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Bringing Psychology To Business: Creating A Healthier Workplace With Jason Cochran

BYW 26 | Business Psychology

 

Do you relish in making the world better, even from behind the scenes? Do you count group victories as personal victories? Do you enjoy being a part of a greater cause, something bigger than yourself? If you answered yes, you have the WHY of Contribute! Just like our guest for this episode. Dr. Gary Sanchez sits down with Jason Cochran, an organizational psychologist and the co-founder of technology companies iAspire and Dulead, both of which are focused on human development. His passion is to help organizations build growth cultures where people elevate to their potential and organizations fulfill their missions in the world. Jason believes he has a lot to contribute, and not selling himself short is an important part of making those contributions. In this conversation, he takes us through the ways he contributes to the world by taking the path of psychology and bringing that into the business world. He talks about creating a healthier work environment through his 4 Principles of Connection framework, which helps people find meaningful work and fulfillment. Join Jason as he tells us more!

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Bringing Psychology To Business: Creating A Healthier Workplace With Jason Cochran

Welcome to the show where we go beyond talking about your WHY and helping you discover and live your WHY. If you are a regular reader, you know that every week, we talk about 1 of the 9 WHY’s, and then we bring on somebody with that WHY so we can see how their WHY has played out in their life. In this episode, we are going to talk about the WHY of Contribute to contribute to a greater cause, add value, or have an impact on the lives of others.

If this is your WHY, then you want to be part of a greater cause that is something bigger than yourself. You don’t necessarily want to be the face of the cause, but you want to contribute to it in a meaningful way. You love to support others and you relish successes that contribute to the greater good of the team.

You see group victories as personal victories. You are often behind the scenes looking for ways to make the world better. You make a reliable and committed teammate, and you often act as the glue that holds everyone else together. You use your time, money, energy, resources, and connections to add value to other people and organizations. I have got a great guest for you. His name is Jason Cochran. He is a business psychologist and the Cofounder of technology companies, iAspire and Dulead, in Indianapolis, both of which are focused on human development.

Fascinated with the exploration of human potential, Jason has devoted his life to building scalable solutions that attract, develop, and retain talent. He also has hands-on experience working with organizations in education and business leading people, change, process, process improvement, and digital transformation in consulting roles.

Frustrated with the shortcomings of failed employee engagement initiatives, Jason created the Four Principles of Connection framework, which is connecting with self, others, role, and the organization, which creates purpose through meaningful employee experiences and addressing the innate needs for why people desire meaningful work in their lives that leads to fulfillment.

His passion is to help organizations build growth cultures where people elevate to their potential and organizations fulfill their missions in the world. He joined Top 10 Global HR Thought Leader, Ira Wolfe, as cohost on the Geeks, Geezers and Googlization show where they interview global thought leaders concerning the convergence of people, technology, and the future of work, jobs, careers, business, and HR. The show is rated as a Top 50 Business Podcast by Thinkers360 and is ranked in the top 10% globally out of nearly 3 million podcasts.

Jason, welcome to the show. 

What an intro, Gary. Thank you so much. I am excited to be with you and your audience.

That was a mouthful. There is a lot to unpack there.

We are going to unpack it really well in this episode because we are going to talk about the WHY, which is at the center of most of what I do, or at least I try to do.

Let’s go back to where you grew up. Tell us a little bit about your childhood.

I grew up in Logansport, Indiana. It is about an hour and a half North of Indianapolis, Rural, Indiana. I had 50 people in my graduating class, and that was not a private school. That was a public school. We were one of the smallest schools in the state. Once I graduated, I went down to Nashville, Tennessee, for college. I became a psychologist. I would have stayed down there. I loved Tennessee, but pretty much all of my family was back in Indiana. I missed them, so I ended up moving back to Indiana and have been doing work in psychology in a lot of different areas since then.

What were you like in high school? Take us into your high school. Were you the guy that was on the sports teams, a guy that everybody came to to help them solve their problems, or the outcast?

I was shy. I was an introvert. What a lot of my classmates would be surprised at now is that I am doing keynote speeches and that I put myself out there to try and help other people because I mostly kept to myself. My wife was the head of the cheerleading squad in the bigger school on the other side of the county. She jokes that the only time I would make it onto the sports field was at halftime when I was playing the trumpet.

I was not a jock either, but the thing that I did well and that most of my classmates would probably say about me was I was a pretty adaptable guy. I hung out with the people who were in the skater clique, the nerd clique, and the band clique. I also hung out with the jocks. Part of that is maybe part of my personality, but part of it too was it was such a small school that most of those cliques had similar people and were in multiple parts of those groups. Those are some of the characteristics that most people would think about me.

If you open yourself up to entrepreneurship to start something that you believe in, it will change you for the better. Click To Tweet

I certainly think about myself as adaptable, but I was also very quiet. The other thing too that is very different about me now compared to who I was then was back then, I was not competitive. My parents would say, “Don’t you want to be valedictorian?” I was like, “No. I am fine with being in the A-B range and being in the 8th to 10th best in terms of academic metrics in the class.”

Now, if I am not number one, I am pushing for number one. That is how I am. I have got that competitive edge, and it is not to beat other people. It is to be the best that I can be because I owe it to myself, to the people that I love and to the world to give the best that I can to try and contribute in the ways that make it a better place.

When did you have that shift? When did you suddenly go from the non-competitive to the guy that is like, “I got to do this at a high level I can’t just blend in anymore.”

2012. It is funny to throw out a specific year number, but the reason I know that is because that is when I went from practicing as a psychologist primarily in educational schools to taking a step forward to becoming an entrepreneur and helping to start some technology companies. At that time, it was the start of the company, iAspire, that I tried to help get up off the ground with my friend, Eric Bransteter, and fellow cofounder.

I liken entrepreneurship to parenthood in many ways. You love it, but the rollercoaster of the ups and downs, the number of times you stub your toes and you think you are losing your mind is crazy. Ultimately, what it does, regardless of whether or not your venture is successful or fails, if you open yourself up to entrepreneurship to start something that you believe in, the end result will change you for the better. I guarantee it if you are open to thinking about it that way.

For me, 2012 was when I took that leap to start iAspire. That was when I started to notice the shift in my mindset of not settling in life. Understanding that there is a lot that I have to contribute, not selling myself short, and making sure that I was doing the things I need to do to make those contributions because if I don’t, who else will? There is only one of me in the world with the unique skills, gifts, and talents that I have in the way that God made me. It is my responsibility to understand those and then to use them to make the world a better place for other people.

You went off to college. How did you pick the path of psychology?

It happened in fourth grade through some personal tragedies in my family, unfortunately. In fourth grade, my grandfather took his life. He committed suicide. At that time, I didn’t know what depression was, but he was going through it. That was my first time hearing the word suicide and even understanding or hearing that people would take their own life. I wrestled with that as a kid. About a year later, my aunt, who was his daughter, also took her life. Early on, I saw those tragedies happen. I started asking my parents a lot of questions about why I didn’t know this type of thing would happen and why is it happening to people I love in our family.

By the time I got to high school, I was like, “I want to take classes in psychology. I want to understand behavior, thinking, mindsets, and emotions.” I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, but I was curious about it and I wanted to learn more, so then when I went to college, I knew I wanted to be a psychologist. It was going to be the way that I was going to try and make a great contribution to the world to try and help other people.

BYW 26 | Business Psychology
Business Psychology: Working for a toxic boss or work culture can put a strain on your health.

 

After that, what ended up happening was a pretty circuitous path. I started in educational psychology working in schools to create healthy school cultures. Now, what I do is I work with businesses applying the same types of principles and systems that we put in place and processes, but it is on the business side of things to make sure that the employee experience is the driver that you are focusing on until you have the type of culture you need to have as an organization. That is a little bit behind why psychology gave me an initial interest as a field of study and then why I am doing what I am doing now.

It is to have a bigger impact. I know you took the WHY.os Discovery, which told us that your WHY is to contribute to a greater cause. How you do that is by making sense of complex and challenging things, and ultimately, what you bring is a trusting relationship where others can count on you. You can sure see that play out in the path that you took. You wanted to have a bigger impact. You jumped into something very challenging, which is mental health, and figured that out as much as you could. You then became the trusted source for others to rely on as you went through school. Now, you are taking that into the business world.

