Podcast Ep. 80 – Coaching for Excellence

Larry Olsen December 14, 2021

Bill Eckstrom is founder and CEO of EcSell Institute, the world’s first and only  organization to measure and quantify leadership effectiveness. Larry and Bill discuss just what it takes to move to that next level of performance that may seem so elusive. He and his  coauthor, Sarah Wirth, are considered the world’s foremost authorities in metric based performance coaching and growth. Bill and Sarah’s book, The Coaching  Effect, was written to help leaders understand how coaching is the key to  increase sales, enhance performance, and sustain growth. Learn more at: https://www.ecsellinstitute.com/bill-eckstrom 


Larry Olsen: Welcome. I’m Larry Olsen, and what’s on your mind? Once set, it delivers your life. To change the outcomes we want, we must change the plays we’re running. Join us at Mindset Playbook with Real people – Real talk for Real insight.

Narrator: Today’s episode is sponsored by Aperneo, An Achievement Acceleration Company, whose approach to professional development enables clients to gain insights and perspectives to live, work, and engage with more success.


Larry Olsen [00:00:17] I want to welcome everyone to Mindset Playbook, where we get below the radar and examine the habits, attitudes, beliefs, and expectations that really lead to high performance. Now, along on our journey of discovering the mindset and plays used to overcome challenges and achieve our visions is today’s guest Bill Eckstrom. Bill is the founder and CEO of EcSell Institute. Now listen to this, the world’s first and only organization to measure and quantify leadership effectiveness. So, you’re going to hear a lot of fascinating information that I know you’ll find utilizing immediately. He is considered one of the world’s top authorities in metric-based performance coaching and growth. His book, The Coaching Effect, coauthored by EcSell Institute President Sarah Worth, helps leaders at all levels understand the necessity of challenging people out of their comfort zone to create high growth organizations. Growth is also what inspires Bill’s philanthropic life, especially his involvement in therapy dog work. Now I was really interested in this because we have a Bernese Mountain dog, which is a therapy dog. He has a Labrador named Aspen, and they work together at senior living homes, children’s hospitals and anywhere the presence of Aspens wagging tail and soft soul can bring a smile. I want to thank you for sharing your time with us today, Bill.


Bill Eckstrom [00:02:10] Larry thank you. It’s an honor to be with you.


Larry Olsen [00:02:12] I appreciate that. You know, I want to start out the interview with the concept of “discomfort” in your TED talk, you shared powerful ideas on what happens in our lives when we’re too comfortable. So, if that’s what we’d rather be, why is it getting uncomfortable is so important for our growth and development?


Bill Eckstrom [00:02:37] Wow. How long do we have together? There’s a lot to unpack in that wonderful question. And I think we need to start with comfort, first of all, because I think we’re being designed as human beings to find comfort and we find comfort through predictability in our lives in any time we have a predictable outcome that can bring us comfort. And perhaps one of the best analogies I can use is when people, when they hop on an airplane, you know, the 35000 feet in the air. But yet not too many on that flight are scared. And think about it, you’re 35000 feet in the air, but you’re not scared. Well, the reason why is because the outcome is very predictable. I say planning. And if that outcome were unpredictable people would be very, very scared about flying in the air. So, our lives by and large revolve around predictability. Now you can take extreme examples of elite athletes, elite people and business elite mindset people that really understand that concept. The concept of that growth only occurs in a state of discomfort. And so they seek or search for ways to put themselves not just in physical discomfort, because as an athlete, we know the only way I’m going to grow up. If I’m a weightlifter, I’ve got to tear up muscle fiber to get stronger. I’m an endurance athlete, I have to increase my endurance and all that comes with creating physical discomfort. But on your line of work, there’s a mental discomfort as well. That, I would argue, is even harder to overcome. In order to get to those levels, we need people from outside of our lives and typically at work would be manager, a leader, coach. Athletics it would be your coach, somebody to help you realize and see the world differently, to make you uncomfortable, to achieve that growth.  That’s the role, quite frankly, of a leader is to create that growth.  To create that growth, that means I’ve got to have people on my team that at times, when appropriate, I need to help them be uncomfortable to perpetuate and sustain growth.


Larry Olsen [00:05:11] I think it’s an understandable concept that without, another way is without discontent, there is no growth. You know, you got to be uncomfortable with the current situation and a lot of people understand that, you know, they can’t get their pants buttoned. And if you want to correct a situation, you take a look at your nutrition and what you’re consuming. If you want to go in denial, you get a bigger belter, a larger pair of pants. Right?


Bill Eckstrom [00:05:40] And I’ve spent years doing, by the way.


