Why do we lie to ourselves? – Janice Fraser on The Product Experience "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs November 11 2021 False Storytelling, The Product Experience, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 4254 Product Management 17.016

Why do we lie to ourselves? – Janice Fraser on The Product Experience

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One of the biggest challenges of working in product is figuring out what story we’re trying to tell, and bringing everyone on board with that story. On this week’s podcast, we talked with Janice Fraser about ensuring that the story you’re telling is rooted in truth, and all of the things that can get in the way.

Featured Links: Follow Janice on LinkedInTwitter and Instagram | Janice’s Website | Janice’s piece and talk on ‘Uncovering the Truth’ at Mind The Product

Episode transcript

Lily Smith: 

Randy, when was the last time you lied to yourself?

Randy Silver: 

That’s pretty deep very quickly. You know, I lie to myself all the time. It’s so much better and easier than operating in the real world.

Lily Smith: 

Yeah, that’s my vibe, too. But it’s probably not that healthy. So this week, I’ve got an expert on the subject who can help us identify when we’re doing it, why we’re doing it and get us more comfortable with the truth.

Randy Silver: 

Whoo, that sounds great. Yeah, we’ve got Janice Fraser. She’s an investor, speaker and innovation leader who’s worked in product for many years. And over that time, she’s developed a method for coaching people like us to really get to the bottom of it all.

Lily Smith: 

So with our eyes wide open and our hearts on our sleeves, let’s chat to Janice.

Randy Silver: 

Janice thank you so much for joining us. For anyone who hasn’t watched your keynotes in San Francisco or London at the minute product conferences or doesn’t know you from any number of other things that you’ve done. Can you just give us a quick intro and tell us how did you get into this whole product game anyway?

Janice Fraser: 

I got into the product game a long, long time ago. I actually started my product career at Netscape in 1996. After their IPO, when Netscape was really the only browser that there was for the web, and everything was new. So, you know, I kind of I wandered my way into this work, because nobody was doing it at the time. And so we had to kind of invented and that’s really been the hallmark of my career ever sin is like, since it’s like, get to the edge of whatever we know how to do hang out with some of the people who are really at the vanguard, and then kind of make it boring, right. So you know, I want to make it so that regular people can do things, that move the field forward. That’s where I am, whatever that field happens to be. And right now, it’s, it’s product work.

Randy Silver: 

And so what do you do for a day job these days?

Janice Fraser: 

Well, it’s a good question. I don’t have a day job. I have many things. My husband and I are writing a book about everyday leadership. And I have a handful of very large organisations, and I help them implement innovation in their organisations. So I’m working with Air Force right now, and Procter and Gamble, and one or two other companies. And then I advise startups, and I am an investor and an advisor to startup companies.

Randy Silver: 

So you mentioned your book, and it’s one of the themes from your book that we wanted to talk to you about it was the idea of telling yourself the truth at work. So let’s just jump straight into it. Why do we lie to ourselves all the time?

Janice Fraser: 

That’s really good question, isn’t it? You know, when we lie to ourselves, there are a few things at work and you know, one of them is it’s just really easy to commit unpleasantness, right. So I think of this as lies of omission. We just don’t take a moment to pause and ask ourselves, like, what is the truth? What is true right now what is present that I’m not really seeing? At first glance, our brain is processing information at lightning speed, like literally lightning speed, way faster than our conscious mind can catch up with. And, you know, part of that is because of the prefrontal cortex, it turns out is only a 10th of an inch thick. You see these pictures of the brain that’s like, the whole front of your brain is shown as labelled prefrontal cortex. Well, it turns out that’s just a little wrapper, a little tiny, thin wrapper, so and the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is where we do all of our conscious thought. Do you actually have to invite thoughts onto the stage of your prefrontal cortex? If the PFC is the size of one cubic foot, the rest of the brain is actually the size of the Milky Way.

We cannot possibly consciously know everything all the time, we have to take a moment or maybe it takes an hour, that would be for me, to orient things. And so, you know, one of the sections of our book is called orient honestly. We’re probably all familiar with facilitators use prompting questions. And that’s because we know more than we think we do. And so that facilitator is inviting us to bring new thoughts to the forefront. And maybe they’re not new thoughts, but they’re the thoughts that are just under our conscious mind at any given moment. I think that the most relevant questions when it comes to telling yourself the truth at work, are those ones that bring you a richer picture of the current date. What’s true right now, in this situation, you know, what are the inconveniences of this situation? What’s making the situation complicated? And what makes this situation difficult for other people, like all of those questions are going to help you orient honestly, in this moment.

