How Curiosity Creates Community, With James Robilotta

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Hello everyone! My name is Ladek and my guest for today is James Robilotta.

James is a leadership author, motivational speaker, MC and trained improv comedian. After years of building, training, and leading teams, James followed an entrepreneurial dream and built two successful businesses. The first is an organization that incorporates freestyle rap into improv comedy—a success story for another day. The second, his speaking and coaching business, the success story we’re talking about today.

James’ cornerstone concept is that we as humans cannot learn from people who are perfect. We can only learn from people who are imperfect.

In this ‘very empathetic’ conversation

00:00 › Start

01:37 › Understand the Person—James sets the stage for understanding the person behind the professional and how he came to focus on empathy in personal development

04:20 › Are You Credible Or Relatable?—James discusses the difference between credibility and relatability and how these concepts play out in educational and leadership roles

10:08 › Making Your Transition—James explores the transition from credibility to relatability and provides practical advice for those of us looking to make this critical shift in their professional lives

13:12 › Don’t Aim To Please—James ponders the appropriateness of relatability in various contexts and its potential pitfalls, adding a layer of complexity to our understanding of interpersonal dynamics

21:46 › Aim For Curious—James turns to curiosity, its significance, impact and  transformative power. We also address challenges faced by introverts in being outwardly curious

31:43 › Ask Questions—We discuss practical advice on how to ask questions, and the risks associated with a lack of curiosity, within the broader implications for retention, innovation, and community building.


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This is the eLearn podcast. If you’re passionate about the future of learning, you’re in the right place. The expert guests on this show provide insights into the latest strategies, practices,

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a company leveraging open -source software to deliver effective, customized and engaging learning experiences for schools, universities, companies and government. governments around the world since 2005.

Learn more at Open LMS .net. Hello everyone, my name is Ladek, and my guest for today is James Robilotta. He’s a leadership author, motivational speaker, MC,

and trained improv comedian. After years of building training and leading teams, James followed an entrepreneurial dream and built two successful businesses. The first is an organization that incorporates freestyle rap and improv.

improv comedy, a success story that is maybe for another day. And the second is his speaking and coaching business, which is the success story we’re going to talk about on this podcast. James’s cornerstone concept is that we,

as humans, can’t learn from people who are perfect. We can only learn from people who are imperfect. So in this very empathetic conversation, James first sets the stage for understanding the person behind the profession and how he came to focus on empathy.

in personal development. Next, James discusses the difference between credibility and relatability and how these concepts play out in education and leadership roles. James then explores the transition from credibility to relatability and provides practical advice for those of us looking to make this critical shift in their professional lives.

James then ponders the appropriateness of relatability in various contexts and its potential pitfalls, pitfalls, adding a layer of complexity to our understanding of interpersonal dynamics. James then turns to curiosity,

its significance, its impact, and its transformative power. We also address challenges faced by introverts in being outwardly curious. And then finally, we discuss practical advice on how to ask questions and the risks associated with a lack of curiosity within the broader implications for retention.

innovation, and community building. Now remember, we record this podcast live so that we can interact with you, our listeners, in real time. So don’t be surprised when you hear James and I answer questions and reactions to comments as they come in.

So if you’d like to join the fun every week on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on YouTube, just come over to elearnmagazine .com and subscribe. Now, I give you James Robilotta. Hello,

everyone. Welcome to the elearn podcast. My name’s Ladakas. You’ve heard so many times at this stage over the last couple of years. But as I remind everyone, the show is not about me. It’s about my guests here.

I’m very happy to have James. Now that you’ve told me and we’ve talked about it, now I’ve burned your family name into my head incorrectly.

But I’m going to try. It is Robli Lat. Rob. Elada Robby lotta right. I’m just gonna let you drown is that cool?

That’s a good way To build a friendship. Ladeke. You tell me That’s the thing I mean we’re talking about how does you know I’m talking about curiosity. I’m curious How do you pronounce your I love it?

It is all good, man. You get this with a man with a unique name I’m sure people give you all sorts of fun when they when they try to tell your name And so, yeah, it’s Robilada.

