Compassionate Communication Delivers 2 Million Users with Max Yoder

Compassionate communication has been one of the building blocks for Lessonly’s success and in this interview we learn more about Max Yoder CEO and co-founder of Lessonly – “The powerfully simple training software that helps teams learn, practice and Do Better Work.”

Nathaniel Schooler 0:10
Thanks for tuning in everybody. Today, I’m interviewing Max Yoder – Ceo and Co-founder of Lessonly, with now over 2 Millions users, we are discussing B2B sales, compassionate communication and having difficult conversations. Lessonly is the powerfully simple training software that helps teams – learn, practice and Do Better Work.

Well, it’s really nice to see you, Max. Obviously, you’re on video for for me, the people listening at home are quite excited to hear about Lessonly as well!

Max Yoder 0:58
I appreciate being here.

Nathaniel Schooler 0:59
It’s quite amazing. I mean, so you’ve built an E-Learning business?

Max Yoder 1:05
We’ve got training software for sales teams and customer service teams.

Nathaniel Schooler 1:10
This is actually being used by lots of FTSE 100s and others?

Max Yoder 1:16
We have 600 customers. We just surpassed 2 million unique learners, you know, really, really fun milestones. And we’ve been doing this for six and a half years, so to say, 600 customers and 2 million learners.

When we first got started, I was thinking if we can get, you know, 50 customers, I’m going to be out of my mind! Exciting because I’ve never had a customer in my life. I had never closed a deal when this business started. So 50 was going to be enormous. It’s been it’s been great.

Nathaniel Schooler 1:42
Wow, that’s, that’s really quite exciting. So when you when you started, it was a it was a big struggle, right. Like, I mean.

Elon Musk talks about startups. And he says “Starting a business is actually a bit like eating glass, and then looking down the Abyss!

it just sticks in my mind, you know, because, yeah, you know, I speak to loads of people that are in startups, and you’ve moved well beyond that, but that pain kind of it shapes you, doesn’t it from the early days, right?

Max Yoder 2:18
Yeah, I would. Often I would argue that I started a business because of pain, you know, I had a pain and I wanted to fill and it turns out, businesses don’t fill pains.

You got to go to therapy and counselling for that!

But they can teach you a lot about yourself. So I learned a tonne about myself, this was my second business Lessonly.

My first business was a polling and surveying tool. I ran that one for two years. And it didn’t go great. I still had enough money in savings when we shut it down to get to spin Lessonly up and I had some partners with me at Lessonly as well, that really helps, you know, having other people around instead of kind of feeling like you’re going it alone.

But with Quipol not doing well, which is the first company I really felt a lot of pressure to make sure that goes well, because one thing not working out, you know, that’s an anecdote, two things not working out. Now. It’s like, you’re just not good at this. So I was really invested in doing everything I could to make Lessonly work.

Fortunately, we had a business that had a lot more directed inherent value to customers, which of course, is very important. And we just hit the market at the right time. You know, I think if you tried to start Lessonly today with the exact same playbook, you’re going to struggle because markets come in waves, and they don’t wait for people. So timing was right. The idea was right, we had enough patience to grow slowly, but surely.

But Holy moly, was I stressed out, and I think I missed a lot of the journey by being stressed out. And I think, I’m only now you know only 5 or 6 years in did I realise how much I needed to work on myself, if I was going to be good in this company. And not just focus on the business but, but focus on just being a better version of myself?

Nathaniel Schooler 3:53
Wow, I think it’s, it’s so amazing how self development has kind of come in, come into play, and everything else. But like, you were saying earlier, that when you started Lessonly, right, there were 400 competitors in the marketplace, right? If you listen to people, you would have done nothing, you wouldn’t have even started the business?

Max Yoder 4:13
Right. It’s naivety you know, that we even got started when you when you think, you know, 400 other people out there already starting it. But I’d argue to anybody, if you interested in pursuing something, you have no idea how passionate those 400 competitors are.

You know, we didn’t know how passionate they were, we didn’t know how ambitious they were. They literally just existed as websites on the internet. And it turns out, some of them didn’t have a lot of big growth goals. It turns out, some of them were very comfortable focusing on very, very small segments of very, very, very specific industries, we don’t even see them, you know, like, we’re not competing against each for each customer, we bring on, we compete against maybe two or three people if we compete at all, and there’s 400 learning management systems out there. So I would just encourage anybody, starting a business, do not listening to the person who goes.

“Well, don’t people already do that?.”

And if your telling that to yourself, it might be a good reason not to do it, but it also very well, might not be a good reason to do it, and don’t let that be the one thing, univestigated that stops you from getting to work.

Nathaniel Schooler 5:06
Yeah, that makes that makes makes a lot of sense, actually. So when you when you sort of started right, did you, just kind of look at what else was out there on the market and say. Well, okay, so now I know that what we’re doing needs to look like this, and then you and then you went and sort of just started it or what how did you?