For instance, before you go to a meeting, it’s a really helpful practice to spend a couple of minutes just getting that picture in your mind. And we can talk about meetings, I love talking about how much I hate meetings. You know, a second way that we lie to ourselves is that you know, we’ve all experienced those automatic negative thoughts. And that’s just a really good example of how we can’t always believe what we think. So not all of our thoughts are true, or a thought is actually an unbidden chemical experience in our brain. And it’s up to our conscious mind, to make a decision about whether or not that thought is true. So, you know, a lot of people have an inner critic, and we’ve seen this at some minor product conferences, right? The inner critic is really harsh, and not factual. Like, if you were to fact check your inner critic, you’d probably find that the facts do not support what that inner critic is saying. It says things like, I’m not capable, I’m not good enough. Those people don’t respect me, or I should have prepared for this. All of those things are often, I would say are usually untrue, you’ve gotten to the place where you are, because you were capable, and your capability was recognised by people. And so but the inner critic doesn’t acknowledge that it says untrue things. And we have to choose not to believe them.

Lily Smith: 

So just going to the first part of that it. To me, it’s almost like, there’s a level, it’s kind of like being self aware. But in a business context, so business-aware. But then the energy that it takes to be self-aware, it actually takes less energy to just blindly carry on the way that you’re going. So it’s this kind of balance between expelling more energy in order to do your work, so that because actually having this business awareness, or this kind of self-awareness, allows you to then grow and learn more and move forward. So is that how you say it like, it’s like uncovering the truth, so that you can move forward, because actually, if you just drink the Kool Aid and just, stay in your happy, comfortable place, then you just get stuck.,

anice Fraser: 

I believe that there’s a tremendous amount of waste, at work, especially meetings are incredibly wasteful. And it is a sort of mindfulness practice. And that mindfulness practice is not just about yourself, it’s about your own understanding of the situation. So it feels like it’s easier to not take that moment or period of time to analyse what is true in this moment. But then you make more trouble for yourself five minutes later, right?

So here’s an example. So I was hired by a publicly-traded company, probably two or three years after its IPO, to observe the leadership meetings, and they want to know how they could make their leadership meetings more effective. And so I joined the Zoom call, I put myself on mute, turned off my camera and just sat and observed. And, you know, the first meeting that I participated in there that I joined and observed, you know, they had great preparation, did all the best practices, there was a pre read that was very thoughtful, it laid out a strategic decision that needed to get made by the group. And these are people who are hotshots, they’re been in their jobs in their careers for a long time, and they’re getting paid a lot of money. So you’d think that they’d be good at this. It’s a strategic meeting, a strategic decision. And I want to tell you, that meeting ran 90 minutes when it was scheduled for 45. Everybody was talking and talking and talking, there was both spoken and unspoken friction relationships that were not improved by the interactions there. And they didn’t ultimately make the strategic decision. And they left in the CEO was angry. And, you know, that was an extreme example of an unproductive meeting.

I think a lot of us spend hours and hours. And by the way, that meeting, probably just in terms of the compensation of the people in that room was probably like $10,000, like they just lit $10,000 on fire and made each other mad. If those people had taken a moment, in advance of that meeting, to say, what is the current situation, they might have been able to say to themselves, some people aren’t going to agree with the outcome. The only person in the room who has the actual knowledge to make this decision is the person who did the research, we should perhaps ask him questions, if there are things we need to know. They were at the moment, they were dealing with a network outage that was causing everyone a lot of stress, if you would acknowledge that current mood before going into the room, you could have said a few things at the beginning to avoid all of the, you know, what we call rat holes that we go into. And it’s that acknowledgement of what is true. People will just disagree, no one really understands this decision anyway, and we’re all under a tremendous amount of stress. Like if we had just walked into the room, and, and said that out loud. Perhaps it could have been a much more effective use of time.

Lily Smith: 

And I think one of the ways in which you describe this truth at work is radical acceptance. So what do you mean by that?

