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Podcast Transcript

Confessions of a Life Long Learner

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:11  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path To Powerful Leadership with Marsha Clark" where we believe there's a better way to be a woman today. With research tools, books, and our own personal experiences, join us on this journey because in every episode we're uncovering what it actually takes to be a powerful leader in our organizations, our communities and our lives. Marsha, welcome! And I have to say I'm so looking forward to our topic today. I just love the title and I'm sure our listeners are here right now to hear what your confession is!

Marsha Clark  0:56  
Well yes, thank you for that opening for that introduction. And yes, I do love the topic or the title. We've entitled it "Confessions Of A Lifelong Learner," and so I think that's the confession, right? So you're right about I'm imagining that many of our listeners are on this same path as being a lifelong learner or they wouldn't be listening to us today. So that's a big part of who we've targeted with this podcast. And people who are really eager to learn more about themselves and how to be the most authentic leader they can be and step into their own power.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:33  
Yep, well, then let's get started. So I want to start with a personal question, and then we can shift into some of the tools and models and best practices for our listeners. Okay, so you've said before about being a lifelong learner, and in many ways your career has centered around helping others learn, learn about themselves, learn about others learn about being a better leader, etc. So why is learning so important to you? And what does it mean to you to be a, quote, lifelong learner?

Marsha Clark  2:09  
Yeah, so for those of you who may be familiar with the StrengthsFinder material, the assessment, I have "Learner" in my top five strengths. And I've, I've loved school from the minute I even thought about school. You know, I read every book in my junior high library. I mean, it was, you know, that that has been true for me forever and always. And it's near and dear to my heart, because it really opens me up to just a whole wider world of possibilities. And it deepens my understanding, not just thinking about things on the surface, but really going below the surface to do the deeper work. And human beings are very complex. And so, you know, part of what draws me even to the work that I do is learning more and more about the human being the human condition, humanity. So that's what learning represents for me.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:01  
Yep. So you've mentioned StrengthsFinder already, and I'm sure some of our listeners are familiar with that assessment. It's one of the many tools that you use as a coach, executive coach, and in your leadership development programs to help people gain that clarity and that self awareness. So I know that self awareness is a first step of this whole learning framework that you use, what is that whole framework? And how can it help our listeners?

Marsha Clark  3:34  
Yeah, I call it a learning cycle, if you will. So everything I do starts with self awareness. So I'm going to say a little bit more about that in just a minute. But I want our readers to imagine and if you've got a pen and paper, you can begin to kind of draw this a little bit. Otherwise think about it in in your mind's eye, if you will. And the framework, this learning cycle has five elements to it. And so if you're drawing this, think about a clock face and awareness goes up here at the 12 o'clock, right? So Awareness, and then an arrow drawing it in a circle, where Understanding is that about the two o'clock on the clock face. So the word Understanding, the arrow continues drawing at about five o'clock on the clock face is the word Choice. And then about seven o'clock on the clock face is the word Action. And then at about 10 o'clock on the clock face is the word Reflection. So we're going to go through this cycle, but if that just gives you the visual images a starting point, so let me talk about what each one of these words and steps in the cycle mean. So awareness is where it all starts. That's that self-awareness piece is about bringing something about ourselves or others from the subconscious or unconscious inside of me, bringing it to the conscious level. And how can I recognize what my own default habits patterns might be? And then that leads us then now that I can name that I can state that now understanding is exploring or probing, it's about getting clear about how those defaults habits or patterns may work for us, or they may work against us. And that's particularly important as we work to build relationships, or we're seeking to achieve certain outcomes. And I want to, I want to talk a little bit for a moment here about two sides of self awareness, what we've learned from key thought leaders, including the Center for Creative Leadership, who's done a lot of a lot of research around this, they show that the lack of self awareness or self knowledge is one of the biggest derailleurs or showstoppers that regards what regard regarding one's leadership effectiveness. So in other words, I think I'm showing up to the world one way and the world is seeing me in a very different way. And that, that gets me out, off off track or out of whack. Yeah, and and there's a book that I've read fairly recently by Tasha Urich. And it's entitled, insight. And it was recommended to me, because she described self awareness in two ways. First is internal self-awareness. And, and that's a lot of what we're talking about, from this bringing the unconscious to the conscious. And she talks about it and how we, it helps us see ourselves more clearly. And it's an inward understanding of your values, your passions, your aspirations, your ideal environment, both personally and professionally, your patterns, your reactions and your impact on others. Now, just think about how awesome having that kind of knowledge about ourselves?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  6:58  
Absolutely. I mean, that's a lot just right there to digest. So internal self-awareness is about understanding your, and I really want to stress these -  your values, your passions, your aspirations, your ideal environment, your patterns, reactions, and your impact on other people. So I'm trying to imagine how powerful it would be for someone to get really clear on all of those aspects of their life. I mean, I would think that some people would spend, some people do spend their whole lives trying to figure some of that out.

