For the past 25 years, Liane Davey has researched and advised teams on how to achieve high performance. Known as the “teamwork doctor,” she’s worked with teams from the frontlines to the boardroom, across a variety of industries, and around the globe from Boston to Bangkok. In working with hundreds of teams, she has developed a unique perspective on the challenges that teams face – and how to solve them. Liane’s clients include Amazon, Walmart, TD Bank, RBC, AMD, Google, Bayer, KPMG, Aviva, Maple Leaf Foods, and SONY Interactive Entertainment. She has experience and expertise across a wide range of industries, but with each client, and is an expert at showing the audience that she “gets” them.
Beyond her work in the boardroom, Liane is a New York Times Bestselling author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done and The Good Fight: Use Productive Conflict to Get Your Team and Organization Back on Track. She is also a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and has been sought by several media outlets, including CNN, NPR, USA Today, The Globe & Mail and Forbes, for her expertise on increasing productivity, enhancing engagement, developing leaders, and as one client put it, “dealing with the damn drama!”
As a keynote speaker, Liane has spoken for audiences as big as 2000 and as intimate as 20. Regardless of the size, she delivers the perfect combination of education and entertainment that leaders and teams need to get unstuck and make an impact on their organizations. She tells it like it is—including stories about many of the unbelievable situations she’s experienced working with (and on) teams.Read the show notes here: https://bwmissions.com/one-away-podcast/
Bryan Wish: Liane, welcome to The One Away Show.
Liane Davey: Thanks, Bryan. Glad to be here.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. It’s such a pleasure to connect. So Liane, let’s jump right in. What is your one away moment that you want to share with us today?
Liane Davey: So, although it sounds like a weird one away moment in the middle chapters of the book, my one away moment is a moment in my second job, a couple of years into my second job, when things on the team I was a part of started to go south and I accepted a call from a head hunter. I went through three or four interviews with the thought of leaving the company. And just in the midst of literally about to jump ship, my boss came in and said that the other person that had been a part of this dynamic that wasn’t working was going to be leaving the organization. And that meant I could stay and stay on. And there’s at least an infinite number of reasons why that was an important moment. But if I were to just sum it up, it was second job of my life. I was about eight years into my career, things really not going well at work, some team dysfunction, all that sort of thing, and the choice of whether to lead or to stay. And I ended up staying and that’s where everything in my life changed trajectory.
Bryan Wish: Okay. Well, thank you for the intimate details of post-college life and what the real world’s like.
Liane Davey: Yeah.
Bryan Wish: So I would love to know, Liane, and obviously your background here, what did you find so dysfunctional before maybe you knew what dysfunction was in [crosstalk 00:01:50] your career.
Liane Davey: So if I back up a little bit, when I came out of university, I went to a place, started my first job and got into a rough hatch with a boss who was quite insecure, who thought I was out to get her, spread rumors like that about me, that sort of thing. And so after about six years, I quit that job feeling that there wasn’t trust, that I couldn’t be myself, that I was being overworked and micromanaged and mistrust and all these things. And so I quit. And when I quit that job, I thought that the dysfunction was a characteristic of that boss and that team and that organization. So I interviewed multiple places, all with the goal of finding the place where there wasn’t going to be conflict and there wasn’t going to be dysfunction.
So the story, the reason why this turning point was important is I thought I found it. I found this place and I worked for a couple of years and, oh, this was so much better. And here is a place that we all got along and there’s no conflict. And then the inevitable conflict came up. So what do I mean by dysfunction? I mean, lots of passive aggressiveness, lots of people ducking into one another’s offices, closing the doors and whispering and gossiping about what other people were doing. And a lack of alignment about what the strategy was going to be and what was important and what our priorities were, those sorts of things. Just the ick of working in a team where, oh, this person wants something different. We can’t agree on what’s important, but instead of actually hashing it out and having the conversation, it’s all happening behind closed doors. And people are giving each other the stink eye, and we’re starting to form Survivor tribes of who’s on which team.
And so the reason it was so important to me was that was … and I know it’s lame that it took me this long to figure it out, but that was the moment I realized that, oh, conflict and dysfunction wasn’t a characteristic of that old boss and that old team and that old organization. It was a characteristic of humans working together when they’re wimpy and they don’t actually have the guts to take issues on. So that’s why it was so important to me, because it was the moment I figured out, oh, I can go to 100 interviews and I’m never going to find a place where this kind of dysfunction just doesn’t exist, that it’s a nature of humans trying to work together. It’s a function of that kind of pressure and diversity and all those sorts of things. And I better learn to figure it out. I better learn my own way through it or I’m just going to get stuck leaving organizations, serially moving on after a couple of years. And so it was a pretty big moment for me.
