Welcome to episode 59 of The Innovating Advice Show.
I’m joined by Nick Elston, one of the highest profile and leading inspirational speakers on the lived experience of mental health. Nick shares tools, tips and techniques on managing anxiety in life and business and has a lot of experience working with financial services professionals.
In this episode, Nick and I are chatting about the masks we wear, whether we realize it or not, how to evolve company culture around anxiety, stress and mental health, and how vulnerable leadership and advisors should be with their employees and clients.
We also discuss generational differences in managing anxiety, the importance of self care and also looking out for others, and Nick shares what emotional storytelling is and why it’s a great tool both personally and professionally.
Humans Under Management virtual event happening
8th September: https://bit.ly/IAHUM2020
Tickets: R500, US$30, £23, AU$42.
Nick Elston is one of the highest profile and leading Inspirational Speakers on the Lived Experience of Mental Health.
Nick shares his 'Lived Experience' through insights, tools, tips and techniques on how to manage Anxiety in Life, in Business - to implement immediately.
For Nick - his talks are where Mental Health meets Personal Development - focusing not just on what anxiety is - but what anxiety does - how it keeps us in a comfort zone, stops us living a life on our terms & ultimately how it affects our success - by our own definition.
Nick is regularly featured in the global media, the BBC, industry shows and publications - his talks are delivered to stages, events, boardrooms, businesses, factories, government organisations, schools, universities, prisons & establishments worldwide.
Nick is also the Founder of Forging People Ltd - a new breed of Speaking Coaching.
01:20 - Introducing Nick Elston
02:50 - Becoming an international speaker on anxiety, mental health and wellbeing
04:30 - Vulnerability
08:47 - The importance of questioning everything
12:40 - Balancing generational differences when dealing with mental health
14:36 - Opening up one-to-one
15:53 - The role of vulnerability in leadership
19:17 - Looking after each other during this difficult time
23:43 - Taking care of yourself
25:10 - Communicating that you need time for yourself
26:20 - Showing vulnerability with clients
27:20 - Managing expectations
31:50 - Anxiety: what to look for and how to manage it
36:51 - Emotional storytelling: how to tell a story through you
40:43 - Some final thoughts
Kate: Hi, Nick. Welcome to the show.
Nick: Hello. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Kate: So Nick, let's dive in and get into a little bit of your story. What led you to becoming an international speaker on anxiety, mental health and wellbeing?
Nick: Good thinking. So my angle is lived experience. So for me, lived experience is two things. Firstly, it explains my background. secondly for me, it's the vehicle that takes individuals and organizations from the challenges of mental health to the solution, but I'm not the solution. So my sole role is to increase engagement in the wellbeing and mental health initiatives that people have in place already. How do I do that is by sharing the story of why I'm here. And what you've just asked me is that.
Nick: I actually came to speak through, I had a childhood of mental illness, and into my teen and adult life, it morphed into something which is around high anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder, that kind of culminated in a breakdown and kind of meltdown moment, whatever you want to call that, different people have different names for things. And for me, speaking became initially my therapy, and then I found a new tribe and I found that it was a real cool as a real passion and fast forward to today. It's what I do for a job. It's kind of nuts, but it's what I've always kind of said that the best things in my life happened by accident and the things that I thought were going to be brilliant, absolutely bombed.
Kate: Yeah. Yeah. And that's, talking with financial planners, the listeners on the show, we're so trained to say, 'Hey, we're going to create a plan for what life looks like,' but Nick, that's a great example of you just don't know. And sometimes the best laid plans, the best intentions go out the window and life takes you in a different direction.
Nick: It's very true. Now, do you know what I think? I've got this thing around vulnerability to be Bulletproof. When we start to practice vulnerability on a daily basis, when we start to let our guard down, we become Bulletproof. Firstly, no one has anything over us for a start. But also all of our stuff is that it encourages people to be authentic and vulnerable back, which means we have a deeper connection with people. And especially in the financial services industry, one of the many industries I've worked with, but it's not exclusively financial services, but there's a real problem that actually we need to encourage vulnerability behind the professional facade because actually it's a masking technique and one that I used for a long time. And I think the reason why we use that is because we were so afraid of people seeing us.
