Companies lose billions in the U.S. alone due to low employee engagement. In this episode Dr. Sharon Livingston explains how to engage team leaders and provides tips on how to coach the leaders to lead their team towards more creativity and innovation.
What You’ll Learn
- Why team leaders need to identify their passion
- How leaders can identify their passion and bring out their team’s passion
- The power and impact of being employee focused
About Dr. Sharon Livingston
Dr. Livingston holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and has had extensive training in creative ideation procedures, group dynamics, applied psychological techniques, and projective methods. Her dissertation proved that a photo-sort successfully predicted scores on the Myers Brigg Personality Inventory. She is a founding member of QRCA – the Qualitative Research Consultants Association, a member of the Qualitative Research Council of the Advertising Research Foundation, the American Marketing Association, the American Academy of Counselors, and the National Association of Female Executives.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode
- Sharon’s book Get Lost Girlfriend
- International Coach Certification Alliance (ICCA)
- Contact Sharon – (603) 505-5000 or drsharonlivingston at gmail dot com
The Weekly Challenge
Think about a time in your life (recent or many years ago) when you felt real and alive. Tell yourself a story about it. What do you notice? Then, see if there any connections between that and your work life, personal life, or relationships. To take it a step farther, ask that same question to a friend, spouse, colleagues, or your team. What do you learn? What alignment (or misalignment) do you find between your passion and your life? Share your reaction in the comments.
Feel like reading instead of listening? Download the free PDF transcript or read it below. Enjoy!
Transcript for Episode #047: How to Coach Team Leaders
Amy Climer: Welcome to Episode 47 of The Deliberate Creative Podcast. Thanks for joining me today. Today I am interviewing Dr. Sharon Livingston. Sharon is one of the founders and leaders of the International Coach Certification Alliance (ICCA). Specifically, today we are going to talk about how to coach team leaders and what team leaders can do to increase their effectiveness. Sharon is going to share some of her experiences and some of the things that she has found to be successful when she coaches team leaders. And then she also uses one of those techniques on me, which I did not expect, but you can hear her in action asking a question that she typically asks the team leaders and you can hear my response to that. I think you are going to enjoy the episode. I definitely had a lot of fun talking to Sharon. Most importantly, you are going to learn more about what team leaders can do to help their teams be more effective and creative. So here is Sharon.
Sharon, welcome to The Deliberate Creative Podcast. Thanks for being on the show today.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: My pleasure, Amy. I am so glad to be here.
Amy Climer: Awesome. Can you start off and tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and what you do?
Dr. Sharon Livingston: I am a trainer of coaches. My husband and I created a program several years ago where we help people to pursue their passion with the specialty of being a coach. There are people who think that we train life coaches, but nobody gets up in the morning going, “Oh my God, I need to talk to a life coach!” They get up in the morning going, “Oh my God, how am I going to get that raise?” “Oh my God, am I going to stay in this job or do I need to go do something else?” Or, “Oh my God, my team is driving me nuts! I have got one goal, they seem to have another, we are at odds. How do we get this done?” Or it might be something about, “My 16 year old is definitely ADHD. What am I going to do about it?” Or it could be the topic of the book that I wrote Get Lost, Girlfriend!. It could be, “I just got dumped by my best friend. How am I ever going to live with myself ever again?” It could be one thing after another, after another.
The difference about coaching, by the way, versus therapy — and I am sure you know this already, Amy — is that coaching leverages people’s strengths. It is a wellness model versus I am broken and I am sick, which is a therapy model. So we help people leverage their creative process, their talents, their God-given abilities and take those and build on them to go and do something they really want to do, something that for whatever reason they are having trouble getting to. So we help them to overcome their obstacles and get to do the good work that they want to do.
Amy Climer: Wow! It sounds really exciting.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: It is exciting. You know something? I have to tell you, I have been blessed. Because some people come to us and they go, “I hate my job, I hate my life, everything stinks.” I have loved my work. From the time I graduated college when I got out of undergrad, I was really lucky I got to work in marketing research. I fell into it and it was something I love doing. I am a natural interviewer. Kind of like what you are doing now, I do for other people. I love to interview people. I love to hear their stories.
