Powerful Questions for Personal and Professional Goal Setting

Deborah Herrera, ICF Certified Executive Coach & Former CFO

Part 1: Powerful Questions for Personal and Professional Goal Setting

In this episode Executive Coach, Deborah Herrera will walk us through her goal-clarifying questions. These questions are a powerful tool for translating big-picture aspirations for your work and your life into well-defined goals that reflect your vision of success. Deb’s questions will help you:

  • define the “why” for achieving a specific goal;
  • identify and eliminate roadblocks that are in the way of achieving your goals;
  • create time to work on your goals; and
  • identify action steps to start working on your goal.

These questions are a game-changer for personal and professional success!

Part 2: Leading with Confidence and Tips for Navigating Burnout in the Workplace

In this episode Executive Coach, Deborah Herrera talks about two pressing issues her clients have been dealing with during the past 6 months: confidence and burn-out. She walks us through simple strategies to be more confident in a variety of situations. Deborah describes the signs of burn-out that people often ignore and identifies what you can do to prevent burn-out. She also shares her best practices for influencing and delegating. You will also get to hear Deborah’s “Feedback Formula,” a tried and true 3-step process for giving effective feedback. This episode is filled with actionable advice to help you “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”



Brown: Welcome to the Menttium Matters podcast, where we talk about leadership, life, and the transformative power of mentoring. This is Solveig Brown, and now that 2022 is here, I know that many of us are setting personal and professional goals, so I am super excited to have Deb Herrera as my guest today. Deb is going to walk us through her power questions for goal setting.


Deb told me about these goal clarification questions during our pre-podcast meeting in December and I can tell you all firsthand that they are a game changer for goal setting. Before we begin our conversation, here is some background information on Deb. Deb Herrera is an ICF certified Executive Coach and former CFO, with more than 25 years of leadership experience. Deb is passionate about helping others realize their fullest potential at the organization, team, and individual level. She has coached a wide range of leaders in a variety of industries and roles. She has extensive financial and business experience and is known as a fearless leader and communicator.


She has led teams to achieve stellar results at General Mills, Best Buy, Honeywell, Thompson Reuters, and Schwan’s Food Company. She attributes her success to her ability to inspire and motivate leaders and teams to think differently, stretch beyond their comfort zones, and believe that they can succeed.


Deb was recently featured as the Voice of Experience on Menttium Business Education Webinar, Thriving Through Change. Deb is a former mentee and has been a mentor for Menttium since 2014. Welcome, Deb.


Herrera: Good morning. It’s good to be with you.


Brown: It is so great to have you here. Deb, as an executive coach and former CFO, you know a thing or two about goal setting.


I’m just so excited to have you here today to walk us through these fantastic questions that you have developed. The questions you’re going to share with us are powerful at getting clarity for one’s goals. Can you give me some background information on why you came up with these series of questions?


Herrera: Absolutely. As you mentioned, I am an executive coach and I work with leaders and the foundation of our work usually starts with, what do you want to accomplish through our engagement? And what I realized when you think about coaching goals, it’s different than business goals in that a lot of business goals, you can look at a report and you can tell if you’ve been successful. There’s metrics.


If you’re a salesperson, you’ve achieved certain milestones that are measurable. With coaching goals, it’s often, I want to be a better leader, I want to be more influential, I want to have better executive presence, et cetera. And those goals are a little squishier. It’s harder to figure out what success looks like, or you may have in your mind’s eye what success looks like, but it may not match what other people think.


And so, in order to be as effective as a coach as I could be, I thought we need these. We need to get clear on what we are going after. And that’s kind of the genesis of those questions.


Brown: That is great because I thought my goals were kind of squishy and so they’re helpful. We are about to dig into the questions and to everyone who is listening, I invite you to take a moment to think of a goal that you have recently set for yourself or perhaps a goal you are thinking about setting. And as Deb walks us through these goal setting power questions, you can think about how you would answer for your own goal. Let’s say a client comes to you for help with setting their goals. What are the goal clarity questions that you ask them?


Herrera: I start off with big picture and say, okay, big picture what? What are you trying to achieve? Just think of the big picture. What are you trying to achieve?


Maybe you have a word in mind of what you want to achieve over a period of time. Maybe you have a vision of what you want your life or your work to look like, so take it to the big picture first. Then as you think about individual goals, I start with, okay, let’s say you’re a leader and you want to be more influential, or you want to have a better executive presence.


Let’s take that one, because that’s a typical one. I want to have a better executive presence. So, the first question is, imagine it’s six months from now, or you can pick the timeframe that’s relevant, but six months is a good amount of time. Imagine it’s six months from now and you have been successful in achieving this goal of better executive presence.


What’s different? How will you know you achieve the goal? Some people don’t know and, and most people don’t, or they’re like, I never thought of it that way. It’s just an opportunity to visualize what success looks like and think about what’s different from today versus six months from now. So that’s the first question. What will be different?


The second question is imagine again, it’s six months from now and you’re successful in this goal of executive presence. What will others notice? And others could be your boss, they could be colleagues, they could be direct reports, they could be family members. Think about the people who are around you, and when you’ve achieved this goal. What are they going to notice? What are they going to call out? What feedback might you get? What are the things they’re going to say? Like, whoa, Solveig. I really noticed that when you walk in a room, you’re smiling and you’re standing up straight?


The third one is, when you’re successful in this goal, what’s it going to feel like for you? What’s that going to be? And it’s an opportunity to step into that successful situation and try it on. What’s that going to be like?


