Aside from being a summary of one of our podcasts, it's also a #1 Amazon Best Seller and one of nine books Entrepreneur Magazine says you have to read this year. Authors Tracey Lovejoy and Shannon Lucas join the boys to talk about catalysts, and what they mean to an organization and how they can thrive. Just another podcast where someone smarter than the hosts come and chat.
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Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast. .
It's time to move fast and break, shake kids.
Number one Amazon bestseller in the house.
I didn't know you wrote a book.
Not me, my friends.
That's right. That's right kids. We have Shannon Lucas and Tracey Lovejoy in the house, here to talk about the book Move Fast. Break Shit. Burn Out. I can't, I can't wait. First and foremost, Shannon has been an EVP at Ericsson, a Senior Innovation Architect at Cisco, that's a hell of a title right there and a Director of Innovation at Vodafone. Okay. Shannon on the spot right now. What's your most proud moment, your most innovative moment at Vodafone. I mean, you were the Director of Innovation, so what's, what's the thing that you hold up high?
Shannon (1m 13s):
I would have to say that it would be the work that we did in Africa using basic technology to sort of transform the medical industry and how we tracked drugs from supply chain to the end users in the rural communities.
Chad (1m 27s):
Holy shit. Oh, that's a lot better than I thought.
Shannon (1m 34s):
Ask and you receive.
Chad (1m 37s):
I was thinking like, you know, I had this headset idea. It was really cool. It was cushiony and it was awesome. Okay. Okay. Well then we have Tracey, who is an anthropologist, believe that shit and yeah.
Joel (1m 51s):
Chad (1m 51s):
And the research engine for catalyst constellations, she spent 12 years at Microsoft leading teams of change-makers and co-founded the Ethnographic Practice in Industry Conference, now, is that really the name of the conference?
Tracey (2m 7s):
E.P.I.C. for short.
Chad (2m 8s):
Oh, okay. But yeah, but you had to throw Ethnographic in there so that idiots like us would never go to that conference. That's right. Okay. You've both authored this book calleds, right out of the gate softball question, how do you guys define catalyst?
Tracey (2m 30s):
To us catalysts are people who are natural change-makers, right? We played with the word change agent to figure out if that was the right path. But when you look at the literature around change agents, a lot of it is like how to become a change agent. We're talking about the people out there that either from birth or, you know, young age, have this intuitive way of being in the world, where they're taking in information, seeing lots of opportunities and possibilities, and can't stop themselves from moving to action to actually make that true. That's what a catalyst is to us.
Joel (3m 4s):
Entrepreneur magazine gave you the distinction of one of the nine top books to read in 2021.
Tracey (3m 10s):
How awesome was that? Yeah! Right?
Joel (3m 13s):
Why do you think you're one of the nine books that I should read and it takes a lot to get me to read, folks.
Chad (3m 19s):
Yeah, cause he can't.
Shannon (3m 22s):
I'll jump in here. I would say, because one of the other distinctions about how we think about catalysts is they are the people who help, you know, sort of are, are born future ready if you will. There's a term called VUCA, which is stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous, which came out of the military in the 1980s to describe sort of the post cold war situation. And that VUCA, you know, reality has only sort of accelerated in the past decade since they came up with that term. And while organizations and entrepreneurs themselves have sort of been denying that new reality, 2020, it was definitely the year where we saw what that looked like firsthand globally.
Shannon (4m 3s):
And so I think it's really important for people to understand what it means to sort of arrive in the world, VUCA- ready, ready to take on all of these challenges and find new and better opportunities out of them.
Tracey (4m 14s):
And I'll add if you're an entrepreneur, that's an innovator. You're too important to where we are today to get taken offline and catalysts have cycles of burnout that really do, just last flat out. And so if you don't have your operating manual of how you can sustain your energy, this is it, that's what we wrote. So to me, that's fundamentally why we think everybody who operates this way absolutely should check it out.
Joel (4m 36s):
Curious guys, writing a book is never like an easy decision. What was the Genesis to put pen to paper and get this thing done?
