Incredible Learning Experiences

How to Educate Your Leaders with Stephen Belenky, Executive Coach at Belenky Consulting

Episode Summary

In this episode, we talk with Stephen Belenky, Team interventionist and executive coach at Belenky Consulting, about how to make your teams more effective, the secret to educating CEOs, how to coach people to achieve things they didn’t even know were possible and much more.

Episode Notes

In this episode, we talk with Stephen Belenky, Team interventionist and executive coach at Belenky Consulting, about how to make your teams more effective, the secret to educating CEOs, how to coach people to achieve things they didn’t even know were possible and much more.


"Organizations are the best shot we have to create the change we want to see in the world—to solve society’s greatest challenges, and to cause systemic shifts in culture and leadership." - Stephen Belenky


Time Stamps

* (2:10) Intro

* (7:26) The road to being an executive coach

* (15:25) The secret to having effective meetings

* (28:52) How to educate your team for the future

* (34:14) What does the life of an executive coach look like?



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Belenky Co


Episode Transcription

Mike Murphy: [00:00:00] This is Mike Murphy, the host of incredible learning experiences. And we're joined today by Steven Blinky. Stephen, can you introduce yourself? So the audience can hear you. 

Stephen Belenky: [00:00:25] Yep. This is Steven Blinky. 

Mike Murphy: [00:00:27] All right. Where are you sitting today?

Stephen Belenky: [00:00:31] I am. I'm assuming you're referring to my wavy doors behind me. yes, 

Mike Murphy: [00:00:37] you have wavy doors. 

Stephen Belenky: [00:00:38] I am. What you.

can see is beautiful window to the left beautiful windows. I'm at my home. I can see into my backyard. It's very lush with trees and behind me are these black wavy barn doors that my wife and I inherited when we bought this house. That we are trying to, we're trying to embrace. Now. Somebody recently said, Stephen, is that intentional? Like, it looks like an [00:01:00] S and the answer is yes. 

Mike Murphy: [00:01:05] Barn doors that look like that. So don't get rid of them. They're funky. And I like it.

Stephen Belenky: [00:01:09] Awesome. My confidence is skyrocketing 

Mike Murphy: [00:01:12] And so where are you located? What city are you in

Stephen Belenky: [00:01:15] at we're in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we are in east Charlotte. He side pride.

Mike Murphy: [00:01:21] and who are you? What do you do professionally?

Stephen Belenky: [00:01:23] Jeez, who am I? I'm going to go for the hard ball question first. Uh, well, uh, I'm going to start, I'm going to start personal. I'm uh, I'm the devoted partner to my, to my wife, Rachel and a son to. Uh, mother and father and youngest, brother of three, uh, boys and, uh, an uncle to two amazing nieces.

I'm also, uh, an advocate, uh, for, uh, living trauma and grief out loud. Happy to talk more about that. I'm an entrepreneur. Um, I'm a disciplined listener and a practitioner of [00:02:00] asking meaningful questions. And I'm really passionate about conversations and making them really counts. That's who I am. But you want to know what I do professionally?

Mike Murphy: [00:02:09] I love all of that. And we're going to get, I'm going to circle back to a couple of things, but yes. What do you do professionally?

Stephen Belenky: [00:02:15] I'm in the leadership development space, I intervene with leaders and leadership teams that are looking to have a breakthrough in their performance, a breakthrough in their collaboration and their communication at a critical juncture. That's what I mean by that is it could be a merger. It could be an acquisition, could be the launching of a new product, uh, or the completion of a key round of fundraising.

I work with them at that key juncture to bring, to bring something special to the table at a time where it couldn't be any more critical. 

Mike Murphy: [00:02:45] You say intervene? Does that mean something negative might happen? Like what, why intervene?

Stephen Belenky: [00:02:52] Yeah. That's a really, it's a really great question. Not necessarily negative. Usually it's a. Yeah. I say that an event needs to [00:03:00] happen for me to come in. It could be negative. It could be the loss of, uh, an important investor or it could be, you know, there's, there's 50, there's $50 million in investments sitting on the table.

And this team is trying to mitigate unforced errors, uh, between now and the time they close on that fundraising round. So it could be an incredible opportunity. 

Mike Murphy: [00:03:21] That's pretty serious stuff. So who decides to reach out to you? Is it someone that you're intervening on behalf of like when. Something serious is going to happen. And you can contribute like who, who grabs you and pulls you in.

Stephen Belenky: [00:03:34] Yeah, well, and my business is it's a, it's a referral. It's a referral business. I work with one team and typically they, and it's a small community of, especially, especially in.

the high growth startup space. You know, founders, CEOs, they talk and they share war stories. And, uh, and so I'll work with one and, you know, somebody will share with another what's going on and what they're up against.

And [00:04:00] they'll say, you know, you really need to talk to Steve and see if there's some, there's something to accomplish with your team and how they collaborate and communicate. That's how it that's, that's how it comes to be. And then we get talking about outcomes and, and I see if, uh, I see if I can, can make a difference with the outcomes they're going for. 

Mike Murphy: [00:04:16] Okay. Why do you do this?

Stephen Belenky: [00:04:19] Yeah. So I'm going to get, I'm going to get kind of meta about this. I should stress that I work with all kinds of organizations, including institutions, but, but my focus is high growth startups. And then inside of that, I've got a real passion for social impact organizations. And that includes Israeli back, startups, us veteran backed startups among others.

Why I do what I do. You know, I think organizations are the best shot we have to create the change we want to see in the world. I think they are the best shot that we had to solve societies. Greatest challenges, you know, to cause the [00:05:00] systemic shifts in culture and leadership that we're all going for. And I think that entrepreneurs in particular, inside of these high growth startups are, are hardwired to cause this?

to happen.

And what I find when I talk to organizations that want to generate a profit and change the world that got the strategy that got the process. Where there's, where they're lacking is in the attitude and behavior department, otherwise known as culture. And that's where, that's where I can make the biggest difference. 

Mike Murphy: [00:05:30] Fantastic responses. That was our opening. We're going to transition into the roadmap and I'm going to ask you roughly five questions. So can you give us an example of a person or an organization you have worked with? Like, what would their titles be?