Nick: We're so afraid of kind of trying to be what people want to see in us. We try and be what situations demand of us, but we sure don't show ourselves because when we show ourselves our narrative tells us we're going to be shot down, our narrative tells us we're going to be unloved or dismissed or judged. And that's the reason why we don't show ourselves, but actually speaking as somebody that's used that mechanism to come back from mental illness and also mental health. if you really want to have that depth with people in any interaction then show a little bit of yourself.
Kate: And that can be easier said than done, especially, I mean, I know you work in multiple industries, but you do a lot of work with financial services. I anticipate you've seen the challenge of how much of it still is the old boys club and being younger or being a woman of any age or a person of color. It can be hard still today to feel like you can be vulnerable and take that mask off.
Nick: Absolutely. And, and like I said, it's interesting and I enjoyed our conversation before about that I only see the challenges before me. So I learned from other people and their experiences. And like you said, in terms of diversity and in terms of inclusion, there's definitely an element of that in terms of men. It's kind of like that man up stiff upper lip brigade, we've got brought up on that conditioning that we don't talk about our stuff. And we kind of wonder why there's a tidal wave with stuff going on now is because the dam was burst. and I think that there's that element, but also we were talking about, women, women of color, around speaking as well. But, and that's a form of vulnerability. So to be able to stand up, to be able to, even in front of one person or 10,000 people, or however many people that may be to put yourself out there that is vulnerability.
Nick: And when I speak at events worldwide, actually 80% are men at the level where I'm speaking alongside people, actually more so in financial services and accountancy and other industry that I speak in as well, it's definitely a lot more skewed that way. However, when I run my speaking Academy is when I help people with speaking coaching, the 80% are women. So for me, there's the kind of the difference really. I think that, this is a huge topic to cover in a very short space of time. So, for me, I think it's the case of men have traditionally been allowed to mess up and have been forgiven. and I think that in terms of women stepping up to speak and there's an air of perfectionism, because actually when they've stepped up to share an opinion, that actually there's a higher chance that that could be it the very best critiqued, but also maybe even shot at in that kind of sense.
Nick: I think there's somewhere in the middle where actually the men need to kind of have some more of that perfectionism to get better and to have that kind of more, maybe compassionate in what they're talking about, what they're delivering. And I think that in terms of women, less perfectionism being prepared to open up a lot more, but actually that's where the truth is going to be somewhere in the middle. And I think that the sooner that happens and the more often that happens, that those boundaries will break down. I think that's happening. I genuinely think that's happening, but it is interesting to see that the desire is there for in this example, women to speak, but why is that not transferring through to the end so I guess I see things from both sides on that front.
Kate: Well, and whether we're talking about speaking or we're talking about being in a leadership role or in a client facing role, I mean you can take position and kind of apply it to any number of areas within financial services. That's something we're still seeing over and over again, is the men being out there and present more, even though the women want to do it. And just thinking about the effects of that on people that have long struggled with, or maybe have a new found, I want to say like relationship with anxiety, mental health, and trying to maintain wellbeing when you're going into these companies and having these conversations. And like you said, you're about engagement, not solution. How are you helping them to engage in changing that conversation and that culture?
Nick: So for me, I think it's the case of just giving people a safe and nonjudgmental environment to just open their minds, to how the information I'm sharing, the story that I'm sharing relates to them. So throughout the course of my keynote which is called Talking Anxiety, I cover maybe only 15 minutes of my story of most of the section is around tools and tips on managing anxiety in life and a business. And because I do cover that whole, I guess that whole gambit of personal and professional issues within that, I know people that have seen it maybe three or four times and each time, something else is kind of already resonated with them because that was the current challenge at the time. So for me, I'm just basically encouraging people to question things. I believe we have all the answers to whatever we need, we just don't ask ourselves the right questions.
