Performance and science are two words that may seem at odds, but there is in fact a science to performance.
That’s great news for you as a leader because it means there are clear ways to optimize you and your team’s performance for success. From quantitative to qualitative measures, performance science helps you maximize your productive behavior for positive outcomes.
When applied correctly, the foundations of performance science can help you combine the concrete and the abstract parts of your dreams and goals and translate them into a tangible plan of action that leads to success.
On this episode of Evolved Sales LIVE, host Jonathan Fischer sits down with Carla Fowler, MD PhD, who completed her internship in general surgery at Stanford University and founded Thaxa, an executive coaching firm, to speak about how performance science can level up your leadership skills and business strategy.
Don't forget to follow us on LinkedIn for more engaging sales insights and discussions! Happy watching!
Carla Fowler, MD PhD, earned degrees from Brown University and the University of Washington before diving into the medical field as a surgical intern at Stanford University. Combining her interest in human behavior, data, and the medical field, Carla founded Thaxa, a performance science executive coaching firm that takes this science and applies it to helping business leaders reach their full potential.
Check out the transcription of this webinar episode below!
Jonathan Fischer: [00:00:00] Welcome back. Thanks for joining us. I'm Jonathan Fisher. Well, through all the thick and thin, up and down of this ever changing business environment that we're all enjoying right now, one thing does not change, and that's the need to continue to evolve our leadership skills and our ability to increase performance.
Well, today's guest is the perfect person to help us out with that very thing. Carla Fowler, MD PhD, graduated from Brown University, Magna cum laude, earned her degrees at the University of Washington and completed her internship in general surgery at Stanford University. She's also the founder of Thaxa, an executive coaching firm that leverages the best ideas from performance science to help leaders from around the globe achieve next level.
Results. And in our conversation today, Dr. Fowler will be sharing insights from the latest scientific research that you can use to unlock next level performance for yourself and for your team. Dr. Fowler, fantastic to have you on the program today. Welcome to the Evolve
Carla Fowler: Sales Leader. Thank you, Jonathan.
This is great to be here.
Jonathan Fischer: Well, I'll tell you what, we we're constantly talking about different ways to up our game. A lot of the conversation by necessity tends to be sort of on the tactical side of doing business, better strategic ways of leading our organizations. But we have comparatively few experts on performers.
We have just a couple. But your research interests me a lot. I think our listener is Sure to benefit in big ways. Would you, would you mind, how does [00:02:00] a medical surgeon. That's redundant, isn't it? You're medical, you're a surgeon. How does a trained medical doctor become such an expert on performance science?
Tell us a little bit about your journey into this space, if you would.
Carla Fowler: Well, Jonathan, that's a really great question and it, it is not a typical path into this space, but as you pointed out prior to starting coaching, which I did about 10 years ago I was on an academic medical path. And so what that looks like is I spent most of my twenties getting an MD and a PhD and.
Some people say I'm a glutton for punishment because I just thought that was the most awesome program in the world. So, you know, I liked math and science growing up. I also was really interested in people and people problems. So thinking about. How do we work on problems to actually benefit folks?
And and also I've always been really interested in high performance and what are all the behaviors that go along with that. So I, you know, you put me in this program and basically I, it's an, a whole arena of high-performing people for me to learn from and also a great place to do scientific.
Problem solving. And so, that was how I spent most of my twenties. And so during that time, I was in addition to learning how to actually do cancer research as a bench scientist as well as, you know, learn how to operate on someone, there were also these other meta things that I was picking up on.
And maybe that is just a, an instinct I have where I'm always looking for what's going on. Below the surface or below the sort of tactical content that is happening. And so some of the biggest things that I was learning during that time also were how to actually think about an unstructured problem.
You know, when you do science that's more or less what you're doing and how to really look at and figure out what's most important that's there what is going to be of most value. [00:04:00] And then go after those types of questions or problems. In addition, medicine is one of these really interesting fields where we let relatively young people make and participate in high stakes decisions and also really counsel people and work through with them to help them make really high stakes decisions.
