meaningful work podcast

Episode 7: Hold me accountable!

May 4, 2023 | Podcast

For the 98.76% of us – who aren’t over-achieving, Type-A Robotrons – accountability enables us to do what we say we’re going to do. In this episode, Brook introduces her accountability coach, Kate Cowley, who works with Hustle & Heart clients to help them do what they say they’re going to do.

If you’re keen on amping up your productivity, staying focused, and not stopping yourself with procrastination and self-sabotage, then strap in!

What you’ll learn:

  • The most common stories we use to keep us stuck and procrastinating, rather than progressing towards what we say we want
  • Why we avoid the things that we say we want
  • How to make the time for your big goals – and why being time-poor could well be self-sabotage
  • Why it’s perfectly okay to change your goals
  • How to tackle a big project or scary goal
  • How you can drop stories that don’t serve you, and adopt a growth mindset
  • The crucial elements to get shit done.


Welcome to Meaningful Work Remarkable Life. I’m your host Brook McCarthy and I’m a business coach, trainer and speaker living and working on the unceded lands of the Camaragal people here in Sydney, Australia. In this podcast, we explore the paradoxes inherent in working for love and money, magnifying your impact and doing work you feel born to do. We explore the intersections of the meanings we bring to work and the meanings we derive from work. Let’s dive in.

Hello, we are very intelligent and interesting and funny. The most funny. I always say I wish someone was listening to me right now. So I’m so excited to introduce you to Kate Cowley, who is the Hustle and Heart Accountability Coach. Thank you so much. Excited to be here. Okay, I met Kate in the gym. Kate was my personal trainer for some years and was absolutely excellent at keeping me on the straight and narrow with the 25,000 hair brained ideas that I would come to her, just a couple.

I love the fact that you never really gave me the side eye, but you always had this very pragmatic, straight down the line. Okay, so what are the first few things that you’re going to need to do? Let’s break this huge thing down into manageable chunks. Chunks, absolutely. It’s exactly right. It’s exactly how it goes. I think one of the things I like most about you is that you have this beautiful blend of pragmatism and no bullshit and call it as you see it, but you also got this fantastic interpersonal ability to talk to literally anyone, to meet them where they’re at, to entertain a wide variety of personalities, and people that have more capacity or less capacity, and you have a very encouraging, supportive, cheerleading manner about you that I think is so necessary. Gosh, you’re going to make me cry. That was beautiful. I think that it’s a skill. It’s definitely a skill, and a good coach will be able to adopt a different approach in the moment when it’s needed and to be able to move really easily between being a hard ass and in the next moment being supportive and empathetic and cheering somebody on. It’s a great skill, and it’s very rare. It’s definitely something that I don’t necessarily think can be taught. I think you either have it or you don’t, but yeah, it is very much on the fly because someone could show up one day and be absolutely bouncing off the walls buzzing, and then the next day I see them and they are down in the dumps or they’re stressed or run down, and you just have to kind of know what they need in that moment. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

And so you work with lots of different business owners to help with goal setting, to help them get clarity on the next steps to help do the chunking process. That’s right. And I know that this has got a lot to do with storytelling, which is what this season is all about. Welcome. Because, you know, certainly I know that stories feature strongly in my mind and everybody else’s.

So the question I have is what is the most common stories that people tell themselves to justify not doing the thing that they’ve sworn black and blue that they’re going to do. Yeah, it’s a very good question and it definitely comes down to when I was listening to your previous episodes that people tell them stories that they’re just, they’re not that kind of person. So someone will come in and they’ll, you know, tell me that they want to achieve X, Y, and Z and gone through and I’ve kind of given them the resources and the tools and the recommendations that I feel will get them to where they need to be. And immediately they’ll have this justification in their head of like, oh, that will never work because I’m just not that kind of person or I just don’t do that or they have this kind of language that is I’m not I can’t that doesn’t work for me. And so those are the kind of things that I hear all the time when you’re smiling at me.

Because I’m sure I was probably one of those people. No, I don’t think so. I think you’re always very open to my ideas and suggestions. I really do. I really do. And you kind of, you’re always very open to feedback as well. But yeah, those are the things that there are always these huge excuses and they come down to most of them are like, I just don’t have the time. I don’t have the headspace for that. Or, you know, it’s just about making the priorities and sometimes the things that people have those huge dreams and goals and things they swear they’re going to do, you’ll find is not actually super high on the priority list. Great point.

