Sarah Conger is the VP of Customer Experience at VGM Fulfillment. She joins Adam Markel in this conversation about the right way to deliver valuable feedback. They discuss the importance of creating a safe and caring environment to make feedback easier to digest and apply. Sarah points out why you should revisit the way you provide such comments to avoid initial responses centered on anger or defensiveness. They also talk about turning your problem-solver mode off when helping others to stop yourself from overreaching or overreacting. Sarah shares how she sets personal boundaries to help her decide when to act and when to listen.
00:00 – Introduction
01:18 – Why Sarah love problems
03:34 – What to fix and not to fix
11:54 – How a leader came to Sarah’s help
22:04 – Giving valuable feedback
29:42 – Creating a safe workplace environment
37:05 – Today’s concept of resiliency
44:43 – Sarah’s daily ritual
How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world?
The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
How To Provide Value Feedback From A Place Of Care With Sarah Conger
I have a great guest on the show. She started as a VGM Group events planner, a role that was focused on creating memorable customer events. She was responsible for the Annual Heartland Conference for many years, where they were challenged to make the conference bigger and better focusing on industry trends, community, building, and even homemade cookies. She moved from that into a role managing corporate projects.
VGM Group was experiencing rapid growth, so the projects addressed the needs of a changing company, such as integrating a new customer relationship management tool and organizing a company-wide leadership conference. She is the VP of Customer Experience for VGM Fulfillment, a fulfillment and logistics partner for CPAP providers. They are focused on quality, speed, accuracy, and all the things that keep CPAP providers up at night. In her free time, she is busy wrangling two little ones at home with another on the way. I know you’re going to love this conversation, so sit back and enjoy my discussion with Sarah Conger.
What an insight. I couldn’t get enough of that conversation. I felt like it was it was putting me on my growth edge. I had the feeling that I was learning something in the process and it was cultivating more depth of thinking for me. It was so enjoyable. I’m sure you all got a great kick out of that. We had some good laughs and more importantly, Sarah shared with us so many important things. We talked about feedback, the importance of how feedback is given, how it is received and that relationship, and how you create a context for it so that it is truly healthy.
We were able to get into the guts of it, if you will, in a way that I didn’t expect. It’s important because, in most situations that I see at work or even outside of the workplace where feedback is necessary, it doesn’t go well. It isn’t artfully done and for the most part, people resist it. They aren’t interested in giving it or receiving it because it is done without a lot of care. We got to talk about what that care looks like, a structure in a particular way to provide it and to create an environment where great feedback can only create safety, and safety will create trust.
I love Sarah’s story about how, in a context that I can identify with, she was putting on an event. She was waiting for her keynote speaker. If the flight was being delayed and then canceled, she was in charge of this big event, but her supervisor, the person she reported to, stepped in without speaking to her to solve that problem. She had the courage, I would say, and it’s the intelligence after the event was done and everything had settled down to ask for feedback and want to use that feedback as a way for her to grow, learn, and understand where it was that her growth would create a different outcome in the future.
It’s an outcome where her supervisor would have trusted her more to solve that problem since it was hers to solve. We talked about what’s ours to do and not ours to do, where we should be fixing things, and where do we want to resist our urge to be a fixer. She started out by telling us that she loves problems then the dominos began to fall after that.
We talked about depletion and what it looks like to recharge and how that contributes to resiliency, especially in the times that we’re living in where we’re being depleted in so many different areas mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. I love this conversation. I know it’s going to be one that’s going to stand the test of time. If there are people in your world, personally or professionally, that would benefit from reading some of what we talked about because we did cover some things that were personal as well as business-oriented, please feel free to share this episode.
We would love for you to do that. That’s what helps the algorithm to help us, this show, and these episodes get in front of more people. We thank you for that. If you could leave a rating, hopefully, you can give a five-star rating to this conversation, but whatever makes sense to you makes sense to us. We appreciate the feedback. It helps us to bounce forward and always be moving forward. That feedback is super helpful in that regard. We appreciate it. You could leave that review on whatever platform it is that you consume this show.