Bryan Wish: Sounds extremely toxic.
Liane Davey: It was pretty ugly.
Bryan Wish: Also, maybe the awareness around that it wasn’t healthy and considering leaving, but also staying. Kudos to you for taking on the wall, so let’s go to that moment. You could have left, you didn’t leave.
Liane Davey: Yep.
Bryan Wish: So you decided to stay in a toxic culture.
Liane Davey: Yep.
Bryan Wish: And you said everything happened after that, it changed your life forever. So give us some context here. I’m curious.
Liane Davey: Well, so I have a PhD in organizational psychology. I had all the education to know and understand these dynamics, but as the proverbial shoemakers children, I was as susceptible or maybe more susceptible to them as anyone. And that was the moment when I decided that, oh, this is something very real for a lot of people. It’s not just real for me. And we tend to be pretty conflict averse by nature. And when we don’t address things openly, when we don’t have a culture where we can sort through those misalignments and deal with some of the frictions that come up of working in teams, then we’re doomed. And so it became the moment when I shifted my entire practice, my entire career to becoming an expert in what productive conflict looks like, the role it plays in healthy teams. And so that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
And I can’t even remember quite how … I’m going to say it was 13 or 14 years ago that all this happened. And so it set me on this trajectory that has been the purpose. Helping people achieve amazing things together is the mission statement of my company. And it all came from realizing that, oh, this doesn’t just naturally happen. You can’t just put people together and hope for the best.
Bryan Wish: That’s true.
Liane Davey: So yeah, that’s how it really changed how I thought about both my own behavior and I needed to take way more accountability, grow up a bit or a lot. And if I could figure out how to grow up and get along and get stuff done that my work could shift to helping others grow up and get along and get stuff done too.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. That’s super powerful. Well, I appreciate you shedding some light on that experience. So I guess two questions, feel free to answer them together or as one. Why do humans have such a hard time addressing conflict and creating healthy conflict? And what is your advice in simple words to help them to do that? And then when you were at your … where you were working that was toxic and maybe it’s not addressing healthy conflict. I mean, I’m just curious, did it change? And were you a part of that change? So anyways, I’ll pause.
Liane Davey: Okay. So let me just do the first question. So why do we suck at conflict? So the first reason is because a millennia of evolution where we weren’t ever the fastest animals, we didn’t have the sharpest teeth. We couldn’t climb trees as well as many others, but what we did more effectively to survive is we cooperated. It was interesting. Just this morning, I stumbled upon a quote by Margaret Mead and somebody had asked her, the famous anthropologist, and somebody had asked her, what was the first evidence of collaboration that she ever found among humans? And her answer was she found a human femur bone that was broken and healed. And she said, if you’re any other animal and you break your femur, you die because you can’t protect yourself, you can’t get food, whatever. But the fact that they found a femur bone that had broken and had the time to heal meant that someone had protected this person, somebody had brought them foods, all those sorts of things. I thought fascinating.
And that’s why humans ultimately got further, right, is we collaborate better. So if you’ve got millennia of the animals that are better cooperators, collaborators, community members, living and living to reproduce, and those who are a pain in the ass get voted out of the cave and eaten by the saber tooth tiger, then it’s not surprising that when we get to where we are now that we are conflict averse and conflict avoidant, because getting along is baked into us. So that’s one thing.
The second thing is … yeah, it’s pretty cool. Wait, you stop. And so that’s why I try and have a lot of empathy for people like me, who don’t like conflict. It’s like, look, we weren’t built to like conflict, right? The only problem now is that … and this is a little bit like I think about allergies, all of these things in our immune system that are there to protect us, those are really, really important. Unfortunately, some of them seem to have a hair trigger now and they trigger to a peanut protein or we’re allergic to pollen, so the same is true with conflict.It’s good that we are there and are built to get along and have harmonious relations. It’s good that we are leery of conflict. It’s just, now we have a hair trigger.
It’s like, okay, I don’t really think that that issue, whether we print the report in portrait or landscape is really a life or death here, but we seem to treat it that way. So I love just remembering and empathizing with the fact that as animals and for millennia of our evolution, we were rewarded for not liking conflict, but then our socialization is just as strong. So we have all these voices in our childhood and in the way we grow up, teaching us that conflict is not polite. Certainly for half the population, it’s not ladylike. And so we get the grandmas telling us, if you can’t see anything nice, don’t see anything at all. And we get all of these things reinforcing the idea that conflict is a bad thing.
So it’s not surprising that when we get to the workplace, we’re leery of ruffling feathers. We’re leery of making somebody upset. We’re worried that we’re going to speak truth to power and we’re going to get fired. So there’s a whole bunch of logical … they’re not great things to believe. They don’t serve us well anymore, but it makes a lot of sense why that’s our default. So, that’s how we get to this point of being conflict-avoidant.