So tell me about the time thing because I know it’s really, really common. I don’t have the time. We don’t have the time. We’re all like time poor. Is it true? Like what’s been your experience? Do you see clients that have time being more productive and clients that have less time being less productive or? Absolutely. You always have time for what you prioritize and what you focus on. So if you want to do something, you will make the time. People that are time poor, it’s almost like a way of self sabotaging. It’s almost like a way of not achieving what they want to do because they’re scared of failure or any kind of thing like that because they tell themselves that they just don’t have the time for that. But if you wanted to do it, you would make the time for that and you would prioritize that and put that at the top of the list to get it done and work it into your week where it needs to do, where it needs to happen.

And yes, of course, people do have a lot of things on their plate, but if it’s an important goal to them, they’ll make the room for it. Right. And does that mean if they’re making the room, I’m guessing that means that’s the stop doing list, right? This is a piece of homework I love giving people. What are you going to stop doing? How are you going to carve out this time exactly? Like tell me what you are not going to do in order to find the time to do this new thing. What do you see a lot of on the stop doing list? Like what are typical activities that are easy to kind of drop or that most people drop? Netflix. Not the good Netflix. It’s so funny. Not the good Netflix. People come to me and they say I didn’t have time to do that. And then in the next breath, they’ll be like, oh, I’ve already finished that season of Game of Thrones or something. That’s a lot of hours. Many hours. But you know, there’s so many things on that list. A lot of people have that they should stop doing.

People with children and I mean, especially adult children when they are still babysitting them, you know, things like that. It’s like you can set them up to do those things for themselves so you can focus on you. So that does happen a lot. People use their kids and I’m not, you know, I have I’m alone now. Kids do take up a lot of time and space, but you can also use it as an excuse, especially if kids are fully functioning, self-sustaining. Yeah. They hide behind it. Yeah. No, you’re 100% on the money there. I think once you have kids, you’re like, great, I’ve got an excuse forever after. Exactly. Like, no, I do not want to go to that dinner. I’ve got a baby. I was going to argue with you. I was going to say, oh, really? You know, really?

Totally. And definitely that was one of my stories. I know when I had two kids under two, like some kind of, you know, whack job that I would look at other people on the internet, other business owners on the internet, you know, being productive, being visible, doing marketing. And I think, well, it’s okay for you. I bet you don’t have children. I bet you don’t have children. And that became a entrenched story. You know, or, oh, well, it’s okay for you because I bet you’ve got a nanny. Totally. And I had a massive fantasy. I had a very complex fantasy involving a nanny that would turn up at our house every day and just take the kids and that would assuage my mum guilt because the children would be just over there, out of, you know, earshot. So I could see them not hurt. Exactly. And you know, the nanny never eventuated it and the fantasy, you know, dropped off. But I think that’s still a common story, you know, it’s like, okay, well, it’s okay for you.

We’re pretty good as humans of making, you know, complex stories and the more complex, the less likelihood that they’re true probably. But the old, it’s okay for you because you don’t understand because you’re different. You’re more well resourced. You’ve got more capacity than I have. Absolutely. You don’t understand my struggles. You just wouldn’t get it. Absolutely. You just wouldn’t get it. And some of this may well be true. We have to acknowledge that. That’s exactly, yes. People do obviously, especially when it comes to the kids, it does take up time. It does take up time. Oh my gosh. So much time. So much time. Yeah. But also there is, yeah, an element of hiding behind that as to why they can’t achieve what they want to do. Yeah.

So yeah, it really comes down to what you tell yourself. And so if you tell yourself that I couldn’t possibly do that because now I have a kid, now I have a baby, well, there’s a hundred people that have also done the opposite. Yeah. Yeah. And so that kind of, do you think these stories, and I mean, this is a bit of a directed question. Do you think these stories that we tell ourselves create that fixed mindset whereby, you know, your brain is closed to change and possibilities?

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And the thing that comes into that is you really have to be ready to change and willing to change for you to get out of that fixed mindset. So people with that fixed mindset, they are, you know, they’re threatened by other people’s success because they tell themselves that story that I’m sure they have a nanny, for example. And they don’t see it, you know, the opposite would be a growth mindset. They don’t see it as a like, well, that person did it. And so now I know that I can do it too. So that, yeah, it definitely plays into that. Yeah.

People also with that fixed mindset, they’re never going to get past it if they aren’t willing to put in the work. So if they see something and they say that’s just too hard basket or, you know, they don’t see it as a challenge. They just see it as like, like, impossibly and they give up. Yeah, then yeah, it’s never they’re never going to get over that story. Same thing. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And I want to kind of clarify things for good listeners. Yes.

