JP started this podcast because he knew Positive Leadership could help us to:
It’s this ripple impact that makes Positive Leadership both so powerful and so simple to practice in our daily lives.
And that’s why he's put together three ‘Best Of’ episodes, each focusing on one of the areas above.
This first episode, The Best of Positive Leadership and Me, features just over 20 minutes of top tips for becoming a better, healthier, more mindful, resilient, and self-compassionate version of yourself – from previous guests Michael Bungay Stanier, Arianna Huffington, Kevin Johnson, Audrey Tang and Kim Cameron.
Audrey Tang: What is inside your ideal life, take yourself through an ideal day. Where do you live? What do you do? What are you wearing?
JP: When I visualize my ideal life, I'm seeing myself having a great time with the people I love the most enjoying the fun of attending some live football games. And watching again, some of my favorite movies.
And it's also a lot about giving back through coaching, financial support, and other means to people that I don't necessarily know, but who could benefit the most.
And my little voice in my head would be filled at the time by the emotion and the energy received by all those unique, personal connections and real moments of joy.
Hello, and welcome to the Positive Leadership podcast. I'm Jean-Philippe Courtois, JP.
The podcast has been going on for more than a year now. In that time I've spoken to so many incredible people. I felt that now was a really good time to reflect on some of the key lessons that have come out of those conversations to learn how you can best apply them to grow yourself and develop a positive mindset.
Michael Bungay Stanier: So I know what I feel like when I'm anxious, I get a little hunched. I lean forward. I left my right foot off the ground and I start shaking my leg. I've got a whole bunch of shoes that I have ruined, cuz it's got, I've got a bad toe on that shoe called me being anxious.
JP: I'll be learning ways to visualize your ideal life and finding out why it's important. Because the first step to well is becoming a positive leader is being positive with yourself.
Kevin Johnson: Many of these jobs, you have to have stamina and it's, it's, it's both the taking care of yourself physically as, as well as your mental wellbeing. Um, you know, for me…
JP: As the former president and CEO of the world's largest coffee house, chance Starbucks, Kevin Johnson needs to have enormous amount of stamina.
Kevin Johnson: At least four or five times a week… I go for an hour and 15 minute just to walk with my wife in the morning.
JP: Do you also enjoy like me, uh, taking a triple espresso? I'm just taking a double shot, but…
Kevin Johnson: That that is my morning. Uh, my morning beverage is a triple shot. Uh so, uh, yeah, yeah.
JP: Kevin and I go way back. We used to be colleagues at Microsoft back in 2003. He was my manager when he was leading worldwide sales, and I was running Microsoft in Europe, Middle East and Africa. He's a very good friend now and a wonderful leader. Warm, and empathetic. He does transcendental meditation twice a day. And he got into, he told me, because of Ringo Starr.
Kevin Johnson: Ringo Starr, the drummer of the Beatles, he called me, uh, a year and a half ago at Starbucks , uh, before his birthday. And he wanted Starbucks to play a playlist of his, his songs on his birthday. And I said, well, sure, Ringo, I'm happy to do that. And he invited me to his birthday party and at his birthday party, he introduced me to his transcendental meditation coach who then taught me and my family transcendent.
So I meditate 20 minutes every morning, 20 minutes every afternoon, the combination of meditation and some exercise is a good formula.
Audrey Tang: A lot of people think with mindfulness, it's about yoga and breathing and meditation is it's not. Those are great ways of being mindful, but being mindful is about being present.
And also sometimes being mindful is actually getting ourselves out. Of that overthinking habit. It's getting ourselves out of our heads.
JP: Audrey Tang is a Chartered Psychologist and the award winning author of “The Leader’s Guide to Resilience”. Being positive with yourself she told me doesn’t mean that you ignore life’s less pleasant situations. It means learning to treat yourself with self-compassion, and to approach unpleasantness in a more a positive and productive way.
Audrey Tang …So rather than saying, “Oh, I didn't win that race, but at least I didn't come last”, which is a self-comparing statement. It's, “I didn't win that race, but I worked really hard and I'm proud of myself for doing that”.
