Every great leader–in business or in life–needs to learn communication skills. If there’s a communication breakdown with your team, you can’t accomplish your goals and objectives.
But how do you know if you’re doing a good job? And if you see an opportunity for growth, what changes can you make to improve?
We’ll dive into what every great leader and owner needs to know about communication in this week’s episode with leadership and communication coach, Seth Rigoletti.
Rich: Our next guest is a leadership and communication coach with over eight years experience working with CEOs, politicians, scientists, authors and doctors to help them not only communicate more clearly, but also more authentically. A former actor and teacher, his approach to coaching is to help his clients cut through the noise and confusion and become better communicators by showing them how to connect who they are to the message they need to deliver. He focuses on using personal growth as a tool for growing one’s influence and managing change. His specialty is helping people communicate their excellence effectively and passionately by finding and embracing their genuine voice.
Rich: Using an intuitive style and a variety of acting-based techniques, he is able to guide people away from old patterns and into a new, more genuine, confident and resonant style of communications. We’re very excited to have on the show, Seth Rigoletti. Seth, welcome.
Seth: Thanks, Rich. Thanks Uri.
Yuri: Thank you. Thank you for coming. Seth, the first question, how did you become a leadership and communication coach? How did you find your way into that field?
Seth: Well, I can say it’s surprising to me. If you had asked me 20 years ago, “Do you aspire to be a leadership coach?” I probably would have said something along the lines of, “I don’t know what that is.” Or if you told me what it was, I’d be like, “That’s not really a job. People aren’t really going to pay anybody for that. That sounds ridiculous.”
Seth: I was a school teacher. I taught theater and English, and at 22, when I had sort of accepted my own limitations as an actor and realized that I wasn’t going to become Tom Cruise, I sort of had this vision of, “If I could just build my own theater program, and work with kids, and teach books, I would be so happy.” And I don’t know if anyone here has done any teaching or if the listeners ever done any teaching, but it is really hard. Incredibly vulnerable. You’re standing in front of a room full of teenagers who don’t really want to listen to what you have to say. You’re trying to teach them something that they don’t think is important. You may not even be sure it’s really that important to the rest of their lives. How important is it to know the story of Great Gatsby to get on with your life? I love the book, but is it really important?
Rich: The book is phenomenal.
Seth: Right. So in the 15 years that I was teaching, I learned a lot about myself and about what was hard about this. And I had a lot of questions about what works and what doesn’t work with moving an audience as well as with theater, having the same questions. But by about 15 years in, I just kind of hit a wall. I hit a wall where I felt like all of a sudden the classroom felt really too small. It wasn’t the kids’ problem. I loved the kids. It wasn’t the material. I loved the material. It wasn’t the school. I loved the school. It wasn’t the profession. I just felt something had changed in me and I needed to do something different, and I didn’t know what that was.
Seth: So I left teaching. And the funny thing about teaching is that you can’t just apply for a different job. You have to sort of pull the parachute and jump out of the plane and hope that you land someplace safe. And so I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was looking at grad schools and trying to figure out what’s possible. And I had lunch with someone, an acquaintance who was an actor. She did this thing called leadership communication coaching out of New York City. And I said, “Can you tell me about what it is that you do?” And we ended up having like a two and a half hour lunch, and everything she said about what she did, I just kept saying, “I can do that. That thing you’re talking about, I do that all the time.” I probably annoy everyone I’m with because I’m constantly thinking about these things.
Seth: And the things that she talked about was like, how do you help somebody basically get out of their own way? How do you help somebody understand what’s happening in the room when they’re speaking? How do you help somebody take what they know and bring it to an audience in such a way that the audience can actually actualize it, they can actually do something about it? And those questions are questions I think about all the time.
Seth: And so I launched my company in January, 2011. So I left teaching in 2010, launched my company in January, 2011, and I got really lucky. I can tell this story later if you want to hear it, but I got a really good break sub-contracting for a big company in New Jersey. I really cut my chops basically being able to work with high stakes pharmaceutical companies preparing for FDA hearings, which is a very complex political, incredibly technical process.
Yuri: That’s quite a transit.
Seth: Yeah, I was sort of like, “I’m not in Kansas anymore.” And I did that for about five years and then broke off from that to really focus on my own company, and had been building this leadership practice for awhile.
Yuri: So would it be fair to say that this journey wasn’t necessarily about following the passion, but finding the purpose?
