean by it?

Molly Tschang:

So for the most part, when people hold back, it’s easy to say, “The boss doesn’t want to hear it. They’re never going to change. This is how it is here.” That’s what I would kind of characterize as blame game. Meaning. I’m off the hook, nothing I can do about it. Molly can’t do anything about it. I’m just here, innocent bystander, watching it all go by.” I’m like, “Well, wow, what a disempowered way to be in life.” So that doesn’t personally work for me. I would offer that, “Hey, how are you part of the problem in this?” Even if it’s only like a 2%, and maybe it is that you’re observing something and you’re just not speaking up saying, “I’m noticing that we seem to be blaming the customer for what happened and I’m sure there was a role in it, but I’m kind of wondering … I think maybe we had a role in it and I would want us to be honest about it.”

Molly Tschang:

Right? So here you are, you’re not advocating, you weren’t making anyone bad or wrong. You were sharing your observation as part of your reality, what you’re perceiving, and that can open the dialogue.

Celeste Headlee:

So I wonder from your experience, what are the most common communication issues that arise? What are the most common things that people come to you and say, “This went really badly. How do I fix it?”

Molly Tschang:

Well, I would say first and foremost that is the boss relationship. I want to empower both sides on this because the boss relationship is by far the thing that people come up with. The boss is driving them crazy, the boss is annoying, the boss is this. I’m like, “Okay, I got it. It’s really overwhelming.” Again, I think there has to be a sanity check. Do you want to invest and help create a better boss relationship, be part of the solution? Yes. If no, then I don’t think you can complain. Okay? So you either go someplace else, but I would encourage not complaining and just let it go. This is what it is, you signed up for. So I think the boss relationship is co-creating what … it might be micromanaging. It might be that the boss isn’t very self aware. Those come up a lot. So navigating those are huge.

Molly Tschang:

I would say there’s a lot of lack of feeling, of lack of appreciation, boss and teammate. Again, super easy to address by just showing gratitude and appreciating people in a timely and appropriate way. That’s a great habit to lean into, by the way. Then I would say on the teamwork side, there’s the unproductive meeting and then the frustration in trying to align and collaborate with people, holding people accountable is a big bucket. Then I think I would say broadly speaking conflict, and I want to normalize that. I think sometimes people think conflict is negative. Disagreeing is something that we want because people aren’t going to all have the same views. By the way, everyone wants to innovate. I hear this all the time. I’m like, “We only innovate if people are bringing up different ideas, disagreeing, if you will.” Right? So I think a lot of folks, that’s the relationship with myself. When I see someone bring up a different point of view, am I on my heels thinking, “Oh, no.” Or am I on my toes thinking, “That’s so great. Say more.”

Celeste Headlee:

How do I, as a leader, create the kind environment in which people feel psychologically safe with disagreement, where they feel okay saying, “I don’t agree with you.”

Molly Tschang:

So great. I love this. That is something, one, the leader is explicit in. Two, they own how they might be part of the problem and give people a chance to … you have to really act it out. So, I mean, I did a video on this, but it’s basically like, “Hey, I just want folks to know I value hearing all voices. I’m expecting it. That means bringing up different points of view.” Now, in a skillful way, we wouldn’t say, “Celeste, you moron, how could you do that? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” It might be, “Celeste. I hear that that’s your point of view. I don’t really understand it. Could you say more?” Or “Celeste, let me offer something that’s 180 degrees from the other side and let’s talk it through.” Right? We don’t have to be nailing it.

Molly Tschang:

Then a leader to say, “I’m expecting folks to lean into difference, and by the way, it might sound like everyone’s agreeing. That could be okay, but I’d actually like everyone to take the other side and argue the other side because maybe we’re all missing something,” and creating the safety for people to point out when you may not be right to be able to say I’m expecting people to disagree and to be able to say, “Hey, thank you.” Right? Not the, “Who said that?” So I think that’s a huge part. I want to point out that people, I think, use the blame of lack of psychological safety way more than it’s actually the case, because all the bosses I know want people to say it.

Molly Tschang:

The issue that most people have is that they are not that skillful or their bosses aren’t that skillful. It’s a capability issue. I think the psychologically safety, obviously it’s imperative. It’s not the biggest problem. It’s super easy. It’s super easy to create that space. Having people have the courage with the capability to use their voice in a skillful way, that takes a little bit of work.

Celeste Headlee:

What do we do as bystanders for all this? If we’re in a meeting and maybe a quiet person is not being heard from, and we’ve noticed, or maybe someone’s getting interrupted all the time, or maybe someone is regularly condescended to by either the boss or other colleagues, how can I be a productive and helpful bystander?

Molly Tschang:

Yes. I love this. First of all, there are no bystanders. Say It Skillfully is a full contact sport and I really say that because people are like, “Well, I’m just here on the side.” Oh no, no, no. You are a card caring member of this team. Your observations, what you’re noticing are super important to creating this accurate, shared reality. It might be, “Oh, oh, hey, just chiming in. I’m noticing we are hearing some very, very articulate, passionate voices. I would love to ask those folks to tone it down for a moment because there’s a bunch of folks we haven’t heard from. So I just would like to go around the room and ask their thoughts.”