Marsha Clark  7:37  
Yeah. And, you know, even though I read the book recently, our Power Of Self programming starting 20 years ago, was focused on many of these things to help people get clear about them intuitively, and empirically knowing how important these are. And it's definitely a very holistic approach. So it really covers a lot of who we are, and trying to figure out what makes us tick. And, and so that's the first part is that internal self awareness. And then she goes on to define external self awareness, as understanding yourself. She calls it from the outside in, and I love that part too. And it's knowing how other people see you. And I want to tell you, Wendy, I am working with clients. I'll often ask them, Well, how, how would you rate yourself on a scale of one to 10, and your self awareness, and I often get pretty high numbers. And I think they may be more aware of maybe what their values are, what their tendencies might be their personality style, I'm an introvert, I'm an extrovert, you know, those kinds of things. What, where I think they fall short. And oftentimes, where I'm brought in to help as a coach is to help them understand how other people are seeing them. So you know, I do 360 narrative interviews for coaching clients when they're not part of the program, because I now want to hear from other people and see what those trends and patterns are. And that's where there's amazing new insights that I can learn from by getting that feedback from other people to know how they're seeing me.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  9:17  
Right, which is why seeking and being open to that feedback can be so powerful and important, right?

Marsha Clark  9:24  
Absolutely. So you know, feedback when it's offered in the spirit of improvement, I'm trying to develop you I'm trying to help you get better I care about you, and I want you to be successful, versus just pure criticism or blame or you know, judgment being applied. That that when it's given for the purpose of development, and as any of us are learning something new without that feedback, you can end up perfecting, if you will, something that is ineffective, not going to happen at all, or you may be learning something the wrong way, which is even worse. So we've got to be careful sensitive to others perceive other people's perceptions, as it's an important element in learning about yourself and expanding your awareness about how you're impacting others. And I do want to I do want to say one more thing about this is that, before I give feedback through one of these, you know, interview processes, I have certain bullets that I want to say, and one of them is feedback says as much about the giver as it does the receiver. And so, yeah, just because someone gives us that feedback doesn't mean we have to take it and wear it, it just means we have to take it in and consider it. But we have to consider it in light of other feedback that we may be receiving from a variety of places. And so it informs us but it doesn't mean I have to take it on it automatically change because that may be more about what that other person has experienced in life are, what their values may be, or what they see as good, when it may or may not be. And but it many people, you know, will hear me say throughout these podcast, it's A dot two dots is a line three dots is a trend. So if I hear it from one person that's adopt if I hear it from two people, that's a line. And if I start hearing it repeatedly, I know it is a trend that I need to pay attention to.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  11:21  
Right. And now we have a choice to make about our own behavior, right?

Marsha Clark  11:25  
That's right. That's right. So when you get more conscious and aware and better understand what that internal and external self awareness is all about. You do, you're now at the choice point, but you got to do that upfront work before you get there. So how am I going to choose whether it be to change my behaviors, my attitude, maybe even my situation, getting myself out of one situation or one relationship into a different one? And it's all based on the information I've been collecting with this new awareness? And you know, generally speaking, you can say, Do I want to go faster? I want to go slow, do I want to be loud? Do I want to be quiet, all of that stuff get clear, then I can be, you know, figure out how to be the most efficient and most effective, and I can make a decision to take action.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:08  
Right. And this reminds me of something that you say a lot the idea that good leaders build up their leadership toolkits, but great leaders...

Marsha Clark  12:18  
... know what tool to use when! That's right! Yeah, so I say that a lot. And so it's that crucial step going from awareness and understanding that that leads us to the choice and action. And that's where we've got to know what tool to use when, because leadership in the end is about getting results. So we can't just think about it or talk about it or contemplate it, we got to make it happen. And by increasing our self awareness and our understanding, we want to then be able to apply that so that we can execute towards getting those results.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:50  
Right. Okay, so the last element in this continuum or clock face, if you will, is reflection.

Marsha Clark  12:57  
Yeah, so as true learners we don't stop at Action becasue I mean, you know, sometimes we say "Done, check it off the list." You know, mark it through. But it this reflection piece is crucial. True learners, true lifelong learners, you ask yourself, if your choice inaction yielded the desired outcomes you are looking for, this is the place where what worked, what didn't work, what would you do differently going forward. And those are the places where I'm going to now deepen my learning to be more efficient, more effective as a leader.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  13:30  
Right. And learning is so fundamental to you that your book, "Embracing Your Power," is full of these assessments and reflection questions. And I think there's a hidden gem in here about learning in the introduction that many readers might have missed, but it's probably worth highlighting here.

Marsha Clark  13:50  
Yeah, in our foundational elements that we say are woven throughout every program, and they're certainly woven throughout the book and will be woven throughout this podcast. One of those is called learning agility.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  14:04  
So I think for any anyone who skipped over the introductions sections in books, which I sometimes do, and sometimes don't, and people who have done that in your book might have missed this all together. So obviously, not everyone listening here today has had a chance to read the book yet, but will you share your three questions about learning agility?

