E51 - How To Become Limitless! Interview with Renee Giarrusso

Renée Giarrusso shares:

  • What’s the key to being limitless
  • How to map motivation for leverage in business
  • Similarities and differences between industries and what holds people back from being limitless
  • How a coaching culture can cascade through an organisation
  • How to decode emails for better rapport
  • How to develop Boundless energy



About Renée:

Obsessed with seeing people reach their full potential, Renée passionately works with leaders and their teams to achieve this and flourish.

Clients walk away equipped with key enablers and tools to ensure success and feel even more confident, motivated and connected to their teams and their leadership brand. Renee's expertise is in growing and developing individuals, teams and organisations in leadership, communication collaboration and sales capability.

Since 2006 she has successfully been bringing together her expertise to assist in maximising the potential of individuals and teams to excel to the next level. With over 15 years in senior leadership & sales roles she has a high level of experience in leading teams and understands what it takes to lead a high performing collaborative team and business to success.

Renée has a passion to work with individuals & organisations who want to better themselves and has attracted thousands of clients from over 24 industries to date. These include industries such as: FMCG, Telco, automotive, consumer durables, government (job services), not-for-profit, electronics, engineering, real estate and professional services. She is well aware of the day to day workplace pressures and challenges to perform in today’s corporate business environment. Her clients appreciate her flair and passion to assist others to grow and achieve even more success. Along with highly developed skills in the area of learning reinforcement back on the job, Renée has the experience and understanding of what it takes to lead a high performing team.

With a passion for life and learning she is continually enjoying the rewards of running a practice and contributing to the growth and potential of others. Renée is an Accredited Associate Coach (ACC) and professional trainer, facilitator and speaker who works with both individuals and teams to unlock inner potential to maximise and realise strengths and capability back on the job.

Renée gains a great level of personal fulfilment from working with a range of clients to realise the transformational benefits that coaching and training can provide at an individual and team level.

Renée has just published her first book “Limitless Leadership”- A guide to leading from the inside out.

Renee's website


Zoe Routh:                       Hi, this is Zoe Routh and I am really excited to introduce you to super rocket star guru, Renee Giarusso, who is the founder and director of RD Dynamics. And she is a total dynamo herself. She's the author of Limitless Leadership, which is a handbook for leading from the inside out. So we have a lot of synergies in terms of our leadership philosophy and I'm really excited to bring her to you. She has extensive corporate experience with senior leadership and sales roles. And she's been training and speaking with teams and leaders for over a decade on how to identify and map motivation for leverage in business, which I think is really cool so hopefully we'll dive into that. So welcome Renee.

Renee Giarrusso:            Thank you Zoe for having me.

Zoe Routh:                       So tell us a little bit about your leadership journey, and I love how you started in corporate and you morphed into now, a leadership specialist. So tell us a little bit about the ups and downs of your leadership experience.

Renee Giarrusso:            Yeah, I had some at a fairly young age, I was a team leader in a business and had, as you mentioned, some leadership roles ... and managing large teams and remote teams and diverse teams. I started studying coaching and really getting into it, and woke up one day and literally thought to myself "I'd love to be applying this, making a difference, and growing people, not just because I'm a manager" and I really had this passion to work in lots of different industries with lots of different people at all levels. And that's what really, really drove me, and I haven't looked back.

Zoe Routh:                       You mentioned it on your website that you've worked on so many different industry sectors. What do you find are the differences and the commonalities in the work that you do with these different industries?

Renee Giarrusso:            Yeah, it's a great question. I think people are people and there's a lot of commonalities around challenges with leadership. Whether you're in automotives, engineering, banking, or food and beverage, they're similar. The key differences, I think, are what the culture allows them to do. Some of the industries are risk-taking cultures versus some that aren't. And also some of the businesses are coach-centric cultures where others aren't. And I think that's where the key differences are, that I'm able to share hands-on experience and seeing it from my business point of view.

Zoe Routh:                       Can you rewind a little bit? Coach-centric what? What did you say with that there?

Renee Giarrusso:            Cultures.

Zoe Routh:                       Oh, God, I thought you said coach-centric Coccyx. I'm like, that's not, what?

Zoe Routh:                       Coach-centric cultures. Right. I haven't come across many coach-centric cultures. What causes them to arise?

Renee Giarrusso:            I worked in one. I worked for one for 12 years. From my first management role, managing two people, I was taught to formally coach, I was measured that I was coaching monthly, and instilling that into my team. And then that cascades down as you move through the organisation. So, really passionate about coaching, and it's the way they do things, and it's something I'm really passionate about with the companies I've worked in. And help assist them, bring that in, not just for me, coaching them, but actually training them around the modality of coaching.

