Personal Transformation with Bella Bardswell and Alicia Paterson

Personal Transformation with Bella Bardswell and Alicia Paterson

The Chris Hood Digital Show Episode 18 album art
The Chris Hood Digital Show
Personal Transformation with Bella Bardswell and Alicia Paterson

In today’s rapidly evolving world, the skill of ‘transformation’ has gained importance, whether it’s about adjusting to the pace of technological advancements or traversing through different career paths. 

In this episode, we are joined by Alicia Paterson, Transformation Magician at Redshift Up, and Bella Bardswell, Co-founder of Stellafai, to discuss adapting to disruptions and our unique journeys through personal transformation.

Adapting to Disruptions 

The conversation then steered towards the unpredictable nature of life, with economic trends, market disruptions, layoffs, and personal circumstances often bringing unforeseen challenges. Bella’s suggestion for this uncertainty is intriguing – “Do less planning.” She stresses that life isn’t about climbing the ladder but about fulfillment, purpose, fun, and connection at work. Echoing her sentiments, Alicia underlines the importance of understanding oneself and recognizing moments of satisfaction and growth.

Life is unpredictable. Just as businesses must adapt to market changes, we, too, must learn to adjust when disruptions happen. Planning is essential, but it’s equally important to be adaptable.

  • Stay Flexible: Rather than sticking rigidly to a plan, allow yourself the flexibility to adjust. Be open to new routes.
  • Mindful Living: Practice mindfulness to stay present. Keep a calm mind and an open heart.
  • Embrace Uncertainty: Recognize that unpredictability is a part of life. Instead of resisting change, embrace it. It’s often in these moments of disruption that we find profound growth.

Agile for Personal Transformation

Agility is a significant factor in navigating these transformations. Bella mentions the importance of focusing on value and continuous learning and development. Following the agile framework, personal retrospectives can help individuals assess their progress, identify areas for improvement, and plot their future course.

If we borrow the Agile approach from the world of software development and project management, personal transformation is an ongoing project with iterative phases:

  • Iterative Learning: Just as agile teams work in sprints and then review their progress, we can adopt a similar approach to personal growth. Set short-term goals, work towards them, and then reflect on your progress.
  • Feedback Loops: Continuously seek feedback from your experiences and those around you. Adjust and realign your personal growth strategies.
  • Prioritization: Just as agile teams prioritize tasks for maximum impact, prioritize personal goals and activities that bring the most value to your life.

Aligning Personal Mission with Work

Alicia rounds off the conversation by encouraging individuals to discover their purpose and passion. Understanding what motivates you and being able to align it with your career could be a game-changer.

In essence, transformation is more about adaptation, learning, and evolution than about change. In a world of constant flux, equipping oneself with a learning mindset, resilience, agility, and a sense of purpose can help traverse the myriad paths of personal and professional growth.

Your mission is your compass—it guides you, gives your life direction, and helps you make decisions. If you can align your mission with your work, you will find more satisfaction in your job and drive more passion and purpose into your daily tasks.

  • Identify Your Mission: Reflect on your values, passions, and long-term goals. Write down a personal mission statement.
  • Seek Alignment: Look for roles, tasks, or projects that resonate with your mission. Doing so can make work feel less like a chore and more like a fulfilling journey.

Inspired by Change

In the fluidity of today’s world, the ability to adapt and transform becomes a vital skill. Personal transformation goes beyond acquiring hard skills. It’s about nurturing one’s soft skills, staying adaptable in the face of disruptions, and adopting an agile approach toward growth.

In the end, transformation is more a journey than a destination, a continual process of learning, evolving, and adapting to the ever-changing currents of life. We are better equipped to navigate the complex maze of personal and professional growth as we embrace a learning mindset, resilience, agility, and a sense of purpose. The ability to transform is not just about survival in this ever-changing world; it’s about thriving in it.