For me, there are two other people that are a big part of the story as to why I am doing what I do, and that is my sister, Kim, and my father, Richard. My dad had a job that he didn’t like, but he did it because it put food on the table. It was strictly a transactional thing. I saw him do that for a long time. Unfortunately, with the chronic stress of that type of work, when you eventually get to the end of the rainbow, you think, “If I can get through retirement, it is okay. I don’t need to enjoy what I do. It just needs to provide for things.” If you do that long enough and work for a toxic boss or a toxic work culture, it can put a strain on your health or your mental health.

Unfortunately, by the time my dad got to retirement age, there were a couple of years there where his quality of life was good in terms of being able to do the things he used to be able to do, but then quickly, a lot of the health challenges started coming up. Part of that is related to the amount of stress that he went through for quite some time. My sister was an HR professional and she worked for a company that was very challenging in terms of ownership. She got to a point where she was like, “This isn’t suiting me anymore. I am going to go ahead and retire early,” so that she can go ahead and start taking care of her grandkids.

I looked back at the experiences they had with work. I know that part of my contribution, to put it in simple terms, is I want to help make work not suck so bad for so many people or that so many work environments are toxic that isn’t helpful. That is what I am on a mission to try and do through the various ventures that I am a part of, and also, toward the future too.

I have four sons. The oldest is eight, the next one is four, and then the youngest two are twins. They turned two this 2022. I am thinking about the future too. I am thinking I want this to be a world where work does make up a healthy part of your identity. It does matter beyond just being something transactional but you are doing work that makes you feel fulfilled, brings meaning to your life, and helps you grow as a person. It is also healthy for your other relationships and forms a healthy aspect of your identity too.

Why should we say it shouldn’t be that way when it is one of the biggest parts of our life?

I agree. We have made excuses for too long when it comes to working environments. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard people say, “It is just to pay bills. Work should be work and home should be home.” We have made these excuses for work to say, “I just need to get through it. It is okay for it to suck.” I don’t think so. When we make our best contributions in the world, it is when the organizational environment isn’t sapping your soul when there are basic pieces in place that make you feel appreciated and make you feel recognized. That is what led me to create the Four Principles of Connection.

I was frustrated with what I saw organizations were trying to do because employee engagement levels haven’t moved for many years. A big part of that is because organizations were looking at it as, “What can we do for our people in order to squeeze more out of them?” Instead, that needs to be flipped on its head and be, “What do we need to provide for our people?”

We make our best contributions in the world when the organizational environment isn't sapping your soul. Click To Tweet

Think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that makes them feel safe and secure, gives them the resources that they need so that they can do some incredible work, and deliver value for internal and external stakeholders. I like to solve complex problems. To me, we have overcomplicated a lot of people’s strategies.

The Four Principles of Connection is all about creating experiences for employees where it helps them better connect with themselves, with others, and with a role that fits their strengths, and then help them connect to the mothership or the organization, at a high level, then you are not only providing value to your employees. You are also providing value to your external stakeholders as well because you are not churning and burning your talent.

What did you learn in working with students and schools that allowed you to make the jump into business? They seem like different animals, but maybe they are not.

Here’s the thing that I saw that was similar. There ended up being a lot of decisions that are made at the top that are then pushed down below. What I mean by that is in schools, oftentimes, teachers would say, “I can’t understand why Billy isn’t doing this in the classroom.” Have you ever asked Billy? Have you ever asked him for his input as to why he is doing X behavior and what it is doing for him and why he is not doing what you want to do?

Typically, what would happen in schools if I were the teacher is, I would be like, “Billy’s got a problem because he is getting under my skin.” What I am going to do is I am going to meet with the principal, some other teachers, a psychologist, and his parents. I am going to meet with everybody but Billy and we are going to come up with a plan as the adults as to what we want Billy to do, and then we are going to make him do it with carrots and sticks.

A famous psychologist by the name of Ross Greene came along in the ‘90s and said, “If you want to solve most of your behavior challenges in schools, you need to use collaborative problem-solving. The most important person at the table is the person who is struggling with the behavior.” Everybody wants to do well. Nobody wants to do poorly. If you don’t have Billy at the table being an active stakeholder in that participation in his own behavior, you are going to fail.

The leap to business is for too long, we have been doing things to employees instead of with them. We are at a remarkable point in history because of the labor market and the challenges of finding the right talent. The leadership in many organizations that have had a modus operandi of, “We are fine with turnover,” are starting to rethink things and think, “In this concept of employee experience, employees are our first customers.”

Every day, they are asking whether or not they are bought into the organization, culture, brand, solutions, and offerings that are going out to the marketplace. You can’t help your customers if you aren’t helping your internal customers first, which are your employees. For me, that was where I saw the parallel. There was way too much, especially at the top of leadership, coming up with things behind closed doors among leadership and saying, “This is what we think and the direction we are going to head with not enough buy-in and input from the frontline folks who, many times, are the ones closest to the real problems that the organization is trying to solve.”

Why does this seem so obvious and so much common sense? How the heck did we get so far off track?

BYW 26 | Business Psychology
Business Psychology: The most important person at the table is the person who is struggling with the behavior because everybody wants to do well.

 

It is a lot easier to hop in and solve things yourself. I don’t know about you. I’d love to hear your perspective on this. I can tell you, as a husband, many times, my wife reminds me my job needs to be to listen and not necessarily to always jump to conclusions, think I know the solution and give her the solution to the problem. The tendency for us most humans to jump to solutions is because that is a lot easier than it is to sit, be empathetic, understand things, take a while to think through them at a metacognitive level, and sort through them than it is to take the time to run focus groups and do interviews to understand the problem.

It is a lot easier to behind closed doors or in a vacuum and come up with solutions that you think to what the real problem is. That is why businesses often get themselves in trouble. It is because it is much easier to come up with solutions than it is to take time in the problem analysis step of problem-solving to dig in, listen to your people, figure out what’s going on, and put the puzzle pieces together to solve the problem.

If you get a call from a company that is struggling with culture problems, losing employees, not being able to hire, and not being able to move forward like they want to, what do you do with them? Take us through your process.

One of the first things I want to look at is the values of the organization. Something that I have learned from a lot of Dave Orrick’s teachings is when it comes to values, many times, those are formed from the inside out. In other words, they are like, “This is who we want to be,” but they also need to have this aspect of values, and who they are as a company needs to come from the outside-in. That means they need to interview the customers whom they are trying to impact and serve, and the value they are trying to deliver for them.

If you are only coming up with values internally, then you are missing a big piece of what drives your business forward, which is ultimately delivering value for your customers and those stakeholders. For me, I always want to take a look at the values first. If they are written in flowery language but it is not clear to me how I, as an employee, would need to do behaviorally in terms of my behaviors to live out integrity at Acme Corporation, that is where we need to start first.

There needs to be an understood codification of values and behavioral terms written so that people know what success looks like. I have found that is pretty much the first step with any organization I have partnered with in getting some clarity around. The values are the behavior that people understand as opposed to the flowery language that is on a poster.

There are two things there. Firstly, Can you define values for us? Secondly, give us an example of what you are talking about.

Values are sets of principles that are important for people to live out. For example, I listed one of integrity. A behavioral indicator that I like to say of integrity is one, do you follow through on what you said you are going to do? If you made a promise to another employee, to your boss, or a customer, did you follow through on delivering what you said you were going to deliver? At this concept of integrity, we are going to move it down a level to a description and say, “Integrity for us at Acme Corporation means you need to follow through on what you have promised to a customer, another employee, another staff member, or your boss here at the organization.”

At the end of the day, people can only remember so many things. What I have found is the more that you drill down and don’t have any more than about 3 or 4 values in your organization, most people are going to be able to remember those, especially if they have spaced repetition. Those things are being practiced and rehearsed, and also reinforced and celebrated.

