Episode 293:

I have repeatedly said that many agency owners have earned an MBA in emotional leadership over the last year and a half. It’s been exhausting, frightening, paralyzing, motivating, inspiring, and, at times, you’re simply doing whatever it takes to survive. You’ve done so with grace, authority, enthusiasm, and vision, but I also know that you’re tired and anxious about what’s coming next. The question becomes, how can we best manage and communicate our emotions for the good of our agency, team, and personal well-being?

Author and executive coach Dr. Roger Hall uses his doctorate in psychology to help business owners manage their thinking and in turn, manage their team. His background and expertise has given him insights and tools that we can immediately begin to employ in our emotional leadership.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Dr. Hall and I talk about the emotional challenges many agency owners are currently facing. We explore tools for better monitoring, controlling, and expressing these emotions and techniques for building self-possession and resilience. We also look at 10 habits for leaders who are both happy and productive, and tips for fast-tracking improvements.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Emotional Leadership

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why emotional leadership mattered during the pandemic
  • Tools for thought monitoring, thought stopping, and thought replacement
  • Why it can be helpful to let yourself worry
  • How humans can literally smell fear
  • Techniques for becoming more self-possessed
  • How to become a better emotionally intelligent leader
  • 10 Habits of leaders who are both happy and productive
  • Tips for fast-tracking emotional improvements
“It’s one thing to gin up courage. It’s another to be self-possessed. It really starts with what you are telling yourself.” @Rogers2Cents Click To Tweet “Human beings are naturally anti-fragile. We become stronger through adversity. Not just resilient, but stronger.” @Rogers2Cents Click To Tweet “When human beings are afraid and don’t know what to do, they tend to look to the people around them, and if you model for them the ability to solve this problem, they will imitate that.” @Rogers2Cents Click To Tweet “The habits of happiness are few and simple. The habits of unhappiness are a pantheon.” @Rogers2Cents Click To Tweet “Happiness comes when human beings are solving challenging problems in their domain of expertise. So, happiness and productivity are inextricably linked.” @Rogers2Cents Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Dr. Roger Hall:

Additional Resources:

Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too. Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency Podcast, presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to midsize agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. With 25 plus years of experience, as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. I am super grateful that you’re here, as I tell you often, because I don’t want you to think I’d take it for granted. I know you’re crazy busy. So, I want to thank you for carving out the time to invest in and ingest this podcast, and to take the learnings and hopefully do something with them. As you know, I work really hard to find guests who are going to tell us new ideas, new strategies, but most of all, things that we can put into play right away.

I am not a big, let’s talk about the philosophy of something without it coming down to some sort of tangible action. Sometimes that’s a stop doing, sometimes that’s a do something different or do something new, or tweak something you’re already doing, whatever it may be, but I want you to have takeaways from all of these podcast episodes and be able to put them into play inside your agency. Super grateful you’re here. Thank you for joining us. Before I tell you about our guest, I want to remind you that we have put together a course called My Future Self.

That course is helping agency owners look out five years from today, and really think about where they want to be in those five years, and what does that life look like? And what does work look like? And who are they working with? And what is the agency doing? And what’s your role in the agency at that point? It’s a really great guided exercise that I know I did many years ago myself, a variation of it, and it completely changed the way I sort of made decisions after I went through the exercise.

Some of it was conscious, some of it was unconscious, but once I knew what I wanted, I worked much more clearly and diligently to get where I wanted to go. If you want to read more about that or check it out, just go to agencymanagementinstitute.com/myfutureself. Again, agencymanagementinstitute.com/myfutureself. All right, let me tell you a little bit about the topic we’re going to cover today and the guest who is going to take us down that path. I have said many times, I think a lot of you have sort of earned your proverbial MBA in leadership over the last year, year and a half. The pandemic has forced many agency owners to really navigate in waters that, not only had we not been in before, we didn’t even know those waters existed before.

This was really out of our comfort zone. It was for many of you exhausting, frightening. For some of you, it was paralyzing. For others, it was absolutely motivating. I am astonished at all you got done over the course of the last year and everything you did to keep the agency afloat, to actually grow the agency. Some of you doubled your agency in size in 2020, and for others, it was just about survival and getting through it and making sure that your team got through it. Whatever your individual circumstance was, whatever specific problems you were faced with as a result of, or tangential to the pandemic, you have been leading with great authority and enthusiasm and vision for the last year. But I also know you’re tired, and I know that some of you are anxious about what’s coming around the corner.

When is the proverbial next shoe going to drop? What we’re going to talk about today is this idea of a, how do we as leaders, how do we manage our own thinking, and both the conscious and unconscious thoughts that run through our brain all day, every day? How do we monitor and manage those? Two, how are we communicating, either on purpose or without intent? How are we communicating some of those emotions to our team, and what’s the result of that. Then also, we’re going to talk about the idea of why we’re freaking out and how we can try and manage on the days that we are anxious or scared or worried, how do we make sure that we’re not infecting our team with those emotions, that we’re not exuding that to the point that they go, “Oh, well, if she’s worried, then I should be worried too.”