Stephen Belenky: [00:05:44] I work with a number of technology startups, including, and I won't, I won't name the company because of the sensitive nature of the work we do. But, but I can say that includes a household, a household brand name and the, uh, kind of [00:06:00] CRM, you know, CRM, customer relationship management space. And I work with C-suite executives and the senior management teams that they're accountable for.

So chief growth officers, CEOs, CMOs, you name it, 

Mike Murphy: [00:06:13] So actually what, now I need to rephrase this question. It was what. Do people think when they see you enter their organization. So did you use to physically go into like offices and like, what was that like when you walk in and you probably know them, but like you just walk in the building, like what, what are people thinking?

Stephen Belenky: [00:06:31] do you mean you mean physically? 

Mike Murphy: [00:06:33] Yeah. Well this 

Stephen Belenky: [00:06:35] Who is this 

Mike Murphy: [00:06:35] something, yeah, something might be happening. They either know or don't know about it. And now you show up, like what, what do they think when, when you enter their organization?

Stephen Belenky: [00:06:43] Yeah, that's a, that's a really great question. I, they might think I'm there to change them or help them figure out who they are. And neither is true. I'm not there to tell them who they are. They know who they are. And I'm certainly not there. To have them shut [00:07:00] down their weaknesses. You know, a lot of, a lot of folks relate to people like me as coming in to put, to bed their weaknesses.

And I think people's weaknesses are their strengths. Sometimes we overplay our strengths, so they appear as weaknesses. So I'm certainly not here to get rid of people's strengths. What I am there to do is to help is to create a space for them to be more effective, to look at, to look and see where their strengths are working for them and where their strengths are overplayed, where they're getting in the way of, you know, making something really happen.

So there's their perception. And then there's a lot of work that I got to do on the front end to earn their trust and to clarify why I'm there.

Mike Murphy: [00:07:39] So when you're doing this, are you primarily focusing on a small. Group or maybe one person or do you have to navigate like layers and personalities within an organization?

Stephen Belenky: [00:07:49] Yeah, I mean, I absolutely do I make the biggest difference when I'm working with teams? That's not to say that I, you know, there are cases where I'll start working with the CEO. The CEO [00:08:00] has a breakthrough and they will say you need to come work with my team. So sometimes it works that way. I think I make the bigger difference where I have a chance to get, um, to get my hands on, uh, a C-suite team and a senior management team that they're accountable for because we're, we're creating new habits.

We're creating new processes. We're creating new behaviors. You work with one person. They're, they're a fish out of water. When we throw them back into the sea, you know, people, people don't know what to make of this person. And there are new ways of making requests and making commitments and making promises.

But you work with a team, you teach them all a new language. So we're going to be a lot more successful if we do this work with the team from the onset, but I absolutely have to navigate these layers and multiple personalities. And I do it by taking responsibility for myself. I take responsibility for how I come across.

If they experienced me as being [00:09:00] competent, reliable, and sincere, I'm going to make a difference there. 

Mike Murphy: [00:09:05] If you were to go into a, like a, a social gathering, do you just watch people?

Stephen Belenky: [00:09:09] Yeah. Uh, I, yes, yes I do. And, and I don't judge them. 

Mike Murphy: [00:09:16] Okay.

Stephen Belenky: [00:09:16] I don't judge them. I, um, I go into a room. I observed, I'm extremely curious. I have an insatiable appetite for kind of watching and observing people. And I also create stories in my head. When I'm observing in a room, I create stories about people. I don't know, but not, but not like in disempowering stories, I create empowering stories about people.

And I also create stories that enable me to empathize with people. Cause that's my, that's my access, you know, to connecting with people that I wouldn't otherwise be able to connect with people that come from different walks of life. The thing that. That enables me to connect with [00:10:00] everybody is I'll create a story in my mind that they are dealing with something out there in the world, some invisible, some invisible challenge.

They're dealing with grief. They're dealing with trauma and that's my, um, that's my access to people. 

Mike Murphy: [00:10:13] how can an organization change? Does it like, do the people have to change? Changed. It was like half of the people have to change. How does change happen?

Stephen Belenky: [00:10:21] Yeah. Yeah. I, I don't, I don't know if everybody wants to change, you know, I think, I think some people do some people don't I, And I take the case that they all do. I take the case that people want to change. Otherwise I can't fight for them. I can't, I can't root for them. You know, if I'm cynical, I can't, I can't fight for people.

So, you know, I take, I take the case that people do want to change and I take responsibility for them seeing a business case to want to change. Like I said before, you know, it's usually an event that brings me to the table. And so [00:11:00] they've really got to get in their bones, the consequences. Of not changing.

And I take responsibility for creating a space with my clients, for them to see those consequences and to want to, and to want to take it on, take it on for themselves.

Mike Murphy: [00:11:14] Yeah. And can you tell at a certain point where you're like this isn't going to work, or this is going to work? Is it like day three or after a certain amount of hours or after an incident or event? Is there like a time where you're like this isn't happening or this is definitely happening?

Stephen Belenky: [00:11:31] Yeah. I mean, I don't mean to paraphrase, but I think what you're asking is are some people in teams not coachable. And I generally don't believe that I, I generally believe that everybody can, can make the change that they want to make. And it takes time. I mean, I'm 41, I'm 41 years old now. And I think it was like eight 30, nine and 40.

When I finally felt like [00:12:00] I was living into the person that I. I knew and wanted to be so three days, I mean, no, give me a break. This is how I know that they want to change. Like, this is how I know they've crossed over into one. Whether they've got the capacity to do it or not. I know they want it because I, because I'm observing their actions, you know, talk is talk is cheap.

Right. And okay. I get a lot of stories. People tell me a lot of stories. And I'm not evaluating them based on their stories. I'm evaluating their actions. I look at, I look at, are the actions a match for the changes that they want. I want to make. It's like, um, it's like, how do I know? How do I know when I want to meet somebody?

Like I meet somebody for the first time? How do I know they actually want to meet with me again? They don't let me get off the call until we've scheduled, scheduled another occasion to meet that's an action. Like that action tells me something as [00:13:00] opposed to yes. Even I'd love to reconnect with you and then it just kind of goes out of existence.

So, So yeah, that's, that's my, um, you know, that's my barometer for change. I w I look at their actions.

Mike Murphy: [00:13:15] So before we get off this interview today, I know that I need to schedule a. Another call with you.

