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Heal To Lead - Why Unresolved Trauma Affects Leadership & Organisations

A smiling blonde-haired female and grey-haired, glasses wearing male discuss trauma on a podcast
Kelly Campbell (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss affect of trauma on leadership and organisational health

When it comes to dealing with unresolved trauma in business, there are 3 rules you may be familiar with. Rule 1: Trauma doesn't affect leadership. Rule 2: Only big traumas matter. Rule 3: It's not the leader's responsibility to address trauma.


I don't believe these rules are true today. We're far more comfortable discussing issues of pain and mental health now, and business is slowly getting to grips with facing into some of these things.


My recent podcast conversation with Kelly Campbell, a trauma-informed coach and author of the book Heal To Lead highlighted many of the consequences organisations and leaders within those organisations face, of not dealing with unresolved trauma.


In this episode of Sticky From The Inside, Kelly shared her personal journey and insights on the impact of childhood trauma on leadership behaviour. Kelly's emphasis on the importance of acknowledging and addressing trauma, both on a personal and organizational level, offered valuable perspectives for leaders and managers. Their focus on the transformative potential of trauma-informed leadership shed light on creating healthier workplace cultures and fostering empathy and understanding.


You can listen this episode on the player below, or by reading the full transcript that follow. I hope you'll gain a deeper understanding of the impact of trauma on leadership and organisational dynamics, as well as practical insights for taking responsibility for the required healing journey to commence.



Podcast Transcript

Introduction to Sticky from the Inside

00:00:10 - Andy Goram

Hello and welcome to Sticky from the Inside, the employee engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier, competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host, Andy Goram, and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn the lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them, and create tons more success for everyone.


This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode, we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work, and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it. So if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

Impact of Unresolved Trauma on Leadership

Okay then. So in our fast paced, high stakes work environments, leaders are often expected to be pillars of strength and stability. However, beneath the service, many of us are grappling with unresolved trauma that can significantly affect our leadership capabilities. Leaders who carry the weight of unresolved trauma may struggle with trust, communication, and resilience, and this can lead to, at worst case, a toxic work environment, high turnover rates, and a disconnect between leaders and their teams.


Now, understanding and addressing these often hidden issues is not just beneficial, but, I think, essential for creating a healthy and productive workplace culture. And today I'm delighted to have Kelly Campbell with me. Kelly's vision is for more than half of humanity to heal its childhood trauma so that we can reimagine and rebuild a world together. They're the author of the new book Heal to Lead, and they speak and write about trauma, leadership and consciousness, or, as Kelly describes it, “The new TLC”.


As a trauma informed leadership coach, they work with emerging and established leaders who know they are meant for more and helps them achieve that. Kelly's work brings to light the profound ways in which unaddressed trauma can undermine a leader's effectiveness, decision making, and relationships.


So in this episode, I hope we'll explore how past traumas can create barriers to effective leadership and why it's crucial to confrontational and attempt to heal these wounds for the sake of personal and organisational wellbeing. So over the next 45 minutes, I'll ask Kelly to share their personal journey with trauma. The insights they've uncovered through their extensive work, and practical steps leaders can take to begin their healing process. So whether you're a leader seeking to understand the root of your challenges, or an HR professional dedicated to fostering a support environment or just. Just someone like me dealing with or facing into your own traumas. I hope this episode will resonate with you and give you some practical help and guidance. So get ready to gain a deeper understanding of how trauma can impact leadership and why healing is a vital step towards more effective, compassionate, and connected leadership.


Welcome to the show, Kelly.

Introduction to Kelly Campbell

00:03:28 - Kelly Campbell

Andy, I endorse everything you just said.

 

00:03:32 - Andy Goram

We're off to a great start.

 

00:03:33 - Kelly Campbell

We're gonna have so much fun.

 

00:03:36 - Andy Goram

It's so lovely to have you here. What I'm loving about the way that the podcast is going at the moment is some really interesting topics that I never, ever thought that I would get to talk about or talk to experts on. When I started thinking about, oh, what's going to happen with employee engagement, you know, this is fantastic. And I feel a bit weird getting excited about talking about trauma is that wrong thing?

 

00:04:02 - Kelly Campbell

Welcome to my life. Most people think it's weird that I am so passionate about talking about this and. And bringing this to light, but honestly, there's nothing more important. I think everything comes down to this, and we don't talk about it enough. So I really. I get delighted by it, which if people think that's weird, that's okay. I don't. I don't mind being seen as weird. But if we're having these conversations and normalizing these conversations, I feel like I'm. I'm doing what I'm meant to do while I'm here.

