The Young CPA Success Show: Episode 3
Joey and Hannah interview Josh Miller from the Empathy Paradigm. They discuss the concept of psychological safety in the corporate world and its importance in creating a secure and inclusive workplace. They delve into the definition of empathy and its role in understanding others' experiences. They highlight the tools for creating empathic conversations and emphasize the need for empathy, curiosity, and open-mindedness in fostering understanding and growth.
intro (00:00:00) - Welcome to the Young CPA Success Show. If you're a young accounting professional, this podcast is your ultimate guide to navigating your early career. Join us as we share valuable insights, expert advice, and practical tips to help you kickstart your path to success and excel in the accounting industry. Let's embark on this exciting accounting journey together.
Joey: Hi. On today's episode of the Young CPA Success Show, Hannah and I talked with Josh Miller of the Empathy paradigm about psychological safety initiatives, empathy.
Joey (00:01:01) - You name it. Hannah, what did you think?
Hannah (00:01:04) - I thought that was amazing. I went into that conversation thinking and knowing this about myself, that empathy was not is not a strength for me. I ended that conversation with more depth of understanding of empathy and psychological safety to the point that maybe I realize maybe I am more empathetic than what I realized and learned so many tangible things that I can take and apply to every client relationship, every coworking relationship. It was phenomenal. My favorite part, though, is at the very end of the show, and I'm not going to spoil it for anybody because you got to listen all the light at the end because it is powerful. When I say I had goosebumps, I am not kidding. It was phenomenal.
Joey (00:01:48) - He dropped an absolute truth bomb there right at the end. Now, I really enjoyed it too. I thought I took away a lot of tangible action items, some things that maybe I thought were nouns or really verbs. You know, certain actions are not static, they're dynamic.
Joey (00:02:02) - So we really enjoyed our conversation. I hope you all like it. Stick around to the end and we look forward to catch you on the next show. Hi everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Young CPA Success Show. I'm your host today, Joey Kinney, joined by my co-host, Hannah Hood. Hannah, how are you?
Hannah (00:02:17) - I am doing well. How are you today, Joey I'm good.
Joey (00:02:20) - I'm so excited for today's podcast because I get to talk with an old friend of mine and I get to introduce him to you, Hannah and the audience, and just have a wonderful conversation. Josh Miller is our guest today with the empathy paradigm. Among other things, this is a Josh Miller joint, as I like to call it. So, Josh, thank you so much for joining us today. I feel like we get to have a conversation with a friend and we get to put on the podcast some of the talks that we've had just sort of throughout the years that we've we've known each other and you've been so helpful to me in my career and to, you know, even Summit Anders in a tangential way.
Joey (00:02:56) - So thank you so much for joining us today.
Josh (00:02:59) - Wow. Thank you so much. It's very kind of you to say. And yeah, I'm really excited. I've been a part of a few different podcasts and they're the ones that make it more of a friend of friend conversation, and those are always really fun. We usually get a lot out of them and end up with a really good episode, and there are some where it's more of an interview and I think there's definitely have their place. I just don't belong in that place. It's not fun for me and I don't think it's fun for the listeners because I don't I don't thrive in those. So very excited for this opportunity. Very grateful that you asked me to be on the show.
Joey (00:03:32) - Well, thank you so much. And this is you know, like I said, I love the friend of friend conversations. I'd love to. When we were talking about this earlier, I'll let the audience in on this secret. I said like, let's imagine that we're all just kind of sitting around like a campfire or a lovely outdoor place.
Joey (00:03:47) - Josh You live in the PA and I live here in New Mexico. We love outdoor type stuff and it just like that's the vibe that I think we're going for here is like just a lovely like campfire chat, just having some conversations about important topics. So before we get started, I was hoping we could start with some definitions, um, if that's okay. Just to sort of define a little bit about some of the stuff that we're talking about today. So when we had talked initially about sort of where we wanted the podcast to go today, one of the things that we talked a lot about was a term called psychological safety. And that was like until we had had our first initial conversations, that wasn't even something that I was aware of. I didn't know what it meant. Can you sort of explain to us a little bit about what that is and how you define it?
Josh (00:04:35) - Yeah, absolutely. So psychological safety is a relatively new term to the corporate world. We define it similarly, but it's a little bit different than what you might hear.
Josh (00:04:48) - A lot of the experts or authorities on the topic say. So for us, psychological safety is the foundation for an internal and external sense of security in a work environment. And it's created when a corporate culture facilitates growth and authentic communication through valuing and respecting each other's individual experiences. So, that's kind of the like elevator pitch of it all when we have to put it in writing and send it off on like pitches and things like that. That's pretty much it. But for us at the empathy paradigm, you know, shockingly our focus is on empathy. So the way that we define it as simply as possible is that psychological safety is a measurable expression of empathy itself.
Joey (00:05:37) - So when we talk about psychological safety in terms of how it fits into the corporate world. One of the questions that a lot of people who maybe don't know or uninformed about this, like how does that factor into like an initiative or some other type of culture based initiative that maybe companies are really wanting to institute but just just don't know how.
