Creating a workplace where everyone is engaged and thriving is no easy task. For Linda Binns, it all comes down to the personal. An energy coach and self-identified introvert, Linda has made a career out of helping people be their best selves at work and improving workplace culture in the process. Listen in as we discuss her approach to engagement and cover some tactics that everyone can use to navigate personal challenges, maintain their energy and thrive in the workplace.
Brandon Laws: Hey, welcome back to the Human Resources for Small Business Podcast. I’m excited to be back with you this week. In this episode, I interview Linda Binns. She’s the Breakthrough Energy Expert and she has over 20 years of experience helping people bring out the best in themselves. Linda’s programs and events are designed to create powerful transformation and personal and professional fulfillment.
She works with individuals, organizations and business owners to maximize productivity, effectiveness and potential. In this episode, we talk about employee engagement and how to drive the best out of your employees. At the end of the episode, Linda talks about an event that she and Xenium are putting on together on June 21st, 2018. So stay tuned for that. You will learn more about how you can register and get that information. Enjoy today’s episode.
Brandon: Hey Linda. It’s so great to have you in the podcast. Welcome.
Linda Binns: Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be here, Brandon.
Brandon: Well, I’m really excited about this topic. We’ve covered a lot about culture on this podcast. We’ve talked a little bit about employee engagement. You’re an expert in this area. So what’s your approach to improving employee engagement, if you want to start with that big, broad topic?
Linda: OK. Well, I recently found kind of a description of what employee engagement means. So I will start there and then tell you about my approach to it. So the description I found said employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organization to give of their best each day, committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.
So for me, in that description, the most important words are “enhanced sense of their own well-being” because you cannot give of your best each day and be committed to your organization’s goals and values and motivated to contribute to the success of the organization if you don’t have a personal sense of well-being.
Your job alone cannot give you that because we all have things going on in our lives that influence us and how we feel and influence our sense of personal value and self-worth and confidence and well-being. So I don’t believe you can really truly separate your personal and professional life.
So that’s the approach that I take. It’s about helping people to identify, resolve whatever is standing in their way of being really happy and fulfilled personally and professionally.
Brandon: So if it’s not the job that keeps them engaged and it – it seems to be – it probably doesn’t come from necessarily within. There’s a lot of external factors probably involved. What are some of those things that can contribute to somebody having that sense of well-being, happiness, to where they’re really feeling engaged?
Linda: Well, I think it starts with a deep sense of self-awareness, knowing what is important to you and knowing what it is that you really want for yourself and your life. People who have a deep sense of self-awareness or who develop that are so much happier than people who don’t have that because if you don’t have that, then you’re going to look at every external situation or circumstance or everything that “happens to you” as something outside of you, right? That you have no control over.
But we actually have a lot more control than we think we do. So it all depends – what I like to say is on how you are showing up or how we are showing up in our lives. So how you are showing up in your work situation or at home and what I mean by that is the way you think about yourself, the way you feel about yourself from what you’re doing, it’s like – my specialty is energy. So I see it from the perspective of – it’s like you’re broadcasting that to everybody around you, everyone who interacts with you.
So however you feel about yourself determines really how other people respond to you. So when you feel better about yourself – and that really does come when you have a deeper level of self-awareness- then people will respond to you in a much more positive way.
So it really does start with you, yourself, and knowing as much as you can possibly know about yourself and that’s not – OK, I know everything about myself. I’m done. It’s a daily thing.
Brandon: I love what you said about having a sense of purpose and then obviously starting from within.
Brandon: That seems like a really big challenge for a lot of people. Where do you recommend people start with that?
Linda: The best place to start, it’s a really simple thing. I won’t say it’s easy to do. But it’s a simple concept. It’s by paying attention to how you feel because how you feel in any given moment is – that’s giving you clues about what’s going on with you internally.
So it’s like you have your own inner guidance system. So simply put, if you feel good, then you’re on the right track. When you don’t feel good, then something is off. So let’s say for example that you get up in the morning and you’re feeling really good. You’re energized and you’re feeling great and you come into the office and just everything is feeling good to you.