And so, Those were some of the things that I really took away from that time and also figured out that I was quite interested in them. And so as I was nearing the end of the program, I was really looking for my home. And it was interesting because I loved psychology and, but I was less interested in working on the mental illness aspects of it.
I also loved high performance, so I ended up heading towards surgery because that's a field where you really have to like, see and own your choices. It's sort of a, feels like a very high performing arena and you know, but you know, the human component was a little less emphasized there very much the focus on like, okay, cut people open, fix them.
You know, and then next. So you could say that I didn't really totally find my home. And as I was really getting to the investment part of doing medicine, which is in residency, so where you lose all the sleep and work really hard for very little pay for about seven years. And I had to make a hard choice about is this really fully encompassing what I'm most interested in?
Is it going to fully use my strengths? Is this what you wanna do? Because right now is where you're going to really earn it. And I think the answer for me wasn't wasn't high enough. Yes, it was not a hell yes. We'll just say that. And I realized that I needed to create something and I could create something like a practice outside of medicine that would really give me the opportunity to combine lots of things I love.
So the thinking about behavior around high performance, really getting to work with people and help them with[00:06:00] you know, high stakes decisions. Help them think about how could they apply good ideas, new habits, new perspectives to really support them as they went after ambitious goals. And so ultimately, That's the practice I developed 10 years ago and I used, you know, all this stuff that I learned in science about how to think, how to approach an unstructured problem.
I just poured that into building a methodology to work with all sorts of leaders in different kinds of interest industries. To support them as they go after these goals and to support their performance. So that is how an MDPHD gets into coaching.
Jonathan Fischer: That's great. I love it. I love it. Well, yeah, it is very much more you know, fix the machine.
I, I would think in surgery I. Some of these areas the question that comes to my mind almost immediately is, first of all, you have a very empirical type of science when you're talking about surgery. That may be one of the most empirical of all sciences, right? I mean, it's very much, you know, input data, you know, assess and adjust.
As opposed to psychology, which is far less empirical, it is far more philosophical. Other thought leaders in the space typically have some guiding lines for certain influences that they would look to maybe wells that they've drunk from a little more deeply. Jordan Peterson, Carl Young, obviously for will be one example.
Listen to popular conversation today. Not to mention hope he's not too polarizing for the audience. But what would you be open to speaking to that? Is there, is there a particular source or is it pretty eclectic for you? Maybe give us a little bit of the background before we dive in.
Carla Fowler: Yeah, absolutely. Well, you could say that I am pretty practical. And so the sources, as I started to say, what's really gonna help people, number one I thought a lot about, well, What is the performance science that's actually out there? How do we actually think about that as a field? And so I think of it as a multidisciplinary field, and I would say that there are different bodies contributing to it.
So you could consider that there are a lot of business schools and other types of business [00:08:00] thinkers that are contributing to how we think about strategy. What is strategy? Why do we care about it? So that might be one big bucket of performance. I think another field that really contributes to our is like psychology or sociology.
Like how do human beings behave? Why do we behave that way? You could look at evolutionary biology, like how are we wired instinctually and how does that play into a modern world that where technology has progressed much faster than, for example, our evolutionary biology. So I really think about.
This whole body of work that is performance science, and that was one big influencer, which is to say, number one, what are all the ideas we have out there that seem to have some truth or some data behind them? Then the second piece was really that that's not usable for anybody. Like if you have a C E O who's trying to lead a startup, like they are not going to be able to dig into that and pull out.
Something meaningful in the amount of time they have to do that. Like they have other areas of focus. And so for me, I wanted to be able to look at it and again, use my training and those assessment skills to say how do we distill this into principles or philosophies that universally seem to matter.
Like industry agnostic you know, role agnostic to some degree, or at the very least, understanding what things sort of change as you progress through your career. So part of it is judgment both based on a number of sort of high performing arenas that I've actually put myself through, because again, something looks great in theory, but if you've actually tried it, tested it on yourself, for example, then you may learn about.
Well, what's really there or is a good idea, but not very good in practice. So, I sort of combined both of these things because I thought one of the most important elements was to make it very usable for [00:10:00] folks and with the understanding that like they don't have time to parse at all. And so there're going to be some pieces of science, some ideas that are going to be more important than others.