How do we control that? Then last, we’re going to get into some habits of people who are both happy and productive. My guest, who’s going to take us down that journey is a gentleman named Roger Hall. Roger is entrepreneur coach. He wrote a book called Staying Happy, Being Productive. But Roger comes at all of this from a very interesting perspective. He is, by training and by schooling, a psychologist, and so he has a doctorate in psychology, which he then applies to the business owners that he works with. That’s what resulted in his book and other things. He’s going to be a fascinating person to talk to.

I’m really excited. I’ve got a long list of questions that I want to ask him. I want to jump right into the interview and make sure that we get as much of his time as we can, because I know he’s going to have some things to teach us and to tell us that we’re going to immediately begin to employ in how we stand up and lead. Let’s get right to the conversation. Roger, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Roger Hall:

Thanks for having me.

Drew McLellan:

You have a very interesting background. Will you give the listeners an idea of your background and also tell us a little bit about the new book?

Roger Hall:

Certainly. Yes. I am a psychologist and got my degree in 1991 from Ohio State, and spend my time doing executive coaching and leadership development. I’m part of the little slice of psychologists that do what’s called consulting psychology. It’s like sports psychology for business owners. You’ve probably heard that elite athletes have a sports psychologist to help them with their head game. Well, that’s my job with entrepreneurs and business owners and professionals.

Drew McLellan:

That’s really where your book is leading to as well, correct?

Roger Hall:

Yeah. The book, thank you for asking, is called Staying Happy, Being Productive: The Big 10 Things Successful People Do.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. We’re going to dig into what some of those habits are, but I also want to talk a little bit about, in your book and in your other content, you talk about helping business owners sort of manage their thinking, and before we hit the record, but you and I were sort of commiserating on the fact that right now, a lot of agency owners are freaking out and having a hard time not letting that show to the rest of the team. Talk to us a little bit about what you’re observing business owners are going through right now, and then we can talk about sort of how do we manage to that.

Roger Hall:

Yeah. If we look at what’s happened in the last year to 18 months, there’s incredible amount of uncertainty. In uncertainty, people are looking for safety and security, and it creates anxiety. What I have found is that people are absolutely freaking out, and so I’ve spent the last 12 months screwing people’s heads back on to help them to think more clearly. One of the things that I train people on is that we all have this stream of consciousness in our head. Few of us ever stick a ladle in to sample what’s in our stream of consciousness. If we did, we’d find that it’s full of trash. My job is to help people filter out their head trash.

I have this simple technique that I teach people to do, and it’s a three-step technique and everybody has the equipment. It’s a thought monitoring technique. The first piece of equipment you need is your phone. If you’re a person who has a dumb phone, that’ll work as well, as long as you can set alarms. What I tell people to do is set an alarm to go off on your phone every hour, 10 times a day. So, from 7:00 in the morning to 5:00 at night, or from 8:00 in the morning to 6:00 at night, whatever works for you.

Then when the alarm goes off, then you take out the second piece of equipment, which is a pad of paper and a pen and you write down what was on the top of your head when the alarm went off. Now, this is not a journal. This isn’t, and then I felt hurt when he said … No, if the alarm goes off and you’re thinking, I’d like a cheeseburger, I want you to write down, I’d like a cheeseburger. If you’re thinking, my boss is a jerk, I’d like you to write down, my boss is a jerk, or my customer’s driving me crazy, whatever that is. Then, at the end of that week, you’ll have seven days times 10 observations.

You’ll have 70 observations of what was happening in your stream of consciousness. There are two effects. The first effect is that you start to see a pattern of recurring thoughts. I have found, in the clients I’ve worked with, some have excessive stress. There’s always this underlying sense of urgency or anxiety. Some people have excessive anger that comes up as a theme. Some people, they have excessive guilt, like they ought to be doing something else. That’s the first thing. You start to see a theme, but the most important side effect of those 70 observations is you develop a thing called metacognition, the ability to think about your thinking.

After you’ve done this 70 times, you’re a lot better at it putting that ladle into your stream of consciousness and sampling what’s in there. That’s the first step is thought monitoring. The second step is thought stopping, which is actually the easiest part. Now that you’ve developed this metacognition, now that you’ve developed the ability to look at your thinking, you could say, hey, there’s one of those guilty thoughts, or, hey, there’s one of those angry thoughts, cut it out and stop it. The third step is maybe a little more difficult, and sometimes you need some help from a friend or a loved one or an advisor, which is thought replacement.