 

00:04:35 - Andy Goram

I'm all for that, my friend. I'm all for that. Kelly, can you do me a quick favour? Before we get into the topic today? Just give the listeners a little bit of your background, what you're up to at the moment and where your focus is in the world right now.

 

00:04:51 - Kelly Campbell

So, quick background is, I didn't have it easy growing up. None of us had a perfect childhood. Mine, not in any comparative way, was pretty tumultuous in terms of the relationship with my mother, which is a little bit rare for people. And, you know, really what? That set the course for me in really believing some untruths about myself. Untruths like, I wasn't inherently valuable, I wasn't worthy, I wasn't lovable. You know, all of these kind of really core false narratives about my being. And so as I took that and made my way into the workplace, I decided really early on that I was going to create a company, start a company. I had an entrepreneurial drive. So around 22 years old, I started a cause marketing agency. So that's essentially a digital marketing agency. We built websites and did digital marketing specifically for causes, non-profits, foundations, social impact initiatives. I ended up really having that company for about 14 years before I sold it in 2016. And at that inflection point of selling it, because I was very unhappy, very unhealthy. My marriage was failing. There was so much happening at the time. It was because of hitting know, maybe a somewhat rock bottom that I started leaning into this question around, like, why did I even start a company at such a young age? Like, what was I? What was the point of that? Why did I do it? And also asking myself some, you know, real casual questions, like, who am I? What am I here for? What's my purpose? Right.

 

00:06:53 - Andy Goram

Just casual questions, Kelly…

 

00:06:55 - Kelly Campbell

But what was interesting is I couldn't answer them, and I really wanted to get into the underneath, unearth the answers to these things. And what I discovered was that I had actually started that business, that first business, as a means to recreate the environment where I got my needs met. What I mean by that is, since I didn't feel valuable and lovable and worthy and all those things, like I mattered when I was younger, the vehicle of the business was essentially like an external means to try to gain those things. I created the environment where my employees and my clients really thought that I mattered because I was responsible for their livelihoods and their marketing and such. But when I started to unpack it, it was like, oh, gosh, this whole thing was just a trauma response, essentially. Right? And then the question started pouring from there. Well, how many other people create businesses or find themselves in leadership positions because they are driven to prove themselves, prove themselves worthy, et cetera? And that's really where, you know, from selling the agency to consulting to coaching, that was sort of a pretty quick, nonlinear path to understanding what I was really here to do. And that's how I got from, you know, the childhood that I grew up in, or the childhood that I had all the way to today, which I'm doing, trauma informed leadership coaching.

 

The Definition of Trauma Informed Leadership

00:08:32 - Andy Goram

And just so I can get every on the same page, Kelly, when you use the term trauma informed leadership, now, what is. What is the. What's that? What's that saying? What's the definition of that? What does that really mean to people?

 

00:08:49 - Kelly Campbell

So, trauma informed leadership, there's some myths around that it's becoming more popularized. Trauma informed care, let's start with that, has been in the healthcare sector for decades. But trauma informed leadership is fairly new, and it's essentially applying the same principles in order to think about our employees and even our colleagues and, you know, other, other leaders on our leadership team. As a trauma informed leader, I am holding space for people's experiences. Right. I'm seeing them through the lens of their humanity and not wondering, like, what's wrong with this person? I'm more wondering what happened to that person? How can I best support that person?


And so it's, you know, I dare say it's like, human leadership is a synonym for trauma informed leadership. You can also think of it as, like, trauma aware, and I think sometimes that's a little easier to understand. There's an awareness that a leader might have that everyone that they are leading or interacting with in the organisation has been on the receiving end of some form of trauma, whether that's big t trauma or small t trauma. And we can get into what that means, but that we've all had some experiences in which we didn't feel valuable or we felt abandoned or rejected or humiliated or betrayed, whether that was in childhood or in the workplace that we're talking about. Right. And then leaning into, well, you know, how does that trauma actually impact how you're able to show up or not? How is that impacting your mental health? What support might you need in order to really move into post traumatic growth? Right. So the idea that we grow out of these experiences, so that's really, you know, it's about just being human and holding space for people as they're having emotions. That's. I mean, there's lots and lots of definitions that you'll find, but at the end of the day, it's just humanity.

 

Writing "Heal to Lead" and Finding the Right Publisher

00:10:56 - Andy Goram

Yeah. Get it and heal to lead. So it sounds a ridiculous kind of, like a generic podcasty question to say, so “what's the inspiration for the book, Kelly?” But from our earlier conversation, there's something deeper about you writing this book, even to the method of you choosing a publisher for this book. Can you just maybe explain a little bit about that? Because I think that will help inform where this drive, this passion, this connection to this topic really comes from, and then we can get into some of the detail.

