Connecting with MaryBeth Hyland on Permission to be Human

There's a lot to be gained by realizing and accessing our humanity, and on this episode we get to the nitty-gritty of how to do that with the person who literally wrote the book on this topic: MaryBeth Hyland. Her book (Permission to be Human) explores how to create conscious leadership and unlock authentic potential in yourself and your team. 

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human








Alex: This week on Uncover the Human, we are joined by MaryBeth Hyland, who has literally written the book on putting humanity back into the workplace. She discussed the process of getting to this book, how our company has been working on human-based cultural improvements for several years now, and the crucial factors that bring safety and growth back into the workplace, all wrapped up in our perfectly titled book, Permission to be Human. This was a great conversation. I really hope you enjoy.

Alex: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives. 

Cristina: Whether that's with our families, co-workers or even ourselves. 

Alex: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.

Cristina: This is Cristina Amigoni. 

Alex: And this is Alex Cullimore. Let’s dive in.

Cristina: Let’s dive in. 

Alex: Let’s dive in. 

Group: Authenticity means freedom. 

Authenticity means going with your gut.

Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.

Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself. 

It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.

Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be. 

It's transparency, relatability, no frills, no makeup, just being.




Alex: Well, hello, and welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. This week, we are joined with our guest, Marybeth Hyland, who just released her book Permission to be Human. Congratulations on the book launch. And welcome to the podcast. MaryBeth. 

MaryBeth: Thank you so much. You're catching me on a very exciting day. I'm so happy to be here with you and your community.

Alex: We're so happy you made time for this. It's got to be a very busy time.

MaryBeth: Yes, it is, which is even more reason to make time for this.

Cristina: Very happy you could join us.

Alex: Yeah, once we let the people know the title of the book I think they'll know immediately why we wanted to have you on the podcast. The title of the book is called Permission to be Human. So we'd love to talk a little bit about that. How did you get to that title? And what is the book about?

MaryBeth: Yeah, I have my baby right here. 

Cristina: Ooh, nice. 

MaryBeth: So the full title is Permission to be Human. And then the subtitle is The Conscious Leader’s Guide to Creating a Values-Driven Culture, which is really the essence of the book. What led me to do it? Oh, my gosh! Well, first of all, the name was a big part of the journey, because when I first was going to write this book, it was probably like five years ago, and it was called It's a Human Thing. Isn't this so much better? Isn't Permission to be Human so much better? Right?

Cristina: Definitely.

MaryBeth: Yeah. So it was really representative of my own evolution in the work that I do. So five years ago, I was primarily working with organizations around narrowing their generational divide. And so I would always say in my talks, it's not a millennial thing. It's a human thing. And so it was sort of my way of getting my foot in the door and starting to talk to organizations who felt like they had a generational problem to have them kind of open up about how about us just focus on the humanity of everyone across the generations and understand what are their shared intrinsic motivators or their values? And how can we start to create a culture that really is activating those shared values and making those the core values for the organization at large. 

And so over time, thank goodness, I've shed the generational piece of my work. And I say thank goodness, because it's such a polarizing thing. It's what I came from. So before starting my business, I had developed a global best practice model for engaging young professionals. And that's why people knew me for that work. But I always knew the whole time that it just happened to be those working with young professionals. Not that I knew some kind of magic for people that were my age. 

Anyway, fast-forward to today, to now, and I'm working with individuals and organizations to help them uncover their values and then learn how to align their behaviors, their actions, their mindset, their commitments, and in their companies, their policies, their procedures, to really be an embodiment of those values, instead of just a really nicely worded piece of content that sits on the wall or on their website. 

And so Permission to be Human, actually, the title came during this pandemic when one of my long-term clients was so blown away by what we were able to create from a remote experience. They're a construction company. And they have a perfectly fine culture. They weren't coming to me because they had massive issues. They were coming because they wanted to ignite and engage people further in what might be possible that they weren't tapping into. And so probably about four months into the time of being a part, the CEO came and joined one of our planning meetings with a group that I ran there, and he said, “This work has given us permission to be human.” And I didn't know that that was possible here. 

And it was part of a bigger statement that he was making. And honestly, I didn't catch it the first time. I didn't catch the phrase. I just was feeling so good that he was so happy with the work and all that good stuff. And then when he left and the rest of the team was there, the group repeated back to me, “Did you hear what he said? He said that we're giving people permission to be human.” And so that's when it just zonked, like it was like a lightning bolt through my body Like, “That's it. That's what this is. That's what this work is all about.” 