Joey (00:06:02) - They don't know how to do it. They don't know how to measure it. They don't know how to measure it. Success and its impact. I'm assuming psychological safety is involved as a measurable from that.
Josh (00:06:11) - Yeah, absolutely. And I think the thing that a lot of people don't truly, I guess, understand about it or maybe haven't put the necessary deep thought into is that psychological safety, while there are objective truths about it as a concept, it's going to look different in every workplace because every workplace is made up of different people, right? So the way that some of the drivers of psychological safety show up in a CPA firm going to look a lot differently than the way that they show up, say, in like a retail center or something along those lines. And what we've seen is that a lot of companies are prioritizing psychological safety in different ways. They may not use those terms. I mean, a lot of times you'll see in core values they'll say like empathy is our number one core value, or we do everything in an empathic culture and things like that.
Josh (00:07:03) - And they're pretty much talking about the same thing. But the issue is that when you're talking about something so I guess nebulous as empathy, it's hard to define it. It's hard to actually put it into action. And psychological safety as a measurable expression of empathy is a really good way to measure the progress that you want to make in developing a healthy, high performing culture.
Hannah (00:07:28) - For me, empathy is not a strength of mine. I recognize that for myself it is not something that is naturally inherent for me with my kids. Like even whenever they get hurt, anything, I'm like, okay, get over it. Like, suck it up, move on with your life. Like, I know this about myself, but I do have a very strong desire to be more empathetic and take those steps towards garnering a stronger psychological safety environment or psychologically safe environment that I work in for people that I'm around. What advice would you give to somebody who maybe fits into that sector of knowing that they're not that's not natural for them? And what would you say to them and how can they overcome that?
Josh (00:08:12) - Yeah, awesome.
Josh (00:08:12) - I love that question so much. I'm a big empathy nerd, so thank you for scratching that itch today. Really excited. Um, I think I would start by asking what their understanding of empathy is. So, Hannah, what is your definition of empathy?
Hannah (00:08:27) - My understanding of empathy is seeing someone and seeing how they feel and coming at them from a place and coming at that situation and looking at it from a place of understanding and a deep desire to necessary to put myself in their shoes, I think is probably the best way that I could describe it and then also garner some of those same emotions by doing that and trying to see the world through through their eyes and through their experiences.
Josh (00:08:55) - Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's going to be the common understanding for most people. Is this, I guess, reference back to that adage, right? Put yourself in someone else's shoes, walk a mile in their shoes, see the world through their eyes, that type of thing. But what we've come to understand and kind of why we call ourselves the empathy paradigm is that, that may not be a complete understanding of what empathy is.
Josh (00:09:16) - I think that's one iteration of it, and I think it's a very healthy and helpful one. However, we don't need to put ourselves in someone else's shoes. We don't have to walk that mile because that is still centering us in our experience. All that we need for empathy is to see that, that person walked that mile and care about the experience they had while walking it. And the same with seeing the world through their eyes and that type of thing. We just need to know that they see the world a certain way and we need to care about the way that they're seeing it. And yeah, if we can shift into that mindset, then what we'll start seeing is that empathy is a skill just like anything else that we can fine tune and develop and we can start teaching that in our leadership teams and really all the way down to as young as your children's age and that type of thing. And so. I think what I would have to say about empathy and teaching empathy or at least incorporating empathy into a work culture or at least into your leadership style is exactly that.
Josh (00:10:18) - Is that really there are components of empathy that I'm happy to get into, but at a very top level, you just need to understand that your employees, your coworkers, your friends, your family, your kids, that they all have a very unique experience and they experience things in a way that maybe you don't understand right now. Now, the thing with having kids and like talking about a child's experience is that you might be able to think back to when you were their age and how everything was so big and so scary and emotions felt so intense. And you can relate to that. But even still, the way that they are processing that information and the way that they're responding to that stimulus might still be way different than the way that you did as a kid, because, again, it's an entirely different set of circumstances. And so take that logic, apply it to your teams and apply it to your employees. You may say something that seems so helpful or so innocent to you or something like that while you're leading a team meeting and you may have an employee that takes it a completely different way than you were intending.
Josh (00:11:19) - But the thing is, is that intent, it does matter, but also the impact really matters. And so being able to get on that level and understand that every single person around you is experiencing the world in a very different and unique way and then caring about it and showing that care, because it's not just about the emotion, right? That's kind of where we get stuck with empathy. A lot of people think it's about the emotion, but it's not. It's emotion. It's feeling and behavior combined together. How do we react off of that emotion and how do we react knowing that someone else is having emotions?
Hannah (00:11:57) - I love that. See, I've already learned something new to take in a lot of my own journeys. This is awesome.
Joey (00:12:04) - Well, I think the hardest thing about that, too, as you know, someone who I can go back and think many times in my career as I've kind of moved into management positions where. When I was met with someone pointing out that, hey, that your experience didn't match my experience and.
Joey (00:12:26) - That's how I responded to that was defensiveness. Like I got defensive about it and really focused on it was the me centric focus of this thing. Like, Hey, I didn't mean to do that. I, I, I , I And not first acknowledging I'm sorry I created this in you and your feelings are valid and your feelings are that. And I didn't factor that into my situation and I need to learn from that. I would imagine that's a fairly common experience for people as they learn to grow through this and understanding. Are there any learning tips on how to get better about that as a manager?
