Susan Fowler shares new research on the science of motivation. When she shared these findings with the CEO of one of the world’s largest financial institutions and John Calipari, University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Coach, they immediately changed how they led their people.
Susan Fowler was born and raised in Enid, Oklahoma, and raised in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of four children.
Susan Fowler discovered the power of teaching at an early age when her sister, Terri, was born with spina bifida, paralyzed from the waist down and retarded from water on the brain. Doctors explained that if Terri lived, she would never have the mentality beyond that of a 3-year-old.
Terri did live, and Susan couldn’t help but notice a spark in her sister’s bright blue eyes. Defying the doctors’ diagnoses, Susan used rather innovative techniques to teach her sister to read and write. Terri became the first handicapped child integrated into the Colorado school system. Doctors asked her parents: How did Terri learn to read and write? Their answer: Our 12-year-old daughter, Susan.
Susan has never stopped teaching—or leaning. Her motto is “I teach what I most need to learn.” She is the lead developer of product lines taught globally to tens of thousands of people through the Ken Blanchard Companies, including Situational Self Leadership and Optimal Motivation.
Susan is the author of seven books, including the bestselling Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard and Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… And What Does, and Master Your Motivation: Three Scientific Truths for Achieving your Goals.
Susan lives and works with her husband, Drea Zigarmi, in sunny San Diego where she is also an adjunct professor in the University of San Diego’s Masters of Science in Executive Leadership program and a rotating board member of Angel Faces, a nonprofit group dedicated to teaching adolescent girls how to cope with transfiguring burns and trauma.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“I’ve got a whole shelf full of books on happiness where they don’t even define what they mean by happiness.” – Click to Tweet
“Happiness is not the end goal, the reason you are feeling a sense of well-being is what we need to be paying attention to.” – Click to Tweet
“When you are extrinsically motivated, it erodes or undermines your intrinsic motivation.” – Click to Tweet
“Intrinsic Motivation is not additive” – Click to Tweet
“The simplistic concept of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is misleading to people.” – Click to Tweet
“There’s different ways of being motivated and boiling it down to just intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is too simplistic.” – Click to Tweet
“One of the misnomers of all of these engagement surveys is that what so many of those are actually measuring is job satisfaction.” – Click to Tweet
“Measuring satisfaction at work is not a true reflection of engagement.” – Click to Tweet
“Employee work passion is the end state, motivation is the fuel that gets you there.” – Click to Tweet
“Junk food motivation leads to dissatisfaction, but optimal motivation fuels employee work passion.” – Click to Tweet
“Suboptimal motivation is the junk food of motivation.” – Click to Tweet
“The optimal ways of being motivated is when you’re motivated because you can align with whatever you’re doing with an important value that you have.” – Click to Tweet
“It’s really important for us to identify the type of motivation we’re experiencing.” – Click to Tweet
“The greatest influencers of our values are the people we surround ourselves with.” – Click to Tweet
“Values are choices you make based on your beliefs.” – Click to Tweet
“People are hungry to understand, what is my motivation and how do I shift my motivation if it’s suboptimal.” – Click to Tweet
“Motivation is at the heart of everything you do and everything you don’t do that you wish you did.” – Click to Tweet
“When you understand the true nature of motivation, then you do become resilient.” – Click to Tweet
“Create choice, connection, and competence into your life on a daily basis.” – Click to Tweet
“You don’t have to be a master, but you need to feel growth and learning every day.” – Click to Tweet
“What did you learn today that’s going to help you be better tomorrow?” – Click to Tweet
“Every day I’m reveling in what I learn.” – Click to Tweet
“The magic happens when choice, connection, and competence come together.” – Click to Tweet
“The quickest, shortest, fastest route to optimal motivation is being in a mindful state.” – Click to Tweet
“It’s almost impossible to be mindful and not experience optimal motivation.” – Click to Tweet
“Mindfulness is the greatest tool for self-regulation.” – Click to Tweet
“Let’s let go of the junk food motivation that most organizations are feeding us.” – Click to Tweet
“Fatal distractions are anything that erode our choice, connection, and competence and that’s what happens with bonuses, raises, incentives, bribes, power, and status.” – Click to Tweet
“Take care of your internal understandings so that you can better influence others.” – Click to Tweet
“Most leaders are acting out of their own needs, not the needs of their followers.” – Click to Tweet
“You got to get out of your own need and get into the needs of the people you lead.” – Click to Tweet
“Be more open to saying yes to other people’s information.” – Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Susan Fowler shares new research on the science of motivation. When she shared these findings with the CEO of one of the world’s largest financial institutions and John Calipari, University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Coach, they immediately changed how they led their people.
Advice for others
Be more open to saying yes to other people’s information.
Holding her back from being an even better leader
It’s always ego.
Best Leadership Advice
Take care of your internal understanding so that you can better influence others.
Secret to Success
Spending an hour each week to get better at what I do.
Best tools in business or life
A series of apps and tools that help me to be more mindful.
Contacting Susan Fowler
Resources and Show Mentions
Show TranscriptClick to access edited transcript
259 Susan Fowler
Jim Rembach: (00:00)
Okay, fast leader Legion today. I’m excited because I have somebody who ha who’s on the show today who’s been on before and that’s really a rarity on the best leaders show and why is that? Because I
Jim Rembach: (00:09)
thanks. She’s absolutely brilliant and I’m sure you will too. Susan Pollard was born and raised in Eden, Enid, Oklahoma, and raised in Denver, Colorado. As the oldest of four children. Susan discovered the power of teaching at an early age when her sister Terry was born with spina bifida, paralyzed from the waist down and retarded from water on the brain. Doctors explained that if Terry lived, she would never have the mental mid. The mentality beyond that of a three year old, Terry did live and Susan couldn’t help but notice a spark in her sister’s bright blue eyes define the doctor’s diagnosis. Susan used rather innovative techniques to teach her sister to read and write. Terry became the first handicap child integrated into the Colorado school system. Doctors asked her parents, how did Terry learn to read and write their answer? Our 12 year old daughter, Susan. Susan has never stopped teaching or learning.