Employees are our first customers. Click To Tweet

People need to be nominated and recognized whenever they are living out those values. When those things are modeled and you consistently reinforce those, that is when people go from having an intellectual understanding of what integrity means at Acme Corp to, “I know this is the thing that I need to do when I am in this situation and there is tension. I know what I need to do behaviorally because I know that integrity means I need to follow through on what I promised I would do for that other person.”

What I am hearing you say is companies need to have their values the way have them, but then have them defined in behavioral terms so that people know what it means. You said integrity. I get it. Everybody’s got integrity written down somewhere, but what do you mean by that here at Acme?

That is exactly right. One of the things I have learned from some communication experts is as many of us would like to think we are really good at communication, we aren’t very good at it at least in terms of communicating with the other person leaving and feeling like they have clarity around what they are supposed to do. Internally, we may feel like, “I did a good job of telling that person what’s expected and what needs to be done,” but what you did there is a perfect example. You did a reflective listening and questioning technique. You said, “If I am hearing you correctly.”

Those simple little steps to clear up the communication is so important, and that is where codifying the values and moving it from the flowery language to, “Here are three examples behaviorally of what it means to live out integrity.” Those are the things that people will eventually know, understand, and be reinforced for. That is how you are going to get your values lived out in the organization in a way that matters, and ultimately, that makes sense to them.

Do you find that most companies articulate the same values? Are there the same three values that keep showing up over and over with all the different companies you work with or are they all over the board?

There is a top three, and those top three would be Trust, Integrity, and Service. At least in the work that I do, those are the three that come up the most often. What’s interesting is that can be expressed in some different shades. There is one degree of separation from another for each company. In terms of what that is mostly landing on, it is landing on the same types of concepts that the company believes are important. Not only internally, but to make sure that they are delivering the appropriate value to their external stakeholders.

Now you have gone in. You have looked at the company values. You have seen that maybe they weren’t, but they are written out in behavioral terms so that it is clearer exactly how we behave based on these shared values. What happens then?

We got to reinforce them and we have got to do it in what I call Spaced Repetition. What I mean by that is this can’t be something that we do once a month. It has got to be something that is done on the regular or maybe once every couple of weeks. The reinforcement piece is if you have any type of award or recognition program, I highly recommend that you either align it to living out the values in your organization or you come up with a separate one specific for living out the values because it is important.

What you are going to do is you are going to have this recognition program that says, “This week, we want to nominate and recognize people that we have seen do something that relates to living out integrity. As a reminder, here are the three behavioral characteristics of what integrity means at Acme Corporation. Let’s nominate and celebrate people that you have seen do that.”

BYW 26 | Business Psychology
Business Psychology: Businesses often get themselves in trouble when they think it’s much easier to come up with solutions than it is to take time in the problem analysis.

 

You need to consistently do that and make sure that you are reinforcing to people that they are being caught in the moment and celebrated and appreciated in ways that matter to them. It is not the way we want to recognize and appreciate them, but ways that they want to be shown appreciation and recognition for living out those values. That is critically important.

This is something that has got to be consistently done over time. Whenever you bring somebody new on staff, you need to make sure that they are being reinforced at a certain cadence as well for living out those values. That is how you get people pulling in the same direction. That is how from an organizational behavior perspective, you get people focusing on the right behaviors, and ultimately, how you develop habits over time.

This isn’t something where you say, “As part of orientation, you are going to hear about our values. We have these posters that are on a wall.” The way that you do it from a behavioral perspective is you got to practice, model it, and reinforce it, and you need to be doing that on the regular throughout the year with your people.

Eventually, what’s going to happen is those things are going to become more automatic processes for people. They are going to know it like the back of their hand, and that is what you eventually want so that whenever certain situations come up and they are wondering, “What should I do?” More times than not, they are going to have the answer in their heart and in their head of how they should handle a difficult situation because they know what it means to live out integrity at Acme Corporation.

As we look at your WHY, how, and what of how do we have a bigger impact and how do we solve the challenging problems we are facing, the third critical piece to that is how do we preserve and enhance relationships? How do we create trusting relationships? How do we trust each other? What part of a company or a successful organization do you think do relationships play, especially trust in the relationship?

It starts with leaders being open, honest, real, and authentic. Here’s what I mean by that. We are going to get into the mental health aspect if that is okay. This is important. For too long, many people have felt like they can’t acknowledge the mental health challenges that they have. In fact, most of the time when we even mention mental health, people think of it in a negative light. It is no different than physical health. We are all on the spectrum somewhere of mental health, whether it is more toward the positive end and having a really healthy lifestyle when it comes to our mental health or toward the other end of struggling and maybe even possibly having some mental illness.

We have a problem with stigma in this country regarding mental health. I share with leaders, “One of the quickest ways that you can build trust with your people is to acknowledge challenges you have, whether it is with mental health, in your job, or in relationships that you have. People do not want to work for a robot or with a robot. They want to work with someone that they think comes to work and has flaws, faults, and hang-ups like they do in life too.”

If you are a leader and you think that your people think you are perfect, I got news for you. They know you are not perfect. They might be able to point out your faults better than you know them yourself. I always encourage leaders, “Make sure you are getting feedback on how you can be doing better, not just in terms of business operations, but as a human being. How can you do a better job of creating those connections?”

When we talk about trust, the first thing that people are looking for when they are thinking to themselves, “Do I want to follow this person? Do I value their opinions? Do I feel connected to them? Do I feel like I can be who I am around them and be vulnerable?” The only way they are going to do that within a business relationship is if the leader takes that step first. I often encourage leaders, “You don’t have to share everything, but you need to be able to share and open up on those challenges.”

One of the quickest ways you can build trust with your people is to acknowledge the challenges you have. Click To Tweet

The reason that leaders struggle with this, in particular, is because they are used to having the answers. They are high achievers. Typically, they wouldn’t be the leader in an organization without being very successful. There is this concept of, “Don’t show your faults. Don’t talk about those.” It is very important when you are trying to build a culture of trust with your people where they are going to feel like they are respected, heard, and seen for who they are.

It is important that leaders model that first and acknowledge their faults, admit the times that they were wrong, or talk about the things that they are challenged by. Don’t just share that with your inner circle. You need to share that with everyone to build a connection with everyone because that is what they want to do. They want to connect with you at a high level.

When we talk about building trust in an organization, it is important to define what trust is. What’s as equally important is those behaviors we say that show how we are being successful at living out trust, leaders have got to live that out. One of those things is by being open, honest, and moving beyond certain stigmas that leaders often have of thinking, “I can’t share my faults and the things that I am struggling with.” You can. Your people want you and expect you to do that, and that is how you build trust.

I have heard this a lot. I have heard leaders of organizations say things like, “I have tried all this connecting and being vulnerable stuff. All that has gotten me is a lot of extra stuff I got to deal with it but all I want is someone to get the job done.” It has added a lot of drama and trauma to the work that they have to deal with in order to get the same process done. I have heard this over and over by people who have tried the EQ and all this other stuff and said, “That all sounds great on paper, but I want this moved from here to here. I don’t want to know all that other stuff. I want something done.”

I want to add to that or hear your perspective on how you think that will affect the rapid automation or movement toward robots and having a workforce that is a robot versus a human. I know that is way out there, but it is coming fast. I heard this speaker when I was in Florida that is an AI expert. He owns a robotics company. He was saying that it is coming faster because employers are tired of having to deal with all the extra stuff. I would love your perspective on that.

The first thing we should consider is there is probably a little bit of context. Certainly, there are going to be jobs that are replaced by automation, and they should be replaced by automation. For example, a fry cook-type thin. I have seen restaurants in California that already have automation and robots that are rotating fries and doing stuff like that, but we need human beings working on delivering value as in solving complex problems. We are using our higher-order critical skills and not doing mundane, repetitive work. Those things should be automated.

When you think of the executives you referenced and certainly the ones I have heard from when they are talking about frontline employees and maybe dealing with some of this stuff of getting into the vulnerability, I certainly understand if you are running a fast-food restaurant that maybe some of those things aren’t necessary because the job itself by definition is very rote and mundane. You know that it is going to be high churn. It is probably not a destination employer-type job where someone sees themselves staying there doing that type of job for a long time.