 

00:11:31 - Kelly Campbell

Yeah. Yeah. So it was pretty apparent to me from the beginning of writing this iteration of the book, it was very apparent to me from the beginning that this was absolutely meant to be a business leadership, or let's say organisational leadership book. And it was important to find a publisher that understood that that's what this was. Even though the word heel is in the title and the word trauma is in the subtitle, it was important for me to find that publisher who understood and really believed that that's where this sits versus self-help. Because you can find a book in the realm of this, right, that talks about healing or talks about trauma and things like that. You can find that in the self-help section. Already there's dozens, hundreds, thousands of books in those sections. There is not one book that's sat in the organisational leadership section that correlated healing and trauma and trauma integration.


And so that was the most important to me. And, you know, the journey of finding the right publisher was super interesting because it was very difficult to find. There were only two publishers, you know, well known publishers that understood that and that were willing to move forward in that way. The rest of them essentially said two things. Number one, we do not think that leaders will want to work on their trauma. And number two, this basically sits either between self-help and business leadership or organisational leadership. And we would be wanting to put it in that self-help category because it sits among so many others. And I couldn't really understand that, you know, as a marketer, because I'm like, wouldn't you want to disrupt, differentiate and differentiate and stand out in, you know, a particular category? Anyhow, that aside, I did find a publisher who believed in it, and particularly an acquisitions editor who specifically loved to work with BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Colour) and LGBTQ (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer) authors. So it was a win win, and so Wiley became the publisher.

 

00:13:40 - Andy Goram

I just think it's really important that people understand that because, to me, that reinforces the connection and the passion you have for this topic. Anyway, let's get into the topic today. I want to try and understand a bit about this. The trauma leadership, and you started to talk about that. But answer me this. How can acknowledging and addressing trauma, like, fundamentally change the way we approach leadership, which I think is at the heart of what you've written and the work that you do?

 

People Controlling & Pleasing Leadership Behaviour

00:14:13 - Kelly Campbell

Well, think about all of the experiences that you've had with other colleagues, other leaders, other bosses in your life, and all of the behaviours that either looked like people controlling on one end of the spectrum or people pleasing on the other end of the spectrum. Neither one of those were effective because your people controlling leaders, all rooted in trauma, essentially felt a feeling of powerlessness or a sense of powerlessness when they were younger. And so now they're essentially projecting that pain, that unprocessed trauma onto you as an employee or a colleague, and that could look like micromanaging, that could look like taking credit for your work, that could look like bypassing you for a promotion because they feel threatened by anyone who is going to come in and challenge their authority or their status. On the other end of that spectrum, you have people pleasing leaders, which can come across as quite kind and supportive. And it's also even more dangerous because, and I think about it this way, the people controlling leaders, they're predictable. They're a little aggressive. You can see it. You know, w you're going to get. I almost, I don't want to use the word safer, but I almost feel like I can deal with that a little bit easier. Even though they can be quite intimidating, I can deal with that easier because there's very little unpredictability.

 

00:15:46 - Andy Goram

You know where you stand, right, with those.

 

00:15:48 - Kelly Campbell

You know where you stand, right. And it does. I mean, we can apply this to life in general and relationships and people that we encounter. But when it comes to the people pleasing leaders, that, that end of the spectrum, and it is a spectrum important to understand, it's not one or the other, because we, you and I, could be little people controlling or a little people pleasing on any given day.

 

00:16:10 - Andy Goram

Have you been watching me, Kelly? You been watching me secretly or something?

 

Impact of Unresolved Trauma in Leadership

00:16:16 - Kelly Campbell

The people pleasing leaders are interesting because also a trauma response. Right. They maybe had a feeling of being neglected or needing to earn the love and acceptance or belonging of their families or things like that. When they were younger, they invented a narrative that in order to be accepted, that they would need to over deliver. Right. That they would need to provide value because they didn't inherently feel worthy of value. That's more along the lines of, if this is a spectrum, which it is, that's more along the lines of where I set more often than not. But the way that this shows up is I'm going to take things off of your plate because I don't want to overburden you. But what I'm actually doing is taking so much on that I become unreliable as a leader because things are going to slip through the cracks. I am conflict avoidant as a people pleasing leader.