Jim Rembach: (01:04)
Her motto is, I teach what I most need to learn. She is the lead developer of product lines, taught globally to tens of thousands of people through the Ken Blanchard companies, including situational self-leadership and optimal motivation. Susan is the author of seven books, including the bestselling self-leadership and one minute manager with Ken Blanchard and why motivating people doesn’t work. And what does and master your motivation. Three scientific truce for achieving your goals. Susan lives and works with her husband, Dre as a Garvey in sunny San Diego where she is an adjunct professor in the university of San Diego’s master’s of science in executive leadership program and a rotating board member of angel faces, a nonprofit group dedicated to teaching adolescent girls how to cope with transfiguring burns and trauma. Susan follower, are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Susan Fowler: (02:00)
Oh, I am. But that was emotional. It was interesting as you were reading that I um, I got teary-eyed, uh, thinking about this journey, so thank you Jim.
Jim Rembach: (02:11)
Alright, you’re welcome. And it’s, and it is such an honor to have you on the show. I mean, we have had such a great discussion prior to this interview, but I, I know this is going to be great now. I’ve given my Legion a little bit about you and like I said, you’ve been on the show before. However, tell us what your current passion is now so that we can get to know you even better.
Susan Fowler: (02:31)
Well, you know, I mean, my passion is still is motivation, but it’s around getting to the other side of complexity because what I’m really involved with is the science of motivation. And there is just such compelling research out there. I’ve, I’ve been a part of the academic community. I go to the, uh, academic conferences. I actually in 2018, uh, excuse me, 2019, my gosh, uh, into this year, um, published my first singly authored academic journal article on rethinking leadership competencies. Given what we know about motivation science. Uh, we published a paper on motivation and power and what leadership power does to people’s motivation. So it’s an ongoing, uh, it’s research, but also then saying, wow, okay, that’s fine. An academic journal, but what are you supposed to do with it? You know, what can the everyday person do with it every day. And so that’s where my passion is, is making really compelling, complex science accessible and that we can take advantage of it.
Jim Rembach: (03:33)
Well, and I think you bring up a really important point because oftentimes academics, you know, are known as just being mirror theorists, right? I mean, how do I take these ideas and these thoughts and this thought provocation and these creative ideas and apply it. And that’s critically important. And in some of the book you talk about, you know, first of all, identifying the truths, you know, behind motivation. And so when you start talking about those truths, how is that different from happiness?
Susan Fowler: (03:59)
Well, I love that question because there is such a, I guess a focus on happiness in our society and I’ve always thought of happiness is something that happens. Uh, it’s, it’s outside of your control. It’s, it’s something that if the circumstances are right, I can be happy. Whereas I think there’s a real distinction between happiness and joy. Peace, a sense of wellbeing. And I know it depends on how you define it, but I’ve got a whole shelf full of books on happiness where they don’t even define what they mean by happiness. So I could be happy that I beat someone, uh, because it gives me a sense of power and status. I could be happy that I got the corner office. Um, and that means more money because I’m so money motivated by money. And the reason I’m motivated by money is because it’s going to buy me more power and status. And so the reason for your happiness is crucial. And I don’t see that distinction being made in a lot of the work or people that are talking about happiness. So happiness is not the end goal. The reason that you are feeling a sense of wellbeing is what we need to be paying attention.
Jim Rembach: (05:14)
Well, and with that, you know, we start talking about these motivations and you know, there’s somebody who’s been studying this motivation science for a long time. Dr Edward D C really a pioneer in it. And he talks about good motivation and bad motivation. And he mentions how bad motivation actually spoils. Good motivation. What is he meaning?
Susan Fowler: (05:34)
Yeah. Um, so ever DC is kind of the father of intrinsic motivation and he’s become a wonderful mentor and someone whose work I really want to honor, uh, also his, um, colleague Richard Ryan, Dr. Richard Ryan, the two of them, um, are really the leaders of the self determination theory, um, academic community. And what they’ve proven is that when you are extrinsically motivated, it erodes or undermines your intrinsic motivation. But the problem is so, so let me just say this motivation is not additive. What I, I hear a lot of executive saying for example, is, well, yeah, you know, we’re gonna, we want to focus on intrinsic motivation, but we also want to give people extrinsic motivation because that’s what they expect. So we’re going to have, you know, incentives and bonuses and trips to The Bahamas and all that stuff. Um, in addition to people’s intrinsic motivation, like the love of selling or whatever.
Susan Fowler: (06:34)
But the two don’t, they’re not additive. Um, one actually erodes the other. And this is why the academic community is moving away from the simplistic concept of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation because it’s misleading to people that if you think that the only, there’s only good and bad motivation and the good motivation is intrinsic. What if that doesn’t work? What if you’re not intrinsically motivated like myself to go or I wasn’t to go through security at the airport. Does that mean that the only way I can go through the security is through extrinsic motivation? So what the science shows is that there’s different ways of being motivated and boiling it down to just intrinsic and extrinsic is too simplistic and actually defeats the whole science of motivation.
Jim Rembach: (07:23)
Well, okay. So, and I think you hit on something there on why this conversation and why this understanding and why this Reacher research is so critically important. Um, because I mean, when we start talking about this whole employee engagement issue, I mean, it’s a global problem, right? Yeah. Um, you know, and, and so when you start looking at people who are responsible, you know, for the work and the development of others, they got to know these things and they also need to understand about motivational junk food. You talk about that in the book.