Josh (00:13:06) - So many. There are so many tips. And the thing about it is that we are not the only authority on this topic. We sometimes don't even claim that we are an authority depending on who we're talking to. There are so many organizations and so many thought leaders and professionals out there that offer the same type of content, which is amazing. And so you really just have to be mindful and intentional in looking for that type of ongoing education that those types of growth opportunities for us when we're talking to executive teams or management leadership, anything like that, that is probably going to be our number one thing that we mention, right, Because.
Josh (00:13:49) - I'm not an expert in the CPA field. I when my husband starts talking about work, I pretty much tune out and then circle back when he gets quiet so I can be like, oh. It's just numbers are like an off switch to me. I short circuit so fast. And that's true for a lot of different fields. I'm just not an expert in everything. I would never want to be an expert in everything. What we do is we can just offer the tools that you all need to make a decision yourselves and apply it to your own workplace. And I think that's a big conversation that we have with our clients up front. And something that sets us apart is that we're not coming into spaces to institute change. We're not even coming into spaces to say that change needs to be instituted. What we're doing is just helping people take a critical look at their culture, at their systems, that everything that they have in place that may or may not be contributing to the results that they're getting. And then we take a look at, well, okay, these are the results that you're getting.
Josh (00:14:52) - What results do you want? Here are tools that may be able to help you get there, But then you have to make the choice on whether or not you are going to make the change. And a lot of people decide that they don't need to make the change or want to make the change. Hey, our profits are here. This is fine. Our attention is here. This is fine for now, and that's okay. If you force someone into doing something like that, you're stripping them of autonomy and we'll get into that when we're talking a little bit about psychological safety. But essentially the end results are never going to be what you want them to be. And so my advice for managers is not going to be you need to do this. What it's going to be is you need to invest in learning opportunities. You need to be investing in the hard conversations where you can hear about other experiences and get an opportunity to, I guess, understand that those other experiences can impact you. And then you get to decide if they do or not.
Josh (00:15:47) - And I know that gets a it gets a little frustrating for professionals who are very do this now. I want this step, I want this answer. And we have to tip toe around that when we come in as consultants because. I mean, I can come in and say, you need to do this, this, this and this, but that workplace may not be set up for that already. And if we're having them build a structure on a very, very, very crumbly foundation, it's just going to ultimately hurt the people it's meant to support. And so it really. It really becomes a lot simpler when you can say, Hey, I'll help you identify the tools that you need. I even have access to some of the tools. I'm even an expert in some of the tools. I would never say expert, but I even know how to use some of these tools.
Joey (00:16:36) - I think you're an expert. Josh, I'm going to say it for you.
Josh (00:16:40) - Thank you. It's just it's hard to claim that title in a field that is evolving day by day as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us, the field changes with that, or it should.
Josh (00:16:52) - And in some places it doesn't. But overall it does. And so it's hard to say. Yeah, I'm an expert when like yesterday it was different than today, but I do appreciate that. But yeah, so I think that would be that would be my main advice is invest in those opportunities to learn to grow, to get the tools that you need or even see if you need other tools.
Hannah (00:17:13) - I think you made a really good point that these conversations are hard conversations. They're not easy ones to have oftentimes, and I think naturally we tend to shy away from hard conversations. Just generally, as humans, we tend not to run straight into confrontation if we can help it. So what advice would you give, especially to leadership and management as you engage in those hard conversations? Naturally, there's going to be room in space for misunderstanding, maybe even conflict. How do you navigate and move forward past that in a healthy and productive way?
Josh (00:17:51) - Absolutely. There's always going to be conflict. Yeah, so long as people are people, there's going to be conflict that comes around with that because again, we are perceiving the world from our very unique point of view and we're going to act on that point of view.
Josh (00:18:07) - And sometimes that can infringe on someone else's point of view. And, you know, there's just going to be some arguments and like, Hey, that's my space type of conversation that comes with that. I think before I can give specific advice on confronting or navigating difficult conversations. I want to talk a little bit about what might contribute to those hard conversations. And so I touched on it just a second about like navigating in this space. But. What we're really talking about is centering ourselves and our belief systems, our behaviors, our thought patterns, all of that kind of comes from our worldviews and how they develop. So when I say worldview, that's more of a it depends. It can be a clinical term or it can be like specific to a field. But when I say worldview, what comes up for the two of you? What is your understanding of worldviews?
Joey (00:19:07) - I would say for me, it's kind of like that internal filter that sort of I don't want to say clouds, but it like tints everything that you see.
Joey (00:19:16) - Almost like putting a film over a camera or a camera lens that changes the perception. And so when I think of like my worldview, it obviously it comes from a very different place than Hannah comes from a very different place than you. It's the sum total of all of my experiences and things that I know, things that I don't know, right? Things that I don't know that I don't know. Um, and that's sort of the thing that. You know, every experience gets filtered through that lens, right? Wrong or otherwise. It's sort of how I think about it.
Hannah (00:19:52) - Yeah, I totally agree. I think that it is the lens through which I look at the world and I look at the problems I face my day to day, the decisions that I make, all of it.
