While the discussion of mental health may be prominent in the public sphere, the topic is often neglected or overlooked when it comes to business. Though we nurture self-care practices in our personal lives, Adam McGraw argues that the lack of positive mental health practices in the business sector stifles growth.
In this episode, Adam McGraw, CRO of Positive Intelligence, discusses the effective routes to shutting out self-sabotaging rhetoric in our personal and professional lives. Adam notes that founders and entrepreneurs should, instead, focus on exercising daily mental practices to unleash positive intelligence. By directly addressing our negative inner critics, we can identify, label, and shift negative storylines that smother personal and business growth.
Adam explains how his platform—through the gamification of empowering behaviors—trains and encourages business owners and entrepreneurs to leverage the five key positive powers of positive intelligence (exploration, empathy, innovation, navigation, and laser-focused action) to create sustainable change.
In this episode we discuss:
Josh: 00:00-00:45 Welcome to the Work the System podcast where we help entrepreneurs make more and work less. And I’m your host, Josh Fonger. Today, we have Adam McGraw. On the show Adam is the C-R-O of Positive Intelligence Inc., a company focused on bringing mental fitness to professionals from all walks of life, based on a method described in the New York Times best-selling book called positive intelligence. His experience includes 12 years leading the commercial business and American Express at the VP level, after experiencing his own transformation of understanding the saboteurs that can negatively affect potential for success. He left corporate America to pursue his passion for spreading this message we’re gonna discuss today to others. All right, Adam. Again, welcome to the show.
Adam: 00:46-00:47 Yeah, thank you, Josh. Thanks for having me.
Josh: 00:48-01:01 All right. Well, before we get dive into the questions all about peak performance and mental acuity, and all of those things, positive intelligence, why don’t you give us the backstory? How’d you get to this line of work, what’s the story?
Adam: 01:02-04:30 Yeah, it’s, so as you mentioned, I was, I had a great run at American Express, I spent 12 years there, starting back in 2007 as a frontline sales, individual contributor, and worked my way into frontline sales leadership, and then ultimately GM VP roles. And about on the back half of my tenure there when I was in leadership positions, I actually stumbled on the book positive intelligence in the airport kiosk that I had been walking by. It was it was kind of a front page or there for quite some time on the New York Times bestseller list. And I’m just kind of a consummate student of sales, leadership, peak performance, etc. And so just you know, the cap that the title was captivating, right? It’s why 80% of teams and individuals never reach their full potential. And so I picked up the book and I started reading it and to be perfectly honest, it was just the most compelling thing that I had read from a development standpoint, and I saw immediate correlation, I grew up as an athlete, you know, diehard kind of in sports. I had a lot of great, you know, visceral connection to sporting challenges that I you know, I kind of created for myself mentally growing up, I wish I had had this framework that was being articulated so well in the book. And then the next immediate visceral connection I had was obviously where I was at which was having just sold during the recession for financial services company, building my own sales teams, training new hires in New York for American Express. And I just thought about all the immediate connections, hundreds of examples flooded my brain with regards to selling leadership, you know, and sales in general. So I was so compelled by it. I wrote reached out to the author, googled him, you mean and found a way to get in touch with them the beauty of today’s day and age, leverage my cold calling skills, got him on the phone, and I just wanted to tell him how much it really you know resonated with me on this idea of this friend work of his book of kind of the percent of time our minds are serving us versus sabotaging us, and how that is the single number one greatest predictor of how much success we will reach in life, and maybe more importantly, how much happiness and fulfillment we feel along that journey. Both of those things are important to me. And so, you know, I said, Hey, are you thinking about doing anything for sales, leadership entrepreneurs, this just seems so fitting for people that have big aspirations that are in you know, highly tested adverse circumstances, where you really need to have this mental edge. And he said, Well, it’s funny, you should, you know, say something like that, because Tony Robbins reached out to me last month, and said, this is one of the best things I’ve read in 40 years of, you know, training millions of people, particularly in sales, leadership, etc. And he thought it was a great idea when you know, that thought it should be completely applicable to anybody that’s an entrepreneur or in sales or leadership positions, specifically. So I knew right off the bat, there was something unique here. I had no idea where this thing would run, I had no idea that I had no intention of leaving an amazing brand like American Express, I was very happy at the time. But I did know that there was something here. So we cultivated a friendship and a good rapport. And in the past, you know, a couple of years, it became very obvious that he’s created a business model on the backbone of his app that he’s using to deliver to help people actually operationalize the subject matter from the book. And that’s where we’re now collaborating and kind of hitting the accelerator button to, to bring this to the masses and drive commercial application. So
Josh: 04:31-05:08 Wow, that is a really cool story. And I don’t know if you knew this, the same thing happened with work the system somebody, you know, Sam wrote the book, work the system just for his, you know, just for his friends and his employees eventually. And then somebody found the book and they’re like, Hey, you should you should actually do like a coaching consulting products business and that, and he’s like, Oh, I didn’t think about that. And that’s how the company originally started. So that that’s really cool. How you were you were the catalyst for making that happen. So, for those who don’t know, and I’m one of them tell us the premise of positive intelligence or what this what the steps are. Yeah, we can learn about that.