Susan Fowler: (07:57)
Yeah. So, so let me just touch on something you said about engagement. Um, one of the misnomers is, and even the biggest organizations in the world that are selling all of these engagement surveys and people are doing all of these um, task forces to improve engagement. What so many of those are actually measuring is satisfaction, job satisfaction. And the reason that’s an issue is because, you know, like you have your Thanksgiving dinner and after Thanksgiving dinner you are satisfied, you’re satiated. How much energy do you have to really go over and beyond to go out and exercise or do a project? You know, you just want to lay on the couch and take advantage of, you know, that lazy moment. So measuring satisfaction at work is not a true reflection of engagement. And I’m going to do a little bit of, this is going to sound very self serving, but my husband, dr Dre is a army, um, has won the cutting edge leadership, excuse me, cutting edge research award three times for his work on employee work passion.
Susan Fowler: (09:06)
And all of this is coming back to motivation in just a second. But employee work passion is like the upper end of what a lot of people call engagement and what he’s measuring as people’s intentions. And those intentions are the indicators of what our behavior is going to be. And so he’s looking at, you know, are we, um, intending to perform at above expected standards? Are we intending to endorse the organization, stay in the organization? There’s five intention, so I won’t go through all of them. They’re my first book. But those intentions, um, are really reflective of employee work passion. Here’s what we know about the connection between motivation and employee work. Passion, employee work. Passion is this end state. It’s a place of being. Motivation is the fuel that gets you there. So junk food motivation, which is prevalent in organizations leads to dissatisfied, dissatisfaction or disengagement, but optimal motivation. The good kind of motivation leads you to employee work passion. That’s what fuels employee work passion.
Susan Fowler: (10:11)
Okay. So you started talking about suboptimal. I know, and I said good and bad, but let’s, let’s go with optimal and suboptimal. So suboptimal motivation is what’s considered the junk food motivation. So it’s, it’s when, for example, you’re overwhelmed and you don’t even know which way is up. Uh, and so you check out. It’s, it’s, that’s what’s happens to a lot of people when we’re going through change initiatives in our organizations. It’s like, just, just wake me up when it’s over. You know? So that’s like the disinterested, motivational outlook. Um, and then there’s, um, um, external motivation, which is where somebody is doing what they’re doing because they are aiming for a prize. It’s, it’s for the external reward. It’s more a tangible reward or maybe they intangible reward, like I was talking about power and status or image. And then there’s imposed motivation where you’re doing what you’re doing because you’re afraid of what’s gonna happen.
Susan Fowler: (11:07)
If you don’t, so it’s still something you feel like you have to do. You’re obligated to do it. There’s pressure, there’s tension, there’s stress involved. So anytime you feel that kind of disconnection, you feel the, you know, wow, I’m glad I’m getting paid or I’m glad I’m getting some kind of reward for it, or wow, I’m afraid what’s going to happen if I don’t? All of those are considered suboptimal ways of being motivated. The optimal ways of being motivated is when you’re motivated because you can align whatever you’re doing with an important value that you have, which means you need to have values, uh, and know what they are. Um, and, and then, um, integrated motivation when you’re doing something because it, it’s a self-defining activity. It’s who you are. It’s a deeper sense of purpose and inherent motivation, which is actually the most intrinsic of all of the motivational outlooks. When you’re doing something for the pure sheer reward of doing it without any other promises, it’s just, you don’t even know why you like it or enjoy it. It’s like playing a video game. You just like it. It’s fun. So, um, those, those are the, um, what we call optimal motivational outlooks. So it’s really important for us to identify the type of motivation we’re experiencing because it matters.
Jim Rembach: (12:23)
Okay. Well, to me when you’re saying that, I start going into thinking about that whole self-discovery component and how we’re just horrible at it. And then you also have these issues associated with the generational shifts and changes. I mean, you know, the values, even though that I’m instilling in my kids are going to be quite different, you know, then the values that I have, although because they’ve been exposed to them early, they may get to mind as they get older. I mean, all of that maturation cycle. Uh, but I start, I start thinking about Rick Miller who was on the show, who talked about finding your core four. And it’s really that, so talking about those values and talking about the things that are really most important to me and then doing that alignment work.
Susan Fowler: (13:02)
Well, you know what I love about what you’ve just said, Jim, is a lot of people don’t understand this, but the whole idea behind generational values is what we call programmed values. So if you’re a certain age, like I am your baby boomer, other baby boomers, we grew up in the cold war, we grew up with certain, um, uh, similar experiences like we went into SA inside a bank. So we didn’t trust ATM machines, you know, so, um, our values were developed based on our cohort experience. Um, I know that parents values are really, really important because as you said, we might come back to them, but the greatest, um, influencers of our values are the kids we hang out with. It’s the people we surround ourselves with and kids spend more time with their friends than they actually do with their parents. And so, um, all this generational talk about values, our program values, what we’re talking about and what, you know, you’re just talking about with the fork in the core for our, what we call it, developed values. Values are choices you make based on your beliefs. So what I’m encouraging people to do is to explore their beliefs and develop their values. Um, so that, that’s what they’re making decisions by every day are values that they are consciously aware of.
Jim Rembach: (14:23)
Okay. So then that gets us to where in the book you were talking about, um, outlooks and outlook shifting. Um, so tell us a little bit about that.