…..Because if we can boost up ourselves, and the voice that we have in our own head is positive… Actually, when we're kind to other people, we're not feeling resentful. Because if we're not kind to ourselves, and we're critical to ourselves, and then we're trying to be kind to someone else, there will also be that little voice saying, “Well, who's going to be kind to you?” You! You need to be kind to you. "Because if we're not kind to ourselves, and we're critical to ourselves, and then we're trying to be kind to someone else, there will also be that little voice saying, “Well, who's going to be kind to you?” You! You need to be kind to you."
JP: Speak to yourself. I can relate to that. Speak to yourself, to this little voice inside ourselves. Sometimes we could be a dictator, so make sure you can master in a way that voice to actually translate your worlds into behaviors and to more into your life. But how do you keep the negative nagging voices inside your head at bay?
Executive coach Michael Bungay Stanier says treat or inner voice with a certain amount of suspicion.
Michael Bungay Stanier: Be aware that that voice in your head actually isn't the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is just a voice in your head and, you know, trust what you're thinking a whole lot less than you currently are.
And honestly, just the very act of noticing the negative talk and saying, this is me negatively talking to myself. There's a powerful act of liberation right off the. The second tool that I might offer up is, um, actually having some, uh, little affirmations around. And I know that sounds a bit kind of cheesy and self-help because it is self-helpy.
That's what we're talking about here. Uh, just tell a quick story. I, when I sign off my emails, I have an automatic little signature on the bottom of my email and it says, you're awesome. And you're doing great. And probably three times a week, somebody writes back to me saying, oh, thanks for that. I really needed to hear that right now.
And, uh, and that's why I keep it there because even though I'm sure there's some people who roll their eyes at that, there are some people who go that was an affirming moment. And I find, um, it's useful to have that sense of affirmation. I'm kind of saying to myself, regulate Michael, you are awesome. And you're doing great.
Even when things are going to hell, even when I'm not feeling that good about myself, fundamentally. I'm awesome. Fundamentally, I'm doing great. And I think as. As a practice that helps me with that is in the mornings every morning. I write down my answer to three quick questions to myself. One is what am I noticing?
That's helpful for me to notice the negative voices in my head, the stuff I'm feeling anxious about, the thing I'm really worried about it and make it concrete. And often it shrinks when I write it down. Secondly, what am I grateful for? And that's part of this affirmation about me and about the world.
And then thirdly, what's the one thing that I'm trying to get done today.
JP: Today Kevin takes his health and wellbeing very seriously. But that wasn’t always the case. The wake- up call for him came 9 years ago, when he was head of Juniper Networks after he was diagnosed with cancer….
Kevin Johnson: … I was diagnosed with melanoma, and was still trying to do my job as CEO of Juniper Networks and deal with my health issues. And one day, I found myself at the airport, about to board a flight to Europe, and I had just cancelled my doctor's appointments for the week. And so I sat there and I asked myself, why, through my actions, would I prioritize a business trip over my health, my life, the people I love? And so I decided at that moment for the rest of my life, no matter how long or short it may be, that I want to do things that are joyful, with people I love. And to me, there's nothing more joyful than serving others than helping others succeed than, uh, than, than bringing people together around a common mission and trying to do good in this world.
JP: All of us, all of you listener as well, have gone through some moments of our lives, and some tragic moments as well, where we can all learn fully through the, through the pain sometimes, uh, how much, uh, wonderful should be life, every moment of our lives and, and how much it is part of our intent and in our hands to, you know, to decide to shape it differently. So love, love your, your thoughts and what you did after you thought about it.
My deepest inspiration personally remains with my late dad. As he celebrates his 18th birthday, he was mobilized to join the foreign legion and alongside the French army and Allied forces to free France. On the 23rd of January, 1945, he was leading an attack to liberate Belfort, the small city close to the bottom of Germany.
And he was very badly hurt by pieces of shrapnel in his legs. He was literally left for dead, but he survived. And when he came back to Algeria where he was born, he started his medical studies, but given the many years he spent away fighting during the war, he had no other choice than completing the traditional medicine qualification in just four years where it would normally take seven years.
He literally had to work day and night for four years. So as you can imagine, the day he graduated, his mom, my grandmom, couldn't be more proud and so joyful to see her son completing his vocation. Because my dad had dreamed of being a doctor since he was seven years old. To me, that real life story and many others coming from my dad, I must say, have been so fundamental in grounding me, shaping my values of hard work, ethics, excellence, commitment, dedication, also to bigger causes and in essence, to be the service of others.
