Connecting with Tony Gambill on Practicing Self-Leadership

Leading people is a complex task made up of thousands of tiny decisions and interactions, weaving an intricate tapestry of relationships. Inevitably, we will make choices we wish to improve or to not repeat, so how do we improve at improving? Tony Gambill, author of the book "Getting It Right When It Matters Most" joins this week to share his "SOAR" framework for continually developing our leadership skills and lives in general through conscious self-leadership. 


Getting It Right When It Matters Most: Self- Leadership for Work and Life

(Available for purchase at this link)

Tony Gambill Book


SOAR Model

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human







[00:00:00] Alex: Welcome to Uncover the Human, where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives.

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[00:00:53] Alex: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Uncover the Human. This week, we are joined with our guest, Tony Gambill. He is the author of the upcoming book, Getting It Right When It Matters Most: Self-Leadership for Work and Life. Welcome to the podcast, Tony.

[00:01:05] Tony Gambill: Thank you. I'm excited to be here. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you all today.

[00:01:09] Cristina: Welcome. Glad you’re here.

[00:01:10] Alex: We're excited to have you.

[00:01:12] Cristina: Yes.

[00:01:14] Alex: Why don't you walk us through a little bit about – Let's just talk a little bit about your background and your story, getting into writing this book. Just give us a little overview.

[00:01:22] Tony Gambill: It's interesting. I'll go way back, because I think it's relevant to who I am. I wasn't someone that understood what I wanted to do at an early age. Going through school, I wasn't that motivated, because I'm not just a natural learner. I like to learn from application. Anyway, I got out of high school and went to college, got a general business degree and went into sales, because that's what my dad had always done.

I got there. It was interesting. I had a manager who was a psychology major. They felt like I had potential. She would always ask these deep questions. “You're really a good manager.” At one point she said, “Tony, I don't know how to motivate you.” I said, “Christy. I don't know either. Let me think about it and we'll talk tomorrow.”

I thought about it. Over the night, I came to a conclusion. I met with her the next day. When we were speaking, I just said, “Christy, -I was selling long distance at the time to different good small businesses.- I think if I sold every account in this city, it wouldn’t motivate me.” Anyway, that tracked me to leaving that position. It was great, because I left to work with Outward Bound in Florida. I worked with adjudicated youth.

It was interesting, because I came from a middle-class family. My parents were just petrified that I was leaving this good corporate job for $10 a day internship with Outward Bound. I'm 22, 23 at a time. They’re like, “Okay, you got to get on making money.” Anyway, I went to Outward Bound and I worked with adjudicated kids. We go month-long trips and down the rivers. These kids had been court appointed to these programs. What I learned is a couple of the – I learned more from them than they ever learned from me.- I learned a couple of things.

First, I learned my passion. I love working with groups. I love working with leadership. I love building teams together. First time I'd ever been jazzed about what I did. The thing is I learned that those kids were really good kids and they were in really bad situations, and how situations and context really can drive where we end up. It was just such an eye opener. Actually, I would look at kids across while we were going around that I felt were a lot better kids than me at that age, and in so many ways. They were in those situations.

Anyway, important learning for me. I'd say all of that, because that's where I felt my passion. From that, I went, started doing Outward Bound professional development programs, up in Baltimore, North Carolina, BC. It was great. I was working for the shorter programs one day to a week. I did that and I was doing well with it, but I was like, there's got to be more to this stuff, than the experiential piece. I went back and got my Master's. Did that in Asheville, which was great, because it was a beautiful place.

Finished my Master's. I'd worked up in Baltimore for Outward Bound. They have a center there. I got an interview for T Rowe Price. I was like, “I will never go back to Baltimore. I'm going to go up and take this interview, because I got a lot of friends there. I want to talk to my friend.” It was a great opportunity. I got the job on the spot. I worked for them for three years. Then, I transitioned to a conservation organization out of DC, which gave me a great opportunity to see the world and do this work around leadership and team effectiveness, working over 40 countries. It was great. I got married and I started having a family and the travel wasn't great.

I went to Virginia Tech, in a similar role. I lead the functional department of talent development, organizational development, leadership development. Was there for a while and then I came down to North Carolina. For a decade, I was vice president of a global research organization for RTI International.

Anyway, that took me through about three years ago, when I decided that I'd done that for a while. I was ready to make a change and went out on the consulting. Part of that was to write this book. Anyway, a winding story to where I got. I think, the point was that, I didn't really have my first job at T Rowe till I was 30. That's late for a lot of people, right? It was best for me. It's amazing. I got kids now that are – they feel pressured to know what they want to do at 16, 17, 18. I'm just like, “No. I’ll figure it out.” Anyway, that's probably more than you wanted on that story, but that's my meandering path.

[00:05:40] Alex: That's a great story of all of the different leadership roles you've had. It sounds like one of your biggest passions then has been in the development of people. I mean, from basically, from that first Outward Bound on?

[00:05:51] Tony Gambill: Yeah, it has been. I think my niche has been working for mission-driven, research-based global organizations has been awesome. I do like working with people. I felt, what works for me around that is, what I found is what works best for people works best for organizations in the long-term as well. That's just such a nice place to be. There's a lot of tension these days. It's for the long-term, if you're not looking short-term, it's always the right answer. That enables me to have done work that I can feel passionate about and that I can feel as meaningful. Also, I feel like it's played to some of the strengths that I brand. It's been great. I've been fortunate and blessed to be in that space.

[00:06:40] Cristina: What you just said is while you're on the podcast, so we can wrap it up. Everybody, just listen to that. Paste it on your wall. Put it in your mirror. Read it every morning. Long-term, if you focus on the people, your organization succeeds. That's the secret.

