Episode 24: 'How Do Choices You Make Impact Your Relationships'

sharon eakes and nancy smyth.jpg

Can you believe what Ted said to me? Did you see what Janet did at our last meeting? What is your attitude when you walk into a meeting? What is your intention for your next 1:1 with your direct report? Please join us for our next Voltcast: Illuminating Leadership Radio show where we will be tackling these questions with our guests Nancy Smyth and Sharon Eakes. These authors wrote “Chocolate or Lunch—How Choices Impact Relationships.” We will be covering case studies from our professional experience and coaching clients to share how to get the most out of your relationships in all areas of life. We will provide tools and tips on how to achieve greater results and help you hit your goals while also increasing your satisfaction.

Nancy Smith

In the mid 1980’s, Nancy apprenticed with an Aztec Indian Medicine Man. Her apprenticeship was one of learning to see what is invisible to our physical eyes. She integrated this unique skill set into her ongoing work. 
As coach, speaker, and poet Nancy cultivates the experience, understanding, and expression of peace-filled solutions. 
Nancy is Director of Training for Prescott College’s Integrative Coach Program and an invited participant in Conversations Among Masters, SupporTED, and other collaborative projects. 
Her presence is delightfully tranquil while being powerfully transformative.

Sharon Eakes

Sharon’s energy is always directed toward fostering balanced, joyful lives, helping people make meaningful contributions to their world. Sharon has a master’s degree in psychology, is a therapist and Board Certified Coach. Dedicated to making complex ideas understandable, Sharon began writing in 2000. Her essays are now collected in a book, Fresh Views on Resilient Living. Sharon has presented at many national conferences and is an invited TV and radio guest. Sharon has the presence of a wise woman wrapped in a spirit of lightness.


Jeff: Welcome. So glad you could be here today. It is a beautiful day in Virginia. I’m going to get to hear how it is in some other places as we’ve got two guests on today that we’ll introduce in just a second.

Thanks for joining us each week. I love the messages I get from around the world. I just had an e-mail from Abu-Dhabi right before the show started with a question. We’ve got some other questions coming in from China and Italy and it’s just wonderful to hear from friends and from across the world. Thanks for being with us each and every week.

Our website is VoltageLeadership.com. You can like us on Facebook at Voltage Leadership and connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff at Voltage Leadership Consulting. Finally, if you want to hit us up on Twitter, it’s JMUJeff where you’re likely to get news and entertainment about my family and JMU Sports. So that’s a looming window into the soul as well.

I’ve got the joy and privilege to bring on two guests today. I’m going to do it just a little differently. So, Sharon and Nancy, I’m going to throw you a little bit of a loop. Everyone sees their bios—we know about bios and all those kinds of stuff. What I want to do is I want you guys to introduce you.

Sharon, I want you to introduce Nancy, and Nancy, I want you to introduce Sharon. What do you want us to know about you? We’ve got your bios, but what is it that you’d like to know? So maybe Sharon, if you can introduce Nancy first, that would be great.

Sharon: I would love to. Nancy is an amazing person and that translates into being an amazing mentor and teacher because she has a clear understanding of things. That goes way deeper than just mental.

It’s like when you talk to Nancy, you understand something in your head and then it moves, and you understand it in your heart and soon, you feel like, oh, I get it! I don’t know if that makes sense, but Nancy is my business partner and dear friend. She is smart and warm and very thoughtful.

Nancy: That was sweet, Sharon. Thanks. So, Sharon and I have been together for quite a few years, working together and we love working together. One of the things I love most about Sharon is her generosity.

So, as an expert coach, she’s very generous in how she is with a client and how she is with a team and an organization, how she is—she’s giving up herself and she doesn’t hold anything back. In that way, people really learn so much.

Jeff: I am just so blessed to have both these ladies on the show today. I want to start there just because they have worked together so much. We’re going to be talking about relationships. So really, from the get-go, I want you to hear the warmth and joy that they have for each other.

That doesn’t mean that they agree all the time. We’ll hit on that. We are going to talk about, how does the choices that we make—how do they impact our relationships? And this comes from the book that these two wise women—that’s also the name of their company—it’s called Chocolate or Lunch: How Choices Impact Relationships. We’ll be pulling from that book, plus they are just wonderful life experiences.

