The Mid-Career GPS Podcast

224: Consciously Craft a Meaningful Life and Career In Kind with Michael Neece

February 15, 2024 John Neral Season 4
The Mid-Career GPS Podcast
224: Consciously Craft a Meaningful Life and Career In Kind with Michael Neece
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Today we are talking about kindness in an intentional and strategic way to grow your career. In our careers, being kind is a highly desired and often sought-after character trait, but how can being kinder help you advance your career?

Michael Neece is the author of the best-selling book, In Kind - Consciously Craft a Meaningful Life and Career." He joins me to reveal how a compassionate approach can redefine your professional relationships and career path. Together, we unpack the nuanced ways kindness can influence networking and mentorship opportunities and even help us traverse the complexities of a toxic workplace. Michael's compelling narratives underscore the necessity of authenticity and the far-reaching impact of every interaction grounded in goodwill.

This conversation goes beyond the theoretical, offering hands-on strategies for leaders and team members to foster a nurturing work environment. We cover the significance of creating a Mid-Career GPS fueled by kindness, ensuring that the trajectory of your professional life aligns with your core values. From the small acts that boost morale to the larger decisions that define your career, we explore the transformative potential of kindness. It's not just about the feel-good factor; it's about crafting a legacy of positivity and success. Tune in for an episode that promises to leave you with actionable insights and a renewed appreciation for the subtleties of human connection at work.

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John Neral:

Who taught you to be kind? Most likely your parents were the first people who taught you to be kind and lived by the golden rule, and then, as you got older, you realized that not everybody was kind and that hurt In our careers. Being kind is a highly desired and often sought-after character trait, but how can being kinder help you advance your career? My guest today has the answer. Today, I am joined by Michael Neece, who is here to talk to us about how you can leverage kindness to consciously craft a meaningful life and career. In this episode, we talk about how kindness helps you grow your network, find the right mentor, navigate workplace toxicity and build the future you want to live in. Let's get started. Hello, my friends, this is the Mid-Career GPS Podcast. I'm your host, John Neral. I help mid-career professionals find a job they love, or love the job they have, using my proven four-step formula. Today, we're talking about kindness in an intentional and strategic way to grow your career.

John Neral:

My guest today is Michael Neece. He currently serves as the director for the Gilead Programming Academy and is the author of the best-selling book In Kind. Michael is a visionary leader who has made significant impacts across five diverse industries, with a track record of success in leadership roles in traditional corporate settings, as well as martial arts studios and planetariums. Michael leverages his unique perspectives to benefit others. Combining his experience with his exploration of human motivation, michael gears his writing and teaching toward helping anyone who is starting out, starting over or hoping to inject more kindness into their workplace and life. He believes in teaching others to use the power of kindness to build the world we want to live in. I know you will enjoy this conversation and it's my pleasure to introduce you to Michael Nies. Michael, it's great to have you here. Welcome to the podcast.

Michael Neece:

Thanks so much, John. I'm really pleased to be here.

John Neral:

Michael, you are in the throes of some incredible success with your book, which we're going to talk about momentarily, but before we get there, share with us what your mid-career moment was.

Michael Neece:

My mid-career moment was me dropping off my kid at daycare, and one of the moms dropping off her kid at daycare walked over to me and said we've talked a few times. I think you'd make a really good computer programmer, and here's my card Come interview with us. And yeah, so it was an opportunity that I hadn't even thought of and it was one that just really fit who I was in that moment.

John Neral:

Well, you just proved the point that you can network wherever and whenever, including when dropping off your kid at daycare.

Michael Neece:

Indeed. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You never know where opportunity is going to come from. So, yeah, part of my philosophy is always be authentic and always be kind to everybody around you, not because you're trying to cultivate these things, but just because you're spreading joy, you're spreading kindness and you're connecting.

John Neral:

So your book is called In Kind, consciously Craft and Meaningful Life and Career. This whole topic of kindness resonates very strongly in this day and age and everything that we're going through, both personally, professionally, politically which we're not going to get into. But tell us a little bit more about where this idea of kindness has resonated so strongly for you and what led you to writing the book.

Michael Neece:

Yeah, the topic has always been at the forefront of my mind. I was by really kindhearted people who have great integrity. My mom and my dad raised me to believe in the golden rule and the silver rule do unto others, do not do unto others both of those big rules. It was when I first started stepping into the professional world and started absolutely getting it wrong that I was able to kind of triangulate and realize oh my gosh, I'm not really leading with these values.

