Podcast: Darrin Tulley, Looking Inward as a Leader

March 04, 2022
  • Brent Stewart
  • Brent Stewart
    Digital Strategy & Content Leader at Barry-Wehmiller

When you’re a leader, it is essential to have a heightened sense of self-awareness about how we are and how we act.

After all, we’re trying to lead a team. To trust their leader, people want someone who is authentic, who walks the walk.

Darrin Tulley had a dramatic experience where he found out he wasn’t who he thought he was. He wasn’t the leader he thought was. And it completely changed his life.

In his business life, Darrin has had more than 25 years of experience as a former CFO, Head of Strategy, M&A Advisor, Business Resource Group Advisor & Member, Head of Lean Business Systems & Learning, and Head of Worksite Operations & Business Intelligence. So, he understands what it means the be a leader in business from all angles.

Since his transformative awakening, he’s using his knowledge and skills to help other leaders be more self-aware and bring inclusion and happiness to the workplace.

Darrin is now the CEO and Chief of Possibilities at Ignite Happy. He has a new book out called Live Your Possible: Ignite Your Happy, Authentic Self and Live a Fulfilling Life Rooted in Joy, Inclusion, Love and Possibilities!

On this episode of our podcast, Darrin joins us to talk about finding happiness at work, creating a more inclusive workplace, looking inward as a leader and he starts off by telling his story of transformation.



Darrin Tulley:

Yeah, I had this moment where it became my awakening, where I wasn't being my best self out in the world. And I was at a diversity and inclusion event and I was with 24 other people, therefore people like me, as a white male leader in the business world. And it was a four-day event, it was a four-day immersion events where we literally were working together, morning, day, and night, getting to know each other, learning about each other, learning about what diversity really means. And the first, today's truly was an event in itself, because we really got to get uncomfortable with being around people, maybe we're not used to being around and getting to know people in a different way getting to know what excites people, understand where people come from, really what gets them excited, learn about their families, and see pictures and even have fun at night and play different games in different cards. We actually played card games, and had people from different backgrounds share different games that maybe we didn't learn when we're growing up.

So, it was quite special, we actually got to really enjoy each other and get to know people in a different manner in ways I've never done before. Because I probably would be more comfortable hanging with people that were more similar to me, at least I had, prior to this point. And after a couple of days, we got to get more comfortable and share some of the grievances, some of the injustice, some of the tough things about what people struggle with every day. And folks, getting passed over or pulled over or looked at differently just because of the way they look or where they come from. And I started to feel guilty. I felt we could solve it together.

And then, I started to realize, I haven't been my best self, because I think I've been pushing people away that were different from me. And I started to recognize that I have this purpose in life to bring out the best in people. But what I realized at that time, I was actually bringing out the best in people that were just like me or similar to me. And I started to feel terrified because I was living in this bubble, this bubble of ignorance, this bubble of not knowing what people were struggling about every day, and people trying to be folks that are more successful, not being their true selves, their true authentic selves.

And I became terrified to the point where I couldn't sleep at the end of the second day. And I talked to one of my friends and he tried to calm me down. And I actually addressed the group on the third day. And I asked if I could talk to the group about how I wasn't my true authentic self. I wasn't as honest as I should be and I wanted to come clear about something that was really painful to me. And as I was doing that, I actually stood in front of the group. And I started to break down, I started to cry. I started to admit that I had unconscious biases I had never seen before. And it was blocking me from helping people that were sitting there right in front of me.

These very people that I was unknowingly pushing away that I was making it harder for people to succeed and it was terrifying. And I could have broken into pieces, I could have broken down, yet I wanted to be clear to the group that I was committed to make the change. And now as I was making these comments, I was looking across the room the best I could through the tears and through the glossy eyes. My heart was going a million miles a minute as you can imagine, shaking at the core. And I recall looking across the room at this one person in particular, [Nicaea 00:03:45] who looked at me with probably forms of anger, forms of love and hope and she and others were crying with me.