Because I really don’t like this word mindset. And one of the reasons I think it’s a woefully inadequate word firstly, but also I think it’s a misleading word because I know that, you know, in any given day, if I’m well rested, rested, and, you know, I’ve gone to the gym and I’m feeling good and I’ve had a nice meal and I’ve got an organized to do list. Then I am have a massive growth mindset and everything’s wonderful. And I can achieve all kinds of things I can be delusionally optimistic. But, you know, if I have had a bad day, if I’ve had, you know, not enough sleep, for example, that’s the quickest and easiest way of getting yourself back all of a sudden into those old, boring, broken record stories of it’s too hard. I don’t want to do it. I don’t have enough resources. It’s okay for you. You’re better resource that I am, etc, etc. So it’s not like a set and forget and I never have to think about it again. No, no, no, absolutely not. It’s not black and white like that. And you can really flick between the two. And you can also flick between the two when it comes to different parts of your life. Right.

So you could be super motivated when it comes to your work, for example, but you have this absolute and you know, that’s your growth mindset and you are, you know, you know that you’re willing to put in the hours and get it done. But when it comes to say your exercise, like say you want to lose 10 kilos on the other side, then that’s when your fixed mindset is there. So it’s not necessarily black and white. And yes, as you say, it depends on how much sleep you’ve got and your mood and all that kind of stuff. Yeah. But yeah, it definitely people can have the you can flick between the two for sure. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

So how do you like, how do you enable people to drop these stories as a coach when you’re working with, you know, hustle and heart clients? What are you doing? What are some of the tools in your arsenal to help people restory or change their perspective into something more helpful, useful, valuable? Look, it’s it’s challenging because if someone’s like I said, not willing to make that change or see that change or they’re stuck in that fixed mindset where they’re not willing to take on feedback, then it’s really challenging to overcome those stories. But my what I kind of set out to do is I know what the goal is. Yeah. And I want to get the client to come up with that goal on their own. So I want to keep coaching them into making sure that they know what the end goal is and that they come up with that idea on their own.

And then I want to make sure that someone is more likely, someone is more likely to stick to something and to work towards something when it was their brilliant idea. Yes. Even though that was my outcome all along. So getting clarity on what they want is super, super important and really making sure they’re really clear on what the goal is. Yeah. And then from there, it’s about working backwards and going into those, you know, chunking them into smaller little tasks and planning those into their week. And having every minute of every day planned, but having a bit of a structure and routine that you know these are the steps that I need to do to get me to that goal and to, you know, change that story that I tell myself as to why I can’t get to that goal. And then making sure that you stick to it and you don’t get distracted doing the tasks that don’t matter.

We see time and time again that people find other things to do when they don’t want to focus on the really important stuff. And I think it’s also again another little part of self sabotage or a fear of failure. Like I know that if I’m, you know, I’m so busy doing all of these things that don’t even matter because they’re too scared to focus on the really important stuff. Yeah, yeah. I can’t nod. Yeah. Like it’s a huge thing with self employed people because you know, you are your boss, you are your own boss and you’ve got a to do list that never ends. And there are literally thousands of things you could do to fill your hours. So you can procrastinate on the high value things you really don’t want to do such as introducing yourself to strangers or pitching or following up sales calls, you know, most people would rather chew broken glass. And you can procrastinate by doing other things. And these things might be paid client work that could be, you know, valuable in their own right.

But, you know, if you’re 100% honest, you’re not following through on the commitment that you gave that, you know, Tuesday mornings, for example, I’m going to do these things that I really don’t want to do. Exactly right. Exactly right. So in terms of enabling people to drop the stories, it is challenging because, like I said, if they’re not really willing to change, it’s not there’s only so much that I can do. But I can give them all the tools and the resources to kind of make sure that they are set up for the best possible chance of success. And that would be, you know, planning their week out, structuring their week out with the important stuff. Yeah, putting the big stuff in first. Putting the big stuff in first so they don’t get to Friday and go, oh no, I didn’t get it done.

I guess I’ll just have to wait till next week and then get stressed. So those are the kinds of things I can do. But at the end of the day, I can check in every day. I can call you every day. I can email you every day. But you can ignore my emails. You can reject my calls. You can answer my texts. So there, you know, there is an element of meeting halfway at the same time. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I think you made an interesting point earlier that I want to highlight. You said that, you know, it’s the person needs to want it. And I think that this is kind of goes hand in glove with accountability and productivity is like setting a goal that is actually personally meaningful to you. And that can be a process.