Which is how do I replace the destructive thought that I have in my head with a more productive, accurate thought. Now, this isn’t sort of thinking about rainbows and puppy dogs. It’s replacing an unproductive thought with a productive, accurate thought, and that’s the challenge. We can all think about pixie dust, but that doesn’t really solve the problem. It has to be true and it has to be productive. Once you do that, I found that people, they can last, so they’re thinking. When they start to develop those skills of thought monitoring and thought management, they tend to be happier people.

Drew McLellan:

Give me a concrete example. If one of the thoughts that is bouncing around in an agency owner’s head is, I’m worried that we’re going to find enough new clients for me to keep my staff, which is honestly, part of a normal cycle of agency life is, clients come and go, and you’re always one phone call away from having one of your clients walk out the door. That would be a very typical thought bouncing around in an agency owner’s head. If I identify that, if some variation of that theme, because that sounds to me like a fear-based thought.

Roger Hall:

It is.

Drew McLellan:

If that was bouncing around, and if I did this for seven days and it showed up on my pad of paper, you’re very high-tech by the way with the pad of paper and the pen, but …

Roger Hall:

Well, you know.

Drew McLellan:

So, I identify, boy, I’m thinking about that a lot. That’s clearly a worry, what would be something that I could replace that thought with, that would begin to sort of shoo that thought away?

Roger Hall:

It would be drilling down. Is it an accurate worry to think I could lose a client or I’ve got to make payroll? Those are accurate concerns.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Roger Hall:

The follow-up though, and so I don’t want you to think, oh, I shouldn’t think about those things because you do need to think about those things, but the second layer is, do I have what it takes to solve that problem? And what are the steps that I can take to solve that problem? Or where do I go to solve that problem? Very often, when we worry, because because fear tends to shut down the part of our brain that solves problems, we get into a worry loop. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that, where you fast forward to the worst possible disaster, which is all of my clients are going to fire me and I’m going to live in a van down by the river.

Rinse repeat a hundred times. What the thought replacement does is actually gets you to start thinking through a solution. What I very often prescribe people to do is to worry for 20 minutes straight. They have to set a timer and worry for 20 minutes straight. If you’ve ever worried for 20 minutes straight, you’ll find that you can’t do it without solving the problem.

Drew McLellan:

I was going to say, that sounds exhausting.

Roger Hall:

It is exhausting. The way worry typically works is like that mosquito in the tent that buzzes your ear all night and nobody gets any rest if they just shoo it away, which is what we do with worry. But if you actually become fully awake, turn on the lights and spend five minutes to kill the mosquito, then you can get a good night’s rest. Well, the same thing with prescribing worry. It’s like, okay, spend your time advance planning this. What we find is that people tend to, after about 20 minutes of hyped up worrying, shift into an advanced planning stage, and they actually start coming up with solutions. But they have to become fully aware that they’re worrying and not getting anything done.

Drew McLellan:

Huh. Fascinating. All right. One of the things that I think is the most dangerous or the greatest opportunity for how we as leaders think is that we, intentionally and unintentionally, for lack of a better word, infect our employees with what’s going on in our brain. How do we make sure we’re doing that in a way that’s productive and good, and how do we, when we do have a worry or we do have a concern, how do we manage that? So it doesn’t infuse itself through our entire organization.

Roger Hall:

Sure. That’s a great question. I’m going to get a little bit nerdy here, and so I’m going to talk a little bit about neurobiology.

Drew McLellan:

I was hoping you would.

Roger Hall:

You woke up this morning hoping that I would talk about that.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I try and work that into every interview I can. Yeah.

Roger Hall:

Human beings and primates have this set of structures in our brain called mirror neurons, and neurons are brain cells that communicate to one another, but mirror neurons are the neurons in our brain that help us recognize faces and imitate them and understand what they mean. This is stuff we all take for granted. But if you have a baby, when this baby is really, really little and you give it that surprised face, the baby will make the surprise face back. Well, where did the baby learn that? Well, the baby is designed, the brain is designed to do that.

What we know is that human beings key in on other people’s faces and read their facial expressions and then make up a story about what that facial expression means. I worked with a very wise leader once who said, when I walk in through the front door, it doesn’t matter if the distribution center is on fire. I never walk fast. He says, because if I walk fast through the front door, reception calls accounting, accounting calls marketing, marketing calls sales, sales calls operations, and by the time I’m up to my office, there are 250 people worried about the speed with which I’m walking.

What we know is that, as a leader, other people are affected by your facial expression. We very often don’t know how we come across. Sometimes we have a facial expression that makes us look angry. I know my thinking hard face is also easily misidentified as my furious face. Everyone around me, I tell them, if you’ve really asked me a good question, I’m thinking hard. I’m not angry. I’m just thinking. I give them a preview of coming attractions because I know they’re reading my facial expression. I know that very often it’s misinterpreted. So, I let people know.

