#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

How to Live and Work Authentically with Mike Horne

Integrity begins when you align your words and actions

Mike Horne, Ph.D. is an executive coach who works with leaders to design authentic workplaces where employees can thrive.  In today’s show, Mike discusses his definition of happiness and how making continual progress is more important than achieving goals.

Mike Horne portrait

“The greatest purpose of life is becoming the person you are.”

—Mike Horne

56. How to Live and Work Authentically with Mike Horne

Key Takeaways

  • If authenticity is not part of the workplace, it is difficult to retain employees.
  • We have to re-imagine organizations so that communities are more important than cultures.
  • Create an organization where people feel they belong.

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As a coach, consultant, teacher, and mentor, Mike Horne, Ph.D. opens doors and possibilities for leaders, teams, and organizations. He has worked with senior leadership teams in HP, ExxonMobil, Darden Restaurants, McKesson, and the Gap. He is a coach who believes that the paths to prosperity and success are expanded when leaders design workplaces that enable people to do their best by bringing more of who they are to every situation. Mike has led people and culture teams at Wilson Towers Watson, Marriott International, Nortel Networks, Genentech (a member of the Roche Group), Brocade Communications, and Gilead Sciences.

“When managers show an interest in people, when they create a sense of being in on things, work gets done a lot more easily.”

—Mike Horne

Podcast Transcription

Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and co-founder of Branded Group, an award winning facility maintenance and construction management company that services multi-site commercial properties such as retail, restaurants, healthcare facilities and educational institutions. Welcome to the BeBetter podcast. Each week, I interview thought leaders from a variety of industries who will share their stories and the lessons they learn as they strive to be better for their clients, partners, employees and their community. Are you ready to be better?

Michael: Hello and welcome to another episode of the BeBetter podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Joining me today is Mike Horne, leadership coach and consultant and host of the Authentic Change podcast. Mike, welcome to the show and tell the audience a little bit more about who you are and what you do.

Mike: Well, I’m so delighted to be here with you today. Michael, thank you for inviting me to be a guest on the BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland. I’ve given a lot of time and thought to thinking about being better and what being better means, so I hope you indulge me and I hope your audience indulges me in working through these concepts, exploring them with you and looking to some areas of life where I think all of us expect progress. You know, whether it’s in the physical dimension and our health or in our emotional well-being or our intellectual well-being or our spiritual well-being. So to talk about how we make progress in those areas, maybe we could even say how we’d be better in those areas, I’m hesitant to do that. I’m curious how you think about that. Yeah, that’s who I am. I have three basic roles: a teacher, coach and mentor. I’ve done that in very big corporations around the globe, leading human resources teams. I’ve done it independently, but advising some big corporations, ExxonMobil, HP and others on their journey, on their leadership journeys.

Michael: That’s very awesome, Mike, and thanks for sharing all that and thanks for being here and I really love the topic of progress. I think, you know, you mentioned it just before we went on the air here, and it was funny because we had a very not normal for me pre-show where we kind of just met, and you’re podcaster and I’m a podcaster and we said, you know, what do we want to talk about? And you’re like, I don’t know, I’ll come up with some stuff and you come up with some stuff and we’ll just go and normally I lay the groundwork during the pre-show with most of my guests because they want to know in their head like, what do we want to talk about? And it gives them some peace of mind, right, so that we can go. But I love this. So let’s talk about progress. Let’s talk about progress and being better and how they’re kind of intertwined.

Mike: I’m reminded of, there was some work that Tricia Amiable did, a professor at Harvard, on engagement and in her research and in her point of view, the key indicator for engagement, at least as I understand her work, is a sense of progress that at the end of every day, we can point to something that we made some progress. It can be clear in some occupations like trash cans picked up, you know, my bank balanced at the end of the day, it can be in that regard, or it can be in a sense that I got further on this issue because, you know, a lot of the fields that I’ve worked in, there isn’t any, you know, let’s slap our hands all down at the day we can all go home. There are tasks like that that are required, right, that we expect that kind of stuff. You would know about that. And you know, so for me, when I think about progress, it’s that sense of accomplishment. I want to contrast that, though, with, you know what it means to be better. Having said that I’ve thought a lot about this. I’ve often thought about, let’s not be better in a rehabilitative sense. How’s that, how’s that sitting with you, Michael?