Bryan Wish: Well, I really appreciate the context to how we’ve evolved as a species, right? Because I think when people approach problems, right, we don’t always look at the evolution of who we are as humans and bring that into a context and light. And so to speak to that in such an eloquent way, I want to appreciate the perspective, but then also the default trigger side you talked about, I think you’re right. It’s natural for people to show up with this fear of loss or this fear of, am I going to step on someone’s toes? My question for you as more the expert here is, so when you show up to address conflict, what have you seen as some of the maybe benefits, results, outcomes? That when people engage age in these behaviors in a constructive way [crosstalk 00:12:37] what happens and how do you help them do that?
Liane Davey: It’s so amazing. So let’s talk at three levels, so let’s start at the organization level. So at the organization level, when you are comfortable in productive conflict, first of all, you are better at making hard trade-offs and taking scarce resources and putting them on the things that matter. Instead of the organizations I see where they’re like, strategic priority number 27. I’m like there is no definition of priority in which having 27 is legit, not cool. So organizations that are afraid of conflict tend to just dilute themselves, take their resources and spread them thinly across so many things because they’re afraid of trade-offs. So focus, prioritization, better return on investment is a big thing, innovation. If you are scared of a few sparks flying, then you likely don’t set up the situations that support innovation.
And then a third one that’s really important is if you don’t like to disagree with one another, if everyone’s quite protective and defensive, you don’t see risks, and therefore you don’t mitigate risks, and therefore you drive off cliffs more often. So at an organization level, there’s a lot of benefit when you’re comfortable having conflict. At the team level, it’s interesting because people tend to thank teams with lots of conflict are going to have lower engagement, poor trust, all those sorts of things, when actually teams that know how to have conflict productively are stronger on all those dimensions. I’m more engaged. I have greater trust because I know we can go in and hash it out, that you’re going to tell me what I need to hear, that there isn’t that water cooler gossip going on. And so actually teams that have great productive conflict have higher levels of trust, stronger relationships.
And I guess the final level would be personally. And this is one that matters a lot to me, which is many of us, when we don’t know how to stand up for ourselves, when we don’t believe that we are able to advocate to get our needs met, then we live with just profound stress. We know that about 47% of people have sleep disruption on Sunday nights, more than any other night of the week, because they are just frightened about all that’s coming in the next week. We know short term disability rates are skyrocketing, mental health issues, burnout, all those sorts of things. And a lot of it is because people don’t feel they can question their workload. People don’t feel they can ask for the flexibility to make their job and their family work together, all those sorts of things. So being good at productive conflict at a very personal level is about advocating for yourself and allowing work to be a meaningful contribution to your life without letting it overwhelm you. So if you’re good at conflict, there are benefits at all these different levels.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, really interesting. You broke it down, organization, team, individual. And I really loved what you said about at the organizational level for innovation, right? And how, let’s just say at the team level, people are scared to speak up or to drive constructive … How is innovation going to happen, because what if they’re scared to innovate? So the common connection all the way down, right, to the individual level of people going the bed, or just the stress of let’s just say appeasing others. Right? It definitely comes with a burden. So I mean, you really know this stuff clearly. So let’s go back to [crosstalk 00:16:25]
Liane Davey: I told you I messed it up 13 years ago. I’ve spent the rest of the time figuring it out.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, so let’s go back to that moment, because for those that don’t know you, I want to share how this career journey has unfolded and [crosstalk 00:16:36] I appreciate the breakdown and analysis and all the personal tales there. When you step back into that role, you said everything changed after.
Liane Davey: Yeah.
Bryan Wish: What were some of the things that have happened? Yeah, let’s go where you want to take the question. How have things unfolded for you since?
Liane Davey: Yeah. So let’s start personally. Personally, that was when I started to realize that I had to change my own behavior if I was going to get the team I deserved. So this is a line I use on myself and I use with other people all the time, you get the team you deserve. And while I was being a coward, while I was being passive aggressive, while I was playing into this Survivor, different camps kind of thing, I got a divided team, a very stressed out team. And that was exactly what I deserved. So after this moment, when I got this chance because the person who’d been the center of the team dynamic issue was now gone, I had a chance to say, okay, but I’m not just going to say that that person was to blame. I’m going to say, what did I do wrong? What do I need to do differently? So I’m way faster now to say, here’s what’s not working for me. I’m much more likely to be transparent about that, to be direct, to be assertive with the person, as opposed to gossiping and complaining and bitching and whining behind the scenes. So it was a big change in me personally, but then [crosstalk 00:18:16] Yeah, go, go, go.
