One Year In

EPISODE 62: It has been one year since the launch of DHG's Growthcast and we started on our journey to help business navigate the new way of life that changed so rapidly. This week we host DHG's Director of Catalyst Executive Coaching, Bob Kunkle to reflect on what we have learned in the past year, and we can apply those learnings for maximum growth.



[00:00:09] JL: Welcome to today's edition of DHG’s GrowthCast. I'm your host, John Locke. At DHG, our strength lies in our technical knowledge, our industry intelligence, and our future focus. We understand business needs and are laser-focused on company goals. In this ever-changing world, DHG's GrowthCast provides insights and thought-provoking conversations on topics and trends that address growth opportunities and challenges in the current and future marketplace. Thanks for joining us as we discuss tomorrow's needs today.

[00:00:42] ANNOUNCER: The views and concepts expressed by today's panelists are their own and not those of Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. Always consult the advice of your legal and financial professional before taking any action.


[00:00:57] JL: It has been one full year since Bob Kunkle, DHG's Director of Catalyst Executive Coaching, and I launched DHG GrowthCast by discussing how to thrive in this new temporary world. Bob has joined me today to reflect on what we learned this past year and how we can intentionally apply these learnings for maximum positive impact. Welcome back, Bob.

[00:01:21] BK: Hey, John. Great to be here.

[00:01:24] JL: Well, I think we can honestly say, Bob, that many of us spent the year dealing with heightened levels of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty in both our personal and professional lives, and thriving in this new normal has proven to be extremely challenging. What is your take on what people have experienced this last year?

[00:01:45] BK: Wow. It's been a heck of a year. I mean, the range of emotions is as far and broad as you can imagine. I mean, everything from being confused and stressed to scared, to being surprised, to feeling some relief sometimes, which is hard to believe but true, and excited. All wrapped up together depending on what day you asked any of us, so it's been an amazing ride so far.

[00:02:11] JL: Yeah. I’d say the emotions just run the gamut almost daily, don't they? I mean, some days you just feel like you've got it together and some days it's just totally coming apart at the seams. It’s never the same and this world if nothing else has taught us the importance of being resilient and flexible and being able to go with the flow. But I tell you what. In our coaching work, we've run into so much emotion and inability sometimes of people to really sort through what this all means to them. When we explore with individuals’ values and what's really important, why is taking time to think through longer term life plan even more critical now?

[00:03:02] BK: Great, John. One of the things that I wanted to just briefly touch on when we talk about your life plan, you think about kind of planning where you're headed and who you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. This idea of using your career and your work as a partner in your health and well-being, which basically means looking at your career and your work and leveraging your career and work as a partner for your well-being, so you can maximize your success in both spaces.

Your career is not really meant to be compartmentalized away from the core of your life because it takes up so much of your time. It actually gives you fertile ground to work on making investments in your health and your well-being if you use it well. That’s something I would offer up in your thinking ahead and planning. How can I look at my career and my work and use it to my advantage to serve me and serve those that matter to me, including the firm that you're belonging in, to be able to work toward a maximum health and well-being?

[00:04:12] JL: I think that's so critical that we step back away from our current situations now, Bob, because the pace in which we're operating hasn't slowed down. It's gotten our lives or gotten more complex in many ways with the work-at-home environment, and we simply just don't think about how important it is to step back and think about our why, our purpose, and the things that are so meaningful to us in life.

What was interesting, I was reading some research on the topic of burnout, and that is something that I think is not really being recognized at the level that it's happening. But this one study, which was by the Mental Health Association, in fact, it was just released in September of 2020, so it actually compiled data all the way through fall of 2020, indicated that, gosh, we're increasing almost a third more burnout in all levels of our society than we've ever had before. Normally, we'd see increases in those very small percentages, but 30 to 35 percent more people are indicating that they are burned out.

What's interesting is – That’s just kind of in general. When you look at people who are on the front lines of health care, their burnout rate is now 80 to 90 percent. Just think of all the – I mean, just not people who work in hospitals but those that are dealing about pharmacists. I know a pharmacist who, gosh, she is just struggling right now with all the different demands that are being placed on them, the EMTs, folks that are just out there trying to help keep us safe. This is really pretty incredible.

When we add the social and racial tensions and isolation that we had from last year and uncertainty around the future, which many of us have had that, we're really finding it hard to be our best selves and feel even optimistic about the future. Would you agree?

[00:06:16] BK: No. Absolutely. It's – Yeah, absolutely.