Like blueberries might be a super food. Do I think they're gonna make your startup successful? Like, No, everyone knows that, like, that's ridiculous to say. So really then the game becomes, parsing all this information, thinking it through, and then packaging it in like a partnered methodology that makes it really easy to figure out what's relevant for each individual client, what is going to best boost their performance, and then to help them really apply it.
So, I guess that's how I was influenced in my methods. That's good.
Jonathan Fischer: So you call it multidisciplinary. That's a better way of putting it than eclectic because it's still very intentional. I've been going on multiple, so, maybe and sounds like maybe we should add a laboratory test subject to your to your titles.
But find things on yourself. I love it. A quick reminder to our audience as we start to delve a little more deeply. Don't forget we have the wonderful q and A at the end of our session here today. You no need to wait. Go ahead and post your questions in, some of you already are doing that. We're gonna bank those.
And circle back at the bottom of the half hour. Get you some live. Ask me anything. Time with our expert today, Dr. Fowler. So Dr. Fowler when we think of performance, at least for me, I think of what's missing. You know, where are the gaps? It's a good place to start. Yeah. If you know, it's hard to know what to fix if you don't know where the problem's located.
So, if a, do you agree with that? As a, as an approach? Maybe there's a better methodology, and B, what are some of the initial areas that somebody could search to find gaps, areas to improve their performance?
Carla Fowler: I think it's a great place to start and so I know we, we had talked out before the show about what we thought might be most helpful and you know, so I love the idea of starting with some of the biggest challenges or the things where it goes wrong.
Most often. And so if we're just gonna hop right in, I think one of the first [00:12:00] things that happens to all of us is this idea of we don't always have clarity about what our goals are. And I'll give some examples of what this looks like or how you might know if this were happening to you. So, one of the things that can happen is if you find that you're a person who.
You accomplish something and like by the time you're there, you're already like, oh, but the next thing, like it's this other thing that I want to accomplish. And so you sort of have a moving goalpost issue where because you haven't really identified what the goal is, you sort of fly past it. Then never get that moment of recognizing your progress.
A flip side of this is some people totally stay in dreamland, right? Like, we have this dream of accomplishing something and it feels so good. It's like a warm bath. And of course, in our brains, everything is great about it. And because our fantasies don't include any of the reality, any of the, trying to fit it into.
The constraints of our life, the constraints of our resources. And so the dream is like always better, seems better and easier than the reality of it. And so, and then sometimes this, we don't have clarity on our goals. And this manifests as we're doing a lot of work. Like we're, we're. Putting a lot of effort in a lot of different areas and just sort of feeling like we're not getting anywhere.
And often that is a sign of we haven't actually focused or said, Hey what am I actually trying to get at here? Can I put that into more concrete words? And what I find is that when we do this, some of the, some of the downsides of not getting clarity are that number one, sometimes we just don't ever take action on something I.
We stay in the dream, or number two we put in a ton of effort, but like are just feeling burnt out, like we're doing a ton of work. And so, I like the solution to this or a way to look at this from a positive standpoint is I really encourage people to [00:14:00] translate their dreams. And to say that this is some of the first work to be done now I totally, if someone's gonna play devil's advocate on this, they can say, well, Carla, like people get really stuck in thinking about things and we'll talk about that later.
But I do think spending a little bit of time trying to actually describe what a dream would look like in the reality of your life is very important work and thinking to do, just to start because. Even if what you end up with is a shadow of what you had in your brain, it's actually the first step to getting something to be realized.
And you often get really interesting data. When you do that, even if the translation doesn't wow you and so often what I recommend to people as they're trying to start to get clarity on what a goal is number one, you do need some time to think about it, and I often recommend try writing it down, like it's sort of a recipe for someone else.
So try to explain it. So that someone else would really understand like what you wanted. And sometimes that means there's really concrete pieces like, you know, there's a number involved like. You know, we wanna grow our company this, like, this amount. Sometimes it's by its nature more qualitative and that's okay.