Arianna Huffington: We can all be transactional. We can all get stuff done, but to be a positive leader who can inspire and build teams and create and innovate, it requires us to operate from a place of fullness.
JP: I've been so excited to share this episode coming up right now because we are gonna get the chance to learn from one of the world's most well-known influential and authentic leaders, Arianna Huffington herself.
Arianna Huffington: Thank you so much. It's great to be with you, Jean-Philippe. Am I pronouncing it correctly?
JP: Arianna Huffington is by any traditional measure, extraordinarily successful as the founder and former editor in chief of the Huffington Post. She’s celebrated as one of the world’s most influential women. But in 2007 she found herself with a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye — the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep.
Arianna Huffington: Two years into building the Huffington Post, um, I was the divorced mother of two teenage daughters, and I had bought into the collective delusion that in order to succeed, you have to be always on. Power through exhaustion. Anyway, I collapsed, hit my head on my desk, broke my cheekbone, and that in retrospect was an amazing wakeup call that helped me delve deeply into the world of burnout. And, um, begin to change how I live.
JP: Each one of us sometimes has something unique happening in his life, her life, a trigger that makes you realize that, Hey, life is very precious.
And as you need to, to, to, to apply some different meanings in the way you spend your time and, and the quality of the time you want to spend, which means also balancing the time you're gonna sleep. Uh, but it takes time usually to, to realize that I think.
Arianna Huffington: Yes, absolutely. And I think athletes are ahead of the curve. They see recovery as part of peak performance.
JP: Today Arianna is the CEO of the behavior change technology company Thrive Global whose mission it is to end the stress and burnout epidemic. Burnout, pre-pandemic, and this is over work alone, was responsible for deaths of 2.8 million people a year. The pandemic has really shown a light on burnout and wellbeing at work as an issue that we all need to take seriously now.
So can you advise our listeners who are different stages of their lives, of their careers personally, socially, professionally, the way they should conceive and define their wellbeing agenda? Where would you start? and what would you do?
Arianna Huffington: Yeah. So, while stress is unavoidable, there is nobody who can lead a stress-free existence, cumulative stress is avoidable, and that's really what the problem is in terms of our hands. It's cumulative stress, and there's been a lot of research, including recently by the Microsoft Human Labs, about the importance of breaks. Yes. If you're in constant zooms as we've been…
JP: In teams, teams, teams.
Arianna Huffington: I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
JP: It's OK. It's OK.
Arianna Huffington: Teams, Zoom, WebEx, whatever platform we use the impact of doing it without breaks dramatically affects our brainwaves, our ability to concentrate, and to be creative. So, we've introduced resets, actually, we've built it into Teams for Accenture, and it comes preloaded with over 100 60-second videos that focus on your breathing, on things to put your problems in perspective, and my favorite thing is creating your own personalized reset. I'll send you mine, you know, pictures of my daughters, my dog, music I love, favorite quotes like Rumi, “Live life as though everything is rigged in your favor”, and in 60 seconds, suddenly, you move from whatever makes you anxious or worried or stressed to what makes you grateful.
JP: Taking breaks from your work, even if it's to look at screenshots of positive sayings or photos of people you love, even for as little as 60 seconds is one way to reduce your stress and to fill up what Audrey Tang calls your positivity reservoir.
Audrey Tang: Another thing that I think is important for leaders and teams to do is to take screenshots of when a client says, “Thank you, you've been wonderful”. Because they don't have to send that! The amount of times we will sit there and say, “Oh, you know, I put in so much work, but no one thanks me”. People don't have to send a thank you. So when they do respect it and hold it and value it for what it is. So take those screenshots, build up that positivity reservoir.
… And so breathing in through the nose…
JP: But she took me through some information that I found really useful in an active, reflective meditation, which is a great way to focus your mind more positively, where you visualize your ideal life.
Audrey Tang: Think about your ideal life. Where do you live? What do you do? Who do you surround yourself with? What does the voice in your head say, how do you speak to yourself and really get an idea, even if it's not clear right now, but get an idea of what your ideal life is going to look like. And one of the most important reasons for looking at what we want to achieve is if we don't.
Otherwise, how will we know that we have achieved it any time you consciously catch yourself behaving in a certain way, ask yourself on a continuum. Is this moving me towards my ideal life, all away from it, and then know that you can make your choices.