If you’ve got questions for either Sarah or myself, you can go to AdamMarkel.com/Podcast. Leave a comment or a question there, and it will be myself or Sarah answering that question for you. Lastly, if you’d like to check out your own level of resilience, a snapshot, and time, it’s very simple. Go to ResilienceRank.com, and in 3 minutes and 16 questions later, you will get your immediate response looking at how resilient you are in those four different areas the mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual realms of resilience. It takes three minutes and is entirely free. It’s our gift to you. I will say once again, thank you so much for the support that you give this show for being a part of our community. For now, I will say, ciao.
Sarah, I don’t know how it feels to you to have somebody rattle off and prattle off all of your accolades in your CV. I like it myself. It’s a bit surreal, too, from a standpoint of time space. How did that happen? That seems like a million years ago. The pandemic has done that for a lot of people, too. We lost a bit of that time orientation, but you’ve had an extensive career. I’m not going to say how many years. If you want to, you can, but you’ve had an extensive career with a particular company that I know that we’ll talk about a little bit but we’ll speak more of it in terms of organizations but you can bring VGM into the mix.
This is a great representative of what a lot of these principles of resiliency are. I had the great pleasure of keynoting a conference for VGM, which was a blast. My first question to you is, outside of everything that you heard me say about you, what is one thing that is not in that bio that you would love for people to know about you at the outset?
I love problems. That is probably one thing that’s not part of my bio that you don’t hear often. Nobody likes problems. Not me. I love the challenge of a problem. I’m always looking for a stretch assignment and something that can challenge me. I’ve been called a fixer before, which sometimes is good and bad. I’ve learned that also makes it hard for me to say no often.
As I’ve gone through my career and had some various opportunities that you spoke about. You do learn about what you should and shouldn’t fix, especially when you’re leading a team and people. It’s so important to not just take on their problems but also to help your team grow in those instances where they can fix the problem. How would you approach it and maybe ask the right questions to get them to ideate about what those potential solutions could be? I love to take on any big problem that my team needs some help with or the organization. That’s something I enjoy.
I was thinking when you said fixer. I had like an image in my head of Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction. For those folks that have seen the movie, then they know what I’m talking about here. If not, there’s something funny for you guys to look at. Somebody shared this question with me years ago, and it sparked a lot of introspection for me. In my leadership roles, I’ve used it as well, which is the question, what’s mine to do? The converse of that being true or being another question to consider is what’s not mine to do.
As a leader, whether we’re talking about in an organizational setting or even in other areas of your life, like as a part of society, a person in a family, or a person that even has kids, it’s like being a fixer and having to not modulate or discern what is mine to do here and what is not mine to do. I want to get into the nuance of that. I wrote down what not to fix based on what you said. Have you learned that there are some things that you shouldn’t fix?
Absolutely, especially when you talk about that at work mode. Being able to say, “I have to step away from this. This is not for me,” is so hard because I am so passionate about VGM and the work that I get to do. I get FOMO. I like to be involved. Anytime something comes my way, it is so hard to say no because that little person inside of me is like, “You’re going to miss out on something.” It’s like, “This will be okay. Somebody else can handle this, and it’s going to be a great opportunity for them to learn, grow, and develop.”
I was so fortunate to have that in my career when I was starting out at VGM. It was trusting leaders that you could figure this out. For starting out, it’s hard. You don’t have a ton of confidence right away, especially in a new role. You don’t know where your boundaries are. I had this leader tell me, “No matter what happens, I will support you. If it goes wrong, we will figure it out together.” That did a ton for me and my confidence. Being able to make those tough decisions and solve those problems. I learned so much more that way than being told, “Here’s the prescribed way to solve this problem.”When you are in a new role, you don’t have a ton of confidence right away. Click To Tweet
I do try to take that to heart, especially when I have young folks reporting to me or working with me that I’m mentoring, and let them know that it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s one thing that VGM prides itself on. It’s okay to make mistakes here and we’ll figure it out together. That resonated with me. I want to make sure that I give those opportunities to my team and those that I’m around and influence because I know how important that is in my growth.
Other problems that I know that I should not fix are that it’s hard to turn off when I go home and when the hubby is ranting about his own work problems. That’s what he needs and what he wants to do. Sometimes, that’s my employees, too. It’s hard when those worlds intermingle like that. I’m at work, problem-solving and fixing this, then I go home, and I’m not fixing this. He just wants to vent and vent to somebody that he can trust, but it also works and vice versa.