But I do encourage putting more specific qualitative words about it. Like, what is it you want it to feel like? You know, what is it that it would look like? What would it look like to be successful at that? What might it look like initially and then what might it look like later as you keep going?
So, I think sometimes people like worry about getting it right, and I might argue that the more important piece is really about spending some time on it and actually like turning those gears in your brain and then revisiting it for social people. I also recommend if you have like a trusted, a trusted person that you [00:16:00] can often sit down and try and explain it to them.
And like, they often ask good questions about like, well, what does that mean? Or what would that actually look like? And then finally, I think a great question can be, well, what does this actually look like in reality? So what would be a form of this? Even if it doesn't match the dream, what would it look like to have some versus have all or have none?
And start from there. So, so that's, those are some things that I think about. With that first mistake that happens commonly to all of us is we don't spend some time trying to get some clarity on what we want. So yes. First, first big mistake.
Jonathan Fischer: Yeah. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So you use the word translate, that, that implies that we are going from one language to another.
Is your, are you hinting at that? We're a little too you mentioned almost like a dreamlike state where things maybe are fantastical or unrealistic. We have this sort of, This nebulous notion of where we want to go, is that, is that basically what we're translating? Is there something more to that in terms of the translation or are we talking about getting super, that's it in a nutshell.
Carla Fowler: Like, like it's taking something that by its nature in our brains, doesn't have to obey the laws of reality. Right? Like in our brains, we have more than 24 hours in a day and Oh, right. We can have, you know, huge goal over here and we can also have huge goal over here and So it's translating into saying, oh, okay, if, if I actually want that, like what might that, what might that look like?
Where are the opportunities to actually do that thing? What might it look like in reality? And we start to have to think about the constraints and what goals might be most important and what goals are great when they all fit together in our brain. But that if we actually put them into our lives, we might say, well, that one's not as important than these other ones.
So, yeah, it is a translation.
Jonathan Fischer: That makes sense. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So this this beginning with the work of translating the dream What are some of the results of that? Are we, do we start to see some [00:18:00] things? I think you hinted at this, that maybe are you become less important? Is that the next logical step is to start to kind of prioritize to some degree?
Carla Fowler: Yeah. Then this is great 'cause you actually just led into like common mistake number two. I. Around performance. And that is this idea of when we are working towards a goal, but we actually haven't taken some time to get clarity on what's actually most important to help us move towards that. So in other words, like what are the priorities that are going to give us a bigger impact?
And so we should prioritize our resources and time towards those things. And so, what this often looks like, so is. When people are focused very much on working really hard to get somewhere or trying to figure out how to like do more things in less time. That's often a problem. And in fact, the whole productivity movement in some ways is really focused on this.
Like, how do we do more in less time? But sometimes I think we're actually looking at the wrong problem, when actually what we should think about is number one. Accept and embrace the idea that we will not do it all. We, everyone has this limit of 24 hours in a day. And so high performance then comes not from Necessarily trying to cram more into 24 hours a day high performance can then be influenced by saying, can I get better at choosing and prioritizing?
What are the things I will invest my time and resources in? And can I get better at identifying what those things are? And so that is, Both the dilemma and also what I think is sort of a orthogonal performance approach to that dilemma of saying, God, I'm working so hard, there's so much I wanna do, I don't have enough time.
Is to start to say, ah, the game, the game has shifted. The game is not about working [00:20:00] harder, but it is about really getting interested in what is my goal, what am I trying to do, and can I understand what are actually the bigger drivers? Towards my success in this, on how do I then focus my time and energy more on those things and try and minimize things that distract or take me away from being able to invest in that.
Jonathan Fischer: So when it comes to having completed this work, the next thing I'm thinking of is, all right, we gotta start to take some action here. What are your recommendations for that and what are some mistakes to avoid on
Carla Fowler: that front? Yeah, absolutely. Well, definitely in terms of getting focused. And I often call this like brutal focus.
Particularly around these first two mistakes. I think to take action, one of the best things you can do is set a timer, like give yourself some time. Set a timer. The timer doesn't have to be for a long time like 20 minutes, 30 minutes. And I often recommend building a framework for yourself that you, it's can be a one three framework.