Customer Transformation book promotion
Chris Hood (00:00):
In today’s rapidly evolving world, the skill of ‘transformation’ has gained importance, whether it’s about adjusting to the pace of technological advancements or traversing through different career paths.
In this episode, we are joined by Alicia Paterson, Transformation Magician at Redshift Up, and Bella Bardswell, Co-Founder of Stellafai, to discuss adapting to disruptions and our unique journeys through personal transformation.
And on the topic of transformation — you can now get a copy of my new book ‘Customer Transformation’ – a 7-stage strategy for customer alignment and business value. This is your essential guide for success in the digital age. Learn from industry giants, adapt to your customers’ ever-evolving needs, and revolutionize your business strategy to achieve sustainable growth. Grab your copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or on my website.
To support the show, visit, subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform, follow us on social media, or you can email me directly [email protected].
I’m Chris Hood and let’s get connected.
Voice Over (01:15):
Connecting Access. Granted, it’s the Chris Hood Digital show where global business and technology leaders meet to discuss strategy, innovation, and digital acceleration. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Your digital evolution starts now. Here’s your host, Chris Hood.
Chris Hood (01:55):
Looking forward to our discussion today. Let’s meet our guest. Bella, would you mind introducing yourself?
Bella Bardswell (02:00):
Yeah. Hey, Chris. I am Bella. I’m based in the uk as you can probably tell by my accent. And I am someone that loves animals, so I have lots of animals, three kids two, two rabbits. I also have a wife. I love traveling, tennis, skiing. Maybe in the context of what we’re gonna talk about today, my professional experience is also relevant. I’ve had kind of three parts to my career. Part one was as a consultant at IBM doing mainly transformation in government. And then I went to Google Cloud and I was much more focused on helping prospects, so it’s sales orientated, get value and focus on the outcomes they needed to achieve. I had a little side gig there helping with some sort of agile training, which I loved. And that sort of was the, the bit from IBM that flowed over.
And then most recently, just over a year ago, actually, I founded, I co-founded a startup Stellafai, where we are focused on, it’s that theme, continuing helping people define and achieve their outcomes. And we observed that there was a real scarcity of the skills you need to do that well, and it’s sort of really only accessible for very wealthy organizations. And we wanted to see our hypothesis is can we make that democratized access to that using technology, using AI and help people be more successful? So I’m very busy being a, being a startup founder in that world, and anyone that ever been involved in that knows, knows the constant juggling acts that are required. And then I’m also a trustee for a charity, Trees for Cities, which is all about at a basic level, planting as many trees as they can in the UK and beyond.
Chris Hood (03:42):
Awesome. Alicia?
Alicia Paterson (03:43):
Hi I’m Alicia Patterson. I run a consulting business, Redshift Up, which specializes in strategy, leadership development, and business innovation. And previous to that, I built and ran large digital innovation programs at Google for a number of years. And then previous to that, I had many years of product leadership experience largely in the telecommunication sector. Relevant to the conversation today as well. I’m also a personal and professional coach, typically working with executives to unlock their peak performance in their careers. I’m sure there’ll be lots of interesting topics we can touch on around how to continually reinvent yourself towards the achievement of the goals that you have for yourself that you have for those around you as well. I’m based in the San Francisco Bay area, although you can hear an Australian accent. I’m very fortunate to have a full life here where I get to enjoy being on the water. Things like kayaking flying, flying. I’ve got my pilot’s license and currently developing my sailing skills to skip a large boats offshore. So that’s been quite a journey as well.
Chris Hood (04:54):
Well, I get the privilege today because I get to have a conversation with probably my two favorite people in the entire world. And we are going to be talking about transformation. And what’s great about this is you both have worked in the transformation space, but you also have both gone through various levels of transformation yourself. Bella, let’s start with you because before we were recording, we were talking about your nephew. And I think it’s a great story or example for us to go off of.
Bella Bardswell (05:25):
Yeah. So to, to put for a bit of context for the people that weren’t listening to the bit before this started Henry is my, my nephew, and he’s been deciding what to do, sort of a levels, which is your sort of I don’t know how it compares to America, but it’s sort of the highest level of school. And then, and then university that comes after that, which I think equates to college. And he’s decided that he’s gonna go and do a gaming course, learn to code games. And he realized that he can pretty much guarantee the job when he comes out the end. He gets to do something that he loves doing and it’s always fascinated him. And he doesn’t really need to worry in this day and age about what his long-term goals may be, because what we know is that the, the rate at which people that the young people of the day will need to change careers completely, is hugely accelerating to the point where most people in the early twenties now will probably have six or seven completely different careers where they’ve had to do a, a, a complete 180 and, and re-skill and relearn and do something new.