That’s the first neuro thing. The second neuro thing is that emotions are contagious by olfaction. There are these two structures in the brain that are the starting point of fear. They’re called the amygdala. They’re very deep structures in the base of the brain. We know that if we do a thing called a functional magnetic resonance imaging of a person who’s afraid, we’ll see that these two structures are lit up. So, they did this experiment, and this is a really gross experiment, but it’s a true experiment and it’s been repeated. So, it’s not just one time.

They take a group of people and they have them work out and they’re exercising. Then they have them raise their arms and they take these pieces of fabric and swab their underarms. Then they take that same group of people and then they have them watch a scary movie, and right in the middle of the scariest part, they have them raise their arms and they swab their underarms. So far, this is this a gross experiment.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, this is not a job I want.

Roger Hall:

But it only gets grosser. Then they take a second group of people and they take them in to do, what’s called a functional magnetic resonance imaging. A lot of people have, have at MRIs. They slide you in the tube and you can see what’s happening in the structure of the soft tissues of your body. But functional means that they add a thing called positron emission tomography, which is they make you huff radioactive glucose, and your brain uses glucose to fuel certain parts of the brain. So, you could tell in real time what parts of the brain are really active. As they’re sliding these people in the tube, half of them, they say, “Hey, we’re going to put this piece of fabric over your nose and mouth to breathe through while you’re in the tube.” It’s the piece of fabric from-

Drew McLellan:

Eew.

Roger Hall:

I told you it’d be gross.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Roger Hall:

Sweat from exercise. So, they have this group of people who are breathing-

Drew McLellan:

Because an MRI is not bad enough that you now have to smell someone’s armpit’s fabric.

Roger Hall:

Yes, right. For as long as it takes.

Drew McLellan:

Oh my gosh.

Roger Hall:

They send them in, and the people who are breathing through exercise sweat, what happens to their amygdala? Nothing. It’s just normal. But if they’re breathing the fabric from fear-induced sweat, what happens to their amygdala?

Drew McLellan:

It lights up.

Roger Hall:

It lights up. In other words, if they smell fear on somebody else-

Drew McLellan:

You can literally smell fear.

Roger Hall:

Literally smell fear. So, we’re not that much different than dogs. You know what they say, dogs can smell fear. So can humans. A journal article just came out on this. I mean, this stuff has been going on for years, but there’s just a recent one this last month, that human beings aren’t aware of it, but we are contagious in our emotions by our smell. It doesn’t matter if you put on cologne and you shower. It still comes out and people are still aware of it. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to be self-possessed, to be able to monitor and manage their thinking and monitor and manage their emotions. Because like it or not, people are watching you and they’re smelling you.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. There’s our new insight for the day. Right.

Roger Hall:

It’s because I’m a giver. I’m here.

Drew McLellan:

You really are. Yeah. In other words, when we are with our team, not only are they watching our facial expression, and from the walking faster story, I’m assuming they’re watching our body language, but if we are physically in the same place with them, they can literally smell when we are distressed or fearful.

Roger Hall:

Correct. Correct. And it infects them with the same emotion. Human beings are contagious on our emotions.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and you think about the year that we’ve all just gone through, I’m taking an aside now, and I promise we won’t go too far down this rabbit hole, but the whole world has been afraid. So, we just keep compounding each other’s fear when we are in the vicinity of each other, because of the smell. If somebody’s super nervous, like they’re in a grocery store or you’re standing too close to them in line or whatever, we’re exaggerating that fear.

Roger Hall:

Yes. Airports, any crowded location. All this happened before the year started, but-

Drew McLellan:

But we weren’t so scared, right?

Roger Hall:

Well, it depends on where you were. If you’re in an airport, people are always freaking out. But yes, we are actually creating, kindling, and throwing a match on it every time we’re with a group of people, unless you start to tell yourself, hey, I can control my emotions. I’m not going to allow myself to be this freaked out. There are techniques and ways that you can become more self-possessed.

Drew McLellan:

I was just going to ask you, so I’m about to step into an all team meeting and I have to tell them some good news and maybe some not so good news, how do I basically get myself together, contain that fear, so both on my face, and apparently, with my smell, I am not signaling something that creates a panic throughout the agency?

Roger Hall:

It goes back to that old Groucho Marx line, sincerity is the key. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. It’s one thing to gin up courage, it’s another to be self-possessed. It really starts with, what are you telling yourself? If you’ve got bad news, it’s okay to tell people bad news because it’s the truth. But if it’s bad news, and then you run down the pathway of this is catastrophic, this is never going to … We’ll never recover. We can’t get out of this and it’s never going to be the same. Then you infect people badly. It really is, how optimistic can you be based on evidence? Do you have the belief that you can recover from this adversity? How resilient are you?