I use a 1 3 9 framework in my practice, but the idea is with the one. It's to pick something. Pick something that you have a goal about in your life or even just something that you want, and really spend some of that time thinking about what you want in that area and describing it as best you can. And then the second step is really to say, What are all the things that actually drive that or that contribute to that?
And I usually recommend just make a big brain dump. Just think of everything that may contribute to that might be helpful, might be good. And just make a huge list. You can even write down things you don't know, like if you're not sure about. What might be involved, or if there's an area you're like, well, I need to learn more about how that component might be influencing this.
But then I think the best next step is to look at that list and really try and distill into some themes like what's popping out to you. And also to look at it and say, well, as I look at these [00:22:00] things, do I think they're all equally important, or do I think some are better than others? And if you are wondering like, well, I'm not sure I know.
Then you could also write down who might I ask, what are some of the resources that I could tap into to help me do this? And to help me think about what might be most important. That can be books, that can be webinars, that can be people, you know, who've done it. But I often think that we know a lot more than we give ourselves credit for, and that usually the mistake we make is we actually don't spend time processing on it.
And So I think for many people making that list, the goal is not to pull out three perfect priorities. The goal is to look at it and say, can I figure out what I think are probably the three most important things? And start with those and then identify where I might need to learn more, but at least have taken some time to focus and distill before you sort of run around trying to do a bunch of different things and just feel sort of stressed and like out of time.
So that's the sort of the one three framework is take a goal, figure out what it is, and then do some brainstorming and then some distilling to get those three priorities to help you start to think about the next steps for those.
Jonathan Fischer: So, I've heard you talk about this issue of wanting to know it all before you go.
Obviously there can be issues with not knowing enough. What's the sweet spot and how do we avoid that pitfall?
Carla Fowler: Oh, that is a great one. So a, as I alluded to early, we both wanna do some thinking before we start, but people can also totally get bogged down in analysis paralysis before we get going.
And I am a big fan of doing your homework. I'm a super geek, so I did a lot of homework, but I think there are just some things that we can't. Learn or even know about ourselves until we do get going. And so, I like to say, you know, if there are clear things that you can identify where you're like, I don't know that, but I could learn it either [00:24:00] by talking to someone you know, by researching online, I say Go for it.
But when you start to find that some of the things you don't know are a little more existential or are just They might depend. Then often I find you're at the moment of you have to go try some stuff, and I think this can be a really scary moment for folks because really we're having to move ourselves into uncertain ground.
I. As human beings, we really like to have control. We like to feel sure about things and and that makes sense. It was how our brains were built. But it also can really limit us. Like it can keep us stuck in the pre-action phase. And also When we only do things that we know for certain or that we can control, our lives often feel smaller, they get narrower, we feel stagnant.
And so, I often encourage people to think about how they might relish the uncertainty that is in front of them. And You know, by that I mean think about uncertainty and imagine that in the uncertain zone of your life is also probably where new opportunities and where growth resides and that we have to be willing to walk into that space if we also wanna access some of that for ourselves.
And so I think this is something definitely that high performing people do get. Comfortable with I'm not saying they're comfortable while they're doing it, I'm just saying they get comfortable with the idea that they must go forwards into that uncertainty. And so one of the ways I encourage people to think about it is to say well, could we run an experiment?
So I sort of drop on my science days and Because in science, every day we walked in and we didn't know the answer and it was our job to figure out the answer. And in some ways de-stigmatizing not knowing it made it a much more open and creative atmosphere. I. Versus, you know, certain work cultures where, you know, it's expected, oh, you [00:26:00] need to know the answer.
And so often we think creatively about experimental design in life or in work. And so we might ask, what would it look like to run an experiment to learn something about this area or this goal that you're going after? And So we would say what's an appropriate risk to take? So for example if someone was trying to get better at public speaking, perhaps we wouldn't design the first experiment to be like a company all hands meeting, right?
Like, we might pick something smaller. So again, controlling that downside but also like ex explicitly defining like what is there to be gained? What would you like to learn? How will you learn it, right? How might you get feedback about what went well or how would you interpret the data? And and then.