Tracey (4m 45s):
For me, it was, as soon as I started doing research with Catalyst and it happened by accident, there was, I knew that I was going to have to make the information available. I didn't know necessarily if it was going to be book writing or blog posts, but it was something that almost felt like it came through me, from the earliest time of doing interviews. I would watch these people have a space to talk about what the reality has been like and the challenges that they've experienced and given my sense of purpose, personal purpose. It just, it was going to happen in one way or another. So I don't have a better answer than that.
Joel (5m 18s):
Was it 50/50 or did, is one writing more than the other? How does, like, I can't imagine, like I do a podcast with someone else writing a book, I think would be a nightmare. How did that work?
Shannon (5m 28s):
It was, it was actually fun. It was a fun creative process because we actually deepened our thinking and continued to do research the entire time that we were writing the book. So we did, you know, multiple rounds of additional interviews with the people that we, you know, highlighted in the book. So, you know, it's not an easy process. And we also just came, we, you know, we decided early on that done was better than perfect. And so, you know, we set a time goal for ourselves and it was just important to us that it got out there. And I would just add to the why that Tracey said it became clear early on after the first couple of years of us launching the company that we needed to create a shared language and a shared context in order for us to be able to fulfill our mission, which is really to help identify and support catalysts around the world.
Chad (6m 16s):
Who does this book help? Is it the individual? Is it the leader, the manager? Who does this book help to be able to focus on understanding what a catalyst is and how they work in or outside of an organization?
Joel (6m 33s):
Millennials must love this thing.
Shannon (6m 34s):
The title helps the, the original idea that we had was actually almost like a two-sided book, one for the individual catalyst and then one for the organizations or leaders or managers of catalysts. We tend to dream big and audacious, and we decided to dial that back for this first book. But there's definitely another book that we would like to put out there, which would talk to the organizations of the leaders about how to support them. So this first book is really to get the name out there and for the individual catalyst, but we have a lot of people who might not be catalysts who are reading it, but as they read it, they're like, I know who these people are in my life, now. And I understand, you know, how I can more effectively support them.
Chad (7m 13s):
Joel and I are both gen X-ers and that's probably the only label other than podcaster, that we actually fit ourselves into. But I can just see all of the LinkedIn ninjas, and the wizards. Now we're going to have to deal with all these people, titling themselves as sales catalyst, marketing catalyst, Door-Dash catalyst. I mean, are we just creating labels to create labels here? Or what problem does this solve really?
Joel (7m 45s):
That was good, Sowash.
Tracey (7m 46s):
Did we make your lives more difficult?
Chad (7m 48s):
IDK what it does for me, help me here.
Tracey (7m 55s):
Well do you identify as a catalyst?
Chad (7m 57s):
That's a great question because I'm sure we all know tons of people with great ideas. They can talk about innovation all day, but they move like sloths and they couldn't execute if their lives depended on it. So the question is, what is the major factor of a catalyst I would like to say, "Oh yeah, I'm a catalyst," but shit what does that even mean?
Tracey (8m 20s):
Well, those are two really important and different questions that you've posed. The first being, you know, how is this helpful? And unposed question of, you know, is it potentially not helpful or you didn't say, and then, and then the next part of, you know, what does it mean? So the, what does it mean? Because this is the book for catalysts and this also answers the why is it helpful? Is if this has been your way of being most of the folks that find us have had an experience where it has ended up feeling really painful and lonely. And so having this named for them has been really, really important because they start to question, am I wrong? Am I broken? And so to have someone say, like, we actually see a subset of folks and they have been written about in other places, but what's interesting in the writing is they're like, Oh, there's, you know, 4% or 10% of the population are like this, but nobody has the done the work to understand what really binds them and what's different?
Tracey (9m 13s):
And yet there's this kind of common wisdom that they are the starters for us, societaly right. If you look at, you know, the diffusion right of innovation, and it talks about these folks are you look at leadership agility. It talks about these folks and all of them end up talking to the masses about how you can be more like them, but it doesn't help the folks who are already like that and we have really unique challenges that we face, and there are ways that we can be better. So for me, right, helping to write a book that actually optimizes the change making of our best Changemakers, I think that's an amazing opportunity, for us, especially given the number of problems we have to solve today.
