Jenny Petty from the University of Montana joins the show in this special “Lost Episode” from June 2021. How exactly do we lead with empathy when there are so many challenges facing our institutions? Jenny has thoughts.
Transcript for The Servant Marketer’s Guide to Leading with Empathy
Joel Goodman: Hey, y’all thanks for listening to Thought Feeder. This is an episode with Jenny Petty that we recorded back in 2021. So we’re considering this a lost episode. We hope you enjoy it. Welcome to the Thought Feeder podcast. My name is Joel Goodman with me as always is the unflappable Jon-Stephen Stansel. And we are so excited to have Jenny Petty on the show today.
Jenny is the VP of Marketing and Communications at the University of Montana. And we’re gonna have an awesome conversation. Jenny, thanks for being on the show.
Jenny Petty: Thanks so much for having me. I’m big fans of, of both of you. So I’m excited to be here.
Joel Goodman: Oh, it’s nice to have fans. Thanks.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Well, we’re fans of you as well. So we’ve got a lot, lot to talk about. So first, you know, just tell us a bit about yourself, you know, what, what do you do at the University of Montana? What does your daily life look like? Just the basic intro.
Jenny Petty: Yeah, so I came to the University of Montana about four months ago. Um, this is my first CMO CCO gig. Um, I came from the University of Wyoming where I led the enrollment and brand marketing there, um, for about six years. So I’ve been in higher ed for about seven years. And before that I came from the private sector.
So I worked for a lot of different, a lot of different industries and companies, um, directly before I came to higher ed. And I’ve been told not to tell people this, but I’m a woman of candor. So I’ll share with you that I came from the gaming industry. I worked for the world’s largest manufacturer of, um, of gaming equipment and games.
Um, and that was a pretty formative experience for me as a marketer. Um, so I’m not ashamed of it, although, um, it was like the seedier side of the private sector, but it was, it was a great gig, um, at the University of Montana. I am, I took this job because, a couple of reasons, one, I was ready to grow and stretch.
The president here is phenomenal and this was a cabinet level position. And that’s what I was looking for. Um, and in addition to that, this they’re in a building stage here. So right now, my day to day is a lot of we’re getting ready to launch into a brand process we’re growing and reshaping what the Marketing Communications Team here looks like.
Um, there’s just a lot of work to be done to, to grow and rebuild. And so as a first time CMO, I’m learning a lot of things, um, by fire and making mistakes for the first time in a long time and really enjoying, uh, enjoying this new chapter of my career.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: That’s awesome. And, and now we have a ton of stuff to unpack based upon that. So, first one I did, I did not know about your background in the gaming industry, which is very interesting because I’m starting. Dabble my toes into the gaming industry from higher ed. So what can, this wasn’t on our, our questions board, but now I want to know what, what can higher ed learn from the gaming industry and, and maybe even invite vice versa a little bit?
Like what, what, what do you see there?
Jenny Petty: So I came from the world’s largest manufacturer and they did so many things. They had been around for a really long time. Um, and. I was part of a global marketing department. So there was, you know, a hundred plus people that lived in our, in our marketing group. And I think what I learned from that experience was the power of marketing when you’re in an institution or organization, that marketing is just woven into the institutional strategy.
And I think that’s an area where higher ed, um, can struggle sometimes is that for so long, higher ed has looked at marketing as the output shop. Or the promotion shop. And I think we are on the cusp of this great new era, where for the wisest organizations out there, they will look at marketing as a strategic partner, which is why I was attracted to the University of Montana.
So many things, I mean, taking marketing, you know, as strategic institutional strategy, staffing it appropriately. Um, having salaries be appropriate. I think there’s a lot of things that higher ed can learn from the private sector when it comes to, to the way that a marketing group is organized and, uh, managed for a person like you, you know, JS who would be going the opposite way.
I mean, I think there probably would be areas that you find incredibly refreshing about the private sector. I also think, that folks who might be moving from higher ed to the private sector might also find cultural issues or culture challenging in the private sector. I know I came from a group that, although it was a hundred plus and we were highly functioning and we put out award-winning amazing work.