[00:06:54] Alex: You've just uncovered our entire mission statement, which is that, if you can work with the people first, that's where everything starts. That's where you get to see the growth, the potential for the organization, for the groups, for the teams. It's an incredibly powerful way to start and look at things.

[00:07:08] Tony Gambill: It is. It's a simple statement, but it becomes really complex. I actually just wrote an article last week about how important it is to lead with empathy and create clear accountability. The article basically said, accountability is part of empathy, and you can't be effective at leading with empathy without it. The reason being is because, accountability creates clear expectations, which is central for people to succeed. If you look at the Gallup Q12. That's the first one. I'm clear on my expectations.

Then, creating clear accountability enables people to build trust with one another, which is empathic. It also enables people to succeed, because if you have clear accountability and you know what success looks like and clear expectations, you can strive for that. Clear goals has always been a foundation of performance and effectiveness and motivation. Really, it's a paradox within that. Empathy and accountability together. Doing it gets complex in the speed and the challenges. Sometimes, we become so focused on just the task. It's really easy not to take that space to understand that we need to do both.

[00:08:28] Cristina: The focus on the task is where I see most of the challenges for sure. I was just talking about it this morning, actually. There's a sense of “we know there's compassion”. We know that there's empathy in the leaders, in the person. Yet, it's not getting demonstrated. It's not putting in to action, because there's this, “Oh, well. But it's about this quarter. It's not about the next three years. This quarter, I have to lay off 20% of my staff to make the financials work.” There's little thought process into what's the impact of thinking about this quarter two years from now.

[00:09:06] Tony Gambill: 100%. What I would say with that is there's good reason around that. That is twofold. First is, the reason we get promoted into leadership positions isn't because we're relationship-oriented. It's because we get stumped on. It's because we're great at completing the task. What got us to a leadership position will not get us to the next place. That's been ingrained in us through everything we've done in our life, our education, being graded on tests, our universities, the way that we've gotten positive feedback has been all about completing tasks. When you become a leader, it's past and relationships around that.

The other thing that makes it really complex for leaders is that our minds aren't evolved to be able to focus on relationships and tasks at the same time. When we're focused on relationships, the parts that focus on tasks in our minds shut up. Then vice versa. When we're focusing on tasks, we don't focus on relationships. The story I give all the time is that when my kids were young, trying to get them all in the van to get somewhere on time. I’m the type of person that I don't like being late.

You're getting everyone. You got three kids and a wife, and we're trying to get everything together. At some point, I'm threatening them with, they'll never play with their friends again. I won’t send them to college. “If you don't get in this van –” Whatever bonds I have to the people that I love the most. It's because I'm focused on that task. All of my relational skills just went out the door. Being mindful of that in complexity and in the face of deadlines, it becomes hard, and it takes a lot. It takes a lot of rigor to develop that. We don't prepare people for that. I agree 1000%. Most of the time, it's not people's long-term intention or goals either. It's the way that they impact others.

[00:11:11] Alex: I like that word ‘relational’. I know you brought that up a lot in some of the framework for your book. You bring up the idea of these are the relational moments in our lives that we have the most challenged with. I wonder if you could just explain a little bit about your framework around leadership, and you talked about it being part of the important and complex and relational portions of our lives. I'm curious how that works.

[00:11:32] Tony Gambill: Yeah. Thanks, Alex. In the book, Getting It Right When It Matters Most, we use this concept called moments that matter. Those are important, are important moments, our most important moments. Complex, meaning that there's no simple answer. There's no one right answer, and relational. Working with talent development and working with trying to grow people my whole career, it's been really clear that the people that succeed the most, professionally and also in life, are the people that handle these situations better. That they're more advanced in succeeding in their most important complex and relational matters, their moments that matter most.

Also, what's become really clear is when I was working with leaders and high potentials and employees, is that self-leadership is key to getting those moments right. The challenge is all of our energy and focus and dollars corporately and in children growing up is invested in building discipline skills; math, English, or technical skills. We're great at that. What we haven't built is the foundation, which is self-leadership that all that sits upon.

The rigor for that, an investment for that and the importance of that has not been established. What I found is that's the differentiator for folks. In today's world, it is easy for people to acquire knowledge and skills and information. It's a click of a button, right? That's with our phone. It's so available, more so than ever. That is not the differentiator anymore. I've worked with so few people, that the reason that they didn't succeed, or that they've been blocked, is because they couldn't learn technical, or this one thing. That's not the reason.

The differentiator is those that can lead self. That's the whole premise of this book, is how do we become very deliberate in looking at building the skills that we hear all the time, but they're very vertical? For example, self-awareness, understanding our overall purpose, our strengths, our weaknesses, emotional intelligence, looking at social agility, emotional regulation, difficult conversations, learning agility, leadership agility, mindfulness. We got all those things, but so few people have time to read all those things, but they're so important.

What we've tried to do in this book is say, what are the fewest most important things you need to know that are practical and replicable for you to be able to exhibit your best self in your hardest situation? That's what we call moments of matter.

[00:14:21] Alex: I like that a lot. I have been obsessed with the term self-leadership since you introduced it to us a couple of weeks back when we were talking about this. I love that term. I wonder if you could expand on that a little bit, the just self-leadership as this core, and even where you might have stumbled upon it yourself, where you came across this term.

