In this episode, Christie Garcia, President of Mindful Choice Coaching, teaches us how to become better leaders by understanding the ego’s influence in our decision-making process. In over 12 years in business, Mindful Choice Coaching helped many individuals reach their leadership potential, from companies like Airbnb, Twitter, Oakley Inc, and DemandForce, to name a few.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. We’re honored and privileged that you would join us. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. We have an exciting guest with us today. She is an Ego Management Expert, Speaker, Facilitator, Contributor to the Forbes Coaches Council, and Founder of Mindful Choice Leadership Academy. She has 19 years of experience in sales, recruiting, and leadership development. For the last decade she has worked with current and upcoming leaders from fast-growing organizations including Airbnb, Twitter, Movement For Life, Sunrun, and Oakley. Welcome, Christie Garcia.
Christie Garcia: Thank you, Steve. I’m so excited to be here. I really appreciate the invite.
Steve Shallenberger: We’re gonna have a good visit today. Christie builds programs that help individuals and teams maximize their impact through self-awareness, ownership, communication, alignment, and accountability. One of Christie’s superpowers is helping her clients identify and manage their egos in real-time. Her clients build authentic confidence so they can communicate more effectively and maximize their impact within their professional teams and personal relationships. I’ve been looking forward to this. So much of this applies to becoming your best and being a highly successful leader. So it’ll be fun to talk about this, Christie. Well, let’s start off today, if you don’t mind, tell us about your background, including any turning points in your life, and especially how did you get into what you’re doing today.
Christie Garcia: There have been so many turning points. But let’s talk about the relevant ones of why I’m here in front of you. So, I originally started my career in medical sales, as a recruiter, originally, and then got into the actual sales component of it. And after about 7-8 years, I started to see the patterns, really amazing individual contributors were kicking booty in their territories, getting all this praise and all this recognition, and they get promoted into management. And for some reason, they would go backward in their career for two or three years, and it was just a struggle. And I kept wondering what is that. I knew I didn’t want to get into management but I didn’t really know why. And eventually, I finally realized the gap is that training component. They do so much skill trading, and so many things of how to be a good leader, how to communicate, how to do this, or how to do that. But it’s pretty turnkey, and I realized the human component was missing. So I started training as a life coach. At that point, it was a little woo-woo 12-15 years ago when it wasn’t quite cool yet. And it was more just getting started in that space. I recognized it as one of my own individual growth needed to happen. But I was missing the business side of it. And eventually, I realized I can actually apply this into business. This is where we have to bring humans back to the organizations. We have to get humans back to leadership training and build that self-awareness, help people recognize, “How do I go from ‘I went’ to ‘we went?’ How do I help people get from ‘I have to be right’ to ‘we all have to be right’ in order to get to the finish line?” So, really teaching people about that ego. So, got some language around it and really started to build out programs to, fast forward, people’s leadership development in those early years of management that started out as taking leaders from growing in that first six months and getting them up and going so that they could be successful immediately versus those 4-5 of trial and error and hoping for the best, usually dealing with some turnover or just a lot of stress and overwhelm. So once we got there, then I really had to go through my own journey, first. I started my business before I left corporate America, and had my own 30-foot ball. And what I think was the real big validation of the ego work for me is when I got to see my own ego in real-time.