Drew McLellan:

Interesting. In your work with entrepreneurs, is resilience something I can learn or am I hardwired to be optimistic and resilient, or I just don’t have it?

Roger Hall:

Unfortunately, for those of you who are in the genetic camp, there is evidence that resilience does have some hard wiring, and they’ve actually identified the genes and the alleles that make up for that recovery, from resilience. But the more important thing is that practice and experience can make you more resilient. There’s an author who introduced a term, which I love, his name is Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He introduced a term called antifragile, which is wonderful. Two authors, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in a book called the Coddling of the American Mind, they talk about this concept of anti-fragility.

The hope that we have is that human beings are antifragile. Meaning that we get stronger because of adversity. A vase, if you smash it, is fragile. A tennis ball, if you smash it, is resilient. But concrete, if you smash it when it’s wet, actually gets harder. So, you’re compacting concrete to make it more firm. The concrete in this process from impact is antifragile, that the strain actually makes it stronger. Well, what we know about human beings is human beings are naturally antifragile, that we become stronger through adversity, not just resilient, but stronger.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I’ve seen that with my agency owners over the course of the year that those who have been in the business for a while, who lived through the great recession, while they certainly respected what COVID was doing to human beings, both from a work perspective and just a human perspective, they they very quickly adopted an attitude of, we will figure this out, it’s going to be weird for a while, but we’ve gone through tough stuff before, and we will end up just fine on the other end. That was really what they exuded to their team and to themselves, was they really, truly believed and knew that they would find a way to navigate through COVID and get their agency to the other side.

Roger Hall:

Yeah, and this is a concept that you talked some time ago with another one of your guests about self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is looking at the evidence from your past, and your ability to solve problems in the past, and then applying it to your current situation. People with self-efficacy tend to do better. Successful people may not have very high self esteem, but they have a great deal of self-efficacy. Hey, we can figure this out.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Again, as I’m working to learn to be more resilient, is that the recipe, is that I look for evidence in the past, that as I’m about to step out on the stage to talk, literally or figuratively, to talk to my team and sell them, maybe a big client is going away, or a key employee is leaving, what I’m doing is, am I to exude the right energy around that announcement? Am I looking for evidence in the past to remind myself that we have survived employees leaving before, clients leaving before? And is that something I just keep inside to myself or is that part of the story that I tell to help them also be reminded that we’ve been through rough waters before?

Roger Hall:

Well, it is about telling that story. When human beings are afraid and they don’t know what to do, they tend to look to the people around them. If you model for them the ability to solve this problem, then they will imitate that. You talk about, should you tell them this? Absolutely, you should tell them how you solve the problems in the past, because they need those models, and they need to be taught by you that they can solve these problems as well.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Roger Hall:

Can I add one more thing, which is that-

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. Unless it’s another armpit story, I think we-

Roger Hall:

No, it’s not another armpit story. If you look at the concept of emotional intelligence, one of the key features of an emotionally intelligent leader is the concept of resonance. A resonant leader joins his or her people in the emotion they’re in, he or she empathizes with it, joins them in their emotion, but then is able to draw them out to a different place. Part of that drawing them out to a different place is joining them and saying, yes, this is disappointing. Yes, this is discouraging. And I remember that one time we had another discouraging time and we figured it out, or another disappointment and we figured it out.

Here’s how we did it then. Let’s figure it out again together. You join them in the disappointment or discouragement. You give them examples of where they’ve been successful in the past and then draw them to that better emotional state.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It makes sense, that you connect with them at the emotional level where they’re at, and then you basically lead the march to a different place.

Roger Hall:

Yes, and it’s called resonant leadership.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I know one of the things that you talk about is sort of this idea of being an emotionally intelligent leader. Is that an example of what you’re talking about? If I’m somebody who wears my heart on my sleeve or I’m somebody who’s very private and keeps all of that in, how do I become a better emotionally intelligent leader, and how do I connect with my people and find continuity in the conversations and in the direction that we’re going.

Roger Hall:

Yeah. Great question. Very often, we confuse extroversion with emotional intelligence. We all know that socially inappropriate extrovert, and we also know that very socially poised introvert. It really isn’t about introversion or extroversion. It’s about the person’s ability to do four basic skills as it relate to other people and themselves. The first is being aware of your own emotions. The second is managing your emotions, your own emotions, and you can’t work with other people until you do this yourself. The third is awareness of other people’s emotions, that’s empathy. The last is resonance, which we talked about, which is managing other people’s emotions.

Everyone can learn that, but you can’t learn that from a class. It comes from lots and lots of face to face conversation. One of the lead researchers in this area, a guy named Daniel Goldman, kind of hypothesized that a lot of these social intelligence or emotional intelligence skills get generated on the playground when we’re in elementary school, because we’re negotiating problems with multiple people at the same time and figuring it out. You really need to spend time face-to-face with other people resolving problems.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, and I think as a leader, you end up doing that every day. If you have employees and you have team members, there’s no way, in a collaborative business like ours, first of all, we solve problems for a living. That’s part of what we do. But secondly, we have to deal with our internal problems to be able to serve our clients well.