And so whenever I talk about Permission to be Human, it's really talking about honoring the human experience within ourselves first so that we can truly embody that possibility for honoring it in others. So really meeting ourselves where we are. Taking care of our wellbeing in the process, knowing, living, activating our values, and being kind and loving in the way we hold ourselves and others accountable to having that alignment within. So it's a very exciting moment. And yeah, Permission to be Human, it's come a long way. And I'm so happy that it's here.

Cristina: Congratulations. It's so amazing. I get chills every time I hear the title, read the title, think of the title. It's amazing. Because it's a basic need and a basic value of how we approach everything, how you approach relationships, workplaces, and especially in the workplace, as I'm sure you've experienced. It's so necessary, because it's been missing for so long. 

MaryBeth: Right. Right. Exactly. Yeah.

Alex: I really love the word permission, just for that reason. I mean, it really identifies that as there is this mental block that often either it feels external or is external between us and being more values-driven, being more authentic to it. And I think permission is such a great single word to identify that feeling and that obstacle to overcome.

MaryBeth: Yeah, thank you. And, you know, I still – I mean, I wrote a whole book about this. I still have ongoing inner conversations and dialogues where I'm not giving myself permission to be human, right? I'm only giving myself permission to be perfect. And if I'm not that, then I'm going to judge myself. I’ll be mean, right? And I think that's one of the best parts about writing this book has been giving the medicine to myself and recognizing how much, while I coach, and teach, and support teams and individuals in this work, you have to live it, you have to live it every day. And just being able to recognize that like every day is different depending on how much you really need to have that permission versus how much it just feels natural. And so going back into yourself and saying like, “No, I actually give myself this permission. And I don't need anybody else to give it to me but myself.”

Cristina: I like the fact that you focus on the self a lot and first, because if we don't understand ourselves, if we don't take the time, if we don't put our own oxygen mask on, then how can we possibly understand and be aware of what others may be experiencing? And if we can bridge that gap of understanding and awareness, we definitely can grant permission for them to be who they need to be and do what they need to do. 

MaryBeth: Right, exactly. And that's a big part of what I talk about. I think, oftentimes, particularly with workplace culture, a lot of organizations want a consultant to come in and fix it. And that's just not how it works, right? Like I can certainly illuminate where there are opportunities. I can coach and train people to be able to take leadership and ownership of it. But ultimately, it really is the individual who has to embody it in order for anything to be self-sustaining, for anything to have any kind of longevity to it. And so it's amazing how much we as humans want there to be a quick fix. And that there really isn't a shortcut to embodying this work. It's a daily practice that has to happen over and over and over again. And when you fall down on your face and say, “I don't want to do it anymore,” that you still choose to pick yourself up and say, “It's worth it. I'm going to try again.” And so that has been so cool to be able to experience it in my own life and go on that journey myself, but then see other people doing it too and reaping the incredible benefits that come from choosing it every day and saying like, “This matters. And so I'm going to do the hard work to ensure that it's a possibility.” 

Alex: That brings up a really interesting point about your journey into this. I'd love to understand the superhero origin story, so to speak, of how you came across this, how you understood values to be a great leading guide to appreciating some of this. How did that happen?

MaryBeth Yeah. Gosh, origin story. I can take it all the way back. And I talked about this actually, just briefly in the introduction of the book, but I was always a kid who was labeled as super sensitive, a crybaby, and needed so much attention. And that was a label that carried on with me for a very long time into my career, where people were saying things like, “Why do you care so much? You don't have to care that much about other people.” And so there was this experience of not understanding what was wrong with me. I was sure there was something wrong with me, because the majority of people around me were perfectly okay with people being treated poorly, having themselves being treated poorly, and just kind of like, “Well, that's just what it's like. That's just what it means to be in the workplace.” And I was like, “This can't be true.” Like this can't be the truth for everyone. 

And so when I stepped out on my own and started my business almost six years ago, I still did feel like a loner, because I hadn't met my people. But like look at us here, right? You're my people. There're so many of us who believe in this. And I didn't have the opportunity to connect with them because I was always within one organization. I didn't have this amazing experience of recognizing that there are people who share these values, who care about this all over the world.  

