Transcript: Thanks Allan, this is David Brower with Lara Heacock, she’s a leadership coach who brings over 20 year’s experience in corporate America. She runs a popular personal development blog, KindOverMatter.com, and works with professionals and companies to help them use kindness to end the epidemic of burnout in America. She has an MBA as a certified coach, award winning writer, in demand speaker, and author of the book ‘Practical Kindness’. Lara, welcome. Nice to have you here.
Lara Heacock: Thank you. It’s so wonderful to be here today.
David Brower: I’ve got to tell you, I was … in reading through your stuff, you just don’t run over the word ‘kindness’ very often when you’re having business or corporate conversations, so tell me how that all started with you, it’s fascinating.
Lara Heacock: Yeah. I will. I think, like most of us, I had my own journey into burnout, and kindness, specifically self-kindness, which is where I start with my clients, is the thing that brought me out of it. Stepping out of that cycle of business and getting all of our validation from being productive and checking things off a list, and to really looking at my values, and how I live my life, and why I do what I do. So my work has now pivoted from doing my own work to doing that work with leaders and with companies in order to bring kindness in and use it as their own professional advantage.
David Brower: What a thrill. How do you break the … I don’t want to say stereotype, there’s a lot of businesses in corporate America out there that would look at the word kindness and go, ‘Yeah, right.’
Lara Heacock: It’s funny, and I-
David Brower: How do you break down that door?
Lara Heacock: Yeah, for sure. I get that feedback a lot. A lot of people say, ‘Don’t companies just care about the bottom line?’ And what I do is share all the research that says that stressed out, burned out employees are actually negatively impacting your bottom line. When you create a culture of kindness in your company, which, as a leader, it starts with your own self-kindness, you create healthier employees, you create employees that are more dedicated to your team, that are more dedicated to your product, you save health insurance costs, I think the latest statistic I saw was 90% of doctor’s visits were attributed to some stress related illness or side effect. You can really, truly change the corporation’s mindset and change the productivity, and there’s a lot of research that supports it.
David Brower: And once you get to those steps, and you take care of the inside, for lack of a better term, that has to permeate to the outside and make your clients, your customer base feel that much better about doing business with you I would think.
Lara Heacock: Yeah. My favorite story to tell is, I was working with a leader, we were doing private coaching, and her goals were pretty personal in nature, they weren’t really focused on corporate goals. She was a leader, she ran a company, and she came to one of our sessions, and she said, ‘Oh, I just revamped our entire employee review process.’ And I was like, ‘That wasn’t even one of our goals.’ But what happened was, she had so, through her own work and through her own development of self-kindness practices, she had increased her capacity, and she was just like, ‘Yeah, I revamped our review system. I used that book you recommended to me, and I just revamped our own employee review process in the last two weeks.’ I was like, ‘Oh, all right. Is that all?’
David Brower: Is that all you’ve got?
Lara Heacock: It was such an interesting … yeah, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s all. No big deal.’
David Brower: How fascinating. And to be able to … that’s a pretty big, dynamic piece of business, whether it’s a small entrepreneurship or a corporate company, plugging some kindness into employee reviews, that’s pretty significant.
Lara Heacock: Yeah, and what it does is, she had a circumstance right after that where she had an employee that came to her. Anybody that’s watched the news lately has seen the job market is crazy, unemployment is super low, there’s a war for talent that people are talking about, but she had an employee that came to her, had gotten an external offer, and she was able to have the conversation with them of, ‘This is what we value in this company. This is what we offer, and we’re not a huge organization. If that’s what feels alive for you, that’s great, I wish you all the best, but really think about this and think about, maybe we could do something financially, but also think about what we offer you here.’ Just getting in touch again, taking care of herself and starting her own self-kindness practices gave her this capacity, changed the review system, got back in touch with the corporate values, and this employee ended up staying.
David Brower: Wow. That’s a great story. I love stuff like that, where people … we get going 100 miles an hour, and we’re all about the immediate gratification, and all those kinds of things, and then you get to a place where balance isn’t even a part of the conversation, and you really help people find some balance with this don’t you?
Lara Heacock: Yeah. Balance is a big thing. I personally believe in it, a lot of people don’t, but I think it depends on how you look at it. But once you start … work/life balance doesn’t mean I work for eight hours, I sleep for eight hours, and I’m social for eight hours. It’s not that linear, but it’s a very individual process and it actually is possible, and once you get in … value, I know I keep saying that’s a big part of the work that I do, but once you get in touch with that and you start, as you said earlier, taking care of your inside, the changes on the outside, one of which often includes balance, are remarkable.