When we talk about other types of work where we are solving complex problems, that is where you better make sure as a leader that you are developing those core relationships, because otherwise, you are going to struggle to get the top quality Millennial and Gen Z talent moving forward. There is a high expectation from those specific talent pools to work for companies that care about them as a person, and that is not going to change. They will go find another gig or start their own business. They have come up with very creative alternatives for what to do outside of working for your company if you are not showing that you value them.

I agree with you that when it comes to the rote, mundane type of work that is very repetitive and simplistic, that is going to be replaced by automation. You probably don’t need to spend a tremendous amount of time banging your head against the wall investing in vulnerability programs. However, for organizations that are trying to deliver stakeholder value or solve very complex problems in the world, you are going after the top talent in order to solve those things.

BYW 26 | Business Psychology
Business Psychology: People want to be valued and respected by their employers. And that means all of who they are.

 

One of the drivers, whether they like it or not, is people want to be valued and respected by their employer, and that means all of who they are. One of the people on our podcast is a Gen Z futurist. Her name is Danielle Farage. She shared something with me that blew me away. She said that bad leaders and bad companies can no longer hide from the talent pool when it comes to Millennials and Gen Z. She said, “We have eyes and ears everywhere.”

Before they even go in for an interview or consider putting in an application to work for your company, behind the scenes, they are going through all of their networks. They have very extensive networks because of the social media platforms they can get from Glassdoor and all of these other sources of information about the company. They are doing their homework before they come in to understand who the leadership is and what the company is beyond what’s posted on the website. They are doing the nitty-gritty of reaching out sometimes to some of the employees that work inside the organization and asking, “What’s it really like to work there?”

This is the way that the talent market is going to be. You must follow through on the employer brand. If you think some of this stuff is fluffy and kumbaya, I get it, but I don’t think you are going to have any fingers of blame to point at anybody else if you are struggling to get the talent when it comes to Millennials and Gen Zs. It is because these are the type of workplaces they demand now. This is why we are seeing a rise in certified B Corp or ESG. Quite many of the companies that are focusing on those kinds of concepts are outperforming other companies that are focused on traditional capitalism concepts in the S&P 500.

We have the data to show that this is how people work best and contribute best. We also have the research that shows 90% of business value is in your people. That is what drives the value of the business. If you aren’t making sure that you have the right practices, supports, and strategies in place for people and what they also expect from their employer, then you run the risk of not having anybody left to boss around and tell them to do their job anymore.

I love where you are going. This is the last question for you. What’s the best piece of advice that you have ever been given or that you have ever given to someone?

The best piece of advice I ever got was from my mom. This was when I was in middle school. She said, “There are going to be a lot of people you love in your life, but you have no business being around,” and that has been true. I don’t know if you resonate with that or if your audience does, but there have been so many people I have cared about and I have had some amazing experiences with. In the end, if I am trying to live out my WHY and stay true to that, sometimes it meant ending certain relationships or friendships. That has been one of the best pieces of advice that I ever got.

If there are people that are reading that want to connect with you, follow you, learn more about you, or hire you, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

The best way is on LinkedIn. I don’t think there are any other Jason Cochran’son LinkedIn. I am also the Cofounder of Dulead and iAspire, so you’d be able to see in the profile that is the right person. LinkedIn is the best way to connect with me. You also can check out the company, Dulead.com. It is an automated employee experience platform. Learn a little bit of the work I am doing there. The other company is iAspire, which is used in education to help support and nurture healthy cultures. You can go to iAspireApp.com to learn about the work we are doing there as well.

You also have a very popular podcast.

90% of business value is in your people. Click To Tweet

That is right, with Ira Wolfe. The name of the show is the Geeks, Geezers and Googlization. We bring on experts like yourself. You are going to be coming on with us in a few weeks or months. We talk about the future of work and adaptability, and what it is going to take to thrive in this never-normal world, not just simply survive. I got that on LinkedIn. You can also go to Geeks, Geezers and Googlization.com to check out the website for the show too.

Thank you so much for taking the time to be here. I love what you are doing and want to support what you guys are up to.

It was an honor. Thanks for having me on, and thank you to the readers for reading.

It is time for our segment on Guess Their WHY. For this segment, we picked somebody famous or somebody that is new to the news and try to figure out what we think their WHY is. In this episode, I want to use Justin Thomas, the golfer. Justin won the PGA Championships. He had the largest comeback in the history of the PGA Championships. He tied it. He was eight strokes back at one point and then came all the way back, and won it in a three-hole playoff.

If you know who he is, you have seen his picture, and how he interacts with his family and friends, you’ll find what I believe is that his WHY is to contribute to a greater cause, add value, and have an impact on the lives of others. I am basing this on how I have seen him interact with Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods was is his idol. He got to meet him and now, he is one of his best friends. It is also the way that he shows up for his buddies when they are winning. He is right there with them. When they win, he is there at the last hole to congratulate them. You can see that he wants to contribute to other people’s success.

Thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your WHY, you can do so at WHYInstitute.com. With the code, Podcast50, you can do it at half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe below and leave us a review or rating on whatever platform you are using so we can bring the WHY and the Why.os to a billion people in the next couple of years. Thank you so much for reading. I will see you in the next episode.

 

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About Jason Cochran

BYW 26 | Business PsychologyI’m an organizational psychologist and the co-founder of technology companies iAspire and Dulead – both of which are focused on human development. Fascinated with the exploration of human potential, I’ve devoted my life to helping organizations create healthy work ecosystems that create value for internal and external stakeholders.

Frustrated with the shortcomings of failed employee engagement initiatives, I created the 4 Principles of Connection ™️ framework (connecting with self, others, role, and the organization) which creates purpose through meaningful employee experiences – addressing the innate needs for why people desire meaningful work in their lives that leads to fulfillment.

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Podcast

Surgical Empathy: A Unique Take On Treating Suicidal Patients With Dr. Mark Goulston

BYW 41 | Treatment For Suicidal Patients

Dr. Mark Goulston has gone out of the box regarding treatment for his suicidal patients, and so far, it’s worked. His WHY of Challenge has propelled him to think differently when handling different cases and to challenge treatments that just don’t work. This is what drove him to develop a new approach: Surgical Empathy. Mark is a psychiatrist, author, a Founding Member of Newsweek Expert Forum, and a Marshall Goldsmith MG100 Coach. Unravel his viewpoint and understand the method to his approach as he sits down with host Dr. Gary Sanchez. Mark shares enlightening anecdotes and meaningful advice that may be just what you need. Learn how to ask the right questions and look beyond the obvious to truly understand not only others but also yourself.

Watch the episode here:

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Surgical Empathy: A Unique Take On Treating Suicidal Patients With Dr. Mark Goulston

We go beyond talking about your why, helping you discover and then live your why. If you’re a regular reader, you know that every episode, we talk about one of the nine whys and then we bring on somebody with that why so we can see how their why has played out in their life. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the why of challenge, to challenge the status quo and think differently. If this is your why, you don’t believe in following the rules or drawing inside the lines. You want things to be fun, exciting and different. You rebel against the classic way of doing things. You typically have eccentric friends and eclectic tastes because after all, why would you want to be normal? You love to be different, think different and aren’t afraid to challenge virtually anyone or anything that is too conventional or typical for your tastes. Pushing the envelope comes natural to you. When you say you want to change the world, you mean it.

I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Mark Goulston, MD. He is a founding member of Newsweek Expert Forum and a Marshall Goldsmith, MG100 Coach who works with founders, entrepreneurs and CEOs in dealing with and overcoming any psychological or interpersonal obstacle to realizing their full potential. He is the co-author, along with Diana Hendel, of Why Cope When You Can Heal?: How Healthcare Heroes of COVID-19 Can Recover from PTSD and Trauma to Triumph: A Roadmap for Leading Through Disruption (and Thriving on the Other Side). He’s the co-author of seven additional books with his book, Just Listen, becoming the top book on listening in the world.