Janice Fraser: 

So I actually did not come up with this term myself. I borrowed it from psychology, and they borrowed it from somebody else. The term radical acceptance of radical candour we know of as, you know, the plain, unvarnished truth, shared with love for the benefit of another person’s growth. Right? This is that same unvarnished truth, also with love, for the benefit of ourselves, and for the benefit of our current situation. We often make ourselves very unhappy and increase our own suffering, by not accepting a truth that feels uncomfortable. And so radical acceptance is about taking a moment. Again, maybe it’s an hour to explore, and check the facts on, you know, what is true and untrue. And sometimes that’s about you know, maybe there’s an uncomfortable situation. And did I handle it well, or not. But it’s also a decision was made, and it didn’t go my way. And I can either fight, fight fight against something that I have no control over, or I can sit and I can say, What do I have control over? And one of the things that are real is that when you do this radical acceptance, often what you’re having to accept is that you do have more power than you think you do. You do have control over things, but they’re not exactly the things you wish you had control and power over. So it’s really a challenge to oneself in a variety of ways to say what is true at this moment? And am I fighting that truth? Or am I accepting it?

Randy Silver: 

What’s the practical way of sitting down and reading by yourself or with someone else? But something else that that just came out of that is you talked about doing it when something’s gone wrong when you feel bad? Is that the only time you should do this? Should you also be doing it when things are going well?

Janice Fraser: 

Oh, for sure. I mean, it’s a skill to start noticing when you’re resisting accepting something. And when I noticed myself being resistant, I tried to stop and have a think. The first thing you have to ask is, ‘What am I resisting?’ Like, I feel like I’m chafing here, and I’m rubbing up against something I wish something were different than it is, like, what is that about. And once you see what it is that you’re resisting, then you can ask yourself to accept it.

Radical acceptance is about accepting something all the way without reservation and acting on that acceptance, even though you might still be having trouble with it. Let’s talk about folks who have a really nasty inner critic. Sometimes I had to check the facts too as well. So, this would be a process, right? This is where you first note that there’s resistance, it’s something that you’re having some kind of difficulty accepting something, you get clear with yourself, you do a little bit of like self-reflection, what is the truth that I’m avoiding right now. And then radical acceptance is where you make a conscious decision to just accept that all the way. And then you decide what actions you can take given the available options. So it’s pretty straightforward when it comes down to it.

In any instance of an unsettling situation, one of the ways that I might approach that is to do what I call a six-question retro, right? So something has happened. It was a situation that I might be uncomfortable with after the fact, they’re just not feeling good about it. You say, well, what was the unsettling situation? What happened? And I tend to do this with a notebook. I’ll sit down over a cup of coffee. I’ll give myself an hour. And I’ll just do a little retro with myself with a pen. So what was the unsettling situation? How did it happen? So, you know, what was the lead up to it? What effect did it have on me and here I tried to be very honest, and truthful, professional, emotional, physical, and I want to emphasise being truthful does not mean being medic negative. being truthful means being truthful. Right? Sometimes I have a fear. So the truth is that I might have a fear that there’s a professional negative blowback that might happen. But that the truth is the fear the truth is not that there is professional negative blowback, right? How did I contribute to the situation? How did other people contribute to the situation? And then what did I have control over in that situation? By taking a look at those things, I’m going to have a lot more awareness. There’s always some huge ‘aha’ that happens around question number three, or four, where I realised like, I’m making a mountain out of a molehill was nothing, or ‘Oh, wow, I really mishandled that, here’s what I want to learn next’. We talk a lot in product management, about learning as the real objective. That’s, you know, the objective of the agile practice is to have closed learning loops, where we do iterations, and we do the iteration so that we can learn more, about our software or product. And this is very similar, but it’s about the learning objective is effectiveness, progress, forward movement, not getting stuck, ourselves, or with our colleagues.

Lily Smith: 

You mentioned that the process that you go through. Has that changed over the years, you said that your inner critic is not as bad as it used to be? Has this process now put you in a very different place? And do you? Is it a different process for you now? Or is it still the same, but just a shorter, shorter version?

Janice Fraser: 

So I started exploring these ways of thinking a very long time ago, like probably back in the 90s. And I started on ‘a little better everyday’ belief system. That translated into an affinity for user-centred design and an affinity for Agile software development and all of these things. You can see how having that mindset would lead you to these kinds of practices. And so in retrospect, I can say that we went back and forth me and my work life to develop this kind of philosophy over 20 years. And we had the chance. So my husband Jason and I started a company called LUXr about 10 years ago. It was one of the first lean startup kind of coaching firms back in the day, and it was eventually acquired by pivotal software. We took a lot of these ideas and confided in them and, practised them really deliberately at LUXr, and then at at Pivotal. And now he’s at VMware.

We had a lot of chance to really kind of go past our surface practice into real, as you say, studying them, and then experimenting with them, and then like, trying them on others. And there were 50 companies that went through the Luxor programmes, and they all had to endure these kinds of practices. And so that’s how we ended up in this place where it’s routinized thinking for us. To be honest, we actually do these things at home as well. So our lucky kids have post-it notes all over the walls. We talk about radical acceptance, and we talk about checking the facts and that sort of thing. So it’s just part of our lives. And it has contributed to reduction in things like the inner critic, and it has contributed to being more effective in our careers and getting a lot more done.