So if things are happening where I should have held you accountable or should have raised that, you know, awareness about something that's happened, I'm not going to say anything, and I'm just secretly going to get resentful until it boils up to a point. Right. And then it's going to come out sideways and I'll be passive aggressive. Right. People pleasing leaders, like I said, they come off as so supportive and kind, but there's an emotional manipulation that comes with people pleasing. Right. It's actually, if you think about the controlling and the pleasing, it's all about control. We just call it something else, and it shows up as a different mask. So that's some of the examples and some of the ways in which I think about leadership and unhealed trauma, because we take ourselves with us wherever we go, right? We can't pull ourselves apart. I'm going to be this Andy at home, and I'm going to be this Andy in my. My, you know, vocation. I'm the same person. So it makes sense that these things would arise, right? And we don't outgrow them either. It's not like, oh, well, this happened between zero and 14. As soon as I hit 21, it just all evaporates. That's not how it works. So it becomes the imprinting or the foundation of who you are as a human and therefore shows up and manifests in leadership.

 

The Epidemic of Not-Enoughness

00:18:42 - Andy Goram

I find this fascinating because listening to what you just sort of said now, my mind automatically goes to, well, how are these showing up here with imposter syndrome? How much of this is kind of like driving some of the way we feel about ourselves and how that manifests in how we behave at. Behave at work or with friends and colleagues? But also, I've heard you talk about the phrase not enoughness. To me, these two things seem, or three things even, because this is trauma. Imposters, not enoughness. These are all conflating and coming together. Right?

 

00:19:16 - Kelly Campbell

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, not enoughness. I think where we are in the world right now, it's an epidemic. You know, we talk about the mental health epidemic. We talk about all these other things. But what we're really talking about is the fact that there is an epidemic of not enoughness. And I have that, I think, as a subtitle in the book, really, there are so many people who believe that they are not blank enough, not good enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough. You insert whatever your deficit was, whatever need went unmet in childhood, and that, again, became that imprinting or that foundation or that story that you invented about yourself.


And the reason why we do that is there was something in our environment, whether it was a one time experience or an ongoing. We'll talk about that in a second. Something that was ongoing or continuous, that essentially invented a story. Right. We attached to a story that it wasn't something wrong with the environment, meaning like my caregivers or my home or. Right. It wasn't about the environment that was unsafe or something was off. It must be that I am the flawed thing or the broken thing or the damaged thing, because. And this is the work of Doctor Gabor Maté. Because if the environment is flawed, right, the totality of the environment that I'm living in, existing in, then how can I ever feel safe? But if it's about me, then it's about me. And I can invent those narratives and survival strategies and coping mechanisms and whatever words you want to use. So we make it about ourselves.

And then again, because that becomes the imprint. We are essentially fed confirmation bias for our whole lives because we end up sabotaging ourselves in relationships, in jobs, all of these things. And so it is an epidemic. And that's why my vision is for more than half of humanity to heal its childhood trauma. Because if we hit that mass, kind of critical inflection point where it was more than half, oh, we are living in a very different world then. Very different world, where we understand our value and our worth and the fact that we matter, and then those people can essentially become the choir and help other people as well.

 

Big T and Little t Trauma

00:21:43 - Andy Goram

Yeah, I mean, I love the work of Zack Mercurio, who talks a lot about mattering. I think he's an absolute superstar. And that whole topic is fantastic. I just want to pick up on something you mentioned or a couple of things you mentioned a minute, a minute ago. There's the big t, little t stuff around trauma, and then we're just talking about single event versus on ongoing.

 

00:22:05 - Kelly Campbell

Yep.

 

00:22:06 - Andy Goram

Can you just clarify where you were going with those things? I think that's a really important point to understand.

 

00:22:11 - Kelly Campbell

An incredibly important point, because it really level sets the conversation. If this is new information and positing that, this is probably new information for a lot of folks. So let's talk about trauma first. You can google trauma, and you will get lots and lots and lots of different definitions. The one that I like the best is unintegrated energy and information. The reason why I like that definition is it takes the emotion out of it. It takes the stigma out of it. And it's essentially saying there were experiences, not events, but experiences that we had when we were younger, where our nervous system was unable to cope. And so we had this information that was essentially given to us that has been floating around inside of our bodies. Unintegrated. Right? We haven't addressed it, we haven't processed it. It's floating around. It's causing some chaos. It's causing us to behave in certain ways, think in certain ways, negative self talk, you name it. Trauma is not an event that happened to you. Right? It's what happens inside of you as a result of an event.

 

00:23:22 - Andy Goram

I think that's critical. Right. That's critical to understand. Yeah.

 

00:23:25 - Kelly Campbell

And back to your other question. When I say it's not the event, that could be a one time or a continuous. Right. An ongoing series of events. Now, there's also a bifurcation here between what some people call big t trauma and small t or little t trauma. And what we mean by those things is big t trauma. According to the. There was a study done by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC in the US in the late 1990s, and that was this study. Eventually they called it the ACES. So, Adverse Childhood Experiences, the outcome of that, essentially, there's a lot to talk about with that, but we'll just keep it very simple.