Josh (00:20:04) - Yeah, yeah, absolutely. As we grow and experience life, we develop expectations of how the world works. And these subjective expectations or worldviews inform the way we understand and interact with the world around us.
Josh (00:20:20) - By exactly like you said, creating a filter that we pass all information and experiences through. Now this is fine. That happens. That's just kind of a natural result of the way that we operate in this world. But it becomes an issue when we assume or I guess believe that our subjective experiences are objectively true for everyone else. Like that keeps us at the center of the universe. Like that's what we mean when we say that we're like centering our experiences, centering white voices, centering this or that. It just means that we are positioning ourselves as the ultimate authority on what is real and true and what is right and wrong. And. That centering that imposing of our subjective expectations and assumptions on the world around us, it creates bias. And that's what leads to prejudice and discrimination and hard conversations, by extension. And. You know, prejudice is a very charged term. I don't think it is. I think that words are just words and they only have the power that we give them. But I do think that in a lot of conversations, using the term prejudice makes people automatically think of specific things that have connotations that come with them.
Josh (00:21:36) - But ultimately, a prejudice is just a bias that's created by your worldview, by your individual expectations of the world. And that's totally okay. We have a lot of prejudices. We have a lot of beliefs about the way that things work, and we carry those with us into conversations with other people. A lot of times we build a little wall around ourselves and we say, This is the space that I occupy, and then we invite others to come into that space during a conversation. But that's really difficult, right? There's only so much space and if you're filling that entire space, how do they exist in there? How do they navigate? They're forced to shrink. They're forced to comply with whatever rules and regulations you have in place. And, you know, some people have to have very strong boundaries like that. But boundaries don't always have to be a wall. Sometimes boundaries are a gate, sometimes they're a bridge. You know, boundaries are very healthy and play an important part in conversations and relationship building.
Josh (00:22:32) - But when it comes to our worldviews, when it comes to just our experiences, that wall can be severely limiting not just for ourselves, but for everyone around us. And it can be damaging as well. And the way that we kind of get around that or the way that we start dismantling that wall is through our empathy equation. But the way that we start getting rid of that wall is going to be through curiosity, vulnerability and non-judgment. Those are the three main components of empathy, and they're the three main components of human connection and progress. And so when we can show up in a space and we can be vulnerable and say, Yeah, I have boundaries, but maybe I don't need this wall, and when we can enter it with a attitude of non-judgment and say like, okay, I know that my experience might be different than someone else's, and so I'm not going to judge their experience as wrong and I'm not going to judge my experience as objectively true. And then when we're curious and we're asking the questions to help inform that non-judgment and to help validate that vulnerability, then we can start having some of those really difficult conversations.
Josh (00:23:44) - And that gets tricky, right? Because not everyone will meet you in that space. And there are tools that managers and really anyone can develop to help create or set the stage for an empathic conversation. But I think ultimately that's what it boils down to, is when you go into a difficult conversation or when you think you're going to have one or you realize you're in one, take a minute and recenter yourself as a curious, vulnerable and non-judgmental person and not center yourself as a like as an authority on exactly what's happening and how you should move forward.
Joey (00:24:22) - Can you expand a little bit on what maybe some of those tools might be? Because when I hear you talk about curiosity and non-judgment and having difficult conversations, I'm smiling in my head because those are the same exact qualities that we look for in our CFO consultants. Like those are the same types of things that we teach from the very beginning, from the accounting side. Like if you are going to be a successful consultant and consulting is all about relationships.
Joey (00:24:51) - If you're going to have successful relationships with people, you've got to have a certain. You've got to have these qualities and understand that these are the drivers that then lead to successful consulting, not knowing how to solve the problem. It's the curiosity. It's asking good questions. It's not shying away from difficult conversations. It's actively listening, those types of things that separate the great consultants from someone who's just a good accountant. So I'd love to hear maybe what some of those tools might be for managers who are struggling to have empathic conversations.
Josh (00:25:26) - Yeah, absolutely. So those tools can kind of be broken up into two main categories. And the reason I'm breaking them up into two main categories is because that's how we break up our understanding of psychological safety as well. A manager who wants to create a psychologically safe culture is going to be asking themselves two main questions Do I empower my employees and am I leading with integrity? And then each of those umbrella categories have three drivers under them. And so when you're empowering your employees, you're creating a culture of belonging.
Josh (00:25:58) - You are allowing them to be autonomous and to have collaborative efforts. And when you're leading with integrity, you're consistent, you're accountable and you're open. And each of those drivers are going to have their own set of tools that do play with each other and overlap in a lot of really fun and interesting ways. But they are distinct just by nature. So when we're thinking about empowerment, so belonging, autonomy and collaboration, we'll start with just belonging. Belonging is going to be what we at least define belonging. And many in the field define belonging as the naturally occurring feeling that results from a healthy diversity, equity and inclusion program. So if your workplace is diverse, equitable and inclusive, people are going to feel like they belong. And so that just kind of sums it all up in that way. And now there are plenty of programs out there that can help managers learn how to create a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace. But I would say the easiest way to do that, the number one tool is exactly what we were just talking about Engage in the hard conversations.