David Brower: Absolutely. It took me a long time to figure that out. I shouldn’t say I figured it out, I think it happened organically. I think I woke up one day, and I’m going, ‘Oh, that’s kind of interesting. I’m sharing myself here, and I’m sharing myself there, and I’m sharing myself here, and I’m being productive over there, and it all feels good, and I’m sleeping at night. Wow. What a concept.’
Lara Heacock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I find it’s a practice, much like anything that you want to stay … if you’re an athlete, you practice every day even if you don’t have a big game coming up. Self-kindness and balance are just like that, you have a consistent practice. Sometimes, you might go a little bit too far into the work part of life, sometimes you might go a little too far into the relax part of life, but it’s just a matter of developing that awareness and really being kind to yourself and forgiving yourself if that happens and getting yourself back to that place that feels good-
David Brower: I was going to say, forgiveness has got to be a big piece of this as well because we overstep our own boundaries from time to time, and then we go, ‘Oh crap, I guess I’m over it. I’ll move onto this other thing.’
Lara Heacock: Yeah. I think that oftentimes, those things, I like to describe them, they become a brick wall. You just gave a perfect example. ‘I’m going to go to the gym every day.’ Is an example I like to look at, then you miss one day, and it’s like, ‘Well, I’m a total failure, and I guess I might as well just stop this.’ And you hit the brick wall. And what I like to do with people is help them see that that’s just a pot hole, and the pot hole doesn’t have to be a stopping point, it’s not a brick wall, it’s not something you can’t go through. It’s a matter of coming back to that forgiveness and saying, ‘Okay, maybe that goal was a little too aggressive. Maybe I need to actually celebrate myself for the fact that I went for the past eight days, but even if I miss one, it’s okay, and I can go back, and I can do it again.’
David Brower: It’s fascinating to me sometimes, people I talk to periodically, it doesn’t happen all the time anymore. I think it used to happen a lot more, but they would be talking about all these things going on in their life, and they might be rattling off eight or nine different things that are just absolutely amazing, whether it’s professional, personal, whatever it is, and then all of a sudden, they land on this one negative thing, and that’s where they stop. That’s where they rest, and they don’t celebrate the other stuff.
Lara Heacock: Do you … are you familiar with the negativity bias? I’ll go into some geek mode for a second here.
David Brower: Go for it, please.
Lara Heacock: There is a lot of research that supports the concept of the fact that we are all wired with a negativity bias, and data points to anything up to five to one, which basically means you’re five times more likely to remember something negative than to remember something positive, so one of my favorite practices that I like to do with my clients is to come home every day, and it can be a way to wind down before you go to sleep, it can be something you can do as you’re transitioning from work to home, but come up with a list of five things on your ‘I’m Awesome’ list. What are five things that you’re really proud of yourself for that happened in that day? It can be anything from, ‘I got out of the house on time.’ ‘I got to work on time.’ ‘I drank an amount of water that felt good for my body.’ The simplest things are the most powerful, but that practice, when done consistently, again, consistency is a lot of it, that actually helps combat that natural negativity bias that we’re all wired with.
David Brower: I do that with gratitude.
Lara Heacock: Same.
David Brower: So I find the littlest things to be grateful about, and I also have to have something to look forward every day in my life, whether it’s looking forward to walking my dog or looking forward to a two-week motorcycle trip or looking forward to a power nap. Whatever it is, I look forward to something every day, and I just believe … I have a gratitude tattoo, for crying out loud, gratitude is a big part of my deal.
Lara Heacock: Yeah. I’m a firm believer in gratitude, and I actually wrote about this recently. I remember when Oprah’s show first came on the air, so I’ll date myself with that, but I rolled my eyes for so many years at the concept of gratitude and gratitude journals, and then I finally got over myself and I found a gratitude practice that worked for me and wow, what an impact it’s made.
David Brower: Isn’t it something?
Lara Heacock: I will … big love to anyone that’s out there rolling their eyes at us having this gratitude conversation. I get it, I’ve been there, and it’s actually true.
David Brower: It is actually true. I remember when I discovered it, I just … I became a cancer survivor eleven years ago, and I was walking into my church, and I was just sobbing, and I couldn’t figure it out, and I walked out of the doctor’s office, and I was just sobbing, and I couldn’t figure it out. And I asked my pastor, I said, ‘What’s this about?’ And he just looked at me straight in the eye, and he said, ‘Gratitude.’
