Mindfulness Revolution For Leaders And First Responders In This COVID-19 Environment With Libby Robinson
Nothing is ever the same in this current COVID-19 pandemic environment. For leaders, that means having to find more experimental ways to really reach out to their team and keep the organization afloat. In this episode, Melanie Parsh interviews someone who perfectly captures the experimental leader. She brings over the Managing Partner of Integral Leadership & Coaching, Libby Robinson, who has worked for 26 years with senior leaders globally, helping to bring more mindfulness, resilience, and greater capacity to brilliant and ambitious leaders. Here, Libby shares how she is experimenting in her work, life, and business, giving us a peek into the novel ways she has been helping leaders and first responders who have been under pressure. She then discusses the idea of stockpile and pro bono coaching hours before letting us in on her latest venture, BackFeed+, a new app that helps individuals and organizations get better, faster feedback.
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Mindfulness Revolution For Leaders And First Responders In This COVID-19 Environment With Libby Robinson
I'm here with Libby Robinson. She’s the managing partner of Integral, an award-winning leadership and executive coaching company working with Fortune 1000 companies globally. She's a former Wall Street banker, aerospace engineer and a national champion equestrian. Libby’s worked for many years with senior leaders globally, helping to bring more mindfulness, resilience and greater capacity to brilliant and ambitious leaders. Integral uses a multidisciplinary approach to foster deep personal change in leaders and to evoke conscious leadership cultures for their clients. Libby’s latest venture has been to launch BackFeed, a new app that helps individual and organizations get better and faster feedback using a method backed by the latest neuroscience data about how individuals receive feedback with less stress. I’m looking forward to talking to Libby about leadership and how she’s experimenting during this time.
Libby Robinson, it is nice to have you on my show.
It's great to be here, Melanie. Thank you so much.
Tell us a about the work you do and the business that you have. I can't wait to hear more about you.
I'm the Managing Partner of Integral and we've been around for many years. We have coaches, consultants, designers and facilitators worldwide. We're about 250 strong all in all. The heart of our work is around mindfulness, resilience and leadership. That's the core of what we do. That comes across in many different mediums in the sense that we do customized leadership development programs. We do individual team and executive coaching for Fortune 1000 type of companies. We also work in the B2B space with helping companies tell a story to their clients that's compelling and interesting. We’re using metaphor and neuroscience to make their message stickier.
I definitely want to talk more about that. How are you experimenting right now in your work, your life, and your business?
We're in the time of COVID, I think everybody is experimenting with their entire lives. In some cases, being turned upside down. We're experimenting in a couple of ways. We have an amazing online platform that we started working with over the last couple of years while I've been at Stanford University called NovoEd. We are partnering with them to bring a lot of our clients’ work and learning work into not just an online platform but a hybrid social platform. We're helping our clients who work with many different partners and vendors to bring that blended approach. Hopefully, we're going to be back doing our mindfulness and resilience work face-to-face at some point in the future where we can come together and practice together. In the absence of knowing when that's going to happen, we are working in this new world. It's interesting in the sense that we're working with instructional design, visual imagery and webinars. We had a webinar started that had music and all different backgrounds. We're trying to help people come out of that Zoom zombie state.
That idea of the Zoom zombie, that is so apt. I like that description.
Everybody wants to connect whether it's Zoom, BlueJeans, Webex or whatever else you've got. I live about two blocks from the beach, so I've started taking some of my client meetings on the beach walking. I’m trying to give people ways in which to connect more deeply when we're apart. I find that the necessity to be mindful and also compassionate with each other is essential. Trying to create these virtual spaces where people can connect, reveal and be in a safe space is important. One of the things we're giving away to clients and anybody, every week we've been doing a webinar called Safe Space for Leaders. It's essentially a facilitated structured space where people that don't know each other come from all over the world. There's a small facilitated section. There's something to learn about whether it's about neuroscience, centering and grounding or physical practices. There's a way in which everybody can speak about their own experience. We do virtual small groups and things like that. It's been very moving to do that. We're about to launch a safe space for first responders. First responders all over the world can have this small moment in their day to release and to let go of everything that they may be holding when they're not full on at work.
That's such a great idea to give leaders who have been under pressure and first responders support in some novel and interesting ways. I’m fascinated by what you've been doing.
We've been very lucky of our cohorts of senior executive coaches worldwide. We have hundreds of us stockpiled pro bono coaching hours. If any of your readers know of a first responder that might need a one-on-one safe space. Many of our coaches are very grounded in grief work and have a depth of emotional intelligence. Not all of them are psychotherapists. We respect and separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters who are clinically trained therapists, but coaches do have a role in the aftermath of how people see themselves in the world. That's not just first responders but everybody's vision of who they might be in the world may be changed by having a certified trained coach. I've been doing this work for many years and many of my colleagues are deep wise practitioners. We have a stockpile of pro bono hours for first responders. That's what we're doing. It's becoming in some ways a gift economy. We're giving some things away and we find that it's also coming back to us many folds.
