How to Build Incredible Collaborative Relationships at Work


Clint Murphy Deb Mashek

Clint Murphy  00:15

Welcome to the growth guide podcast. I’m your host Clint Murphy. Every week I talk to authors, subject matter experts and millionaire mentors to share the lessons that will help you and me be better, achieve more and become financially free.

Clint Murphy  00:37

Today, I had a great conversation with Deb Mashek, a social psychologist and experienced business advisor, professor and nonprofit executive. Deb is the author of Collabor(hate): how to build incredible collaborative relationships at work. Even if you’d rather work alone. Deb draws on her experiences to reveal everything you need to know, to make collaboration, less painful and more productive. Enjoy our conversation.

Clint Murphy  01:13

Good morning, Deb. Welcome to the podcast. Where I would love to start with you is for our listeners who don’t know you yet. Can you share a brief bio on yourself and how we ended up here today.

Deb Mashek  01:26

Good morning, Clint. Thank you so much for having me. Yes. My name is Deb Mashek and I am a social psychologist, I’m a close relationships researcher and I love talking about collaboration. So a little bit of background about where I came from. I’ll say I grew up as an academic. So I used to be a professor out at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. And there I was teaching classes on the psychology of close relationships, the psychology of collaboration, the psychology of community building, all of these fabulous topics. And then after the 2016 election happened here in the United States and campuses started melting down and I decided at that point to do the the unthinkable, which was to walk away from my tenured full professorship at this amazing institution. And at that point, I moved cross country as a single mom with an eight year old in tow to help launch a national nonprofit called Heterodox Academy, which was focused on increasing open inquiry and viewpoint diversity on college campuses. And then, a couple years ago, you know, found myself having that itch again to want to get back into the consulting world. I had been doing that as a side hustle for a lot of years. And at that point, launched Myco consulting, where I apply my subject matter expertise as a relationships person to this really challenging topic of how to collaborate well. So I help individuals and teams and organizations increase their collaborative capacity.

Clint Murphy  02:56

An interesting digression that jumped out at me there is being a professor, one of the easier ways to then have the idea of your job and your side hustle. Is that something that you see a lot of people in the academic world doing is having those side hustles as part of their routine?

Deb Mashek  03:21

Oh, it’s such an interesting question, because the professor life is very all consuming. So there are these three general parts. One is, of course, you’re in the classroom, and you’re teaching, but depending on what kind of institution you’re at, you’re also doing a heck of a lot of research, and scholarship. And then there’s this third part of service, which again, depending on the kind of institution you’re at, sometimes that service obligation is really, really high. And so there’s not a lot of time to be doing a side hustle in addition to all those other things. But what’s fascinating is relatively common for people to find ways of bringing their subject matter expertise out into the real world. So doing what we call community engaged scholarship, or partnering with, it might be partnering with a nonprofit agency to do something cool out in the real world or you know, for a lot of organizational psychologists, for instance, they’ll partner with actual corporations to collect data. So there are all these fascinating intersections to move away from the idea that this professor life is a zero sum game. So I see it a lot but not everybody does it.

Clint Murphy  04:28

Gotcha. And the Heterodox Academy is interesting. I was hearing a bit of a deep dive on it this weekend, when I was out for a walk and listening to a podcast and it came up and they were talking about it for a fair bit of time while they were talking about on campus and debate about what’s been happening across the US. So it was quite interesting to hear it. I think it was on the Tim Ferriss podcast that he was talking about that with his guests this weekend so that was interesting.

Deb Mashek  05:02

Yeah, he had Jonathan Hyde on recently. I love listening to Tim’s podcast, as well. And yeah, John was on it talking about cancel culture and all of those dynamics. So that was a fun episode.

Clint Murphy  05:16

Yeah, I found it pretty enjoyable. Yes. So let’s dive into collabor(hate). And so where we’ll start is, can you give a definition to the listeners of the traditional collaboration, or how you intend to use it in your book, which is collabor(hate), and then we can give a bit of an idea of why we’re titling it that of the issues we generally see, with collaboration, how it is versus how we think it should be?

Deb Mashek  05:50

Yeah, so the full title of the book is Collabor(hate) how to build incredible workplace relationships, even if you’d rather work alone, I might have screwed up the subtitle, I kept changing it around. Anyway, it’s something like that. And the idea is, I put the age in parentheses to hint that this is a bit of a whisper, that we need to give voice to the hard stuff about collaboration, if in fact, we have any hope of making this whole playing together thing, more enjoyable, more sustainable, more productive for more people. And so collaboration, what is it? Literally the word co-labor means to gather work, which is, you know, one of the things that we know about collaboration is it means we have multiple people coming together in service to some shared goal. I specified a little bit more by saying those other people also need to be known to us. So it’s not like oh, democracy, we’re all working toward the same general goal of having a democratic governance. I don’t think that’s collaboration, because we don’t actually know those other people, we can’t get everybody around the room, look eye to eye to understand their needs, their wants, their perspectives, and so on. And so my definition of collaboration, which I use in the book is two are more known individuals working together toward a specific shared goal. It doesn’t matter if it’s something that’s going to take us two weeks to do or two years to do. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about in person, hybrid, or fully remote teams. But that gives you a sense of the kind of together work that I’m talking about when I talk about collaboration.

Clint Murphy  07:23

And one of the elephants, obviously, in the room, then with the title is that traditionally, we have a lot of issues with collaboration, and that it doesn’t go the way we would otherwise intend. What are some of the more obvious and consistent negative outcomes of collaboration that you see in the work you do with relationships?

Deb Mashek  07:49

Yeah, so I’ll just share a quick start. So as part of writing the book, I conducted the workplace collaboration survey and reached out to 1100 people, these are all people in the United States all employed full time. And I asked them, hey, have you ever been in a collaboration that you would describe as oh, absolutely horrendous. So I tried to look for this really intense word like horrendous – have you been in a collaboration that was absolutely horrendous. And seven out of every 10 people said, yeah, I have, that describes me. That’s horrifying to me because, you know, and maybe we’ll talk about this a little bit later, too. But we know that when you’re in high quality, collaborative relationships, your job satisfaction is higher, your mental health is better, you actually have better attitudes toward collaboration in general. So it’s good to have high quality relationships, but a lot of us don’t. And another thing I love to do, you know, when I’m giving workshops or talks, is I asked people, so what three words best describe your thoughts and feelings about collaboration. And you see a lot of really positive things like, oh, it’s full of potential, it’s exciting, it’s innovative. But you also see negative words like it’s stressful, it’s filled full of tension, it’s a crapshoot, it’s gonna go off the rails, these sorts of things. So to your question about what are some of the typical ways that collaboration goes wrong? There are dozens and I do mean dozens. Some of the common ones are things where just people start pulling in different directions. So they don’t necessarily mean to.  It’s not like you have some bad actor who’s trying to tank the whole thing necessarily, but it takes a lot of work to keep everybody aligned and chugging in the right direction. So pulling in different directions is one. Dropped balls is another one where it’s you know, someone says they’re gonna do something and they don’t do it. And maybe it’s because they were just overwhelmed and didn’t have time to do it. Maybe they forgot, maybe they don’t have a system, maybe there’s bad accountability. Maybe what I thought I just tasked you with was not what you heard you were tasked with, maybe I don’t even have the authority to task you with anything. And so it just gets really complex because it’s like, who is supposed to do what, so you get a lot of dropped balls, and just missed, or opportunities, missed opportunities to be responsive to other people’s needs and interest. And so you can just have these collaborations that might have started out really strong. And then they kind of fizzle because my own perspectives or my own desired outcomes have shifted, and maybe I haven’t communicated them. And then you also, this is one of my big annoying ones are the zombie collaborations where, you know, people are like, hey, we should get together and do something great. What are we going to do, and there’s just meeting after meeting after meeting where it’s really feels like you’re having the same thing meeting over and over and over. So those are some of the common ways in the book, I list out. I think I ended up with 20, that I decided to spell out there that people can take a look at as well. And the interesting thing here is, most of us have encountered collaborations that have gone off the rails. And I love hearing those stories, because it gives me a deeper understanding of what we’re up against. So you know, if people have other examples, please reach out and share them, I would love to hear them.

