[00:00:00] Tania Luna: Hi, this is Tania Luna, author of The Leader Lab, and you’re listening to My Quest for the Best with Bill Ringle.
[00:00:06] Bill Ringle: Joining me today on episode 421 is Tania Luna. Tania is co-founder of LifeLabs Learning and co-host of the podcast Talks Psych to me. She’s a researcher, educator, advisor to alt protein startups, and a partner at Columbia University’s eLab, an accelerator for entrepreneurs who increase equity and access in education.
[00:00:28] LifeLab’s Learning, which she co-founded with Leanne Reninger, is a successful training and employee development company. Her work has been featured in Time, Harvard Business Review, psychology Today, CNBC, NPR, the School of Startups, syndicated radio show, and many more. Her Ted talk about her experience as a Ukrainian immigrant and the power of perspective has over 1.8 million views.
[00:00:51] Be sure to check that out. Tania lives with the love of her life on an animal preserve outside Allentown, PA with two dozen pigs, dogs, goats, and a cat. She’s here to talk about her book, The Leader Lab: Core Skills to Become a Great Manager Faster.
[00:01:08] Tania Luna: I am so excited to be here. Also, a quick update: 2 cats now.
[00:01:13] Bill Ringle: Oh, you’ve doubled your cats.
[00:01:14] Tania Luna: Yes, we’ve doubled the cat quantity. So look, I’m not just growing businesses, I’m growing number of cats.
[00:01:20] Bill Ringle: That’s fabulous.
[00:01:21] Tell me when you were growing up, Tania, who’s somebody who influenced or inspired.
[00:01:26] Tania Luna: I think that I never really had a specific person that I looked up to. I remember in elementary school, you know, they would say, write about your hero, or, you know, pick someone to do a book report on. And for some reason I found that always really challenging. What I liked to do was sort of, Pick the people who inspired me and collect their traits or attributes, like puzzle pieces, you know?
[00:01:47] So for example, my mother, oh my gosh, not that I ever strive to be quite like her, but her perseverance, you know, she moved to the US from Ukraine as a refugee in her, like basically in her thirties. the age that I am now, had to start life all over again. Had to. Three, four jobs at any given time.
[00:02:04] So her perseverance, her grit, that’s something that I absolutely absorbed. and then for some reason, as a little kid, I was really into Ben Franklin
[00:02:11] Bill Ringle: Oh.
[00:02:12] Tania Luna: So now being in Pennsylvania, having moved here from New York is really special. The ingenuity, the. The playfulness, the openness to new ideas. I went through a whole phase of, in high school, being really into Ein Rand, the author, and I loved the idea of, you know, kind of objectivity and blending the philosophical and the practical.
[00:02:30] So I wish I had a simple answer for you about like a person that I looked up to, but it was always as just collecting bits and pieces and being inspired by that, and finding ways to integrate them into who I am.
[00:02:40] Bill Ringle: I love that because you’re not only finding out about these people who have led very influential and productive lives, but you’re picking the parts that you can bring on board and use to inspire yourself. I’ve also been a big fan of Ben Franklin. I’ve geeked out on him for Oh yeah. Yeah.
[00:02:57] Tania Luna: so good.
[00:02:58] Bill Ringle: from his birthday to, and when you talk about how, whimsical and funny, his, he’s hilarious. He could command a meeting with his wit.
[00:03:06] Tania Luna: Yes, and I think even as a child, for some reason, I realized that there was this power in. Humor done well. It’s this way to both make ideas more accessible and more interesting and less intimidating while making them more interesting and memorable. And actually, he’s one of the people who inspired me later on in life to study the psychology of surprise, because so much I think of his art and his influence had to do with a really good comprehension of surprise psychology.
[00:03:34] I was gonna say lately I’ve been really inspired. This scholar, who wrote in the 1920s, Mary Parker Follett, and her work has been mostly, oh, it looks like you know who I’m talking about. Most people have no idea who she is, but she influenced so many things in so many domains. For example, the idea of.
[00:03:51] Win-win arguments in or win-win goals in negotiation came from her, the idea of striving for diversity in the workplace she popularized. And my next book that I’m, that’s coming out in September is based on this idea of power with instead of power over. So using your power to actually grow the power of others versus using your powers of means of control.
[00:04:11] And she popularized that in the 1920s. I wish it stuck around as an idea, but, so I’ve been really trying to read everything of hers and absorb her thinking.
[00:04:19] Bill Ringle: So here’s a source for you. When I look at gurus, I also look at who were the guru’s, inspirations, and Peter Drucker. Widely credits her with so much that he’s learned as a source of inspiration and people like just don’t know how powerful she was with her ideas and. And I also wanna underscore that with the combination of Ben Franklin and, Mary Parker Follett, it’s going to be, I can’t wait to read the new book because it’s going to be about inclusion.
[00:04:47] Because Franklin knew how to use humor to bring people together rather than cut them down and separate people. So I love that’s a source of influence for you.