Making sure that I’m conscious of how I’m reacting to both my spouse when he’s like, “I need to vent.” Turn off problem solver mode. Listen and be empathetic, versus, “Do you want me to help you solve this problem, or are you here to vent?” That’s also become a question that I ask of my friends, family, my spouse, as well as my teammates and peers. How do you want me to help you? Are you here to vent, or do you need me to help you solve the problem?
That is a profound place to begin any conversation. I’m sitting with this for a second because, as a parent and as a husband, I spent a lot of years in a very healthy relationship. I think in terms of where I’ve messed up in my role or in that relationship or as a parent even with my kids. I would say, more often than not, where I have messed up is in overreaching on what it is that they want from me and in part because I made an assumption at the start that what they wanted from me was to make their problem go away.
That may be a projection as well because I get something out of that, being the problem solver and being the person who can come in, be the White Knight or the savior, and the ego that’s involved. I’m sitting with that at the moment because I can feel that there’s a payoff to being that person that maybe the other person on the other side of that conversation were not craving that. They didn’t need that but what they did want was simply to be able to, as you say, get something off their chest and express something.
This is a good moment for people to take a breath where this intersects with their own relationships personally as well as professionally. At any one of those scenarios that I was referring to, what if I had said to my daughter or my wife or whoever might have been in the moment, “Tell me at the outset how I’m able to hold space or be here for you.” Does that mean you want me to just listen and get stuff out or want me to actively participate in solving or helping you solve the problem? If the contexts had been created at the outset for that, with that question you gave us, Sarah, I would have done better in certain areas, so I want to thank you for that.
I find that it works in reverse, too. If somebody has come to you and they’re pouring it all out at the end, thanks for sharing that. Do you want me to help you with that, or do you want to let it off your chest? Either is fine, and I’m happy to help in any way that I can. Sometimes people need to vent and they want to be the problem solver. They want to be that White Knight for their problem, customer, team, or family. I love how that feeling is so I never want to take that from somebody else either.
That’s an interesting thing. Without getting into any detail you want, has there been a problem that you faced in the roles of leadership that you’ve had? I want to talk about the current role because you started out in the event planning space for VGM. You were putting on the Heartland Conference each year and probably a lot of other training and development. Maybe give us a scenario where you faced an intractable problem that either a mentor of yours helped you cut your teeth to solve or where you’ve witnessed somebody else in that same scenario where it was tough to watch them struggle for a while.
My days as a lifeguard is watching somebody in the water and go, “Are they drowning or are they just fighting it a little bit? You might swallow a little water, and you’re a little scared. Are they going to be able to pull through, or do I need to put my bowie on and jump in the water in front of everybody and save their ass?” Which is it?
I have an example where that happened to me where I didn’t want to be saved. I’d swallowed a little water and I was going to be fine, but my leader jumped in and pulled the trigger too quickly. It was a Heartland Conference issue. We were planning the event. Everybody was there. We’re executing the event and had some weather issues. As you know, getting to Waterloo, Iowa, is not real easy all the time. It’s certainly a challenge. Our keynote flight kept getting delayed and changed and eventually canceled, so they weren’t going to show up on time. Those burning fires are the problems that get me going. I love that stuff. I’m thinking, “This is going to be great. I’m going to jump in there.”
Did you just grab the mic? Did you get up there and do it? I want to know. I say this only because if you check this out on YouTube, you’ll see Sarah has this incredible energy. When I first met you, I was during mic check when I was there for the conference. I saw you get up and there was something you were doing. I thought, “This is a dynamo. We put the mic on her, and I’ll sit in the seat and watch.”
Thank you. You are certainly too kind but those are the kinds of problems that I thrive on. I’m thinking about, “We could do this and that. I’m trying to decide how best to solve that. This is a big problem.” We have all these people that are showing up the next morning at 8:00, and they’re expecting this, and it is 5:00 PM. I have a short window to communicate with everybody and figure out the plan B and work that all out. I’m working through this problem, and it’s a very visible problem. A lot of problems with event planning are behind the scenes. Nobody notices. These are people in the event that they’re going to notice if nobody takes the stage.
