Navigating the Terrain of Trust, Humility, and Leadership: Q&A with an FBI Veteran

In a world that often prioritizes strength and authority, the virtues of humility, vulnerability, and trust in leadership can sometimes be overlooked. In a compelling conversation with Robin Dreeke, an executive Coach, author, speaker, podcast host, Marine Corps Officer, and retired FBI Special Agent with a rich background in leadership and building alliances, we are offered a deep dive into what it truly means to lead with empathy, build unbreakable alliances, and achieve mutual success.

YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION OR YOU CAN READ THE SUMMARY BELOW-

Q&A with Robin Dreeke Pin

The Unlikely Path to Leadership

Robin’s journey began far from the corridors of power or the frontlines of leadership seminars. Growing up in a low-income family in the woods north of New York City, the concept of leadership was as foreign as it was fascinating. The desire for a better future led him to the United States Naval Academy, and subsequently, into the Marine Corps, where the real lessons in leadership began. 

A lot of us are born with what we might call a spark of talent. And what talent is, it's a passion desire to do something, but passion desire without life repetitions will just die on a flame.

Q: It must have been very intimidating when you started at the FBI. Please share with me the journey to becoming who you are today. How did you start building your confidence?

Robin: I’ll give you a brief little arc of my life to bring you up to that moment you’re talking about. I grew up in New York, just north of New York City in the United States, and I grew up in the woods in a very low-income family; neither of my parents had ever been to college, so I decided I wanted to go to the United States Naval Academy because that’s free education. Also, you owe service to the United States military, and I wound up going after the Naval Academy into the Marine Corps.

From the United States Marine Corps, I learned a lot about leadership, not because I have talent for it. I learned because I was really horrible at it, like most of us. Many of us are born with what we might call a spark of talent; talent is a passionate desire to do something, but a passionate desire without life repetitions will die on a flame. So you start needing repetitions.  I desired to be a great leader, which included communication, being present for others, being a servant leader, and taking care of others. And so I was, and I had lots of humbling moments along the way in the Marine Corps.

When I came to the FBI, I had no idea what I was going to do. I was assigned to the New York City field office in Manhattan. And it was just a chance that I met some people at firearms training. I had met some gentlemen from the GRU squad, the Russian military intelligence squad down in Manhattan. And they said, are you on a squad yet? And then that day there, we did about three to six months of preparatory work after new agent training. Once we got to New York, it was lots of training, and I hadn’t been assigned a squad yet. And I said that sounds really fun. I’ve never heard of counterintelligence. And I said, what do you do? And he said we recruit intelligence officers. We’ve recruited Russian spies at the United Nations. And I was like, wow. And so I lobbied to try to get on that squad. There’s the luck of the draw of timing. Someone was leaving as I was trying to get on, and I got on the squad. I wouldn’t say it was intimidating. It was invigorating, and what I mean by that is that in our squad, we had about 10 to 12 agents, male and female. Most had 20 to 25 years in that squad. These were what I like to call the Jedi masters of doing this job. My job was recruiting intelligence officers and creating confidential human resources to get at the intelligence officers.

And I had a lot of energy. I was an extrovert, and I am still an extrovert. I love people. Without some teacher mentoring or guidance, you tend to keep the focus on yourself a lot of times without focusing on others. And so that’s where the life rep started kicking in where I had some humbling moments where I was too much about myself. I would blow it with someone and the teacher, mentors, and guides and say, do this, do this.

And you’re learning on the job. You’re observing, you’re going to training, but in those first formative five to 10 years in the FBI, I started getting really good at doing this. And then when I got on our behavioral team and I asked to train it, that’s when you can start putting the paint by number behind the art form so you can make it a process. And I started analyzing with these great people around me who were recruiting spies. I mean, literally. It’s like buying a lottery ticket. They’re taking these chances, and when you get one on board, it’s that rare but that beneficial. And the people I worked with were so successful  and I was analyzing what are they doing? And so it was those formative years. I think I was excited, more than nervous, and probably way too aggressive than I should have been.

Krati: You were probably young also at the time, so that is par for the course. However, the skills that you mentioned, would they apply to introverts? I think the whole thing would be a lot harder for introverts when it comes to loving people and wanting to actively communicate and be present.

Robin: It’s equally challenging for both, and each has their own skill set. Introverts do a much better job of shutting up, listening, being present, and focusing on the other person. One of the challenges for introverts is initiating. I have no problem with initiation, but my initial struggles and challenges were how to get the focus off of myself and talking about me, me, me, me, me, and focusing on them and shutting up and listening.