So yeah, so that’s, that’s my my very smart nephew Henry, who’s figured out a very good life plan for the next five years. And I wish I’d had him advising me when I was at that stage. ’cause I might’ve saved myself a lot of money in three years at Uni .
Chris Hood (06:40):
Yeah, I mean, I think about all of the skills that I have learned and lost and learned and lost because simply technology evolves and it’s continuing to evolve at such a rapid pace that we have to be able to keep up with that, thus, in theory, transforming our skill sets along the way.
Bella Bardswell (06:58):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. In, in fact, my niece was thinking of doing computer studies at uni and has decided not to on the basis that by the time you’re at the end of your course, what they’ll be teaching them in first year will have completely changed. So you are almost learning i relevant skills. And actually it’s, it’s this trick of now continuously evolving and changing and adapting, and you’ve always kind of gotta be looking out for where’s the next big change and, and shift in how technology intersects with our world coming. And I guess the obvious one of the moments, ai, I mean, we’re all sort of, lots of people are generally worried that job’s about to disappear huge opportunity, but also needs to be managed carefully.
Alicia Paterson (07:36):
Yeah, I think there’s, there’s something in that around that continual redevelopment of, of the self. In fact, one of the, the, the best things to learn how to do is how to be a lifelong learner. How to understand where to spend your energy in terms of constantly developing yourself. And like, as we said, there’s things you might go and learn at university now, particularly around things like computer science and technology, which by the time that you come to you know, your career five years down, the, the track could well be redundant even worse. They could actually be a disservice to your ability to go and, and do good work. I remember when I did my computer science degree many years ago, we were studying things like how NASA ren its programs, large, complex technical programs, and looking at their for example, their program management processes. The way that they built software those days for, for most businesses does not make sense in terms of how you would build software today. The tools we have available are vastly different. So I think as an individual, one of the best things you can learn how to do is how do you stay attuned to what’s gonna be next and relevant to you and your career and the organizations that you’re working with. And then secondly, how do you stay fresh at your own self-development and growth?
Chris Hood (09:02):
I think there’s a lot of organizations out there that are encouraging that level of learning as you progress through that role wherever you’re at. However, I’m also seeing that sometimes that learning at those organizations is based solely on what that organization wants you to learn, as opposed to developing skills that might be outside of that role that you have. How do we navigate that?
Alicia Paterson (09:30):
Yeah, I can jump in a little bit. I, I think that it, it’s in the interest of every business to continue to develop the people in their organization towards the mission that they have at hand. And, and certainly there are going to be times when the mission for the work that you’re doing, the team that you are part of, doesn’t necessarily set up you for what might be next in your career. So lemme say that a different way. The, the outcomes for your, the organization you’re working with aren’t always a hundred percent aligned with the goals that you might have for yourself. And so I think it’s really important to reserve some energy that where you can, you can keep, like, focus on the things that are gonna be important for you in your career and, and not even necessarily your career, in your personal life as well.
Preserve some energy where you can focus on the things that might be important for your future and then spend some energy on that. And it’s, it’s very hard, it’s very hard to do when you are deep in the trench of the day in, day out of your workplace. You’ve got all these people around you, leaders that you look up to that continually to reinforce the signals that are aligned to their business needs. So the, the challenge, of course, is how do you find signals outside of that environment that help continue to point you as well towards things that are more of your own personal needs.
Bella Bardswell (10:59):
I think another important layer to put over that question is the difference between what we often call hard skills and soft skills or, or increasingly called people skills. ’cause They’re not soft, they really, really matter. They’re about people. And one reflection that I often share actually when, when sort of coaching and mentoring people that are, are, are on the way up and, and starting their first management leadership roles is that the first time you land in a leadership role, you will not have had, you will not have learned the skills you need to succeed in it. You have to learn them on the fly. And I think that’s one of the biggest gaps that holds people down, means that they make mistakes in those first roles. I did so many, I got, I thought I just had to carry on doing everything and be across anything.