Bryan Wish: Not to take you totally off gear and I hate cutting you off, but something came to me that I was like, I should ask. Did you have any events growing up maybe that you had developed more of these passive characteristics or you never knew how to stand your ground and be curious?
Liane Davey: Yeah. So I write about this in The Good Fight. I’m pretty honest about this in The Good Fight. My family was terrible at conflict. Conflict did not happen in our house primarily because of my dad. So my dad was a very sensitive soul, and if people said something to him, two decades later, he would still have scar tissue from something they said, even if they hadn’t intended it as an issue. So I guess my dad was in my life for, I think, 43 years and I never heard him raise his voice. And so just everyone in the family played along. That was the culture of our family. You didn’t have conflict, it wasn’t allowed. It just wasn’t a thing.
And so I grew up not being good at expressing uncomfortable thoughts, that sort of thing. It all had to be very subtle, played out over long periods of time where you pick up on people’s body language to figure out if they’re unhappy. So yeah, I did. And interestingly, I didn’t grow up in a house like some people did where conflict was toxic and there was either verbal violence or physical violence. I’m not conflict avoidant because I saw a negative form of conflict. I was the opposite. I never saw a positive form of conflict. I didn’t know what that could look like. So yeah, that’s very true.
Bryan Wish: Good for you for breaking the generational cycle, as they say.
Liane Davey: I’m trying. I’m still terrible at it. It’s definitely baked into me, but it’s something now I’m way more conscious of the cost. I still hate it. And this is a theme I talk about all the time is I don’t ever expect somebody to stop being conflict averse. If that is your nature, if that is how you were socialized, I do not expect you to ever like it. And I will never like it, but what I do say is that you can’t avoid it. So now I put conflict in the exact same category as going to the gym. I’m two months away from being 50, still hate going to the gym, will never enjoy going to the gym, but it doesn’t matter whether I like going to the gym. It only matters whether I do go to the gym. So conflict and exercise are in the same boat for me. I don’t have to like it. I just have to be willing to do it.
Bryan Wish: Well said. Love, love, love that. And I was thinking the next book title for you could be called The Cost of Appeasement.
Liane Davey: Oh, I like it. Well, yes, and certainly [crosstalk 00:21:15]
Bryan Wish: You don’t need to credit me. I just [crosstalk 00:21:17]
Liane Davey: I love it, and it is a huge issue. Right? And of course, appeasement doesn’t work.
Bryan Wish: So I didn’t mean to stop you in your tracks, but [crosstalk 00:21:29] I’m glad you maybe … because everyone has a personal story usually that ties to the work that they go out and [crosstalk 00:21:35] with. So let’s go back to where you were finally at a place where you could maybe reshape culture and reshape maybe the way things were going about that.
Liane Davey: Yeah.
Bryan Wish: So let’s go back there.
Liane Davey: Yeah. So I guess the first phase after that was I took over the team. I led the team. I tried to help bring the team out of this funk it had been in to pull people together, to create the rallying cry, all those sorts of things. And I did that for a phase because I felt it was important to do my part to heal the team and get the team back on track. But after not that long, I said, I don’t want to be the leader anymore. I don’t want to be the boss anymore. Now I want to actually go deep into the discipline, the ideas, the research, the theory, the practice of helping teams get better at conflict. And so then just everything, I started writing about this, I started giving speeches about this. And six years ago, left that organization to found my own company so that I could spend all of my hours dedicated to this. So yeah, it’s been my life. And then I guess in 2019, The Food fight came out, and so now I’m the conflict lady.
Bryan Wish: I love it. Well, it’s neat how the former company, right, you were at and a lot of conflict or a lot of issues and you could use that experience to … it was almost your testing, maybe your testing ground, your ideation zone.
Liane Davey: Yeah. Absolutely. First it was my crucible, right?
Bryan Wish: Right.
Liane Davey: And I survived the crucible moment. Yeah, and then it was absolutely the place to test, to try, to experiment both with my own accountability for my own behavior, but also them with approaches and methods to help other people stay on the right. So now one of the ways I talk about conflict, one of the things I had to figure out for myself is that conflict in a lot of the models of conflict in great books, like difficult conversations and fierce conversations and crucial conversations and all these sorts of things, they all focus around conflict as an event, so the conversation. And conflict is way too scary for me to try and have it be an event. My palms get all sweaty. I feel nauseous. I’m like, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, the conversation. Yeah.