When you become aware, the more self-aware you are, the more you can tamp down the talkiness and shift the focus to them. Introverts need more confidence to initiate contact and then just be who they are—to be present for others. Everyone is bringing something to the equation, and we’re all working on something as well.

The beautiful thing about interacting and working with human beings is that no one has it all down perfectly. What you want to do is discover the greatness in others and see what everyone’s working on. And then we’re working on something, too, and doing what a good friend of mine always says: never do it in any human interaction, which is figuring out what someone’s doing wrong and showing it to them.

In other words, don’t point out someone’s shame and shame them with it, you know, because that’s a roadblock to everything. It’s using the beautiful language that we have to shift the focus from ourselves to others so that we can demonstrate that we value them and that we see them. You’re completely present in the moment with them, giving them the greatest gift. Any human being can give another human being. And that is the gift of presence when curiosity about them.

Mastering the Art of Communication

Q: In a new place, how would you approach those situations where you’ve not earned the trust of your supervisors yet? Maybe you are encountering difficult situations that make you feel like you can do it better in a different way than how you’re being asked to do it.

Robin: The most important thing to do at any age is to think like this – if you are trying to inspire someone to take an action, listen to the way you want to do things or listen to your words, you have to think in terms of how can I inspire them to feel safe with me? How do I inspire them to feel safe with that decision? Ultimately, human beings are extremely predictable. We’re always going to act in our own best interests in terms of our safety, security, and prosperity for us and those we care about. If you can figure out at work What that individual thinks would make them feel safe for promotion, for getting the job done, whatever is important to them, if you can be a resource for that, and articulate that in terms of them and not what you want, they’re going to go along with it, or at least listen to your ideas. In order to do that, I have, and I’ll probably be touching on these throughout our conversation, what I call the four keys of communication.

#1. How do you make a conversation about someone else and make them feel safe with you? #2. You have to seek their thoughts and opinions instead of telling them yours. Speak in terms of their challenges, priorities, pain points, and friction points instead of yours. #3. Validate them with non-judgmental curiosity. Seek to understand. Get closer to their context. That’s deep empathy. #4. Empower them with choices about how to move forward and about how they wish to do things.

Do at least two because each one inspires the other person to feel safe with you because you’re talking about everything that’s important to them. You’re being present, a resource for them, and solving their problem. So if you think you have a better way of doing something than someone else is trying to get you to do, okay, great. You now need to frame it in terms of how that’s better for them according to what they think is best. So it’s completely reversed in that it’s not about what you want to do. It’s about inspiring them to do what they want to do.

Navigating Workplace Dynamics and Leadership

The conversation shifts to the challenges and opportunities presented by the younger generation in the workplace. Robin observes that while Gen Z brings energy and passion, there is often a gap in face-to-face communication skills and an overemphasis on broadcasting personal achievements. He suggests that both extroverts and introverts can learn from each other, with extroverts focusing more on listening and introverts on confidently initiating interactions.

Q: When dealing with your superiors, especially when you’re a young college graduate, you can’t be too pushy, or the supervisor can get their back up because they think you’re being too aggressive. Also, regarding the four points you’ve shared, would you have to vary how you use those keys from individual to individual? You would have to know how to read a person and proceed accordingly.

Robin: The four keys are universal. You’re going to use more, some with others. Curiosity will always serve you well. And always think in terms of this, especially with bosses: What can you do to make their job easier? What can you do to not be a pain point in their life? What can you do to give them situational awareness so that they can make the decisions that they need to make without worrying about you? That’s the advice I’d give my 20-year-old self. What can I do to make my boss’s life easier according to what they think is important, not me telling them what I think is important, and communicate that with open communication, while being transparent and vulnerable.

In other words, you have no problem sharing what you’re not very good at, what you’re doing to work on to overcome that, your strengths, and how your strengths align with what they’re trying to do. Fantastic! The other thing you can do that you want to do with everyone you encounter is match tempo. So if you come in—and this is where I was horrible—I have a very high tempo. When you come in with an extremely high tempo and your boss and your coworkers aren’t at that same tempo, you’re going to come across as crass, aggressive, and assertive, and their shields are going to go up. So, slow down, listen, watch, observe, and think about what they want.