And what I recognized at that point is the very people that I was pushing back actually held me up that day. And it was such a touching moment because I was feeling like I was found out, I was fraudulent, I wasn't the human being that I thought I was. I thought I was a great guy. I am a good guy, yet I needed to be better. I needed to do my own part. And I committed to that group that day and said I was going to make a difference. I was going to be different, that I was going to welcome differences. I was going to invite the world in, in a whole different way. And I actually had a pink pen in my hand coincidentally and kind of raised this pen and said I'm going to use this pink pen and show people I'm an executive that can use a pink pen and be different, that'll be my accountability reminder. That I'm going to be different from here on in.

And it really set me on a course nearly six years ago, that when I look back, I'm just amazed that what has happened, it's allowed me to look into the universe, into the world, into the workplace in a different way. Where I was able to start to look for and accept things that were different than me. I didn't have to have all the answers. I didn't have to see it only through my lens and have the idea or be the one that was in charge. I needed to understand there was other beautiful things and other beautiful ideas and other beautiful people that were around me each and every day. But when I started to realize that, it changed my purpose. Instead of just trying to bring out the best in people, I realized that there was this beautiful light inside people.

And I changed my purpose to actually unleash this light that I've seen people look past the differences, yet accept differences and see the beauty and the differences. Yet look for this light, this light that's inside of everybody, it's ready to pop, it's ready to be unleashed, that I think is deserving for all of us to come out as our true selves, our authentic selves to the degree where people have the ability to unlock their potential, to be able to see possibilities all around and make connections with love and joy and inclusion. And do things that are on their mind and not do things to try to be like other people, not try to make it like other people in the business world.

Because we have set standards that people need to live by. We make it harder for other people and I recognize that. My purpose now is to enlighten people to this light that's inside them, their happy, authentic selves, and to really unleash this light to the possibilities that are there for all of us. And to help people rise themselves and rise others onto an equal playing field. And when I've done that, I've seen so many people look at me with a head tilt or open eyes or with tears or to hit me in the arm, because they actually see there's hope. They see there's joy, there's actual love there in front of them. Not meeting me, but in front of their steps, in front of what's ahead for them. And I started to see moments when I started to reflect deeply, I started to see things that really got me to light up in a different way.

And one quick story is, I was with my daughter and we were hanging out one day. She was doing homework and I was doing work on my smartphone. And she was finishing up her homework, asking for a dessert treat. And I was joking with her to say we really don't do dessert during the week and we had a little bit of fun with it. But we landed on this watermelon ice that was a sweet little treat that my daughter enjoyed. And once I put my smartphone down and started to pay attention to her, I started to notice that she was really enjoying it. And when I looked out of the corner of my eye, I saw this lid, I saw the back of this lid, this watermelon ice lid. And it was actually in the shape of a one-eyed smile.

And it was upside down. And I looked at my daughter, I looked at the lid. And I said, "Hey, look at this. Look at this." And I started turning this upside down and her eyes opened up like I've never seen before, her mouth opened in awe and wonder. And so did mine. My heart fluttered. And I realized that joy that I had been missing out on, it was sitting there right in front of me. And I realized not the lid was upside down, it was me that was upside down. And I needed to stop. I needed to get present, I needed to get curious, I needed to be more open minded to invite the world in and the differences that we're sitting there.

And probably that was another example where it became a light up moment that actually turned me into changing my way. It's how I would interact with people every day, in the workplace, in the community, with my family, wherever I would go, it just ended up being a starting point where I started to change my ways. I literally brought out different business plans that I was working on, which led into a book, it's led into a company that I started and founded called Ignite Happy, which is meant and intended to really ignite happy humans, happy workplaces, happy communities, happy families. And it's really rooted in this joy and this love and inclusion that really set sail for all of us down a path of possibilities.

And there's so many stories and elements as I've gone down my path that I've just intersected and that further connected with this joy. When I go back to my earlier years, to my working days, my college days, it's just amazing how many things have been popping and there's a path that I've lived out and I've shared with others and others are following suit to really embrace happiness and inclusion as a platform for change. With a variety of steps that follow that allow people to actually see and live out the possibilities that are in front of each of us.