Seth: Yeah. There was a little bit of both. I guess I was discovering… So one of the things I did when I left teaching was I tried to really not think about what’s the right job. I tried to think about what do I actually enjoy doing and what am I actually good at around those things? So there were things I enjoy doing that I wasn’t good at, so nobody was going to hire me to emcee a wedding or whatever. But the piece that I was, I was really excited about it was like, I really am interested in this question of what does it mean to communicate? What is the purpose of communication? What does it actually mean to connect? What does that actually look like? What does it mean to be yourself? What does it mean to trust yourself more? Those things are things I really, really cared about. And then when I found that this work existed, that people would actually pay for it, I was like, “Well, all right, I’ll just do that.”
Yuri: I mean, for the audience that is listening to us right now, I just want to say that you’re really good at it because I’m already feeling that we are connecting, even that you’re just simply answering the questions. So thank you. You’re doing a great job. Thank you.
Rich: Seth, when you talk about helping leaders communicate, is that internal communication, external communication, and maybe what are some of the signs of poor communication you see out there that leaders are struggling with every day?
Seth: Oh, that’s a big question.
Rich: I like to bundle my questions [crosstalk 00:07:01]-
Seth: Yeah, that was a good bundle. It’s funny, I do think that the most… So let’s break internal down into two pieces. So there’s two parts of internal. One is like, what are you talking about inside your company? How are you talking to people who work for you or you work with? And that’s a really interesting question. But there’s also like, also how are you talking to yourself, and what is your internal communication like? Because they’re very similar. If you are having a hard time communicating with people who work for you, if people are walking out of meetings being confused, it’s because you’re confused, because you don’t actually know what you want to say. So getting clarity about that first is really important.
Seth: And then the second piece about the external is if you’re talking clearly internally, and you’re clear internally within yourself about what you want to hear, then there’s just some really basic tips and tools that one can use when you’re speaking externally that make you clear in a more public setting. This is the public speaking piece where… It sounds so stupid, but before you started, you were talking about the microphone and how to stay close to the microphone. It is something that people do not understand. I’ve seen seasoned speakers, seasoned speakers, have the mic in their hand and gesture with the mic away from their hand and keep talking, and I’m like-
Rich: And the sound goes like this.
Seth: Nobody can hear you, bud. How do you not know this after 30 years of doing this? And the answer is we just… It’s just hard. There’s mechanics to it that are hard. But the external piece, actually, there’s lots of really good people, really good communication trainers, and communication experts, and marketing experts who are excellent at teaching people how to speak externally.
Seth: And it’s not a field I’m too interested in. I’m interested in the internal stuff, because if you’re not clear there, the external stuff, it can become a lie. If you’re really clear externally but not clear internally, then you’re just basically making stuff up and I don’t like that.
Rich: So when you’re focusing on leaders and improving their internal communications, are you saying, “Let’s start with actually inside your head and get clear inside and then start talking about, ‘How do you talk to the rest of your team?'”
Seth: Yeah. Yeah. So I don’t usually talk about it that way. So what I’ll say is, “Tell me what you want.”
Rich: You’re asking me now?
Seth: Yeah, I’ll just-
Rich: So I’ll say I want to motivate my team and make sure that they’re passionate about the same things that I’m passionate about. This is why I think my company exists, this is what we want to accomplish. And I want to make sure that everybody on the team understands what that is so that they can make better decisions when I’m not standing over them. That’s one thing that I might consider.
Seth: And just that example, right? So that’s a really clear answer. And then I would say, “Okay, so if you had that, what would you get?”
Rich: Well, I’d have a team that’s able to, whether they were designing or developing websites or coming up with SEO or social media, that everything that they would do would be geared towards helping other businesses attract more customers and grow.
Seth: And that’s a good example, right? So I’m asking a question to go another level down, and what happens is we-
Rich: I’m very shallow.
Seth: We go into another room, it’s sort of like, “And this is the bathroom.” And it’s like, yeah, okay, but what are we trying to accomplish here? “If I had a more high functioning team, my team would be more high functioning” is not really an answer of what I would get.
Seth: And I don’t have an answer for you about what you would get, but I think there’s this question about… Sometimes there’s this thing about job satisfaction. Like, “I want to walk into work and be happy to walk into work. When I run into a client on the street who’s had an interaction with one of my employees, I want to feel like that client just had an interaction with me. When he was talking to the employee, he talks to me about that employee with the same kind of radiant sort of excitement that he has when he talks to me. Because I’m the reason why he’s a client. Right, Rich?