Marsha Clark  14:28  
Yes, absolutely. And and I want to give you some context, before I give you those three questions. So what the research done by several organizations including Korn Ferry, which is an executive and leadership development company, they do coaching they do assessments, they do all kinds of research around leaders, and they describe learning agility as one of the top qualities in the top three that organizations are looking for when they're filling positions and So I read a recent article that highlights some of the importance of learning agility. And I'd like to share that with our readers because they say it so well and clearly. And it's from an international executive development program, organization. In today's can kinetic business environments, so many things change and goodness knows, we know that leaders can no longer rely on strategies that have worked in the past, or even those that are working today. The best performing enterprises have leaders who thrive on change and can make sense of that uncertainty. These individuals have learning agility, and people who have high levels of learning agility, seek out and learn from unfamiliar experiences. And then they apply those lessons to succeed in the next new situation. So learning agility helps them know what to do, when they don't know what to do.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:03  
Yes, I really love that explanation. I think it's it's also interesting that most people avoid change. They don't like it, they try to get away from it as fast as possible. But, but this definition, really, you know, these findings are really telling you how leaders actually thrive on change. And it helps people know what to do when they don't know what to do.

Marsha Clark  16:30  
Right. And, you know, someone gave me this question a long time ago as a coach, and it was, you know, what do you think you should do? If I'm asking one of my clients, what do you think you should do in this situation? They say, Well, I don't know. And this sounds crazy. If you did know, what would you do?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:42  
Ah, because it's flipping that brain, right?

Marsha Clark  16:47  
Because I don't know because I've not been in this situation before, but I have all kinds of things to draw upon if I've been paying attention. Right? So this, this, this is, you know, Korn Ferry did their research around this learning agility, talking to thousands of senior executives and leaders across the world. And I want to wrap up that just sort of the research literature, examples. The article continues, that learning agility is now the single best predictor of executive success, above intelligence in education. So get that it's not it being smart. And all that has happened before me is not it, I gotta keep working to be smarter, and understand what's going on. And they say there are no absolutes, but agile learners tend to get promoted faster, and they achieve more. So learning agility is not so much about what someone has accomplished. It's about what they have the potential to accomplish, especially when faced with new situations or new challenges. So surprisingly, and this is a number that I think, you know, it was a surprise to me, the first time I saw it, their research shows it only about 15% of people are really strong and agile learners. And I want to add one other piece, when you think about the language of being an agile learner. It's often very closely linked or tied to people who have been identified as high potential employees. Because and it's the contrast between being a high performer and a high potential high performer is I'm doing my current job really well. high potential says I could take on new responsibilities or new jobs, and they the probability of me doing them really well is higher.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:35  
Hmm. So having that strong learning agility really is a huge differentiator for people. So let's transition that into the job market. Is this a competitive edge in the job market?

Marsha Clark  18:50  
I think it absolutely is both in internal job market. So if you think about succession planning and talent management and development programs, and all of that, it is a differentiator. And if you can then speak about not just what you've done in these interviews, or you know, thinking about your resume, what is it that you've learned that you can apply them to every new situation you may find yourself in? So that's where that differentiation comes.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  19:18  
Right. And then let's talk about the different kinds or types of learning agility. I mean, I hate using that one, phrase four, as a catch all for all different types of strengths and qualities. So talk to us more about that.

Marsha Clark  19:32  
Yeah, I want to share with you five different kinds of agility that make up learning agility, if you will. So once again, if you get your pens and papers ready, here's the list of the kinds of things you want to consider. The first one is mental agility. How comfortable are you in dealing with complexity? So I think about the mental agility to it's often the, the leadership competency is is phrased as a dealing with ambiguity, right? So that's, that's contradictory. It's, you know, but this is true, but so is that and it appears to be paradoxical. I can wade my way through that, if I have mental agility, the second one is people agility. Are we skilled communicators who can work with a wide variety of people. So not just diversity in whether it be race or gender, but different thinking styles, different functional expertise, different, you know, homes of origin, where thought process or developed are developed very differently, you know, think about people on your team who may have come from an acquisition or who have worked in five different countries, or companies or countries, but they're bringing a different viewpoint. And then the third one is change agility. So it goes back to that and goodness knows, you got to be ready for the change. And if you can, you know, not just respond to it, but but contribute to setting the direction when change is happening. Do you like to experiment? And are you not afraid to lead the parade, if you will, or be at the forefront of that change? And then the fourth one is results agility? Can you deliver results in first time situations? So not something you've done for the last, you know, five years, 12 years, whatever it may be, and you just are kind of on that autopilot? This is I've never met, we've never been in this situation before. Can I draw upon my experiences to bring it here? And then this fifth one, which kind of encompasses all of it is self awareness? Can I recognize my own strengths? And my weaknesses that I'm going to apply to all of the other four?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:38  
Yeah. I mean, no wonder people with strong learning agility are such hot commodities. I mean, this list alone could give our listeners a solid plan for some development opportunities, if they wanted to get stronger in any of those areas.