Adam: 05:09-08:59 Yeah, so this the subjects backed by a ton of research in science and neuroscience, right, there’s 500,000 people across 50 countries. So this is a global research project that Shazad went through for years around, you know, how you actually reach your full potential and the percentage and positive intelligence stands for the percent of time our minds are serving us versus sabotaging us. So the literal piece is your positive intelligence quotient is that measurement scale, just like EQ and IQ measure our intellectual and emotional intelligence. This is how you kind of measure how positively you kind of approach every single, you know, piece of adversity challenge or stress that you face in your life. And so what we know from all the research that’s been done is unfortunately, despite really good intent and assault, becoming far more educated as a human race at this point in time 80 to 90% of our attempts to drive positive transformation that actually last and sustains, is fizzling and failing. And it fizzles and fails within just six to 12 months after any new type of learning, immersion training change initiatives are actually being deployed to that end user audience. And so you know, myself, right, if I’m somebody that I consider myself a coach, and I consider myself somebody that really wants to help people, maximize potential I did in leadership roles. You know, that’s just the dismal, depressing fact, right? When you think about the billions of dollars that are being spent on training, development, you think about all the hours people are putting in on social media, you have access to literally everything. Everyone is providing free content out there to help you get better. But the reality is, is it’s not really working that well for most of us. And the reason is, is we are habitually wired to continue to do things the way we’ve always done. And this is almost knee jerk response that most of us have, where we have these sabotaging behaviors that are getting in our way. And so we’re getting in our own way subconsciously, automatically. And that is getting in the way of why things don’t, you know, obviously hit kind of full potential, like we’d like them when we’re starting them. So, you know, the science the research showed that when he did the 500,000 person research use factor analysis, which is this ability to say of all the variable and crazy ways that we all self-sabotage, there’s actually 10 route factors. So 10 it’s oversimplifies this for us right 10 route factors that people in each one of us has a few of them that we lean on, that we go to these saboteurs that we use that are actually sabotaging our own success in our own happiness and stress levels. On the flip side, on the positive side of the framework, there’s of all the, you know, emotional intelligence competencies that exists out there and the 18 that have been being talked about for the past 2030 years. There’s five key root factors that are involved for any level of soft skill or emotional intelligence competency that’s required for reaching full potential. And that’s our ability to have empathy, to explore, to innovate, to navigate and to ultimately take action. And so the dichotomy that we’re that we’re helping people with Josh is, what is the percent of time that we’re either being hijacked by one of these 10 saboteurs right, or that we’re staying shifted over and recognizing our ability to shift over and mobilize and unleash one of these five core powers that leads to all of our emotional intelligence, that ratio is more important than your IQ and your EQ combined, because it’s essentially telling you what’s the percent of time of every day and every opportunity that you have, that you are unleashing all of your intellect and all of your investments that you’ve put in, to actually maximize whatever it is that’s on your agenda and on your aspiration list.
Josh: 09:00-09:12 Well, that so now I’m really curious, and maybe we don’t have time to go through all of them. But these 10 route factors, what were some that that you had, and what are the most common ones that entrepreneurs and small business owners typically sabotage themselves with.