Zoe Routh:                       Oh wow, fantastic. That's really cool to hear that live and in action as opposed to just a theory about how coaching can cascade through an organization.

Renee Giarrusso:            Yeah, yep.

Zoe Routh:                       So tell me a little bit about this piece of work that you do, how you identify and map motivation.

Renee Giarrusso:            Yeah, so there is ... something I've done for a little while and I just think there's so many people that do what they're good at, but not what they're good at and what they enjoy. And I think as a leader, or anyone whether it's VPs, yourself, or people that are reporting through to you, if you can understand what really lights them up. So we use profiling questions, we use different questioning techniques and tools. But it can be as simple as running an activity where you talk about what you're good at and everyone comes up with that straight away. And then reflecting on what the difference is and what energy that gives you. Is it something that means a lot to you? If you could so something for a week, what would that be? And if that's something not in a current role, how can we bring that in? Is that the right role? Or how can we ramp that up?

Zoe Routh:                       Wow. Do you get a lot of folks who discover that what they're really passionate, excited about isn't what they're doing in their current job, and find that they actually have to leave the workplace? Or do you find it's easy to make adjustments to their current role?

Renee Giarrusso:            Overall if I looked back over the last ten years, we tend to be able to bring the preferences in that motivate them. There are the odd few that will ... we do that and they still not where they need to be, which isn't always a bad thing. They look at a different career, they might stay in the same organization, but it builds their strategic agility in thinking, in looking at what is outside of their role. Which I think's actually a bit of a gift. It's awakened them and it's given them an awareness they may not have had before.

Zoe Routh:                       Mm, okay. So it's possible to reinvent yourself and still stay where you are.

Renee Giarrusso:            I think so. There has to be ... I have a bit of a belief around if you are doing what you're good at that you love at least 70% of the time, I think you're gonna have that spring in your step. And there's ... I have had my practice, and there's in what I do that I don't love, but it's a small percentage and I make sure I'm on top of that, and really drive the things that light me up as much as possible.

Zoe Routh:                       I think that's a really sensible way to live life, really. Otherwise it becomes dull drudgery.

Renee Giarrusso:            Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And it's not just doing what a human being ... and moving through an organization because that's the role you should do next. I think we become a bit on autopilot there. And it's really looking at what you're strong at, and what your colleagues are strong at, and leveraging what lights up opposed to doing things that don't light you up, and leveraging what I call a strength-based team.

Zoe Routh:                       What do you mean by strength-based team?

Renee Giarrusso:            So a strength-based team is knowing who is strong in what, and being able to either partner up with that person or delegate to that person the things that they're strong at, the things that motivate them.

Zoe Routh:                       Well, that makes sense. That goes in alignment with knowing what you're passionate about, and then what you're strong with.

Renee Giarrusso:            Yeah, yep.

Zoe Routh:                       Cool. So tell me a little bit about your philosophy of limitless leadership.

Renee Giarrusso:            Yeah, so it's around leadership not having a final destination. I see it as infinite. I think as leaders, if we stop learning, we've put that feeling there. And I think we need to learn, unlearn, evolve and create, and I have a real passion around three-dimensional leadership, which is leading self before you lead others or influence and lead decisions. And that comes down to three things, which is I think deep commitment, effective communication and deep connection. And that helps us move up what I call the limitless leadership ladder, so we go from managing our self, managing others, leading others, leading leaders, to being co-creators and leading industry. And being that expert, being that phone call, so it's not just about the people side. It's the industry side, and whatever you're working in.

Zoe Routh:                       I love it. So our philosophies are very much aligned, and I believe in that evolution and learning principle as well. I'm curious what you mean by deep connection.

Renee Giarrusso:            Yeah, deep connection with obviously yourself. You've gotta know you first, and your team. I think, I don't know if you'll agree, that a lot of leaders try and do it all and know it all and be that person, and I think you've gotta be connected with your team so that you're one and you're all working together towards whatever ... being on your team but also being in it enough to understand people and being on that same journey opposed to being an end.

Zoe Routh:                       Being an end, did you say?

Renee Giarrusso:            An end. Their menu, it shouldn't be like that, and a lot of teams are. They'll say to me "This is our team and that's," well they won't say our leader, they'll say "that's our manager." You go to other teams, and they say "us," and they're talking about their manager and the team as one.

Zoe Routh:                       Yeah. So that's something that a lot of new leaders, in particular, struggle with. How do you balance being part of the us as well as dealing with the authority problem? And they either go one of two ways. They put too much distance between them and the team, or they go the other direction and are too friendly and are trying to be their friend. So how do you help them find the balance?

