Episode 8

Productive Conflict with Shawn MacDonell

In this episode Shawn MacDonell shares how his experiences have highlighted the importance of becoming comfortable with essential leadership skills like approaching a productive conflict, giving and receiving feedback, and pursuing a proactive action-oriented attitude.

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I think conflict's a dirty word. I think people are like shy away from conflict. And we have like conflict studies and conflict management. We study all this stuff and it's like, it's like, wait, what? Like, how to have an argument? Is that what's happening? Like, you know, and I, I think we, we learn that from like shitty politics, like of this backstabbing stuff. And I'm like, No, no, we can have co we can disagree. Nobody. We don't have to, we don't have to agree on everything ever, always. Like, you know, And so I'm all for it. I'm like, Hey, conflicts in the workplace means the workplace is gonna grow probably.

In this episode

Shawn MacDonell shares his unconventional story of saying yes to experiences from sports coaching, to facilitating tools for teaching in Columbia, to branding strategy, to professional coaching, to founding a creative agency.

He speaks to how all of these offered him the experience of not being afraid of conflict and instead reframing it to curiosity and exploration. To understand why people make certain decisions and encourage them to learn to ask the same questions.

In episode 8 he shares with us how to reframe conflict from being a dirty word, the importance of believing in yourself to try new things, how illusive giving good feedback actually is through our communication pitfalls, and more.

Tune in to hear some truth bombs from the ultimate holder of the mirror and reflect along on your own beliefs and whether your current actions and practices are holding you back.

Time Stamps

Shawn MacDonell

Guest Bio

Creative, Speaker, Coach, Pleasantly Mean, Professional Ass Kicker, Goal Pusher, Quit Your Job Movement Maker are only a few words used to describe Shawn MacDonell. And they are all very true.

Since 2004 Shawn has been a serial entrepreneur with his hands and his creative brain in 14 businesses. He has coached various sports teams at all levels from regional to university to national. He’s gotten the chance to speak on thousands of stages, consult on some really amazing global projects, and has been an avid pusher of doing more cool shit for a long time. He believes now it is time to do even more. He’s eager to help others succeed in life, work, and in fun.


Shawn (00:00:00):

I think conflict's a dirty word. I think people are like shy away from conflict. And we have like conflict studies and conflict management. We study all this stuff and it's like, it's like, wait, what? Like, how to have an argument? Is that what's happening? Like, you know, and I, I think we, we learn that from like shitty politics, like of this backstabbing stuff. And I'm like, No, no, we can have co we can disagree. Nobody. We don't have to, we don't have to agree on everything ever, always. Like, you know, And so I'm all for it. I'm like, Hey, conflicts in the workplace means the workplace is gonna grow probably.

Fahd (00:00:41):

Hello and welcome to the Unicorn Leadership Podcast. My name is Fahd Alhattab and this is where we interview leaders on how they create high performing teams, How they create high performing cultures, and how they have become more effective managers and leaders. Our goal is to bring you the insights, the tools, the, the, the different methods and frameworks that they've had to try and the mistakes that they've made so that you can learn from them. And you don't have to make them yourself in your leadership practice as you build a team and you build your startup. This podcast is brought to you by Unicorn Labs, where we help develop managers into leaders that create high performing teams that help businesses scale. You can check us out at unicornlabs.ca and today I'm excited to bring you Shawn McDonnell. He's the founder of Creative Vision. He's actually a really long time friend and mentor of mine, which makes it a lot more exciting to speak.


It was a ton of fun to hear his stories on his podcast. He's, he considers himself and describes himself at one point in his career as a professional ass kicker, which I think pairs really well to his approach on conflict and difficult conversations. And that's what today is really all about. That's what today's episode is about. How do we lean into courageous conversations? I'm so excited for you to listen to this episode cuz Shawn's ability to not shy away from conflict because he reframed his views on feedback. He shares great wisdom on how others can follow his lead in their approach and ultimately pull people out and pull them into, into a growth mindset due to these conversations. See, I share a little story for myself on, on, and when I realized the importance of embracing conflict in a team I was, I was president of my student union at, in my university.


I went to Carleton University. I was president of Student Union there. And you know, we were the year of the student union, there was a federal election happening and we wanted to encourage students to vote. And so we had come up with all these different ideas and campaigns to, to actually get students out to vote. I remember sitting down with my team and we were there and different people were saying, Oh, we should do, we should have a debate on campus. Like, that's a great idea. We should do all these posters on campus. Great. We should do some marketing online to encourage students to vote. We all these different ideas. It was great. And then two folks who were on our team one of our friends, Maddie Adams, another one, Able Hazel who, who both came up with an idea and said Hey, I think, I think we should try and do a music video to, to, to encourage students to vote.


I remember thinking, I'm like, Hey, that's weird. Like, what do you mean music video? They're like, We can do a rap, we can do music video. Like we can, we can do a whole parody. We can make a video, a fun video that will engage students who don't typically want to come to debates or, or get the conversation going about voting and the importance of voting. I was a bit hesitant, but I was like, You know what? This could be a fun idea. This is cool. All right, sure, let's try it out. So we took Matt enables lead and, and we kind of dove into it. And so we, we had we had started coming up with different creative ideas and we wanted to remix a song. And so we found the song, I'm On a Boat, which I'm sure many of you know, The Lonely Island song.


I'm on a boat and we remixed it to, I'm Gonna Vote, Huh? Oh, I know, I know. Genius, right? So we remixed the song. We, we, they ended up writing all this lyrics on, on a voting and showing up to vote. We had, we had a friend who had a studio, so we went to record it there and we had a friend who had a number of different video cameras. So we, we, we, we wanted to make a video music, whole music video. We got backup dancers, all our friends. We even had a, a little iPhone taped to a stick so that we could get like a drone shot <laugh>. We didn't have drums. We get a drone shot and, and we wanted to really, you know, copy frame per frame, the I'm on a boat kind of video and, and, and really make that go viral.


And we thought this was gonna, this is gonna blow up, this is gonna go viral, this is gonna be amazing. And so we, we created the video and we sent it out and we put it on YouTube. We put it on Facebook at the time. And, and we were so excited cuz we were like, This is gonna blow up. This is gonna be amazing. And within two days we had over 60,000 views on YouTube and it was blowing up. We had, we had CBC contacted us Globe and Mail Auto Citizen. We had all these different newspapers. Everyone in the school essentially had seen the video in two days.


But the article headline, we got, we got on Vice News, we even got an article on Vice News. And the article headline on Vice News was Worst Canadian music video in history. Like it was we were trending on Reddit, subreddit, cringe people. Absolutely a lot of people absolutely hated the video and thought it was absolutely cringy. I mean, to us it was a parody. But, but, but I think a lot of students thought it was, it was, it was real. And here we were the leaders of the student union on camera having this parody. Now, here's the part I didn't tell you. We, we actually, you know the music video, Lonely Island, I'm gonna, I'm on a boat, is filled with profanity, like every third word is a swear word. And we thought, well, we're university students.


We can make our own decisions. We filled our song with profanity. So it was like, motherfucker, I'm gonna vote. Look at me, bitch. It's just like, it's, it's still on YouTube. We, we had taken it down for a while and, actually more recently I had re-uploaded it because it was a story we started to tell. But here's what was interesting. When, when, when, when all the negative feedback started coming in, I had a student call me on, on, at our, at our office and say, Fad, you lowered the value of my Carleton degree because of this video. Some people really didn't like it. Well, I was gonna take him back. I thought, Hey, this was a good idea. This was a fun video. This is hu like, there are a lot of humor. It'll engage a lot of students. But the, the backlash seemed so much and, and something I didn't predict.


So we called a team meeting, we got everyone together, all our executives, all of the student elected. And I said, Guys, what do you think we should do? Should we remove this video? And, and how do we react to this? Right? Like, we thought we were doing something okay, but, but cut all this negative feedback. And a few members spoke up and said, Yeah, fine. I didn't think it was a good idea in the first place. Another person spoke up and said, Yeah, like, I think we should remove it. Like, I think it's pretty, like, it's a bit of offensive, like, ah, I don't know. It's not a good look. And I was really surprised cause I was like, Well, what do you mean? Well, you didn't say anything in the first place. Like you knew this idea was happening. Why didn't you say anything? And one of 'em looked at me and said, Fad, you don't always create the space for us to disagree with you.