And the concept of sort of delegation, autonomy, listening to people, actually listening to people, not expecting them to say the thing you thought they gonna, I could go on for ages. This, this idea of learning to lead and learning to interact with people, I think is a really hugely overlooked skill. So if you are someone listening to this that’s perhaps looking to go in that direction in your career or already doing it and struggling, I think that’s somewhere that you really need to prioritize. And that’s around mentorship coaching, but there’s also formal training you can do that can help start to equip you with that. Some great books you can read as well on the hard skills I’ve always had, and this may or may not be right, I’d be really interested to hear what your thoughts are on it, but I’ve always had a slight view that hard skills you can gen generally, I mean, I’ve not, I’m not a surgeon just to set the context, but most of the hard skills you can learn on a just in time basis.
And if you are about to start, so for example, when I joined Google and landed a team which was very focused on APIs, I barely knew what an a p I was, but I was still able to be successful. There were people around me that supported me and I learned, and I applied it. And before I started the job, I obviously did swat off a bit. So I think there are in in a lot and lots of lines of work, the ability to to, to quite quickly get the hard skills you need. So my advice when, when planning ahead and looking ahead is to think about those, those people skills. So some of the maybe the leadership skills that you need to start to really succeed and to actually enjoy the process of succeeding.
Alicia Paterson (13:16):
Yeah, and if I can respond to that, Bella, I think, I think you’re right. Some of those, you know, in, in air quotes, hard skills aren’t necessarily about learning a new skill. It’s, it’s is there’s some knowledge, some maybe new knowledge, you know, whereas learning a a, a new skill like managing people, leading people is a learned skill in, in for most people. And so that does take time and, and practice. I like to tell people, you know, at the end of the day, these organizations that we’re part of that we might have positions of authority and responsibility inside of they’re full of, of people. They get the things that they seek to do, at least today. They achieve those things through the effort, the industry of the people that work in those organizations, and people are messy meet backs.
They come with all sorts of frustrated ambition and secret agendas or, or internal monologues that, you know, are perhaps are setting them up for success or more often than not sabotaging their, their efforts for their own growth and for the organization’s growth. And so I think it, it does take some practice to develop the capability, the tools to be effective at managing groups of, of messy meat bags. I, I like to tell people, like, I, I think that for, for those sorts of leadership roles we’re talking about, there’s three key components. And I, I think, Chris, you touched on many times organizations start with the, the first part, which, which I’ll call managing. And that’s just the job needs to get done and being certain being clear on what that job is, knowing how that job it gets done well and being able to go and execute that.
And that, that’s how most people go into leadership positions. They do great work, they get promoted on that basis, and, and now they’re expected to help an entire team also do great work. But of course, the thing that they know how to do is to do the work that the team does. So when there’s pressure, you know, they, they could look at the work the team does and say, well, I, I can help you do that better. But that doesn’t really scale. You’re not able to spend you’ve only got the certain number of time each week. You know, the time you have available for your work is a zero sum game. And so the time you spend can only, you know, say, let’s say 40 hours a week. That means you can only help people do the work they need to do up to 40 hours a week.
So the other two parts are really important to learn. The other two parts are coaching and leadership. And coaching is about helping those messy meat bags get better and more effective at the work that they do. It also means about you learning not to manage the outputs of the team quite so much, but instead help manage the inputs. So rather than saying, let me see that report, you know, before you send it so I can make sure it’s right and correct it, instead, you can make clear to people, well, you know exactly who this report has to go to and what it needs to achieve. If you really understand what’s required, then I’ll trust that you can write the appropriate report. And then leadership is about up and out. How do you we touched on before, develop the ability to look out and see what might be needed for the future of yourself, for your team. And that’s kind of part of that, that leadership kit.
Chris Hood (16:36):