Stephen Belenky: [00:13:19] Absolutely. Otherwise, I'm going to make up a story about you.

that, uh, is not flattering. 

Mike Murphy: [00:13:26] So we're going to transition into a segment called learner success. Um, and I want to talk about, uh, is there anything that you've found or implemented in the last couple of years that have changed outcomes for when you're interacting with people?

Stephen Belenky: [00:13:39] Yeah. I have been doing a lot of work. I've been doing, I've been putting a lot of energy lately into. Meetings effective meetings, which is, uh, which is a really hot topic, right? Like you can Google effective meetings and there's like a thousand articles out there and that's her type verbally write a thousand articles and, and I'm equally [00:14:00] passionate about it and I'm, hyper-focused on.

How a team can produce meaningful outcomes in the face of any circumstance in any meetings. So anything from creating a context for that meeting, like how can a leader create a context? For, um, for their team too. How do you establish trust and psychological safety in a meeting to get the most out of people so that they can bring their, um, what's the, what's the popular phrase so they can bring their whole selves or at least 80%, 80% of themselves to helping leaders make sense of what's being said and not being said in a meeting.

So they can take an inventory of the promises and commitments that are being made and they can. Like exponentially increase the number of commitments being made and the actions being taken. So that is something I have created lately and put into practice. And I'm seeing some really positive, positive results.

I mean, I'd say like a connective tissue or a [00:15:00] common theme is my clients are having less meetings and they're having shorter meetings and engagement is up. Participation is up. Decisions being made and actions being taken have increased exponentially. 

Mike Murphy: [00:15:15] Well, you've jumped ahead. So I was going to ask you what is a way to measure success around that? And it sounds less meetings, shorter meetings, more engaging.

Stephen Belenky: [00:15:25] Yeah, no, that's yeah. That's definitely one example. I mean, I, 

Mike Murphy: [00:15:29] You're going to have to write the w uh, 1001 article, uh, article number 1001 on, uh, how to have effective meetings.

Stephen Belenky: [00:15:37] or I'll just do more talking to you. No, no. I mean, my, my metrics are they're outcome based and they're my, my outcomes are my client's outcomes. 

Mike Murphy: [00:15:47] Yeah.

Stephen Belenky: [00:15:48] I'm like, I'm going for whatever they're going for. At least, at least if I know I can affect their outcomes. I mean, there are outcomes. My clients are going for that.

I have no business getting involved in, but if, [00:16:00] you know, going back to something I said earlier, if my client says. To me, I want to mitigate unforced errors in the next, in the next 30 days, because we're about to roll out a product. That's an outcome. That's an outcome that I can mitigate. And if there were no unforced errors, then you know, then we've, you know, we've we were successful.

Or if, you know, if a founders, investors, and board members tell them that they really appreciated their collaboration and communication with them, that it was at an all time high. That is a great go for. That's a great success story and that's something I can affect as well. 

Mike Murphy: [00:16:36] But you all investors would appreciate that.

Stephen Belenky: [00:16:40] I think, I think so. I talked to a lot of them and that's something they're going for, for sure. 

Mike Murphy: [00:16:45] This is a little bit off topic, but when I think about engagement and outcomes and meetings, I had like 13 zooms yesterday. And by the 11 or 12th zoom, I'm trying, I try to be courteous and respond to people's [00:17:00] messages. You know, everyone gets a lot of solicitations and it might just be sometimes applied unsubscribe, but this group was hounding me.

So they were, I was like, fine. We'll have a 30 minute call. Because you're trying to do your job. And, um, by the time I got on the call, I was fatigued and I gave them my full attention. And it was so painful because I think they were reading from a script. They were prepared, but they were definitely on a script.

And at any time I tried to break the wall and like have a meaningful interaction with them. It would like it would catch them off guard and they would go back to the script. And then I was just honest. I was like, Maybe in a year or two, like if I'm still here, we could work together. And even that led them back to a script.

So if, what, you're what you're creating for your clients around effective meetings, I would love it if sales teams and organizations could, could, I know it's so numbers driven, right? You know, you have a certain amount of engagement that's going to happen if you have a thousand outbound solicitations, but.

Even if they had just had more meaningful engagements with peoples that are decision makers [00:18:00] and buyers, instead of just, I got to run through my script. My boss is probably listening to this 

Stephen Belenky: [00:18:04] Yeah, 

Mike Murphy: [00:18:04] because it's a conversation and it's relationship building.

Stephen Belenky: [00:18:07] absolutely. And I'm just, um, something you said, you said, uh, I kept, I kept trying and I'm paraphrasing. So tell me if I'm putting words in your mouth, but I kept trying to intervene. With their flow and I was unsuccessful. And 

Mike Murphy: [00:18:22] Yeah, I'm just breaking the wall down. Like I'm ready to just talk to you, you know? And it's just like, Nope, I don't want to talk. I'm going to read this

Stephen Belenky: [00:18:30] You know, if I've learned, if I've learned anything about my work in the last couple of years, it's that none of, none of it is intuitive. So for example, trying to intervene effectively in that what you just described, which I would describe as a breakdown. Like there is a, there's a breakdown happening here because they're so focused on their agenda that they're stepping over something really important, which is the relationship like step they're stepping over the thing [00:19:00] that's going to help.

The two of you, that's going to help you connect in a really meaningful way. And, and so intervening with that, it's not intuitive. I mean, it's, it's something, it's something to learn. It's something to you design a practice. Like how do I intervene with that? You try something, you evaluate it, you know, you evaluate what worked, what didn't work, you refine it and then you try it again.

And then, and then the other thing I would say about it is, so there's what they, you know, there's, there's your wish that they would do this kind of work, but you can also take responsibility. For intervening more effectively too. You can keep trying new practices to intervene with that. I mean, I had a conversation. I had a conversation with somebody that I'm not coaching. I'm actually mentoring her and she's trying to, she's trying to get more effective. She's an entrepreneur. Absolutely brilliant. And one of the areas where she is still kind of developing herself in is connecting with [00:20:00] investors. Like she'll have these one-on-one meetings with investors and they go, do they want to go directly to our pitch deck?

Like, well, just show us your pitch deck. And what she's discovering is that if they make a connection with her and they believe in her and they are inspired by her, they'll, they'll make the pitch deck for her. They'll they'll, they'll create the pitch deck for her. But she's having trouble intervening with that on the front end.

