Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host Steve Shallenberger – and we have a delightful guest with us today! She is an international award-winning speaker, Amazon best-selling author, and has over 19 years of experience in training and consulting. Welcome, AmyK!
AmyK Hutchens: Well, good morning! Thanks for having me!
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, this is going to be fun! AmyK and I have had the chance to visit a little before we got going and this is going to be a treat for all of our listeners today. And before we get started, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about AmyK. As we mentioned, she is an award-winning speaker and trainer – she has clients such as The Home Depot, Starbucks Canada, banks, Expedia, Lockheed Martin, Walmart, and just a host of others. She travels the globe – except maybe during the Coronavirus; we can talk more about that – sharing with executives, influencers, and go-getters how to navigate their toughest conversations. She has received her Master’s from John Hopkins University, has been a featured guest on numerous TV and radio networks, including Bloomberg, NBC, Fox, and ABC. She resides in San Diego, California. We’re so glad to have you on! Let’s get rolling, shall we?
AmyK Hutchens: Awesome! Yes, Steve, absolutely!
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. So, AmyK, tell us about your background, including any turning points in your life that’s had a significant impact on you, and how did you get to where you’re at today?
AmyK Hutchens: Well, I come from a family of teachers and educators so, Steve, I am a teacher through and through – literally, when I was five and six years old, I was playing school with my imaginary students; and then, I was a Child Development Major, and I was an elementary school teacher, and then I was a corporate trainer, and then I started my own training company. So, here we are, a gazillion years later and I’m still teaching and loving what I do, and never would have thought, had you asked me when I was 18, 19 or 20, that I would end up as an entrepreneur because I was like, “Oh, no, I’m just going to teach my whole life.”
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. So, where did you grow up?
AmyK Hutchens: I grew up in DC. We were, as they say, inside the Beltway family – so, for the first 24 years of my life, I was an East Coast girl. And then, I went overseas, and I lived in China. I lived specifically in Shanghai for three years, and then London for two and then came back to the United States to start my own company.
Steve Shallenberger: Wow! So what in the world took you to China?
AmyK Hutchens: Teaching. So, I was not a part of the DOD schools, but I was part of the International School System, so I was teaching foreign passport holders in Shanghai. So, if your mom or dad was sent there to work for a company like Nike, those kids had to go to school somewhere.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, great! Yeah. We know all about that. We lived in Spain for three years and our children went to the international schools and they’re top-notch!
AmyK Hutchens: Oh, yeah. Then, you totally get it. You absolutely get it!
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, great! Okay, well, let’s dive right into this. AmyK has written a new book, called, “Get It!” So, tell us about your book – what inspired your book? And what’s the book about?
AmyK Hutchens: This book is all about honoring the worth of your own voice one conversation at a time. And so, I always joke, Steve, that we were given this voice box with no instructions on how to use it. We’re taught a lot of things in school, but not necessarily communication skills. And over the years, because I’ve been training, coaching, consulting for 28 years now, what I’ve noticed is that what separates good leaders from brilliant ones is their ability to communicate clearly.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, indeed! Yeah, that is such a big deal! So, that’s the inspiration. And how’s it gone?
AmyK Hutchens: We’ve had so many success stories already. So, the book came out just a little over four weeks ago, we hit the bestseller status in six categories – it was super exciting. We just celebrated the wins. A woman wrote in and said that in the middle of this pandemic, she lost her job, but she used some of the magical phrases in the book and she ended up not only with a $10,000 salary increase, she got a $10,000 signing bonus. And then, one of my clients used the magical phrases in the book – and I kid you not, this is the win we just got a few days ago – she closed a $6 million deal. And so, it’s just fun to see other people getting results.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s fabulous! Let’s just dive into some of the parts of the book – AmyK sent it to me in advance so I’ve had the chance to read it. She talks about – this is interesting, it’ll be helpful and it’s going to lay the foundation for maybe other parts of our visit today – four factors of getting what you want. Those are really interesting. I’m just going to quickly share them and then I’d like to have you talk about them. And also, the other thing, AmyK, I guess is pretty important for people to know what they want and then also, how do you reconcile what the other person wants or even worry about. So, maybe we could talk about that. Here are the four factors that she talks about: life happens one conversation at a time; the quality of your life is a direct reflection of the quality of your conversations; the life you desire is on the other side of a tough conversation; tough conversations can get you what you want, and create a profitable life. So, do you mind talking about this a little bit? And what’s the background on this? I love this thinking and I guess you first have to know what you want and then, how do you reconcile what other people want?