Max Yoder 5:29
You know, great question. Great question. So in the training software space, there is not a lot of love for training software. So we didn’t spend a whole lot of time you know, in 2012, when we got started looking at what everybody else is doing, because we were doing customer interviews and finding out the nobody was happy with what they were doing.

So we just started asking, you know, what do you need, and what we learned was, people needed to be able to create training content quickly, and they needed to be able to keep it up to date. A lot of times, training programs fall on their face, because people go into build the training programs and the content within them. And they take six months to get the first lessons live. That’s a long time.

Think about the needs of an individual on the sales team or customer service team, and then think about them waiting six months to get any forward motion on their training. It’s just not fair. Nobody’s nobody’s happy. So we learned that first and foremost, we’re like, okay, let’s think about a Western builder. That’s really simple. We looked at things like, you know, Squarespace that analogies How do you build any website easily? Oh, well, let’s, let’s bring that as an analogy into how do you make trading software easily.

We looked at WordPress, we looked at all these, it was analogy based, because there was nobody in our space, who was a good analogy, that was a positive analogy was all negative analogies. Like we don’t like that thing. Don’t do it like them. Let’s find a positive analogy. We like that thing. Let’s do it. Like them!

And it doesn’t have to be from the training software space.

Let’s make it simple, make it affordable over time.

So we just started saying.

Let’s keep it simple and powerful. And you know, it’s going to get a little more expensive every year, because we keep making a better every year. But still, it’s a bargain. When you think about keeping hundred people on this same page, making sure that they know the latest and greatest playbook and the products, the services that you sell, how to support them, how to price them how to manage customer objections, and give good feedback to people, all those things. It’s pretty darn cheap to buy training software, if you can get that value delivered. Would you rather have 100 people not know what to do or know what to do with training software they know what to do. So we didn’t look for analogies in our space. Look for analogies and other spaces.

Nathaniel Schooler 7:26
Right, right. So you’re big on like sharing before you’re ready aren’t you. You just telling me that. So what do you what do you mean by that? Max?

Max Yoder 7:38
Yeah. So sharing before you’re ready was basically is basically the premise of how do we get what’s getting done to overlap with what’s needed in any given time you’re working on something you on what’s getting done the circle of what’s getting done to overlap with what’s needed, you want them to be one in the same what’s getting done is what’s needed.

When that happens, beautiful things go down when what’s getting done is not what’s needed. You tend to spend a lot of effort on something that has been minimal value to the people that it was intended for. Pretty basic stuff, right? But I don’t think we think about it a lot. I don’t think we understand sometimes why what we delivered to our teammates is gold and why other stuff is a dud, it has everything to do with it’s the circle of what’s getting done overlaps with the circle of what’s needed, beautiful stuff happens.

The way we get that to happen is we communicate more, sharing before you’re ready is about not going in a vacuum and working on a project or initiative. And then three months later going tadah, or even three weeks later, going tada! That’s a long time to spend in a single vantage point.

You know, we we are all one, we just each one vantage point. Other people see things we don’t see. And if we can spend an hour on a first draft or something, even if it’s as basic as heck, it’s bullet points, get it in front of the people who ultimately should benefit from it and say, what do you think? What am I missing? This is a quick sketch, this is my napkin sketch, tear it apart, show me what I’m missing. They probably won’t tear it apart.

What they’re probably going to do is go “Oh, yeah, I really like these two bullets. I think that’s really important. I don’t see this third bullet that I expected to see.”

Now you’ve got better clarity about what people do. And then you go to one other person, you go to other people, and you’re collecting these voices. I think a lot of times people don’t share before they’re ready for a few reasons. They want to look really smart. I want to look smart. You want to look smart. We all want to look smart. We want we don’t want to act like we need other people’s help to do a good job. But the reality is, we do better work when we do it together.

Second part- we want we we really want to make sure that we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do on our projects. We don’t go ask people their opinions because they’re worried somebody’s going to give us their opinion.

They were like, “Crap. Now we have to do that!”

I like to tell people a voice is not a vote, go collect voices. But if it’s your project, and you’re responsible for it, you get to make a final vote. Don’t be stubborn with that vote. If you heard five people said the same thing. And you just you just don’t like it. You know, maybe look in the mirror and be like, why don’t I like it? Maybe I should listen a little more.

But if you heard one person say something, they judged it off their gut even asked him you like, what do you base it on? know like, I don’t know, it just feels right. You can make the vote of whether you go with it or not. And then come back to them and say, Hey, I really appreciate your feedback. Here’s the reason I didn’t go that route with your suggestion and everything can be fine.

But I think a lot of times, we don’t seek feedback, because we don’t want to say no to people. If we go out with the idea of a voice is not a vote, we can go out collect voices, and we can ultimately use them to make a better decision. But we’re not kind of vote takers in a democracy. You know, we’re trying to get projects done.