Package the content just for them at the tempo that they want to receive it. That is critical. Do your best to match tempo, and as soon as you identify their tempo, go a half step below it. That way, they have time to process the information you’re sharing, think about, and contemplate the ideas you’re coming up with. So they can see and be present for you as much as you’re present for them because that is what you were hired to do. You were hired to be an innovative problem solver, to make their job easier for the bottom line of whatever they say it is.

Q: What do you think this generation is getting wrong? There seems to be so much more conflict. 

Robin: So, first off, I don’t ever think anyone’s doing anything wrong. I think everyone is doing the best they have with the life reps they have. And so what I would say about this is and I interact with the younger generation a lot, and like you said, they’ve high energy, very motivated, very passionate about what it is they do.

Areas that they don’t have a lot of life reps in yet are the ones where you’re one-on-one interacting or one-group interacting live, not virtually with other people. And. There are people who tend to be really self-focused on what they think is important. They don’t have reps, and figuring out what the person next to them thinks is important. So what’s really key in every single situation is to stop broadcasting what you think is important because remember the number one thing on the four keys of communication: seek the thoughts and opinions of others and be nonjudgmental and curious when they share with you.

As soon as you hear someone say something that you don’t necessarily agree with, the worst thing you can do is say, I don’t agree with that. Here’s what I think should be done. I guarantee you the result behaviorally – shields up, no information flow. And they’re going to think you’re a jerk, and they’re not going to give you any responsibility.

They’re going to shuffle you off to the side. You’re going to get frustrated, angry, and resentful; the worst emotion any human being can ever have is resentment towards others. I don’t do it. How do you avoid resentment? Well, you get closer, you understand someone else’s perspective, you understand their context, you understand their point of view, you understand the language and the vernacular they grew up with, that they use from their particular demographics, their social status, economic status, because if it’s different than yours, if you’re just sitting in judgment of it without understanding it, you’re missing so much.

That’s the greatest thing I learned from working with the FBI for all those years. Especially in the world of national security, my job was to interact with everyone from every nationality that might not have the United States best interest at heart or people that wanted to help us. I probably worked with 22 to 25 different nationalities throughout my time in New York City alone, where you’re trying to inspire healthy, strong relationships where people are going to feel free to share information to protect people. If you sit in judgment of any human being, of their beliefs, their morals, their ethics, there’s no sharing. Come deeply curious. Every time I heard something I’d never heard before or I didn’t particularly agree with from my own upbringing, I got closer. I became so curious, like, wow, when did you discover that? What was the spark all those years ago that inspired you to be who you are today? It’s my favorite question in the world. Another favorite question I absolutely love – tell me about a favorite family tradition you had growing up – a food, a tradition, a smell, a song. It’s such a universal thing because we might not share the same thing, but we each have them. It’s a bonding thing because at the core root of who we are, we’re human beings, and we’re very, very social, and we are seeking and desiring to be seen and accepted, and yes, this is coming from the spy recruiter guy. Because if you want to inspire someone to cooperate with you and put their lives on the line, it’s not done through manipulation. It’s not done through subterfuge or deception. It’s anti-that 100 percent because think about it: if I asked you to do something as stressful and dangerous as betraying your country and you and your entire family might be killed or put in prison, and your entire family legacy would be destroyed forever. If you ever doubted who I was, what I was saying, or how I was doing it and what I was doing to keep you safe, would you even contemplate it in your mind?

Krati: No.

Robin: Open, honest communication, transparency, and vulnerability. 

Winning Trust and Building Alliances

Robin concludes with a powerful message on the essence of trust and alliance-building. Whether it’s dealing with international spies or leading a team towards a common goal, the foundation remains the same: understanding people’s needs, making them feel valued, and working together towards achieving mutual success.

Q: Even if you’re being honest with the other person, you also have to make an effort to bring that across that honesty, that integrity – that has to be very, very visible, especially when you have conflicting interests. How would you achieve that?

Robin: I never had conflicting interests. You know, and the same things in business, the fun thing I love to do is chat with people in business, and they think it’s different. It’s no different because at the heart of what we’re doing in business and in life is trying to form a great relationship with someone, and we’re discovering what’s going on with them.

We’re discovering what pain and challenges they’re facing and what you can do to offer to overcome them. Say you sell insurance. Well, I’m trying to discover what kind of challenge you have in life so that I can offer insurance that can make you feel safe with your family, with your automobile, whatever it is.