Let me just tell you from my end, both Sharon and Nancy have been a coach, mentor, and guide for me and it’s helped me not only get better at my profession, but become a better human being, a better dad, a better spouse, a better son—and friend. I’m looking forward to the wisdom that will be shared throughout the course of the show today.

So please, if you have an e-mail or a phone call, we’ll be taking those. For strictly linear people, you may not be loving the show—we’re just going to go where we want to go. We’ve got a few questions that we’ve sort of teed up but we’re going to have a conversation among the three of us. And we’ll just kind of navigate it and I know that you’ll get some wisdom out of that.

Nancy and Sharon, one of the things I enjoyed is I went out on your website earlier this week and I like the random things about Sharon and Nancy. They both love good food. They both like to work out regularly. Nancy says she liked the steam-room the best. They’re both artists, which I think is fascinating. And they both like to mediate.

When they’re done with the session of a course that they teach together, one calls the other and says, I love them. This is the best group ever. And they mean it. And I know that that Arbinger course that I had when you were teaching me to be a coach a few years ago, that had to be the best group ever, right?

Well, ladies, welcome to the show. Again, thanks for being here. Maybe we can start by why did you guys choose to write the book Chocolate or Lunch: How Choices Impact Relationships? What came together for you guys to say, this is something we want to bring to this world. Let’s start from there.

Nancy: We love relationships because we know the power of relationships. As a matter of fact, when our relationships are right, when we’re in tune with the people in our life, then everything can go well. You know, our organization can run well. Our family runs well. Everything that is a challenge for us seems to work out easily and smoothly when the relationship is right.

When the relationship’s not right, then something is held back. We know that so clearly from our own lives and our own experiences and our own learning through life. But then seeing that over again with all our clients and we wanted that to be more available to people, not just to clients. And that’s the source of let’s write the book. Let’s give it form for the public.

Sharon: I absolutely agree with that and I would add to it that Nancy and I have found in our teaching and in our coaching, that regardless of what people come to us asking for, that we inevitably get into some relationship difficulty.

Whether it’s somebody who is just doing beautifully as an executive or somebody who’s having trouble with their teenage daughter, you know—relationship issues come up and up and up. And what we just knew so deeply is that relationships matter a lot.

And to help people get to a place that Nancy described where there’s ease in relationships at work and at home, then we have contributed to something that’s valuable. And we want to do that more than anything.

Jeff: For me, as I read it, I just kept stumbling over that word ease. When it’s right, boy, it’s just so wonderful and so great. I had three coaching sessions this morning before the show and one of those, we were really talking about how this gentleman had ease in so many relationships and we were doing well in the business part.

And then, Sharon, I had to laugh when you mentioned the teenage daughter—I have two teenage daughters—and he goes, does it get better? His is 13 and my girls are 15 and 17 and I was just relaying with him, I’ve rediscovered my 17-year-old. We had a long bike ride, we were talking about college and it’s just so interesting that if something’s not right in a relationship, it can impact our whole world.

This is an executive, teacher, CEO, and he’s doing well in his business relationships but the one that he really wanted help with, was how do I connect with my daughter? I don’t feel centered until I’m really connected. So, when you see relationships going right, what’s sort of the Hallmark of the relationships that are going right in your mind? Good working relationships—what do you see?

Nancy: One of the things that I think is a real hallmark is that I can address anything with the person that I don’t need to hold back, and I don’t need to force my way in. I’m never having to be in a defensive mode or in an attack mode. I can just be. Totally be with the person and not worry as much about the situation that has to be addressed but stay in touch. Stay connected with that person.

When I’m connected with that person, the situation can be addressed with so much comfort. We know that we can handle this because we’ve handled things in the past and so now, we’ll face this one together as well. And there’s a comradery. There’s a teamwork. There’s a, “I’m going to help you be the best you can be” rather than me just winning this argument that we might have.