Clint Murphy  11:22

Even as a parent reading the book, you’ll often use school projects as an example. And my oldest son now is in grade nine, and they’re doing a fair amount of school projects. And he’ll often talk about them and he’ll talk about one of the kids who’s not doing anything. And so all the other kids are doing their part. But there’s that kid who’s just there. And I often will find myself saying, well, have you had a conversation? Have you talked to the student, have you talk to the teacher, you know, sort of going through the list of things you raise that we need to do when we’re having our setup meeting. And then I’m thinking in my head, I never even had those conversations in college, I probably didn’t have them for the first 10 years of my working career. It wasn’t until I read books that talked about setting expectations, etc. And so having a book where you talk about collaboration, and you teach people how to do it properly, there’s immense value, not only for us in our working relationships, but for parents who are teaching their children how to do this while they’re in high school, while they’re in college. I thought there’s immense value there.

Deb Mashek  12:45

Yeah. Can I ask how, at what age so your kiddo is in ninth grade? Now, at what age do you remember group work starting.

Clint Murphy  12:54

So he started group work last year, grade eight. Now, I’m sure they probably did some group work in grade six and seven. But back then it was also a little bit less strenuous, because they still weren’t fully doing letter grades, it was sort of it was the emerging or the I still don’t understand how that system works, and which is possibly one of the problems for parents. And then they would get a letter grade at the end of the year. But then last year, in grade eight, they got letter grades, and they got letter grades on every assignment. So all of a sudden it was oh, if Timmy doesn’t show up with his portion of the assignment. I’m going to get a B. And so then the conversation was well, have you talked with him in this situation?

Deb Mashek  13:44

So many fascinating things to unpack there. One is this idea of where or if and how we train people to be good collaborators at school, in college and the workplace. One is about what’s at stake when collaboration goes great or poorly. So the example you’re giving is we’ve got a grade at stake. And that’s a big deal for a lot of these high schoolers, right? Because maybe their college admissions depends on it. And my kiddo started the first time I remember him complaining about group work was in third grade. And he was assigned to design this board game as a group. And he was with I think it was a group of four total. And there was one kiddo, little girl who was like, this is what we’re doing. You know, Rocco, you go do this, you go do that. So it was like, my way or the highway, total bossy boss and Rocco again, who was three aat the time, was just livid. He came home, crossed his arms, sat back and was like, I hate group work. This sucks. And I got it because the idea that there there wasn’t an opportunity for everybody to co create, to co labor. Instead it became this hierarchical thing where you lose your sense of agency and efficacy and control, which we know is part of what makes our sense of humanness thrive. This is part of what makes us feel really great. And so then, you know, fast forward to my world where I, you know, is teaching college students. I happen to be at a college that did do a lot of  helping the students think about how to be part of a group, because they were largely engineering and science students. And so they were doing a lot of group designed projects there. So, you know, definitely more education there than in a lot of places. But then, a while back a couple years ago, I conducted a study where I asked 500 college students from all over the United States, whether they were getting any training on how to do group work, the answer was no. So then I asked, as part of that workplace collaboration survey, I asked all of these people who are employed, so are you getting professional development on how to do collaborations, well about how to actually develop these healthy collaborative relationships? 30%.   Basically, one out of every three people said, No, I am getting none of that. Absolutely no professional development. There were another handful of people, I think, maybe 6% is the number that’s popping into my head, who said, oh yeah yeah, I’ve gotten a couple minutes of professional development. And I, you know, I recently joined TikTok, so I think that might mean, they’re watching tick tock videos as professional development great, and only a quarter of people, right? It’s like, what does it a couple of minutes of professional development even look like? So even if someone listens to this podcast, they’re gonna be above the average, how much training you’ve received on how to collaborate well, and it was only one out of every four people who said they’ve actually spent more than a couple hours, trying to understand how to build these healthy collaborative relationships. So there’s that, we’re not teaching it. But we also know that how collaborations go are critically important. So when we’re collaborating well, we have, you know, the parts move together better. So we get smoother timelines, that we’re actually getting clean baton passes between elements of a project, we know that people are happier, there’s less employee turnover, when I feel good about my workplace relationships, those things absolutely are relevant to bottom lines. So you know, when I can work on timeline, I’m also probably more likely to be working on budget if I don’t have to worry about employee turnover, I’m not incurring those tremendous rehiring and retraining costs, and certainly employee well being. So when I have healthier workplace collaborations, I’m less likely to be taking workplace stress home. Things like that, that really matter. So it’s critically important. And we’re not training people on how to do it well. It’s just to me one of the most bizarre constellations in terms of how we approach our work,

Clint Murphy  17:53

I think there are three things that jumped out at me that really inform your entire work career. And none of the three are taught, even to a large extent, even in a business program, emotional intelligence, project management, collaboration/teamwork. Those drive your entire career, yet no one sits down and says, hey, let’s teach you how to be a good team member. We’re gonna hand you projects for the next 25 years. But we’re not going to tell you how to have a look back schedule, or how to actually manage a project effectively, individually or as a member of a team. And we’re not going to teach you how to be emotionally intelligent, we’re just going to teach you hard skills, and then throw you into the world and let you screw it up for 10 years before you realize, hey, wait, I should probably work on my soft side.

Deb Mashek  18:50

And, Clint, if I can complicate that even a bit further, that’s not just those three areas that you identified, I think are fabulous insights. And they’re not just relevant to our professional success. Those same three things are life skills, like these are the things that help us be.

Clint Murphy  19:06

Oh, 100%.

Deb Mashek  19:08

Right, like whether it’s in our faith communities, or in the PTA, the public or the Parent Teacher Association, or how we pay our bills, or how we get out from underneath our mortgage, like all of those are also related. And so where do we expect people to get training in this or how are they expected to develop it? And I think one of the interesting things here is there’s like this assumption that because we’re social creatures, we’re either good at relationships, or we’re bad, we’re either emotionally intelligent, or we’re not and that there’s nothing you can do about it. So why invest in it and there’s almost this sense of taking your hands off the wheel and just letting fate dictate this outcome that’s so important across across the whole sphere of our lives.

Clint Murphy  19:53

And we’re definitely going to talk about that when we get to personalities, because so much of it is also unconsciously wired into us. And unless we do the work, and we’ll talk about that, because it’s interesting how I score on the Ocean Big Five relative to what a typical team, good team member would score. I’m possibly the worst team member you could have. But that’s if you don’t do the work and don’t understand how you need to change your personality to be a good team member. So we’re definitely going to get there and it’s incredible when we work through all of that. So for our listeners who don’t know where we’re going, I love matrices, and you have your very own, the Mashek matrix. And there are two matrices or two axes on it. One is relationships. One is endured interdependence. So can we start with the relationship side and talk a little bit about that and relationship quality? And you indicate there are six measures of a good relationship? What does that look like that?

Deb Mashek  21:03

Yeah, so the Mashek matrix. And I should say that we’ve created a nice little handout of this, and I’m happy to make available if we can throw it in the shownotes, because it is a fairly visual thing. And so that might be helpful, to your listeners. But you’re right, so there are these two dimensions. One is relationship quality, and the other is interdependence. And both of these features characterize the nature of our collaborative relationships. So relationship quality is your subjective sense of how good or bad your relationship is with any particular other collaborators. So a couple of important things there. It’s how you feel about working with that one person. It’s not and I want to emphasize that one person, because when it comes to assessing these things, I really drill down with like, you know, who’s your most preferred collaborator, who’s your least preferred collaborator? Are they fun to be around? Are they reliable? Can you count on them? Do you care about them, things like that. And then this other dimension is interdependence, which has to do with to what extent are my outcomes, or I should say our outcomes mutually dependent on each other? So I’m from Nebraska, so you know, fairly rural, I like a good farm metaphor. It’s as though my wagon is hitched to your ill mannered horses, whether I like it or not. So if you know if I have to suffer the consequences of you not doing things, so right, now I’m flashing back to your example of your ninth grader, who somebody else shows up hasn’t done the work. And your kiddo is getting the grade head. That’s an example of an interdependent structure and how that that teacher has chosen to organize this particular group work sort of thing. So you have these two dimensions. And what’s fascinating is the combination of how the or when those dimensions are working together, you get these kind of four caricatures or characterizations of what collaboration could look like. And when you have really high interdependence. So what I do impacts you, what you do impacts me, and you have high relationship quality. That’s where things are, you know, to do a little wordplay, that’s where things are collabor(great). Are each taking on our roles or responsibilities, we have total confidence that the other person is actually going to do what they say they’re going to do. We’re able to come together like that amazing. Do you remember the Voltron cartoon where it’s like the space lions come together and create this amazing Voltron, that’s collabor(great). But to get there, it’s kind of interesting, where the the pathway through the model to get up to collaborate is counterintuitive. And I don’t know how much you want me to go into that. I’m happy to dive into that. But I also don’t want to I know it’s so visual, and sometimes hard to talk about just verbally. So you tell me what would be an interesting next step for you?