Christie Garcia: And just to clarify for your audience, I’m not referring to the ego when we think of the loud, arrogant person in the room, the person that we refer to as a jerk or a narcissist; I’m really referring to the ego as the unconscious brain. We all have one. It’s those unconscious habits, behaviors, and beliefs that really sabotage our good intentions — how we show up, how we communicate, how we build relationships, how we see success, and how we perceive hard work. It’s really everything we do is perceived through that ego first. So, through that lens, I got to see myself in real-time. Just to rewind for one second, the one thing I was always the most scared of — in my sales position, I would walk through the hospitals. And as I would take my breaks, I would end up going into different rooms when people were sitting there dying or sick by themselves. I never understood that process, coming from a big family, like, how could you be here by yourself? And the most common thing I heard was, “I worked so hard.” Or, “I put all my time into my business, and I never really spent the time with my family.” Or, “I worked so hard to get my family everything they needed, but I never was there and they were gone by the time I retired.” Whatever it was, it always came back to “I didn’t take care of the people side of my life. Took care of my career and my success, and the people were forgotten.” And by the time it mattered, it was too late. And that really hit home for me; one, I could relate to it. My dad was an entrepreneur, so he worked really hard. And I could see that my mom was a really hard career woman as well. And I think, most importantly, I was that at that time, I’m now almost 30 at this time, and I was thinking, “Wow, I could see how this could happen to all of us.” Now, to fast forward back to my reality, I was walking one morning, walking my dog down the street. I was gonna take a poor walk before work, and I got locked out of my apartment complex. I went upstairs to see if my friend could help me get back in. She watched my dog, we went through her fire escape, and that morning changed everything. I literally fell through my fire escape, three floors, and had that moment of aha, “Life needs to change.”
Steve Shallenberger: You’re still here.
Christie Garcia: I survived miraculously. I think this is where learning to trust God’s plan is way bigger than mine, I walked away. I was in the hospital for about four hours and I had five stitches — more of an ego crisis than a physical crisis. So it was really interesting, though, because, for about two weeks, I never cried. I was more annoyed that it slowed me down. I had to rely on people to help take care of me. I was a pretty independent woman who took care of myself. About three weeks later, my coach was on the call with me and she said, “What’s wrong? How are you?” And I’m like, “I’m good. I had this fall. It was kind of crazy, super annoying. I haven’t been able to work for the last few weeks.” And that was really all I said, and she thought it was a lunatic, so she’s like, “Okay, how are you?” And one more time I said, “I’m fine. I’m good. I’m just ready to get back to life.” And then she asked a third time, “How are you?” And I lost it. I had this crazy cry that I’d never experienced in my life. I call it the most expensive cry of my life. So I paid this woman to just sob for 15 minutes. In that moment, though, it was this really interesting reality check that I didn’t even realize how unfulfilled I was. I was really happy. I was satisfied with my job. I love my career. And then all of a sudden, I realized this unconscious brain is taken over though. It’s made me think that this is all life is. And once I had to stop, I realized my relationships were not shallow, but they weren’t meaningful because I was emotionally unavailable. So I had to redesign my life. I was turning 30. I had not dated in 10 years because I was just traveling the world, living the dream, and building my career. I wanted a family, I wanted to have a home, and I wanted to do all these things that I just wasn’t building space for. And the story was always like, “I’m just living. Life’s gonna bring it all to me.” In that moment, I realized I was scared of these mostly men at the time, 60-plus men, in the hospital rooms by themselves. I was like, “Wow, women are going to be there too.” It’s no longer just the man working. There are women that aren’t having children, they’re not building families because they’re working so hard in their careers. And that was a really big changing point. So, I started by home, I left corporate America six months later, and here we are trying to bring humans back to business and really transform leadership through ego management.
Steve Shallenberger: Thank you. 30 feet, that’s a big fall.
Christie Garcia: It was a life-changing fall for sure. Incredibly blessed.
Steve Shallenberger: Let’s talk about what that has to do with ego and what you’ve learned about that. And thank you for the brief background on the description of what kind of ego you’re talking about. I’d like to have you go into that just a little bit more. Why is ego so important? And it does have a big impact, it sounds like, from what you’re describing this as in every area of our life, our personal and relationships and professionally. So, do you mind telling us a little more time on that? What you’ve seen and how can this be helpful to someone?