Marsha Clark  21:54  
Yeah, you can almost start really simply and and, you know, to in order to go even deeper, you just ask yourself on a scale of one to 10, how do I write myself in mental agility? On a scale of one to 10? How do I write myself and people agility, and based on where I might want to do some work that then informs me if you will, and what I might want to, you know, do from a development planning standpoint.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  22:16  
Right. And definitely what hiring managers are looking for in their top talent. I mean, it makes learning agility seem much more concrete. And now I can see how your three key questions will really help people as they're trying to stay sharp, agile, you know, a hot commodity.

Marsha Clark  22:35  
Yeah. And I will tell you, we use these questions once I started reading and learning more about learning agility many years ago. Now. I use this all the time. So here are here are the three questions and they're pretty straightforward. And use them for yourself and use them for people who work with and for you. So the first one is, what did I do? You know, I planned it this way I did this research, I talked to this person, I brought in diverse viewpoints. I did the homework to really know what it would take when I was creating the timeline for deliverables, that kind of thing. What did I do? The second question is, what did I learn from that? And this is where they what worked? What didn't work? What would I do differently? The next time around? This is the stop, start change, you know, all of those things are a part of what did I learn? And then the third question, and this is the big one, this is what really has you at the top of the critical thinking process. And that is, how will this help me going forward? The words how, based on what I learned, how can I take that into the next new or unfamiliar situation and be more efficient, more effective, achieve results? more quickly, higher quality, greater client satisfaction, whatever that might be? And, and, you know, I will tell you for myself, if I've had a really big day, in the when I'm doing things that I've not done before, I might ask myself, these three questions at the end of the day. And I'll even you know, jot down some answers because that helps me, you know, put it in my head and it stays there, and I know where to go get it. But more typically, I'm thinking about this even on a weekly basis so that if I look at a Friday afternoon from a week's worth of activity, what did I did this week, you know, what did I accomplish this week? What did I learn this week? Maybe it's something about the customer, maybe it's something about, you know, the people that worked for me or it may be something about my boss or another colleague, even family members, you know, we don't know everything, especially as adults when we gotten away from our families, and we knew them when they were, you know, I knew my brother when he was eight but I don't know him when he's, you know, for anything. So I want to make sure that I'm applying this so it allows me to be more effective that next time around. And I see it in my job as a leader to help create that same learning capacity in my in my team. And so you know this from the programs that you've been through of mine, at the end of each session or module, I say what stands out for you from today? Which is what did I do? What did I learn? And and then what are you going to do with that? Because that's about how do I take it forward?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:22  
Exactly. So all of us are learners, but not all of us has have studied the topic of learning like you have. So what are some of your other favorite models or tools related to the topic of learning?

Marsha Clark  25:37  
Yeah, when we said we were going to ask this question, I thought, oh, my gosh, what do I narrow this down to because I do have lots. And so the one that I want to share with you today, in addition to the learning cycle, and the learning agility is what's called the beginner's mind. And it came from, you know, my own learning journey back in the early 90s. And when the company I was working with it for the, for at the time was EDS. And we partnered with the MIT, the University in Boston, their organizational learning center, and the person who was running that for them was Peter Senge and he had written a book called "The Fifth Discipline." And it it was full of good stuff. And so it was we created a high potential executive leadership program based on that, and it was the the outcome we were seeking was to be a learning organization. Now get that... Not just my own learning, but now I want to create a pursuit of learning, greater leadership effectiveness, continuous improvement, and achieving results, and so on. And it was called Leading Learning Communities. And working with Peter Senge was Dr. Fred Kaufman. And he was a very distinguished professor at MIT. And he really kind of shocked us at EDS, because he challenged our thinking. We had had much success. The 80s was a great decade for us, and you know, we can fall into complacency. And so he said, "Let me tell you what the sort of the red flag is when you think you're so good at it that you don't have anything to learn anymore." And I want those of our listeners, those of you who are parents see this in our young children, I call it the wide-eyed wonder of the child, right? Everything's new, everything's possible. And I'm making choices all the time about what I'm taking in and what I'm rejecting and that kind of thing. How do I, as an adult, regain that wide eyed wonder of the child because therein lies all the new possibilities and opportunities?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  27:52  
Yep, that the beginner's mind? Why don't we go go deeper into that?

