Some leaders have a lot of misguided beliefs on leadership. Now, more than ever, is the time to shift and transform these perceptions in order to attract and grow a successful team. On today’s show, Janine Hamner Holman sits down with Carol Marzouk, CEO and Chief Executive Lion Tamer at Leadership’ N’ Soul. Carol’s mission is to train, inspire, educate, and coach executives to operate with a conscience and put in place a proven process that allows every employee to be 100% psychologically committed to the company’s success. How does she do that? By asking the right questions and going deeper than just the tip of the iceberg!
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Are Your Beliefs Serving You? A Conversation With Executive Lion-tamer Carol Marzouk
What am I paying attention to? It’s interesting. I am in DC and I am here because I am the final keynote speaker for the US Navy’s first conference on diversity. Can you believe it?!? Which leads into what I am thinking about. MIT’s Sloan School of Management came out with an article recently where they were talking about the thing that is fueling the Great Resignation. Their analysis found that what’s fueling the Great Resignation has nothing to do with salary, benefits and whether or not people can work from home.
What it has to do with is toxic organizational culture. When they broke that down, it was about three key elements. One is paying attention to diversity, equity and inclusion, which connects right to why I’m here in DC. The second is about workers feeling disrespected or not included, which is going to get right into our topic, speaker and guest. The third is organizations doing things that they should not be doing, essentially unethical behavior.
That brings me right to our guest: Carol Marzouk is a delight! You all are going to enjoy getting to know her. She is known as the “Executive Lion Tamer.” She is the CEO of Leadership ‘N’ Soul and has spent more than 30 years inspiring leaders and teams to impact the bottom line while retaining their soul and integrity.
She’s known for using unconventional methods to get real results and helping clients make immediate actions so that they can get into action and leave the theory in the office. Her mission is to train, inspire, educate and coach executives to operate with a conscience and put in place a proven process that allows for every single employee to be 100% psychologically committed to the success of the company. Welcome, Carol!
Thank you so much, Janine. Thank you for having me on.
You are so welcome. I am so glad to have an opportunity for this public conversation with you. We often get to have very juicy private conversations. I’m excited to have a public conversation with you. I’m going to begin the way that I often do, which is what is something that you have become aware of that organizations either consciously or unconsciously have not been paying attention to? What’s been the cost of that inattention.
There are several things that they are not paying attention to and it is costing them. Thank you for recognizing that. A big one right now is that there are still some organizations that refuse to get with the program.
What’s the program that’s most important that they get with?
The program is that now workers are looking for more flexibility in their work life. They are looking to integrate work and life that we are not looking for a balance anymore. We are looking for an integration. Management is still often saying, “No. You got to show up at this time, leave at this time and be in this brick and mortar physical space,” and they are experiencing a lot of turnovers. That’s one of the big ones. They refuse to see it the way that it is. That’s one of the big ones once they talk to me.
Once they talk to you, you get them whipped into shape.
Yes. It’s because it’s expensive to hire. Let’s keep the people that we have. We hired smart people. Let’s extract the gold from them. Let’s let them lead, kick ass. Stop trying to manage and direct every little thing that they do. It’s about the results.
Among the five dysfunctions of a team, trust is the very bottom: the most necessary component to get everything else we need in order for it not to be toxic and to be productive and efficient. Click To Tweet
I love that concept. Part of what I love about it is it’s getting away from the way that you and I were raised in the workplace, which is you keep your head down, you shut up, be happy that you have a job. If you are miserable, suck it up! Everybody else is miserable too.
This idea that, when we think about it, how is it that we bought into that?
There was this idea that you were one Carol when you went to work. I was one Janine at work and then I left work, I was an entirely different Janine. In point of fact, I am not a bifurcated human. I am not twins. I am one integrated self. When I can fully express that self at work, I am going to be so much more engaged. I’m going to be so much happier.
What are the challenges that you face in your work working with executives, helping to get them on that page to understand when they can empower their people rather than micromanage their people? Their people are going to be happier and therefore more productive and their bottom line is going to be better.