Robilada, see? Okay, so it’s, yeah, it’s like Robilada 711. Pick your thing you want to rob a lot of and let’s get in there.

Rob, where, where do we find you sitting in the world today? For I am in St. Paul, Minnesota, St. Paul, the, uh, up who’s eight degrees today friend.

That’s Fahrenheit I don’t know where everybody’s joining from. I was just gonna say eight degrees Fahrenheit is not That’s not my cup of tea, bro No Okay, you know, I spent the Thanksgiving holiday in a very warm place and I came back to what I consider a very cold city of Mexico But man,

you are you are you’re you topped me for sure um tell me about what’s you know, tell me about James. Give us, you know, we always, I love to give everybody,

you know, the 60 seconds or, you know, as many seconds as you’d like to put you, you know, position yourself. Where do you, who are you and why are we here today? Yeah, we’ll do a quick,

tight 30 minute intro. Yeah. Yeah, so I’m born and raised in Long Island, New York. York And I find myself in Minnesota because I married a wonderful woman who’s from out here We moved here to be closer to her family and start one of our own about four years ago And in between those two things I went to school down in North Carolina I thought I wanted to be the next Jacques Cousteau around my junior year realized

I was putting too many jokes in my scientific papers My teachers are like this may not be for you right Was an over -involved student leader decided decided to work in the college and university space,

got a master’s at Clemson, and ran residence halls and campus activities and things like that for a while until I was presenting at a conference that I took my students to and somebody came up to me after my session and asked me how much I charged and I said,

you can buy me a sandwich and tell me I’m pretty, I’ll do pretty much anything. But it turns out they meant something different. different and So so I became a professional speaker and that’s that’s what I do now I’ve been on my own for 13 years as a professional speaker to talk a lot about creating organizations That give a crap about each other About organizational culture do that in two ways talk to the leaders

about how to be more authentic or wrote a book called leading him perfectly and And then I talk a lot about the role that curiosity curiosity plays in creating community. So that’s,

that’s where I’m at two kids under three send help. Yeah, I was gonna say man. Wow. You just slid that under the wire there. That’s not a small feat.

Yeah, wow. I that’s thank you for putting those out there. I need to put both of your book titles up on the screen here. My buddy Christian in the background there will probably find them for us and we’ll find them on the screen here pretty quick.

– I want to see a book, I only wrote one book. Got a second one, you know, eventually. – Oh, I thought you said there was a second one that was a curiosity one. – Yeah, the curiosity one’s not a book yet. It’s a clothing line. You know,

if you’re interested, we could do that, right? – Nice. (laughing) – You know, I just, I think going forward, you just need to have a website. Rob a lot of Schwag,

you know. Rob a lot of Schwag. There you go. Yeah. There it is. There it is. So tell me, so I want to start out this conversation talking about something that we were discussing in the green room beforehand,

which is the difference between credibility and reliability. And I think that that resonates a lot with our audience and education.

obviously leaders writ large, but definitely someone who’s either going to be creating content for learners or someone who’s going to be delivering content for learners, someone who’s assessing learner performance,

any of those rules, someone who’s designing for a large organization or an institution. First, yeah, I’m going to leave it there. What is the difference in your mind between credibility related?

Relateability. Yeah, for sure. I Think I think it’s such an interesting topic is so many people lead with credibility Right because we lead with credibility when I say credibility.

I’m talking about your accolades your awards things like that or your titles Your degrees, you know the people that you know The the money that you’ve made the you know those those kinds of things right the numbers that’s your credibility.

And our credibility is important. My friends, please be credible. Oftentimes we focus a lot on credibility and sometimes forget about the importance of relatability.

And relatability isn’t your accolade, it’s why does that matter to these people who are in front of you, it’s not your title, it’s what did you learn. learn in your process of getting that title. It’s not who you know, it’s what do those people teach you.

It’s not your education, your degree, it’s what are you doing with the knowledge. It’s not your results, it’s your process, right?

Those kinds of things. And relatability is powerful because your credibility doesn’t make you a great leader, it doesn’t make you a great educator, but it’s a way that you tell your story about it does.