[00:06:21] JL: It’s just a great reminder of how important it is to reconnect with the important elements of our life, and one of the most ignored elements of our well-being is our emotional state. I think it might be productive for us to just have a little discussion around this topic and talk about techniques for our listeners that help people really be more in control and self-regulate their emotional state because I think it's one of those variables that we don't think that much of very often. What might be a few things you would recommend for those that are ready to invest in their emotional well-being?

[00:06:57] BK: Yeah. I would start by really setting some priorities for yourself. Step back and think for a minute that if I could do this a different way and I recognize the fact that things are – It’s been tough and this environment we are in right now is anything but a cakewalk. Step back and prioritize yourself, first of all, and use that prioritization to shine a light on the needs that you have. Also, connect those with the meeting of those needs. That means making consistent investments that are intentional in ways that actually build you up, that fill your tank, that do things for you that nothing else can do and prioritizing yourself first, like if you think about how you spend your day.

You need to step into the day already having a plan. This is what today, this first part of today is going to be all about, and it needs to be all about you. Because if you're not in a good place as you begin your day with those routines and those rituals that support you and build you up and fill you up, then it's going to be any kind of day. I mean, you'll get whatever you get and you will not have made the investment that you could have made the beginning of the day for your own sake. That's the first thing I would say is put yourself first.

John, you and I and the work that we do with how we help people approach their day, we always start there. We start with what are you doing first and to break that down for them, so they can make that first bit count. That would be the first thing that I would say, and then give yourself some permission. Give yourself some permission to do it differently than you've done it before, and don't go by somebody else's rules. If it's a walk that you're able to do, great. If it's up and down the stairs a few times in your house, that's great. If it's a walk around the house or if it's like –

Today is a great example. I actually went – At lunchtime, ran outside, was able to jump in the boat, and just go out in the part of the lake, and then just come right back. I didn't do anything except just go out there. It can look like anything for you, so I would be creative and open yourself up to what you might try. Maybe experimentation is in order.

[00:09:26] JL: Well, those are some really great tips. Anything else that comes to mind, Bob, as far as emotional experimentation? I love that terminology. Think outside the box here. Think about different things that we could do that we've never even thought we wanted to do or should do. Anything else that comes to mind that we could throw out there to experiment with?

[00:09:49] BK: Yeah. I would say expression that we – You and I both know some people that actually have taken up art, and they would never say, “Well, I’m a painter,” now. But they actually just went and bought some canvas, and they bought some paints. One of them bought some pastels, and they just sat down and just started to put something there. It is so therapeutic because it's not for anybody else but you. It's an opportunity for you to express yourself.

Think about expression. What does expression mean for you? It could be numbers. I mean, maybe you're a numbers person that, man, for whatever reason, that just really rocks you. Well, great. Find a way to express yourself and a new way with mathematics. My wife is a great example of that. She gets a jazz out of some things that she does with advanced data analytics, and that's not me, but it sure is her. Express yourself and be open to try some new things.

[00:10:48] JL: I tell you, that is so good, and what I might even add to that is, again, thinking outside the box here. Think about the things that you enjoyed as a kid or things that you really loved growing up that were meaningful to you that you just let go. I tell you, I had one of those experiences. It wasn't in the pandemic but it was during a dark time that I was going through not too many years ago. One day, I was feeling sorry for myself. I was really having a bad weekend and it was – My wife was gone, and I was just having this huge pity party, and I don't know what really drove me.

But I got up and I went over to the piano that I played for 10 years and had not played for 11 years. I don't know why I hadn't played it but I hadn't. I kind of do know because I was afraid of how bad I was going to be, and I proved that to be true. But I sat down for two hours and forced myself. At the end of the two hours, I almost had this moment, I can't even describe it, of adrenaline and relief. I’d reconnected with something that was very powerful and an expression of creativity and something that I love to do years ago. So I would just add to that. Think of things you loved to do as a kid or you did well as a kid. Maybe you can't do it quite as well now, and I proved that that I can't.

But you know what? Ever since then, and that's been a couple years ago, I now play probably two to three times a week, and it's just a stress reliever or something that allows me to reconnect with something positive in my past. That might be another consideration for people to think through.

[00:12:32] BK: Yeah. That's tremendous. I'd like to share one more if you don't mind, John.

[00:12:36] JL: Yeah. This is going to sound silly for some people, especially if you don't have kids. You're going to look at me and go, “What?” But I actually started doing some kickball with my nine-year-old. We would pop out for 5 to 10 minutes outside, and we would just kick the kickball back and forth. I can't tell you how that made me feel. Aside from the fact that I’m getting to spend a little bit of quality time with my son doing something that he loves to do, and half the time he kicks the thing over the house, but that's fun.