[00:04:55] Tania Luna: and in many ways it is a power with move in the sense that when you can joke around together about something, it puts everyone on the same level, right? It like makes everything accessible enough and not. It’s so intimidating that you can’t touch it and you can’t feel it. And I try to use humor in most areas in life, especially going into topics where people might feel intimidated or freaked out by it.
[00:05:16] Humor is like that door opener into, let’s have a good conversation together.
[00:05:20] Bill Ringle: So let’s talk about another partner. How did you. Start your company.
[00:05:25] Tania Luna: Oh my goodness. So I’m gonna try to tell you the short version of this story, . The short version is that I was studying the psychology of surprise, at a lab that I was running at Hunter College in New York. She had been. Also one of the few people in the world at the time studying surprise psychology at the University of Vienna.
[00:05:42] I had a company at the time called Surprise Industries, where we used to organize surprises for people. So you would show up and you had no idea what you were gonna be doing until you got there. And she had started LifeLabs Learning at the time it was called LifeLabs, New York, as these kind of whimsical learning experiences.
[00:05:58] her thinking was, these are things you never get a chance to learn in school, like small talk skills and wisdom skills and things like that. And so someone from her company reached out to my company to see if we could, she was thinking of creating a workshop on surprise psychology, surprise ology.
[00:06:13] We ended up calling it, and at the same exact week, someone from my company reached out to her company and asked if we can use one of their classes as one of our surprises. So it was this weird, like the universe. Pushing us into each other’s path. Anyway, we ended up meeting and within that first meeting we went to go get bubble tea in Brooklyn and we.
[00:06:32] We thought it was gonna be like this 30 minute, oh Liz, who are you? You surprise researcher. Like, are we gonna like each other? Are we gonna get along? By the end of that like four hour bubble tea encounter, we had decided to write a book together. So we wrote our, my first book on the psychologist, surprise, it’s called Surprise.
[00:06:48] we decided to. Developed this workshop together on surprise psychology, and over time, actually, our businesses ended up merging and the work that I had been doing for companies, life Labs, instead of just doing the kind of B2C stuff, became increasingly b2b. So I joined Life Labs to help bring it into this B2B direction, and then took off from there.
[00:07:08] I tried to do the short version. Was that short enough?
[00:07:10] Bill Ringle: It gives a nice context and a nice background.
[00:07:13] Tania Luna: What’s interesting is, A lot of times people don’t think of bringing others into their company, and in fact, they often resent, managers and people adding structure, but that’s actually what people need in order to be more successful. A little bit of structure, little bit of guidance, and then clear communications.
[00:07:33] Yes. I will say Leanne and I, right from the beginning, we compliment each other in this really lovely way where we tend to be opposites of each other. You would think that the person that you started, you know, a partnership with, you wanna have a lot in common with, and we did in terms of our values, but pretty much with everything else she wants.
[00:07:52] To be able to like swim in ideas land and have just wild and free kind of unrestrained ideas sessions. And I am very motivated by new ideas, but I wanna make them happen. I wanna put them into action. I wanna create structure around it. She wanted to keep Life Labs really small. I wanted it to grow.
[00:08:09] You know, she wanted a lot more structure in how we, in our employment policies. I wanted a lot more flexibility. And honestly, I think the friction, I don’t think a week went by when. argue with each other and debate, although of course we did it constructively because we teach people skills, so we gotta get it right.
[00:08:25] there really wasn’t a week where we didn’t argue over something. And I think in many ways that helped us find something that borrowed from her way of thinking of, and my way of thinking and brought our strengths together. And every time we were upset or frustrated, we literally got a chance to zoom out and go, excellent.
[00:08:41] This is an opportunity for us to learn because now we. Better empathize with our clients. Now we can get even better because without running into those rough spots, you really can’t refine the craft of leadership, the skill of leadership.
[00:08:53] Bill Ringle: So true and talking about as a craft is really, an apt context because so many times, That a title alone makes one a leader or even a manager,
[00:09:04] Tania Luna: Yes.
[00:09:05] Bill Ringle: And we both had experiences where that isn’t the case. and people, my wife and I are rewatching Mad Men. One of the scenes we’re in now Pete Campbell gets named head of accounts and he gets completely elated by that, and then frustrated when he finds out that he’s a dual head of accounts because he’s not focused on the customer, he’s focused on what it means to him and his ego.
[00:09:27] Tania Luna: Yes, absolutely. And I think what ends up happening so often, we see this all the time with doing manager training, is people get the title and they assume that things are gonna change just because they got the title, that suddenly people will listen to them differently. And in many ways, even there’s a kind of magical thinking of, once I get this title, I will know what to do.
[00:09:46] And then you get into. It’s like when I got my first book deal, I was like, when I get my fir first book deal, I’ll know how to write a book. And I got the book deal and I was like, I don’t know how to write it. Who let me do this? Right? There’s this feeling of like, I can’t believe they let me do this. So I think one of the simplest things companies can do is actually define what leadership means to them or what managers mean to them.
[00:10:05] I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been sitting in a workshop where someone will say, you know, we’re trying to teach feedback skills or coaching skills, and they go, but wait, what are my responsibilities as a manager? and I’m like, I don’t know. Your company has to, I don’t say that in the workshop, but companies really miss out on this opportunity to say, Hey, let’s define this role instead of treating it as this kind of set of ambiguous, you know, powers and responsibilities and expectations.