The in inside of the group was incredibly in competitive. Um, it was one of those things where, um, the politics just within our little, our big department were sometimes something that was tough to manage.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: I, I would agree. I think there’s a lot I’m I’m finding is refreshing, but there’s also a little bit of culture shock, um, back and forth. But you know, for me, the one thing that strikes me is like in the private industry, the stakes seem higher, but the pressure seems lower in certain regards of like, we’re not stressing over,
“Oh, oh, we have this tiny little program and we’ve gotta put this post out that maybe five people see there’s 10 layers of approval for it” — where at least my experience so far in the private industry is like, yeah, we’re, we’re launching a show this week. Um, that post looks great. Let’s do it. you know, which is so refreshing.
Like we trust you. We hired you for your expertise.
Jenny Petty: I would totally agree with you on that. And there was more, more trust and less layers of approvals and less bureaucracy. So that was a, that was a really great thing.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: But on the flip side of that, which which you mentioned at the University of Montana, you’re, you’re coming in kind of a newer position and, and being able to, to build something from the ground up, which is incredibly exciting, like, you know, to kind of forge the way. So, what’s your method?
What’s your first steps do you think, uh, is gonna take in doing that?
Jenny Petty: I think for any leader who steps into a group of people that you’re then just expected to lead, it takes a lot of trust building and a lot of time of getting to know folks. And so we are moving really quickly here, but I’m trying to do it in a way that I bring people along with me and, there’s a lot of, you know, education of, okay, I know you’ve done it before this way, but we’re gonna do it this way and it’ll be different.
And I promise it’s gonna be better. You just gotta kind of come along with me. So that first step of, of trust building I spent the first month or so meeting with every single person in my department, one on one, I had the entire department do an exercise that I really like called a stop, start, continue before I even started.
So I had them fill out, you know, for their individual role. Stop start, continue what they wanted to do. And then also collectively for the group, what needed to stop, start and continue. And so I used that as kind of my data to guide what reshaping the department will look like. Um, as well as the, the three strategic initiatives that I figured out pretty quickly, we needed to focus on.
And those were enrollment marketing, taking control of the narrative around the University of Montana. And the third piece was, the brand revitalization. Um, so we’re looking at not a rebrand, not anything like that, but we really need to essentially welcome in an era of like a brand Renaissance here of being prideful again, of, of this institution.
Joel Goodman: So you mentioned a few, well, I guess it was kind of more on the refreshing side of things in the private sector, but you mentioned a few of the, the various, uh, struggles that higher ed has. And I’m wondering if you could talk to some of the, the main challenges that you’re kind of keeping front of mind as you are building out this team or, or just looking at higher ed in general, what are those couple focus points that you think the rest of higher ed also needs to work hard to address kind of in, in tandem?
Jenny Petty: So I think one that’s top of mind for all of us is this, concern about the mass exodus of talent from higher ed and marketing specific marketing communications. Those are, those are jobs that can be done from almost anywhere. And so I think staffing is something that’s concerning to me is how am I going to as a leader, recruit really great talent when they’re gonna have so many more options than they’ve ever had before?
And how am I going to like attract the really great people who need to be motivated by the, the service and the purpose of it? Um, you know, am I gonna be able to attract people based on that more than, you know, lucrative salaries that they might be able to get in other places? I think, when it comes to the, what the last year taught us about marketing and communications departments and what it should have taught our organizations,
is that we are a pivotal key player in helping a university weather, all sorts of things, not just crisis, but we are a, a unit that can deliver results. We can help shape strategy. And what I’m worried a little bit about is that after we, we were coming out of the COVID phase and these marketing communications departments have been taxed and stretched in ways that they had that maybe the university didn’t know they could deliver on.
I’m afraid that we might slip a little bit back into being the, the poster maker output shops. And so I think there’s concern there. How do we keep this footing that we’ve gained over the last couple of years? Through this crisis that gave a lot of marketing opport, uh, communication shops, the opportunity to show their true chops of how much they can do for an institution.
Joel Goodman: I think one thing along those lines in hindsight, Um, I don’t, because I’m not on the inside so I’m on the agency side of things. I’ve been not surprised, I’ve just been kind of, I guess, bowled over with how much budget was left over in most institutions, marketing budgets, and how much work I have to get done by the end of it’s it’s, you know, it’s late June. I gotta get it done by the end of June.