Randy Silver: 

So not everyone does this. Why do we, in general, have such a massive failure to ask these truth-seeking questions? What do we do instead?

Janice Fraser: 

Oh, what do we do instead, not everyone seeks it. It is an innate part of human nature, to avoid things that are uncomfortable. It’s our instinct to make assumptions and draw conclusions even when you don’t have complete data. Because it’s faster. There are shortcuts, our brain is perfectly suited to making shortcuts. That’s what bias is, right? And so it runs contrary to human nature, to pause and ask, what is the truth that I’m not acknowledging right now. The very behaviours that were highly adaptive and useful as we were evolving. Now, what we want is to have a little bit of balance, where we leverage those behaviours, let’s just talk about biases, it’s still useful to leverage biases, but we all know that biases can get you into a lot of trouble. Because they are not fact-based. They’re pattern matching based. And so what we want to do is, is a step past our pattern matching mind and into a more fact-based mind, but not all the time, not every hour of every day. But to punctuate our natural instincts to shortcut with occasional moments of reflection or proactive consideration of you know, what might actually be true that we’re glossing over right now.

Lily Smith: 

And one of the other areas that you talked about, in your Mind the Product talk was the concept of buy-in being dangerous. How does this relate to the truth-telling? And why is it dangerous?

Janice Fraser: 

So, you know, buy in as a phrase is dangerous buying as a concept is, you know, is positive, it’s helpful, right? I just believe that the phrase buy-in is so ubiquitous now that we do it as a perfunctory surface activity we quote, unquote, get buy in or we quote, unquote, sell in the idea. And what we forget is that it’s actually what we’re looking for is support. And we’re looking for support that’s enduring. And when we think about buying, at least what I’ve observed among people who think a lot about getting buy-in, is that it comes and goes by and comes and goes.

We fail to take that moment to notice whether we still have buy-in from the same people, or we ask about buy-in in a very surface way. So do you still like this? Right, that’s not a question that’s going to get you a very deep, rich or accurate answer, necessarily people will tell you what they think that you want to hear. And so buy-in as a phrase. It’s just used in a very surface way. And I think it’s a much more complicated concept. And so I’ve developed a model that I’ve been using for over a decade now I call it ‘U-bad’, which is a little cultural appropriation. The U is the understanding, and the B is belief. And those are the two things that enable someone to legitimately support or not support something. So you need them to understand it, or you run the risk of having a really fragile kind of support. Belief. Similarly, if someone understands a thing, but doesn’t necessarily believe it, they’re undecided in their belief, well, that that also is fragile. So you have these situations where buying comes and goes, and it’s because either they didn’t believe it, or they didn’t understand it. So there was a situation where Pivotal, people would walk through the offices be blown away, because they practice pair programming, and it’s all open. It was just a very visually persuasive environment. And so a very large financial institution said, “I’m in” and so they, within a week, did kind of a metaphorical table flip and quit. And the client left, so they had made a purchase decision, without actually understanding. They had a lot of belief, but did not have any understanding of what they were buying.

Understanding and belief work together to create really durable support. And you can tell that there’s durable support with the other two parts of the model, the A and the D. A, is for advocacy and then the D is decision making, if they make decisions that are aligned with belief and understanding, then those decisions are going to last.

Randy Silver: 

What are the things I’ve seen, cause this to be a problem in the past, is, you know, we’ve got the trying to strike the balance, right, between enthusiasm and practicality. And making sure we read the room. Right, you know, sometimes I’ve seen people be way too critical, and also be way too enthusiastic. And just trying to get there. How do we strike that balance with people and make sure we’ve got the right temperature? How do we do this practically?

Janice Fraser: 

It’s a really good question. People have personalities that tend toward an overly positive surface interpretation, or an overly negative surface interpretation. I see this a lot in the startups that I advise and coach. As an advisor or a mentor or a manager, we can do two things. One, we can help them be more self-aware. And that self-awareness is where radical candour comes in.

Lily Smith: 

Janice, this has been so interesting, and I’ve really loved this conversation. Before we wrap up, for those who are listening, do you have a top tip that you would love people to take away from today?