It’s a visible problem, as you said.
I’m thinking through that. Before I even had an opportunity to say, “Here’s what we should do and this is how we should tackle it.” My leader jumped in and was like, “Let’s assemble.” She went into problem-solving mode because she knew this was a big deal. I was disappointed. It hurt. I was like, “I could have done that. I had a lot of those same ideas and plans. Why wasn’t I given the opportunity to do this?” I felt like I had proven myself to be a good leader. It wasn’t the first year that I was running the conference. How was there a missing trust? What happened?
We got through it. Everything was fine. The keynote eventually showed up and gave the presentation. Everything went on. It all worked out well. It took a while. I was nervous to have the conversation, but I wanted to know. It’s hard to ask for that feedback sometimes about yourself. I went to that leader, and I said, “What could I have done differently to be the leader in that situation? Is there something that I need to do from a professional development standpoint to grow myself so that I have those opportunities in the future? I felt like I could have taken on this problem and solved it. What feedback can you give me so that I can improve and get better so I can be trusted later?”
At the end of the conversation, it was wonderful. I got some great feedback about what I could do and what I could have done at that time in my career to grow, as well as an apology from my leader like, “I’m sorry. We could have done this together. You’re right, and it could have been more of a coaching tag-along moment versus, ‘I’m going to take your problem and fix it’ moment.”
That’s the second time you did it. It’s great, Sarah. I hope people are taking note of this because this is seasoned advice. I’m sure there are people who are leading folks and probably lead in that way with good intentions and putting the company first. It’s like, “I’ve got the experience, and I’ll show this person my own efforts how to do something.” They’ll then learn from that experience. A lot of what we see in the workplace is people, especially Millennials and Gen Z in that demographic, which by 2030, will constitute the majority of the workforce. It’s somewhere between 2025 and 2030, so it’s coming soon.
Money will be an important reason to work, but there’s more to it than that. To understand that you’re growing through the experience is there’s trust. When you don’t feel as though your manager or your leader trusts you, it creates that comic. What was amazing was that you didn’t chew on it, stow it, or go and vent about it. Rather, you went to your supervisor and said, “What could I have done differently? Where were my growth opportunities to learn some things that would enable me to be trusted in that moment later?” I imagine that caught the leader a little by surprise.
That’s my point. You don’t get a lot of people going to ask the question or frame the inquiry in that way. What that did for your leader was create a growth moment for her, frankly, because she could see clearly that without maybe thinking or intending it to be so, she deprived you of something that was there. Not necessarily like I earned it thing, but rather it was a missed opportunity. Did that improve or change your relationship from that point?
We’ve always had a great relationship, which is something that I love and strive for. It made us closer and more open all the time. There was so much regular feedback and brutal honesty sometimes. That’s how you get the good stuff. You have to be honest with people. That’s how they’re going to get better. When you come at it with positive intent, “I am telling you this not to hurt you or to break you down but because I want you to learn and grow,” that’s when you can have that relationship where you know you’re going to get the good and the bad. It’s all coming because they want you to succeed. That’s when you’ve got a great relationship.
I want to lean into feedback a little bit because it’s so important. Marshall Goldsmith likes to refer to it as feed-forward. It’s this concept of we’re moving forward, which we dig. In our work with resiliency training, we’re always talking about how it is that we don’t bounce back but we bounce forward. It’s additive, whereas criticism or judgment is subtractive. Another close friend of mine used to say, “When you give people feedback, that feels like judgment. It’s like you’re stealing something from them. You’re like being a thief. You’re stealing your self-esteem and something valuable from them.” Whereas, when you provide feedback in a healthy way, you’re giving something to them. I’d love to get a sense of what you have learned about feedback.
In your relationship with this particular manager, clearly, you established the ground rules, the context for that to happen, and for it to be given and received in the way with love and not with judgment. I would say it is a very small percentage of those relationships in the environments that we’ve seen and too many industries to count where feedback is given and received in that way. In fact, more often than not, it’s as if somebody has an annual review. Otherwise, the feedback they get is always what they did wrong. They’re never interested in feedback. They’re going to get feedback, but somebody says, “I’d like to give you some feedback.” It’s almost like your stomach turns inside out because now you know what you’re about to hear is what you did wrong or how you suck.
