Why discomfort is essential for personal growth. Bill Eckstrom #GoFarFast Show - Season 2 Episode 4.

Why discomfort is essential for personal growth. Bill Eckstrom #GoFarFast Show - Season 2 Episode 4.

Monday 8 Nov 21

In this episode of the Go Far Fast Show, the EcSell Institute's CEO and founder, Bill Eckstrom, talks all about how coaches and leaders impact the performance of their teams, why stepping outside of your comfort zone is SO important for growth, and his 2017 TED Talk 'Why comfort will ruin your life' which inspired Farillio's founder Merlie to take the leap into entrepreneurship!

Whether you want to watch the show, read the transcript or listen to the podcast, you can access all of that right here. So grab a cuppa, and a notebook, and get ready to #GoFarFast!


Merlie: Hello and welcome. Well, we're back in season two episode four today folks of the Go Far Fast Show. You know the way it rolls already, this is our talk show that aims to get you, our business audience to the answers to the burning questions of today. With some brilliant guests providing you with as much wisdom as we can cram into our 30-minute slot. As ever the extended podcast will pick up on any of Aaron's favourite questions that we may not get to. So, do listen along on the podcast if you want the most comprehensive version of today's interrogation, and it's a good one isn't it Aaron? How are you doing?

Aaron: Yeah Merlie, you're right. I’m really looking forward to today, I can't wait for it. As always, the name of the show is Go Far Fast and that's exactly what we've got for you today. We have Bill on the show today and he's going to be talking all about his passion for growth, especially how coaches and leaders impact the growth and performance of individuals and teams. I'm looking forward to getting to that. We've got a couple of questions lined up for him already all about his EcSell Institute before Merlie dives into the Bill TED Talks back in 2017, so we've got some great little topics to bring in. Then we're going to go over those legendary community questions which is my favourite part of the show and as always, the community has delivered some quality questions. So Merlie, what else have we got to know about the format of the show?

Merlie: I think you've covered it all Aaron. Don't forget folks to like, comment and subscribe as you come along, and if there's anything that Bill mentions that we don't cover off that you'd also like to know about, then do look Bill up you can find him on social media you can find him obviously on the Farillio blog site and in the Dear Farillio Expert sections, and as I mentioned earlier, on the podcast too. So, this is probably the highlight of all our shows so far for me personally, and Bill I'm sure we’ll demonstrate exactly how and why he's had such a profound impact on me as a founder and as an entrepreneur, but I think we should absolutely get to meet Bill himself, right Aaron?

Aaron: Yes, definitely Merlie. So, Bill welcome to the show really, really excited to have you on here. Merlie explained a lot about what we should be excited for today, so I can't wait to get involved. I think the best thing to do is just go straight into it, isn't it Bill? Can you tell us all about the EcSell Institute, probably how to pronounce that so I make sure I get it right, and what do you guys do. Take the floor Bill!

Bill: The company is called the EcSell Institute and what we do is exactly what you had mentioned earlier, we work in the worlds of business, athletics and education, and we help businesses understand the impact their leaders have on their growth and performance of the people on their teams. In the world of sport, we measure and quantify and help coaches understand the impact they have on student athletes, and similar for teachers in the classroom with their students.

Merlie: It's amazing and it has such an impact not just in your homeland of America but across the world globally I know. Bill, I want to talk about the big thing for me which was your TED Talk back in 2017 which had a really profound impact on my decision to become an entrepreneur, to found my own business, and stop building businesses for other people in the corporate world. I remember being utterly terrified of taking that plunge, I was way out of my comfort zone, and your TED Talk essentially convinced me that that was fine and that actually I needed to be out of my comfort zone in order to follow the dream and be successful at doing that. And as anyone who knows me now understands, I have been anti-goldfish and pro-frog ever since that moment and that sort of goldfish analogy that you tell in your TED Talk as part of the explanation of your backstory is incredibly symbolic for me. And I think for anybody undergoing change, or curious about change, whether they've opted for it whether it's being enforced on them your backstory and that TED Talk is a must watch in my view. Can you share just a little bit about that TED Talk, what influenced you, how you came about giving it and also maybe summarise some of what you share on that whole topic of why comfort will ruin your life and we need to be out of our comfort zones to succeed?