Adam: 09:13-11:30 So there’s one common one that everybody has. And so I like to start with that one. And this one actually resonated with me profoundly on an individual level, which is everyone has the judge. So when we have free assessments that people can take on our website, and when you do, you can see which are the couple saboteurs that you personally deal with. And we all have different ones. But the one you won’t see on the assessment that you’ll hear about in the book, or if you go through our app guided programs, is this judge tendency. So this is either we either judge ourselves hard, we judge others hard, or we judge circumstances, if you start looking and being aware of the amount of judgment that’s happening individually and across the board in whatever organization you work in, or in your in our world in general. You’d be amazed how much that’s automatically running a lot of people’s lives. And so that’s one example. Then there’s ones my top three, I’ll be transparent in the essence of the subject is I have a major hyper achiever, a major hyper vigilant, and a massive restless saboteur. And so these are the things that cause me all of my negative emotions that I would put on a facade with when I was working at American Express and standing on stages, etc. We don’t let people see these things and how much they impact us, right? But these are the things that our spouses see our kids see, they keep us up at night, they cause us to do things in excess that aren’t necessarily good and healthy for us. And so, you know, those are the ones that I struggle with. There’s thing the other on the other end of the spectrum, there’s people out there that struggle with heavy avoider, stickler, victim, hyper rational. So those are the, you know, a good range of the spectrum of, of where you might see that you’ve got some, you know, natural tendencies to lean. And we’ve been doing these since we were young kids, we’re modeling a lot of the same ones that parents and role models had, that they were used to kind of get through. They got us through, survival, stress challenges and adversity. And so we’ve convinced ourselves that the only way we get through stress challenge or adversity is to lean on these, but the reality is, and the subject shows you very, very particularly an in depth. Those are justification lies, we’re telling ourselves, we’re getting to places in spite of these things, not because of them, and we can spend a greater percentage of our time in an area that doesn’t cause us all these negative emotions. And you know, hey, you can start to enjoy the process while tapping into more of your intellect and skill as well.
Josh: 11:32-12:08 So let’s paint a picture so you’re a small business owner and you need to open another location, let’s say a restaurant and avoidant. You’re restless, you’re judging. I don’t know you have all these issues going on. And you take your survey, you take your husband, you go, gosh, I guess I guess it’s because I’m, whatever. I’m an avoider and I’m also a wrestler. You know, if you pick the ones that better fit the story here. Is, what is the way out? I mean, is there a way to, you know, turn the volume down into those particular subconscious things?
Adam: 12:09-15:21 Cool analogy. Actually, I’ve never heard that or thought about that. But absolutely, that’s the idea. Right? So step. So they’re the three step process that we’ve kind of helped people realize that they can work on this with whether it’s an individual or in an entire organization, is we need to operationalize this right. So what you can do in order to get better at this is you can first thing is intercept those negative habits. You got to know what the heck they are. And then you start practicing being able to label and intercept them. That part alone is profoundly impactful for many people. Because all along they’ve just been kind of realized this is the way I’m wired. And I don’t know why I do what I do. I know I shouldn’t do this, but I kind of do and people tell me, it’s annoying. Now you’ve got a labeling mechanism for yourself and for people you interact with. Step two is, it’s not enough, right and this is where most of our change initiatives to drive positive transformation fail is that it’s not enough to just have the insight and know that I’ve got a controller tendency that gets in the way of my full success and my happiness. And I should be in a more positive, less controlling frame of mind a greater percentage of time. Once you know that you think you’d be fixed, but you’re not right. So even reading this book or taking this assessment isn’t going to fix you because insight doesn’t lead to change. Insight is only 20% of lasting change, according to all the research and independent science that’s out there to show what drives new neural pathways and new habits. 80%, the 80% that where that’s not insight is all about exercise. So just like the physical aspect of our lives, right when we go and we hear about how to have the best golf swing, how to lose weight and be in the best shape of our lives. The insight portion is 20%, 80% of actually having the best golf swing or getting in the best shape of our life comes down to the daily habitual practice. That actually gets us there. And that is the same exact thing for our minds. With regards to habits that we want to start to break, we want to let these sabotaging habits atrophy or quiet to your point. And we want to start to build the muscle of the positive side of our brain, which is literally a different side of our brain. If you look at it under MRI imaging, where we’re starting to use more of those five key powers that he you know, he obviously simplified through all the research. So that’s the three step operationalized process if you’re a business owner, you’re feeling the grind, you’re trying to figure out the next best way to kind of scale this business and attract investors and people to work for you and customers to buy from you. Those are big questions, you’re asking yourself, it’s imperative that you ensure you’re not being hijacked by one of these sabotaging habits that causes a lot of negative brain chatter and negative emotions. And you’ve got to self-command mechanism allows you to shift and spend a greater percentage of your time mobilizing and unleashing these key powers in these key components that lead to all the emotional intelligence hat’s where the answers are, right? We read about growth mindset, we went on leash every, every business owner needs to have growth mindset. Well, the question is, how do you do that? Well, you don’t have growth mindset when you’re hijacked by a negative habit that causes you negative emotions you have it. When you know you keep those at bay, you shift into one of these positive kind of mechanism. And you learn how to strengthen these five key components.