It was naming about ten to twelve very impactful experiences that the people who were surveyed were on the receiving end of or had experienced. Right. So those included things like living in a house with a parent who had a mental illness, or a caregiver who had a mental illness. Your parents getting divorced or your caregivers getting divorced, living in a war-torn country, you know, conflict ridden country, having. Being on the receiving end or having experience with a natural disaster where, let's say, your home or something was really impacted or taken away. Things that we would think about as very impactful, where, you know, the nervous system would just not be able to cope with that. Okay, big t trauma.


Now, small t trauma. And there are a lot of people who say, I had a perfect childhood. When I look at the aces, those ten to twelve things, I didn't experience any of those. So I therefore had a perfect childhood. I really push against that idea because a, none of us had a perfect childhood, b, this is not about blaming our caregivers. Right. It's about taking responsibility for how we're showing up now. And the small t traumas are just as impactful. So small t traumas, we can think about these as experiences where we were made to feel, or had the experience of feeling humiliated, betrayed, abandoned, rejected. There are things along these lines. If I say those four or five things as examples, I am positive that you could immediately be taken back to a memorable experience when you were five or seven or 12%. Yeah. So we have all had those experiences, and those could have been, again, based on the environment that we grew up in. They could have been a one time event. Although most small t trauma is never one time. It's things that have happened over and over and over, where again we get that confirmation bias, that it must be me, it enforces that story. So that's what we mean by trauma. And that's what, you know, this kind of not bifurcation, but the, the totality of how trauma can show up.

 

00:26:32 - Andy Goram

Oh, this is, this is, this is, this is great, because this is kind of like colouring in lots of stuff in my head. Where do I, where do I go? There's a couple of bits and pieces for me just to sort of, like, link to maybe, maybe incorrectly. Who knows? That's not uncommon.

 

00:26:48 - Kelly Campbell

That's fine.

 

Taking Responsibility For Your Trauma

00:26:49 - Andy Goram

You just started to talk about responsibility on, on dealing and showing up. So, you know, I'm that kind of guy sitting here going, okay, so we now understand trauma properly, and we understand how it shows up in, in life and in particular leadership with the relevancy. We're talking here, the context we're talking here. So how do we sort it out? How do we, how do we heal this stuff? And I don't even know if that's the right question, but can you maybe either put me straight or guide us through that journey of trying to heal from this past trauma and maybe getting to that point where you do reclaim that personal sense of self worth or personal strength that's been kind of robbed of you or suppressed? I mean, people often talk about the healing process. What is that in this case? And. Or am I barking up the wrong tree? Kelly?

 

00:27:50 - Kelly Campbell

No, you're not barking up the wrong tree. There's about 18 questions in there.

 

00:27:55 - Andy Goram

Not unusual.

 

00:27:56 - Kelly Campbell

So, all right, let's start with the responsibility piece because that's pretty easy. Trauma is not something that we consented to. Right. We can agree on that. So even though it's not our fault, it is our responsibility to clean it up. Think about it a real quick analogy. You see a piece of trash on the sidewalk, right? I didn't throw it there. But as a global citizen, as someone who cares about the environment, I'm going to pick that up because it's my responsibility. That's it. Super simple. So a lot of people are stuck in this mental formation that whatever happened in their past, whatever their experience has been, it's like they're so focused on the abuser or the situation or the scenario that has occurred that it's like if you just shifted just 1% to okay, that happened, there's an acceptance that has to come with it. And healing really starts with self awareness, especially important as leaders.

And so self awareness can only start with trauma integration and healing. And the first step of that is taking responsibility, taking ownership. I didn't make this happen. I didn't ask for this to happen. I didn't invite it, but it is my responsibility to clean it up, because otherwise I'm just projecting my pain on everyone, and then everyone loses, right? Especially me. So that's the first part. And the other thing that I'll say is that we also know that this is a very non linear path. You talked about the healing journey. It looks very different for every single person. Even if you and I grew up in the exact same home, we had the exact same caregivers and had the exact same experiences. My nervous system is different from yours. Right. Great example in the book. My brother and I grew up in the same household. My mother really, really wanted a boy. Guess who felt very loved and very valued and all of those things. Guess who didn't. So same environment, but different experiences. So that's another part of this. And then on the side of things where some people might say, okay, well, let's get to work. Like, what do I do?

 

00:30:30 - Andy Goram

Yeah.

 

Healing Is A Lifelong Commitment

00:30:30 - Kelly Campbell

No one can tell you how to heal, right? No one can say, well, for you, with your particular makeup, you've got to start with therapy and then go into chiropractic and then do some acupuncture and then do some retreats and maybe some ayahuasca. Like, that's not how this works, right? It's not a prescription. So, you know, that's also one of the reasons why there's a supplement to the book called myhealingmenu.com. and so that's a great place to at least explore dozens and dozens of different modalities and tools and practices that might call you. Right. Might be interesting to you. Some of them you will say, absolutely, I'm never doing that. And that's fine. There's nothing to buy there. I have no investment in how you use it, just that it's a resource for people.