I love the idea of stockpiled pro bono coaching hours. It's such a lovely image. Often, that word ‘stockpile’ is not such a positive word, but in this case it is. Tell me a little bit about BackFeed. I've got a chance to see it, but I'd love for you to talk a little more about that and what's happening with that.
I'm excited about BackFeed. It started as a little crazy idea in my head many months ago. BackFeed is better and faster feedback. I work in the leadership space as you know and you do as well. People and organizations for many years have been using 360-degree feedback. This is the survey that gets out to 15 or 20 or more people. You ask them about 40 different competencies about this person. You get this big thick report back and it says, “Mary is a 3.2 on managing ambiguity.” It’s like, “What?” Unless they've gotten perfect scores in their 360 and it re-affirms their perfection of themselves, most people are nonplussed about most 360s out there. Even some of the top ones that have all the right data and stuff.
Honestly, taking qualitative data and making it quantitative data or appearing like quantitative data is fake data as far as I'm concerned. I was struck by the research of Dr. Tessa West. She did some social research on feedback. This was after we had started this idea. I met her at a conference. What I found out was it's stressful to give feedback. That's often why managers don't give enough feedback because it's stressful to give that feedback. It's stressful to receive feedback, which is why people are always freaked out when they go into those one-to-one meetings or the annual performance review or whatever else. The only time the neuroscience shows us when it's less stressful is when I'm proactively asking for feedback for myself on a particular topic. I'm asking for it from someone I know not some anonymous data from a 360 report.
That’s why we built BackFeed to be that. It's a cool app that is free for basic users. If organizations want to use it, we have a whole set of dashboard of analytics. What I love about it is so far I haven't found any competition that has the same thing. First of all, you are the one proactively asking for it. People can't just give it to you. You have a little tribe of people that you have chosen to be people that you want to ask for BackFeed. All of that data is confidential. They can respond to you in writing, audio or in a video. The themes and the questions are there for you. All you have to do is take less than fifteen seconds and say, “I want some feedback.” I look at the themes of strategic thinking. There are three different types of questions around strategic thinking. I pick one of those. I pick either one person in my tribe or all of my tribe and I send it out. They get a notification on their phone, then when they have a moment, they don't have to do it that second, they can scroll through and go, “Let me give you a quick response on that.”
At the organizational level or at the enterprise-wide data level, you start seeing like, “In my organization, I noticed that a lot of people are asking about storytelling, problem solving, strategic thinking, communication or trust. That gives you insight into what types of learning opportunities you might want to give to the organization. The other thing that we do is when you receive a piece of BackFeed, you get to rate that BackFeed. It's around, was it timely? Was it accurate? Was it useful? Did it give you a practical tip? A lot of times, 360 reports are either people lavishing praise with not a lot of interesting detail or they're bitching or complaining. What we're trying to do is make it easier both for the person who's asking for their own feedback. They're helping with their own development. They're proactive in their own development. We're also making it so that the person who's giving feedback for BackFeed is also learning whether or not that piece of BackFeed that they gave was useful. They get a little bit of a numerical grade or an index called your BackFeed score on the quality of the BackFeed. There's a lot more to it. I would say BackFeed is better and faster feedback.
Thank you for going into depth on that. I think it's an interesting app. I like the idea that you're turning the 360 market sideways a little bit to make it requested because I do see that in the work I do how difficult it is for people to take in feedback. It's such a challenge.
Neuroscience proves that. We now know why and quite honestly, I want to blow up the 360 market.
Stockpiling coaching hours and blowing up the 360 market. I love it.
I know it sounds rather militaristic but I don't mean it that way. We're in a time of disruption for different ways. There are some things that should start to go away. We're already seeing this in progressive organizations where the annual performance review is going the way of the Dodo. This is one more thing where we can put the power of asking for feedback in an individual's hands. It can be anybody. The app itself is free. You can download it on the Apple store and the Google store or Android store. It's just in the organizational level one that has a licensing, which is inexpensive by the way. I want to make an offer for your audience. If you're a part of an organization, I will give you one team of up to ten people, all licensed, for three months so that you can try it. You can even have one of our tech people help you with it. If that's interesting, I'll do that through the end of 2020.
Thanks for that offer. I love offers. Offers are fun. You've been running a very successful international coaching company for a long time. How do you take care of yourself? You have a lot going on. You're a busy leader. What do you do for self-care?
This is sometimes where I've fallen off the wagon. In pre-COVID days, the things that I would do is I have a beautiful Weimaraner dog. I still do this when I take her out in the mornings on the beach or in this beautiful forest area. Walking is important to me. I always do that. What I used to do was have massage regularly. I want to give a shout-out to a place in Thailand that I'm a big fan of called Kamalaya. If you ever get to go there, it is a beautiful wellness place. That's where I would always go once a year for eight years. I would go there anywhere between two weeks and a month. On a regular basis, what I'm finding is in terms of self-care, I'm spending more time attending to my neighbors and getting to know them a little bit more. We come out on our porches at 7:00 almost every night to clap for first responders and we're doing things for each other. I am hugging my nineteen-year-old son more than he's probably ever been hugged in the teen years of his life. His mom hugging him a lot is beneficial and he's proactively hugging me. The other thing that I'm doing is listening to music that I don't normally listen to. I’m experimenting with finding sounds.
