As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Lovegrove. A multi-awarded life coach and international bestseller and the host of “Change The World”. Stephen’s works have been featured on MTV, NBC, Fox, LA Times, OWN, Thrive, Elephant Journal and Huffington Post.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Absolutely! So excited to be chatting with you today.
I always knew I wanted to do something with my career that helped other people, and I always knew I was going to be on TV. From the time that I was 8 years old, sitting in my treehouse after school hosting my own pretend “talk shows,” I could feel it coming as part of my destiny. The details would have to be worked out as time went on, but those two instincts were always in my heart growing up.
A huge part of my story is that I was raised in a fundamentalist religious cult, and after I left as an 18 year old, I had a lot to process personally about who I was and what I believed. 4 years of therapy helped me quite a bit on that journey, but there were still quite a few missing pieces I needed to put together. In the process of doing that work, I came across a life coach in New York City, and his work absolutely changed my life. I realized that life coaching had the potential to help human beings move forward rapidly and powerfully in a unique and tangible way.
That began what has now been a 6 year journey for me of helping people transform their lives from the inside out, both with individual life coaching clients and with my platform in the media. I feel incredibly grateful to be able to wake up every morning and do what I love.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
This is a fun question, because as soon as I read it, a whole bunch of stories came to mind! My journey as a CEO has been interesting to say the least.
I will never forget the moment that a former youth group leader I had from the cult growing up turned in an application to work with me as a client. That was such a full circle moment for me, and thinking about it still makes me emotional to this day. The fact that he could recognize the growth and healing in my own life and also know that I could support him in doing the same was a landmark moment for me.
There are many stories I could share that would surprise people, and most of them I’m not at liberty to share due to NDAs unfortunately, but it’s been a wild ride! I’ve gotten to see behind the scenes of some of the most influential leaders in the world. I’ve helped people move through crushing lows and supported them in their highest heights of success. There’s never a dull moment at America’s Life Coach, and we aren’t stopping anytime soon!
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My team has so many things in the works! Many of them fall into the annoying category of “can’t say too much right now” LA things, but I can assure you there is a lot coming up! We are doing the biggest press tour we’ve ever done this year with podcasts, interviews, and media appearances, so you’ll see me all around the world in various outlets. We’re also doing a huge charity event this fall that you will want to participate in, so stay tuned for details!
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
One of my all time favorite books is The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. He talks about how we all have a zone of competence, a zone of excellence, and a zone of genius. From my experience, many people have been taught to look for careers that fit the first two categories …. They may be competent at those skills, maybe even quite talented, but it’s not actually what they were born to do. Hence, we have a lot of people left unsatisfied when they leave work every day. They are doing something that they are capable of doing well, but not what lights them up on the inside. It may sound like an over-ambitious ideal to people, but I really believe we need to support people in finding the thing that they were born to do.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
When people don’t find the work that they do both enjoyable and meaningful, they simply don’t bring their best to the table. We all work harder when we are intrinsically motivated from within, rather than trying to force ourselves to do a job we’d rather not do, so of course employee happiness has a direct effect on productivity.
I have to convince CEOs all the time that it is actually more profitable to have people doing what they truly love to do. We have so many outdated paradigms of struggle and sacrifice that glorify the idea of people slogging it out at work while being miserable on the inside. I firmly believe the key to prosperity is the exact opposite of that. Happy, fulfilled employees make for a great end product. And of course, their own health and well being thrive when that is a priority.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
- Lead from vision. It’s easy to get lost in the details, and that often results in people becoming overwhelmed, stressed, and unmotivated. Make sure you keep the vision in front of you and your team at all times. When we’re in the middle of a launch in my company, there are always a hundred issues to address — from technology challenges to customer messages to marketing strategies. I always try to keep everyone focused on the new people that we are welcoming into the family and the lives that will be changed as a result of our work.
- Make sure everyone is doing what they do best. I’ve heard Andy Stanley talk about how you not only want to have the right people on the “bus” that is your company, but you also want each person to be in the right seat. That idea has always stuck with me. Assuming you already have employees committed to the vision of what you’re building together, go a step further and ensure that each person is operating in a role where they are truly able to thrive. This point has been a tricky one for me to learn over the years, especially when I’m dealing with good, kind people who are trying their best to do a good job. You still have to be willing to recognize when someone’s just not in their sweet spot, and it would be better for everyone to correct that.
- LISTEN. This point cannot be overstated. There’s nothing more frustrating for employees than feeling like they are not being heard. As a leader or manager, it is your responsibility to listen to your employees — their concerns, their experiences, their requests. I remember working a few part time jobs throughout high school and college and distinctly feeling that my managers didn’t believe I had any valuable perspective to share for their company. That frustrated me tremendously, as I felt like I was on the front lines often, making all kinds of valuable observations. I always want every person that works for me to be able to share their input, ideas, and feedback, and to genuinely feel from me that I believe they could have our next big idea.