And then, you know, it's a lifetime commitment. I think a lot of people think, well, I've been in therapy for three, four years. I'm good. I'm healed. Healed in the past tense, in my opinion, maybe this is not everyone's opinion, but in my opinion, it's not possible. There are always going to be situations, whether that's in personal relationships, in, you know, your organisation, there are going to be people who activate you, situations that remind you in some even very minor way of something that happened when maybe when you were younger and something that you thought was, quote unquote healed comes around again, and you're like, I thought I was done with this. Yeah, you're never done with it. It's a lifetime commitment, and you're doing that for the benefit of yourself, of other people, and for the earth, quite honestly. So I think there's just. There's a lot to think about. But if you understand that it doesn't look the same for everyone, you really have a lot of agency in how you navigate that and what modalities and practices and tools you use and the fact that you're in it for the long haul, then you can kind of relax. Right. And you can say, oh, there's no urgency here. I don't have to get something done. It's not another deadline.

 

The Keys To Taking Responsibility For Your Trauma

00:32:47 - Andy Goram

My instant question, when you talked about taking responsibility, does that come as a shock to some people when you're trying to help them through this? So sorry, I've got to take responsibility for this. Is that. It's ridiculous to say, is that the toughest step for people? But that's. That feels like maybe quite a hard step to take.

 

00:33:11 - Kelly Campbell

Yeah. So what you're talking about is someone who. You're using the example of, like, difficulty with taking responsibility. So what that actually signals to me when I hear that is someone who has, and I will be the first to raise my hand, I spent the better part of 35 years in this stance, so I know it very well. It's living your life through the lens of victimhood. It's identifying with this thing that happened to me. Right. So therefore, it becomes part of my narrative, part of my identity, even a lot of people. Yeah. I mean, it can be difficult, but again, this is like that 1% shift in mindset. Like, if this isn't working for me, this victimhood thing is not working for me, and I refuse to take responsibility because I didn't ask for this.

And, you know, and maybe some people may have even fooled themselves, tricked themselves into thinking that they've made peace with something that's not exactly a thing. If you've not done any work on something that has been very impactful in your life from a traumatic standpoint, and you have just made peace with it, really. I put that in the same category as bypassing, you know, from a. This might be a little controversial, but from a religious standpoint. Right. If you are, let's say, Catholic, and you go and you see the priest and you go into confession and you confess whatever sin you know you have, you have done. And the priest says, okay, you're now absolved of that. Go say three Hail Marys. Right. That's bypassing because you're not actually doing the work. You're not really taking responsibility for it. So I think of that the same way. When someone says, I've made peace with this. I don't need to explore it anymore. I'm fine. You're still in very much a victimhood role or a victim lens, but you are sort of fooling yourself.

 

00:35:27 - Andy Goram

Yeah. Just burying your head in the sand, really expecting to sort of get away with it. I think in a lot of these situations, that's what we end up dealing with. Right. We know. I think we also know when we're kind of doing that.

 

00:35:38 - Kelly Campbell

Um, you know, I don't know. I don't know if that's true. Okay. I think you can be onto yourself a little bit. I think other people see it before you do.

 

00:35:51 - Andy Goram

I mean, that's a good point.

 

00:35:52 - Kelly Campbell

Right. Because it's like, man, why is this person acting like this, you know? You know, as a trauma informed leadership coach, with my training, it's a blessing and a curse, because I see people through the lens of their trauma. When someone is very tight and very rigid and holds their beliefs or their values as, like, calcified and unchangeable. My immediate question is, what happened to you? Right. Because inflexibility. There's no curiosity there. It's hard to work with that. Right. And we do see a lot of that in leadership, particularly people controlling leaders, will show up with that kind of characteristic or traits.

 

00:36:40 - Andy Goram

I think that's really interesting, because if we think about the iceberg analogy that's used a lot in leadership circles, the stuff we see above, we make tons and tons of assumptions about what's happened as a result of what we see. But what I'm hoping from this episode is that instead of, oh, they've got some issues, that is another consideration to have as to what could be driving the behaviour that we see.

 

00:37:06 - Kelly Campbell

Yeah.

 

The Affect of Trauma On Organisations

00:37:06 - Andy Goram

And I think that's what's fascinating about this topic. We've talked a lot about the thing, the trauma thing itself. We talked about individuals effect and leadership. In the intro, we also breached the topic of the effect that this stuff can have on an organisation. So I guess my question, and I'll try and just keep it to one question instead of 18 this time, is why is dealing with trauma so important to the health of an organisation coupled with the effectiveness of leadership? Kelly.