Susan Fowler: (14:32)
Okay. So the six different types of motivation I was mentioning earlier, each one of those is actually called a motivational outlook. So you have the disinterested, external and imposed motivational outlooks. Those are suboptimal. And then you have the aligned, integrated and inherent motivational outlooks. And those are optimal. And those are reflected the spectrum of motivation model that is in my book, both books. Um, but the idea is to be able to shift between sub optimal and optimal. So that is what I’m trying to teach people. And that’s, that’s really where the bulk of my work has been in organizations. And like in 2019, for example, I did a seven country 25 day tour. Um, I’ve been, that did not include one of my trips to Russia, vendor Russia five times now talking about these ideas because people are hungry, hungry to understand what is my motivation and how do I shift my motivation if it’s suboptimal, you know, motivation is at the heart of everything you do and everything you don’t do that you wish you did. And so if this is a skill that we really need to understand in practice,
Jim Rembach: (15:48)
well, and as you say that, I start thinking that people may have this false sense that if I do that it’s going to eliminate friction and I would dare to say that it is not the case. It actually helps you to the dress and then be more resilient when friction.
Susan Fowler: (16:02)
You know, you just gave me goosebumps, um, at the, um, at the, uh, self-determination conference where there were 800 scientists presenting their work. And I was just like, you know, a kid in a candy store. Uh, I presented at the conference three years ago. Um, and every, every time I go, I’m just so inspired by the work that’s being done. And one of the big conversations is about all of these kind of trendy concepts. Like you gotta have grit. You know, you’ve gotta be resilient. And I’m reasonably, this isn’t trendy, but it’s, it’s a, it’s a concept that people think is independent of motivation. But the whole idea is that when you understand the true nature of motivation, then you do become resilient. So in my book, I talk about those three scientific truths and those three scientific truths. When you create them in your life, the outcome, the byproduct, the, the end result is grit, resilience, trust, all kinds of things we talk about are the byproduct of actually creating these three scientific truths.
Jim Rembach: (17:17)
And as you say that, I start thinking about my oldest son who is a, he’s a darn iron head headed. And so for me it’s like, okay, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s really an age and prefrontal lobe development thing is that it’s going to serve you well when you get older. Once you, once you find out what your core four is, I mean, you’re going to be convicted and you’re going to be very resilient. I said, but right now you’re just a pain in my rear
Susan Fowler: (17:44)
little Gretta on the cover of time magazine is person of the year in 2019 kind of takes that argument away.
Jim Rembach: (17:52)
There are some, you know, societal issues with the whole, you know, uh, physiological development. I mean, you know, and girls, you know, get to that point of, of pre-roll prefrontal lobe development sooner than boys. I mean, there’s this whole other, you know, um, biological issue associated with this motivation signs. I mean, it’s, I think what we probably need to do is look at what do we need to do at the younger age, you know, in order to help them, you know, give this, you know, issue of understanding my core for doing the alignment and creating something that you call a credo. Tell us a little bit about the credo.
Susan Fowler: (18:28)
Well, I would just like people to really think about how they integrate and we haven’t actually talked about those three scientific truths yet. So it’s, it’s really a credo is something that you consciously Chorale your values and purposely, um, determine how you’re going to integrate them into your life. On a daily basis. Um, in my book I talk about Phil Reynolds who, you know, shared his credo, um, after a near death experience. And I just had dinner with Phil last week and that he still, you know, I’m on guard. I mean, when you have a brain aneurism, it’s not just something you get over and then life goes on as normal. And so his credo is truly what, what enables him to get up every day and live a life committed to doing good work. And so, um, in the book it just talks about how you write a credo and here are the things you’re going to do. Here’s how you’re going to create a, and I’ll just go ahead and say the three scientific truths you’re going to create choice, connection and competence into your life on a daily basis. Because the research shows that it’s not like you just have one glorious motivational moment. It’s that you have a number of frequency of motivationally, um, optimal experiences on a daily basis. And, and your credo allows you to do that
Jim Rembach: (19:59)
well. And you talk about, okay, so those three truths, you said more time, those choice,
Susan Fowler: (20:03)
choice, connection and competence.
Jim Rembach: (20:07)
And I, and I think when you start talking about the competence, there was another thing that stood out to me quite clear when we start talking about some of the things that we do to ourselves in regards to competence. So I think it’s important that you explain competence in this model.
Susan Fowler: (20:22)
Yeah. Competence is our belief that we can be effective at whatever the challenges before us. A lot of people think that competence means it’s mastery. Like you’ve already mastered something, but motivation science says you don’t have to be a master, but you need to feel growth and learning every day. You need to feel that you’re making progress. Um, so you think about, you know, a child who’s constantly asking why, why, why, why, why do they ask why? Well, the reason is because they love to learn and grow. And one of the things you and I were talking about before we started our formal conversation here is what happens in our education system. Um, and, and then it continues into adulthood where we start externally rewarding children for learning. And because motivation is not additive, when we, we reward children for doing something they already love doing, cause it’s part of our nature.
Susan Fowler: (21:23)
It’s, it’s, it’s something we need in order to even thrive. We erode the very thing that we were trying to, you know, um, expand. And so it’s a matter of understanding, um, that competence means what do we, how do we learn and grow is, so if you’re a parent, if you just ask your children every day, what did you learn today? Tell me about, you know, what, what did you do in geography and what did you learn? Or what did you learn in math today? Or, you know, you had a lot of conversations with kids today. Did you learn anything? What was it? But then imagine if you’re a leader, a manager, and at the end of every day, instead of saying, okay, what did you do today? How, how much closer are you to your goal? What are your numbers? What have you asked? What did you learn today that’s going to help you be better tomorrow? You know? And then of course, the ultimate, which is in master, your motivation is we need to ask ourselves that question. So every day I’m, I’m reveling and what I learned, I mean, my 78 year old a husband last night, we’re were talking about, um, some stuff we had read yesterday and we, we always try to get a walk in everyday because that’s where we share what we’ve learned. And it’s exhilarating. It’s, it’s absolutely a natural high to talk about what you’re learning.