It’s going to be bad.
You’re already defensive. Share with us if there’s some nuance to this. Where in your role or the roles that you’ve had have you been able to cultivate this feed-forward or this positive way of providing people with the learnings?
I learned a ton about feedback in my role with corporate projects. A lot of my responsibility in that role was working very closely with our CEO and his right hand. We had this list of projects. It’s stuff that needs to get done. That’s important for the company but it’s nobody’s job. That was my job. It was to do all these things on the CEO’s list. I’m working through these projects and tons of feedback that I received as well as I challenged myself in one of those years.
As a goal, I set it out and shared it with my leader at that time. I want to not only provide feedback to people I’m working with, working under me, my direct supervisors, or my direct reports but I want to challenge myself to give feedback up because that is hard to do. In my role, that was something that I needed to get better at and I needed to be able to do because these projects that I was working on were pretty high-level. I was working with a lot of the presidents of our different business units or divisions and being able to provide feedback in the right way was something I wanted to learn how to do better. I learned all the ways to do it wrong before we figured out semi-right.
To your point, it all starts with being in the right place. You got to set it up so that it’s coming from that place of positive intent. Sometimes I found that you have to ask, “I have some feedback. Would you be open to hearing it?” If they’re not open to it at that time, it’s immediate defense mode. There’s no point in starting that, “I still want to have this conversation. Maybe we can catch up next week about it.” Pivoting a little bit and trying a different method of delivering and receiving the feedback.Feedback must always come from a place of positive intent. This way, those who will hear it will not go into defense mode immediately. Click To Tweet
In that same role, we went to a leadership retreat with a whole bunch of our divisional presidents. In one of the things on the educational agenda, there was a 360 review. We’re all reading our results and immediately, everybody was like, “I don’t do that. That’s not me. These people are all wrong.” You can argue anything away. If you desire the feedback, that’s part of it. You have to want it and you have to ask trusted individuals to give it to you because there are some people that don’t have your best interest at heart.
They may not be who you want to get feedback from. It’s people that you trust that you work with who are going to tell you, ride shotgun with you, and let you know where you’re blind spots may be. It was helpful to hear how other leaders were receiving feedback because sometimes, you feel like, “It’s just me.” No. Everybody thinks like this. We just have to get together and come together. How can you take that and digest it? Take some time with it.
Your initial reaction is going to be, “No, that’s not me.” Read it over a couple of different times. Put it down and put it away, then reflect on it because there are likely things that you think aren’t you that are. I’m a weirdo. I love feedback. I’m always asking for it. I want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly because I want to get better. I want to grow. That’s one of my goals always, continue learning and growing.
Setting, as you said, if you’re going to create an environment where feedback is something people are open to. It’s helpful to have people who are in that environment that are like you, open to it, and want to crave it. For the most part, most people are not like you in that respect. I’m generalizing a little bit here, but a lot of people are resistant to feedback. We do workshops about this frequently.
We’ve got one coming up with the City of Palo Alto on this exact topic. The only reason we’re doing that particular workshop on feedback is because, out of another workshop, that was one of the areas where they said there’s not a lot of trust or there are trust issues and people don’t feel psychologically safe. It’s rooting it out as to what’s like the first domino thing. For people to feel trust, they have to feel safe. For people to feel safe, they have to be in an environment where they don’t think that their agenda to succeed is in conflict with someone else’s agenda to succeed.
Feedback is at the grassroots level. It’s boots-on-the-ground stuff. Sports analogies are great for lots of different things, whether you play sports or not. If you’re on a baseball field or in a basketball court, you would never imagine that a team that wants to win and the teammates wouldn’t give each other feedback about something. It’s because they would be less likely to win if they didn’t say, “By the way, you want to slide over a little bit. Remember last time, that guy hit right up the middle and you weren’t there. Remember that?” “You’re right. I forgot about that. Move over and you’re in a bit of a position.”
Somehow in the corporate world, that same situation is different. It’s like, “This person is maybe trying to sabotage me or I can’t trust what their motives are. Who are they? They mess up all the time.” To create an environment first where feedback is not the exception to the rule but it is the rule then it goes in all directions. As you said, it goes up, down, sideways, and side to side. That’s a big deal. I’m going to say that we found what works for us in terms of setting it upright.