They want to they're all business. They want to get the business. So she's trying to figure out how does she, how does she say, wait a second folks. I can't wait to show you my pitch deck and I can't wait to show you my spreadsheet. And, and where are you right now? Like I'm talking to you. I see something in the background.

Like where are you telling me? Where in the world are you. Are you at your home? Where do you live? Who are you? Where were you born? So she's practicing, she's practicing, not allowing the people in the room to step over the relationship. It's a, [00:21:00] it's a powerful move. 

Mike Murphy: [00:21:01] Yeah. It's like, it's, it's comical to think that there's people that want to see a PowerPoint presentation that bad. I get it. Right. But now really, really it's all about relationships. Can you tell me a story from your career that involved conflict or tension?

Stephen Belenky: [00:21:18] like every day. 

Mike Murphy: [00:21:21] All right.

Stephen Belenky: [00:21:23] Um, well, you know, I worked with another consulting firm. In this space before I I've ventured out on my own and started my own practice. And, you know, I'm really grateful for the opportunity I had with them. I was grateful to serve with them and serve through them. And I was grateful for the coaching and mentorship and the training they provided me.

Um, they're also fundamentally good people. That means a lot to me. And we didn't agree on everything. Um, including, you know, how to, how to effectively coach and consult. It was, there was one particular [00:22:00] area where there was a rub between me and my colleagues there. And it was around this idea of not an idea.

It's the practice of public coaching said another way. You're working with a group of people. Let's say it's a C-suite, let's just say a chief growth officer reveal something. And you as a coach, decide to lean into that person in front of everybody else, that's public coaching. And that Can go one of two ways either that can make a huge difference with them, or it can completely annihilate their self-worth and self-confidence. And one of the things that I, um, I have become very skilled and experienced at, and I have gained an appreciation for. Is people have different learning and developmental capacities preferences. I'm partially talking about neurodiversity. I mean, you never know what you're dealing with with people. [00:23:00] You don't know what's going on in the background.

You don't know how they're hardwired. So it's really on me as a coach to decide, do I lean into this person in this moment or do I take this offline one-on-one with this individual? And, and I think that that's where there was a little rub with, um, with my Tali there I'm putting words in their mouth, but I think they, they kind of, they took the case that public ocean was affected. Like generally speaking is the fact is, and I could see where public coaching. Can can get, um, can have, uh, uh, you know, a poor effect on people. And so look, I mean, I had two choices to make. One was it was either to stay with the firm and be a cause for the, uh, change in the way that they can solve. Or I could get that by changing this thing about them, I would be changing like at its core.

How they consult. And so I [00:24:00] made the decision to leave and I'm so grateful for that experience. I, you know, there's a, is a great saying, like th th the greatest learning you can, you can have is learning what you don't want to do. so this was one of those beautiful moments where I discovered how I didn't want to coach and consult, and it inspired me to start asking questions like, Well, if I were to create my own methodology, if I were to create my own way of being a coach and a consultant in this leadership development space, what would that look like?

And if I were to really take responsibility for people's different ways of learning, what would that look like? Um, yeah, I mean, I, I I'm, I'm great. It was, it was difficult and I'm grateful for those moments. Those are the best learning moments.

Mike Murphy: [00:24:49] Can someone learn to do what you do without those. Like, is that how you learn how to do what you do?

Stephen Belenky: [00:24:56] they Can absolutely. I mean, yes. [00:25:00] And I think that's my super power, you know? I mean, I think the people who do what I do effectively, um, it's, it's a combination of like, like a lot of things. It's a combination of training. Getting great training, getting great coaching, getting great mentorship in and getting great on the job experience.

So it's, it's all of those things. And I think what gives me an edge is I am very aware of all the setbacks that I've had. And I study my setbacks like reg, like rigorously. And I'm not even too sure it's a choice because I, I feel it. I never forget these moments and Anna's a laboratory, it's a laboratory for me.

So yeah, what I would say to anybody who's looking to get into this space, surround yourself with all the things I just said, the coaching and the training and the mentorship and the, on the job experience and chairs, the things that didn't go well, cherish, the things that you see, um, cherish your own [00:26:00] breakdowns and cherish the moments where you see the people around you being less than effective.

And. Build off of that. And that's what I've done. I mean, I'm on my second professional services business. And both in, in both cases, I worked for another consulting firm, you know, I learned their way and I saw in that experience a little bit of what I wanted to do and a whole lot of what I didn't want to do.

And I give them credit for that, you know, to this day, I think, I think those people who took me on and. And mentored me and gave me an opportunity to see, to see my own path inside of there.

Mike Murphy: [00:26:41] Can we talk about the future?

Stephen Belenky: [00:26:43] No, 

Mike Murphy: [00:26:47] What do you think is going to be a trend in your industry over the next few years?

Stephen Belenky: [00:26:52] can I give you a few because I, I just can't, I can't get it down to one. So I'm going to cheat. I think a good place to [00:27:00] start is, I mean, it's, it's this whole flattening of hierarchal leadership. You know, it's the, the, the days of the days of hero leadership, you know, the, the one or several all-knowing all solutions all the time leaders, you know, and their way of, um, and their way of leading and having it kind of trickled down in a hierarchical way.

Like that's that's behind it. What we're seeing now is collaborative leadership. We're seeing cross-functional environments and that's the new normal. And, and so I think the question is as a company, how do you recruit and retain people? You know, when all companies are kind of moving in this direction, more collaborative leadership, how do you recruit and retain great people?

And how do you separate yourself from other companies? And I think you do it by. Like really owning, how are we giving our people, how are we giving our leaders a sense of purpose? How are we giving them a sense of autonomy and how are we giving them the opportunity? And [00:28:00] I think this is like really key.

How are we giving leaders the opportunity to master things? Let me tell you how many times my wife will say to me, something like, I mean, she's very, very grateful for our team and where she works, but she is just, she's so caught up in the minutia of thing. She's like, I just want to have time in the day where I can pull away from my work and master something. And, and I'm hearing that more and more from like emerging leaders. That's one, that's one. I think the, another one, which is really, really exciting is the integration of leadership development. And DEI diversity equity inclusion initiatives right now, right now. And this is my, um, my perception of things is that these two initiatives are not living together.