Jim Rembach: (22:40)
Well, and as you were talking about that, I started thinking about Carol Dweck work and her book ma at, right. And you talk a lot about, you know, this whole issue of focusing in on some of those motivations. And it seems to me like there’s a connection with that work too.
Susan Fowler: (22:53)
Well, and, and here’s, here’s the thing. There are so many individual pieces of research and work, um, that are really valid, like Carol Dweck work on mindset. The issue I have is that it’s only dealing with one of the three psychological needs. And what science shows us is we need to have all three of these. If you have competence but you don’t have any sense of choice, then that’s going to be more than frustrating. If you have choice but you don’t have any sense of competence, you are going to be so frustrated and, and, and feel overwhelmed. If you have choice and competence without connection, if all of your competence and all the choices you’re making don’t lead to anywhere meaningful, if they don’t give you a sense of um, uh, connected NUS to the greater if, if you’re not working on behalf of the welfare of all, if you don’t feel that, um, you’re living your values, your purpose, and um, interpersonally resonating and feeling like you belong, then your choice in your competence don’t mean much. So all three of these scientific truths, and that’s what I write about in my book is it’s like they’re elixirs. Each one of those elixirs is wonderful in and of itself, but the magic happens when all three of those elixirs come together and you’re creating choice, connection and competence. I’m on a goal or just in your life in general.
Jim Rembach: (24:23)
Okay. Well then with that in the book, I think it is your enabler or your tool to help in all those three areas is really mindfulness because I mean you dedicate a lot of about mindfulness. So is that how that fits in or does it fit in a different way?
Susan Fowler: (24:38)
Well, it’s fascinating to me anyway that um, you know, a lot of neuroscience and brain research, um, around motivation is being done. Um, initially a lot of the neuroscience, uh, was misinterpreting the, the work because what they found was that, um, like if people get rewards, like external rewards, if they win a prize, that it would light up the pleasure part of the brain. And so because they were relating pleasure and rewards, people interpreted that rewards were good. I have to say that even the neuro leadership Institute that had written a lot about that connection between rewards and pleasure has written a white paper refuting the old idea and embracing it based on the science that I’m using in my, in my books. And so, um, what we, what we really need to understand is that, um, these three, um, elixirs are so, so to speak that that work together that, that when they are, um, I don’t know exactly the terminology you use here, but when that part of your brain, when they do neuroscience studies, when that part of your brain is lit up, where you’re actually in an optimal motivation state of wellbeing, um, where you’re experiencing choice, connection and competence, it’s the same part of your brain that lights up when you’re mindful.
Susan Fowler: (26:06)
So the quickest, shortest, fastest route to optimal motivation is being in a mindful state is mindfulness. It’s almost impossible to be mindful and not experience optimal motivation. And so, um, mindfulness is the greatest tool for self regulation. And if you look at the spectrum of motivation model, what we say is that, um, the, the model is both descriptive. It describes motivation, uh, based on choice, connection and competence in those six motivational outlooks. But it’s also prescriptive. It says if you have suboptimal motivation, the way you shift is by self-regulating and self regulation. The greatest tool is mindfulness. That was a long winded answer, but there’s just so much research that validates that mindfulness and motivation have a wonderful interconnection.
Jim Rembach: (27:03)
Well, and even what you were saying, um, for me, I started even thinking about a piece of research that came out or in regards to that whole mind mapping issue. And what they’re finding more about is that that whole centers, you know, of activity that light up that even has been very misinterpreted. Um, as we learn more and more so because the Maki is a map and it starts accessing information from a lot of different sources depending on what it is. Uh, depending on, uh, our genetics, the PA, I mean, there’s a whole lot of factors that go into it that could cause us to misread things.
Susan Fowler: (27:35)
So I love neuroscience. What I get really frustrated by is the interpretation of neuroscience that makes, that jumps to giant conclusions. You know, here’s one. Um, we talk, we hear a lot about, there’s only so much energy or capacity for us to, you know, you get into cognitive overload. However, they’re counter studies that show that when you’re an optimal motivation, you have endless supply. It’s like you’re tapped into this source that is generating positive, sustainable energy. And so the problem with happiness, the problem with, um, you know, external motivation or the Skinnerian model of, uh, developing habits is that they’re short lived. That you need not just these spikes like you get with junk food motivation. It’s like when you have a sugar high, what you need is the kind of motivation that sustainable over time. And um, and, and so there’s a difference between junk food motivation, like when you eat a candy bar or drink a cup of coffee or drink a Cola versus when you need energy, you eat a handful of almonds, you’re creating energy and both situations. But there’s a qualitative difference in the energy. And that’s the message I’m trying to get across is let’s, let’s let go of the junk food motivation that most organizations are actually feeding us. And let’s learn how to, um, ourselves shift to health, food motivation, optimal motivation.
Jim Rembach: (29:13)
Well, and we also know talking about one of the hazards and you’re going to talk about a couple more, but one of the hazards that will kill all of this, all of the energy, everything, I mean, all of your motivations. I mean all of it is lack of sleep.
Susan Fowler: (29:25)
Oh, isn’t that the truth? I, I, um, I actually have about half a shelf on sleep deprivation, you know, sleeping. Um, and I was very careful not to wake my husband up before his seven hours of sleep this morning. Um, yeah. You know, even, um, athletic, uh, forgive me, I just, I didn’t get enough sleep. I don’t remember. I think it’s the NFL or the NBA maybe both have now made it like part of their training regimen that you need to get eight to 10 hours of sleep for recovery. So before they were making these kids, you know, eat certain ways and do all these exercises, all this physical training and sleep was never an issue. Well now they know it is an issue and it’s no, they’re actually embedding it into the training programs.
