June 21, 2022

Self-Assessment: Dr. Gary Crotaz

Self-Assessment: Dr. Gary Crotaz

In this show we discuss the skill of Self-Assessment. Before you know where you are heading in your career, you must know where you are. You must know what moves you, what you are good at. My guest offers a comprehensive approach to gain clarity on...

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In this show we discuss the skill of Self-Assessment. Before you know where you are heading in your career, you must know where you are. You must know what moves you, what you are good at. My guest offers a comprehensive approach to gain clarity on this. Dr Gary Crotaz (https://garycrotaz.com/) is a mindset coach and author of the IDEA Mindset book. In this episode he talks about the step-by-step approach of this IDEA mindset framework and actionable steps you can take to achieve a fulfilling life.

If you are ready to improve on essential skills like communications, productivity and team management, you now have the opportunity to work with host Yadi Caro.

With 15 years of experience working with major consulting companies in tech and defense in software and engineering teams, Yadi’s credential also include Organizational Behavior Graduate certificate from Harvard, Masters in Mass Communications, and certifications such as Project Management (PMP), Scrum, Lean Six Sigma and Knowledge Management.
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Connect with me via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/yadiraycaro/ or email me at yadi@hardcoresoftskillspodcast.com


Yadi Caro:  Well welcome Dr. Crotaz here to the show. 

Dr. Gary Crotaz: Thank you so much for inviting me. I'm delighted to be here. 
YC:  I'm very happy to talk with you. I have been reading  your book, the Idea Mindset, and it's, I want to take the time to do all the different exercises that your book teachers cause you basically talk about a step by step of, uh, becoming a better you better self. So I wanna talk to you about the book and many other things about, about the topic of today, which is self-assessment. So, but first of all, your career started in medicine? Could you talk about that and that transition? 

GC: Yeah, so, so when I left school as, so I based in the UK, I went to medical school in the UK. In the UK you go straight to medical school after you are 18. And I went through medical school. I spent eight years there doing all my medical training and I did a PhD in a lab as well. Um, and about a year from the end, so I was about 27. That was really the first time that I started to ask myself the question, but what do you really wanna do with your career? And it was a real moment because you don't do that in medical training. One, it's very intense too,  everybody's on the same path that sort of progresses year to year to year. Um, and I, I just suddenly realized that what I'd been doing for a long time was interesting, but I didn't love it. And I didn't see myself fulfilling a, a complete career doing that. And so that was the first time that I started to look elsewhere. And I realized that I was more interested in taking up a career in business than to taking up career as a doctor. And therefore I switched into business at that point. 

YC: So that is interesting. So you started business and then, um, in your background as well. I see what you talk about in the book is you are also a ballroom dancer, like a professional ballroom dancer, not on the weekend type of thing. 

GC: Yeah. So I started ballroom dancing when I was four years old and my parents took me to dance classes and I was one of those cute little kids in a white shirt and a black bow tie. Um, and I'd done that all the way through to university and then had stopped at that point. So I, medical school had become very busy and I thought that I was never gonna do it again. And actually I picked it up again in my late twenties, I met my now wife, uh, to form a ballroom dancing partnership. And we then spent 10 years, training first in the UK and then more internationally traveling around the world. So, you know, in the US, we, we competed in Texas in Las Vegas, in Boston, we trained, we did a training camp with the Harvard university ballroom dancing team. Um, so, and we ended up going to seven European and world championships representing England in, in professional ballroom dancing. So that was an amazing journey. And, and it really, you know, we'll come to talk about idea, but idea is really bringing together my business background and my experience in business and, and thinking about all of that, but also very strongly my experience as a dancer and as a competitor and following your passion for something that you really love to do. So it is really the hybrid of those two. 

YC: How do you came about into merging those things? Cause I know you grab from the experiences from ballroom dancing and in the business background, but what made you wanna be, become a coach and help other people, , to achieve their better selves? 

GC: Well, I've always been coaching, I think, but I didn't realize this till I really started to look back and say, well, which part of my life and my job did, I love more than anything else. And the answer was conversations with people to help them solve problems, to help them find their best self, um, to help them often, clarify issues with their career choices and career path, that kind of thing.  When I started to realize that what I wanted to do was make this coaching a bigger part of what I do and eventually the thing that I do and I started to think about, well, what's my philosophy on that. It was really two things. One was, how do you understand who you are and where you're going, which comes from my business background. So I spent many years helping organizations and individuals think about who are you, what do you stand for? 

