Episode 300

Add the Bravery Trick to Your Marketing Toolkit


June 11th, 2024

18 mins 1 sec

Your Host

About this Episode

Mark Reed-Edwards: My guest on Confessions of a Marketer today is Ed Evarts—author of The Bravery Trick: Four Ways to Say Hard Things. The book has been praised by scholar Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School as untangling the behavior of bravery in ways that allow us to move forward. The Bravery Trick is available on Amazon.

Ed is the founder and president of Excellius Leadership Development, which focuses on helping its clients build awareness of how others experience them in the workplace so they can manage that experience effectively. He’s written two other books and is host of the Be Brave at Work podcast.

If you're wondering what bravery has to do with marketing, well, everything, really.

So be brave and keep listening. I've also known Ed for longer than I'd care to admit, but it's great to have him here. Ed, welcome.

Ed Evarts: Thank you, Mark. I think we met when we were toddlers, or at least.

Mark Reed-Edwards: Yeah, preschool. Yeah. But anyway, we won't go into that. Could you tell me a bit about your career and what led you to found Excellius?

Ed Evarts: So I spent a number of years post college working in retail and worked for a number of local New England retailers, Jordan Marsh, Filene's and Lechmere, who are all gone. I left retailing in 1998 and began working at a records management company called Iron Mountain. I was at Iron Mountain for almost 10 years.

I got laid off from Iron Mountain in 2008 and was at a juncture in my life where I really didn't want to work for a company any longer. And so I spent that summer networking and talking with people about how to start your own business, which for somebody who had been employed with others for my whole career, I had no idea how to start my own business and what to focus on.

So I did that that summer. And then in the fall of 2008, decided to open up my own practice, which at first I called Evart's Coaching because I wanted people to know who I was and what I was doing. And then two to three years later converted it to Excellius Leadership Development.

Mark Reed-Edwards: It's funny how layoffs can have a catalytic effect on your life, not just economically, but sometimes success can come out of the hardest points in your life.

Ed Evarts: Well, I have built a new relationship with the person who laid me off at iron mountain. And just to tell that story quickly: my performance review was late and this boss called me and said, "Ed, I'm ready to give you your performance review. Can you come to my office at four o'clock today?" And I said, "Sure."

So I was excited to get my performance review. I went into her office and I sat down and she said, "In reality, Ed, I'm not here to give you your performance review. I'm here to let you know that we've made a decision to eliminate your role at the company." So for that day and for a few years following it, it was the worst day of my professional career.

And I can say with all honesty, Mark, 16 years later, it was the best day of my professional career because they kicked me out and I had to make some decisions, which I was not anticipating needing to make. And it just opened up a whole slew of opportunities. And I joke, I think today I'd still be at Iron Mountain if I didn't get kicked out.

And so to your point, it was you know, a great, great opportunity that at first felt horrible.

Mark Reed-Edwards: I have a similar story, which we won't go into, because this is all about you, Ed. So, I'd love you to share the story about your podcast, Be Brave at Work.

Ed Evarts: So I would say about five years ago, I had coffee with a colleague that I worked with at Lechmere, I think 20 years previously. And so when I left Lechmere, this person and I did not stay in contact at all. And then when I left Iron Mountain in 2008, we began connecting virtually. And so said hi on LinkedIn and checked in on LinkedIn.

And I think about 10 years after that, he said, let's go get a coffee, let's catch up and hear what's going on in our careers. So we met for a cup of coffee at the proverbial Starbucks in Waltham and we were updating each other on our careers. And he told me he was starting a podcast production company.

And I said something innocent, like, "Wow, I've always wanted to start a podcast." And he said, "Gee, Ed, what would it be on?" And I said, I really believe without missing a beat, "I think I'd want to talk about being brave at work."

And so that wonderful colleague who I met and who sparked this idea of being brave at work is none other than the great Mark Reed-Edwards.

Mark Reed-Edwards: No, that's me?

Ed Evarts: That's you.

Mark Reed-Edwards: That was a really interesting conversation that we had, because it was, quite innocently, it was just a couple of people who hadn't seen each other in 20 something years, just grabbing coffee and updating them. And it shows the value of meeting face to face and just having conversations with no pretext and what can come from that.

Out of the conversation rose Be Brave at Work.