Tracey (9m 55s):
Back to what Shannon was talking about, if the VUCA-ready folks like let's amplify them, right. Let's empower them and help everybody get better, as they're helping lead the charge. That's what it means to me.
Chad (10m 8s):
So in most cases, when you feel like you are moving at light speed, you see a lot of shit that's happening all around you, you see the dots and you're connecting the dots, but most of the people that you're actually talking with and dealing with on a daily basis, they can't even see the dots, let alone connect them. Right? So, so what we're saying is, those individuals, and I've had that feeling my entire life. Those individuals really can burn out fast, but they also have issues because it's hard to work within a team when they can't even understand what you're talking about a lot of times, cause it's hard to articulate what's going on in your brain.
Chad (10m 56s):
How as a leader, how do you identify that? And how do you help that individual? Because the last thing you want to do is lose is an individual like that, even though they're not fitting in, what do you do? How does that work?
Shannon (11m 7s):
I mean, the identification, as I mentioned earlier, when people are reading the book, as people start to understand, you know, the highlight of what it means to be a catalyst, their brain sort of naturally goes to those people in their life because they do stand out, they show up differently. We often get called, you know, get, get named monikers like troublemaker or disruptor and not always in a positive sense, especially if we're not self-aware to Tracey's point. You know, part of the point of the book is to give the catalyst themselves the skills to be less disruptive, which doesn't mean stopping change. It just means doing it in a way that brings other people along more effectively. So it's not hard to identify them.
Shannon (11m 48s):
We work with organizations like we can have surveys and self-identification tools, et cetera. One thing that Tracey and I talked a lot about early on when we started this work is, do we want to be the labelers of catalysts or do we let catalysts sort of lean in and name themselves? And we came pretty heavily down on that second one. Like if the word catalyst, even if you all the attributes fit you, if being a catalyst doesn't resonate with you, then, then that's fine. And then I think there's a great question there about, you know, as a leader, how do we support them? Obviously myself as a leader, I was a catalyst and so I had to surround myself with people who could translate, you know, that had catalytic capabilities, but could also help me bring the rest of the organization along.
Shannon (12m 29s):
And so intentionality is a word that we use a lot in all of this work is like, how can the catalyst be more intentional about the work that they're doing, but also how can the leaders intentionally support them? Making sure that they're not spread thin chasing all of the new shiny projects or opportunities, but helping them to prioritize, giving them the surroundings and removing some of the barriers that might, you know, get in their way. And I think one of the key things from that perspective is psychological safety. Once catalog, you know, once organizations recognize that they have these VUCA-ready people, they will send them on these heroes missions. Okay, go out into the world and figure out what we need to do next. And by definition, that's usually some kind of divergent thinking from the way the organization currently operates.
Shannon (13m 14s):
So they go out, they do their vision quest and they come back, hopefully they can now clearly articulate their vision, but it could cause such cognitive dissonance for how the organization operates that either the idea gets attacked or the catalyst themselves gets attacked. So it's really then incumbent on the leader to help create a space of psychological safety, to have healthy conversations about which pieces of that they're going to move forward with or not.
Chad (13m 38s):
If they're truly catalysts, then if their idea gets attacked, they're being attacked.
Shannon (13m 44s):
That's it feels like a hundred percent, it's almost a physical connection to that idea, that's right. But it's interesting because catalysts generally not, not universally, but generally don't go in with an agenda. You know, when they get brought into the organization or the team, or if they're entrepreneurs, they're really just sensing, like, what's the next thing that needs to unfold here? As the dots are connecting, as they're doing the sense-making, it's not like it's their horse in the race until they're convinced and have the data, you know, that that is the right thing to do. And we can be arrogant about that. Let's let's own that we can be arrogant, that we can see the absolute right path to go down.
Chad (14m 17s):
Shannon (14m 17s):
But I think it's important for people to remember that, you know, we're usually just in service of whatever positive change we think needs to come next.
Chad (14m 25s):
So frustrating when nobody wants to come along for the ride.
Shannon (14m 28s):
It was frustrating.
Tracey (14m 30s):
So very frustrating, painful.