This is a thinking that is foreign to them, even though for us, it might be commonplace by now. The biggest challenge is helping them get out of their own way. It’s a mind shift and questioning some of these deep-rooted beliefs that you and I grew up with. It’s about asking the powerful questions and figuring out what fear or doubt is driving this unnecessary control over your folks.
What I’m also noticing is how different leaders are with the folks that are very high performing… and the folks that they feel they are meeting the expectations or they are just below that level. “You are not a bother for me but you are on the verge.” I noticed that they treat them very differently without even recognizing what their expressions and body language are doing, their tone of voice, how much they interrupt them so they will ask them a question and then they won’t let them answer. Before they start to answer, their boss will interrupt and give them the answer.
That’s with the folks that are either on the cusp or slightly below the, “You are great,” level.
That’s right. Their employee’s self-efficacy is then impacted. And the leaders are not realizing what they are doing. They think that they are helping but they are manifesting the problem.
It’s this vicious circle. I knew about this but I learned more officially about it when I was at Cornell doing some post-grad work. If you think about how we are with our children and spouses when we are feeling grumpy, or like they are a problem or a pain. We then interact with them as though they are a problem or pain, which then has them be more of a pain, which then impacts their own thinking about themselves… and then they become more of a pain. We create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
These poor leaders come to me and they say, “What do I do with these folks? I tried everything.”
All my people suck. I don’t know what to do about it.
When you start to notice that the common denominator is you, then you want to see what you are doing because your intention is so good that you sometimes do silly things that you don’t realize that what you are doing is having the opposite effect… like asking employees to work during lunch. It’s not that consciously, they are thinking about all the rules, what we should, should not do and complain that they are not doing that. Or they will schedule a meeting with their direct report and then they will cancel it, or change it because something better came along.
That message. It’s like, “You are not important enough. Something else came up.” Whether a client or whatever it is and they move the meeting. That’s another thing that I see a lot. Sometimes you will see that people ask employees to lie and pretend that certain things are not happening or were never said or done.
Things like that or pressuring them to attend certain events that are optional. I came across a situation where somebody noticed there was stealing so he reported it to the supervisor. The supervisor, instead of doing something productive and good with it, she decided that she was going to start bullying the guy who reported it! The bullying got so bad between the supervisor and the rest of the team, because she was part of the ring, that he ended up leaving. It’s like, “Who can you trust?” That’s the bottom of the whole pyramid if we look at the five dysfunctions of a team. The most necessary component to get to everything else that we need in order for it not to be toxic and to be productive and efficient. It’s trust.
Trust begins from day one or even before that, when they’re interviewing. Click To Tweet
People have this idea that trust is a fixed thing, I trust you or I don’t. If we think about trust not only in our workplaces but in our lives, trust is something that is violated and rebuilt. It’s not a destination. It is a journey like so many other things in life. Like I say something to you, “Carol, your hair looks interesting today.”
In saying that, I have broken trust with you because I know that you feel that your hair looks frizzy. I actually think your hair looks beautiful all the time. But if I said that to you and you were feeling insecure about your hair, or anything else that we all feel insecure about, then I would have broken trust. It would be very easy then for you to say, “That Janine, I thought I could trust her but I can’t.” Conversely, it would also be very easy for you to say, “Janine, I’m feeling insecure about my hair today. Do you think it’s okay?” then I could say, “I love your hair. I don’t know why I chose that word, ‘interesting.’ That’s a weird word for me to have chosen. I’m sorry about that.”
Now our trust is even greater because you have been genuine and you have been a little bit vulnerable, which is one of those weird words that we have a problem with. I got to clean it up and be like, “I love your hair. Or I loved that report that you did for me. I loved that you worked so hard on this. Even though it did not work out the way that we wanted to, I appreciate all the effort that you put in.”
If we can get away from commenting on people’s physicality and get to commenting on people’s work, work product and their effort because sometimes we work hard on things and it does not turn out great. If we can acknowledge people’s work and effort, everything is going to be so much richer and we are going to have so much more trust built. What does all of that make you think of?
A lot of things. It all starts from day one because that very first moment where they come into the organization, they meet you as their direct manager. They see their team and interact with their team. Like when we were little, the first stepping years of our life, we are figuring out how we fit into the world. When we first come on board, we are doing the same thing.