I used to be the worst at this and I have had to create practices to slow down. One of our principles at Integral is “Go slow to go fast.” Some of my team were like, “Libby, look at principle number three.” Here's what I'm doing, especially during this time. It's more and more becoming my routine. The first thing is that I wake up without an alarm. I find alarms are very jarring. I've learned that my body needs to sleep as much as it needs to sleep. I've set up my schedule. I'm not a late sleeper, but I set it up so that I don't have early morning meetings like 7:30 in the morning meetings. This gives me some real time to get myself present. The next thing besides waking up without an alarm is to have at least ten minutes of either meditation or quiet time sitting upright in my bed. I'm not horizontal and I'm awake. I'm allowing myself that liminal space between starting my day and rushing around to do whatever I choose to do and being my human doing. At this moment, I'm truly a human being noticing my body, my joints, my breath. Sometimes the dog jumps up on the bed. The next thing I do is take a long walk with the dog. I find that that's another way to connect with nature. To be in relationship with another sentient being and notice how I am. That then sets me up for my day.
This going to sound counterintuitive but one of the things that we know from neuroscience is that altruism affects your own sense of self. The giving to others, so I'm tending to my neighbors and likewise they're tending to me. These little things of checking in on them and somebody at the store, “Does anybody need anything?” We all bang pots and pans at 7:00 PM for first responders. The last thing I'm doing which has never been a strength of mine, but I'm doing it as a conscious project is these little home projects that I've been meaning or wanting to get done. You're using the moments as a walking meditation, as a practice meditation of, “I'm going to adjust this closet or fix the squeaking doors or things like that.” That little bit of endorphin of feeling like something got accomplished in sometimes and otherwise very hectic day, you can feel it. You can feel the good of it. Those are the things that I'm doing now. Please don't take it like, “That's so great.” Sometimes I miss and sometimes I leap out of bed. Most of the time if I think about it and those are the ones that I can count on.
I love that you create space for yourself to wake up without an alarm. If I get to vote, that's my favorite.
That was one that I wrote down a long time ago in a personal vision statement that I did. I always remember that there are a lot of other things about that vision that haven't come true. That one thing of waking up without an alarm is great. I'm blessed every time with that.
I often swim at 5:00 in the morning. I get up at 4:50 and I need an alarm at 4:50. During this pandemic time, I've been able to stay up late and sleep in until 7:30 or something. I enjoy it. The only yummy part about being stuck in my house is that I can mess with my own sleep schedule. I've enjoyed the experiment.
They say the crisis in Chinese pictogram is danger plus opportunity. It's in all of our interests to be mindful of the danger, but looking for those opportunities for self-awareness, self-reflection, taking care of each other, and belonging even at a distance. I'm grateful to you for allowing me to experiment with you and tell you about what we're doing here at Integral.
Thanks so much for being here. Where can everyone find you?
Our main company is Integral. You can find us at www.IntegralCoaches.com. If you're interested in BackFeed, better faster feedback, you can find us www.BackFeedApp.com.
Thank you so much, Libby. What a pleasure it's been to have you.
Thank you so much, Melanie. It was fun and good luck with the book. I love it. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your courses and things like that as they start to get published and come out. I’m excited about those.
I'm here talking with Libby Robinson. I loved how Libby talked about stockpiling pro bono coaching hours for first responders. She talked about blowing up the 360 market. It's fascinating to think about having a mindfulness revolution. It's such a fantastic concept. I love how she takes care of herself as a leader by getting up without an alarm. We all need to give ourselves the freedom to do the things as leaders that help nourish us. The out of the box thinking that she showed in the things she talked about was so helpful. It was a pleasure to be with Libby Robinson. Go experiment.
About Libby Robinson
Libby Robinson, is the Managing Partner of Integral, a award-winning leadership and executive coaching company working with Fortune 1000 companies globally. A former Wall Street Banker, aerospace engineer and National Champion Equestrian, Libby has worked for 26 years with senior leaders globally, helping to bring more mindfulness, resilience and greater capacity to brilliant and ambitious leaders.
Integral uses a multi-disciplinary approach to foster deep personal change in leaders and to evoke “conscious leadership” cultures for their clients. Libby’s latest venture has been to launch BackFeed+, a new app that helps individuals and organizations get better, faster feedback using a method backed by the latest neuroscience data about how individuals receive feedback with less stress. You can learn more about BackFeed+ at www.backfeedapp.com and more about Integral’s leadership work at www.integralcoaches.com
A public speaker, consultant, workshop leader, author, and Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, from whom she received the Prism Award, Melanie is an expert in problem-solving, constraints management, operations, strategic hiring, and brand development.