I haven't played kickball since I was a kid, and there's just something about being outside in the fresh air and just kicking this silly ball with your son that is pretty phenomenal. It's not something I would ever really done if he weren't home because of COVID, so I counted as a great opportunity and a great blessing.

[00:13:34] JL: Well, we've kind of talked around this subject of health and wellness and getting out and doing exercise. Again, as part of going through what we all went through last year, I have been exposed to a lot of research on what's going on with our health, and I can't help but be reminded. My dad, God rest his soul, used to always say to me, he goes, “Your health is your wealth, John. Your health is your wealth. You better take care of yourself.” I’m like, “Yeah, whatever.” But as you get older, you learn to appreciate those types of comments.

This whole world that we've now been forced into just really illuminates a huge problem that we've inherited in our society, and that is chronic inactivity, which chronic inactivity is really leading cause of our new heightened surge in chronic diseases. Most people have heard the statistics around sitting is the new smoking. Well, the research validates that in a big way. I mean, these studies now have come out and indicated that you sit six hours or more a day and you're almost twice as likely to die as people that don't sit and are more active, and that heart disease is even double that. I mean, it's just amazing the NIH studies that have been published on it.

You think about that and you think, “Well, yeah. Well, that's – You're talking about disease. We’re here today to talk about health and well-being and kind of the day-to-day.” You got to believe though, Bob, that chronic inactivity has an emotional negative downside, right? I mean, that sitting around too much, not moving. In fact, actually the flip side of that's been proven that if we move more intentionally every hour to 90 minutes, we actually think better. We're more emotionally in control, that we have the additional abilities for creativity, and just clarity of thought.

Movement is so important, as well as exercise, just in general planning out three to five days of intentional exercise around cardio and strength training. I mean, those things become even more important when we've moved into a more isolated sedentary environment that we inherited back in March of 2020. It’s really interesting to think about how that is really something that all that we can control.

[00:16:16] BK: Yeah. I mean, and that is such a beautiful word, John, this word about control. There are a lot of things that we can't control right now but there are some things that we can, and that's where we really need to spend our energy. I’m so thankful that you invested so much time this past year in your poster child for getting ready to do it better when you – This time you spent in health and wellness training. I’m just so thankful for that, and that the taking control part is you can't take control of everything. But, man, if you take control of a few really important things, you can really change your trajectory.

One of those is this idea of what you've just been talking about. How are you moving? I spend a lot of time during the day just standing. I can't walk around the block. I’m on calls all day for a lot of the time, and I’m sure a lot of people that are listening to this are in the same boat. But there's one thing I know how to do. I know how to stand, and I can move my legs back and forth. So I’m going to do the things that I know I can do, and I have noticed a massive difference. My brain works better. I smile more. I actually crave better food, which I don't have any idea. I’m sure you could talk about that on another call. But I’m a different person when I simply just stand for way more of the day, and I stay out of my chair.

In fact, right now, when I go to my office at my home, my chair's over in the corner at the beginning of the day because I wait until I get too tired because I’ve been standing too long during the day. My foot hurts. I’ll sit down. But for the big part of the day, I’m up. For me, it is something that I can actually take control of, and own for myself, and know that I’m doing it, and it's a good cause.

[00:18:14] JL: It is interesting when you stand. I mean, I just feel like I have more energy. Again, when we're talking about our best selves and really being there, when I get off a call, I’m not tired, and I can go have a upbeat conversation with my wife. Also, just even during the call that I’m on, hopefully be more of my best self as it relates to the energy that I’m creating because we just have one opportunity every day, every hour with an individual in our coaching work. We really owe them our best. For me, and it sounds like for you too, standing is one of our kind of tricks of the trade, just to make sure we're giving it our all and allowing our body to help us manifest that energy, which is really cool.

Bob, as we wrap up today, I always love to end our podcast by giving our listeners some real tangible takeaways, some things that they could do. It sounds like you've got some great things in the emotional category. I’ve got a few things in the physical category. So why don't we just throw a few out there? Let's alternate, and go ahead and start. Let's give our audience some real significant tangible things that they could do to take control of their emotional and physical well-being. Go ahead and give us a start.

[00:19:32] BK: Yeah, absolutely. The first place I would start off is listen to yourself. What do you want to be able to say to yourself? You need to start your day, and you need to step back and say, “You know what? What's true about what's been great about my life?” Name a couple of those things. Name the things that are true or that are excellent that are worthy of your voice, that are memories that carry you forward that have kept you at moments where you needed an anchor. There's a word that you remember from somebody that meant a lot to you or there's something that was an aha moment that you've got pasted on your wall and that you haven't looked at for a while. Begin your day with that thing that encourages you and lifts you up to a good place to begin.

