Transcript: Thanks, Allen. This is David Brower with Your 20 Minute Podcast. Our special guest today from Palm Springs is Steven B Howard. He’s an author of the book, “Better Decisions. Better Thinking. Better Outcomes: How to Shift from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership.” Decisions are the lifeblood of companies and organizations. And every day, leaders, employees even, make decisions loaded by stress, and overloaded brains, and interruptions, and insufficient time. I mean, the list goes on and on. Welcome to the show, Steven. How are you?
Steven Howard: Thank you, David. I’m very well. Yourself?
David Brower: Very well, thank you. I’m fascinated by your book, because everybody … I shouldn’t say everybody. Lot of people are using the latest buzzword, which is “mindful,” and I love the title of your book, ’cause it’s how to shift from mind full to mindful leadership. And that makes all the sense in the world. So how did this book come to you? And I know it’s not your first. You’ve got, what, another 20 books you’ve written, I think?
Steven Howard: Yes, that’s correct, this is my 20th. It came about partly personal; my father was suffering from some Alzheimer’s in his later years, and I was his key caregiver. So I started studying Alzheimer’s, and then I quite frankly started thinking about, “How does that apply to leadership?” And came across some statistics from a societal standpoint that just scared the hell out of me, quite frankly. And yeah, so I started the linking the two and linking the ability to be present, which is mindful, with leadership and with decision making. And it all came together, and as a result, the book came out in November last year.
David Brower: My gosh, it’s amazing to me. I mean, people call it different things, but how the starts aligned to where you just go, “Oh! Thanks, Dad.” You know what I mean?
Steven Howard: Yeah, yeah.
David Brower: It’s kind of a weird thank you. But thanks, Dad. Oh my gosh, what a challenging time, and what a wonderful outcome for leaders around the country.
Steven Howard: It is, and it’s, as I said, a societal issue where leaders need to be aware of it. Right now, projections say that dementia, Alzheimer’s, and stroke in this country will increase by 67% in the next decade.
David Brower: My god.
Steven Howard: And that we’ll have over 10 million Americans suffering from one of those three brain illnesses. And that’s inexcusable; all of these are postponable, perhaps even preventable, through lifestyle changes. But people are just not aware of it. They think of these as old timers disease, or retirement diseases, and I’ll worry about it when I retire.
David Brower: Yeah, yeah.
Steven Howard: The time to worry about it is when you’re in your 30s and 40s.
David Brower: Yeah, I’ve heard it called “old timers, part timers.” It’s terrifying. And I don’t care how old you are. Unless you’re still 18, you are susceptible to these kinds of things. To turn that off in obviously an overcrowded brain, to focus on things that may be helping to cause these things, that’s kind of frightening, actually.
Steven Howard: It is, and what leaders do – I coach leaders now about this – is that we live in a world where we just react to everything. And we try to get so much done so quickly, and so I now tell leaders, “Look. The reason we call emergency personnel first responders is that they’re taught to pause and evaluate the situation. They don’t just go rushing in to burning buildings, or rushing in when they see an electrical wire, [inaudible 00:03:27]. They have to make sure they don’t harm themselves or others.” Well, the same thing with leaders. Leaders need to slow down, ask better questions, and become more present before they just make a decision, because when our brain is overloaded, when we’re tired, when we’re stressed, the brain works on autopilot. And they just make the easiest decision that comes to mind, and often, that’s the wrong decision.
David Brower: What a wonderful comparison; I mean, that is so spot on. One of our sons is a firefighter, and that makes perfect sense to me, and it’s a perfect piece of advice for students, employers, C-level entrepreneurs, everybody. That’s something we should all do, you know? We should all embrace that pause and slow down, even if it’s for a minute. Otherwise, we’re going 100 miles an hour. We’re not doing what we want to do.
Steven Howard: We are. Instead of being first reactors, we need to become first responders.
David Brower: There you go.
Steven Howard: And the interesting thing, David, is our mothers, in some way, are right when they taught us to count to 10 when we’re angry. It takes the prefrontal cortex, the rational center of the brain, about 8 to 10 seconds to take over from the amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain. When we get angry, we get emotional, upset, we get emotion hijacked. So even as little as 10 or 15 seconds is enough to calm ourselves and start thinking rationally, and that’s all it takes. I think we’ve all been in a situation where we said, “I was too angry to think straight.” And that happens so often in today’s world.