[00:14:38] Tony Gambill: I think, as I was writing this book, the term came to us. Actually, it was my – there’s a co-author book, Scott Carbonara and I have written it. His wife is our copy editor in relation to this, until we send it to the publisher. She's used the term. I was like, “That is the anchor. That's the hook that all of this is together.” The book is built on a model which puts everything together. It's called the SOAR Model. SOAR. SOAR stands for self, S, outlook, action and reflection.

Really, what this does is we wanted to look at what are the fewest, most important things for you to get it right in your moments that matter most? We didn't want to look at it from a concept perspective. We wanted to look at it from the human perspective. The way that we engage with these moments that matter most are we bring ourselves every moment that we engage with. Now, when we engage in that moment, it starts to impact our outlook. Is it emotionally threatening? Are we bringing perception bias? Understanding how to manage that.

Then, that leads to action. In the world that we live in, at home and our business, the key action that we have is our conversation. How do we understand our best intent in the moment? How do we ask quality questions to drive relationships and empathy and trust? How do we engage in high stakes conversations? How do we manage defensiveness with ourselves and others? Then the R is for reflection, which is: “How do we learn, get feedback, we'll practice, learn, get feedback and reflect. It's a model, right? That's all-around agility, continuous learning.

That is a person-centric model to start to look at, how can I look at this in a replicable, practical way, so I can slow these moments down and start to build on the fewest, most important things I need to do to be successful? I mean, so because I spent the last 25 years with these concepts. What we did is we pulled together from self, what's most important and practical for people to know. From outlook, what's most important and practical for people to know?

We've really tried to look at it from two ways. You can look at it from a model, which is bring myself, manage my outlook, choose the right actions, reflection, that improve self-awareness. It goes like that. Or, if you want to look at and say, “Hey, I'm good with self. I really want to look at “how do I manage my outlook better?” You can look at it vertically as well. It's a cycle, but you can also look at it vertically.

That is what's new for us. How do we bring a rigor to what's the foundation of success and a practical approach to that? It may be out there, and I just haven't seen it, but in all, I've been searching for. That was my gap. That's why I felt like, okay, let's create it. That's the premise of the book and how the book is designed in the structure of it.

[00:17:55] Cristina: It addresses that there are all these pieces. There's your emotional intelligence, agility, all these things that somehow to become a successful leader, we’re supposed to become experts on. Then, bring all the little key points of all of then in how we see them and how they apply to us in that 10-second time that we have between simulation and response at that moment. It's impossible. It's so deep. Every one of those is so deep.

[00:18:24] Tony Gambill: It is impossible to be perfect at it. We can get better at it. It is hard. I mess up every day. I do. I think, in part I came up with this concept, because I need it as a leader the most. It isn't about being perfect. You can do everything right in relation to the concepts, or that we're bringing to the table. Situation still may not let you get it right. You may not get it right the way that you defined right. It does let you bring your best self. It does let you walk within your values. It does let you choose your actions, instead of reacting. It does let you grow. Even if you didn't get what you wanted from it, you've evolved.

There's a story I tell in the book about one of my jobs, the organization changed and there had been some decisions somewhere else in the organization and I had a new leader that came in that had a different vision. Because of that, they were going to take a significant part of my job away from me. I'll never forget it. I was in the office meeting my new manager for the first time. He said to me – he goes, “We're going to take all of this stuff away from you.” I was like, “You're not going to assess and what if the customers say we're doing a good job?” He said, “No.” I reacted. I didn't respond. I didn't get it right when it matters most. I said, “Well, we probably need to look at a transition plan around that.”

I say all that is because the person that they brought in was also in a double bind. She had moved her family there. She had been employed. We were in a situational – situation, situation, situation where we were at odds with one another. We talked and we understood each other's situation. It was tense. It was hard. I transitioned out. Best four and five years. She's in an executive position in the same town that I moved to. New state, executive position, great organization.

She calls me and says, “Hey, would you like to help out with these things?” She had responsibility for talent development and she ended up bringing me in. It did not work five years earlier, because the situation didn't allow it. When she came to North Carolina where I am, we had lunch. We talked about it. We debriefed it. We left it in a good situation, not because I expected her to call me in later. Five years earlier, we didn't know that. Even though we didn't get it right from what I wanted at the time, I got to live the way that I wanted to and I got to leave in a manner that I wanted to, that aligned with my values. Because of that, it came back around five years later and introduced a lot of opportunities for my business.

You said, sometimes in the moment you mess it up. Absolutely. I do it all the time. If we can, more often than not, bring our best selves to the situation, even if we don't get it right that time, the accumulation of that is going to serve us well.

[00:21:28] Alex: It’s a good way of looking at it. That's why I love the fact that you bring, reflect into the whole model itself. I mean, just getting that chance and building it into say, look, this is about not getting it right the first time. This is about growing the idea of what is right and moving towards that. That's a great anecdote of that exact thing happening. You have this where it might – it didn't go right the first time. If you don't give up on it, if you keep the relationship in mind and you're willing to go, just work on it as humans, there's this whole upside that nobody can predict, nobody would predict. It's only accessible if you allow it to have that relational context.

[00:22:05] Tony Gambill: My view today is the best tool for learning, I had big budgets when I had talent development, organizational development. The best tool for learning in today's world is reflection. Adults learn from experience. The only way that we can advance and tear all the time around learning agility, or continuous learning, or continuous improvement in today's world. It's true. One of the key reasons leaders fail is because change happens and they don't learn in that situation.

The only way we can do that is reflect. Taking the time to reflect is something that people aren't – It's not built into our many training programs. Well, at the end of an exercise when you do a roleplay reflect, but it's not built into our daily structures. That is our best way to learn. We learn from doing, as all the time in training classes. It's like, think of an example where you learned an important lesson that stuck with you. People think about it and they share it. Then I go, “Okay, how many people learned that lesson in a formal training situation?” Nobody raises their hand. What they learned it from was through experience, through working, through observing, through partnering, and then reflection and doing something different.