Bill: Wow there's so much to unpack there Merlie. The backstory is interesting in and of itself, because where I live in the states is in Nebraska and actually in Lincoln, Nebraska, my hometown, that’s where our company is, there is a TED event every year. And the people on my team at work encouraged me to submit basically an application to do a TED Talk in my hometown and I got rejected. And about a year later the team was again encouraging me, ‘hey you got rejected so what reapply’, and I thought you know if I'm going to reapply, I’m going to reapply to a TED Talk at least that's big, that has a huge audience, and if I’m going to fail I’m going to at least fail big. So, I applied in Nevada, and I had to be careful what you wish for because I got accepted and that was so just that in and of itself was part and parcel to that message of growth only occurs in a state of discomfort, and how we are wired for comfort. We have a visceral connection with what I call order, and order is (and all this is in the TED talk) and I think this part of what resonated with you Merlie, is we have this connection with the known, we want to have predictable futures, we want to know what's going to happen next. Because when we do, when things are predictable, that's actually what creates comfort. And the discomfort is when the future is unknown, unpredictability is what creates discomfort, and that's the challenge with this concept is, if we want to grow, we have to be in these environments that create unpredictability or discomfort. That is the only place we grow. There's a whole other story behind how the opening came about, and if you're interested I'll share that with you too, but hopefully that answered part of your question.

Merlie: No, it absolutely did it, it absolutely did. And your personal circumstances, I mean you shared quite a personal story about just how far out of your comfort zone you'd fallen to really realize not just that discomfort was, as you say a path to personal growth, but also how you could start helping other people with what the EcSell Institute ultimately does today.

Bill: Yeah, right the origination of it is because I got fired from a job, and here's what's fascinating about that, not losing a job, getting fired is not the fascinating piece! Everybody has come to know the story, because that was not supposed to be part of the TED Talk, that opening that you're referring to was there for very ironic reasons, and I'll share that with you really quickly. I was sitting down with my team at work at our conference table, kind of walking through various ideas for opening the talk (which is arguably the most important part of success or failure of any talk!) and I had to come up with an anecdote or something that led into this concept that growth only occurs in this state of discomfort. And I was running ideas by them, and getting their feedback, and finally Will, who's our VP of sales, he looks up at me and he said, “hey Bill why don't you just tell the truth”.

And I remember I stopped because he caught me so off guard with that statement, and I said ‘what do you mean tell the truth?’. He said ‘why don't you why don't you just tell the truth’ and I said ‘whoa hold on I said are you accusing me of lying, I don't even know where this is coming from?’, and he said ‘why don't you tell everybody why we're here today, why don't you tell everybody why really how the company got started, why don't you tell everybody the only reason we all have jobs is because you got fired at your last job.’ And that was a watershed moment because my response, I kind of looked around the table, and I said ‘are you kidding me?’ and everybody was not sensing my sarcasm, because I said ‘let me get this straight, you want me to tell 600 people in an audience what I had hoped to be another thousand or two thousand on YouTube, the most humiliating event of my life!’ and everybody kind of looked around and said ‘yeah that's a that's a great idea, why don't you do that?’ and I said well ‘excuse me for not coming on board with this idea I said that would be humiliating, it'd be embarrassing and I'd be totally uncomfortable’, and that was actually the word I used, and it hit me in the face that I was about to give a talk and the need to be in discomfort to grow, and I was even afraid to go there myself!

And then there's that classic there we go what makes you comfortable can ruin you and what makes you uncomfortable is the only way to grow! So that's the back story to that. And the outcome was really interesting to you guys because, after the talk I became some sort of poster child for somebody who had gotten fired and did something with their life and so I probably did as many speaking engagements around that the first year than I did actually on the topic of discomfort! So anyway, you never know what's going to happen.

Aaron: Bill that's really insightful isn't it, and I love the fact that it was all irony that got you into actually producing that TED Talk in the first place! And when you think about the fact that it was you being put into discomfort and you having to go through it to really think about how impactful that opening part is going to be. And that's the reason that people like Merlie and so many people have drawn an understanding from that particular one was so special, I think. And I really like the fact as well that you've got that story in there already about the fact that you've gone from being rejected to finally getting into the irony through understanding it and going through that. I think it's brilliant.

And I think that really works well with this next question as well, and I’m really excited to understand what the answer to this is going to be. I want to talk about your book called The Coaching Effect and I really want to dive into some of the bits in there because I think it's really relevant to the way that we think about business. So, the book itself essentially repositions managers as coaches, and draws so many parallels between coaches and sports and managers in business. You write that the term manager is an archaic term describing a role, and that the definition limits growth and performance. That really drew me in to read and made me think about some of the managers I’ve worked with in the past! So, can you share with our viewers who the book is aimed at and maybe summarise some of those biggest messages because I think this is a great little topic for us to go into.