You know, another way that we often get disrupted is in the market itself, economical trends, challenges within your current job layoffs. And what I find is oftentimes we get very comfortable in the roles that we’re in, and we are not prepared for what happens when something unexpected happens. And that’s not just professionally, but it could also be personally, something happens that we are not expecting to happen. And then we ask ourselves often, now, what do I do?
Bella Bardswell (17:12):
Do less planning would be maybe my first tip. I I, I remember when I was, when I was in my kind of first couple of years at I b m as a graduate, I remember meeting a very, you know, you went up and you arranged these meetings with VPs in I B m and tiny little person with all these, this sort of ambition and energy. And, and I went in there with my five year plan and my 10 year plan, you know, all mapped out, and I’ve really figured it out. And, and he, he said to me, what, what will happen if that doesn’t happen? And, and it was like you were removing an essential rung from the ladder, and, and that gap was gonna be too big for me to get, I was, well, it, it will happen. I sort of stuttered out.
And, and, and he, and he said it. It’s you need to be a little bit more open to what might just happen. And, and the other thing about that that’s really, really important is that if you are a little, if, if you don’t have this really fixed plan about how things must go, you are more open to opportunities that that pop up. And if you, I I think my, my career trajectory was very straight liney, and I think I didn’t do things that would’ve maybe got me to a more interesting different place now, better, I don’t know. But what I’ve tried to do, certainly in the last sort of seven or eight years, it’s just been much more open. But yeah, okay, let, that sounds interesting. That sounds fun. I’m gonna grow if I do that. Yeah, I’ll go do that. I don’t know how that’s gonna support what comes after.
But actually life isn’t a thing where it’s just about getting, getting further up the ladder for me. I think for some people they are purely driven by how senior they become, but I think that’s very, very rare. I think most people are driven by fulfillment, by purpose, by having fun, by connection at work. And so look for the opportunities to provide that. And if you are too fixed on that plan, that won’t happen. And that is really, really come into a very clear focus for me. Just in the last year, I, I’ve done all these things in my career, and I’m a bit of a jack of all trades. I’ve sort of jumped around different roles. And suddenly in this founder role, which is very, very broad and diverse, like every day is just bonkers different. And the context switching is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. But there’s this really brilliant thing that Steve Jobs said in his commencement speech at Stanford to trust that the dots will connect and my zigzaggy path through life and my career, suddenly it feels like those dots have connected. I’m at that stage and out now I’m gonna keep making some more dots and see what comes next. But I think being open and just doing the things that feel right, trusting your instincts is, is a, a good way to go. So plan less, be, be more agile.
Alicia Paterson (19:52):
That, that really resonates with, with me. Bella, I love the idea that rather than being driven in your career by a set of expectations that you might have for yourself, that your, I don’t know, the people in your life, your family might have of you, your parents or, or the yeah. The leaders that, that you’re working with might have of you, rather than being driven by those expectations of how your life and career should unfold. Instead, there’s a zen to the idea of just knowing yourself and, and understanding if, if you are better, if you’re good at being in touch with yourself, recognizing the moments that you feel challenged in an interesting and useful way, recognizing the moments that you feel fulfilled and leaning into those, I think that’s, that’s potentially far more valuable than having a, a, a fixed plan. And, and I’ve got two tips in, in response to this question.
But the, the theme is that idea of a agility is, is increasingly important at redshift set the f the, when you go to the page, the fortune favors the bold, but the future fa favors the agile. And, you know there’s a great book, team of teams by ex-Marine generals Stanley McChrystal, and he talks about the fact that increasingly in our world, we are faced with volatility, uncertainty, ambiguity chaos for, for us individuals for, for, for businesses. This is increasingly the case. It’s a very dynamic world. The idea that you might have a five year through line that’s gonna hold true in a, in a dynamic world doesn’t make a lot of sense. The first tip, I think is is, is be agile. Have that that ability to, to move when needed in response to whatever’s in the environment.