Nick: But the reason why we don't give ourselves the truth a lot of the time it's because we don't question our conditioning. We don't question why we react in a certain way. but also sometimes we can be afraid of the truth. one of the exercises that I encourage people to do is to question everything that you say and everything that you do for 24 hours and it's a tiring process. So when you wake up tomorrow morning, you wake up at six o'clock. why'd you wake up at six o'clock? Could you do with more sleep or less sleep? was it because you've always done it that way? why'd you wake up next to them maybe is a question you haven't asked in awhile? And I've gotta throw that one in because it's a great example.
Nick: One of the questions we can ring fence. We turn it into something which is just a pure belief. It's unquestionable. And for me, I believe everything about us should be open to our own questioning. And it's only then can we realize that we do have all the answers, we just need to ask ourselves the right questions. And in terms of our narrative, our narrative really reinforces the way that we feel. And I think that's the reason why people that struggle with anxiety, people that may have low self esteem, low self confidence can talk themselves down further into that conditioning as well. so for me, it's distinct, it's kind of a distinguishing the difference between mental illness, which is absolutely needs to be medically treated and mental health, which we all have. And actually like every form of health that needs to be exercised and pointed in the right direction and actually set some goals around that. So for me, it's about marginal gains, it's about daily incremental changes. What can we do every single day to make ourselves feel a little bit happier, a little bit stronger and a little bit fitter so that we can go again strong tomorrow.
Kate: So Nick, you mentioned earlier kind of that whole idea of man up and as you're talking and I'm picturing you talking with a company and being in a business and something that's been very traditional for a very long time, I was watching a sitcom the other day that had, I don't know, it was three or four generations of people and the grandfather was right in that like man up phase. And he was like, we don't talk about emotions. You're stalwart and you just get stuff done. So how do you balance generational differences in terms of talking about and dealing with mental health?
Nick: It's really interesting. I think it's because they, they feel that they don't have the permission to talk about these things. When I spoken to older generations, whether that be through things like rotary clubs, especially initially when I was doing a lot of talks to social groups, actually the, the most engagement I was getting were from the, the, the older groups, because they just felt they have permission to start to poke and prod and ask themselves some questions they've never asked. And these are people that have lived through Wars. These are people that have gone through the world's greatest challenges, and actually have never gone anywhere with all of that. And it's really interesting. The biggest kind of challenge that older generations have shared is the fact that most of their regret comes from lost love.
Nick: So they will still be carrying that kind of, that emotion decades later about that one who got away. So it just goes to show that they are absolutely human, it's not cut off completely. It's just means that don't believe that they have the permission to share. So again, I've been described as brutally honest, that's intentional, I'm brutally honest about my own experiences so that people could be brutally honest back to me about their stuff. As I said, it's, when you show vulnerability, people do have that, that immediate bridge of trust, what you are about. And the fact I've got no agenda, I've got no solution, encourages that even more. And people will tell things to me that they haven't sold to their GP. So they haven't sold to their psychologist because they just feel safe in that. And then obviously what I do with that morally and responsibly is to actively sign post either back into the organizations, employee assistance programs or counseling services, or maybe externally to mental health organizations that I partner with as well.
Kate: So are these deep conversations happening in a group setting or are they opening up to you one-on-one?
Nick: So open questions are very few and far between given the sensitivity of the topic. so most of the questions and the conversations, I have are one-to-one, and again, even in a professional corporate environment. So again, financial services is a great example. If I'm getting brought in to deliver a talk to, I don't know, 500 financial services employees, I will deliver my talk and you will see the partners, the principals, with their arms folded right at the end thinking I'm not, it's not the fact that they're not engaging, but 'I'm not showing them I'm engaging with this. So I want them to know that I'm absolutely okay' but the first people that talk to me afterwards are those people. And that's the thing we can never assume. We can never assume that somebody hasn't got challenges just because they're not talking about it just because they want to keep that kind of facade on it. For me, it's, it's those people with the crossed arms that I know I'm going to be talking to first afterwards. So when I go to get my coffee afterwards, they will start going up to me and said, you know what you said about this, about that... because actually it means that in, in an hour, I'd built enough trust with somebody who hasn't spoken for decades to be able to open up to me in a very small way, at least initially.