And so what was awesome about building my business is that I got to have this incredible freedom of like, “Alright, so how am I going to be able to get people quickly grounded in themselves and what matters to them, but also to have a new language, a new door that they can open to unlock emotional intelligence that perhaps was dormant inside of them?  

And so, for me, Values was the key to that door. Values were and are a language which every single one of us speaks. It's just a matter of asking the right questions and giving people the space to process what is true for them to then be able to unlock incredible emotional intelligence, incredible wisdom inside of themselves, and to be able to say, “Okay, the reason that we're all here,” and I know this is true for all of us in this moment is like, “we're all here because we're driven by authenticity,” right? And so what does that mean to us as a shared team? How do we define that? What are the expectations that we have when it comes to our behaviors, our policies, our practices in such a way that it is truly an embodiment and an alignment of that definition of what authenticity means to us? Obviously, you can insert your value here for that example. But it has been such a gift to see people come alive in a way that they hadn't experienced with values work, because oftentimes it's like a quick fun exercise, more of a marketing technique, more of like pick some words off the list and see what's going to be fun to play around with, versus let's honor where in our lives authenticity showed up for better or worse. Let's understand how it's a piece of us as individual humans. And then let's collectively make choices on how we can embody and honor that within each of us as individuals and within us as a collective whole. 

So I mean, that's a bit of a long story to get into how it came about. But really, it came about as the key, the key to unlocking that wisdom that we all have that the majority, 99.9% of people can have a conversation about it and be met where they are, instead of having to learn a whole new vocabulary or a way of being. It’s just listening to themselves differently.

Cristina: It's so exciting. I can't tell you enough how it's that moment of, “Wait, we're not alone. There are other people like us out there.” That's a lot like what Alex and I think experienced in the workplace coming from consulting, and technology consulting, and technology companies of that vision of this is not the way it should be. But why doesn't anybody else see this? Why does anybody else think that it's important to care about people? And why am I getting singled out for caring too much? A lot of what you said, “Oh, wait, I've experienced that. Those are some of the same things I've heard.”

MaryBeth: Yeah, and how exhausting that is, right? It’s exhausting to be the one person who is the outcast for it. Actually, if you would humor me, I'll read the first sentence of the book, because I don’t know what resonates with you. So this is the first sentence of the introduction. It says, “This book is a love letter to any fellow humans who have felt like they were underdogs for deeply caring about people and their wellbeing at work.”

Cristina: Oh my God! That says it all. And I've ordered my book today, so I can't wait to get it.

MaryBeth: Thank you. 

Cristina: Oh, it's so wonderful. Yeah, everything that you've just said, and values is a big thing that I've discovered actually through coach training. And it was a piece of the puzzle of, “Okay, I know people need to be treated better. I know that caring for people is the way to go.” And what's that piece? How do I get to the other side of having people understand what matters to them and find meaning in their lives? And Values is very much what I go back to in coaching sessions, when we go into organizations. We just recently actually had conversations where we were trying to figure out how to help some cultural pieces. And from employee surveys, everything that was jumping out to me was the values. “I can see values written all over these answers.”

MaryBeth: Yeah. Yeah. Well, because it sounds like you're at a place where you're able to translate into values, right? Which is so cool. So now, when I walk into an experience where I'm having a conversation with someone, I can easily say like, “Oh, I can tell that they're driven by authenticity, and transparency, and vulnerability, and empathy, or whatever that combination might be, just by the way they're showing up.” And when you can be as a coach, someone to reflect that back, people were like, “Are you a magician? How did you know that?” So it’s really cool for people to be able to say, “Well, I know that because of the story that you just shared with me here, and the way that you described this, and your energy, how it shifted when you began to talk about it. How does that resonate with you?” So it's cool to help people to connect the dots in a way that they didn't necessarily realize was pretty simple, pretty simple when you just pay attention.

Alex: And so in your work and experience with going into companies and cultures and working with them, how do people change? How do people – How do they respond? I mean, I've seen it happen kind of on an individual level. But I'd love to understand some of your experiences seeing this on a wider front.