Then later on perhaps in the morning or the afternoon, you notice, “Oh, wait a minute. I don’t feel so good anymore. What happened?” and it could be somebody said something to you or it could be that a project is getting delayed or something like that. But now all of a sudden, your good mood and your good feeling have completely shifted. Well, I see that as an opportunity for you to look at yourself and say, “OK. What happened? What has taken me off track?” and it could be something as simple as somebody said something, which triggered a response in you, which triggered an emotion, triggered a belief, triggered some thinking that can be really old and outdated and doesn’t really apply to you anymore. It still affects you.
If you pause long enough to look at that, then you can learn what it is, learn what you need to know and move on and then you come back into alignment and you start to feel better again. If you ignore it, that has the potential to build and build and build until it can become something that is all out of proportion to the thing that triggered it in the first place.
Brandon: Yeah. I totally agree with that and I’ve actually gone through this recently where I was feeling kind of stuck. At work and at home and it was kind of getting overwhelming and I sensed all the stress sort of building up and I wasn’t dealing with it. I went back to this book I read probably three, four, five years ago, The Artist’s Way at Work, and there’s a concept in there that I still take with me to this day – and it’s the concept of doing morning pages. It’s just writing in the morning for like 20 minutes.
With that exercise, I was getting my emotions out. It was sort of like journaling and – but I was prioritizing. I was getting my emotions out and being aware of what I was feeling and I felt like that was what helped me get unstuck. Do you recommend people do that to sort of get the self-awareness out of them, just to figure out where they stand?
Linda: Definitely. I think doing a structured exercise like that where you do what you call morning pages, so you’re basically – you allocate time every morning to do that, to start writing something. Then whatever is going on within you will come out.
But the other way to use that is in the example that I shared. You know, one minute you’re feeling great and then you notice you’re not.
Linda: A great way of dealing with that is to get pen and paper and start writing about it. Write what you’re feeling and just – you would be amazed. Once you start writing, things can come out in the writing that you weren’t even aware of.
Brandon: Yeah, that’s so true.
Linda: Coming from inside you. And I recommend that people do this because when you do it, it’s like you’re getting it out of your head and out of your body and just the act of writing is very cathartic. It can resolve a situation or bring clarity to it just by the writing of it. It’s a very helpful thing to do.
Brandon: I always notice that I feel better when I can verbally say something – like when you vent with somebody and you feel kind of better just to tell somebody. Do you ever recommend – if people don’t have that opportunity to do that and maybe it’s not healthy to do that necessarily – to use a voice recorder versus writing? Or do you feel like writing is always the better approach for getting out what you’re feeling?
Linda: I think it depends on the person. Some people respond really well to writing. Some people, the idea of sitting down to write something feels very stressful to them. So I would say whatever approach works for you. I don’t think there’s a right way or a wrong way. But also, I do know that it is helpful to verbalize sometimes in terms of just speaking to somebody, just talking to someone, not with the view that they’re going to try and fix it for you. But just to be able to vent and maybe you just allow yourself a few minutes to get the frustration out. Just doing that can then calm you down enough, so that you can then start to make progress.
I have a couple of clients, you know, and one of the things that people often say is, “You mustn’t focus on the negative. You must only think positive thoughts.”
Linda: So people are afraid or they feel bad if they are thinking some negative thoughts or heaven forbid they say them. But sometimes I think we need permission to do that because we cannot move into a better feeling place until we let that out. So whether you do that through writing or verbalizing or whatever it is – sometimes it’s exercising. Maybe you have a punch bag in your garage.
Brandon: I like that approach.
Linda: That works for some people. But whatever it is, you first try to get it out of your mind and also your body and then that brings some clarity, so that you can then start looking and being open to solutions and ways that you can move forward.
Brandon: So bringing back the conversation to the employee engagement piece, if there are a few things that really get employees or people just stuck, and prevents them from moving forward and thinking positively and creating that energy that you’re talking about, what are those things that just get people stuck?
Linda: People focus on the wrong thing. I always tell people what you think is the problem is never the problem. So people – yeah, so something happens to you. Maybe somebody says something and they trigger something in you. Then you want to make it about that person, right? You want to make it their fault. They shouldn’t have said that and this may be true that they shouldn’t have said it or they shouldn’t have behaved in the way they did.