Sharon: I might just jump in and say the same thing—the same exact thing, with slightly different words. In relationships, Jeff, that I see where it’s really working well, it’s like the people really see each other’s humanity. And so, they might disagree, they might get upset at each other at times, but they don’t lose sight that there’s really a whole person there with their own challenges and hopes and dreams. Instead of getting mad, they get curious.

They think, what’s going on with that person? I wonder how I could see the world through their eyes a little bit and make more sense instead of blaming them, being mad at them, pouting and all the things that usually happen when relationships aren’t going well.

Jeff: We’ve got about three minutes from break. Why don’t I just give you two this question to get it started and then we’ll continue after break? What are some of the common challenges you see in relationships and really, organizations, today? As you obviously work with folks all around the world, what are some of the common challenges in relationships that you’re seeing?

Nancy: I see that other people aren’t really other-focused as much as they could be. And what happens is when I don’t know that that person really has thoughts on this topic or ideas or maybe even concerns about this topic. When I don’t see that then I become too self-focused. And when I become too self-focused, I lose sight of what happens for the whole organization and for us to solve whatever it is that we’re needing to solve.

Sharon: When we come back, I’d like to start with a story, Jeff, to illustrate how this gets left out in organizations all the time.

Jeff: All right. Let me just write that down and when we come back, there’s going to be a great story. Nancy, I’m going to build on what you said for just a moment. I love this becoming too self-focused.

Again, in my coaching session today, the person immediately sorts of recognized where they were in the story and they had a whole story about them and their boss and it was such a concern about themselves that they could never really understand that their bosses needs challenges, their goals. Once I sort of worked with him through this, he was like, holy cow. He goes, I’m causing a lot of stress in myself. I’m like, yeah. So we’ll continue to unpack that.

It is about time for us to have a break so what we’ll do is, Sharon, we’ll tee up your story right after the break. In the meantime, please, if you have any questions, or calls, give us an e-mail or a phone call and we’ll be back in two minutes. Thank you!


Jeff: Welcome back. I’m so glad that you could be with us today or if you’re listening sometime later this week, it is just a wonderful day. We were just talking on break. It is beautiful in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Virginia, so hopefully wherever you are, you’re having a great day. Thanks again for joining us for this hour where we are talking with Nancy Smyth and Sharon Eakes, author of Chocolate or Lunch: How Choices Impact Relationships.

We kicked off the show and Sharon said, Jeff, I’ve got a business-related story that I want to share. Sharon, I am passing the baton over to you.

Sharon: Thank you, Jeff. We were just talking about this and, your story is very similar, that we worked with a man named Jerome and he complained about his boss, that the boss never listened to him. He was kind of a micro-manager and Jerome didn’t feel respected or listened to, right?

And the interesting thing about him was that after a fair amount of work, he finally realized that he never listened to his boss. And when he started listening to him, which touches back—we were talking about when you really see the humanity in the other person, he found out to his absolute surprise that sometimes the boss had some valuable things to say.

Once he found that out, he started listening better and then a startling thing happened was that the boss began listening to him better. I just wanted to share that because it’s such a subtle shift that happened and yet, it was huge. 

Jeff: Yes, it’s powerful. I’m chuckling—just little things like that change a relationship. You talk a lot about this and Nancy, I’ll be coming to you in just a second about sort of this head and heart and connection. What does it mean for our relationships in the workplace?

What I was struck by, Sharon, is just the subtleness. I take my youngest son, Henry, to school most days. It’s just easier. I’m leaving, to take him and it’s about a 5-7-minute trip, depending on the stop light. And it used to be that I kind of would listen to the radio. I sort of maybe a quarter listened to him.

What I realized was that I was not connecting with him. What I started to do was now, whenever I take him, I turn the radio off and we just have a conversation. And it’s amazing, just turn the radio off, how we connect and now I know what he’s excited about each day so that at the end of the day, when he comes home, when I could see him, I know the first two or three questions I want to ask him about because I know what he’s excited about in the morning.

And we have formed such a great relationship and we laugh like crazy on the way to the school. I do impressions and sounds. It’s just that little connection that changed and has taken our relationship so much deeper.

Sharon: I love the story. Thank you for sharing that. How such a small thing makes a huge difference.