I was an aunt at a very young age so I had many little kids running around me by the time I was 15 and I was the pied piper of the kids so I would have to get really creative to help them play. There would be around 15 little kids under the age of ten around me over the high holidays, Thanksgiving. All those kinds of times and it was my job to keep them occupied, so I had to be creative, come up with stories and have them do acting and running around, playing statue and I knew that what I needed to do for myself was to play.
Amy Climer: Nice. It is such an important thing for us to play, even as adults.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Absolutely. And creative play is really kids practicing to work, but it is fun. So I decided when I got out of school that what I was going to do was bring creative play into business. And that is what I have been doing my whole life.
Amy Climer: Awesome! I love it. And you are talking about interviewing and making work fun, and coaching is kind of like interviewing. There is a big connection there, I would think.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Absolutely.
How to coach a team leader [05:37]
Amy Climer: I want to talk today specifically about coaching team leaders. I know that is one of pieces that you do. This podcast is all about being more creative and we focus on teams and leadership. Can you talk a little bit about how you coach a team leader versus anyone, perhaps someone who is specifically in that role of a team leader?
Dr. Sharon Livingston: I do not know if you are aware of this or not, but the biggest problem that they talk about in business these days is employee engagement. It costs companies in the billions of dollars a year in the United States alone to have unengaged employees, so it is a huge topic of conversation. We actually, at ICCA, we have a program called Spark, which is for employee engagement, working with team leaders to help them learn how to spark the excitement in their teams so that the whole company is more prosperous and successful.
What you have to do, in my opinion, is to work with the team leaders as a team themselves. So you bring them in, they do not have to be on the same team. We bring them into a group setting, we usually take them away for a few days to a nice retreat, and we train them to find their passion with a series of exercises that we do and then we train them to take those exercises and go home and use them with their teams. Once in awhile we will come in and work with the leader and the team itself on an ongoing basis, but we have had tremendous success bringing the team leaders themselves into a situation where they find what they feel passionate about, how they identify their values, what makes them feel good about working in the company. When people are engaged, they want to do their work. They want to get up in the morning instead of going, “Oh my God, it is Monday morning again.”
Amy Climer: Right, you get excited for Monday morning.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Yes.
Amy Climer: Which seems almost odd, but like you, I love my job and so I am like, “Oh yay, it is Monday! Okay, what am I doing this week?”
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Amy, I hate to tell you this, but I love my work so much that I do some work every single day of the week. People who hate their jobs would say, “Oh my God, she is a workaholic!” People who love their jobs go, “Yeah, why would I not want to be working on my book? Why would I not want to be working on my project? Why would I not want to be…” right?
Amy Climer: Absolutely.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Because they love their work. It is not work, it is passion, it is play, it is fun, it is exciting, it is successful. It is like, “Wow, look what I accomplished. Look what I did. I cannot believe I did that.”
Amy Climer: And I think that is one of the — I feel like you said earlier — blessings. Like one of the things I am so grateful for in being an entrepreneur is that maybe I decide I am going to work really hard on Saturday and Sunday and if I want to just take some downtime on Wednesday, it’s no big deal. You get this flexibility so you can follow the energy, your passion and, “I need to keep doing what I was doing on Friday because I am in the groove.”
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Right, and on Wednesday we are going to have great weather and Amy and I are climbing Mount Washington and how cool is that that I can do that?
Amy Climer: Exactly. I wish more companies were able to have that flexibility. And some are starting to, which is kind of cool.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: I have had the privilege of working for Purina and I do not about you, but I am an animal lover. When you go to Purina, you can pet like 100 dogs because they are allowed to bring their pets in with them to work.
Amy Climer: Which would make sense for Purina.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: But other companies are doing that now as well. How do you create employee enthusiasm? How do you get them excited about coming to work? Why do they have to be certain hours? Why do they have to leave their pet at home? Why not bring it? Why not have sections where they can work, if other people do not like animals because they are allergic or whatever, they work in one section. Why not be employee focused? Because if you are, you are going to grow like wild fire.