And it's really about us taking you know these steps to understand what really matters inside, to bring ourselves to a higher place of meaning and purpose and to connect with an open mind and openness that allows us to really bring in the light of others, to bring in the value of others and to be present with whatever is important to us. Be it our family members, our neighbors, our communities, people we work with. And there's so many stories that have taken hold to see people just turn their eyes around, to start looking at themselves, to start looking outwardly in a different way, in a clear way in the workplace.


And there's plenty of stories I could share with you, Brent. This is where I am now. And there's just so many steps along this journey that I am just amazed by it. Because it's been a complete shift where I turned myself right side up. The more vulnerable I am with people, admitting that I have shortcomings, that I have unconscious biases that I'm working through, I'm openly sharing to help jolt the stories of others to look at themselves and reflect as well, to start them down their path. It's been absolutely fascinating to get to this place.

Brent Stewart:

What happens, especially in the workplace, to where we can't be our authentic selves? Why does that happen? And what do you think the reason is for that?

Darrin Tulley:

I think we are brought up through life and it gets, as children, we are free to think more openly, more creatively. We're free to be ourselves to ask why or why not, we're open to learning, we're open to live with awe and wonder. And that starts to fade away over time where we're told we're not creative in the schools or we're told we're supposed to act a certain way. Or we're told to maybe sit with people or live with people or work with people that are maybe more similar to us. Or maybe we're told we don't have the answers, because we bring up an idea and we get shut down at a certain age.

And it's just this point where we lose this kid inside of us. And we actually tried to toe the line where we actually try to fit into the culture we're working in. If it's in the workplace or community, we try to look like or dress like or act like, and it's not our authentic selves. We're trying to fit in so we don't get it judged if we act differently, which might be our authentic selves. Which by the way, we're all pretty unique and special, we are judged.

And I think a form of judgment is not supportive. When we're judged, it's a very binary equation where you're wrong or right. And it's very problematic in our society today. There's not much conversation in between. It's us versus them. It's not we and it's hard for us to be able to say, "I'm not going to bring my full self or my authentic self in because I might get judged or I might not fit in or it takes me 100 steps to get to where you are because of who I am, the way I look like or the orientation I am in or it's just not the norm, so to speak." Yet the norm should be that we're all unique. And we all bring in special perspective and special ideas in a difference that matters.

And I think when we start to welcome each other, in that capacity, that's when we come alive again, as individuals, as teams, as a society where we really listen to each other. Not because I want to figure out ways where I can prove you wrong, but figure out ways that we can be better. That's the whole point of having a higher purpose and a greater meaning is to try to find where the differences can connect in ways that we can actually learn and get curious. And that's really growth, that's a growth mindset. That's where we actually expand to being better, better human beings, where we actually raise each other up on equal playing fields, where we all belong.

And I think there's just there are so many hurdles that we've put on ourselves that we have to jump over and some of that's been pretty systemic, or it's been from our families, or it's been out of fear, or shortcomings that we're afraid to make a mistake. I have my own areas that I have to overcome when I think about self-doubt. When I think about, am I listening the way I should to make sure we're getting the best results and that my results, am I making sure that I'm being present when there's so much going on in this world, there's so much conflict, there's so much chaos, and there's so much to do. Am I making sure I'm slowing down to be present. And there's just so many things that play, and to bring this back, I think we have to figure out how do we go back to living like a kid again, so we could actually be our authentic selves and be comfortable with that.

Brent Stewart:

What do we lose as a leader when we aren't our authentic selves with the people that we lead?

Darrin Tulley:

Oh, wow. I feel we lose credibility. I feel we lose trust with not only the people that are sitting there in front of us, we lose trust within ourselves to be able to open up and allow other perspectives in. I think we lose the sense of walking the talk, and when we don't, we're asking people to bring their full selves. And sometimes, Brent, when I've asked people that, "Tell me what that looks like." Some people joke with me to say, "I don't think you want to see my full self." And I think it's pretty funny because I think it's a matter of what we want to bring in to any position or place where we can be our best self, where we can bring out the best creativity, our best performance and what we want to do, whatever that might be.