So go out and seek feedback share before you’re ready, you’ll come up with better projects, the circle of what’s getting done will overlap with circle of what’s needed. And gold will be the result.

Nathaniel Schooler 10:25
Fantastic. I learned something amazing. That’s really great.

Max Yoder 10:28
Hey, thank you. It’s really I really appreciate you saying that. Because I like to think like, it’s, it can help anybody. All these things. All these things are are things that anybody in the team can do.

Nathaniel Schooler 10:38
It’s the circles coming together. That’s what that’s what really stuck in my mind before you before you gesticulated. And did that on screen.

Max Yoder 10:48
Yeah, I wish I wish people could see it.

Nathaniel Schooler 10:50
You saw me. I was my because I have this funny habit. Yeah, I sort of look when I’m thinking really deeply. I like look up in the weird. It’s funny, weird. Look. Yeah. And like, that’s me thinking really deeply.

Max Yoder 11:03
So I got the whites of your eyes?

Nathaniel Schooler 11:06
Yeah, yeah. So when you saw that, then you carried on, and you said it again. Because you could see that I was thinking, you see. And on the third time when you repeated it, it’s like, you’ve got to basically do stuff, right. That needs to be done. Yeah, right. Right. It’s it, you know, instead of wasting your time and stuff. And unfortunately, with these, a lot of these big companies, they waste so much time on stuff anyway. So we do, but we all do we all do that. We all do.

Max Yoder 11:34
Yeah. small companies, large companies alike. And it has it just for the same reasons. I mean, just not making progress. When we when we when we do stuff that doesn’t isn’t needed. We’re not making progress. We’re wasting our own energy, like wasting other people’s time. Let’s make more progress.

Nathaniel Schooler 11:48
Yeah. So with with this learning management solution, you’ve got right, you basically looked at all the software, you looked at WordPress, you looked at everything, and you made a stand alone solution, right?

Max Yoder 12:01
Yeah, yeah, we looked at them for inspiration that we didn’t look at them to use their their code or their software, we looked at them to be inspired, we made a standalone solution, what you can do with that solution is you can build your training content, you can deliver it to your team.

So you can assign it, you can push it to them, so that they get a note that says, hey, this is important for you to do, you can create elective learning. So if they don’t want to do it, if they don’t have to do a certain training, but they want to do a certain training they can.

But the really cool thing about Lessonly, that I think is one of the reasons that training software is having this renaissance is practice. It’s not just us doing practice, other people in our space are doing practice. But it’s really fun to collectively kind of lock arms with our competitive set and say, let’s make a difference to the way people think about training software.

So a lot of times, you think about training as you learn something and then it should influence your performance in a positive way I learned it now I’m going to be better at work. There’s a middle step that we’ve been skipping for decades, which is practice and practice is the idea of a learned something. Now I’m going to in a simulated environment, try it out. So an example of practice that lesson the offers what we call omni-channel practice.

We will emulate environments that people tend to work in on sales or customer service teams, they tend to email they tend to chat, they tend to use ticketing systems like Zendesk, they tend to speak to people on the phone. So we we emulate the audio experience, we emulate a screen sharing experience.

If you’re doing a Skype or Zoom meeting, what we’re doing is giving you a chance to be in those environments, and try whatever you just learned, share it with a peer, share it with your manager, you know what needs to happen, like what criteria you need to nail in those experiences, you can get good feedback, people can go, you’re really strong here. And here. And here, you got an opportunity for growth on the last bit of criteria that we’re looking for now, you know, but it’s a safe environment, not in front of the customer.

A lot of times, we’ll listen to recordings that are from the customer, which define thing to do, and it’s a good part of the mix. But only doing it in front of customers. Not the greatest experience for customers. Not the greatest experience for the customer service or sales rep.

Let’s give people a safe place to build their muscles. I like to say that don’t expect to play well in the big game if you’re skipping daily practice. But a lot of times, we just skip daily practice, we drop the play like we’re coaches in the locker room, we drop the play or like will do that at Monday night Football for the first time.

Nobody does that. Nobody is like, yeah, we’ll try that play for the first time. Game time. We try it over and over again. Before game time, for some reason at work. You know, we don’t we have not done that yet.

So practice helps you build the muscle, you learn, you practice. And then we try to measure what needles moves out of the performance change, are you closing more deals, is your net, your net promoter score going up? Pretty basic stuff, but really important stuff.

Nathaniel Schooler 14:37
Yeah, that’s, that’s really cool. So let’s, let’s see, I wanted to I wanted to sort of talk for like a few minutes about sales business to business sales, right. Because I know that’s a big, that’s a big strong point of yours.

Max Yoder 14:52
That’s us!

Nathaniel Schooler 14:53
Say I’m a new sales rep, or I’ve got a new product or I’ve got a new business doesn’t doesn’t really matter. Because all actually the same, providing you’ve nailed down like, you know why you’re different. Why you’re better than anyone else. You’ve got your product, and you’re ready to go, right? You got your pricing everything. So what do I do? How do I how do I start? And where do I go?