And that moment was powerful for me. Said, You don't always create the space for us to disagree with you. I think a lot of managers and a lot of leaders who have really strong personalities, who have ideas, who wanna drive the boat forward, who wanna drive innovation forward, we don't realize that the silence we're getting at times from our team is the thing that's going to eat away and kill us. It's gonna kill our innovation. It's gonna kill our progress. Ed Kamo has this fun line. He says, If there's more truth at the water cooler than there is in your boardrooms, than you've got a problem. If we're not actively creating space for people to embrace conflict and debate, then we're not building a high performing team. See, I think I, I, I thought, well, I, well I asked people's opinions. What, what do you guys think about this music video?


And just cuz I asked for opinions and I didn't hear anything back, I thought, Oh, okay, you're fine with it, you're cool with it. But I didn't realize that there was descending opinions that were being held back. And I didn't, I didn't pull them out. I didn't give them space for it. And I think our relationship with conflict is going to be a big determinant on that. You know, today in this episode, we're gonna discuss how Shawn's journey and his lessons came to shape his take in philosophy on conflict how it relates to coaching leaders and the coach approach that we talk about how ultimately leaders, you know, are, are mirrors for their team. And that leadership by example, becomes so important and how important it is to take personalized communication approaches when we're giving feedback, when we're embracing conflict, and we're creating space for that. And so as I went through my lesson with my team, understanding the importance of embracing conflict and giving space and creating that, Shawn goes through some of his own lessons. So let's cut away here, here a little bit. As Shawn's experience when he was coaching rugby. And one of the things that he came to.

Shawn (00:10:04):

An athlete and saying like, how, instead of me just giving him negative feedback, I was like, Well, what, what did you see out there on the field? Cause like what he did was not the thing I wanted him to do, which, you know, is totally like, could have been a conflict. But I was like, but what did you see or hear that made you do that? And the thing that happened for me was it was a young athlete and I was a young coach and the athlete really didn't have an answer. And I was like, Okay, I need you to be a thinking athlete. So we need to have these conflict and these discussions because I don't want you to just ha do the rote thing. And then that trickled into everybody that's ever worked for me.

Fahd (00:10:47):

And so in this episode, Shawn is gonna share some of those stories, share his unconventional story of saying yes to experiences from sports coaching, to facilitating tools to teaching in Columbia, to branding strategy, to professional coaching, and finding a creative agency. He speaks to how all of these have offered him the experience of not being afraid of conflict, but instead reframing it as curiosity and exploration. And that's what I love, is that I don't just disagree with you. I'm curious as to why I disagree. I'm curious as to what you have to say. I am a detective in that process and to understand why people make certain decisions and he encourages them to ask the same questions and he asks to learn more about people. This is episode eight for us. He's gonna share how to reframe conflict from a, from a dirty word to a word that you wanna embrace, that you wanna believe in, in yourself, in, in trying new things and having courageous conversations. So tune in to hear some fun truth bombs from the ultimate holder of the mirror and reflect on along your own beliefs. And whether you, your current actions and practices are the ones that are holding you back. Let's dive into the episode.


All right, Shawn, welcome to our Unicorn Leaders podcast. I'm excited to have you on this. I mean, we have a ton of phenomenal conversations when you and I just you know, whether we're planning work like the podcast or whether we're, we're doing some of our own crazy projects. We've, we've done work together for over a decade now from youth empowerment work and leadership work to even you know, so one of our, earlier my earlier startups, Frank, is a phone where, where you played a big role on that. So Shawn, I'm really excited to have you on this podcast with us cuz cuz I know we're gonna have a fun conversation. And, and today's theme is all about productive conflict. It's all about feedback, it's all about candor, it's all about making sure that we engage in, in, in these discussions. And I know you've got some really interesting opinions on this and I wanna dive us right into it. So, so let's dive with opening up the big question as we always do. What is your take on conflict in the workplace?

Shawn (00:13:12):

My, my take. Well, for thank you so much for having me. It's like super excited to be here and my take always is like, I actually, I love conflict. I think it's the best thing that's like, please give me more conflict. I want to hear thoughts and opinions. And as someone who's like employed people for 18 years and been coaching sports, it's like, I don't want you to agree with me. I want you to challenge me so that we can all grow. And it's like, I don't think you can grow if we don't have healthy ways to manage that. And like healthy ways to have conflict. I, I don't think, I think conflict's a dirty word. I think people are like shy away from conflict and we have like conflict studies and conflict management and we study all this stuff and it's like, it's like, wait, what? Like, how to have an argument? Is that what's happening? Like, you know, and I, I think we, we learned that from like shitty politics, like of this backstabbing stuff and I'm like, No, no, we can have con we can disagree. Nobody, We don't have to dis we don't have to agree on everything ever, always. Like, you know, And so I'm all for it. I'm like, hey, conflicts in the workplace means the workplace is gonna grow probably.

Fahd (00:14:19):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean if you, if you bring together extremely talented, smart people with trying to solve a complex problem, they're not supposed to agree <laugh>. Like yeah, you get really smart people with a big problem. I I, you know, how do we expect them to agree? And, and, and, you know, why is that the case? So, so let's, let's dive into a little bit of that cuz you, you've got quite a bit of experience from, from sports coaching to running your own agency to, you know, team development that you do. Tell me a little bit about, about where your philosophies on, on kind of conflict developed.

Shawn (00:14:57):

So, so early, early on I think anything that's happened to me in my life, it's been through sports and I started coaching sports I'll try to keep this really brief, but I tried to coach, I started coach coaching sports really early on through conflict. Actually we had worked rule at the, at the school that I was at, which meant like school was over at whatever, whatever time it was 3 0 5. That meant like everybody got in the bus, go home, teachers get outta here. No, no extracurriculars. And I remember I was a really quiet kid up until that point, but at that point I was like, No way. This is crazy. Like, what do you mean there's no extra school sports? Like, that's, that's nuts. I was like, you know, you've just made it through. What about all the grade seven and eight year old grade seven and grade eights that have like, made it to the school.


And like in elementary school, you don't really have a team, right? Like, you make the team, you play the sport, the season's over, like there's no real team dynamic there. And I was like, this is nuts. So I remember speaking up and like being really mad about it. And I was talking to the athletics director at our high school actually, who happened to, just because I grew up in a small town happened to be my neighbor <laugh>. And I was like, this is, that's this, like, this is frigging lame. And he was like, Well, teachers don't have to be the only ones that can coach. You can coach or, or you can get anybody from the community. And I was like, Well, who would that be? And he was like, Well, you should do it. And I was like, Okay, but like, where do we do it?


And so he, he was like, I'm gonna help you. Like, yeah, I'm gonna give you all the plans, although you can't tell anybody. And then I had my first boat of conflict and fully, I fully remember all of this actually with the principal who was like, No, the gates are closed to the school. Like, you can't use the land to practice. And I was like, That's ridiculous. That doesn't make any sense to me. This, the, the soccer field that I was coaching on was actually part of the recreation association and actually not even the high school. So I went to them and we back and forth and and then I felt very empowered actually in this conflict to cut the lock <laugh>. And so I cut the lock. You didn't cut the lock as like a 15 year old. I cut the lock and opened the gate and, and, and we had this discussion and I remember the principal being really mad at me and I remember having this back and forth, but like, he actually treated me like a human being.


And like we had, we were able to have a conversation in this. Like, it, it wasn't comfortable, you know? And it was my first realization and then like sports just kept pushing me and kept teaching me things. And I think really for me, developing conflict is okay, came from watching a lot of movies and like watching sports as a kid and seeing like the typical coach was supposed to be someone that was like kicking water bottles and smashing, like play books and like throwing shit. And it's like, you gotta break clipboard, right? Like, yeah, yeah, yeah. You gotta break it across your knee. You gotta gotta like pull out your hair and yell and be angry. And, and I totally was like, Yeah, this makes sense to me. And that's how we like motivate people and when there's problems, like you're supposed to yell about it <laugh>. And,


And then over time, I remember like as I grew up and grew as a coach, and then as I was opening up a business, which happened kind of simultaneously while I was doing some of this stuff somebody said to me like, or I think it was Simon Sinek that I was watching, and he was like, Why? And I remember that why question being in there. And then I remember that filtering into my brain and I remember sitting with an athlete and saying like, how, instead of me just giving him negative feedback, I was like, Well, what, what did you see out there on the field? Cause like what he did was not the thing I wanted him to do, which you know, is totally like, could have been a conflict, but I was like, but what did you see or hear that made you do that?