Michael Neece:

The first challenging personality that I get, I end up not being kind to them and then it leads to great shame and very, really embarrassing moments. It makes me just feel horrible for years. And so for my 50th birthday, my wife gave me a writing retreat and I just thought about it and thought about it, I brainstormed, I wrote and eventually, in the rental car from the airport to the hotel where we were going to have a retreat, I started thinking what's the book I wish I had and what's the book I should be writing with all of the things I've been investigating and it bubbled up. I've had moments where I've just gotten really curious about how to do all this stuff right, and maybe some of that research is stuff that I can bubble up, along with some of my own stories of where I got it wrong and then help other people not get it wrong.

John Neral:

Michael, when you talk about in kind and how people navigate their careers with kindness and their leadership as well, where do you see people getting it wrong?

Michael Neece:

A great question. I think people get it wrong when they forget that we are emotional creatures who have a thought process, and they think that we're thinking creatures who occasionally have emotions. That's just not how it is, and so I think it's when you have a big emotion and you just you respond out of that emotion. So you get that angry email a lot of people on copy and spawned with another angry email, when in fact the better way to do it is to really think through how do I want to respond? You always have that choice. Sometimes it means tamping down the emotion, identifying the emotion, validating the emotion because we have that, you know, we have feelings but then responding the way that you really feel you should be responding.

John Neral:

Well, let's talk about where people can get it right. So, as people are thinking about building their mid-career GPS and traditionally, typically, people who listen to this show, I often refer to them as their very, their very heart centric leaders. Right, they're very empathetic individuals, they have big hearts, they want to do the right thing, but they're like how can I leverage that a little bit more? So, when you think about navigating your career and leadership in kind, how does that help them build a more robust network?

Michael Neece:

I think it's a more authentic network. If people really know the true you and you are absolutely trying to live your values, then I think you have a better way of building that network. For instance, if you're having not a great day, you're feeling a little bit down and you're able to know if I seem a little off today, I apologize. That gives that moment of vulnerability and gives that recognition of our humanity and makes it possible for the other person to now respond to you in ways that make more sense. So, yeah, I think it's easy to build a better network when people really know who you actually are and not that you're hiding things deliberately from them.

John Neral:

Right before we recorded today, I had a call with a colleague of mine and we've been in each other's network now for, I want to say, probably two or three years. We typically meet over Zoom and she messaged me a half hour before the call and she said can we move this to the phone? I was like, yeah, absolutely, and there was a particular reason for it and everything. And I was like sometimes the phone is just refreshing, we don't have to be on camera the whole time. And one of the things she said to me was she goes, I knew you wouldn't mind, but I just had to ask and I was like, yeah, it's fine.

John Neral:

I mean, that's how we, to your point, just authentically know the boundaries and the constraints of the relationship in terms of what we can or we can't do. And the fact that she felt comfortable enough to ask was an easy way to say yes, right, and we just got on the call, had a great call, extended our networks a little bit, move on to the next thing, kind of a thing. So I like how you reinforce this notion of authenticity and how we build those relationships, except we can't show up as ourselves. Things are facade.

Michael Neece:

Absolutely, and I think knowing yourself is a big piece of it, being able to be self-reflective and make those decisions. I know you talk about this on your podcast all the time. It's trying to understand who you really are and do you fit the current moment and the current role in the current industry, and I think it's that reflective knowledge that gives you the ability to be kinder over time as well. The more I know about myself, the more I understand my own limiting beliefs. For instance, the more I understand how I interact with certain different types of people, the better I can be at reaching those different kinds of people. If I haven't thought about it and I just kind of wing it, which is what I did in my early career winging it can work sometimes, but it's just not reliable. And that's what I want to give to people is that sense of their great willingness, their ways of safeguarding yourself, so you don't get it wrong.

John Neral:

We all kind of wing it in the beginning. We get out of college, we just want to job.

John Neral:

I'll wing it. I'll wing it to get that point, and then we'll figure those kind of things out. Well, michael, to your point about finding that fit, one of the things we're seeing especially as we're starting off 2024, is people are looking for more support, and especially when they think about support in the workplace whether it be that trusted colleague, which is obviously very important people are looking for more. They might be looking for a mentor, a sponsor, some kind of inside support that's going to help accelerate their career. You've got some great tips for helping people find the right mentor in kind. Would you share that with us please?