They're almost like mutually exclusive. I'll go to an organization and like leadership development lives over here. And then they've got this, this new, amazing DEI person who's overseeing the initiative. And the two haven't been integrated yet. And, [00:29:00] and so I think that's a trend. I think what we're going to see is the integration of the two.

And I'm really excited to not just watch it, but I want to, I want to be a part of it. So that's, that's another.

Mike Murphy: [00:29:11] that's a really interesting point. That seems like if, if DDI and leadership is in the same room, then that that's when like a meaningful, like strategic human resource planning can occur because that's the future of the workforce.

Stephen Belenky: [00:29:23] Absolutely. And so everything you just said. And my theory is that it's the social impact organizations. The for profit. Zebras of the world, you know, like totally equally committed to solving societal problems as they are generating revenue, generating profits. They're the ones who are going to like execute this more effectively than anyone.

So that's, I'd say that's like my third, that's the third trend that I'm, I'm, I'm actively intervening with. It's this [00:30:00] wide and far reaching spread of the social impact business model. Like right now, And I'm getting really meta. So thank you for just letting me go there. 

Mike Murphy: [00:30:09] no go, go for it. Yeah.

Stephen Belenky: [00:30:10] Right? Right now you have social impact organizations and then you have performative social impact organizations. 

Mike Murphy: [00:30:17] What's the difference?

Stephen Belenky: [00:30:18] Well, I mean, the difference is one organization is, is leaning into it, not only from a strategic standpoint and a process standpoint, but their, their culture internally is a match for what they want to see happen in the world. Uh, a colleague of mine, uh, once gave me this great image. It's the, not the values on the walls, but the values in the halls, you know, it's like, yeah,

Mike Murphy: [00:30:43] I love that.

Stephen Belenky: [00:30:44] I love that.

Like, and I think it was a colleague from this leadership development firm I was with, I think she said it. And so it's the idea that like every company can post these, the values on their website, but how do you lean into those values? So, So, [00:31:00] yeah, I mean, my theory is, and this is what I'm really, really excited about.

What gets me out of bed in the morning. I see a future where all for-profit businesses are true social impact organizations, which by the way, is going to make nonprofits and B corporations totally obsolete. It's going to put them out of business and right. And rightfully so. And then we're going to have to take all that.


Talent from the nonprofits and the B corporations and then, and then incorporate them in these for-profits social impact organizations. And so in my role, in this, my role in this is, like I said before, these most organizations had the strategy. They got the process. What they don't have down is what does it look like from a behavior?

What does it look like from an attitude standpoint to be a social impact organization? How do we live our values? That's where I can make the biggest difference. 

Mike Murphy: [00:31:51] Fantastic. Well, I'm going to check back in with you in 2030, and we're going to, we're going to play this and rehash it. I want to go into just some, some quick questions. Um, 

[00:32:00] Stephen Belenky: [00:32:00] Sure. Sure. 

Mike Murphy: [00:32:01] who is your favorite teacher?

Stephen Belenky: [00:32:02] Oh my God. Uh, it's going to sound like I'm trying to get brownie points here. Um, it's my mom. It's my mom. Yeah. Um, 

Mike Murphy: [00:32:12] the wrong with that. Nothing wrong with that.

Stephen Belenky: [00:32:14] You know, the, the time I spent with her when she was, uh, when she was battling and, and ultimately losing her battle with cancer back in 2017, that was, that was an incredible learning time for me. Um, I was just, I was just soaking up wisdom in the three months that it was a, it was a really quick, uh, it was a really quick demise on her point on her part. But, but boy, did I soak up a lot of wisdom and. You know, frankly, I don't recall my teachers and learning for that matter before the, um, well there's and there's actually an explanation for it that I, that I, now, I now know because I experienced a trauma when I was 20 years old.

So anybody, anybody who's experienced, um, a major [00:33:00] trauma can probably relate with this. I have trouble connecting with a lot of my life. Before the age of 20, let alone, like trying to remember teachers and things that.

I learned. So there's, there's a, there, there is a practical explanation for me, not like remembering a lot.

And I'm like, my, my appetite for learning in, in the second half of my life is just exponentially higher. Like I am, my appetite for learning is jacked up. It's dialed up to 10 right now. Like I've never, never crave learning. Uh, like this before. There's a little bit of that, so, oh yeah. Sorry, teachers. I'm sure you made a big difference. I mean, I can't remember you, you were preached, you were pre trauma.

Mike Murphy: [00:33:46] I really appreciate it. Your willingness to share that, you know, as a, as an aside, when I think about how scary cancer is, it's amazing that so many people have that. And common that cancer has affected them. Um, [00:34:00] as it's just wild. Why do you think I wanted to talk to you?

Stephen Belenky: [00:34:03] Oh, man. Uh, well, I hope, I hope, you?

know, some of my, my passion for what I do, you know, kind of rubs off, um, I always hope that because I, you know, I have trouble dialing back the passion. Some people people have to be subjected to. So I hope a little bit of that rubs off. I really, it is a lifestyle. What I do, I don't turn it off.

It's 24 seven. I suspect that you wanted to talk a little bit about, uh, Israel as Well, 

Mike Murphy: [00:34:34] well, well, not just that, but I see a fire inside of you. So I do believe you're an agent for change. So anyone listening to this, you're going to get Stephen's contact info a couple of different times, but that's why I wanted to talk to you because there's something inside of you. It's like, there's something burning there.

And I, and I love that and it just, it comes out when people engage with you.

Stephen Belenky: [00:34:51] Well, I, I appreciate that this is not a way that I have always been and I, and I make that point. [00:35:00] Because, I mean, because of the question you.

asked earlier, you know, you asked if some people aren't coachable and I imagine there's somebody out there in the world who had a story about me that was along those lines.

This is somebody who has no idea What, it's like to be around him, which is probably true. There's a, there's another great saying. You're the only person, you're the least qualified person to know what it's like to be around you. Awesome. So true. Like my, you know, you know, more about what it's like to be around me than I know.