If you have any desire in the world, credit card debt, or are trying to buy a house, it doesn’t matter what it is. All I’m trying to do is offer you a resource to overcome that thing, but remember, people are never necessarily buying a thing. They’re buying you, and so for me, all I was trying to do was find out which one of these intelligence officers had priorities, challenges, and pain points. They wanted a better lifestyle for their kids. They wanted better education. They wanted to care for their elderly parents who didn’t have good healthcare in Moscow. They didn’t believe in the horrible oligarchs and Putin that are destroying their country. Well, I have resources that can help them overcome that. So that’s that but now, can they trust me? Can they trust me to deliver on those things? Can they trust me to not get them killed and destroyed? An investor, can I trust this person not to lose all my money and to not destroy my business? Because a lot of people are selling the same widgets, but they’re making a relationship with you.

And so these are the things we focus on when we have these relations and dialogues: Do you trust me? Do you like me? Are you willing to accept me into your life to be the person who can solve this priority and challenge in your life, this friction point? And so whether it’s business, first job, last job, recruiting spies, it’s all doing exactly the same thing. We’re solving people’s problems in their lives, and then we’re coupling that with, can they trust me to do it?

Q: If there is a limit to how much autonomy you have in any given situation and, therefore in any given interaction associated with that situation, even though you are the one driving the results, how would you deal with that situation?

Robin: Transparency. It’s my failsafe for everything, believe it or not. When in doubt, I just go to transparency. If I can’t do something, I’ll just be transparent because when I’m being transparent, what am I doing? I’m empowering them with choices. I’m giving them clarity and when I’m not using subterfuge or trying to hide something, you’re going to trust me.

If I’m telling you all the things that I can’t do, you’re going to trust me. When I’m actually saying what I can do, you know, I’m going to be able to do it.

Sometimes it might undermine you. We’ve had people say, well, then why am I talking to you? That’s why before you have those meetings, you actually get the authority to do X, Y, and Z, or you have a fail-safe, you know, a line that you say – listen, that’s a lot of asks in this that I wasn’t prepared for today. Let me go back, and I’m going to double-check and give this some good, thorough thinking. Instead of saying, I got to go back and talk to my boss, you know, so you have what I call just a fail-safe line. Listen, what you’re saying is very important to me. I hadn’t considered that before. I’d like some time to sit back and consider it deeper because you deserve a better answer than I can probably give you today.

Krati: Yeah, that makes sense, and I think that also explains the aggression that we see in the world now. People feel like they can’t trust the people making their choices for them. They can’t trust the government. They can’t trust the people who enforce the laws. Going into a workplace also, I think these young kids feel like, in fact, this is a discussion that comes up most often on Twitter, that the CEOs are so blind in the pursuit of their profits. They no longer care about employee well-being. That makes so much sense. 

Robin: It’s so predictable.

Human beings are not perfect. Not one of us that ever walked this planet was, no matter what your religion or belief system. Everyone is fallible. You know, I’m a great reader of history. I’m a great reader of the great people who walked this planet. I absolutely love it. I just finished reading Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. It is a fantastic book about an amazing human being who was flawed. Whether it’s him, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Muhammad, or Jesus, I don’t care what you just talk about. It is all the same. Mahatma Gandhi’s book is phenomenal as well.

Everyone is flawed. So people who try to be not flawed and someone who’s in someone else’s viewpoint don’t force their trust because they’re not being transparent because they’re not being honest. Everyone knows you’re flawed. Now, what people want, though, is that transparency, that vulnerability, but what are you doing about it?

Because if you’re just validating that you’re a bumbling idiot and not doing anything to overcome being a bumbling idiot, you’re just being brushed aside. But if I say, listen, I can deliver on X, Y, and Z because this is my skill set. I got a lot of reps doing this. In my line of work, we don’t work so well with immigration. We don’t have a great relationship with them. They rule these things called appeal 110, a public law, one 10 that can give you the immigration status to come into this country. But here’s what I do have. I have a network of people, and I have great relationships. Like I have a great relationship with you, and I can actually make this happen, but we have to have some patience.

I’m going to keep you abreast of the entire process along the way, but I can’t promise it’s going to happen today, tomorrow, or the day after. It will happen because I know the process, and I will do my best to work through it with you with transparency.

Q: Does this method always get you the results, or does it sometimes come down to who this person is and how many hits they have taken up to that point? Did it ever feel like this is out of my hands? I’ve done everything I can up to this point. 

Robin: So we have to be very specific on what we decide the result is that we’re seeking. My result always was to leave the person feeling better for having met me and to leave a door open that they feel they can walk through any time they want to. So, my goal was always to make it about them.