Michael Neece:

Oh, absolutely yeah. In the book and even online at my website, there's a free resource. There are ways of evaluating people who are already in your network to see if you want to have them be part of your core network. There's also an evaluative tool that helps you determine is anybody in my network a potential great mentor? I think mentors are all around us. There are so many people who want to see younger people who are earlier in their careers flourish and learn the trade and feel really good about leaving behind a legacy of these people that they've taught and that they've helped craft into great and effective colleagues.

Michael Neece:

Yeah, there are great ways of identifying. Is this a person that I can be vulnerable with? Is this person going to offer me feedback or questions or a combination? Are they going to be offering me judgment or are they going to be saying let's take apart what you did and think about how? Would you do it a different way the next time you come across this situation?

Michael Neece:

These tools that I have both in the book and on the website, I think are ones that anybody can benefit from. The funny thing is I had a mentor early in my career that I didn't label as a mentor and didn't rely on as a mentor. Later on I got myself into all kinds of trouble because I didn't understand his offer to be that guide, to be that great force in my life. I floundered when I really didn't need to. I encourage people, especially early in their career or if they've just made a big change in their career, to really think in these very crystal clear terms Is this potentially my mentor? Is there somebody from up who could be my mentor and really think it through and score it and then look at the scores.

John Neral:

When you talk about a core network, what's the difference between, or what distinguishes someone as part of your core network versus your regular network?

Michael Neece:

They're part of your core network, If you feel like you're very aligned with these folks, if they have your back, if you can tell them things and they keep your confidence. There's this great research that says you are roughly the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If you are spending your time with people who are a bit sarcastic and are not terribly supportive and they pass along that gossip that they heard in the office, then you're more likely to make those same kinds of choices and you're more likely to then not be authentic. I think you have to be really careful. Who are you including in your core network Should be people you trust, people who are aligned, people who have your back.

John Neral:

There are people who are listening to our conversation right now and I'm willing to bet that they're sitting there and they're going. Yeah, this is all great, this is all wonderful. I work in an organization that is toxic. I have a boss or supervisor or leader who is unsupportive. I haven't been promoted in years. I don't like getting up and going to work every day, but I got to do what I got to do, because this is what's paying the bills. What would you offer someone like that to how they could navigate any kind of workplace toxicity in kind.

Michael Neece:

Oh man, isn't that the million dollar question? Yep, I think that you can lead a life in kindness and you can be responsive with kindness even to people who are toxic. Kindness can be a great data collection mechanism. If I'm kind to you and you're not kind back, maybe you had a bad day. Maybe I should take that into account. If I'm kind to you again and again, and again and I still get toxicity, well, I've collected a lot of data and now I know I don't want to spend a lot of time with you. I know that I now want to try to focus on projects that don't involve you, that I want to make sure that I'm protected and away from you.

Michael Neece:

I guess the other thing that I would offer is a piece of advice Take hope. Not every situation is like the one that you are in. You can find that is brighter and better, and so, again, in my book, I have a way of evaluating your workplace and I have a way of evaluating your manager and getting a sense of is this toxic? Is it salvageable, is it not? Is it something you really need to start doing? That plan B job hunt? So yeah, I would say take hope. You can have effects within your current environment. Some are too sour to save, though, and I think that the best kindness you can do is to save yourself and then, once you're out, look at the other employees that we're trying to also escape and see if there's a place at the table for them at your new spot.

John Neral:

You said that you can use kindness as a data collection mechanism. Yeah, I love that. As somebody who is very much a fan of data. That just kind of lit me up in some ways, because I'm like, yeah, I could totally see how to do that For the heart centered leader who is managing a team. They're leading a team of people in an environment that, collectively, people often describe as unhealthy or toxic. Where can they, or how can they carve that little space within the organization where their team feels protected, safe, respected, amidst all the tumult and the chaos that's going on around them? I?

Michael Neece:

would say, all of the human connecting moments. Protect those. Those are the ones that are going to boo you during the most difficult times and in the biggest changes within a corporation. If you are starting team meetings and only a few people talk and then you log off, you've missed an opportunity.