Joel (14m 32s):
The book talks about whether a catalysts are born or made. Talk about that.
Tracey (14m 38s):
We don't know, we just simply haven't done the research. So I can tell you that in initial research where I was doing in depth interviews, qualitative, a lot of the stories talked about this having been a way of being, since childhood, that they can remember, I didn't dig into was that born, were there events that happened? And I haven't yet met people who tell me like it came later in life, but I don't rule that out as a possibility that they had some experience that kind of forced them into that. In fact, in the Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about that in terms of community change and habit that there are community leaders who've had that. I don't know if those leaders would say I became a catalyst. It just, honestly, hasn't been the question that I've been that interested in answering because there's so many different things that I keep going back to learn more about from our population.
Tracey (15m 24s):
So I don't know.
Shannon (15m 25s):
We do have a gentleman that we highlight in the book, Michael, who he really pinpoints in his life, what his catalytic moment was. And it's when he was, you know, young and in a car and a friend in the car died, not his fault, but it really precipitated great change in him. So there is a hypothesis that there might be some of those life altering moments, but to Tracey's point, we don't have the data yet.
Chad (15m 47s):
Yeah, I think mine came in when I actually went into the military because the military in itself really teaches and, focuses on troubleshooting and looking for the dots so that you can so that you can connect the dots. And I'm not sure that everybody kind of like absorbs that same learning, but I know then that's when mine hit. So really it's almost like there's a point where you finally get algebra.
Shannon (16m 14s):
Tracey (16m 15s):
Ah, yeah. That's fascinating because one of the things that I've played with, especially thinking about it from a research and teaching angle, Chad is the one key attribute that I wonder that we can teach is the ability to take in lots of information so that you're really connecting the dots. And so I've had a hypothesis untested of like, maybe that's the thing that people have naturally or not. But what you're telling me is that even that part can be taught, which is really compelling to me. So thank you.
Chad (16m 43s):
I think it was almost how to pull the dots together. I was never a great student and I never understood why. Right. But when I got into more of a structured scenario and they taught me how to take all of those inputs and then focus on execution, that was big for me.
Joel (17m 3s):
But don't you think the catalyst was always in there? It just had to be sort of programmed or pulled out. I don't think you learned it, I think it was always there. Yes?
Chad (17m 11s):
It would have been triggered, maybe on to take in the information process, the information and work. I mean, cause obviously my brain is all jacked up to be able to work it right? You know what I mean?
Joel (17m 22s):
Yeah. It's easy on the Red Bulls, there killer, easy on the Red Bulls.
Chad (17m 25s):
Joel (17m 26s):
Guys, I want to pivot a pivot a little bit. When I read the name of the book, Move Fast and Break Shit, in particular reminded me of Facebook. And I want to say that this was either, sort of a programming mantra at Facebook early on where just move fast, build stuff, break shit, move on and keep going. And I think that was initially sort of a badge of honor for Facebook and you know, a years hence. We found out that, well, if you're not thoughtful about this stuff, you know, Russians get involved, elections go awry.
Tracey (17m 59s):
Small things like that.
Joel (18m 0s):
That aren't necessarily positive. So I assume that both of you have a positive take on the Move Fast, Break Shit or am I wrong on that?
Shannon (18m 8s):
Title definitely has a nod to Facebook for sure. And you know, I'm coming from sort of the background of having been in Silicon Valley for the last 20 years. But the book is also about what happens when catalysts are unintentional. So I think a lot of people get hung up on, especially the catalyst they're like, yeah, I want to move fast. Yeah. I want to break shit, but no, I don't want to burn out. And so they get confused like, are you advocating for burnout? We're like, no, in fact, we're not necessarily advocating for moving fast and breaking shit per se, you know, unto itself. What the contention is is that if we are not intentional about what we are doing, we will do that mindlessly. We will move too fast. We will move too fast. We'll leave people behind.