David Brower: You know, I don’t remember my mom saying that. I’m sure she did, because actually, now that I’m older, I practice that. And I don’t know why. But I actually practice that most every day, and it is a calming thing that I don’t know where it came from. But I appreciate that mirror, ’cause I’m fortunate to be able to do that right now. Certainly didn’t do it 20 years ago, but I do it now.
Steven Howard: I don’t think I did it before I did the research for the book. But I’m like you, I do it regularly now.
David Brower: Right? Yeah, it’s like, “Where’s my instant gratification? What do you mean we’re a dollar under profit?” It’s like, “Oh my God.” It’s so challenging. And when you work with business owners, entrepreneurs, those kinds of things, you work one on one? Do you work in groups? How do you educate these people and help them be better at what they need to be?
Steven Howard: I do both; I do a lot of team coaching, 8 to 10 people all reporting to the same person. So the team gets together, and we talk about these things. And afterwards, I [inaudible 00:05:56] entry point in an organization, and then afterwards, I’ll work with individuals who need more help or who want more coaching. And that can all be done virtually, given technology today, you don’t have to fly everywhere to have a coaching session. So I do both.
David Brower: Yeah, thank goodness. So I’m curious. When you start with a team … well first of all, how does the team come to you? Or how do you find the team, how do you get that entry point?
Steven Howard: Lot of referral business, quite frankly. I’ve been training leaders for 25 years, I’ve trained over 10,000 leaders around the world in 25 years. So a lot of its referral business.
David Brower: That’s the best kind.
Steven Howard: Now the book, obviously. Yeah, with the book, I have a leadership blog, people read that three times a week.
David Brower: Nice.
Steven Howard: A lot of leads come in.
David Brower: Nice. So I’m curious about the team concept, because it seems to be, in some scenarios, teams are going to be made up of different generations, obviously different ages, different challenges, different responsibility. I mean, how do you get a team to co-exist in a good way, I guess?
Steven Howard: Communication, number one, and trust. Trust is the underlining, and that trust … one of the things about leaders today is that leaders need to learn that trust is based partially of vulnerability. The ability to stand in front of the team and said, “I’m not sure what we should do. Let’s talk about this.” Or even to have made a mistake. “Hey, I made a wrong decision. Now let’s figure out how we can correct this.”
David Brower: Yeah.
Steven Howard: And if you notice the words I’m using, I’m using a lot of “we” language.
David Brower: Yes, you are.
Steven Howard: The more leaders can talk about “we.” “How are we going to work in this, where are we going?” Those are two of the main reasons to get teams to work in the same way. And the third reason is, the third way, is for leaders to understand that they need to trust their team.
David Brower: Yeah.
Steven Howard: They need to let go. They need to delegate. Leaders who took strategy and let the team worry about tactics. And that’s what great leaders do.
David Brower: Well said. And I what like you said about we. There’s no place for I, there’s no place for you. There’s every place for we, and yeah. I can see where that would help increase the trust on both ends of that, from the team to the leader. Do you find, in your coaching, your training with some leaders that their ego’s just too big to do what they need to do?
Steven Howard: Yes, unfortunately, and those are the leaders who burn out or, more importantly, one of the leading indicators that they have large turnovers of their team. The old saying that people don’t leave companies, they leave bosses, and that’s so true. Especially in today’s world; you mentioned the multi-generational world. Baby boomers are less likely to do that, millennials, they’ll leave and they won’t even tell you that they’re leaving. This concept calling “ghosting” now that’s happening in the workplace more frequently, yeah.
David Brower: I’ve heard of it. What is that, exactly? I’ve heard of it.
Steven Howard: Ghosting, it started in the dating world. It’s my understanding of it that basically you break up your relationship, just don’t contact the person anymore. You don’t respond to them. Well, ghosting in the employment is you just walk out the door and don’t come back.
David Brower: Oh my gosh.
Steven Howard: You might give up part of your paycheck. You don’t worry about referrals, you go get another job and you move on. Ghosting is happening frequently, particularly in the larger organizations.
David Brower: That’s terrifying. You go from … oh my god. You go back in the day, what, 30, 40, 50 years ago, whatever, where loyalty was really important on both sides of the equation – owners, leadership, employees, all that kind of stuff. And then as time went on, loyalty became less and less and less. But to go to that extreme of ghosting … I mean, I’ve heard of people quitting their jobs by texting. I’ve never heard of ghosting, oh my Lord. I can’t even …
Steven Howard: Yeah, they just move on.