So I should say for an audio purpose, but you’re just holding up one of those books. And so it was really important to me to find a way of getting a way from conflict as an event and to start to frame conflict as a habit. So the other way I talk about that is for me, it always felt like conflict was like a root canal. It was really awful and took days of pain afterward. And what I was trying to create was a method where conflict is more flossing. It’s fine. It’s just a part of something you do every day. And you stay in a good place so that you never need this big blowout conflict, this root canal equivalent. So that’s what a lot of my work has focused on is getting away from the conversation and the event and all those sorts of things where the stakes are too high. And where all of us conflict adverse people get really squeamish and instead get to, okay, how do we build in some healthy habits all along the way so that we don’t ever have to have that unpleasant yucky, big showdown?
Bryan Wish: Well, one, I love what you were talking about, how … I mean, conflict is just an everyday part of life.
Liane Davey: Yep. Absolutely.
Bryan Wish: It’s navigating that discomfort and the emotions around it and all those things.
Liane Davey: Yeah.
Bryan Wish: So get used to it and, [crosstalk 00:25:41] like you said, right, if he goes too long without being addressed, well, you are going to have the root canal moment or that, you said, off the cliff moment. So I think that’s well said. And so my question for you is, before you went off and did your own company, you were pulled in that direction and then to write the book. When you were maybe at the testing ground [crosstalk 00:26:06] of this business, I mean, are there any stories that stick out to you when you were there maybe trying to change or test some things, or you did something and it made a big difference or you tested a philosophy that you had or a learning that you’ve really carried with you? I’m just curious when you were really developing things out.
Liane Davey: Yes, a very stupid story that has turned out to be probably the most important, stupid story of my career, which is at the time my husband and I took our two daughters camping. So this is in the midst of all of this challenging stuff going on at work and all those sorts of things. And we go camping with this little, tiny tent and the four of us sleeping in the tent. And we hear that a huge rainstorm is coming, but we’re too stubborn to go home. So we drive to the closest town in search of getting a plastic tarpaulin, the biggest tarp we can possibly find to cover the tent and cover the picnic table and cover the whole campsite if we could. But when we get there, there is only one tarp left, and somebody’s returned it. It’s crunched up back into the bag and it’s the best we can do.
So we bring it back to the campsite and we tie ropes in each of the four corners. And we start to pull on each of our ropes in the hopes of doing two things. One, getting the tarp tight so the rain will roll off of it. And secondly, getting it centered over the tent, so based on the way the wind is blowing, that it will stay as dry as possible. And as this process is going along, my husband, who is on the diagonal from our five year old at the time, pulls just a little too hard just to prove how manly he is. He pulls a little too hard and she winds up face down in the mud. And yeah, and I have to kind of clean her off and she’s upset. And then finally, she starts pulling again and he’s pulling and I’m pulling.
And at this point, our nine year old daughter gets fed up that it’s taking too long and she lets go while the other three of us are pulling. And her corner of the tarp comes flying up and this tent is getting soaked. And so this moment, which I should have been thinking about staying dry, becomes this epiphany about conflict and teams, because one of the things that had annoyed me for the longest time was that all of our imagery and language and metaphor about teams comes from rowers. I have no idea why the rower has become the predominant, but we talk about we’re all in the same boat. We’re all pulling in the same direction, don’t rock the boat. We have all of this anti-conflict, imagery and metaphor that comes from this rowing metaphor.
So in the middle of this experience, getting soaked in the mud, trying to keep our tent dry, I have this epiphany that, oh, okay, this is a better metaphor, that really we aren’t pulling in the same direction. Just like when you’re trying to spread out a tarp, you’re pulling in different directions and you’re trying to take scarce resources, this tarp was definitely smaller than what it should have been, trying to take scarce resources and make them go as far as possible. And to optimize that based on which way the winds are blowing, how the environment is changing, what matters in your company, what your strategy is.
And so that epiphany ended up becoming the basis of an exercise that we still do with every single team we work with many years later. It’s been published in Harvard Business Review now, all from this ridiculous camping trip. So it’s always a reminder that some of your best ideas come on the weekends when you’re doing something totally different, but it was so powerful to me because this happens all the time, like my husband trying to pull really hard on his rope. I think it was just so worried about getting it as tight as possible that he wasn’t thinking about who else was on the team and whether he was going to overpower them.
And we see that in teams all the time. Some extroverted person, some person who’s in a team with more clout, maybe it’s the sales team. They just run roughshod over everybody else. It happens all the time that people pull to … or just the way your rewards and your incentives are set up, that everybody’s rewarded for how far they can pull their own rope, regardless of whether that means the whole tarp comes right off the tent and everybody gets wet. But also that my daughter who let go of the rope was another really important lesson, that there are people who don’t like conflict, people who feel powerless, people are just fed up, who stop advocating for things that matter. And when that happens, people are left exposed, something could go wrong.