Josh (00:27:10) - But before you have those conversations, create the space for authenticity through curiosity, vulnerability, and non-judgment and not just while you're talking, but in general. If your foundation for operation can be those three components can be empathy as a whole, then you're already going to be making some pretty decent strides towards a culture of belonging, but specifically in those conversations. We already talked about what it kind of looks like to dissenter yourself, but I guess drilling in a little further, it's natural that we all have some emotions that arise from a stimulus. So when there's some kind of outside event that happens, someone comes up to you and says, Hey, I really want to talk about this thing that you said. We immediately have a cognitive appraisal of that. Like. Oh, am I allowed to cuss? Because I was about to.
Hannah (00:28:08) - Think we're young CPAs in the show, though. I mean, we can we have.
Joey (00:28:12) - We haven't gotten approval on that one way or the other. So I say let it rip.
Joey (00:28:16) - And if producer Rob needs to bleep it out in the background, just make it happen.
Josh (00:28:21) - Okay. I'll stick to the more tolerable words and not not the direction I was about to go. But, um, so if someone says like, Oh, I want to talk to you about this thing that you just said in our minds, that can go a lot of different ways based off of our worldview. If we're used to having some of those conversations and we're like, okay, well let's see what's going on. And that could be it, but most of us are going to be like, Oh shit, what did I do? What did I say? What's about to happen? I'm not prepared for this. I have not allotted time for a ten minute breakdown after this. Like it could just go a lot of different directions. But after our cognitive appraisal comes the emotional response to that. So if my cognitive appraisal of it is I'm about to get in trouble, my emotional response might be fear or it might be anger or it might be discussed.
Josh (00:29:05) - There are a lot of different ways that that can go as well. For me personally, if someone said, Hey, we need to talk, I'm going to spiral and it's going to be, Oh, I'm in trouble. And my emotional like connector with that is going to be fear, fear of rejection and isolation, abandonment, all the things that result from my personal experiences in the past. And then all of us have a behavior that comes along with that. Now, most of us would think that that behavior, the appraisal, the emotion and the behavior all happen. Synonymously. And that's human emotion, baby. But it's not that behavior. There is a pause and we can work on lengthening the time it takes between the appraisal and emotion and the behavior that we have to that acts as like a function of correcting that event in one way or the other. So, you know, when I was younger, I might just dip. I would be like, I'm in trouble. I'm scared of being abandoned, so I'm going to leave first.
Josh (00:30:05) - And you know what? I'm gone. We're not having this conversation. Hey, can we put a pin in that? And then I go to the bathroom and sit there for 35 minutes until they forget about it, you know, like, whatever that might be. But now that I'm able to, like, pause for a second, sit with my feeling, recognize that, oh, I'm scared. And that might impact the way that I'm responding, how should I respond? Now? I can kind of change that behavior a little bit and not try to correct what's happening in front of me, but just correct what's going on inside of me. And that's going to make a really big difference. Um, and so, when someone comes up to us and has that moment, or if we're confronted with something, maybe it's not even a hard conversation that you were invited to. Maybe you're sitting in a like board meeting or any type of leadership council meeting, or you're just a regular employee that's listening to your leadership given meeting and someone says something incredibly hurtful or problematic without realizing it.
Josh (00:31:05) - So that's a different type of hard conversation because now you have to make the choice, Am I going to speak up? Am I not going to speak up? Do I say something later? How do I handle this right? But regardless of the exact situation. Those components remain the same. That pause remains the same. We still have to be able to check our emotions to feel them. Ooh, I feel that in my chest. I feel it in my head. For me personally, when I get angry or embarrassed, it starts deep in my chest and then rises up into my neck and I start to flush and then my ears get bright red. And I've learned exactly what that means. So when I feel my body getting hot, I know. Oh, I'm feeling embarrassed and I know when I feel embarrassed, I tend to attack instead of withdraw. So I need to be very mindful of the way that I answer this question. I need to be very mindful. And, you know, sometimes I don't get it right and sometimes I know I'm not going to get it right.
Josh (00:32:06) - I'm too heated for this, and that's when I can make the decision, Hey. I hear. I validate what they're saying. I hear what you have to say. I understand that this is important to you. I want it to be important to me, too. I'm having a very big initial reaction to it. So let me just take a second. I want to come back to this. And if I don't feel like I can come back to this one on one, we'll pull in a safe person that can help facilitate the conversation, because I want to respect who you are, you know, and that type of thing. And that sounds a lot of times so cumbersome or it sounds so, for lack of a better term, like woo woo to a lot of executives or leaders. But the more that you do it, the easier it gets. And I can tell you that the more respect that you'll have and the more your employees will feel comfortable coming to you, not just about the things that hurt them, but about the things that are helping as well.
Josh (00:33:02) - And it just opens up a lot of different avenues from there. If you can just take that pause between your appraisal and the emotion and the behavior you're about to do in response to the way that you're feeling.