What's distinctive about you and what's your path tomorrow next week, next month, over the next year. And then years ahead and that's identity and direction I and D in the idea mindset. But then for me, the biggest part is, but I took, I made choices through my own career to take, to turn down something that was maybe more, a lucrative career path for something that I really, really loved to do. So I quit, you know, a big consulting firm to go and work for a much smaller firm, um, and earn less money to be able to pursue the ballroom dancing. And then ultimately in my career, this was in the pandemic. I left a role, you know, as a senior role in a, in a major global retailer. And I left that role to become a coach, which is about, I mean, even two years on it's about an 80 to 90% pay cut from, from where I was before. So very, very significant. And I did that because there's nothing I love more than being in a conversation with people talking, you know, thinking about their journey ahead and, and, and how to find their best self. 

That's really the engagement, the authenticity, which is the E and the a in the idea mindset. Would you love what connects with your purpose, what connects with your values? And of course, when I'm talking to people often, they don't quite know what it is they love, or they don't quite know what their values are or what their purpose is. And once they discover that suddenly it helps them to make different choices about their path ahead. 

YC: Wonderful. So idea, as you mentioned, so the, I stands for identity, D it stands for direction, and as you mentioned, E engagement and, um, A for authenticity. What is the ultimate purpose overall, um, when you decided to create this particular framework and how do you came about your research? 

GC:  Well, I think that, um, I had, it's something that I've lived myself. So it comes from me saying, what is it? That was the difference between a time in my life or a time in my career where I, I wasn't sure about the path ahead, or I didn't feel comfortable in what I was doing to place now where I feel really clear and authentic in, in the role that I'm playing today. And, and I realized as I, as I thought through all of those different, you know, steps of my own journey and those points of transition, that it came down to these four factors that once I really knew myself, I knew what my natural talents and strengths were. I knew how people perceived me. I knew what my focus was. I understood my direction. So I understood something about my long term goal, but actually more importantly, how do I make choices if I've got a choice to go left or right. 

How do I choose what's important to me and then engagement,  well,  what are the things that I love? I love being in a conversation with somebody helping them, what are my values, my purpose. And I realized that for me, it was about making a difference to people, not making a difference to people for money, just making a difference to people. So, you know, with my coaching, if somebody can afford to pay for coaching, then of course I charge them a fair amount for coaching if they can't afford to pay for coaching, but I'd like to work with them. Then I work with them pro bono, because it's not about the money, it's about making a difference to that person for me. So I started to realize that you can have conversations for people about that, for sure. But in a coaching model, people come to that conversation, you say, well, what would you like to talk about? 

And sometimes they know, but often they don't, they go, I just feel like something needs to change, and I don't know what. So where this all started was I created some homework exercises and I said, it, it was called idea, but it wasn't called the idea mindset yet. And I said, go and do these exercises where I'm gonna ask you to go through some established approaches to thinking about who are you and what do you stand for? Or what are the things important to you? Or what might your goals be, um, and drawing on some, um, standard sort of approaches to figuring things out, or, experts and, you know, inspirational quotes. People have had all that kind of stuff. And I said, do that thinking, sleep on it, think again, and then come to the conversation. And they would come to the conversation and, and they would have things to think about. 

They would say, I went and asked somebody where I was at my best and what they said, wasn't what I was expecting, but I've known them for 20 years and suddenly we're into a really insightful conversation. So I developed this thing called the IDEA  program, which was a series of exercises. And then in the pandemic, I suddenly got to a place where I thought I really do now wanna write that book that I've vaguely thought about one day, I'm gonna write a book. I just didn't know which book. And then I, I realized it's this book. And, and I said, I have the exercises, but now I want to make it so that you don't need the coaching. It's nice to have the coaching if it's available, but what if somebody could come, you know, they're on the other side of the world for me, and they can pick up this book and they can work through the exercises and get the insight to, to change their own lives. 

And, and that's where it came from. So I simplified the program very significantly. I developed it. So there were much more in the way of practical habit, forming exercises as you go through the journey, and that you, you can really clearly keep yourself accountable to delivering that change. And we'll talk about today, a tool that I developed that you do right at the beginning, and at the end of the program, to see where you are on these different measures of idea, identity, direction, engagement, authenticity. And it's been interesting. The book came out in January and I've had so much feedback from people who, who said, I've picked up the book and I've just really enjoyed working through the exercises, thinking through those questions. And of course, for me, I don't need to know what the answers are. I just need to know that they asked themselves a question and then properly thought about it. 