David Brower: My brain can’t even go there. Oh goodness gracious, I’m going to have a talk with my grandkids, I’ll tell you.
Steven Howard: Well, there you go. It’s something in the younger generation; it’s not something that you and I would probably ever consider doing. But it is happening, and it’s driving HR people and small business, as well as large business, it’s driving them crazy.
David Brower: Wow. Your book has a section on brain myths. What are a few of those that you were surprised to discover in your research.
Steven Howard: One is I know, again, when I was growing up, I was taught that our brain stops growing when we’re somewhere around age 25. And science can prove that’s no longer true, or actually never was true, but now science can prove it in that technology with the MRIs and other technologies they have. We continue to grow brain cells into our 70s, and our brain’s volume can actually continue to increase into our 70s if we take care of it from a health standpoint. If we have bad lifestyle, then that’s going to impact the brain. One of the worst things for long term brain health is being overweight, quite frankly. Another research study came out and showed that people who were highly overweight have smaller brains, and that men who put on the most abdominal fat in their 40s have a higher risk for dementia in their 60s.
David Brower: Oh my goodness gracious. And we all, everywhere you turn in every piece of media, “You got to look like this. You got to feel like that, you got to be like this, you got to be like that.” How do you sort through all that when your brain is already so mind full with your employees, and the job to give yourself enough respect to take care of yourself? I’m sure a lot of people don’t do that.
Steven Howard: They don’t, and that’s why I got a one day workshop on this that organizations absolutely love, because we get a group of people in the room that’s either cross functional or all the same team. We work it out, and I give them tips and techniques on how to change their lifestyle. How to change their breathing patterns to reduce stress in the workplace, other tips to reduce stress. Because the other leading indicator of brain illnesses is high blood pressure.
David Brower: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I found this thing, my wife, I call her the stead of the family, she’s the jock. She gets up at 5:30 in the morning and goes swims 3,500 ’cause she wants to, and hikes, and does all this great stuff. And I’m going, “Yeah, whatever, I want to ride my Harley.” And so I can’t do Pilates, can’t do yoga, all that kind of stuff. But I found this class called chair yoga, and I am freaking hooked on that class.
Steven Howard: Chair yoga?
David Brower: Chair yoga. So it’s like yoga in moderation, you have a chair that you use to help with your balance. And it’s all stretching, and it’s all yoga kind of stuff, it’s just in moderation. And I’m going, “Oh my Lord.” It’s fascinating for guys like me, that we’re as flexible as a pencil. And it’s a fascinating class. I’m crazy about it.
Steven Howard: I love it.
David Brower: Yeah, oh my goodness. Anyway, I’m raving on here.
Steven Howard: No, that’s great.
David Brower: So I know stress overloads brains, which impacts decisions. I know if you’re going 100 miles an hour like you’re talking about earlier, how do you differentiate between good decisions, bad decisions? You just jump in the pond and make a decision, which isn’t going to help anybody. So one of your things is you have to figure out a way to help these people become those emergency responders. And that’s got to be a challenge.
Steven Howard: It is. And a lot of it, it’s the body. What happens when we’re under stress? The body produces cortisol. Cortisol triggers the emotional part of our brain, amygdala. Amygdala takes over and that’s why we get emotional hijacked. We say things that we later regret, or we do things that we regret, or we make decisions that are wrong. So one of the first techniques I teach people is a technique called box breathing.
David Brower: Okay.
Steven Howard: And it’s what the US Navy SEALs use. And all it is, you inhale for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, exhale for five seconds, hold the exhale for five seconds, and repeat for a minute, two minutes, and just that breathe in, it’s obviously belly breathing, it’s from the diaphragm, deep breathing. That breathing alone forces the cortisol out of the system, or slows it down, and allows the rational part of the brain to take over. The Navy SEALs do this in five minute increments. I don’t know any leader who has a more stressful job than a Navy SEAL, quite frankly, so if they do, they should join the SEALs.
David Brower: That’s fascinating, and it’s something everybody, everywhere, any situation, can adopt, take the time to experiment with and make it a part of your daily routine. If you can’t breathe in and out, if you can’t commit to breathing in and out in an appropriate manner, you really got to slow down.
Steven Howard: Well, the most stressful place I go to, and I got to it frequently, are airports.
David Brower: Oh yeah.