Sometimes, someone had a high tempo. Sometimes, I had interactions with people over my entire 22-year career with the FBI because they weren’t ready and you know what? That’s fine, because it’s not about me. I am a resource for other people when they’re ready to have that resource in their lives to answer a problem that they have. And what happens is when you have that kind of focus, when you’re present, when you’re there for them, if that one person you’re going for isn’t interested, what happens when you make them feel this way? Now we have branding. Personal branding, company branding, because if not you, It’ll be the person next to you because after we break contact, it’s never just that one-on-one interaction we’re having. When you get done with this conversation with me today, I’m hoping that you go back, look at the edit, talk to your friends, and say, wow, that guy, Robin, that was a great conversation. And then it spreads. So good positivity, high energy, great vibes where I have no ask. I just have offer. That way, if it’s not you, it’ll be someone else, and that creates a reputation.

Go back to your job analogy at the very beginning. So, say you get a job. Growing up, the first thing I cared about was the money. I didn’t care about whatever job I had. I really didn’t have a job I liked most of my life.

I just needed money because I grew up with no money. So, I needed to provide for myself today. People were really seeking that perfect job. So, say you get that first job and decide you don’t like it. Okay, so why would someone else want you? Not what you want. Why would someone else want you? So, if you have this current boss, do you want them to recommend you or not for another position? Do you want them to help you get another job or not? If you go in there with a sour face and make their life difficult and more challenging because you’re grouchy and grumpy all the time because you don’t like the job, are they going to help you? No, you’re going to be stuck there forever. Guaranteed. It’s pretty simple, actually. These are very, very simple things to talk about, tough things to overcome. Why? Our ego and our vanity destroy our ability to operate effectively most of the time.

Embracing Humility, Vulnerability, and Transparency

The conversation with Robin serves as a masterclass in leadership, offering a blueprint for how humility, vulnerability, and transparency can lead to unparalleled success. It challenges conventional notions of leadership, advocating for a more empathetic, understanding, and collaborative approach.

Q: People demand humility from the other person but their own ego is so present in all interactions and they completely end up missing it. Any advice you can offer on that front?

Robin: It’s tough because the ability to see your impact on others requires a lot of presence, and it requires a lot of self-awareness. I cringe when I see a negative effect I have on others. I reflect on every conversation I have. I’ll be reflecting on this one for days on end to ensure that the information, and not just the information I gave, but the way I shared the information was in a way that was accepted by as broad a swath of people as I possibly can because the only intent ever is to provide value to others. If I’m not delivering the information in a way that others can value, I failed, not them. I failed. It’s funny when you’re talking about the FBI side and the humility side. I am equally curious about your background and what you’ve been through in life, anda great conversation comes from.

Think about this: one of my favorite questions in the world is this, and this is the way to approach every single human being at every single point because it’ll change how you do things in the world. If you had only two hours left on this planet, whether it’s because you’re hopping in a spaceship and leaving forever by yourself or you’re departing, I don’t care what it is. If you have two hours, it is not like you have one year left and it’s a bucket list; you have two hours left. What do you do with those two hours? After you reflect on this, I guarantee you it will be some form of a great, beautiful, fun conversation with the people you care absolutely the most about. So, if that’s what you would do with your last two hours on this planet, do that daily. To do that, here’s an easy way to think about who I need to be without memorizing all the stuff Robin’s telling you to do. Think about this. There’s probably, hopefully, at least one person in your life, hopefully, more, but hopefully, at least one that when you see them walk through the door, you light up and get excited.

When you see an email from them, you’re like, Oh, I can’t wait to read this. I’m going to save it for later. It’s the same thing with the text or a phone call. You light up because why? I guarantee you this: they’re seeking your thoughts and opinions, very curious about what’s going on with you, and not judging anything. They’re doing three of those four things in those keys of communication. Now, after you think about this person and what you do in those last two hours of your time on this planet, ask yourself, are you that person for someone else? Are you that person for everyone else? And if not, what is one thing? Because this is about going from zero to a hundred, another book I’ll recommend is James Clear’s Atomic Habits, which is about one small thing, what’s one new little thing you can start doing today that cascaded over the course of a week, months and years, have a parabolic change to your trajectory about how you interact with others. And I’m telling you the one beautiful thing you can add to yourself, curiosity. Just get a little bit more curious about everyone. Especially get excited when you meet someone you don’t agree with. Good. Get closer and find out more. Brené Brown says that in all her books as well.

Q: You must have had interactions where situations got heated up and spun out of control. How would you work your way back to then a place of collaboration?