And I think leaders lose out on that very moment of not being leading with empathy, not being present with someone with genuine care and interest. Because I can promise you, the more we do that and understand where people are, it's where we're going to get the best results. And it's proven, we have employees that are happier or working with more joy, or more inclusivity, where they're part of a decision or where they're part of a team that you can get involved in a way that they can contribute. And there's plenty of studies that support this. And there's multiple factors of results that occur from that.

And in fact, where I was at, in a company, it was a Fortune 100 company. I had a path to take either to lead a division or to go down this path to be a culture officer to help us transform our people and our culture. And we took a number of steps to get there as a broader group. And the first thing was to walk this talk and to actually believe in our people in a different way, to believe in our people that there was untapped potential. Without those two things, you're never going to transform a culture, never going to actually enable people to bring out their best.

And when we did that, long story short, we actually turned this culture from a third quartile rating in the Chroma-Culture standpoint to a top decile rating in just over 12 months. Because we took intentional actions. We involved the organization in wonderful ways. We failed at things and we actually took different courses to get back on track. And we had leaders step in ways they never had done before. And it was a sense of belonging that came out of this, a belonging that people cared with empathy.

And I think some people think about empathy as, it's just pulling at the heartstrings. And it's not, it's not just that, it's a beautiful thing if you can get there with a heart. And that's something that I've been working towards is to really share and be loving and be a loving leader and not get too worried about how squishy that sounds. And the other side of empathy is thinking with your head to say, do you really know what your people are doing as far as are they fully there? Are they fully present? Are they their full selves? Did you understand what a good day looks like? Can you meet people with where you are with genuine interest and really care?

Because that's really the mindset shift of understanding without having our heart get too much in the way. Because I think this can address any leader that wants to really get the best out of people. They want to get the results that will actually allow for continuous growth and improvement, that really drive customer outcomes that you can never imagine which drives, guess what? The results that most leaders focus on. But it's really the last step in the chain. It's really people first. It's all about continuous growth and improvement, delighting your customers, and then the outcomes will follow. And I really prescribe to that. And there's really, there's really an important method around that as far as making sure we're being authentic ourselves and we're bringing the best out of people by leading the way.

Brent Stewart:

There's a lot of talk right now about the great resignation, right? And there's lots of articles on it. We've been through two years of a pandemic. People's values are changing, what people want to do with their lives are changing. And we're having a, and you have a lot of employers that are having difficulty keeping people, recruiting people. And they're looking at their company cultures. And they're thinking that they need to make changes.

Do you think a lot of these companies that are making changes now to recruit people and retain people, with what you're seeing out there in the field and the people that you're working with? Are these changes happening for the right reasons? And are they changes that will stick? Or do you think it's like, we just got to power through this, we got to do these things, we just power through this moment. And then, we'll go back to the way things were eventually.

Darrin Tulley:

Going back to the way things were like, that's an option. I think we are in a whole different place for good. And I think that's an amazing thing for our world as long as we take the learnings from it and not try to force it back to what it once was because I think that'd be a big mistake. I do think companies, there are plenty of companies that are doing it correctly, in my opinion, where they are trying to do things and set things up because they actually mean it. They actually have genuine interest and care about the flexibility or the programs or the meaning of which they're setting up programs.

They're not just saying they have value. They are actually putting things into place that support values. They're not only saying they believe in diversity, equity and inclusion. They actually have programs that support it through a mechanism where all leaders are involved. It's not [inaudible 00:20:15] or a group of people coming together that just fit a mold. It's a diverse group of people coming together with a common purpose or mission is where I'm seeing that work. It's leaders actually focusing on people first.


And I have to tell you, that's probably the biggest gap I still see is when I talk to different leaders and different CEOs across different companies. It's very mixed. It's a big struggle to go from, well, my focus has to be on results and our customers, that's what I've always done. That's how I've gotten here. And I have to deliver for the shareholders or I have to deliver for my board of directors in my job, and I have to protect myself. And there's a lot of protectionism in this and there's ego involved. And when you really break it down, it's hard to get results without people unless you're truly in an environment where it's all technology based and you don't have any people doing anything, which I find that hard to believe that's ever present at the moment.