Kate: That's wonderful. And then thinking about it in terms of the organization going forward and talking about being vulnerable, what do you kind of see as a good balance between let's say leadership and employees in terms of how vulnerable should they be, or some organizations are like, 'No, leadership needs to be like that grandpa, stay strong and don't show vulnerability to your staff or your employees.'
Nick: I think it's a great question, Kate. And it's one of those things that, for me, there's not, there's never going to be too much vulnerability for me. I mean, I appreciate that I'm the extreme of this now, cause I live this stuff. We've got situations, obviously the moment with, with lockdown and people coming back off of furlough, people that are coming back into employment, or maybe even leaving employment, there's a lot of kind of, awkward conversations to have. There's a lot of leadership challenges, both positive and negative. And for me it's keeping it human. I think the traditional approach in corporate life especially has been to take the broad brush approach. This is going to be the thing to fix everybody and then we're going to be okay. And for me right now, it needs to be human to human.
Nick: And actually the way that we do that is to show a little bit of ourselves. It doesn't change our leadership style. It doesn't mean to say that we need to leave ourselves open to, kind of litigation or even... it just means that we just need to give them a little bit to get a little bit back. And I think then you can start to have that conversation. I genuinely feel that if you have a leader that's constantly positive, appears flawless, that is harder to buy into those types of people. and even in the speaking world, you see the people that actually kind of like seem to exude thing and they have no challenges, no problems whatsoever. I find that harder to buy in, somebody will stand up and say, you know what, I'm actually pretty anxious right now. I'm going to be okay, thanks very much. I got it. Just kind of, maybe that's me, maybe that's me, but I appreciate the, I love the human element of, of interaction. And that's whether it's in those awkward conversations, whether that's in leadership, I much rather see people, which is why, LinkedIn and through kind of emails and things that I've send that to my base that I will actually share the ups and the downs. I think is important for people to see the downs, because actually, I don't want people to think as like, hallelujah, that he's cured. Absolutely not. I manage my stuff daily. Thank you very much. And I think giving people that insight means that that gives them a little bit of hope actually that if he can manage it daily then I can manage it daily.
Nick: If I was to say, I'd never suffered from anxiety. And I know... people can't buy into that because anxiety is a healthy mechanism. That's important to say as well. It's our brain telling ourselves there's a perceived danger, go careful. So we need that in our lives. So that when it gets out of control, that's the problem. So we need to show a little bit more of ourselves. That's probably, I'm going to repeat that so much. I'm going to stop now. Promise, Kate. I'm so passionate about that. I really am. I think vulnerability, as I said when practiced daily, that's our super power, but the one thing that we're so scared of is showing the world or true self.
Kate: Yes. And I'll repeat that again as well. Just the importance of vulnerability and being human. And Nick, you said so many things in there that I want to touch on, starting with thinking about how challenging this time is with this continued pandemic and lockdown and uncertainty. And we were chatting before about I noticed I'm struggling. I think again, because I'm not sleeping well. And you even when you don't necessarily outwardly feel quote unquote anxious or I think it looks different in different people. We're in this strange time. And I keep reading about how much this pandemic is affecting people on a subconscious level and that it's manifesting itself in different ways. So knowing that employees are not together, you don't have your colleagues around, people are at home in all sorts of different situations. How can colleagues look after each other during this time?
Nick: I mean, that's a really interesting topic for me actually, it's that underlying dread that underlying anxiety that does go off the radar. That's the thing that's taken our energy. That's the thing that's, that's kind of stealing our attention. and I think that's the reason why, like you, I was at that base three weeks ago that it just became too much. I was too overwhelmed and I'm speaking as an introvert. Weirdly, I'm an introvert I recharge in my own company. So actually up until that point I was pretty much, okay. I was quite happy with how things were, if I'm being honest with you. and interestingly, what I found is that people that have had mental health challenges before have been able to manage this a lot more effectively than people that haven't. So they have the, the processes, to manage their state more effectively, pretty much on tap through their own recovery mechanisms.