Shannon (18m 49s):
We'll break shit without understanding what data or like sort of intentionally picking the processes or the things in the organization that actually need to bend or break. And then that all of that will cause resistance, which will then accelerate and sort of amplify burnout. And so the whole rest of the book and that's the subtitle, is let's get the tools so that you can actually, in some ways, move faster by intentionally slowing down through some steps, you can break shit, but with intentionality so that it's actually in service of your vision and moving things forward instead of leaving people behind and having them get pissed off and frustrated, that goes back to the disruptor and troublemaker monikers that we get. And our contention is that we probably can't stop you entirely from burning out.
Shannon (19m 31s):
We just move fast and shine bright. And that's our way of being. But we do know that there are ways that we can reduce the amplification and the frequency of the burnout because the contention is, you know, a burnt-out catalyst creates no change at all.
Tracey (19m 46s):
An interesting points to that is it's often only when we point out how burnout gets in the way of creating change, that catalysts, including myself, will actually start to embrace some of the methods for reducing the friction and burnout. We won't do it for ourselves and in terms of a sense of self care or self worth, but we'll do it in a sense of service of the thing that we're trying to create.
Chad (20m 8s):
Talk about that because when it comes down to managing this, it is incredibly frustrating, as I had said before. And as you know that when other individuals can't see the dots that can't connect the dots and you can't really articulate the process in itself, what do you do? You know that the end point for you as a catalyst really is execution. If you can't do that front part, you can't get to the end. Right? And that's where the major frustration comes. If you're at a point of leadership, obviously you could be a failed leader, even though you see it all. And if you're a part of a team, you can't be jelled in a team because they don't understand really the end of the means right on how you can get there and the frustration just grows.
Chad (20m 55s):
So how do you, how do you manage that?
Tracey (20m 58s):
Shannon was alluding to this of that, we struggle to, you know, self care. I feel like, I'm at war with the term, self-care it just, we, we real, never do it, if that's how we think about it, the paradigm is self care is, you know, it's selfish. It is, you know, the last thing on my list, I can do it once a quarter. So the big switches, when you see the ability to make change, that you are an actor within that system and that it doesn't happen without you participating, then you'll begin to make the switch. Right? And so there's a super easy metaphor that people can use. And once you get it, you're like, how did I not see it before? It's thinking of yourself as a gas tank and taking the time to actually figure out what are the activities that take gas out of my tank?
Tracey (21m 46s):
Like, Oh my gosh, when I meet with Joanne, every Tuesday, I am exhausted and I've never noticed that before.
Chad (21m 52s):
Got I hate her.
Joel (21m 55s):
After I talk to Chad
Tracey (21m 59s):
When I have that team meeting, I'm always really energized. So it's bigger than just the activities we do outside of work hours. It's really getting clear on what is it that fills us and depletes us, and seeing ourselves as part of that vision that we're moving toward and making sure that your time integrates activities that give you energy and take energy away. It sounds simple, but there's so much awareness you have to put into it, that it does take time and intentionality.
Chad (22m 24s):
And don't, you have to also identify when a culture and an environment isn't good for you? And you just got to get the fuck out.
Tracey (22m 35s):
Shannon (22m 36s):
Tracey (22m 36s):
A hundred percent.
Shannon (22m 36s):
Yeah, we talk to people all the time. Our vision is to have, instead of like the top 100 places to work like the top 50 or a hundred catalysts friendly companies. It'll be an amazing, you know, magnet for attracting high potential people, because there's a high, there's a high correlation between catalysts and high potentials. And the amount of change they'll be able to create is it will be sort of unstoppable. I also, just to going back to the other point that you were making, you know, the bringing people along. So how do you reduce the resistance, which ultimately leads to the burnout that Tracey was sort of solving for? And there's an interesting thing here about emotional labor is really the word that comes up because we need catalysts because the impetus is on them.
Shannon (23m 20s):
They're the ones that see the change to help actually the organization go through the different stages of relationships through the change process, which is much like going through the grief process. And one of the most frustrating parts for catalysts about this is that we have to do a lot of the emotional labor for the organization. We have to do the hand-holding, not just to get people, to see the vision, but to be comfortable moving through all of the steps to actually achieve that vision. And that's where a lot of the frustration comes it's. So that's where that frustration is. It's like, why don't they see it? And why don't they get it? But the impetus is not on the other people necessarily to do that emotional work.