Ed Evarts: Yeah. And it was a great combination, Mark, between your sincerity and interest in helping me kick off a podcast and making it work, and my commitment and interest in doing it, that led me to host almost 270 conversations with business leaders and professors and many average everyday people on bravery at work that ultimately led me to author the book that you mentioned earlier that came out in May of this year called The Bravery Trick. So all of that started with this innocuous, innocent little cup of coffee at a Starbucks.

Mark Reed-Edwards: And was the book something that was kind of percolating as you were producing episode 50, or was it something that when you got through all 270 or whatever it is that you thought out of that, I should be able to get a book. When when did the book start rising up as an idea?

Ed Evarts: So I don't know at what podcast the idea started to generate, but I did have one of those moments where I said, "You know, there's a book here. I'm hearing similar theories and philosophies and experiences from real people in the real world." So this isn't stuff I just sat back and created in the, you know, the confines of my office, but in listening to people and their experiences and the regret that they felt not saying something that was hard to say or doing something that was hard to do that I thought could result in a book.
I'm a big fan of the number three. And so, as you mentioned I needed a third book in order to satisfy my need to do things in threes, and so this became the recent book.

Mark Reed-Edwards: And the book is fascinating. I got it over the weekend. And I'm interested as I page through it, there is a section on Reasons to be Brave. Can you go into that and share a bit about the reasons we should be brave?

Ed Evarts: When I wrote the book, Mark, I really wanted to write it in a way that can connect with everyday, average people. I didn't want it to be too professorial or 800 pages, but I wanted it to be kind of a simple, easy to understand, easy to read, overview of ideas and suggestions on how you could be brave at work.
And there are an innumerable number of benefits that we lose or don't take advantage of for ourselves by not being brave at work. So for example, in the book, I talk a little bit about spiritual development that by being brave at work and saying something that's hard to say to a colleague or doing something that might be hard to do can actually help you feel better because you get it out of your head and out of your system.

It might be something that's stressing you out or making you feel uncomfortable. And if you never do anything about it, it might cause you to make bad decisions. So there's a spiritual development that can happen by saying something to a colleague that can be helpful to them. There's also mental development, right?

So, saying something that may be hard to say or doing something that may be hard to do helps build your mental capacity as a leader. We all want to be effective, impactful leaders and yet we can't get there unless we're doing things that help us grow and evolve. And, you know, I love and I mentioned in the book a quote from former first lady Michelle Obama who said, "Through my education, I didn't just develop skills, I didn't just develop my ability to learn, I developed confidence."

And so there's this ability mentally to be more confident with what you do and who you are. And then the last benefit is physical development. That there's this whole brain arena that I touch on quickly but don't go into great detail that allows certain things in your brain to work in a way that helps you grow and develop.

So it helps you physically be brave at work. It helps you spiritually and it helps you mentally say things respectfully and professionally at all times to a colleague, friend, a next door neighbor, a family member, whoever it might be in ways that help them.

Mark Reed-Edwards: But are there things that an organization, a company, can do to encourage bravery? To encourage me as an employee going to my manager with an idea that could help the company. In some cases that dynamic between the employee and the manager is fraught because the employee is afraid to raise his or her hand to make a suggestion because it might get shot down, you know, even though the employee might think it's a great idea.

Ed Evarts: You're dead on. And one of the obstacles that currently exists to being brave at work is: does our culture recognize it or honor it? And if I work in an organization where raising my hand and making a suggestion is not well received or is not honored or respected, my likelihood for doing it even if I want to do it is diminished. And so in the book I talked a little bit about the fact that being brave at work is a two way street.

I need to have the skills and capabilities to say what I need to say or do what I need to do in a very helpful and respectful way. But I need to know that the other person is going to receive it well. If I wanted to tell you something, Mark, that I think is hard to say, or I'm not sure if you're going to receive it well, but we have a great relationship, you know that I want to help you, I'm motivated to help you, your likelihood for listening and participating in that is significantly more likely than if you're not that way, right?

That if I think it's just going to fall on deaf ears and won't make a difference. So the culture we exist in is significant, and ironically, the person you mentioned at the start of the podcast, Amy Edmondson, Is an expert--global expert--on something called psychological safety, which is this arena or culture we create where I can be who I need to be professionally and respectfully.

But if I'm at a meeting and I need you to repeat something or I need to make a recommendation that's controversial, I can do it without feeling judged or belittled or get, you know, people getting defensive or argumentative. So the culture we create is super important to ensure people can be brave at work.