Michael: Yeah, I think you make a lot of good points and your references are great. Every day there’s some people that, you know, they live by their to-do list, right? And so by checking off that to-do list, that’s their progress and that’s their sense of accomplishment and that pushes them forward. And that’s on a daily level, right? But I think, and like you said, checking off tasks, most of us go home, you know, the job never ends. It’s just one continuous, for what I do and what we do at Branded Group, it’s just one continuous thing of smaller things that are the same, but they’re not the same. But getting them done is progress, but you’re just on to the next one. But I think in life, you know, and that’s kind of the bigger picture of progress being better. Like what is it, I guess it’s goal setting, right? So for me, I like to set goals and then I like to work towards my goals. And as I get to my goals, I feel progress. I can tell you one of my goals right now is to lose a couple of pounds and get that six pack abs back. I am not feeling the progress with that right now, but you know, I keep on striving to be better with that.

Mike: That’s like be better with your health, be better with your appearance, be better with how you feel about your body. So, yeah, if something gets in the way of you accomplishing that, that you’re vested in your success in some other way, right. Well, OK, if you’re vested in that in a different way that you enjoy being successful wine more. I don’t know. But you want to be better. Is it really a passion? Is it something that you’re worried about?

Michael: I know wine is definitely a passion, my goal when I am no longer podcasting and running Branded Group is to either become a sommelier or to, you know, work for some winery as a salesman and do the traveling wine. So I guess in a way, I’m making progress towards that goal.

Mike: Yeah, sure. So you just have a competing goal that is to lose weight. You’ve got to reconcile that somehow.

Michael: I do. I don’t know how I’m going to do that. So how important do you feel it is…

Mike: I think, you know, one recommendation would be that there is a lot of tossing. If you want to be a sommelier, maybe that or you know, you do some caloric burn in that regard Michael.

Michael: Yeah, dump it out instead, I like it. So how important do you feel that it is for people to have goals, you know, in terms of making progress? Is that something that you feel is very important or what’s your take on that?

Mike: Well, I suppose, you know, like many things, you can approach this in several ways that you could have some open directed exploration in areas that are of interest to you. And as you make progress, as you develop your interests, then you become better, you become more knowledgeable, you have greater depth or breadth in that field. And that’s certainly one way to do it. I often more typically work with people who are more directionally oriented in that regard that they’re looking for an answer. So, nearly every engagement that I work in is with a goal. If not, it, you know, in the goal we could, you know, in coaching, in executive coaching, executive development, you know, a better goal is to have progress than it is to have success. I think that so many of the issues that we deal with are perhaps in your parlance to say that, you know, it’s to be better. Something was broken for that person, something that was causing a worry or concern, I guess was broken, so it is better in a way that I have a sense of improvement around that.

Michael: So when you’re working with these leaders and you’re coaching and consulting with them, take us through a little bit of that. Is that the first thing you do is set goals for them so that they can start working on the progress towards the goals?

Mike: I’m interested in finding out as much as why they’d like to be a sommelier as they like to drink wine. I’m interested in what’s in the space between, Michael, because it’s often, you know, a little like a New Year’s resolution that people make. I want to be a better listener. I want to have better relations, and if I do these five things, then I will achieve better in a sense. And often I think it starts, Michael, right to your question, it starts with identifying what we’re worried about and what we’re concerned about. And then beginning to set some goals and to realize that life is not a science experiment, but rather to be experimental with our approaches until we are able to condition a set of behaviors that lead us to regular improvement. It’s catalyzing, it’s capitalizing and it’s conditioning.

Michael: Yeah, so what I’m hearing from you is basically, like every single person that you work with is totally different, and even if I and someone else that you were working with had the same exact goals and issues that they wanted to get better at, the roadmap you would lay would be totally different for two different people.

Mike: The map is different for each of us. One of the people with whom I podcasted recently said that she was, I believe it was Carol Burton, who said that she was stopped dead in her tracks when a 20-something, her mother said, who’s writing your script?

Michael: I like that.

Mike: And our scripts are driven by so many of the roles that we take on, though, right? Partner, parent, friend, boss, coworker. I mean, these roles have, you know, serious impacts on how we think we need to show up.

Michael: Yeah, and any divergence from any of those one thing that you said, because everything has to line up perfectly, right, to get you where you are in life, because any divergent would change everything.

Mike: You know, I published a book in May, Integrity by Design, Working and Living Authentically. So I write a lot and talk a lot and work with people on the issues of kangaroo and see that you know your words and actions matter. And even better, if we, you know, can bring your thoughts into alignment as well, you know, in a mindful way so that, you know, thoughts, words, actions, they align. And when you have that kind of alignment, you feel a sense of congruence. And what we know from research is that people who have this kind of congruence are generally happy people and people like to work with happy people. I’m not talking about the happiness that comes with finding a new boyfriend or, you know, girlfriend or the birth of a child. I’m talking about, you know, sustained everyday happiness comes with congruence.