Max Yoder 15:15
Yeah, so if you’re out reaching the people, you’re reaching out to people, they didn’t, they didn’t raise their hand to you. That’s one thing.

Let’s focus on a situation where you’re in B2B sales. And somebody raised their hand and say:-

“Hey, I might be interested in what you do.”

Let’s focus on that angle. In that situation, it’s super important to not assume that they’re right, it’s really important to assume that they know a little bit about what you do. But you can help them understand better what you do. But first and foremost, you need to understand what they need.

So the best sales people in the world have a tremendous amount of empathy. They don’t want to deliver something to you that you don’t need. It’s very possible that the person goes, I think I, what you have I need, and they’re right.

But first, let’s ask them questions. Let’s be inquisitive. Let’s not take things for granted. This is a time to build trust. If somebody is coming at you and saying, I’m interested, tell me more. First, you say, I’d love to tell you more. But what we sell me a lot of different things to a lot of people. So in your own words, what do you what are you looking for? And how do you see us providing value in that conversation, you’re going to see a tremendous amount of opportunity to go, this is a good fit, or it’s not.

And the best salespeople in the world acknowledge when it’s not a good fit, they do not try to shoehorn somebody into something that they sell, so they can get the deal done, because people deserve better. And people talk. And they talk when they have a positive experience, whether they bought or not.

They remember the salesperson who says:-

“We’re not the right fit, I can introduce you to somebody who is maybe that’s in a completely different space”

Or just as honest enough to go, I appreciate that you want to buy what we’re doing.

“But I can’t it’s not it’s not for you.”

They will come back months later, consistently.

Say:- “I have a friend, I think they’re the right fit. Or I have a brother, I think they’re the right fit. “

You’re building a network of people who support you, it is only possible to do that if you do not take a scarcity mentality to every person in front of you. If you feel like they’re the last central person is ever going to come to you and say, I need what you have, you’re going to try to sell them because they’re the last one in line.

If you take the abundance mentality of there’s, we have a lot of value to serve to give to the world. This is one person out of 8 billion. This is one person out of maybe hundreds of millions of potential people who would buy our software, let them free if they’re not the right fit, and they will help you flourish.

But you have to have the abundance mentality to be able to let people free you know, it’s same with dating, right? You’re dating somebody, if you think that the last person to ever give you the time of day, you’re really going to get a little aggressive, but they’re not the last person at that time. And there’s so many people out in that world.

A lot of analogies there. I hope that helps.

Nathaniel Schooler 17:49
I agree completely. I think the scarcity mindset is the worst. I think that people need to just get rid of that, you know, I mean, I, I’ve been doing a bit of research and I and I read this book of got a friend of mine. And he is, he’s Britain’s leading hypnotist. Really awesome.

Max Yoder 18:07
I love this Jonathan Chase.

Nathaniel Schooler 18:09
So he wrote this book, “How to make friends with yourself and influence people.” But he’s written like five books or something, he is friends with Darren Brown, and like, you know, like all lots of different magicians and hypnotists and stuff, but, but he has now moved into subconscious success.

So he’s basically encouraging people to, to get their own perfect day, right? That’s the first step. So okay, so it’s like, what bed are you sleeping in?

What do you do when you wake up in the morning, right? You? You open the curtains, and you look out the window. So what does your view look like?

Max Yoder 18:52

Nathaniel Schooler 18:54
How do you how do you feel about that? You love it, right? It’s your perfect day. So it’s, it’s okay, like creating Groundhog Day.

Max Yoder 18:58
I love it ok got it! Ok but it’s perfect.

Nathaniel Schooler 18:58
But it’s, but it’s perfect, right? So it’s not like:- “Oh, I’m going to buy a private jet today.” Because that’s not going to happen every day. This is like your perfect day. What are you going do. “So I’m going to wake up, I’m going to do some do some martial arts training, I’m going to eat some food. I’m going to have a lovely lunch, then I’m going to talk to Max in the afternoon. And we’re going to chat about business and motivation, and you know, whatever else,.

But the point I’m trying to get to is, then he takes it a little step further. And he says, so now what you need to do is think about who are your perfect clients?

Max Yoder 19:38

Nathaniel Schooler 19:39
And what does their perfect day look like?

Max Yoder 19:43
Excellent. Right. Excellent. Yeah, it’s getting their shoes, right. Yeah, it is so easy to forget to ask the question of what’s in it for them. You know, it’s like the, the natural default state is what’s in it for me. And when we have good ideas, we’re rushing to share those good ideas with other people and often forgetting to go, why would they care?

Where is the value have been thoughtful about what they need? And, you know, just that, that extra step of saying, What’s in it for that person? How can I help that person? How can I genuinely help them?