He is the host of the My Wakeup Call podcast and is the co-creator and moderator of a multi-honor documentary, Stay Alive, an intimate conversation about suicide prevention. He is on the Board of Advisors to HealthCorps and BiasSync, an advisor to No Worry No Tension, a leading company in India focused on emotional wellness and the co-creator of the Goulston Vohra Happiness Scale. He was a UCLA professor in psychiatry for many years with a subspecialty focus on suicide prevention and helping the surviving family members following a completed suicide. He’s also a former FBI Hostage Negotiation Trainer. Mark, welcome to the show.

I got to send out a shorter bio. That’s a lot to live up to.

That means that you’ve been here for a while.

It’s interesting because as I was listening to you, your analysis was exactly correct about me having this challenging persona. If you’re reading, I challenge what’s out there not because I’m trying to be a rebel without a cause. I can’t not do it. In fact, what is obvious to the rest of the world, I often don’t see because the elephant in the room screams out to me loudly that I can’t see what other people see. Because I see the elephant in the room and it starts talking to me, I can often bring that out. People say, “How did you know that?” I said, “It’s the only thing that I saw.”

I’ll share something with you. This is how crazy it is. I was a psychiatrist for many years and none of my suicidal patients died by suicide. I remember I was seeing someone for about five months in my office. I don’t think it was racist but he said, “Mark, I’m black.” I said, “What?” He said, “I’m black.” He was very black. I said, “I didn’t know that.” I was focused on the pain that was going on inside, fear and the anger screamed out at me, “I’m running out of time. Find me.”

What’s interesting about the why of challenge that we always talk about is people with that why do see things differently than the rest of us. Their reticular activating system is programmed differently and they see things that the rest of us don’t see. That’s fascinating. That’s the first thing that you brought up because you’re seeing that thing that the rest of us didn’t notice.

I’m getting to know Gary and I hope I get to know him even more because I took his quiz. If you’re reading, take it. It’s going to tell you stuff about yourself. This is not a paid advertisement. It was remarkable. I can understand people saying, “Why do I have to care about my why? I’ve got all kinds of other things going on.” You’ll have to listen to the My Wakeup Call episode with Gary because he talks about how he reached a point where things weren’t going that well and then he had to pivot. What he landed in is he wasn’t paying attention to his why. It caused him pain and be a bit of lost.

Death is compassionate to hopelessness and pain that won’t go away. Click To Tweet

What he’s sharing with the world, which is why he’s excited and enthusiastic, is he pivoted to something that was life-changing for him. If you live a highly transactional life and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you find that it’s not making some pain inside you go away. You thought it would deliver happiness and it delivered immediate gratification for 20 to 30 years, maybe if you’re lucky. It may be that you’re on the same path as Gary and it may be that you do well to discover your why.

Mark, I want everyone to get to know you. Let’s start back. Where are you from? Where did you grow up? Tell us a little bit about your childhood and give us a quick version of your life. Where did you start? How did you get into Psychology, UCLA and writing books? Take us through that path.

I grew up in a suburb outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I’m told I’ve lost a fair amount of my Bostonian accent, even though I hope this is going to be a piece of interview. I went to undergraduate school at UC Berkeley. I look good for my age. I was there during the late 1960s. I went to medical school in Boston and then trained in Psychiatry at UCLA. You listed a bunch of things and I was impressed by who you were describing, although it’s hard to believe that was me. One of the things I’ll share, and I don’t know what you’ll do with it, is one of my greatest personal accomplishments was I dropped out of medical school twice and finished.

Why did you do that?

I don’t know anybody who dropped out twice and finished. I had untreated depression. I dropped out because what was happening is I was passing everything but I couldn’t hold on to the information. The first time I dropped out, I worked in blue-collar jobs, which I still romanticize. Life was so much simpler. You get off at 5:00, go back to your apartment and have a beer. I worked in Boston and what I used to do is I would put up liquor displays and Heineken windmills at bars and liquor stores. I loved getting to know the bartenders and the people delivering liquor to those places.

I came back and then after six months, it happened again. I asked for another leave of absence because I wasn’t flunking. The dean of the school cared more about finance than students. I met with him and I don’t remember meeting with him that clearly but then I got a call from the dean of students who cares about students. You’re going to find out a little bit about my why in the suicide prevention work because he called me and had a deep, thick, Irish Boston accent. His name was William McNary. We used to call him Mac. He called me and he said, “This is Mac. You better get in here. You got a letter here from the dean and we need to read it together.”

I go in there and read the letter. It says, “From the dean of the whole school who cares about finances. I’ve met with Mr. Goulston and we talked about another career. I’m advising the promotions committee that he be asked to withdraw.” I said, “What does this mean?” Dean McNary said, “You’ve been kicked out.” Gary, it was like a gunshot wound to my stomach. I know what that feels like because I almost died from a perforated colon several years ago. I collapsed a little bit.

I came from a background where depression age, hardworking parents and you’re only worth what you do in the world. If you can’t do it, you’re not worth much. I didn’t think I was worth much. Imagine you come from that and you’ve been kicked out. A little bit of a safety net is ripped away from you. He says this to me, Gary, “Mark, you didn’t mess up because you’re passing but you are messed up. If you get unmessed up, this school would one day be glad they gave you a second chance.”

I started to cry because I didn’t know what compassion was. He looks, points his finger at me and says, “Mark, even if you don’t get unmessed up, don’t become a doctor or don’t do anything the rest of your life. I’d be proud to know you because you have a streak of goodness and kindness in you that the world needs and we don’t grade in medical school. You won’t know how much the world needs that until you’re 35 but you got to make it until you’re 35. You deserve to be on this planet. You’re going to let me help you.” If he had said, “If I can help you, give me a call,” I probably wouldn’t have called him and I probably wouldn’t be here.

BYW 41 | Treatment For Suicidal Patients
Treatment For Suicidal Patients: About a quarter of entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs to deal with their depression of being different when they were younger.

 

The combination of not believing in yourself at all, your future cratering, having someone reach in and see a future for you that you don’t see then he went to bat against the entire medical school. He arranged an appeal. He was a PhD. He stood up against the rest of that promotions committee who were all MDs, heads of hospitals, because he saw something in me that I didn’t see. The combination of that. I took a year off and I went to a place called the Menninger Foundation, which was a very famous psychiatric foundation institute that was in Topeka, Kansas and now in Houston.

It was during the oil embargo in the early 1970s. I drove from Boston to Topeka. I grew up in the suburbs but I was able to connect with schizophrenic farm boys. I remember asking the psychiatrists at Topeka State Hospital, “Is this legitimate?” They said, “What?” I said, “Is this a legitimate specialty? It’s not like anything else.” They said, “No, it’s legitimate and you’ve got a knack.” Knowing that I could do that, I went back, finished med school and then went to UCLA, trained in Psychiatry. One of my earliest mentors was probably one of the top three pioneers in the study of suicide prevention. He kept referring me to these very suicidal people and I paid it forward. I did with each of them what the dean of students did for me. Thank you for giving me a long leash to tell, I hope, a story that wasn’t too boring.

Not at all. Mark, take us back even to high school. What were you like in high school?

I was pretty smart. I skipped a grade when I was young. I was probably intellectually or intelligence-wise, able to keep up with the people a year older than me but I was socially backward. It was weird because in high school and if you remember that you were an athlete, but in high school or even in little league I would play right field. That right field is the worst position on a baseball team. It’s for people who can’t do anything else but you have to include them in the gym. It wasn’t even high school because I didn’t make a high school baseball team but early on during the summers, I would go to this camp in which I was with people my age and I was in the infield. I was hitting home runs in that abbreviated field. That’s how I was socially also. I was socially very introverted and very shy.

One of the interesting things about the why of the challenge is the people with that why either do extremely well or do very poorly. If they look at their why as a gift, like you are now, you do amazing things. When they’re younger, oftentimes, they see themselves as an outcast, as different, doesn’t fit in. “I’m not like everybody else,” and they go the other direction and oftentimes end up medicating to get away from themselves. That’s why I wanted to go back and see, “What you were like in high school?” It sounds like maybe you weren’t typical, nor in college, nor in med school. You didn’t take the typical path and didn’t follow the traditional route but you got to a place that’s been amazing for so many people that you’ve been able to touch.