Christie Garcia: The ego, again, is the unconscious habits, mindsets, and beliefs that really dictate our actions, thoughts, conversations, decision-making, and how we show up every single moment of every single day. 99% of the time we’re unconsciously going through the motions, and we’re just hoping for the best. That means 99% of the time, our ego is making decisions. With that being said, our egos are both our strengths and our weaknesses. So it’s not always a bad thing. Our success today is given to us because of our ego. At one point, our ego is what drove us to be successful individuals, to build a career that we’re living, and to get to the top. The problem is once we start building those relationships, having a family, running teams, running an organization, whatever your roles are, your leadership hats are that require people to get to the finish line with you, that’s when the ego starts to get in the way a little more because it’s I-driven. So, if you’re not conscious, then it can often put everybody on their own island, create distance, resentment, blame, or judgment within your decision-making or within your conversations. And I think the biggest thing for leaders is, if you’re not conscious of your ego, your ego is running your business 100%. Now, again, it’s not always bad. But when it is bad, it impacts it. And it impacts your employees, it impacts your customers, and the decisions you make. There are three different ego types: there’s the Complier Ego, which is the “people first, tasks second.” So, it’s the caring, warm, inviting individual, the one that puts people priorities over task priorities. We need that trait.
Christie Garcia: Unfortunately, what happens with that trait, if you overuse that ego, it’s hard to hold people accountable. You don’t always get to the goals because you don’t want to push people too hard or you don’t want to burn people out. So it has all these reasons why you can’t push. Now, all that is relevant, but there’s a balance to that. Recognizing when do you go along to get along or not speak your truth because of other people’s feelings. On the opposite side of that chart is the Controller Ego. They want to win, they want to be the best, and they’re driven by results and success. Incredibly competitive. They are motivating, inspiring, and they really get results. They climb the ladder fast. They prove that they can have worth and value through their success. Unfortunately, with that model, you’re always chasing ghosts, things are not always good enough, so you’re always striving to be better and you’re always looking for that perfect answer or that perfect thing. And fulfillment is really hard to achieve and find in that mindset. It also can lead to micromanagement; when you feel out of control, you start to over-control. So, again, knowing when are you putting the task before the people. And then you’ve got the Protector, which balances both out with the grounded integrity, high authenticity, high truth, and values. They like facts. They do the right thing for everybody. Very fair. They love deeply. Lots of in-depth empathy and care. Unfortunately, with that, comes a very black-and-white mindset. They’re motivated by being right, that’s where they get their worth and value. But unfortunately, when you have that extreme “I have to be right,” it becomes very black and white: “If I’m not right, I’m not worthy.” So, there’s a constant internal battle that sometimes makes them confrontational, makes them stubborn, and makes them very emotionally driven. So they either are emotionally charged and aggressive or they’re emotionally charged and passive. So that’s where the protector can start to sabotage their relationships through that emotional response.
Steve Shallenberger: How does a person, Christie, develop a healthy, balanced, optimal ego that serves them best? What’s your recommendation? How do we do that?
Christie Garcia: I think the biggest thing is self-awareness and ownership. In a perfect world where our best self shows up, we use each ego about 33%. We can pull the strengths of the Complier, Protector, and Controller, that’s our best self. It feels good. We get to look ourselves in the eye and say, “You know what, I held my integrity, I did my truth, and I can stand by what I did even if everybody’s not happy.” So, I think that’s where we’re most honest with ourselves. So, self-awareness is knowing what is your ego, where do you fall short, what your worst self looks like, and then taking true ownership of it. I think a lot of times people are aware of their bad traits and their worst self, but they don’t really own it. So it’s more of the passive ego, like, “Oh, yeah, I was a jerk. I’m sorry. Let’s move on from it.” Versus, “Wow, I was a jerk and this is the impact it made, and this is what I want to make sure I don’t do next time, and I apologize for that.” It’s just being more intentional. Self-awareness and ownership, I think, are the two biggest ones to then start the ego management process.
Steve Shallenberger: So, self-awareness, being aware of where you are at the time and deliberately balancing your behavior based on what’s needed: Complier, controller, and protector.
Christie Garcia: Correct. Being just intentional. How do you want to show up? What is your next thought, action, or belief?
Steve Shallenberger: What’s your perspective, Christie? What are the most maybe important parts of an ego that we should cultivate?
Christie Garcia: The most important part, I think it’s identifying your truth. I think that’s the biggest thing. If you know your truth, if you know your values, if you know your stance—and not the ego stance, not the one, like, “I have to be right,” or “I have to win.” But truly genuinely, at the end of the day, when you’re 90, you can look back and say, “I got no regrets.” That truth of yours. If you can get in tune with that, when you can have authentic competence around that, that’s really where you’re going to start balancing everything else out. But you have to build that authentic confidence around yourself and your own truth before you can truly do that. And that’s really, where the ego is driven by our insecurities, our emotions, and things we can’t control. So, the more you can really start to trust the process, trust that the plan is bigger than you. And then trusting yourself, you’re capable to handle any of it. So, show up and take it as it is.