So, but, but I imagine somebody had a story about me that was something along the lines of this guy is not coachable and you know, it's not intuitive, you know, you've got to, it starts with an event something's got to happen. That makes you want to be more self-aware and more aware of other human beings. And then you gotta make a commitment to take it on. And then comes the whole practice, creating behaviors, [00:36:00] creating practices, you know, it's, it's not a, it's not, it's not just a mindset. Like you gotta, you gotta go to the whiteboard and create behaviors. And then those behaviors become like muscle memory, you know, you practice, practice, practice.

And so this is not a way I've, I've wound up being. Yeah, it's a way I said I wanted to be, I made commitments to be, and you know, now I wake up and I'm jacked up.

Mike Murphy: [00:36:23] What, what books are you reading right now?

Stephen Belenky: [00:36:25] So I'm always reading a few books simultaneously, I think on a, not in a conscious level, but on a subconscious level. I'm always, my books are a reflection of what I'm curious about, obviously, uh, when I'm working on and what I'm dealing with. So on the. On the one of my working on front, um, I'm building a new practice.

So I'm reading a book called small giants companies that choose to be great instead of big. I want, I want to build not necessarily a big organization, but I want to build a great organization. So that's what I'm working [00:37:00] on. Uh, what I'm curious about is startup nation. So I'm reading startup nation, the story of Israel's economic miracle.

Um, I am really curious about, um, Israeli backed startups and the whole Israeli ecosystem, because I have a connection to Israel. And then when I'm dealing with, uh, I'm reading, the body keeps the score brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. I am, I am always living with my trauma. I'm always living with grief and this book is a really powerful tool in how to live with it.

I don't relate to these things as disabilities. They, um, but let's put it this way. My, my trauma does not, uh, disabled me. It enables me and this, this. 

Mike Murphy: [00:37:44] You made a comment earlier that you believe weaknesses can be. Star someone's strengths. And that's interesting. You've, you've 

Stephen Belenky: [00:37:50] Yeah. 

Mike Murphy: [00:37:51] trauma a couple of times. And, um, it is that where that comment earlier came from.

Stephen Belenky: [00:37:57] Yeah. Maybe I was with a [00:38:00] man. I was with a former client the other day we were reconnecting and we were taking, uh, we, we went on a walk. And he said something that I thought was, it was so beautiful. And I think it, it, it hits on what I'm trying to get at here. He said, uh, he was talking about his partner, his partner in life.

And he said, why would I want to get rid of my partners, weaknesses, my partner's weaknesses, or no, no, no. He said. Yeah, it's something like that. Why would I want to get rid of my partner's weaknesses? His weaknesses are his strengths and I love his strength. So if I were to get rid of his weaknesses, I'd be getting rid of what I love about him. I just thought that was such a beautiful thing. So what I, in my experience, in my experience, working with people in the way that I, I work with them, there are very, very few weaknesses what's really happening is they have these strengths. They have these things that are part of, in many [00:39:00] cases, they're part of their kind of underlying personality it's been with them.

You know, it's been with them either since the beginning or in those really important developmental years, five to ages, five to 10. And for the most part, those things have contributed to their success. Who am I to say to them, dial it back, you know, that could, because that thing has made them so incredibly successful, like. I'm I I'm a demonic I'm demonstrative. You're having an experience of a very demonstrative person and, and that has contributed to my success. It has made a difference in many cases, and there are moments where being demonstrative did not make the bigger difference. There are moments where being demonstrative, where I overplayed it, where I was stressed. Where, where, where I misplaced my demonstrative way of being, and it didn't make a difference, you know? Um, and so, so I'm a big advocate for like, let's just get weaknesses out of the [00:40:00] conversation. Let's see where your strengths are working for. You let's see where your strengths are being, uh, or slightly overplayed.

And they're getting in the way of you. And someone else having a, a powerful conversation, a powerful negotiation. Let's, let's look at that. Let's and let's develop an early warning system. So like, I know, I know we're being demonstrative is going to start working against me because I know what my body does.

I know what thoughts start running through my head, what dialogue I start having with myself when I'm stressed. And so I'll dial it back. So if I'm in a meeting with you, Mike, And you notice that I'm, I'm diagnosing less, like I'm coming up with less solutions and I'm asking more questions, or if I'm talking a lot less and listening longer, you know that I know my little early warning system is going off and I've made a conscious decision not to be as demonstrative as I usually am. [00:41:00] But that doesn't make it wrong. It doesn't make it ineffective. It's my superpower. 

Mike Murphy: [00:41:05] Yeah, 

Stephen Belenky: [00:41:06] Does that answer your question? 

Mike Murphy: [00:41:07] it does. Um, and again, this was supposed to be quick hits, but that's what I love about talking to you is like we w I could talk to you for hours. What influences your style? You have a style.

Stephen Belenky: [00:41:18] oh my God. Well, on a practical level, not wanting to look any shorter or smaller than I am. So I tend to, I tend to wear, I tend to wear clothes that are less baggy cause that'll make me look shorter and smaller. On a, on a serious note though, I am genuinely curious about style.

and fashion. I always have been, I I'm, I'm curious about how stylizing somebody can radically transform how that person feels about themselves and how like the world experiences them.

Like, I, I just am fascinated. And like I put on some, I put on a suit that somebody made for me that fits so perfectly and it takes me to a different Headspace. Like I feel ready to sit down, roll up my [00:42:00] sleeves and work with somebody. And, and I just, I just think fascinated by that. And then, and then there's, uh, you know, getting mad at again, but there's also, and this may sound self-deprecating, but I'm Jewish.

We embedded self-deprecating. um, I also want to, I want to belong just like everybody else. And style is one way to be relevant. You know, somebody a lot smarter than me once said to me, style is relevant and it's just like, Really landed with me at the same time. And this is going to sound like a paradox.

I really don't want to belong. And style is a way for me to express myself, irrespective of people's opinions or expectations of me, you know? So I just, I just kind of do my thing and it makes me feel really good and it gives me joy. And I have, I just have to trust that it's, um, It's an add on it. Doesn't take away from people.

It doesn't distract people. I just have to like, believe in my heart that [00:43:00] you know, that I do it authentically and 

Mike Murphy: [00:43:02] I think you do pull it off authentically and you have a good sense of style.

Stephen Belenky: [00:43:06] Well, I'm not wearing a suit today. I'm just wearing a tailored. I'm just wondering a tailored flannel shirt, you know, that's it. 

Mike Murphy: [00:43:13] Um, and you said you were one of three siblings.