Jim Rembach: (30:14)
Yeah. And that’s why we should put ’em our intern doctors in the ER rooms through four, four, four days with no sleep. Right?
Susan Fowler: (30:22)
Yeah, exactly. Or, or pilots and you know, it’s just crazy, isn’t it?
Jim Rembach: (30:26)
Oh, that’s too funny. Okay. But there’s other hazards. You mentioned hazards in the book. We just covered this one. It’s a key and critical one. What other hazards, Steve?
Susan Fowler: (30:33)
Well, I actually called them fatal distractions and fatal distractions are like the bright shiny objects that erode those three truths that eliminate our sense of choice, um, undermine our sense of connection and actually forge our competence. And so just as a simple example, I know I’ve mentioned it already, but let me just explain why this is so important is, um, when we, for example, or motivate, I’m just going to use dieting as an example because most of us have had some experience with either trying to lose weight or just trying to eat more healthy. So what happens is as soon as we go on an eating regimen or, or what’s called a diet, what happens is we automatically erode our sense of choice. So we think, Oh, I can’t eat that muffin, or I can’t do this, or I have to do that. And so we’re really feeling it.
Susan Fowler: (31:30)
We’re in this imposed motivational outlook because we can’t do certain things. So we’re motivated externally by our image. Like we’re going to our high school reunion, um, or we’re imposed motivation because our doctor has threatened if we don’t get healthy, we’re going to suffer. Um, but then as soon as we take on a diet or a particular eating regimen, we throw ourselves into the imposed motivational outlook because we can’t eat something. And then we think it’s all about the muffin. So what is the one thing when you can’t eat a muffin or a Krispy Kreme donut, what is the one thing you want more than anything in the world,
Jim Rembach: (32:06)
Susan Fowler: (32:08)
yeah, you want that muffin. You want that donut. It’s not about the muffin, it’s about your sense of choice. And so what, you know, part of the skill of motivation is learning to say,
Jim Rembach: (32:19)
I could eat that muffin.
Susan Fowler: (32:21)
I could choose to eat it. I can also choose not to eat it. Or I could choose to have a bite and not eat the rest of it. And so the trick is simply asking ourselves, what choices do we have? What choices have I made in the past? And then reflect on how you felt about those. Um, a lot of times I will like want a cookie. Like I’ll be honest with you. I ordered, um, two dozen of the best cookies in the world from a place in San Diego called the [inaudible]. I mean, there was it, they arrived last night. I just needed a little something sweet. I opened up those cookies and I ha I did. I went through this. I said I could choose to eat this whole cookie. I could choose to eat these three cookies. I just went through the whole choices. And in the end I said, you know what?
Susan Fowler: (33:07)
I’m about to go to bed. I’m going to choose to just taste it. I tasted it. It was delicious. I wrapped it up and I put it in the freezer. Um, so that’s, that’s choice. And so a fatal distraction around dieting that also erodes our sense of connection is that we’re, we, we lose touch of ourselves. We beat ourselves up or we have a false sense of our values. But if I say the reason I’m losing weight is because I value health. Now, if you’ve never really thought about health, um, if you’ve never really thought about your values around it, then that’s not going to be a tool that you can use. My husband was recently going on a, um, a diet, and when I would have these motivation conversations with them, I would said, I said, okay, what’s meaningful to you about this diet?
Susan Fowler: (33:58)
And you know what he said? And one of the conversations he said, I’ve always been an athlete and now that I’m older, I don’t feel athletic anymore. And that makes me sad. He says, I want to be more congruent with a person I think I am. And so he started eating healthy because he saw himself as an athlete, not someone who’s going to compete every day or anything like that. But anyway, it was, it was, um, a self-defining activity. So that’s, you know, that’s the integrated motivation. And then finally, the fatal distraction of dieting, um, erodes our sense of competence if we don’t continue to learn. So we need to keep asking ourselves, wow, okay, what did I learn from the way I ate today? What did I learn from the choices I made? And, um, one day, again having this motivation conversation with my husband and I said, so what’d you learn today?
Susan Fowler: (34:49)
He goes, you know, I learned that, um, I should eat red onions instead of white onions. I said, why is that? And he goes, I don’t know. But he started ordering red onions and his on Letson salads and everything else. And finally, he, he did the research and he found out that red onions have less sugar content than white onions. Now, this is years ago, to this day, he eats red onions and he knows that they have less sugar and he’s constantly making that better choice because he felt so good learning something as he’s going through that, um, that, that quote unquote diet. So the fatal distractions are anything that are Roy, um, erode our choice, connection and competence. And that’s what happens with bonuses, raises, incentives, bribes, um, power status, all of things are fatal distractions.
Jim Rembach: (35:39)
Well, and as you were saying that, I started thinking that one of the biggest fatal distractions on ourselves is the words that we use. So I mean, even knew you when you were describing that it wasn’t, I can’t have that donut. It w you know, I can choose not to. I mean, so I, it’s a totally different perspective. And so even though I’d be thinking it in my head, right, um, I need to galvanize it by getting it to come out of my mouth and saying it to myself. Jim, you can choose not to have that done and say, Jim, you can’t have that donut. Or even when someone asks words, you’re like, I need to say, well, I’m choosing not to have.