Why Team Leaders Need to Know Their Passion [10:01]
Amy Climer: It is so true. I want to go back to what you said a minute ago about passion and how you coach team leaders to figure out what they are passionate about and take that back to the team. Can you talk a little bit about that connection of why is it so important for team leaders to know their own personal passion in order to lead well?
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Because if they do not know what is in it for them, how can they possibly help someone else know what is in it for them? They have to be connected with what they are about and what makes them feel good about what they do, helps them accomplish, helps them be connected to the company. I hate to tell you this, but sometimes what happens is that when they look at the mission of their company and their own personal mission, they notice that there is a disconnect. And so once in awhile what can happen is someone says, “You know, maybe this is not a good marriage. Maybe I really need to go somewhere else.” More likely it is, “Maybe it is not a good marriage with this department and I really want to be in marketing and not in accounting, or I really want to be in accounting and not in marketing.” It switches both ways. “I do not want to be a bench scientist. I want to be in HR. I thought I wanted to be a bench scientist but now when I really think about what I love doing, it is fun to be smart and be able to do science, but I really love the people part of it. That is what I am meant to be.”
Amy Climer: And sometimes I think it is hard to figure that out when our system is set up where you go to college and that is when you decide, “Oh, I am going to study marketing or accounting,” and then you go get a job in that and then you are about 30 when you realize…
Dr. Sharon Livingston: You realize you hate it.
Amy Climer: Yeah, exactly. How did you know beforehand because you did not have an experience? So it makes perfect sense that people might want to change. In addition to passion, what are some other important things that team leaders can do to help their team be more effective and creative?
How Team Leaders Can Help Their Team be More Effective and Creative [12:01]
Dr. Sharon Livingston: There are a number of things tactically that they can do, but strategically, it is critical to help their team members find out what they like to do, why they like to do it, how they came to the team. Why are you here? Who are you? So there are a lot of questions that we help people figure out. But one of them, and I could ask you this question right now if you are game.
Amy Climer: Sure, I will try.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: You will be great. Thinking about your whole life, it could be something that happened half an hour ago when you met me on the telephone because it was so wonderful or it could have been yesterday, it could have been five years ago, it could have been when you were ten. But I want you to think about and consider a moment in time when you felt real and alive, and tell me a little story about it.
Amy Climer: The first thing that comes to mind — and this certainly is not the only example — but almost two years ago exactly, I was in Santa Barbara, California. I am in a PhD program. Actually, I will be done in about three weeks.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Congratulations!
Amy Climer: Thank you. I am super excited. So I was out in Santa Barbara for my PhD and we meet a few times a year for residencies. It is with Antioch University. The residency was over and it was Sunday morning and I am like, “Hey, I am in Santa Barbara. I live in Madison, Wisconsin so I am going stand up paddle boarding in the ocean. I remember asking all my colleagues, “Hey, does anybody want to go?” And they said, “No, no, no.” So I just went out by myself.
I get out there and in the distance like maybe half a mile, a mile away, I see some boats, tourist boats. They were just sitting there. I thought, “Oh, well that must be something cool over there.” So I paddle over and there are two huge whales. It was a mother and a baby and they were swimming around. I was freaking out because it was so amazing. The whales leave a moment or two later and then the big boats leave. I am on a paddle board so it is going to take me a long time to get anywhere, so I am kind of hanging out for a minute and I start paddling away, the whales come back.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Oh my God!
Amy Climer: It was a mother and a baby and they were like swimming right towards me, head on. I was just trying not to squeal. I was so excited. I was like, “Oh my God! Oh my gosh!” I do actually have it on video, but it is a horrible video. Anyway, they ended up passing next to me about 15 feet away and I was looking in their eyes and it was just one of the coolest moments.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Oh my God! How would you describe the feeling?
Amy Climer: Giddy. I mean, just excited but also — this might sound sort of weird — but almost life felt this connection like I was having this moment with these animals. Of course, I am just another person to them, I am sure, but it felt really special.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Like a connection that you never expected to have?