Janice Fraser: 

The top tip is before you are running a meeting, just take a moment and write out a point A where are we starting today? And include what makes this moment complicated? We’re taught to think about the goal of the meeting or the objective of the meeting, but think also about your starting point, say what makes it complicated enough that we have to have a meeting in order to solve for this right. So figure out where are we collectively starting today? And what makes this moment complicated and you’ll have a much better meeting.

Lily Smith: 

I love that. That’s such a good tip. Janice, thank you so much for spending some time with us today.

Janice Fraser: 

Absolutely. My pleasure. Thank you

One of the biggest challenges of working in product is figuring out what story we're trying to tell, and bringing everyone on board with that story. On this week's podcast, we talked with Janice Fraser about ensuring that the story you're telling is rooted in truth, and all of the things that can get in the way. Featured Links: Follow Janice on LinkedInTwitter and Instagram | Janice's Website | Janice's piece and talk on 'Uncovering the Truth' at Mind The Product

Episode transcript

Lily Smith:  Randy, when was the last time you lied to yourself? Randy Silver:  That's pretty deep very quickly. You know, I lie to myself all the time. It's so much better and easier than operating in the real world. Lily Smith:  Yeah, that's my vibe, too. But it's probably not that healthy. So this week, I've got an expert on the subject who can help us identify when we're doing it, why we're doing it and get us more comfortable with the truth. Randy Silver:  Whoo, that sounds great. Yeah, we've got Janice Fraser. She's an investor, speaker and innovation leader who's worked in product for many years. And over that time, she's developed a method for coaching people like us to really get to the bottom of it all. Lily Smith:  So with our eyes wide open and our hearts on our sleeves, let's chat to Janice. Randy Silver:  Janice thank you so much for joining us. For anyone who hasn't watched your keynotes in San Francisco or London at the minute product conferences or doesn't know you from any number of other things that you've done. Can you just give us a quick intro and tell us how did you get into this whole product game anyway? Janice Fraser:  I got into the product game a long, long time ago. I actually started my product career at Netscape in 1996. After their IPO, when Netscape was really the only browser that there was for the web, and everything was new. So, you know, I kind of I wandered my way into this work, because nobody was doing it at the time. And so we had to kind of invented and that's really been the hallmark of my career ever sin is like, since it's like, get to the edge of whatever we know how to do hang out with some of the people who are really at the vanguard, and then kind of make it boring, right. So you know, I want to make it so that regular people can do things, that move the field forward. That's where I am, whatever that field happens to be. And right now, it's, it's product work. Randy Silver:  And so what do you do for a day job these days? Janice Fraser:  Well, it's a good question. I don't have a day job. I have many things. My husband and I are writing a book about everyday leadership. And I have a handful of very large organisations, and I help them implement innovation in their organisations. So I'm working with Air Force right now, and Procter and Gamble, and one or two other companies. And then I advise startups, and I am an investor and an advisor to startup companies. Randy Silver:  So you mentioned your book, and it's one of the themes from your book that we wanted to talk to you about it was the idea of telling yourself the truth at work. So let's just jump straight into it. Why do we lie to ourselves all the time? Janice Fraser:  That's really good question, isn't it? You know, when we lie to ourselves, there are a few things at work and you know, one of them is it's just really easy to commit unpleasantness, right. So I think of this as lies of omission. We just don't take a moment to pause and ask ourselves, like, what is the truth? What is true right now what is present that I'm not really seeing? At first glance, our brain is processing information at lightning speed, like literally lightning speed, way faster than our conscious mind can catch up with. And, you know, part of that is because of the prefrontal cortex, it turns out is only a 10th of an inch thick. You see these pictures of the brain that's like, the whole front of your brain is shown as labelled prefrontal cortex. Well, it turns out that's just a little wrapper, a little tiny, thin wrapper, so and the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is where we do all of our conscious thought. Do you actually have to invite thoughts onto the stage of your prefrontal cortex? If the PFC is the size of one cubic foot, the rest of the brain is actually the size of the Milky Way. We cannot possibly consciously know everything all the time, we have to take a moment or maybe it takes an hour, that would be for me, to orient things. And so, you know, one of the sections of our book is called orient honestly. We're probably all familiar with facilitators use prompting questions. And that's because we know more than we think we do. And so that facilitator is inviting us to bring new thoughts to the forefront. And maybe they're not new thoughts, but they're the thoughts that are just under our conscious mind at any given moment. I think that the most relevant questions when it comes to telling yourself the truth at work, are those ones that bring you a richer picture of the current date. What's true right now, in this situation, you know, what are the inconveniences of this situation? What's making the situation complicated? And what makes this situation difficult for other people, like all of those questions are going to help you orient