But we want to make it all about that person and we want to make them the problem. Well, I would like to turn it around and say, OK, yes, that person did that and yes, it may be unfair and all of those things may be true. But what I’m most interested in is – what has this triggered in you? What has this brought up in you and how can we focus on that? Because if you continue to focus on the person who did this to you, you won’t get anywhere, right? Because you can’t change another person. You can only change yourself.
When you are willing to do that and to focus, to identify and focus on the newer problem, which in this case is within you, then you will move forward so much faster and you will get beyond it.
Brandon: Is there anything else that would get employees stuck in their situation?
Linda: Yeah. I mean we’re always looking for a quick fix, right? So we want – well, here’s an example.
Linda: It could be something as simple as you’re trying to accomplish something. Let’s use the computer because that’s always a good example. You’re trying to do something on the computer and it’s just not working, right? And we keep at it, we keep at it, we get angry with it. We shout at it. We –
Brandon: You’re describing me.
Linda: Yeah. Me too. And the last thing we want to do is actually walk away from it. But if you – there’s no quick fix in that situation. Well, there’s no quick fix in any situation. But just this example I’m using. You know, the longer you stay there and try to force it, it’s not going to work. So what does work and I’ve seen work so many times is you just walk away from it. You stop. You focus on something else and then you come back to it and it’s amazing how easily the answer will come then.
So we’re looking for an easy answer. We’re not finding one. What we don’t realize is that if we stop trying to force it and find the quick answer and are willing to walk away for a moment and just focus on something else, then the answer can come.
So I think when we’re obsessed with looking for a quick fix in whatever the situation is, that is a problem. Another problem is when we’re looking for an external solution to our problem, right? So we’re looking for somebody else to tell us what to do or somebody else to tell us the magic answer.
What you will find is that somebody may give you answers. Somebody may give you advice and you might follow that. But what you usually find when you focus externally only is the situation can get worse. So you find that you get more and more stuck and you don’t know why because – well, I’m working really hard on trying to resolve the situation. But I seem to be getting more stuck in it.
So that’s why pausing and looking inside yourself is really, really helpful, whether it’s through something like journaling or just writing or talking to somebody. It is helpful and I think another thing and another reason people get stuck is they don’t know what they want.
Linda: That is a lot more common than you think. People think they know what they want. But when you really talk to them about it and really examine that question, it’s often the hardest thing for people to know what they want. They might know what they don’t want.
Linda: Well, I know I don’t want this. OK. So what is it that you do want? Because we’re so often, I think, programmed to want what other people want or to – we’ve just kind of moved in the direction that other people maybe have directed for us.
Brandon: So there’s a book I read a couple of months ago called The Invisible Influence and one of the chapters talked about the social influence that happens where other people around you might want something or they may be buying certain things. It has an influence on you because you see it all the time and then if you really don’t know what you want, I can see how that influence takes over.
Linda: Definitely. I think – well, another thing related to that is that we constantly compare ourselves to other people.
Brandon: Yes, yeah.
Linda: And we see that, well, if they’re achieving that, then I should be able to achieve exactly that same thing in exactly that same way. And what we don’t realize is that that same way may not work for us or that same outcome may not be what’s really right for us or what we truly want. So we – again, it comes back to self-awareness. We lose touch with ourselves and what we really want, which is why I really believe that it starts with self-awareness.
Brandon: There’s a group of people that may appear to be disengaged. Again, this topic is about employee engagement and there’s this group of people, the introverts. They often – they struggle because they maybe aren’t heard because they keep a lot of things to themselves or maybe they don’t – they couldn’t even be taken seriously. What are some of your strategies for allowing this group to rise? We will talk about this towards the end. You’re doing a workshop at Xenium on June 21st. We will talk about it.
But it’s really on this piece right here. I mean this is a big issue, isn’t it?
Linda: It is and actually the workshop I’m doing on June 21st, it goes beyond just the introverts. But we will talk about introverts – you know, something I’m very familiar with because I am one. So again, for introverts, self-awareness is the key and acceptance, I think, of who you are – your personality, your abilities, what you’re good at. I think introverts have a deep need to do work that is meaningful, to find something that they feel really good about.
When they have that, it improves their confidence. So it’s like for me, I remember when I was in the corporate world and sometimes they would try to get me to speak in front of groups on various topics. It was the most painful, torturous thing ever and I thought that was something I could never ever do.