Nancy: That connection, Jeff, that you’re making with your son is that kind of connection we can make in each of our days and especially in the workplace. It’s like, when we’re connected with people and not just minds, just talking about the things that we need to talk about, but really connecting in that place about knowing what matters to them matters to us. That’s what you did with your son and that’s so powerful.

Jeff: I forgot that I make voices like Scooby-Doo and Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog and so he gets me laughing and gets me centered for the day. There was always the chance that I could have—there was nothing that was missing in those 5-7 minutes. I don’t really care what was on the radio. But it is that small, little connection.

Nancy, I’m curious. You talked a bit in the book about sort of this head and heart and the power of those in the workplace. Can you maybe just help our listeners understand kind of what you were thinking about when you talked about sort of head, AKA mind and heart and why they’re both important in relationships in the workplace?

Nancy: One of the things that came to mind that popped into my head when you said that was that you know, people leave organizations not as much to get better money but to get better relationships. I mean, so many studies have been done that people want to be able to be valued and to be appreciated.

Those powerful energies, both the mind and the heart are just extremely powerful. And when they’re married together, it just really helps us to sort through anything, just anything, even if there’s a problem as big as an elephant. It doesn’t matter.

It’s like that place of really being curious. Life is always going to be teaching us and it’s going to be showing us things that we thought we understand and showing them to us in another way. It’s almost like we make room when we bring our mind and our heart to a situation. We make room for the unexpected.

It’s a quality, a little bit like that humor you were talking about. It catches us off guard or outside of what’s anticipated and in that moment, our awareness really shines the light to something we hadn’t noticed before. And then we can really sift through and sort out anything we need to with another person.

Sharon: Let me piggyback on that for a second. Just in the everyday way, in organizations, we can tell where people’s hearts are, even though we don’t use that language. But you know, what if you had somebody who is acting grouchy? I mean, there’s a heart component there. They’re feeling somehow beleaguered. There’s something not working, and it communicates to all people around them and it has an impact.

We’re always responding not just to the head but also to the heart with people. Even though we’re less aware of it and becoming more aware of it and becoming more aware of how grounded we are, or whether we’re bringing a bunch of stuff from home that’s getting in the way of our work conversations, let’s say. It can make a big difference in the workplace.

Jeff: Yeah, for me, it’s amazing and I want to represent maybe some of the listeners there. You mean I’ve got to talk about heart in the workplace? Like, I didn’t sign up for that, right? I’ve had the benefit of reading the book, so it made a lot of sense to me.

I was really impressed with the energy and the energy you put off and how it affects the next person, but can you bring it to our listeners like, why should that leader that’s maybe in a technology company and hard-charging, came up with a programmer and now they’re leading people and they’ve got to worry about this heart thing? Jeff, I barely had time to get all my e-mails done, much less must worry about the heart? How do you guys sort of talk about the leaders that you work with?

Nancy: I want to tell a story about Rachel. Rachel couldn’t stand one of her employees and she wasn’t getting anything from this employee that she needed to. And the employee just wasn’t offering the work that she needed to offer. What ended up happening in coaching conversations with Rachel is that she found out how much she didn’t care for this employee and that that was standing in the way.

And she really made this resolve that she wasn’t going to ask for anything from the employee that she wasn’t willing to give herself. She really knew she had to show up totally, and it was seeing this employee’s humanity. We don’t even have to use that word ‘heart’ if people are nervous about that.

It’s like, we see their humanity and once Rachel started doing that, we know what the employees felt, thought, saw—she just pitched right in and she gave everything to Rachel that she needed. And they were working now together as a team again.

Sharon: I say this again—I often don’t use the word ‘heart’ when I work with business executives. And yet, it’s a heart-centered thing that shifts when they have changing relationships. I’ll give another story. I worked with a guy named Lydia who had an employee, and this was a very hi-tech company, and everybody in the department was mad at Lydia because she blew up every now and then.

And she just yelled and called people names and she was pretty disrespectful, so Jack finally met with her and asked her how she accounted for these blow-ups. And when he listened and really listened, he began to see that he had asked Lydia to do an un-doable job. She was given as much work as two people could do if they didn’t even go home for weekends, right?