And as you said, Bella, I guess, be more zen, right with your current moment and look for those opportunities for fulfillment. The other tip I have is that you should be spending some time getting out of the day-to-day of the environment that you’re in. Go for a walk to get some cognitive separation from the work that you’re doing so that you can then develop a practice of kind of looking, taking stock of, of where you are in, in your life, in your job, so that you are able to to be more attuned to those little signals around when change might be necessary for you. And make sure you preserve some, some time and energy for that, like I said previously. And I think honestly, that that’s the, the best thing. You know, in summary, there’s two things to deal with dynamic thing moments in your life to deal with the fact that sometimes unexpected things come along and cause change in your life. One is to make sure you spend some time staying close to yourself so you can understand what’s important for you, what’s true for you and you’re not necessarily always bound up in the work that you’re doing. And the second thing is roll with the punches, then be agile. Recognize when it’s an opportunity to jump in and do something different. And don’t feel you have to execute any sort of fixed plan.
Bella Bardswell (23:12):
You’ve triggered a thought. Be more agile. So as someone that’s tried to guide organizations through agile transformations, that’s a easy thing to say, A flipping hard thing to do. One, one tip that can help. So agile hast has, has two, two of the tenets of agility. One, focus on value. So Alicia just talked about, I figure out that the things that actually matter to you, and that’s not easy, but that’s the thing you have to do multiple times. Iterate to get to a couple of very big agile words, value iteration at the other end. Every sprint you do, or a key concept to agile, this is one of continuous learning and development. And retrospective’s, one of the core practices within any agile framework, do personal retros. It’s really hard when you’re in the thick of things doing it. And then something comes and curves you to stand back and really look at, okay, what happened?
Cedar, the woods for the trees. You can follow the exact same process you might do with a, with a professional one. What, what happened? How do I feel about that? What, what did I learn? What, what didn’t go so well? What am I gonna change and action for my next cycle? Do it every three months, six months. Doesn’t have to be all the time, but it’s that opportunity to step back and you’ll just get a different view of what’s happened and a different view on what you need to do to broadly move in the right direction for the outcomes that matter to you. So, little tip,
Chris Hood (24:38):
I think that separation is so critical because if I look at my own experience, and as of right now, today as we’re recording this, I’m a about to publish a book, and by the time the listeners are listening to this, my book is going to be available for sale on Amazon and all your favorite book platforms. I spent five, six years at Google focused on Google. I didn’t do anything for myself. I’ve thought multiple times I should have been writing this book while I was at Google. And I didn’t because I got comfortable. We’ll say I got into the matrix, , you know, I, I was in a routine. I was focused on what I needed to do. I, I, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing while I was at Google, but I wasn’t thinking about it in the terms of what do I want to do for myself? And so when I left Google, I was faced with the question, now what? And all of these ideas instantly came to mind, but I kept wondering, why did I not focus on these things sooner in my career? And I don’t know really how we balance that. You know, we talk a lot about work life balance, but we don’t really talk about work passion or work work talents or what do we do in this situation?
Alicia Paterson (25:59):
Do you know, like the, it’s one of the most successful motivating, inspiring executives I’ve worked for in the past. They, they clearly have a mission that motivates them, that animates them. And you have the sense that although they might be working for a corporation, in some ways, a corporation is serving them and their mission. And I, I, in my coaching, I, I try and help people with that because there’s something very powerful to that idea that if you can understand what’s motivating for you, what you can be passionate about, what your purpose is, and it doesn’t have to be fixed. It can be malleable and agile. And, and as Bella said before, it’s the kind of thing that you need to develop an awareness, you need to iterate around. It takes practice and, and iterations to continue to refine it. But if you have that sense of motivating purpose, then you bring that with you to any job you do.
And rather than spending the time there, like in the matrix of Google serving the needs of the organization, instead you’re kind of harvesting the needs of the organization to service the mission that you are there to execute on. It’s, it’s very powerful. It rallies people and resources to your cause. It can be very powerful in terms of your own personal success and, and certainly not necessarily mutually exclusive of what the organization needs to achieve as well. Right. And I think, frankly, one of the things that, that I recognized many years ago in my career by leadership career was, was trying to identify where people were passionate about things in as an individual in teams that I led, and then work out how can I align their passions, their energies with what the organization needs. I, I, you know, every good leader should, should be trying to do that.