Josh: 15:22-15:37 Now, before we get to the five components, I’m taking notes for myself here. So you operationalize you’ve intercepted the negative thing and you’ve labeled it, then you practice the habit, you habitual eyes or exercise habit. What was the third component that I that I missed?
Adam: 15:38-15:56 Well, when you’ve done those two things correctly, and it is in this order, that’s why it’s a 123 process that you need to be practicing and that we help people practice through our app prop platforms. The third thing is basically unleashing your emotional intelligence but it’s basically unleashing the five key simple powers that lead all of your emotional intelligence.
Josh: 15:57-16:02 Well, let’s get to these things. So what are these five things factors that we want to unleash.
Adam: 16:03-17:22 Yes. So again, through the factor analysis, this isn’t his opinion, this isn’t a subjective summary, he was able to determine of all the different emotional intelligence competencies we seek, as human beings and professionals, the five most important elements and route building blocks are our ability to explore, have empathy, innovate, navigate, and ultimately take laser focused action. If you think about the bridging out all of those, all of those lead into any type of selling skills, strategy session or strategy skill, you need to have a leadership development skill that people try and develop you on you one of one or multiple ones of those needs to be pulled and leveraged in order to deliver on those. And what’s great about this Josh is this is how you develop well rounded people, right. A lot of people say, I’m just an action guy or girl, right? Or some people are overly empathetic and they’ve accepted the fact that like, this is my superpower. And I don’t really do these other things that well. And that’s you’re selling yourself short, I’m all about like focusing on are doubling down on our strengths. But the reality is almost all of us could do those five things, which makes you a really well rounded, emotionally intelligent person by simply getting out of your own way and practicing doubling down on five things is not that difficult to kind of hone in on, you know, for a focused period of time.
Josh: 17:23-17:33 Now, because I’m a slow writer, but so explorer, empathy, and I got the last word laser focus, actually, what were the other ones that I mean innovation,
Adam: 17:34 Innovate and navigate,
Josh: 17:35-17:50 Innovate and navigate. Alright, so let’s say let’s use our user business owner analogy again. And let me ask you this. Are most people naturally good at one or two of the five just kind of naturally?
Adam: 17:51-18:06 Yeah, I think most people just like they gravitate towards habitually being you know, hijacked by certain saboteurs. There’s a couple of the say or what we refer to as the sage perspective, those five powers, there’s a couple of those that they say why do that well, right.
Josh: 18:07-18:39 Okay, and so in order to be at to solve the most problems in your business in your life, you want to have this positive intelligence, which is the ratio way to be most positive as you starve off all of these negative ones, and then go through this process. And the positive ones now, unleashing this emotional intelligence, these five things other than being aware of them, like I say, Okay, I want to be more laser focused. What, what do I do? Is there an exercise I should do to be more laser focused?