Marsha Clark  27:57  
Yeah, I again, I want to try to help paint the visual so that you kind of have a sense of what it looks like and where to put things, right, the cognitive frame, if you will. So the definition of learning that Fred offered to us was not on the acquisition or, you know, acquiring knowledge, just for knowledges sake, you know, it's not memorizing when the war started and stopped, or, you know, that kind of thing. Learning was defined. And this is really important, I think, as increasing our capacity to act and create the results that we want in our lives. So it's not just for the workplace, it's for our personal lives as well, our family lives. And it wasn't learn defined by what I know, it was defined by what I could do with that knowledge that becomes so important

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  28:51  
Well yes. I mean, action outweighs, you know, contemplation all the time.

Marsha Clark  28:57  
Yes, yes. So if learning is about creating this capacity for action and results, then that's where, when we are introduced to something new, Fred called that we're blind, you might think about that in terms of, I don't know, what I don't know. Right? And it's, our listeners are familiar, maybe with the Johari Window. And if you think about that, it's the part of ourselves that is unknown to us. And it's also unknown to the rest of the world. So I'm at an unconscious unaware state, but when introduced to something, it's now in my consciousness, even though I may be blind about what to do with it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:38  
Okay, so give us an example of that.

Marsha Clark  29:41  
Yeah, so my, my best example these days is learning how to do podcasts.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:48  
And yet here we are.

Marsha Clark  29:49  
Yeah, here we are. So they've been around for, I don't know, almost 20 years, whatever. And I was blind to them. I you know, didn't even know they existed for me. those years. And then once I recognize that they were they were a thing, right, it was another new technology platform. I moved from blindness to awareness. So I went from unaware to aware. And at some point, I recognize that I could have, I had the opportunity to learn more about it if I want to. So I'm moving from blindness now to ignorance. And I know that sounds a little harsh, right? Yeah, I'm gonna own my ignorance. I now know that podcasts exist. But I really don't know. And I understand that I don't know anything about them, you know, the. So even though ignorant is not a word that any of us want attached to ourselves, it is a reality of where any of us can be on any given topic. It simply means that we like knowledge or information that we're uneducated about whatever the topic may be, and in my case, it's it's podcast. So I saw them as you know, their little mini talk shows, if you will, and that can be found on the internet, or, you know, Spotify or Google or wherever you listen to your podcast. And that was about all I knew.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:21  
Okay, that's fair. So how did we get along on the model? That's where we're actually talking here today.

Marsha Clark  31:29  
So moving along, so where you go from being blind or unaware, to now being ignorant because we're aware of what we don't know. So the first step, we have three options when we get into the ignorant phase, if you will. The first one is opt out. I often call it call this the "alien learner." I don't want anything to do with it. That's foreign to me, and I'm not I'm not pursuing it. So we're aware that there's a new skill or technology or whatever. And we opt out of learning and it's a conscious choice. We basically are saying, you know, thanks, but no, thanks. So don't don't need to know more about that right now. And and that's what I did with podcasting for a while, because I was asked for several years ago, when are you going to do a podcast, a blog, you know, write a book, all that kind of stuff. But that's where I was. And we're making this conscious choice. And I just want our later our listeners to hear that's okay. That there are hundreds of things. I say, I don't know anything about astrophysics. I know, I don't know anything about astrophysics, and I don't care. Yeah. And that could be about, you know, learning a second language, it could be learning to fly a plane, it could be, you know, learning how to drive a stick, shift, car, whatever all those things are. And it as a coach, and I would say, as a leader, it's my job to help people get clear about those choices. And to choose wisely. So their choices, I want that my clients and program participants to say, what's my choice, not what someone's telling me, I should or shouldn't do. And I want it made from a place of strength and conviction that I don't really don't care, or I really do care. And we'll talk about those options. But I don't want others putting either limiting beliefs are driving me with fear and intimidation about something. So it isn't about me, or as me as a coach or you as a leader. In judging the choices of others. It's my job to help you get clear about what you want to pursue and how you're going to pursue it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  33:36  
Right. So option one is to opt out where so where do we go next? If we choose to opt in then what happens?

Marsha Clark  33:43  
So there's two other options when we're in the interface. The first one is opt out. The second one, and people aren't gonna like this term, either. But it's one that Fred gave us. And it's the people pretending that they know Oh, when they know, they don't know. So he calls these people the jerks. Oh. So I mean, I know it's another judgment word. And yeah, we know those people, right? They know, they don't know something. But they're either making stuff up or they're, they're pretending or they'll, you know, they're putting on the front. But they don't you ask them one question, and it all falls apart, right? Because they really don't know.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:23  
And I guarantee you that every listener right now is picturing a scenario in a situation where someone in their life did exactly that -- the pretender.

Marsha Clark  34:32  
Absolutely. You know, in Texas, we have this signs about "All hat. No cattle." So, yeah, and then the other in the business where we always we often call those people empty suits. So they're walking around and look in the park, but there is nothing on the inside that's going to help us you know, advance or move something forward or achieve something. So and what makes that one particularly... I don't want to say dangerous, I don't wanna be overly dramatic about it. But when people are in positions of power or authority and they're jerks, boy, does that cast a shadow down that makes life miserable.