And the thing that happened for me was it was a young athlete and I was a young coach and the athlete really didn't have an answer. And I was like, Okay, I need you to be a thinking athlete, so we need to have these conflict and these discussions because I don't want you to just do the rote thing. And then that trickled into everybody that's ever worked for me. I'm like, Well how come you did it that way? And I was curious, I like, I changed my brain from being mad angry boss, which like, you know, and even even boss is like, and leaders and managers on tv, right? Like, what's the image of always like, ah, you slamming the phone and making the deals and, you know, and that's supposed to be the boss, right? And it's like, well, why is that the boss like that? That seems crazy. And, and you're gonna have a lot of heart attacks <laugh>, you know, for, for problems that aren't probably big problems. And it's like, can we not just have conversations with people and, and for sure we're not gonna agree. Like, oh my God, I've employed hundreds of people over the years and I've had hundreds of athletes and I'm like, Oh my God, if every single one of them agreed with me that that would be something wrong with the world. Right? Like, we, we don't need more of me out there. That's one's enough

Fahd (00:20:05):

<Laugh>. Like I'm sure we can do with another one or two, you know, that's <laugh>. Maybe,

Shawn (00:20:13):

Maybe one or two more <laugh>,

Fahd (00:20:14):

Maybe one or two. You know what I find so interesting, Shawn, as you share that, I think it's very powerful hearing you in your youth, you know, at the age of 15 finding agency in yourself too, right? Like that sort of, hey, the adults aren't always right moment, you know, like, you're wrong and you know what, I'm gonna learn to speak up for myself. And I think is actually something we want to also teach employees and staff members that like, Hey, your managers are not always right and we might just do things because this is just the way it's been done. Or we figured it out one time and we kept on doing it this way, right? And, and nobody's ever challenged it. And, and I think that that agency mixed with willing to debate the existing idea is what we call conflict.


But really it's just finding your voice. And I really like how you placed it cuz that's kind of, and and in your shift it was like shifting from conflict with my you know students or my, the people I'm coaching to like a discovery, like you're a detective, why are you doing that? Yeah, Right? Like and and I like that cuz you, as you said, like conflict's a dirty word, but I think if you reframe it in those two pieces, right? Finding one's voice or seeing it as like a detective trying to figure out why someone did something, you already have a completely different mindset in approaching conflict. Yeah, I really I really like that. Now

Shawn (00:21:39):

I'm, and most times people, most times people don't know why they're doing the thing. And that, like, that's what's empowering for me as a manager, as a coach, as a leader. I'm like, if I ask that question and they don't have the answer, then that's an awesome opportunity for me as a leader, as a coach, as a manager, as a whatever to say, Okay, great. Well let's dive into that. Like, let's, let's talk about that a little bit more. Because if you're not a thinking athlete or a thinking employee or, or whatever, then what value are you <laugh>? Like, I want you to think, I want you, I want everybody who works for me. They need to be entrepreneurial.

Fahd (00:22:14):

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love that. Now, now, Shawn you know, we have a little bit of history. So I, I know a little bit about your career journey, but maybe let's, let's share a little bit about that. You know, you've, you've obviously been coaching sports for a very long time, but you've also got a very entrepreneurial kind of, I we used career journey, but you know, it's, but career is a, is is maybe more stagnant word. And your entrepreneurial journey has been, has been many different projects. But let's, let's give kind of the, the listeners a little bit of a background. Yeah, you, I'll start us off. You, you finished school, you went into computer science and Yeah. Hated it and dropped it. That's, that's where <laugh>, that's where the star story I know starts, you know, <laugh>.

Shawn (00:22:58):

Yeah. That's where it all started. Yeah. Yeah. And thank God, thank God I hated it. You know, and now I where I am. So yeah, so being in high school I think, and you know, you know my thoughts about the school system, but <laugh>, it's like, it's there, but it's like, are we helping people find their things? So like, for me, it was always like, I was good at math, I was good at computers, so everybody pushed me towards that. And also, we were at a time when Nortel, which is like a local technology company was built, was blowing up. And people were making hundreds of thousands of dollars. My cousin was in there and it was like, Oh, that's, that seems all right. I guess I'll just go do that. <Laugh>. And I was coming from a town of like 1200 people and like 20,000 cows.


So that gives you an idea, <laugh>, where, where I was coming from more cows than people, right? <Laugh>. And it was like, Oh my God, like computer and computers weren't really, like, not everyone had a computer, unlike today, <laugh>. So it was kind of new and it was interesting. So I went down that path, came down to Ottawa, the big city you know, and yeah, I did computer engineering. I hated it because of the solitariness of it. Like, it was like, program from here to here and then pass it off to the next person, and you don't know who the next person is. So like, the thing that that broke the camel's back for me was it literally was a project that was like your person B in group three. And like, you are gonna code this many lines to this many lines, and then when you're done, you're gonna put it in an envelope and you're gonna stick it in a slot.


And then the person, whatever, three or four is gonna come and they're gonna grab it, and then they're gonna work on it. And it was like, there's no connectedness. So that's where I was like, All right, I, I think I'm out. I don't, I don't wanna do this for that's my life. Yeah, yeah. And so came back came, moved back to Ville. You know, I didn't know what I was gonna do. A friend of mine said, Oh, I wish my kid could learn how to read better. And I was like, School sucks. I could teach a kid how to read through baseball. And two weeks later called her up and I was like, I'm gonna do it. And she's like, What are you gonna do? I was like, I don't know how I'm gonna do it, but I gotta teach a kid how to read through baseball.


So we started with like 26 baseballs A to Z. We started taking kids to the park, we threw it all the mandatory reading. Cause I was like, They, no, nobody was excited about that, right? Like, these are six year olds, seven year olds, they're not excited about reading whatever, whatever they're reading. So they were excited about baseball, they were excited about sports. These were kids that I totally connected with. And I was like, Great, let's read far advanced past you. So we were reading all kinds of like, little articles and we were playing games and skip ahead many months, I'm back in Ottawa and there's a friend of mine who, and his aunt is running an English for second language program with Columbian students here. And Columbian students are coming up, they're learning English. And she knows what I've done and was like, Hey, would you be interested in helping run part of this program?


And I, being me, said, Yeah, of course. Duh, yes, of course <laugh>. So, and I loved it to figure that out. It was, yeah, I could, I could do that. I totally know what I'm doing. And at the end of that program, the Columbian group came and asked me, Hey, would I bring my company down to Columbia to help work on other projects? And I was like, Yeah, of course. And then I quickly ran home and typed into the computer, How the fuck do you start a company <laugh>? Cause I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't have a company convinced two of my friends to take a semester off. But we went down to Columbia, we taught English as second language. And then kind of two years of doing that kind of thing and massaging what that looked like we started teaching math and geography and all, all any subject we could.


We were teaching it in different ways and really getting people's you young people because they're curious. I think this is where, and this is where I think you know, the school system really fails a lot of people is like, and, and I think workplace is also to a larger extent. Like, we fail people because they're curious and then we bash out their curiosity to do it the way we want it done. You know, and that gets squashed and you get afraid to make a mistake because, oh my God, what if I get graded and I have an app? Or what if I, what if I don't do a good job on this project, they're gonna fire me. And I was like, Why would they fire you? Why wouldn't they take the time to encourage you? You know? So in that process people were like, Wow, that's really creative. Would you be interested in doing? And this was at the time when like, YouTube was just starting to come around. So it was like, you know, would you be interested in doing some marketing or branding or helping us with a strategy? And I was like, Yeah, of course. Yes. Duh.

Fahd (00:27:48):

<Laugh> out of the company for that one too. <Laugh>. Yeah,

Shawn (00:27:51):

Yeah, yeah, sure. Let's, let's do it. Let's dive in. I can do it. I'm very creative and I hadn't really thought of myself as creative until people started saying that about me. And then I was like, Oh, okay, yeah, I'll believe you <laugh>. Let's, let's go down that road.