And so it was such a silly story, but God, I’ve told it a million times now, but people years later, they were still in their companies going, oh yeah, and we’re still tarping. We’re still having productive conflict. We’re still doing well at pulling in different directions, but making sure that the tarp winds up over the tent and we all stay dry. And so, yeah, that was one of my ridiculous epiphanies a long time ago, but still served me well.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. Well, the two extremes, right? I’m just imagining that in a company and how that plays out when someone is overpowering with an idea or thought. When someone does let go, how it explodes. I felt that, right?
Liane Davey: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:31:43] I think that’s why it works. It’s visceral.
Bryan Wish: It is visceral. That’s a great word.
Liane Davey: Yeah. You can embody what it’s supposed to feel like on a healthy team. It’s supposed to feel like someone’s tugging on me. It’s supposed to feel like I have to pull. And then if you think about it, think about sales and operations as an example. Right? So I always say if sales and operations are not in conflict, sell your shares. That is not a good sign because sales should always be pulling on the rope that is customer centered. I want differentiated product. I want a service that really is exactly what this client needs. Can we customize this? And operations should always be saying, can we standardize this? Can we make it more scalable, more efficient? If those two functions stop having conflict, the whole thing … everybody’s getting wet in that tent. So yeah, I say if they’re not having conflict, sell your shares.
Bryan Wish: That’s so good. I mean, it reminds me, it’s so funny you bring this up, when we have our sales process or something gets hot or a proposal goes to, and our operations state, our people on the account, they look at it first before it goes to the client because [crosstalk 00:33:03] they’ve been in too many situations maybe where they didn’t get all the details. So you learn by trial and error, or you learn when something goes off the cliff. So [crosstalk 00:33:14] there’s some powerful examples here. Well, obviously you’re that expert here. So one, thank you for sharing. What a powerful story. I’m glad you did share that and [crosstalk 00:33:23]
Liane Davey: I’m glad I went camping that weekend. Yep.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, and I think a lot of leaders you work with I’m sure will think about their own families or in their own life or, but it’s great, so thank you. So I’m inspired by how you took these lessons at this company and you said, I need to go out and … or maybe you said, I need to go out and do this for myself and [crosstalk 00:33:48] stake in the ground. What compelled you to go at it on your own and leave the company and have the courage to do that?
Liane Davey: Yeah. I was 10 years at that company and it was a phenomenal 10 years. I loved it. I have nothing bad to say. And then at some point it was about … I wanted to have control over my time. I wanted to create a life with better balance. And I think working in consulting is not a good recipe for a balanced life. You can work nonstop. Consulting tends to have a lot of flexibility, but it’s flexibility of, would you like to work 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, or 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM? I’m like, this is not the kind of flexibility that I need, so all of those things. It was to put my mark on something, to spend more time doing exactly the work that I wanted to do, to just have it be smaller, have work fit more effectively into the life I wanted to create. And it was a great decision six years ago.
Bryan Wish: Well, good for you for maybe taking an analysis of what do I want and how am I going to go do it? I mean, just curious, how did you get started? You had to get a book of, I mean, I’m sure clients. And how do you think about the materials and the teaching and how you were going to go work with organizations? I mean, it’s different than the typical, let’s just say, executive or leadership coach. In my opinion, it’s like, yeah, I’m going to go, we’re going to work on organizational accountability and this. But you have a very specific niche of how you, I think, work. And so, [crosstalk 00:35:33] I’m just curious how you built up [crosstalk 00:35:35].
I guess I had built some of it in the previous place, right? And I had thought about this and started to build up the processes. So it was just a matter of when I left, there were lots of clients who already knew me, were interested in sticking with me and came with me into the new company. And then over time, if you’re good at this, CEOs talk to CEOs. And so if you become known as being good at what you do, having good discretion, being fun to work with, then you don’t have to do any of your own business development. They really do it for you. They talk to one another about at oh, … because being a CEO is lonely. You hear that all the time, but it’s true. And they tend to speak with one another and find places where they can commiserate or look to each other for support.
And if somebody is talking about issues on their team or what’s not working, my name comes up, which is very flattering, and then I get a call. I heard that if this is the kind of thing going on, on our team that I need to call you, so here I am calling you.
Bryan Wish: Wow.
Liane Davey: So it was more seamless than I ever thought it would be.
Bryan Wish: Yeah.
Liane Davey: And actually the very first day that the company started, October 1st, 2015, I was in Palo Alto with the leadership team of Sony PlayStation. And so my very first day of having the business, I was at an offsite with an amazing group of individuals, an amazing team. And I thought, okay, if this is where I am in Palo Alto, doing an offsite with this group on day one, this is going to go okay.
Bryan Wish: Aww. Well, what a great way … most [crosstalk 00:37:31]
Liane Davey: And that was a fun first day.