When do you wanna do it? How long do you wanna try this thing? And when will we assess like how it went and decide what we wanna try next? But I find it takes uncertainty as this big amorphous concept and then really practically says, yeah, how can we take little bites of it and just kind of get a little more comfortable doing something where you don't know what's gonna happen.
And and solely build your resilience for that over time.
Jonathan Fischer: Well, excellent. Well, we are, we're nearly to the end of our core time here, but I want you to cover one more point where, you know, I, we talk a lot about shiny object syndrome in business circles, and there is that tendency to constantly be chasing new tools and wanting to know more.
And there's prob, there's a little. There's a little bit of a payoff in our brain chemistry from going and learning those new things, but that doesn't always service. I, it sounds like you would agree. What are your thoughts on
Carla Fowler: that topic? Yes. The shiny object syndrome, or like looking for the silver bullet is the other one that comes into this category.
So I hear for a lot of people that they're like, what's the hack? What is the performance hack to, you know, rule all the others? And I think the truth is we can spend a lot of energy chasing these things when Number one, like there isn't really [00:28:00] a performance hack like that. And I think often it distracts us from actually doing something we already know how to do really consistently and effectively.
And so the tool and the way I like to get at this is I. Often people do know something they want to learn, something they want to get better at, and they're looking for a shortcut. And I like to explain to them the 90 90 90 rule or principle. And this is how I explain it, the reason that it is difficult for people to get really good at something is because 90% of people don't start.
Then after that, the people who do start 90% don't keep going. Like, don't keep practicing or getting more reps at whatever it is, or more exposure. And then for the people who do keep going, 90% of people don't. I. Iterate and improve, like what are the reps that they're actually doing? So they might not go learn something more to say, oh, actually I should be practicing this way.
Or, here's another different way to look at this. Or, oh, here's some good tips for how I might be better at this. Let me try that. Or I'm gonna go get a coach, or I'm gonna go get feedback from my colleagues. You know, something like this. I like the 90, 90, 90 rule because there are so many different things we could do to improve our performance, but there are only a few ways that we often fail.
Mm. And so if we can avoid, like, failing in being a part of one of those 90, 90, 90 groups, then we are on a good track. And so I often encourage people when they're like looking around for that hack or that silver bullet. I often ask like, what do we actually think are some of the like, easy to identify, reasonable first steps to get going on something?
How could we set up a system that keeps you going at it? Sometimes that's some accountability. Sometimes that's you know, signing up for something that motivates you. A class, A structure, something like that. And then we say, at what point should we look at what you're doing? Once it's become a habit and actually say, now how do I [00:30:00] improve this habit?
So I don't plateau. And I find that actually motivates and gets people going. And that's what we need to do. Many things in life are compounding. And so they're not sprints, they're not things we learn in a month. They're things that we need to start on this sort of 90, 90, 90 process. And and once people get going that's where they really see and feel that process.
And they also develop themselves in the process in a way that. Sometimes a hack will or a shortcut exists for something. But what it rarely exists for is the personal development that comes from actually just kind of doing the work, building the skill compounding over time.
Jonathan Fischer: Well, love it. Well, great stuff.
Well, Carla, for those who wanna be part of that point, 1% of top performers and maybe would like your help to get there what are some great next steps they can take with what you bring to bear on these topics?
Carla Fowler: Yeah, absolutely. Well, for anyone who is just interested in learning more about my coaching, a great place to both reach out to me and also just learn more is my website, which is thaa.com.
That's T H A X A and there's both. Resources, like different podcasts and conversations I've had are on the website as well. So, that's a good place to visit and for folks who are just interested in performance science, want to follow along, LinkedIn is a great place to follow all the conversations I'm having with different folks and content that I'm posting.
So I'm at Carla Dash Fowler and I'm always happy to connect. Just send me a note about where you found me and happy to do that.
Jonathan Fischer: Love it. Awesome. Alright, well it's time for us to dive into our q and a. We've got a few questions from our audience and one of those that kind of stood out to me.