MaryBeth: Yeah. So how do they change? Oh, my goodness. I will say that it's always an individual. Yes, everybody's going through the same experience, but it always happens on the individual level on the collective uprising from that in a positive way, getting the vibration up higher. And so depending on the culture, there are some groups that are very hard in the beginning. They think this is a really bad use of their energy and time because they're not getting some kind of a technical skill out of it. And they don't understand what it has to do with their job. So these are folks who see soft skills as not essential. Not power skills, right? They're like, “This is a waste of my time.” 

And then there's the opposite side of the spectrum of people who were like, “I've been waiting my whole life for this. I can't believe this.” And so when you have a mixed bag, which is always the case, unless you have a very small group, right? When you have any more than 50 or so people, you're going to have a significant range of buy-in as far as their shift and embodiment of the work. So I can give one example, which has been incredibly rewarding recently over this past year. I went into an organization who had never had any of this kind of work done before. We did a three-day online retreat, and then I provided supplemental support outside of that. 

And so it's an experience where there was a mixed bag on day one. So day one of the retreat is always about the individual. Like what are your values? And where do they come from? Day two is about what are our shared values and what are we agreeing on? And then day three is about solidifying those and really coming together and saying, “This is what it is. We agree to this. And we're going to pull ourselves and each other lovingly accountable.” 

So day one, there was – And I love it when this happens, because I'm so grateful. They're not holding it back. But there were people saying, “This is the hardest thing I've ever done, and I've no idea what this has to do with my job. And I don't understand why this is so difficult for me.” And so people were very candid, which is way better than people holding that in and not sharing, and then you can't help them, right? You can't help the process.  

And so by day two, what was so cool, because now I've done this enough that I know how to prepare people in such a way that they can feel supported and know like here's the dots that are being connected that you're not seeing yet. Here's a little teaser, right? I would say it was a group of 60 people, I would say probably on day one. There were about 20 people who were asking, ``Why are we doing this? So it was still a majority that were excited. By day two, I would say there was like 10. And by the last day, there were maybe only one or two people who were not bought in. And that was primarily because they didn't have trust that this was actually going to be implemented past the experience, which I don't blame them, right? I don't blame them if you've been through these experiences and not seen a change and how difficult that can feel to be vulnerable and put yourself out there and then just have the same thing in the end. Like nothing really made a difference.  

But what I'm excited to say now, so like the specific examples of how things have changed. They terminated several employees that were values violators. They were culture killers. After going through this process of understanding what was acceptable with our behaviors, and getting people the opportunity to be coached and to get back into alignment. And when they were unwilling to do that, they literally let those people go, which is amazing. Like that's amazing.  

And I don't say that as a win for just the team that is remaining, but also a win for the person who's being let go, because they deserve to be in an environment where they are honored and supported for how they show up and to be in a culture that is right for them. So that was one of the biggest wins. And one of the other really beautiful things is that even after our contract has completed with each other, I'm regularly getting communications from them saying, “Look at our agenda,” and how they've woven their values into everything. And look at how we're now doing our annual reviews. And look at how we're now hiring people and how we talk about our values in our job descriptions and how we interview people and look through their profiles for values fit. And look how we're now determining who gets promoted and who doesn't as a result of these factors. And so that's actually what is so exciting about this book, is that a lot of organizations want this work, but they're not willing to invest in it, because it's not a couple 100 bucks, right? It’s a significant investment to do this work. And so now, for $33.33,

it's literally a guide on how to do all the things I just talked about. So that people can recognize that, yeah, it'll be easier if you have someone coaching you through it one-on-one. But there are so many things you could be doing that you don't actually need a coach for that you just haven't thought of by simply taking the steps to integrate and implement them into the day-to-day norms.

Alex: Oh, so many of those things. I'm blown away. I'm trying to pick the first one to go for. One of the things I really like about your story, like when they were letting people go at the end of it, I think that's such a great reiteration, because there's so many values that you can have out there. There're lots of exercises, lots of lists of values. And of course, everybody has slightly different versions and interpretations of the ones that they have. And it's easy to feel like, “Well, these are the good values.” And it's especially easy to feel like our own values are very much the good values, and it's harder to see value in other ones. But I love that story of letting go of people because there always is a place and there's always value to whichever values you have. It just might not be the place you're in. And it's always worth remembering that it doesn't have to be – There're not good and bad ones. There's not a spectrum here. There're just best applications for what happens to be your mix. I love that.