[00:10:30] And we find that companies that do take the time to go, here’s the purpose of a leader here, or here’s the definition of a manager here. They actually have to put less effort and energy into manager training because the expectations are clear.
[00:10:42] Bill Ringle: It goes back to having a little bit of structure, a little bit of content, a little bit of context, and often. people don’t even have clear or accurate job descriptions, and that’s another impediment, especially when we’re working remotely and in hybrid ways. What have you noticed that it’s made it more difficult to be not just a good manager, but a great manager, someone who really gets things done and empowers the people around them.
[00:11:07] Tania Luna: Yeah, hybrid and remote. You know, I would actually argue that being in a remote, in a especially hybrid context, . It doesn’t make it harder to be a good manager. It makes it easier to know whether you’re good or not. so often in an all in-person, I’d say hardest is hybrid, right?
[00:11:23] All in-person or all remote tend to be easier, all in-person. Easiest of all in many ways to mask the fact that you’re over-relying on things like, oh, I can see that people are working, therefore they’re probably working. Or, oh, I can pass by and swoop in. Notice that something isn’t being done and course correct it.
[00:11:43] I don’t have to be all that clear because people are sitting right next to each other and they’ll ask each other questions and they’ll sort of figure it out. Once you’re remote or hybrid, you have to be so much more deliberate. It was 2018 at Life Labs Learning. We did the study with clients of ours that were either all remote, remote first, which is essentially default remote. But there is an office, or hybrid, which is usually, some people are remote, some people are in person. and so we studied a lot of these companies pre 2018 to try to. In 2018 to try to figure out what were the things that managers in these contexts were doing differently that really allowed them to be successful.
[00:12:17] And it really was. It’s not like they were doing something completely different. It’s just they were so much more deliberate. So instead of having, back to your point about structure, instead of having kind of spontaneous conversations, they would make sure that they were consistent one-on-ones at least every other week.
[00:12:32] there’s some research that suggests if you. Less frequently than once a week. It does more harm than good. So either once a week or every other week. For example, in those one-on-ones, they weren’t just status updates. They would start with things like, Hey, what were your wins this week? Because I didn’t get a chance to see them.
[00:12:47] So this is your dedicated time to talk about that, right? What were your wins? what feedback do we have for each other? Because again, you don’t bump into each other in the hallway and get a chance to have that convers. So it’s this very deliberate structured, space and time to have these intentional conversations about,how are you feeling?
[00:13:05] What are you engaged or disengaged with? What’s your feedback For me? Here’s my feedback for you. what have we learned this past week that we can apply and use moving forward? So things like that, just, I can go into a lot more detail, but just the headline is much more deliberate about.
[00:13:19] asking people what they need, how they’re doing, and how you can keep improving how you’re working together.
[00:13:24] Bill Ringle: That’s such a great,Because people think that you use the same skills, whether you’re remote or hybrid or in person, and it relies on different skills, but it’s all based upon the same foundations, and you talk about them as core skills. You’ve talked about the eight core skills in your. Your book, feature, from coaching, feedback, productivity, one-on-ones, and then the next four are the more advanced core skills.
[00:13:49] It’s the second set of strategic thinking, meeting mastery, leading change, and then also developing your people
[00:13:56] Tania Luna: You got it. I, that looked like you memorized that list. I’m very impressed.
[00:14:00] Bill Ringle: Eight, there are only eight
[00:14:01] Tania Luna: Yeah. . Okay, fine. Maybe I’m moderately impressed, but still.
[00:14:04] Bill Ringle: You made it easy because of the way you structured and explained it, so thank you for that. many times people think that with experience comes effectiveness and that just is really hysterical for people who have looked at this. have you found any research that correlates or disuses us of the relationship between, years on a job in a particular title and, how effective someone is?
[00:14:28] Tania Luna: Yeah. actually this makes me think of what inspired us to start looking into this was, a particular manager that we worked with named, I’m gonna say Bob, but I might be misremembering. let’s go Bob. this is an individual who worked in for probably about 20 years or so, worked in a, I’d say, you know, a medium.
[00:14:49] Size company that. everything by the way that you look at him. Everything, by the way, he dressed everything, by the way he interacted. You would go, oh, this guy knows what he’s doing. he’s confident, he’s experienced, he’s one of the people in the workshops that would, you know, I’d ask a question and have like a little bit of an eye roll maybe because he’s like, ah, what am I doing in this workshop?
[00:15:07] I already know, you know, the kinds of stuff that. You know that you’re gonna be telling me. and it was really inspiring to see him by the end of the fourth workshop. So it was coaching, feedback, productivity, and effective one-on-ones. By the end of that fourth workshop, I remember him coming up to me at the end and going almost like in this conspiratorial whisper like I have, no one has told me this my entire career.