Fahd (00:28:04):

You know? That's so interesting. Just if I can pick on that for a second, Shawn. Yeah. Cuz like, it is the single word I associate with you, right? Like, it, it, Yeah, Shawn's like the creative guy. He's the most creative guy. Like, it's just as far as I've known, Right. But it's, it's wild. And I love hearing that. Cause I think it's so good for, for everyone that's listening. It's just like, you didn't even associate yourself with that word when first getting started. Right? Like and I think our, our leaders so many times struggle with that don't associate with, Oh, I'm a leader, or I'm a manager. What does that mean? How, like, how do I engage in that? Right? Like a total disassociation and, and, and then kind of leaning into it. Cool. I keep going, I'm loving this

Shawn (00:28:45):

<Laugh>. No, no. And it's true. Like, I didn't, I didn't really realize that until people started saying that. And then I was like, Yeah, I, I am and I do and I wanna be. And it was like, all right, cool. So, so now, like we skip way ahead and I, I'm, I'm studying psychology, so I've left machines and now I'm studying humans. You know, it's like go total opposite. And people were like, Wow, what? Like, did you ever feel like you wasted time? And I was like, Absolutely not. Like when I was doing the computer engineering, it was very much if this, then that, you know, Right. Like the engineering language, which is a hundred percent relatable to everything I do today. And everything I was doing back then of people like, if this, then that you know, and if this, then that, then this, then try that, you know, and just keep going.


Right? And it's like a perpetual cycle of that. And I remember going into to do, I, I just, or I had been approached to apply for a marketing project and I was like, Yeah, we're gonna do it. We're gonna do this marketing project. And I was kind of scared, but also I'm always just whatever, <laugh>, you know? So I was like, we're gonna do it. So I, I remember going into the pitch and I remember thinking, I stood in front of some folks and I was like, Okay, all the people outside, they have marketing degrees. I know nothing about marketing <laugh>. It's a great way to start off. I was like, I know nothing about marketing, but I've been studying humans, human behavior and, and working with humans for a very long time. I know everything about people. And I was like, They're all gonna give you something slightly different or, you know, similar.


Like, but it's slightly different. I am not gonna even remotely touch what they're gonna do. I want to go this way, You know? And I remember the, one of the guys at the table was like, fi he just said, Finally <laugh>. You know, it was like something fresh. Interesting. Good. Right? It was something new and shocking. And, and yeah. So that's, that's been, and then, and now, yeah, so now I've creative vision's been around for 18 years which has been a creative agency that has had its toes in marketing, branding anything creative. We've, we've kind of done it. And I say we being, it could have been anywhere from like 23 full-time employees to probably 40, like part-time contract folk working on different things. You know, and then, and the history just goes on and on. And I've had my hands in 14 other companies, and I've coached everything from rural little town soccer and volleyball to national level rugby. So

Fahd (00:31:24):

I love that. I love that. That's so awesome. That's thank you, Shawn, for, for sharing your, your story with us. No, genuinely. I think it's it is, it's refreshing and it's encouraging and inspiring for, for for many folks who are, you know, I, I think,

Shawn (00:31:39):

And I think, I think it's the story of just saying yes a lot, like believing, I don't know. I don't, I never believed in myself until, and I, like, until this day, like it was John Petty who was like, Hey, why don't you go coach this team? And I was like, Oh, I, I could do that. Maybe. Like, and it was like one single person that said one thing that like, flipped a switch, and then it was like a host of a couple other people that were like, Yeah, we, we do believe in you, or Yes, you can do that. Or, you know, And it was just like, it wasn't my, it doesn't take much, you know? Yeah. And it, it was this like, just say yes idea that was like, that really has served me well. Like, say yes to things. I don't know. Like, what's the worst that's gonna happen, right? Like, just, yeah, okay, sure, we'll go to Columbia, you know? And I didn't know what was gonna happen. Like, so what if it burns and fails? Like, let's just try it.

Fahd (00:32:32):

Let's just try it. Yeah. You know? And, and, and Shawn, I see you take this, this nudging coaching approach to all that you do in life, you know, that you, you, you, and with your staff, with your team, like you, your, your style of conflict is, why don't you try that, give that a go here. Try it. Yeah. Push it to, you know, like, just, just put it out there, see what happens. And, and, and it's that nudge of that that sometimes people need. And you know what, that's another, I think reframe of, of feedback, right? You know, today talking about conflict and feedback that, that feedback that you got saying, Hey, why don't, why don't you try to do the team? Hey, do you wanna try to do for me just a little piece of feedback and that someone, you know, you took it and said, Yeah, you know what I'll try it, I'll do it. And that's you take that approach. So maybe, maybe let me dive back into that. Like, you've got a little bit of a coach approach to how you do things. You were a professional coach, executive coach specifically a professional ass kicker. I think that was your, your title. Yep. Yeah. Tell me, tell me a little bit about those days. Tell me about your professional ass kicking days and and and how that shaped you as a, as a manager and as a leader.

Shawn (00:33:40):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, so I, I took everything that I was kind of doing in sports, and I had mixed it with business, right? And I had been doing it for a while, and I just started realizing that friends and like friends of friends started asking advice. And I, you know, and we always would go into that. I always said yes. So I was like, Yeah, let's meet, let's chat. I'll give you time. And because I felt lucky because people had always given me time. So I was like, I'm going to, people had given me time. I'm gonna give you time to talk about this. And it was like, when I started out, I remember like being, I don't know, almost nervous because I was young. And I think that's where you and I have always related, because I, I was young when I started doing coaching, and they're like, How, how, why are you 20 something telling me a 40 something?


And I'm like, Well, but if we go back, everybody has an opinion and an idea, and like the world experience that you have can impact your views, right? Like, I don't care if you're 50 or 80 or 10, I, I don't know what your life's been like. Maybe you have a ton of information and knowledge that I don't know, and you probably do, you know, And it mm-hmm. So I started coaching and working with these people, and I, I, it took a few times to like, believe that I could even give feedback to people. Like, I remember putting, putting my little sign up there and working with some people and, and like working with peers, but then starting to work with actually some peers like aunts and like older folks that, and they would come to me and I, I would just kind of tell them my story and I, I almost just let them believe in this, like, the ability to say yes and like, just asking.


And like, I would just prod little questions like, Well, what do you like to do? And I, I remember we dove really deeply into life maps. And I just wanna talk about that for a second because when I dropped out a computer engineering, I did every single one of those, like retesting things or whatever that would tell you career, career tests. Yeah. Yeah. Right. So I did all of those. I did every single one of them. Do you wanna know what every single one of them said to me in the mail? Like when I got the results and things?

Fahd (00:35:51):

I feel like you're setting it up for good <laugh>. Yeah. Computer science.

Shawn (00:35:55):

Yeah. They all said I could be a computer fucking engineer. And I was like, I already did that. And I don't like it because I was good at that, and that was my aptitude. But I had to really, the first time, and I don't even know this was something I don't remember, but it was like, I sat down and I actually was like, Okay, I'm gonna draw out my life map. Where did I start? What were the highlights? What are the low lights? And I remember doing that activity for myself and coming up with like, well, I like being social. I like being with people. I like being outdoors. I like having my own time and doing that kind of stuff. And I remember challenging older people to do that because they would often come to me and they'd be like, Here's my resume, here's my cover letter.


This is where I've worked. I'm like, Great. I don't care about any of that. I was like, Tell me about you, the person. And I remember specifically, there was this one woman, she was in her fifties, and she had been a mom her whole life, and she kind of had given up a career in science to be a mom. And, and now she was coming to me and, and this started happening often. It was like all of these people that just wanted me to tell them like, what, what to do? You know? Yeah. It was like, just tell me what to do. And they wanted this like, feedback of like, you must know you're the guru. Like you, you know, <laugh>. And I'm like, I

Fahd (00:37:08):

Don't, you know, you know, all things.

Shawn (00:37:09):

Right? I don't know anything. And I, all I did was, I remember like sitting there and being like, I am an excellent holder of the mirror <laugh>. And I was like, This is my feedback for you. Tell me what you like to do and like, really tell me. And people didn't know. And like, people, like, I remember that woman sitting in front of me and I remember her crying, like breaking down and fully crying because she had lost herself because she didn't know, cuz she had been a mom. Her children had grown up, she had worked in a couple different jobs and, and it was scary for her to say. And I kept pushing her to like, go deeper. Go deeper. Tell me, tell me, you know, And, and I remember her crying and I remember I remember having that conversation and, and a previous me would've felt uncomfortable.