Rich: Right, a lot of times.
Seth: He’s a client because of you. And then when you hand that person off to an employee or to a team, you want the client to feel like that person is working with someone who cares about him as much as he feels that you care about him or her. And so the idea is like, that would be such an exciting thing. I might say, “That would be exciting to me,” or, “That would be fulfilling to me.” Some people, the work that they do is really secondary to the potential growth they see in the people who work for them. And they really want to have those people be challenging themselves and grow. People are motivated by lots of different things. It’s just kind of invisible to them.
Yuri: You know that little exercise that we just did with Rich, it feels like the five why’s, when you’re constantly going level down, level down, level down, answering the “why” five times. Rich, can you go three more down? Or should we go to the next question?
Rich: Yeah, I might need some time to [crosstalk 00:12:37], so why don’t we keep moving on?
Yuri: Transition a little bit. All right, so Seth, are there leaders who may present good communication skills externally, but need help with internal communication? And I know that you said that you’re more focused on the internal discussion. So when we’re talking about internal, we’re thinking about memos, emails, discussions in the meetings. How do you help or coach those individuals? How do you know that their skills lacking? And maybe you can give us some advice to the people so they can actually recognize that they lack those skills themselves without you in the room.
Seth: Yeah. So this is an interesting problem because I don’t do a communication audit, which, in all fairness, I probably should. I probably should look at everyone’s memos and look at their meetings, and that’s why I don’t bill myself as a communication expert. There are people who do that very well.
Yuri: But at least you’re crystal clear on what you are good at.
Seth: Right. And what I do is I listen to people and I listen to them talk, and this is my fundamental premise is if I don’t understand what you’re saying…
Yuri: You’re right.
Seth: And I’ve basically teed this up for you to tell me what it is that you want me to hear, and you can’t tell me what you want me to hear, it’s definitely not happening in your meetings, and it’s definitely not happening in your memos.
Rich: So do you work with people to get really clear on what that message is? And my only concern is if I get really clear and I’m saying the same things to be consistent over and over again, does it just start to sound hollow after a while?
Seth: No, so this is where it gets… We don’t craft a message. We get clear about what is it that we want, and what do we want the other people to hear. And there’s what I want you to hear, and there’s what I want you to feel. The idea about communication, and I look at communication more as a conversation, is that it’s not about what I want you to do or what I want you to know. It’s about, I want to be involved in a collaborative communication, a collaborative conversation, an improvisational jazz piece, if you will, where something comes out of this that’s greater than anything I could imagine.
Yuri: So from coercion to nurturing?
Seth: Yeah, I mean, that’s a big spectrum, right? So we don’t have to go… I mean, I’m assuming most of the people I talk to, if they’re in the coercion side, they’re doing it by accident. They’re not like, “Oh, the best way for me to get something done is forcing people to do it.” They just sort of like, “How do I get people to understand how important this is?” Like for example, customer service, right? Like, “How do I get people in my company to understand how important it is to connect with and have a relationship with the customers?” And you can say that all kinds of ways that you want, right?
Seth: But then there’s this other question of like, “Okay, but you can say that, but what else are you saying? What’s your body language saying? How are you responding? Do they believe you? Do they understand you? Do you even understand what you mean by that?” Sometimes we’re like, “I want my team to understand how important the customer is,” but what they really are saying is, “I want to not have customers complain anymore.” Right? And that message gets across. And then what happens is, is that they shut down the customers and they deflect the complaints. And then you’re like, “This is great. I’m not getting any complaints. We must be doing a great job.” And then all the customers leave. And you’re like, “What happened?”
Rich: No more customer complaints, because no more customer.
Rich: So I just want to break this down for people listening. So let’s say that I hired you to come in and kind sit in on my meeting, see how I’m communicating with my employees. You and I may have a conversation about what I’m looking to get out of it, and you feel that there’s things could be improved in how I’m communicating with my team. What are some of the things that you might either say to me or do to help me do a better job in terms of getting not just the message across, but also the emotional context across to my employees, so they do what I actually want them to do and not just what I’ve been saying?