And I think there’s a misnomer in, you know, the wider business world that everybody knows what they want. And I’m here to tell you hand on heart, 10 years of coaching, 97% of people employ me for coaching do not know what they want. Or if they know what they want, it’s a little nebulous. It’s a little vague. It’s often a kind of a mishmash of shoulds and things that they see other people doing. And they think I should want that. That should be my goal. And I think that that process of defining what you want can be very time consuming and complicated. Absolutely. And that’s kind of almost half the puzzle. Right. Exactly. Yeah. Exactly. No, I totally agree. Getting that clarity of what you actually want. Yeah. The goal that’s there can sometimes be the biggest challenge. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. For sure.

Because, you know, I remember you coaching me and you were like, do you really want to drop the weight though? Because you seem to really enjoy your weekends. And I was saying, it’s okay if you don’t. It’s okay if you don’t. But like we obviously are not hitting the mark on what our goal is. Exactly. Yeah. Exactly. So like it’s totally okay. I think it needs to be said that you can evolve a goal that it’s very normal to like the idea of something and then to go down the path towards it and then realize, oh shit, actually, this is not for me. This is not what I’m interested in. And now I’ve had a real experience of it and I need to go back and think things through and decide, is this actually what I want?

So I want to ask you about puzzle pieces and all the little tiny details. Yeah. Because, you know, it’s fun talking about goals. Some people find it fun. Not everybody. Some people love it. Some people find it very exciting to plan. And they love getting their diary and their calendar and putting all the good intentions in there. But, you know, we know from experience that there’s more to it than this. Otherwise, we would all be highly optimized type A personalities walking around with realizing our fullest potential. But alas, most of us are slobs, including myself. So please tell me about this little tiny, you know, minutia of a person’s day that kind of adds up to them doing the things that they say they’re going to do.

Well, it’s kind of how I got into this. So when I started training people, I kind of realized that obviously, you know, they came to see me for a service and they would exercise. And that was obviously a huge part of their life that they were not able to do on their own, which is why they came to see me. But to get the best possible chance of success, it wasn’t just showing up to see me a couple of times a week. That’s not actually going to help them achieve what they want to do. When they lose five kilos, run a marathon, whatever the goal is. I found that if all of, like you said, the puzzle pieces didn’t fall into place in the rest of their life, then they weren’t really able to get there in the most kind of beneficial way.

So that comes down to things like their work, their sleep. So if their home life, like sleep in their home life, their home life is out of control. They can’t get themselves into a routine. They can’t schedule. They just find that, you know, every day is just absolute chaos. Then they absolutely, you know, they’re not ever going to be able to fit in that, the training that they’re supposed to do or hit the goal. And then same thing, if they’re working, never hitting your deadline at work and they’re always stressed and then everything else falls to the wayside, then everything else doesn’t actually fall into place. So that’s why it was important to focus on everything. So what those little details are, you know, if you, like you said, sleep is the best way. Oh my God. Yeah. So, you know, sleeping was a massive thing that we would focus on is like, you know, getting one of your goals consistently was getting to bed early every night without setting yourself a time. So that would be something that we would focus on. We would focus on setting boundaries around what they give their time towards. And if that means, you know, they’re running all over the shop because they’re cooking seven dinners for, you know, their husband eats something different, their kids eat something different. They’ve got to get on the list of that.

You know, setting a boundary that that’s not no longer going to serve them and they can’t do that anymore. Or at work, you know, they’re working, getting into the office at 7am and leaving at 7pm when they don’t need to. It’s just about setting those boundaries on themselves and prioritizing what’s important and making sure that they fit into place so everything works together. Yeah. And like this is a huge piece of the puzzle, right? Because if you’re not used to prioritizing your own goals, if you’re not used to prioritizing difficult complex things that you’d much rather not be doing, it is a huge challenge to say to colleagues, friends, family. No, I’m not available for that. No, I can’t jump up and get interrupted right now. No, I’m not going to help you with this. You know, no, this is important to me. And, you know, you need to get behind me. Like that’s it. That’s a huge piece of the puzzle, I think, you know, and there’s a lot of stories about that as well.

I mean, we were chatting before we press record about Mum guilt. Yes. And I’m like, well, that’s never going to happen. It’s so much for record. Totally. I know that a lot of my clients, a lot of Hustle & Hunt clients struggle with the family boundaries. They struggle with the phone calls from friends that come in the middle of the day because you’re self employed. So why the hell wouldn’t you be open for a chat at like 11am on a Tuesday? Yeah, right. You know, why the hell wouldn’t you want to go out for lunch, you know, on a Monday and you don’t? You’ve got other priorities. You’ve got other goals and plans for the day. Exactly right. And setting those boundaries can be one of the biggest puzzle pieces.