Bill: Well thank you, Aaron for that opportunity, and picking up on some of those subtleties like you did in the book. The book is written to anybody who either wants to be in a coaching role, and I’ll talk about what that is in a second, or you have or are currently in a coaching role. I don't care if you're a CEO of a company, because we've had them read it and I’ve heard from them, or all the way down to ‘hey I’m a brand new frontline leader’, or ‘I want to be there, that's my goal is to move into that spot’. We've also had athletic coaches read it and heard from them. It's written to anybody who really believes that their role, what they do, their behaviours and activities, and what they say impacts the people on their respective team. And that's why we refer to them as a coach as opposed to a leader, to your point I’ll use the term manager every now and then, but it's more of a slip than anything because I don't like the term. I love the term coach because to be a coach always denotes that I have a team of people I’m accountable for getting to a different level of performance or growth. I can be a follower and be a good leader, in my mind. I think there are followers that have really good leadership behaviours, but to be a coach, I’ve got to have a team. and in business and the world of sport that's what it's about. it's getting those people on the team to places they couldn't get to without me in their life.

Merlie: I think that's amazing, and I know there was one thing that really struck me about your book, Bill. It actually really intrigued me. You talk about needing to get beyond managers wanting to be seen as nice, so managers should be actively challenging their staff to get out of their comfort zone, to actively perform, to really grow as individuals. Because, as you say, growth can only occur in a state of discomfort. And I think there are likely to be a lot of managers out there, particularly new managers, who are going to find that notion quite uncomfortable to use your words, because I think most of us want to be popular managers, and I think we have this sense of, if we get on with everybody and we've got good relationships and we'll get great results, people will feel motivated to pull together as a team. And it's that kind of team spirit that we've almost had sort of indoctrinated into us. So, we need to be nice to get on as a team. And it's not that you're saying, if I've understood the book correctly, that that's mutually exclusive from challenging your staff to get out of their comfort zone and be uncomfortable. But it is a very different way of looking at being a manager, it’s not about being nice, it's actually about pushing people to their full potential. How do we do that, Bill? Can you give us a bit more explanation to try and get us a bit more comfortable with the idea of ‘don't be nice, be pushy and challenging’?

Bill: Wow. OK, how long we have? So, if I'm a coach, my role is not to be popular. My role is to create growth. My guess is Merlie, you're not saying ‘Hey what team, we're having a good year this year, so next year expect no growth’. My guess is that those words will never come out of your mouth. I've never heard them come out of any mouth of anybody in this role. So, let's really acknowledge the fact that we get paid to grow performance. It's that simple. So then, we have to understand what is it we do that leads to performance? What is it that we do that leads to growth? And while I believe that popularity is a result of all these things, it doesn't have to be. When we study the best and we study what separates good from great or great from elite, there is a tension involved. I mean, think about it. You can probably think back in your world and think of a time you had a really nice boss. And I can think of one right off, right off the bat. He was a gentleman. He was. He had tons of integrity. He had tons of respect. But he didn't challenge me. He didn't help me grow. Now, fast forward to Mitch, who's in our book, the guy I describe in our book. Mitch I didn't like, as well as I like this other guy, at least not when I was working for him. But there is no question in my mind that under Mitchell's leadership, under him coaching me, I grew astronomically. He created a healthy tension. So, when we study these top performing leaders, they do different things, so we have what we call high growth activities that they follow, and this is what our research points to, and there's a series of themes around their behaviours as well. So, it's what they do, what we call the quantity of what they do, and the quality of what they do. And hopefully, that answers your question.

Merlie: It does thank you. And the producers are yelling at me to get on to the community questions, so I won't come back and ask you any more. I'm absolutely desperate at some point for you to tell the story of Barb, the shopkeeper who managed her customers so beautifully that she actually had them running the store for her. But let's park that for now. Otherwise, I would be deeply unpopular. Aaron buddy, it's your favourite part of the show. Do you want to kick us off with the community's questions for Bill? All about managers and coaching and dealing with difficult bosses I think we have coming up too.

Aaron: I can't wait to get through some of these. So, Bill and this particular community member has talked about how they've watched your TED talk, and it helped get over the fear of being made redundant recently. So, a really important topic this one. They’re considering setting up their own business, but ‘I've never done anything like this before, so I'm completely out of my comfort zone’. And ‘do you have any advice? I know you'll understand, because you did the same thing too’. Have you got anything to talk to about this particular issue?

Bill: Oh, wow. Merlie, you probably be just as good at answering this as I would. Don't look back. If you're a go, go. One speed, full speed, go all in. You don't want to dangle a foot in that water. You make the leap. I made the leap because I got fired. I didn't have the courage to do it on my own. It took somebody firing before I said ‘ok, now I'm going to start my own business’. So, if you're going to go, I think the best emotional advice I could give you is go one speed, full speed. Don't look back, work like your hair's on fire and you will have no regrets whether it succeeds or fails. At least you tried and nobody will look at you and say you failed. Everybody will look at you and say ‘wow, that took courage’.

Merlie: Yeah, I couldn't endorse that more. I really couldn't. The thing that got me Bill was the analogy of the goldfish in the bowl. And you talk in your TED talk about how the goldfish only grows as big as the environment that it's in. And it can be a really happy goldfish and it can be feeling like it's really getting places. But actually, it's just going round and round in circles and it doesn't grow any bigger. And then that's why I like the frog, right? Because you taught me to be a frog. I don't want to be in the bowl going round and round in circles. I want to actually make that leap. And you don't know what's on the other side of the bowl. But my goodness is that a test of whether you can evolve. It's probably the biggest test of yourself, your personality, your creativity, your resilience, for sure, if you leap out of that bowl. But best of luck to you and I could have written that question back in 2017, and Bill answered it for me. So good luck and I hope that helps. Go watch his TED talk. It's amazing.

Bill, I've got a question for you, ‘I was recently made a manager and I'm nervous about doing a good job of it because I've not been a manager before and the manager before me has left our company’. Oh gosh, so there's no one to learn from here. ‘Can you recommend any courses or resources so I can make sure I'm starting out the right way? I'd like to ask my new boss to give me some budget to get the right learning. I really want to be a good manager.’

Bill: Wow. first of all, I respect the question because it's so weird because when we are hired by a company at a front level job, we get all kinds of training. If we're in sales, we have sales training. We're taught a method. If I'm in IT, I get IT training or customer service training, if I'm in that role. And when we get into a leadership role, it's like ‘here you go. You have a team of people now. Go get em, tiger’, which is exactly what I got, you know, ‘hey, you're in a leadership role now. Here's your team. Go get your team to perform’. Nobody tells you how to do it. So, while I respect the question, please, at the risk of humility, I'm going to share with you two things, and it has to do with our company, and I'm very careful because I don't want to be sound self-promoting. But number one, our book talks about what great coaches/leaders do, the activities they do, how they behave. So, that would be a resource. And another thing is that we do quarterly academies, we have people sit in from all over the world. We call them The Coaching Effect Academy. And every quarter we put those on and we have people from Columbia, South America, we've had people from Europe, we've got people from all over North America, attend these. Where we walk through virtual training on how to be a high growth, high performance coach. That would be another option. And again, I apologise if that sounds self-promotional, but it's my best answer. So, it's authentic.

Merlie: We love a good plug! Go for it.

Aaron: I think that's the right answer, isn't it? I think you've absolutely put the nail on the head that it was the fact that no one teaches, you know, well, there isn't a course properly out there for how to be a good coach or how to be a good manager, whatever term you want to use. So, I really like that idea and I like the idea of having that quarterly retreat virtually and having that opportunity to talk to you, because you'll be able to steer them in the right direction that way. So, I think that's absolutely fantastic. So, we talked about good managers. Let's talk about rubbish managers and let’s swing it around. What's your advice Bill when you've got a rubbish manager? ‘My manager is making everyone on our team miserable right now, and we never know where we stand or what sort of mood we will encounter. Some days I'm not sure we're all still going to work’, and I think this kind of reminds me of like when I was told it is all about how to manage the manager, isn't it? What sort of advice have you got there?

Bill: Wow. Those are the toughest ones, and one of the best things I tell people is and I'll share an anecdote with this, but first of all, understand what great managers are, what great coaches are and what they should be doing. I sat down with a collegiate athlete one time, and she was lamenting on her coach and how the coach didn't get to know her, the coach had said some things that had offended her, and the coach really should get to know her because if he knew her, he would understand where she was coming from. I think my response caught her off guard because I said, ‘so what you're saying is, you know the importance of relationships to your growth and performance’. And she said, ‘Well, yeah, sure, of course, that that's why I'm talking about this’.

So I said, ‘if you understand how important that is, you have to own it. You can't blame the coach if you know what's right you have to then go to the coach and you crawl into his life. You have to get him to know you because right now you're being a victim’. And I said, ‘you've wisely understood the problem, but you can't sit back and then point the finger because you know the answer’. And that's one of the things I tell people when you're on a team in business too is that, ‘if you know, the right thing to do. You start to do it’. And as you referenced, maybe coaching up or coaching the coach or however you want to describe it. But you have to take charge and you have to take accountability for it, and if you just can't work within it, then you've got a few choices, go above the person and have a conversation, or you can accept it and just manage your emotions around it. Or you can trigger complexity, Merlie knows this is about, and leave, and do your own thing!

Merlie: Yeah, yeah. I mean, taking that ownership is really important. It's not a one-way thing, if something isn't working, if you don't seem to have a good relationship, hierarchy and no hierarchy, you still do have an element of control in all of that, right? You could try and fix it for yourself. I really like that answer. Because having a rubbish boss is just a horrible position to be in, and it's not fun. Ok so, can you help with this one Bill? In fact, the viewer asks, ‘can you help me with some advice on giving some bad feedback to a team member who is not performing? I have tried everything I can think of, but the board has just told me I have to move to a formal performance warning for this person, and I'm worried that if I don't get this right, I could end up creating a mess of things and I am dreading the conversation’.

Bill: First of all, let me empathise with this person and I'm sorry you have to do this, but in the same breath, it's uncomfortable. You will grow. You could well learn from this. You will be a better coach having done this, whether you do it well or whether you just do it ok, you'll grow from it. So, first of all, understand that this is a growth event. So, in regard to the technical way to handle this conversation: number one, you have to be concise. You have to be able to say, I see, I saw, I witnessed, I've documented. So, you don't want to ever share opinion. And then you have to be really clear on what you saw, what you witnessed, what you documented. Eye contact is everything in this, and communication skills. Be succinct. Be short. You're not looking for explanations, what you're sharing with this person is so they understand and what you expect down the road. Also, make it positive, which I know may sound weird, but make it positive in the sense that they control it. It is up to them at this point, which route they take and make sure they understand what the route they should take is in order to succeed. So, if you do those things, you've really done your part. Ultimately, it's up to the person, the direction they take now. As long as they understand what that direction is, it's clear to them and also put a time limit on it too. That would be my advice. And good luck.

Merlie: It’s so hard. It's so hard. Thank you. And it's good advice Bill. Aaron, it looks like we’re out of time for today’s show. Wow that went fast, right?

Aaron: It certainly did! And the reason why it’s gone so fast is because we had so many nuggets of information, haven’t we? And I’m certainly going to go away and think ‘maybe coach is the right term for our organisation’. I think you’re absolutely spot-on there Bill, I think that term evokes much more for us to develop and give that opportunity for us to see ourselves in a different light. So, I think we’re definitely going to take on that. And for the rest of the advice and as far as the rest of your answers go, thank you very much it’s been absolutely brilliant.

Bill: Thank you Aaron, thank you.

Merlie: Yeah I think so too. I love the notion of being a coach, it kind of feels like you’re on the same side, rather than sort of opposites or adversarial or hierarchical or remote, I really like that expression. So, massive thanks from me and on behalf of the entire community Bill for the answers to the questions as well.

Bill: Well, thank you Merlie, it has been so much fun to visit with all of you over the pond! And thank you, it’s been a very flattering morning.

Merlie: Well we aim to please, but you’ve shared an awful lot with us. Don’t forget folks there are a few more questions to get to for Bill, so if you’re not already listening to us on the extended podcast, pop across and you can pick up some more of Bill’s wisdom and advice. Failing that, if you want more Bill, don’t forget to look up ‘The Coaching Effect’ you can get it on Amazon, it’s a fabulous book for anybody approaching management, wanting to brush up on management, or indeed focusing on some of the issues that Bill’s helped guide us on. And again, you can find the show on all our usual channels, YouTube, and all the usual podcast channels, as well as on Farillio’s blog site. So, thank you for listening, we’ll be back again with you for episode 5, season 2 fairly shortly. But in the meantime everybody, take care, and don’t forget to #GoFarFast.


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