Amy Climer: Yeah. Honestly, when I was going over to those boats, I thought it was some kelp beds because they told me about that at the shop that I rented the board. I thought, “Oh, I want to see some kelp, maybe I will see a fish,” and never even thought for a moment that I would see these two huge whales. And to be on a paddle board, you are right there with them. So I just felt kind of magical.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Absolutely. And for the moment, if you could take that back and apply it to the work that you do, how might the work you do be related, in any way at all, to that kind of moment?
Amy Climer: In the work I do – so I do a lot of training and coaching similar to you – and I think those moments where I am working with a team and I see some connections and it could look a number of different ways. It could be that I am connecting with somebody, it could be that I see the team is connecting more with each other and it is almost like they raise up in consciousness or something and I love that.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: It is exhilarating, right?
Amy Climer: It is. It is so exciting and the next thing I realize is, “Oh my gosh, our time is up!” We have been hanging out for three hours or a day and it has flown by.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Is that not the most exciting thing, that here this wonderful feeling of oneness with other creatures and being in the water like you were in the room of life connecting with other organisms and it feels so real, so vibrant, so exhilarating and you are lucky enough to also have that in your work career? I mean, that is fabulous, right? Unfortunately, there are some people who do not have that. And when they realize that, they realize that they have a different calling.
So one of the critical things that leaders can do with the people who report to them, is to do that kind of exercise with them. It is something that I would recommend anybody listening to this does for themselves. If they find themselves crying about it, call me I will help them through it, but think about a time where you felt real and alive and write yourself a story about it. And then see how, if at all, it applies to how you are making money and how you are running your career. And if there is no connection at all, how might you create a connection if you are not willing to do something different? And if you cannot, then there is some serious work you might want to do.
How Team Leaders Can Help Team Members Identify Their Passion [18:18]
Amy Climer: What advice do you have for leaders who do this with their team members and there are maybe one or two team members that realize there is no connection to the team and to the work they do? Do recommend they find a new team and they move on or are there some ways that the team leaders can work with them to help them find that within the team? What is your advice on that?
Dr. Sharon Livingston: First would be, how might we find this within our structure right here and what opportunities do we have, how might we help you grow? Second would be, what about within the company itself? Let’s look at the company’s mission statement and what the company is about and let’s look at what you are about. Is there a match here? And I am saying it very glibly now, but we would work hard on that to understand what is it about to work for ICCA and how does that match up with what your values are? Because if you do not have a value connection, people would be at odds. They are just going to be doing the groundwork.
Even though for you and me, for example — I will tell you a funny story. My number one, Kim, who is incredibly, I am an ENFP, she is an ESTJ. I do not know if that means anything to you in Myers-Briggs language? So I am this creativity and possibilities and, “Oh my God! Let’s do this, let’s do that,” and she is a drill sergeant. “Okay, now gang, here is how you do it. Put on the spreadsheet.”
Amy Climer: That is what I need. Can I get myself a Kim?
Dr. Sharon Livingston: You can borrow her.
Amy Climer: Okay, good.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: She is fantastic and she keeps me organized. I have a sign on her door that I got for her for her birthday last year that says, “I am not bossy, I just have better ideas.”
Amy Climer: Nice.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: I got her two, one for here and one for home.
Amy Climer: Wow! That is awesome,
Dr. Sharon Livingston: And she loves it. She knows how to do it. However, if I ask her to do a creative exercise like I just asked you to do, she would roll her eyes and go, “Oh my God! Are you going to torture me again?”
Amy Climer: Such drama.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: But in terms of people values, she is right in line with what we do with the training, with helping people inspire people, but not about creative process and, “How dare you do that to me? Leave my psychology totally intact. It is not where I want to go explore now or maybe never. I am really happy with who I am, do not try to change me.” Even though, to me, I am inviting her to play, to her I am inviting her to work on something that is really hard for her.
Amy Climer: I love that example because you all are quite different in just your personality makeup, yet you have also pointed out that we need each other and we really work well together and if you have a bunch of ENFPs together it might be fun but you might not get that much done. And it seems like it is important for teams to recognize those differences within their team members so then they can really…
Dr. Sharon Livingston: We might not get things done as neatly. We need to hire someone to come clean up after us.