I don't know if the pun was intended here, Veronica, but Veronica was psyched. I. For today's topic, it is pun whether intended or not, but I love it. Andrew Linberg asked a really good question as well. I want to wanna have you speak to this, Carla, if you [00:32:00] would. How does our instinct to compete serve us or does it get in the way of high performance?
Carla Fowler: That is a great question and different people have different levels of sort of competitiveness, but I think just as human beings, we're all built with some like, you know, our brains have a sensor for where do we stack up in things. You know, I think one of the things that becomes really important is to not get distracted enough from what is our plan or our strategy or the game that we're playing because we get overly focused on, I.
Another person. So again, I'm a big proponent of play a strategy that works for you. So I can give an example. Like I I ran some trail marathons at one point in time. I decided to run an ultra marathon, and I am a very steady pacer. I'm not like super fast, but I'm very good at holding a pace and I definitely needed to run a strategy where I did not go out with.
The front runners because I would just get tired and that wouldn't work for me. But inevitably if I run my pace, I end up pace passing a number of people later as long as I run my strategy and I'm not overly influenced by what someone else is doing. So, An example of this in the workplace might be you know, if you had a lot of strengths around you know, one-on-one interactions, like analytical thinking and those abilities.
And maybe there's a colleague who's going for the same promotion who is super extroverted, like always presenting, very visible. You know, there's some things you can learn from someone else's strategy. That creating visibility for yourself might be important, but that doesn't mean you need to go about it the same way they are doing that.
So, for example, you might want to create visibility for yourself in more one-on-one context with stakeholders that do matter and create a context that feels. Comfortable or just more like your sweet spot versus saying, oh, I suddenly need to be able to present and be sort of [00:34:00] as outgoing or extroverted as that other person.
So, that that is one of the pieces of where I think can competition could get in the way is if we let it pull us off. What is actually a good strategy for us, given our strengths. In an area. Certainly the desire to compete can be helpful. I think it's something that kind of gets us off our butts.
You know, when there's actually something at stake, something that really matters and when it's not, you're not just a shoe in for it. So,
Jonathan Fischer: it did. And you know, more on that I think is there, I'm sure it can be, it can become kind of toxic, right? When people make it the end goal to just win at all costs.
But maybe you can unpack even further, like we all like some of the fun contests that are out there where some of these engineering students are figuring out how to drop an egg from a height and build a doesn't break engineering. And that's kind of a fun way to learn. Do you think? Could you even leverage it, you know, beyond does it help or hurt?
Are there ways to better leverage comp competition like that,
Carla Fowler: do you think? Oh, absolutely. I love that you brought up engineering contests, by the way. 'cause I started in undergrad as an engineer and so I got to participate in those and they, they were fun. That is like one of my happiest memories of my first year of college is like my partner and I like winning this contest and designing this crazy thing.
So I think it's. Part of making competition work well I think has a lot to do with framing it. And so when we can frame something as a context in which to pull out our best performance. So for example, one of the cool things about this engineering contest was to see all these different designs that people came up with and certainly.
In the workplace often, for example, if you're trying to solve a problem, there are potentially great ways to set something up to say, okay, we wanna have a couple different groups working on this and you are gonna work independently. Because actually we will get a [00:36:00] better pool of ideas if we aren't doing it as a single group.
But we're actually letting groups sort of develop separately. Then we're gonna like match them against each other. And ultimately it may be that you pick one design, but you could also say, we wanna learn the most about this problem and frame it that way. And then to say, yeah, we might take the best design or strategy, but we're gonna be informed by things the other groups did.
We're really insightful and we need to look not just at who won, but like what was learned and what a value was created in the process. And so I think yes, how we frame things can make competition a wonderful tool. Yeah, not just for mo motivating an individual, but actually motivating a team.
That then competes com competes against each other in one forum, but actually with the goal of being a single team and sort of competing against external or being the best team they can be. Scrimmaging in practice, you could argue.
Jonathan Fischer: Yeah, I like that. I think that's got my juices flowing different ways.