AmyK Hutchens: Yeah, well, I think that as positive and as optimistic as I am, I’m also a realist. And I think that communication is just so hard, and every single day, really smart people are either attempting or avoiding a tough conversation. And whether that’s asking for something that you need or drawing a boundary or trying to heal a relationship or get your people to play better inside your business – like you’re doing a performance review – or you are asking for that salary increase, I think that the more skilled we are to be able to prepare for these critical moments in our lives, the more that we get what we want. And I don’t mean that in a materialistic way. That really is better relationships and perhaps financial security and having a bigger impact or legacy. I’m so passionate about seeing people get what it is that they want, to be able to create the life that they desire while they’re here, and I just am so adamant about it all happening, one conversation at a time.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, so, what’s your recommendation for people to know what they really want?
AmyK Hutchens: Well, I think that sometimes these are the quiet moments and these can be the toughest conversations. I think that we live in a world that’s filled with noise and I think that we live in a world that’s trying to tell us what we want and need. And so, we do a lot of comparisons, we do a lot of looking outside of ourselves for answers – and I think that taking that quiet moment to get really clear about what do I think that this is really going to get me? Like, why do I want it? How do I think it’s going to make me feel? I often work with very successful CEOs and senior leaders and they always have these huge monetary goals like, “I’m going to make $100 million and then I’m going to make a billion.” And I’m like, “Well when that happens, how are you going to feel?” And they’re like, “Happy!” And I’m like, “Dude, if you can’t be happy here, you’re not going to be happy there, so let’s figure out what it is that you really want here and now!”
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good! That’s great. And you’re saying, AmyK, from the get-go, foundationally, people really need to know what they want, what they’re about, where they’re going?
AmyK Hutchens: Yeah! And I think that it’s about clarifying your real want – what drives you? What motivates you? What is it that’s most important to you? And I think that oftentimes, there’s an underlying need that we have, and I think that part of the reason that we don’t get clear about it is we don’t have a language for it. You know, many adults, when you say, “How do you feel?” they have a three-word spectrum of emotion: mad, sad, and glad. And when you can break that out into a wider spectrum and improve your own emotional literacy, then you start to get clear about your own needs and your own wants, which then allows you to better connect with other people, to better connect with yourself. And so, there’s a whole step in the book where I talk about connection versus power. And most of the conversations that we have that go sideways or that blindside us is because they’re power-driven. People aren’t looking to empathize, people aren’t looking to understand or connect – they’re looking to have power over somebody else.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, and I was just curious to get your thoughts. So, I like where you’re starting from – people have to know what they’re about – and you break it down to one conversation at a time and the importance of the tough conversations – and I guess, being able to know how to navigate that, which we can get into – how important is it that they know what the other person wants? What are your thoughts on that?
AmyK Hutchens: I think it’s really important that if you don’t know, you at least are aware that somebody else has their own. So, if I know you well, I may know what you want, but until I ask and I practice something called ‘the law of reciprocity’, then I really don’t know. So, for instance, I can make a false assumption and that can have a conversation go sideways because I think I know what you want, but until I ask, until I actually take the opportunity to say, “What is it that you need? What is it that’s most important to you? What do you value? How are you hoping that I respond? What can I offer or what do you want to request from me?” – those are the questions that so often we skip in our really important conversations. And false assumptions can create a story in our head that’s not even true.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah. Oh, I’ll say! And one of the fun parts of AmyK’s book is that she has some magical phrases. Let’s just talk about that. What are some of the magical phrases that effectively break down walls and create new possibilities?