Michael: So do you think that happiness that you’re talking about, Mike, is a sense of contentment that people are having and that they are, you know, just content in life? And also, would that be counter intuitive to progress?

Mike: Well, I think it depends on, you know, how you see the outcomes of your work with individuals and their teams. One of my mentors said that coaching was about the elimination of suffering. It’s a Buddhist approach to it. I think that it’s different. It’s about what we were talking about in terms of congruence, right, that when our words, thoughts and actions are aligned, we actually increase happiness. So when a person, you know, is it about contentment? I don’t know if self-aware people are ever very content. Self-awareness is key to all, you know, so fundamental to most of our exercise of agency and leadership and being able to bring more of who we are to what we do.

Michael: I think that’s a great answer, and I love what you’re saying about self-awareness, you keep bringing up these like buzzwords or whatever that I want to keep going down these different roads with you here, but with self-awareness, I feel like it’s something in today’s day and age, especially as I’ve gotten older into my early 40s that, you know, I notice I didn’t probably have self-awareness until my early 30s, and I think I hit self-awareness at a very young age. And there’s still people out there that are my age or close to me in age that I’m like, how is this guy not knowing that he’s doing this thing? And how is he not aware? And so I think it’s something that people are just oblivious to, and I hope at some point they realize it. And so I think it’s, you know, I don’t know how many people you think in the world are really self-aware. They’re just kind of meandering through life.

Mike: Well, wisdom is always someone else’s experience. I mean, there are a lot of people, I believe, who are not goal oriented, who fail to recognize that, you know, the greatest purpose of life is becoming the person you are. I mean, that is our greatest privilege.

Michael: Yeah, like you said before you get to, you know, write your own script, and I think some people, you know, they don’t do the work and they don’t self-reflect a lot and they think it’s, you know, it’s kind of the victim mentality. They think everything is everyone else’s fault. They don’t realize the part they play in how their life unfolds. And I think that’s, I don’t know how you teach that right.

Mike: I think you asked a series of questions. And you know, one of them is always, you know, what would happen if the responsible adult showed up in the room that would get out of this parent teacher, I mean, you know, parent child traps and we think about being a responsible adult and that’s a challenging set of circumstances obviously.

Michael: Obviously, so let’s talk about authenticity. You’re obviously an expert on this and you’ve written the book, you have a podcast. How many people do you estimate are really living their true, authentic selves as their true, authentic selves and being able to be themselves? I think it’s very similar to self-awareness, but for me, you know, I don’t think I was able to authentically be myself until I went through some tough times in my life, you know, got fired, got divorced and realized what the hell am I doing and what am I living for? And I made a lot of changes in my life, and then I started really being the person I am today, and I love what I am and I am authentically myself. So back to the question, how often do you come across people that are just living in this pretend land trying to fulfill everyone else’s thoughts of who they should be?

Mike: Yeah, I often ask people and groups that I work with, do you think you’re more authentic at home or at work? And there’s an overwhelming response that’s pretty predictable. People say, Well, I’m more authentic at home than I am at work, so I think that provides an answer to your question: you know, when we’re not able to bring more of who we are to what we do, where we do it. It’s a set of challenges that many people, companies lose the innovative talent, people lose out on exploring, you know, of not claiming their own success.

Michael: Yeah, and I think you bring up a good point. Right, everyone is trying to be who they think they’re supposed to be in the workplace, and I remember that line very much was what I was saying earlier about not being my most authentic self. Once before I got divorced and was terminated from my job. And once I left and was able to open my own company, I’ve been able to mold it in my own way and now I can every day be my own authentic self. So all the stars aligned. But I think you’re right. Everyone goes to work and they have these eyes on progress goals that they think they need to hit, and they think they have to act a certain way to get to that point. And it’s not really aligned with who they are, which is back to the congruence, right? Not living congruently.

Mike: Yeah. Back to self-awareness, right? I mean, knowing your values, knowing how you come across, getting some feedback on how you come across, if you have consistency in that regard.

Michael: So being that you’ve worked with a lot of these leaders on authenticity and coaching, what are some tips that you have for the audience on how to be more self-aware on how to live authentically both in the workplace and at home?

Mike: I think there are at least three, maybe four tips that I would provide. The first is to be honest about what you say and to others, matters. You know, it’s one thing, if I don’t trust you, I probably won’t think that you have integrity. And if I don’t think you have integrity, I clearly won’t trust you, right? So the first tip or recommendation is, to be honest, what you say and do matters. The second advice or tip is not to screw up, not to invest in yourself, not to claim your identity for the amazing individual that you are and are becoming. And the third piece or recommendation of advice I have is to ask for feedback and by asking for feedback that generally means asking a person a question so that you’re able to work with them better in the future. My fourth piece of advice is to say hello. Maybe that should really be the first piece of advice. It’s our oldest and best technology to create inclusion is to say hello. And we’re often so interested in people’s elements of production that, you know, we forget that.