Hi there. I’m sorry to break into the show right now, but if you’re enjoying this show, if you are challenged, if you’re inspired, if you’re learning something, if you think that you’re going to be able to get something out of this to put into your practice, do me a quick favor.

Pause right now and just hit subscribe on your podcast player right now. Doesn’t matter which one, just hit subscribe because that way it’ll make sure that you never miss an episode in the future. Thanks. Now, back to the show.

The first question I want to ask is, I think you’re generous in saying some of us lean on credibility rather than relatability. As someone who’s going into organizations,

who’s working with leaders, who are working with people around these two topics, give me a real scientific from the gut percentage of people that you run into.

You’re like, “Hey, we need to talk about this. Is it, you know, is it more than half of the people need to work on relatability? Is it, is it 75 %? Like, what do you think? Yeah, I mean, if I had to guess, it’s probably around 75%,

but at the same time, I don’t fault, I don’t fault those folks because credibility, leaning on credibility is safe, right? It’s the safer choice. And,

you know, because it sets us up for here’s, here’s a where I came from, here’s what I know, here’s who I am. So therefore, ideally you will respect me,

you know? And it’s like whenever you hear a professional speaker talk and they have a really impressive introduction. And that introduction is great, but if you’re a trash public speaker five minutes in,

I’m checking out regardless of what you told me that you’d accomplished in your introduction. – Right. – And so, but the other thing is, piece, I guess it’s important to mention is that leading on credibility is also important for certain individuals because a lot of this world immediately discounts someone just because of the way they look or what their gender expression is or what their,

because of their race or because of their beliefs or because of their, et cetera, et cetera. Are we right people? people off just by a visual cue. And so I don’t blame some people for starting with credibility because society,

because of all of the isms, immediately knocks their credibility down a peg before they even open their mouth, right? And so I’m not faulting people for leading with credibility,

but it’s interesting because if we wanna find connection, then there has to be some vulnerability in there. And it’s hard to find vulnerability and credibility in the same sentence,

which is why stories matter. But we’re told that vulnerability is weakness, but if vulnerability is such a weakness, then why is it so damn hard, right? And so that idea of those 75 % of folks that I think start with credibility,

I had a supervisor one time that did this all the time, and it was very much like you have to introduce me in this specific way And then I will get up there and and don’t make sure my introduction isn’t funny and make sure like you know Like it was very interesting the way that she carried herself and wanted You know if there was ever a form that she needed a sign and for whatever reason there wasn’t a line for

her to sign It was we’ll take this back to the department that you got it from and have them remake the form because I’m not just gonna sign a Random place on this form You know, there was a pomp and circumstance to the way that they carried themselves.

Now, I mean, so it’s very interesting to notice this in folks. Most, a lot of the people in our audience come from higher education institutions.

A lot of people also come from large organizations, like large corporations as well. where pedigree, where that credibility plays a perhaps even an outsized role in opportunities that you’re afforded,

in your ability to get a seat at the table and whatnot to help me or walk me through your process.

through coaching somebody to saying look, you know, like Here’s how we move from credibility to that relatability in any you know sort of in any situation or Why having that relatability muscle?

is Something that they really need to care about Yeah, yeah for sure first off I like I don’t need to tell you this but we’re all a part of a game and you guys to play the game,

right? Like, you got, I mean, as much as we don’t want to admit that it’s a game, as much as that we want college and universities to be above the game, they’re giant political beasts and you got to play the game.

And so we got to, you know, you got to learn the dance steps, you got to learn the politics, you got to learn what’s going on and you recognize, you know, what those around you value and how you need to approach them,

right? This is where emotional intelligence comes in. into play. It allows you to understand what each of the chess pieces does and what each of the chess pieces want. And so let’s just stick that over here real quick.