Roger Hall:

Yes. As people ascend up the leadership column, they do less and less task work and more and more relationship work.

Drew McLellan:

Yep, absolutely. You know what? I want to dig into the 10 habits that successful people who are both productive and happy, which is sort of the core tenant of your book, I want to get into that, but first let’s take a quick break and then we’ll talk about some of those habits.

Hey there, do you have an up and comer inside your agency who’s become like your right-hand person? How are you investing in them? Who are they surrounding themselves with and who are they learning from? You might be interested in taking a look at our key executive network. It’s built to help you groom the leaders in your agency. It’s designed to surround them with other AMI taught agency leaders, and it’s facilitated by one of AMI’s top coaches, Craig Barnes. They meet twice a year and they stay connected in between meetings with calls, Zoom get togethers, and email.

AMI agency owners call it one of the best professional development investments they’ve ever made. Head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com and look under the membership tab for key executive network. All right, let’s get back to the interview.

All right, I am back with Roger Hall, and we are talking about how we, as leaders, have a lot more control over how we communicate, how we manage our own emotions as they’re flying through our brain, and how we exude those emotions intentionally or unintentionally to our team. But now, what I want to do is I’m going to take a quick little left turn, if you will. Roger’s book, which again is called, Staying Happy, Being Productive, is all about the habits that super successful people, who are also happy and productive. I think a lot of people are productive. I think a lot of people are happy.

I think it’s less common to find somebody who is both happy and productive, so I want to hear about those habits to find out how we can get closer and closer to that ideal. Roger, tell us about these people who are both happy and productive.

Roger Hall:

Yeah, it all started out when I was on my internship, I had a supervisor and she was teaching us how to do marital therapy. She said, “You can teach unhappy couples how to stop fighting, but they’ll never have the same skills that happy couples have.” That stuck in my head. Then I read a book called Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. The first line in the book is, “Every happy family is the same. Every unhappy family is unhappy in their own way.” What that quote crystallizes is that the habits of happiness are few and simple. The habits of unhappiness are pantheon. If you look at happy, successful people, they’re all kind of boring.

I mean, they have drama-free lives. It doesn’t mean they don’t have fun and they don’t have excitement in their life, but it’s largely drama-free. As I started to look at that, I realized that helping people stop doing the wrong things was not the same as having them start doing the right thing. I began to look at, okay, what is it these successful happy people do? I started writing them down. Over the course of several years, I came up with 10, at which point I said, okay, I got to stop, otherwise, we’re going to have 47 habits.

The first habit is thought life, and we’ve talked about that. Happy, successful people are, first and foremost, mentally disciplined. The second is happy, successful people have an active spiritual life. It’s not something I figured I would find, but it seems that over and over again, there’s some sort of faith commitment that these happy successful people have, and it plays out differently, but that’s the second thing. The third thing is they focus very carefully on their nutritional life. They realize that the food that they put in their system is the fuel that runs their brain and their body.

They’re very careful about the food they eat. Most of us are more picky about the fuel we put in our car than the food we put in our mouth. The next thing is exercise life. Every single, successful, happy I’ve met has physical activity as a regular part of their life. It’s not that they’re gym hounds, some are, but they are physically active. What I have found is that the easiest, quickest way and free way to improve your mood is to be physically active. It’s thought life, faith life, exercise life, nutritional life, then it’s love life.

These people work on those primary love relationships. If we look at research done, starting in the 1940s, called the Harvard Study of Men, we see that having a primary love relationship is one of the most important things to having a happy, successful life. Now, not everybody has that, but most of the people who report happiness have some sort of primary love relationship. Now, when I talk about love life, I’m talking about immediate family, spouse or partner, siblings, parents, and children, that circle.

The next is social life. What I find with lots and lots of leaders is they have not very many friends. I think it’s one of the big problems in our society today, is we all have lots of social media friends, but we don’t have very many good friends. I argue, it takes about a decade to build a good friend. They work on their love life, they work on their social life. The next is they work on their work life. That Harvard Study of Men pointed out two things that make for a happy, successful life, primary love relationship and the enjoyment of work. It’s not that you make a ton of money, though the next one is money life, but it’s that you love your work.

It isn’t about status, it is not about fame, but do you love the work that you do. The next is money life, and money can’t buy you happiness, but lack of money will certainly make you miserable. It’s really coming up with, what’s the right amount of money for me? It it’s being out of debt. It’s having some money, but then at some point, you’ve got enough money, and a ton more money doesn’t make you a ton more happy. It tends to [crosstalk 00:40:52].