And there's a couple I'm thinking of actually, where they're competing with each other to go through the book. So they've got two copies, husband and wife, and they're both going through the journey with the book, and then they're sharing their notes for each other. And I think it's really interesting when you start to see what somebody else's written to answer a question, cause you'll have an opinion on what you think their values are. Yeah. But when then when you see, well, what did you say your values were? And if they're different from what I thought, well, why is that? And what does that tell us? And what do we learn? So that is the process of asking questions, being more important than finding answers. And that sounds like a funny thing to say, but I think it's really important. 

YC: Yes. As, you mentioned as well in terms of the, starting with that assessment with kind of the questionnaire, uh, that we have a link to that on our show notes. And basically what are some of the questions that we should be asking ourselves in order to get started? Cause often we don't take the time to kind of take a step back. We just go through the day to day and we don't take the time to stop and think of where we are and where do we wanna go to. What type of questions are some of those that you have in the assessment? 

GC: So, so I have this little thing called the idea profile and it is explicitly not a scientific assessment, not, not trying to be a scientific assessment. It is simply helping you to understand, for me, is my, is the thing I need to address, a poor sense of identity, a poor sense of direction, a lack of engagement or a lack of authenticity or, or a mix of all of those. And what I find with my coachees that I work with is I ask them all these same questions and I get very different answers. Some have a really clear idea of who they are, but no idea of where they're going. Some people know where they're going, but they don't love it. Some people love it on a day to day basis, quite superficially, but they feel there's a kind of lack of depth. Like there's not, it doesn't connect with their purpose in, in a fundamental way. 

So what I'm gonna go through is five questions in each of these four areas. So you can go through and say for each of these questions, do I agree or disagree? Do I strongly agree or strongly disagree? And then you'll look at your answers and you'll see, ah, it's interesting. I score highly for identity. I score low down for direction. It'll help you to see where to focus. 
So in identity, there are five questions to ask yourself. The first one or statements to, to reflect on. The first one is I have a clear sense of what makes me unique and what qualities I share with others. Second question is I have a clear sense of my personal values. Third question. I have a clear sense of how people senior to me perceive me the fourth one. I have a clear sense of how my peers or colleagues or friends perceive me on my level. And the fifth one, I have a clear sense of how people junior to me perceive me. And if you score low on some of those things, then go ask some people go find out how they think of you. 

Think about what your natural talents and strengths might be. When you get into direction, five questions. I'm clear on my long term goals, I'm clear on the major steps I need to take to reach them. I'm clear on where I'm going next. I've developed a simple action plan and I'm making good progress with my action plan. That last one's really important because load of people have got a plan, but they're not actually executing it. So part of your direction is you're actually going there and you're actually making it happen. 

If you get into engagement, five areas are when I get up in the morning, I'm usually enthusiastic about the day ahead. When I go to sleep, I usually feel a sense achievement for what I've done in the day. Number three, I'm doing a job that is right for me. Number four, I work with people who bring out the best in me and I actively seek out people like this to work with. And number five, I like to tell other people about the work that I do. So sometimes you say, well, I'm superficially. I'm happy in my job, but I never talk about it with other people. And then you meet people who are really engaged in their work and they talk about it all the time. So you start to, to see that coming through. 

And then the fourth area is authenticity. And the five areas in authenticity are I feel a strong sense of purpose with the work I do. The second one, my work aligns with my values, what I consider to be important. Three I'm emotionally engaged. I use my heart as well as my head at work . Four, I develop enduring relationships at work. I take time to listen to colleagues, client, and customers. I'm sensitive to the needs of others and five I'm disciplined in the way I work and I manage my emotions well, and that fifth one again is important sometimes. Um, the thing that shows up that you're not really being authentic is that you find things frustrating and you, you get emotionally, uh, annoyed in, situations more easily than other people. And I've written these, I mean, in the book, it's, it's primarily written for people thinking about their work environment, but actually I, I use this questionnaire with people in all sorts of different backgrounds. So entrepreneurs, I, I work a lot with artists are actors and dancers, as well as my dancing background. 

Um, so sometimes you need to adapt it slightly for your situation. If you're in a dance company, for example, or you're in a sports team, but it's really applicable. I found that that people always find it helpful. And then what they do is they go through the journey of the idea mindset, go through the exercises, do that thinking over a period of time. And then at the end of the book, I say, well, now answer these same questions again, but don't look back at the answers from the first time and then you can compare, well now, do I feel a stronger sense of purpose with the work I'm doing or I'm building a plan that gets there or now I understand how people perceive me and I can respond to that in thinking about the plan I'm developing for going forward. So hopefully that's a useful tool to, to work through. 

YC: Yes, it's very useful. And as you listen to the questions, you either realize, oh, it's going great or cringing because it's like, oh wait, this is not, <laugh> going as I, as I expect overall. 