Clint Murphy  23:55

Oh, no, we’re definitely gonna go there. But we’ll work our way through the relationship section into interdependence. And then once we’ve got all the pieces, then we could say, hey, how do we assess where we are? And where we want to go? And what’s that path. And so relationships is a good place to start. But before we even dive into it, something that I picked up when I was reading it, and that I even heard you say there that I’d love you to talk about is the relationship side is the feeling side of the collaboration. And the interdependence is the behavior side, so that we have the feelings and the behaviors. Could you expand a little bit on that? Because when we get to how do we improve these areas of the matrix? One of them is how do we adjust the feelings? The other is how do we adjust the behaviors? So just want to have the listeners piqued a little on how that works?

Deb Mashek  24:59

Yeah, So this idea of relationship quality is about how you feel about that other person. So your subjective sense. And you know, what’s involved? There are things like, Are they trustworthy? Are you gaining perspectives and insights? And having that sense of we call it self expansion as a result of the relationship? Are you feeling like there’s a We there, as opposed to a You and an I? So some sense of mutuality, or we call it we-ness, and those are all very feeling oriented. So do you like this relationship? Do I enjoy being in relationship with you? And then on the interdependent side, it’s really about the doing and how do we move work from we shouldn’t be doing this thing to actually getting it done? How do we structure the work? How do we measure it? How do we reward it? How much time are we spending engaged with this other person? Under what domains do they have an influence over us? So those are consequences piece.

Clint Murphy  26:03

And so if we start on relationships, and we start going through it, this one’s a bit long, a bit of a longer?

Deb Mashek  26:11

Can I just say, really quick, that dimension is relationship quality, the whole matrix is about relationship. So if you want to start off on that relationship quality,

Clint Murphy  26:19

Yes, good. On the relationship quality axis, this is a bit of a longer question that we’ll get into is part of what we need to understand is, how others are wired, and how we are wired into things. You talk about our inherent personality, which would obviously include their inherent personality, though we can’t adjust them, we can only adjust us. And then understanding attachment and anxiety and avoidance. And when we look at the personality side, the personality that you talk about the personality assessment is the Big Five personality assessment. And it has the mnemonic ocean. And I thought that was very interesting, because it indicates for a team to be effective, here’s usually where you would see someone scoring in traits on that mnemonic. And as an example, I’m high in neuroticism, moderately low in agreeableness, and low in conscientiousness, which seemed like the exact opposite of a good team member. So I thought could we talk a little bit about the Big Five, and which ties to the ocean, and what a good team member looks like. And then how you can adjust your behaviors, if you are low in those areas. And then we can jump into the attachment anxiety and avoidance.

Deb Mashek  27:48

Sure. So personality, you know, an important caveat here is that while personality is a predisposition, it’s not destiny. And so that’s important, because that’s, you know, I don’t want anyone to ever feel like, oh, I’m doomed, because this is my personality. Of course, it’s your personality. And there’s value and strength to that in different situations. In the context of collaborations, especially when you have these really complex tasks. The organizational researchers are always asking the question, so like, how do you design a team? How do you optimize what a team is able to do? And some of that work suggests that in these really complex tasks, teams do particularly well, when you have a high average sense on the team of agreeableness, of openness and conscientiousness. So great, that doesn’t mean other teams necessarily suck. It’s all about you know, averages and trying to predict some future outcome. So statistically, we’re not saying there’s any sense of like, oh, you’re doomed if you’re not these things. So those are the caveats. So the ocean acronym stands for openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. I personally don’t love that word neuroticism. So a lot of people have started talking about it more is about emotional stability. So perhaps a bit more of a positive frame. They’re the opposite of emotional stability. So get think about that constellation of characteristics. And somebody who is high in conscientiousness, for example, they’re going to be tracking those, those open draw bridges where they said they were going to do something, they’re gonna do it. Or they said that y’all, I’ll take the first pass through the document, they’re actually going to follow through on that and do a good job on it. And, you know, dot the i’s, cross the T’s, those sorts of things. They’re likely going to do it by when they said they’re going to do it, because otherwise it’s going to be agitating to them. And those are good behaviors within the context of a collaboration high follow through, high accountability. And agreeableness, it doesn’t mean like, oh, I agree with everything. It means I’m open to hearing other ideas, other perspectives there, those individuals are going to be less likely to kind of be in that my way or the highway rigidity that can create barriers for other people in that collaboration. So those are just things that are helpful in some situations. But again, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed if you’re not doing those things. And, or rather, if you’re not, if those are not your predispositions, there are still things that you can do. They just might be more effortful for you.

Clint Murphy  30:27

And that’s a key right there, they might be more effortful, and new, you can change certain things, in certain situations, but but the first key is, knowing well, where am I on this. And to your point, these not only inform our work lives, these inform our personal lives, with our partner with our children, with our family, with our friends. And so understanding where am I in this personality trait? And where do I want to show up in these relationships, and then I can make a conscious effort to change my behavior in certain situations, if that makes sense.

Clint Murphy  31:10

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Deb Mashek  31:30

Yeah, so you know, take conscientiousness, for example, I have a friend who regularly will do things like oh, I’m taking the the mail out to the mailbox, you know, we’ll shove it in his bag. And then by the time he gets out to the mailbox, it’s just kind of forgotten about it. And so the mail won’t get mailed for months, because I didn’t I didn’t run into it again, or things like that. So in his case, it’s also just, you know, high distractibility. It’s not saying, oh, you can’t be that person, but it’s like, well, what are the consequences for other people, for your projects for the business? For you, your professional well being? Are you okay with those? Or are you at a point where you’d like to create some systems to help knowing that this is how your default is that this is how you move through the world? Are there some systems that you would like to put in place that could help with that accountability, with the ability to do the follow through things like that? So yeah, so it’s a question of, are the impacts such that they warrant other, more intentional strategies for mitigating the potential negative consequences in the workplace and beyond?

Clint Murphy  32:36

It’s interesting with the friend that you were using, as an example, on conscientiousness, you mentioned distractibility. One of the things I’ve noticed is, I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was a bit older, one of my youngest, or my youngest son has also been diagnosed with the same issue. And on a conscientiousness perspective, even just yesterday, I said to my wife, like, wow, like, there’s an ice cream wrapper, they’re everywhere. Like, he just leaves them laying around. And she’s like, yeah, he gets that from you. And she like points over at like my empty water cup and a bottle of Diet Coke. He’s just like you and I was like, oh, well, I didn’t notice I did that. But I’ve noticed he did it. And so it’s what systems can you put in place is such a huge one. Because to make sure that in the workplace, I’m super systems oriented. And what I’m realizing is I need to take those systems that I had in the workplace and bring them into my regular life, so that I can operate in the day to day world the same way I do at work, which is much more system oriented. So that’s a great example of how you can change that behavior.

Deb Mashek  33:50

And the other thing you’re bringing up there is how sometimes it’s easier to see other people’s behaviors than to own our own. And I had one recently where I was working with a designer on one of the handouts and and I was like, did this get done she’s like, you didn’t send me over the stuff that you needed so no, it didn’t get done and I thought oh my gosh, I even said that was the worst workflow I’ve ever had. I’m so sorry. And she was flexible with it. But if she had done that to me and just not sent something over I would have been oh, come on, you know, inside I would have had the first reaction so like, of course, you have to close the communication loop. And it gives you intellectual humility, I think or just general humility to be like, yeah, of course we’re all going to drop balls. And so when we see something in that somebody else that perhaps ruffled our feathers a little bit to still pause and ask, you know, what are the stories I’m telling myself there? What have I actually done to be part of the dynamic at play? And then in your example, with the the water bottles and the cokes like, okay, what can I bring in here from work? Maybe it’s I set an alarm for six o’clock to do a three minute sweep of the house and pick up the wrappers and the bottles, like I perhaps do at the end of my day where I set a three minute timer to figure out what do I need to get done tomorrow. So I really liked that idea of what can I port over from one sphere of my life into another, to help me really show up as the kind of person that I want to show up as for my partner or for my kids, for my co workers.