When I talk to leaders about this and go through examples with people, they really start to open up and are eager to understand how do we do this? How do we engage our people? When I share stories and stats, and research like this, for example, where creativity is a loss, it's a loss skill. It's a safe way to talk about this versus happiness, because some leaders may not embrace it as much yet. That's an important one, too. I mean, creativity, there's a study that is out there where they measured five-year-old children about the ability to show that they can actually identify creative ways to solve a problem. And then, they asked similar questions to adults.

And it's astounding to see the results that in five-year-old children. It was 98% of the children that showed they could be creative, they could show the skills that are needed. And then, the result was the opposite for the adults, it was 2%. So, think about that. What happened? How did we go from 98% of children actually showcase the ability to be creative, and all of a sudden, it goes down at 2% of our adults?

If I'm a leader, I should be absolutely terrified of that result. Because I've seen factors where companies that are more innovative and creative are outpacing other companies by two thirds as far as revenue growth and opportunity. I'd be terrified if I didn't realize that my employees said only 2% of them have the ability to truly be creative. So, that ties back to problem solving. It ties to solving solutions for our clients or coming up with new features and capabilities that could be differentiated for our company tomorrow or for the future. These are the type of things that I think we're missing out on these skills, these softer skills that are harder to touch. Yeah, in my opinion, they're very easy to measure over time. It's just you have to focus on as a leader what are the most important things? And if it is results, understanding what are the things that are going to drive those results and really working it back.

And like I mentioned earlier, I feel it is people driven in the components that make people around, being able to be a leader that has empathy and is able to meet people where they are, being able to help develop and coach to truly involve and include and listen for folks in a way that allows people to shine and bring their best selves. And I got to tell you, the stories I've seen and that I've been a part of, or I've seen other companies do, people are breaking through brick walls. Things that they didn't think they could do before, where people are learning new skills and they're given the freedom in the room to create on their own, or even the ability to develop skills that are maybe not totally tied to their specific role, but they find ways to make these connections. That's the beauty, I think, of the path I've been on as these intersections of things, connections that are bringing so much joint development and opportunity that have come more open and available and are present and we're given the opportunity.

I think these are the things that leaders need to continue to do to make sure these things are going to stick. Because I think the leaders that are doing it this way, are seeing the results. They're seeing more people be present because they feel they have a greater stake at the company they're at. They feel they're more engaged. They're more involved. They're part of the bigger mission. They're tying their personal mission to the bigger purpose at hand with a company in their communities because many of these folks are tying what they're doing to their communities and they feel like a part of something bigger.

Brent Stewart:

For someone to have kind of the realization like you had, what does it take to get a person to that place, an executive to that place, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion? Because it's so hard sometimes for people to see the other side of any coin.

Darrin Tulley:

I mean, I wish everybody had the opportunity to experience what I had to an extent. I mean, it was terrifying. Yet, why I share this story is because I think we need to look at our own vulnerabilities and step into that, and really self-explore to understand where we do have shortcomings. And I think one way to do that is to really understand and dig into what is our bigger purpose here and understand what that looks like. It might be one word, it might be a phrase, it might be something grander to each of us, where we try to understand why am I here? You know, as I started earlier about saying, I wanted to bring out the best in people around me, that's great. But I had a gap there, I was only doing that for people that fit into my bubble until at first and then I realized that didn't burst, it expanded. When I expanded that bubble, I started to see the light.

In other people, I started to see the beauty, I started to see the potential in other people that I ignored in the past. And yeah, it was terrifying, yet, I'm pretty vulnerable about it because I've seen the light. I've seen the light now. I've seen the possibilities that I couldn't see before. And I'm fearful of missing out on things I wasn't seeing. And it's just, it kind of feeds on itself. And what I want to ask folks to think about is, what is that bigger purpose for you that allows you to invite the world in? To invite the world in a way that is for the greater good? It's not for your good, it's not for your purpose. You're not doing this to make you feel good. It's not for you to get a bigger position or job. Because if that's the case, then you don't have the right purpose yet.