Joey (00:33:15) - It reminds me so much of when I was in college and I was struggling with anxiety. So I was, you know, obviously did not want to be medicated to the extent that I was medicated to to kind of help with it initially. So I went and saw a counselor and we developed some techniques. And one thing he said that was really that really stuck with me and I would actively do this. I think it took 4 or 5 years of actively doing this before it really sunk in and became habit was any time I started feeling anxious, I would just say, Hey, thank you anxiety for trying to keep me safe. Acknowledging the feeling and knowing to your point, that there is a difference between the feeling and my anxiety, which was the reaction. So I'd feel the anxiety build and I would say, Hey, thank you body for trying to keep me safe.
Joey (00:34:00) - I appreciate you, but I'm good. I'm good here, I'm okay and I'm safe. And that acknowledgement of that, you know, it was not second nature. I had to teach my body to like, remember to do that and remember to separate and just sit. In that interim feeling, that fight or flight reflex and response that you have to those types of things and just say, hey, I'm okay, I'm good, body will calm down. Everything's going to be fine. And so that's where I was, where my mind went to with that is like that is not an easy muscle to train. We are very much trained to and maybe it goes back to our lizard brain, right? That part of us that when you feel the tingling on your neck, it means a cheetah is about to come eat you. So you got to get out of here and you've got to react right away. It's a difficult thing to come to.
Josh (00:34:50) - Yeah. And I mean, there's another side to that, right? Because I think for you and I were very similar, Joey, in that we had to learn how to fine tune our emotional responses.
Josh (00:35:02) - But for a lot of other people, they have to learn how to access their emotional responses because there are a lot of people that are trained from a very young age to not feel at all or to feel in very specific ways. Like I think about a lot of the like black experience on where they can't show certain levels of anger or, you know, think of a lot of men who are emotionally repressed because they were expected to exclusively show anger or a lot of just people who grow up in oppressive faith systems and they have to feel and think and do things in a certain way so that other end of the accessing emotion or experiencing emotion spectrum is very difficult as well. And so many of us fall wherever on that right now. I would say probably none of us are like amazingly well adjusted or are able to perfectly experience and express our emotions. It's an ongoing journey, right.
Joey (00:36:03) - And so paradigm, right?
Josh (00:36:05) - Yeah, it is. Yes, absolutely. And it can look like a lot of different things for a lot of different people.
Joey (00:36:14) - We've got about ten minutes left or so here. And I wanted to kind of end on a couple of different things and talk about a, the psychological safety test that Hannah and I took before having this podcast. But then also talk a little bit about how you use that tool and what you guys do with the empathy paradigm. Because as I as I kind of alluded to professionally, you've helped me out in a number of different situations where I just did not have the tools, I didn't have the equipment in the tool belt to be able to handle the situation that I was faced with in the manner that I wanted to. So I'd love to just kind of talk a little bit about. Um, a the test, but also how you guys use it.
Josh (00:36:58) - Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Well, let me ask you this. What was your experience with that survey?
Joey (00:37:05) - I felt like I felt it. And I'm curious to get Hanna's thoughts on this. I felt like when I took the test, it showed that I, I personally felt very psychologically safe in this organization.
Joey (00:37:18) - And my first thought was, well, that makes sense. I'm a white cisgendered heterosexual male. Like, I'm kind of this world was in a lot of ways built for me. So it would make sense that I would feel very psychologically safe here. So I'd love to hear kind of Hannah's experience with it and dive into that a little bit.
Hannah (00:37:37) - You know, like, I feel very much the same way, though, too, because of the organization that we're in, the steps that they're taking to make me feel psychologically safe. So I'm right there with you. I do. I feel like definitely, though, it exposed where I can do work and how the work that I need to put in there in order to be the catalyst that I know that I want to be. I know that it's awesome if executive leadership is doing it, but also even may not being in a core leadership team like there's work that I need to do to in order to be to foster that environment and for it to be conducive for other people to want to be a part of it too.
Hannah (00:38:14) - So bringing light to that and allowing me to be self-aware in that and know what I need to do in the work that I need to put in in order to to get to the place that I ultimately aspire to be.
Josh (00:38:27) - Yeah, awesome. And that's honestly the ultimate purpose for the survey itself is to see the areas of opportunity, but also start thinking critically about where you fall on that scale and where others might be rating your company, your team and your leadership style. And so the Psychological Safety Assessment tool is an anonymous survey that we send out to all the employees that you want to take it. You know, a lot of times it's a department, sometimes it's company wide, it's designed for 200 plus employees. But I mean, teams as small as 5 or 6 can take it and still get results that help. But it has to have a level of anonymity to really dial in to some of the demographics. So that's why we typically recommend 200. But it provides a measurable way to gauge your progress, not just in like this overarching umbrella of psychological safety, right? Because that can seem very daunting.
Josh (00:39:33) - But in those six drivers that I mentioned. So it'll help management teams know if they are or how effectively they are empowering their employees and leading with integrity. And so all these employees take the survey and then that manager and the company as a whole receive an aggregate score. So say 200 people take it. There's an aggregate score of 80 out of 100. That's pretty dang high and it's going to look really good if we were to just stop there. But if we drill down into some of the like demographic information. So let's say we look at the belonging driver, since we've already talked about that and we can see that the score is very high for Joey, for white male employees that also identify as cisgender, that score is super high, but we see that the score is very low for black female employees now. What does that really mean? Because 90% of the team is white male and only 10% of the team is black female. And so that score is already going to skew higher because it's like, ooh, okay.