In the end, he was amazed because she had tried to tell him before but they’re all kind of hi-tech people who don’t communicate clearly about how they’re feeling and how it’s making them function. Once he listened, he apologized to her and asked for her input about restructuring the workload and the entire department changed. I mean, in a way that you could hardly believe.

Jeff: We’ve got a question from one of our listeners. We’ll start here, and we may finish on the other side of the break, but the question is, what is the economic benefit to adding ‘heart’? I’ll take a quick stab at it since I got to see the question first.

As you guys were talking about that, to me, when Nancy, I must come back to what you said earlier in the segment—it’s about, people don’t leave the organization because of the job, often. They leave because of the relationships, whether it’s the relationships with the manager or their peers or the boss’s boss. To me, one of the economic benefits of bringing the heart into the workplace and to really connect through these relationships is you lowered your turnover.

You’ll get better engagement and that means that you’ll have that knowledge that stays in the workplace. Plus, if I’m engaged, oh my gosh, innovation can come. I think if I really have this heart and connecting to our relationships can bring better stability, better innovation, and less turnover while increasing engagement. How about you, ladies? What do you think about that?

Nancy: I love that innovation piece. There’s so much more that can happen in an organization than our mission statement or vision statement. It’s that place where people are all thinking together and pulling together that something happens and it’s like magic. It’s like, beyond that.

It’s that place that one mind that can think of things on making corrections that will streamline things or create a new way to do things. That is so important to an organization and that’s where an organization can take off and excel.

Jeff: On the other side of this break, Sharon, I’d love to hear from you, as well as the title and what about these choices that we make out there? Thanks for being with us so far today. We’ll be back in two minutes.


Jeff: Welcome back. I am so glad you could join us today. We have got two wonderful guests, Sharon Eakes and Nancy Smyth. They are co-founders of the company called Two Wise Women as well as the authors of Chocolate or Lunch: How Choices Impact Relationships. Additionally, they are just amazing executive coaches, leaders, and sages that I have loved working with over the years.

So, ladies, thanks for being here today. Before the break, we talked a little bit about, is there an economic benefit to bringing heart to the workplace? And Nancy and I had a go at that. Is there anything that you want to add on that topic?

Sharon: I just wanted to add one thing, which is, when I work with people in business about relationships, one of the things I see is that relationships that aren’t going well drain energy and take up time and so when this heart piece is added in, in the form of kind of seeing the humanity of the other, becoming curious, seeing my own impact on the other person, that kind of thing—productivity actually goes up. There is a pretty direct economic benefit, I think, to adding heart into the picture, whether you call it that or not. Proof of relationships.

Jeff: We can call it heart here and we can know what it is, but it’s about just walking a mile in that other person’s shoes. What are their concerns? What are their needs? And seeing them, it’s that human being and I loved Sharon earlier in the show—staying curious. Getting more curious.

That’s a talented person and we’re not seeing eye to eye, but I really respect them. They’re talented. How is it that we’re not seeing eye to eye? Let’s dig deeper instead of sort of looking at them and sort of saying, golly, why does he always do it that way? I can hear my staff rolling their eyes at me occasionally when I’m like, okay, we’re not going to go that way. They can see the hard decision that’s going on and not, okay, I’m a character in a play. And so, I think that sort of goes to the heart of the book here, Chocolate or Lunch: How Choices Impact Our Relationships.

I read this when I was on a plane ride to Denver and airports. I can’t tell you the number of people that were like, what an interesting title. So maybe tell us a little bit more about the title and then what are these choices that impact relationships.

Nancy: We make choices about what to do, how to do it, what to think, how to think, literally—we make choices about how to be with others. And we know about the big choices in life. We can think about them.

Where shall I work? What city shall I live in? Shall I get married? Those big choices. But then there are the every-day choices, the choices that have me address the person in the office next to me with a request in a human way or in a way that just kind of tells them what they need to do.

So, in those moments, we have choices. Moment to moment to moment. And you know, even should I pause right now, or shall I go on? That’s a choice I make in this moment as well.

Jeff: Nancy, you’re always full of wisdom so I will always let you go on. But since you paused, I will offer it to Sharon to add her perspective on this.