“What is my role here? How am I being accepted or not? What is happening around me?” then you start to create beliefs about people. “They are conspiring for me. That person’s not conspiring for me, they are conspiring against me.” Back to what you were saying, those beliefs then dirty our windshield every time that person interacts.
I love that. They dirty our windshield because then we can’t even see them and the situation clearly.
If I knew that you absolutely thought the world of me and you said, “Carol, your hair looks interesting today.” immediately because my belief is that you are conspiring for me, that you like and care for me, I would maybe laugh and say, “You noticed?” If I felt that you were not conspiring for me and in fact, you are always trying to throw me under the bus or even once that you said that, I would not be chuckling. I would say, “That’s an interesting thing to say. Tell me more.” There is the whole, “I knew she was a jerk.”
That trust begins from day one. Even before that, when they are interviewing. It continues and you talked about breaking trust and regaining trust. We all know that it’s very difficult to regain the trust once it’s broken, until we get rid of all of the noise and the crisis that has created such dirt on our windshield. What I ended up doing is I bring all that dirt out and Windex it. When people think that others are narcissistic, bigots or racist, most of the time it is a dirty windshield and is taken from one moment, one thing that person said, out of context situation or whatever it is and now every interaction then becomes evidence to support that belief.
When we are more looking through the lens of this person is a racist or this person is always throwing me under the bus then we are going to see everything through that piece of the windshield that is the only part that we can see. I’m reading a book which is so interesting called Right Within. Intentionally, she makes it clear that she’s speaking from a first-person perspective about her experience and the experience of other women of color in the workplace. There are stories that she tells as examples of racism that have happened to me and I am not a Black woman.
There are other stories that she tells and I’m like, “Given the words that they chose, that is clearly an example of racism.” Whether they intended it that way or not. Many of the things that we do and say, we are doing and saying them not out of intentionality. We are doing and saying them out of ignorance, lack of experience, lack of world lived lives.
There are some people who absolutely are doing it and saying it very intentionally. With those executives who truly are mean and mean-spirited, don’t want to do the best for their team and only want to exalt themselves or those organizations or people who are just Neo-Nazis and racist like, “You are not my people. We are not going to be working together with everybody else.”
It doesn’t matter how many benefits you offer in your organization if that person that you report to is a jerk. Click To Tweet
What do you do when you find an executive who not out of malice but out of all kinds of other things and you began pointing to fear, which is a great place to start? I have a mentor who says that there are only two emotions, fear and love and everything else comes from one or the other of those. When you find an executive who’s coming out of fear and who’s doing things that are crappy and not moving the organization forward, how do you start to help them see what it is that they are doing or help them begin to shift?
That’s a great question and that’s probably one of the most important questions that I get asked all the time. The very first thing is you have to understand that these people are wearing masks most of the time. They are showing up in some form of not themselves in order to achieve the level of success that they have achieved because it’s worked for years.
You brought up vulnerability. They have learned to live in a world where if they are vulnerable, that they will get kicked in the team. Why did they learn this? Could something have happened? Yes. Something could have happened. Most of the time it’s fear-based and it’s not because something terrible has happened. It’s little micro incidents that have told the person, “This is how you should behave in order to be successful.”
Given that, the first thing that I do is I have a chat with them in a non-invasive way because I am zero threat to their career or anything. Everything is competent. What I noticed is even the people that come to me and somebody says, “We have tried everybody,” they are still causing other people to leave. I noticed that they are dying to take off those masks and be vulnerable.
They want so badly to feel that love and trust instead of the fear and doubt. They want it so badly but they have not found a way to do that. What we start on is being able to be who you are. That’s okay without being judged and without being told that you are a horrible person is let’s talk about what’s going on.
What goes through your mind when you are doing certain things because what we need to change is the neuropathways. That’s what I do. I help them create new neuropathways so that they don’t rely on the ones they have been relying on because it’s a computer program. We would have to edit the program. If they are willing, we can absolutely do it.
When you start working with people is there any way to categorize what are the most common masks that people wear?