AmyK Hutchens: Steve, I love magical phrases! I’m a curator of just these brilliant sort of back-pocket one-liners. And I’ve been doing sales training for, again, almost three decades, and I’m the first to say in a sales training, I don’t want you to script. I don’t want it to become robotic. But I want you to have these brilliant one-liners, whether it’s a response to an objection, or it’s just kind of a pivot in a tough conversation. And so, in the book, I actually share a lot of magical phrases that can apply both at work and at home. One of my all-time favorites is just this super fabulous phrase called, “A part of me.” So, what happens is, when most of us are in a tough conversation, we will speak with absolutes, and we’ll say something like, “I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m annoyed. I’m disappointed.” And the person that we’re talking to hears it as if it’s an absolute, meaning, “You’re 100% this emotion – you’re 100% angry, you’re 100% frustrated.” And so, what we do, when we use the phrase ‘a part of me’, is we create all this other space for other emotions that are much more positive, like inclusion, respect, and love. So, if I said to you, Steve, “Oh, you know, Steve, a part of me is really disappointed” then you’re like, “Oh, what’s going on?” If I say, “Oh, a part of me is really upset”, you’re like, “Okay, well, talk to me.” But if I’m like, “I’m angry!”, then all of a sudden the walls go up, we armor up instead of becoming more vulnerable. So, this is a great thing to use with teenagers. If you’re stressed or upset with a teenager, ‘a part of me’ actually gives them space to dialogue with you versus getting more defensive.
Steve Shallenberger: Great! Okay, that’s a good example! And let’s talk about a few more of these. I’m just so curious about them and how they seem to work. Another one is, ‘how might we’. I hope you don’t mind me asking these questions. I love them!
AmyK Hutchens: No, this is great! I’m a huge fan of inviting people to a real dialogue, a two-way conversation. And so, ‘how might we’ is sort of a foundational one. When I was teaching elementary school, this is something that I used with my fifth graders back in the late 80s. And what I love about the ‘how might we’ is it’s open to possibility, we don’t have to have the right answer, but we are going to co-create the future together. In other words, adults love to be asked, they hate to be told. So, I do a lot of my corporate meetings, I do a lot of my trainings, I encourage all of my CEOs and leaders to really have a ‘how might we’ question in the meetings that they lead to get more buy-in, more engagement, more inclusivity.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. And can you give an example of that?
AmyK Hutchens: Yeah. So, for instance, let’s say we’re trying to increase our sales right now. Rather than saying, “Oh, we’re going to get together next Tuesday at nine o’clock to talk about our sales”, what you want to do is you want to brainstorm, “How might we grow our sales? How might we build bigger internal champions? How might we upsell?” So, what you’re doing is you’re actually harnessing the collective intelligence of the people in the meeting. And a real fun trick is to send your ‘how might we’ question before a meeting so that people start to think before the meeting even starts.
Steve Shallenberger: Good! Okay, great! That’s a good example. Here’s another one for our listeners: ‘I have this story in my head’. Now, how do you use that magical phrase?
AmyK Hutchens: Well, this is when we don’t want to create, again, the assumption that I know exactly what it is that you’re thinking or that I’ve interpreted your behaviors correctly. So, for instance, let’s just say you walked by the hallway the other day, and you didn’t say ‘hello’, and that really bothered me because we’re close colleagues. So, I might swing by your office and say, “Hey, you know what, Steve? I have this story in my head that maybe somehow I offended you when I made that comment in the meeting the other day.” And you’ll look up and you can say anything you want. It could be, “Yeah, you did.” It could be, “No, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Or it could be, “No.” And I was like, “Well, you know, I just noticed that we didn’t connect the other day.” And you might be like, “Oh, I was working on a project.” But what’s fascinating about this is that you don’t project to be a know-it-all and you don’t project that your truth is the absolute truth. What you’re saying is, “I have this story in my head and I’m open to it being wrong.”
AmyK Hutchens: So, when I was coaching a woman the other day, she was in a funky dynamic with a bunch of women in a group that she was in. And I said, “Rather than going and accusing them of being funky – which is what she wanted to do – start with I have this story in my head that somehow our tone, our tenor, our dynamic is off. This is what I’m sensing. Are you all sensing that? Does my story have any validity to it?” And what’s fantastic is, again, you’re inviting people to share instead of causing them to be defensive.
Steve Shallenberger: Right! Okay, that’s good! Well, aren’t these wonderful? These are great. Here’s another one: “Help me understand what’s the thought behind” – how do you use that magical phrase?