Larry Olsen [00:05:44] Yeah, and all of a sudden, we’re comfortable again. So, you know, we understand that the homeostasis, the ability to be able to keep ourselves predictable if you well, because that uncertainty drives a lot of people crazy. But we’re talking about it being very positive. We’re talking about it having high rewards and in a real sense of accomplishment, even to building self-esteem because of what we were able to do. Yet when we’re into this discomfort, how have you helped people not back away and go back to what was once comfortable, even though they’re in no danger of getting what they want?


Bill Eckstrom [00:06:31] Wow, OK. There’s probably not a single way Larry to address it, but I think there’s a variety of ways. One of which I think a lot of it begins with education. And we tell coaches of athletic teams this and people, business leaders just as well. That if the people whom you are coaching are leading understand the concept of discomfort and the role it plays and the evolution in their development. All of a sudden, the discomfort, if I report to you the discomfort that you’re creating takes on a different meaning. It’s not a negative thing. It can be a positive thing. So, I think it really begins with understanding, education and understanding, and then while it’s occurring, communicating. For example, I used to live my life as a leader or coach as I’m a problem solver. And by the way, Larry, you got a problem. I’ll help you take care of it. You’ve got an obstacle in the way; I remove that obstacle so you can perform. And what I didn’t realize at the time was I was creating more “order” than I was “discomfort and growth”. I was making your life easier. I wasn’t allowing you to figure out how to remove that obstacle yourself. So that’s part of the evolution to say, yeah, there are times I will say to people, you know, “Hey, you’re going to be uncomfortable for a while and I’m going to I’m going to watch you wallow a little bit and struggle with this but know that I love you. You know that I’m confident you can work through it. But by you doing that, the end result will be that much more powerful”. [45.6s] So that’s, I think, part of it.


Larry Olsen [00:08:24] I think let’s play with that a little bit, because I think that’s huge. We know there is no buy in when it’s imposed upon us when discomfort is imposed upon us. And you mentioned something very powerful and that’s that education. And you’re almost giving the coach permission to make you uncomfortable because you’ve been able to talk about the fact that this is how we’re going to get this outcome. If I don’t, you’re just going to get this. If I do, you’re going to get that. Which one would you prefer? And that’s really powerful because that tells me that your programs are also sustainable, not just quick fixes.


Bill Eckstrom [00:09:07] Well, let me even back up on that just to touch further. And you made a comment to start it off like you can’t just impose on people on your right. However, there’s a caveat to that, (Larry Olsen OK) and it begins with trust in relationships. If you and I report to you, if whether it’s an athletic sense or business sense, and you and I don’t have, quite frankly, an intimate, trust-based relationship. I don’t think even when you educate me, I may fight it because you don’t know me. How does it benefit me? Tell me how if you don’t know my goals, my objectives, my dreams?  How is this going to benefit me? So with that trust, with that connection, there are times when you can impose something and I will have such a trust in you that I will execute it because maybe I don’t know what at the moment, but I trust you and I know the outcome is for the betterment of me, for you and perhaps the company in the customers.


Larry Olsen [00:10:19] Now you’re hitting on something absolutely huge. Not that you weren’t before, but there’s an element of trust. So, we’ve got people out there listening. We’ve got people that have a have employees at work and they wonder why some managers are better than other managers. And sometimes they think it’s technique or it’s their expertise, if you will, their skill sets that they’re able to teach. How do you get these people to trust you, to be able to get them uncomfortable? What are what are some of the elements you can share with us? Because boy, if you don’t have a trusting relationship with your spouse, you’re not going to have a very exciting marriage. And I mean, it goes, you’re not going to be able to really grow your children if they don’t develop that. So how have you found in your work that some techniques that they can use utilize immediately to begin to develop this incredible thing called trust?


Bill Eckstrom [00:11:18] Well, so again, I will answer your question, but I need to preface of something. So, trust is kind of an odd thing, and we measure what are called trust-based connections and psychological safety. Those are two components of this major theme we call relationship, right? So, trust-based connections and psychological safety. So those are the objectives. To the inputs are what I do and how I do it. So, the quantity of it, for example, changed your question directly one on one meetings. OK, everybody, when we say this in the business world says, Oh yeah, yeah, of course, one on one meetings. Yeah, we do those great, team meetings. Yep, yep. Do those to do those every week. Great career development plans. Oh, well, we do annual reviews, OK, that’s what I’m talking about, you know, and then performance feedback or what our research shows, those four activities have had the strongest correlation to activities that create the most connection, that have the opportunity, I should say, to create the most connection, a psychological safety. Now, having said that, everybody probably that hears us will say, OK, well, I’m going to go make my teams do more on. I want to hold on because I’ll just be blunt if you suck at doing one on one. You could create negative discretionary effort. You could actually create lower performance. So, it’s not just the activity itself, it’s the quality of that activity as well. And the quality we learn in our research is more important than the quantity of that activity.