Yes, absolutely. I mean, well, it also affects that trust factor, which we talk about quite a bit in this podcast.

Well, that's right. That's right. And So option one is opt out. Option two is be a jerk. And option three is where the beginner's mind comes into play. I choose to take myself to a place where I have the wide-eyed wonder about all of this. I want to learn about it, and I'm now going to pursue that. And so I don't have any guilt or apology for not knowing I'm just acknowledging that this is where I am, and I now want to pursue it. And I have patience and compassion and competence with myself. And that's a big one for women. You don't have to know everything about everything all the time. So give yourself some have patience with yourself, give yourself some compassion, and it will lead to your confidence as a learner. And then you extend yourself that grace, and you allow yourself to make mistakes along the way, without saying, "Oh, I'm so dumb." Or "Oh, I knew I couldn't do this." We call it learning. Right?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:26  

Marsha Clark  36:27  
I mean, I think...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:28  
It implies a process. The word itself implies process.

Marsha Clark  36:32  
Right? Right. So we're gonna monitor we're going to celebrate, are we taking steps in the direction that we want to take. And if I do it for a really long time, I can even go from, you know, being having this beginner's mind and learning to being a master at it, if it's something that I really pursue and practice. And I think it was Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point"... How many hundreds of thousands of times we have to do something before it becomes just sort of unconscious or automatic again.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:59  
Right. And I just love the description with the words humility, patience, compassion, Grace, competence, and celebration. I mean, those are such powerful words all connected to learning.

Marsha Clark  37:12  
It is, and it's part of why I love learning and why I love helping others to learn. Because I've seen the power of people operating from that beginner's mind, space, if you will, being open to change, receptive and generative thinking, innovation, creativity, all comes from that beginner's mind. And, you know, I do want to say a few things about how achieving mastery can almost be another danger zone, right? We think, well, I'm now the master of this. So I can stop learning about this and pursue something else.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  37:51  
But yet, I think that what you're getting to is that mastery, then kind of becomes autopilot... an autopilot situation.

Marsha Clark  38:01  
Yeah, I can punch the button in life just happens, right? I don't have to give it a lot of mental energy or thought, or focus. Yeah. If you think about going to the grocery store, or going to your favorite restaurant or driving to work everyday places, you've been many times, you don't have to put a lot of thought into turn left on this corner, you know, it's the restaurants on the right or whatever. And so that's when the brain goes into autopilot. those neural pathways had been laying and are so deeply ingrained in us that we don't have to think about it. Now recognize, though, that when I get to mastery, it's kind of like I turn off my brain. And I know, you know, that it never is all the way turned off. But I, I don't give much thought and, and focus and attention to it. And so then you think about your world, right? And so here I am on autopilot. And the globe is changing, you know, technology's changing, demographics are changing, worldviews are changing, all of the things that are happening. If I'm on autopilot, I can get in trouble, right? Because it's not a far reach, to go from mastery back to blindness, if I'm not paying attention. And you know, I'd like to share a quote with you. And this is from a Buddhist monk. And, and the quote is, in the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the experts, there are few and experts have often are the people who have achieved mastery at something and yet they stay stuck in that place and the world passes them by.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  39:52  
Right so how did these models about learning help our listeners?

Marsha Clark  39:57  
Yeah, I failed to say this early on, and I want to say it now... To me, leadership and learning go hand in hand. Leadership is one side of the coin. Learning is the other side of the coin. So I think these models help us in a couple of ways. First, it gives us language and this cognitive frame to think about it to know that it's a process. And it's a step by step, and I can be conscious of each of those steps. And it raises our awareness level to the point that we can then make more deliberate and intentional conscious choices on how we want to proceed. So the awareness and understanding opened up the possibilities, the you know, blindness to ignorance opens up the possibilities. And now I have a choice point. And I then have to that gives me the clarity of what am I trying to achieve? Or what am I trying to accomplish here, either because I'm lacking knowledge, skills, or experience. And then I have the choice to go pursue those. And all of that is within my influence or authority or control to change, I don't have to rely on anybody else I can do all of this myself. This is the, you know, the power of self, if you will, an example of that. So, you know, I can ask myself, do I want to be the person on this topic who enters into this unknown territory, in order to be humbled to be brave, to be open to be receptive? And do I choose to put my energy here? Or am I going to look at it, putting it somewhere else? But am I being a jerk about certain things, because I believe it's the way the only way the right way. And, you know, really then choosing to pursue let me go really become the expert on this or really strive for mastery on this versus just pretending to be a master.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  41:46  
Right? And, and that last option of living like a jerk, sounds awful. And yet, I know we make that choice all the time, like most of us make that choice, at least sometimes without even realizing that realizing, really, that's what we're doing.