Then I’m trying to sugarcoat some of this stuff. And when I’m talking about leading with relatability, what I’m talking about is in areas where you want to form connections in order to inspire people to open up,

to innovate, to move, to try, to put themselves out there, to recognize that they are a part of a bigger thing. Now, and so in having some of those moments of relatability,

essentially, what you’re choosing to do is you’re choosing to lead with stories, with slips, with struggles, not just with strengths and perfection. You’re choosing to say,

like, hey, you are a whole person here and we hired the whole person. You were hired not because you were the most perfect, you were hired ’cause you were the most trusted. And we’re going to demonstrate that by the way that we lead you.

And when we lead with relatability, when we are around people who are relatable, we believe that we can, as opposed to trying to put these giant,

gaps in between folks, right? So in education, in education, this is this is not true for everybody. I don’t have the stats around this, but like this is why the teachers and the administrators that we connect most with are the ones that make us feel like human beings.

Sure. Right? These are like, I love the teacher that cursed in class, right? Oh, she’s funny. Oh, that’s my guy, right? You know what I’m saying? One’s the told stories. Those are the ones that bring us in,

they grab us by the heart and by the head, right? But they recognize that there’s multiple ways to get a point across and you have to figure out what the stickiest way is for each student. Or maybe it’s not for each student,

maybe it’s for each employee, each person that you manage on the team or each whatever. There’s a dance in leadership and finding that balance is important.

When does or is there a time or have you experienced when relatability either is inappropriate or fails? Is it a challenge? And maybe you should avoid it and maybe not necessarily lean on credibility but lean on something else or go a different direction.

Yeah, you know, I think leaders have this fascinating a fascinating mix and in higher education specifically, I remember we used to talk a lot about the difference between leadership and management and how managers are more task oriented,

they’re more goal oriented, they’re more as far as like we got to get this done and tend to be a little bit more micromanagy, a little bit more control oriented. And versus on the other side of the spectrum,

you got like, like, friend -style leaders who probably know a little bit too much about you, and probably you know a little bit too much about them, and they care more about workplace dynamics than they care about workplace performance,

right? And great leaders kind of fall in the middle, where they recognize that there has to be this balance of great workplace workplace dynamics means great workplace performance and vice versa.

And so, you know, to answer, to go back to your question of when is relatability too much, there is such thing as oversharing, right? You know, I can know that you went on a date.

I don’t know what, I don’t need to know the details of the date or what happened after the date or where you drove in from this morning. You know what I mean? Like, like there’s, there’s some of those kinds of things and there’s some of those moments.

moments where we’re also trying to find the line of being cool. And at what expense do we shoot ourselves in the foot when we’re trying to be too cool?

– Okay, so I wanna take you there too, because I know that, again, a lot of our audiences, they talk about or we have conversations around generational gaps,

right? So the person at the front of the class or the person who’s leading either the organization or the department is Someone who looks like me. I’m not gonna say you because your children are you know,

but but you know, you’re you’re you’re working with or you’re leading or you’re Attempting to educate or or be a guide for people who are in a different generation and so Relatability may be cringe You know what I mean?

There’s a cringe factor there sometimes. Like, do you counsel people to lean into that or what? – Yeah, for sure. I think so. I mean, I think it’s also about what are we, what are we being relatable about,

right? Like, you know, let’s not avoid the elephant in the room right now, right? We’re in the Taylor Swift era of our lives. – Amen to that. Let’s just call it. Let’s just call it. – We’ve officially moved into the Taylor Swift era.

era. Yeah, for sure. For sure. If they’re for no other reason to get you a few more lessons, let’s talk about Taylor Swift for a while. And that’s marketing 101. You know what I mean?

So, but the thing is, is that, you know, if you are from an era yourself where Taylor Swift wasn’t a thing, I don’t need you to start listening to a whole bunch of Taylor Swift and then coming in.

into the classroom with a whole bunch of T Swift puns. Right. And like, you know, like, I don’t need you to rename your lecture is like, all right, we’re out of the woods. All right, we’re here,

right? You know what I mean? Like, I don’t need to get all the way into it. If it’s not authentic to you, then it’s clearly going to be feel ridiculous for the other person,

right? Real recognizes is real. That’s what hip hop taught us. And so when it comes to, when it comes, sorry I’m a hip hop head. – I’m just thinking of all the professors who were like,

oh, maybe I should start my lecture in the fall with it. It was a cruel summer. I don’t know, you know, like. – Yeah, right, yeah, exactly. (laughs) – Sorry, bad one.