Not! How can I convince them that I’m helping them! But how can I genuinely help them, that stuff just pays itself back over and over and over again, because it’s it’s rare. And I don’t think it’s so rare that, you know, there’s nobody out there doing it. But I think it’s fair enough that people pay attention when they see it, and they share it, when they see it. It is contagious. If you do it, other people do it. It has nothing to do with rarity. It’s just contagious. And the more we do it, the more other people will!

Nathaniel Schooler 20:39
Yeah. But also it’s it’s about once you’ve worked out who you really want to spend time with, and what they’re like as individuals. What’s really funny is as you work out that they’re just like you, they’re people who are just like you. And that’s what’s the most bizarre thing. It’s almost like, once you once you come to that right realization.

Everywhere you look, there are people who you could partner with, you could you could do business with Who are your friends, they could be your advisers. And what you find is, is that you all share those personality traits. Sure.

Max Yoder 21:16
Yeah, it’s humanity.

Nathaniel Schooler 21:17
It’s, it’s, it’s to the point of you could actually go on holiday with these people, because they’re not just your clients. They’re actually like, they feel like your friends. Yeah!

Max Yoder 21:30
I’m tracking now. I’m tracking right!

Nathaniel Schooler 21:32
So then, obviously, in different businesses, you’ve got different people who, so for me, for example, I’m going to get on with someone like you, right? But there might be someone who, who you wouldn’t like to talk to? I wouldn’t like to talk to them either. Probably because we seem quite similar, right?

Max Yoder 21:49

Nathaniel Schooler 21:50
So there will be someone else who will be in your employ who you will hire who will deal with that kind of individual and then they will do the perfect day and think about that, that person, right? And then!

Max Yoder 22:02
I like that, yeah, yeah. So this is Jonathan chase on. I’m really, I’m really interested in anything that has hypnotism in it right now.

Nathaniel Schooler 22:12
He’s mind blowing. Look right. He, he gave me He gave me this. Yeah.

Max Yoder 22:18
What are we looking at their hypnosis installed 1.0. Okay. Set. Yeah. Okay. Have you done it?

Nathaniel Schooler 22:24
Yeah. Yeah, I did it about eight months ago. And so first of all, I read that book, right. Okay. Yep. Then I did the hypnosis installed. And I didn’t realise that it that it started working. And then I read that book again, about a month ago. And it was like, the heavens opened. And everybody I talked to wanted to help me with something wanted to do something or, or whatever else.

But the thing is, it’s because of what sits behind that. It’s a sincerity of wanting to help those people.

Max Yoder 23:06
We need that sincerity right now. Yeah.

Nathaniel Schooler 23:09
Because without that sincerity, you’re trying to persuade someone to buy something that they don’t want.

Max Yoder 23:17
Right. Right. Right.

Nathaniel Schooler 23:19
So you could get customer refunds, you could get people talking badly about you badly about your business. Yep, behind your back. And it’s going to damage your reputation.

Max Yoder 23:30
And sometimes not behind your back it was very public, you know, and it’s like, that’s can be very, very damaging. Yeah, it just, it doesn’t pay, it doesn’t pay. And I love that the priming of let’s I feel like if I’m hearing you correctly, you’ve been primed to start looking for people who are being helpful, because that’s something that really matters to you.

And the more you look for them, the more you see them, you know, that’s the neat thing about our focus. If we’re focusing on who’s trying to take advantage of me, you’re going to find a lot of people try and take advantage because you’re looking for them, you’re focusing on them, if you’re focusing who’s trying to help me who deeply cares about me, there’s a lot of those people too, but it’s all like, what, what are we looking for?

Yeah, I appreciate you sharing that I started doing hypnotherapy because I think that’s kind of fun to try different kinds of therapies, I found it to be very much like deep meditation, and I just loved it. And basically, you know, the gentleman came and sat down with me, calmed me down breathing and is helped me just be a calmer smoother breather. And that breathing is really just helped me generally just be happier and healthier. Yeah, I don’t know if this often gets talked about on business podcast, but…

Nathaniel Schooler 24:35
I talk about it or not, I talk about it a lot.

Max Yoder 24:37
I think it all starts with us, right? It all starts with us working on ourselves.

Nathaniel Schooler 24:43
Because the thing is, if you think that you’ve got this subconscious brain in the back here, I mean, what, what, what Jonathan talks about, in his books, and he basically says that the subconscious mind is like a nine year old child, a bright nine year old child, right. And a nine year old child wants to have fun. Yeah, so.

Enjoy the episode here with Jonathan Chase

So as long as, as long as you like, whatever you’re doing, if it’s not fun, you need to just stop doing it. Like in like, night, 90, you know, 85% of the time in my mind, you should be having fun. All right, you’re going to probably have chances are, you’re probably you may have 15%, I mean, I have 15% probably, of things that I don’t really like to do, but I do I need to do them, which is like the real world.

But Jonathan and many other people, you probably have found a way to get someone else to do those 15% of things.