The most common mask I would say is, “I am more powerful than you.” Like Jack Welch. You imagine his short stature but he always had a higher chair than you and always made sure he was looking down at you. Everybody had to bow down to him. That’s the most common one. It’s this fear of not being respected. I’m going to show you that I’m up here and you are down here because that’s how you are going to respect me. When in reality, it’s not that way at all.
We might fear you but we are not going to respect you.
It’s like the parenting thing. You hit the child and it’s like, “You will have them get in line,” but that’s not love and trust that you are producing. You are producing fear, inadequate, inefficient and unproductive people. It’s the same thing at work.
We were talking about how we create self-fulfilling prophecies for individuals that we are interacting with. Everybody in every situation, work, home, or organizations that you volunteer at, you can find somebody who makes you crazy. I always have the perspective that if somebody is truly pushing my buttons, there’s something for me to learn here. There’s something that either there’s an opportunity for me to grow or the part that I hate figuring out is if they are pushing a button of mine because they like me in a way that I don’t like about myself.
Assuming that we have those people, how can we start to rewire that neuropathway, where we have gotten them in the loop of your problem? You are a pain in the ass. You are never going to amount to a hill of beans. How can we start breaking that so that we can let them be themselves and potentially let them shine?
Let’s not throw grenades and let’s be very specific about the behaviors that we need to change. Click To Tweet
The first thing is becoming self-aware of your blind spots and actions. These things that we are doing that we are not recognizing we are doing, that’s number one. I have my clients videotape themselves in certain situations with permission. Even if they are videotaping themselves and not the other person. We want to make sure that they understand exactly what they are doing because most of the time we don’t. Also, the impact. Do we understand or does that person understand what becomes possible if we solve this or if we don’t solve this, what happens? If everything stays the same then what happens?
If they have a very clear understanding of that, that’s almost the fuel that keeps propelling them forward when we are creating these new neuropathways because it’s not difficult. It takes a while sometimes because you revert back to the old program and you run the program. You press enter and it runs. It’s frustrating sometimes. We want to make sure that they understand why they are doing it and if they want to do it. Once that happens then they are all in. We can start to recreate the behaviors in the moment that they are happening.
Have you ever done coaching in the moment? Are you ever in the room and have the opportunity to say like, “Let’s call a time out here?”
Yes. Many times. My leadership academies, they are very interactive. I will see how people are responding. The idea is that they need to learn how to be a coach versus a director that directs or a manager that manages. We don’t need that. We need a coach. It’s in the moment that the gold is found.
I want to go back to what you said because I want to make sure people learn that. Anybody who’s 40 years old or more has been brought up in a world where bosses bossed. That was their job. That was their role, to boss people around to tell people what to do. Now we are in a different paradigm. You were pointing to that with people needing a coach. I want to make sure that people caught that what employees need or what we need in workplaces is not a boss, not a micromanager, but it’s a coach. Can you tease that out a little bit more?
One of the most important things, we talked about the Great Resignation and toxic cultures, people leave their jobs most of the time because of their direct manager being toxic, not having their back and all of that. Seventy-five percent of the people that have left, it’s because of their direct manager. It does not matter how many benefits you offer in your organization, if that person that you report to is a jerk, you are looking elsewhere.
The coaching is around being the person that in every interaction you are curious instead of judging. Somebody makes a mistake and the first thing we do as a human being says, “What did you do, dumbass? Why did you do that?” We instantly indict them. We don’t take a moment and think, “That’s the tip of their iceberg. That’s what happened. What’s going on underneath their iceberg that made them do that?” That’s where the questions are that allow for long-term evolvement and transformation. As a manager, boss or director, they manage or direct. The manager I feel like it’s a puppeteer.
As long as they keep doing that, they are never going to get underneath the iceberg to see what are the factors that are creating this behavior. In that way we know how do we coach them and where do we coach them to be the best leader that they can be and to give the most that they can give intrinsically. If you don’t get underneath that iceberg and you are in that environment, that 10% behavior, “Let’s deal with the behaviors. Let’s do what you did. You are wrong. What do you think?” then you are never going to have an everlasting change.