I'm like, Great, you're crying. That's awesome. Now we've hit real gold <laugh>. I was like, I, I like, you know what? I, people I think sometimes see that as not very empathetic or or maybe I'm, I'm mean, or cold or whatever. And I'm like, No, that's, we had to get to the bottom of that, you know, to get that breakthrough. And it was like, I'm okay with feedback like that. I'm okay. We're allowed to have emotions mm-hmm. You know, and like feedback sometimes is gonna strike a nerve because I think we're so coddled and I, I, I'm working right now in a project with a bunch of people who are like encouraging each other to join an online world. And I don't think it's right for everybody, you know? And, and I, I think it's okay to ask people why they're doing it.


And like when I ask those people why they don't know <laugh>, and, and it's uncomfortable and, and instead of just, and you know, people say like, Oh, but why didn't you encourage them more? I thought the whole, because I'm also working on this do more cool shit project. And I'm like, Yeah, do more cool shit. But, but do it in a way that like, serves you and like means something to you. And like, I'm not gonna sugarcoat something for you. Maybe you're not good at this, or maybe you're not ready, or, or maybe you don't have the right why and that's fine and it's, it's gonna be hard to hear it, but like, you need to hear it. And like, cutting athletes, Oh my God. Like I've done that for years, <laugh>. And it's like, that's not comfortable. You know? And it's like, there's nothing wrong with not being had.


I like, had somebody said to me, like, really sat down with me and was like, Why do you wanna be a computer engineer? I probably would've never did it because like had somebody really told me like, Oh, you're gonna be solitary. Like, I would've said like, Oh, I wanna be with people. I wanna be outside. I wanna have my time. I wouldn't have just been sugar coated and said like, You're gonna make a lot of money and you're good at computers and you're good at math. Why, why does being good at something mean that's the thing you're gonna do? Yeah. I, I hate that <laugh>.

Fahd (00:39:55):

Yeah, Yeah. No, I love that, Shawn. I think there's a, there's such, there's a few really good nuggets that stuck out for me as you're sharing here. You know, one I think you mentioned is you just, you just held up the mirror by doing the life map exercise. And I think that's sometimes, you know, as leaders as we think we should have the answer for our teams, but it's like mm-hmm. I don't want the answer for you. I just, I I'm gonna hold up the mirror here so that you see it and, and I'm gonna ask you the right questions and I'm gonna say, Tell me more. I'm gonna dig, you know, tell me more, tell me more. Let's dig. Why isn't this working for you? Why isn't this working for the team? Like, what's wrong here? And really unpacking that and then you get to a breakthrough.


And what really hit me here, I was noting of taking notes and I was like, the best feedback I've ever gotten was extremely uncomfortable. And the best feedback I've ever given was extremely uncomfortable. If it's not making us uncomfortable, it's probably not that great of feedback. Like, it's still, sometimes you need it little bits here and there to sprinkle, you know, just get, get around. But the good stuff, the stuff that was transformational was uncomfortable. Yeah. And, and that, that is powerful and, and becoming comfortable with, comfortable with that comfortability. But like, you know, sharing, you probably will never get comfortable with that comfortability. But perhaps instead make it a sign of like, Hey, I, I just gave good feedback cuz I was uncomfortable. Like, I, I'm gonna lean more into that cuz that's the right feeling. Instead of saying, Oh, I'm gonna avoid that feeling.

Shawn (00:41:21):

And also sometimes it's just my opinion. Like, I know cutting athletes and I, I know there's athletes that have thought I've been unfair, and I'm like, Yeah, maybe, maybe I'm wrong. I don't know. I, it's just, it, it, it's my personal opinion. And like, that's what I think manager have to remember too, is like, I'm a person, they're a person. People are all messy. We're not one dimensional. Like there's a lot of different layers. Maybe I don't see any everything. Like I, I, I would like to think that I see and know all the things about all the people that I'm working with, whether it's athletes or whether it's employees or but I, I don't know that, I don't know, I don't know why Jenny came in late three days last week. Like, maybe she doesn't wanna tell me that she's having a problem with her partner.


Right. Like, I, I don't know. But so like all I see is like how it's affecting work and it's like, yeah, but it's messier than that. It's not easy. Right. And it's like maybe she's a little bit more on edge that day and it's like, maybe I have to, when I'm giving feedback, think about that. Right? And, and, and maybe if she gets angry at me, maybe it has nothing to do with me giving feedback to her. You know, like that's also a reality. It's like, that's okay. Like it's okay. We're all people, we're all led to have emotions and I, I don't pretend to know why everybody has the emotion and the reaction that they have. Yeah. You know, but I have to remind myself sometimes I'm like, Wow, she took that really bad and I'm like, did I do something wrong or did, or like, I really don't like the way she took that.


And it's like I have to stop myself and think, Okay, wait, maybe I have to ask another question. Or maybe we have to have another different conversation on a different day when she's feeling better about the same thing. Mm-Hmm. And so oftentimes I've found especially especially with new or or I, I wanna say young, but not young in the way that like age-wise, just younger in like stepping into the workplace often find like maybe they have their own personalities or their own, like, I think this is the way everything should be done. And, and, and that's fine. That's great. I'm okay with that. I was there too, like I did that, but it's like, let's have more of these conversations then. Like when I hire someone young and I, I love hiring someone that has, you know, just the gung ho to do whatever the heck they want.


Like try stuff. And I'm like, I try to really encourage people to go ahead and just fail or, or to like lean in. And I remember this goes back man, there's so many like parallels here. A sports coach saying, if you don't lean in far enough when you're doing a pivot, skate around a circle that you fall, then you're not leaning. You'll never know how far you can lean in. Huh. You know? And I was like, Oh, that's true. You know, if I don't push myself far enough and like, let's try this thing right to the edge, you know? And, and that edge is gonna be different for everybody then you don't know where the edge is. Mm.


You know, and I think that's hard with like, feedback is like some athletes that I had and some employees that I have want really direct feedback. Yeah. So I try to remember that. And some people want it in a written form. Some people want it in a sandwich form, Right. Where it's like, gimme the good, give me the bad, give me me the, but I, I remember as like, and all you have to do as a manager is think about how you like feedback. Yeah. Like, how do I like getting feedback? I don't like feedback. I, I, I just wanna hear the truth. Like I just, for me, I'm like, don't sugarcoat anything. I don't need to hear that. I did a good job last quarter. I just tell me what I'm doing now, you know? Yeah. Yeah. And I'm like, that's, but that's my personality. There's, I don't know, a million different personalities out on this planet. So like <laugh>, you know, sometimes they're good at clash. Yep. So it's like, you know, how do you give feedback even? And like, do you have any other method other than one? Like I find a lot of managers that really suck at giving feedback have one method of giving feedback and it's like, well that's not gonna work if you have 30 employees. Cuz 30 employees don't hear that feedback the same way.

Fahd (00:45:20):

You gotta have more tools in your tool belt there and how to give feedback. Yeah. And,

Shawn (00:45:24):

And that's why you gotta hire Fahd. Yeah.

Fahd (00:45:26):


Shawn (00:45:27):

That's why I gotta hire Fad to help develop those tools. That's

Fahd (00:45:30):

It. That's it. Yeah. Is good always be plugging right. Like

Shawn (00:45:34):

<Laugh> But it's, but it's true though. And it, it is true because it's like you do have to like work on that. Yeah. I don't, I don't think anybody can not work on that. Right. And I think I'll oftentimes people get put in these positions. Look, my favorite thing is having an athlete or having a, a young person come into my workplace and say, What do you like to do? And then they'll list off or what are you good at? Right. And they'll list off all the things you're good at. And I'll be like, Great, today you're going to do the total opposite just to see what it's like. Yeah. You know, But

Fahd (00:46:05):

How do you react when you're in a beginner mindset? How, how do you take feedback on things? You have no idea what you're doing when you have no idea what you're

Shawn (00:46:11):

Doing. Yeah. And like, knowing those different parts and like, and I'll, I'll dive, dive in a little bit deeper a little bit, probably a little bit longer or a little bit later, but there's like some very astute projects that I've worked on that like have that ability like, or have that opportunity and it's like, that's when you really see success and you really see growth. Mm-Hmm.