Max Yoder 25:37
To them they might be fun. That’s the cool part is sometimes those 50% of things are fun to the other person, like tasks that to me, looking at a spreadsheet, and I’m like, No way I give it to somebody else. And they are joyful. You know, that’s the cool thing. If we share responsibility, we can we can be old all be joyful.

Nathaniel Schooler 25:55
That’s exactly right. I’m in the process of doing something with a friend on and we had a long conversation yesterday. I said, Look, you can draw this up. It’s like, Yeah, no problem. I throw it up on Friday, I’ll write all the papers and we send out like, what, because he loves it. He just loves all those little details. You see,

But me, I’m like, I’m the big picture kind of person, you know,

Max Yoder 26:19
you’re going to lose the details. Yeah, that’s a beautiful thing about teamwork. It’s an absolutely beautiful thing about teamwork is we can all be doing, we can get everything done, and everybody can enjoy doing it, and you know Jill Bolte Taylor, she’s neuro-anatomist. She backs up the idea of we’ve got this child in us they wants to play and she talks and, you know, the right brain hemisphere of the right brain, left brain, the analytical side, the left brain, you know, the, the more open and expansive side of the right brain, she had a stroke and was able to experience while the left brain left side of her brain was kind of off, she was able to experience just the right side.

A beautiful book called my stroke of insight as a neuro-anatomist was able to experience what it feels like when the right side of her brain is turned off. And she Jill happens to be a friend of mine, because she’s one of my mother in law’s best friends. So I got to get to hang out with her and talk to her. So she has a stroke, really expansive, a feeling of like, everything is connected. And everything is important. And everything is joyful. And, you know, she basically realises in this backs up science, you know, that the left side of the brain is good at sorting, task management, it needs time. And it matters!

Right side of the brain needs time. And it matters, you can balance them out by giving them time. So her advice was to just really devote more time and give designated time to the joyful part of your brain where they can play give designated times the more analytical part of your brain where it can get stuff done.

If you ignore one or the other, you tend to feel stressful, because one of them is going, I need more time, I need more time. And she’s actually broken it down into sub components, but it backs up what you’re saying about that joyful, kind of nine year old self of like, let’s play. And so she gives her she gives herself time blocks to play and to get work done. And I find that to be very inspiring. Wow,

Nathaniel Schooler 28:00
That’s, that’s amazing. That’s that, that’s just blow my mind this conversation.

Max Yoder 28:05
Jill Bolte Taylor She’s, she’s very, very awesome.

Nathaniel Schooler 28:08
So so. So she’s saying that if you neglect one it’s knocking on it’s knocking on your happiness sort of thing saying, Don’t neglect me, I need you to do something. And that’s what I go through on a daily basis.

Max Yoder 28:21
Yeah, yeah, she’s saying, you need to make time for it. If it knows it as time tomorrow, it’s not going to be so anxious and knocking and the left analytical side of the right side won’t be like, when do I get to play? Or when do I get to get work done? Give them a lot of time.

And I think that goes back to, you know, one of the reasons Have you ever felt less stress, as soon as you scheduled time to work on that big project, you’ve been putting it off, and then you put it on the calendar, I’m going to have three hours tomorrow to get that done immediately. I feel better when that happens.

Because I know I’ve designated time but until I’ve designated that time, it’s in the back of my mind taking up 10% capacity kind of eating at me. So, you know, that is a, a picture a practical picture of what she means about that knocking and being like, when am I going to get my time, just give giving them a bit of balance.

Nathaniel Schooler 29:07
I think that’s, that’s really super interesting. That’s just like, that’s really just taking all my knowledge that I’ve been building up around around myself and just said, and it’s just said, right. And it’s like, it’s almost like everything sort of clicked into place a little bit in my head.

Max Yoder 29:24
Good. you know we are at the right place today.

Nathaniel Schooler 29:28
Yeah, completely. I think when people listen to this, they’re going to absolutely love I think it is gonna be a great, great episode.

Max Yoder 29:34
I’m so glad I appreciate that. We got time to talk. I’ve really enjoyed it. I really enjoy

Nathaniel Schooler 29:38
Me too. So over over to having difficult conversations, right? Because I know that’s a big, it’s a big thing, like, you know, internal communications and this sort of stuff, right? You bet. I mean, you have a team over there of how many people now

Max Yoder 29:55
We have 105 today? To me, that’s a really big team.

Nathaniel Schooler 30:03
Yeah, it is, so how do you how do you manage these difficult conversations that you’re having with people like, you know, what is a difficult conversation that you would sort of generally have in a business of that size?

Max Yoder 30:18
Yeah, so difficult conversations became a value at lesson Lee roughly four years ago, we really formalised our values about a couple years in, which was really intentional. Just real quick aside, you know, I think a lot of companies start and they lock in their values on day one, what we did was we waited as we build the team up a little bit to say, and then reflect it and said, you know, at around 15 people, what do we do that we love doing? What do we do that’s working? What is happening when things aren’t working? And then we come back and we say, well, let’s build our values off of that information.