Yeah. And so what are the stories that you hear clients tell you, business owners tell you about, you know, kind of being, you know, at the risk of putting words in your mouth, feeling selfish or, you know, prioritising things that make them feel uncomfortable? What are some of the stories? Again, it comes down to the people always save the time thing because they just don’t have time. You know, their kids are doing this. They’re doing that. But it always is, again, like we spoke about prioritising the things that they don’t want to do. And those are the things that are going to shoot them to six sets the quickest possible way. And those things are like picking up the phone and calling people and sending out the emails. And I know you’re very good at picking up the phone. That’s what I do. And like scheduling that in, you know, making five calls a day at 10 a.m. every morning.

You schedule that in as a non-negotiable like that is something that I know that I need to do. Then you will just get into the routine of doing it. But there’s a million things that you could obviously do before that. But again, it comes down to how much you want it. And look, you know, you just reminded me because I know one of your massive skill sets is cold calls and sales calls. And again, unless you’re a salesperson, most people would rather stick needles in their eyes. So what are some of the like because so many people avoid it, why do you think I’m sure you know, I’m sure you’ve heard a hundred stories from business owners.

Why do people avoid picking up the phone, making sales calls, introducing themselves to strangers? Yeah. And all that fun stuff. People feel silly. They feel stupid. They feel like no one wants to buy it. And it’s like they almost don’t even believe in what they’re selling, what their product is. And then that eventually comes back down to their why, why they’re doing it again. Because it’s like if you don’t believe in what you’re calling the person to talk to them about, then why would they want to buy that from you? And you should be not necessarily like, you know, wanting to scream it from the rooftops. I’m not saying that it is hard to pick up the phone to someone that you don’t know. But it is that fear of feeling silly or rejection that is massive. But if you honestly, once you overcome that, because you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, then it becomes so much easier.

And then sometimes that means that you’ve got to come back and sit back down and go like, well, maybe I don’t actually believe in what I’m selling or what I’m doing. Scary. Yeah, scary. Yeah. And I mean, that brings up all kinds of different stories, I think, because that deep, deep, deep confidence and self trust and, you know, that wellspring of belief in the value of your work. You know, it is complicated. Absolutely. And sometimes it stems, not to get all psychology on us, but sometimes it stems from, you know, even childhood, it was that fear of exclusion and all you wanted to be was included. And that’s the same thing. You know, you have to get, you know, you want to be accepted by the person that you call and you have this fear of being rejected. But honestly, people are, they’re willing to listen and if they want, they just go, no, thanks.

It’s actually, people work it up in their head to be this really, really scary thing. And it’s, it really doesn’t have to be. Oh my god. The amount of phone calls that has been hanging over my head for weeks or months. And then I finally make the goddamn phone call. It’s over in a minute and a half and I’ve got a great result. Right? I’m like, I have caused myself so much angst. Yeah. And you kick yourself. I feel like why don’t they just pick up the phone and call them? Totally. 100%. That’s why I think if you schedule them in, and you know, like is it, you know, 10am or 11am or whatever works in your schedule, and you just know that I need to do X amount of calls every day, it just becomes part of, you know, your day to day thing. It’s not this huge thing that hangs over your head every week and that you just keep putting up because of that. Yeah.

Because the more you put it off, the more opportunity for negative stories. And the more complicated those stories become and the more untrue they come and the further away they take you from actually picking up the goddamn phone and making the phone call already. You honestly just start believing that’s, you know, you’ve made this excuse and it must be some trivial excuse like, oh, you know, I couldn’t possibly make the call my phone’s on 20% battery. It’s so ridiculous. And then by the end of it, you end up believing this huge story as to why you couldn’t possibly make a call every day in your life. 100%.

It is so fun talking to you. All day long. Like I said, you know, this, this personality that you have, being able to combine that kind of hard ass, you know, you know, do the goddamn thing just like get on with it. Let’s just be practical and cheerleader, you know, support role that we all need, you know, times five for business owners. It’s so fantastic to be able to extend, you know, your services, your time to hustle and buy ins. So thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me. Cool.

The original podcast was produced by Morgan Sebastian Brown of Brown Tree Productions, and the original music was produced by Sean Windsor.

Brook McCarthy Business Coach

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