Steven Howard: And when I’m standing in line to board a plane, and there’s people yelling and screaming or running around, or somebody’s had a flight delay, it’s a stressful situation, I will stand there in line, and I can focus on the tarmac. I usually look at one of the workers, or in the airplane, just focus on him. And I’ll stand there for five minutes and do box breathing, and nobody knows what I’m doing. They just think I’m looking out at the tarmac.
David Brower: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. They teach us that in the chair yoga class I was talking about. So you look straight ahead, find a point, and that’s how you help control your balance. So I love that, box breathing. I’m doing some other stuff, but I love that, I love that. So are you traveling a lot? Are you doing the webinar kind of stuff? I shouldn’t say webinar. But the online kind of training?
Steven Howard: It’s a mixture of everything. I do travel probably 40% of the time right now. I usually don’t start traveling until March; March to November is kind of my heavy peak travel period. So I do some webinars, I do some free webinars about brain health in general every couple weeks. And right now, I’ve been doing some keynote speaking at some conferences and leadership conferences. So it’s a mixture, trying to get the message out to people about the importance of helping ourselves. I don’t want people to suffer what I did as a caregiver for my father. The emotional and financial cost of looking after a parent, an elderly parent who has a brain disease, is just devastating.
David Brower: It is.
Steven Howard: So trying to help others not do that.
David Brower: Good for you, good for you. So people want to reach out to you, are you on the usual social media, as they say?
Steven Howard: Everything except Instagram.
David Brower: No Instagram and no Snapchat, I would guess.
Steven Howard: No, no Snapchat. I’m not in that younger generation, I’m sorry. You can find me on Twitter @Steven Howard. Stephen B Howard, you can find on LinkedIn, the same thing. Steven B Howard, location Southern California. Easiest place is my website. My company’s name is Caliente Leadership.
David Brower: Okay.
Steven Howard: So calienteleadership.com. And Caliente, of course, is the Spanish word for “hot,” but people don’t realize it’s also the Spanish word, or one definition of it, is passionate.
David Brower: Oh, wow.
Steven Howard: I’m passionate about leadership.
David Brower: I love that.
Steven Howard: So it gives me a chance to explain that. So calienteleadership.com, that’s where my blog is at. That’s where my contact details are at.
David Brower: And some of your free information is on there too, right? That you were talking about?
Steven Howard: I’ve got free articles on there every month. I post 10 to 15 articles that I’ve read by others in the last month on leadership.
David Brower: Nice.
Steven Howard: And I post that on a page, put links to the articles so people can do it. I’ve got a list of recommended leadership books by myself and others.
David Brower: Perfect.
Steven Howard: So a lot of free information.
David Brower: And Caliente is C-A-L-I-E-N-T-E Leadership. Caliente Leadership. And you’ve got 20 books out there. Your latest, of course, is the one we’re talking about. “Better Decisions. Better Thinking. Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership.” One of the one titles I really want to check out. It’s called “Eight Keys to Becoming a Great Leader, with Leadership Lessons and Tips from Gibbs, Yoda, and Capt’n Jack Sparrow.” I got to check that out.
Steven Howard: Well, and that is one that the younger generation loves. It’s a short book, only 130 pages.
David Brower: Yeah.
Steven Howard: I kept the price down below $8. But I take scenes from Gibbs from the TV show NCIS on Tuesday nights, so he’s your command and control leader.
David Brower: Yeah, rule of 99. Yeah.
Steven Howard: Yes. Yoda is your philosophical leader from Star Wars. And Capt’n Jack Sparrow is your “get into situations and get out of situations” leader.
David Brower: And take a bottle of rum with you.
Steven Howard: Absolutely, absolutely.
David Brower: Folks, be sure to look up Steven –
Steven Howard: Fun book.
David Brower: It sounds fun. I’m going to check that out. Be sure to look up Steven B, as in boy, Steven B Howard. And you can Google him, you can find him on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, all those kinds of great things. And of course, his website is calienteleadership.com. Steven, it’s been a real pleasure, man. Congratulations on your success. And continued success. The box breathing, if folks don’t pay attention to just that, that’s a home run in of itself.
Steven Howard: Well, I appreciate it, David. Thank you, and I’m going to go check out chair yoga. That sounds interesting.
David Brower: All right. Have a great day.
Allan Blackwell: Listen to Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower on the go. Downloads are available on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and podcast app, and on our website, at davidbrowervo.com/your20minutepodcast. Until next time, thank you for listening.