Fahd (00:46:30):

Mm-Hmm. Well let's, let's go to one of your projects. John, you, you're, you're, you're working right now doing a significant amount of team development Yeah. With some hospitals and and, and, and long-term care facilities you've mentioned. So, and, and you're working with a lot of young managers who are leading for the first time and we're working through some challenges there. What, what, what do you, what do you see is, is kind of some of these common patterns in regards to feedback, productive conflict for young and inexperienced managers in, in the teams that you're working with?

Shawn (00:47:03):

Well, one, one is they only have one style like that is like, they, they have only ever developed one style. They know that way that they worked. And I'm like, Yeah, yeah. But now you're taking a leadership role. Now you're taking a management role. Like you were able to work like that for five years and be really good and that was probably fine, but now you are the one in front of the room. So it's like, how do you manage, how do you, how are you gonna reach every single team member? And, and you, you might not. And also that's okay. You know, but like, it's at try hard. Like you gotta try hard to reach all those things. So so yeah, so I've been doing team development with different hospital groups and different long-term care facilities for probably seven or eight years now.


And it's, some of it's been continually ongoing and it's been great. It's really interesting to watch how that's worked and progressed. And I, I really wanted to bring up this one exercise because we talked a lot about feedback and we're talking about conflict management and there's, there's long, long histories of people that are working together. Some people have been in that place or in those places for like 10, 20 years. Yeah. Yeah. And like, they forget. So like number one thing I always do when I get in there is I ask them why they got into nursing or personal social work or, or whatever their field is. It's like, do you remember even why you got this job? And, and if you can get them to like connect with that again, that brings a little bit of humanity. Yeah. And and then, and then I do this exercise with, with this group or with these groups that I when we're trying to give feedback and we're trying to give information.


So one of the exercise that I love is peanut butter and jelly sandwich <laugh>. So I walk in, there's probably like 20 or 30 people in a room at a time. And I, I might do this exercise probably five times in a day and with different cohorts of people coming in and out. And I sit there in the front and I say, Okay, you are now all the managers and I'm a newbie on the floor. I need you to tell me how to make a peanut butter sandwich. Please in detail, write out the instructions from one till however many steps you think. So they'll, they take time and they write out their little steps. And then throughout the day, I'll periodically say, Okay, Janet, can you tell me how to make a peanut butter sandwich? And she'll say, Take the peanut butter and put it on the bread.


Okay. So I take the peanut butter and I physically put it on this stack of bread <laugh>. And she goes, Yeah, I just put the whole jar on the closed bag of bread <laugh>. Yeah. On the, yeah. On the sleeve of bread. And she goes, Well, that's not what I meant. I said, That's exactly what you said, isn't it <laugh>? And she's like, Okay, yeah. I didn't know you were an idiot. Right. <laugh>, You know, And like, that's the response we get, right? And it's like, Okay, but I'm trying to learn. I don't know anything. Pretend like I don't know anything. Right? So it's like, okay, open up the bread, you know, and like take a slice out. So I just take the first slice, which is clearly not the way to make a perfect peanut butter jam. Cause it's got the crust on the end.


And she's like, Not that piece. We're gonna put that piece. But it becomes really funny for, for people, because I, I tell them like, you, you can jump in, you can help your peers, right? And they'll say like, take take a scoop of peanut butter. Well, what do you think I do? Put my hand in there. And they're, and they're like, No, no idea with a knife. You need to, you say with a knife. You know? So then I'll, Okay, grab the, grab the knife. So now, now I've got a knife in my hand full of peanut butter in my hand and a knife. And they're like, No, wash your hands. I was like, I, nobody told me that. You know? And it's just like, it's really, really hard for people to give the proper clear feedback instructions to get in my mindset. Like, and that's what I'm trying to prove to them, is like mm-hmm. Mm-Hm don't think anybody's gonna do their job like this, but like, we're in a hospital and we're in, we're in a facility where there are real consequences to this. I said, thank God, you know, at the end of the day there ends up being like 15 peanut butter sandwiches and there's peanut butter everywhere and honey all over the place. And like, I'm a mess. And the table's a mess. And like you

Fahd (00:51:25):

Do this several times with,

Shawn (00:51:26):

With the, Oh yeah. I do that throughout the day. Yeah. It just gets messier and messier. And do,

Fahd (00:51:29):

Do people get better and better at it? At least, you know, <laugh>

Shawn (00:51:32):

Well, yeah. I mean, yeah. So that's the hope, right? Is that, that people will change how they're gonna communicate with me. And what, what's very interesting is like, sometimes people only have four steps written down. Cause I always get them write it down, but then the, the person beside them can have 15 steps. And it's like, how, like, I've given you the same task and you have given me vastly different instead of instructions. And that's what like feedback and where conflict's gonna come because it's like, well, she takes too long or he, he doesn't, you know, explain it enough. And it's like, Okay, great. Like great. So let's do that with a peanut butter sandwich as opposed to an employee or to like a a, a patient. Yeah. You know, let's have that conflict in here about a stupid peanut butter sandwich. Yeah. As opposed to like, oh, like real, real world problems.


Where it's like, cuz then we translate this into how do we prepare a patient to be toileted. Mm. And it's like everybody, and like the person who's been there for 30 years probably only writes down three steps because they have it all in their head and they've been doing it for 30 years. Whereas like, the person who is maybe brand new might have 20 steps because they read it in the book and they have like, jotted it down and it's like, the person who's been there for 30 years is like, Holy shit, Janet takes 20 minutes to toilet a person. That should only take five minutes. I'm like, Yeah, because you've been doing it for 30 years. Yeah. Like, that's where the conflict comes. And I'm like, do you understand? Do you remember a time when you probably had 20 steps to toilet a person and you were still nervous about being on the job?


It's like the first time you get a cell phone, a brand new cell phone, Right. You hold it and you're like, you coddle it and like, you know, it's like it's in your pocket and you don't put your keys in your pocket cuz you don't wanna scratch it. And, but then like, you know, a week later, two weeks later, you're throwing that phone all over the place. It's in the bottom of your bag, it's underneath the seat of your car. You don't even know where it is half the time <laugh>. And you're like, you've already forgot what it was like to have that brand new moment. Yeah. Right. And I think that's where like lots of conflicts happen and lots of you know, feedback loops happen where you're just like, Oh God. Like can we remember that? And it's tricky cuz that's my, that's, that's my hardest part is like trying to remember what it was like when you were younger or trying to remember when it's the first day on the job or try and like, that's why I, that's why now I say, What did you see?


What did you hear? You know, and it's like, oh, you saw it that way? Oh yeah, no, it doesn't actually mean that even though you're reading it that way, it actually means this. And that's where we get to have this conversation and this flow. And I'm like, you know, so when you say take a piece of bread out, what you actually meant was take a slice from the middle a little bit. We don't want, like, those are all the little microsteps that you've forgot to say because you've made a peanut butter and jam sandwich for your whole life.

Fahd (00:54:33):

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Oh, I love that. That's such a good exercise. That's <laugh> that's a really good takeaway. Well, maybe, I mean, Shawn, you, you're full of activities and exercises, you know, for our folks that are listening, you know, what is maybe an exercise that they can do with their team to try and improve their feedback and, and their candor? You know, like if there's a manager listening to this and is like, Okay, I don't know if I wanna do the peanut butter.

Shawn (00:54:58):

You mean they don't wanna, Yeah, you don't wanna get Matthew with peanut butter and I like, do that man pull. No, but like, no, there are other ones. A really good one that's really simple and easy actually, is to put a pen and a paper in your employee's hand and to say, Come up here and, and explain to me how to go from this facility, whatever, like go from my office to the grocery store and just draw, like, tell me how to draw that path. And like the amount of feedback that, like, you could do that with every single one of your employees. And they're gonna explain it totally different. And, and by the end and I have some of these maps, I wish I had them handy, but I have some of the maps that are like from the facility to a grocery store where everybody knows and it's like, oh my God.


When you look at those maps and how someone explains something and how somebody drew it, that tells you a lot. And like, and, and, and people also the best part of it, that is when everybody holds up the map and then you say, Do you think you did a good job, <laugh>? And oftentimes people are like, I did an amazing job. And I'm like, look at the maps <laugh> like, no, you didn't. It sucked. You know, it's like none of the maps, like if you did a really good job, it's very, very clear. If you did a really, really good job, all the maps should look like Google Maps or Apple Maps or whatever, you know, it should all look the same if you did an impeccable job, it should all look the same. And they don't. This one looks like, you know, like, where's that taking me?