honestly, in this moment. For instance, before you go to a meeting, it's a really helpful practice to spend a couple of minutes just getting that picture in your mind. And we can talk about meetings, I love talking about how much I hate meetings. You know, a second way that we lie to ourselves is that you know, we've all experienced those automatic negative thoughts. And that's just a really good example of how we can't always believe what we think. So not all of our thoughts are true, or a thought is actually an unbidden chemical experience in our brain. And it's up to our conscious mind, to make a decision about whether or not that thought is true. So, you know, a lot of people have an inner critic, and we've seen this at some minor product conferences, right? The inner critic is really harsh, and not factual. Like, if you were to fact check your inner critic, you'd probably find that the facts do not support what that inner critic is saying. It says things like, I'm not capable, I'm not good enough. Those people don't respect me, or I should have prepared for this. All of those things are often, I would say are usually untrue, you've gotten to the place where you are, because you were capable, and your capability was recognised by people. And so but the inner critic doesn't acknowledge that it says untrue things. And we have to choose not to believe them. Lily Smith:  So just going to the first part of that it. To me, it's almost like, there's a level, it's kind of like being self aware. But in a business context, so business-aware. But then the energy that it takes to be self-aware, it actually takes less energy to just blindly carry on the way that you're going. So it's this kind of balance between expelling more energy in order to do your work, so that because actually having this business awareness, or this kind of self-awareness, allows you to then grow and learn more and move forward. So is that how you say it like, it's like uncovering the truth, so that you can move forward, because actually, if you just drink the Kool Aid and just, stay in your happy, comfortable place, then you just get stuck., anice Fraser:  I believe that there's a tremendous amount of waste, at work, especially meetings are incredibly wasteful. And it is a sort of mindfulness practice. And that mindfulness practice is not just about yourself, it's about your own understanding of the situation. So it feels like it's easier to not take that moment or period of time to analyse what is true in this moment. But then you make more trouble for yourself five minutes later, right? So here's an example. So I was hired by a publicly-traded company, probably two or three years after its IPO, to observe the leadership meetings, and they want to know how they could make their leadership meetings more effective. And so I joined the Zoom call, I put myself on mute, turned off my camera and just sat and observed. And, you know, the first meeting that I participated in there that I joined and observed, you know, they had great preparation, did all the best practices, there was a pre read that was very thoughtful, it laid out a strategic decision that needed to get made by the group. And these are people who are hotshots, they're been in their jobs in their careers for a long time, and they're getting paid a lot of money. So you'd think that they'd be good at this. It's a strategic meeting, a strategic decision. And I want to tell you, that meeting ran 90 minutes when it was scheduled for 45. Everybody was talking and talking and talking, there was both spoken and unspoken friction relationships that were not improved by the interactions there. And they didn't ultimately make the strategic decision. And they left in the CEO was angry. And, you know, that was an extreme example of an unproductive meeting. I think a lot of us spend hours and hours. And by the way, that meeting, probably just in terms of the compensation of the people in that room was probably like $10,000, like they just lit $10,000 on fire and made each other mad. If those people had taken a moment, in advance of that meeting, to say, what is the current situation, they might have been able to say to themselves, some people aren't going to agree with the outcome. The only person in the room who has the actual knowledge to make this decision is the person who did the research, we should perhaps ask him questions, if there are things we need to know. They were at the moment, they were dealing with a network outage that was causing everyone a lot of stress, if you would acknowledge that current mood before going into the room, you could have said a few things at the beginning to avoid all of the, you know, what we call rat holes that we go into. And it's that acknowledgement of what is true. People will just disagree, no one really understands this decision anyway, and we're all under a tremendous amount of stress. Like if we had just walked into the room, and, and said that out loud. Perhaps it could have been a much more effective use of time. Lily Smith:  And I think one of the ways in which you describe this truth at work is radical acceptance. So what do you mean by that? Janice Fraser:  So I actually did not come up with this term myself. I borrowed it from psychology, and they borrowed it from somebody else. The term radical acceptance of radical candour we know of as, you know, the plain, unvarnished truth, shared with love for the benefit of another person's growth. Right? This is that same unvarnished truth, also with love, for the benefit of ourselves, and for the benefit of our current situation. We often make ourselves very unhappy and increase our own suffering, by not accepting a truth that feels uncomfortable. And so radical acceptance is about taking a moment. Again, maybe it's an hour to explore, and check the facts on, you know, what is true and untrue. And sometimes that's about you know, maybe there's an uncomfortable situation. And did I handle it well, or not. But it's