Nick: And actually it's the people that have not been used to loneliness or stress or isolation or anxiety that those are the people that started to really kind of struggle. And I think that that's part of the, of where we are right now. I think coming away from this point, it's going to be a lot more challenging than getting to this point. because you have a whole mixture of things, the whole separated working again, I could probably split right down the middle people that told me they don't want things to go back to normal and people that can't wait to go back to the office. So again, along that line of no fix, it's exactly the same thing, I think we need to just have those human conversations to see how people are doing. and of course the things like checking in on people, that's kind of like a given, I guess.
Nick: But for me, it's, it's just making sure that we keep communication open by any way that we can. and just making sure that we check in on people, making sure that we don't get defined by those negative things that could happen along the way. It's very easy to be overwhelmed by something actually that you would usually take it in your stride right now that could really affect you. Cause a lot of people are acting from a position of fear. and again, we touched on this before we came on air, that to start with there was months of a growing swell of compassion as this was really gripping it's hold.
Nick: And, and I think given the big world events recently that there's just been a real run through of toxicity. And I think that's the reason why I left Facebook and Twitter and Instagram just cut it off overnight because actually it was overriding myself care processes, to the extent that I was feeling great then I started scrolling and I felt worse and I flat actually just don't need that. and I think the challenge is right now, whether it's just us or looking after a group of people, maybe even clients, is that knowing that we are all bigger picture players, especially in the professional world, that we're all starting with the end in mind and we can't do that. And I think that's the thing that's really crippling us is the fact that we cannot assume an outcome because if the world's greatest minds don't know what's going on and when it's going to end, who are we to take a stab at that?
Nick: What we truly have is today and how we choose to proactively go into each and every day. The problem we have is that when we struggle with low self esteem, with low self confidence, with mental health challenges the first thing we sacrifice is choice. So we give away the one thing that we have true ownership over. We give that to other people. We give our happiness to other people because we don't have the courage and confidence and conviction in ourselves to keep ownership of that. So I guess that's the reason why even when there was no work coming in, I just kept going because for me, I need people to know that I need people to know that actually we have a choice. We cannot control the uncontrollable and actually the pursuit of trying to do so will create extra anxiety. So all we have is how we proactively choose to go into every day. So don't ever give up that element of choice.
Kate: So what about those days where there's just too much going on and you didn't sleep well and you've got, I don't have kids, but I hear from friends the kids crying and they're running around and you've got a spouse that's also working from home and you know, there's just, there's too much. How can you comfortably communicate to colleagues that you need some time?
Nick: I think that there's, there's a big, there's two things here. I think for me, firstly, it's having to make sure that your self care routine is, is firmly in place even on the days where you feel good. So for me, that would involve, having a process where I'd get up at a set time of day and I go to sleep at a set time of day and that will regulate my sleep. The first thing that I, I changed over lockdown, and that's really helped. I will go for, maybe a five, six mile walk in the morning, and come back, have breakfast shower, and then I'm fit for the day and incorporate more things like that. So even when I was feeling good, I was still doing those things. I introduced meditation and introduce, lots of things, affirmations and lots of things that really formed part of a, of a real high performing day now.
Nick: So actually what I find is on days where I didn't feel life, I actually use those same techniques to think, okay, well, I'm not going to do life today. And I'll just show some compassion to myself. And I think that, again, it's another vulnerability piece. I know, I'm going to keep coming back to this. But it's another vulnerability piece, actually being, not being afraid to say to people, actually, I just need to take a step back. Or if you are in a busy household and you still have a lockdown or a version of, having the courage and it is courage a lot of the time just say, sorry, I'd need my own space. Just 30 minutes just to do my own thing, that kind of sanity check that we all need just to do our own stuff. And then we can go again a strong tomorrow because for me, and I think especially as somebody who's experienced breakdown is that I know that we can only run for so long before we stop. So I can start to feel that when it starts to come up, not everyone has that. And that again, it becomes a superpower, but a lot of people that haven't been through that will actually get to that point without even knowing that, so being open, keeping those lines of communication, having a great daily self care routine, I think all of those things line you up to give you the best chances to have a successful day by your own definition of the word success.