JP: But I do understand that building that positive energy is tough because when people give us feedback, particularly at work, we tend to zoom in on the criticism.
Kim Cameron: Most of the time when we get feedback from ourselves in an organization, it's in some kind of form, like a 360 analysis or 360 rating, right? Like when I get that feedback report, I look for the low score, where am I not doing so well, where am I not doing as well as they think I should, or as the norm or so…
JP: Kim Cameron one of the world’s leading organizational scholars. In 2002 he founded the Center for Positive Organizations, based at the University of Michigan. His research shows that rather than working on our weaknesses or areas of development the most useful feedback is that which tells us about our unique talents, and strengths. So he and his colleagues created something called the Reflected Best Self-Feedback process.
Kim Cameron: Select 20 people who know you well, coworkers, family members, neighbors. Ask them to write three short descriptions, three paragraphs of when they saw you at your very best. …. What strengths did you display?
So an individual gets a whole bunch of stories back and we simply take 'em through a process. We say, we'd like to have you identify the themes, the core principles that you see, and then create a reflected best self-portrait. And it's gonna be a written portrait. Here is me when I'm at my very best, according to all these other people's, uh, descriptions…
JP: I worked through the process with Kim. Asking colleagues and friends to write down examples of when I was at by best…..They sent them to Kim who read them out to me.
When we won the award for being the best region worldwide, you were so excited on stage. You spoke to the team about the trust you'd put in us and in me and the team…
JP: Hearing Kim read the letters out loud was incredibly powerful company.
Kim Cameron: For me hearing your words was priceless.
JP: It was actually our global sales event. And we had this upcoming, incredibly talented young president of the region in APAC and having him succeeding was to me, one of the great moments of that event.
And so now reflecting on this process, what, and what our listeners should take away from that as a base, right? In terms of that self-portrait of… In a way, the best version of themselves, as people would like to say these days. Right? What would you, what would you do with that?
Kim Cameron: So one of the things we often see is I didn't recognize that people appreciated that so much. That's pretty natural for me. It's kind of normal, but I hadn't realized the impact it has. I need to make sure that that's a constant attribute that I display. That's sort of one. Another is the circumstances in which I tend to be at my best occur regularly. I need to make sure that I capitalize on and maybe even duplicate or reinforce or try to foster more of those circumstances where I can be at my best.
Now, in some of these cases, it was, uh, crisis or something. But some of them were not, you just took time for me. There were, there's more than one, by the way that I identified you, just, you took time to help me. You take took time to help me understand. You took time to help me be successful, even though you were busy. You focused on just me.
JP: This is really very precious Kim to, to, to really elevate, uh, that, that dialogue to, to the next step, for all of us, and to really be reflective on just our strengths, I think what some people would call sometimes our talent.
Being self-aware, knowing yourself welcoming and soliciting feedback from people who know you or work with you and be curious about that feedback is a very important step toward becoming a positive leader.
Michael Bungay Stanier: The third tool that might be helpful to understand how to get back to the best version of yourself is to actually understand what it feels like in your body when you're at your best, you know, weirdly enough, our body leads our brain. And if you want to think differently, act differently, shift your body differently.
So I know what I feel like when I'm anxious, I get a little hunched. I lean forward. I lift my right foot off the ground and I start shaking my leg. I've got a whole bunch of shoes that I have ruined, cuz it's got, I've got a bent toe on that shoe called me being anxious. And when I'm feeling more relaxed about myself and more positive, I'm a little more upright.
My hands are kind of, I hold my hands typically kind of my belly button level when I'm talking to somebody. Um, and I. Know that if I notice myself in my stress physical mode, just shifting myself back into that, uh, physical mode, that's more related to a positiveness is a way of actually diminishing the negative voices in my head.
JP: In the next episode, I'll be looking at practical ways to communicate better with your team.
Michael Bungay Stanier: I want to help them unlock their own greatness.
JP: And it will be a magic recipe for how to implement change in your own company.
Herminia Ibarra: I do have a magical recipe! I do. I do. And I give it to my students for free. It's the idea plus the process plus you.
JP: On the Positive Leadership Podcast with me, Jean-Philippe Courtois, JP.
I love hearing from our listeners so do get in touch on LinkedIn or Instagram with a comment or question, and please subscribe to the podcast and give us a rating. That's it for me. Goodbye.