Going Beyond Resilience: On Antifragility, Trust, And Communication With Fabienne Raphael

by | Feb 8, 2024 | Podcasts

Speakers Who Get Results | Fabienne Raphael | Trust And Communication

 

Trust is stoked by curiosity, while resilience is born from discomfort. Be antifragile, and let challenges sculpt your success. In this episode, Elizabeth Bachman interviews Fabienne Raphael, former Team Canada athlete, coach, and resilience expert. Together, they discuss all about building trust, going through uncomfortable conversations, and drawing strength from challenges. They discuss the circle of trust in personal and professional relationships, emphasizing the significance of curiosity as its foundation. Fabienne also touches on the role of cultural understanding in effective communication, the concept of being “antifragile,” and more. Tune in now!

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Going Beyond Resilience: On Antifragility, Trust, And Communication With Fabienne Raphael

Advice From A Professional Athlete

Before I go to our very interesting guest, I’d like to invite you to see where your speaking skills are helping you and where not by taking our free four-minute assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where your speaking skills are strong and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results you need and the recognition that you deserve.

In this episode, my guest is the wonderful Fabienne Raphaël. She’s based in Montreal so she’s bilingual. She’s a speaking business coach and an international speaker. She’s recognized as a Top Conference Speaking Voice and Top Relationship Building Voice on LinkedIn. She’s been featured in Forbes, Inc., ABC, Thrive Global, and many other platforms. She was recognized by Influence Digest as one of the Top 15 Coaches in Montreal in 2023. She was also awarded Dame of the Year in 2023 on the Dame’s platform.

Fabienne uses her experience as a professional athlete to guide former pro athletes and current business leaders to unleash their winning voices and evolve into life-changing inspirational speakers. She was a distinguished member of Team Canada at the Pan Am Games and more, first as a handball player and subsequently, as an athletes’ mentor. She’s navigated the exhilarating highs and challenging lows, and emerging not just unbroken but anti-fragile. She consistently fortifies herself with each hurdle she overcomes, be it in life, personal endeavors, or business. Fabienne is also a devoted boys’ mom, an almond cake enthusiast, and an avid traveler. We had a delightful conversation. I know you’ll enjoy it. Onto the interview with Fabienne Raphaël.

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Fabienne Raphaël, welcome to the show.

Thank you for inviting me.

I’m so glad to have you. You were on my wishlist for a while and I said, “Let’s get Fabienne in here.” From time to time, I find someone who’s a motivational speaker and an athlete who teaches us all sorts of things about teamwork, leadership, and all of that. This is a continuing trend where I get some exciting people in there, not that I am the athlete but we can get there. Before I get into your questions because you have some interesting topics, let me ask you, who would be your dream interview? If you could interview someone who’s no longer in the public eye, who would it be? What would you ask them? Who should be listening?

The person I thought about was my elementary school music teacher. Why her specifically? It’s because she taught me for six years of elementary school. If I think about the relationship I developed with her, it’s someone who helped me build confidence and also develop my artistic and musical side. I don’t know, maybe she’s still alive. She had the ability to take classical music and adapt it for children. We had an orchestra in our school and you could apply to play the xylophone, violin, and piano. She did those adaptations of classical like Mozart, Smetana, and Verdi. It was very accessible for us and made us experience being in an orchestra as a kid. It’s one of my highlights so I had to mention her.

You’re making me smile so hard that my cheeks hurt. Anyone grateful to their grade school music teacher, hallelujah, considering someone like me who was 30 years in the arts. What would you ask her? I’m assuming it’s a her.

What I would ask her is what inspired her to have that idea. Each time I speak about that, it’s a unique story. There are plenty of music teachers in school but when I share that experience, it’s rare that I’m like, “My music teacher used to do that too.” She had to think a little bit outside of the box. I would ask her what inspired her to decide to build some type of project like that.

You are also a speaker trainer. I’m thinking about how you reach your audience. Her audience at that point would be wiggly 7-year-olds to maybe 13-year-olds who don’t like grown-ups at all. Somewhere in between, she would’ve had to adapt it to that audience.

When we learned about the notes, how to sing, and stuff, she would add signs to the notes. If we would say, “Do Re Mi,” she would move at the same time. When we learned about the notes, we also learned movement at the same time. It was enjoyable and playful but at the same time, we were learning. It was deeper notes than the sound, which was lower on our body and then it was higher note. You seem to know about this.

It’s another famous technique for teaching, especially when it’s not just the notes on the page but then using your hand to shape the notes and so forth, which is an interesting way of combining visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles. You have a young son so it’s very important for seven-year-olds.

He loves to sing.