Sharon: I want to just add to that. You gave us an example earlier in the call, Jeff, about a choice you made when you turned the radio off with your son. That was a choice. It was a choice that impacted your relationship, right?

And Nancy described a few—one of the ones that I notice a lot in myself and in other people is that we choose how to see people. So, we can see somebody as a real problem, right? And once we’ve begun to see them that way, we gather evidence to reinforce that interpretation of what we see.

But we might just as well see them and said it as someone who is struggling and then we might get curious about what is their struggle? How could we even help them instead of kind of taking them on and escalating some difficulty?

We make choices so frequently that we are totally unaware of. Part of what Nancy and I work with is to help people become more aware of themselves and the choices that are available, all the time.

Nancy: It’s even a choice of just being more open, Jeff. It’s this place about not having to have all the answers and being open to what is being presented in the moment. So many times—I don’t know if this is true for you—that I have this list in my head of things that I need to get accomplished this morning that I forget that I’m interacting with people and that really, I need to be more open to the fact that that’s there. It’s not just the agenda. It’s the people that are involved and to hear and to sense and to feel and to address what needs to be addressed in the group, in the moment. That’s what a great leader is.

Jeff: It’s interesting, just a tangible example of that, Nancy—I’m coaching a leader that’s talented at the Cleveland Clinic and the feedback is really great. A talented person, produces results, but people don’t really want to follow him because he doesn’t go out of his way to get to know people. He never really invests in relationships. He’s task, task, task, task. It starts at the top hour and it finishes at 59.5 minutes after the hour. People only think he uses the bathroom. We came up with what we called the 58-minute Solution.

I asked him, instead of trying to do one more task is that two minutes before his next meeting, I wanted him to go to all his meetings two minutes early and talk to the people in the room and to learn and to just be curious. And to report back to me—what did he discover?

After doing this for about four weeks, he came back with amazing stories and the feedback started coming back like, I don’t know what’s happened to said leader. He’s really changed. He’s amazing. He’s different. It’s like he knows us. He’s inspired us. It was just the two minutes here and there that he’d go to a meeting and ask questions of people in the room. He learned quickly about grandchildren or who cared about what sports team or who had been sick. Suddenly, just a little thing changed it.

Nancy: I love that openness. It really alleviated the wariness in the room, right? It dissolved all the apprehensions and the fear, and it really opened people to really see him as wow. And I loved that. He became the leader by just being real with people.

Sharon: I just wanted to say, here’s a beautiful part of that story—I loved the way you structured it. That for two minutes, right? That’s not very long. I know people have every minute filled but for two minutes, he would go early to the meeting. Right?

So, to make these kinds of shifts, which include the heart, and which impact relationships doesn’t take much time. It’s the shift that matters and you can do it in that sort of way. That’s a beautiful example.

Nancy: I love that you said that it doesn’t take time. It takes even less time when our heart is involved with another person, when we really show up with the other person. You know what presence is. We all feel it. We love it when somebody is totally present with us and really listening and caring about whatever it is that we’re delivering to them. So, it actually takes less time because we have people right there with us and everything can work so much simpler with so much ease. 

Jeff: Nancy, I was going to go in there with one of the stories in the book about—this is when you were in the restaurant and you were kind of looking at this other person and you immediately sort of made up this story about this other person that they didn’t seem very happy. Why were they that way? It all kind of shifted after an interaction with your waitress who seemed jovial and could you just maybe sort of say, look how quick a shift could happen? You saw the world just completely different. Do you remember that story, the one I’m referring to?

Nancy: I remember that story. It was such a huge moment for me because I had come into a restaurant in a bad space, but not even knowing I was in a bad space. When I saw this person that I blamed for being a grouch across the restaurant from me, it was from my bad space. It had nothing to do with this other person. But I didn’t realize that until, as I said, the waitress came over and the waitress was so friendly and so interactive and so caring that I shifted.

I shifted my way of seeing the world and in that shift of seeing the world, I realized that that person wasn’t a grouch at across the room. Matter of fact, as she left, we met eyes again and we smiled at each other and I knew that she was better because I was better.