[00:20:25] JL: I love that. On the physical front, I would say, and we've talked about this already, but intentionally move all day long. I would say shoot it. Not only move but exercise up to I think 150 minutes a week is really a goal that we should all strive for. 30 minutes a day five days a week is not a very aggressive goal but something that we really should shoot for, and to mix in a little strength training is so important because as we age, we're losing lean muscle mass. All of this is starting to work against us if we aren't being intentional and proactive.

Every 90 minutes, don't let yourself stay 90 minutes in front of a computer without moving. Get up, stretch, walk the stairs, go out like Bob, get in the boat, whatever you want to do. Just walk, move, make it intentional, and try to do something to get that heart rate up every week. If nothing else, be thoughtful about how much time you're sitting versus standing. Then every time you hit that 90-minute mark, be out of your office. Be away from your computer screen. What do you got for us, Bob?

[00:21:39] BK: Okay. The next thing that’s – Actually, this just came to me. I’m thinking about something that lifts you up. This is a twofer.

[00:21:50] JL: Okay, great.

[00:21:51] BK: For me – yeah. Get your shoes on. Go outside with just the intention of taking a quick walk. This doesn't have to be brisk or anything, but the twofer is that call somebody. Stick your ear buds in and call somebody and take a walk and take a walk with them while you talk with them. Give them an opportunity to speak into your life and to remind you of those things that are important. Remind you of those things, why you matter to them. You get to be the person that does the same for them. This is a great way for you to put yourself back in perspective throughout the day, and you can actually make a deeper connection with someone that matters already to you or you can use it as an opportunity to build a new connection or relationship with someone. You'll be really surprised at what it does for your mental and emotional well-being.

[00:22:46] JL: Love that. I would also suggest to pay attention to what you're consuming, and this is both nutritional, as well as social and environmental. Obviously, we all need to be eating healthier. But as we go through a day I think and especially those who are a little more sedentary, stay away from eating large meals. Eat light. We call it eat light, eat often, right? Small amounts of food throughout the day, really strategic snacking with really good quality snacks, 150 calories or less, and just be careful what you're allowing yourself to listen. Social media to us up to a certain point can be very destructive. Cable news sometimes can be overwhelming. Again, we've talked about that word, control. Control what you're consuming both nutritionally, as well as audibly throughout the day and visually.

[00:23:48] BK: Well, I’ve got another one if we've got time, John.

[00:23:50] JL: Sure.

[00:23:51] BK: This is partially about this emotional side but also some of the physical as well, and this is the stepping back to take ownership, which means get intentional about most things. Don't get yourself on autopilot unless it's for something that is like instrumental music or something like that. Don't be talked at. Why don't you do some of the listening that actually just fills you and lightens up the load? We all need it.

[00:24:26] JL: Yeah. Great advice. The last thing I would mention as we wrap up today is pay attention to your sleep because sleep is – I call it sleep the X factor. Most of us don't pay much attention to it. We aren't getting enough. About the average American gets about six and a half hours of sleep, average adult. The highest performing members of our society get over eight to almost eight and a half hours of sleep. We need that full sleep cycle to heal our body and to regenerate and allow ourselves to fight disease and to recover from emotional days and recover from workouts and things like that. Sleep is something to pay attention to.

I hope that those types of suggestions are helpful for all of our listeners today. Bob, it's been great having you again, kind of our anniversary edition of DHG GrowthCast. Always great to spend time with you.

[00:25:23] BK: Thanks a lot, John. I always enjoy it too. Thanks.

End of Interview

[00:25:27] JL: You've been listening to DHG GrowthCast, with our special guest Bob Kunkle, Director of the DHG Catalyst Executive Coaching Practice. We hope that our discussion today will get you back on track to prioritizing your emotional and physical health so that you can be your best self for those that are the most important to you in your life. I’m your host, John Locke, and I look forward to reconnecting with you soon on another episode of DHG GrowthCast. Until then, be sure to rate, review, and subscribe to DHG GrowthCast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or Podbean.

End of Episode
About DHG's GrowthCast

At DHG, our strength lies in our technical knowledge, our industry intelligence and our future focus. We understand business needs and are laser focused on company goals. In this ever-changing world, DHG’s Growthcast, provides insights and thought -provoking conversations on topics and trends that address growth opportunities and challenges in the current and future marketplace. Join us in discussing tomorrow’s needs today.

Disclaimer: The views and concepts expressed by today’s guests are their own and not those of Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. Always consult with your legal and financial professional before taking any action.


Bob Kunkle
Director of Executive Coaching and Development
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