Yeah. You know, and like, they forget the little minute details, but that's something easy that you can do really quickly in a team meeting. Five minutes, even even quicker, Get people to even quicker. If you want a quick one Monday morning meeting, pull every in, get everybody a sheet of paper and a pen and get them to draw a Christmas tree or a tree. Just a tree. Just draw a tree and everybody's gonna draw a tree and they're all gonna draw. No, like don't, don't look at each other's paper. You know, whatever. Okay, great. Show me the trees. They're gonna hold up the tree and all the trees are gonna look different. Mm. And it's like, that's the, you're now, just as a memory, remember these are all the different trees that people saw when you said the word tree. You said one word, you said tree, and they saw 50 different trees. Yeah, yeah. You know, and probably none of those trees are exactly the same. No. And it's like, okay, those, you have to deal with all those different people

Fahd (00:57:26):

And how they see things. And I think you, I think you, you know, you said this earlier on, but, and we emphasize it so much, but it's so true. Like our leadership approach has to be personalized to each individual. And so our feedback approach and our conflict approach, like how do, how do we have good candor with each other's? Gonna depend on how Shawn likes feedback, Shawn's personality, how many years Shawn's been on the job. Right. is gonna depend on what kind of feedback he wants. Right. And, and how much, how granular the feedback is. You know, it's, it's interesting is that I, I often hear from a lot of the high performer, high performing teams we work with, and they'll say, We don't get enough feedback. Right? Right. Like, I, I wish we got more feedback. It's like, it's not even that, Oh, I'm getting too much and it's, and it's hurting my feelings. It's, I don't, I don't even know how I'm doing. I don't even know how well we're doing. You know? So

Shawn (00:58:13):

Yeah. That happens a lot. I think. Yeah. I, we, because we're a I so Yeah. Actually that, that's a struck something. I really have to share this one. So I'm working in a vet clinic and it's a big, it's a big vet clinic. There's tons of people and there's four doctors and like a hundred different nurses and whatever. And they all serve all the doctors. Well, all the doctors obviously have different ways of doing things. So I go to this place and there's, there's a lot of conflict in this place. And and I said, Okay, great. Like, and I started asking people like, What, what would help? Or what, what are you guys doing? I'm like, What do you guys talk about when you have meetings? And they're like, Oh, we don't have meetings. I'm like, What do you, what do you mean you don't have meetings? And they were like, Well, we don't have team meetings anymore. I was like, Well, okay, explain to me why you don't have them. Somebody you said anymore, you used to have them. Why don't you have them anymore? And they were like, Oh, well, we don't have 'em anymore, because people used to get upset and cry, so now we just don't have them. And I'm like, Oh, cool. So now we just don't have emotion here, <laugh>. Like,


So what do you think? Ha, Like, what do you think happens now? You think people are just happy? Like, you know, it's like, Oh, if we don't, if we don't have a meeting, then it's, it's fine. We just, no

Fahd (00:59:27):

One's gonna cry. Let's

Shawn (00:59:28):

Dont look at it. It's fair. Yeah. And they're happy, right? They're, they're happy. And I'm like, No, they're not happy. Like, they're not happy. And they're not telling you that. And, and you've squashed that idea of like, even allowing people to have a feeling. And I like, that's the thing. I think like, I don't know, we, we get into this cold world of like, I don't know, business, business in the bottom line. And it's like, fuck, like can't, can we not just remember that we are humans? Like Yeah. You know, And I've said that enough times in this podcast, but it's like, we're, we're all humans. Like, who knows what that person's going through, you know? Yeah. And there's like, I, I have a million more stories about all that kind of stuff where it's like, it's impacted and, and all I had to do was hold up a mirror in front of somebody and just say, Hey, I know your manager yell at you the other day.


Like, what do you think that person might be going through? And they're like, Well, I don't give a shit. And I'm like, No, but you should <laugh>. Like, you know, And, and, and it is a tricky balance because like, you know, you do wanna come to work and you want to be professional, but like Yeah. It, you're gonna be affected like somehow, like the world's going to affect you. Yeah. You know, and it's like, I get that you wanna like bury some of that and like leave it at the door. Right. But it's like, Yeah, but you can't always do that. Sometimes it's gonna get there and it's like, okay, you know, Thad's having a pissy day today because something happened in the real world and he's just upset, He's not upset at me. I I don't have to take things personally, you know? Yeah.

Fahd (01:00:55):


Shawn (01:00:56):


Fahd (01:00:56):

Like, I think that's so that's, that's, that's so powerful. I mean, you know, like giving people the benefit of the doubt believing, I say believing in the inherent goodness of people that no, Shawn's a good person. He's just having a tough day. Right. Like, it's inherently trust and believe and give them that benefit. I think that's, that's so powerful. And, and yeah, I think as you said it, you can't, we can't separate professional and personal. We even in our remote world, so we're all working from home. So you're at your home working <laugh>, so, you know, what are we separating really? Right? That's Yeah. Yeah. I think that's good. Now, now Shawn, for, for one of our last bits here you, you've got a, you've got a good saying you've got a good saying. You've got a good question that you asked yourself. Often when, when giving feedback or when deciding if you're gonna give feedback I'm, I'm gonna let you share that question and maybe walk, walk us through some of the, the thinking that goes with it.

Shawn (01:01:52):

Yeah. I mean, you know, work life, it's all very serious stuff. You know, <laugh> and I, or we like to think it's very serious stuff. And, and I, I like to think like we've made all this shit up. Like everything we've done everything, all the stress, we've made all this up. I mean, there was a time in our world when we used to just like, you know, Roan the land and like fight elephants, you know,

Fahd (01:02:15):

I don't know, we fought elephants, but <laugh>

Shawn (01:02:18):

Just find food. Yeah. Well, you know, to get the food, you know, we had to fight thing, We had to fight something. I don't know if we fought elephants. I mean, there's, you know, I'm pretty sure there's capeman drawings and something like that. But, you know, we had to find food, you know, and then we made all this stuff up and we made ourselves really comfortable. And, and this whole idea of like, you know, when conflict is happening, and I think we, we take it to an extreme or like, you know, and it's like, my question has always been, and I, I've always said this is like, okay, that person did this, and I wouldn't have done it that way. I used to get really upset about that kind of stuff. And then I was like, you know what, as a leader, I have to ask myself, is anybody gonna die?


Because that happened. And it's like, that's the thing is like, anybody gonna die. So if the answer's no, because I'm not a doctor you know, do I have to come, do I have to reign down the arches of hell upon this person for doing something that, you know, did they try something? Did they, did they express an emotion? Did they, like, I don't know, like, can I, can I put that into perspective? Can I put all of the things that we're doing into perspective and like really respect that person as a human being? And it's like, if I can do that, then okay, cool. You know, now we can have some fun and, and, and we can learn and we can grow. Yeah. Right? Because now people aren't afraid to make mistakes. And I, you know, it's funny, I have, and I think you've seen this before, but a long time ago, I had a young student that worked for me, and she was awesome.


I loved her. And like, we worked together so well, and, and, but I, but we always had this like, hilarious camaraderie. And almost every day I fired her, you know, as joke <laugh> for something non like, nonsensical. Right? and at the end of our time together, she came to me and she was like Shawn, I made you something. I think it's funny. I think you'll find it funny. I I hope you don't take a personal, I don't, It's just, it's just a little joke. I did it. She's a graphic designer. And I was like, Maddie, would you please just show me the content that you made? <Laugh>? And she flipped it around and she's like, teeing and giggling, and she like, turns it, and it's a, it's a, it's a logo, it's an image of my face with just my beard, my hair and stuff.


And underneath it it says pleasantly mean <laugh>. And I thought that was absolutely hilarious because I'm like, Yeah, I, and, and, and this word mean, or this word like direct because I'm direct. Have you like anybody that's listening, have you ever watched a panel or listened to a panel about I, anything, It doesn't matter what the panel's about. I hate sitting at a panel presentation whenever he goes, Oh, yes, I do see your point. And I think that's great, <laugh>, but then this, And I'm like, where's the passion? Where's the energy? Like, I love having, and like I said at the very beginning, like, I just bring a Right, right, right. Ran circle. Like, I love having passion. I'm like, Man, if you're just gonna agree with me, like I I'm gonna fire you. Like, I don't want you here. Yeah. It's like, I need you to have thoughts and opinions and ideas and like, I think the best managers know, or like, believe that their team is, is awesome and believes that their team has like, great ideas and like, it's not always gonna match up.