Clint Murphy  35:26

Yes and so let’s talk about how to improve relationship quality. What I loved was that when it came to improving relationship quality, and when it came to improving interdependence, you provided a lot of empirical ways that we’re able to do so. And so when we look at relationship quality, you identified nine now, let’s not go through all nine, we probably don’t have enough time to do that.

Clint Murphy  35:58

Yeah, that would be a two hour conversation in and of itself. But if there are three to four that you think these are the ones readers need to really hone in on, what would you suggest are the top three to four ways that we can focus in to improve our relationship quality?

Deb Mashek  36:16

Yeah, so the ones it’s interesting because some of them are going to be more effortful than others. And there’s a caveat here of no one of these is going to be relevant across all situations. So you know, one of the things that happen in chapter five is that Do It Yourself workshop where there’s, you know, a series of questions and activities that we can take that you can take yourself through and your team through to figure out kind of which interventions are going to make the most sense for your situation. So that caveat on the table, I’ll share a couple of my personal favorites. One is, I call it bring the doughnuts, which you don’t really have to bring the doughnuts though, I gotta say, I really love donuts. So if you are working with me, it’s a-okay to bring the doughnuts. But the idea here is activating communal norms. So all relationships exist on this continuum, from this very transactional tit for tat way of being which we call exchange relationships, where I do something for you, you do something for me, you do it in short order, it needs to be whatever that reciprocal act is, needs to be on par with what my input was. And you know, the classic ones here are things like, if I give the bus driver bus token, I get a ride across town, or if I go to the store, and you know, buy this dress, or want this dress, they let me walk out of the store with it if I’ve given him money, so it’s very transactional. The other end of that continuum is called communal norms. This is where, you know, I contribute for the sake of improving somebody else’s world, improving their well being, I’m not tracking. Oh, I did this today, you have to do it tomorrow. So going back to the house example, I did all the dishes. Today, it’s your turn to do the dishes, or I did the dishes two days in a row, you owe me to do the dishes, that those are more of those transactional exchange orientations and a communal relationship. It’s more like, you know what, you’re totally swamped at work, I’m going to do the dishes, because it’s a nice thing to do, I believe that our respective inputs and outputs over time are going to even out. The same thing is true in the workplace, where you don’t necessarily want to be, you know, the person who’s like, I’m not going to send the email this time you have to send it because I sent it last time, but that just sounds kind of gross. And like, okay, so it’s all you know, this back and forth is tracking. When we activate communal norms and said, we’re doing these just nice things for other people for the sake of doing them. So it might be literally bringing the donuts to the office or you’ve got an office mate, who always feel so sheepish when she pushes back her chair and it makes a squeak because there’s a squeaky wheel and you just say, you know, I’m gonna bring in the WD 40. And, and grease that for her like no big deal, I’ll just take care of it. I’ll just do this small thing. Or you’re walking to, you know, back to the kitchen area. And you notice your coworker has a pile or let’s not do a pile, let’s just say they have a coffee cup and you say I’m gonna go grab myself another cup of coffee, can I grab you one. Just these nice little things we do to make other people’s worlds easier. Those are activating communal norms. And it’s one of the ways that we can increase relationship quality. So that’s one. Let me ask was there another one that you that stood out for you is like, oh, I want to talk about that one.

Clint Murphy  39:35

I’ll pull up my notes for that. And while I do, do you see a little bit of an element of as you were talking about that what jumped into my mind a little was the transactional seems to have a little bit of a scarcity mindset, whereas the communal norms seem to be a bit more of an abundant mindset, am I missing something on that? Or is there some alignment there?

Deb Mashek  40:04

I have not thought about it in those terms. But I absolutely love it because the idea of, you know, more exchange where I can’t do extra for you, because then it’s going to hurt me, as opposed to more of a communal like, Hhy, we’re all just pinching into this big pot of possibilities. And it’s going to benefit all of us in the long run. My all time favorite fable is the story of Stone Soup, where you have these weary travelers who happen upon this village, but the village has been experiencing, you know, a drought and hardship and the weary travelers are asking for food. And all of the villages are saying no, no, no, we don’t have any food. We don’t have any food. Nope, sorry, none here, none here. But then the one of the so there’s a bit of a charlatan there who you know, is also going to be kind of tricking the villagers, which I don’t love. But the spirit of it where he says, you know what, I have this recipe. And it’s really, really easy. All we need is a great big pot of water and a single stone, does someone just have a pot of water that they can bring out to the village and one of the villagers is like, yeah, I have a pot and I have water, I could do this. And then they throw the stone in and the stone starts boiling. And the weary traveler is saying, o, this is going to be so good. But you know what this soup is even better. If someone has just a like two carrots to throw in, like the carrots make the soup really, really good. And sure enough, somebody’s able to volunteer a couple carrots. And then oh, you know, if anyone had like one potato to put in here, and you get the story. So eventually, everybody in the village is contributing the one thing they can contribute without putting themselves out. And as a result, you co create this amazing soup that there’s plenty for everybody. It’s a feast, it’s way more delicious than any one of them could have made on their own with their own ingredients. And that metaphor, I just think is brilliant. But it’s you know, there’s something about how do we activate that willingness to, to be in that abundance mindset to be willing to just do the right thing for the communal good knowing that in the long run, we’re all benefiting from that.

Clint Murphy  42:10

I love that. That’s a wonderful example. I pulled up my notes, and a couple of the ones that really stood out to me, as a little bit different were the idea of avoiding telling ourselves stories, and seeking novelty and challenge as part of the relationship quality.

Deb Mashek  42:32

Yeah, those are great ones. So that avoiding stories thing. We are our human minds are incredible storytelling machines. Where are we? You know, we see, let’s go back to your example. We see that wrapper, the ice cream sitting on the counter, there are all sorts of things we could jump to potentially, I could go to my son doesn’t care. Yeah, am I saying this is what you did. So I’m gonna say it’s me. And I’m gonna go as you know, hyperbolic as I can. My son doesn’t care about our house and is destroying the house. And, you know, that’s what this is showing. Or it could be, it sounds like your wife did, oh, he’s just being distracted, you know, no big deal. Or it could be, wow, he’s eating so much ice cream. He doesn’t care about the finances of the house or something like how wasteful or like there are all sorts of just from one silly wrapper sitting on the counter. The same thing is true in the workplace where somebody shows up 15 minutes late to the meeting. Is that because they’re irresponsible? Is that the story I tell myself? Is it because they don’t give a damn about our collaboration or this particular meeting? And so they’re blowing us off? Or is it maybe something must have happened on the way to work today. And I should be extra concerned about this person, because they might be in a real state of mind for having dealt with traffic or having habits that kid at home or something like that, but where we go to in our storytelling, and forms our reactions to other people, but also informs how we start interacting with them. And that can tank or help our relationship quality. So in the example of the colleague who, you know, comes late to work, if I jump straight to like, oh, this person is so irresponsible. What does that mean for how I’m going to treat them later in the day? And if I start being a little snarky, or eye rolling at them, they’re gonna remember that then the next day and we’re starting to put a wedge of distance between us, as opposed to what if I turned to them after the meeting and said, hey, I noticed you were late. What’s going on? Is everything okay at home, what I just did there was opened up a window for connection instead of distance. And that person maybe, you know, is now going to share something about their day or their life that will give me insight into who they are and how they operate in the world.

Clint Murphy  44:54

And that inner voice that you talk about, the assumption that we jump to with others, one of the important things, which is why I love this one is that we also do that to ourselves. And so the relationship that we have with ourselves and the story we tell ourselves about ourselves can often inhibit the quality of our relationships, but also just the quality of our performance in our daily lives. So learning how to listen for, audit, question, and turn off that inner voice is one of the more powerful things I think most of us can do in our daily lives.

Deb Mashek  45:35

Yeah, and this idea that there are some facts out there in the world, there are some fictions. And then, you know, again, we’re all humans that this idea that we can fictionalized facts, or we can factionalized fiction, were just stating things as though they’re known when really they’re not known. And what are the implications of that or stating things as uncertain when they are certain and creating more ambiguity in our own minds and in the minds of others, that there are downstream consequences to that? You make a really good point.

Clint Murphy  46:09

And so the last one, I mean, would be the taking on the novelty and the challenge. How does that make the relationship quality better?