To your point, reflection is key for us to be successful, because the world is changing at a pace that none of us can keep up with and the complexity. If we're just getting a little bit better each time in reflecting. It's so much easier. In the book, I talk about a reflection model. It's by a gentleman named Roth. I think it came out in the 1990s. I love it, because it's so simple. It's called the so what, now what model. At the end of something just go, what happened? What does that mean? Now what?

I was working with a group the other day, and all reflection is about, it's not to beat yourself up. Now what? What does that mean moving forward? What have I learned and how do I adjust? The SOAR model, that brings a new level of self-awareness, which enables me to bring a better outlook. Enables me from better actions and I reflect again. That cyclical aspect. I love that you hit on reflection, because I think that's one of the – it's that maybe the easiest to do, it just takes time. There's no skill in it. It's the one that we don't put importance on, or do that often.

[00:24:32] Cristina: And don't have the tools for it. Sometimes, it's “I know I'm supposed to reflect, but I don't have the time. Even if I took the 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or a day, what questions am I asking myself? What am I doing with the reflection besides beating myself up with I didn't show up as my best self. I shouldn't have yelled. I shouldn't have stormed out. I shouldn't have said no.” Then, it becomes this should have done and what you shouldn't have done, as opposed to what actually happened and what can I learn from it? No moment is perfect. I'm not perfect. Nobody’s expecting anybody else to be perfect. It's the “what you do after that that matters?”

[00:25:11] Tony Gambill: Yeah. As you were saying that, there's a term, don't should on yourself, right?

[00:25:15] CA: Yes.

[00:25:17] Tony Gambill: You're right. Carol Dweck mastered this space, with growth versus fixed mindset. You know her concepts are around a fixed mindset is “I'm supposed to know all the answers. If I don't, I need to hide, or I need to deflect, or I need to become defensive, versus a growth mindset of, I don't know the answer yet. I'm still learning.” We're all evolving and we're not perfect.

I think a lot of people have a hard time giving grace to themselves. We're such a performance culture. The dichotomy of that is that performance, really, in the long run is based on growth and ongoing learning, taking the long-term perspective of that. Because it's no fun to just beat yourself up. It is like, “Oh, I didn't do good at that.” That's why I love this, the what, so what, now what model is because it begins with, “Now what am I going to do with this?” It's always looking for moving it forward and it's simple. To your point, I want to be practical and simple for folks.

[00:26:16] Alex: That's a really good model for it. I like what you said about the fixed and growth mindset. It reminds me that if you want to change things, you have to have more of that growth mindset, because you want something different. I mean, a fixed mindset is by default, it's fixed, so you've got the box set, you've got the boundaries set. You know what you know. If you're only willing to live in that box and you're not willing to grow that, then you can only live in that box, at which point, you can fight the same fight over and over again. You're going to have the same conversations over and over again, if you're not willing to try something new and assume that something can, or should change.

[00:26:46] Tony Gambill: Yeah. Chris Arges wrote a great article. It’s one of the Harvard Business Review’s best articles. It's around, why smart people have such a hard time learning. What he says in the article, Arges basically says, is that people that are really good and smart have always gotten the right answers. Eventually, we all get to a level of complexity that we don't have the right answers.

What they do is they just tried harder doing the same things, because it always worked for them in the past, versus looking at, “What do I need to do differently? How do I need to change? How do I need to evolve?” People that have been right so often in their lives, and it served them so well, have a hard time of putting that over to the side and making the adjustments and doing things different.

Well, who wrote the book, what got you here won't get you there? Maybe Goldsmith. I'm not 100% sure. It's based on that concept that people that have been really successful, have a hard time making that adjustment. You just mentioned, is making the adjustment. I don't need to try harder with the same things that have always served me well. That's a blanket that's comfortable, that's hard to get around.

[00:28:02] Cristina: Yes. Well, and to tie it back to your original statement on leadership, how people are promoted to leadership, because well, they keep doing the tasks well. From a logical point of view, if you use logic to here, you think like, “Well, when I'm a leader, I just have to keep doing what I've been doing, because I've got promoted because of that.”

[00:28:23] Tony Gambill: Just need to do well then.

[00:28:24] Cristina: It’s so hard to let go, because being in a leadership position has nothing to do with how well you were doing your tasks.

[00:28:32] Tony Gambill: Yeah. You can understand that rationally. It's hard. The complexity and the speed and the relational complexities to really let go of. That's why, unfortunately, so many people micromanage, because they want to control it. Nobody can do it as well as me. If I let it go, it won't be done the way I want it to be done, which is not scalable, which is not empowering, which is not – I mean, we all like to work differently, but none of us want to be micromanaged. That is one of the biggest defaults of new leaders and managers, because that's how they got in there.

We have not set people up for success in making those transitions. Because it's not that they're bad people, or that they want people to have bad experiences. It's just, they're relying on these old models that are no longer working for them. It's not just with leadership. If you look at the research around this career development,  people are having to engage with more people to get their work done. More work is being done in matrix teams. People are in so many different locations and geographies to do things. The multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary nature of the work that we're doing, relies – you don't have to be a leader. You can be an individual contributor, and your success is dependent on others now. The world's changed. We're all struggling with that. You don't have to be an executive to struggle with that. We all struggle with that to some degree.