Fabienne, your main focus is helping former athletes turn into motivational speakers, which is what you’ve done parlaying at the Olympics twice in awe of that. You talk about how important trust is and building trust within a team. For business, how do you build trust within your organization, team, peers, and all of that? Please, tell us more about the importance of trust.

First of all, I want to correct that I haven’t gone to the Olympics twice but I’ve gone to the Pan Am Games three times so twice as an athlete and the third time as a mentor. I also went to the world championship. Trust within the team, I feel like when you are part of a team, especially in a team sport, it’s like life throwing everything at you that you have to experience to build your teamwork skills. In a team, all people are not necessarily friends. We don’t have the same attitude, personality, or the same skills because each person has their strength and this is what’s very crucial to the success of the team.

It’s like what you find in business.

That trust is built when you are able to recognize that each people on that team have a specific role and that if each and every single person understands their role clearly and performs at the best of their ability, everyone wins. Let’s say we have a big game to play. If one of our players is off, the whole team might lose the game. It’s a matter of trying to find the best state of mind to be in. We’re talking about sports. How much preparation is important for you to be an asset to the team and not to prevent the team from achieving the goal?

Trust is built when you are able to recognize that each person on the team has their specific role and if they understand their role clearly and perform at the best of their ability, everyone wins. Click To Tweet

I think about my experience at one of the Pan Am Games. The first Pan Am we were at, we made it to The Finals and this was our Olympic qualifier. All those 3 or 4 years that we trained prior to getting there were in preparation for that big goal and for us to peak at this exact moment. If I think about all my teammates on the field, I can’t tell anyone who didn’t give their all. Even though we didn’t end up qualifying, we left by four goals and we had to win the goal to be able to go to Sydney. When I think about it, I know everyone gave their all. I’m not fringy about anyone because I knew everyone took that seriously and that’s how much trust I had on my team.

I feel like in the workplace and business situations, if it’s clear what everyone has to do and we know what the common goal is so everyone gets a winning situation, then you have more chances of creating a win at the end, compared to if someone is sloppy, someone doesn’t follow up on what they say, or someone says they’re good at something but they’re not, then everyone loses.

If it's clear what everyone has to do and if we know what the common goal is so everyone gets a winning situation, then you have more chances of creating a win at the end. Click To Tweet

How do you deal with the ones who aren’t doing their job, the people who are not as good, or the people that you, as a leader, don’t trust?

It all starts with communication and conversation. It’s happened in a team before. I remember an experience. A younger player had problems respecting the curfews and stuff like that. I remember having a very uncomfortable conversation with her about what the principles are, especially on a national team, and what was expected from her not to prevent the team from achieving its goals. The solution would be an uncomfortable conversation. A lot of people dread it but sometimes this is where we have to go. It has to be painful at first to try to find a common ground and solution to what’s not working well.

There’s a great clip of an interview who says the 7s will kill your organization. Everyone else is a 9 and a 10 and there’s someone that you like but they’re only a 7. You keep them because you like them. That was being explained how that would kill the company or the team. Fabienne, you were telling me about learning difficult conversations when you were on Team Canada and you were being asked for more responsibility. Tell us that story. It’s a great story.

It was at the world championship back in ‘97 in Germany. In that competition, my coach told me that he was going to give me a little bit more responsibilities and playing time. I was excited but when it happened, it was as if I felt that he was more on my back, talking to me more, correcting me more, and giving me extra feedback more than usual. I started taking it personally and having these ideas in my head that maybe he was not appreciative, I didn’t deserve to be on the team anymore, or he was not satisfied with my performance and ended up even crying after a game.

When that happened, I was like, “Something’s wrong. It’s either I continue like that and be miserable or quit.” I confront and ask him, “What is this all about?” I scheduled a conversation with him. When I asked him if he had a problem with the way I was playing, he said, “Not at all.” I was like, “Your attitude changed towards me. You’re talking more, giving extra feedback, and giving me way more attention. You’re always on my back.” He is like, “This is because I strongly believe in your potential and I want to make sure that you express the best of it.” As soon as he said that, all my doubts subsided. I was like, “These were all stories in my head.”

I kept wondering, “If I did not do that conversation, what would’ve happened? Would I have ended up quitting, which would have prevented me from all those years of international experience and self-growth within a team?” Confronting him with that very uncomfortable conversation was the best solution for me because afterward, I was able to filter. When I was receiving the information, I was not getting it negatively but very positively, having the extra support of my coach, and making sure that I was doing what I was supposed to do to continue to grow as a player and a person.

This is something I see with my clients all the time, especially women. We tend to take criticism personally. Whereas in a general rule, little boys are taught to challenge each other or be challenged by a coach and push back. You’re challenging to make someone better. Little girls often don’t learn that. We then grow up and we are in business. We are still dealing with the ten-year-olds saying, “I did something wrong. I’m a bad person. This is horrible.” The stories in our heads convince us to maybe walk away from an opportunity all the time. How did you deal with that if you found that in your teammates when you were a mentor to the athletes and you were coaching the next team?

I would encourage the conversation. Sometimes, these types of conversations are great when there’s someone very neutral in the middle of it. It’s happened that it’s between two players and the coaches or the team captain is there to make sure that it doesn’t escalate in a way that increases the conflict but in a way that decreases it helps people find common ground and a solution to things. It’s happened to me in the past when my coach had to be in between teammates, me, and another person, explaining we’re part of the same team. Yes, there’s competition.

In a work setting also, sometimes people might feel threatened by their colleagues. Let’s say the business situation is not very good and they know there are changes coming up in the company. They want to compete with the other person but what we need to focus on here is what makes us unique as a person and what made the company hire you, for example. What makes you shine as a person? I feel like everyone’s qualities are not the same. If we can double down on that instead of thinking about how we’re threatened by others, then we shine even more with our qualities instead of thinking about what we’re lacking and what we need more of.

Speakers Who Get Results | Fabienne Raphael | Trust And Communication

Trust And Communication: What we need to focus on here is what makes us unique as a person and what made the company hire you.

 

The next list of questions I had was about not trusting the stories in our heads. We’ve already gotten to what I wanted to ask you. I would think that cultural differences will make a difference wherein I’ve had clients who studied in France. In France, you never get the compliment sandwich like, “Good job. Fix this and this.” You only hear about how it’s done wrong. Mothers talked to me about the kids coming home in tears until they learned that if nothing’s said, it’s okay. When you’re talking about the miscommunication leading to the conflicts, tell us more about how we know when we are talking ourselves into something that might not be real.

A friend of mine gave me very great advice concerning that. Whenever we have those stories going on in our heads, take a piece of paper and write them down. Jen Coken gave me that advice. Write them down and verify if all those thoughts are real or if it’s made up by our imagination. Most of the time when we start having those ideas or assumptions, it’s out of what we think but not with what we verified with a conversation.

Miscommunications happen every day. Sometimes, you’re rethinking it and you’re like, “Wait a minute. Did that person perceive that information this way?” I was speaking with someone I’m working with and he said something. It was a joke but then he came back, messaged me, and said, “I hope I didn’t offend you with that joke.” I was like, “No, not at all. I know your sense of humor so I knew you were joking.” He was like, “I want to make sure you weren’t offended.”

Sometimes, when you rethink a conversation or you have that intuition hint saying, “Something might be wrong here with what I said. Is it well-perceived,” it’s worth asking the person very friendly, “Was that okay? Did I go too far or offend you with this?” I feel like this is what also increases trust. You know that you can come and talk to a person, be very honest with your feelings, and not be rejected or judged for it.

This leads me to the next question, which is building relationships beyond your role in a company. One of the other antidotes to the stories in your head is to talk to trusted advisors or a coach who can listen with outside eyes. Don’t pick the people who are going to just reinforce. Bear in mind what your advisor’s stories are. Talk to me about that. That’s such an important piece.

Years ago, when I was in my first professional job, I used to believe that this was not important. I was there to do something and then I’m gone. I’m out of the job. I don’t have to think about it or the people. It also happened to me early in my career when I said something personal to someone and it came out right in the middle of a work setting where no one else knew about that information. Very early on, I was very skeptical and careful about it. For a while in my early career, I wouldn’t open up or talk about anything personal.

What I realized eventually was it was preventing me from connecting to the human being instead of the person with the role. There are many companies that are extremely diverse and people come from different countries and have different accents. They don’t have the same education. I learned from someone who I’ve been speaking to for a long time. She grew up in Romania and was talking about her childhood. I was talking about my childhood. She’s like, “We had no experience of that when we were kids.” There are main differences sometimes in how people are brought up.

For some reason, when we work in a team or with contractors towards the same project, or if we are in a work setting and we’re leading our team, we think that everyone is supposed to know about it. The first thing to do is to ask questions and be authentically curious. Not curious to judge but curious to learn and know more about that person. I’m not saying you have to share all your personal stuff and what’s happening in your life but if you share your values and meaningful experiences, this is what makes human beings connect and make them have your back in a situation where you would need their support.

Sharing your values and meaningful experiences makes human beings connect with each other and makes them have your back in a situation where you would need their support. Click To Tweet

That’s so many different relationships. You were talking about different cultural education. What are the cultural assumptions? I’m always thinking awareness is everything. How can you learn how other people are thinking? Often, a discriminatory remark comes from ignorance. Someone will quote a phrase they’ve heard, which is painful to others but they don’t understand. I often talk about the bias we don’t see because it doesn’t touch us. I’d like to hear a little bit more of what losing taught you. In sports, you learn how to lose. What can we learn in business from the experience of losing on a team at a game?