The fourth one is, when you’re successful in this goal of executive presence, in this example, what will be available to you that’s not available to you now? Maybe that’s a promotion. Maybe that’s increased confidence. Maybe it is being noticed by different leaders. Maybe it’s additional opportunities, but think about why do you care about this goal? What are you shooting for? What will be available to you that’s not available to you now.


The fifth question really gets to motivation because sometimes we set goals and then we realize these goals really aren’t doing it for me. So the next question is, why bother with this goal now? You’re obviously successful, your life is what it is. Why bother? Why spend the time? I’ve had a couple clients who have asked themselves this question and realized this isn’t where they want to spend the time. Others have had the opposite experience where they said, this is so key to not only my work but my life. This reinforces that this is the goal for me right now.


And then the next question is, what if you do nothing related to this goal? This gets to the stakes that are involved. So, what if I do nothing related to executive presence? Well, the answer might be, my life will be fine. That’s okay. It might be, or it’ll change everything. And sometimes you realize it’s not the right goal at the right time for you. Like, it doesn’t matter. It might matter to my boss, but it doesn’t matter to me at all. And just getting present to that, you can be honest about how much time and energy are you really going to put into it and what your expectations are. So what if I do nothing. And I have had a client say, Deb, I can’t even imagine not working on the goal. I just can’t even imagine it. It’s not even a possibility. Well, he was very committed to it. And I had another, a couple clients, the opposite. Like, you know what? It’s good enough. I don’t care. It’s not enough for me to worry about and this isn’t the one.


And then once you’ve kind of gotten present to what you’re trying to accomplish, what it looks like, what are you going after, a nice question to ask yourself is, what’s in the way of me achieving this goal right now? I’m a smart, successful person. What’s in the way? Sometimes it might be, I don’t know where to start, or it could be I’m missing some key knowledge. But as if you get present to what’s in the way of your success, then that might help tailor the actions you want to take or the prioritization of those actions.


And then I added an eighth question recently, and I must decide, and decide for yourself when’s the right time to ask it. Because sometimes you can ask it too soon. And that is, you’ve got this goal, you’re pretty clear now what success looks like and you know what’s in your way. So, what’s one small thing that you could do, one small achievable step that you could take that if you were to do so would make a difference in this goal? And so it’s not this overwhelming eat the elephant at one sitting. It’s like, I’m going to go for one small thing.


For example, I want to get fit or lose weight in the new year. We all usually have that, many of us do anyway. And so, if you set a goal for losing 50 pounds, that can feel overwhelming. But if your small step is, I’m going to put on my running shoes today, tie them up and see how it goes, that I can do.


Brown: So, it’s about figuring that out. I love these questions because, like you just said, they really helped give me clarity on some of the goals I was setting.


What does it look like? What will others notice about me? One of the things we talked about in the pre-meeting is that fear and time are obstacles to achieving goals, because it’s like, why don’t you already have it? Can you talk about some ways that if you have that underlying fear or if you just feel like, I don’t even have enough time to do that. Can you talk about some of the strategies you’ve helped your clients use when those two issues come up?


Herrera: I think sometimes just saying the fear out loud is extremely powerful, because I think sometimes we’re not even present to the fear. And that might be one of the things, like you said, that’s in the way of you moving forward.


And you don’t have to declare it to people if you don’t want to, but you could. You could tell somebody, I really want to do this, but I’m just really, I’m afraid or I’m worried you could write it down. Just capture it in a way that you can say, okay, this is fear. Then the next step could be, let’s say, and I think someone on a previous podcast talked about this, but you get present to the fear and then, let’s follow that string.


What’s the worst thing that could happen? And then the second question is, what’s the probability that that would happen? So, I’m afraid if I do this, I’m going to get fired. What’s the likelihood that’s going to happen? It’s pretty low when I come to think about it or it’s, it’s actually really high. So, then what are the steps we should take to mitigate that real risk?


Another thing you could do is, here’s my fear. What’s the worst thing that could happen? The worst thing that could happen is I could get fired. So, you get fired, then what? Keep following the string. Well then, maybe it’s catastrophic or maybe it’s not so bad.


But if you start to follow that string of fear and ask yourself, okay, then what? And then what? And then what? What I’ve found is many people, once they get passed that second then what, they haven’t thought about it. And then when they do think about it, it’s often much less of an issue than they thought.


And sometimes the fear dissipates, or it gets much smaller because it’s an old fear or somebody else’s fear that I’ve taken on. And now as I really examine it, I realize, it doesn’t require the same level of attention that I thought it did. Or if it does, then I can look at it more logically and it’s not this big looming thing that has taken over.


Brown: That is such a great strategy because I think that when you, like exactly what you said, that big looming thing, if you haven’t really looked at it, it just seems overwhelming and daunting. And so, I love that idea of just taking it apart and being like, well then what? Well, what if that happens? And you kind of get to that point where you’ve embraced I can do this.


And then what about time? Time is another issue. People are so busy now and they think, how do I carve out time? And, and I liked how you talked about thinking about small steps. So how does that work in terms of prioritizing time for a goal?


Herrera: I think that statement, I don’t have time is such a blanket statement and it’s such a go-to for so many of us. And it’s, I don’t mean to say excuse in a bad way, but it’s a rationale that most of us find reasonable and we can give a pass. And so, I think just examining that statement, do I not have time? Do I have time? Really? And sometimes what we’re trying to fit in isn’t important enough, and it doesn’t garner the time that we want to give it.


But if it’s something that’s important to you, maybe instead of the statement, I don’t have time, it becomes what would have to be true for me to be able to fit this in? Or what would have to be true for me to be able to make time for this?


It’s a different kind of question. Instead of this statement of fact, I don’t have time, which kind of shuts it down. The other question, well the question, the other was a statement. The question of what would have to be true, kind of opens up our mind and makes us stop and think about possibilities. So it’s kind of a mind trick.