And like, if you, if that's what you want as a manager, you're not gonna be a good manager. Like, you're not gonna be a good leader. Like, if you just want everybody to agree with you, then like, it's gonna suck because you're gonna have a lot of conflict and people are gonna be really mad, or you're gonna have a very mediocre service or practice or whatever, because you're never gonna push forward. You know, I love having a disagreement and it's like, can we not learn to have disagreements and realize that no one's gonna die <laugh>, You know, because we've had these disagreements mm-hmm.

Fahd (01:06:12):


Shawn (01:06:12):

Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, you know, so I don't know. That's, I think that's so important. And I think it's really important for people to remember that that's like we're all dealing with humans. Can we be kind and can we be honest? And like honest, I think sometimes is seen as mean, but you can be kind and honest. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, you know, there is a way to do it. There is a way to give feedback without being blunt and rude. <Laugh>. Yeah. You know, I, I, I don't think I've ever had anybody, I, I mean, you'll have to do the research, but like <laugh>, I don't think anybody's ever worked for me that's left working with me and been really mad. Like I don't, I don't know of anybody. I talk to almost everybody that's ever adventured on. And I think for the most part it's been a great experience to just like learn and grow together and like, what else are we doing on this planet? <Laugh>?

Fahd (01:07:05):

Yeah. Yeah. You know, I really love how you've, you know, how, how, how it goes from engaging in productive, conflicting feedback to fostering that in our team too. It is a method for coaching and learning and growing. Right. And I, I think that connection that you've made between those, those ideas, ultimately that's what you do as a coach is you, you make people grow and, and learn by un uncomfortable breakthrough moments of feedback and, and, and tension that that helps that get to the next stage. And I bet tons of people that work for you, maybe at the time, at the time, would've felt like, Oh my God, I don't like Shawn. Or Yeah, I'm frustrated about this, but then, but then see it, right? Or, or, or kind of take it in and like, Oh yeah, like I, I get where I'm, I'm he's coming from, or I'm learning and, and that directness is so powerful,

Shawn (01:07:53):

But I know a lot of them were like, Just tell the answer. Right? <laugh>. And I was like, No, I don't want to tell you answer. And I, I think that that happens a lot with athletes especially, and especially younger athletes. It's like, gimme the playbook. I'm like, I'm not gonna give you the playbook because what I, I can't control the X's that are out there. Like, I don't know, you're the o's and they're the X's. I don't know what the X's are gonna do. You know, I have a good idea and I can show you lots of things, but I want you to think. And it's like, I want, I'm gonna challenge you. I'm gonna challenge you. And I remember having athletes and we, we, you kind of brushed on this actually earlier, but it was like athletes would come to the door with a problem and it could have been a problem internally with the team, it could be a problem with something that they've done on the field whatever.


And I would say, Have you thought about it yet? Like, what's your solution? And if they said no, then I'm like, Good, get out <laugh>. You're not, you're not welcome here if you haven't thought about it. Yeah. And I was like, and I do the same thing with like, people on my teams. I do the same thing with anybody that I'm working with. It's like, okay, you're coming to me with a problem. I'm not the grand master of all knowing things, even though some people in my life would say, I probably assume I am. But it's like, have you thought about the solution? Have you put any energy into thinking about a solution? And if they just say no, then I'm like, Great, get it. Like go, go get out. That's the thing you have to do first. Yeah. Like if you have a conflict with somebody, you have to think about what you can do, not what they can do or, or not what the manager can solve for you.


Right. It's like, I think managers, I think we're power hungry. I think leaders power hungry managers are power hungry coaches are power hungry. We're all, we're all power hungry, right? We all want that power. And like, well, I know the answer and I'm gonna tell you how to do it, <laugh>. I'm like, Maybe I do have the answer, but what's the, what's the value in that? What's the value of me telling you how to solve the problem that you came with? You know? And I'm like, Wouldn't it be much better if I could just hold up a mirror like we've been saying and say how, like what do you think? And, and what do you think is such a powerful statement? Even though it's such a, but

Fahd (01:09:55):

So yeah.

Shawn (01:09:56):

And I think a lot of people think that's weak, and I think they think, Oh, that's not your, you don't know the answer. And it's like, no, no, it's not that I don't know the answer or not that I have an answer, but I want you to think about it. And I think people really think that's weak. And I, I know that has happened for sure in, in some of the coaching settings I've done with teams, because they'll say to me like, Oh, we can't say anything to the manager cuz they don't know. They always just put it back on us. And I'm like, Well, and then do you think about it <laugh>? You know, and I think managers are afraid to do that cuz it's that fine balance between like, I have to be the boss and Yeah, I

Fahd (01:10:35):

Yeah I have to know, I'm,

Shawn (01:10:37):

I'm, you have to know. I'm expected to know. Yeah. Yeah. And it's like, you, you do have to have that fine line. But I don't think there's anything wrong with like, fostering that culture of like, Hey, we're all thinking here. Like, I just have the title, you know, But we can all be thinkers.

Fahd (01:10:53):

Yeah. Yeah. We'd all be thinkers. And I, and I think it, you know, if we can tie it back into your, your initial story as a 15 year old wanted, wanting to use the field. I think it's, it's about giving agency to each members of our team so that they can be the thinking athlete so that they can have the voice so that they can engage and, and debate and discuss. And that ultimately makes our teams better. Well, Shawn, this has been fun. This is, i, I, I always love our conversations and, and you've had so much to share, such good nuggets, tons of clips for us, <laugh>,

Shawn (01:11:28):

I'm sure

Fahd (01:11:30):

To, to share. But thank you so much. I don't know if you've got any last thoughts, any last messages to, to our listeners. But it is it is always a pleasure and always an honor to have you here with us.

Shawn (01:11:43):

Yeah, no, it was great. I I really appreciate the time that we've spent together over the years, and this is super fun. And it's like, yeah. My only last message, just I want to re-hit over the head is like, be kind and be honest. You know, be kind and be honest. That's like, I can't say that enough, but especially, so I thanks so much for having me and I look forward to hearing all the other episodes. Awesome.

Fahd (01:12:04):

Thanks Shawn. Remember, be kind and be honest and thank you, Shawn, for being on our podcast. I mean, it's kind of a fun full circle moment. Shawn also helps produce our podcast and has been helping us bring this to life. And he joined us as a guest to be able to share his wisdom because I've learned so much from Shawn. You know, one of the things that we didn't really talk about on this episode that I learned from Shawn really is his I say his ready, fire, aim, philosophy, right? Ready, fire, aim, which means take the shot before you spend so much time trying to aim at it. Just get things out there. And I think with a lot of the skills that we're learning throughout these podcasts, I would say that same philosophy, ready, fire, aim, which is to get the get try the skill out, try the, you know, difficult conversation, Try the drafting vision and values, try to improve recruitment.


Like without trying to overthink it, how can we take some of the lessons that we're learning here and try them right away? And I think if we do that, what happens is that we can then calibrate afterwards. And so the aiming comes after you've taken your first few shots. And I think it's actually true when you play sports, right? You play soccer, you play hockey, play basketball. You, you just go up there and you take your shot and based on how that first shot went, you then adjust and then you adjust and then you get a feel for it and you're like, Oh, okay, I'm finding my rhythm from this spot. And so I think a lot more times we gotta take that shot. And I know that's a personal life lesson I've learned from Shawn over the years. Thank you. Each and every one of you that are listening that have been supporters of our unicorn leadership podcast.


If you've got any questions and you've listened all the way, then please feel free to message us. You can find us on any of our social medias. You can find me Fahd Alhattab or you can email me directly at fahd@unicornlabs.ca. That's it for today. Thank you so much for tuning into our unicorn leadership podcast episode. You can find the show notes and the transcript at unicornlabs.ca slash podcast. Be sure to rate, to review, to subscribe, tell a few friends, and I will leave you with this question to think about what peanut butter sandwich moment have you had? What, when is the last time you've how do you make your peanut butter sandwiches? But in, in more, in more of its analogy, when have you given instructions to individuals and team members where there was such a gap that you were surprised by the gap and the knowledge that you were surprised by how your communication led to a completely different way and a completely different answer. What peanut butter sandwich moments have you had to reflect on? Thank you, and we will talk to you soon.

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