Drew McLellan:

Weren’t there studies that said, basically once your make 75 or 80 grand, you’re not going to get happier if you make much more than that. I don’t remember what the number was, but there was a study that came out that said, look, there’s a threshold where your basic needs are met, you can have a good healthy life, and after that, it’s fine to have more money, but you aren’t necessarily going to be happier because you have it.

Roger Hall:

Yes. You did the number that is in that study. I hate to mention that study, because if you’re a single parent living in San Francisco, 75 grand isn’t going to make it. But if you’re in Iowa, in rural Iowa with one kid, yeah, you can have a great life there.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. They probably should have said, here’s the equivalent city where this makes sense, and here’s the multiplier for those of you that are in New York or DC or San Francisco. Yeah.

Roger Hall:

Yeah. I don’t ever like to say the number, because then we look at guys like Warren Buffet, and Warren buffet has gazillions of dollars, but he’s happy because he knows how to manage that. Some other people would be destroyed by that much money. It really depends on who you are. They love their work. They’ve got a good handle on money, and then the last two are sleep and rest life, is successful, happy people are there. They’re very protective of their sleep, and they, every week, have time of quiet reflection where they rest. One of the easiest ways that you can jumpstart your success is to get better sleep and take time in quiet reflection every day and every week.

Then the last is recreational life. Do you have fun? We spend so much time being serious about work that we stop thinking about how important fun is. There’s a great deal of research about laughter and play, and how laughter and play are parts of a healthy person who actually is more resilient. A researcher named Barbara Fredrickson talked about positivity, and she calls it The Broaden and Build Model, that the more positive emotions you experience, the more resilient you become, the more creative you become. Having fun is really important.

Drew McLellan:

Well, it’s interesting because we’re recording this in April of 2021 for anybody who’s not listening every week or in linear time. A lot of agencies are back in the office, but there are a lot of agencies that aren’t, and one of the things that I’m observing is that the agencies that are back in the office and together, because honestly, working in an agency is pretty fun. You’re working with a lot of smart, funny people who are very articulate and quick-witted, and there’s a lot of play that happens inside an agency. I used to call my mom and tell her stories about what we at the agency, and my mom would say, “Do you people ever work?”

Because you only talk about the things that are fun, right? The pushing people around and office chairs and all that sort of stuff. I do think that, as agencies get back into the office, a lot of the Malays they’re seeing amongst the staff that they’re feeling themselves will begin to heal because we are finally again in a playful environment with some of our favorite playmates, our coworkers.

Roger Hall:

Yeah. One of the things we’ve missed by working remotely is physical touch. I don’t mean inappropriate touch. I mean, appropriate physical touch. Human beings are designed for physical touch. There’s a hormone that’s released called oxytocin. That’s not Oxycontin, that’s the opiate, but oxytocin, and that’s the chemical that makes us feel connected to one another. We get it through handshaking, hugging back padding, all appropriate things, but we feel that connection when we’re in physical proximity with other people.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think that there’s going to be a lot of sort of mental healing that happens as we get to come back together, again, with clients, with coworkers, however that is, which I think certainly contributes to somebody’s overall happiness. All of the things that you talked about make perfect sense to me on the happiness scale. How does doing those 10 things impact my ability to be productive?

Roger Hall:

Well, what we know, let’s look at sleep and rest life, and we’ll talk about productivity as it relates to sleep and rest life. Many people will spend two hours in the evening working on a project that they can solve in 20 minutes if they’re well rested. If we look about productivity about your capacity to solve problems, if you’ve been eating food that is not good for your brain, because your brain takes up about 2% to 3% of your body mass, but uses 20% to 25% of the fuel in your food. Your brain is an energy hog, and if you’re feeding it bad food, you will not be able to think well. There’s lots and lots of evidence, you can read the books about the blue zones, about how diet and nutrition affect a person’s cognitive capacity.

If you want to be more productive and able to solve problems better, put better fuel in your system. You want to increase your ability to think, then get physical activity, because that physical activity increases blood flow around the brain that allows the cerebral spinal fluid to do its job. Sleep, I’ll give you another example of sleep, your brain contracts while you’re asleep, and there’s no blood in your brain, it’s all around your brain, and there’s the cerebrospinal fluid. As your brain shrinks and then expands again, it essentially moves all of that ick that your brain builds up during the day out of your system.

If you’re not sleeping, your brain is not getting a chance to flush all the ick out of it. I mean physical ick. All of these things help your brain to perform better. It’s not just about being happy, but being happy and being productive do go hand in hand. There was a researcher back in the 1980s, a guy named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and I’m not making up his name. It’s Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He’s Hungarian. So, I had a person who was Hungarian write it out, so I’m pronouncing it reasonably close. But what he found is that people who are solving challenging problems in their domain of expertise slip into what he calls the state of flow.

