EEC 002: “The Ego Tango” with Amy Carroll
There are three types of categories.
There are predators who don’t know they’re predators.
So once they just have that awareness and realization, they’re absolutely motivated to step into partner. Then there’s the category two who are the predators who know they’re predators except they think the only other choice is to go prey.
Katrina: Introduces Amy Carroll. She is an executive coach specialized in the skills required to positively confront conflict and effectively use them as opportunities to strengthen interpersonal relationships. This podcast will describe the Predator, Prey model, “The Ego Tango” book and some of Amy’s success and challenges building an executive coaching business.
Katrina: So tell us a little bit about the successes that you’re most proud of and some of the challenges on your way to this flourishing career.
Amy: Well actually, one of my successes, in fact, has to do with you. A few years into starting my business, about 2004, I remember you saying to me on a walk one day, “You know Amy, we should present together on stage sometime,” and I laughed so hard. I remember slapping you in the arm, thinking what a crazy idea.
Now, I do it all the time and I absolutely love it, talking on communication to audiences around the world.
Katrina: She’s a keynote speaker around the world, may I say. What about your challenges, some of the challenges?
Amy: Well, I think one of the challenges also its flip side was this big success with writing this bookThe Ego Tango. I think 2010 I finally finished it. The challenge was getting it done because I am such a procrastinator and because I’m not a perfectionist. So luckily I had a great team pushing me on to finish it and then when I thought it was finished, I turned it over to my sister Pat to say, “Hey, what do you think?” Well, luckily she’s a perfectionist and she said, “No, it’s not Oprah-ready.”
Katrina: Well, it just shows that you’re very open to criticism and rise to the challenge of doing even better. Tell us a little bit about your team. What kind of team did you surround yourself with?
Amy: Well, again, this has definitely been part of my successes. I have built friendships and partnerships with people who do similar work and it has been great because luckily I am open to feedback and criticism. I have pretty open relationships where we really call each other out if we think we’re not stepping up to our fullest potential.
As a result, with that exchange, we also build our businesses more as well. So we help each other in that way and right now I have an amazing office assistant, an office manager Kim who’s brilliant and she actually did the artwork for my book, which was just a bonus part of one of her skills. Then I’m now working with a business coach who does personal coaching when I’m feeling shaky or lacking confidence in something or trying to do too much. My coach is also a business coach really working on the strategy of building the business and where I want it to go in five, ten years down the road.
Katrina: And tell us Amy a little bit more about what you’re proud of, what you’ve accomplished in these last 13 years.
Amy: Well, aside from the speaking which I absolutely love, I am also really proud of the book and having gotten those stories down and getting feedback from people as to how much they really are grateful for it. I guess one of the things that surprised me was although it was a struggle and challenging to start my business in 2000 and build it up, it really took off within five years. So feeling really proud of the fact that I’ve got this powerful communication model that is so user-friendly that people can relate to it immediately and that it applies to cultures literally around the world and that’s what I’m really happy and feel lucky about.
Katrina: So tell us a little bit more about this model that you use cross-culturally. I think it’s – if I understood correctly – The Predator, Prey or Partner.
Amy: Exactly. So essentially, most of us, meaning most human beings most of the time, when we’re walking around operating at work with our families, we’re in what we call partner mode and what I mean by that is I’m holding equal respect for myself and for the other. All is well. Unfortunately, when we’re under stress, pressure or perceived threat, most of us will step into our default and our default is either the predator or the prey.
Now the predator is the person who’s not afraid of conflict and she tends to hold too much respect for herself and not enough respect for others and as a result, she leaves people either feeling intimidated or really annoyed. So they damage the relationship.
By contrast, the prey is a really lovely, sweet person and usually will avoid conflict at all costs. The problem is the prey is holding too much respect for the other and not enough for themselves because they want harmony and relationships except can actually trigger a predator reaction from even the nicest people. So the prey ends up getting mistreated and often damages their own credibility and sometimes their results.
So what I do is I help people see what is their default under pressure and people ask sometimes, “Well Amy, can people be both predator and prey?” I say yes, though some of us like myself, I’m a recovering predator. I have almost never gone prey in my life. Other people will flip from prey to really what we call pissed off prey which looks like a predator because they’re getting so annoyed by getting mistreated. So people flip flop back and forth damaging their credibility and relationships.
Katrina: So that’s very interesting, Amy. Tell us a little bit more how you take this model and apply it to business and how you bring it to the organizations?
Amy: Well, it’s incredibly flexible and once I explain the foundation of the model, people – you can almost see their eyes widening and lighting up and thinking, “Oh my god, my colleague is a predator. That makes so much sense.”
One time I was – this was a non-business situation though. I was doing a public program. I had a couple in the training. It was an all day program. At the end of the day, the woman raised her hand and she said, “Oh my gosh, I realized I have been a predator for the first five years of my marriage.” Her husband was sitting behind her, jumping up for joy. He was so happy she realized this.
