Unlocking Success at Work: A Conversation with Carole Stizza

Every day, new research shows us how to become better leaders. We get plenty of advice on handling challenges and planning for the future. But amidst all this self-improvement talk, are we forgetting something important? There's real value in acknowledging our achievements and celebrating our successes.

“Sit down with your people and ask them what success looks like to them. Ask them what is the most challenging thing they think is getting in their way. How do they see life every day and get to know the reality that your people are working in, so that you understand how to pave the way and get out of the way for them to be successful.”

Controlling your success at work should not be perceived as a limitation but as a fresh opportunity for growth. Whether you're an entry-level receptionist or a top executive, understanding how to take charge of your career and define your aspirations is crucial. In the engaging and rich Qonversations discussion, our guest, Carole Stizza, Founder and Executive Coach at Relevant Insight, shares valuable insights on effectively guiding leadership roles toward success.


“I never talk about improvement. In fact, I would love for people to not be able to ask the question, "Here's how you can improve or how can I improve?" No, because that implies somebody is broken or needs fixing. Nobody shows up to work, broken or needing fixing. They need growing. So, we talk about growing. It's a positive conversation. And we get to go there together, so I understand how to support that growth and they know where they're growing.”

Embracing a New Perspective on Success


Initially, the idea of controlling success might seem strange. We often talk about dealing with failures, but rarely discuss how to shape your own success at work. Carole Stizza suggests a different approach. Instead of thinking of success as something fixed, she encourages us to see it as a journey we can influence. To do this, it's important to regularly talk to your team members and ask them what success means to them. By listening and learning, you can help them find their path to success and support them along the way.

“We hear a lot about anxiety at work these days, and it's experienced at every level from the entry-level receptionist to the executive at the top. And when I started really looking at this concept of negative energy, negative emotions - we become anxious when we're unclear of how we're doing or we're unclear of where to grow next. And there are ways to really harness that.”

Understanding Workplace Anxiety


In today's workplace, many employees feel anxious. This happens when they're unsure about their performance or their career direction. Carole suggests that if we figure out why people are anxious, we can help them better. By asking questions about our progress and genuinely wanting to know how we can improve, we gain more control over our careers and reduce anxiety.

“There's a somewhere, an old myth or old story that came from some of the great hero stories we listen to that you need to command direct to tell people what to do. You need to control whatever it does. And if people really took time to understand the great leaders, that's not what they did.”

The Magic Formula for Achieving Success at Work

“Set the conversation up for success. Ask for the one thing that they could do to grow, not improve.”

What's the secret to improving relationships and making feedback conversations more effective? Carole offers a simple framework with four key elements:

  1. Context: Clearly define the topic you want to discuss. This sets the stage for the conversation and helps align perspectives.

  2. Focus: Identify the most crucial aspect of the topic and stick to it during the discussion. This focused approach leads to a more productive conversation.

  3. Perspective: Encourage the other person to share their viewpoint. This fosters empathy and helps you understand their unique perspective.

  4. Action: Transition the conversation towards actionable steps using "what" and "how" questions. This ensures that the discussion results in concrete outcomes, leading to a more optimistic and confident mindset about the next steps.


Building Trust Through Curiosity And Overcoming Obstacles: Shifting from Command to Coaching


One of the keys to success in this approach is showing genuine curiosity. Then you ask questions that let you see things from your colleagues' point of view, you show that you're committed to understanding them. This builds trust and creates positive energy in the team.

“There's a lot of brilliant teachers out there who understand how to teach critical thinking and creative thinking and innovative thinking. But there's a piece they're forgetting to bring to light that they're teaching their students how to ask better questions. For the majority of those walking into the workplace now or having to work virtually, if you don't get the water cooler time or the hallway time, you have to intentionally craft time to ask those questions. And that's intimidating, too.”

Many leaders often feel short on time and think that using a coaching approach is impractical. However, Carole emphasizes that leaders should also groom successors to carry on the work. When leaders act as guides rather than teachers, they help their organization grow and learn from their teams. Leaders should create an environment where people feel free to take risks and try new ideas. By investing in their team's growth, leaders make their organization stronger. Even though we all have different levels of expertise, having the right tools allows us to do great work in unexpected situations.


Carole Stizza's insights offer an empowering approach. By staying curious, having constructive conversations, and fostering a growth mindset, individuals and organizations can reach their full potential. Success becomes an ongoing journey of self-improvement and accomplishment. As you progress in your career and leadership, remember that the key lies in controlling your success, asking better questions, and empowering those around you. It's not just about improvement; it's about growth and the endless opportunities it offers.


Listen to the full conversation.

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