Susan Fowler: (36:13)
Oh, I love that. I love that. Uh, I was, I did a presentation, I had an event at the university of San Diego this week and I was doing a book signing and afterwards, um, and it was running a little bit later than everybody thought cause everyone stayed around. It was really exciting. And there was this man, he goes, he says, Oh, I stood Aline for like an hour and he says, I need to get home because I have to go to the gym at five 45 in the morning. I go, Oh, you have to. And he looked at me, he says, I choose to, I said, yeah, you choose to. And he goes, you’re right, I’m choosing to go to the gym at five 45 in the morning it. And he admitted it totally shifted his frame in that moment.
Jim Rembach: (36:56)
Most definitely. Well, you know, talking with you, you have so much energy, so much passion and you know, all of us need that in order for us to be able to address these difficult decisions and these difficult issues that we’re all dealing with. And one of the ways that we do that through the show or in quotes, we use quotes. So since the last time we’ve talked, I’m sure you have it, a lot of more reading and research and things that you’ve learned. So right now I’d like to ask, is there a quote or two that motivates you that you could share with us?
Susan Fowler: (37:26)
Well, I think, um, the first time we spoke, my quote was, I teach what I most need to learn. And that still is very, very prevalent in my life because if I can’t be an authentic representation of what I’m hoping others will learn from the science of motivation, um, you know, then why am I in this business? It’s, it’s like I need to be authentic. So that’s really important to me. But I have to tell you, given the times in today’s world, um, and I’ll probably get emotional about this, but I realized that a lot of my negative thinking about what’s going on in the world is only contributing to the negativity. And I decided to try to be the light that if you see evil or you see darkness or you see things that you think are wrong instead of complaining about it, because the only way to fight darkness is not with more darkness. The only way to fight darkness is with light. And so be the light. That’s my daily mantra.
Jim Rembach: (38:33)
Wow. Thanks for sharing that. And you know, we also share stories you share, you’ve shared a ton just as going through this and you shared a story in your first episode about, you know, your sister and, and I’m, I don’t want you to ask, uh, I’m not gonna ask you to share that story again cause I’d like you to help us with a particular story. When you met up with either an executive or somebody who was in a very big position of power and was stuck in their mindset and their thinking about motivating people that you were able to turn, can you remember a time when you did that?
Susan Fowler: (39:08)
Did you tell me you were going to ask me this question? Wow, this is, put him on the spot. But you know, it’s interesting the first, um, and I’m not going to use the name cause I signed a nondisclosure, but it’s probably one of the, yeah, it’s a big moment in my life. I’m the CEO of a major financial institution. Like one of the top five in the world happened to get a copy of my book Reddit and said, I need to speak with this woman. So they fly me to New York and I’m in the 50th floor penthouse office suite of this CEO and he just wants to talk for an hour. And, and I start asking him what his interest is in it. And I wanted to see if he thought these ideas might manipulate. He might be able to use these ideas to manipulate, um, so they could make more money.
Susan Fowler: (40:00)
Um, and his financial advisors could make more money. And so I asked, started asking him a series of questions and through the series of questions I could see him starting to realize that using these ideas, he didn’t have to use it to manipulate. You could use them to help people be more authentic. And the byproduct would be results of byproduct would be what they were looking for. And so he did two things in that hour. One was he made a decision and he asked his corporate communications person to go through all of their communications, internal communications, and take out the word drive because they’re always driving for results, drive for this drive for that. And he realized that that word drive was creating an environment, a culture that was driven by external rewards. And then he asked me to speak to his 200 top financial advisors and we actually did a work around helping them to understand their choices, connection and competence related to their work.
Susan Fowler: (41:11)
So that’s just one example of, but then I just had another one I’ll just show really, really fast. I’m sorry, but this was really exciting. A couple of weeks ago, right before the start of the college basketball season, I went to work with John Calipari at the university of Kentucky, the Wildcats. And I worked with John and his coaching staff. And that afternoon they literally changed the, they ran their training session that afternoon, their film session and that ended that week. They went out and they beat Michigan state and we’re number one in the country, not because of that session. And since then they’ve had some fluctuations. They’ve got a really young team. But that was really fun to see coaches who were so interested in helping their kids develop in the right way and not feel the pressure of winning and getting to the NBA and all of the other pressures that these young people feel. That was really rewarding.
Jim Rembach: (42:06)
Well, and thanks for sharing that because, um, I actually coached middle school baseball for those that there and I just went to a pitching clinic at Duke university and I met up with a couple of, uh, college coaches because for me, my goal, you know, I just went in that and I don’t have to work anymore is that I can actually, you know, be uh, an assistant coach, unpaid assistant, you know, at some university somewhere because that’s how these guys really run their programs is by unpaid assistance. The MCA AA only gives division one schools, three paid coaches and division two and three schools, two paid coaches. You can’t run a program with that and you just can’t do it. That’s really cool. Yeah, I’m looking forward to that and it’s a lot of your wisdoms and as well as others that I’ve had on a show that are going to help me be a better coach because I always talk about leading, you know, and, and helping young men be more successful through the game of baseball. But there is a lot of the learnings that we can get, uh, you know, from a lot of these, especially colleges, um, that are teaching their kids about the things that we’re talking about here. Motivation, mindfulness mindset because they understand how important, you know, that aspect is an athletic performance.