Lara Heacock: Oh my gosh. You gave me goosebumps, that’s beautiful.
David Brower: Now I get it. I just gave myself goosebumps, but yeah, not I get it. And that was the turning point about feeling good in all things. It’s fascinating to me.
Lara Heacock: Yeah, and it’s the stuff that people don’t … nobody teaches this in school, right? So we end up being these middle career corporate drones that are just … I call it the lather, rinse, repeat life cycle. If you read an old shampoo bottle, it’s lather, rinse, repeat, and we get up, we go to work, we come home, we might hang out with our partners, our kids, and then we lather, rinse, repeat. You go to bed and you start it over, and doing these small incremental things, having a gratitude practice, having an ‘I’m Awesome’ list, or I call it, start a folder for yourself, and call it your ‘Atta-boy’ or ‘Atta-girl’ folder, and put anything in it that is … a thank you note, praise from a client, an email, whatever it looks like. Starting to incorporate these little things are a big part of building a foundation of self-kindness so that you can then take that out and do the changes that you want to do in the world.
David Brower: I would think the more that you do that, of course, like anything else in life, you have the opportunity to develop good and bad habits, so this is a good habit obviously, which also I think would chip away at that negativity bias.
Lara Heacock: Yeah, it does over time. Brain chemistry is definitely pliable and it’s something that we can work with. You have ingrained habits and patterns that are kind of like pathways in your brain that are … if you think of a hiking trail, they’re really well-worn and they’re well marked, and you know what to do so that’s where you go, but the more you do these good habits and the more you start to incorporate them into your life, you start to develop other paths and the weeds start to fall away, and that’s what becomes the more accessible pathway.
David Brower: Wow. How cool. Let’s talk about your book for a minute, ‘Practical Kindness: 52 Ways to Bring More Compassion, Courage, and Kindness to Your World’. You have some amazing reviews, it’s on Amazon.com, and tell me how the book came about and where it’s taken you.
Lara Heacock: Absolutely. The funny thing is I put the book out into the world at the tail end of 2017, early 2018, and when I was pulling it together, I looked back in my notes and I actually found a document from two years before all about notes of this book that I was going to do, so it’s just-
David Brower: How fun.
Lara Heacock: A little side note to the testament of, your dreams don’t always abandon you, even if you’re not ready to do something with them at that exact moment, they can still resurface at a better time.
David Brower: I love it.
Lara Heacock: So what I wanted to create was kind of a pocket guide to every day kindness. It’s really digestible little snippets of ways to bring more kindness into your life. It’s meant to be used as a weekly primer, giving yourself some practices for a week to start to build with, and we really organized it through my own personal journey, starting with Section One, The Foundation of Self-Kindness. I don’t believe that we can make any positive change without first starting to shift that inner voice and starting to be kind to ourselves, so the whole first section is about building that self-kindness foundation.
Lara Heacock: We then start into the second section, which is ‘The Courage to be Imperfect’. I’m raising my hand as a recovering perfectionist-
David Brower: Me too.
Lara Heacock: Type A, over-achiever. Yeah. Really letting yourself step into that courage once you have the self-kindness foundation, you could be a little courageous and start allowing those imperfections to be visible, and then ‘Kind Living’, which is taking it out into the world, then the final section is ‘Life Lessons’, which are things that I’ve learned in my decades on the planet, things that are consistent themes with my clients, and a little bit of help to help readers learn these lessons maybe a little faster than the rest of us did.
David Brower: The cool thing about your book, I think, is yeah, it’s a book, it’s a handbook, it’s a manual, it’s a take it, use it, read it, live it, breathe it kind of thing, it’s not read it and put it down.
Lara Heacock: Yeah, and I’ve had people tell me that they’ll open randomly to something and just see what the universe wants them to read that day, or they really work it week by week and focus on what I’m going to do in week one, and you don’t have to start it January 1st, you can start it May 14th, whenever you want to start your own kindness and self-kindness journey you can start this book, and I say there’s no wrong way to use it. Some weeks, you’ll go back to it time and time again, and some weeks, you’ll read and you’ll be like, ‘I really got that. I’m good. I’m going to go to another week.’