[00:30:11] Alex: Let's just think about what you're talking about, the models that we have growing up. It's to your point, of people who have been right a lot of the time, I think, there's two layers to it. A, there's a lot of shaming around making mistakes, if people feel – they feel bad for having made mistakes. They avoid mistakes at all costs, which pushes you right back into more of a fixed mindset. Or you've been rewarded for being right, and so you assume like, “Well, I have to be right to continue to be rewarded.” That's what you're saying, too, Cristina, “Yeah, that's how I got promoted by being right enough times. I need to continue to be right.”

It's interesting to think about those two different forces, because it sounds oppositional, you've got the shame, but you've also got the reward. It can still lead both paths down a model that's not going to help you long-term.

[00:30:52] Tony Gambill: Dweck’s work on growth mindset, in her book called Growth Mindset talks about research. What they found is that kids that are rewarded based on the results of their work, and you did great, you got an A-plus. Great job. Tend to develop a fixed mindset, because if they're not getting that reward on the result, they're not good enough anymore. She really talks about making the shift about rewarding the work, rewarding the effort. You really worked hard and that’s awesome. You really struggled through that and then came to this answer. Good work. Around that, versus always rewarding results.

That's not much different than organizations. What do we get rewarded on? Most people get a rating, right? It is a rating. I got a four. I got a five. If I got a three on a five-point scale average, I've never been average. I'm angry around that. The systems create that protection. What it does is it limits learning. Learning is a key to organizations that can continually evolve and grow. Look at all the organizations that aren't around anymore, because they were afraid to learn. It's an interesting dichotomy. You're right. It's also interesting that it's not our first reaction. It's not our first gut feel to be okay and not have the right answer.

[00:32:20] Alex: It's interesting to think about the incentive structures we put up. You can see why you put those incentive restructures, to the point we were talking about earlier, the leaders have tasks that they want to get done, and so you can start focusing on those tasks. It's very easy to want to be like, “Well, I want to reward people who did the tasks.” You want to hand out those gold stars. Because you want the tasks done. You're in charge of getting those things done.

You can then create that system, where actually, there's a book called Drive, I think. I’ll look that one up and put in the show notes. It talks about the difference between an if then reward, where that you basically set up, if you get this done, then we'll do this. Whereas, a much more motivating one is now that you've done that, you didn't even know the reward is coming, now that that has been completed, we're actually going to be able to do this. You no longer tie the work to the reward. It just happens to be like, “Oh, that works a little better.” It works better with the humans wanting autonomy model, which is much more powerful.

[00:33:15] Tony Gambill: Yeah. There's a model that we introduced in the book called the ARC model. Basically, it's from a theory called self-determination theory. ARC stands for autonomy, relatedness and competence. What self-determination theory says are, those are the main social motivation factors of a human. They're also our biggest social threats.

If you think about it, when you feel threatened in a professional or in a personal situation, you can almost always go back and pinpoint, “Do I feel my autonomy, but I'm not having influence. I'm being told what to do.” Is this situation negatively impacting an important relationship at work, my boss, or my colleagues, or my peers, or a customer? Is this situation threatening my competence?

I don't feel like I'll be able to be successful anymore. I'll lose my ability to succeed. If you can put people in situations that enable that ARC, your autonomy, relatedness and competence, those are your long-term motivators. Those are the ones that are sustainable, versus these more money, more position. You can't do that very often. If you're in the peak, in the swing of your career, you're lucky to get a promotion every two years. It's not sustainable. What's sustainable for motivation is trying to put people in situations that enable them to be autonomous, enable them to have positive relationships, enable them to be competent.

On the opposite side of that is, if people are feeling threatened, it's probably because you took away their autonomy, or they perceive – they perceive you’ve taken away their relatedness. They may perceive you take – or they perceive you’re taking away their competence. We talked about that in the book. That's really the foundation to when we start having negative emotions. Negative emotions drive bad decisions, because they drive reactions. How do you regulate yourself in relation to that? How do you build equilibrium around that, so you can move forward and act and choose your actions in an effective manner to bring your best self for those things? Human motivation is interesting. If we're relying on the outcomes as leaders, we’re never going to be very successful, because there's not enough carrots there.

[00:35:33] Cristina: Very good point. Yes.

[00:35:35] Alex: To be this subtitle for this episode. Not enough carrots.

[00:35:38] Cristina: Yes.

[00:35:40] Alex: There’s not enough carrots in the world for this.

[00:35:42] Cristina: Sticks don't work, so let's not go down that path.

[00:35:46] Tony Gambill: I think it relates all to what you all are focused on, is the foundation, what we all want is having autonomy. We want to have solid, good positive relationships and we want an opportunity that enables us to become. I love the model, because every time I've worked as a leader with someone on my team starts to become – they’re struggling, it's been a good lens for me to look at, “what are they not getting in this? Why are they feeling threatened? What am I not providing? What is the situation not providing around that?

It goes back to, if I serve that long-term, I am going to be more successful as an organization, as a leader, because this person is going to be more successful. Now, it becomes difficult when I don't have a scenario that enables that within my context. Then, you have to engage with people about “how do you transition to a place that's going to enable that for you? It's not that you're a bad person.” It's just, I have been the person in a scenario where I didn't have autonomy, good relationship, the relationships that I wanted, and I didn't connect, I can be confident. Sometimes, it’s a situation where you don't have a leverage point to change it. You've got to transition, which is all around self-awareness.

[00:37:07] Alex: If both sides of the equation are willing to work on that, you get to – if you can have a leader that's acknowledging either that one of the ARC values is not going to be able to be pulled, or you can acknowledge that for yourself, it becomes a much easier dialogue, because you're no longer just fighting against what is not possible.