Renee Giarrusso:            It is a very ... going from being in a team to leading that team is a big thing I see, and we do a lot of work around that. I think the key is communicating to the team what difference you can make that maybe wasn't made before, and I think it's also an identity thing, so you've got a new identity and you need to let the team know what that is. So instead of an email coming out, Mary's being promoted she's your new manager now, and Monday everything's normal, Mary needs to take that team, sit down with them, talk to them, what was working, what wasn't, what are we gonna let in, let go, let be, what do you want from me as your manager, to show that distinction and I think have that change in identity that she's there to help them, and give them the things, maybe, they didn't before. I think that's really important, and always have a thing if somebody in your team, you have to the chat with them, or there's performance issues obviously it's not a nice thing to go through. But if it's really keeping you up at night, you're too close. I think you've gotta have a bit of a barometer there.

Zoe Routh:                       Oh boy I think a lot of people would, regardless of their friendliness factor, would find having the performance conversations challenging.

Renee Giarrusso:            They are, but I think if it's at the point where you're either tolerating it, which some people will say "I've put up with it," and I'll say "Well if it was your business, would you?" "No, I wouldn't have?" "Well, you're too close." I think it's in having that ... differentiating what it would be for different.

Zoe Routh:                       Okay, I think that's a good distinction, and that's a difficult one to self-monitor as a new leader. Am I too close? Am I too friendly? Because you kind of, I think, as new leaders you have this sense of grieving when that invisible barrier comes up between you and the rest of the team, which positional authority often brings, and this what I experience with the people that I coach, is that they do, they have the sense of grief and alienation. And I encourage them to find their new level of support, which is amongst their manager peers, which is often a new cohort that they're moving into. How do you suggest they get support?

Renee Giarrusso:            I'm a big believer in people either having a coach or mentor, and maybe not always in the business. And I think you're right, it's shifting the way you spend your time as well, especially emerging leaders that have got their first team. They'll say to me "We have these Friday night drinks, and I'm still going to them." I'm like "Don't stop that, but maybe just go for an hour, and let your team be their team, and go with your peers." And then that comes back to that whole current identity versus your old identity, because if nothing changes the way they see you, and the way you're interacting won't change.

Zoe Routh:                       I think that's sage advice. It's like "I'm still part of this group and I also have another group that's part of my peer support." Really hard to do. Really hard to do.

Renee Giarrusso:            It is a challenge, and maybe it's an ongoing challenge, and clients that say "I haven't gone through that," well you will at some point. And I have been in teams that I've been managed, and led, and I love people and I really, looking back now, and I was mid-twenties, I really found it ... I look back now and I was too close. So I call those experiences gifts. I always think "What did I learn what not to do next time? And what can I share with others?"

Zoe Routh:                       And that's part of being a limitless leader, I'm sure, which is that reflective practice, which I also advocate to. So when you talk about limitless ... gives this idea that there's ... you can go anywhere, anyhow, what do you think holds leaders back? Where are the things that ... where do they get tripped up?

Renee Giarrusso:            Well, I think sometimes they don't understand and adapt to their change, and therefore segregate themselves and treat everybody the same. Whereas I think ... I've got a bit of a saying "People are colours. Be a rainbow." You need to understand people, adapt to them, give them what they need. And I think sometimes that can hold a leader back from really deep connection and taking their team and business and organization to the next level. I think leaders get in their own way at times, and that could be "I don't think I can do this, so why would the team be able to achieve that?" So they need to lead themselves first and be, like you said Zoe, reflective, and really know what limiting beliefs are and bust those down. I think that's really important.

Zoe Routh:                       What's your practice for servicing limiting beliefs?

Renee Giarrusso:            For me, it's a reframe. I'm always very goal-oriented and future-focused. I don't get stuck in the now. I never have. I always things that really matter, and what can I do now that's gonna change something down the track? To the point, last week I was with a client and we're working on their performance reviews, and I'm like "They should be previews, not reviews." Ten percent should be about what's happened, 90% I believe should be about what is going to happen. So that whole forward-thinking piece has really served me personally and professionally.

Zoe Routh:                       That's an interesting concept. So previews instead of reviews. So with that, how do you encourage people to celebrate their successes and learn from their mistakes?

Renee Giarrusso:            So you still do that, but you don't have that as the whole conversation, and I go more into whatever you're celebration, what helped you to get to that that you can ramp up or bring in more to move forward, and maybe get that result even more quickly or at a ... more effectively or at a high level.