Josh (00:40:54) - So I can see now that the emphasis is on our white male employees and not so much on really anyone else. And again, that's not us or anyone saying you need to make a change. That's just us saying, here's the data to help you inform your next steps, whatever they may be. Now we offer the trainings and that type of thing to go with it. And if it comes to a specific type of training that we don't offer, like specifically racial diversity training, we are a white owned business. We do have contractors of color, but we don't specialize in that. There are other companies that do that, so we will partner with them to help offer that. But it's really just a way to measure not just how healthy your team is, but the long term growth that your team experiences, right? Because we want these teams, these managers to be able to keep coming back and have their teams keep taking the score. So after they're investing in these different initiatives, after they're investing in these learning opportunities, having hard conversations, doing whatever they feel like they need to do, hey, come back in 12 months, take this again with your team and see if the score is different.
Josh (00:42:09) - And then you'll be able to track that over time. And hey, in 3 to 5 years, maybe there'll be a certification for psychological safety that, hey, you've maintained this score, this aggregate score. Yes. But this average score across all demographics for this amount of time. Here you go. You are a relatively psychologically safe place to work, that type of thing. But it really is just a message to future employees and current employees that, hey. There is a tool that can maybe put words to something you don't know how to express because there are so many people that are experiencing prejudice and discrimination in their workplace and they don't know how to communicate it because, number one, they've never had the opportunity to. But also, number two, maybe it's insidious. Maybe it's a very subtle form of microaggression, maybe it's systemic and they just don't have the words for it. So, hey, like we got you. You don't need the words now you have the data like let the data lead the way.
Josh (00:43:07) - And we're not relying on feelings. We're not relying on 45 different professional organizations that all do it a different way. We're relying on data to show you exactly what areas of opportunity you may have where you're doing great, and then letting that inform the steps that you take to continue being great or to get to a healthy workplace with employees who have high amounts of discretionary effort, who feel like they belong, who are autonomous, and they collaborate amongst themselves. And you have leadership teams that are working in such a way that they're consistent and accountable and open and vulnerable, and everyone leads with curiosity and empathy, and it's an ideal world. Hallelujah. We did it, you know.
Joey (00:43:55) - Well, like that. It's I like that. It's not a static thing. It's a dynamic thing. Like just because you're here today doesn't mean you're going to be here tomorrow. Or just because you were here today doesn't mean you're going to be here tomorrow. It's a continuous thing that always has to be tested and validated and understood.
Joey (00:44:12) - And then to your point, you can then make the decision about where you're going to go with the data, but at least the data is there and you're not. To your point, making an emotional snap judgment or relying on a bunch of perhaps unfaithful narrators, perhaps, you know, maybe saying the story's a little bit different than it really is. So I really enjoyed taking the test. I thought it was a very interesting assessment and it made me think a lot about some of the things that I can proactively do tomorrow to help make accounting as a whole and our company specifically a more inclusive place to be in, a safer place to be for for people who don't have the sum of my life experiences.
Hannah (00:44:54) - So we're accountants, so we love data or like the more data, the better to help me with my decision making. But I also love how it also applies not only to the workplace, but I'm just being as client facing as I am. Client relationships are super important to me. So taking that and also translating it into those relationships and even the ones around me in my personal life is going to be invaluable.
Hannah (00:45:19) - So I thought it was awesome as well.
Josh (00:45:21) - Yeah, absolutely. And Joey, you touched on something really important that I don't think I specifically mentioned, but psychological safety isn't something you achieve. It's not this end point or this end goal where it's like, okay, we did it team. We are psychologically safe. We will be It's yes. As long as nothing changes. No, it's always psychological safety is the ongoing process of instituting a culture of empathy. And with that coming, the accountability, openness, belonging, all of the drivers that go with it. And so it's always going to be something that we're striving for and working towards, very similar to the way that we understand allyship. You don't suddenly just, okay, boop, I'm an ally. I have the pin and here we go. Like I that's what I am for forever. No allyship is this constant journey of learning and educating and dismantling systems and challenging the indoctrination that all of us have and like all of these different components.
Josh (00:46:15) - And so that's a very important distinction to make because we never want our clients to feel discouraged when their accountability score is 91 year and then it drops down to like 65 the next year. That's not showing that you're failing. It shows that your business has changed in 12 months, and now we're identifying some of the new areas to focus on for this next year. And it's the same type of mindset that we can take with us in our understanding of people in general that when things change, when someone acts in a different way, that we're not used to or says something that you're that's unexpected. It's okay. People change day to day. Everything changes moment to moment. And we just have to be able to sit with that and experience what's going on around us and make the plan on how we're going to move forward.
Joey (00:47:04) - I love it. It's a verb, not a noun.
Josh (00:47:07) - Absolutely.
Joey (00:47:08) - Yeah. Well, Josh, thank you so much for joining us here. We usually like to end on something a little bit kind of fun and quirky.
Joey (00:47:16) - So I kind of wanted to and Hannah if you have any questions. I've got one in my mind that I kind of wanted to go to. If you're okay with me taking this question.