Now I do it regularly. The difference is I am talking about topics that I am really passionate about. So for an introvert to stand up and talk in front of the group of people, which is one of their worst nightmares, the way to do it is you make it about the information that you’re sharing. So when I stand up in front of a group, it’s not about me. It has nothing to do with me. It’s about the information I’m sharing and how passionate I am about that and that I want to share that information with people.
If I come at it from that perspective, then I can do it and actually enjoy doing it. So there are ways for introverts to really step up and get their message out there, be seen, be heard and bring out the best in themselves. But it has to be meaningful to them. And I think introverts are often seen as being maybe unsociable. But for me, I know I’m not unsociable. I’m usually just thinking too much. I’m very quiet. People will often say to me, “Are you OK? You’re so quiet.”
But I’m taking in everything around me. A colleague summed it up for me one time. The way she put it was so amazing. She was introducing me to somebody else and she said, “You will find that Linda doesn’t say much. But when she does, you really want to pay attention, because she doesn’t waste words and what she will say is going to be really meaningful.”
I thought, “OK, that really actually does sum up introverts very well.”
Brandon: In this whole topic, I mean you’re really talking about looking inward and making changes. What’s one of the most important things you would tell the people who are listening to this podcast about change?
Linda: I think it would be that you can change anything if you change yourself, if you start with yourself. That’s not where we usually start. When we feel stuck in a situation, we’re unhappy, whatever it is, we make it about the situation.
I was talking to a guy recently who was in a job. He became very unhappy in the job. He had been in that job a long time. So he made the step of moving to another job because he thought it would solve all his problems. He said it sounded like the ideal job. He was going to be happy. After just a couple of years, he was just as miserable in that job as he was in the other one.
Then he said to me, he said, “It’s not the job, is it? It’s me.” I thought, “That’s it. Bingo!” So you have to first find a place within yourself. Find what it is you need for yourself rather than trying to look at something else to give you what you need.
Brandon: You talked earlier and you mentioned it, work-life balance. I think everybody – that means something different for everybody and I hear that word thrown around a lot, the concept. What does that even mean? Is it even possible?
Linda: I do think it’s possible. But just as you said, it’s what does that mean for you? Because I think we have this ideal there. There’s this thing called work-life balance and it should look a certain way. But it’s going to be different for every person. So I think again it comes back to knowing what it is that you really want and knowing what’s most important to you.
So for example, if you say, “You know what? My family is the most important thing to me,” right? My family is the most important thing to me. There’s nothing else that’s more important than that and yet you’re working so many hours that take you completely away from your family.
Then you’re never going to feel that you have balance, right? So you will want to find a way that you can do work that you enjoy, but also that work will allow you to spend the time that you want to spend with your family. So that you feel you have a balance in that and that balance will be whatever that means for you.
Brandon: For employers that are listening, HR people, doing a cookie-cutter approach to work-life balance probably doesn’t make a lot of sense because if you’re saying that – what does it mean to you as an employee? The employers probably have a conversation with that employee. Like hey, if you want the work-life balance, what does this mean for you and how can we make this work, right?
Linda: Yes, absolutely. I think it’s – it means different things to different people. So I think you cannot just say this is work-life balance and you all should be aiming for this, right? Because some people thrive on working longer hours or – you know, that is their life, right? But other people have other things that they want to do outside of work and if they’re allowed to do those things, if they have the time to do those things, they will actually contribute more when they’re in the workplace, right?
So when you have the sense of balance as it is meaningful to you, you will be a more productive employee and a happier employee and you will be happier in all areas of your life. But it comes down to self-awareness and knowing what it is that is really important to you.
Brandon: It’s so easy to get so overwhelmed nowadays. I don’t know what it is and it seems like – I don’t have numbers or anything. But it seems like stress and depression for people are at all-time highs. What have you found that works to sort of combat the sense of overwhelming things in your life, whether it’s work or life – like so many things being thrown at you? What do you find that helps people?
Linda: Well, first of all, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to start with knowing what you really want because when you do –
Brandon: That’s the point to take away obviously from this podcast. Know what you want.
Linda: Right. When you do know what you want, then it’s – and you know what’s most important to you – then it becomes easier to put your energy into those things and to more of those things and to not put your energy so much into things that you don’t really enjoy.