– Yeah, for sure. No, absolutely. On the top of your test, there’s a blank space. You can write your own name. So anyway, let’s not go down. this trail, Ledeck, ’cause neither of us will be impressed with the other by the end of it.

And the one follower left will be cheering us on. But the, yeah, I mean, you know, so I think it’s about being authentic to yourself,

’cause we can tell when someone’s trying to force it, when someone’s trying to be the cool dad, right? Or when someone’s trying to be the cool whatever. Uh, and, uh… And, you know, there’s And I just repeat that for a second,

because this is what I have found in my life, you know, with three kids and different various, you know, parts of life. Like, being yourself, that’s sometimes the toughest row to hoe.

You know what I mean? Like just because we are, especially I think in the age of social media, it’s just such a tough row to hoe to just figure out, what is it that, you know, who am I right?

Like what what what what what’s my authenticity? Do you have any counsel around discovering that? Good luck Thanks for listening to the e -learning podcast Subscribe and follow No,

the yeah, I mean it’s like there’s some people that consider that to be the meaning of life, right? Like is to find, is to find that, is to find your true center where you just find peace,

right? And so I think as far as ways to do it, there’s a number of ways. And I think first off, it is recognizing that you don’t have to be anybody else.

And when you try to find yourself being like, “Oh, I need to be more like this,” or, “I need to be more like this,” right? Like, where are the places where we say, “Oh, I’m not cool enough, I’m not funny enough, “I’m not smart enough, I’m not hot enough, “I’m not rich enough,

I’m not successful, “I’m not a good enough parent, “I’m not a good enough partner, “I’m not a good enough this,” right? Or when we start to say things, “Oh, look what he’s doing, I should. “Look what she’s doing, I should. “Look what they’re doing, I should. “Oh, I should,

oh, I should, oh, I should.” All of those kinds of moments. are us convincing ourselves that we are not enough. We’re not who we should be. And in every single one of those moments, we’re chasing something that is potentially inauthentic to who we are.

And how do you reverse that? How do you find peace? How do you slow down? You know, that’s probably where things like meditation come in, right?

That’s where things where you you know, recognizing how much social media is affecting you and the role that it’s playing, the other way that other people’s opinions are influencing you.

I’m currently, you know, I proudly go to counseling and there’s a question that, as a amen to that, you know, in life,

in life, would you rather be liked or respected? And if you had to choose one, which would you choose as a question I was kind of talking to my counselor about, and my answer to that is respected,

but all of my actions, all of my actions point to that I want to be liked. And so, you know, for you and whoever’s listening,

like, you know, what are your actions pointing towards? And I think that’s what I’m currently working on, right? [BLANK _AUDIO] Because I get the hit from the likes.

I get the hit from the follows. I get them from the listens, from all that kind of stuff. And I don’t put stuff out on the internet because it’s not good enough. Not enough people are gonna, whatever.

It’s not original enough. I’m not smart enough, right? Like all those kinds of moments where we have convinced ourselves that we’re not enough is not enough is not enough is not enough.

Don’t know. Yeah, it’s just hurting us Hmm, we’re carrying too much I want to live a lighter life. I want to just thank you for that moment of vulnerability my friend That was that that was beautiful.

I feel like that was an incredible amount of value in the last two minutes there. I Wanted I want to somehow It’s or find a way to segue from credibility,

relatability, and we’ve been talking a lot about vulnerability to curiosity. So talk to me about, you know, this was like sort of the headliner that we started this podcast with.

Why is curiosity important? Let’s just start there. What is that? What does it do for you? you after you’ve gone through your credibility and after you’ve established relatability and you’re kind of like, what does curiosity get you?

– Yeah, I think curiosity has to be a mindset for our lives. It can’t just be something that we are occasionally.

We have to be regularly curious. And because it can’t just be something that we are occasionally curious about. we’re not, then we are apathetic. If you look up the antonym of curious in the dictionary,

you get un -curious, that’s right. But if you look up the antonym, you look up the antonym of curiosity, you get apathetic.