Seth: Yeah, so I worked with this startup for a while. It was out of state, and it was a company the leader of the company… And it didn’t work out between us, because I think maybe I was a little too honest with him about what was going on. But he did this one thing, it was so fascinating. He did a team meeting and I sat in the team meeting, and he was trying to rally the troops, and he said, “Strap in. We’re going to become a $1 billion company.” So a pretty rousing thing. But the room, the people were not…
Yuri: They were not buying it?
Seth: They were very shut down. And when he said this thing about a billion dollar company, I noticed that he took a step back. And afterwards, he said, “What’d you think?” And I was like, “Well, I don’t think they believe you.” And I said, “And I got to tell you, I don’t know if I believe you. I don’t know if you believe you.” And he was like, “Well, of course I believe me.” And I was like, “Well, let me just give you an example. So when you say this thing and you take a step back, you’re having a reaction to what you just said.”
Rich: So he was giving… I wasn’t sure if it was the people stepping back or he was-
Seth: He was.
Rich: But he took a step back.
Seth: He took a step back.
Rich: And that was basically kind of belying the fact that he did not buy his own message.
Seth: Yeah. Yeah. And obviously I can’t know what anybody is actually thinking, and he probably doesn’t know either. But my point is, is that when we do that, when we shrink in the room, when we’re trying to be bold and we shrink, it countermands the message. So if I want to say like, “I believe in you,” right? “I trust you.” If I am not looking at you when I say it, like if I look on the ground, if I’m looking in the ground, I’m like, “I believe in you,” right?” You can even probably hear my voice. It doesn’t quite convey the sense of trust. And what I have to get clear about is like, do I actually believe in you? Right? Because if I don’t believe in you, don’t lie.
Rich: Right. Well I guess that would be an interesting question, because let’s say that Yuri is my employee and I’m not happy with his job, or I don’t trust that he’s really doing a good job. There’s the part of me that wants everybody to like me. So I’ll say the nice thing, but what could I say in that situation that is authentic?
Seth: Yeah. Okay. I love this question because it gets to the heart of what I think is really… We’re terrible. In this country, we’re terrible at giving feedback. We think we’re so direct and we’re not. We’re really passive aggressive. In Russia, they don’t have a problem [crosstalk 00:19:57]-
Yuri: Absolutely not, I was just about to say that. Giving the feedback, when I would just share my honest opinion, people shut down and they like, “No, this feels like you insulting us.” I’m like, “No, I’m not. I’m part of the same team, and I just want to ask you to do a greater job.”
Seth: And this is a cultural piece, but in Russia, you don’t always have to throw cold water on my face to give me feedback. It doesn’t have to be negative.
Yuri: Just to wake you up.
Seth: Right. And in certain other cultures, like maybe Columbia, or maybe in certain pan-Asian cultures, there’s this tendency to give feedback in a very passive, side way. And we can get into this whole thing about what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s really culturally delineated. However, I think there’s a big difference between talking about someone as like a personality, and talking about someone’s behaviors as whether they align with what’s going to make us successful. So I didn’t row crew, but I had friends that rowed crew, and there’s a very real problem, which is: It doesn’t really matter who’s the best rower on the boat; it matters that everybody rows together. That’s the behavior we’re looking for and we have to get better together. So telling someone they’re not good at rowing is actually not the point, right? Telling someone that they’re not actually rowing with everybody is the point.
Seth: And so we have to get really good about, what is the feedback I’m actually giving this person and am I talking about the behaviors, or am I talking about the person? And I see in business all the time, people write off other people from the moment they hire them. They’re like, “Oh, this person, he’s just a people person.” Or, “This person, they’re just a doer,” or, “They just get things done.” And it’s like, “Well, you just limited that person. That may sound like a compliment, but you just limited that person, because when you go to promote that guy or that woman, you go to promote them, you’re going to say, ‘Well they’re a doer and they get things done, but are they really a people person? Can they really build-‘”
Yuri: Are they creative, are they progressive-
Seth: “‘Are they creative, are they…'” And when you do that, you end up talking about people as though they’re fixed. And I don’t think people are fixed. I think behaviors are fluid. You can effect change in behaviors. And if people don’t want to change behaviors, then maybe they don’t belong in the boat, is the other problem.
Rich: Sounds good.
Yuri: So talking about companies and helping people succeeded within the companies from the point of view of the leader, can you help us or the listeners understand, how does the leader run a company and have an authentic voice?
