Do You Really Want to Know?

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“People won’t tell you how they feel until they believe you want to know.” – Sheila Heen

I am often reminded of this quote when people ask me questions. Any question that asks for my opinion or thought. These questions could fall under any category: general work, design, business, news, politics, books, media, life decisions, sports, whatever. Because many struggle to be vulnerable or live out their truly authentic values, it’s common to reply with an auto response to questions in order to brush them away. We may cover it by replying with a vague answer, a safe answer, or perhaps an answer you “think” the asker wants to hear. I am not perfect by any means and have done, and still do, this often.

Take for example the question “How are you?
Good.” —This is likely your typical response.

Or, “Where do you stand on [this] issue?
[The side that you’re on in order to block false judgements or retaliation back]” —This is an easier route to take.

Or, “Do you have ideas for [this]?”
Yes, I think it…“—But you’re interrupted by the asker and choose to just keep quiet instead. —Again, easier.

So, let’s go back and dissect Sheila Heen’s quote: “People won’t tell you how they feel until they believe you want to know.”

Until they believe“. Wow, that could take some time.

It’s a tough task to get someone to believe and trust you. Advertisers try to do this on a daily basis with the brands they are selling. But set aside advertisers, let’s look at you. Are you trustworthy? Believable?…to your employees, friends, family, colleagues? What are your true motives?

How do you get to be believable? Each scenario is different, and I don’t claim to have the answers to this, just the curiosity of exploring it. To start though, I think it comes down to having compassion, open-mindedness, and a listening ear to build this trust.

The next time someone asks you a question about your thoughts and opinions, ask yourself your own question first: Am I filtering my thoughts to plan the best answer outcome for the asker, or am I representing my true values?

How are you?


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Learn to See

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When I studied art, I always thought drawing in realistic was difficult because it required acute attention to shadows, light, and shapes as well as the stories they tell. I could exaggerate these truths with my preferred cartoon style. Ed Catmull, Co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and President of Walt Disney Animation Studios, points out that “Art is about learning to see, not drawing.”

He goes on to explain that learning to see can be hard. Sometimes it involves failure, and failure can have emotional aspects to it. He stresses that leaders need to make sure it is safe to fail so your team can progress faster. Don’t punish or give embarrassment. To further progress their team, Pixar strives on learning new things. They take research trips to discover something they don’t know anything about, which fulfills knowledge. Then they also take silent retreats to take care of their souls and be better at being themselves, which fulfills emotional wellbeing. Both of these qualities contribute to Pixar’s creative success. Other leaders, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, follow this same soul-searching practice.

Encouraging curiosity and well-being: I think every organization can learn from this style of leadership and teamwork.


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Win Goals with Heart

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I’m not quite sure what compelled me, but I recently found myself researching soccer players. And on this deep road, I had to explore a woman player whom I think is the greatest of all time, Michelle Akers. Like me, a #10 starting midfielder, she played every minute with such intensity and passion. Her love of the game and drive to leave everything on the field, holding nothing back, inspired me so many of my own soccer playing years.

And the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup Championship?—I can’t forget that time. Michelle Akers and the entire team powered through that championship like a true team does, with authentic teamwork and great tenacity. I was young back then, and only now can I truly appreciate not just the sport at this intensity but the lives that these players lived, the challenges they faced. It’s a different perspective to see that they are indeed human like everyone else on and off the field. They had challenges of being a mom while also a player, of endured athletic injuries, and of the slow yet sudden growth of the sport in the media, especially for women, during this time.

I remembered Michelle Akers always being injured in some way, and it was her continuous fight to play that I thought of often when I wanted to quit. Being one of the oldest women players to play in the World Cup, she sported cuts on her face, wrapped up wrists, sore ankles, dashes across her knees that have been operated on multiple times, and a damaged shoulder. Then to learn that she too was battling Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS) just blew my mind. How was she playing 90 minute games and with such strength? I had to learn more and picked up her autobiography, The Game and the Glory.—I can hardly put it down.

I’m still in the midst of reading, but I am so absorbed by its detailed description of Michelle’s minute-to-minute perspective leading up to the 1999 World Cup final game against China and the time during that matchup. It’s as though I am right there with her and just urging her to not give up while her tank deteriorates toward empty even though I already know the outcome of the championship. And while she was able to hold on during the final game regulation time but got helped off the field from exhaustion prior to penalty kicks, you can feel her sense of just never giving up. It took me right back to this sense I always got while watching her play back then.

So where does this endurance come from?
From my perspective, a few things:

First, curiosity. In the book, she describes how, with CFIDS, she wasn’t in self-pity and thinking “why me?” She was asking better questions. Akers says in a NY Daily News interview, “It was ‘What does this mean?’ and ‘How do you want me to change?’ That was the question I would shout at God.” The book describes how most people decide to change their lifestyle with CFIDS, but Michelle decided to compete with it. Her curiosity opened herself up to learn ‘how’.

Second, awareness. She checks in with herself to see how she is feeling. While it may seem small, this act of self-awareness is key to understanding what next steps to take.

Lastly, heart. She loves the game and has such a commitment to her team, herself, and to her faith.

These three things stand out at me while I read.

I’ve only owned this book for a few hours now and am just a quarter in, but I’m learning and gaining so much. The energy in this read is so powerful and inspiring. I highly recommend checking out this book. I cannot wait to finish the rest of it.


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There is No Know-It-All

Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art has recently become one of my favorite reads, and I regularly go back to it. If you’re an artist of any kind, or if you enjoy creating things, I highly recommend this book. It provides a good list of points to combat resistance that may be blocking your creativity.

In one section, Pressfield highlights the importance of understanding what you don’t know:

“She gets an agent, she gets a lawyer, she gets an accountant. She knows she can only be a professional at one thing. She brings in other pros and treats them with respect.”

Here, Pressfield is making a point that when you don’t know something, you should bring in an expert who does. Include this person as part of your team in order to stay focused on your own work at hand. Don’t try to be a “know-it-all”—these people don’t exist. If you think you know a know-it-all or believe you are one yourself, you have been fooled. Believing this will surely cause obstacles in the road.

Being vulnerable to look at what you don’t know can be difficult, but it’s honorable to be truthful in understanding this so that you can keep your work moving forward and not falsely push it backward to save your pride instead.

A true professional knows what they don’t know and when to call for assistance from other experts.


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The Ideal Team Player

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Patrick Lencioni has a great personality, and I really enjoy his compelling and humorous presentations. My favorite work of his is the concept that ideal team players are humble, hungry, and smart. You need all three. Not one of these characteristics can be missing.

Humble players don’t exude ego, nor do they downplay their skills. They emphasize team over self and understand that success is a collective effort.

Hungry players are always seeking more, and they are self-disciplined to look ahead and do more without the need to be motivated by a manager.

Lastly, there are smart players. Don’t be fooled into thinking smart is about intelligence. It’s about common sense, and smart players have good self-judgment and intuition about all actions and behaviors and how it will impact others. They have a conscious self-awareness.

We overvalue resumes and technical skills, but behavior always rises to the top. These are the three behaviors you want on your team. Accept nothing less.


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