And I'm really talking about reaching deep within. This human spirit and connecting with other people. Even though that might be different than you are. It might be somebody that you have grievances with or people you might call they, in a negative way, in a way that maybe you think about not trying to interact with and you're shying away from, trying to understand how can you bring people closer. And by doing that, and identifying what your purpose driven belief is, you're actually inviting some discomfort, you're inviting vulnerability, you're accepting the fact that you don't have all the answers and you're going down the second step, which is you're being open minded. You need to be open minded, in my view, to be able to step into this discomfort and get curious because I think open minded is a sense of, you're willing to do it. And then your curiosity is the action of actually caring to do it.

So as you step in, to try to figure out where people are, you're trying to figure out how you're connected to something that seems so disconnected or that you might be uncomfortable with, it's being open minded and present, to be curious, to really allow your subconscious mind not to rule today because part of this has all happened to us because what we've learned over many years that our subconscious minds are ruling the day. And we have to break that habit. We have to break our subconscious minds because it's, yeah, it's saving us when there's something that's scar or something that's putting us at risk or there's a threat, our subconscious minds go into action, yet it's doing this about everything we do.

So, if we have a bias, we'd naturally go there without thinking. We don't stop to break the habits or the bias or whatever it might be in front of us. And it's so important for us to just think about that subconscious mind. In that moment where I found that one I smiled that was upside down, that showed me that I was upside down? That was my moment to get real present. And really look at myself and realize that my world just flashed in front of my eyes because I allowed it to, and I got real present, I got really serious about what really matters. And I think when we do that, we're actually able to really take a pause and live consciously and not subconsciously.

And the funny thing is, I joke around, there's this component in our brains called the hippocampus. And it's really the gateway of our emotions and our reactions to things that we experienced. And I joke around about the hippocampus because I kind of call it the Happy Hippo. If I was a scientist, that's what I would have called it. Yet, it's really having this Happy Hippo, really stop our bubbles to get really curious, really present, and really breathe the air that we're kind of standing within to understand what's there. And I got to tell you, the more I do it, the more I experienced other people that are doing this, they're seeing things that they never thought were possible in their life.

They're attaining goals. They're attaining relationships they've never thought were within reach. Yet these things were always in front of us. Just like that one I smiled at the corner, the table, it was there. I had to be present and I had to be curious and open minded to see it. And when I did that, I actually could see the beauty that was within myself and my daughter and everybody around me. It's those moments that I think will allow you to light up and start to look at your own authentic self of what really matters to you as well.

Brent Stewart:

So, we have a mutual friend, Rich Sheridan. And Rich talks a lot about joy in the workplace. And in the foreword of your book, Rich says that you reintroduced the joy guy to happiness. So, when you talk about happiness, especially when it relates to our work lives, in leading others and being led at work, what do you mean? What do you mean by happiness when it comes to the workplace?

Darrin Tulley:

Yeah, we do have an amazing friend in Richard Sheridan. He's a joy. He is Mr. Joy. He leads the way. He leads. He walks the talk. I met him at a conference. He was speaking actually where I was working at that time. And I approached him in the back of the room, and I said, "Rich, you're just so inspirational and you've really sparked something in me. I didn't know we could actually talk about joy at work." And I was kind of whispering I didn't want anybody to hear me. And I said, "Can we talk again at another point?" He's like, "Sure, absolutely." And he's a pay it forward kind of guy. And he's essentially been my mentor.

And we've been excellent friends ever since. And he's helped me through the process of writing this book. He helped me identify my purpose, my biggest purpose word, and my light up word, which is all about possibilities, which ties to my book, Live Your Possible. He's a big reason for that. And we joke a little bit about the difference between joy and happiness. And he and I had said, "Well, we hope one day, we're both on the same stage to talk about it." And he certainly thinks about joy is everlasting and ever present.