Cristina: Well, it's such a realization even in hindsight of, “yes, it's going to hurt, it's going to burn to be laid off.” It's the same way it hurts to leave a place when you start feeling like there's a misconnection. But when looking back and having that values work, it's so powerful to then understand what was wrong. And it doesn't become about me anymore as much as, well, there was misalignment of values. And yes, they are my values, but it's not that I'm not good enough, or that I'm incompetent. It’s just that I was in a misaligned environment for being my authentic self and be my best self. So now I can look for the boundaries and the flags ahead of time, or at least set the boundaries and set the expectations ahead of time, that is if communication and connecting with other humans on a daily basis is one of my core values, then whatever position job role I'm going to be in, that needs to be a required piece. It can't be an option, maybe if in six months we feel like it and you ask permission for it.

MaryBeth: Totally. Totally. And that's actually something that I have a whole section in the book on terminations. And one of the things that I highly recommend is that, obviously, it's a case-by-case situation, but giving people feedback on what would be a better fit based on their strengths. And the things that you're seeing are so unique and powerful about that person, but not the right chemistry for that environment or the values that they're looking to embody. Because oftentimes, and I know this for myself, like I didn't realize emotional intelligence was a skill. I thought that was just a burden. Truly, I mean, that whole label of being oversensitive and all those kinds of things, like I thought it was one of the worst qualities about myself, because everywhere I went, people told me that there was something wrong with being that way. And it was such a gift to have people reflect back and say, “I don't think this environment is working for you, because you really love connecting with people,” right? What you just said. Like you need to have authentic conversations and relationships, and I think you need to find an environment where that's going to be part of your normal day-to-day. And we're just not those kinds of people here. And that's not against you. That's just who we are, right? And I think the more people can exercise this within themselves, they can learn how to get really comfortable with the language to be able to create that possibility for others.

Alex: I like that way of looking at it. And it reminds me, there're been a couple instances where we've come across this, and I'm guessing you've probably come across these things too. When you have people who, there's a certain set of company values, they're starting to learn their values. They may either feel like there's not an alignment or feel like they should try to be more aligned with the company values. Have you come across easier, or not necessarily easier, but helpful techniques for people to kind of bridge that gap even internally in their heads of feeling pressured to try and move towards a different set of values?

MaryBeth: So let me make sure I'm understanding your question properly. So do you mean the company overall or an individual within the company?

Alex: An individual within the company.

MaryBeth: Okay. So if an individual within the company is not in alignment with the values and trying to figure out their place? Okay, cool. I want to make sure I was following you. Yeah. So I think for a lot of people, it depends on their own self-awareness. Just like everything, all skills, if you have a low-level of self-awareness, this is going to really rub up against your ego. It's going to be an experience that might ignite defensiveness. It might create feelings of being called out in a way that's not being done from a place of possibility and love, and good intent, but rather being a victim of somebody saying like, “You're not really living this value.”  

And so the biggest part of that process and conversation is the framing. So if I were to come to you and say, “You're just not being authentic.” That's going to be received in a very different way than saying, “One of our core values is authenticity. And I'd love to have a conversation with you about how you feel things are going when it comes to our value promises.” That's what I call the code of conduct that comes out of these experiences. How do you feel you're doing with value promises? I love to support you. And then let's have a reciprocal conversation where you can do the same for me. That's almost never the case. When's the last time that your supervisor said, “I'm going to coach you on something and then I'm going to invite you to give me the same type of feedback through your lens.” 

Cristina: Never. 

MaryBeth: Yeah, right? It's scary.

Cristina: I think I voluntarily provided feedback, but I don't think it was actually asked.

MaryBeth: That's the point. That’s the point, two-way feedback. That's a big part of what I talk about, because I can remember when I was working in organizations prior to this, and that people would do these 360 reviews, and they would have your annual reviews. And sometimes you would be able to do an anonymous review for your supervisor. And it was scary to even do the anonymous review, because especially if you didn't have a good relationship with your supervisor, because you're like, “Are they going to find out it’s me? Do I need to have somebody else write this so that they can't see my handwriting later?” I definitely remember those moments. And so that's why being able to create a culture in which feedback is not a scary thing, but rather a normal part of the existence there, it really makes a big difference. And it's important to note that feedback isn't just what you need to do to improve. Feedback is also celebrating what you've done right and being able to honor that.  