Seth: How does a leader run a company with an authentic voice? Well, this is where the internal work has to happen, Rich, that we were talking about before. You can’t have an authentic voice if you don’t… Well, actually, let me back up. We’re really confused about authenticity. We think, “Whatever behaviors I do, whatever impulses I have, that’s just me being me.” And that is such a ridiculous definition of authenticity. If I tend to use profanity when I’m hanging around with a bunch of my friends when we’re fishing and I tend to use profanity, that does not mean that I am being inauthentic if I am meeting with the queen of England and I don’t use profanity, right? I’m reacting to the situation that I’m in, and I’m adjusting my behaviors to that situation.
Seth: The authenticity piece is: Do I actually know who I am? Do I know what I believe in? Do I know what I’m feeling? Because if I don’t know what I’m feeling, if I don’t know what I believe in, if I don’t actually have a sense of core values, and beliefs, and self-understanding, if I don’t have that, then what happens is that people don’t know who you are, and they just think you’re saying whatever it is that you’re saying to make them feel a certain way. And that lack of authenticity… This is why, by the way, we like people who are just rude all the time. We like them in sort of the public sense because we’re don’t like them personally, but we’re like, “Well at least I know-“
Rich: Fascinated by them, for sure.
Seth: Yeah, at least I know who that person is, right? At least I know who that person is. And you don’t really know who that person is. You just know that they’re a jerk. And so the idea here is like, “Can you get clearer about what you’re feeling, what you want, what’s happening with you, so that when you react to things around you, you’re actually reacting to what’s happening from a real place, from a genuine place, that I feel like this thing that you want to have happen is actually something that you want to have happen, not just something that you think should happen or something that you think I want to have happen?” Does that make sense?
Rich: Yes, and it sounds like it always starts with a leader. Like the owner of the company, whoever or whoever’s leading the company needs to be very clear about this internally as well. Back to your example of the queen versus your fishing buddies. Yeah, you may be dropping F bombs in one place and be using high English in the other one. But I think if you always stand up for yourself, that could work in both situations. You stand up in front of your fishing buddies, you stand up in front of the queen. That shows a certain level of authenticity, even if your language may have changed based on the situation.
Seth: Yeah. And stand up for yourself is also a-
Rich: And I use that as one example.
Seth: That’s a really interesting way of thinking about it. Right? What does that actually mean to many of us? And when I’m with my friends and they say, I don’t know, this is always my go to example, “Do you like Beyonce?” And I’m like, “No, I don’t like Beyonce,” but really I like Beyonce, that’s me not being authentic. It’s me trying to protect myself in such a… Because there’s no reason. Right?So they tease me because I like Beyonce, but so what? Right? That’s something that I actually do like, and it’s okay for me to like that. And if they don’t actually like me for that, then that’s a problem that they have, not a problem I have.
Rich: This may be why you’re not emceeing my wedding, by the way.
Seth: That’s right.
Yuri: So Seth, communications, obviously, goes both ways. What advice do you have for us to become better listeners? And can we consider listening as one of the ways of communicating?
Seth: Yeah. Yeah. Listening is… I was about to say, “Listening is everything,” but that’s not entirely true. The image that I use for communication or conversation is that of playing catch. In this country, many of us, at some point in your life you probably played catch with a ball, and you probably learned how to throw a baseball back and forth. And there’s something so beautiful about playing catch. When you see major league baseball players play catch with each other, you used to be able to see it on the field, it is a beautiful thing because they’re so talented. And what you see happening back and forth is you see this give and take, this clear, constant adjustment to what is happening between them.
Seth: And really a communication or a conversation should be like a game of catch. Not just what am I offering, what am I throwing to you? How hard can I throw this? How tricky can I be? The point of throwing the ball to Rich is for Rich to catch it. And it doesn’t do any good if I’m like, “Rich, you should have gotten that.” If I’m playing catch with a seven-year-old, if I haul back and throw it as hard as I can, I’m either going to hurt the kid or that kid’s not going to want to play catch with me. And so the point is, right, of playing catch, just like the point of communication, is to be in that give and take, is to build that relationship, is to have that connection.