Kate: Yeah. I like that. All right Nick, you've mentioned vulnerability a couple of times so far, and you've also touched on <so sorry / laughing > no, I love it. I love it. And I want to just kind of take that to the next level of we've been talking about sort of with colleagues and maybe in our personal lives, but what about, what do you recommend, if you have recommendations, on how vulnerable somewhat in financial services should be with their clients?
Nick: Okay. So vulnerability is, there's a softer way of doing this and we've all done it really. I mean, my career before doing this, I worked in sales and account management. So I was client facing and that my definition of vulnerability, then I didn't label it as vulnerability. So for me, vulnerability was actually something as simple as sharing your likes, sharing, where you're going on, holiday sharing your family's name and stuff. That's still vulnerability. You're sharing a little bit more of your personal self. I think for me, a great example is, if you have a client who may be struggling right now that there's two things you can do, you wouldn't be surprised to know. The second thing is vulnerability. The first one is to manage expectations, especially right now is to manage their expectations of what they can expect from you and what they can't expect from you.
Nick: but if you need to get them to open up about a certain thing, if we need to kind of really enhance that personal relationship, maybe start to share something that's kind of a stressed you out recently, or a concern that you've had. something that relates to them, their business. And actually then what you'll find is that actually, yeah, I get that cause a lot of the time that they, especially around, I do a lot of work with financial wellbeing, from a lived experience perspective that a lot of the time, the reason why people come to a financial services person is because money and tax and everything else is a huge anxiety trigger. And if you throw in the pandemic, if you throw in the fact that maybe sales have turned off, the fact that mortgages have to be paid and tax bills have to be paid, lots of different things, but actually they're coming to you in a position of fear, but they feel that they can't tell you that because you are a trusted advisor. So by giving a little bit of yourself, actually you start to connect on a human level. And the great thing is that people that are truly good at this, the people that are doing this right now, that are building relationships that are going to be set for life, they're set in stone because they, they trust you. They built that trust in you. So our responsibility is if somebody is vulnerable to us is to actually trust that, to respect that and show compassion and just maybe give a little bit yourself back.
Kate: Yes. And, and like you have, and I'm talking with lots of advisors and seeing, yeah, those are the ones that are growing right now. The ones that are a bit more vulnerable in sharing their story and I talk with lots of advisors that are like, Hey, I need to take a couple of days off or a week off and have a staycation just get away from work and recognizing some of those triggers within themselves. Versus as I'm talking with people that really are just sales and Hey, all I do is kind of sell products. They're really struggling right now because they're not in it to create that human connection and have vulnerability and build that trust. And that's, that's what everyone needs always. But I think we're seeing it definitely be more important now.
Nick: It is. And it takes away the depth of any relationship of any interactions are a 2-D experience from the client's perspective as well. and let's be honest. I mean, like I said, myself and you, the reason why we've connected so well so quickly is because actually we both share stuff right from the first time that I spoke to you to the second call and then into today. and that's the reason why, and I think that it builds such a bond and there's a lot of it. There's a lot of trust built very, very quickly. And actually it's something that if you were very superficial, just, it may be built, it'd be built over a period of months, maybe years, not three calls kind of thing.
Kate: Yeah. I agree. And you reached out to me and you even used those words, like let's connect on a human level. And I was like, yes, I love this. Because going back to the masks that we all wear and being, well, I used to be a young woman. I feel like I've surpassed that, but you know, being a young woman in this industry, I have definitely felt like I'm wearing a mask on multiple occasions and feeling like I have to be a certain persona to be in certain rooms and it's, it's exhausting. And it just, it doesn't feel, so much if it doesn't feel real, it feels like we're all in this play and you know, not just me, looking around the room so often I always wonder, who's the human behind this suit or this facade or whatever it is. And we don't share that with each other enough.