Mark Reed-Edwards: So, yeah, boy, it's such a big topic in marketing, I think, which is where I've made my living because we're always trying to come up with ideas, be creative or present data that may not be what our superiors want to hear. So I'm going to encourage everybody I know in marketing to pick up this book.
So can you share a bit about the Bravery Trick Model?

Ed Evarts: I can, but before we go there, Mark, I'm just curious as you talk about individuals who focus on marketing or have a career in marketing, do you believe that all of them have opportunities to be braver, to say something that might be hard to say, or do something that might be hard to do --respectfully and professionally at all times?

But I mean, do you think these opportunities exist out there for people who focus on marketing?

Mark Reed-Edwards: Oh yeah. And I mean, in my area, it's all about ideas. So when I present a concept, sometimes you're maybe a little hesitant to say, well, here's my real idea.
You're trying to gauge what the reception would be for an outlandish idea. And so maybe you go with a safe option.

Ed Evarts: Yeah, I am not an expert in marketing, but based on my expertise in bravery, I have to believe that marketing and the activity of marketing, especially this model of idea creation requires bravery constantly, that you constantly...

Mark Reed-Edwards: Mm hmm.

Ed Evarts: ...have to say, "wow, great idea. This is going to be very interesting or controversial.

How do I present it? How do I share it with others? What way can I engage others in respect to adopting this idea or at least considering it, right? How do I make it a candidate for something that we want to do?"

Mark Reed-Edwards: It requires bravery to press send on an email campaign. It requires bravery to push a website live after you've totally renovated a website. It requires bravery for me as, you know, someone who makes a living as a writer, sometimes to send a draft to a client. But, but you do those things as a matter of course, maybe you don't even think that it's brave to do that.

Ed Evarts: Yeah, I think a lot of times we do things that others think require bravery and we ourselves don't. Or required a ton of bravery that people think were easy to do. So bravery is complex in respect to its existence in the workplace. And again, I hope people find time to purchase the book and think about some ideas.

And I want to go back to the question you asked earlier, which was the bravery trick model. So based on the feedback that I heard from the people I interviewed in the podcast, we also did a survey of the marketplace in respect to bravery as it exists in the workplace. My own experiences being a corporate leader for 20 plus years, and my relationship with clients for the last 16 years in all different industries at all different levels.

You know, the model is essentially made up of four areas, which is Practice, Presence, Future Focus, and Flexibility. If you practice what it is that you want to say, that you're very present at the meeting, and ensure the person knows that you're all in on what it is that you're talking about, that you focus on the future, you focus on where you're going, not where you've been, and you're flexible with the outcomes and decisions and next steps, your likelihood for being brave at work is increased.

Mark Reed-Edwards: The thing that I like about the book is that it's really easy to follow. So as you said, you know, it's not a 400 page treatise on bravery. It's a really approachable, well organized book. So I recommend people go out and get it on Amazon right now. Finally, and maybe this is where marketing and bravery intersect: what's the experience of marketing and launching a book? That took some bravery, I would think, right?

Ed Evarts: I don't know if it took bravery. It certainly took diligence but yeah, I mean, you know, bravery again is very hard to define and very hard to understand what again might have been a brave thing for me. You know, there are some people who going to a networking event is bravery for them. It's very hard to walk into a room with people they've never met and interact.

And many people don't even do it because of that reason. For me, I could walk in and, next thing, you know, I've got 10 new best friends. So it's a no brainer, but you know, I think it's diligence and persistence. I think all books need to have some type of model or premise that you're operating around that you want to share.

Everything I write, Mark is designed to educate and help others. And that's why it's written in the way that it's written. I've been a big fan of business books throughout my career. I've read a million business books, and the ones I remember most, and the ones that I'm most attracted to and go back to, are the ones that are simply written, right?

They're written by people for people. And they're, again, they're not this 400 page, you know, encyclopedia type book on whatever topic it is that you're reading. Like you, I hope folks have an opportunity to read it and walk away with one or two ideas that they can integrate into their style that will help them be braver at work.

Mark Reed-Edwards: Well, it's great, Ed, and it's great reconnecting with you after a while. I hope the, the book continues to do well, and I wish you luck in the future. Thanks for joining me.

Ed Evarts: Thanks, Mark. It's been great chatting with you.

Mark Reed-Edwards: We'll see you on the next Confessions of a Marketer.