AmyK Hutchens: Well, one of the things that I think it’s really important is that when people are all up in your grill, or they’re being egregious about something, you can lean in and you can say something along the lines of, “Hey, help me understand what’s going on here. I’m having trouble interpreting this.” And so, what you’re doing is you’re leaning in – I joke, in COVID-19, still six feet away – you’re leaning in to show them that you care and that you want to understand versus having some type of reactive response and misinterpreting because sometimes when people are behaving badly, we tend to ascribe it as they’re being a jerk. But when we’re behaving badly, we give ourselves the grace to say, “Well, I’m tired, I’m stressed, I’m in pain, I’m emotionally hurt.” But we don’t do that with other people. And so, this is a great way for us to practice more emotional intelligence, more empathy.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, so it really opens the door to better communication.
AmyK Hutchens: Yeah. And again, the book is filled with these magical phrases and I would love for people to pick it up. There are seven, specifically, in the book that we really highlight, but when people read the book, they’re going to realize there’s a lot more than seven. I mean, there’s probably over 15, and that doesn’t even include all of them. We’ve had some very specific magical phrases that we’ve been using during the COVID-19. I’ll give you one example and that is, people are feeling very out of control. So, just the magical phrase, “would you be willing” allows somebody to feel control over their choices and their decisions? So, if I said to you, Steve, “Would you be willing to Zoom at two o’clock tomorrow?” Or “Would you be willing to edit the first draft?” Or “Would you be willing to clean out the gutters?” I’m letting you say yes or no, of your own volition. And then, when people say, “Oh, no, I wouldn’t”, then you would follow that with, “Well, what might you be willing to do?” And so, again, you’re just giving people more control in a time when they’re feeling very out of control.
Steve Shallenberger: Got it. You’re just creating ways for good communication.
AmyK Hutchens: Yes.
Steve Shallenberger: Better communication and how to work through things.
AmyK Hutchens: Absolutely. What I’ve spent my entire career doing, is helping people to use their own voice.
Steve Shallenberger: So, how do you prepare for your most important conversations, to ensure really great outcomes?
AmyK Hutchens: This is really about getting clear about what you want, and then framing it, role-playing, and rehearsing. Now, that sounds like a lot, but it’s not. You can do it in five or six minutes. But here’s what typically happens: really smart go-getters, really smart leaders can get away with winging most of their conversations, but it’s the tough ones that will occasionally bite them on the butt. And so, one of our most popular tools – and it’s free, so this is not a pitch; I just highly encourage people to go get it – is we have a profitable conversation prep planner. It’s a couple of pages, and it will absolutely set you up for success; it walks you through what you want, why you want it, what the other person might want, it helps you come up with your magical phrases and your brilliant one-liners to really walk through and really structure. And what’s so fabulous is, this is exactly what somebody recently did to get the $6 million deal, to get the salary increase, to get her kids to stop fighting and do the dishes. So, there’s a myriad of ways that you can use the prep planner.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good! And so, how do they find that, AmyK?
AmyK Hutchens: It’s super easy! My first name is the name of our website – so, it’s amyk.com – and it’s one of many free tools that we have on the homepage. So, one of my core values is generosity, and we have just tons of free resources and tools right on the homepage.
Steve Shallenberger: Perfect! Okay, that’s great! And so, let’s talk about how people can honor the worth of their own voice.
AmyK Hutchens: You know, it’s really a practice. I say, if you want to be a great leader, if you want to be great in sales, if you want to be an innovator, if you want to be a great spouse or partner, you must practice your communication skills. It’s not sufficient, but it’s absolutely necessary. In other words, there’s a lot of things that are going to make you a successful leader. There’s a lot of things that are going to make you a successful spouse, but you won’t be either of those without fundamentally good solid communication skills. And so, it’s practicing every day showing up to your tough conversations ready to play.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. So, let’s take an example of real life. And, of these tools that you’ve been recommending, what can be of most help? Let’s say that you have a couple, and they’re 35, and they’re working on buying their first house. Let’s say they have a difference of opinion – one of them wants a nicer house than maybe they can afford. So, how do you work through that?
AmyK Hutchens: So, one of the first things that I would say is, download the prep planner, and one of the first things it’s going to ask you is to start structuring the conversation. So, we’d start that with a “How might we?“: How might we buy a house that we’re both excited about? How might we buy a house that we can create the life that we want? How might we buy a house that reflects our values? So, the first thing that you’re going to do is you’re going to brainstorm a bunch of questions that start with ‘how might we’ because it proves that you’re going to co-create this future together and that it is a joint decision by using the word ‘we’. And then, you’re going to brainstorm a couple more questions, starting with, “Well, what’s really important to you? What’s really important to me? How might this house reflect our values? How long do we see ourselves staying here? Do we want to raise kids here? Do we want this to be a place where grandkids come back? Do we want it to be temporary?” And so, getting really clear, again, about what you want, and then framing it in a way that says, “Okay, I’m going to respect both my wants in a house and yours.”