I don’t know if you know this statistic but someone told me because I do suicide prevention programs with a friend of mine whose fourteen-year-old son died by suicide. He reached out to me and we present to YPO and EO. He made a documentary called Tell My Story, because that was one of the suicide notes from his son. He shared something with me. He said, “About a quarter of entrepreneurs became entrepreneurs to deal with their depression of being different when they were younger.” Many of them aren’t that bothered by failure because they were depressed because they didn’t fit in. Richard Branson or Herb Kelleher had dyslexia, ADD. What happened is, they became entrepreneurs because they couldn’t work in other settings where they had to follow all the rules.

It’s unfortunate that you went to UCLA because I went to USC. Those of you that are reading may or may not know that USC and UCLA are fierce adversaries. No matter who it is that goes to UCLA, I have to tell them it’s unfortunate that they went there. When you got out then, did you get into private practice right away or what happened after you finished medical school?

What was interesting is one of my mentors was a suicide prevention specialist. One of the top ones in the world. Something that was very fortunate for me was when I finished training, I was supposed to go into a fellowship but the fellowship fell through 1 or 2 weeks before I graduated. I just went into practice with this mentor of mine, Dr. Ed Shneidman would refer me to suicidal patients. Here was my good fortune. If I’d gone into an institution, when I saw patients, I would have had to make sure that I followed all the guidelines. What happened is, as I was seeing suicidal patients, I learned to listen into their eyes and their eyes were screaming out to me, “You’re checking boxes and I’m running out of time.” I had a choice, check the boxes or go where their eyes took me. I wasn’t a rogue psychiatrist. I still follow certain standards but I didn’t have to report what I was doing and I followed with their eyes took me.

If you focus on what they’re listening for and you get it right, they’ll give you everything. Click To Tweet

I remember this dentist who was highly paranoid came in. He sees me and says, “You’re the seventh psychiatrist I’ve seen in a couple of years.” I said, “Sounds like you’ve been busy.” He says, “I’m looking for one that I think will work with me but before we go any further, I need to tell you something. The people above my bedroom make noise all night long. They won’t shut up. It’s driving me crazy.” I was about to say something empathic like, “That sounds frustrating,” and he says, “Before you answer me, you need to know that I live on the top floor of my building and there is no access to the roof above me.” He then gave me a Chris Rock. I’m like, “What are you going to do that one?”

“I’m playing in my head.” He said this is the 6th or 7th psychiatrist and they probably say, “I can understand how that must be frustrating. That may be part of the things that we can help with. Maybe we can treat it in such a way.” He looked at me. I’m playing all the normal and kindly responses. In my mind, I said, “Do I want to help him or do I want to just give him another reality check and have him go look at another psychiatrist?” He’s looking at me with that look. We’ll call him John. I said, “John.” He said, “Yeah?” I looked right into his eyes and I said, “I believe you.” He looked at me and his eyes filled with tears and started sobbing, almost convulsing. I thought, “I’ve just released someone. I’ve pushed them over the edge,” but I know this territory pretty well and I knew it would be like a tropical storm. I just let him cry for about five minutes. He stops. His eyes are all bloodshot and then he looks at me with a huge smile and says, “It does sound crazy,” and we connected.

Is that a common thing for people that are struggling with suicidal tendencies is they need to be heard? Is there a common or not a common theme? I’ve never experienced somebody in that situation. I don’t know what I would do if I ran into somebody that was struggling.

The week after Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, they died by suicide around the same time. I wrote a blog, which you can find if you look and it’s called Why People Kill Themselves: It’s Not Depression. It got 500,000 views in ten days. It’s on Medium. I said, “There are hundreds of millions of people, maybe one billion or more, who are depressed in the world and the majority of them don’t commit suicide. There are people who lose marriages or jobs and the majority of them don’t die by suicide. One of the things that nearly all the suicidal patients I saw had in common is they had despair.” If you break the word despair into des-pair, they feel unpaired with reasons to live, hopeless without a future, helpless, powerless, worthless, useless, purposeless, meaningless and when they all line up together like a slot machine, pointless. They pair with death to take the pain away.

Two of my books that you mentioned, Why Cope When You Can Heal? and then the second book was Trauma to Triumph. In Why Cope When You Can Heal? I introduced the approach that I’ve finally given a name to that I used for years. It’s called Surgical Empathy. Something I didn’t go into but I am now when I give talks on it, is you know the term dialysis and the term lysis, it breaks things. The way surgical empathy works is through a process of empatholysis which means that you break the destructive connections that people are connected to that are holding them back.

One of the things that people who are highly suicidal feel that you wouldn’t feel if you haven’t been there is, death is compassionate to hopelessness and pain that won’t go away. Death is like the sirens calling out to the sailors, “We’ll take away your pain.” That’s what death does to people who feel highly suicidal. They feel not just understood but felt, “Death will take it away.” In my book Just Listen, which did so well around the world, is I talked about how do you cause people to feel felt? Feeling felt is not the same as feeling understood.

It is you don’t feel alone in the hell you’re going through. I learned how to interact with my patients who are feeling suicidal and they felt less alone in hell. I didn’t push treatments on them. What I basically said is, “I’m going to find you wherever you are. I get there, I’m going to keep your company,” and then if you want some treatments because all the ones you’ve tried haven’t really worked. They’ll say, “Maybe we should try something.” Job one is I want to find you in the dark night of your soul and keep you company.

When you talk about how to help people feel felt, dive a little deeper into that for us.

I’m going to give a tip to anyone worried about their teenagers or spouse. There’re some videos of me doing this. I’m a Marshall Goldsmith’s MG100 Coach and I share these four prompts. It’s up on YouTube. If you’re worried about a teenager, child or spouse, but let’s focus on teenagers because the suicide rates are going up. It’s alarming. My advice to parents is, don’t have a heart-to-heart talk with a teenager unless they initiate it. Do this when you’re doing something together like driving, doing an errand and say, “All of us parents are worried about our kids. Can I ask you a few things?” “Okay, mom.” “Okay, dad.” Here are the four prompts. The first one is, “At your absolute worst, how awful are you capable of feeling about yourself or your life?” They’re going to go, “What?” “How much pain are you capable of feeling about your life or yourself when it’s at its worse?” Your teenager is going to say, “Pretty awful.” Using surgical empathy, you say, “Pretty awful or very awful?” “Very awful.”

BYW 41 | Treatment For Suicidal Patients
Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone

The second prompt, “When you’re feeling that, how alone are you capable of feeling with it?” They say, “Pretty alone.” You want to go deeper. “Pretty alone or all alone?” “All alone.” The third thing you say to them is, “Take me to the last time you felt it.” They’re going to say, “What?” “Was it 2:30 AM because we heard you walking around in your bedroom the other night.” A special thing happens when you get someone to describe something so clearly that you can see it with your eyes as the listener, they re-experience the feeling. As your kid describes that, “I was walking around, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I didn’t know whether to put my fist through the wall or my head through the wall.”

“What happened?” “I started looking for your outdated sleeping pills. I couldn’t find them.” “What happened?” “I didn’t know what I was going to do.” “What happened?” “The sun rose. I felt a little better.” The fourth thing you say to them is, “I need your help with something. Your mom, your dad, needs your help. Also, when you’re feeling that way or even heading down that way, I want you to do whatever it takes to get our undivided attention because we get preoccupied, we get distracted. There is nothing more important than helping you to feel less alone when you feel that awful. Do you understand me?”

If you follow those steps of tactics, you may need to modify it, but that can help. I’m expanding my work now from suicide prevention to what would two stubborn children who grow up to be angry teenagers, defiant teenagers or failure to launch twenty-somethings who are being passed by their younger siblings. I’m partnering with a great partner and we’re launching this. We’re having families do this. Every day we’re asking families, “When you’re with your children, and it works when they’re about 6, 7, or older. You say, ‘We’re going to have an exercise every day and we’re going to talk about four things.’” The parents go first, “What is something that you felt upset about?” That’s the first thing. The second thing is, “What did it make you want to do?” That was your impulse. “What did you do?” The fourth thing is, “How did that work out?” What you’re teaching your children and modeling is self-restraint. A lot of times children don’t listen to their parents. They imitate their behavior and don’t see self-restraint. They see mom and dad snapping at each other. The children model the behavior. They often don’t listen to lessons.