GC: that's a really important point because a lot of the questions in this book are not rocket science questions, but there are often questions that you haven't asked yourself or you don't like listening to the answer. So what I say is, you know, only you will change your life. And there's a moment where you start to say, I'm now going to focus in on this question. Do I really love what I do at work? It's not, you've never thought about that before. It's not, you don't know the answer, but is it gonna be now that's the time that you're really gonna think about and listen to and act on the answer to that question? 

YC: Yes, absolutely. In the book, you talk a lot about the, um, the factor that our strengths play overall in, in this assessment, uh, , we usually tend to focus on our weaknesses or the checklist of things we need to improve. Why is it important to focus on our strengths? 

GC: Because it's what we're best at. It's the short answer. So, so I do an awful lot of work with strengths, uh, and I'm a, I'm a qualified strengths coach with, with the Gallup organization who do a lot of this work mm-hmm  and Don Clifton, who was the chairman of Gallup and created their strengths assessment that you can do online on the Gallup website called Clifton strengths. He said, imagine we spent as much time focusing on what we are great at as, as the time we spent on what we are not good at. And of course for me, that was a real wake up call when I first heard that about 12 years ago. Um, and of course it's absolutely true that there are some things that I'm not very good at. I'm not very good at throwing the javelin. I'm not very good at, um, working in investment bank. 
I'm not very good at, um, driving a race car so that I don't do that in my life. There's not things that I do. Um, I am really good at for me and everybody's different, but I'm really good at working with things that are already good and making them world class. It's a strengths called maximizer. I'm not particularly good at working with things that are broken and fixing them. So me understanding my strengths, it helps me to understand who I should be working with as a coach. So for example, there, I really enjoy working with coachee who are good at what they do and can become amazing because it plays to my top strength. If somebody comes to me and they, they say, I can't do the thing that I need to do, and I need somebody to help me fix that. Then I recommend that they work with a coach, often recommend a specific coach who, who is good at helping fix things that are broken, fix, fix problems, fix falls. 

So when you start to tune into what your natural talents and strengths are, it's a little bit like getting on a bicycle and turning from cycling uphill to cycling downhill. So you start to align your choices and your actions and your activities with things that you love with things that you naturally do well. And really the formula that gets you to a life of engagement is one way you start to say, I'm going to actively lean into things that I love, that I find easier than other people that I really enjoy doing. And I'm gonna be okay about letting go of things that I'm just not very good at. You know, I wasn't terrible in medical school, but I wasn't exceptional. Um, and I did enjoy it, but I didn't really love it. And I, I know now looking back, that's why it didn't feel a fit. 

All I knew at the time was it didn't feel a fit. And when I talk to people today and they say to me, something needs to change. And I dunno what, and then the first thing we do is we do an assessment of what their strengths are very often. The first thing they say is now I understand why something needs to change because now I see that my strengths are different from what I have to do every. So, you know, I, I was working with somebody recently and they were in a job that was very analytical and they thought that they were analytical. And then when they did the assessment, the assessment said, you, you are skilled as an analyst, but you are not talented as an analyst, as in you don't love doing it. You don't pick it up quickly. You don't find it easier than other people to do it. Therefore you can do it cuz you've got 15 years experience. You're skilled at it, but that's different from you love to do it. And, and I, I talk to people now and they say, I get to do the thing that I love doing every day. That's what I feel like and it's because you are leaning into your natural talents and strengths is a really powerful way to think. 

YC: Yes, indeed. It seems like, as I mentioned that it, people, we tend to focus on the things we need to improve and, and taking that approach, it will seem like much easier and much more productive as well. How do, how do we go about doing, assessing ourselves and realizing, Hey, there are areas that I need to either, um, analyze or go further or, um, tap into more instrument strengths, but that step from self assessment into actually the direction taking the action. What have you noticed through your coaching? Uh, of some of the, um, I guess, um, obstacles to get to the action part. 

Gc: That's a great question. And it's really interesting because, um, the question you're asking the answer to that is the difference between, um, personal development journeys that work and that don't. So you can do some things to give you new information, to help you becoming more informed. So you can do an assessment of your natural talents and strengths, for example, Clifton strengths, or there's another one in, in, in the book that you can do. You can go and talk to people around you to understand yourself your best. So you can do exercise, you can do activities to give you more information. You can then go and write some goals and an action plan and all of that. And, and, you know, there are lots of programs that will help you to do that. The bit in the middle that's the bit that is often missed out is the thinking time. 