Seth: And this is an important piece: Communication is not about a transfer of knowledge, it is about building a connection, so you build a relationship, so you build trust. And if you have trust, anything can happen between you. Really positive things can grow out of that trust. You don’t have to talk as much, you don’t have to explain as much. You don’t have to correct behaviors as much, because you’re basically like, “I understand what’s happening here because I have this relationship, because we’ve talked about things, because I understand that you actually care about my success just like I care about your success.” And that’s really, to me, is the goal of any leader being a good communicator is to build that within their culture.
Rich: Do you have any tactical suggestions about… I’m sure you’ve worked with other people, obviously you’ve worked with a lot of people. You must have seen some recurring themes over the years, like people not waiting until somebody finishes a sentence, for example, which is always aggravating for the other person. Are there certain things that you see time and time again that our listeners might recognize as something they do that they could work on?
Seth: Yes, there are lots of things, but I’ll try to simplify. First of all, before I do this, I want to say: Getting better at communication is really hard. People try to like make it so simple, and it’s not. It’s like juggling. You can sort of understand the principles, you can think about it all you want, but the actual juggling is where it gets into you getting better.
Seth: And the thing with communication is… There’s a fundamental question of, “What do I actually want you to hear?” And I always frame it that way because, “What do I want you to say,” or, “What do I want you to do,” or, “What I want you to know,” are really about me trying to control your end of the equation. And we don’t have any control over that, so have to give up that idea, give up the idea that you can actually say this in such… That’s manipulation. If I can say this in such a way that you think a certain thing, that’s manipulation. I’m not interested in it. I know people are really good at it. I don’t want to do that. So if you don’t want to do that either, then the question is, “Okay, what do I actually want you to hear, and what’s the value in that thing I want you to hear? Is there a real value in this thing?”
Seth: And everything I’m talking about right now is a promise, right? I’m talking about a promise that I’m making to people, which is that you can have genuine relationships with people you work with, and people will want to work with you in a genuine way if you are a better communicator. So get really clear about the value that you bring to the table, the value of what it is that you want them to hear and how that thing connects to the things that they actually value. Does that make sense?
Yuri: It really does. I’m actually ready to jump out of the chair and have a meeting and just listen, and see what type of value the rest of the team is willing to bring in. Can I clearly understand what it is?
Seth: Yes. And it’s messy. So we have to understand the fact that everyone is bringing to the table their personal stories, their baggage, their needs, their wants, their illusions. So you’ve got to kind of sift through all that and have the patience to sift through all that. Someone is talking about something and you realize they’re complaining about the color of the paint on the walls, and you’re like, “Wait a minute, are we talking about the paint on the walls or are we talking about something else?” Usually it’s like, “I feel like nobody listens to me and so I’m going to pick on whatever,” and you’re trying to get to like, what is it that we’re actually talking about, so we can have real conversations, so we can start to actually get to a better understanding of each other, so we can start doing real work?
Rich: Let’s just use that example. And I know you just kind of riffed on that, but let’s say, so we’re having a meeting with the team and somebody starts complaining about the wall decor or whatever it may be. And I’m like, “I don’t really think they’re complaining about the fact that I’ve got a Patriots poster on the wall.” So how do you dig a little bit deeper?
Seth: Well, the first thing we have to do is we have to check our own assumptions about… So okay, there’s a couple of things. One is I feel attacked, right? So if you’re complaining about something that I’m doing, I’m going to feel attacked and I have to start off with just being like, “Okay, what if this isn’t really about me? What if this isn’t about me at all?” It’s almost always about the other person and how they’re perceiving me. So if I get really curious about, “Tell me more. Tell me more. Tell me more about my Patriots poster. Tell me more about how you feel about that. Tell me more about…” And really this comes to your point, Yuri, about listening. If they just feel like they’re listened to, what they’ll eventually start to do is like, “Well, it’s not really the Patriots poster. It’s that I think you’re arrogant.” And all of a sudden you get this like, “Huh, that’s so interesting. I didn’t know that I was being perceived as arrogant. Can you tell me a little more about that?” And then it’s like, “Well, you’re always coming in and saying this and that about the Patriots.” And it’s just.
Seth: Right? And then it’s like, “Oh, okay.” And then we start to learn about like, “Oh, you know what? I’m not living in a bubble.” Right? And by the way, we get really hung up on this. We think that like, “Oh, I’m wrong. I’m bad because I’m talking about the Patriots,” in that case, right? “I’m bad.” No, it’s just, certain people are going to be turned off by certain things. And it’s not about whether or not you should stop talking about the Patriots. It’s about understanding, “Oh, this person doesn’t understand football. This person doesn’t identify with that kind of a sport fan mentality. And when I talk about them, they feel like an outsider. I don’t want this person to feel like an outsider. So how can I expand my frame and talk about other things when this person’s in the room? How can I do that? How can I change in such a way, not to limit me, but to actually expand me?”