How do I orient people’s passion and capability in a, in a direction that’s important for the organization, and then remove obstacles to their ability to go grow and and to have impact. And so I’m, I’m saying that because I think the, the bit about how do those things align for the organization, that’s actually not really your problem to solve. I, I would suggest if you have a strong mission in your life, something that’s motivating you that you’re developing, then you’re not gonna go into a role that’s not gonna you know, help you execute that to some degree, but then show up fully with that mission and let the organization, the, the leaders you work, work for, let them worry about how, you know, you, you work together to make sure that continues to align to the organization’s goals. And indeed, if for some reason it looks like that isn’t aligning, that’s a great signal that maybe you’re not in the right place for you.
Bella Bardswell (28:57):
I haven’t got anything to add to that. I, I agree with . I agree completely. And right the end, you said the thing that was going through my mind, I’ve both as a manager and as a a, a manager, a person being managed, I’ve observed those situations where suddenly people that are really good stop being good. And sometimes there’s stuff in their life going on very often it’s that misalignment. Suddenly there’s a thing they’re doing doesn’t care. And I think there’s a lot of bad managers out there. Don’t depend on your manager to step in and help you solve that. It’s, it’s, it’s your life. You know how you are feeling. But if you suddenly find yourself cruising job sites all the time, I, I’ve had a little bit at Google, I was like, how could this be happening? I’m at Google, you know, apparently the best company in the world, but I’d lost the alignment between the role I was doing and, and my purpose and who I was. And so I had to, took me a while to figure out that was the thing that was tanking my motivation directly impacting it, and then set about fixing it. Remember, it’s you and a company worrying about its, its success and outcomes, not necessarily your personal success.
Chris Hood (30:06):
Well, I think that’s a good segue into Bella. You left Google and started a whole company.
Bella Bardswell (30:13):
I was lucky. So I was in that, that place I just described where I was starting to feel that alignment wasn’t there. I also had a really major health scare, and that really major health scare helped me get stuff into perspective, really did. ’cause I was that person that worked all hours ridiculous. So, so stressed wasn’t, wasn’t really helping me be fulfilled. I was learning a lot. I had great team around me. But I was starting to wa wonder where that was, that was going, there was some reorgs. I had a major health scare and I realized that I wasn’t prioritizing the things that mattered to me. So I’ve started to have that sort of feeling of not being comfortable. The things weren’t aligned quite as they should, should be. And then a colleague came to me that I had a IB that I worked with at I b m.
We were both very, very involved in the agile practice and was like, so Bella , I’ve got this idea and there are a few long walks in the English countryside in the cots world. And we went for a few pub lunches, and it is exactly how you might imagine that happening. And we just went for it. We just went for it. And it was a, a few months in the making. And I, I agonized, you know, it’s, it’s hard to leave a company like Google, but looking back, oh my God, I needed something. I needed the shove. And I was lucky that those, those three events happened that, you know, that misalignment, the health scare and then the opportunity as like, oh, what’s the worst that can happen? And I, I was also fortunate that sort of financially I was in a position where I could afford to, to take that plunge and invest a bit.
So that’s, that’s how that came about. The other thing that was really important about it was that Tim and I have always had very, very closely aligned values and cared about similar things and we’re both very, very outcome centric people. And the whole business is around that. It’s about helping people be more successful in defining and then executing against their outcomes and helping people succeed. That was one of the things that was missing in my, in my role at for a large ti amount of time at Google, you got people going, but then you had to leave them without any help. And they were, and you just knew this is gonna fizzle out. We wanted to do something that was lasting and able people and gave them the skills to go and be successful and be connected to purpose. ’cause You’re starting to understand what outcomes were. So when we talked about that and started kicking around ideas, it was just so exciting. Like, I had to do it because the world needs what we’re doing. We, we hope,
Chris Hood (32:38):
You know, I love that. Surrounding yourself with people who have shared visions and shared passions as you, Alicia, how important is that from a coaching perspective? How critical is it to find a coach that aligns with your values or is going to challenge you because they don’t align necessarily with your values?
Alicia Paterson (33:00):
Yeah, interesting question. I’m gonna be thinking about how I bite this one off. I, I think there’s a couple of ideas there, right? So I, I, I know you say coach, but let me broaden that a little bit. I, I think it’s worth, it’s definitely worth thinking, spending a little bit of time to think intentionally around the kind of cohorts that you, you place around yourself, the people that you listen to, that you spend time with in order to help round out your own thinking. And so an example of that is during moments of, of significant change, that’s kind of the topic, right? Who are the people perhaps that might be best placed that, that you’ve worked with in the past that can help remind you of the things that that you’re good at, that you’ve been successful at? You know, so I’ve been through periods in the last few years where I’ve had career setbacks.