Marsha Clark  42:04  
You know... it took me a long time in my professional career to have one the awareness and consciousness of it. But second, then the courage to say, you know, I really don't know much about that, right? Because because we want to look good, right to our bosses, our colleagues, our peers, our ego drives us sometimes in in wanting to be in the No. And I think it's a much more powerful place to to admit, I don't know that and yet, I'm willing to go pursue it. And I'll bring in somebody else who's really good and knows a whole lot more about it than I do. And I'll watch and learn.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  42:37  
Right? So what advice do you have for people who want to be more conscious? And have that beginner's mind more often as they walk through life?

Marsha Clark  42:49  
Yeah, I think, in looking at those three choice points of opting out being a jerk, or having a beginner's mind, just do a quick inventory. In what parts of your life do you consider yourself having mastery about something? And what are your watch outs? Right that that that make sure that you're not resting on your laurels when you get to mastery, but that you're continuing? I think about this in terms of women's leadership, we have been getting new research and literature and more role models in the last 20 plus years. So I can't teach what I taught in 2000 are designed in 2000. I've got to keep bringing in this new stuff. Otherwise, my material becomes dated and my value is significantly decreased. And so do your own assessment or inventory? Where am I on certain topics that I really think are important to me achieving the life that I want? Living my values, recognizing my passions, all those things? We talked about that, you know, makeup or internal self awareness? How do I take an inventory and see where I am and see then where I need to do additional work? And then how do I make that happen? Do I Do I go read about it? Do I go talk about it? Do I take a course on it? Do I get a coach? Do I Do I ask my boss to help me work on something, a family member to be you know, a peer coach or something like that? That's where it all starts.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:22  
So you mentioned something in the book about noticing what you notice. Let's talk about that in relation to learning and these choices of either opting out being a jerk or following the beginner's mind. Yeah,

Marsha Clark  44:38  
I often liken it to I buy a new car and all of a sudden I say how many other people have bought the same car...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:45  
You start thinking about buying that car and then it's everywhere.

Marsha Clark  44:49  
Right? And so that's a notice what you notice what you notice. So that's bringing it from that unconscious deep inside of us to the forefront right, it's at top of mind if you will And so that's a part of notice what you notice, you know, when something happens throughout your day? Oh, I noticed so and so had a really sad face today. Oh, I noticed so and so was really quiet today, or very talkative today or whatever those things might be. Or I noticed that my tendency was to make something up. And then I can make a different choice to say, I don't know. So that's the the noticing what you notice inside of you and outside of you, and looking at how what you're doing is impacting others is a part of that external set self awareness. How am I showing up?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:42  
Right, exactly. So, for our listeners, one thing that we have decided to start adding at the end of these podcasts is a quick little segment called key takeaways.

Marsha Clark  45:54  
Yeah, you know, I, I describe these podcasts as educational podcasts, right? In the spirit of when we know better, we do better. So I want these to be like teaching conversations, and so many, many leadership in my ni leadership workshops, if you will, right. So we want to be clear about that. And, you know, I also want to say, everyone will have different takeaways, this, this is something I've learned from through many years of delivering programs. When at the end, I say, what stands out for you, and what are you going to do with it, there are different people are picking up on different things, because that's where they are on their own journey, whether it be their learning or their leadership journey. And so when we outline these, at the end of these sessions, I want you to know, you may have other things that stood out for you. And we don't expect everybody to have the same ones. Yet, I do want you to hear what we tried to bring you today that we think can either be a launching pad or for other kinds of learning. And just recognize that these are some some things that you might want to notice if you will, So, so Wendi, in the spirit of takeaways, and each of us can have different ones, what were some of your takeaways today?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:06  
Well, definitely the whole beginner learner, beginner learner model. I mean, I'm already thinking about areas in my life, where I'm moving from ignorance to topic about topics to choosing to definitively say, Nope, not interested in learning how to build a rocket ship, or a drone, or whatever. I'm gonna leave that to my husband, who's there with his little model, happily happy. So or to be a jerk. Like I'm thinking about times, like when you first said this earlier in this episode, I'm thinking about times where I have flat out done this. Oh, yes, yes, I think that's a fantastic idea. About whatever in my mind, I'm thinking holy crap, I hope nobody asked me to define why I think that's a great idea. And then also to take the step of the and be a beginner. And I'll admit, I mean, this, this whole podcasting thing, like you, while I was probably a few years ahead of you, on this journey, everyone starts a new skill as the beginner. And if you just get comfortable with that fact, and having that bite, beginner's mind is, is something that shouldn't be avoided.