Joel (23m 57s):
How does the pandemic change the calculus? I'm guessing this wasn't something you thought of when you started the book, but it obviously probably came into effect as you were writing it. So we have more people working from home. We have more solopreneurs, we have more contract workers to navigate. There are a lot of things that are a little bit different in our world and will continue to be a difference. And how does that, how does that impact sort of your structure and your thesis on catalysts?
Tracey (24m 25s):
I don't know that it changed the calculus changes or thesis changes. Certainly one of the things that Shannon and I are doing are collecting case studies because the catalysts have been on fire during the pandemic, right? If there was ever a time that people needed to be out there helping solve problems, my goodness, this is it. And it's amazing to watch those that have, have become part of the community, have that opportunity to do that. What has changed that you're pointing to, that's not about our calculus is the burnout rate globally is so intense, right? Mental health is so challenged, never shut off. And we are disconnected. As I talked about those activities that fill us, we're disconnected from a lot of those activities, including human connection, which is like the heart of how we thrive most of us as human beings, even as introverts.
Tracey (25m 15s):
And so that's not, catalysts, aren't separate there. And so when we, you know, are in community with folks, we have an online community. That's something that we address a lot. It's a tough time for all of us
Joel (25m 26s):
That I thought about when I asked the question, as well as you guys talk a lot about delegation in the book and the importance of, you know, passing on work to relieve stress on you, to, you know, counteract burnout. How do you think work from home and being virtual impacts, delegation? I, my, I personally feel like it's harder to delegate when you're not in a face-to-face situation.
Shannon (25m 50s):
I would say, that could certainly be true. One of the tools that, I mean, we can even talk about how we run our company. One of the tools that we talk about is once you have your vision, getting really clear on what the strategic priorities are, and then actually like making a priority list and tracking your time against that and having a not right now list as well. And so we try and sort of walk the talk as we're doing that. And when we get, the crisper that we get on the actual activities that are supporting us achieving the vision, the more bound they are, actually, the more capable we are of delegating those. And Tracey and I personally, I mean, Tracey has two kids at home. We have a bunch of kids at home, so we've been living this experience along with everyone else.
Shannon (26m 34s):
And we've just gotten every quarter, honestly, clearer and clearer on when our tanks are getting low and we need to delegate things. So I think it's a very relevant conversation. I don't know for myself if harder, I think it's more necessary now because of all of the demands that are put on us. Tracey, what do you think?
Tracey (26m 50s):
Yeah. I love the question, Joel. It's really making me reflect and I'm diving into, yeah, lesson two research and more into coaching conversations. Cause that's where I spend a lot of my hours each week and I don't delegation is definitely a thing, but because catalysts really, you know, think about solving a problem. I do see a lot of intentionality in the time of now. And we're working from home. I'm thinking about the structure of how work's getting done. And so I see less of a problem for leaders in delegating cause they'll get there as they figure out like what's this new system what's today versus what's going to be sustained for a few weeks. How do I solve for the reality of it? How do I, you know, not help my people burn out, but you brought to mind a place that is different for catalysts.
Tracey (27m 32s):
And that's actually the opposite of leaders. It's when we're in physical spaces and we're not included in the meeting we know we need to be in, to be able to help affect change. We can kind of get the room right, and show up. But in the age of zoom, if you don't have the link, this is actually much harder. So I'm seeing where it's sideways, you know, influence or moving outside of my organizational influence where catalysts are struggling a bit more than the delegation and going straight down.
Joel (28m 2s):
I'll let you in on this and I kind of want to piggyback on the delegation topic, Chad and I talk a ton on the podcast about automation, about how, you know, really repetitious recruiting tasks will be automated, searching for candidates interviewing, you know, prescreening, how all that will be automated in your world or where you're coming from is automation sort of, it seems like that would be extra gas for a capitalist, right? If I can, if I can move off some of this minutia of my every day and focus on kicking ass and breaking shit, like that's a good thing. Am I thinking about that correctly or not?
Shannon (28m 40s):
100%. And actually we just, there's a, there's a compendium book that I think everyone else should read, which is the Adaptation Adv