- Have the hard conversations. Tim Ferriss says, “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” If you’re not willing to have a hard conversation with someone, don’t go into business. Certainly don’t become a CEO or get into a position where you are managing a team, because there’s no way around the hard conversations that must happen. Often, people tell themselves that they are not confrontational, and they prefer to keep the peace. Unfortunately, the most toxic work cultures are those where people cannot honestly and openly discuss what needs to be addressed. When I have to have a difficult conversation, I try to always begin by listening (see point above) — really hearing the other person’s perspective before I share mine. Then, especially if it’s in an employee context, I attempt to communicate my perspective on the situation and ensure that we all leave with clear mutually understood expectations moving forward.
- Be willing to change. In the context of my coaching, I always say that I can only work with a client who is willing to see their life differently. When we are stuck in old ways of seeing, we are not able to access the solutions we desperately need. The exact same principle applies to leadership. Make sure that you’re not getting stuck in your ways. Just because you have always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s actually the best for your company or even for you. Be willing to change. Be willing to be wrong. Be willing to adapt at all times. Some of my hardest decisions ever have been recognizing that an idea is simply not working and letting it go to make room for something new. While those moments may have been fairly inconsequential for the company overall (it’s hardly a loss to let go of what’s not working anyway), it always feels like a blow to your ego to admit that maybe you’re wrong and there’s a better way out there.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
We have to establish new paradigms around work in this country — beginning with what we teach children as they are growing up. I will never forget being a high school friend’s house and hearing his father say, “We all hate going to work. That’s why it’s called work. But you suck it up and you do it anyway.”
Thankfully, I refused to accept that idea as normal or healthy. Even my teenage self had an inkling that it didn’t have to be that way. But so many people have been raised to expect unhappiness at work as normal, skeptical that it can actually be any different.
We have to leave these old paradigms behind and begin to believe in work environments where people get to thrive. Sure, we won’t succeed at that perfectly across the board, but we owe it to ourselves to give it our best effort.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I lead with intention. Every meeting, every session, every conversation requires an intention going in. Otherwise, we’re going to end up wasting each other’s time.
I ask my clients to set an intention when we get on a call. Personally, I set an intention before I write or share a piece of content. You have to know where you intend to go before you can figure out how to get there.
So I do my best to always keep my intention in front of me, and I surround myself with people who believe in the vision as much as I believe in it myself. If you can’t see where we’re going and even dream up things I couldn’t imagine for the future within your own department, you’re not the person for my team.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I had a mentor in college who saw potential in me and took time out of his incredibly busy life to meet with me every week for support. He taught me all kinds of practical things — from how to manage money to the importance of fitness in leadership, but the greatest gift he ever gave me was his powerful belief in me. I saw something in myself because of what he saw and spoke to, and I am eternally grateful for that. He helped me to take my mission seriously in a healthy and productive way.
Beyond that, I simply wouldn’t be where I am today without every coach and mentor along the way who has provided support to me consistently throughout this business journey. I believe in support. I don’t ask others to invest in themselves without doing it myself.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m incredibly proud of the fact that my company always gives away 22% of our gross revenue to charity — the largest benefactor of which is St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
I believe that we have a responsibility to do good with our prosperity, sharing our success with the world and giving back to those in need.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There’s a common saying in the world of personal growth: “How you’re dealing with the issue is the issue.” That quote has been a guiding light for me over the years. I believe there is no separation between our inner world and our external reality; they are always connected! Your company and/or business is often the biggest reflection of you.
When I feel like there’s an issue in my life that just won’t resolve, I look within to figure out what is happening within myself. As hippie as this principle may sound to some, the problem is never outside of you, and the moment that you believe it is, you’ve lost your power.
Look at how you are dealing with the supposed issue, and that will give you the starting point of the solution.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are three ideals that I stand for and want to share with the entire world: unconditional love, absolute wholeness, and infinite possibility. I believe every human being is unconditionally loved — nothing we do could ever change that. I believe who you are at the core is absolute wholeness — you are not a broken person needing to be fixed; you were created whole. Finally, I believe there are infinite possibilities for your life — in the words of Jesus, “all things are possible for the one who believes,” and that can be you! All things means all things.
So I plan to continue spreading the message of those three truths for the rest of my life. If people get up in the morning and live from a knowing of unconditional love, absolute wholeness, and infinite possibility, the world will be a beautiful place for all of us.