Stephen Belenky: [00:43:15] Yeah. I have a, I have two older brothers, uh, on the, on the baby, in the family. 

Mike Murphy: [00:43:20] Okay. Did you all serve in the military?

Stephen Belenky: [00:43:22] No, no, I did not come from a military family and, and I served in the Israeli army and no one in my family lived in Israel. No one in my family besides me became a resident of Israel. So I was, I was a total of the total fish out of water. 

Mike Murphy: [00:43:43] How does that happen?

Stephen Belenky: [00:43:44] How does somebody, how does an American born Jewish kid with no military? Background experience, uh, come to live in Israel and serve in the army. 

Mike Murphy: [00:43:54] Yes. 

Stephen Belenky: [00:43:55] Got it. 

Mike Murphy: [00:43:56] Yeah. How, how does that happen? How does someone who's considers themselves an [00:44:00] American Jew? Because you said you became an Israeli citizen and serve in their military. That's fascinating to me.

Stephen Belenky: [00:44:06] Yeah. Well, there's a number of ways. My way was poppy luck. I met a girl. I met a girl in Israel on a trip to Israel. And we, uh, when I left Israel, we stayed in touch. We were, we were pen pals. And when I went off, you know, when I went off to school, we, we just, we stayed in touch and we, and, and over time we would talk about my coming back because of my coming to Israel, establishing residency and being together.

And I never can. And, you know, like I was. I was in my early twenties. I had never considered the consequences of my actions. And I had never, I had never been in love before, so 

Mike Murphy: [00:44:53] As most, as most young men don't consider the consequences of their actions.

Stephen Belenky: [00:44:58] don't, they don't, they don't. And by [00:45:00] the way, just for context, years later, my dad told me that he almost went to Israel to be with a girl. And do the exact same thing. So as much as I as much as I felt alone in this experience, years later, I learned that.

I you know, that there is somebody out there in the world who

Mike Murphy: [00:45:17] I bet he was proud of you. I bet he was proud of you for taking the leap.

Stephen Belenky: [00:45:20] I think, I don't know if pride is it. He was, he was curious. I mean, my dad looked, my dad is always, my father has always been proud of me and he's always been, uh, and by the way, we've also had a chance to consult together. Before. So he seen me not only as his, as his little boy, but he's seen me in consulting mode and he's always been very proud of that.

He's also a very curious person himself. So he was he's. Yeah.

he was very curious about my decision to do this. 

Mike Murphy: [00:45:50] how long does it take to become a resident?

Stephen Belenky: [00:45:53] Well, it's supposed to take longer, but I was there during a very, very [00:46:00] difficult time. I mean, it's always, it's always a volatile. So it's always volatile there, but this was a particularly volatile time. It was the second Intifada as they refer to it. And so I was fast track. They iStat, they were establishing my permanent residency.

I was at university or that Tel Aviv university. And about, I'd say two to three weeks after I touched down in Israel, I was told that I was going off to bootcamp. So, so I was, uh, I was a boyfriend. I was a student and now I was about to become a soldier, which by the way, is not a unique story over there.

Everybody is, everyone is something and something and something you don't get to compartmentalize to your point. It's compulsory service. So, so you're a student and you're a soldier, you're a professional and you're a soldier you don't get to compartmentalize there. So that wasn't unique. What was unique is I didn't grow up.

In [00:47:00] this culture, I didn't grow up thinking that this was my life. I didn't anticipate that this was going to happen. Um, I was insanely naive to think that I was going to be able to put off military service. And so it had like three weeks into being in Israel and they said, here you go, you're going off to bootcamp.

And, and so I was in bootcamp for about six months, which is pretty, pretty typical. And then I was given my. I was given my battalion and I was supposed to be based in the north, but, but conflict had really broken out between Israelis and Palestinians. And, um, and I, so I, I was based primarily in east, uh, east Jerusalem, um, at the time.

And I was seeing active duty, like I was seeing real conflict and, um, ultimately, so I was in the service for just under two years. What cut my time short, uh, was I was wounded [00:48:00] physically. Um, so wounded emotionally. So I took two shots to my right shoulder. Um, so my right shoulder doesn't work like it used to, and it was going to make it very difficult for me to continue my service.

Um, I was also emotionally wounded by the experience. So I was shot. I was shot in east Jerusalem. I came out of that experience, um, with trauma. With post traumatic, you know, post-traumatic stress. And then about two weeks after that incident, my girlfriend at the time, who by the way, was a very active, a very active advocate for Palestinian rights, Palestinian statehood, she herself was, um, a Moroccan Jew.

She was, she had a father who was Moroccan. A mother was Israeli relate. She identified as Arab. She was killed in a terrorist bombing. In Haifa. So that was a, that was a pretty traumatic time, like in a three week period. Just a whole lot of life [00:49:00] hit me. Yeah. Sorry. At a very, very young age. 

Mike Murphy: [00:49:05] yeah, such a young age, Steven. Uh, well, first I I'm incredibly grateful that you're willing to share that. Um, 

Stephen Belenky: [00:49:15] Thank you. Thanks for the 

Mike Murphy: [00:49:16] and all of that occurring in such a short period of time. And then how much longer were you in Israel? Was it just at like a two year, window of time?

Stephen Belenky: [00:49:27] About two weeks after Lee, my girlfriend at the time was killed. Um, I remember attending her funeral. And then about, about a week after the funeral, I, I left the country. And that was highly problematic because if I had stayed in Israel, I would have received the treatment that I needed to deal with my grief and to deal with my post-traumatic stress.

I I'll go out on a limb and say to see your, the Israelis are ahead of the game on [00:50:00] dealing with those things. They have an infrastructure in place to deal with post-traumatic stress long before, you know, they had the infrastructure here in this country, which is still.

Mike Murphy: [00:50:09] I would agree with that. And then, so then when you came home, you weren't. A veteran of the U S military. So where, how did you just exist with no help? No apparatus, like.

Stephen Belenky: [00:50:20] you said it that's it, uh, and very insightful of you to point that out. I was, I was on a raft without a paddle and I had, I had, you know, like I had parents who love me and, and wanted to take care of me. And I had a mother who. Wanting to do right by me. And she didn't know how to deal with it. And so typical, typical Jewish mom.