Amy Climer: Right, because we have left a bunch of mess in our wake.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Right. The flower is still on the floor and there is sticky stuff on the counter and, “Man! That was a yummy cinnamon roll we baked though.”
What a team leader can do to help a team that is not being creative [22:04]
Amy Climer: Yeah, exactly. So what advice do you have for a team leader where the team is just not being that creative? They have worked it through and decided we are all on board, we have similar values, but they think, “Okay, let’s take this to the next level. We really want to be more creative, more innovative,” and are sort of stuck.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: My first question would be why do you want to do that? Do you need to be more creative? Is that just something that you think is good? If you are accounting, bookkeeping, maybe you do not need to be so creative. What is your reason for wanting that? So first I have to understand that.
Amy Climer: That is a good question. I think sometimes we do think of creativity for creativity’s sake but especially in the realm of business we should ask, but to what end? What is the point?
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Exactly. See, I think that when the team is oiled and has the same values, that they naturally are creative. And then it is just a matter of how can we be more creative and what kinds of things might we do. And then, I know you know, there are lots of different exercises you could do to help people think outside the box. I will tell you one thing that I love to point out to people, and that is when you are trying to get creative to come up with something innovative. We all live within some box and boxes are safe, but when you get to the edge of the box with some new idea, people start to get uncomfortable. The way you know that is they will start getting negative or they will start cracking jokes or they feel anxious.
And when I see that happening in a team, I will say, “Look at this, we are on the verge of a new idea. There is something in here making us feel a little wonky. That is good. That means that we are pushing the boundary of the box. That is great news. Let’s take a look at that. What might that be? What is making you uncomfortable about it? And what might be a positive that could come from this wonky idea?”
Amy Climer: I love that, just pointing out like this discomfort is a good thing and it is normal. It must mean something.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: It is normal and it is good.
Amy Climer: Yeah. I think sometimes we get to that place of discomfort and we just want to run right back to the middle of the comfort zone where it is like, “Hold on, do not leave quite yet.”
Dr. Sharon Livingston: It is really cool. I am thinking about how I grew up with a very, very, very strict mother, especially with regard to anything sexual. Her baby sister, her first husband passed away and she was having a romantic encounter with this new guy. My mother was so punitive about anything sexual, I mean anything. And she took me aside one day with her Hungarian accent and she said, “Soyku?” “Yes mom.” “Do you think maybe Aunt Anna and Owen…?” I said, “What mom?” She said, “You know.” And I said, “Well, what if they are, mom?” She said, “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know.” She was pushing her own envelope about can she still love her sister if she is doing something that she was taught was wrong?
Amy Climer: Yeah. That is a great example.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: It was really funny. Of course, she loved her, and it broadened her horizons about how one might be in the world. The reason I bring that up is sometimes when we get to that barrier, there is some taboo that we have created in our minds about why you cannot cross that line. So we need to figure out what the taboo is and ask, “Wait, who wrote that law? Where did that come from? Does that really exist? Is this an unwritten law within our organization that maybe we should challenge because there is something yummy on the other side?”
Amy Climer: I think the thing with taboos and laws is that they are all made by people, which means we could change them.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Exactly. They are not God-given.
Amy Climer: No. That is great.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Or Mother Nature-given either.
Amy Climer: Exactly. It is not a natural thing. It is something that we have created in our society and in our culture and sometimes those are good and sometimes they hold us back.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Right. Who said you cannot put a banana in your tomato sauce?
Amy Climer: See? There you go. That is an interesting idea.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Did that make you nauseous?
Amy Climer: I had to think about it for a moment and thought, “No, has she actually done that?”
Dr. Sharon Livingston: I did last week.
Amy Climer: Oh really? How was it?
Dr. Sharon Livingston: It was good. I wanted something to thicken it up a little bit and so all I had was a piece of banana. And my husband is looking at me like I am totally out of my mind, and it was nice. It tasted good. A little sweet with a tiny bit of salt in the tomato sauce, it was great.