That was such a remarkable moment for me to understand that I’m carrying with me all these things that I’m not even aware of, I’m blind to, in a way. So, the world is also reflecting back to me what they’re seeing from me. Thanks for bringing that one up, Jeff. I sometimes forget about that. I want to remember it. It’s a good teaching for me.

Sharon: Because for me, Nancy, one of the things that story also shows is that we can make choices. Now, sometimes we’re so blind to what we’re carrying that we don’t even see any choices to be made. But when you got sort of shifted by the waitress and you were able to smile at the woman that would look crabby, right? Everything changed.

Part of what I think this growing in relationships requires is that we begin to look at ourselves through the blindness a little bit and see that often, we’re the source of difficulty that we don’t see at all. There’s time for me to tell just a little story of my own life like this.

I had a sort of edgy relationship with my daughter and felt she was critical of me. So, when she invited me to spend several days with her at a conference, I was going to be careful not to be critical of her. To my amazement, she wasn’t critical of me not once during the whole time. But guess what? I had to bite my tongue several times because I was about to say something critical to her. I had been totally blind to that.

Nancy: One of the things I see is that as a leader, we owe it to everyone to keep raising our awareness, to become clearer and clearer about our contribution to every single interaction, to everything we do. That awareness, that growing of awareness allows us to really become a better and better leader.

Jeff: As I promised, this has been a fantastic conversation. When we come back after the break, what we’re going to do is give you some of our best pearls of wisdom from the book in our own conversation. In two minutes, come back with us and we’ll wrap up the show with some good tools and tips and ideas for you. Talk to you in two.


Jeff: Welcome back and thanks so much for being with us today. We are on today with the authors of Chocolate or Lunch: How Choices Impact Our Relationships. We’ve had Nancy and Sharon lead us through our conversation about how do choices really impact relationships? How can we impact those relationships? What should we notice about ourselves?

I’ll turn it over to them in just a second. One of the things I’m noticing about myself today was something we learned, it’s about recruiting allies. I had something going on with one of the folks that I work with. It was so funny, I was telling the story to my wife, Beth, and as she related the story back to me, I realized I really didn’t like how I sounded.

When she played it back, she played it back accurately and the other person did have some accountability, but I realized that I was having a conversation with the wrong person. This didn’t need to be happening with Beth. That wasn’t where the relationship was the problem. It was with the person I was working with. I wasn’t being as honest with them. I wasn’t contributing to the relationship and I had been holding back.

It was just really intriguing to watch me say, I need to be more intentional. Me going and talking about this situation with others, it did not help me figure out what I need to say and have the right conversation and invest in the relationship did have a great impact on where we are today.

Thank you for that wisdom that you shared with me last year when I was learning from you. I’m just curious, as you think about relationships, as you study it, what are some of the best tips, tools, best practices you’re seeing in people that build a relationship successfully?

Nancy: I’d like to just add to what you just said, Jeff. Become crystal clear—if we each just become crystal clear about how we want to be with the people in our life, then that intention can just help give energy to everything that we do.

Sharon: And to piggy back on yours, also, Jeff, that story you were telling Beth—it’s so human for us to see somebody that we don’t like something about and then gather more evidence and then share with people so that they’ll be our allies. The thing is, it never improves the relationship.

Nancy: So the next time that any of us notice that we’re blaming or at odds with another person, we should just pause. Just really pause and ask ourselves instead, how can we help things go right, right now?

Sharon: Because the most hopeful thing I’d like to say is that relationships can change and in some of the stories you’ve told today, you see that you’ve changed even quickly when we have a change of perception, a change of intention, we see the humanity in the others. It’s not a behavioral trip. It’s not just acting differently. It’s really because we’re connecting differently if you really take that in.

Nancy: I love that, Sharon. I love that all the difficulties and that family at work and the world they can be solved. It’s doable. It’s doable.

Jeff: You know what’s interesting, is the work that we came together around. After the show, I’ve got a coaching session with a CEO and we’re working on a business situation and he’s trying to repair the relationships among the people on his team, so I recommend The Anatomy of Peace from the Arbinger Institute. And so, he read it, we talked about it and afterwards, he goes, I know you’re not my psychologist, Jeff, and that’s not why we’re here.