Nick: Very true. And I think also the challenge that you have is that you're kind of as a woman in financial services and at these events, not only do you feel the pressure yourself, but you kind of automatically assume that you're flying the flag for the cause as well, which compounds a whole load more pressure on top of that as well. but you're quite right. And actually, let's be honest. I know it sounds like a bit like the matrix right now, but it can be a little bit like that, that actually instead of having those interactions, it's just something that's playing around us. When I go to London, one time to Washington and spoken to some people on the tube and stuff, they're kind of really freaked out with somebody saying good morning... it's really, really strange, but it's something I like to do because it actually just makes me realize that actually this is all real.
Kate: Yeah, definitely. So knowing that everyone kind of manages anxiety differently for those that might be experiencing some of it for the first time, maybe not even recognizing that that's what's happening, what would you recommend A) that they look out for, for those people that it might be the first time, and B) how to manage it?
Nick: Okay. So for me, I think it's the case of, I'm not sure if it's being, being used your side of the pond, but here we've been saying we're all in this together. and actually we're not really not. We're in the same storm, we're in different boats. And what I mean by that is the fact that we all have different perspectives, different challenges. And I think that, for example, I did a keynote talk for the NHS frontline conference, obviously a whole different set of challenges to elderly people that have been in isolation for most of the year, but actually just as relevant, just as frustrating, just as painful. So for me as somebody who's new to this, it could be looking around for solutions. then the challenge is that there's no there's no fix or for, for everybody or anybody that we are all different.
Nick: We all get affected by different things. But for me, it's about reading loads, listening to loads, watching loads, building your playbook. So if you read a one book and one line jumps out at you put that one line in your playbook and you start to build a kind of a blueprint, which is good and tailored for you. I think there's also recognizing that essentially in life, people just want to be heard and they want to be understood. And I think that right now, people don't feel that way. They don't genuinely feel that they're being heard. So it could be you, but also it could be somebody that comes to you. Then we have a responsibility not to fix people, unless you're a medical professional, they're not coming to you to be fixed. They just want you to listen and then they'll find their own way forward.
Nick: So if somebody comes to you, put the phone down, put the laptop away, genuinely listen. And I think our only responsibility to be a decent human being is to get very good at active signposting, knowing the organizations that can support people, knowing some trusted providers or solution providers that you can help by guiding them on their way. And that takes away the burden of, especially in a management or leadership role, but who looks after the people that looks after people is that kind of thing where the real challenge right now is that if you're responsible for a group of clients, a group of employees, a group, a team, then you can very easily take on that burden of everybody else plus your own staff. So actually your means of self protection needs to be amplified times 20, times 50, times a hundred, depending on your team size and that's near on impossible.
Nick: So I think for me, it's just getting very good at active signposting is a really good step along the way.
Kate: And what exactly does that mean?
Nick: When I work with clients, I get to find out, as part of the fact find up front, what counseling services they have internally, employee assistance programs. So, access to treatment, it could be mental health initiatives, mental health first aiders, lots of different things that companies and organizations will lay on for teams and people. But actually the engagement is typically low because actually it feels like a classroom environment that feels like a fix and people are really, really kind of anxious about approaching that. so for me, I engage by getting the audience to open up, getting the audience to have those conversations, have their thoughts, then I increase the engagement, sometimes even by 90% by one talk that people feel safe enough to engage.
Nick: So active sign posting could be that, but also externally the charities and the organizations that provide mental health services, it could be that you could find, I know here we have Mind who have an urgent help button on the website that actually will direct people to urgent help if they're really at a point of crisis. Just knowing that means that I have that in the toolbox to be able to help people. So for me, that's what active signposting is. It's knowing the solutions. Knowing where to send people, but then most importantly, knowing how you engage them and get them to, to engage with that service.
Kate: Yeah. And that'd be a great thing for financial services professionals to have. Cause like you said, it's not their role either to be the solution. It's good to have that engagement, but yeah, saying, Hey, here's some place that you might want to try. Here's a resource, here's a book, here's a website or call center.