And in life, I don’t like being around people who are apathetic about whatever it is that we’re doing, whether it’s the education, whether it’s the goal, whether it’s the parenting,

whether it’s the relationship, the love, you know, like, I don’t want to be around people like, Hey, it’s fine. Right. And so, so curiosity punches apathy in the face.

And when we apply the idea of curiosity to creating stronger teams, stronger environments, stronger organizations. etc. Etc. Curiosity creates community Because When we ask each other better questions when we ask each other or just not even better questions Just say when we just ask each other questions.

There’s more questions right ask one more question You know those kinds of things we get out of the way or we get out of the pattern of assuming but so many of us choose the easy road and Assuming is easier than learning but just because it’s easier doesn’t mean it’s right And so when it comes to the power of curiosity In creating community what it takes is a mindset because we have to rewrite those patterns that

we’re in hmm If I’m someone, you know who it might describe myself myself as introverted, you know, hey,

look, I’m, you know, I’m an engineer type. I’m, you know, like, someone who’s, you would, or we could say, mousy. I’m not sure what the, how many different adjectives I can put there,

but for you and I, being curious, we’re both, yeah, we, I’m assuming we’re both extroverted individuals. I don’t hide that well. I don’t hide that well. No. Okay, all right.

What’s your counsel for people who, yeah, who, who, who find it, you know, reasonably difficult to put themselves out there, talk with other people, you know, ask questions,

those kinds of things. Yeah. I think first of all, it’s really important that we name that introversion and shyness are not synonyms, right? Like shyness has to do with a fear of talking to people introverts aren’t afraid.

It just takes a little bit more energy for them, right? And they’d rather spend their energy deepening the relationships they already have than forming new relationships. Nothing wrong with that.

And for that reason, introverts often have stronger, deeper relationships than extroverts do. So when it comes to this idea for introverts, I think it actually should come more naturally to them to be like,

you know what, I’m gonna lock in here because… that’s one person I got to worry about instead of going around and talking to all the other people at this Christmas party or at this networking event or at this,

whatever it is, career fair, right? It’s like, I’m going to use my energy and my resources for what I know best, which is locking in and forming a deep relationship with somebody. So I think introverts are actually better long -term networkers than extroverts for that reasons.

Extroverts have more business cards, but they don’t. have any follow -up. – Right. – And so introverts have less business cards and more and better follow -up. – Do you have a go -to -aha moment or a story that you tell around a group you’ve worked with or some leader that you know about discovering the power of curiosity?

I’d love to hear one of those ones where it’s like, “Wow, I didn’t know that.” know that.” You know, and either a team was created or a new solution was found or a problem solved in some unique way. – I could share one in the opposite direction if that’s okay to try to illustrate a point.

Does that work? And actually, it’s not a workplace example. It happened with my in -laws. and so my my so it came time my wife was living in Minnesota I was living in I was living in New York at the time when we first we started long -distance dating again that point we’re gonna meet the parents so she decides that she’s gonna tell her parents about me apparently I’m someone who needs a little preparation and and so

so she starts to tell her parents about me and they say oh mom and dad I met somebody she’s an Italian like all my gosh an Italian we love Alfredo sauce right yeah great great Minnesotans and uh and so like hey he’s an Italian he’s from and he’s from New York oh an Italian from New York yeah and he lives in Brooklyn and then her parents stopped asking questions um and uh you know what’s funny there’s a rule in

comedy writing called if that’s true then what else is true um and uh and And we can think about like, if you ever saw like “Schitt’s Creek” or shows like that, take you deeper and deeper into these worlds,

they apply this rule of if that’s true, then what else is true to create the next episode, the next scene, the next sketch, whatever. And so the next beat. And so her parents apply this rule unknowingly to this conversation and they stopped asking questions.