It’s funny to say it this way but it’s a bit of a structure for those conversations that has three statements. The first statement is, what’s working for me, what works for me, or what worked for me is. You put together this amazing event. You found this incredible speaker. Everything was on the right track. That all work for me. What didn’t work for me was that the speakers were not able to get to the event now like this storm happened and the plane’s canceled.
What also didn’t work for me was I didn’t get the sense that you were on it. With it, the whole thing is going to become transparent tomorrow morning. What I read from that situation was that I needed to step in and figure it out. It didn’t work for me that I didn’t get the sense that you were already three steps ahead in the planning for all that thing.
What could have been done differently is while you were solving for that, you could have said to me, “I got this. I got us. You don’t have to worry.” That’s the feedback I might give to you and you might give me the feedback that you gave her which is, “What worked for me was that you were brilliant and you were right there for the company and for all of us. We all ended up looking good but what didn’t work for me was you didn’t ask me, whether I was already looking to solve it and had already made a plan. Maybe even whether you trusted me to execute on that. What could have been done differently in that situation was and so on and so forth.”
While it seems a little mechanical, what we found is that you always start with the positive. The rules of Rhoda, you don’t start with, “When you did that, it annoyed me. When you messed up, we need to fix it,” because that’s the way people are used to getting it. You start with something positive that you don’t make it personal. I should say, you make it personal in the sense that this is my perception.
When you say something worked for you, it’s not whether it worked. It’s what worked for you. If you say something could be done differently, you’re not saying it could be better because you don’t know. Nobody knows. It’s a judgment call but it’s your perception. When that’s in the context, then people feel safe because it’s not like coming from the heavens. This is the gospel here. It’s more like we’re having a conversation and this is how I was processing all this at the time. What I feel about it now is what could be done differently. It goes in both directions.
I love that script. Those three statements would help people deliver feedback, too. It sets up the recipient in a good place, but it’s as hard to be the feedback deliverer as it is to be the feedback recipient. Having a great script to set yourself up for success, I love that.
I’m so bought into what you said, honestly. If we had environments where the relationship was more like the one with you and your manager, many things would otherwise be gnawing at people. They’re not happy, don’t feel fulfilled, or always have one eye on the next or where they find a better opportunity. That wouldn’t exist in a relationship where they were getting the growth that they crave. They were all so giving that opportunity to others. That would be great.
I so love what you said about that. I want to ask you in our final couple of minutes here about the concept of resiliency at VGM or any of your specific roles. What is resiliency looking like these days? Many people hear the word resilience now. They think it’s also being co-opted as a word that means suck it up. It’s another way of saying, “We got to be more resilient.” It’s like, “You’re asking me to do more with less again, aren’t you?”
I can speak to that in my role. I was brought into our fulfillment business unit to upgrade our system. We have one system that runs the whole business, front to back end. We needed to change and other was outdated. Part of my role was to also oversee our customer service team. They are the only front-facing piece of our business. They get the good, the bad, and the ugly. They get to be the White Knight and the cheerleader when we win. They take the brunt when it is ugly. Our system conversion, as you could probably imagine, did not go perfectly as many don’t. It was brutal. It was a tough six weeks for that customer service team to talk about resiliency.
They looked beat down sometimes, and they were like, “How much longer is this going to last?” I was relatively new to that team, and having gone through that battle together has brought us closer as a team. They certainly trust me more as a leader. It took this whole huge effort. I didn’t know a ton about their job role. I had them for two months before we did this major conversion. It was like, “I got to jump in here and do the role with them.” I need to understand where they’re coming from and how they’re dealing with this so that I can help them work through this. This is a hard time for us, and I need them to know it’s going to get better. I know it’s going to get better, but I have zero trust in me.
They don’t even know me. It’s hard to get from, “This place stinks and this job just got incredibly more difficult,” to, “It’s going to be okay. I promise.” It was such a cool thing to be part of. I feel like the team and their wanting to serve the customer, their drive, and desire to not let the customer down. I am a very positive person, so I’m trying to bring out any wins and positivity about how things are going, how the team is reacting to it, being there, and offering any assistance that I can at that time. It made a world of difference. Going through that battle together is like you’re in the trenches. You’re going through something hard.