Marsha Clark  48:26  
Yeah, and, you know, we've had some, I'll call them focus groups for some of our podcasts. And one of the lines of feedback was, well, your podcast isn't following the format of the other ones. And I want to say, you know, okay, I take that in, right, that's feedback that I want to hear. And yet, I know, there are many different formats, and I'm not trying to replicate someone else's. I want us to have our own format. This is a teaching podcasts. This is a learning podcast. And so it's not going to be the, you know, the mystery novel serial thing, or, you know, that that kind of deal. So, I mean, I think that is a part of that beginner's mind and recognizing what's mine to define in that regard. And then, anything else that you wanted to add before I before I recap some of the things?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  49:17  
Yeah, I want to I want to talk real quick about the fact that, you know, I've reached expert status, quote, unquote, let me put that in quotes, expert status on some things. And now I'm going to start thinking about whether that's actually keeping me stuck in those areas and being on autopilot. Like, I'm in personal life, I'm thinking about yoga. You know, my yoga class. Yeah, I go, I do the thing. I try to breathe at the appropriate places, but I'm really not thinking about my breath halfway through the class and thinking about my laundry list in my grocery list and write crap. I really need to iron that shirt for that meeting tomorrow. I mean, all of that. It'd be And so being aware of where you are, do consider yourself an expert on some things. And this is a big aha moment for me, people were the situation where other people look at you as an expert, and you're hanging your own personal. You just self definition on what other people thinking of you, you know what that means to you? And having the courage to say, Okay, I'm gonna take a deep dive in again on these things where I consider myself, and other people consider me an expert, and try to look at those things with the beginner's mind again.

Marsha Clark  50:42  
Yeah, to me, there is a huge freedom. When other people place a label on us right? Then I think I have to live up to the label that someone else has put on me. And you know, this is where we talk about your authentic path to power. Right? And and this idea that others don't define me, I get to define me. And if I'm willing to define myself, as I may have mastery, or I may have a lot of experience in something it does. I appreciate your point about experts. I mean, are there ever experts, because, you know, I always tease about this idea of scientific principles. Pluto was a planet, then Pluto wasn't a planet, then Pluto is a planet...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  51:27  
Ugh, I know...

Marsha Clark  51:29  
What is truth? So, we've got to stay current. You know the qualities of that beginner's mind of humility and patience, compassion, Grace, confidence, and celebration. Keep those in the forefront, put those words up around you somewhere and think about that as a prompt for where am I in my learning process. And be kind to yourself.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  51:47  
Oh, and then the other key takeaway for me was, your introducing your three questions around learning agility: What did I do? What did I learn? And how will this help me going forward?

Marsha Clark  52:03  
Yeah, so you've heard me talk about and part of our foundational elements is that Good leaders know they have a toolkit and great leaders know what tool to use when. So what I want to tell our listeners is these three questions, their reflection questions. So if you go back to the awareness, understanding, choice, action reflection, they're used in the reflection state, that's what's going to help me learn and grow from that cycle. So there are tools in your toolkit, and use them appropriately to reflect on your actions as well as how you're going to help develop others to create greater learning agility. And, Wendy, I want to go back to one other thing, or add another thing here that we also talked about, which was the learning cycle. And I just referenced it that awareness, understanding, Choice Action, I think, again, where am I in that cycle? Because once I get aware, from unconscious to conscious, once I want to probe deeper, to understand clarify, then I get to make more intentional choices. And that's a big part of learning. And then I also want to remind people about the learning agility that we had the five characteristics of mental agility, people agility, change, agility, results, agility, and self awareness.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  53:28  
Right, right. Well, Marsha, as always, this has been a fascinating conversation. Thank you so much for sharing this with our listeners.

Marsha Clark  53:38  
Well, it was my pleasure. You know, I think when we think about learning, it's the parental question of when we come home from school, you know, from elementary school, what did you learn today? And I think we need to keep asking ourselves this question. So it is a passion and understanding this science and the art of learning, I think helps all of us be better informed, and therefore better leaders and better people in the world. So we've got we've got more on learning, we may do a future podcast on that because as I said, I had to narrow down the models to share today. But you know, my wishes that our listeners out there, if they've fallen off the continuous learning learning path that they might want to get back on.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  54:19  
Yes. Ooh, nice teaser for future episodes about learning! So, listeners. Thank you for joining us today on our journey of the authentic powerful leadership. We invite you to please download and subscribe to this - "Your Authentic Path To Powerful Leadership With Marsha Clark" podcast on iTunes, Google Spotify, wherever you prefer to listen and please share with a friend! We love sharing... Sharing is caring. And also please visit Marsha's website at for links to all the tools and other resources we discussed today. Subscribe to our email list to stay up to date on everything in the Marsha Clark world. And you can find out more about Marsha and her latest book, "Embracing Your Power," on the site as well as her social media channels.

Marsha Clark  55:14  
Well, and let me add my thank you for being with us today on this podcast. And as we've said many times, please get in touch with us. We want to hear from you. We want to hear your thoughts. In the spirit of learning. You're now a contributor to our learning. Exactly. Yeah. And so yes, do do you can reach me on my website or and we're going to be posting things on social media. So whatever is the best way for you, and we also hope that you'll join us next week. So as I sign off - "Here's to women supporting women!"

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