The coaching is around having wise disagreements, trust, and discussions or conversations that are informal constantly so that the formal ones are not a big deal. Things like that are just, “Folks, I have your back. If you are sick, I’m going to give you a call to see how you are doing. If your family has something going on, I’m going to show you that I care.” It’s those little things so that when they say something and it’s like, “What?” or when they do something, “What did you just do?” Let’s get curious and let’s coach them and find out, ask powerful questions that allow you inside their iceberg, instead of directing them to what they need to do or managing what they need to do next.
I love what you are pointing to. I’m in alignment with all of this. I was talking with a CEO. He’s a serial CEO and organizational creator. He has created and sold at least half a dozen of different organizations. One of the things that he was talking about was that as a CEO, he spent the vast majority of his time talking to his people, talking with them in that way that you were pointing to.
He’s talking with them about how are they doing. Not just how’s their job going but how’s their life going. He often felt like he was not spending his time in the right way. He’s about my age. He’s probably a little bit older than me. He’s in the Baby Boomer generation. He’s not done yet. He thinks he probably has one more company in him. He always struggled with this feeling of like, “It does not feel like it’s what a CEO is supposed to do.” This is a gentleman who has built and sold six different businesses. Clearly, he’s doing something right and yet he’s spending all of this time, second-guessing himself because this is not how we thought business was supposed to be done. How do you help people who were in that kind of situation where what you are coaching them to do is something very different than what they think their job is?
What a great person that man is because he gets it. Society is saying, “You are doing the wrong thing because we are bosses, managers and directors.” That they are in an office and we work on the business and that does not include the people, which is weird. They would never say that out loud but that’s how they behave. That is the message.
Let’s not throw grenades and let’s be very specific about the behaviors that we need to change. Click To Tweet
How do you do that? You ask for impact. That’s the number one thing. What is the impact that you want to have? What is the impact that your company wants to have? Are we there? Is that happening? What is happening with your people? Are they loyal? Are they staying? If they are happy and everyone keeps getting promotions and everybody feels like they are valued then great. We are on a great trajectory.
If we want to elevate to the next level, that’s going to require something that they have not done before. It’s like the CEO who crosses his arms and he says, “I don’t understand why I’m not approachable. Everyone says I’m not approachable. I’m totally approachable. I’m such a good guy,” and the truth is he is. He’s wonderful guy but it’s not about him. His body language and the message it sends out. It does not matter how comfortable he is in that stance because that was his comfortable position. He was not trying to do anything but it’s not about him. It’s about the impact. Where I always go is, “Talk to me because maybe we don’t need to change anything.” If you want to elevate and create a different impact then obviously we need to pivot.
We are living in a world where 90% of managers have never been trained how to manage anything, which is why we have all this mischief that happens. Much worse than mischief and down the hierarchy of organizational toxicity. If somebody out there is reading and they are realizing, “I’m a manager. Maybe I’m even a CEO,” in addition to hiring you and me to help them, how would you suggest that they get started in thinking about how they might be able to do some things differently or how they might be able to get some training that would not necessarily fully be hiring brilliant consultants like you and me?
They obviously have a growth mindset. The number one thing I think is learn. Learn from people that you admire within your company. Ask them to mentor you. The difference between a mentor and a coach is that you don’t report to the mentor. The mentor is outside of that. Ask someone even outside the organization to mentor and help you with your leadership.
Read as much as you can. Listen to podcasts. Reach out to people that get it and that understand it. They may have even been through the transformation themselves. It is all about learning and keeping an open mind and then asking other people around you. “Tell me what I do that is effective and tell me the things that I do that I might want to shift to be more effective or to become a better leader,” and so they can start to tell you what your blind spots are and what you might need to work on so that you know your gaps.
Part of what you are pointing to is a word that you have used several times as we have been talking, which is curiosity. When we can get curious both about what’s happening over there and what’s happening in here then we have opportunities to move things forward. Much of what we do and what we say as you and I know, we are neuroscience geeks and we love things about how the brain works, is coming out of ancient programming in our brain. It’s happening unconsciously.