There're so many people who are really believing they're doing a great job with feedback, say things like, “Great job! You really rocked it today.” But at no point do they say what made it great? And how did they rock it? So that they can actually repeat and replicate those behaviors in the future, versus, “Well, something I did during that presentation was good. Obviously, my boss told me I did a great job.” And so there's a great line that I actually heard on the Radical Candor podcast, which is, “If you can say it to a dog, it's not feedback.” It can be like, “Good job.” Or like, “Bad. Bad.” Like that’s not actually feedback. And that always really resonated with me and obviously with the two of you as well, and hopefully your community here. It's like, we take shortcuts when it comes to telling people what they do right. And then we hold our breath and try to spit it out as fast as possible when we want to help them in doing something better in the future, because we're afraid of how they may or may not receive what we have to say. 

And so all that is, again, it's a big part of developing these soft skills, or what I would prefer to call power skills, how to really understand that these are the skills that serve you everywhere in life. Not just in the workplace. Everywhere you go. And when you take the time to be uncomfortable, to learn to make mistakes, to get back up to try again, it really shifts and creates a whole new possibility for your life overall. And that's huge when it comes to feedback. And one of the examples I talked about too is like just be vulnerable and say, “Look, I haven't had this kind of a conversation before.” And to be honest, I'm a little bit nervous, because I'm hopeful that I'm going to do this in a way that's going to be supportive. But I don't know that I have mastered that skill set yet. So I'm going to ask you right now to give me feedback after this process of where I could have done better and where you felt like what I said was helpful, because I also am learning.” People just don't know how to do that in a way that feels empowered versus, “Oh, I'm not perfect. And I'm showing them that I have weakness.”

Cristina: That reminds me of what you said at the beginning. You give yourself permission to be perfect all the time. But the opposite, or the human part, which is what we actually are, it's a lot more difficult. How has the pandemic impacted your work, the desire for people to come to you and their own desire to do the work themselves?

MaryBeth: Yeah. Well, our business over doubled last year during this time, because so many organizations were having people stuff coming up in a way that they could ignore before, because it like wasn't that big of a deal. Or that's just that person's issue. But because everybody, every single one of us, any person that was a human over the last year and change has had stuff come up. And most of us have had really difficult things come up, that we didn't have the same outlet for releasing that in a way that perhaps was healthy, perhaps not healthy. But people really had to face themselves in a way that they could ignore in the past. And so we also, in our business, we teach values-based mindfulness. So everything I've been talking about is values-based mindfulness. But being able to guide people through a breathing pattern, a guided mindful meditation, a reflection prompt, journaling, movement, and things that they can actually do like a physical act of some sort so that they can release stress and renew themselves back up with peace and inner stillness and well-being has been something that in the past was hard to sell. It was kind of one of these like putting the medicine in the cheese, like you’re not going to notice it. But instead, people were saying, “You know that mindfulness stuff that you were trying to get us to do? Can you do that now, because we actually need that now?” 

And so my hope and what I believe in my heart is that there is a new awakening happening. There is a new awareness around the need for these kinds of systems and supports. And this is an incredible opportunity for people to really invest in themselves in a way that perhaps they've ignored and could get away with it, because the pain wasn't big enough. 

There's an incredible thought leader that I follow, Michael Bernard Beckwith, and he says, “The pain pushes you until the vision pulls.” And I think that's so accurate. It's like we have to be in so much pain often ultimately to get to the point to say, “That's actually where I want to be,” and feel pulled toward it, versus just kind of struggling on a daily basis suffering in our cloak of pain. So a lot of people have been in that cloak. And I'm grateful that I have been a resource. It's funny, I used to always say, if there was a zombie apocalypse, I don't want to make it through because I will not be useful. And after this year I was like, “Actually, I think I do have some useful skills.”

Cristina: I think so. 

MaryBeth: So it's been really a gift to teach others these tools and have them create their own toolkits and life and learn how to develop these possibilities for themselves, because it's not about people replicating what works for me. It's about them trying and seeing what works for them and then finessing it in the best possible most authentic way for them to curate within themselves.