[00:37:23] Tony Gambill: Or it becomes less person.

[00:37:25] Cristina: Yes. It does become less person.

[00:37:28] Tony Gambill: Because what we do as humans is, you're not doing this. You are not doing this. You can't do this. Is it lazy? Is it unmotivated? Is it you're not a team player? Wow. Those are hard conversations and not going to be very productive. That's where we go as people versus a foundation of what about the situation isn't feeding your needs? What am I not providing that’s not feeding your needs? That's a conversation we can have. We draw conclusions when someone's not performing, because I'm the leader. If they're not performing, it looks bad on me. I'm threatened. You're not a hard worker. You don't care about your job. You don't work hard enough. You're not a good team player.

Wow. That's when we end up hurting relationships. As a leader, I mean unfortunately, sometimes leaders have the authority, when that goes so bad, they just fire somebody. At the end of the day, it could have been avoided, because the way that we came about it.

[00:38:28] Cristina: I can definitely relate to a lot of that. Having been on the receiving end of those. Your whole identity is now tied into, “you're not capable of doing this.”  “Well, but I am capable of doing this. It’s just, this situation is not allowing me to. What if we talk about the situation as opposed to talking about me and my identity and my competence now, and throw away the last three years when I was competent for three years?”

[00:38:58] Tony Gambill: Absolutely. There's two aspects of results. It's situations and behaviors. What we focus on as humans are your behaviors. We so often don't delve into what about the situation that’s not enabling us to be successful around that? Do we all have behaviors that we need to modify and adjust and grow? 100%. There are some situations that if we – it doesn't matter how effective we are at modifying and changing and growing our behaviors. The situation is not going to enable us to be successful.

If we don't have a lever for that, it's a bad situation and we need to start to look at “how do we transition to put ourselves in a better place?” That's hard. I've been in situations where that takes a year, 18 months, because I've got a family and I need to do it in a way that’s – they're starting to do that, you're not helpless. If you become helpless in that situation, it's bad for your health and it's awful for your well-being. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

[00:40:03] Alex: I think, the idea of changing the situation, because that ends up being such a powerful lever, when you can make some adjustment to the situation. One story that I've heard that I really – that I think it's a great encapsulation, is there's an organization trying to help people. They wanted more engagement. They want a better employee engagement. They went through the usual cultural processes where they decided they want to spin up happy hours, or they try – employee groups and things like that. They found out that when they finally – instead of just pushing these changes out, just to ask people what made them feel disengaged, they found out that they could resolve a bunch of disengagement by buying a new printer, because the printer was so bad. People were so frustrated having to deal with it. All that was really needed was a $400 printer. It was like, “Oh, thank goodness. This is much easier.”

[00:40:47] Tony Gambill: You know what that went to? That went to their competence. They could not be competent, because they weren't getting what they needed from that and they were feeling threatened. It went back to that. Or, they didn't feel autonomous, because they didn't – I mean, one of the Gallup’s Q12 is I have the resources needed to do my job. When you look at the Gallup’s Q12 for engagement, that one of those is not – I have the tools and resources to do my job. It's foundational. What you're saying in that story is, people were feeling threatened at a level of their foundation because of a printer.

[00:41:24] Cristina: Well, and that reflection piece really helps from a self-leadership point of view. Because having been in that situation, where actually, all three of the ARCs were taken away, so that was definitely a full-on flaring, threatened situation, which I transitioned myself out of. The competence piece was the one that was really tough for me to get past, because it was years and years and years of building my confidence, all my competence up, to then see it shattered in a matter of weeks.

When looking back, the reflection piece that helped me, which I did through working with coaches, was to understand what was missing in that? Why did I feel incompetent? What was missing was that I didn't have the resources to do my job and be successful, which now I use as a lever when I go into project, or as a company when we are engaging with clients. That's part of the, “we will work with you, if we have access to technology, people and information directly and freely whenever we need it. If you say no to any of these, we can't work with you.” Because I learned on my own skin that that what was missing.

[00:42:31] Tony Gambill: Going back to the SOAR model, that reflection piece for you uncovered the now what, that brought you to a better understanding of self-awareness. This is what I need to bring my best self-moving forward. I'm real clear of when my worst self – That reflection informs our self-awareness, which research says, self-awareness is foundational for us to be effective. Reflection is key to broadening and better understanding self, which is critically important. That's why they're all connected. That's why I love this model is because it's not coming from a concept. It does include all these concepts and important concepts, but it's coming from a person's view. It's coming from, this is replicable and this is how I experience situations.

I don't have to learn it in a vertical of “let me study all this research on this one topic” that is – and we talk about difficult conversations. We call them high stakes. We learn all of this. Well, that's great, but it's out there. How do you put this in the way that I experienced it as a human? That's what the SOAR model has really done for us in relation to this. That's why I'm a little excited about the book.

[00:43:49] Cristina: You should be. It's a very important book.

[00:43:53] Tony Gambill: Yeah. It is amazing how clear it is, to me now, that the foundation of success is me, self-leadership, how I manage myself. It's still incredible about how little rigor is and focused on that with our education systems, and the dollars we spend on training. Do you know in 2019, said that globally, 370 billion dollars was spent on leadership training? Listen, I've worked with a lot of leaders. There is not a leadership concept that you can’t Google today and get a video on YouTube, There's not.

Learning those knowledge and skills are the easy part of leadership. Learning the steps and giving feedback, the steps in an effective coaching, the steps for this. None of that matters that you know all that, unless you've developed this foundation of self-leadership, that you're bringing your best self to those skills and knowledge. It is the differentiator. It is what we bring to that. The emphasis is on the wrong syllable, right? It's focused on the technical knowledge and skills, because that's what we've been conditioned to our whole lives.