The more that we can pull that into our consciousness and get clear and, by definition, our blind spots are things that we cannot see about ourselves. It’s not like we can get side view mirrors and see installed and see them better. We have to ask other people for help. We have to decide, we are going to be genuinely curious about their answers. If we ask people for feedback and then we get mad at what they say, which is going to be our default. You say something about me that I don’t like, I’m not going to be happy about it. I’m going to want to shoot the messenger. In order to be able to ask that question, I’m going to change what I said.
I get to. It’s not that I have to. I get to be curious. If I forget and I get mad because we humans, we forget things all the time and then we operate out of programming then we get to clean it up. We get to say, “I know I asked you for feedback and then you told me something I did not like and then that made me grumpy. I’m sorry about that. I did not mean that. I am not holding it against you. I want to know more about that. Tell me more. Can you remember any time that I did that? What was the impact of that? How did that make you feel?” As you were saying, the more we can get present to the impact of the things that we do, the more we can get the juice, the impetus, the energy to make those transformations. When we can see the cost, you then get present to the benefit.
The giving and receiving feedback is important too. If you are inviting people to give you feedback and you say, “I need you to be honest with me,” and then you react that way, that’s okay but as long as you take it over then you won’t hear another peep from them or anyone else. When you are giving feedback, also remember that throwing a grenade out there and you were in this general statement saying, “You are difficult to work with. That’s it. That’s all I have for you.”
I don’t know how to fix that.
Let’s not throw grenades. Let’s be very specific about the behaviors that we need to change.
That’s a perfect place. I could talk to you forever. Let’s remember to stop throwing grenades, to get curious, to learn, to clean up our messes when we make mistakes. What other little gems do you want to throw into this mix as we begin to wrap up?
The next person that rubs you the wrong way or that makes you white-knuckle it or feel tense all over your body, remember the people don’t give what they don’t have. Have a little grace for them. Remember that you are not able to see into that iceberg. You don’t know what their beliefs, thoughts and feelings are that created this.
For you to judge the behavior, which is what we do is a little insane because we are only seeing the 10% but yet we are all insane in that way. That’s all we ever do. We judge ourselves too. Let’s have some grace for ourselves when we are not our best and then also let’s have some grace for others. The worst that you think they are, imagine that maybe they don’t have it and so they can’t give it. What we need to do is love them anyway and care for them even more than what the norm is because they need it more. The worse they are, the more they need.
Thank you, Carol. Thank you for your time, wisdom, grace and generosity. Personally, thank you for your friendship.
Thank you, Janine. Likewise, I love you. Anybody who needs the DEI and all of that done well. Janine, I can’t wait to get the good news.
Thank you. Anybody who needs the executive lions tamed, Carol. Remember, great leaders make great teams. See you next time.
- Leadership ‘N’ Soul
- Right Within
About Carol Marzouk
Taming the Lions in the Workplace:
*Law firm partners experiencing miscommunication and conflict at work?
*Blind spots and egos getting in the way?
*CEO trying to create a cohesive senior leadership team?
*Your company is merging and nobody is paying attention to the people side?
*Surgeons need better bedside manner? Work with someone you can’t stand?
We are here to help you transform behavior, relationships, and culture in the workplace.
Chances are that only 30% of your employees are fully engaged, so the other 70% are costing your company money and resources you could be spending on growing your company or developing your folks! On your senior leadership team, or among your managing partners, the disengagement numbers are probably much higher than you think. They are silently hoping for you to notice that they need different things than what you are currently providing.
If you are a top performing executive or a managing partner in a stressful environment where relationships and communication are broken among the leaders themselves and/or their staff, there is misalignment among locations or business units, or there is lack of empowerment and trust, Carol understands first-hand the frustration and stress that it can cause. Truth is… you can get your time, peace, and sanity back – All while staying on top of your game AND growing your business by 25-30% in a year – WITHOUT investing in any expensive marketing tactics, buying new leads, or hiring new salespeople.
Background: Bilingual (Spanish) Leadership Mindset Strategist, Service Excellence Expert and Corporate Relationship Coach, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Performance Consultant, Speaker, Trainer, and Facilitator
singing, drawing in charcoal, skydiving, and dancing