Susan Fowler: (43:20)
They see it in real time. And, and I have to tell you that, um, John Kell Perry and I are really contemplating writing a book together, um, for coaches specifically for coaches. I’m also working with, in fact, the foreword of my book is written by John Paul Bouchard, who is the head of artistic coaches at circle. So lay in Montreal. And um, he and I are working together and then I have a baseball coach in Nebraska who, um, is just brilliant. His name is Ryan Dubin and he’s been working with these ideas for over a year now. And the results, can I just tell you one quick little thing he does at the end of every baseball practice gym is he gets his kids together in groups of four or five. The other coaches are not involved in those groups, but they asked the kids to answer three questions. What choices did I make in practice today and how did I feel about the choices I made? How did I contribute to the team and what did I learn? And they only take five to seven minutes. All of them answer that question. And Ryan says the quality of their practices has dimensionally improved
Jim Rembach: (44:25)
without a doubt. Okay. So now, gosh, you’ve learned a lot since the last time we met. I know there’s going to be learnings that going on. So I’m looking forward to, well I don’t want to, I don’t want as big of a gap that happened as last time. But, um, if you start talking about goals that you have now, I mean, yes, you have this book, you have several others, you have this learning, you have the faculty work, you have the nonprofit work, all of these things. But if you were to say that there was one goal that stands out, what would it be?
Susan Fowler: (44:51)
Oh, I know what it is. For 2020, I am starting a master motivation conversations online certification program, uh, for coaches, uh, primarily executive coaches. But I think that parents, teachers, coaches, anyone who wants to understand how to facilitate motivation conversations, um, to really help other people have a motivation breakthrough. And so that’s, that’s coming in 2020. It’s very exciting.
Jim Rembach: (45:19)
And the fast leader Legion wishes you the very best. Thank you. Alright, here we go. Fast leader Legion Tom for the home. Oh, bow. Okay. Susan hump. They hold on as a part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us a robust, your rabid responses are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Susan, follower, are you ready to hold down? I think so. All right. So what is holding you back today from being a better leader? It’s always ego. It’s always ego. It’s always my own,
Susan Fowler: (45:52)
um, fears, uh, that I’m not, uh, being treated right or that I haven’t gotten my fair share. So that’s part of my personality types. So, because I understand this part of my personality type, I, I’m always constantly dealing with ego.
Jim Rembach: (46:05)
And what is the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
Susan Fowler: (46:08)
The best leadership advice I’ve ever received is take care of your internal understanding so that you can better influence others. That most leaders are acting out of their own needs, not the needs of the followers. So you got to get out of your own need and into the needs of the people you lead. So like when you give feedback, every time I give feedback now I ask myself, is this my need because I want to show my, I’m an expert or I want one upsmanship or is it really for the benefit of the development of the person I’m giving the feedback to? So it’s the best advice ever got is um, know enough about yourself to be able to focus on what other people need from you.
Jim Rembach: (46:48)
And what is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Susan Fowler: (46:53)
Many, many years ago I heard whether it was true or not, I don’t know, but that if you spend an hour a week getting better at what you do, that within two years you’ll be a national expert. With five in five years you’ll be an international authority. And so I literally set aside one hour a week and said, what can I read? What can I do? Who do I can connect with that’s going to make me better at what I do than anybody else in the world? And I have to say that, um, I feel, I feel really, um, accomplished and, and competent, not satisfied yet, but um, yeah, so I think that one hour a week,
Jim Rembach: (47:33)
what do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?
Susan Fowler: (47:37)
It’s not just one tool, but it’s a series of apps. Like I’m really into calm and luminosity and I actually got this headset called muse that that measures the wavelengths so that you’re able to get into a deeper meditation. And so I’m practicing my mindfulness. Any tool that helps me practice mindfulness. So on a plane or whatever, um, that’s what I’m doing. I’m taking that opportunity to, to learn to be more mindfulness. It’s a skill.
Jim Rembach: (48:05)
And what would be one book that you’d recommend to our Legion? It could be from any genre. Of course, we’re going to put a link to master your motivation and your other books on your show notes page as well.
Susan Fowler: (48:14)
You know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s funny, um, I was just on a webinar with some other Barrett Kohler authors this week and Barrett color’s my publisher. They publish books for to help the world be a better place. And I was on with um, two women, Laura and um, uh Tamra who wrote a book feedback and other dirty words and they’ve captured my belief about feedback and the research and just done it in a fun, easy to read way. I love their book. So it’s called feedback and other dirty words.
Jim Rembach: (48:48)
Okay. Past the religion, you can find links to that and other resources on Susan’s show notes page, which you will email@example.com slash Susan Fowler too. Cause remember she’d been on before and we’ll also put a link to her other interview as well. Okay Susan, this is my last hump. They hold on question that you were given the opportunity to go back to the age 25. You can take the knowledge and skills that you have now and take them back with you, but you can’t take them all. You can only take one. What skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Susan Fowler: (49:18)
You know, I just know so clearly what it is. And it would be to be more open to saying yes to other people’s information. Just saying yes to life and then seeing where it takes you. Um, being more open to collaboration and less fearful that I get the credit or that you know, that people are seeing me as the person who’s whatever. Um, yeah. So I, I being more collaborative, more open to saying yes to other people’s ideas.
Jim Rembach: (49:45)
Susan, I had fun with you today. How can collegian connect with firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Fowler: (49:54)
and Jim, we have a brand new, what’s your emo survey that people are finding really, really fun. And then you get immediate feedback and a lot of information about if you’re in suboptimal motivation, how to shift.
Jim Rembach: (50:08)
I’ll, I’ll make sure that that gets on your show notes page as well. Susan follower, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. The fast leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump.
Jim Rembach is the Editor in Chief of the Customer Service Weekly and it’s Podcast host. He is President of CX Global Media and the creator of the Call Center Coach Virtual Leaders Academy. As the host of the Fast Leader Show Podcast, he has interviewed hundreds of experts, authors, academics, researchers, and practitioners on various angles, viewpoints, and perspectives for improving the customer experience. He has held positions in retail operations, contact centers, customer support, customer success, sales, and measured the customer experience. He is a certified Emotional Intelligence practitioner, Employee Retention Specialist, and recipient of numerous industry awards.