Brown: Yeah, definitely. And then there’s a solution for it. Like, what would have to be true? And then you can figure that out or brainstorm some ideas or experiment with that.


Herrera: I think it invites choice. You know where the other one just kind of, I don’t have time. Shut it off time.


Brown: Exactly. And you can figure out what your priorities are. Or like you said, it also helps clarify. Maybe it’s not important to you. Maybe you don’t want to take the time, but if it is, then you will figure out what needs to be true for you to make the time for that.


Herrera: And that other question, what’s in the way of me having time.


That’s another question you could ask yourself. What’s in the way? Well, my emails, I’m always on email. Well, that might take you to a different solution. Or I feel like I must carry one hundred percent of the load at home, so after I get done with work, there’s no time. Well, there might be a place to invite someone else to contribute.


It helps you peel back like what’s underneath the time issue.


Brown: And I love the creativity it involves. In thinking about those things and figuring out different solutions or just doing something a little bit differently. And then one other thing you talked about that I would just like you to expand more on, is the idea of starting small.


You said if you have a big fitness goal and you think, well, what’s the first thing I can do? Maybe it’s just putting on your running shoes. Can you talk more about those small steps to achieving a goal and how that works and how that looks in achieving a goal?


Herrera: I think my experience has been if I have a very large goal that either just feels insurmountable or I’m not excited about, I’ve got a lot of fear.


If I don’t chunk it out into manageable pieces, I shut down and the likelihood of me moving forward is smaller. So with my work, I’m, and many of us we’re in front of a screen all day and we have very few breaks in between and it’s hard to imagine a regular exercise routine or a regular self-care routine or whatever.


And again, going back to that, let’s say you want to lose a large amount of weight, or you want to get extremely fit, you can think about the smart goal concept, specific, measurable, et cetera. And then what are the little steps that I could take every day?


So, to follow that string, I would normally say, okay, I’m going to get up and I’m going to run three miles today. Well, if I’m starting from nothing, and I haven’t worked out in six months, the likelihood of me achieving a three-mile run my first day and wanting to get up the second day to do something is pretty small.


I’m not being very articulate right now, but just laying out some small things that you could do, and I’m trying to think of another work-related example. All right, so I want to build a better relationship with a senior leader, and I don’t have a very good one with them right now. So that could be insurmountable because it’s maybe high risk, maybe a lot of fear and maybe requires being vulnerable.


So maybe marching into their office and sitting down and having a nice chat isn’t the first place to start. Maybe a place to start would be getting in contact with someone who knows that person well and has a good relationship. Maybe another small step would be to look for small opportunities to engage that are low risk. Speaking up on a Zoom call when a question is asked, just things that start you on the path that they do a couple things. One, it doesn’t shut you down. Two, it starts to build confidence because they’re more achievable and it creates momentum. Because in my running example, if I run three miles and I haven’t done any exercise in six months, I’m going to be so sore the next day I’m not going to run.


So, I don’t know if that answered your question.


Brown: Yeah, that totally did. Just figuring out what are small things that are achievable, and they may seem so easy compared to your big goal. Again, it’s kind of not tricking your mind, but suddenly being like, okay, you can do that.


I can put my running shoes on, or I can walk to the end of the block, or I can ask someone who has a good relationship with this manager a question or something like that.


Herrera: I almost think right now when many are feeling extremely depleted and many are feeling burned out, it’s hard to imagine doing some of the really big things because your bucket is so empty. And I think the second thing I would say is I think it’s harder, especially for high achievers to think about, okay, my goal is going to be to put on my running shoes? Are you kidding me? That is stupid.


No, I’m just having a little self-compassion. This is where I’m at right now. Right now, I have this terrible relationship with the CEO. This is my reality, so I must have a little self-compassion and I got to start here. Because it can feel like you’re letting yourself off the hook or you’re lowering your standards and that’s not the point.


Brown: It’s kind of meeting yourself where you’re at and starting there and setting yourself up for success. Especially at the beginning of working on a goal, if it’s a little daunting, or if there’s some fear involved, or it’s hard to make time for something. Then you are figuring out how do I redo my choices around this.


Or what is success? So I love that, just the small steps for achieving that and the big results that can happen. I’m sure you’ve seen it over and over with your clients. The amazing things that they can do that they may have set up not believing that they could really do. And then it happens in six months.


You’re like, wow, I’m here. I started off just putting my running shoes on, and now I am signed up for a 5K or something.


Herrera: And there’s a great resource. It’s a TED Talk. You may have heard it by BJ Fogg. And he talks about tiny habits. So that’s a good 18-minute talk to listen to that kind of reinforces the whole concept of tiny habits.


Brown: Deb, thank you so much for going through these goal clarity power questions. As I said, I’ve used these to think about my goals for this year, and when I asked myself these questions, they really helped me switch from having really general kind of squishy goals, as you said, to being more specific of what does it look like, what does it feel like, and what is one small thing I can do and, and what’s a marker of what that goal is.


So, thank you so much. It helps get to the why behind the goals. It helps figure out what your motivation is. Everyone listening, I am going to continue my conversation with Deb in part two of this podcast. Next time Deb will share with us two of the biggest challenges her clients have been dealing with in the past six months and her tips for addressing these issues.


She will also reveal her strategies for influencing, delegation, and giving feedback, so you will not want to miss this episode. Thank you all for listening to this Menttium Matters podcast. Please join us next time for part two.