David Brower: I love that because you have to … there has to be some aha moments along the way, and the book doesn’t really dictate those to you, you have to get in there and discover them yourself.
Lara Heacock: Yeah, because my aha’s are different from yours, which are different than Joe across the street, so let’s have our own journey.
David Brower: That’s fascinating. So you’ve got some great reviews, let me just grab one at random here. ‘Practical Kindness isn’t about reciting flowery affirmations or trying to strive to be better, it’s about how we implement very real sane approaches to kindness into our daily lives.’ That’s pretty good.
Lara Heacock: Yeah. I might have a little collection of crystals and a meditation alter, but I am pragmatic at heart.
David Brower: Yeah. Exactly. And I just noticed … I read that at random, but I just noticed that came from another author.
Lara Heacock: Yeah. Yes it did.
David Brower: So that’s cool. When you get that kind of recognition from your peers as well as us every day folk, that speaks to you being on the right path doesn’t it?
Lara Heacock: It does. It feels great. Every time I saw a review, it’s an incredible feeling. This is so based in my own journey and the work that I try to bring to the world, and it’s so wonderful to see that it does impact people. Kindness is important, kindness isn’t weakness, kindness isn’t, as that said, ‘flowery and soft’, it’s really a life skill that has so many far reaching benefits.
David Brower: Well, and if I can presume something, I’m going to guess that when you receive a review like that, it’s not a pat on the back so much as it is, ‘Oh, I touched somebody.’
Lara Heacock: Yeah. That’s what it’s about-
David Brower: Is that right?
Lara Heacock: Yeah, I want people to know that there’s a better way to live. That’s really … I was just talking to someone this morning, and what it comes down to is I’m on a mission to end burnout. I’m on a mission to show people that there is a different way to live and that yes, corporate speak, it can be more productive and improve your bottom line and all of that kind of stuff, but really, in my soul, life gets better when you live this way-
David Brower: Absolutely.
Lara Heacock: And that’s what I want people to experience.
David Brower: Well on one of your … the LaraHeacock.com site, ‘Kindness has the power to reduce staff turnover by 40%, increase productivity by 18%, reduce workplace stress by 11%, improve customer satisfaction by 12%.’ If you gave me half of those percentages, I’d be happy.
Lara Heacock: Yeah. I think a lot of people think about … Richard Branson is pretty famous for saying, ‘If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your clients.’, and I do believe that, but I think there’s a first step, and the first step is, as a leader, you have to take care of yourself in order to be able to create that environment where your employees can take care of your clients, and my job, what I do, is I work with those leaders to be able to take care of themselves so they can take care of those teams that then create customer satisfaction and lower stress and all of those results.
David Brower: And folks, if you want to … your blog is mind boggling, it’s so cool, and it looks like you write one every day, is that fair?
Lara Heacock: I write every Monday, and then we’re also a bit of an online magazine. We do have new posts going every day by a variety of writers that are all speaking and writing into kindness in some way, shape, or form, so I write every Monday, and then the other days in the week, we like to feature other voices in the space of kindness.
David Brower: How cool is that? ‘Kind Over Matter: Life Gets Better When You’re Kind to Yourself’, and the blog, folks, is KindOverMatter.com, and it is filled with so many neat things, and in fact, they can subscribe to receive love notes from Lara, get encouragement letters, kindness letters I assume in their inbox every day? That’s pretty sweet.
Lara Heacock: Yeah. Kindness in your inbox, what’s better than that?
David Brower: So if business folks people want to learn more about kindness, how it can improve their … impact their life, impact their business, what’s the best way for them to reach out to you and explore some opportunities?
Lara Heacock: Yeah. Absolutely. I love to hear from people. There is a lot of information about my corporate work on LaraHeacock.com, but I always welcome them to reach out. I’m only an email away, LaraHeacock@gmail.com. All roads lead to there.
David Brower: Great. And if you go to LaraHeacock.com, it’s got all the contact information, the resources, the coaching, the speaking, the workshop opportunities, all of those kinds of things. Hats off to you, God bless you for everything you’re doing. You’re changing the world, it feels like to me, kid.
Lara Heacock: Thank you so much, David. I so appreciate your time.
David Brower: All right. Have a great week.
Allan Blackwell: Your 20 minute podcast with David Brower has been brought to you by Audible. You can listen to any of David’s podcasts anywhere podcasts can be found, including IHeartRadio, the Spotify mobile app, and at DavidBrowerVO.com/your20minutepodcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.