And instead behind closed doors, they were like, “All right, our daughter’s thinking about marrying “an Italian from New York.” York who lives in Brooklyn. If that’s true, what else is true? Our daughter is marrying someone who’s in the mafia. – Ah,

I was waiting for it. I was waiting for it. – You’re waiting for it, all right? And so like, okay, if that’s true, then what else is true? He’s probably got a nickname. An unbeknownst to Tina, my wife, unbeknownst to me, they’re referring to me behind closed doors as Jimmy Biscuits.

(laughing) Right? And I love biscuits. So I’m not, it’s the most accurate nickname I’ve ever seen. you give it in my life, right? But they chose to not ask any questions Ask any more quit instead.

They wrote the rest of my story Right, we do this all the time, right? If that’s true is what else is true is a great rule in comedy But it’s not a great rule. It’s not a great rule in building teams It’s not a great rule in building community But we use it all the time because you learn a little piece of somebody’s story And we’re like,

I think I got the rest. Right. And so, you know, fortunately in due time, her parents have gotten to know me. But just like, it was just such a funny moment where she they just like stopped asking questions,

right? I have other I had a supervisor one time also, who was allergic to taking responsibility for things. And nothing was ever their fault.

Nothing was always always because so and so didn’t do that thing. So I couldn’t do my thing. It was this or this and that. And so that was an opportunity that was missed by that supervisor to create an authentic moment or a relatable moment of,

you know, I missed it. And instead of leaning into things like relatability or curiosity, she stuck stuck to her guns of like,

I’m right. And this is the way it is. And so those kinds of moments are tough. One other example I’ll share is a different supervisor who had incredible hindsight,

right? If the United States Air Force cared about hindsight, she would have gotten in. And so, but it was always interesting because we would put on an event on campus and then someone would,

she would come up to us afterwards and say, oh yeah, I could have told you that was gonna happen that way or I could have told you that would have happened that way. And like, you were in the planning meetings. Where are the moments where you’re asking questions?

Where are the moments where you’re, you know, where we empower individuals by asking them questions. Sometimes giving advice is lazy, right? So when, instead, ask the questions to have them wrap their brains around it and create the moments and the like,

oh shoot, and then the moment of, oh shoot, is followed by that moment of, I did it, right? And that I did it moment is sticky. We want more of that. And so that’s why inspiring critical thinking and people who we work with is important.

And but she never did that. Instead, she inspired me to feel like I was stupid. stupid, right? Or that like, it was like, you know, that I just was,

you know, my ideas were never fully formed or fully good enough or fully whatever that I wasn’t fully enough. And, you know, those are tough moments to come back from because I’m like,

I don’t, I don’t know what to do. Like, I don’t want to work for somebody who makes me feel stupid. But in my moments, if she was more curious about the way I was approaching it or thinking it or or curious about how I thought about this or that I thought about that,

you know, now you’re broadening my scope You’re teaching me about the bigger world the foot you’re teaching me about the other political partners or the other Students that could get brought in or the other whatever right give or take the situation But that opportunity was missed and instead I just kind of felt stupid sure I’m sorry No,

no, I absolutely love it, but because it it feeds right into where I wanna go. My question is that so I’m sitting here listening to you right now. I’m listening to this podcast. I’m in my car or,

you know, I’m on my way to work or I’m on my way to my classroom or whatever. And the thing I struggle with is what questions to ask or I don’t wanna ask the wrong question or get into an awkward situation or, you know,

or stumble over myself. Like counsel me through that in terms of, did, did, did, did, did, did, did, did, did, did, did. you have like a go -to list of questions that you would, you ask people or how do you come up with those creative questions to ask?

Or, you know, like, I’ll stop there. Yeah. I mean, unfortunately, there’s no magical question, right? I mean, a phrase that I think we could all keep in the back of our pocket and use a little bit more is tell me more about that.

Right? It’s a way to shift, even small talk conversations are immediately shifted because all of a sudden we’re going a little bit deeper, right? And it just, it shifts it.