Brown: Welcome to the Menttium Matters podcast, where we talk about leadership, life, and the transformative power of mentoring. This is Solveig Brown, and today I will be continuing my conversation with Deb Herrera. In part one of this podcast, Deb walked us through her goal clarifying questions. If you didn’t hear this episode, I highly recommend going back to listen to it.


You can find the goal clarifying questions on the show notes for this episode. Deb’s questions are a powerful tool for defining what success looks like, in completing a particular goal, and the questions can also help get you clear on why you want to achieve a particular goal. They have truly been a game changer for me in goal setting, so definitely check out part one of this episode if you have not heard it.


Today Deb is going to talk about the pressing issues that her clients have been dealing with during the past six months. She’ll also reveal her strategies for influencing, delegation, and giving feedback. Before we begin our conversation, here is some background information on Deb.


Deb Herrera is an ICF certified Executive Coach and former CFO with more than 25 years of leadership experience. Deb is passionate about helping others realize their fullest potential at the organization, team, and individual level. She has coached a wide range of leaders in a variety of industries and roles.


She has extensive financial and business experience and is known as a fearless leader and communicator. She has led teams to achieve stellar results at General Mills, Best Buy, Honeywell, Thompson Reuters, and the Schwan’s Food Company. She attributes her success to her ability to inspire and motivate leaders and teams to think differently and stretch beyond their comfort zone. She also encourages people to believe that they can succeed.


Deb was recently featured as the Voice of Experience on Menttium’s Business Education Webinar, Thriving Through Change. Deb is a former mentee and has been a mentor for Menttium since 2014.


Welcome back, Deb. I am so happy to be continuing our conversation.


Herrera: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here. It’s such an honor.


Brown: Deb, the last 20 months have been stressful in countless ways. As an executive coach, I know you have been seeing many people. What have been the pressing issues that you have been hearing about from your clients over the last six to twenty months?


Herrera: You’re right, it has been trying. I think one, just from the duration of the new order we live in, and then it feels like a real roller coaster. Like, oh, it’s, it’s better. Oh no, it’s not. It’s better. No, it’s not. And I think that’s just led to a level of exhaustion. I coach men, women, all levels, all functions, all industries and surprisingly the issues that have come up are universal across all those boundaries, which is a surprise to me. I had these assumptions about how different we are and we’re actually very similar.


So, the first one is confidence. This whole situation has shaken people’s confidence, men and women, and their confidence as spouses, their confidence as parents, their confidence as colleagues, and it’s really done a number on us all.


And then the second one is burnout, which sometimes can be I’m having trouble with work life balance, time management. A lot of it is just an offshoot of we are over capacity. There’s been so many articles over the last year and a half to two years that have been written on the topic of burnout. But that is a huge topic and it’s real and it’s pervasive and it’s a lot.


Brown: That really resonates with what I’ve been hearing from the mentees as well. Those topics come up over and over. Let’s start with confidence. So, can you give our listeners some tips on how to feel more confident?


Herrera: Yes, I will do my best here.


This is such a rich topic and it’s not a silver bullet topic to be honest with you. It’s not like you’re going to get done with a coaching session or a conversation and all of a sudden, it’s going to be okay. To me, it begins with really being present to your own self-talk. What are the messages I’m saying to myself, unconsciously and consciously? I came across this quote the other day by John Milton, who was an English poet in the 1600’s, and he was considered the most significant English author after William Shakespeare. His quote was, “the mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven”.


“So, the mind is its own place and it itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven”. To me, that means so much of this issue of confidence is in our own mind. It doesn’t make it any less real. It just means if you believe that, then we have much more control of it than we think we do. And I think if we were just to stop and pay attention to the stuff we say to ourselves, it’s probably not very nice. And it’s probably not very helpful.


Brown: So, starting with that, let’s say you observe your inner talk, and you think, I wouldn’t talk to a friend like that. Or I wouldn’t talk to a colleague like that. What can you do to start changing some of those patterns of self-criticism or self-doubt, or just that kind of constant inner dialogue that may not be helping your confidence?


Herrera: I love that you called it a pattern because again, it’s something that will take in my opinion some time and some attention. One of the things I have my clients do and that I do myself, is a practice of noticing. That practice could look a lot of different ways, but that reflection process is important.


Reflection will change the neural pathways in your brain, and over time will help you on a path to changing a habit. And so here’s what noticing could look like. I get out of a meeting and I’m like, I can’t believe how stupid I was. I should have said this. I should have said that.


Now just pause and notice what’s going on in your head and make that a habit. It could be after the fact, or it could be in the moment. That’s what you want to build to in the moment to catch yourself. But that takes practice. Just practice noticing.


Here’s a practice that, I learned from a CEO I worked with. He had a practice every night while brushing his teeth before bed. It’s two minutes, doing something he’s already doing, so it doesn’t require anything else on your schedule. He would stand in front of the mirror, and he would ask himself two questions. Your questions might be different, but this was his reflection process, so it’s just an example. His question was, was I a leader I would want to be led by today? If the answer is yes, then he would ask himself, what is one thing that I want to take forward tomorrow to be even better?


If the answer was no, what’s the one thing I want to do tomorrow to be even more effective? And so that was his reflection. In the case of confidence and self-talk, just getting present at the end of the day, you could ask yourself while you’re brushing your teeth, where was I confident? Where wasn’t I confident? Start to notice the trends around that. Are you more or less confident around certain people? Are you more or less confident in certain situations? Are you more or less confident on certain subject matters? By noticing the tendencies, am I more or less confident when I’m tired, like what’s going on with me and around me that’s leading to my feeling of lacking confidence. Because as you identify those pieces that influence your level of confidence, you can prepare differently.