By doing this, what the parents are modeling is, “Whenever we feel upset, we have an impulse to do something that’s probably not a good idea.” We recommend to the parents, don’t bring up something that’s going to freak out your kids. Don’t say, “Mom and dad lost their jobs and we’re going to be in the street tomorrow.” Try and pick something that’s not going to freak your kids out. What we’re hearing is how it’s helping marriages because what’s going on is, moms and dads, after they do the exercise, they go upstairs and one of them will say to the other, “What I usually do when I’m upset with you is I either yell or I mope but I didn’t do that. What I’m doing is I’m telling you what I felt upset about, and going forward, please don’t do that again.” By going through this exercise, what the whole family is modeling is self-restraint. I don’t want to get into politics but what we’re seeing right now and why I think this country’s in so much trouble is you’re seeing people not modeling much self-restraint. We’re seeing the negative consequences of that.

What are the negative consequences of not practicing self-restraint?

I hope your readers know that you’re an amazing athlete. You got to look up everything you can find out about this guy. Part of what you learn as an athlete is you need to be able to show self-restraint and turn your anger into focus and determination. What was interesting, because you weren’t at UCLA is John Wooden. One of the things he would say to his players is, “We’ll play to our strengths and we’re going to make the other team angry. We’re going to make them lose their cool because if they lose their cool, they’re going to lose. We’ll play to our strengths and be very centered.” You probably know the story where he taught his players to spend a lot of time lacing their sneakers to avoid blisters. He might have been the most admired college coach ever.

Those questions there is how you help people practice self-restraint so they don’t lose their cool and they stay with their strength. That’s been very helpful. Just hearing what you’ve got to say about working with somebody who’s going through those kinds of challenges. Most of us, especially parents, don’t have any idea what to do. We do what maybe we would have done but that’s not necessarily going to work. Those four questions were very helpful. Thank you for sharing that.

Thank you for giving me a platform.

I’m assuming you transition from doing suicide prevention into working with CEOs and executives. How did that happen?

I see the elephant in the room and I somehow make it safe for people to open up. What happens is, I’m not just a coach. I’m a confidant, an advisor to CEOs. A couple of them have said, “I can’t hide from you.” I said, “Is that good or bad?” One said, “It’s weird but it’s not bad.” Another one said, “I hide from everyone, including myself.” If you go to my LinkedIn profile, I seem to be able to be helpful to founders, entrepreneurs and CEOs about any psychological or interpersonal challenge that they’re having.

Forgiveness is accepting the apology you will never receive. Click To Tweet

How are you able to see the elephant in the room? Tell us about that. What do you mean by that? What does that look like or feel like for you? You’re seeing something we don’t see. How do you do it?

This is how I learned to listen into minds, eyes and souls. The first one, I was on rounds at a VA Hospital in Boston. This is just before I was going to drop out. I was probably quite depressed. We were outside. I’ll call him Mr. Smith’s room. All the other medical students, interns, residents and the attending physicians, were all jockeying, “Mr. Smith needs chemo.” “Mr. Smith needs surgery, such and such.” I’m like a ping pong ball not knowing what he needs. A nurse comes over to us. We’re outside Mr. Smith’s room and she said, “Didn’t you hear Mr. Smith jump from the roof last night? He’s in the morgue.” As loud as your voice is right now, I heard a voice say to me, “Maybe he needed something else.” That’s listening into minds.

My second thing was listening in the eyes. This is how I learned how to listen to eyes. I was paged to see an AIDS patient in the early 1980s. I don’t even think it was given a diagnosis yet. I was paged by the doctors up in one of the medical floors. They said, “We need you to okay these restraints on his arms, legs and an order for an anti-psychotic medication because he’s pulling at the IVs and his respirator. He’s kicking and screaming.” I go in the room and we’ll call him Mr. Jones. He looked at me and his eyes were like saucers. He couldn’t talk because he had a respirator tube in his throat. I say, “What is it?” They said, “He’s just psychotic.” I gave him a pencil to write something in his right hand. He just scribbled and I thought, “Maybe they’re right.” I said, “You were pulling at your IVs, kicking, riving off the bed and pulling off the respirator tube. We had to put down your arms and legs. I gave you something to calm you down. When you calm down, we’ll take everything off.”

A day later, I get paged and they say, “Mr. Jones told us to page you.” I go into his room and he’s seated up in bed. He’s off the respirator and the restraints. He looks into my eyes and they weren’t saucer-shaped but he grabbed my eyes with his eyes. He said, “Pull up a chair.” He wouldn’t let go of my eyes and he said, “What I was trying to tell you is that a piece of the respirator tube was broken and stuck in my throat and you do know that I will kill myself before I go through that again, do you understand me?” He wouldn’t let go of my eyes and I said, “I’m sorry. I get it.”

The third case, which was when I was out practicing as a psychiatrist seeing suicidal patients, I used to moonlight at one of the state hospitals. Once a month, I cover for the doctors on the weekend. Sometimes you’d be up 24 hours and you’d be sleep-deprived. I was seeing a patient that was referred to me by Dr. Shneidman. I called her Nancy. That’s not her real name. I didn’t think I was helping her. She’d made 2 or 3 suicide attempts before I started seeing her. She’d been in the hospital several times a year. Back then, you could be in the hospital for a month. Now they get you in. They get you out. I didn’t think I was helping her at all and she didn’t make much eye contact. This is where I learned how to listen into people’s souls. It’s Monday. I hadn’t slept much. I’m in the room. There’s Nancy. She’s not looking at me. She’s looking 30 degrees to the right.

As I’m sitting with her, the color in the room turns black and white, then I get the chills. I thought I was having a seizure or a stroke. I did a neurologic exam on myself. I’m tapping on my knees and elbows. I said to myself, “I’m all here. I’m not having a stroke or seizure.” I had this crazy idea that I was looking out of the world and feeling what she felt and because I was sleep-deprived, I blurted something out that normally I wouldn’t say. I said, “Nancy, I didn’t know it was so bad. I can’t help you kill yourself, but if you do, I will still think well of you. I’ll miss you. Maybe I’ll understand why you had to get out of the pain.”

I thought, “Did I think that or did I say that? I gave her permission to kill herself. I’m screwed.” She looked at me for the first time. She looked and held on to my eyes. I thought she was going to say, “Thank you for understanding. I’m overdue.” I said, “What are you thinking?” She said, “If you can really understand why I might have to kill myself to get out of the pain, maybe I won’t need to,” and then she smiled. That’s when I started going into their world because I didn’t want to let go of her eyes.

This is the first time we made eye contact like that. I said, “I’ll tell you what we’re going to do, I’m not going to give you any treatments that you’ve been tried on before that haven’t worked, and have you come back and tell me that you didn’t try them because they didn’t work. Would that be okay?” She looked at me like, “I’m listening. Keep talking.” I leaned in and I said, “What I am going to do is I’m going to find you wherever you are because you’ve been there all alone too long. I don’t want you to be alone anymore. Is that okay?”

Her eyes watered up and said, “I think I’d like that.” Does that give you an example of my journey? The point is, people will say, “He’s not a challenger. He’s, ‘I saw outside the box.’” I’m trying to teach the world that. The book behind me Just Listen, became the top book in listening in the world. I don’t teach it in America because America is one of the worst countries when it comes to listening. Americans want to be listened to. I’ve spoken in Moscow twice. India three times. The UK, Canada.

BYW 41 | Treatment For Suicidal Patients
Treatment For Suicidal Patients: Feeling felt is not the same as feeling understood. Feeling felt is when you don’t feel alone in the hell you’re going through.