Alex: I love that. That's an incredible vision of how to do these things. And one thing you had mentioned a little bit earlier was one of the outcomes of a lot of these retreats. You come up with a kind of a company code of conduct, I think you called it. It was like a code. And so I’m curious, if you have any examples, not to give away anybody's personal company details or whatever, but if there's any examples of cool or very interesting codes of conduct items that you've seen that are cool actionable pieces that people now live by?

MaryBeth: Yeah. So we call that value promises. And so essentially, the ideas like what is the promise that you are going to make and commit to? And so we go through the exercises. What's the promise? What is the pitfall? So what is the likelihood of this promise not being kept? So that’s a reality. What is the accountability to that? So what is the agreed accountability and how are we going to get back on track? And then the last piece is then what's possible? What is the possibility of really living this way? 

So we do it like that. Ultimately, what stays with the document is really the promises, but we purposefully walk people through the whole activity, because if we didn't go through understanding what's the pitfall and what are we going to do to pivot to hold ourselves accountable in that moment? It's really unrealistic. And people don't know how to hold themselves and others lovingly accountable. And so that's a part of what the training and support comes after those moments. But yeah, so actually I have a whole section in here that is of a group that had their value promises and they approved me sharing them. So I would be happy to pull them up if that would be of interest to you.

Alex: For sure. That sounds great. 

Cristina: I would love that. 

MaryBeth: Okay, awesome. 

Cristina: And thank you to the group for making this possible. 

MaryBeth: Yeah. So this is chapter six. It's called Value Promises. And so I walk you through the whole process of how to create it. And then I do this every year with a cohort of graduate students that are getting their degree in business, a one-year accelerated program. So as a cohort, we develop these together for the year. And so I'll give you an example of their – Achievement was one of their core values. And they define achievement as to successfully reach a goal or objective through effort, hard work and cooperation to gain a sense of fulfillment. Okay? So that's what they mean when they're saying achievement. 

And the definition part is actually really important, because we could be thinking about totally different things when it comes to any of these values. So coming together and agreeing on this is a big part of the work. The promise is we promise to always put forth our best effort. Pretty simple, right? The pitfall, members can be unmotivated and lack the communication skills necessary to achieve our goals. So what would be the accountability in that? Make sure that everyone is aligned with the goals by establishing them in the beginning and having ongoing check-ins. So what's the possibility if all that happens? If we successfully come together and all understand each other, then we will achieve our goals. So it's a full circle, right? If we do all this, then we will actually be living this value of achievement.

Cristina: Such important work that every company needs to do, every team, every project, every individual.

Alex: I love the word promise in that too. It's another very well chosen word that also starts with a P, which might just be the theme here, permission and promise. I love the promise idea because it's so much more strongly emphasized than what usually comes out, which is we're going to live our core values. Everybody is like, “Right. I don't know what that means. But yes, we’re going to live that.” But the ideas of promise, the commitment to it. Yeah. Yeah. 

MaryBeth: And a big part of that framing too, is because we all know what it feels like to have a promise kept, and we all know what it feels like to have a promise broken. And we know that from our own actions and behaviors. And we know that from people around us, actions and behaviors. And so the framing for this exercise is grounding people in that. Do you want to be somebody who breaks promises? Do you want to be somebody who keeps their promises? And also acknowledge that we're all going to have days in our lives. This goes back to Permission to be Human. Like we're going to break promises. That's just a part of our experience. It doesn't make you a bad person. It's what you do with it afterwards. How do you get back in alignment afterwards? That's what really matters.

Cristina: Yeah. It's that accountability. It's like, “Okay, it happened.” Always will continue to happen, because we're humans. And what are we going to do about it?

MaryBeth:  And it means so much when people own it, right? When they're like, “I messed up. And I was totally wrong. And I'm so sorry. And this is what I'm going to do differently. And I hope that you will accept my apology, and that we can start over again.” Those are skills that so few of us have, because we get so tight and wound up about us being right, instead of recognizing that there are lots of possibilities in that.

Alex: I’d say the part I like about that full cycle, like talking about pitfalls first. So we all know this is going to happen at some point. We're going to hit some pitfalls. We can preemptively decide that there are probably some ways in which this won't happen. And then of course, as we were saying, the accountability portion. What are we going to do when that inevitably happens? It's really good to think about those things up front, because back to the permission idea, it gives the permission for this to be something that we’re committed to and understanding that it's a process. It's going to be a journey. 

MaryBeth: Totally.