Adam: 18:40-21:11 Yeah, so that we’ve kind of breezed over it. But that middle pillar that I mentioned, which is the exercise mechanism of strengthening your minds ability to have command over it, and not just know I should be positive or no, I shouldn’t be frustrated, but actually be able to do that when you face challenge and stress. He’s basically Oh, he’s over simplified. diploid what he is, you know, trademark this PQ reps. So PQ standing for you know as the shortened version of positive intelligence and reps because this is a gym like atmosphere we’re asking people to run into, that’s why we’re coining this mental fitness with PQ reps which are basically in 10 seconds hyper focuses on any one of your senses, vision, smell, hearing touch, any sense you hyper focus on it for 10 seconds. What that does when you do that, it’s intentionally simplified, right? Because mindfulness and yoga and all that they’re kind of they play in this world. But there’s those are ancient versions that require all these circumstances to be perfect for you to feel the benefit. And these things are things you can do in the middle of your workday, in the middle of your chaos on the free throw line right before the big presentation, right? And they offer you all the same benefits that we experience from anything that’s mindfulness related. They quiet your brain chatter. They calm your body, lower cortisol levels and allow you to have clear headed discerning thought, right? And so by practicing them a lot, and we’re obviously guiding you, when you come into our app platform with that, we’re giving you regimentation, we’re giving you a gym like atmosphere. That’s very gamified to encourage you to practice this. But that’s something that most people are weak on, so that you can’t just learn this and be able to go present in front of people and think you’re going to be really mentally fit and be great at executing this. You got to practice this a lot. Because the reality is, most of us have been practicing a one way response. We control things, we avoid things, right? We do that one habitual response for 20-30-40-50 years, every time we face stress challenge or adversity, that flares our survival zone. So by doing that, that exercise piece now you get yourself into this place where most of us can think about okay is right now is the lever I should pull right now something that’s more empathetic, is it more empathy that I need right now, or action, right, because it’s not always action that’s needed to solve a problem or to navigate through a solution. Sometimes it that you need to be more exploratory and more empathetic. And so this is the way that you operationalize self-awareness and allow people to become much more well-rounded on all of the emotional intelligence skills.
Josh: 21:12-21:37 Yeah, I really like this, this this concept, because I’m all about building systems and structure. Taking an idea and just letting it kind of marinate but actually applying it in a way that’s going to give you results, and provable results. So tell us how the how the app works. And I’m kind of curious how you developed it, but more so how does it work? And what kind of results do people typically get?
Adam: 21:38-24:23 Yeah. So the way the app works, essentially, we ask people to come in and it’s a commitment, right? I mean, you’re coming in and you are signing up for I’m going to practice 10 to 15 minutes a day for a minimum of six weeks, because that’s the minimum level of dedication and regimentation that’s required to see benefit. Think just like losing weight, right? You don’t lose weight in one week of dieting, you need four to six weeks to start to see the results. It’s every bit similar for the mental side of the gains that you’re looking to get. So what we do is we bring people in, and you’re going through the app guided platform. And in one, we have one weekly video a week that’s led by a man who’s a Stanford lecture and the author of the subject. And so there’s your insight portion, there’s your 20%, right, of the sustained change. That’s what you can watch anytime, kind of over a weekend period through the end of day Monday, then Tuesday through Friday, quite deliberately, during what most people’s busiest days of their work week are. We’re asking people to do the 10 to 15 minutes of AP guided exercises, starts with a focus of the day, everything’s audio, everything’s audio guided, everything’s in two to three minute bite sized pieces. So you’re never spending more than three minutes at a time on one of these exercises. And it’s all audio guided, you can do it while you’re traveling while you’re busy. You know walking through airports etc. And you’ll be focusing on one you know, thing a day, that’s a focus of the day and you’ll be doing three checks-in. A day, so that in your totality you’ve done 10 to 15 minutes of daily exercise. And as you’re going through the program, it’s a three phase process, right first phase of the program is we’re helping you understand what are these things called PQ reps, that helps me develop my mental muscle to have more command over my brain. Then in this in the next week or two, you’re working on the judge saboteurs that all of us have, along with your personalized if you Josh took this the assessment, you’d be working on your top two or three saboteurs I’d be working on mine. And those daily focuses are focused around identifying, labeling and shifting out of those. And then the final phase of the plot of the program, when you’re going through the six weeks is where you’re now starting to hone in on some of those five key positive powers that he refers to as being on the stage perspective of our mind, where you’re practicing being empathetic, practicing exploring or taking laser focused action. So you can really start to feel by the end of the six weeks, how this three step operating system can help you in any new challenge you now go through. Or any other subject that you’re trying to become an expert at? You see how this plugs in? How do my saboteurs interfere with my ability to do this? Well, how do I shift myself in the most discerning clear headed and calm, focused state? And which one of these five key emotional intelligence powers do I need to leverage to be amazingly successful as a business owner, a sales leader, an executive coach, whatever that may be, right?