Zoe Routh:                       Okay, so it's like review for a preview. Review lessons learned, let's apply, let's keep moving.

Renee Giarrusso:            And I think, look, I'm a big believer in celebrating success and learning from what I call ... people, there's people in our lives that are gifts that we can learn from, situations to write something on this. So the gift that keeps giving sometimes.

Zoe Routh:                       Is that just a euphemism for pain in the ass?

Renee Giarrusso:            It's a nice ... we could turn it into an acronym. I think it's ... don't ever ... and sometimes I think we can, I know I can, do the whole positive piece in overdrive and not always learn the lesson, and that's something I've learned over the years is lessons are the gold at the end of the day. But use them in an empowering way, not in a way that you're just thinking about the bad thing that happened, or that person, or whatever.

Zoe Routh:                       Because I think we can get stuck in those history narratives. I think that's also one of the things that holds people back, is that they get stuck in their history.

Renee Giarrusso:            They do, and their story. And the more you think about it, the more you're in it. I just don't think you give really negative things too much light.

Zoe Routh:                       I think that's a really sensible approach. I think there is ... it's an important to digest and process negative experiences with people, but not to wallow in it, I suppose, and sometimes we have a tendency to do that.

Renee Giarrusso:            And I think the more people talk about something negative at work, it becomes their story, they're thinking about it, others are talking about it, and I mean it goes back to the whole basic you get what you focus on. Or I call it awfulizing. That's not a real word. But think about something enough, you're gonna sort and find and perceive the world and you'll see it or it'll happen.

Zoe Routh:                       I love that. Awfulizing. It's perfect. Now you're very good at deciphering people, and that's the key principle for you in terms of leaders being limitless and being able to become rainbows to their people. What are your secrets to deciphering and understanding people as colours?

Renee Giarrusso:            I think a big thing is to be curious and interested, and I am. I just love people. From a young age I've been ... all my friends were from different cultures, different ethnicities, and I think I've always loved to learn from people, and I think being curious and being open, really really important, very perceptive around the whole listening to what's not being said, so seeing someone that says "Yeah, I'm gonna do that," I see that as compliant. Whereas I can feel if they are in it and if they're really committed. So I think it's seeing past all the words. Obviously they can't. But seeing more than that, listening deeply, being curious, and ... these things for me is building rapport. I think if you're not in rapport with somebody, you're always gonna get shallow answers and responses. I think rapport equals influence and you've got to delve deep and take that time to build subliminal rapport and really connect. That whole connection piece is vital.

Zoe Routh:                       So what are your tips on deep rapport?

Renee Giarrusso:            Deep rapport for me is understanding the person, being in the moment I think's really really important, and even whether I'm running a workshop or it's one-on-one coaching, letting people download ... I think we get so caught up in go, go, go. It might not even always be advantageous to the session, but it gets people to feel profoundly listened to, which is rare, and I think that helps bring rapport. I have a little saying "Be a little bit more like John," so don't change who you are, but amplify up or down 20%, be a little bit more like the other person. So to me going from all the industries I work across, from a workshop in a marketing team to an auditing team in a bank to a group of graduating engineers, I'm quite high-energy. So some of those I have to turn down my energy a bit to match the audience. To the point, I've had ... years ago a banking group, they are like "You are not having any coffee, Renee, I mean it" with a sign. I said "It's okay, I've already had three."

                                           So I think it's amplifying up or down to be a little bit more like the other person, and even on emails, I do a lot on building rapport through emails. So if I get heavy detailed emails, which isn't my style, instead of just bullet points I'll give a bit more than I normally will, and you can really decipher and decode people's motivation and the way they like to receive information through emails, as well as verbally, which I think's very powerful.

Zoe Routh:                       Wow. So tell me a little bit how you decode people's emails.

Renee Giarrusso:            So I look at the chat level. People like information in lots of different ways, so some people like just the why are we doing this, three or four words, and that motivates me. A business partner I had a few years ago, high detail, would tell a story when they spoke or when they wrote an email. There'd be a beginning, a middle, and an end. So it's about matching that. It's also the words, so I'm highly visual so most of my emails will naturally be it was great to see you, I look forward to catching up, please see the link attached. A lot of visual language, so I tap into the different ... what are they called? The convincer strategy of how people like to get information. And it goes back to a tool I use around seeing, doing, hearing or reading. We all like information in those four ways, but we have a preference. Once I really get to know people, I'll mould it to that. And until I get to know people, you put the four in everything, so when I run presentation ... present to win and programs around how to win and present, whether it's a proposal, an internal presentation, or as you know, running a workshop, you wanna bring in the seeing, the hearing, the doing, the feeling, the data. And please a few people and then change the people, I guess.