Cristina: Well, thank you so much MaryBeth. We could talk about values all year long, forever. 

MaryBeth: A lifelong. Yeah. 

Cristina: A lifelong. And we do. I'm sure that's what you have created in your life. And what some of us in the tribe are creating in our lives, is like how do we get to talk about this every time we have a conversation? Intentionally get to talk about. So one of the ways that we end our polls is to ask you what your definition of authenticity is, which you have been giving in many different ways. So it would be more of a summary than a brand new question.

MaryBeth: Yeah, I would say, authenticity for me is when your values, your true core values, not what other people want you to care about, right? When your core values are activated through your words, your behaviors and your actions. When those two things are in alignment, you are truly living a life of authenticity. 

Cristina: Absolutely beautiful.

Alex: I love that. 

MaryBeth: Thank you. 

Alex: So if people are interested in hiring you, and finding you, and buying this book, where do they find you?

MaryBeth: Oh, that would be such a gift. If folks are interested in this work, my site is And the book is on there. But it also has its own site within the site, which is So not com, but just co. And on the website at large, there're a lot of community events. So the work that I do with companies, I also do with individuals in the community who want to sign up. The individual experience for knowing, owning and living your values yourself is called Life Lens. And we offer that on an ongoing basis. Our next one is coming out right when this episode will be coming out on August 14th. And then another great opportunity we have coming up in September for second and third is that 3-day experience I described for companies that we do when we come in and everybody who's there as a member of that team. I'm actually going to be doing it for solopreneurs. So it will be a group of solopreneurs who can walk through that experience and really get the same thing that they would if they had a large team. But what's exciting about that is it's starting with themselves, and they don't have to check in with anyone else but themselves. It's about them being grounded and aligned and having an experience that is really a reflection of why they did this in the first place. 

I know as an entrepreneur who started as a solopreneur, I was really looking to a lot of other people to tell me what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. And that's a wonderful thing to have guidance and mentorship, but only from people who are living a life that is a reflection of your values also. I think we get carried away from that, particularly in the beginning of starting these things. So my intention with that is to ignite more possibilities and creating a really strong foundation for solopreneurs who, whether they stay as a solopreneur, or they eventually grow to be bigger, they will have this ingrained in their systems, in themselves, and the way that they're showing up every day so that they can really have that authentic experience in their day-to-day existence at work.

Alex: That's a great market to do it. And actually we were just having a conversation with this very new solopreneur just last week. We may send them your way. It’s a great way to plug this in.

MaryBeth: Oh, that would be awesome. Yeah, that would be a gift. I'm so excited about this. This is something I've wanted to do for such a long time, because I've done it for like individual solopreneurs who have done one-on-one coaching. I was like, “We can do this in a bigger experience where other people can connect with each other, but always still going within for what they're ultimately creating.”

Cristina: And it can be so validating for them to know, “Oh, wait, I'm not alone. Everybody, all the other solopreneurs are going through the same things and have similar questions.”

MaryBeth: Right. Precisely. Precisely. Yeah.

Cristina: Beautiful. 

MaryBeth:  Well, thank you for believing in this and for inviting me to be here. This is like such a gift to be with like-hearted and like-minded souls here.

Cristina: Yes. Thank you for making the time. We know you're very busy at the moment of your life right now.

Alex: Thank you so much. It's wonderful to get to share this with you.  

MaryBeth: My pleasure. Thank you. 

Cristina: And thank you everybody for listening. 


Cristina: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast. 

Alex: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Raechel Sherwood. 

Cristina: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Alex: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast, or at our website,, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.

Cristina: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.




MaryBeth HylandProfile Photo

MaryBeth Hyland

Founder & Chief Visionary

As the Founder of SparkVision, MaryBeth Hyland knows that extraordinary success is rooted in the vision, values, and culture crafted by purpose-driven leaders and their teams. With over a decade of experience, built on her BA in Social Work and MS in Nonprofit Management, she’s a culture consultant who guides individuals and teams to live their values.

And she does that with the understanding that we all have a deep desire to know and return to our most authentic selves.

She has been recognized as a leading expert by The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and more.

As the author of “Permission to Be Human: The Conscious Leader’s Guide to Creating Values-Driven Culture”, her personal life’s mission is to create spaces where voices are heard, stories are released, and alignment is ignited.