Bryan Wish: I’m sure. Most people’s day ones aren’t that so [crosstalk 00:37:35].
Liane Davey: No, no, it was good. It was good.
Bryan Wish: Good. Well, I’m sure you’ve had a good track record prior, like you said. So you mentioned something I loved that you said earlier was when people leaders tell you, I’m still tarping.
Liane Davey: Yeah, yeah.
Bryan Wish: For you, with your work, what would you say is the most gratifying, fulfilling aspect to maybe this day to day in the short term, and then maybe also the long term?
There’s two things that will instantly bring a smile to my face. So one is watching a team that used to struggle with conflict or have issues, watching them, not in the first little while. In the first little while, there’s this honeymoon period where they just seem to get along really well. And that’s a very tentative step. And I’m not happy yet when I see that, because what I need is them to get further, which is that the trust and the skills get to a point where they can really lean into the fight, and they do because they know they’ll get to the other side. So, that’s the first thing that’s so gratifying, that’s so exciting for me, when I see a team, not a team that doesn’t have conflict, a team that’s now learned that they can have conflict, it’ll be okay. The conflict is really focused on making the idea better or making the outcome better. That is so rewarding to see, to see a team having a good fight.
The second thing, when this happens, it just often brings tears to my eyes is when people will say, I actually really took everything you taught me and applied it to my wife, my teenager, the issues that we’re having around our family’s dinner table, the issue between my siblings and caring for my elderly parent. When they take the lessons home and apply it to having healthier conflict with the people that matter most in their lives, that really gets me verklempt. Really I’m like, oh man, that’s so edifying. So yeah, it’s both of those things, either that a team and a business is benefiting from the confidence to have healthy conflict, or when somebody has that epiphany about their own relationships and they use it to get deeper than the superficial keeping it happy kind of things. And they get to the point where, no, we’re really able to be vulnerable with one another because we trust one another to have a good fight instead of an unhealthy fight.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. I mean, I love that answer because I’m just thinking about how anger and conflict can perpetuate in vastly unhealthy ways. And that could go years, could go months, [crosstalk 00:40:33] And you’re giving such a gift, right, whether it’s at home in the workplace. I mean, it’s all integrated at this point. Someone might get upset at work, go piss their spouse off and then that leads to … And so I think it’s interesting because the impact of your work truly is probably extremely hard to measure the long term, right? Because it’s so beneficial in ways that you’ll never be able to get the true data out of it that I’m sure that you wish.
Liane Davey: Right.
Bryan Wish: But knowing how gratifying when you hear people tell you I’ve applied this in these areas of my life, I mean, what a Testament to the importance of your work and you being the leader behind the work. And then also the fact that you grew up not even really understanding what healthy conflict was. It was more muted and so what a neat journey, right, you’ve been down to now go help others on this path that you’ve been down. So I’m thrilled in how you’ve gone about developing what you have.
Yeah. And there’s something I like about relating to people from a position of, I’m somebody who, A, sucks at this, B, is terrified of it. So instead of relating to people from a pedantic finger wagging, you need to be better at this, there’s a lot more empathy than that. It’s like, no, no, no, no, no, I’m with you. I hate it too. I still hate it. And so I prefer to walk beside somebody in this, what is a very uncomfortable journey as opposed to seeing myself as having it all figured out. It suits me better and it’s more rewarding. And then I’m just as happy to come on some days and share with people, oh, I blew it again. Here’s where I got it wrong. Here’s where I took the safe path. Here’s how it blew up in my face, those sorts of things. So that just fits my personality better to just say, Hey, let’s be completely flawed at this together. And if I’ve got a few things figured out, I’ll share them, but it’s certainly not everything, and it’s certainly not all the time.
Yeah. No, absolutely. I mean, I love how you put that. Something, as you were talking, I’ve been thinking about is for the [inaudible 00:43:01] there’s a good amount of CEOs who listen to this from, I think, messages I’ve received. I think it’s hard for someone to acknowledge that they might need help in this area.
Liane Davey: Yeah.
Bryan Wish: And so for just say maybe the younger, less evolved individual who maybe has more emotional work and awareness around the things where they need help, what would you say? How do you enter a space when someone needs the help, maybe doesn’t know they need it? What are the sign that they might could really use your help and expertise?
Liane Davey: Yeah. So usually it shows up first in business issues. That’s where you see it, right? It’s we’re not making the tough calls. We are not making trade offs. We’re going around the same decisions for months and not getting … sometimes you see those and it’s easier to admit to those things than it is to admit to … and it’s because I’m afraid of pissing off one of the people. There’s a lot of entrepreneurs, founders, leaders who like to be liked and they don’t want to admit that making that trade off … they don’t want to say no to somebody because then what if they don’t like them anymore? And so it’s easier to come at it from what are the symptoms that your business is experiencing? Dilution of resources, risks biting you in the butt, those sorts of things. And then to say, well, what’s going on there? What’s behind that? Those sorts of questions.