Deb Mashek  46:20

Yeah, so this comes straight from psychological theory, there’s this model called the self expansion model, which says that as humans, we’re all motivated to become more self actualized, to become better able to achieve the things that we want to achieve in the world. And that one way we do that is by entering into these relationships, where we take on new perspectives, new identities, new resources, and when we tackle projects, or when we tackle the world and take on challenges, to take on new challenges, we’re actually able to increase our understanding of ourselves as somebody who is capable, who’s agentic, it’s exciting, we see the world in a new way, once we are able to puzzle through that challenge and come up with a viable solution. It’s fun work. And when we do that in connection with another person, or other people, we attribute some of that growth of self, that self expansion, we attribute it to that relationship, partner, that other person, they’re helping bring that to us. And so tackling these novel, and these challenging things that work are a way of increasing our relationship quality with our collaborators.

Clint Murphy  47:38

And so what are some interesting ways we can do that when we’re part of a project team?

Deb Mashek  47:44

It might be, you know, let’s go into the brainstorming huddle and see if we can come up, you know, liberally do brainstorming, see if we can come up with another solution. Another solution? How might we, what else? What else? What else? And then take the most outlandish ideas like, Oo, what would that look like? Could we actually do it? Do we want to do it? So one of the things is to stop just engaging in the rote behaviors of this is the way we’ve always done it. So how do we open up our work, our conversations to other possibilities? Or can we be very honest with others on the team with ourselves of this is the challenge I’m up against, or this is the challenge we’re up against? Or these are the real numbers we’re dealing with?  What are we going to do here, and treating those obstacles as challenges to be overcome, as opposed to evidence of somebody’s deficiency, or overall going down with the ship, you know, that sort of thing. It’s like it’s a problem to be solved. And the framing that we use there is part of what invites that sense of tackling a challenge together. And it opens up the kind of the heart and the mind to possibility as opposed to danger and pitfalls

Clint Murphy  48:55

And so now let’s flip it. So we spent some time on the relationship quality axis. Now we’re going to go to the interdependence axis. And I love that you started with a bit of math on this one, you talked about this concept of outcome equals rewards, minus costs. What does that look like? And what does that mean for our collaboration?

Deb Mashek  49:21

So interdependence theory, another big model in close relationships, talks about it’s a very, it’s like optimizing our individual outcomes approach where we want to make sure that we’re getting good things from the world and from our relationships. And so we want to maximize our outcomes and an outcomes like you said, it’s just that difference between the cost and the benefits that are coming in those outcomes. So back to that whole idea of interdependence, when my outcomes are dependent on your actions, and your outcomes are are dependent on my actions, we are interdependent that were you know, there’s there’s a dynamic there that we’re we’re yoked in some way, as is often the case in the workplace when we’re on a team, and interdependent relationships are kind of these three buckets of influence of other people’s outcomes, we can influence other people’s outcomes with a lot of frequency. So gosh, every single day, I have to interact with you, or like, oh, I interact with this person, like once a year, or to organize the conference or something like that. So there’s the frequency of influence of outcomes. And then there’s the diversity of influence of outcomes. So if we say you, and I publish a newsletter together, and we do it once a week, which is pretty frequent. But other than the newsletter, you know, we’re not doing much together. So like, there’s no real opportunity for you to influence a my social network at work, or my income, my personnel review or something like that. So there’s just it’s a very contained kind of influence. That would be something that’s lower on interdependence. And then there’s strength of influence. So if you know you have a, maybe we’re interacting regularly. And I might feel maybe a little annoyed, but it’s like small annoyance, as opposed to, oh, my gosh, my day is miserable because of you, which would be a really strong influence. So you’ve got those three different moments of frequency, diversity and strength of how we’re influencing each other’s outcomes.

Clint Murphy  51:36

Okay, so we’ll dive into each of those before we get there. If we go back to what you were talking about, on the outcomes, rewards costs, it reminds me a little bit of the Charlie Munger quote that, “if you show me the incentives, I’ll show you the outcomes.” And part of what that brings up is, that isn’t the issue so much, whether I get more incentive, or you do, but you talk about this concept of the ratio of effort to reward. And so what does that ratio look like? Why is that ratio important? And then what happens when that ratio starts to come out of alignment?

Deb Mashek  52:22

Yeah, so the theoretical model there is called equity theory. And it again comes out of the relationship literature. And let’s start with the situation where there are two of us working on a team together, the idea is that we don’t have to necessarily be putting in equal work to be happy. So it’s not that if I go back to the board game example of my kiddo, it’s not that everybody had to be doing perfectly equal work, in order to be happy with that collaboration. Instead, when we feel satisfied in those collaborations in those relationships is when the ratio of effort to outcomes is balanced. So to put numbers on this, say, you and I are doing 50/50 on the work, and we’re gonna get 50/50 on the benefits. So that’s great. So the ratio of your contributions, oh shoot, which ones in the numerator, I don’t have it in front of me, do you have it?

Clint Murphy  53:20

No, I don’t have it in front of me either.

Deb Mashek  53:24

That’s okay. I think in my mind, I might be flipping things. But um, the ratio of outcomes to contributions for you is 50 over 50, that equals one, and for me, it’s 50 over 50, that equals one, so our two ratios match up, that’s good. But what if I am busting my butt on this thing, like, let’s imagine you’re my boss, and I am totally busting my butt on this. I’m working day and night on it. And you’re doing next to nothing on say, a report that we’re writing together. Because you know, you’ve got a million other reports, you’re distracted. You know, just you don’t have hardly any free minutes to actually work on this report, but it’s taking up my whole world. So I’m putting in 100% of the work, you’re putting in zero. But when that report goes out the door, your name is listed as the first author on it, you’re the one who’s going to be standing up in front of the executive team talking about all of our amazing findings, as though you had actually done the report and I’m going to get none of that limelight, none of that positive attention. There the ratios are totally, totally out of whack. Where I’m putting in 100% effort getting, let’s call it 1 attention or one of the positive outcomes, you’re putting in 1 effort but getting you know, 99% of those outcomes, those ratios are flipped. That creates an unequitable relationship. I am feeling very under benefited. And when I feel under benefited, I’m going to get really protective of my time, I’m going to start tracking those inputs and outputs more, I’m gonna be less comfortable moving into that communal space. And so I’m gonna go into that more exchange, like, no, seriously, I’m not spending another weekend working on this thing. which would probably be really good boundary setting. And what’s interesting is, we’re generally also uncomfortable being over benefited, which is the case. Here, my example of the supervisor, that’s generally an uncomfortable place to be because none of us want to, well I shouldn’t say none of us, most of us don’t want to feel like takers. You know, there are some people who are very, you know, gamey. It’s all about maximizing their benefits at all, at all costs to others. But most people are not like that. So that’s what equity theory is. And so the idea is, how can we be mindful of when our inputs or outputs and those of others are falling out of whack. Or when we start to feel I should say, when we start to feel that they’re falling out of whack. And what can we do about it? And you know, one of the cool data points I share in the book is there’s this classic study of these were married couples. So now we’re going back to the close relationships world, where the researchers asked in this case, they were all male, female, married couples, they asked each person husbands and wives, what percentage of the household chores do you do? And then they added up, what the husband said and what the wife said. And in the vast majority of cases, the proportion exceeded 100%. This is important, because just because we’re feeling over benefited or under benefited, doesn’t necessarily mean we are.  It could just mean that what we have contributed is overly salient to us compared to what other people contributed. Because we just we weren’t there for their work. We weren’t there, your kiddo might have left the wrappers on the counter last night as well. And you didn’t notice that your wife went and picked them all up.  Yeah. So like, just sometimes it’s not visible to us what other people have done for us. And so by just flashing our brights a little bit and say, you know, I don’t know if I’m reading the whole situation, right. But I’m feeling like I keep having to do a lot of this work on this project, can we sit down and take a look at how are each contributing and what our outcomes are?

Clint Murphy  57:18

And then so once we move into the actual three dials, you mentioned frequency, diversity, strength, let’s start with frequency. If we want to turn that dial, up or down? What are we going to do on the frequency dial to strengthen or reduce the interdependence?

Deb Mashek  57:44

So on the frequency dial, are we going to go through all of these? Just because I’m thinking it might be fairly long too.

Clint Murphy  57:54

What do you think the best way to go through or tackle the dials and how we want to move them? Where might it be better to look at that, as we talked about when we tried to move our way through the matrix, how we can use the dials to move our way through the matrix.

Deb Mashek  58:12

I like the idea of let’s talk about at least one way of changing each of these dials at a frequency, diversity and strength, but maybe not go through all 11. Just so we don’t get to listy. And then one of the things that I think is super important at this point is to talk about because it does tie into this how to move through the matrix that when we talk about the inter dependence piece, sometimes you want to increase interdependence. And sometimes you want to decrease interdependence. So in contrast, when we talked about relationship quality, where you pretty much always want to improve relationship quality with interdependency, you sometimes want to increase it sometimes wanted to decrease it. So that’s just a caveat, as we head into that conversation about how each of those three dials.