For example, when I worked for this company, I had to be in front of the board of directors often. A chairman of the board stressed me out and I was never at my best. So, knowing that I was going into a meeting with him and knowing I was not going to feel super confident, I prepared differently. That could mean I got more sleep, I talked to someone that I trust who could build me up, or I might spend more time preparing. I could take action that would bolster my confidence in advance.


I’m going to pause there because that was a lot.


Brown: I’m just getting my head around that. That is just a great idea of how to go on the offensive for your confidence. But it all starts from that awareness of this person stresses me out. I’ve been in situations where some people just make you wither a little bit. I love that you can be proactive in that.


In the brushing your teeth example of thinking about your day, I like that because it also talks about what you did well. For a lot of the people that I’ve interviewed, I’ve noticed it’s much easier for people to talk about where their shortcomings are or what didn’t go well. That practice of where you figure out where you do feel confident. Where things go well and how to carry that forward, and how to transfer them into different areas where you feel less confident, the same skills. You could use that in this situation.


Herrera: I love what you just said there. It’s a great reminder that if we can go back to a time when we’ve been successful in whatever we’re trying to do, whether it’s being confident, delegation, or influence, or what have you, that’s a place of strength to pull from. I’ve done it before.


Brown: And then figure out what you’ve been doing correct.


Herrera: You can bring that forward. The second thing is, as you examine your thoughts, these terrible things you’re saying to yourself, you should just pause for a second. Because when you’re in that place lacking confidence, and you’re telling yourself horrible things, you’re actually engaging in what we call the lizard part of your brain.


It’s not the executive functioning part of your brain. By just slowing it down and observing and noticing, you’re slowing it down and giving those thoughts or those brainwaves time to come to the front to engage that executive functioning. And that’s when your logic can kick in and go, wait a minute, this isn’t even true. What’s going on? And it allows you more of your brain to attack the issue. Sometimes that self-talk is old. Like something you heard when you were a child that you decided to carry forward and it’s no longer relevant or it’s no longer serving you. Sometimes it stems from something that’s accurate.


Like I’m super nervous about going into this. I don’t feel confident because I don’t know my stuff. In that case, it might be rooted in fact. But then there’s something I can do about it, and it’s less about the emotional freaking out or withering, and it’s more about, okay, this is actually an issue, so what am I going to do about it?


Brown: Using that self-awareness that you started with is just a powerful tool for managing your mind, managing those lizard emotions from the back of your brain, and bringing them up to the prefrontal cortex. Those are great tips. They’re actionable things you can do that can make a huge difference by just getting in the habit of every day observing yourself talk.


The other thing you mentioned was burnout. And I see burnout as such a huge issue right now. People have so much on their plate, there’s so much uncertainty. There’s less support than usual. There’s less options for fun or, refilling your buckets as usual.


I have so many questions about this. First, how can people recognize that they are getting burned out?


Herrera: I think there are so many signs that we ignore, and I think the signs can be emotional. What those signs could look like would be quick to anger, quick to cry, quick for emotional outbursts, constantly on edge. Those are emotional signs.


I think mental signs are fatigue, my thoughts are negative, I’m lonely, I’m depressed, I’m more fearful, I’m getting little to no pleasure from things that I normally would.


Spiritual signs would be I’m starting to question my purpose and not in a healthy moving forward way, but like what’s the point? Why am I here? What am I doing? There’s a healthy and there’s an unhealthy way there. I think the unhealthy is what I’m talking about, questioning your beliefs. Again, not in a powerful moving forward way, but in a just a little kind of way. And then physical aches, pains, headaches, not being able to sleep. These are all signs that our body tries to give us that we often don’t listen to.


And so back to that reflection that we were just talking about on the self-talk, is if you can just slow down a little bit and tune in to what’s going on, the signs are probably really obvious once we take stock.


Brown: And again, going back to that observation of just noticing, I’m feeling this way. I’ve been really tired. What can people do to prevent burnout? Let’s say you’re starting to see some of these signs, and you think, I better do something. What are some actions that you can take?


Herrera: You mentioned how so many things that we used to do that we now can’t. Some people would take a big trip or vacation, or they’d go work out at a gym, and maybe those things aren’t available to you.


But how can you alter your self-care? I know self-care has been a buzzword, especially in the last couple years, but it’s true. What do you need to be able to take care of yourself right now? That might be looking at your calendar and blocking off some time, it might be looking at your priorities and rejiggering them.


What needs to happen now and what doesn’t need to happen now? I was talking to a client about this just before our call. She’s an executive vice president for this company in Canada, and she is just kind of at her wit’s end, as most people are. Most of the things that she would normally go to, she can’t go to now. So for her, one of the things she talked about was she’s not very good at asking for help, which is a malady many of us carry. We talked about that instead of thinking about asking for help, maybe if you reframed it to who can I invite in? Who can I invite in to participate?


In my example, I’m trying to plan a family reunion because I’m the oldest of four children. I’m the go-to person, I handle everything, and I’m terrible at asking for help. But I also know my capacity right now is low. I feel less than at my best, and I’m inviting my sister and my cousin to help me and to participate in the planning of this family reunion, which is really important to our families.


Who can you invite in so that you’re not shouldering all the burden when you think about prioritization or all these things you have to do? I’ll just pause there.


Brown: I like the language of that too because it feels different. Instead of I need to ask for help, it’s who can I invite in? It’s more empowering to talk about it like that, especially if you’re a person that has trouble, getting help or asking for help or seeking help, but doing an invitation is more doable and fun.


Herrera: I also think about it in three buckets. Sometimes you might find yourself in a real crisis. I’m at a bad point, I need some help. That to me, is when you triage. You must take quick action. It doesn’t mean you’re going to do that for months and years, but in this moment, you need something that’s going to get you out of that crisis and into a safer place.