 

Here’s another tip I would like everybody to take from our episode, including you, Gary. I gave a talk in Moscow along with a Nobel Prize winner named Daniel Kahneman. He wrote the book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Five of my nine books are bestsellers in Russia. The title of my talk was Change Everything You Know About Communication. There’re little video clips of me up on YouTube. The whole point of it is what I said to this audience of 1,000 Russian businessmen, CEOs and managers, I said, “I’m going to change everything you know about communication because the way you communicate now is people listen to you when you give them information and then you listen to them. It’s a very nice transactional conversation. If you’re lucky, you might get some business from them, but if instead of focusing on people listening to you and being transactional, you focus on what they’re listening for. When you focus on what they’re listening to, as long as you have good stories, good points, they’ll give you their mind for one hour. If you focus on what they’re listening for and you get it right, they’ll give you everything.”

I said to them, “Let me see if I got it right.” I’m speaking in English, but in real-time it’s translated into Russian. I said, “If you’re business people, you’re listening for a way to get greater positive and measurable results because that’s how you get a raise. Is that true?” “Da.” “You’re listening for a way to get those that are less stressful because you’re all drinking too much or eating too much. People, it’s a real mess. You’re listening for a way to get those positive results that are less stressful, is that true too?” “Da,” and then I said, “Most of all, what you’re listening for, is for me to give you tactics that you can use immediately that are doable by you. You don’t have to be a psychologist. You don’t have to buy a book because I haven’t written this book yet. You don’t have to take a course, because I haven’t created a course yet. You’re listening for tactics that you can use immediately, right out of the box and you don’t have to buy a book, which you don’t have the time to read or take a course that you don’t have the time to take, that gets you better results that are less stressful and that will be worth more than $500 and a day of your time that you spent to be here. Is that true?” They go, “Da.” I say, “Sit down. I got to give the presentation.”

If you’re reading, you need to go to the WHY Institute, because Gary is still that incredible athlete. He wants to share something with you that changed his life for the better. Changed how he’s going to spend the rest of his life. My counsel to you Gary is if you can share how that happened, you’ll get more buy-in, because if you try to convince people how it’s good for them, you might get some but what people are listening for is they’re saying, “I need to change my life too. Something’s not working right. All the stuff that I did that got me some positive results aren’t working. I don’t know what else to do but I got to do something else. I’m like a broken record. I’m living the definition of insanity. I keep doing the same old things expecting different results. It’s not happening for me. How did this change your life?” I’m just hoping you will share that as you shared that on my show. It’ll be a field of dreams for people who know what that’s about and people will come.

Focus on what they are listening for. That was a good example. What you say is if you’re able to playback to them what you think they’re listening for, then you know you’re right and then you can deliver on that.

What they’re listening for is they’re in pain because they’re stuck. All their usual approaches to getting unstuck aren’t working. They’re getting frustrated and not taking very good care of themselves because to cope with the frustration, they’re eating and drinking poorly. They need to make the discovery that you made. If you were to share how that changed your life like you said, you’ve never been suicidal but it saved your life from where you were stuck, that’s your audience.

When I was on your show, I didn’t elaborate enough on that aspect of it. More of the convincing versus the compelling. That’s super helpful. I appreciate you bringing that up. Mark, what is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever given or ever gotten?

I’ve received a lot of advice. I’m giving you a piece of advice because one will change all your relationships and cause you to be happier than you’ve ever been in your life. I’ll start with that one. It’s a quote from a friend of mine, Dr. Shawne Duperon. She said, “Forgiveness is accepting the apology you will never receive.” After I heard that, I tried that with my dad, who’s been dead since 1995. The apology that I never received from him was one of the things that he used to say because he was a numbers person, an accountant, when I would come up with creative, challenging ideas, that made him a little crazy. Like a CEO who is a sales type person. When I come up with one of my crazy ideas, he’d say, “What makes you think you know anything about anything?” Because I made him nervous.

The apology that I never received was him saying to me, “Mark, I can’t even imagine what you’ve accomplished in your life. When I used to say to you, ‘What makes you think you know anything about anything,’ I was talking about myself. I knew numbers but there’s a lot about life I didn’t know. The stuff you know about life, I am proud that you’re my son,” and then I apologize to him. I said, “I am sorry that I had a chip on my shoulder and I miss you.”

Mark, if there are people that are reading that are wanting to connect with you. They want to hear more from you. Maybe they want you to come to speak at their event or come work with them. What’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Everybody has wake-up calls, but not everybody wakes up. Click To Tweet

Find me on LinkedIn because that’s probably the best place where it’s most current in terms of what my focus is. My website is also pretty robust, MarkGoulston.com. I hope they’ll visit my podcast so they can hear you when you were my guest on My Wakeup Call. Check that out and you’ll hear Gary being a wonderful and even compelling guest.

II love the name of your show and what it stands for. Tell people a little bit about what Wakeup Call stands for.

Everybody has wake-up calls but not everybody wakes up. A wake-up call is something that’s your opportunity to shift in your life. Focus on something that maybe you weren’t focusing on. I start all my podcasts the same. I say, “What’s most important to you in life currently that you think will be most important to you at the end of your life beyond family, friends, etc.?” People share what that is and then I say, “Share the wake-up calls that led you there.” People share stories as you did on my podcast. “This was a left turn. This was a right turn. This was a U-turn.” People share those. The way I use my podcast is I introduce my guests to each other. I get to know people. I say, “Why don’t you listen to each other’s podcasts and if you like what you hear, I’ll introduce you?” I’ve had people like Larry King on, Ken Blanchard, Jordan Peterson, Esther Wojcicki, whose daughters are the CEO of Netflix and 23andMe. Also, Tom Steyer ran for president. All kinds of people.

Mark, thank you so much for taking some time of your day to be here. It’s been a joy learning from you. I’ve got three pages of notes from our conversation. I appreciate that and I look forward to staying in touch as we continue on our journeys.

I got the beginning of clarifying my why with Gary’s help and the WHY Institute. If you’re reading, you need to do the same. Even if you don’t think you need a why, be curious enough to find out some stuff about yourself. It’s only going to make your life better.

Thank you. Have a great day, Mark.

You too. Thank you, Gary.

It’s time for our new segment, Guess The Why. I want to talk about the celebrity or the singer, Justin Bieber. What do you guys think his why is? Is he somebody that thinks differently, follows the rules or stays the course and does things the way other people do? I believe that his why is to challenge the status quo and think differently. He’s somebody that went from a picture-perfect little kid to playing a completely different part as he’s gone along in his life. To getting lots of tattoos, always surprising people and doing something unique and different with his musical career, appearance, new songs, changing genre of music, where you can go from pop to hip hop, to lyrical, to Despacito.

BYW 41 | Treatment For Suicidal Patients
Treatment For Suicidal Patients: Even if you don’t think you need a why, just be curious enough to find out stuff about yourself. It’s only going to make your life better.

 

He’s somebody that thinks outside the box and challenges the way things are done. He comes up with something new and different. He is somebody who thinks differently. That’s my take. I’d love to hear yours. Thank you so much for reading. If you’ve not yet discovered your why you can do at WhyInstitute.com. You can even use the code Podcast50 to do it at half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe below and leave us a review and a rating on whatever platform you’re using. Have a great week. Thank you.

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About Dr. Mark Goulston

BYW 41 | Treatment For Suicidal PatientsMark Goulston, M.D. is a Founding Member Newsweek Expert Forum and Marshall Goldsmith MG100 Coach, who works with founders, entrepreneurs and CEOs in dealing with and overcoming any psychological or interpersonal obstacles to realizing their full potential. He is the co-author, along with Dr. Diana Hendel of Why Cope When You Can Heal? How Healthcare Heroes of Covid-19 Can Recover from PTSD and Trauma to Triumph: A Roadmap for Leading Through Disruption and Thriving on the Other Side as well as being the author or co-author of seven additional books with his book, “Just Listen,” becoming the top book on listening in the world.

He is the host of the My Wakeup Call podcast and is the co-creator and moderator of the multi-honored documentary, Stay Alive: An Intimate Conversation about Suicide Prevention. He is on the Board of Advisors to Healthcorps and Biassync and is an advisor to No Worry, No Tension, the leading company in India focused on emotional wellness and the co-creator of their Goulston Vohra Happiness Scale. He was a UCLA professor of psychiatry for more than twenty years with a subspecialty focus on suicide prevention and helping the surviving family members following a completed suicide and is also a former FBI hostage negotiation trainer.