[00:15:30] I’ve been doing this for so long, and I actually have recognized that throughout this, these workshops, that these are the things. Are the reason that I’m struggling, like, because I’m not doing these things. They’re the reason that I’m struggling in my career and with my team. And that was so inspiring and moving, first of all to see someone who does have experience, who’s still willing and open to learn.
[00:15:51] and that inspired us to look into this question of is there a correlation between years of management experience and effectiveness? And it turns out, I’m guessing, you’re, you already know this. No, the good news is it’s not like you get. With experience , but there is not a relationship. So I think the reason for that as we started looking into it is, It’s not a matter of how often you do something, it’s a matter of how often you do something well and if you keep practicing something, so to speak in the wrong way. And management’s really hard. Cuz if someone’s not giving you instant feedback, you don’t know if you’re doing it well or not. You know, like in Bob’s case, he had so much power and authority and he was working in sort of a,In an in, in a kind of hierarchical, climate and industry that no one came up to him and told him, Hey Bob, when you say this thing, it makes me wanna quit.
[00:16:39] he never got that kind of feedback. You know, someone would quit six months later. And so because of that, it’s really difficult to keep refining and improving and to practice. if you are practicing well, then certainly experience is your friend. if you’re not, How to manage well then experience, you know, can just make you really set in your ways with some bad habits.
[00:16:58] Bill Ringle: See, this supports an observation I’ve had. When, and I do this in two levels. One, I’ve observed that people who are managers who have had a strong background in athletics, At a high level as well as in performing arts, understand how to transfer that either consciously or unconsciously into giving feedback, setting expectations, and helping people develop.
[00:17:21] Because they’ll use that and say, all right, we’ve gotta make sure that we do our reps. We have to make sure that we are practicing in preparation. For this big meeting, and there’s more of an emphasis on that. And I think that is one of the things that when I look at, resumes for interviews, anyone who’s a D one athlete, I pull those out and that has a special pile metaphorically, because it’s all digital, but they get a tag as an athlete because I think that makes a difference.
[00:17:46] Have you found anything to that degree as.
[00:17:48] Tania Luna: You know, we haven’t studied that. and I have a scientist brain, so I try not to have opinions unless they’re data backed, but I can absolutely see it. and I do remember one of the companies we work with is HubSpot. And something that they are very open about in their interview process and, that they’ve written about is that, They have found that people in sales, if you’re trying to find a great salesperson who have a background in doing something that requires grit and rigor, and very often that is some kind of athletic or performance background that correlates and is a really, actually not just correlates, but is a really strong predictor of being effective in that space.
[00:18:24] I do think that if you essentially have the skill of learning, if you have the skill of self-reflection, of practice, of grit, and of having that willingness, even if you’ve been doing something for a while, to have a beginner’s mind and to say, I can still get better, I absolutely can see how that would transfer over into.
[00:18:44] Much better as a manager. Cuz the reality is it’s one of those roles that does not stop. You can’t just become good at it and then you’re done. Right? it’s this lifelong practice because the world keeps changing around us. People’s needs keep changing and the people who you are supporting, who you’re leading, keep changing.
[00:19:00] And so we as leaders need to be able to keep changing and getting to a pinnacle where you’re like, okay, now I’m great. Is a big risk and a big danger for a leader.
[00:19:10] Bill Ringle: I noticed across the eight core. In your book, communicating your expectations as either a manager or a contributor is absolutely essential. Can you share a tip or two based on your working with clients that can help improve this area of setting expectations and communicating expectations For listeners now,
[00:19:29] Tania Luna: Yeah. Oh, I love that. I especially love that you read that between the lines, cuz I don’t even think that we talk about it that explicitly, but you’re absolutely right. That’s at the heart of so much suffering. I think it was Shakespeare and maybe he was misquoted, but as far as I know, Shakespeare said expectations are the root of all suffering.
[00:19:45] Right? . So if I am struggling in a relationship, if I’m struggling at work, That is a really good red flag that I should go back and go, hang on a minute. What were my expectations? What were other people’s expectations? So I guess number one tip is when you are feeling any kind of friction strain, interpersonal conflict, check expectations, because that almost always, like 80% of the time, that’s gonna be the cause of it.
[00:20:12] an example that comes to mind. When it comes to interpersonal conflict was this media company that I was working with that was international. So they had folks across all these different companies and it was, so two particular individuals, I think it was like head of marketing, let’s say Anne, and, I think it was head of,customer service, Frank.
[00:20:33] And the entire teams around them were just in this cr, chronic, chronic, chronic conflict. And they had the same, you know, passion, the same mission. They really cared about the organization. But it was only once I got a chance to get them together in a room and start talking to each other, that really what it came down to was they had different expectations.
[00:20:53] So on the one side marketing, they really cared about, you know, we want the absolute. Quality. We want the absolute best experience. You know, we want the best branding. And then on the customer service side, what they really cared about is are we delivering on all of the promises Exactly on time and exactly when we tell our clients, because we don’t wanna ever disappoint them or let them down.
[00:21:14] Not to mention it was this cross-cultural friction. So you had Latin American teams working with, I think it was a team. I wanna say Germany. And so they had completely different norms and expectations around, I remember they had this like horrible argument about how they were starting emails to each other, right?