 

00:37:42 - Kelly Campbell

So one thing I do want to get back to for a moment, a quick moment before we go into that is I also want to dispel this other myth that as a trauma informed leader, it is not my responsibility or job or anything to act the part of a therapist or a counsellor or to unpack the trauma of someone else at all. At all. I think that is definitely something that people are like,

Oh, I don't… You're using the trauma word. You're talking about leadership. That feels like I have to be put in situations where I feel like I'm going to be out of my depth.”

You do not. It's just the curiosity. It's a. It's a seat that you're sitting in that is a curious one to say. I want to view this employee or this colleague through a lens of what happened to them versus what's wrong with them. But I'm not… that's where it stops. Right. And space for them and all of that. But it's not about unpacking and finding out all the details of, like, what happened when they were seven. It's nothing about that. Right? So I just wanted to say that because I felt that that was important.

 

00:38:49 - Andy Goram

That's really important because you don't open... Well, if from what I'm taking, you don't want to open pandora's box and have no support system underneath that to kind of help.

 

00:38:58 - Kelly Campbell

No. And it's also also really detrimental. It can be incredibly detrimental to do that to someone else.

 

00:39:06 - Andy Goram

Yeah. Yeah. 100%.

 

Why Is This Important For Organisations?

00:39:07 - Kelly Campbell

So back to the organisation. What is in it for organisations or why is this important to organisations? Well, the more that trauma informed leaders hold space and create these cultures where psychological safety can even be a thing. Right. There's going to be more collaboration among the colleagues, among the team members, more trust. Because you can't have collaboration without trust, and more innovation because you can't have innovation without collaboration.

We think about conscious leadership, right. Which put people and planet and profit on equal plane. The reason why it's so important for organisations to really lean into this idea is that this is the way forward. Right. As much as we want to say this is very soft or this is very woo woo, or, you know, all of that. There are so many organisations that are leaning into this. I don't even want to call it a model, but I guess you could. A practice, let's call it a practice of what I have called it high conscious leadership, right? So it's leaders who are very self-aware. They're actively doing their healing work. They're creating environments where people feel very well supported to bring all of who they are to the table, which means their intellect, their emotional intelligence, their collaborative spirit, their, you know, ways of thinking very differently. So that's where your innovation piece comes in. And ultimately, employees are much more loyal and much more productive when they feel like the leader really cares about who they are as a human.

So this is the opposite of the industrial revolution in the US, where everything was about productivity, factory like conditions. You could replace a worker really quickly if they were sick or didn't act a certain way. That's not what this is about. This is about really pouring into your people. And what you will get on the outside is it will pay dividends. What's also on the tail end of that? We know profitability is a lagging indicator. So the organisation that we're talking about is a for profit company that will also show itself in this type of approach to leadership or practice of leadership. So what's in it is sustainability. Right. Financial sustainability for organisations, which matters to shareholders. But what should matter even more, and what I'm hoping, I'm starting to see that trend, is that people realize that business is not about solely making money. Right. It's about how am I impacting, positively impacting the lives of my employees, because when they go home, that's going to impact their family and their community. And so this ripple effect, to use that cliche, this ripple effect is very real. More and more leaders are adopting this, and they're seeing the proof of it. So that's what's in it for organisations.

 

The Return on Caring For People In Business

00:42:31 - Andy Goram

Yeah, I think so. Because often when we talk about these human leadership skills, let's call them, let's put them in that bracket. The first question that people, maybe like us, get asked is, okay, so what's what? So what's the return? And you were asking again, the return on caring for my people would have seen a bizarre question. But even in the. In the flyby, we've given this topic today because I could listen to you for goodness knows how long, Kelly, and still continue to learn and understand stuff. But the simple, basic facts of looking after people in this way or understanding people and supporting people this way can only improve retention and lower turnover. It can only increase loyalty and give a halo effect to your reputation. All of these things have finite costs against them.

 

00:43:20 - Kelly Campbell

Well, let's talk about acquisition.

 

00:43:22 - Andy Goram

Yeah.

 

00:43:23 - Kelly Campbell

Employee acquisition. Tremendously expensive.

 

00:43:27 - Andy Goram

Yeah.