Coming out on the other side makes you resilient. On the first of August 2023, we implemented another new system. It couldn’t have gone better. The team was so bought in, and they’re like, “This is going to be no problem.” You could tell from the first time we did it to this second implementation. Attitudes were different. They had more grit. They were more resilient. They were like, “We got this. We can do it.” It’s been cool.
You said something in the beginning, which I wrote down. It says, “Sometimes I have to step away.” That’s also a tool when we think about how it is that we develop resilience. It’s not often by continuing to ask your mind, body, or other parts of you, or emotional body state for more when you’re experiencing this depletion. That is the paradigm shift that our research has shown but it’s that moment, as you said, to be able to step away that helps you to create a reset or an opportunity to recharge, then moving forward seems to be easier.
That first event has been so difficult. I can see how the period between the end of that and the start of a new one gave them this reset or recharge time. When the new challenge came up, they were more ready to meet that challenge. They had the energy for it, or they already knew they could accomplish whatever that outcome was going to be, but a more seamless integration of that change.
We’ve got to be ever more cognizant of the fact that we’re more depleted than we know. That’s true of all of us, the people that we work with, and the people that we lead. They’re a lot more depleted than they are letting on and may be aware of consciously themselves but also that they’re letting on. If we can see people in that realistic light, then it’s not a question of, can we take stuff off their plates or give them less?
We all know, depending on the market and the environment, that’s not happening. It’s more like, where are we making these opportunities for reset or that recharge so that they’re not more depleted but also being tasked with more? It’s because they’re ready for that next incremental growth moment. I love this conversation, Sarah. I love your energy and the insights you provided. Thank you for that.
Thank you. I have also enjoyed our conversation. It’s been a pleasure.
We’re constantly tracking the leader’s rituals for their recharge. Is there one thing you do on a daily or a routine basis that is for your own reset?
I loved exercise before I was pregnant. I’m very pregnant. I don’t know if you knew that when you met me last time. When I’m not pregnant, I run or walk. I need fresh air. I try to get outside for at least 30 minutes and walk or run. It changes my whole mental state. It helps me so much to be a better leader at work, a better mom to my kids, and a better spouse to my husband. I need it.
Being in nature and getting that fresh air is the thing that’s so obvious to us. Every time we do it, walk off into the woods for twenty minutes, sit, or out in the sunshine. That’s all we’re talking about. When we think about operationalizing resilience, one major component of that is simply what you do each day throughout the day that creates those pockets for a recharge moment. It’s a bit like to change the analogy or create an analogy for this. It’s like a bank account. With your bank account, if you make more deposits, then you make withdrawals. You have a surplus. It’s a wonderful thing.
With interest, it grows, but when you make more withdrawals and deposits, you have a deficit. We know that we can’t do much with the deficit in a bank account. It’s the same with our energy or with a lot of aspects of what we need to succeed at home and work. You can’t be running at a deficit and expect that you’re going to do well for a very long. With that, again, I appreciate your time, Sarah. If people have questions, you can go to AdamMarkel.com/Podcast and leave a comment or a question. If it’s a question for Sarah, I will get that question to her. We will answer it directly, and it is us. It is not AI. It’s ordinary human thinking and response, which is what I crave a lot. Sarah, thank you again. I appreciate your time.
About Sarah Conger
I’m focused on creating memorable customer-centric experiences at VGM Group, an employee–owned company experiencing rapid growth. My career started as the VGM Group events planner; a role focused on creating memorable customer events. I was responsible for the annual VGM Heartland Conference for many years, and every year we were challenged to make the conference bigger and better, focusing on industry trends, community building, and even homemade cookies.
Then I moved to a role managing corporate projects. VGM Group was experiencing rapid growth, so the projects addressed the needs of a changing company, such as integrating a new customer relationship management tool or organizing a companywide leadership conference. Today, I am the VP of Customer Experience for VGM Fulfillment, a fulfillment and logistics partner for CPAP providers. We’re focused on quality, speed, accuracy, and ALL of the things that keep CPAP providers up at night. In my free time I’m wrangling two little ones as we support Grundy Center athletics. Go Spartans!