I always look at managing energy rather than time. And we focus a lot on time management and everybody is probably gasping right now saying, “My time management system has to go out the window.” No, but there are – if you understand – again self-awareness – if you understand what is important to you and you understand what feeds your energy, what drains your energy, what feels good to you, what doesn’t, what you would find is that if you manage your energy and you can accomplish your task based on the energy management system, you will accomplish so much more.
I found it so much more effective than time management because if I –let’s say I sit down to write an article and I’ve done this many times. I sit down to write an article and it’s not flowing. But I need to write this article. So I’m going to sit and I’m going to make myself do it.
Well, I might take three, four, five hours, maybe longer to write that article and I won’t feel very good about it probably when I finish. But if I use my energy management system and I only sit down to write the article when I feel ready to write the article, when my energy is in the right place to do it, I can knock that thing out in about 10, 15 minutes. Really, it can be that different.
So managing your energy – and you have to understand your energy, your peaks and lows and what is important to you, what you like to put your energy into. But when you take that approach, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. It’s really incredible and the other thing I would say is set realistic expectations because I think we so often set expectations that are so high that we can’t accomplish them and then we feel very overwhelmed.
Brandon: Yeah. I want to ask you or I want to make an assumption and get your response to it as we close this discussion. So if you’re talking to an employer and they’re like, “Oh, I need to engage my employees. We’re having issues there,” and they’re like, “Well, we need to probably develop the culture. We need to have perks and benefits and all this really cool stuff to get employee engagement,” and your response – I’m making an assumption here – would probably be no, help them understand what they really want out of their life and help them get more of that and that’s what’s going to drive engagement.
Linda: Absolutely. I think it drives engagement more all the time over perks and benefits really. When people feel good inside, then they just perform better in all areas of their life, not just at work, and they’re happier. And really that’s what we want, isn’t it? We want to be happy at work and as a company, you want happy and engaged and motivated employees.
Brandon: Yeah. I can’t disagree with that. I mean it’s good stuff. So you’re doing a workshop for us on June 21st in Tualatin, Oregon, which is just south of Portland, Oregon. Tell us about the workshop. Are you going to cover some of what we talked about today? What are you going to cover in this?
Linda: Well, yes, I am going to cover a lot about what we talked about today. But there is a percentage of the workplace population that is being overlooked when we talk about employee engagement, but then move specifically to diversity and inclusion, right? A lot of companies are really becoming more and more aware of that these days. There’s a percentage of the population that we’re not really aware of and therefore it’s being overlooked.
So in this workshop, what I’m going to do is identify that workplace population, identify the attributes and behaviors of them and why they’re often missed. But also I’m going to talk about how and why these are usually your best employees, but you don’t know about it. So therefore, they have a set of unique gifts and talents that are not being fully utilized. They have strengths that you’re not aware of and therefore are not using.
So I want to share all of that information and show people how they can learn about this workplace population and really unleash their strengths.
Brandon: Yeah. Who should attend this? Is it for all employees? It is for HR managers, owners of companies? Who do you think should be at the workshop?
Linda: Well, I think HR managers definitely. I think anybody in the leadership or management position to be honest.
Brandon: Yeah, I agree with that.
Linda: I do, because you will not only learn a lot about your employees. You will learn probably a lot about yourself and also this applies to all areas. So yes, it’s going to help you in your business and your work situation. But it’s also going to help you in your personal life to have this awareness as well. I know that there will be people who leave this workshop thinking, “Oh, perhaps this person.” They will connect the dots and they will start thinking about different people that they know and it will all start to fall into place. The pieces of the puzzle will start to fall into place.
Brandon: Linda, I thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This has been a really fun discussion. Where can people learn more about the work that you’re doing? Any content or anything that you want to promote, we would love to share it with the audience.
Linda: Well, probably the best place is my website and that’s – it’s just www.LindaBinns.com. I’m on all social media, on LinkedIn and Facebook and all of those. So they can always visit me there. But www.LindaBinns.com. They will find information there and can contact me through there. That’s probably the best place to go.
Brandon: Excellent. Linda Binns, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. It has been a lot of fun.
Linda: Thank you, Brandon.
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