Josh: 24:24-24:43 Well, this sounds really great that I know, based on how curious I am about this, is that I’m sure we could talk all day. But I have another podcast interview coming up in just a minute here. So we have to start winding up. So what is a question that I didn’t ask you, but I probably should ask you.
Adam: 24:44-24:59 Oh, man, what are the I guess? Maybe asked me. Good question. Those are the hardest questions ask what are the three areas that this really impacts people? Right? because we’ve been talking a lot about peak performance, but yeah, what was what?
Josh: 25:00-25:09 Yeah, what? So I’ll ask you the question. So what areas does it I’m gonna guess? Is it family? Is it business? Is it health? Is it financial? Like what areas is it doesn’t really help you?
Adam: 25:10-26:25 Yep. So on an individual level, the three key areas that there’s typically profound impact from focusing on this is either your stress and your happiness, that’s bucket one. Your relationships and that crosses into work or home, right?work relationships or home relationships. And then of course, your productivity. Most people see multiple buckets profoundly impacted but there’s almost always at least one of those, that somebody that someone says, Yeah, I’m not in my a game there. I may be successful at work, but my relationships and my stress and happiness level need big time work or I might be a really relaxed, happy person, but I struggle to be focused and get the most bang for my buck. In my career trajectory right now. Or this was really helping me with my marriage, my relationship with my boss or my parenting. And that’s the real cool thing about this is most things are very most development initiatives or development kind of programs out there are very one dimensional, they’re only applicable to that one area. This that’s why it’s an operating system, right? Because this can apply to literally every personal or professional development area that you seek to be better at and have sustained positive change on. You just need to plug everything else that you’re learning and passionate about into this and basically put it on top of that.
Josh: 26:26-26:51 Yeah, no, I love that we, we can totally relate. This is like a skeleton for your brain. You have to then have different ideas and we do the same thing Work the System it’s a skeleton for your business so that your new sales idea your new marketing idea, your new IT ID that fits within your operating system to scale your business. So this is this is really cool. Well, Adam, I really appreciate you taking the time to be here. Where can people find out more about you and this this app?
Adam: 26:52-27:59 Yeah, so I’m, I’m trying to be more prevalent on LinkedIn. That’s kind of the social I’m a little bit of an introvert but that’s the social media platform that I’m jumping in. Now that I’m in this role, and you can find me you know my name Adam McGraw with CRO with positive intelligence, our company websites Positive Intelligence dot com. And our free assessments are right on the website Positive Intelligence dot com forward slash assessments. It’s easy to toggle through and find it intuitively on the page as well. And that’s where you can do two assessments, you can do one that tells you what are my sabotaging behaviors. And that’s one of the pillars of the research, of course, and almost nobody has said that’s not exactly me, or my wife or my husband, by the way. And then the other one that you can do is our positive intelligence quotient survey, which allows you to see the percentage of time your mind serving you versus sabotaging you and the reality is our research shows about 80% of people score below the minimum threshold required for peak performance and happiness. So most of us don’t, don’t be deterred if you don’t score very high. That’s where most people score is somewhere below a 75 out of 100, which is not optimal for peak performance.
Josh: 28:00-29:01 Awesome. All right, so everybody who’s listening, if you want to reach high performance, which, if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s required actually, you have to be a good leader to grow your team. You have to be at peak performance. Otherwise, how can you expect people underneath you to be so anyways, you should be you should go there. I’m going to go there after this call. After the podcast I record after this, Positive intelligence dot com . Find out more about that. And Adam again, glad to have you the show learned a lot. This is really fun. And those of you who want to see it, we have next week, we’re going to share another podcast next week. So check out Work the System dot com to find that on our website, or you can also find that book right there behind me work the system. You can download that for free on our website, or you can get a free copy mailed to you. All you have to do is leave a review on wherever you’re watching this or listening to this and email us a copy of that review to info at work the system dot com and we pull a name out of a hat each week, and hopefully you can win a copy. Otherwise again, Adam, thanks again for being on the show. And we’ll see you all next week.
To share the podcasts on social media, note the buttons below.