Rich: And this is why after we talk about football in front of my British employee, we always ask them, “Were there any good cricket games?”
Yuri: Or soccer. So that was a really interesting, deep discussion, and I really appreciate the fact that you are bringing the concept of reframing. It’s very useful. And definitely will take another episode to dig deeper. But I wanted to bring it to our final question, the one that we like to ask all of our guests. What one thing would you change, if you could, to improve the business ecosystem here in Maine? What is that thing?
Seth: Yeah, I was thinking about this. Rich asked me about this a few weeks ago, and there’s obviously a lot of things, technical things that could be done, but the thing that I’m always interested in is the narrative that if you talk to people who are trying to make something happen here in Maine, what’s the thing you always hear them say? What’s the thing you always hear people say when they’re doing startups or they’re trying to do a startup?
Rich: Well, some things that we hear is, “This is a difficult state to do business in.”
Rich: Yeah. And then the other thing is workforce issues.
Seth: Right. So this is a difficult state to do anything in, and then what comes as this litany of complaints about how hard it is and how it can’t be done in Maine. And by the way, in that story, always, in that narrative, they are the hero of that story. In other words, they’re going to do it despite the fact it’s so difficult. Right? “This is so difficult.” And that I feel like that narrative is just so self-serving and not helping the whole state as a whole. We’ve got to change the story about how hard it is to… It’s hard to do something anywhere.
Seth: I had a client who was a president of a tech company, a startup. He was very successful. And we were talking about recruiting, and he’s like, “I’m so sick and tired of people talking about how hard it is to recruit in Maine. He’s like, “I don’t have a single problem recruiting in Maine.” He said, “I go all over the place and people can’t wait to work for this company. And you know why? Because I don’t really care about what’s hard about it, I want to create a culture that they actually…” Like, “My focus is creating a culture that they actually want to come to. We pay them well, and we create a culture they actually want to come to. And that’s what makes people want to come here. Every single state has the same problem.” He’s like, “You go to California and you know what everyone complains about in California with hiring?”
Rich: High cost of living? Nobody wants to live there?
Seth: Competition. You can’t keep an employee. You’re constantly being poached all the time, and you’re constantly poaching other employees. So you go there and they’re all complaining about, “Oh, it’s so hard, you’ve got to pay so much money, and you’ve got to have free food.” And he’s like, “Everywhere you go, it’s something.”
Seth: So this is just our thing. We’re the oldest, whitest state in the Union, and we’re probably like, 50 years behind from a technological standpoint, and we’ve got all these problems. Yeah, absolutely. And IDEXX is a fast-growing, hugely popular company. Tilson Technologies seems to be doing just fine. Things are happening here. It’s just, you have to work so much harder against the narrative. If we could shift the narrative, it shifts the mindset, and we can start thinking about not so much what makes it so difficult, but how do we be excellent within that difficulty?
Yuri: It’s like framing the memory. We’ve got to focus on building the memory to move forward.
Rich: Seth, this has been great. I’m sure a lot of people listening might be interested in learning a little bit more about the kind of help you give. And if they’re interested in learning more and maybe engaging with you, where can we send them?
Seth: Well, there’s two things they could do. They could go to my website, which is SethRigoletti.com. And that’s, Rigoletti is R-I-G-O-L-E-T-T-I.com. And the other thing is that I have a podcast called Into the Wolf, which really just this first season is really just about some of the techniques that I was talking about. So just really concepts, it’s just me talking and just concepts, 20 minutes an episode, to help you get really specific skills built. So you can go to that as well if you want some just basic coaching tips. And then at my website, there’s blogs and things like that you can check out.
Rich: Very cool. So when you don’t have an episode of Fast Forward Maine to listen to, now you’ve got another episode you can listen to on your long commute, wherever you’re driving here in this state.
Seth: Right, right.
Rich: Seth, that’s awesome. Thanks so much for coming by today.
Seth: Thanks for having me, Rich and Yuri. Appreciate it.
Yuri: It was a delight.
Rich: Thanks a lot.