Now in the business world, it’s the same thing and one of my favorite things is to work with the predators at the top of the pyramid because these are the people who had the most power and can make people pretty miserable when they’re misbehaving themselves.
So I go in. I work with senior executives and I help them see what they’re doing. Now, a predator, there’s three categories. There are predators who don’t know they’re predators. So once they just have that awareness and realization, they’re absolutely motivated to step into partner.
Then there’s the category two who are the predators who know they’re predators except they think the only other choice is to go prey. That is never going to happen.Then the third category of predators is the ones that enjoy it for the sport of it. Luckily, this category is very small. So I work with the predators. I work with the prey, the ones who are really nice, who are wanting to be kind and gentle to everybody except they’re giving a perception that they can’t handle the pressure. They’re not sure they can do the job.
Let me back up and explain one thing about the model. It’s separated into two pieces. There’s the external part of the model, which is the packaging. The body language, the voice and the words we use to look and sound like a partner and then there’s the internal part, the partner mindset and that’s what I wrote the book about.
How do we think, feel? What stories do we tell ourselves that will help us to either step into partner or pull us out of partner? So I work with people in two levels from external to internal which is where I use the video camera to help them see how they’re showing up.
Katrina: External — meaning the behaviors they have or they demonstrate that shows the predator or the prey.
Amy: Exactly. How loud are they speaking? How fast are they speaking? Are they smiling? Are they hesitating? So a predator might sound like this on the phone.
Yeah, yeah. I know. Could – yeah! Could you just get to the point please?
You can hear that.
Katrina: We’ve all been in that situation, sooner or later.
Amy: And then the prey, might sound something like this. Yes, yes, great, OK. What’s your point? Yes? Yes, yes, OK.
So the predator is sending the message, “I have better things to be doing with my time,” and the prey is sending the message, “I don’t have the right to take up your time.” So either way, we trigger a negative reaction response from others.
Katrina: So how do you work with the prey, the people that don’t have as much respect for themself?
Amy: People sometimes assume it means they have low self-esteem and this is not always accurate. It simply means they have a higher value on harmony and relationships than on results. Even though results may be important, the harmony relationships are higher, so I help them to see that. Then I tell you, the video camera is magic. It does half of my work for me because how we’re feeling and how we’re looking, there’s often a gap.
So I have people stand up and introduce themselves. Those are simple exercises. I have them then do more challenging exercises, something called “doctor expert” where they have to answer a crazy question and sound like they’ve written three books on it or studied it for 20 years.
Then I have real time applications, real influence challenges, where maybe they were at a quarterly business review and they’re getting grilled by senior management. How do they look and sound like as a leader with executive presence and manage themself?
How do they say no without sounding or getting defensive or having an aggressive response? How do they say I don’t know without looking incompetent? How do they deliver bad news?
So, all sorts of different scenarios that is true for them and their environment. Then we coach them in the moment.
Katrina: So you said there’s a gap. Please explain the gap.
Amy: There’s just this strange thing in human behavior. We expect how we’re feeling inside is what we think people see. So right now I might think I’m relaxed and I’m in a good mood except I’m speaking a little bit lower and slower, with more monotone energy. Therefore, I might sound like I’m having a bad day. So what I do is help people see on the video, audio and visual how they might not be sounding and looking how they may be feeling.
Amy: I actually have them manage themselves when they’re in a good mood and then when just the opposite if they’re really, really upset and really angry or really scared, how to look calm and confident in those situations.
Katrina: I see, so that they can control themselves basically. Like Daniel Goleman said, you got to be aware of what you’re feeling (self awareness) then only you can also be socially adept because you can control yourself more.
Amy: That’s the first piece. Awareness is critical and the other piece is the willingness to feel temporarily inauthentic and this is really tough for some of my coachees. “Amy, I need to be authentic” they tell me.
Well, you can be right or you can be happy and if you want to be authentic, and you get to be right, you might end up scaring people or upsetting them or losing a perceived credibility. So, there is a suspension of authenticity some of the times.
Katrina: How do you get them to be comfortable with that?
Amy: Repetition, practice, watching the video, seeing the result. So I will do these videos in small intensive group trainings and I have one person playing- themselves. OK, you’ve got to go and give bad news. You got to fire your employee. I was just working on this two days ago with a woman and then I have the other person play the employee and I say, “So tell me about this employee,” and the coachee says, “Well, he’s really defensive and he keeps interrupting and gets aggressive sometimes so I’m really scared that when I give him this bad news, that I’ve got to let him go, that he’s going to get aggressive and defensive.” So then we choose someone in the group. “Can you play that person?” I ask. “Oh, yeah, no problem” someone will answer. It’s weird even when it’s a role-play, it can come to life like it’s so realistic. So we play out the role-play and usually what I will do, is I will coach somebody to have direct eye contact with the person with a gentle smile.