You could do some internal team things, you know, that's part of the game, right? There, there's winning and losing in games, but it's fun and you learn something from it. And there are the social skills gained for even the youngest of us, right? So we can leverage it all the way up the ladder.
Here's a great question from Veronica. She's asking, do you think perfection. Is a blocker to performance and growth or perfectionism may be probably a different way for some of us to say the same thing. What would you say to that, Carla?
Carla Fowler: So, I have met a number of individuals, including myself who have perfectionistic tendencies.
And, you know, this, this comes along with having high quality standards and certainly having high quality standards helps us achieve great work. What I would say is there's sort of a transition point. Our careers where I think younger, like, earlier in our careers, we are often served by being really on the ball with [00:38:00] details, with, you know, getting things 100% right.
And one of the challenges is actually that as we grow into more leadership positions, that what we are judged on and also the scope of what we need to manage. We are no longer served by like dotting all the i's or crossing all the T's. So when I was a grad student my PhD mentor was a fabulous scientist.
He I walked into his office one day, you know, as a early grad student, and I was like, well, I think I'm gonna run this experiment in this experiment, in this experiment. And he was like, Carla, like, why are you doing all of that? Like, you're dotting the i's crossing the t's on other people's work.
Like, what is it a value that you want to produce? What is the question, the bigger thing that's actually worth working on? And I really took that with me because I think as we become leaders, as we're responsible for more scope things can get messier, right? Like we're no longer directly doing the work.
Someone else is gonna do the work and they might do it imperfectly. And so, Essentially one of the things we have to learn to let go of at some point in that career arc is saying, I need to really identify what outcomes matter the most. At what level do we need to do them and then we need to maximize our resources towards those bigger things, which means we will need to let some fires burn.
We will need to let some things be a little bit messy in service of getting those big things. Right. Or effective. And so that's one area where I think perfection can be a little bit of a challenge during that career transition into leadership roles, roles where we're looking at bigger scope. But the piece that Veronica brought up about growth is also really important.
So, When we are learning new things sometimes what can happen is we start to learn a new thing and then we are like finally getting it and it's feeling good, and [00:40:00] then we're like, okay, I, but I can do better. Like, and so we actually get stuck on this like plateau of perfecting a thing and instead of saying like, okay, I'm going along.
I've got it pretty well, now is actually the moment for me to move on to the next challenge. We almost like get comfortable perfecting and we delay moving on to the next growth objective. And so it slows us down. So if we're moving up, you know, like before we've got it perfect, then we have a steeper curve.
We move faster if we wait. That whole curve is really right, shifted. And so I think that's the piece about growth and kind of perfection or perfectionism that can slow us down. So, I often like to, nobody likes to feel like they didn't do, you know, if they knew they could do better work, but to do something that's not quite as good as what they know they could do.
But if you're a really high performing person, I might argue you should ask yourself, is the most important thing now to keep growing and move forwards? Or is it to do the last 10% on this thing? Sometimes the answer is to do the last 10%, but I like to at least ask the question versus just to always default towards, I gotta perfect this before I can move on.
Jonathan Fischer: Yeah. Well it probably also depends on the nature of the project when, if you're trying to build Mars rockets, I guess you gotta be willing to blow a few rockets up on your way there because the iteration is of greater importance to the overall enterprise than perfection in the short term.
Weld us together, it looks like crap for today, will improve our welding over time. And may I think even you know, if you're an early startup, I think that's probably a true iteration. Is a far greater value than perfectionism. There's a certain, so baseline may be lower than the last 10%, maybe like more last 25%.
Right. There's to get to the critical mass of what you need. Right. They give the task. But this is a conversation we could continue a lot longer, but we are up against it. And sounds like we're gonna [00:42:00] have to shelve it for now. But Carla, what a great, great time we've had today. Thanks so much for adding fantastic value to our
Carla Fowler: listener today.
Oh, you're so welcome, Jonathan. It's been a pleasure.
Jonathan Fischer: Well, and thank you to the audience for as always adding value by being here and spreading the word and making the show such a great success. It's always a pleasure to sit here along with all of you and, and learn from these great thought leaders we have on the program.
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