The truth is, if we don't build that foundation, and unfortunately, most people have to go through self-exploration on their own, because of pain. Pain is a great way to learn and we all need it. I would never be as good as I hope to be, unless I've gone through all the failures. I got marks of failing as a leader, and I've been in double binds where I didn't have a good answer. I have had to apologize to people, because I've had a negative impact on them in ways that wasn’t – There's others that I'm not aware of. It's hard. Those have enabled me to be the person that I am. I've still got a long way to go around them. It's all built on this self-leadership concept.

[00:45:53] Alex: It's an interesting dichotomy that we – we like the idea of leadership. We've started to start promote things, like servant leadership and thinking of others. I think, it's too easy to default to trying to move away from self, when you take that approach. You can get there, you can help people by focusing on yourself. In fact, probably the only way you can, because how else are you going to actually be able to engage with yourself, with other people? That's such a great way of putting it. That's why I love that. I think the term self-leadership. It really points out, here's where the onus is. You can change this by changing yourself, and thus helping other people.

[00:46:27] Tony Gambill: If you get someone that's great at self-leadership, they're going to do the most of these things naturally, because they're going to engage with people. Most of us have good long-term purpose and goals. We lose them in the speed and the complexity and the challenge of the moment. That's when we need them the most. That's why we call moments that matter, your important, complex, relational situations.

That's when you need to bring all these to the forefront. Unfortunately, the dynamics of the situation are threatening. I bring that bias. I react, instead of respond at the worst time. I agree 1000%. Listen, I teach skills, and they're necessary. I'm not dismissing them. I'm just saying the importance between the two. Really, which one's going to be most important for long-term success?

Are we giving the rigor and organizations to people to develop themselves? Are we in schools doing it? Are we as parents doing that? Are we doing with ourselves? It's hard to do it, because the concepts are so spread out all over the place, and we don't have the time and it's complex. This is an attempt to bring some of that together, so people can start not only build from a personal perspective, but also how can I do things practically?

For example, we all know it's great to meditate every day. How many people do it? I know the benefits. I've had fits and starts with doing it. I've done it and not done it. What does that look like in the workplace, when I've just been – when my competence has just been taken away, because a co-worker took responsibility for something that I did and they're getting acknowledgment for it? Or someone got a promotion that I think I deserved, or I just got that performance rating that I wasn't expecting. When I get punched in the gut, how do I respond? That's what's going to define us.

Or my kid comes home with an issue, that I wish they were doing it differently, but that's not the real issue. It's they’re hurting. How do I respond? Those are the importance. That's the one that I don't want to get wrong. I'm going to mess up sometimes, but I want to get it right more often than not. Personally, that's going to define my success; professionally is going to define our success as well.

[00:48:51] Alex: I think it's an interesting idea that you focus on skills, which you have to have those layers of skills. One thing that they say over and over again, is if you want to learn a skill, either apply it or teach it. I think that goes back to the idea, if you're going to develop it, you have to develop your relationship with that skill. You have to have yourself injected into it. At which point, you can't do that, unless you practice it. You can read every book. You can know every benefit of meditation to your point. Okay, I can list you a bunch of the ones that I know. It doesn't do me any good, nor can I really engage with it, unless I'm trying to teach it, or if I've applied it.

[00:49:23] Tony Gambill: Absolutely. Because it is you. How those skills are coming out for you? If you're not bringing your best self as applying those skills, the skills don't matter anymore.

[00:49:37] Cristina: That's a great way to look at it for sure. They don't matter. You can have the best skills on the planet, but if you can't apply them – if you can't get it right in the moment that matters, it's a skill on the wall. It’s a poster.

[00:49:50] Tony Gambill: Yup. 100%. People have spent their whole life learning how to acquire knowledge and skills most of us are great at. That's not the gap. It takes work. To become a doctor, I sure want someone that has acquired a lot of knowledge and skills. Don't get me wrong. Not that it's not important, but what's most important is what's that? What does that build upon? Especially if you want to be successful, or and you define your own success. It's not what other people define success, but if we want to be successful.

[00:50:19] Cristina: Well, and the connection to like you said at the beginning, is it's not going to be perfect. It's not something that you just get a medal, and it's like, “Oh, now you've got the SOAR process down. Here's your medal and you're good from now on. You'll never have to worry about it again.”

[00:50:34] Alex: Tattooed on your forehead.

[00:50:36] Cristina: Yes. It's work and there'll be many times where we mess up. Some of the things that, because of the shame culture and the can’t make mistakes culture and the pressure is somebody that may not have a lot of emotional intelligence or empathy that they've been able to practically engage with. They try it a couple times. It doesn't work. They're like, “Well, that's it. I'm just not an empathetic person. Never going to try that again.”

[00:51:02] Tony Gambill: Yeah. Because I'm not good at it.

[00:51:05] Cristina: Yeah. Because I'm not good at it.

[00:51:06] Tony Gambill: Gallup organization with Strengths Finder, I love the way they define weakness. It's something that gets in the way of you being successful, somewhat we're all bad at a lot of things. With your example, when that empathy stops me from being a good parent, or good husband, or a good friend, or a good boss, that's when it's getting in the way of something that's meaningful to me. That's when it's a weakness.

I need to learn to mitigate that at least. Maybe I'll never be great at empathy, but how do I mitigate it so it's not stopping me from something I need? Which is all around understanding self, being able to manage your outlook in those situations and understanding our best intentions in the moment; bringing the right actions and then learning from that through reflection.