Robin: When people start having disagreements and not getting along, it’s generally happening at the what and how level. They’re getting very granular on how to execute things and that’s where they’re clashing and diverging. 

When it starts happening, take a breath, step back, and remember the big ‘Why.’ Simon Sinek has a great book, Start With Why. When you start with why, go back down again so we can all go back up here. And what’s everyone’s why we said at the very beginning of the show, health is, prosperity and safety for myself and those that I care about. Everything we do is around that. Making a paycheck is about providing security for my family.

The product we’re selling inside the FBI is to protect the national security of the United States and our NATO allies and friends around the world. That was the big why. The what and how is recruiting sources, doing operations, recruiting spies, and we could clash on this, but if we start clashing on this, let’s say, slow down and remember why we’re all here. We’re here to go home safe at the end of the day, provide for our families, have great healthy relationships, and be that person who walks through the door that people light up about. So, let’s slow down a second and go back to that. And then let’s walk back down and start seeing where we might diverge and seeing what resources and skill sets each of us brings to that one common goal, realizing and remembering that’s that common goal we both have. So that’s what I do. I slow down, go back to the why, and then walk it back down again.

Q: If you read Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs, I think you would have a lot to say. Obviously, Steve Jobs achieved something incredible. He achieved his goal of changing the world but was a difficult leader. Everybody knows that. He achieved something incredible, but the emotional intelligence part, at least to me, felt so lacking. What advice would you have given him? 

Robin: It’s funny because whether it’s Jobs or Elon Musk, they have very similar leadership styles, which is blunt in your face and maniacal, but they get a lot of things done. And it’s completely opposite of Adam Grant and Simon Sinek’s out there. Advice for them? They’re incapable of change. I really think they are.

My advice is for the people working for them, not for them. And the advice is very simple. Manage your expectations and here’s what I mean by that. Why do people work for Steve Jobs, and why do they work for Elon Musk? They fell in love with the ‘Why’. Elon’s main driving force is to be an interplanetary species to save the human race. That’s his driving Why. Why do people sign up to work with them? Well, because they share that passion. They may burn out quickly and get fired or whatever, but they understand the why and manage their expectations because the great thing about people like jobs and some of these crazy people is that they’re not hiding their crazy. So you know exactly what you’re getting. Now, you’re making a choice whether to work for them or not. It would be beautiful and harmonic if they could change their leadership style. You can only imagine the things they’d get done if they would, but since the likelihood of that is slim to none, the best thing you can do is make a conscious choice for yourself. Am I willing to deal with that to serve the greater why? The people that wind up staying with, whether it’s Apple or you’re staying with SpaceX or Tesla or any other number of projects he’s doing, it’s because they believe in the why.

Krati: I don’t know if you’re aware of this thing that has happened. This article came out about Jay Shetty. that says that he has, in fact, faked a lot of his backstory. Once somebody has put your integrity in question, it would be so difficult to forge new alliances. How would you work your way back from that situation?

Robin: What did I say already? Transparency. Own it. You know, another great book, Extreme Ownership. You gotta own your behavior. And, yeah, I’ve heard that about Jay Shetty before. I have a friend who won’t have him on his podcast because of all those things in his background.

Okay, hey! What we’ve been saying the entire show is that there’s no one perfect out there, and when you’re discovered to have a flaw, own it. Own it, be transparent, be vulnerable, say what you’re gonna do to fix it, do your utmost, and never let it happen again, and keep moving forward because as you said, his book was great; I loved his book.

Actually, it kind of got me into the genre. I thought Jay’s book was very entertaining and inspirational. I’ve heard the backstory. Perception rules, whether it’s true or not. If people have a perception that it is true, have a conversation about it. Be open, vulnerable, and transparent.

Transparency is the greatest equalizer. It really is. If you can’t be transparent about something, ask yourself, should I really be doing it then?

Krati: That’s going to be hard for him. Vulnerability shouldn’t be that hard because you are, you know, taking off the mask and just being yourself now, but people struggle with it.

Robin: You have to be willing to be humble. You have to have humility. You have to have the self-awareness to realize I’m wrong. You know, and social media, and we’re talking about the generation now, one of the challenges the generation now has is they’re looking at everyone’s five-minute highlight reel, as I call it. I do a lot of backpacking, and when I’m out hiking in the mountains, I’ll take a picture or a quick video here of a nice sunset with me standing, and everyone says, Oh, it looks so beautiful. It looks so calm. You look like you’re in your element. I’m like, that was the three-second highlight reel surrounded by 24 hours of suck.