As we’re recording this today, I wonder if there are any lessons to be learned. I mean, I think there are, I, I think there’s a lesson to be learned though. There’s a lot of money that probably could have been spent to make everyone’s job a little bit easier during a crisis, like the pandemic, but so few institutions recognized it or, uh, you know, or maybe it was like you were saying, they, they hadn’t really, learned how to value their MarComm organizations. You know, the, the folks within the marketing department and the work that they do, but do you think that’s a lesson anyone is learning? I I’m just calling out cause I just had that thought. Like, I don’t know that I’ve ever, I’ve heard anyone talking about that yet, or if that’s even gonna come up in this industry,
Jenny Petty: I think it’s a really good point with the money left over on the table. Right? We had to kind of table all of the normal operations that we would do in a year. We had to shift the way that we were reaching out to prospective students in new ways, we’d work with our admissions and our enrollment management teams in new ways.
But I can, I mean, I can say that like at the University of Wyoming, social media wasn’t respected until we went through COVID and then all of a sudden, well, not all of a sudden, I would say six months into it. There was this recognition like, oh, this is the place where we are communicating to all of our audiences about COVID and then it became one of those top of mind things where I had administrators who had never cared at all before telling me what should be on Facebook, what should be on Instagram, and so in some ways, right, it’s good. It brings to the top, like the abilities of our groups, but it’s also a bit frustrating because we’re, we’re sitting here saying, well, it’s always been this way now you’re validating it for us, but we’ve always known this to be true.
Joel Goodman: I think you also underscore a commonality, something that’s existed in this industry for years. And that’s the fact that everyone thinks they know how to do marketing’s job. Whether it’s the social media person’s job or social media team’s job, or whether it’s the CMO or whether it’s, you know, the web person or persons, you know, everyone thinks they know how to do their jobs.
And I, I think there’s a, a systemic issue. And I don’t know how to tackle cause I’ve been trying to tackle it for 15 years, but it’s not really going anywhere. But you there’s there’s this, I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. I wonder about that mentality and how. I mean, how do you, how do you deal with it? How, how are you coping with that with your team? How did you how’d you cope with it, you know, at University of Wyoming, that sort of thing, but there’s always this thought that, you know, the president or some senior vice president over here, or, you know, some board member or some faculty person, you know, isn’t getting what they think needs to get out of the marketing department and they know how to do the marketing department’s job better than the marketers actually do.
Jenny Petty: Yeah. So I often tell people that everyone’s a consumer, so everyone thinks they’re a marketer. And I think a lot of the time, what we have to do as marketers is we have to compile all of this data and we have to come in and be twice as competent to be seen half as good as what other groups might be able to, to do.
And I talk about this with our, our AVP of enrollment here at UM. We have the two jobs on campus that everyone thinks they can do. And it’s like nobody’s ever going up to the VP of research and saying, Well, let me tell you what you need to be doing. But I think because everyone’s a consumer, they have that as their frame of reference.
And so they know what they like. So they, they bring that to the table. But I think there is a massive oversimplification of the marketing field. JS, I joked with you on Twitter a long time ago about Canva, because I had a friend come to me and ask me for a logo. And in trying to explain to that person that I don’t do logos and trying to explain what I do do and all the different layers of what marketing is.
It takes a lot of time, like when we, if you were trying to explain performance marketing to someone who had no clue. We’d be like, well, yeah, they’re like the accountants of the marketing field, or I don’t even know what the comparison would be, but there’s so many different layers within marketing and there’s so many specialties and people do tend to completely oversimplify.
You know, how many times have you had someone who’s like, oh, just make a graphic or just throw this on the web. Like it happens all the time and there’s not a deep understanding of the depth of the work that we do and the expertise it requires, and that we are a craft and a skilled profession that takes years to develop.
And I’ve been in that situation where you’re trying to convince, and you feel like you’re like on the hamster wheel of trying to convince administration that you are worthy. And I like, I don’t know what this answer to that is.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: And I don’t wanna get on my Canva kick, but that’s also part of the problem too, is like that, that tool that everybody thinks, oh, I made this pretty thing in Canva, anybody can do this. It’s like, well, that’s not as good as you think it is. Right?