[00:51:50] Alex: Tony, this is a great conversation. I love the framework you put together. I can't wait to read the book. I believe it will be coming out about the same time as this episode. We aren't totally sure. Do you have the date?

[00:52:00] Tony Gambill: June 1st. We just got a new release date. Absolutely. We're so excited. Yeah, I think it'll be a great time.

[00:52:06] Alex: Well, thanks so much for joining us. We do have a couple wrap-up questions we'd love to ask, if you got a little time. First of all, what does authenticity mean to you?

[00:52:14] Tony Gambill: It's been something that's been on my mind a little bit. I've got a little bit of a story around it– it's not been more than a month, six weeks ago. I do a lot of executive coaching on working out. I was working with this high-riser, earlier in her career. The organization was investing in her. We were towards the end of our coaching engagement.

One of the things I like to do is I want to make sure that they have a focus after the coaching about where they're going to move forward. I was like, “What is one big thing you want to take from this?” We have talked about influencing. We had talked about delegating. We had talked about high-quality questions, a lot of different topics. She answered me by saying, “I don't know if this is what you're looking for, but this is what it is for me. This is what I'm going to give you.” She said, “I want my daily interactions to align with my divine purpose.” Wow, it just got me in my tracks. She goes, “That may not be what you're looking for.” I was like, “That's exactly what I’m looking –”

[00:53:19] Alex: It’s the only thing we’re looking for.

[00:53:20] Cristina: Yeah. That's it.

[00:53:22] Tony Gambill: For her to be able to align her daily intentions with her divine purpose. The practicality around that is we worked on what is your divine purpose? We made it practical. Then, how does she check into it? For me, it was just like, “Bam.” When you asked the question around authenticity, I don't have a better answer than that. If I can align my daily actions to my divine purpose, I have been authentic.

Now, I'll give a plug for Getting It Right When It Matters Most. I think, the way we do that is develop self. We got to be self-aware. We got to know our divine purpose. We got to bring the right actions, choose the right actions and manage our outlook, reflecting, all of those things. She nailed. For me, that is authenticity.

[00:54:13] Alex: That's a wonderful and very succinct answer. I love it.

[00:54:15] Cristina: It's definitely powerful. It's like, there's nothing to say after that.

[00:54:21] Tony Gambill: That's the way I felt when she said it. It's like, “You should be coaching me.”

[00:54:25] Cristina: Yes. It’s like, “Okay.” Mic drop.

[00:54:27] Tony Gambill: Mic drop.

[00:54:28] Alex: You can take the clipboard now. I would like to take the other chair.

[00:54:31] Cristina: You have now graduated.

[00:54:34] Alex: Here’s your badge. The other question we have for you is far simpler to answer. We'd love just to give you a chance to let people know how they can find you, where to see your work and where to see you.

[00:54:44] Tony Gambill: A couple of ways, you can follow me on LinkedIn. I post regularly and I write a lot of articles on LinkedIn. I'm also a Forbes Leadership Contributor. You can follow me on Forbes. You can go to my website,; my organization, the work we do. We're actually developing a landing site for Getting It Right When It Matters, It'll be a landing site for our book. By the time this comes out, that'll be out as well. Those would be all great ways to connect. People can either follow me, or if they have questions, I tried my best to respond to any questions that come to me.

[00:55:22] Cristina: Yes. We'll put all of these in the show notes, so that everybody can find them easily. Looking forward to the book. Will definitely be standing in line to buy it online. Because there's no – in-line typical anywhere anymore.

[00:55:35] Tony Gambill: That’s right.

[00:55:35] Alex: It’s refreshing Amazon.

[00:55:37] Tony Gambill: Yes. Pre-order. As soon as it's in pre-order, Amazon will know. 

[00:55:48] Alex: We'll have you back on for the next book.

[00:55:50] Cristina: Yes.

[00:55:51] Tony Gambill: Yeah. No. Thank you all for the opportunity. Thank you for the platform. Thank you for being gracious hosts.

[00:55:55] Alex: Thank you so much for joining, Tony. Thank you everybody for listening.


[00:55:59] Cristina: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo Podcast.

[00:56:03] Alex: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Laura, and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood.

[00:56:09] Cristina: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.

[00:56:17] Alex: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas, or questions. You can reach us at, or on our website,, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. WeAreSiamo is spelled W-E-A-R-E-S-I-A-M-O.

[00:56:35] Cristina: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.

© 2021 Uncover The Human

Tony GambillProfile Photo

Tony Gambill

Founder and CEO of Clearview Leadership | Executive Coach | Speaker | Author & FORBES Leadership Contributor

Tony Gambill brings more than 20 years of executive experience in coaching, talent development, and delivering impactful leadership solutions within global for-profit, nonprofit, technical, research, government, and higher educational industries. Before starting ClearView Leadership Consulting, Tony was the Vice President of Organizational Development and Learning at RTI International for nine years; prior to that, he served as the director of leadership development services at Virginia Tech and Conservation International.

Tony provides executive coaching, leadership development and organizational effectiveness consulting for global for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Tony provides strategic perspectives combined with practical expertise building knowledge, skills, and processes for leadership excellence and career growth.

Tony has an active following on LinkedIn and is a contributor for Forbes leadership where he regularly writes content on leadership and talent development. He is also the coauthor of the upcoming book, "Getting It Right When It Matters Most: Self-Leadership for Work and Life", published by Business Expert Press.

Connect with Tony on LinkedIn, Forbes leadership or through his website:

Tony's new book "Getting It Right When it Matters Most: Self-Leadership for Work and Life" can be purchased at the following link: