Libby McCready: The Art of Being

Libby McCready: The Art of Being

In this episode:

Libby and I talk about ‘ways of being’ using her coaching model of the “Be Buttons”. Some of the topics we explore are:

· The metaphor of ‘touching lightly’ to manage overwhelm and to reset

· How being curious shifts your energy to be more open and relaxed

· Self reflection questions to get unstuck and out of overwhelm

· The layers of listening and being responsive to connect and relate better

· Ways to be accountable with how you show up and impact others

· The connection between your amygdala and burnt toast!

Listen to the Podcast Now

Guest bio:

Libby McCready is a veteran executive coach and trainer. For the past twenty years she’s been focused on accelerating results for professional sales teams, business owners and leaders across industries. The models, processes and programs she utilizes use the sciences of the mind as the foundation for people achieving success. She is currently the head of sales training for a major Canadian corporation.
Libby can be reached at


Libby McCready: The Art of Being


Intro (00:00):

Welcome to Seniors’ Care Matters, part of the qodpod network. Each week, Seniors’ Care matters provides inspiring interviews and insights to help you lead, connect and engage with your teams and your residents’ families. We focus on ways to enhance your leadership approach and presence with practical tips, to build a relational culture and create breakthrough results. And now here’s your host for Seniors’ Care Matters, Deborah Bakti.

Deb (00:30):

As we continue to work our ways through this new normal, while there’s not much normal feeling to 2020 so far, as humans going through this together, we still seek, want and need to connect with others. Even if we have to be masked and appropriately distanced from each other. Amongst all the transactions and policy changes and updates and protocol required, I truly believe we still want to be relational and to be in that kind of relational mindset where you can be open to and looking for those opportunities to connect and to relate, it’s helpful to have ways to be in a more calm and relaxed state of mind. A way to be able to reset and feel better prepared to deal with and respond to all of these many challenges that we’re facing.

Deb (01:27):

And you may be thinking, are you kidding me with everything we have going on in our homes particularly now? Well, I think it’s about saying yes, and… Yes, all of this is happening. And…the good news is we all have these micro opportunities every day to choose behaviors that can support us – to be intentional with how we choose, to think, feel, and behave in any given moment. In today’s episode, Libby and I talk about BEING and her framework with the three ways of being, which is rooted in her training and experience as a leadership coach. One of the three approaches we discuss is about being curious. In my book Recipe for Empathy, one of the chapters is called “The Question Connection” and we discuss how being curious can cancel out judgment and binary thinking. Something that can get us triggered. And speaking of triggered, she shares a really interesting way to think about something that triggers us so that you can reframe and choose to either react or respond. I think you’ll find it really useful next time you feel triggered by something or someone. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did and are able to take away some helpful approaches as you continue to be relational and connect with your team, your families and your residents.

Promo (03:00):

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Deb (03:14):

I’m really excited to have Libby McCready as our guest on today’s podcast. Libby is a veteran executive coach and trainer. For the past 20 years she’s been focused on accelerating results for professional sales teams, business owners, and leaders across industries. The models, processes, and programs she utilizes use the science of the mind as the foundation for people achieving success. She’s currently the head of sales training for a major Canadian corporation and I’ve known Libby – I was trying to do the math and I think it may be longer than both my kids have been alive. And we met at a conference. We both got our coaching certification at the same school, and I also have the distinct pleasure of being in a mastermind group that Libby is leading. So Libby, I’m so happy that you agreed to come on and have this conversation with us today.

Libby (04:12):

Well, thank you Deb. I mean, it’s super exciting to be here and to be able to talk on this subject and share some thoughts and ideas with you. I mean, I’m sure that you and I could do this all day long.

Deb (04:25):

Yes we could. And I think the other interesting point to note is that you are a family member. Your mom lives in a long term care home in the town where you reside, right?

Libby (04:36):

Yes she does. She’s been there about seven years. Post-stroke.

Deb (04:40):

So, we’ve talked a bit about your experience as a family member and certainly some of the experiences that I had with my husband, my mom and my dad, I know that you’re really committed to helping support leaders and people who work in seniors’ care. And it’s no surprise, being a family member that it’s been a really, really tough last few months, particularly because of the Covid crisis and restricted visitation and people in general, and I’m going to say specifically in seniors’ care are feeling a bit tired, warn down, a bit beaten up – lots of negative media. We are still in the thick of things, the level of uncertainty and unpredictability. And I know that you work a lot with leaders dealing with similar issues when it comes to being able to shift the mindset. To be able to continue focusing on the things that matter. So we think about how sometimes staff maybe feeling a bit down or unmotivated, or just stuck with where they are. Let’s start there and get your thoughts on how that could – you could help shift them with that.

Libby (05:52):

Well, sure. I mean, I think the first thing that I want to say is thank you to everyone who works at every senior’s home, and in particular, the folks who look after my mother and the other wonderful residents, up here in Gravenhurst. I can’t imagine how difficult it has been for them to manage family members, and not all of them I would doubt always pleasant, and the fear and the anxiety and the confusion that so many residences have had. I mean, I certainly know, just from my own experience that my mother gets very confused in terms of why she’s unable to see us and why she can’t go outside. And then of course, you know, my mother’s 91, so dementia has her thinking all kinds of things and worrying about Scarlet fever that happened when she was just a small child. So it’s a very confusing time. And the staff go through so much just working with the residents and calming them down, but it’s not an easy job. And so I really just want to say, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Deb (07:22):

What can you offer as far as strategies to be able to help manage the stress level and the overwhelm that they may be feeling?

Libby (07:30):

Right, you know, I don’t want to speak in platitudes and all you have to do is this and everything will be fine, because I’m sure that, so I don’t know, patronizing – far from the truth. But I do know that the sciences of the mind would suggest that you can be in control and you do have the ability to breathe, which has always been number one strategy, take a deep breath and just calm. Now, what do I mean when I say just calm. I love the expression touching lightly. Thomas Troward, a philosophical author from years ago talks to this point about touching lightly. And the idea behind it is that when you get stressed, you tense up, right? And so when you tense up, it becomes very difficult to be fluid, to be in the moment. It’s like this, as soon as you tense, this buildup of anxiety and stress and everything that’s been going on, maybe in the background comes shooting forward and then bad things tend to happen. So you end up being short with your colleagues. You end up being unfortunately, maybe short with you know, a resident, a family member who calls in at exactly the wrong time, asking exactly the wrong question or making some kind of demand, because they believe that they’re special. And it’s like, everything just sort of comes out like this. I heard a great story the other day about race car driving. No, I’ve never been in a race car. And this fellow said, the last thing that you want to do when you’re turning corners is to grab the steering wheel tight. You actually have to touch very lightly on the steering wheel so that you have the flexibility, so that you’re completely calm, so that you can make those maneuvers, because if you tense, you’re going to crash into somebody. And so recognizing that the tenseness is the circumstance and when you tense, it’s because you’ve let the circumstance take power. So in order to take power back, you have to touch lightly.

Deb (10:20):

As you were saying, that Libby, it reminds me of when my husband, Ty was in the midst of his illness and the kids and I were attending family therapy, and the therapist talked about the strategy of white knuckling it. And she would say, you know, you can white knuckle for so long, and sometimes that’s what you need to do, but it’s not sustainable. And that image always comes to mind. And you reminded me when you described that story is to be able to let go of and letting the blood circulate by not hanging on for dear life. It’s hanging by your fingernails or grabbing that steering wheel. Just in the last couple of months, I’ve started riding a Peloton bike. And what I like about the instructors is that they talk about checking in, are you grasping the handlebar, let go of that, shake your arms out. And even she uses this visual – imagine a rolling pin basically through your ears. And you’re just turning it slightly to put your head down versus being all tense in your shoulders. And so sometimes I think we need those, whether they be visual reminders or triggers to be able to help us with that. Touching lightly is a great way to be able to express that.

Deb (11:49):

You continue to adapt and adjust with all the pandemic policies and protocols. With admitting and moving in new residents, you’re dealing with limitations in building a connection and relationships with your new residents’ families. If you’re looking for powerful ways to connect and build trust with your new families during COVID-19, please head over to my website at or click the link in the show notes, and I’ll send you 10 great ideas that you can implement immediately to create trust and connection with your families.

Break (12:22):

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Deb (12:51):

So Libby I’m thinking it could be really helpful to the listeners to dive in a bit deeper into the coaching mindset. Not everybody has had the opportunity to have a one on one coaching relationship. And as you and I have talked about before, there are ways that you can self coach and utilize that coaching mindset and some of the tools. So let’s talk a bit about that.

Libby (13:17):

Okay. Actually, there’s three really simple things that you can do to self coach. So coaching as you just said, Deb is more mindset and there’s a skillset that goes along with it. So when you or I are coaching somebody there’s first of all, a state of mind that we want to get ourselves into. The idea behind coaching is that the person who is getting the coaching really has all the answers inside themselves. And so, several years ago I created a model that began with a mindset and the mindset is simply this :Be Curious, Be Responsive and Be Accountable. And so why is it so important to BE – why can’t we just ask questions or why can’t we just tell people what it is that they need to do? We are not human doings. We are human beings. And so the idea of “being” is a mindset. So be curious, what does it mean to be curious? Well, the skill of being curious is asking questions. And so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you might want to start asking yourself some simple questions. So what is it that has caused this feeling? What were the circumstances that caused this feeling? So get some clarity around – it was something outside of you and it, that thing created a chain reaction of emotion, right? So it was circumstances.

Deb (15:15):

I also think with that, when you’re able to be curious, it takes away the judgment. I may be feeling overwhelmed and I start to beat myself up. Why am I not handling this better? And why, why, why am I feeling so overwhelmed? We’re taking an approach of curiosity is Huh! This is interesting – what’s going on here? What’s contributed to this? And having that softer energy of curiosity.

Libby (15:44):

And I love what you just said there. Hmm. That’s interesting. Hmm. I just reacted that way. Isn’t that interesting! Now, is that what I wanted? So that’s another question that you can ask yourself. If I were to run that all over again, how would I have wanted to show up.

Deb (16:07):

Having a do over in essence.

Libby (16:09):

Having do over. It’s one of the things that when I’m providing feedback to a sales person, who’s just had a sales call. I always start with, well, how did you feel about it? What did you think went really well? What could you have done differently? And if you had that do over right now, what would you do differently? And it’s not that it’s a blaming or a judgment on yourself or who you are or anything like that. It’s just an opportunity to look a little deeper and to say, well, maybe there’s another route. And there’s something really interesting psychologically that happens to a person when they get overwhelmed, when they get reactive, the whole, without getting into brain science, but the whole prefrontal cortex, where we have our opportunity to judge and see shades of gray, it just shuts down. Our primal function of fight or flight survival starts to take over. But the research around neuro leadership, neuro-psychology putting people in MRI machines and actually looking at the brain, when you start to ask thought provoking questions, the energy, the physical energy starts to come back to this whole area in the prefrontal cortex. And so then you start to see shades of gray. You start to see options, you start to see opportunities. So be curious with yourself, not judgmental of yourself, be curious with yourself. That’s interesting! I wonder why that happened? What was it that caused that? If I had to do over, what would I do next time? Because guess what? There’s going to be a next time. And the next time might be in the next five minutes.

Deb (18:15):

And you take that learning. So let’s see the second be button, which is Be Responsive.

Libby (18:22):

So being responsive, the idea is twofold. First is about understanding the difference between reacting and responding. So again, reacting is that emotional trigger, right? I’m reacting in the moment. When people are calm, they respond. And maybe even with a little bit of curiosity, that’s interesting. That’s interesting you say that. Tell me more. So being willing to really the second part being responsive is the ability to listen, because when you can listen and listening comes with understanding, right? So back to this situation, here I am in this situation, am I reacting or am I responding? So if I’m responding, I’m listening and I start to get curious again. So there’s a bit of a cycle here, it’s not sort of be curious first and then be responsive. They gel together. They go together. But it’s about learning how to listen and be, not allow the emotion to come forward. So being neutral again, is about being responsive.

Deb (19:48):

I also think about the, what are you listening for? Being able to be almost stepping outside of yourself and being that observer.

Deb (19:58):

Yes. So I like to, when I’m teaching, it’s a funny thing to do is to teach listening skills, right. We have two ears, one mouth. And so what should you do more of, you know, listen, more, talk less, blah, blah, blah. It’s a lot deeper than that. And a lot of people think that good listening means that I’m mimicking you, or I’m doing that active listing. Let me see if I heard that right. And that’s an element of it, for sure. You know, confirming to make sure that you’ve heard correctly, is a part of listening. But the deeper level of listening is listening for maybe what’s not being said, so listening to the context behind. Listening for that other person’s emotion. Wow. They’re really upset. Wow. Sounds like they’re really frustrated

Deb (20:53):

Particularly if the words and the body language are incongruent. Part of the listening is with your ears, but as well as with your eyes.

Libby (21:01):

Yes. And with your gut. And most people think that listening is an intake process. It’s what you do with your listening that really creates an opportunity for a different kind of conversation. Listening is an output skill. And so when you hear things or notice things, you want to do something with that. So that active listening piece about, paraphrasing what somebody said, or, you know, let me see if I understood you. I think if I heard you correctly, you said, blah, blah, blah. That’s focusing on the content of maybe what somebody said. But I’m looking at you and I’m noticing a whole bunch of other stuff. And I might simply say, wow, it sounds like you’re really frustrated, or I hear your anger, or I hear your confusion. Let me see if I can help. Right. So that’s sort of that advanced level of listening contextually, and then being able to do something with all that great information that has come in and putting it out, not like an accusation, but an opportunity to create a dialogue and a discussion.

Deb (22:24):

So that’s an opportunity where an individual can be utilizing this to have better conversations with their staff or families or residents, and from a self coaching perspective, this being responsive is really listening to and noticing how you’re feeling, how you’re thinking, the words that you’re using. And then also to be able to be curious about it.

Deb (22:53):

So the third be button is Be Accountable.

Libby (22:57):

Yes. And so particularly for leaders, but really everybody, there’s an opportunity to be accountable. Accountable, earlier on we were talking about, judging myself. I reacted the way I didn’t want to react and now I’m in full judgment. You want to be accountable to yourself. You want to be accountable to what’s right. So in these days, when you’re allowing visits, as an example, you’re getting a lot of pushback from families. I can feel that in the emails that we’re getting, that, you know, we need to follow the rules and I’m thinking, wow, I bet there’s people who don’t want to wear masks.Wear your mask! Being good is not about being a pushover. And it’s not about letting somebody else control you. You still need to know what’s right and be able to stand up for yourself. So that’s one element of being accountable. You’re accountable to whatever the organization needs you to do. That’s, that’s one level of accountability. The second is, with neutrality. So without judgment, every single person needs to take accountability for how they show up. It’s not somebody else. You know, it wasn’t my fault. It was because they yelled at me and you know, then you’re caught in the circumstance. Be accountable, correct it if you need to, but only you can be accountable for the way you show up. Only you can manage the way you show up. Because circumstances are always going to be with you.

Deb (24:57):

So having that level of responsibility and accountability in how I’m showing up and interacting with other individuals, no matter what the circumstance is. And the going back to the be curious and being responsive are ways to be able to neutralize yourself and getting out of that, taking it personally, or getting reactive or getting defensive and getting triggered by other people.

Libby (25:23):

Yes. And by the way, you will always be triggered. As human beings, we are wired to get triggered. We have this little thing in the back of our brain that we share with the reptilians of the world. And that is our amygdala and the amygdala is our fight or flight. And it is on high alert, 24-7. It is making us safe and it is helping us survive in this world. So it triggers, there is no not being triggered. It’s what you do once you’re triggered that makes the difference. And I heard this analogy, I thought it was great. The amygdala is just like your smoke detector. It goes off. The problem is it doesn’t know whether it’s just burnt toast or if the house is really on fire. So know that most of the situations that you face, where you’re getting emotionally triggered, it’s burnt toast. Right? It’s just burnt toast. And so get the flag out, wave it around a little bit and then be curious, be responsive, be accountable, do a little self coaching. And if you’re a leader in the organization, use these same principles to coach your teams and to coach each other. Coaching is up, down and across. So Deb, you and I can coach each other just as easily as I could coach a member on my team as much as I can coach my boss.

Deb (27:05):

That’s great. That’s a great summary of the BE buttons. And I think some really practical tools that people can use. So thank you for that. So just with a couple of minutes left, you’re a family member, as we talked about earlier, I would be curious as to what words of encouragement or advice that you may have for our listeners that are providing care on a daily basis for their residents.

Deb (27:34):

I mean, again, I just go back to my gratitude and I can’t, I mean, I love my mother dearly and she’s a bit of a handful, right? She’s left side paralyzed and she’s got dementia and, you know, she’s taking her mask off to scratch your eyeballs. I don’t understand how that happens. You’re all so amazing with our relatives with our family members. Know that we appreciate you. Know that we have no idea some days how you do what you do with such patience and grace. And so when you’re dealing with some of those family members who are giving you a hard time, there’s something going on for them. And so if you can touch lightly, it will do amazing things to calm them down. You might never understand what it is that’s going on for them, but it will do wonders in terms allowing them to breathe.

Deb (28:53):

Yes. And I think that touching lightly is a great way to be able to invest in the relational bank account that we’re wanting to build within our relationships. Thank you, Libby for joining us today. Oh, I thank you so much for having me. It was my pleasure. Take care. Okay. You too.

Outro (29:16):

Thanks so much for listening to Seniors’ Care Matters, part of the qodpod network. For more information on today’s episode, please check out our show notes and visit Join us next week for another great episode of Seniors’ Care Matters.


  1. Liza on July 30, 2020 at 3:37 pm


  2. Liza on July 30, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    Fantastic! Deb I’m so proud to be your friend!! Well done

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