So, when you think about it, social media is the same thing. People are taking these pictures and videos of their highlight reels. They’re making that their identity, that they have to be perfect and that this is the beautiful show I’m putting on. It’s not real. It’s a highlight reel and everyone keeps comparing highlight reels. They’re forgetting, it’s not life.

It’s entertaining. It’s wonderful. And so people get tied to that highlight reel, and they become fearful because their egos get in the way of them being vulnerable and transparent, so that’s what’s happening. The funny thing is that people avoid it, but it’s the most endearing thing you can possibly do. People have an immense capacity for compassion and forgiveness. And why? Because we’re all flawed. We know we’re flawed. Any person in media who has any kind of notoriety, who did something wrong, who owned it, apologized, made amends, and is living a humble life from that point forward. You fall in love with that character because it’s a people in movies, whether it’s scripted or not, we fall in love with the flawed character. That’s doing their best to overcome it as opposed to the person trying to be perfect because they’re so fake because they’re trying to be perfect. No one’s perfect. The pursuit of perfection is fine. It’s a rep, but if it becomes overwhelming where you’re trying to live a five-minute highlight reel of yourself, you’re going to lose everyone, including yourself.

Krati: A lot of these leadership coaches and empowerment coaches teach this one thing. They would tell their clients, their audience, don’t apologize. Don’t ever say sorry. Always say thank you and then phrase the thing accordingly. When you’ve done something wrong, you’re late to a meeting. Don’t say thank you for waiting for me. That is very patronizing. Say you’re sorry. I don’t know if you agree with me. I would like to know.

Robin: I would do both. Say thank you for waiting for me, and I’m extremely sorry. I believe, and this is personal, everyone’s got their own path they’re on. I love transparency and apologizing because it takes a brave person to apologize, and if I’m working or being around people who will criticize me or think less of me for apologizing, that’s good. Then I don’t need you in my life. That’s not who I want to work around. It’s not a malicious thing. I’m like fantastic for letting me know. You don’t like that, go somewhere else because that’s who I am. My truth is transparency, openness, and honesty to the best of my ability.

And will I fail? Yep, I will, but as soon as I find out, I’m going to own it. I’m going to be deeply humiliated and ashamed of it because we are our own worst critics. I’ll feel bad for days, and I’ll keep reminding you about how I suck until it drives you up a wall, probably. That’s just who I am. Until you tell me it’s okay, and then I’ll still harbor it, and I’ll still think of it. But if that’s not who you want in your life, okay, then don’t have me there and have someone else. But because one thing I will give you when I’m doing that is I’m powering you with choice about what you can reasonably expect me to do.

I’ll always hopefully overperform the expectation I’m setting for you rather than underperform on my five-minute highlight reel, which I’m giving you because that’s what then builds resentment. 

Balancing humility with confidence

Krati: People often equate aggression with confidence, but you know, people like you and Simon Sinek really make that point that humility, in fact, is another sign of a lot of confidence. You are secure enough to be that person in a room full of people who are probably, you know, pursuing their own agenda and may not have as much patience. 

Robin: So there’s another great book I love by Jocko with Lincoln, Leif Babin is The Dichotomy of Leadership. And everything to me is a dichotomy. It’s the yin and yang of life, and the dichotomy you’re speaking about is the dichotomy of confidence. Humility is what allows us to be transparent, vulnerable, and not give you my five-minute highlight reel. When I couple it in balance with my confidence, I know very well what I’m strong at and what I’m good at. I got a lot of reps in having a great conversation and making it about others, but now if I have too much confidence, well, then I become egocentric. I become about me. And, I’ll be humbled and brought back down again.

This is a toughest challenge because too much humility and you’re a carpet to be walked on, humility at the right level is fantastic confidence at the right level, fantastic. Maintaining this balance is really key and critical. That’s why we are reflective. We are present. We take in all the information coming at us. We don’t get defensive. And here’s the other thing too, when interacting with people, the defensiveness and inappropriate behavior people are generally projecting at us that might make us angry when they’re being rude or crass or defensive, all the things that get at us, 99. 9 percent of the time it’s caused from an insecurity that they have, and that it’s being triggered. It’s a trauma trigger. When you see it in a behavior that someone has, the first thing I do is get curious about, Ooh, what did I do? This is where I’m owning again. What did I do with my behavior and the word choice I’m using?