Clint Murphy  59:00

So maybe let’s share one way we can move the dial up or down. And then it seemed on the strength dial, there was a bit more to talk about there around the concept of how we can adjust how the work is structured, versus how its measured and rewarded. So maybe we talk about that aspect.

Deb Mashek  59:26

Okay, that sounds good. So on the frequency one, you know, one of the basic ones is just changing how much formal or informal time that you’re spending with the other person. So it really thinks like, how much meeting time do you really need? Maybe you need more, maybe you need less? How much informal time. So do you have someone who is stopping by your desk, you know, 20 times a day for a quick chat? Do you need to put up some barriers there, some boundaries, to make it a little clearer like you actually do have other things you have to have your head down on so please stop interrupting. So you can flex those that formal and informal time is just one example on the frequency dial.

Clint Murphy  1:00:08

And on that. So to be clear for people you mentioned formal versus informal. So the formal may look like our one to one meetings, project meetings, scheduled formalized time that we have flex that up or down. Whereas the informal is a bit more off the side of your desk or or lunch or coffee breaks,

Deb Mashek  1:00:34

Or even things like how many different emails are you sending me about different things that then I have to spend time on where it because it’s like, if I’ve got, if I’m sending you 20 emails, each with a different subject line about a different thing, like I now have to spend time working on that. So that would be another. In my mind, it’s another version of informal time because you’re requesting my headspace.

Clint Murphy  1:00:59

That makes sense. And then one of the boundaries we can flex for that is how responsive do we need to be?

Deb Mashek  1:01:06

Yeah, or, okay, I’m giving up the next 30 minutes, and I’ll get through as many of your emails as I can, the others are going to have to wait is, you know, one of the ways to signal like, I’m not going to be out, busting my butt to get through every single thing that you put on my plate here. You know, especially with a co worker, peer for that can get really quite heavy and dominate our space.

Clint Murphy  1:01:29

Perfect. Okay.

Deb Mashek  1:01:31

So that’s frequency, diversity of task or the diversity of influence. So the idea here is to think about how many different things are we doing together.  In a lot of workplaces, you don’t actually have too much opportunity to flex this, you’re going to, perhaps be on these teams for this amount of time, take it or leave it sort of thing. But there are sometimes opportunities to say, you know, can we do this other thing together like this project we so well? Could we expand that and do it over in this other space or with these other clients, things like that. So taking on more or less responsibility together as a way of changing that diversity dial? And then strength, I know, you mentioned that this one’s more complex. So where do you think would be useful to start here on the strength conversation,

Clint Murphy  1:02:20

I think strength may be useful to break out this idea of work structure, versus measurement and reward and how we might flex those.

Deb Mashek  1:02:32

Yeah. So work structure, I think is just fascinating. So there are these different models. So for instance, there’s sequential workflows, where imagine you and I are on a project team, I need to get parts A, B, and C done. And then there’s this really clean baton pass over to you. And you are going to do parts C and D. And then it comes back to me for E and F. And it’s, it’s really clear, like I need to do this, you need to do that. So that’s a sequential workflow. Then there are these pooled workflows where we don’t really know what needs to happen in total, or it’s not like predetermined. This is more of a an agile, you know, agile strategy where we all need to be putting our pieces in. What we’re going to be doing tomorrow is not necessarily known yet, we got to see how today goes. And that’s a more interdependent way of contributing. So which, in your world, what are the models of how work tends to be structured, just maybe we could grab onto one of those.

Clint Murphy  1:03:32

That’s super interesting, because it depends on what type of work it is. So for example, as a cheque signer, you have the sequential, we get an invoice, it goes into the system, invoice gets approved, invoice was approved, check gets cut, sign the check. So very sequential. And then you have a lot of projects where we’re all doing our piece. And we come together and say, hey, are we ready to launch? So I probably hit the box on all three types that you mentioned in the book. I think for the average person, there’s probably much more sequential in their workplace.

Deb Mashek  1:04:16

Yeah. And I’m realizing I totally mislabeled one of those. So the one where we kind of divide and conquer and all come back and drop it in, that’s more of the pooled, and then the one that’s more reciprocal where there are a lot of back and forth interdependencies and it’s moving around, that’s reciprocal. So I flipped one of the words there, so I apologize for that. But yeah, so the idea that we’re moving back and forth between these different ones, for different projects for different challenges in terms of how those connect to interdependence. Lower on interdependence are things like the divide and conquer so this happens a lot and like we see it a lot in business school projects, where it’s like, oh, there’s you know, we need case study. On this case study, we need someone to talk about the history, someone talk about the challenges. And so everyone kind of goes off into their own corners, works on their thing, and then comes together and it’s like, oh, we now have a Frankenstein presentation we’re going to do, that’s going to be the whole. So that’s low interdependence. And then higher interdependence is a step up from there, where you do have that sequential piece, and then the highest interdependence is that reciprocal. So what you do today influences me tomorrow. And what I’m doing right now is going to have an impact on you. But it’s also more dynamic, and perhaps leads to even more, you know, more amazing projects, more amazing outcomes.

Clint Murphy  1:05:34

And so here’s an interesting one, how do we help people shift from that divide and conquer approach to that collaborative approach? And maybe that is part of moving from collabor(hate) to collabor(great)?

Deb Mashek  1:05:52

Yeah. So a lot of intentions. So this is the hard thing about collaboration is there’s also these assumptions that, oh, collaboration makes work easier. I would say that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Because to do collaboration well, you really need to invest in those relationships, you need to invest in conversations about how are we going to structure that work? You need to create these opportunities to come together and say, wait, what really are we trying to do? What are your needs and wants? What are your available resources here? And so that one of the ways we shift it is by saying, we want to be more collaborative, and we want to create space for those conversations to happen. And not just in word only. It’s not just saying, oh, there’ll be more collaborative, but we’re actually creating the culture of the workplace in a way to allow those shifts to happen, which takes sometimes more time, more training, more resources.

Clint Murphy  1:06:45

And that is only one part of the interdependent strength dial is how we structure it. The other half is how we reward and measure and reward the work that’s being done. What does that look like?

Deb Mashek  1:07:04

Yeah, so this is another one of those things where we, you know, a lot of workplaces say, we sink or swim as a team, or we’re one organization, one mission, one vision. And that all sounds really good. But then you look at how the work is actually structured, or, you know, structured, measured and rewarded. And it’s all about individual KPIs. It’s all or it’s all about, like, what are you doing, or you’re gonna get the raise, or you’re gonna get the award, things like that, which right away creates a competitive space. And there are different ways of doing it. So you can I think I give the example in the book of a fundraising team where they might decide like, let’s try to raise, you know, maybe $10 million for the organization, and maybe you have a team of five. And do you set the goal as let’s have the team raise $10 million? Or do you say each of the five of you needs to raise $2 million dollars. So both of those approaches, you’re gonna get to the 10 million. And if you want more interdependency organized around those, those shared goals, or the team level goals, as opposed to the individual level goals, if you want less interdependence, organize around the individual goals, as opposed to the team goals. Now, whatever you organize around, lining that up with how you actually reward the outcomes, the goals, so if I’ve organized around, say, the team goal, and I said, like, as a team we’re going to raise $10 million dollars, but then on the little, you know, the dashboard, it’s all about what has Clint done? What has Doug done? What has Jim done, and it’s all focused on the individual performance, then what you’re telling your people is actually, you know, we might say that we need the team to do this thing. But really, what we need is for individuals to be amazing performers, and only them. And so there’s a bit of a misalignment and how we’ve structured the work and how we’re measuring the work. Likewise, if you are telling people like, oh, it’s all about what you do, and we don’t really care about the rest of the team, it’s all about your individual performance. But then the only thing you celebrate is what the group accomplished. Together, that’s also a misalignment. So you want alignment, and you want to be clear in your head. And I think probably also in your communications, about what level you’re measuring at and why.

Clint Murphy  1:09:26

Which ties to our earlier conversation about aligning our incentives with the desired outcome and making sure that those make sense and the ratios tie, which was the equity theory we talked about. And so now, let’s say.