You know, it’s practical, its historic data, and one of them was, we have difficult conversations, one of those values, and it remains a value today because it’s never going away. What what happens when the reason you’d ever have a different conversation is there’s tension or conflict. In an interpersonal relationship, one person feels they’ve been slighted one person feels they’ve been overlooked.

Maybe both parties feel that way. any number of reasons where somebody could feel conflict, retention, largely conflict intention at work doesn’t come from, from actual personal discord. It comes from a systemic conflict.

Systemic conflict would be I’m in finance, you’re in marketing, your job in marketing is to spend money. My job in finance is to not spend money and to save money, there’s conflict there, that has nothing to do with you and me liking one another. But because we don’t know one another that well, we might make it personal. Because we’ve never probably heard about systemic conflict. You know, we’ve never been taught that conflict can come from any other spot than another person being a jerk.

Nathaniel Schooler 31:48

Max Yoder 31:48
So, so we tend to make things personal, that aren’t personal either way, we need to have a way to get through them, you know, but a big message to the team is do not assume.

Do not assume that somebody had bad intentions, if we come at it from the benefit of the doubt of this is a circumstantial thing more than likely than a character thing, you know, because we tend to judge other people, by their character and our own behaviour by our circumstances, which is super convenient for us. Because if we have a circumstance of, well, you know, I was, I was mean to that person today, because I got in a fight with my wife last night, I’m just having a bad day. That’s my cop out, that’s my excuse, right? But if they’re mean to me, well, then they’re just a jerk. With a rotten soul. You know, that kind of stuff.

It’s pretty helpful for us when we get to make those use it. But it doesn’t create any Harmony in the World. We need to give all the people the benefit of the doubt, like we give ourselves a benefit that we judge others by their character, we judge them by their circumstances, moral.

The story is, when we’re having struggles with people, we just generally need to talk about it. And it took many years for us to figure out what the right model for talking about it was, we ended up landing on a model called compassionate communication or nonviolent communication, compassionate communication or nonviolent communication is just like, how do you speak in ways that don’t cause hurt and harm?

How do you communicate what you’re seeing ? How it makes you feel ? What you need? And what you’d request as an alternative, without inciting an argument.

Because the reality of argument is, if you look at the words that we use, when we just described our arguments, they’re the same phrases we use, when we go to war.

We say, “Oh, he shot my my point down, or he he stood his ground or he attacked my weakest point.”

All of those are word terms. This is not a thing that I came up with these gentlemen who studied metaphors Lakoff and Johnson they were like, “Listen, metaphors matter a lot. We need to understand what are metaphors are metaphor for argument is war.”

And that’s generally the way we resolve a lot of our conflict is war, we argue, we should not expect to find peace when we’re using war as the basis for how we’re working through things. Because peace doesn’t come from more so we need to do is figure out a way to communicate in a way that is not going to get people to escalate, but gets people to de-escalate and understand one another better and reach mutual empathy and compassion. We can do that by using compassionate communication.

I just finished a book it’s coming out in February, it has an entire chapter on having different conversations and how to do it. And I took it with permission from a gentleman named Marshall Rosenberg. I believe Marshall Rosenberg was a living Angel. I don’t even know if there’s an afterlife. But this guy had to have been sent from somewhere very special. In the 60s, he came up with compassionate communication, he negotiated tensions between between gangs, he did UN World Peace summits.

This guy was basically like:-

“We can understand each other better if we observed more and judge less if we can communicate our feelings instead of our thoughts.”

The difference between a feeling in a thought is I can say:-“I feel like you’re letting everybody down.” That’s a thought

A feeling is “I’m sad and overwhelmed!”

Those thoughts and feelings come from the exact same place, which is the observation of I haven’t seen you in three days, I haven’t seen you in three days, I might feel like you’re letting everybody down.

But it’s like clear, if I say, “I haven’t seen me in three days. And I’m sad and overwhelmed”

Which gets two the person of the point of :-“I need more help, my needs, you know, I need to be supported.”

And then my request is:- “If you’re going to be, you know, go missing for three days. Please tell me where you are.”

These are just ways for us to reach one another without escalating violence without making things more hurtful or harmful. They are ways for us to understand. You know, what it’s like to feel sad, I know, what it’s like, feel sad, you know, it’s like, feel agitated, so do I. When we use words like I feel agitated, or I feel or I feel uneasy. People can relate to us, we build a mutual connection right away.

Most people don’t want to make people feel uneasy. Most people don’t want to make people feel sad. And people don’t make people feel anything is an important part of nonviolent communication and can be compassionate communication. We choose to feel how we feel, you know, your behaviours, I let you make me feel a certain way, you don’t make me feel any way I allow it. I choose to allow whatever you’ve done to impact me negatively. So I should take responsibility for that.