Most of us call it being in the zone. You’ve been in that zone. You’re sure solving a creative problem with a group of people and you kind of lose track of time? What he found is that people were doing that when they’re at work, and people who experienced flow every day, or nearly every day, are happier than those who don’t. What Csikszentmihalyi tied together is that productivity at our work, work satisfaction and doing something instrumental at work actually is what makes us happy. Go into a ball game, or go into an amusement park, or going to the movies. Those are fun. Those are important for recreation, but happiness comes when human beings, and this is my definition of his work, when human beings are solving challenging problems in their domain of expertise. Happiness and productivity are inextricably linked.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, I see that. This is fascinating. If somebody is listening and they’re COVID weary, like a lot of people are, they are really struggling to sort of get back into their A game, get back into their flow, inspire their team, what do you recommend are some one, two, three steps, of all the things we’ve talked about today, what are some of the things that can fast-track me into getting into a better place mentally and being able to communicate and connect from a better place with my team?

Roger Hall:

Probably, the first thing I would focus on is doing one thing at a time. If you’re in the doldrums, you think I’ve got to change all of these things. This guy just talked about 10 things, I got to do them all. Nobody will do them all. Choose the one thing that you’re going to focus on first. There’s a concept called cornerstone habits, which is, if you change this one habit and get really good at this new habit, then you can build on to that with the other habits. Choose one of the 10 things that you’re going to work on and make that your focus. I don’t really care which one you choose, but choose one thing. If you try to choose three or four, you won’t do any of them.

Drew McLellan:

Got it.

Roger Hall:

The second is we have this wrong notion about motivation. We go and we listen to motivational speakers and we get all ginned up on emotion and we think that’s motivation. What we know is there’s a concept of intrinsic or internal motivation, and that comes from hard work. Motivation doesn’t lead to hard work. Quite the opposite is true. Hard work leads to motivation. If you choose one thing that you’re going to focus on, make that a priority and work intently on it. At some point, you’re going to lose yourself in the process, and that’s when the motivation will come when you achieve that state of flow.

Drew McLellan:

Interesting. Okay. Good advice. If folks just want to learn more about you, want to follow your work, your content, what’s the best way for people to track you down?

Roger Hall:

Yeah. The easiest website to reach me out is drrogerhall.com. D-R rogerhall.com. You can find out about the book at stayinghappybeingproductive.com, and I have a course that I created for people who are freaking out called freakoutcourse.com.

Drew McLellan:

There you go, brilliantly named as an agency person. Very clear.

Roger Hall:

I’m glad you like that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, this has been really fascinating. I’m grateful that you carved out the time to be with us and that you shared so many, very practical and tangible things that we can do to try … Because I think you’re right. I know for myself, I don’t know of a time that there’s been more uncertainty and more fear out in the world than what we have gone through in the last year, and I think even the most resilient, positive person has certainly been knocked to their knees more than once.

Roger Hall:

Oh, absolutely. No doubt about it, and that positive person, their capacity to keep getting up. That’s the important piece.

Drew McLellan:

Right. I think our conversation today was super helpful because you gave us tangible things to do, to begin to take some of that control back. I think, most agency owners, most business owners are a little … Tip the scale on the type A side of the category. We like to be in control. I think this has been a very disconcerting year, and I think he gave us a lot of tools to try and sort of get things back in order. So, I appreciate your time very much. Thank you.

Roger Hall:

Well, I’m grateful for the invitation. Thanks for having me.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. All right, guys. Roger gave you a lot of great things to do. As you know, I love podcast episodes where there are action items that we can take. You have a notebook full of them if you were taking notes while we chatted. If you were on the treadmill or driving, I’m hoping you were not doing that, but I am sure something stuck in your brain like, yep, that’s where I need to start. I strongly encourage you to invest in yourself, to make the time to do this, because there is a waterfall effect.

If you start to really be able to manage the thoughts that are running through your head and how you communicate those to the team, and apparently how you smell, you know what? Then you are going to be an even better, stronger leader than you are today. I know all of us aspire to that. So, do some homework, take one of these ideas and run with it and see where you get. I’m excited to hear from you how that works, and you know how to get ahold of me to give me a little update on that.

In the meantime, a couple of quick things. One, I want to thank our friends at White Label IQ. They are the presenting sponsor of the podcast. You can learn more about them at whitelabeliq.com/ami, where they have a special deal for you. So, they do White Label design dev and PPC for agencies, and they are a hero to many AMI agencies across the globe. Feel free to reach out to those folks, and I will be back next week with another guest like Roger, to get you thinking a little differently, to add it to your toolbox in a new way.

In the meantime, if you need to track me down, you know that I’m at [email protected] Okay. Talk to you next week. Thanks for listening. That’s all for this episode of AMI’s Build a Better Agency Podcast. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com, to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. Don’t forget to subscribe today so you don’t miss an episode.