Deb Mashek  1:09:44

Can I just chime in really quick and say too something that’s not in the book is this idea of if you want to create a collaborative culture, you kind of need these five things. First of all, you need to make collaboration possible. You need to make collaboration easy. You need to make collaboration normative, and you need to make it rewarding, which gets to the incentive thing. And then sometimes if that’s not working, you can make it required. But this idea of, if you’re actually not rewarding collaboration, you’re not going to see it. So I know you’re a parent, I’m a parent. Do you have any pets? Yes, yes. Okay, so any pet owner, any parent, any teacher will tell you that what gets rewarded, gets repeated. So if you haven’t aligned those rewards, with the behaviors, with the dispositions with the habits of heart and minds that you actually want to see, then big surprise, you’re not actually going to get those in any sort of long lived integrated way.

Clint Murphy  1:10:40

Slight digression on this one, because it’s an interesting one. Because I always have this conversation with my wife, because she has a model where she grew up as a very responsible individual parents had emigrated to Canada, ran a restaurant, and were there 12 hours a day, six days a week. So she had to in some extend, raise herself, and so very responsible from a very young age, so has this idea that our boys should just automatically be responsible. And I understand it, I applaud it. And I’m 100% certain that we’re not running a restaurant 12 hours a day, we’re at home. And so they’ve never had this idea that they have to be responsible for their lives. And so the only way they will be is there a carrot? Or is there a stick? Not a literal stick in this example, but is there a you take away the iPad? Are you incenting or disincenting the behaviors you want? And do they even know what those behaviors are? Have we clearly outline these are the 10 things we expect you to do in the house. And here’s what happens when you do them. Or here’s what doesn’t happen when you don’t do them. It’s the same way I would not that our children and our puppies, but it’s the same way we would train the puppy, have we taught the puppy to go to the washroom outside, to sit to stay to lay down, whatever it is that you want the puppy to do? Have you told your child here are the things I want you to do every week, every day, week, month year? And have you set up an incentive system or a disincentive system to create those behaviors, if you will.

Deb Mashek  1:12:26

Yeah. And I think the other side, I always say that my number one job as a parent is to put myself out of a job, which means my goal is to raise a competent, confident kid who knows how to navigate the complexities of a really complicated world, like I can’t predict what he’s going to be up against in 10 years. And so it’s not that I can create the perfectly crafted child experience for him to be able to navigate it. But what I can do is make sure that he has access to developmentally appropriate challenges to make sure that I give him a chance to fail and to pick himself up and to dust up and to figure out what are my resources for handling this right now, to not create these super curated experiences for him and there’s a an organization I absolutely love called like So a shout out to let rho and Lenore Skenazy, who is once heralded as America’s worst mom because she let her son ride the New York City subway alone. And I’ll just share a personal story that right before Christmas, my kiddo was commuting on the Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan where he goes to school back over here to Staten Island where we live and the ferry caught on fire. So god honest emergency situation. I was over at the ferry terminal without my cell phone because I thought I was just there to pick him up really quickly. And I would be looping back home. And I see all these emergency vehicles coming up coming up. You know, there are fire engines, there are police cars, it is absolute, you know, full on response. I don’t know what’s going on as a parent. I get out of the car. I asked one of the other you know people they’re in the Kiss and Ride, the pickup line. What’s going on? And they told tell me, I go into oh my god, I’m horrified. Like I’m so scared this moment. I don’t know if my son is okay. I don’t have a way to contact him. So I decided I’m going to leave the line go home and get my cell phone. When I finally get to see my son like it was maybe an hour hour and a half later. And what he’s telling me is mom, I was able to help somebody else get their life jacket on, the place was filling with smoke. I helped other people get life jackets on. I was listening to the safety, the instructions. It was kind of funny because people were singing. Other people were crying and upset. But yeah, he’s like describing how people were helping each other and how cool it was to see all of the other boats in the harbor coming as rescue boats to be there to help off board the passengers on the Staten Island Ferry and of course, I was worried for his safety. But what was amazing is to see that he had had all of these competencies to step up to the situation and navigate it. Could I have ever told you or predicted that he was going to be on a freakin fire in a boat in the middle of the New York Harbor? No, I had no idea that was going to happen. But did I have confidence? Do I have confidence that he’s developing the tools to navigate those unexpected situations? I absolutely do. So I don’t know. I realized that’s a total digression. But it just seems really relevant to you know, what we’re talking about here.

Clint Murphy  1:15:31

Yeah. And I actually remembered as you were talking about it, I saw you share that story on LinkedIn. And as a parent, immediately, I was like, holy crow, that would be a scary situation to be in. And then to see the result, it would be immensely rewarding as a parent, to know that they are taking those attributes and skills that you’ve helped them grow in their lives in use them in such a good way. So what was scary becomes a super positive and rewarding experience.

Deb Mashek  1:16:04

Yeah, I figure if nothing else, at least he has one topic to write about for his college admissions essays.

Clint Murphy  1:16:11

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. How I overcame adversity, you need those. So let’s talk about transitioning through the model. And what jumped out at me, it reminded me a little of this concept, when you’re doing personal coaching, you have your axes of conscious and unconscious and desired and undesired. And usually you’re starting with an undesired behavior that you’re unconscious of. And step one is, well, now I have an undesired behavior that I’m conscious of. And then I have a desired behavior that I’m conscious of, and I move to desired behavior that I’m unconscious of. So it was moving through the axes going backwards, then up and then to the right. And that felt very similar to, I’m starting in Collabor(hate), I’m moving left, then I’m moving up, and then I’m moving to collabor(great), great. So it’s not a straight up to collaborate(great), which would be a lot harder of a move. And we’ll have the matrices in the show notes, so people will be able to follow along. But step one, if you will, is well, where are we on this map? And then we work our way through, where do we want to go? And how do we get there? And I’m not sure what you think the best way to tackle, I don’t know if we need to go through all seven steps. But what’s the best way to tackle where are we to where we want to go?

Deb Mashek  1:17:45

Let’s start with the situation of you’ve got a new team developing, or a new collaboration with, you know, new people. So maybe you’re onboarding, say somebody else to the team, or you’re just getting to know somebody, rather than focus first on how we’re going to structure the work, you know, who’s going to do what focus on developing relationships. So you want to move from that low interdependence, quality, love, or sorry, the quadrant that’s characterized by the low interdependence and low relationship quality, nudge up on the relationship quality piece first. Why, because then you’re able to kick in that amplifier of interdependence, you’re able to then move to the top right quadrant where you have high interdependence and higher relationship quality, because here’s the thing if we’re down in that collaborate quadrant, which is characterized by really high interdependence, so my, my wagons hitch to your ill defined or ill mannered horses, whether I like it or not, and I really, really don’t like you, this is what collaborators, it’s really difficult to just go do some trust falls and try to work on that relationship quality, and somehow just get yourself up to collaborate. It’s akin to if you have a, say, a couple who’s on the verge of divorce, and they’re like, man, let’s just, I think we should just divorce. This is miserable. Nobody’s liking this. If you go to couples therapist, what they’re likely going to encourage you to do is to find a way to decouple for a little bit to give you the breathing space, to work on improving the relationship quality, before coming back into the same say, on living in the same floor of the house or living in the same house. The same is true when you know when we think about how to get out of a collabor(hate)situation, you need to decrease the interdependence first, which is why we talked about ways of dialing up and dialing down that frequency diversity and strength, then focus on improving the relationship quality through the things like increasing that novelty and self expansion by increasing that sense of mutuality or weenus. By taking on more of the communal norms, those are all things that are going to help bring you up to high relationship quality. And at that point, then you can turn up those interdependent styles again, to get to the promised land of collabor(great).

Clint Murphy  1:20:10

And what are some of the some of the things we should keep in mind as we’re building that initial team for collaboration, or as we’re working our way through the matrix, what are some of the best behaviors that we should be thinking about?

Deb Mashek  1:20:27

So some of these sounds so cliche around clear communication, transparency, being honest about our needs are ones what we hope to get out of it having being honest, and saying, I don’t know what you’re trying to get out of this, like you tell me what’s in it for you, what would be the most spectacular outcome of this, that’s going to really make sure you’ve got something that to win here? Or to get out of this? In other words, how can I increase your outcomes again, and unless we have this conversations, we’re just working with, you know, the, again, the stories that we have in our head, we’re working with conjecture. And so the question is, can we create those conversations, to be honest with each other, about, you know, here’s what I want to do together, here’s why it’s important to me, maybe it’s about my professional development, maybe it’s about wanting to leave my mark in the world, to have a sense of legacy in the organization, those are all perfectly valid and reasonable outcomes. And if I as your collaborator, if I know those about you, then I can take some ownership and helping create that experience for you. So that you when I when we went together?