And in the workplace or at home or wherever we are, and I often talk about happiness is, happiness is a way of life, it's a habit. It's not something that we've been taught. I think happiness is something that we've been taught to be temporary, like a buzz. It's something that we attain and then it goes away. It's fleeting. And I think the way we've been taught in our society, Rich is right. When you think about the many things that are advertised these days, and I have a number of examples in my book, where people will ask you to go to a certain place and when you purchase their meals, you'll be happier or you will be happy. Or if you buy certain products, you'll be happy. Or if you go to a certain place, you'll be happy. And it's basically trying to sell happiness. And that's not the point.

The point is, happiness is about what steps are you taking in your day that give you joy, that give you whatever you want to define as happiness. Happiness is all unique to us. It's within us. It's what we define. It's that potential of being belonging or creative or the ability to be able to speak up at the workplace or to be able to have a good conversation with your spouse or your family member. It is to be able to be yourself openly without being criticized or judged. It's being able to really enjoy life in the present and the smiles and to enjoy and have gratitude for every sunrise and sunset. And to be able to think through things throughout the day without all this fear, without all its misery.

Certainly, there's tough moments around every day, I'm not saying that we're going to have happiness fill our days every day, because there's moments where I'm miserable and I'm sad. And I just know that I couldn't get back to the place where I'm very happy and I just got to get my mindset back to it. Back in the workplace, when I took over this culture officer role, I actually went to my leaders talking about how we have to bring happiness into the workplace. And some of my leaders, some of my advisors, I should say, said it's really not about happiness or joy. And I beg to differ a bit, yet, our culture wasn't set to have that conversation, so I respected it. So, I went to understand and learn. So, I actually went to 300 people around the organization to ask them, "What is joy at work mean to you? What does happiness look like? What does a good day look like? What could we do that would actually light us all up? And our customers into a different place, a different zone, where they would be delighted to stay with us?"

And when I did that, Brent, again, it was so enlightening. It was just so amazing. People would look at me, they would almost look left, they would look right. And they're like, "Are you're really asking me this question? Am I allowed to talk about this here? Do you really care what I have to say?" It was fascinating. It's almost like we're talking about something that was inappropriate. I'm talking about happiness and joy. And I would say, "No, seriously, I'm curious about what lights you up?" It was an active of truly asking people to be inclusive of what matters to each of the folks in the organization and talking to 300 people.

What was amazing is, there were a couple of themes that came out. Of course, there were a ton of answers and a couple themes that came out happened to be, one, people wanted to bring out the best of each other so they can each be successful. And the second one was, they wanted to be able to have trusting relationships with people at work, with their manager, with their peers, because I think some of that was lacking. And people really surprised me that day, because what they were saying to me is, "Hey, there's enough room for us all to succeed." I just want to help people succeed. And that will help the people to help me succeed, and that we're doing this in a trusting way, that we're there for each other. We're not trying to outdo each other. We're not trying to undermine each other or be pessimistic to each other. We're actually not shutting people down. We're actually helping people up.

And when we actually went back out to do this work, to changing our culture and our mindsets, because we had to change our mindset, we had to change our beliefs, we had to get real curious real fast, our tagline was actually set to basically say, "Hey, let's help each other succeed and thrive here in the workplace." There's not one thing that says joy or happiness. What we did is we actually met the organization with that, with the language they gave me that was talking about joy and love in the workplace. I think that's the important thing is not to be so binary, so literal about what a word might say or what a solution might be or because I can't say I don't know, or because I'm supposed to have the answers. It's the beauty is in between zero and one. It's not to be binary. It is to be understanding of what is possible and what is there in front of us.

And I think when we do that, that's when we're going to see a happy culture. We're going to see happy employees. And when we see happy employees, we see better productivity, we see people step in and be more creative, we'd see that 2% of people being creative, going up to much higher levels. People are willing to take a risk. They are willing to step in. They are willing to get involved. And then, things change exponentially, which any leader wouldn't mind having a doubling of their financial results, a doubling of their net promoter scores, and those are things that happen. So, we actually instilled happiness in a place in a manner that people could relate to and people were excited about.