People think, “Well, I’m giving bad news. I shouldn’t be smiling.” When in fact just a very soft smile will make you look approachable and not like you’re delivering a death sentence.
You’re going to have short sentences. You’re going to have a slower tone than normal. In fact there’s a rule I have. Go four times slower whenever you have to deliver bad news because the other person immediately and as soon as they know that something is wrong, they go from their high functioning part of their brain to the low functioning part, the reptilian brain where they have very difficult time processing language.
So you want to go slow and calm and even the most aggressive people will respond well to that and they have a hard time either getting aggressive or staying aggressive when you’re slow and calm. So that’s an example of a real life situation.
Katrina: Excellent. So it shows how you can use this model for different situations.
Katrina: I really enjoyed reading your book, The Ego Tango.
Katrina: Could you comment on it a little bit, what you were trying to communicate through the book and what you leave your readers with?
Amy: Yeah. So as I was saying a few minutes ago, I never thought I was going to write a book and I was already halfway through writing it because a colleague of mine said, “Amy, you should really record the stories that you tell in your trainings and in your speeches.” I said, “Oh, that’s a good idea. Let me do that.”
So then as I was writing them, that’s when she said to me, “By the way, you’ve got a book here,” and once we’ve figured out that she was right, I realized what I was doing was crafting a book. I say there are seven partner mindset techniques. There’s actually nine, so there’s two bonus ones in there and the book is structured in three parts.
There’s the story. There’s the explanation of the story, the technique that I’ve used in the story and then there’s the little workbook section for people to reflect on for themselves how they see this is true in their lives or how they can apply it to their lives.
Katrina: Good. So it’s very pragmatic.
Katrina: And you give exercises and you put it into context.
Katrina: So it’s theoretical, practical and also people can develop that skill.
Amy: Yes, and I’ve been told it’s extremely entertaining. I’ve had multiple people tell me, “I was reading it on an airplane when I just burst out laughing,” and the other part I often get from people is, “Yeah, great stories. I’m sure they’re not all true,” and I say to them, “Yeah, unfortunately, they are.”
Katrina: Yes, they are very entertaining and easy to read because I think you really write it with your own voice and your own stories and that’s what makes it authentic and very entertaining as well because you have a good sense of humor.
Katrina: So what tools and strategies do you have, what call to action for our listeners today? What would you like them to go away with, a tip, as a coach and as them personally to improve their communication skills according to your model?
Amy: OK, as a coach, my advice – and this is something that I’ve struggled with and I’ve seen many other coaches struggle with and that is there will be times where you will question yourself. Your confidence will shake. Your self-esteem, your sense of, “Can I do this?” will be shaky at times and there will be times that you will be doing something new, something different and you will feel like a complete fraud, totally inauthentic. That’s going to make you want to say, “Well, I shouldn’t do this.”
Don’t let that stop you. Just assume that feeling like a fraud, feeling inauthentic from time to time will absolutely be part of the process of building your own business and growing personally and professionally.
For people around the Predator, Prey, Partner model, I would just say start-paying attention. Get a sense of what is your default under pressure. Is there a cost for you? If there is, then look at what you can do. One, two or three things you can do differently to be more of a partner whether that’s letting people interrupt you when you’re having a heated conversation or the philosophy of making your partner look good when you’re disagreeing with someone, you’re frustrated with someone. Just ask yourself generically, “How can I make my partner look good?”
That partner could be the person you’re married to. It could be your neighbor. It could be your father-in-law. It could be the woman at the post office.
Anybody you encounter becomes your partner in that moment. Ask yourself. How can I make them look good?
Katrina: Excellent, excellent advice. What final message would you want to leave our listeners with? Any call to action that they can do this week, this very week to improve their communication?
Amy: Absolutely. It’s going to sound so ridiculously simple and people are going to roll their eyes. Seriously, really? I do mean it. Practice what I call an, “I’ve-got-a-secret smile”. That’s just a little twinkle in your eyes, the little curled up lips. Practice it walking down the street. Practice it walking to the office. Practice it in the grocery store and just start to notice how people respond to you differently because the message you’re sending is, “I care about you. I have respect for you. I’m in a good mood. All is well,” and you will be amazed at how just that one thing alone can start to shift relationships.
Katrina: Excellent Amy. Thank you so very, very much. I encourage you all to read the book, “The Ego Tango”. Not only will you learn new strategies and approaches but how to improve your communication, but you will also have a good time reading it because it is very entertaining and full of sense of humor.
Thank you Amy so very much. Go get her book. That’s the first step to do and Amy, tell us what your website is.
Katrina: That’s where they can order your book?
Amy: Or they can go directly to Amazon and get either the hard book or the ebook version.
Katrina: OK. So thank you very much Amy and see you soon. She’s a person to watch out for. Take care.
Amy: Thank you.
This EEC-Episode#2 was brought to you by MKB Excellent Executive Coaching’s coaching programs.