First of all, when it happens, it’s not fun. It’s very painful. I spoke about this experience when we lost the Pan Am Games in ‘99. It was our closest chance to go to the Olympics. I got a silver medal. It’s as if everyone did not understand why I was so disappointed. “You got a silver medal at the Pan Am Games.” I was like, “Yeah, but I’m not going to the Olympics, which was the optimal goal.” For a while, it felt like a huge failure for all of us, and all of us had to cope with it in a different way.

For a month, I didn’t even know if I wanted to keep going with my studies or what the next phase was. As an athlete, when you have a goal, sometimes it’s as if the world ends there. You don’t think about it after, even though you should. All these are lessons learned eventually but when it happens, it hits very hard. What’s important I feel is to be surrounded by the right people and people who will not dim your feelings.

Speakers Who Get Results | Fabienne Raphael | Trust And Communication

Trust And Communication: What’s important is to be surrounded by the right people and people who will not just dim your feelings.

 

I had a lot of people telling me, “You shouldn’t complain. You got a silver. You went to the Pan Am. How many people in the world can say they have a silver medal at the Pan Am Games,” as if they were not acknowledging what I was experiencing. On the other end, I had some close people who truly got it, especially my teammates and other people.

It’s important to feel the feels and then you get to a phase where you relive the experience but with objective eyes. Try to see if everything was done or if you lacked somewhere along the way, what might have happened that was within your control or not within your control to make the difference. It allows you to objectify everything that happens and take it off the emotions a little bit. You learn from these mistakes that you might have made. It helps you build resilience. I love the word anti-fragile even more.

Tell us about that.

Let me compare fragile, resilient, and anti-fragile. Fragile is when you have a vase, you shake it, and it breaks. It’s gone. You’re fragile. Resilience is when you have a vase, you shake it, and it doesn’t break. You’re resilient. Anti-fragile is when you have a vase, you shake it, and the more you shake it, the stronger the vase becomes. You’re resilient but fluff.

Let’s say it’s the vase of flowers. Tell me the difference between anti-fragile and resilience. Where does that come in? There are days when I feel very fragile so I want to know.

I don’t remember who the author is but it’s an audio that I listened to and it struck me. With anti-fragile, it’s as if you are open to any type of challenge. It’s not that you don’t doubt because we always have doubt but you know you’re going to get out of it. I feel like resilience is a little level less. I’m not saying anti-fragile is looking for the next challenge but it is that extra confidence. With your life experience, you know that prior to that, you’ve overcome so many things. One more doesn’t prevent you from believing that you have fully the capability to overcome again and again each type of challenge that comes your way. That’s what I feel the difference is.

Speakers Who Get Results | Fabienne Raphael | Trust And Communication

Trust And Communication: It’s important to connect on the human side first or else you’ll end up always being frustrated and not understanding.

 

That’s great to end on. If somebody’s reading and they say, “I need help,” what’s one thing that somebody could do by the end of the day when they’ve been reading this episode? Where do we start? I’m talking about building trust and being more than resilient and anti-fragile. I’ll start by building trust. How could you start building trust?

I would start with curiosity. That’s the main starting point. If you don’t start having conversations that don’t imply anything work-related with your colleagues, then the foundation of it might be a little wobbly. It’s important to connect on the human side first or else you’ll end up always being frustrated and not understanding. Sometimes, it requires one little conversation and then it helps you understand where that person is coming from and why some event happened the way it did.

Fabienne Raphaël, thank you so much for being a guest on the show. If you enjoyed this conversation, please tell your friends and subscribe to whatever app you are on. Please, leave us a good review on Apple Podcasts because that’s the one that matters and the one that gives us a ranking. I’ll see you on the next one.

 

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About Fabienne Raphael

Speakers Who Get Results | Fabienne Raphael | Trust And CommunicationFabienne is a Speaking Business Coach and International Speaker. She is recognized as Top Conference Speaking Voice & Top Relationship Building Voice on LinkedIn. Featured in Forbes, Inc., ABC, Thrive Global (among many others), recognized by Influence Digest as one of the Top 15 Coaches in Montreal in 2023, and awarded DAME of the Year 2023, Fabienne guides former pro athletes and business leaders to unleash their winning voice and evolve into life-changing inspirational speakers. As a distinguished member of Team Canada, first as a handball player and subsequently as an athletes’ mentor, she has navigated the exhilarating highs and challenging lows, emerging not just unbroken but “anti-fragile” – consistently fortifying herself with each hurdle she overcomes, be it in life, personal endeavors, or business. Fabienne is also a devoted boys’ mom, an almond cake enthusiast, and an avid traveler.