– It sounds to me like that piece of, tell me more about it as a piece of advice. I got a while ago, many years ago from one of my mentors, he’s like, what if you just actually just be interested? Like honestly be interested in the person or the moment or whatever,

right? Like don’t take it, but actually care. – You know, and so when you’re saying like, tell me more. about that, like, no, really try to learn something new, you know, yeah, yeah. And so tell me more about that can be applied in the situation that you were talking about,

because it’s like, you know, walk me through how your brain approached this situation. And I think that tone matters a lot, right, the delivery is important.

And this is where we have to, you know, I’m sure you’ve had folks come on here and talk about the difference between in tech and impact, right? And your intent was to ask a really curious question where you were hopefully,

you know, going to learn more about the way they, the way they thought and how they approached it. And you think their brain is fascinating, but your impact was you made them feel like they did something wrong,

right? Because of your tone. They’re under spotlight, they’re under scrutiny or something like that. And so this is the power of, it takes a little bit more time with the power of a preface. preface Right and just be like hey,

I want to make sure this question comes off in the right way Here’s my intent with it. And so, you know, I truly am curious about it So, you know, tell me more about how you came up with this or tell me a little bit more about,

you know You know, had you considered this and what was your thought presses around including those people or choosing not to do it This way or whatnot. I think the way that you can share it and it’s also in the way way that you have built your relationship with that individual.

If this is the first time that you are trying to care about them, it’s gonna take a minute. – Right. – The walls don’t immediately come down ’cause you’ve decided, ’cause you listen to one bearded guy in a podcast,

you’re like, “Oh, shoot, I gotta be more curious.” Like, you know, if there’s a relationship building, there’s a trust building in there. And if you care about their whole…

person, then they’re more likely to recognize it in those moments, you’re coming from a caring, beautiful place. So I think that’s important too.

What’s the danger in not being curious? Like, what am I risking in either my school or my workplace or whatever it by? Let’s not say, I don’t think anybody intentionally shows up to be apathetic.

apathetic. Maybe I’m wrong, but what are the dangers there? Yeah, I think one of the biggest dangers is retention. You know, when we think about why people stay, people stay for community a lot longer than they stay for compensation.

And like, if this is a place where I feel seen, heard, respected, safe, appreciated, then I’m going to hang out a lot longer. if I have a boss that I know is caring about me And it’s clearly trying to put me in situations that are that are truly helpful and that are great for me and expanding my brain And they see a lot of potential in me.

I understand that they can’t quite pay me blank and blank yet But I’m in a place that cares deeply about who I am and they also recognize that I have a family Or that I have a life or a partner or whatever,

you know those kinds of things And or you know in case in case you know, that I probably have an off -campus job because higher education is expensive. And so this can’t always be my number one.

And so, you know, those kinds of things, I think if we are not curious about folks and we are not giving them time, then we’re making people feel unappreciated.

We’re making them feel like they’re just a number. We’re making people feel unappreciated. like that we don’t truly care about them and we’re not glad they’re here. And I think,

so I think that’s one of the biggest things. Like if you want to go all the way deep into the risk of not being curious, you know, if we want to bring it up a notch and maybe not as deep in societal, you know,

the risk of not being curious is that we never innovate, right? This is the way we’ve always done it. We’re going to keep doing it. If we’re not asking questions and we’re not… thinking about new ways to do things, then we’re just, you know,

we’re all on a path to be a funny joke one day like Blockbuster. And so, you know, there’s areas like that as well. Fantastic. James,

this has been a fantastic conversation around credibility, relatability, vulnerability, and curiosity. I think you need a fifth. We need a fifth, just one in there.

but there’s a fascinating conversation. I love all of your humanness that you brought to this conversation. I absolutely adore it, and I hope that we get a chance to do the work together or talk again sometime soon.

I would love it. Thank you for everything you all are doing over there. It’s really incredible work. You’re doing an open LMS. Thank you again for listening to the Elon podcast here from Open LMS.

I just wanted to ask one more time, if you enjoyed this show, if you learned something, if you were inspired, if you were challenged, if you feel like this is something you can take into your practice, please do me a favor.

And right now, on your podcast player, hit subscribe. That way you’re never going to miss a future episode. Also, come over to elearnmagazine .com and subscribe there as well, because we have tons of great information about how to create killer online learning outcomes.


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