Larry Olsen [00:13:11] Beautiful.  I imagine intention has a lot to do with this as well.


Bill Eckstrom [00:13:16] Elaborate on that. When you say intention


Larry Olsen [00:13:19] “Is my intention to manipulate higher performance out of you or it’s my intention genuine that I have care about you and interested in helping you with your growth?”


Bill Eckstrom [00:13:29] Yeah. So that gets back to trust based connections and creating psychological safety and a team environment. Yes.  If trust connections are not there and these are all measurable, by the way, we can actually measure these if trust connections are low, then you’re right that an employee’s whether I’m a player or an athlete, it’s shocking how quickly they sniff that out. It’s just instant. So yes. And the question is everything. 


Larry Olsen [00:14:06] So I have, you know, I could keep peeled in the onion and it’s fascinating what do you want to share with us so that we know more about the works that you do and as you would like to share it instead of me continuing to take you in different directions?


Bill Eckstrom [00:14:26] Well, and thank you, Larry, for that opportunity. I don’t get asked this question very often, so I got to think about how to respond to it. We really understand we quantify the impact leaders have on their business teams, and we do the same in athletic teams. We quantify the impact coaches have on student athletes and we can do the same thing in a classroom and in school. And this is, you know, everybody there’s not a person out from a leader in business in your world and most of our what most of my world too. There’s not a leader out there who thinks our finished product. But do they behave like one? And I was doing a session the other day with a group actually yesterday, and I asked him a question, I said, what is it? What do you believe you need to grow in both of these two meters? Both came up the same thing. They said information. I don’t know what I do well and what I’m not doing well. I can ask the people on my team, but that’s a poor way to get data. I need, you know, they needed to understand. I need somebody to quantify for them the impact they’re having the people on their team. So, we quantify that impact and then we help leaders understand how to improve that impact. Yeah.


Larry Olsen [00:16:04] Wow. That’s a classic statement. It’s not what I know that holds me back, but thinking I do that does.  And that if we don’t get that information in it, generally it’s going to be political. If we’re asking someone that works for us, how do they think of us as leaders and where can we improve? I mean, duh, you’ve got to have someone that’s either got another job or very confident to tell you the truth. Right? So that’s it. That’s invaluable. What you’re offering these people is to be able to get the feedback from them, to be able to then quantify that and have them see for themselves where the opportunities lie, as I’m sure that really, if you will, greases the skids a bit to the growth and development it can.


Bill Eckstrom [00:16:51] It can as you know, being in the neuro psych field, if they allow it to.  Because, as you know, so often, unfortunately, too often not more than half, but certainly there are pretty significant match people that when it comes right down to it, they don’t want to know. That create such discomfort, I would rather go along in my existing order, in my existing predictability than have you tell me that the people on that 50 percent of the people on my team. Don’t believe they have a trust connection with me.  And when somebody learns that that can rock the world to a point of, they don’t, they don’t want to know.


Larry Olsen [00:17:42] Yeah, and I think that’s where, a real ability to get people comfortable accepting bad news. Is actually not bad news, it’s good news like you are finding out, and I think it was ’08 that you’re fired, now developing all the comfort around you in a life lifestyle and, you know, vacations planned and then all of a sudden you don’t have that any longer to add up. But not great news, but you had the wherewithal to channel it and do build a business around it to the point where if you are telling me I was going to get bad news, I’d understand it as it’s the news you’re craving. It’s the news that you’ve been dying to hear because it’s not about what you’ve been doing wrong. It’s about what you can do to even be more impactful than you currently are. And who doesn’t want to hear that?


Bill Eckstrom [00:18:48] Well, again, neuroscience, right?


Larry Olsen [00:18:52] But if you just take tests on me and hand me the info, you know, and I got a 50 percent, I got a lot of old tapes in my head about what that means.


Bill Eckstrom [00:19:04] You said that well, lots of old tapes in my head.


Larry Olsen [00:19:07] Yeah. And so, I’m going to push back because you’re telling me stuff I don’t want to know. But your company, you set it up so that even though it may not be the most positive and to make peace in the world, it’s the most valuable information you could receive. If you’re truly interested in growing, if you know how many, say cut, you know how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb.


Bill Eckstrom [00:19:33] No, please continue one.


Larry Olsen [00:19:37] One, but the light bulb has really got to want a change.