Nick: I think that's a challenge. I think, especially in financial services, you are, you're constantly trying to solve the symptom, not the problem. The problem happens before it gets to you. And I think that's the challenge is trying to get to the root of the problem, which can only be done with a deep connection with people, getting to the root of the problem before it reaches the point that they come and see you in a state of panic or state of anxiety. So we're constantly trying to fix the symptoms to things. And I think we need to dig a little bit deeper.
Kate: Yup. So Nick, the last thing I want to touch on, cause I find it pretty fascinating is you talk about emotional storytelling and how to tell a story through you instead of from you.
Nick: It's easier said than done. And I speak personally on that one as well. So as you can tell, I get very passionate about this stuff. So if I go and deliver a keynote, even in a, in a kind of a trading room environment, not just a stage, but if I deliver a keynote, then I can basically give it everything I've got until I'm absolutely drained at the end of it. So for me, emotional storytelling is, is the practice of being able to convey emotion with power and clarity. So how do you sound if you are delivering sadness, for example So the three exercises that I run as part of my speaking Academy days, delivering sadness, delivering anger and delivering love. How do we sound when we deliver each of these things And for me, it's kind of like you're building the foundations of a keynote really, but for the audience to really leave on a high, you need to take them low.
Nick: And the personal story element is this. I would take them low very, very early, but never leave them there. So how can we convey that emotion without having to relive that yourself over and over again So for me, it's about, without changing the kind of, without making the message disingenuous, without changing the authenticity of what you're delivering is getting good at delivering emotion. So sadness is very, kind of much more slower pace, softer, the tone, the use of silence. And then we go to anger which is like, this is a rage and anger and very sharp and short. And then we go into love where you just kind of smiling and even on the phones, people can hear you smiling. So you kind of, it's going through those kind of range of emotions. Cause we don't do that. We don't actually, we try, the hardest exercise of the day is when I want you to talk about something that you hate.
Nick: People don't like that at all, because they're not used to that. They feel so reserved that they don't feel that, that somebody gives them that space. I've heard everything, you'll be amazed at what things really annoying people. but yeah, so emotional storytelling for me has, has an ultimate effect on our success by our own definition. Because if we are unable to deliver a message, whether that's be one person, whether it's 10,000 people with clarity and power and emotion that has as a real crippling effects on how, how far we can go in our chosen field, how far we can go in terms of our relationships. And it's interesting, a lot of people that come to those speaking Academy days are not just people that want to be stage speakers, not just because they want to represent their business or lead a team sometimes because they don't feel that being heard at home. But actually that personal relationship is really struggling because they haven't got the confidence to actually put across their point of view. So it's amazing why people come to the event, but emotional storytelling is the overriding hook. So I hope that makes sense.
Kate: Fascinating. And I'm certain, there are people listening that would love to take part in that. And I anticipate, is that something they can do virtually?
Nick: Yes. It's being run monthly virtually now. and yes, we'd love to see everybody come along. That'd be great.
Kate: Yeah. So Nick, I have linked to that. I've linked to your speaker page. Like we've mentioned you go in and talk with a lot of financial services companies and I, Nick, so want to appreciate you for your vulnerability, for how you're helping bring out vulnerability in others for your willingness and desire and passion around being human and encouraging everyone else to be human. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for everything you shared. Any final thoughts?
Nick: Thank you, Kate. Yes, I will. Big country music fan. For me, a track by Gary Allen is every storm runs out of rain. I always try and use quotes from country songs in my talks, ones that not about losing your doggy and misses or something. Every storm runs out of rain. I think right now people need to, people need to know that. And I think for me, we don't know when the storm is going to pass, but if you think about it, every storm you've been through has passed you at least survived it cause you're here. Most of the time we fly through it. Most of the time we've learned most of the time we come through smarter and happier, we just don't see it at the time. So every storm will want to have rain. And if somebody comes to you just remember they're coming to you to be heard and truly listened to, and that's it. You don't need the responsibility to try and fix everybody.
Kate: Yeah. That's a powerful reminder. We don't have to be the solution or have the solution.
Kate: Excellent. Thank you, Nick.
Nick: Thank you, Kate. It's been fun.