That could be reaching out to a professional who specializes in this area. It could be taking a couple days off. It could be telling your boss; this is where you’re at. It could be talking to someone you trust, like a significant other, a close friend, or confidant. I think being honest with yourself, like where am I? Am I at a crisis point? Because that happens. Then think of it as triage and how can you get enough relief to get you out of the crisis mode. So those are a couple of ideas.


And the second area is whether there are actions that I can take in the short-term to take some pressure off. Short-term actions might be delaying a project, saying no to a few things, taking some time off. Sometimes when you’re in a state of burnout, it can feel like it’s going to be forever, it’s never going to end, and that makes it worse. But if you can carve out what are the short-term things and what are the short-term actions I can take, again to give myself a little relief. And then what are the long-term things? An example is if you’re caring for an elderly parent, which might feel really long-term. There may be some long-term actions that you need to take to take care of yourself.


Brown: Those are great ideas. And I like the term of triage for burnout. It is a big deal and I think sometimes people think, I’ll get through this, or it’ll work out. But just recognizing again, that awareness piece, that you are in a crisis and that you need to take some immediate steps to get yourself over the hump of that crisis.


Thank you for talking about that too, because I think more people find themselves in that position than ever before. And for many people, it might be the first time they’ve been there, and they may not recognize that.


Herrera: What are you telling yourself? Like my client this morning. She is extremely accomplished and driven but calling herself lazy and stupid. She’s neither, but the way that she would overcome things in the past would be to do more. And now she can’t do more because she doesn’t have any more capacity. So now she’s lazy. I’d just be really mindful of what you’re telling yourself.


Have some self-compassion. You don’t want to sit there forever and make a home, so it becomes excuses. But this sucks, let’s be honest. This is hard. Some people are home with elderly parents. Some people are home with kids who can’t be in school. Like my client in Canada, the kids are home again.


Brown: I think self-compassion is key. Self-compassion for yourself, compassion for everyone you’re interacting with, because we are all in this together and it’s challenging at different points of the day, the week, the year for everyone. Everyone’s got their own things that they’re dealing with, you may not even know what they are. We’re in it together.


Herrera: And I’m terribly alone. It’s both. We’re in it together and I’m also extremely alone. And I think not giving space to that, can make it worse too. Everybody’s suffering and right now, I’m suffering big from me.


Brown: Exactly. Thank you for that. Those are really good ideas. And just awareness of what burnout is, what it feels like, and what some of the signs are.


So, switching gears a little bit, I’d also like to ask you about some of the things you’re really an expert in. In your role as CFO, you had to influence a lot of decisions. Can you offer some tips on how to be better at influencing?


Herrera: This was an area that I always found I had additional opportunity to grow. I have a lot of passion around this one and feedback, which I know we’re going to talk about in a minute.


To me, influence comes down to relationships. And again, it’s not going to be a quick fix if you haven’t taken the time to cultivate the critical relationships, that’s not something you can do overnight. Maybe think about or ask yourself, what’s the relationship I have with the people I’m trying to influence? Is it a good one? Is it strained? What’s my contribution? How might I build the relationship that I need or would like? So that’s the first one. How do you cultivate them?


Be honest with yourself about what your brand is like and how are others viewing you. Are you someone who is always out for yourself only? And people get that. Are you someone who cares about others and can be counted on? Getting present to how you really show up and what those relationships are. It’s a place to start.


The other thing is oftentimes when we think about influence, we’re really focused on what we need. I must influence you because I need to get this thing done. Which isn’t bad, but maybe add in, I know what’s in it for me, but what’s in it for you? What’s in it for my audience?


And you could even ask them. Let’s say you’re in a conversation that’s not going well and you’re not seeing eye to eye. You really need this thing to happen. And this other person is a hard no. You could ask, what’s in the way? What are you worried about, what are you afraid of, or what’s in your way? And just give them an opportunity to express what their concerns are.


They may be valid; they may be something you haven’t thought about. What’s in it for them? And then if you’re still getting a hard wall, engage them in the conversation of what’s in the way or what would have to be true for this to work? That’s another way, because then you’re getting them to think about possibilities.


But the key there is engaging them and listening. Listening to them, like really listening. Not just listening to respond listening. All right, hurry up so I can tell you why you’re wrong listening. But really listening.


Brown: From that sense of being curious of what they’re thinking and about what’s in it for them. Thinking about that, and then going back to the beginning of building a relationship. If you want to grow your influencing skills, you should start with building your relationship throughout the organization.


Herrera: When we talk about networking, networking is about relationships too. And as a professional, as a human, that’s how I would think about networking. What are the relationships that I would like to build to be a contribution to others and allow others to be a contribution to me? That’s what a relationship is.


Brown: I like the language of that too.


Herrera: I was a person who always felt like they had to go it alone. Like the example I gave you on the family reunion. I think this idea might have been a Menttium podcast before, but who are your advocates? And who are your detractors? So, who are the people? I saw this grid drawn, so it wasn’t my idea. But if you imagine four squares, you have a X axis and a Y axis. And who are the people who have high influence and have positive thoughts about what you’re trying to do? Those are your high influence advocates. They have high influence, and they have positive feelings about what you’re trying to do or about you. Those are an important population.


Equally important would be the people who have high influence and are not as excited about your project or you. Those are your high influence detractors. So just knowing who those two populations are and then engaging with them appropriately.


Brown: I like the idea of having a grid and writing them out so it’s more mindful. That also makes it seem more doable. Instead of just saying they don’t like what I’m doing, you are asking who are these specific people? Maybe it’s one person, or maybe you can see you have a lot more people that are in your corner that have high influence.