Bill Eckstrom [00:19:45] I like that. Yeah, no, you’re right, it’s we work hard to help people understand. That feedback is not evaluative, it’s developmental.


Larry Olsen [00:19:56] OK. Say that again.


Bill Eckstrom [00:20:00] If feedback, whether it’s written feedback, whether it’s oral feedback is developmental, not evaluative. And when organizations put like our work into play, we emphasize that all the time this is not evaluating. Their role and their job, it’s helping them grow. Now, whether they use it or not. Maybe in your eyes, evaluative, right? If I got someone who really, it’s plainly obvious, they need to create greater psychological safety on their team and create better relationships, and they do nothing differently over the next two years. Well, that tells me something. Right? Yeah. So, number one, it’s understanding that it is developmental. It should be always viewed as developmental in nature. And then the other big aha moment, I think for them, I’m going to go to a quote from Viktor Frankl, who the German psychiatrist who wrote, you know, sort of concentration. Camp Man’s search for meaning says that between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space, as our power to choose, our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom. And so that your ability to enact how to use that space and retrain people, how do you use that space when we give like I’ll do, I’ll have a session with an athletic coach this afternoon and yesterday it was business leaders, but both times it’s take don’t ever get back to me when you see results within one or even two days. You need to soak on it. You need to have that space because your visceral response may not be growth oriented. Your longitudinal response is one I’m most interested in.


Larry Olsen [00:21:52] Mm hmm. And then share with us what you mean by visceral response and longitudinal response.


Bill Eckstrom [00:22:00] Well, when somebody, for example, somebody sees that they have a psychological safety of, say, a in the 40th percentile on their team site safety, you know, their visceral response is, well, how does that happen? Who’s saying this stuff on here? I think I know who that person is or, you know, I know we’ve got a couple of team people that really just have negative attitudes. There’s a visceral response to that because people always zero in on what maybe might be their lowest score, as opposed to emphasizing, emphasizing the things they’ve done well. So, every conversation I have, I always start to tell me three things three positive takeaways from this information and I’ve and it’s amazing and I’m sure you can. You can relate to this. So many will give you one positive and then immediately go to the negatives. When I say longitudinal is give it several days to soak in to synthesize, to understand that’s longitudinal in our world, that can be anywhere from years longitudinal study to longitudinal getting your results. But because you will feel differently 24 40, you know, hours later, then you feel the moment it hits your hands. So that’s what I mean by that.


Larry Olsen [00:23:16] That’s the kind of when you’re upset, count to 10 of a thing.


Bill Eckstrom [00:23:20] Yeah, right. That’s one of the things you dress athletes when you hit a bad shot. Make a mistake. You know, you get eight steps or three seconds you choose before you got to enter back in.


Larry Olsen [00:23:32] Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no dwelling allowed.


Bill Eckstrom [00:23:36] No, exactly.


Larry Olsen [00:23:37] That’s great. That’s great. It’s just fascinating listening to I’d love to get more into the work that you do because I think we really have complementary tools that we bring, but they’re not redundant. I think one showcases another, which is very powerful. So those listeners out there recognized, what are you sharing? And I, and I know you’ve picked it up is to be really cautious, as Frankl said about how you interpret the feedback that you’re getting. You know, Kurt Vonnegut said feedback, the breakfast of Champions. I mean, we’ve got to have it, but it’s and it’s not always going to be positive. But the positive feedback doesn’t necessarily create any growth. It sometimes can stifle it. As I hear you sharing, too in your works. So, time flies as it always does. And when something’s fascinating like this, what? What do you want people to know about the opportunities they have for their own growth, even if they think they’re at the top of their game or you can use the pandemic is a great example, right of getting fired or having a disruption come into your life. So, your work now is even more important than ever relative to where people’s mindsets are at, both individually and in corporations. What would you offer them? To be thinking about.


Bill Eckstrom [00:25:16] The first thing I would offer is. They have to learn more about themselves. My greatest growth as an individual, not as a business, but as an individual has been in the last four years, and it’s in those four years I learned the power of mindfulness. I learned the power of meditation. I learned the power of focusing my growth above the shoulders instead of below the shoulders. And so, I think the first thing is because if I can learn how to do those things now, I can recognize when I’m uncomfortable because let’s face it, it’s a field. I can recognize that space. And stretch it longer when I need to if I have mindfulness about me, if I practice this, I’m better at it. I can stretch the space. I’m more in touch with how I’m feeling, why I’m feeling it, and then my decision making is better. If I know I’m feeling uncomfortable, and I recognize and acknowledge I can go back and isolate what’s creating that discomfort. It’s this now I can either consciously choose to move with that discomfort and allow it to stay there knowing that there could be and will be growth on the other end. But not every time is that healthy. And I say, hey, that’s why I’m feeling uncomfortable, I got to take care of that now and get it out of my life. Mm-Hmm. So, I would tell people right now. The best thing they can do is really understand who you are and the best way to do that is by practicing mindfulness techniques. And that may seem wishy washy or weird, but it’s not. It’s been real and it is real when you when you can practice those things in your head. Your world becomes way more limitless than it was, then it will be before. Yeah.