Michael Neece:

If, once you've got everybody together, you immediately say hey, we're going to start doing something every single team meeting and I want everybody to buy into it. You don't need to take all day, but I want everybody to take one minute to tell me something great that is going on in your life. And if you have 15 people on your team, that's only 15 minutes of investment. But suddenly anybody who came into that meeting feeling pessimistic or feeling like their project is off the rails or something like that, they've now heard at least 14 other reasons to be positive and excited about coming to work and being part of that team. I would also say do a round robin at the end of every team meeting just to make sure that everybody gets a chance to be heard and that they feel like they're part of the team.

John Neral:

What you shared there that I want to reinforce is that these things don't take a lot of time. You could do a round robin and it might take five, 10, 15 minutes. You do that repeatedly, week after week or meeting after meeting, and all of a sudden you build a different relationship than what you had. And as I was listening to you, michael, you reminded me of for several years, when I was teaching, I would start off every Monday with every classroom of kids that I had by doing an exercise we called new and good, and everybody got 30 seconds and they had to go around. We went around the room and they had to share something new or good that happened to them since the last time we saw each other. So when you're working with 11 to 14 year olds, it might be oh, we went to the movies, or my favorite team won this weekend, or we visited, like whatever it might be. There was something, and I did this with a room full of 30 kids.

Michael Neece:

Okay.

John Neral:

So you took that 15 minutes and we would do it every Monday and they would come in on money and be like hey, Mr Narrell, are we going to do new and good? Of course we're going to do new and good, and everybody got to know each other a little bit more and it was one of the biggest takeaways from it was that, like that doesn't have to take a lot of time, but there's exponential results from it.

Michael Neece:

And you say exponential results. I think that's maybe even underselling it. It is. I mean, think about it this way we spend about 90,000 hours of our life at work. We'd really better connect with the people who are there.

Michael Neece:

Otherwise it's a lost opportunity to experience our own humanity and to connect with other people. I mean, if your favorite moments in your life are the ones where you connected with your parent, with your, you know, with a relative, with a teacher, with a spouse, if those are your favorite moments, and then you go to work and say no, just going to, just going to cut it and have a very distinct line these are colleagues, I don't care about them, I just do my work and keep my head down. You're missing out on potential new favorite moments. You're missing out on the fact that you're all working towards some bigger mission. Right, you're all working in the same place, so theoretically, you believe in the mission of the company. I gosh, I hope so. If that's the case, don't you want to be working and talking and knowing these people who are alongside you trying to do this good work? You probably have a lot in common, why not? Why not bond over that?

John Neral:

Absolutely yeah, and potentially learn something about someone you never knew. That allows you to connect in a whole different way.

Michael Neece:

Yes, I mean I can't tell you the number of team meetings where somebody mentioned, oh and my garden is doing pretty well, and somebody else would say, oh my gosh, I have a garden too. I didn't know you did that, and then they would have little side conversations going on. Yeah, I mean, it could be something nerdy, it could be something that's just a cruel hobby, but finding these other connections just makes it feel real and worthwhile.

John Neral:

Hey there, we'll get back to the episode in a moment, but I want to give you something game changing, a golden ticket. That is like having a roadmap to take you from career confusion to clarity in minutes, introducing the mid-career job seekers checklist. It is your secret weapon in your job search and if you feel like navigating your job search right now is like navigating a maze blindfolded, don't worry, my friend, I got your back. This checklist is a powerhouse of organization and preparation, crafted to make you say goodbye to feeling overwhelmed and hello to a career transition made easy. I want you to head on over to https://johnneral. com to snag your free copy of the mid-career job seekers checklist. It's not just a checklist, it is a career compass to help you find that job you're going to love. Now let's dive back into the episode. What's one strategy you would give our listeners today that they can use kindness to help them build the future they want to live in or find that dream job they want?

Michael Neece:

Gosh. So the whole concept of in kind is that typically that phrase means that if you've paid me with something, I pay you back with the same kind of thing, and I'm rebranding it so that in kind really means paying you back with the kind of I can think of in that moment. I think, just by being really mobile, with every interaction that you have energy for I think that's opportunities for you to build that dream job, to find those opportunities. I mean, if somebody's talking to you all the time and I, like God, he always puts a smile on my face I might talk to him. He's got something good to say, there's something inspirational about John. The next time they're alone in a room filled with executives, your name is going to come up and they're going to say oh yeah, me too. He's great.