also a decision was made, and it didn't go my way. And I can either fight, fight fight against something that I have no control over, or I can sit and I can say, What do I have control over? And one of the things that are real is that when you do this radical acceptance, often what you're having to accept is that you do have more power than you think you do. You do have control over things, but they're not exactly the things you wish you had control and power over. So it's really a challenge to oneself in a variety of ways to say what is true at this moment? And am I fighting that truth? Or am I accepting it? Randy Silver:  What's the practical way of sitting down and reading by yourself or with someone else? But something else that that just came out of that is you talked about doing it when something's gone wrong when you feel bad? Is that the only time you should do this? Should you also be doing it when things are going well? Janice Fraser:  Oh, for sure. I mean, it's a skill to start noticing when you're resisting accepting something. And when I noticed myself being resistant, I tried to stop and have a think. The first thing you have to ask is, 'What am I resisting?' Like, I feel like I'm chafing here, and I'm rubbing up against something I wish something were different than it is, like, what is that about. And once you see what it is that you're resisting, then you can ask yourself to accept it. Radical acceptance is about accepting something all the way without reservation and acting on that acceptance, even though you might still be having trouble with it. Let's talk about folks who have a really nasty inner critic. Sometimes I had to check the facts too as well. So, this would be a process, right? This is where you first note that there's resistance, it's something that you're having some kind of difficulty accepting something, you get clear with yourself, you do a little bit of like self-reflection, what is the truth that I'm avoiding right now. And then radical acceptance is where you make a conscious decision to just accept that all the way. And then you decide what actions you can take given the available options. So it's pretty straightforward when it comes down to it. In any instance of an unsettling situation, one of the ways that I might approach that is to do what I call a six-question retro, right? So something has happened. It was a situation that I might be uncomfortable with after the fact, they're just not feeling good about it. You say, well, what was the unsettling situation? What happened? And I tend to do this with a notebook. I'll sit down over a cup of coffee. I'll give myself an hour. And I'll just do a little retro with myself with a pen. So what was the unsettling situation? How did it happen? So, you know, what was the lead up to it? What effect did it have on me and here I tried to be very honest, and truthful, professional, emotional, physical, and I want to emphasise being truthful does not mean being medic negative. being truthful means being truthful. Right? Sometimes I have a fear. So the truth is that I might have a fear that there's a professional negative blowback that might happen. But that the truth is the fear the truth is not that there is professional negative blowback, right? How did I contribute to the situation? How did other people contribute to the situation? And then what did I have control over in that situation? By taking a look at those things, I'm going to have a lot more awareness. There's always some huge 'aha' that happens around question number three, or four, where I realised like, I'm making a mountain out of a molehill was nothing, or 'Oh, wow, I really mishandled that, here's what I want to learn next'. We talk a lot in product management, about learning as the real objective. That's, you know, the objective of the agile practice is to have closed learning loops, where we do iterations, and we do the iteration so that we can learn more, about our software or product. And this is very similar, but it's about the learning objective is effectiveness, progress, forward movement, not getting stuck, ourselves, or with our colleagues. Lily Smith:  You mentioned that the process that you go through. Has that changed over the years, you said that your inner critic is not as bad as it used to be? Has this process now put you in a very different place? And do you? Is it a different process for you now? Or is it still the same, but just a shorter, shorter version? Janice Fraser:  So I started exploring these ways of thinking a very long time ago, like probably back in the 90s. And I started on 'a little better everyday' belief system. That translated into an affinity for user-centred design and an affinity for Agile software development and all of these things. You can see how having that mindset would lead you to these kinds of practices. And so in retrospect, I can say that we went back and forth me and my work life to develop this kind of philosophy over 20 years. And we had the chance. So my husband Jason and I started a company called LUXr about 10 years ago. It was one of the first lean startup kind of coaching firms back in the day, and it was eventually acquired by pivotal software. We took a lot of these ideas and confided in them and, practised them really deliberately at LUXr, and then at at Pivotal. And now he's at VMware. We had a lot of chance to really kind of go past our surface practice into real, as you say, studying them, and then experimenting with them, and then like, trying them on others. And there were 50 companies that went through the Luxor programmes, and they all had to endure these kinds of practices. And so that's how we ended up in this place where it's routinized thinking for us. To be honest, we actually do these things at home as well. So our lucky kids have post-it notes all over the walls. We talk about radical acceptance, and we talk about checking the facts and that sort of thing. So it's just part of our lives. And it has contributed