Larry Olsen [00:27:25] Kudos. That’s what I have to say to you, that is that is so powerful that the space in and what he what I hear you sharing is a space I call it in my education, the gap. You know that the moment before you’re about to respond, you know, the condition response element. And as you know, bill that 95 percent of most people’s day is subconscious anyway. They’re just reacting to all the preconceived notions and attitudes that they have. And then you enter into it, and you put a little bit of an earthquake into their life. But sometimes we have to get people’s attention. And for them to be attentive for them to want to do mindfulness and good, can it just, you know, it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve got Aspen and you’re utilizing Aspen to make a positive difference instead of sleeping as his life away at home, which, you know, he wouldn’t have any issues with that either. And I think that’s a good metaphor because what are we doing with our lives? Do we have someone challenging us like Bill in his company? Or are we just waking up, going through the motions and then doing it all over again? And so how can people reach out to you? How can they get in touch with you?


Bill Eckstrom [00:28:44] Well, thank you for that offer, Larry. I am all over the place. It would appear, are our PR marketing. People do a nice job with our company, in our name and our name. I am on LinkedIn. Bill Eckstrom on LinkedIn. I am Bill Eckstrom on Twitter. Our company’s website Excel is E C S E L L, EcSell Institute.com. I do have a personal website billeckstrom.com. I’m on Instagram. I’m, you know, I’m supposed to be all over the place, but my favorite places to be is right here with the dog two feet away from me right now and our little bed snoring away.


Larry Olsen [00:29:30] I can’t, I haven’t heard.


Bill Eckstrom [00:29:32] And when people reach out to me, I always respond. And now I’m following the TED talk that I did. That was, you know, apparently pretty impactful. I’ve had hundreds of people reach out to me, and I’m proud to say that every single person, with the exception of one, so I didn’t respond to them. But from across the world, you know, whether it’s Syria or India or the UK or the states, you know, I’ll get back to people if they want to question if they want to reach out and say, “Hey, Bill” you know, I’ll respond, I’ll communicate.


Larry Olsen [00:30:11] So beautiful.  You really resonate deeply with people, and you have with me.  It takes a lot to impress me only because I’ve been at this now for over 40 years, and what you’re really looking for is somebody who gets it. And what I mean by that is recognized is not to just come in with bumper stickers but come in with something that’s really going to make a difference, and everybody makes a difference in their life. But the question we have to ask ourselves, what kind of difference am I making? And that’s that choice, isn’t it? (Bill:  Yeah, it certainly is), and you’ve made a very positive difference. You’re very likable, approachable. You’re the first podcast I’ve done that I didn’t get a chance to talk with you a little bit, you know, a week or so before. And so, I kind of just did a little wing and a prayer here, and it you exceeded my expectations. Let’s put it that way.


Bill Eckstrom [00:31:12] Well, thank you and you as well. You asked very pertinent, poignant questions and not having a script going back and forth like we are is my favorite way to do a podcast. So, thank you for being so engaging.


Larry Olsen [00:31:27] You’re so welcome. And as you’ve just learned from Bill, everyone out there recognize that wherever you happen to be in your life is exactly where you need to be, and the difference that you’re going to realize is going to be in the choices you make. And as you mentioned with the mindfulness, you know, if you’re not spending time imagining, then the choice is going to already be made for you. And that’s what’s happened in your past. So, you’ve brought us into the now and set us up for the future. And I wanted to thank everybody who could be listening to anything right now. You took your time to invest in us, and both of us are so grateful for that. So, thank you again. Thank you, Bill. And I look forward to our next adventure.


Narrator: Thank you for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, we ask that you please subscribe and share with your friends and associates. Larry’s next guest on The Great Automotive Experience is a great friend and former colleague Sean Green. Sean is an automotive Enthusiast who is passionate about transportation in all its manifestations as they translate to everyday buyers. More specifically, the automobile as a form of personal expression along with its macro and micro economic impact on personal, continental and intercontinental economics. Enjoy this entertaining and insightful look behind the automotive curtain. 



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