AmyK Hutchens: Then, you might dive into, “What’s the best house for our lifestyle? How would it reflect our personalities and the activities that we want to participate in? How does it reflect our budget?” And so, then, a great question – and this is super important for both individuals to answer on their own first – is, “What are my negotiables? What are my non-negotiables?” In other words, where can I be flexible in this house and where can’t I? And a great example is somebody might say, “We have to have a two-car garage.” Somebody else might say, “We have to have two bathrooms.” Somebody else might say, “We have to have room for a swing set for the kids.” So, you just get, again, really clear on your negotiables and your non-negotiables.
AmyK Hutchens: And then – and this is really important – in a tough conversation, when you hit these really tense moments, it’s important, Steve, to remind yourself that no matter what you say, it’s only going to do one of two things. It’s going to hurt, or it’s going to help. There’s no neutral in a tough conversation. So, before you open your mouth, you really want to think about, “Is this going to hurt us? Is this going to hurt Steve? Or is this going to help us? Is this going to help Steve?” And so, even when I have to communicate something that could be difficult for me, it could be tough for me to use my words, maybe I get all choked up, then one of the things that’s really important, especially for female listeners – and this is not to be biased; this is just statistically proven: women tend to get a stronger physical response in their bodies on a tough conversation. So, their chest will tighten or their neck will tighten or maybe sometimes they even get teary-eyed – it’s not to apologize for that. It’s to say, “Well, clearly this matters to me. Clearly, this is important, so let’s find a way to make this work.”
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s a great response. So, thank you for all those tips. I know that that is helpful for anyone that’s thinking about an issue like the example I just gave – but that’s just one; it could be many different types of things of how to prepare. So, as you think about your experience, AmyK, and you think about tough conversations, and somebody wants to get ready for one, what’s your most important advice?
AmyK Hutchens: I think the most important advice is to prepare yourself by setting yourself up for success and not winging it, to really go in and to think about, even if you’re just taking five minutes of what is it you really want, what are the questions that you want to ask this person and you really kind of set yourself up for what they might say, and then how you would respond. The other thing that I think that’s really important is that if the conversation goes a little sideways or maybe you say something that you regret, it doesn’t have to be done. You’re allowed to go back and say, “Hey, you know what? Yesterday I reacted, but today I have a thoughtful response” or “Yesterday I didn’t know what to say but the more that I thought about it, here’s my thoughtful response today.” And remember that while you can’t undo that conversation, you can absolutely have a more profitable one today.
Steve Shallenberger: Great! Okay. Well, this has been a fabulous visit today, a fabulous interview. AmyK is so talented and has so much to offer. The book “Get It” is packed full of things that are helpful. So, any final tips you’d like to leave with our listeners today before we wrap it up?
AmyK Hutchens: Yeah. I’ll go with what I’m used to telling my very, very young nieces and nephew. Use your words! Just use your words.
Steve Shallenberger: Use your words. And how do they get experience with all the magical phrases?
AmyK Hutchens: First of all, the book “Get It” which is available on Amazon, is filled with them. And then, there’s all kinds of exercises and examples in the book of where you can use them. And then, it’s a matter of practicing them. And so, now they’re in my DNA, but I’m still collecting new ones. I mean, every year I get a bunch of really brilliant magical phrases and I just keep adding it to my collection.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good! Well, AmyK, tell us one more time how people can find out about what you’re doing?
AmyK Hutchens: Super easy. You can go to amyk.com. You can follow me on Instagram @amykhutchens, where we have lots of fun tools and resources for everybody.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, thank you, AmyK, for being part of this show today. And this has been a really terrific visit. We wish you all the best as you’re making a difference in the world!
AmyK Hutchens: Oh, thanks, Steve. Thanks for the invitation to play today!
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, you bet! It’s been a lot of fun! To all of our listeners, wherever you might be, never forget, as you’re working on becoming your best, that you are literally making a difference not only in your own life but also within the lives of all those people that you touch. So, this is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!