Zoe Routh:                       That's great. And it makes sense now, 'cause I often do this in terms of asking clients how they like to be contacted. Email, mobile, text. I think that's a bit of a clue.

Renee Giarrusso:            It's such a good question, though. And that has an answer, that's the thing. They always can usually come out with something.

Zoe Routh:                       Yeah. And that makes a big difference in terms of how they feel supported and heard, actually.

Renee Giarrusso:            And heard. And I think it's what ... conversations that come through, for me, are the ones where you're matching their preference, where you can. And I think you get to a point you do it subconsciously. But it's something you should always be mindful of.

Zoe Routh:                       That's great. That's a great little tip on how to respond to people's different email style. I love it.

Renee Giarrusso:            Yeah. So I look back to the company, Zoe, that my first big job ... and there was a graphic, like a picture, it was in a newspaper back then, to show my age, and the character just had a little hand pointing up saying "Do you want success?" and the company name. No job title, no detail, guess who went for it? Me. And they did that on purpose. They were quite ahead of their time. They said "What appealed to you in that ad?" and they were looking for a big picture person for that role. If that ad had had 20 tiny little bullet points and half a page, I wouldn't have even looked at it.

Zoe Routh:                       Yeah, that makes sense. That's great.

Renee Giarrusso:            So you can bring this in to how you're communicating with your team and attracting the right people for your team. But yeah, it's quite exciting, it's very powerful.

Zoe Routh:                       That's cool. Now one of the other ... there's two secrets I want you to share with us. My first secret is ... I know, are you willing to share your secrets? The first one is you say you're very high energy, and I know that to be true, 'cause we know each other from Thought Leaders business school, and I know you are just like a bundle of enthusiasm and energy and ... so what's your secret formula, if you have one, for that kind of boundless energy?

Renee Giarrusso:            Wow, okay. I think it comes back to my big word, which is limitless, which I sort of live by for a few years now. And I just ... it's going to sound so simple. I really love what I do. I do. Just making a difference, meeting people, the diversity keeps me going. And I think diversity's part of the answer there. Having diversity, not knowing what's around the corner, as you know, in what we do. It's different people, different programs, different responses. I also love my yoga. I do need to go a bit more. But my meditation, Zoe, is cooking.

Zoe Routh:                       Oh, cool.

Renee Giarrusso:            So I'm not a TV watcher, so even if I walk in at 8:00, I will cook a meal from scratch, and that to me is my zone out. Don't like recipes, 'cause there's process there. Just cook. And cooking for other people, for me, is an entertaining ... I could do it every day. I love it. And I think it's about getting the balance, and when I travel for work, when I travel a bit, when I'm not cooking at night, and I'm going out and buying food, I really miss it. It's the first thing I do when I get home.

Zoe Routh:                       Yeah, right.

Renee Giarrusso:            So I think it's knowing what your meditation is. What is it for you that helps you reflect, recharge and refocus? Which is my three little cups that I always check in on.

Zoe Routh:                       That's awesome. I like that. Cooking as meditation. I'm going to ponder that. I think that's a form of mindfulness that would bring a lot of joy, from a daily activity like that, plus probably better for your digestion too, if you're putting that much love into your food.

Renee Giarrusso:            Yeah. I don't know if it's my ... I'm half Italian, if it's my heritage in there or what it is, but from a very young age, going food shopping and going to the market on a Saturday and cooking, I just love it. It's like my dream Saturday.

Zoe Routh:                       Cool. All right, so your last tip. What is your top tip for leaders if they could just improve one thing or could do one thing to improve their roles, what you suggest?

Renee Giarrusso:            I think the first quite a few things. But I think probably the biggest thing is to find out what lights people up. The more you do that, the more you'll be seen as a coaching resource, because people will hopefully be driving and feeding whatever it is that lights them up. I think as a leader you're almost like a conductor of an orchestra. You shouldn't be playing an instrument, you should be guiding. And I think if you know the potential every instrument or person has in that orchestra, you can bring them together and guide them and really take them to the next level. So I think taking the time and understanding people goes so far, the longevity of what that can give you as a leader is limitless. And so many people say "I don't have the time for that chit chat, and I don't" ... but it's the cost of not doing it. You need to do it.

Zoe Routh:                       That's beautiful. Renee, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. You are a gem, and I love your insights and I just love hangin' out with you.

Renee Giarrusso:            Thanks Zoe. It's been a pleasure. Have to do it again. Thanks for having me.