 

00:43:27 - Kelly Campbell

So productivity model, antiquated, says, just don't pour into your people at all. Don't support them at all. Replace them when they need to be replaced. Right. How is that sustainable to a bottom line? We know what it costs to bring in and to recruit. And you know, bonuses and salaries and all these different things for new employees. If you supported a human that you are, is already in your organisation, that already has institutional knowledge, that isn't going to cost you what it's going to cost you to replace them. It feels like a no brainer, you know? And so I. Maybe this is naive, but I have always struggled, whether it was as a CEO or now coaching CEO's, I have always struggled with those who were like, how does this make business sense? Or what's the ROI on this? It's like, just think outside of... you know, traditional, you know, balance sheets and whatnot, but just doing the pure math of it, it's like, it's so obvious to me.

And, you know, we see this playing out on the world stage. We see Tesla. Look at Tesla. Everyone puts Elon Musk on such a stage. Oh, he's such a great leader. Look how innovative he is. Look how all these things. I'm not taking anything away from his innovation. What I am taking away is that in the short term, people controlling leaders who have had tremendous trauma when they were younger and never integrated it, they can get ahead, but there will be a finite period of time in which that will be effective. Right. All of a sudden, design is tanking. Innovation is tanking. He's losing market share. Right. The stocks are dropping. Well, of course that was going to happen. That's not surprising to me. It was just a matter of when, not if. And so, you know, really, again, I come back to the sustainability. If you need to talk about the monetary component of this, because caring about people is not enough. Well, it's financial sustainability.

 

Sticky Note Wisdom

00:45:44 - Andy Goram

It's a simple case for me. Kelly, we’ve got to the bit in the show I like to call sticky notes. So on this topic of the impact of trauma on leadership, what three pieces of advice that you could stick on three little sticky notes would you like to leave for the listeners today to help them get to grips, start that healing process and really, I guess, take ownership and responsibility for this stuff.

 

00:46:10 - Kelly Campbell

Okay, quick question for you. Did you watch Ted Lasso?

 

00:46:14 - Andy Goram

Oh, my gosh. I love, love, love Ted Lasso.

 

00:46:17 - Kelly Campbell

Probably one of the best series I've ever seen.

 

00:46:19 - Andy Goram

Yeah.

 

00:46:20 - Kelly Campbell

So remember how Ted Lasso had. Be like a goldfish, right?

 

00:46:26 - Andy Goram

Yeah.

 

00:46:27 - Kelly Campbell

Don't hold on to those little failures. Mine is, be like a rubber band. Get more curious about yourself and others. Right. That elasticity will pay dividends. Right. When you find yourself feeling a little rigid, a little calcified, get a little bit more curious. Why am I thinking that way? Why am I judging this person? What might have happened to them? Right? It's that elasticity and that curiosity that will lead to self-awareness. So my first one is be elastic like a rubber band.

 

00:47:02 - Andy Goram

Love that.

 

00:47:03 - Kelly Campbell

The second one would be start somewhere, right? Even if you've been in that victim lens for a long time, and maybe this conversation is sparking something new. Start somewhere. Take one action today toward your own healing, whatever that is. But start somewhere, because if you've not started yet, pick up a book, listen to a podcast, go see a therapist, go try a retreat. Like something, just do something. And then my third one is, why am I doing this? Right? I think a question to ponder on a weekly basis or a daily basis, like why? Why should I do any of this healing work? And healing ourselves inherently means healing for other people. Because think about how we show up. We are going to respond to people instead of react to them. We're going to model a different way of having a conversation. Maybe we'll be able to have healthy conflict. Oh, my God!

 

00:48:14 - Andy Goram

Can you imagine, Kelly?

 

00:48:15 - Kelly Campbell

Can you imagine? Right? So, so why are we doing this? Healing really is for everyone.

 

Podcast Conclusion

00:48:22 - Andy Goram

Thank you so much for those. I mean, my head is full in a really, really good way, though, Kelly, because you've opened my eyes to, I guess, another influence on behaviour. And I think that's great. So thank you so much for coming on and bringing greater awareness to this topic. Before I let you go, where can people find out a bit more about you and about the book and all that kind of stuff?

 

00:48:47 - Kelly Campbell

All that kind of stuff can be found on my website, which is just klcampbell.com.

 

00:48:54 - Andy Goram

I'm going to put that and a bunch of other links in the show notes so we can make sure it's dead easy people to get hold of you. Thank you so, so much for spending some time with me today. I really, really appreciate it, and I wish you all the very best with the book.

 

00:49:08 - Kelly Campbell

Thanks, Andy.

 

00:49:09 - Andy Goram

Okay, you take care. Okay, everyone, that was Kelly Campbell. And if you'd like to find out a bit more about them or any of the things that we've talked about today, please check out the show notes. So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting, and heard something maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forward. If you have, please, like, comment and subscribe. It really helps. I'm Andy Goram, and you've been listening to the sticky from the Inside podcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.


Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world. 

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