Michael Neece:

So don't underestimate just that positivity that you bring and how far that can send ripples out across your entire network. So, yeah, I would say, just live in those small moments. Let me also just go on a tiny tangent here and say those moments are more possible if you are taking care of yourself, if your own battery is really low because you're just stretching yourself, you're burning candle at both ends. You're staying up too late. You're giving too much of yourself. It's going to be really hard to be kind. It's going to be hard to be authentic. You're just going to try to pass through the moment and say I just got to get through this. So stay hydrated, go for a walk, share those moments with a spouse or a friend on the phone for just five minutes, get yourself recharged and then step back in the stream.

John Neral:

I love that. Well, Michael, as we start wrapping up here, there may be something you want to reinforce or something you didn't get to share today. So what advice would you give someone to help them build their mid-career GPS?

Michael Neece:

I would say that first of all, you have to listen to John's podcast. It's amazing, so that's really helpful. Another really big thing is to think in terms of I cannot hit a target that I cannot see. It's impossible to hit a target if there isn't a target there. So you have to have some sort of visualization of where am I heading. You need to really reflect on what do you want your life to be like, and so maybe you do that activity of thinking.

Michael Neece:

It's my 80th birthday. People are toasting me. What are they talking about? What are they saying that I did? Maybe that's where your inspiration comes from. Maybe you make a storyboard I don't know some sort of visual representation of where you want to be, but I would say you can only hit that target if you actually create that target. For me, it's Star Trek. I think Star Trek is really cool. They show how everybody deserves a seat at the table. It doesn't matter what you look like, where you're from, what your gender is, what your gender preference is. It doesn't matter where you were born, what language you speak. You're going to be honored if you are curious, if you are hardworking, if you're kind, and so for me, I always think, well, what would it be like if we had that as our future? How do I build that? How do I keep moving in that direction? So have a really good envisioning of your future, and I think that helps you get where you want to go.

John Neral:

Michael, thank you for all of that. You have shared so much value in this episode to really help people just navigate the daily grind with greater joy and greater kindness. My friend, I want to turn the mic over to you right now. Please tell us all of the great things and places where people can find you and connect with you and especially where they can get your book.

Michael Neece:

Thank you for that, john. Yeah, the website that's easiest to remember is inkindbookcom, so the company that is publishing it, which is my company, is ourfutureiskindcom. You can also find me on LinkedIn. There are other famous Michael nieces, so just look for the one that's talking about what I talk about. And yeah, there are lots of resources that are on the website that are absolutely free. But if people want to schedule some time with me on the phone or want to reach out and ask a question, want to sign up for the newsletter, they can do that as well.

John Neral:

I will make sure all of that is in the show notes and I'd be remissed if I didn't ask you how many number one categories have you currently hit on Amazon as a bestseller so far?

Michael Neece:

So far it's been two with the ebook, and then with the ebook and the paperback, it is, I think, nine out of the top 20 categories of top new releases and bestsellers. So I'm a little stunned by how well this is going.

John Neral:

Well, congratulations. You've done so much incredible work, not just on the book and getting it out there, but all of the promotion and everything leading up to it and, as I've been following, it's just great to see it still sitting up there in the top ranks of those various categories. So continued good luck and success with the book. Michael, your book is called Consciously Craft, a Meaningful Life and Career in Kind. My friend, thank you so much for being a guest on the Midcareer GPS podcast.

Michael Neece:

Thanks for having me here, john, this was a delight.

John Neral:

Same. Well, my friends, if there's one takeaway I want to offer you about my conversation with Michael Niece today, it's this you can find a way to authentically be kind, to show up for yourself, your team, your customers, your organization in a way that authentically means something for you. As you build your Midcareer GPS, remember that being kind is a strength and leverage the heck out of it. So until next time, my friends, remember this. You will build your Midcareer GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters Make it a great rest of your day.

John Neral:

Thank you for listening to the Midcareer GPS podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and, if you have a moment, I'd love to hear your comments on Apple podcasts. Visit JohnNarrowcom for more information about how I can help you build your Midcareer GPS or how I can help you and your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event. Don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at JohnNarrowCoaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters.

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