Michael: So when you’re saying hello, are you talking about, you know, I’m walking down the street and I see a stranger just say hello or I’m in the office environment and, you know, make that connection of hello, how are you? How’s your family doing? Instead of where’s the TPS report and why haven’t you finished this spreadsheet?

Mike: Yeah, I’d say, why not both? I mean, it’s nice to say hello to a stranger and I’d say yes at work. You should work in the moment, work in the present, and I don’t know what happened to you five minutes before we started or what’s going to happen in the five minutes after we are finished. But I know that we have this moment in time together and that when managers show an interest in people, when they create a sense of being in on things, work gets done a lot more easily than it does, you know, tell me about the digit you missed.

Michael: Yeah, I think you made some really, really good points. To be honest…

Mike: I want to be better. Help me.

Michael: No, you know, I think you made really good points on all of these things that you just brought up. But, you know, I got to be honest right here. And I got a story when I first was working at my last company and they had just been bought out for private equity, and the new CEO came in and she walked around and told everyone, nothing’s going to change, nothing’s going to change, nothing’s going to change. And then six months later, everything changed. And to your point, like she lost all credibility with me and that’s how I explained it to her, I’m like, you come in and you had 800 credit score with me. And then you just kept making these withdrawals and you weren’t paying your balance at the end of the month and you’re down to a 400 credit score. You can’t get any more credit with me. So that really hit home for me, it was a very important thing. And I think, you know, if you’re trying to be better, you’re trying to make progress, you’re trying to be authentic, then you have to be honest and you have to, you know, sometimes it’s shitty news and you still have to be able to tell the shitty news. And I respect that better than you just telling me what I want to hear.

Mike: Well I think what we know, I mean, particularly from some work that a guy named Phil Bridges did is that your change isn’t the issue. You say it’s not so much that we’re so in love with the past that we can’t let go of it or so afraid of the future that we can’t embrace something that’s different. It’s everything that happens in between. It’s the time of transition. And there’s an example. I mean, a brilliant example of a transition that was not well handled. Things that don’t stay the same might be reassuring in a moment. It’s dishonest.

Michael: Yeah. And if you’re trying to inspire a bunch of people by being authentic, that’s probably the worst thing you can do.

Mike: Well, it eroded trust, right? And that leads to choices, particularly as we’re in this period of great resignation where, you know, we’re replacing workplaces with workers and worker centricity.

Michael: Yeah. And so let’s talk about that. How do you feel about the great resignation? What do you know, what are your thoughts on why it’s happening and what can be done to rectify?

Mike: Well, you know, Gallup tells us that 70% of employee engagement is within a manager’s control. Does that mean that 70% of our managers are bad? I don’t know, but often people are promoted on the basis of their technical skills, not their leadership skills. We need a re-imagining of organizations that places communities above cultures. What needs to be to create some exaggeration? But you know, it all begins with creating the feeling that people are in on things together.

Michael: Yeah, I totally agree with you, I think that’s one of the things that we’ve really strived to do at Branded Group is being inclusive and we’ve never we’ve actually never hired anyone from outside of the company to date that has just come in and been like a, you know, a higher up manager like people are organically grown into their positions and we’re really proud about that.

Mike: So that’s great, you know, because very few things happen in a straight line.

Michael: Yes, I love that. That’s a great way to talk about how life is. It’s not a straight line up. It’s not A to B. Well, Mike, this has been a great conversation. If the audience would like to get a hold of you, how can they do so?

Mike: The easiest way is Mike-Horne.com. And that will put you in touch with book resources and all the other ways. I’m really active on LinkedIn as well and encourage people who are podcast listeners to download my podcast Authentic Change with Mike Horne.

Michael: Yeah and the audience. I do encourage you to go and do that. It’s a great podcast. And Mike, thank you so much for coming on. And audience until next time.

Mike: Michael, thank you so much.

Michael: Thank you for tuning in. I hope that today’s episode inspired you to become a purpose driven leader in your career or your community. There’s no doubt that when we lead with purpose, we can change lives. If you enjoyed today’s show, I’d be grateful if you would take a moment to rate us on your preferred listening platform to learn more about Branded Group’s Be Better experience and how we provide industry leading On-Demand facility maintenance, construction management and special project implementation. Visit us at www.branded-group.com. Be sure to follow us on social media and you can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Until next time, be better.

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