GC: So what I say to people say to my coachee, but I say very strongly in the book, which is, which is a bit countercultural, really. Cause a lot of people like to pick up a book, read it, cover to cover and then do it really fast. And I say, don't do it really fast, spend the time. So I say, you know, read this action and then stop and think about it, but also just allow your brain to simmer. So I say, pop your thoughts in the pot. So maybe you've, you've asked some people what, what you're like at your best. And then, then really the thing to do is to put that all those thoughts in your head and then stop thinking about it, sleep on it, go and walk the dog, do the washing up, look after the kids and your brain will tell you when it's ready to move on. 

And sometimes that will take a day or two. Sometimes it'll take a few weeks. Sometimes it'll take months depending on the problem. So a story, my second ever coaching client, um, who is somebody I'll do my podcast. And he's the first episode on my podcast, he's called Samuel Horton. Um, and he was an actor and he had a choice to go left or right. And basically the choices were left was I follow, um, a paid sort of talent management type of role, which is quite guaranteed, is quite good money. And he was very good at it. Didn't love it on the right was pursuing my acting career. I'm good at it, but not exceptional. Um, I might be able to make some money, but there's a very high chance that I could make really a very, very small amount of money, but I'm absolutely passionate about it. 

And he was working on that question, simple question for five months, five months, um, when he, and he was doing both of them, you know, as a sort of side hustle roles, um, that do together and he talked on the podcast and he said, do you remember when I texted you? And I said, yeah, it was four o'clock in the morning, UK time. And, and you texted me and you said, I've got it. I wanna pursue the thing I love. Um, and he couldn't have got to that without sitting on it for four or five months because he just had to wait until this brain was ready to make that call. And the call was the thing I love, even though I know that I may really struggle to make ends meet in terms of money from that moment on. And, and it's all about choosing happiness. 

He made different choices and he realized that he had been driving for societal measures of success. So people were saying, you need to get this kind of job, that level of job, you need to win this award. And he was like, well, that is good. But actually what I realized was that for me, I didn't care about the award. I didn't care about the stage I'm on so long as I love the acting that I'm doing. I love the people I'm working with. What was interesting was the consequence of him starting to take choices that prioritize happiness over success was that the success he achieved was higher than anything he'd ever had before and actually last week. So, so, um, you know, we've been following the story now, we've been working together for over three years since we started our first session. Um, and I saw on, uh, Instagram last week. So he's currently on the national tour of school of rock he's in School of Rock as an, an ensemble member. Um, and this week was the first time that he had been called up to play one of the lead roles he's understudying. And he was like, literally, this is the, this is the biggest night of my entire acting career. And I was, would say, it's all come from that day when you chose to choose happiness over career advancement. 

And the outcome is you've had greatest success than ever before. So, you know, but it comes from the thinking, it doesn't come from what you write down a piece of paper. It doesn't come from commitments you make, but you might not follow them through. It comes from that really fundamental shift in your own mindset. And I talk about in the idea mindset, what does the outcome feel like? 

The outcome feels like clarity. Um, and it's clarity of three things. It's clarity of thinking, clarity of thought. So I know who I am and where I'm going, and that's no longer in doubt. There's no gray area around it. It's clarity of decision. So when I'm faced with the choice, it's really obvious to me now, whether I go left or right for him, it's like, I follow happiness. So I go, right. And then it's clarity of action. So having made that choice, what do I do next ? And he said, now I'm really clear what I do next is obvious what I do next . But before he went through that journey, um, everything was a dilemma. Everything was a conflict. Everything was a sort of like a tug of war, like a pull between two different things. And he was always facing into this kind of confusion. And now he's like, I know what I want. I wanna be happy. So if I've got two choices, I pick the one that makes me happy and I'm fine with that, you know? And, and so, so all of that confusion, ebbed away, and he found that clarity, the clarity came from the deep self-reflection of working through the journey and the exercises in the IDEA mindset 

YC: That is wonderful. And that is a great story of how achieving that, um, taking the time to think. And I highly recommend, uh, to our listeners a book because it's like having your own coach. Um, and even in the audio book, as I was listening to it, it gives you the prompts to kind of stop and, and take the time to, to do the exercises if we want to have before we go, uh, any questions, um, or if they people want to get in touch with you, what is the best way? 

GC: So you can find me on Instagram as Gary CROs, um, and you can find me, uh, on LinkedIn as Gary Crotaz as well. I'm, I'm very prolific on LinkedIn. I have my own website, which is Gary criers.com. Uh, and you can find out more about the book at the, the idea mindset.com as well. 
Oh, thank you so much for inviting me on I've loved the conversation.