So yeah, I think that, that that’s another beef I have with that, that certain utility, but also to, to your earlier point on, on this, I think it is also a, a talent and retention issue.
You know, granted higher ed can often not pay a lot and offer some of the same benefits. The private industry can, but there’s the service part of it that people that believe in the mission and, and want to work on a college campus. But if you can’t provide the salary, at least you can provide the respect, and I think that’s a big part of it where I think a lot of people right now are on higher ed campuses. They’re looking at their, their bank account and going, hey, this isn’t that great. And then they’re looking at their email going, hey, nobody really is respecting my work or my, my expertise and my input, and they’re starting to look elsewhere.
So I think it comes down to making that, that case to leadership: You have to listen to your marketing team or they’re gonna leave. Right? You’ve got to let them feel like, and believe in them, but let them do the work that they want to do, and that needs to be done.
Jenny Petty: And I’m incredibly lucky because at the University of Montana, our president, he’s completely an untraditional, like he came from the private sector. He has an amazing background that is much deeper than that, but he came from GE before he came to the University of Montana.
So he and I already have a shared language around marketing and strategic planning and the way that we fit in. And I haven’t found that with many other folks in higher ed. Um, when you’re talking to a traditional president who came up through the ranks of faculty and they have their specialty that they’re passionate about trying to find a way in to their psyche of here’s why I’m important to you can be really, really hard.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: It’s so rare, but when you find it, it’s so refreshing it’s just so, and you can spot the schools that’ve got, got it. You know, cause their marketing’s better but yeah, that, that, that sort of leadership is really important. One thing that you’ve spend a lot of time talking about, and I think it’s, I wanna take enough time to address this, cause this is a big, big issue.
You talk a lot about Servant Marketing. So can you briefly or, or not briefly take your time, right? Describe what Servant Marketing is and how we can apply this philosophy to our work?
Jenny Petty: Yeah. So I’ll back up and, and just explain, I just recently finished my masters from Gonzaga in Organizational Leadership, and I chose Gonzaga because they had a servant leadership concentration. And I didn’t know anything about servant leadership, but when I was looking for a master’s program, I remember looking on their website and being like, wow, that’s something that I need to look into.
And even on the surface of understanding servant leadership, it was this like validating moment of, oh my gosh, I can lead the way that I want to lead. I don’t need to lead the way that all these books are telling me, or like Cheryl Sandberg’s telling me to lean in and like do all these things, right?
Like I can lead in a way that’s super authentic to me, and at its core, like servant leadership is about leaving places better than you found them, treating people with humility and care, and this creeps people out, but it’s like really based in coming from a place of leadership that’s based in love and not fear.
And so for me, it was like really a refreshing to, to learn about this philosophy. And then as I ended the near, like the close of my program, I had to do a capstone class that was like 16 weeks long. And I was trying to figure out what I was gonna do as my capstone project. And I decided I wanted to explore the intersection of the servant leadership philosophy and the marketing profession.
And I think the, the nugget of this, like the seed was planted probably four or five years ago. I was on, the hashtag higher ed podcast with Steve App and we were talking about inbound marketing and he had asked me like, explain inbound marketing to people who might not, you know, understand it.
And I gave him this answer about how I felt like it was a more altruistic way of marketing and it was really about, you know, out being out there to help consumers and attract them that way rather than like traditional means of just peppering them with advertising or things like that. And then I kind of laughed it off on the interview, like ha ha ha.
Like if marketing could even be altruistic. But that seed was planted of wait, it can, can’t it? And so I spent this capstone project exploring that and I produced a podcast called The Servant Marketer and there’s 22 episodes out there. I would love to pick it up again at some point when I’m not taking on a new job and moving my family and all that good stuff.
But there were some, some pieces of really great content. I think that help us glean what it means to be a server marketer. And there’s a couple of themes. Um, so one of them is using our creativity responsibly. So we are all really super creative folks. We think about all sorts of ideas, but if we’re just blindly putting work out into the world and assuming that it’s good, just because it’s creative we have to take a step back and be really reflective about the work that we do as marketers, because it’s incredibly powerful and it reaches a lot of people. Um, another one was being dedicated students of diversity and inclusion and working to include that, not just in the teams that we build, but in the work that we do in a way that’s authentic to our brands. Um, and the people that we’re trying to represent. Putting honesty at the center of all we do. Um, I think marketers don’t have a great reputation for being honest. And you take that back to like the days of Mad Men and the ideas that kind of sprout up in our society about marketing and advertising.
But I think that was one of the core tenants was like, let’s be honest about the work that we do and what we put out into the world. And then another was just having humility and being vulnerable and open to, um, serving the world in a way that they need from us, not just what we think the world needs. So there’s a lot, there’s still more work there to be done that I would love to pick back up at some point.
But I think for anyone who is attracted to service and especially folks in higher ed, there’s a lot to learn from the servant leadership philosophy.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Especially from a social media standpoint, all of those pillars applied it, you, every single aspect of a social media strategy, or even just individual bits of social media content of, of looking at it from every angle with you know how things can be interpreted or, or who your audience is. Um, you know, we just had father’s day, I think that’s a, a big example of, hey, not everybody has great feelings about their father or some people may have had, you know, their. Father’s no longer with them or, you know, all, all of the, these issues that we really need to take into account as, as we craft our content and have that empathy for our audience.
But I, I really like that concept of, using creativity responsibly, um, you know, creativity is a power, with great power comes great responsibility. Like how are we using our creativity to make the world and our communities better?
Jenny Petty: Exactly. And we’ve got plenty of examples out there that we can of when creativity has gone wrong. Um, Amma Marfo wrote this fantastic book. She actually joined me on the podcast and she wrote a whole book about creativity and building creativity in our teams. And. um, one of the things that struck me when, when my conversation with her was like for creativity to take place, people have to feel safe.
And so that’s another piece of the servant leadership philosophy is how do we create environments at work that can actually help people heal? And that gets kind of deep, but thinking about work in that way, we, we don’t think about work in that way. Right? Like we think about work as show up, get a paycheck.
Like maybe you make some friends. But I think we can hold our workplaces to higher standards and think about ’em as being catalysts for major change in our lives.
Joel Goodman: I think that circles back to your point about the mass Exodus happening, you know, it’s like your question, like, can you convince someone to, to join up based on, you know, the mission of, of the institution? As a leader, Um, you have to understand those kind of intrinsic, you know, it’s, it’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, right? Like you’re, you’re sitting there like, yes, everyone’s coming into jobs, just wanting to take care of their basic needs, pay their rent, buy food, take care of their, you know, their families or their pets, or, you know, whatever.
But then there’s this side of, if you want them to buy into that missional aspect that you know, that very. I guess altruistic, uh, idealistic side of, of what you’re doing and, and transform the role that they’re in, you have to value them and value their talents as well. And sometimes that comes with money.
Sometimes that just comes with having better, you know, care, care, benefit packages, like it, sometimes it comes with flexibility sometimes it’s, it’s really just recognizing that every individual in your organization is independently unique.
Jenny Petty: Have either of you ever had the, the boss that you would like walk through fire for?
Joel Goodman: Oh, yeah.
Jenny Petty: Yeah. So like if we had more of those, right? Like, think about the stability we could offer organizations when you have those, those managers or leaders who are so invested in not only the results of what they’re leading, but the people who are helping them get there.
And I think about that a lot, when it comes to servant leadership is like, how do we develop more leaders who become that person, who become the person that, people would follow anywhere or do anything for. Um, and I think, I think what the, for a lot of people, here’s the thing about servant leadership is like, it’s not easy it’s it requires so much self-reflection, humility, understanding our own flaws as leaders and owning up to those. Like, there’s a lot of awareness that has to come if you’re gonna be a servant leader. And there’s also an understanding that you’re never gonna be finished on the journey to being a servant leader. Like you are always gonna be a work in progress.
You don’t get to be like this beacon on a hill that people aspire to be you’re in it with them. And I think for some people, the idea of servant leadership is like, oh, that’s too touchy, feely. Like I’ll buy into this, you know, book that tells me how to lead with five steps or whatever. Um, but the it’s a deeper, it’s a deeper calling I think when you start digging into the servant leadership doc, like, I don’t wanna call it a doctrine, but philosophy.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: You know, it comes back to, you know, the times I’ve worked with that boss that I’d walk over hot coals for it’s the work has been better, you know, and also vice versa, knowing that that boss would walk over hot coals for me, like it’s, it goes both ways. And, back to this idea of, of retention, right?
We’re having this problem in higher ed right now, when I left that job, like it broke my heart. I didn’t wanna go. I just, I got offered a lot more money and my boss was like, hey, you you’ve got to, I’m sorry, like and that, that’s part of that servant leadership of like, knowing like, hey, this is an opportunity for, you know, one of my employees to, to go on and take off and, and, and can do things there that, we cannot provide and, and being willing to let go a little bit that, that’s, it’s such a rare thing, but it’s amazing.
Jenny Petty: Absolutely. So within servant leadership, there’s these 10 characteristics that have been kind of, um, taken out of the writings of Robert Greenleaf, who is the guy who was the first person, I guess to, servant leadership has existed all through, I mean, everywhere. Like you can go look, look back at the stoicism writings and Marcus Aurelius like it’s been around for a long time, but Robert Greenleaf is the guy who wrote several books on it based on his, his entire career was spent at, AT&T T in like the forties, fifties, sixties, uh, little bit of the seventies, and there’s 10 characteristics that have been pulled out of those, those writings and the growth of people is one of them.
And, and sometimes that does mean letting go. Sometimes it means having really tough conversations with people about, you know, what stage they’re in and where they need to develop. And, it’s also looking at ourselves and thinking, well, I have to always be growing as well. I can’t just be the leader who tells people what to do, and doesn’t actually understand the work that they’re doing.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: I I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and, and stoic philosophy is kind of making a bit of a comeback, but I think it’s coming back for the wrong reasons. I think there’s this misconception of this, like manly, quiet, introspective, I’m gonna think about death for an hour, you know, thing of stoicism, but, but it’s also about empathy. It’s a, it’s about being a servant. It’s about being the kind of leader who who’s open and caring in ways. And I think that part of the philosophy is, is just lost on about 70% of the people that get into it.
Jenny Petty: I think you’re right. I think there is like, there is kind of a, um, there’s that masculine tone to like, I love Ryan Holiday’s books. I’ve read them. Like, I think he’s phenomenal, but I do think there is kind of this, like, hyper-masculine take on it right now. That is, you know, like here’s the new way to be a man.
Like, let’s look at the old way of being a man kind of thing. So I don’t know, I enjoy his writing, but, uh, I think suspending the ego is something a lot of us can learn, especially in marketing. So.
Joel Goodman: Oh, there’s this humility aspect of just getting rid of your pride. Right? And I, because I think like once you can set aside this idea that, you know everything, you are or at least like, I more like, I don’t even think you have to get rid of the, the mentality that you know everything, it’s just, you don’t have to like tell everyone that you know everything all the time.
Right? It’s, it’s more about treating other people with respect and a big part of that is just being able to set aside that ego, that, that pridefulness, and then everything else can follow after that.
Jenny Petty: Right. And I think when you can get to that space, it’s really, it can be a really amazing transformational time through your career. And I’m trying to be really conscious of that as stepping into like my first CMO role is making like, being humble about it. Like, no, I’m gonna make mistakes. I’m not perfect. I’m doing this for the first time.
I’m being stretched in new ways. I’m stepping into leadership in new ways that I never have before. And I want, you know, people to know that they can come to me with feedback. They can say, Hey, you didn’t handle this the way I would’ve. And I’m open to that and I want to hear it. um, at the same time while being respected for the knowledge and the, like the career I bring with me to this position experience.
I think there’s a fear, right? A fear of if you’re not the smartest person in the room that you’re not the leader. And I don’t subscribe to that at all. I love hiring people who are way smarter than me because it makes my job so much easier. I love learning from folks who work for me, who are, who are just brilliant.
And I think a lot of leaders have a hard time when you transition from an individual contributor role to being a leader, it’s like the more you ascend, the further you get away from the work. And when you love the work, it’s really hard. Sometimes not to step back in and say, insert yourself in ways that you shouldn’t be inserted.
And that can be really hard. And, and I think we’ve all probably had examples of leaders who can’t do that, who can’t step back. And that’s when you end up with the micromanagers or the leaders who are staying up into the middle of the night, doing tasks that they should be delegating. And so I try to stay really conscious of that of making sure that I’m I’m secure enough and confident enough in my abilities and knowledge to also know what I don’t know.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: I think about this quote from a, a short-lived television show, Sports Night by Aaron Sorkin, but it says, you know, if you’re not smart, you know, surround yourself with smart people. If you are smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you. And I kind of want to edit that quote from disagree, telling maybe challenge you
but I think about that, that a lot. And it’s like, yes, iron sharpens iron, right? You, you want to work with other people that, that are, are smart in ways that you are not, or, you know, and, and it only makes you better this idea that if we have to be the smartest person in the room all the time, it’s just, it’s so damaging to everybody.
Jenny Petty: And it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to try to keep up a charade like that. Um, and I think that’s where we see leaders burn out and turn over and move on, is when they try to come in with that false sense of like bravado and then they try to keep the act up.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: One big question I wanna address cuz you you’ve written about embracing righteous anger and, and turning anger into curiosity. We are all angry from time to time and anger is normal and it is healthy and it can actually be turned into something that is positive.
Right? So can you talk a little bit about this? I think it makes a lot of sense. So can you, expand on that idea of, of embracing righteous anger and, and turning it into curiosity?
Jenny Petty: So it’s something that, through my master’s studies, I started to examine a little bit more and it stems from, there was a class I took where there was a big focus on this thing called adult development theory. And so within adult development theory, and you can Google this there’s two great, like medium articles that explain adult development theory if you don’t wanna dig into like the intellectual academic text, but adult development theory, essentially is that we don’t stop developing once we reach adulthood. And there are kind of these different stages of development for adults. And, you know, some people are in like lower and that’s not meant to be a bad thing, but lower stages than others and the needs of the people in a lower stage, the needs and their desires, and also the way that they interact with people is different. And so there’s a great book called Immunity to Change written by Robert Kegan.
And he goes into this a little bit more about just, the different adult development stages, why change is so hard and when we were in this class learning about this adult development theory, the professor said something that has stuck with me ever since, and she said, that one of the greatest indicators of where we are in our development is how conscious we are in the space between being stimulated by something and our response to it. And that really stuck with me because I started thinking about for me I don’t know if you have done the Enneagram? Um, and I’m not super deep into it, but what I can tell you is I did the Enneagram.
I was like an 8w7 (8 wing 7), although like real hard three tendencies. I don’t know how that works, but what I saw on like some Enneagram diagram or wheel or something was like the 8w7’s response is anger. And I was like, oh, snap. There it is like, yes, that is me. And I think if you talked to like people I work with, they would be like, no, she’s cool as can be.
But if you ask my husband, he’d be like, yes. Yep. That’s the, that’s the response she has. And it’s true. Like that is my go to response of when I feel threatened or like things are heightened it’s to be mad.
Joel Goodman: I’m, I’m also an Eight, so I, I understand this. I wanna pause right there if we can, because I think there’s, there’s something really interesting is you, you talked about that the two, like sides of the personality, right? Where you’re with the people you work with, like, oh yeah, she’s great. She’s cool and everything, but, but you know, the, the people, the few people I’m guessing that are, that you allow to be very close to you and, and know who you are, see that, that anger and that, that fire, right. That gut side of, of the, the Eight type.
And what’s interesting there is that cool part and, and also like everything we’ve talked about on this show regarding servant leadership and humility and all that stuff, that’s that healthy side of the eight, right? That’s that’s that side where you have realized that you’re integrating towards a Two and that you actually do care about other people and want to care about other people.
And if you’re like me, a lot of times, the anger that comes up is because those people you care about are threatened or being challenged or being undervalued or being, you know, whatever. And so it’s not necessarily that you are angry at a specific person or at a specific situation. You’re just angry for a lot of people.
And for a lot of the things that are going on, because they’re not it’s injustice, right? There’s, there’s something that’s not happening that should be happening. And, and it feels, uh, it’s just a giant challenge.
Jenny Petty: Yeah, so on the unhealthy Eight side, you know, when you have anger that’s unexamined and you don’t have that pause or that space between being stimulated in your response. That’s when you see things like the nastygrams that show up in your email or the people who spout off to you on social media or, the person who will run into your office and yell, and so I think the challenge of anger is examining it, and it’s not letting it be something that is, like you were saying directed solely at a person, but it’s ju it’s using, um, righteous anger of, you know, things that are injust. And also recognizing, I think for me, righteous anger as a woman, a lot of the time when we’re we’re raised.
And I know I’m not the only woman who experiences this, but you you’re raised and you’re, you don’t wanna rock the boat. You wanna be the good girl. You wanna follow the rules, you wanna make everybody comfortable, and so you don’t acknowledge the righteous anger or things that are upsetting you. And I think that’s super unhealthy.
And so it’s like, how do we make sure that when we’re angry, we’re embracing it and using it in a, a way that is for good? And it’s a powerful emotion.
Joel Goodman: Anger for anger’s sake, usually just destroys stuff. And if you have no way to channel that into rebuilding or, causing good change, then it’s a very destructive thing.
Jenny Petty: Exactly. And I think you can use the trick of the space between stimulus and a response for a lot of different emotions. So you can use it for anxiety. You can use it for sadness, just thinking, you know, reflecting on our own emotions in real time can often slow down, that feeling that you need to, to react immediately.
And I think slow decision making can be a really good thing.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, I think that’s definitely something we don’t highlight enough of like allowing that slow time. You know, I often tell myself sometimes you have to slow down to speed up. Right? You’ve got to, to take a moment, step back, evaluate the situation. And sometimes, you know, we don’t allow that time for ourselves and our schedules.
We think we constantly have to be doing output, output output, and especially in creative fields where hey, some of that time where you are just pondering or examining your ideas and emotions is really productive. And it’s what leads to that output. I think that’s something we really have to pay close attention to and, um, protect.
Jenny Petty: Yeah, and we should make it a normal part of what we all do, is the time to reflect and, um, time away from our computers and desks. And I took a, my last class that I took at Gonzaga, um, was a class on foresight and strategy and it, it actually really messed me up. Um, it was like a really deep class. I expected going in like, okay, they’re gonna gimme like checklists of how to build strategy or something like that.
But instead the entire class was like this deeply reflective experience of, you know, how do you go in to solve for the outside? And so we meditated like three times a day. We started every, every class was a, you’re supposed to do a solo walk in nature with no distractions. And I hadn’t slowed down for so long that it really messed me up.
I cried every single day of the class I cried for about a month afterwards. Like, and it, but it was a good stark reminder for me of what I was not doing for myself and for my team.
Jon-Stephen Stansel: I think after listening to this podcast, everyone needs to stop. Take your earbuds out, get away from your screen and pause and reflect on what we’ve all learned today. I think I’m gonna go do that right now, but first Jenny, can you please, uh, let us people know where they can find you, where can they find you on social, uh, your website, all, all that good stuff.
Jenny Petty: Uh, yeah. So you can find me @IAmJennyPetty on Twitter. I’m always happy to, uh, chat with folks about their careers. Um, so feel free to reach out to me there. Or you can find me on LinkedIn. Um, and I love meeting folks in and out of higher ed. So I love people and would love to meet more folks. So reach out.
Joel Goodman: Once again, we want to thank Jenny Petty for being on the show. Thanks Jenny, for bringing your smarts and chatting with us.
Jenny Petty: Thank you guys so much.
Joel Goodman: Thank you so much for listening to the Thought Feeder podcast. If you enjoy our show, you can listen to all of the back episodes at thought feeder pod.com, where we also have transcripts for every episode. Please subscribe on Apple Podcast or Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. We are definitely listed there and if we’re not let me know on Twitter and I will fix it. Also follow us on Twitter, @ThoughtFeedPod.
Thought Feeder is a production of Bravery Media.