Steve Shallenberger: Sounds to me like humility also is a pretty big part of this.
Christie Garcia: Humbleness and humility. Absolutely. That’s the real part and vulnerable part of all leadership.
Steve Shallenberger: How does ego sabotage our happiness and our success?
Christie Garcia: That’s a great question. That’s its number one tactic. Let’s say, we’re in a business place. You’re busy, you don’t have enough time. By the end of the day, you’re not feeling accomplished. You’re stressed out because your team is not taking on more. That’s a tactic that the ego creates. One, most, likely you’re not delegating. You haven’t learned how to trust that other people are capable of doing just as good of work as you are, either because you haven’t learned how to train effectively or you don’t trust that you can let go of that control and it’s all going to be fine. So, recognizing are you a controller that needs to be in control because you don’t trust the team and their capabilities? Or maybe you’re a protector, you haven’t learned to communicate the details, and so you do these high-level drops. It’s like, “Hey, I need this done.” You forget about it. It’s off your plate. And then a week or two, three weeks later, you’re like, “Oh, no, John didn’t give me that thing.” And now you go in and you fire drill, John, where, really, you had no accountability either, but now you’re going to expect John to have accountability. This morning, I ran a workshop, it’s the integrity, the discipline, and the accountability component for all of us: Do you practice what you preach? Or do you do as I say, not as I do, because you’re allowed to drop the ball but your team is not? So, I think really being able to recognize where do you need to step into your leadership to hold yourself accountable before you can start to take make everyone else accountable. That’s the ownership component. The first conversation I have with every leader is they’ll start to tell me all their problems, but the reality is what’s your part in that? Where can you own your part in the struggles, the situations, and the problems that are happening? Most people naturally want to start blaming everything external for why things aren’t working out. So, that ownership component is so great, whether it’s 1%, 47%, or 99%, you cannot accept all 100% because there are other people involved. So, making sure you only take your part on.
Steve Shallenberger: Are you saying that sometimes it’s easy for us to see other people’s egos get a little critical? So how do we stay focused on our ego, which arguably has the biggest impact on our success in anything we do?
Christie Garcia: Absolutely. You can’t change others, you can only change your own approach, which can change how others show up, that’s the motto of the Leadership Academy. I think the biggest thing is the self-awareness component. Once you’re conscious and you’re intentionally starting to build that ability to be more aware. Again, 95% of the day, you’re unconsciously going through the motions. So, if you can start to decrease that percentage to where maybe you’ll get down to 90% or 75%, you’re unconsciously going through the motions. Now you can actually be more intentional. You can start catching yourself in those awareness moments. When I start judging, when I start blaming, when I start gossiping, when I start accusing, I’m in an ego mindset. I need to take a step back and own on my part.
Steve Shallenberger: We’ve been talking about a fact, marriage, parenting, and intimate relations as well. How does that fit in?