But the basic answer is if you are a human that works with other humans, this is likely to be an issue for you. So let’s deal with it in the flossing sense before it becomes a problem, before it’s like … I always say, I’m a water cooler psychologist, not a couch psychologist. I’m not going to put you on the couch and talk about your mother. Let’s actually just talk about this before it becomes an issue. Let’s get you set up. So I don’t need somebody to have found that this is ruining their lives or requiring therapy. I just require people who know that putting humans together in the workplace under a lot of pressure to perform is [crosstalk 00:45:21] is just going to introduce these issues no matter what.
Bryan Wish: Totally. I mean, it’s really interesting what you said. They show up first in the workplace.
Liane Davey: Yeah.
Bryan Wish: But when you maybe look at them holistically, they’re probably showing up in a lot of other areas of their life.
Liane Davey: Absolutely. They almost always are. Seldom does somebody not have a bit of a … and some people share and some people don’t, but there’s almost always a few lessons that need to be applied in the most important relationships in your life, not just with your coworkers.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely. Wow. I just love the angle and approach to your work. But if we took time after, I’ll tell you why that resonates so much.
Liane Davey: Okay.
Bryan Wish: So you wrote the book recently called The Good Fight.
Liane Davey: Yep.
Bryan Wish: You speak on this, it’s published in great places, but tell the audience, how did you write the book? Why did you write the book or feel the need to? I mean, of course, but from your perspective if someone was to read it, what would you want them to think about as they’re going through it?
Liane Davey: So just in terms of why I wrote it, because my previous book, you first had embraced productive conflict as a chapter, and everybody kept going to that chapter. Like, okay, but how? But why? And so it was clear that, okay, we need to dig down on that topic. What would I tell them about the book? I always say it’s two books in one. So The Good Fight, for people like me who tend to avoid conflict and things like that, it’s a book to help you understand why some things are worth fighting for. And so it’s very much about changing your mindset around conflict, and that’s one book and one audience. It’s just as much a book focused on the good part, which is there are some people, especially where you live, who just … very high IQ, pretty low EQ. They get into fights, because it’s not personal, it’s business. And they just hash it out about the ideas and they leave a lot of collateral damage.
And so for them, this book is about how do you have that fight, but in a way that’s good? That gets to a better outcome, that doesn’t derail productivity, that doesn’t erode trust, that doesn’t increase everybody’s stress levels? So it’s really two books. And it depends on who you are, how you read that book, whether you read it as a manifesto around the things you need to start fighting for, or whether you read it as a manifesto about how you need to learn a few skills and grow up a bit in how you have conflict to reduce the collateral damage. So it’s both of those. It’s two, two, two books in one.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. That’s so special. I, I mean, it seems very intentional the way you constructed it, and also taking that feedback from book one, right? [crosstalk 00:48:26] to build on where things are going. Well, Liane, this has been a treat, truly, just to talk to you, learn from you, share your message. Where can people find your work, books, site, [crosstalk 00:48:42] all the things?
Liane Davey: So two things, I say, lianedavey.com, which other than the spelling is pretty easy to find, but I assume we can … the proper spelling will be in the show notes, so it’s okay, but lianedavey.com. And there are hundreds of free resources and articles and posters and exercises and all sorts of free stuff there to help you create the team that you deserve. And then if you want to engage with me, I am constantly trying to create the living room of LinkedIn, where you can sit on the couch and have amazing conversations with cool people around the world about topics in healthy teams. So find me on LinkedIn, join the conversation, and it’s a super fun place to engage.
Bryan Wish: Love it. Well, you’re not a couch therapist, but you’re trying to create the living room [crosstalk 00:49:31]
That’s a good point. Okay, the water cooler. I’m creating the water cooler. That’s a really good point, Bryan. I’m creating the water cooler on LinkedIn, the spot where we can all gather around and have the juiciest conversations about work and so far so good. I think in the last 60 days, I’ve had 4,000 comments on the LinkedIn posts. So it’s hot and heavy over there on LinkedIn, and we’re having some really fabulous conversations.
Bryan Wish: Well, thanks for stepping aside from LinkedIn.
Liane Davey: Absolutely.
Bryan Wish: We’ll have more of a front porch conversation.
Liane Davey: Front porch, I like it. I just need the rocker, yeah, and the swing.
Bryan Wish: There we go. There we go. Well, thank you, Liane. We’ll make sure to share with our audience, excited to do it.
Liane Davey: Thanks so much, Bryan.