[00:21:32] Like the Latin American team would start with this whole paragraph of how are you, how’s your family? How’s the weather? You know? And the German team would be like, bill, I expect a response from you tomorrow. . It doesn’t mean that they didn’t care about each other, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t kind, but they had expectation.
[00:21:47] All the levels you can imagine, everything from, you know, what are our commitments to each other, to what is most important to the company, to the client, to how do we open an email and how do you sign off an email? And it was beautiful to be able to just bring that to the surface because in that conversation they were able to just name, Hey, here’s what I’m expecting.
[00:22:05] And then from there, often that just solves the whole thing. Here’s my expectation. but sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes you just go, okay, here’s what you need. Here’s what I need. Let’s look at it through the lens of not me versus you. This is another Mary Parker fellow inspiration, but me and you versus the problem.
[00:22:20] Right? Let’s look together at this question of we have these different expectations. In some ways they clash. What are the different options we can get really creative about that would allow us to meet your expectations in. and when in doubt then let’s, you know, let’s experiment a little bit.
[00:22:34] Bill Ringle: Let’s try doing things in a particular way for a short period of time, and then if that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. Let me jump in. There’s, what’s really interesting to me is people going through this would certainly gain and benefit from understanding how to, step back and see what the expectations are and how to remedy it by saying, here’s what I expect, and I just wanna make sure we’re on the same page with that.
[00:22:55] How did that follow up? Did somebody say, Here’s part of our orientation now where this is how we resolve this. And right from the beginning we start set off communi, start off communications with, here’s what I expect. Did it develop into their ongoing training? How do they keep that going in their culture?
[00:23:14] So it doesn’t just become something that was great for a day and then a month, and then it peters out as people get innovated and over.
[00:23:21] Tania Luna: I love that. I’ll tell you what this company did, and then I’ll also share some other tips that we’ve seen at other companies for this company in particular because the cross-cultural friction was so painful. One of the things that they prioritized was creating their own company culture norms.
[00:23:34] And I think this is important, even if you’re not working cross-culturally, is actually sitting down together, as a team or as a leadership team. Although I believe in doing this company wide, if you can, especially if you’re still a small company and actually saying, Hey, we are our own country in a way, we’re our own world.
[00:23:48] Everyone’s norms, everyone’s preferences, all of those are still absolutely valid and there’s no, you know, one right way to do things. But we can only be effective together if we co-create our own norm, our own expectations. so for example, I just did this session for, an animal advocacy organization where they co-created.
[00:24:06] Their feedback norms together. So they would, you know, create their list of, here are ideas for how we can be on the same page around what feedback looks like within our organization. And then they voted for one and they’re gonna apply it for the next 30 days and see how that impacts their culture.
[00:24:23] You can do it with absolutely anything. You can say, you know, here are feedback, nor here are feedback norms. Here are email norms, here are response norms, right? Like in so many companies arguments. Oh, another person that comes to mind, Diane, at a tech company where things. Moved very quickly and a lot of our Com clients at Life Labs learning are in tech.
[00:24:41] things move so, so quickly, and her team was just constantly perceiving her as not caring enough about them and as sort of disregarding them and ignoring them. And it turns out, once we got to the bottom of it, it was her response time to Slack. she came from a different industry. She wasn’t used to this like instant response time on Slack constantly.
[00:25:01] She was like 48 hours on email. That’s normal. and just through that conversation around, okay, maybe there’s no such thing as right or wrong, but at our company, or at least on our team, what is our response time norm? When do we use Slack? When do we use email? Things like that. Basically, anything you notice you might have friction around it is so powerful to just co-create a norm around it.
[00:25:19] So this company that I was talking about earlier, for them it was a lot of communication norms, a lot of response time norms, and a lot of feedback norms.
[00:25:26] Bill Ringle: that’s terrific. I think that people could really take away some great practices. Approaches. I think that your philosophy on this is similar to mine in that you could design experiments to see what works so long as you’re designing them with the right variables in mind.
[00:25:39] Tania Luna: Yes. And that you measure and then remeasure, because a lot of times people will say, oh, let’s do it as an experiment. And then you never come back and gather the data and talk about the data. And so having the opportunity to go, okay, let’s run this for 30 days and then let’s do, this is something that we’ve learned from.
[00:25:53] Clients in tech, clients in aviation, clients in healthcare is the retrospective, the power of saying sometime has passed or this project is finished. Let’s not just move on to the next thing. Let’s actually pause and say, what can we learn from this? You know, what went well, what was good about the experiment, what was bad?
[00:26:08] And then one of my favorite questions is, what can we take from this experience so that we can apply it in the future? And that’s so powerful, and that, again, is a place to recalibrate on expectations. one other quick tip on, on calibrating, on expectations to your point of how do you sort of institutionalize it?
[00:26:22] so part of it is setting that. And that norm then becomes part of onboarding. It becomes part of ongoing feedback. another thing I think is really powerful is having some sort of onboarding check-in for the first 90 days of a, a new employee’s experience at your company is actually. You know, checking in and saying, Hey, what has been unclear?
[00:26:42] what are your expectations? Let’s make sure that we’re on the same page, and just treating alignment and clarity as your absolute top priority for those first 90 days. And then you can kinda loosen up that first 90 days. You can think about it as like, this is when we learn to speak the same language, and you have to be intensive at first, and then you can go, oh, we speak the same language.
[00:27:00] We don’t have to be as precise about it.
[00:27:02] Bill Ringle: Excellent. I think people will find that terrifically helpful. Tania, tell me, are you ready for the My Quest for the Best lightning round.
[00:27:09] Tania Luna: I have been waiting for the lightning round. Let’s do it.
[00:27:13] Bill Ringle: Here we go. When you are a teenager, what’s a favorite sound that comes to mind when you think of being a teenager?
[00:27:20] Tania Luna: Okay. I’ll just go with the first thing that came to my mind, which is the sound of a cat purring. I think that was when I adopted my first animal that, you know, I, as a semi adult made that decision and feeling like I had the power to both bring joy into this creature’s life. And, Talking about cross-cultural communication, cross species communication is just one of the most amazing things.
[00:27:45] We underestimate how good we are as communicators if we really stop and listen.
[00:27:50] Bill Ringle: And there’s that feedback loop with each of us giving those expectations as well.
[00:27:54] Tania Luna: absolutely.
[00:27:55] Bill Ringle: I always say when people are playing with my dog, I say, listen, you’re either training him about how you wanna play or he’s training you.
[00:28:03] Tania Luna: Oh, absolutely. And we’re constantly training each other. This is why I love being around animals, because humans are animals and we forget it, and we think we’re like these kind of super evolved fancy beings, but at the end of the day, we’re just, you know, we’re just animals. We just have to pay attention to each other.
[00:28:17] Bill Ringle: Before your book, Tania, what was the top way that business leaders found Life labs to get peop their people train.
[00:28:24] Tania Luna: word of mouth was our number one, which is delightful and easy . But that was the number one way that we got new business. Second was, and still is, is this group that we started, right when I joined Life Ops, it’s called. Culture club, and it’s for people who are passionate about company culture.
[00:28:39] So oftentimes that’s founders. I think probably 80% of the group is either people who are in operations or people operations, you know, culture, employee engagement, things like that. and it’s a community that’s grown to, I think over 17,000 people now around the world. we used to meet monthly in someone’s office and everyone would just.
[00:29:00] Eat and chat, and we could all sit around one table together and share challenges with each other. And now we, it’s too many people and we’re all virtual, but we still meet, once a month virtually. You can meet with folks from around the world and really share lessons with each other. You could join that community.
[00:29:14] If you’re listening, you’re like, I want in on that. There’s some amazing companies that are part of it. got Ted Twitter, Warby Parker, Squarespace, New York Times, just these really innovative companies that are sharing their kind of, their secrets with each.
[00:29:27] Bill Ringle: If it’s okay with you, we’d love to leave a link in the show notes for people listening so that they could find out more about that.
[00:29:33] Tania Luna: sounds.
[00:29:33] Bill Ringle: Tania, how has publishing your book changed your profile and the potential impact of what you could do with your.
[00:29:39] Tania Luna: Yeah. I think that honestly the thing that has been most exciting is that I meet strangers who have read the book and who know about the book, have never heard of. The company, but who are applying things from the book and they’re like, happening at their companies. So that’s mind blowing. And of course it was the reason that we wanted to do it, but I, it still shocks me every time I’ve met people who will have like little sticky notes on their desk with quotes from the book or tools from the book.
[00:30:08] you know, Interestingly, it hasn’t brought in like a flood of new business, but what it does do is it validates or normalizes some of these tools so that we have much less effort in saying, look, this works. Because now it’s not just the people who have taken our workshops, it’s people who have read the book who are feeling the impact for themselves.
[00:30:27] So I think it’s kind. Smoothed out a little bit of the sales process in terms of credibility. but so far we’ll see. But so far people aren’t going read the book. Must immediately get training. But let’s see,
[00:30:40] Bill Ringle: not yet.
[00:30:41] Tania Luna: not yet.
[00:30:42] Bill Ringle: a, your Ted Talk talks about finding a penny in the floorboards of a homeless shelter when you first moved to America, and how it made you feel incredibly grateful and fortunate. What’s an experience you’ve had recently that elicited a deeper level than superficial Gratitude?
[00:30:58] Tania Luna: Can I use another animal example? Okay. I don’t now this is just the first thing on my mind. First of all, I will say I feel grateful every single day. I can’t, like, I pinch myself. I truly feel, I know there’s a lot of people will say things like, oh, you, you know, you’ve earned what you have.
[00:31:13] I don’t even believe in earning it. Everyone works hard. There’s so many people who work hard. What I believe in is that I was one of those people that worked hard and got incredibly lucky. So overall, my blanket, mood state is, His gratitude. But,so yesterday, , we adopted, roosters recently, two Roosters,
[00:31:31] And our dogs have never met Roosters before. And they were like, what are you, should I kill you? Should I be chasing you? What should I be doing? and yesterday I got a chance to observe. Dory, who’s one of the roosters and meatball, one of our, one of our newer dogs, who were completely freaked out by each other completely like, you know, meatball was chasing and freaking out.
[00:31:49] and Dory was like, what? I can’t believe you put me into this situation. And yesterday they just like, I don’t know if Roosters can sniff, but it looked like they kinda like sniff noses and they were just like looking at each other calmly and enjoying each other’s company. I think a lot about how important it is for leaders in human settings to earn trust.
[00:32:06] but it feels like a really stressful, scary thing to do, but with animals. You know, it reminds us it’s natural and important to earn trust, and it is gradual and it is incredibly rewarding when you actually see that relationship shift as a result of that earned trust. So I felt very grateful for that moment, both for meatball and dory’s sake, , but also just as a reminder of even when there’s friction at first in a relationship, whether human or other animal, with time, it can really flourish and become something beautiful.
[00:32:37] Bill Ringle: What’s your definition of personal success? I know I’m being successful when.dot.
[00:32:42] Tania Luna: I would say, this maybe feels trite, but leaving the world a little better than I found it. You know, if I feel that I’m not just helping someone in the moment, but I have changed something. At a systems level or at a process level where even when I’m gone, there’s still some good that’s gonna keep coming from it.
[00:33:03] That feels really rewarding. That feels like success.
[00:33:05] Bill Ringle: And what’s your definition of when someone is operating as a leader versus as a manager?
[00:33:10] Tania Luna: I don’t make that distinction actually. I find that these days managers have to be leaders, right? Like they have to. Earn influence, they have to help create kind of the way forward into the future. They have to build the team stronger around them. Maybe the only distinction I would say is a manager is a title, whereas a leader is something that’s much more fluid.
[00:33:33] It’s something that you do. It’s not something that you are.
[00:33:35] Bill Ringle: And can everyone be a leader?
[00:33:37] Tania Luna: I will say that I think these days everyone has to have the capacity to be a leader. even if it’s for an hour , even if it’s for a few months. but I don’t think everyone should be a formal leader. I think for some people, you know, myself included, like right now,I stepped out of the c e o role after many years and I’m really enjoying being in a role. I don’t feel responsible for a large group of people. so I think that sometimes it’s not for everyone and sometimes it’s not for everyone at a certain time. I think it’s a, just like, you know, being a ballet dancer isn’t for everyone. Just like being a physicist isn’t for everyone. It is, a profession that you can opt into if it’s one of your strengths.
[00:34:15] But leadership skills, I do believe everyone needs to have that toolkit. I don’t think the formal role needs to be something. Aspires to
[00:34:23] Bill Ringle: a, think back. And what would you say is one of the most important habit? Skills or routines or beliefs that you’ve stopped in the last year that’s brought you the most pleasure or personal satisfaction?
[00:34:36] Tania Luna: Yeah, I think compulsively saying yes to everything, I am really working on it. I have, you know, an entrepreneur spirit at, in, at the core of who I am, which means that new ideas are the most exciting thing in the world. And I wanna, you know, I, I’m just getting a text message from a friend of mine and we’re talking about, Can we find, can we see for our neighbors?
[00:34:57] I hope they don’t listen to this. Actually, if they do listen to this, let me know. are c Would it be weird if we asked them if they would ever sell their house so that we can get their property so we can adopt more animals? And I had to tell myself, stop. Like, stop A, don’t even think about it right now.
[00:35:10] Create a little bit of more spaciousness for yourself. so I’m really learning to say yes to less and to have the habit of spaciousness instead of the habit of. do the next thing and the next thing and the next thing and kind of pile on and pack on so that there is that space for creativity and connection and being present.
[00:35:28] Bill Ringle: Yeah. Without that space, you’re just running on a t. And when you have that space, that’s where you have the opportunity to create new things. And one of the things that I’ve really took away from your book and your teachings is the emphasis on kindness. And you say that making, kindness a priority is a really important part of workplace culture.
[00:35:51] Tania Luna: I’ve studied a lot about,positive assumptions and making sure that you, have a positive assumption about what people are doing, that they’re doing their best, and that there’s some limitation either with the personality or the environment that’s causing them to not meet your expectations or do their responsibilities correctly. What else would you say is an important component of maintaining kindness as a workplace?
[00:36:12] Yeah, I love that question. I, you know, I think a lot of it has to do with structure, with the system that you put in place. it’s really hard to be kind when the systems you have in place are unkind or not human-friendly, I would say. I think a lot about the idea of like human kindness, right?
[00:36:28] Talk about ourselves as a humankind, but what does it mean to be really kind to the human aspects of who we are? so for example, if you have an organization where power is really poorly distributed, where someone can, has the power to hire or fire someone without any checks and balances, no matter how careful and compassionate and consider it you are, it’s gonna be really hard to build, a kind.
[00:36:50] Trusting organization. so I think distributing power, that’s a really important one. creating systems in place for shared learning and shared feedback and calibration. That creates a much kinder environment because then you can actually check your assumptions with each other and you can share with one another what your needs are.