But after reading this book, I wrote a letter to my ex-wife just owning my part of it. Because I don’t know where it’ll go but I realized reading this over and over how many times I tried to correct her. How I recruited allies. How I wasn’t intentional with her in giving her the best version of me.

And he goes, so now I know how to see it and be better with the people I work with in the organization. I think that’s an example earlier of like the heart and the mind and coming together to say, I’m going to be a better version of myself and I’m going to be intentional about what I bring to relationships.

Nancy: I love that, Jeff. That’s wonderful. Because that other person’s humanity is so important. Matter of fact, it’s so important that Sharon and I say that it’s the center of every interaction, every communication, every deal, every contract, you know? That’s huge.

Nancy: The other thing your story highlights is that sometimes people will say, well, this relationship stuff doesn’t apply to business, maybe personal life. And yet, what our experience is over and over is that we are a person, both in our personal life and in our business and those worlds do—they’re linked to each other. Even if we mean for that to happen or not.

So, you talked about the guy who read the book and decided to say something to his ex-wife and then found also that it changed his business relationships. I have a quick story about a client of mine who was an engineer, a kind of a high-level engineer who—we were talking about work the whole time until one day, he said, can I tell you that I can’t stand my teenaged daughter? He told me he thought she was on the wrong path. She never helped her mother do the dishes and he had all kinds of complaints.

I asked him one simple thing—I said for this next week, why don’t you see if there’s anything about her that you can appreciate? I talked to him the next week and he said to me, with amazement, that he did appreciate how nice she was with her little brother and he mentioned that to her. And he also appreciated her humor, which he had forgotten for a while because she was very funny, and he laughed with her a few times.

And then he said, surprisingly, she started helping her mother and everything seemed different. And then he said to me, you know what, the people in my company are not irritating me the way they were last week.

So just, this relationship thing feels to us—this is where we’re coming from, like it’s important. And it’s in all our lives. And all our relationships impact the others and so getting them clear and clean and easeful is a great goal.

Jeff, I’m laughing. Sharon, I’m laughing because it happens repeatedly, working with even one of the top execs in an organization and having them say, working on their relationship with somebody in the family is just as important as working with somebody in the organization and the two embrace the other and they become better. Both relationships become better because they looked at one relationship and it taught them about the other relationship. Over and over.

Jeff: I’m just going to wrap up a couple of things here. What I heard from Sharon and Nancy—this is so much advice, people listening to us a second time. But a few key points: be curious. Try to see another person’s perspective. Understand their hopes, their dreams, their challenges. See the humanity of them. Make room for the unexpected. Be surprised. See what can happen. We owe it to everyone to raise our awareness of ourselves. Figure out what we are and then get crystal clear on how do you want to go through life? How do you want to show up in relationships? Then finally, show a little appreciation. Shift your own heart. Find things to go right. If I was only to do one thing from the show, I would say, go to a relationship that’s working well and contribute just a little bit more. Say something nice. Say something that you appreciate. And see if that doesn’t take the relationship to another level. Once you master that, think of a relationship that’s a little bit more challenging and start to apply these same ideas.

Sharon and Nancy, it has just been so fantastic to have you on the show. Thank you for your contributions and for all that you’ve taught me over the years.

Nancy: Thank you, Jeff. This was great being with you.

Sharon: Thank you so much.

Jeff: We’ll be back next week. I’ll be with Lee Hubert and we’re going to be talking about how do you decide to use people inside and outside the organization, whether that’s consultants or facilitators and when is the right time to say, I’m the one that should lead this, or should I get someone to help me?

We’re going to walk through, how do you use facilitators, coaches, and help you reach your highest potential within the organization? So you’ve been listening to Voltcast: Illuminating Leadership. If you’d like to reach me, reach out at Jeff@VoltageLeadership.com or you can find us at www.VoltageLeadership.com and you can find any information about us that you want.

In the meantime, we really appreciate Sharon and Nancy on the show and we’ll be back next week at 1:00PM ET. In the meantime, make it a great week. Take care.