Clint Murphy  1:21:40

So let’s take a different angle, when will we know this collaboration isn’t gonna work? And I need to unhitch my horse from the wagon. And then how do we do that?

Deb Mashek  1:22:01

Yeah, so it’s this idea that, you know, all collaborations end one way or another, either you’re done with the project, or it implodes, or there’s a breakup or something like that. And, you know, when a collaboration is no longer meeting, your interests, your needs, maybe because your interest  and needs have shifted, or because just, it’s taken off in a different direction and no longer aligns. I should say that I realize not all work situations, do you actually have discretion in terms of what collaborations you’re a part of. That they are often voluntold? Yeah, right, like, you have to do it. But when you have discretion, if there’s no longer alignment, it doesn’t make sense to continue investing your time, your energy, your other resources, in a thing that’s feeling soul sucking, or that is just you’re doing all of the work that it’s clear that there really are these asymmetries that you didn’t sign up for. You know, stop doing it, you can get out in the book, I’m worried about the time. So I don’t want to go through all of the scripts now. But in the book I offer, here are some breakup scripts that you can use to either get yourself out of a situation or if you’re in a supervisory role, how to move somebody else off of a project, so that the team can really can really thrive and do what they need to do. And the way I think about it, is it do you know, the book 4000 Weeks? No, it’s just like, we’re here for such a good one. It’s, I would call it time management. But the whole point you know, like how we approach Time management is really counterproductive to the psyche. But this idea of cosmic and significance where we’re only here for a short period of time, so when we have discretion about how we’re spending that time, spending it on things that make our heart sing, where we feel like we’re able to do amazing things, that it’s fulfilling and joy, you know, there’s joy there don’t feel like you have to keep being in a relationship. And this is true in our personal lives, too. And that is not bringing satisfaction and fulfillment.

Clint Murphy  1:24:11

Is that Tim Urban? Who wrote 4000 Weeks. Am I off on that and has the chart where each week is a week of your life.

Deb Mashek  1:24:20

And let’s one of us can Google it while we’re here. That sounds right. But I did it as a book on tape. So they only mentioned I’m gonna screw it up. So how about we put it in the show notes?

Clint Murphy  1:24:30

Your life in weeks? Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

Deb Mashek  1:24:36

Did you look it up?

Clint Murphy  1:24:37

Yeah, I’ve heard about it so many times because there’s the visual that people hang up on their wall and then you cross out as you go through each week. It’s pretty scary when you think about that. It’s not that many.

Deb Mashek  1:24:51

The book is Oliver Berkman.

Clint Murphy  1:24:52

Oliver Berkman. Okay, and, yeah, Time Management for Mortals is the subtitle. Yeah, Hinds may have a friend gave an example one time, he was at an accounting firm. And they were talking to him about partnership. And he they said, you know, it’s it’s only going to be X amount of time. It’s not that long. And his feedback was, well, you only work for this many years in your life. So let’s imagine we had 25 loonies. If I asked you for two of your loonies, would that be a little or a lot? And for Americans, dollar bills, we only have $25. If I asked you for two of your dollars, would that be a lot because you’re asking me to put two extra years to get there. And that’s a lot if I only have 20 left. So it’s all about the perspective. And when you look at it that way. That’s beautiful. Deb do you  time for a final four questions unrelated to the book. Yeah, yes. What’s one book? What’s one book that’s changed your life?

Deb Mashek  1:25:54

Oh, my gosh, one book. I’m gonna say The Good Fight by Lianne Davey, about the value of conflict in the workplace, and that it’s not something to avoid, but it’s actually our responsibility to to be sharing different perspectives. And it was just as someone who’s largely conflict avoidant, it was such a mind opener for me, and not just a mind opener, but also just a relaxed my, my heart like, okay, I can do this. So I really, I really love that book,

Clint Murphy  1:26:20

And a past guest. So that’s great that you have Liane in there. And so what’s on the bookshelf right now? What are you reading?

Deb Mashek  1:26:27

Oh, I am reading. What does it called, it’s about Linda Flanagan’s book about youth sports, Take Back the Game as the title. And it’s my kiddo is an amazing baseball player, but it’s about how money and mania have done some bizarre things and how we, we think about this really important developmental thing that a lot of kids do of youth sports. So that one I’m really enjoying. I’m also looking at the Your Kids Their Money about how to raise financially literate children. So I come from a background without a lot of money, grew up in a trailer park and Nebraska. So I’m always feeling like I’m supposed to be, I’m supposed to know more about how to do money and communicate that to my kids so that he doesn’t have the same kinds of challenges I had, so I’m really enjoying that book as well.

Clint Murphy  1:27:17

Oh, I need to check that one out Your Kids Their Money. OI will be looking into that one. What is one thing in the last year that you bought for under $1,000? That you’ve said to yourself afterwards? Wow, I wish I’d really bought that sooner.

Deb Mashek  1:27:35

Oh, goodness, man, that’s oh, here’s one. Actually, I’m not I don’t think I would have bought it sooner. But so on the cover of the book are these five binder clips. They’re very anthropomorphize, they’ve got these googly eyes, and they give each other a high five. I think it’s so fun. Like I love the cover. And when I submitted my final manuscript, I think it was the full first I forget if it was like final manuscript, or it might have been might have been first draft. No, it would have been final because I would have had given myself, you know, a real challenge. I bought myself this purse that looks like a binder clip. And I think this is just the cutest dang thing. And it makes me smile every single time I look at it every time I use it. And I love that it has this little echo to the book. And it’s bringing me a lot of joy for $125.

Clint Murphy  1:28:22

And that’s the key. Does it spark joy, then you’re allowed to keep it. I love Marie Kondo. So, so happy with her. And then the last one would be because we’re a show about growth. What’s one mindset shift behavior shift or habit that you’ve adopted in the last year that’s been very positively changing for your life?

Deb Mashek  1:28:45

So I keep a win wall, where you know, it’s one of those big wall calendar sort of things. And rather than putting all of my tasks on it, what I do is at the end of each week, grab my sticky notes and jot up by my little wins, because that’s become very clear is that and this whole solopreneur thing, you know, it’s, you’re not going to get the client every single day, you’re not going to be raking in a gazillion dollars. But you’re going to have a cool idea, or you’re going to do that outreach that you’ve been kind of nervous about doing or, you know, I wrote a book or I wrote a chapter or I picked out the cover, there’s all these little moments that if we don’t, or at least for me, if I don’t mark them, I forget about them. And I start to get down on myself that I’m not doing enough or I haven’t made any progress. But when I can look at the win wall and see like all these sticky notes of the little things I have done that are micro steps toward my big goals. I feel like I’m better able to relax I’m better able to not work around the clock because I realized I am making progress and that’s been really so that I guess the mindset there is that incremental progress towards goals is absolutely progress and is worthy of celebration, not just those big, huge pops of accomplishment that are farther and farther between,

Clint Murphy  1:30:05

Oh, that’s wonderful and allows you to focus on the process, not the results, which is key to success in life. So we’ll wrap it up there. Deb, thank you for joining me on the show. Really appreciate your time today.

Deb Mashek  1:30:17

My pleasure. And I know we mentioned that magic matrix a lot. And I know it’s such a visual thing. So please, you know, swing by the shownotes. And, and grab a copy. And I love being in conversation with people on LinkedIn, especially I’m there every day. So let’s connect and continue there.

Clint Murphy  1:30:33

Yeah, what are the best spots for people to find you, which will get in the show notes. So LinkedIn, and then your website? Deb?

Deb Mashek  1:30:40

Yeah, so if you just use DebMashek, you’re gonna get to the book website as well as the the consulting website and then LinkedIn, I’m there every day. And then here’s a new experiment. So a stretch for me is I have recently joined TikTok so you know, I would love to if anyone’s over there and would like to come play and explore. Check me out there. Also Deb Mashek.

Clint Murphy  1:31:04

I believe we’ll be moving over to tick tock in q2 that’s currently in the design plan. So I’ll see you there soon. Great talk today.

Deb Mashek  1:31:13

Yeah, seriously, like if you get over there. Like I would love to compare notes about what’s working and why it seems to be you know, some people seem to have all figured it out. And I’m still learning so very much in the play space.

Clint Murphy  1:31:26

Yes, we will talk.

Clint Murphy  1:31:34

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