[00:37:08] and I think, you know, the third piece of it is really going back to thinking. Life and the workplace is a little bit more of an experiment. Instead of saying there’s one right way to do things, there are bad things to say. There are good things to say. There are good ways to be, there are bad ways to be.
[00:37:23] That sort of black and white thinking is really dangerous. and it’s an inhibitor to creating a kind workplace. If instead you say, Let’s make the workplace a practice lab to learn life’s most useful skills, right? let’s just experiment with different ways of being with one another and give each other that feedback and share what’s working and what’s not working.
[00:37:40] That orientation takes some of the pressure off because then we’re all learning together instead of performing together, and that really sets the stage for a kinder way to be.
[00:37:50] Bill Ringle: Ask you to speak about what is it can we do to prevent people from being exploited when they’re kind in workplace settings and is redistributing the power and making sure that we’re have coming from it from an experimental point of view.
[00:38:03] Do you think those are the two principle things that people could do to de-risk that situation?
[00:38:09] Tania Luna: Yeah. I’ll go back to Mary Parker Follet, who I mentioned earlier in this idea of power with, you know, we often think of kindness of as being power under, right? Like being in service to, or standing behind someone. This idea of like, leaders eat last, you know, concept or servant leadership. I actually think that is not.
[00:38:28] A very healthy way to think about kindness because it implies this like sacrifice as kindness. what I really like about power with as an, as a concept is that it’s this concept of using your power to grow other people’s power, which in turn grows your power and then it grows their power. And so our collective power rises.
[00:38:47] So I think from a personal perspective, it’s super important to think about kindness, not as I’m gonna put other people before myself because then. You burn out, right? Like you get compassion fatigue or you feel resentful, but how do we lift us up together,
[00:39:02] Bill Ringle: I love that also because I think that people not only would feel resentful, but then they would feel there’s a need for reciprocity. Look, I went last, so now you have to give me this. You have to work over the weekend, and it creates that erosion of boundaries when you do that.
[00:39:14] Tania Luna: Yeah. And so thinking about how can we be kind to us, me included, I have to be part of that us versus how can I be this kind of, this martyr and this servant to others? And it comes back to, we haven’t really talked about this in this episode, but one of the things I’m really passionate about is having real clarity around what is our shared mission, what is our purpose?
[00:39:35] And if we can be thinking toward, with an eye toward, like now, I have a new nonprofit called Scarlet Spark, and we do. Training and, advising for animal advocacy organizations. There, it’s very easy to go, let’s remember, this is. Our shared purpose. And so me burning out is not going to save the lives of animals.
[00:39:53] It’s not whatever your purpose is, whatever, every company that exists has a reason to exist, has an importance that they’re trying to achieve in the world. And if I’m, if I burn out, if I’m resentful, if I’m exhausted any of those things, then I can no longer continue to help achieve that mission. And if I’m constantly serving.
[00:40:12] Am I preventing other people from learning those skills? Am I preventing other people from taking responsibility, building those responsibility muscles? So I think one is we probably need like a reframe, redefining of kindness to think more about the collective mutual flourishing of the group versus me being in service.
[00:40:30] To others. and I think absolutely. Going back to your point about sharing power and exploitation, right? I think if our organizations have a better balance of power, if there’s better distribution of power, so you’re both increasing the power of everyone on the team. So giving people voice, giving people choice, giving people.
[00:40:49] You know, investing in their skills and their knowledge so that they can be more powerful while at the same time putting some checks and balances in place so that power isn’t too concentrated with just a handful of people. That reduces the likelihood of exploitation, which again lifts up the collective power of your organization.
[00:41:06] Bill Ringle: I wanna thank you so much for joining me today on My Quest for the Best. I appreciate you and your contributions and how we started with the origin story with how you and Leanne launched LifeLabs, the lack of correlation between management experience and effectiveness. Yours experience is a terrible metric, for assessing candidates as well, for bringing them into organizations.
[00:41:28] Tania Luna: Yes.
[00:41:28] Bill Ringle: and the whole discussion around kindness and so many more. So for these reasons, Tania Luna, author of The Leader Lab, how, core Skills to Become a Great Manager Faster. I wanna thank you so much for joining me on My Quest for the Best.
[00:41:42] Tania Luna: My pleasure. Thank you so much.
[00:41:44] Bill Ringle: a, before we say goodbye for now, can you share with us where we could find out more about you and your work?
[00:41:49] Tania Luna: My website is Tania luna.com, T A N I A L U N a.com. And for leadership training, you can go to life labs learning.com.
[00:41:59] Bill Ringle: we’re gonna link to your website in the show notes and make it super easy for people to keep up with you, with what you’re doing, with your writing, with your leadership development, and with your animal work. a Luna, author of the Leader Lab, core Skills to Become a Great Manager Faster. I wanna thank you once again for joining me on My Quest for the Best.
[00:42:16] Tania Luna: Thank you, Bill. Woo.
[00:35:58] Bill Ringle: Hi, this is Bill and I hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast interview on My Quest for the Best.
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