Brent Stewart:

Let's talk for a second about your book, Live Your Possible. Tell me what led to writing it, why you wrote it, and what you're hoping to do with it.

Darrin Tulley:

Yeah, the book has been quite the journey. It's been about just over five years of writing and thinking and researching and connecting the dots. It really came out of a culmination of events. I never dreamed of writing a book until it hit me that I had to write this book and it hit me square in the face with the stories I've shared with you already. The awakening and then the light up moment with my daughter. When I had that light up moment with my daughter, I started to write a business plan. And at that time, I was coaching and mentoring some friends and some colleagues and we were putting some challenges together. And I challenged myself to write this business plan and they challenged themselves to see happiness differently and to work out and start a workout regimen. And we were there together, it was a partnership.

And then, I started to go through this business plan. I started to write an idea next to a line item, another idea, then a story would pop in my head. And the next thing you know, I started to write out these stories. And I just kept writing and kept writing. And it basically took me about an hour a day for the last five years to get to this place where I really think that people could take the steps in this book to identify with what really matters to each of us. There are plenty of tools and steps that allow us to think about what might be holding us back, or what might allow us to seek out our own happiness or to connect with it, or define our higher purpose and meaning to get to a possible mindset. Because, I think, that to me, that's so fun, because possibilities to me is everything.

If we feel like we all have untapped potential and endless possibilities and we connect joy to these things. I think that's where people thrive. I think that's where people can feel like they are no longer saying, "It is what it is," and throwing their arms up in the air because I think that phrase is so overly used. And I think people are in that mindset where they don't know what to do, so they stop pretending and they give up and there's so many people that have so much in front of them.

So, as I went through this journey, I focused on happiness. And when I started to go through happiness, I started to see how temporary and fleeting happiness was used in our world and how people were ashamed to talk about happiness. And then, I realized that my joy came from this journey of breaking the bias, if you will. I started to walk with differences to be more inclusive. And I started to understand within myself where joy came from. And it wasn't about my acts. It was about how I was meeting people with where they are, and understanding what gets them excited and lights them up, and actually caring and helping them think through a step, or a word, or an idea, or a connection to help them take actions because all I could be is be a guide.

And I try to guide folks with this book to leverage happiness inclusion in everything we do without it feeling like it's an initiative that someone tells me to do it. It's more about taking the steps that really matter from our heart, that really matters to that purpose, that's higher than us. Something that really is meaningful and helping people walk through this. And so, then I met Richard Sheridan. And I said, since I've met him, I re-engaged with Richard Sheridan back after he released his book, Chief Joy Officer. I already fell in love with Richard in his book, Joy, Inc. I had been to his wonderful facility in Arbor and did the tours and did everything.

And then, I went back to one of his training elements called Lead with Joy. And it was a spinoff of his Chief Joy Officer book, which was fascinating, by the way. And it got me to think through my big word, my higher power word, which is possibilities. And what I started to make these connections with happiness and inclusion, I actually started to develop eight steps that spell out the word possible in the book. And it's really the path of possibilities, which help people pop to what excites and lights us up, that allows things to actually be seen that we couldn't see before.

And Richard really helped me see that through and helped me get comfortable with this and to bring this to light. And basically, these are three major sections within the book. It's about happiness inclusion that allow us to unearth and unleash our possibilities that live within us. And we get to this point where we start to shine and we start to bring this shine out other people and people are curious, and they reach out to us and we start to get other people interested in, and they start to shine. And then, what happens is that we all become a bit brighter.

Our world becomes a more positive place. It becomes a place where we're more welcoming and loving. And that to me, that's a place where I want to live. And that's a place where I want all of us to have equal opportunity and equal playing field to shine, and I think it's possible. And I got this place where I think anything's possible in the space that we all could just take a step forward and we truly take one moment at a time for each of us and make this movement happen.

We're coming out of a pandemic. There's economic pressure. There are wars underway. There are so many things that are stopping us from actually taking steps forward, but we need to keep stepping forward with joy. We need to outpace the negative things in our life.


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