Herrera: And if you know who your high influence advocates are, you might be able to leverage them depending on your relationship, to influence your high influence detractors. So you don’t have to be the only person.


Brown: That’s helpful. Thanks for giving us some of those inside tips on influencing. I do appreciate that. Many of our mentees are nominated to be in the mentee program as they take on larger roles in their organization. This often means that they’re moving from being an individual contributor to managing a team or for managing a small team to managing a large team or department or division.


Delegation is a challenge for many of the mentees in this program. Can you offer advice for how to be better at delegation?


Herrera: This is such a common struggle, and if you think about it, when you’re going from an individual contributor to a manager, the requirements are different. But what’s gotten you to this point has been what you have delivered.  Of course, it’s going to be hard for you to go from delivering and doing, to delegating and leading. And I think leaders forget what it’s like to make that jump. I think it’s the hardest professional jump from individual contributor to leader. And most of the time, no one prepares you. So just normalizing that for whatever it’s worth.


And being present to the fact that it might be tough. And sometimes you’re trying to delegate to people who are your peers. Now they report to you. I mean, there’s layers to this. This is a great place for reflection. The question I would ask myself is what is getting in the way of me delegating?


A common response would be, I don’t have the time. It’s due, it’s got to get done, I don’t have time to delegate. The next one is, I don’t know if they can do it. I’m worried about the quality. It’s got to be perfect. It’s going up to the C level or it’s going to my boss, or this is my first time proving myself. What’s in your way? What are you worried about? What are you afraid of? And again, the fear might be rational and real, or it might be something that’s not as big as we think it is. Once you’re aware of what’s in the way, you can attack it from a more logical place.


For example, let’s say you’re a new leader and it’s a big project, high visibility, and you’re worried about delegating for whatever reason, time, quality, et cetera. It could also be, I like what it feels like to accomplish this on my own, it’s how I get satisfaction. That’s another real reason.


Imagine going to your boss and saying, I really want to give this to Megan, but here are my worries and concerns. That might open a conversation. They might say, I’m not worried about the due date, I’m actually worried about the quality. It’s really important that we do this. It may open a conversation about what success looks like and what’s really important to this person of what you’re delivering. If you’re open about what you’re worried about, that person, your boss, or whomever might have other ideas of how to tackle it. Don’t give it to this person, give it to Megan. Megan really can get this done quickly. So that’s one example of a self-assessment, what’s in my way and then what do I want to do about that worry.


The second thing is delegate. When we think about delegation, we think it’s a one size fits all. It’s not. If I have a team, think of it as a spectrum. At the bottom of the spectrum, I have someone who is brand new to the organization and new to the role. At the top of the spectrum, I have someone who has been in the role five years, and they have a lot of experience and are a good performer.


I’m going to delegate differently to the person who’s new than I’m going to delegate to the person who’s been here a while. If you think about that spectrum, you’re probably going to approach things differently. If it’s a high stakes project, I’m not going to give it to my brand-new person, because quality and time might be real. So, think about it that way. The person who’s a master, you have to give less details, just give it to them and they run. So that’s another way to think about it.


The third thing would be, you’ve got this thing you want to delegate. The best thing you can do as a leader is to be clear on what you want. I have four W’s that I would interject for that. One and two we’re pretty good at, what do I need and when do I need it? But there’s two other questions or two other points. One is, why do I need it? This is especially important for millennials. This is a gross generalization, but for millennials, it’s important for them to understand the purpose. Why am I doing this? So, what do I need, when do I need it, and why do I need it? Tell me the purpose.


The fourth one is why do I need you to do it? That can increase connection to the activity. It can lead to a beautiful development conversation. Like Solveig, you told me that you’re really interested in getting to the next level and getting more exposure to this leader. This project is perfect for you because it’s going to get you exposure to this person, and you’re going to learn these skills, which are really important for the next level. Okay, I’m in.


Brown: You create a partnership and buy-in from the person and excitement and it’s more like, this is a great opportunity for you.


Herrera: And then, leave time for questions. So, Solveig, what did you hear me say? What might get in your way? What do you need to be successful? What are you worried about? You must create the environment though. If I say, what do you need or do you need anything? You’re probably not going to tell me. But, if I say, what do you think? Then you’re probably going tell me.


Brown: Creating that trust that you’ll be responsive, that you have their best interest, and that they’re not alone. You’re there to offer the support and you want them to be successful at doing this.


Herrera: One final thing on delegation as the person delegating, also remember to think about what do you need to feel good about what’s going to happen? If I’m handing something off to somebody and I’m worried about the quality and it’s due in a week, I don’t want to just give it off to the person and come back on Friday and be surprised.


So, what do I need? I might need to check in on Tuesday and say, how are we doing? I might need to check in on Thursday. I might need to lay out milestones like, by Wednesday we should be here. We should have these three things done, so let’s check in and see where you’re at, and if you’re falling behind, then we’ll create a plan. So you’re not as the person delegating left, hanging and hoping everything goes okay.


Brown: It alleviates your own anxiety as the person delegating and gives you those check-ins so you can feel like this is getting done.


Deb, one other area that I know you’ve talked about and that you’ve really learned a lot is about giving feedback. From your experience thinking about and practicing it throughout your career, what are effective ways to give feedback?


Herrera: This is an area that I’ve had to put so much work into because I am a people pleaser. I have a hard time delivering tough messages, so I have a lot of empathy for people who are like me, who struggle.