And, and indeed it’s by having a small group of people that I, I know well, that I’ve worked closely with, that I have enormous respect for, and that who have respect for me. It’s, it’s by spending time with those people that I’m able to have a kind of touchstone effectively to, to stay connected to the truths that are easy to forget about my own self, my own performance. So I, I think, so I’m broadening from coach two specific cohorts of people, situation dependent that you might have, and some of those I might be people that you regularly spend time with. I’m very lucky to have had some great time working with, with Bella and, and I’m extremely fortunate to continue to have time with Bella on a regular basis because I, I’m reminded of, of some of that. On the other point too, around being challenged it, it is, it is tough for us to lean into uncomfortable moments.
And certainly there’s, there’s great growth that that can come from that. I, I think it can be difficult if you have people whose values are extremely different, different than yours. It can be difficult to, to spend time to, to communicate effectively with people like that. I, I don’t know that I recommend having a coach that has misaligned values from what you have. Certainly you should have a coach that is able to challenge you. I think a great coach. Yeah. And, and just on that, I think most people probably don’t have some kind of formal or informal coach in their lives. There are people maybe that play that role, but it’s worth thinking about having someone that’s ultimately just on your side that isn’t necessarily mo mainly motivated by an organizational set of goals, you know, the company you might work for but someone that’s focused just on your own development and outcomes and, and such a person can be very effective at, at pushing you when you need to be pushed at holding your feet to the fire and challenging you. But I think in terms of being challenged on values, I think that might be a different mechanism
Bella Bardswell (36:01):
That goes straight to something that we’ve kind of circled around, but I don’t think I’ve directly said, which is that we’ve talked about agility in terms of changing your path, but maybe not changing yourself. Sometimes you have to change yourself and, and that’s hard, that’s threatening, am I actually not doing something right? But, but looking for cues, and that’s a really good example. If you talk to five people and four of them say one thing and one of them says the other, you probably shouldn’t be ignoring what four of them said. That’s truth. That’s genuinely valuable feedback. Reflect on it and react to it
Alicia Paterson (36:34):
On, on top of that too, like, what are you gonna learn from spending time with people that agree with you? Go and spend time with people that are gonna tell you that they don’t think you’re right and maybe you’re in a better position to actually learn something.
Bella Bardswell (36:47):
One of the things I’ve struggled with is getting really good feedback. That isn’t lovely. You know, I dunno if anyone’s read Kim Scott book a Radical Focus, but she talks about this. She, she talks about these different dynamics of feedback and radical candor about it is about pers challenging directly, but caring personally. You actually have to say the hard stuff if you care about people. Otherwise, it’s obnoxious empathy, which means you’re saying that stuff, but you don’t care about helping them. And this is a place where coming back to the AI thing at the start of the conversation, I think AI can help. So it can listen to a conversation, it can talk about sentiment, it can say how much you talked, how much other people talked, what was the sentiment of those people what, what things are emerging as takeaways, whose opinion wasn’t being, wasn’t being taken to an account as well.
And it’s all data. But that’s super hard for us to do when all these things are happening in our brains wearing. But it can just give us, don’t take it as gospel, but it can give us some nudges, some indicators that keeps happening, one person is never listened to, then that’s a, that’s a manager challenge and maybe a coaching conversation with that person or maybe someone else in the team. So there’s a really cool way in which we, we can get some extra cues to help us grow and figure out where we need to change and to grow as people.
Chris Hood (38:10):
Well, thank you both for a wonderful conversation. As always. I love talking to both of you.
Bella Bardswell (38:16):
Likewise. Thanks Chris.
Alicia Paterson (38:17):
Be delightful. Thank you.
Chris Hood (38:19):
And of course, thanks to all of you who are listening. If you like what you heard, please subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform and leave a review. Your feedback helps us improve and grow. And if you have any questions, comments, or ideas for the show, you can connect with us throughout social media and online at Chris Hood Show. And please share this episode with your friends, family, colleagues, or anyone else looking to grow their business and start their own digital evolution. Until next week, take care and stay connected.
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