So when you do something that frustrates me, I can say I am angry because you didn’t call me last night. But I’m angry. I’m angry. I’ve got a little middle finger statue being shown to me.

Nathaniel Schooler 36:15
I couldn’t help it. My buddy Erik. I just sometimes I just do it. I just can’t help it. My friend.

Max Yoder 36:21
And I was like, What is that?

He made me a printed 3d middle finger, right?

And when you hear this, and you think about giving them a middle finger or communicating with them. The goal is, you know, middle finger escalates. And my big my big thing is deescalate.

So anyhow, I love difficult conversations, because we don’t learn how to have them. We just don’t learn how to have them. I don’t know about your primary school, we didn’t learn anything about conflict. in primary school, we didn’t learn anything about conflict, you know, middle school, high school, it’s what we deal with every day. And we got basically two hours of it in kind of like, you know, the gymnasium got filled. And two people came in, talk about conflict for maybe an hour at a time, twice, due at my education. That’s not enough time, not enough time. You know, we spent plenty of time on calculus, and I don’t see calculus every day, I’d like to spend half as much time on calculus and a heck of a lot more time on helping people understand how to communicate and be compassionate, and get and get through conflict. Maybe not resolve it, but manage it.

Nathaniel Schooler 37:27
I agree. I’m just nodding away here. That’s, that’s, that’s really valuable information Max. So what is your book all about them?

Max Yoder 37:36
Yeah, it’s called do better work. And the idea is, how do we help anybody on a team who wants to do better work?

Who wants to make more progress that work, which is really what doing better? works is all about.

How do we push the team forward?

It’s, it’s written for anybody on any team in any rank or role, who wants to engage in behaviours that make more progress. Really, the idea is, progress is driven largely out of camaraderie and clarity. So camaraderie is this idea of we have a mutual trust and respect for one another.

The behaviours in the book, the eight behaviours help build camaraderie. And then clarity. Clarity is understanding what matters? Why it matters? Who’s responsible for going after it? What role do I play in it? What role do you play in it?

If I if we know what matters, and we trust and respect one another, we’re going to crush stuff, we’re going to do great work together, we’re going to make a lot of progress. Without clarity, we might run in circles together, and kind of like one another, but not know what to do with.

With clarity. And without camaraderie, we’re not going to work together, we’re all going to be kind of mercenaries. So this book is just about it doesn’t matter who you are. You don’t need your whole team to care. If you read “Do Better Work.” You can do things you specifically take action because all you can ever control is what you do. You can never control what your teammate does, taking action to say I’m going to do these small behaviours like :-

Asking clarifying questions, like having difficult conversations, like sharing before I’m ready.

And because I do them, the whole team can, it can make more progress. And the more I do them, the more likely it is somebody’s going to look at me and go you.

“Yeah, I want to do that too.” I see that working for Max.

You know, like, I see whoever the person is, we can inspire other people to do better work simply by doing it ourselves. But if we wait around until everybody’s ready, we’re not going to get anywhere.

Nathaniel Schooler 39:11
Right. So asking a clarifying question is kind of is that saying to them? How do you feel about this and getting all sort of emotion on bringing that into it?

Max Yoder 39:22
It could be it could be as simple as somebody going, can we get a SME on our API, and you’re like, Can you tell me what you mean by SME and API mean?

A clarifying question is when somebody uses jargon, don’t don’t act like you know what they mean. When you don’t, when somebody when somebody says:-

“We need to make changes here.”

And you’re not sure what they mean by that.

You say :- “Oh, interesting. Can you elaborate on that?”

It is making sure people keep talking until they give you what they need. Because oftentimes, there’s a thing called the curse of knowledge, where if you know something, you’re I know something, we tend to think other people know it too. So we communicate in fractions instead of holes, because we think you have the information that you need to fill in the gaps. But often you don’t. We’re prone to under communicating information.

If we ask clarifying questions. Those clarifying questions can fill in the rest of the gaps, the blocks of clarity but if we don’t ask them and we just assume that we know what the gaps are, and we can fill them in ourselves, we’re running the risk of creating a division, running the risk of of assuming our waist or different outcomes. So it’s just pausing being less assumtive, you know, if you watch a TV show, or a movie, you see people communicate with like, amazing intuition. One person says something the other person who really knows what they mean and responds with like the perfect answer.

These are really smart people we watch all the time on TV’s and movies were smart, too. But in a in a movie that we’re living here. It’s not a TV show that we’re living here. Let’s be clear, let’s pause and go. I’m not quite sure I understand. Can you give me one more example. That’s what clarifying questions are.

Nathaniel Schooler 40:46
Right. That’s really valuable information.

Max Yoder 40:48
I’m just so grateful that you, you came at this with a really positive attitude. You were excited, I made me excited. It’s been really fun to get to know you. And I would love to send you a copy of the book when it’s out. So!

Nathaniel Schooler 41:00
Thank you. I really appreciate that. That’d be fantastic.

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