Amy Climer: I love it. That is awesome.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: I live my values.
Amy Climer: Yeah. I am now thinking oh my gosh! You could make this whole cookbook of like these crazy combinations that actually turn out really yummy.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Right. Whoever thought of putting whatever in whatever?
The Weekly Challenge [28:00]
Amy Climer: Great. One of the things that I like to do at the end of every episode is give listeners a weekly challenge. And I am wondering if you have something you would recommend listeners do based on any of the things we have talked about so far.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: When you mentioned that in our preview, the first thing that came to mind was what I just did with you about when you felt real and alive. I challenge people to do that. I have not done that before, and that was just for you, so this is a new exercise that I have been doing lately with people and it has had just astounding results.
Amy Climer: Can you just repeat again, what was the question that you asked me?
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Sure. The question is, think about a time in your life, it could have been very recent, even yesterday or many years ago, when you felt really real and alive and tell a little story to yourself about that. And then notice what you notice there and then see how, if at all, you make that happen in your life; in your work, in your personal life, in your relationships. And think about that.
Amy Climer: I think that is a great challenge and I can even imagine once you have done that, to ask that question to some other people, maybe your partner or your spouse, your friends, and have that conversation with a few people and then maybe bring it to your team as well. That would be like week two maybe.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Yes, exactly.
Amy Climer: That is great. Sharon, thank you so much for talking today about coaching teams and team leaders. I think this is going to be really helpful for our listeners. If they want to get in touch with you, what is the best way for them to find you?
Dr. Sharon Livingston: They can always call me on my cell. I am very good at getting back to people. It might take a day or so but I will. The number is 603-505-5000. It is www.coachcertificationalliance.com but if you want to email me, it is email@example.com.
Amy Climer: Great. I will put all that information in the shownotes so people can go there and look at it.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Excellent! Amy, you are a great interviewer. I felt so able to be open and just say what was on my mind and that is what I think is the sign of a great interviewer.
Amy Climer: Aw, that is so sweet. Well, thank you. I really enjoyed talking with you. It was really fund. So thanks for being on the show.
Dr. Sharon Livingston: Thanks so much.
Amy Climer: Sharon, thank you again for being on The Deliberate Creative Podcast. I hope you all enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. I really appreciated her comments and I hope you liked my story about the whales. That was super cool and I am hoping to repeat it again in two weeks. I am going back out to Antioch University in Santa Barbara and I am defending my dissertation and the day after I am going kayaking and I am hoping to see whales again. So if you have a connection to whales, just tell them to pass by my kayak. That would be pretty cool.
Try that challenge that Sharon suggested. I think the question that she asked me is a great question. It definitely got me thinking and I know it is something that I am going to continue percolating on as the day and week goes on to see if am I capturing that excitement and energy? Am I infusing that into my life, into my business? And if not, what do I need to change and adjust? If you would like to share your stories, you can do so on the shownotes and you can find those at www.climerconsulting.com/047. I will also put in there the links to Sharon’s information so you can contact her. I will put a link to her book. She did mention that book, so I will put that in there. You can go there and download all that information.
Also, a couple of days after the podcast first goes out, there is a transcript available. So if you are interested in sharing this podcast with other people but you think like, “I do not know if they are actually going to listen to it,” for every episode, there is a PDF transcript available. You just go to the shownotes and it is at the bottom, you download a PDF. It is super simple. I feel like that is an important way to get this information out there and if people do not want to or cannot listen, then they have the opportunity to read the transcript.
If you are a new listener to the show, thank you for joining today. If you love the show, you could do me a big favor and you could go to iTunes and rate the show. What do you think? Five stars, four stars? Whatever you think, give your honest review. The more reviews, the higher the rankings and then, more importantly, the more people find out about the show and it helps more people be more creative and innovative and lead teams to more successes. So that is what I am so passionate about and I love and the more you can help, the better. If you have any questions, let me know. If there is something you want answered on the show, send me an email and I just might answer your question on the show. I love hearing from people who are listening.
I hope you all have a wonderful creative week and I will see you next time, bye.
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