Molly Tschang:

Now, for some people normalize, “Hey, if you’re agreeing, just to let us know you’re on board.” They may have a different idea. They may not. But just the ability to say, “Hey, I’m tracking, I’m on board with the conversation,” or, “It’s over my head. I don’t even know where to start. I don’t even know what I don’t know,” that’s what helps activate all the voices.

Celeste Headlee:

Is there a different technique for making room for slow thinkers?

Molly Tschang:

Oh, I love this. I love this. Some of these psychometric tests help people do that. So people need to know, are you someone who does your best work thinking it through, maybe even overnight, versus impromptu? I think for bosses, it’s really helpful to know. You can ask me what I think right away. I’ll give you an answer. May not be the best one, but I have no issues giving an answer. For some people that is the most horrifying thing. They’re like, “Aah…” So for the folks who need time, it’s like this, “Hey, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about X, Y, Z. Think about it and I just want you to know that’s what we’re going to cover.” They’re like, “Okay, great.” They get to think about it. For the folks, if that’s what you need, say, “Hey, I know we’re real time. It takes me a little longer. I’m not chiming in because I just haven’t thought it through. If it’s okay, I need a little bit of time to process and I’ll come back.”

Molly Tschang:

So just be open with it. We don’t want to label people as good or bad or right or wrong, but I think it’s in part of knowing each other and how do we create the space for each person to flourish and really provide their best work. For sure the folks who don’t want to be point blank asked something, you’re not going to get your best work from them when you put them in that situation.

Celeste Headlee:

It is difficult though, and as we begin to wrap up here, I want to get to something that sort of underlies all of this often, which is that sometimes we identify too personally with the things that happen at work. So that feedback is difficult to take because we think it’s a comment on who we are, not what we’ve done or what we’re capable of. How do we avoid that trap?

Molly Tschang:

Yeah. I love this one. This gets back to being in good relationship with ourselves. So that’s the part I can control, saying, “Hey, this person is taking the time to try to help me be better. That’s a gift. That’s a gift.” That’s what we can control and see it as a gift. Now, they may be very skillful and awesome at giving the feedback in a way where I feel it’s a gift, but they may be a little clumsy. That means we have to show compassion saying that person isn’t as skilled, but in there are some nuggets that I can learn from. So Marshall has this great feed forward. I think about it as an aspirational thing. Sure, you can go back and say, “Well, you didn’t do this. You didn’t do that. You didn’t …” and that can be effective when that needs to happen, but it can be, “Celeste, I would love to see you lean into this. I’ve noticed that it can be a little lengthy and long-winded, I’d love you lean short and sweet and here’s what it looks like. How could I help you do that?”

Molly Tschang:

Helping people see the upside of how they can be better rather than being like whack for being bad, that’s a human nature kind of thing. So I think the way people deliver, but I think most important is coming across as a partner on both sides. I’m here to help you be better. By the way, anyone who’s giving feedback is in a position to be getting feedback themselves. So this is not like anyone is perfect and here we are sprinkling fairy dust on everybody else. We’re all human, right? We all have opportunities for growth and areas to improve on. I think the people who are on good relationship with themselves also know with humility, “Here I am helping someone, but someone else is going to be right around the corner helping me.”

Celeste Headlee:

So before we go, I just wonder, I mean, if you and I were sitting on a stage talking to all the people that are listening right now, instead of recording through technology, at this moment in time, which is so fraught for so many people, we know people are feeling overwhelmed, they’re feeling stressed out, they’re feeling unsupported, that’s part of what’s leading to the great resignation and causing people to leave their jobs and look for something better. What’s something you can tell somebody as they move forward into a very changed work environment?

Molly Tschang:

So I have a lot of compassion for folks and I think of compassion as sitting with an open heart in the presence of unpleasant states. There’s a lot of folks having a tough time. There’s many people who are thriving at the same time, but for the folks having a tough time, I would encourage getting in a good relationship with yourself, just understanding what is going on for you, thinking about what it is you need. If it’s time to breathe, time to sleep, time to work out, try to honor yourself and give yourself what you need and ask for what you need from those around you who can support you.

Molly Tschang:

It can be tempting to think that everyone should know and they know I need this. They don’t know, and they have their own problems. So you can own what you can own, be willing to level set on what you got done before, what you got done now. It’s okay. You’re not a bad person for that. You’re looking at the reality as it is and think about what’s practical now. It’s a great time to think about the first things first and maybe you get a little less work done, but as a result, you’re taking care of the foundational parts of your own health, your own mental, physical, emotional strength, because that’s what’s going to give you your ability to help those around you and be there for the people you care for most and giving yourself permission to be real about that. Not feel bad about it. Right? I also think that that’s modeling leading yourself for others, and I hope I would hope that people would do that and feel good about it.

Celeste Headlee:

Molly, thank you so much. It’s been a real pleasure.





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