Because I didn’t package it right for them, I became a trauma trigger for them that inspired them to want to lash out. So that’s what my mind automatically goes to when I’m interacting with another human being.

It’s trauma in our lives growing up that causes all these different trauma triggers in life for healthy interactions, and so it’s just a great way to really think about others when you’re interacting with them. If it’s going a little sideways or the behavior is not quite right, understand that it’s most likely a trauma trigger.

spotting deception and final advice

Q: As you’re forging alliances and relationships, any way to spot deception, spot liars?

Robin: No! The people that say they’re good at it, aren’t, but here’s what you can do. Look for congruence. You’re looking for congruence of words and emotion, so in other words, when someone is using beautiful words and making it about you by seeking your thoughts and opinions, talking in terms of your priorities, challenges, and pain points, validating you with beautiful curiosity and when appropriate, giving you choices when they’re doing those things and making it about you and they put that together with open and accommodating nonverbals, eyebrow elevations, full facial smiles, a little bit of head tilt, we have congruence. It’s about you, and I’m excited to make it about you. Incongruence is I’m doing all those same words but with eyebrow compression and lip compression. The other thing that they’re also doing these beautiful people is they’re, they’re making it about you. They’re congruent with the nonverbals. And they’re also accommodating to your tempo. 

People try to deceive because they have an agenda in here and they’re going to focus on their agenda, which a lot of times is going to have an aggressive tempo to it as well. And so if you have an inkling, someone’s masking creepiness, or something’s a little off. Pay attention to it. Ask yourself a ‘what’ question. What am I seeing? What incongruencies am I seeing? Because you’re picking up on something. Our nonverbal cues in our ancient primal brain pick up on these things.

And so, they’re doing something that’s making it feel a little off. And you’re right. There’s, there’s an incongruency most of the time when you’re feeling a little bit creeped out by someone. It’s not saying that they’re being deceitful, not saying they’re wrong, but they’re, they’re being deceitful. Most times though, there’s an agenda for some reason they’re not comfortable sharing with you.

So here’s your choice. Explored and asked, say, listen, I kind of get a feel that there’s something more that you feel like you want to share with me that I share with me. I really appreciate it. Let me know what’s going on. I feel like something’s a little off. Am I wrong with that? Help me understand why I’m feeling this way. So you make it about them. You’re seeking their thoughts and opinions, being curious, and you’re not judging it. Now, if they come back with a fully quick, transparent answer, it’s like, Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I had a bad morning. My wife did this. My husband, this, my kids are driving me up a wall. That’s a beautiful explanation. If they said no, everything’s completely fine. How about we do this? Let’s get together again, maybe another week. Something’s a little off today. It’s probably me, and I just don’t feel like I’m bringing you my best because I’m just feeling a little off. So, in other words, back off, retreat, and reassess this particular lane that you’re engaging this person in because it could be just this lane.

The other thing I do when working with people is if things are a little off right here. That doesn’t mean they’re off over here and over here, too. I assess in this lane, we’re not making a connection right here. We’re talking about this. Now, if we talk about our kids over here, Oh, we’re completely in sync. We talk about, you know, our worldviews; we’re completely in sync over here, but for some reason, this one right here is not so good. So I’m going to really think about, do I want to engage here?

Q: Any advice you would like to give people who are new to the adult world?

Robin: The things we said already. Be open, honest, and transparent; be vulnerable. Those are the behaviors of trust. Trust will do a lot. Another mindset to have is to think about your co-workers, your bosses, and the people in your life. What can you do to make their jobs easier? In other words, be a resource for others. It’ll force you to start focusing on others. And then, finally, I just got done rereading a great book called Unreasonable Hospitality. Go above and beyond. The service industry is all about being unreasonable. In other words, think about and see what people are truly seeking and craving and deliver that plus one because then, when you’re doing the things we just mentioned.

Are you the person that people can’t wait to see walk around that corner? Absolutely. Guaranteed. And when you have that, you’re gonna do, you know, the title of my next book, Unbreakable Alliances. You will form unbreakable, unstoppable alliances, which are healthy, strong relationships. Because then from this point on, no matter what you face in life, you can solve it because things and challenges in life are not solved by yourself. Not one of them. They’re solved because a teacher mentor and guide told you something earlier on in life. Someone is going to be a resource for you today. Everything you face in life is going to be faced and overcome with people and relationships. These behaviors that we’ve been talking about are the way you forge those unbreakable alliances that can help you and help others overcome absolutely anything.

The greatest gift any human being can give another human being is the gift of presence with curiosity about them.

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