to reduction in things like the inner critic, and it has contributed to being more effective in our careers and getting a lot more done. Randy Silver:  So not everyone does this. Why do we, in general, have such a massive failure to ask these truth-seeking questions? What do we do instead? Janice Fraser:  Oh, what do we do instead, not everyone seeks it. It is an innate part of human nature, to avoid things that are uncomfortable. It's our instinct to make assumptions and draw conclusions even when you don't have complete data. Because it's faster. There are shortcuts, our brain is perfectly suited to making shortcuts. That's what bias is, right? And so it runs contrary to human nature, to pause and ask, what is the truth that I'm not acknowledging right now. The very behaviours that were highly adaptive and useful as we were evolving. Now, what we want is to have a little bit of balance, where we leverage those behaviours, let's just talk about biases, it's still useful to leverage biases, but we all know that biases can get you into a lot of trouble. Because they are not fact-based. They're pattern matching based. And so what we want to do is, is a step past our pattern matching mind and into a more fact-based mind, but not all the time, not every hour of every day. But to punctuate our natural instincts to shortcut with occasional moments of reflection or proactive consideration of you know, what might actually be true that we're glossing over right now. Lily Smith:  And one of the other areas that you talked about, in your Mind the Product talk was the concept of buy-in being dangerous. How does this relate to the truth-telling? And why is it dangerous? Janice Fraser:  So, you know, buy in as a phrase is dangerous buying as a concept is, you know, is positive, it's helpful, right? I just believe that the phrase buy-in is so ubiquitous now that we do it as a perfunctory surface activity we quote, unquote, get buy in or we quote, unquote, sell in the idea. And what we forget is that it's actually what we're looking for is support. And we're looking for support that's enduring. And when we think about buying, at least what I've observed among people who think a lot about getting buy-in, is that it comes and goes by and comes and goes. We fail to take that moment to notice whether we still have buy-in from the same people, or we ask about buy-in in a very surface way. So do you still like this? Right, that's not a question that's going to get you a very deep, rich or accurate answer, necessarily people will tell you what they think that you want to hear. And so buy-in as a phrase. It's just used in a very surface way. And I think it's a much more complicated concept. And so I've developed a model that I've been using for over a decade now I call it 'U-bad', which is a little cultural appropriation. The U is the understanding, and the B is belief. And those are the two things that enable someone to legitimately support or not support something. So you need them to understand it, or you run the risk of having a really fragile kind of support. Belief. Similarly, if someone understands a thing, but doesn't necessarily believe it, they're undecided in their belief, well, that that also is fragile. So you have these situations where buying comes and goes, and it's because either they didn't believe it, or they didn't understand it. So there was a situation where Pivotal, people would walk through the offices be blown away, because they practice pair programming, and it's all open. It was just a very visually persuasive environment. And so a very large financial institution said, "I'm in" and so they, within a week, did kind of a metaphorical table flip and quit. And the client left, so they had made a purchase decision, without actually understanding. They had a lot of belief, but did not have any understanding of what they were buying. Understanding and belief work together to create really durable support. And you can tell that there's durable support with the other two parts of the model, the A and the D. A, is for advocacy and then the D is decision making, if they make decisions that are aligned with belief and understanding, then those decisions are going to last. Randy Silver:  What are the things I've seen, cause this to be a problem in the past, is, you know, we've got the trying to strike the balance, right, between enthusiasm and practicality. And making sure we read the room. Right, you know, sometimes I've seen people be way too critical, and also be way too enthusiastic. And just trying to get there. How do we strike that balance with people and make sure we've got the right temperature? How do we do this practically? Janice Fraser:  It's a really good question. People have personalities that tend toward an overly positive surface interpretation, or an overly negative surface interpretation. I see this a lot in the startups that I advise and coach. As an advisor or a mentor or a manager, we can do two things. One, we can help them be more self-aware. And that self-awareness is where radical candour comes in. Lily Smith:  Janice, this has been so interesting, and I've really loved this conversation. Before we wrap up, for those who are listening, do you have a top tip that you would love people to take away from today? Janice Fraser:  The top tip is before you are running a meeting, just take a moment and write out a point A where are we starting today? And include what makes this moment complicated? We're taught to think about the goal of the meeting or the objective of the meeting, but think also about your starting point, say what makes it complicated enough that we have to have a meeting in order to solve for this right. So figure out where are we collectively starting today? And what makes this moment complicated and you'll have a much better meeting. Lily Smith:  I love that. That's such a good tip. Janice, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. Janice Fraser:  Absolutely. My pleasure. Thank you