Hannah (00:47:25) - Go for it.
Joey (00:47:27) - So we talked a lot about, you know, sort of using professional development and growth and learning and those types of things. And I'm just curious for you personally, what is the best piece of professional advice that you've gotten in your life and how is that impacting you going forward on a day to day basis? It's a bit of a deep question. I know.
Josh (00:47:50) - Yeah. I have my answer, but I have to give a caveat first. Okay. So. Maybe not a caveat, a little bit of just understanding. Because, Joey, I know that, you know most of my life story at this point, but for anyone else, I am a queer, gender fluid individual. I grew up in a very small conservative town in a conservative state, and then I ended up going to a conservative college and like essentially had all of these messages reinforced that who I am is inherently bad, inherently wrong, and that I don't have anything of real value to contribute.
Josh (00:48:38) - Because no matter what it is, whether it's speaking or work or content or whatever, it's always tainted in some way. And so I grew up believing that, and that has translated into what a lot of people might call imposter syndrome. But what me and my therapist just called trauma. And so. One of the things that's really challenging to me is claiming that title of like an authority on something or feeling like, I know what I'm talking about because there is always someone smarter and there is always someone that's done more research and that type of thing. That usually doesn't bother me. But when I don't have the licensure, I don't have the doctorate, I don't have the experience necessary to like point back to and justify what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. It creates a lot of insecurity. And my mentor that I ended up meeting about two years ago now, he said something to me and he was like, Listen, I can't take the credit for this. It was something that was said to me, but.
Josh (00:49:50) - Why not you? Like there are thought leaders. There are experts, There are authorities, There are a ton of people doing a ton of different things. So why not you? Why aren't you good enough to do the things that you want to do? Why not you be a thought leader? Why not you be someone who moves forward and pushes through into psychological safety and does the research and all these different things. And it was that sentence, Why not you? That really rocked my world and has since taken on a very prominent role in the way that I even do development coaching. I incorporate a lot of like identity mindfulness into my business coaching, where I have my leaders take a deep breath and tell me what is it that you are wanting to accomplish? Like what is it personally, deeply that you want to happen? And a lot of times it comes up as I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I want to be understood. I want to be good enough. And then I reflect back to them.
Josh (00:50:55) - I see you. I hear you. What you're going through is valid, and the smarts that you have in your brain are actually smart, even if you don't feel like they are, you know, whatever it needs to look like in that moment. But reflecting back that same question, maybe in different ways of why not you and letting them sit with it, because that's something I have to wake up and sit with every day. And it really helps me just stay focused and keep pushing forward.
Hannah (00:51:22) - I love that. That's really powerful. Thank you for sharing that. That's really awesome.
Josh (00:51:26) - Thank you for asking.
Hannah (00:51:28) - Yeah.
Joey (00:51:29) - I'm never going to follow that up with anything half as profound as what you just said. That was like.
Hannah (00:51:36) - Bilbo's and you were talking like, that was awesome.
Josh (00:51:40) - Oh, thank you. That's really great. Again, can't take credit for it. It was something imparted to me, and I think that that concept is something that is passed down through generations of thought leaders and just leaders in general.
Josh (00:51:52) - The people who have dared to ask that why not me? Like, I can do this too, and I'm going to show you why. And at times feeling like I don't have to show you because I can just do it. And so, yeah, I think it's meaningful. And I'm glad you all got the same type of reaction from it that I got when I first heard it.
Joey (00:52:12) - Well, Hannah, I don't know about you, but I think you and I covered this on a different podcast. And we leave. We leave our audience with that thought right there, because that was beautiful. Josh, thank you. Thank you so much for joining us. I know you're going to say this, but to me, you are an expert. I want to thank you so much for sharing your guidance with us and talking with us today and really just kind of getting us thinking about, you know, sort of some some things that we can do and take away from this conversation that will help make hopefully this industry and all of our jobs and businesses a better place for for everyone to be, not just for us.
Joey (00:52:48) - So thank you so much for joining us. Before you go, can you tell us where if anybody in our audience has questions or wants to talk with you further or work with the empathy paradigm, how do we reach you and how do we get in touch with you and your business?
Josh (00:53:01) - Yeah, absolutely. So our website is creatively named empathyparadigm.com So you can find us there. There's links to all of our socials. There's a direct link to my business email, our phone number. It's all on there. If there are any additional questions, not just about psychological safety in general, but maybe the drivers or scheduling a demo or anything like that, You can head over to the culture platform. They are the ones that are hosting our assessment. There are a lot of other great assessments on there, not just because we have 2 or 3 on there, but there are some really good ones about management and about team building and inclusivity, all of these different things. So head on over to the culture platform for our assessment, or you can book a demo with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joey (00:53:47) - Beautiful. Well, Hannah, thank you. Josh, Thank you. And I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes and hopefully checking back in later to see what progress we've all made. Because that's what it's about, is just continual improvement in progress.
outro (00:54:02) - If you're a young CPA looking to develop in their careers, we're always looking for great people. Visit our website for remote work opportunities with Summit Virtual CFO or find all our open positions at Anders CPAs and advisors.