I came across this formula. And again, it’s not mine and I don’t remember if it was Marcus Buckingham who was interviewed by the Washington Post. Step one, what’s going on with me? The person who’s going to give the feedback, what is going on? Am I stressed? Am I nervous? Am I insecure? Like what’s going on? And really get intentional and present to what is happening. Manage yourself first. Because if you’re not in a good place to give it, all the formulas in the world are not going to do justice.


I’ll give you an example. I had this person who worked for me in one capacity who I adored, and she interviewed for this other role under my organization. I knew in my heart she wasn’t right for it. I had to tell her she didn’t get the job and I so wanted her to have the job because I thought highly of her. I had to sit down and give her the feedback. And I was a disaster because of all that stuff in the background. I didn’t do what I just said. I didn’t take stock and manage myself.


We get in this conversation and I’m about ready to cry, which doesn’t serve her at all. And God bless her. She grabbed my hands and she said, Deb, I need you to be the leader I need today. I need you to tell me what I need to know. I get chills thinking about that. It was such a powerful moment, and it switched how I thought about feedback.


It wasn’t about me; it was about her. But there were things I had to do to manage myself so that I could show up the way she needed me to show up. That’s how I think about it. What do I need to do to manage myself so I can show up the way that you need me to show up? That’s first and foremost. So, if you do nothing else but that, you’re in great stead.


Then with feedback, the formula that I came across that resonated for me was, there’s three parts to it. As example of the first part, I was on a call with a client this morning and he has to give tough feedback to someone who works for him. He had noticed she tends to do the easy stuff first and then leave the hard stuff for later. That’s step one. Step two, the impact to me, the work, or the organization, you decide. I noticed you leave the more difficult tasks to the end. The impact to me is I feel I have to step in at the last minute, something like that.


The impact is we missed the deadline. You want it to be one or two things that are personal, because it’s harder to argue that. The impact to me is I lost confidence in you. That’s my feeling. You can’t really argue with me. You tell them, I noticed this, and the impact was this.


The third part is an invitation into the conversation. I noticed this, the impact was this, so what’s going on, or what was your intention, or what do you think? And it’s an open-ended question that invites the conversation. I don’t know how his conversation went, but the answer could be something like I’m distressed, or I don’t know how to do this. Then you have more information, and you can have a different path forward.


So that’s a simple formula that works for me. I noticed the impact was, what were your intentions, or what’s going on, or what do you think? And then listen.


Brown: And then you can have the conversation about that. And then at the same time they understand what the impact is for you. It gets at that why it’s important. This is important because it’s affecting me or the organization or the team. And again, that’s a doable thing. You can have these questions in your back pocket. I like that you talked about how you must center yourself first, be present, and be clear on where you’re at in the moment, and are you in a good place to give feedback or not?


Deb, we have time for three final questions. First one is, do you have habits that you feel have contributed to your success?


Herrera: That’s a big question. I don’t know if this a habit as it is a mindset, which is always be excellent, always do your best. It’s the way I was raised. Just bringing my full game whenever I can.


And the second thing I would say is I looking for ways that I can differentiate myself always. Where are the places I can make my strengths soar? There are certain things that I’m good at and certain things I’m not. So where can I apply my unique strengths to move forward?


Brown: What would your advice be to up and coming leaders?


Herrera: I get asked this question a lot and I’m always reticent to answer, because I think leaders have so much to offer already. It feels bold to say this, but I thought how does your work fit into your life? I spent a lot of years trying to figure out how my life fit into my work, which is not healthy. And I think especially over the last 20 months, we’ve got a slap in the face about that. So, I would think about, work is a small part of your life. What do you want your life to look like and how does work fit in?


And that could be a question you can revisit because you’ll get out of sorts, you’ll get out of balance, because that’s how the world is. That’s how people are. It’s a good question to come back to resetting yourself. For the purpose of why am I doing this?


And then the other thing I would say, back to the question you just asked me would be seek feedback from people who have earned the right to give it to you, people that you trust. This doesn’t mean they have to love you and think you’re the best thing ever, but they’re people that have earned the right to give you feedback. I would seek it there and then be curious and ask questions. I think especially if you’re a new leader, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to think we’re supposed to know everything, and then we shut down and don’t ask questions. I would ask questions, be curious.


Brown: That is great advice for anyone. And final question, Deb, do you have a favorite saying, quote, or motto?


Herrera: My favorite quote is, “go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined”. And it’s by Thoreau and I love it because to me it means you’re the master of your own destiny. And it’s also a watch out to not hand the reins over to other people. Be careful who you give the reins of your life to. Which could be your own crappy self-talk, right? Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined. Don’t be small, be big. Play big in this world. The world needs you to play big.


Brown: That is a wonderful quote to end on. Throughout this podcast, you’ve given us the tools to do that with the great questions you’ve asked. I so appreciate you being excellent in part one, giving us goal clarifying questions that people can use as a tool to get to where they want.


And then in part two, figuring out how to be more confident, how to prevent and alleviate burnout, and knowing that other people are dealing with this, as well and all your fantastic suggestions. I can’t even recap them all because there were so many good ones for influencing, delegating, and giving effective feedback.


And I like how everything comes back to having that self-awareness. Being reflective and understanding and observing your mind, your body, your emotions, what’s going on for you, and acting from that place of observation. Because that’s a powerful tool to train your mind, to be your ally, to help you go forth, to be excellent and to be confident, and to be the master of your own life and your dreams.


Thank you so much for being my guest and for all these fantastic questions and strategies. I know that I will be carrying a lot of them forward. So, thank you so much, Deb. I really appreciate it.


Herrera: Thank you. It was real pleasure.


Brown: Thank you all for listening to this Menttium Matters podcast. We look forward to having you all back next time.