She's like.

let's just get Steven back into school, as long as he finishes his education, he's going to be okay. And, and there's some wisdom in that, you know, I went back to school and I finished, I finished my undergraduate degree and, and I didn't get the treatment that I needed. [00:51:00] And so my, you know, my dealing with some of these issues were, um, it came later in life and, and there are consequences to that.

I had setbacks that I think, you know, may not there's causality and there's correlation. Right. And I can't say that, you know, this caused, uh, some of the setbacks I've had in my life, but there, there appears to be yeah. Correlation and, uh, which is why, you know, which is why I take it upon myself to, um, To be with my grief and to be with my trauma every single day and I'll do it and I'll do it for the rest of my life.

It's why I'm an advocate for it. I think I kind of hinted at this earlier. Can I, can I, can I drift a little bit? 

Mike Murphy: [00:51:42] Yeah, absolutely.

Stephen Belenky: [00:51:43] You know, um, Mike Barnicle, he's a, a broadcaster, he's a writer. He wrote a piece about, I forget who he's with, but he you'll see him a lot on MSNBC. And I promise I'm not getting political. This is not a political story.

Uh, but he wrote a, he wrote a piece [00:52:00] about president of Biden just before the election. It was something like. Grief is his like grief is his DNA or something like that. Like, um, or yeah, Yeah.

Grief is the DNA to his humanity. Something, something like that. What he essentially was saying is that Biden does it naturally relate to everybody.

Like we have, you know, some people have that experience of him. Boy, does he know how to relate with people? You know, some people say that, but his point was, he wasn't born that way. But, but he has experienced tremendous grief in his life. And grief has given him access to empathizing with people he wouldn't otherwise empathize with at times that he wouldn't otherwise empathy. When I read that, I saw, I saw myself there, like, that's me like trauma? Why, why am I, why am I denying my trauma? Why am I downplaying my [00:53:00] trauma? Why am I hiding my trauma? Why am I positioning it as a weakness? It gives me. In edge. It gives me access to empathizing with people who I otherwise wouldn't empathize with. You know, some somebody can, uh, somebody can not show up at our meeting together. They can totally, you know, they can just totally not show. And 10 years ago that would've thrown me off my game. I would have created a story in my head and that person doesn't respect me. They don't, they don't cherish our time together.

Now I create a story that that person is dealing with things that I can't possibly understand, that there may be trauma there that something may have happened to their family, you know, and during this, and during this time I dialed that up to attend, you know, during this pandemic, it's like, there's all kinds of stories that I can tell in my head.

That gives me access to not judging that person, not being disappointed in that person, but sympathize having compassion and curiosity for that person. [00:54:00] So I don't want to put my trauma to bed. I want to learn how to enable myself by, and I know enable has this kind of weird connotation, but I reclaim that word.

I'm enabled by my drama. 

Mike Murphy: [00:54:13] So how long have you been. Israel.

Stephen Belenky: [00:54:16] Yeah, great question. I, uh, my wife and I are planning a trip to, uh, to Israel. Um, as you know, at this time, uh, for two reasons, one, you know, while Israel.

does not define me, it does color. Me and my wife wants to, she wants to know more about that part of my life. She wants to see the places I've seen. So We are going to Israel to retrace some steps together.

And I also have, I have some clients in Israel and I want to, and I want to be with them now that we have, we have delayed that because of the current conflict,

Mike Murphy: [00:54:55] So this will be the first time you've been back there since that incident.

Stephen Belenky: [00:54:59] this'll be the [00:55:00] first time, um, that I've been back since that incident.

So it's 20 years. 

Mike Murphy: [00:55:06] How are you going to. Work professionally while you're there and also process the unknown.

Stephen Belenky: [00:55:14] uh, one step at a time, one day at a time. Um, that's a really, that's a really great question. I suspect that it's going to be messy 

Mike Murphy: [00:55:25] Yeah.

Stephen Belenky: [00:55:26] and you know, that's part of my journey. No, I, I have, uh, I've worked really hard the last 20 years at looking put together, being, being put together. And, and again, that's contributed to my success, you know, I'm sure I'm sure being put together and being polished.

Got me a couple, got me a couple of gigs. Somebody's sort of like, wow, that guy's got his, he's got his act together. We should work with them. So. So I'm not, I'm not, you know, I'm not dismissing that outright. And I [00:56:00] suspect that trying to be all put together and all perfect and refined has gone in the way of making a connection with somebody at some time.

And so, so messiness is a good thing. Being a little messy it's, it's going to be messy. And, and I don't think my clients in Israel would be my clients. If I, if I hadn't been vulnerable and messy with them, I gotta 

Mike Murphy: [00:56:21] would probably understand, um, more than other clients would, based on the nature of, um, just being over there.

Stephen Belenky: [00:56:28] they have and being, and being messy with them has given them an opening to say to me, Steven, as much as you think you're not in our tribe, just because you were, you spent most of your life in the United States and you were only here for a couple of years. You're wrong. You know, we have a connection and, and I can say the same for us veterans, uh, who I've had this conversation with lately.

They said, no, no, no, no, you're in our tribe too. You're not in, you're not on a raft, uh, without a paddle. [00:57:00] And I, but I had to get, I had to create the space with those folks to be able to say that I had to, I had to be a little messy. 

Mike Murphy: [00:57:07] I cannot thank you enough for being willing to share that I'm fascinated and I want to hear from you. It doesn't have to be the next time. We talk, but, um, after that trip, I'd love to talk with you about that. If you're, if you're willing to share what, um, where can people find you if they want to get in touch with you or learn more about you?

Stephen Belenky: [00:57:24] Yeah. Uh, you Can you can go to my, my website, which is kind just a landing page is this at this time. And like I said, if it's a referral business, but it exists, uh,

Mike Murphy: [00:57:36] Can you spell that out?

Stephen Belenky: [00:57:37] it's bull lanky. That's my last name. B E L E N K Y. Dot co not com.

Mike Murphy: [00:57:48] Pretty simple. 

Stephen Belenky: [00:57:49] Pretty simple. 

Mike Murphy: [00:57:51] This has been Mike Murphy with incredible learning experiences featuring Steven blankie today. Stephen, thank you so much for your time. 

Stephen Belenky: [00:57:57] Absolutely. Thanks for having me. [00:58:00]