Christie Garcia: The ego impacts every relationship we have. What I love about this work the most, I take it into the business avenue. But sometimes the most rewarding wins are the ones when people start to be better parents because they start showing up for things, they start prioritizing the things that really matter. When you can start to balance the people and the tasks, you can do it all; you can succeed at home and you can succeed at work. A lot of times the ego makes us compartmentalize. So, maybe this year, we’re going to really focus on family and it’s going to be great with the family here. But then you’re going to have some guilt at the end, you’re like, “Man, I dropped the ball. I was just really focused on this part of my life.” So the next year, they’re really focused on business and they put all their energy into that. And it becomes a kind of roller coaster ride, you’re always having to fix something. Well, when you can just learn to balance, trust, and show up in all avenues, it really does help. But I think the biggest thing for family relationships and personal relationships is the communication component that comes with ego management. The ego is triggered by emotions, our family is the ones that trigger our emotions the most. We’re mostly invested in those relationships. So being able to take a step back, recognize what are my actual feelings here. Too often, when we’re hurt, when you’re sad, and when we’re scared, we come across as angry, we come across as frustrated, we come across as upset. And in reality, if we can turn that language into something that is more about fear, disappointment, or something that’s relevant that we can actually talk through, now you can actually have productive conversations at home. You can find more patients, you can find more empathy in your relationships with your kids, with your partners, whatever it is that just allows that vulnerability and that trust component to really skyrocket. And it just allows more peace and enjoyment of that part of your life. Bringing that ego home is really, really common. One of the most common things I hear about six weeks into the academy is, “Oh, wow, my family is the worst part of me all the time.” Because you’re tired, you’re worn out at the end of the day, there’s so much going on, everybody’s busy. And then you have a tired family that you’d have to deal with. So we all have to bring our best self to that, but it takes some rallying, it takes that conscious ego management to walk through that door and bring your A game for the next three to five hours before everybody goes to bed.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, it sounds to me like you really want to be conscious of having the complier element, the controller element, and the protector to get the best results. It sounds like that’s what you’re saying. And to be really aware of it and not just focus it in business but this is part of our whole psychic. And what we want to do is know what we’re about, like you mentioned, and what our values are and what’s important to us. And then use these tools, this conscious force that I think I hear you describing in the various areas of our life to create happiness and success.
Christie Garcia: Absolutely. Ego management really is just about giving yourself choice. You are in charge. You have a choice to stick with the mood you’re in. You have a choice to make the decisions you’re making. You have a choice to change your behaviors. And I think too often we fall victim to our circumstances. We fall victim to our life, businesses, and situations. And that is an ego-driven mindset that really just starts to hold us back and sabotage the really good things in life that are right in front of us that we’re just not willing to see because our egos running our show, and it likes the negative and likes the drama.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s good. So, it doesn’t have to control you. Is that what you’re saying?
Christie Garcia: No, if you learn to control your mind, that’s the best ticket. Otherwise, someone or something else will.
Steve Shallenberger: It’s been so fun. I’m just amazed at how fast these interviews go. Any final tips that you’d like to leave with our listeners today, Christie?
Christie Garcia: Take a moment and make sure you get conscious of yourself. As a leader, especially in today’s world, we need conscious, intentional, self-awared leaders that can take full ownership. If we start to teach the top that we can truly start to transform our cultures, our families, our businesses, and our communities, just through ownership in general. We are in a world of survival and blame, and ownership is the only way out.
Steve Shallenberger: Good advice. I love that. Be accountable, take responsibility, and work on the good outcome. How can people find out about what you’re doing?
Christie Garcia: I run Mindful Choice Leadership Academy and we build organizations through it top down. We also have a mastermind group for founders, that’s our newest project, which is very exciting. And any kind of workshop series just to help people bring communication, alignment, and accountability back to their teams, bring more of that human side to their conversations, changing the conversations that it’s not just task-oriented, but building a culture around the people and really investing that side of your business and growth is really where I think this next generation of success is going to come from, especially in these virtual environments. If you’re not giving people a reason to stay with your company, and the only way to do that is getting the people to know each other, bring humans to those relationships, not just scurried away.
Steve Shallenberger: And your website is…?
Christie Garcia: MindfulChoiceAcademy.com. You can find me on LinkedIn, Christie Garcia, or we’ve got the Mindful Choice Academy on LinkedIn as well.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, we’ve loved being together with you today. We wish you all the best in the good work that you’re doing.
Christie Garcia: Thank you very much. It has been a pleasure. I hope I added value to your listeners today.
Steve Shallenberger: Of course, you did. Very interesting and thoughtful discussion. And to our listeners, we are so grateful to be able to associate with you. Thank you for listening in today. An amazing group of listeners who are dedicated to working on becoming their best. And there’s some really good information today. And as you become your best, you touch everybody else in your life as well. So, thank you, and wishing you a great day. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host, signing off.
CEO, Executive, Corporate Trainer, and Community Leader.
Career & Leadership Coach, Founder, and President of Mindful Choice Coaching