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July 18, 2019 - No Comments!

Expect the Unexpected in this Talent Market

Many organizations still see search as a transaction to fill immediate or important gaps. They, or their down-line manager identify a need for more productivity or a specific skill and open a requisition.

A few organizations seek outside talent because they identify a gap in their internal intellectual capital for a future objective. Yet, after two decades in search, not much has changed – most organizations’ approach identifying talent gaps, planning future workforce needs, and finding talent just like they did decades ago.  Not much has shifted despite business change at an alarming rate.

The value of intellectual capital, the people empowering business success, the human factor, will dominate the future of work. The winners will be those who expect the unexpected, have a vision for the future, a workforce plan enabling adaptability, and a solid strategy for getting and keeping the talent they need to make it all happen.

Looking back at where we are today, some leaders may be satisfied for being great at managing process or using technology and tracking systems to keep all the parts moving. But hindsight may also show that wasn’t enough to keep the organization on track for success in this future. We need to be asking ourselves, are we looking ahead to understand and prepare to manage the unexpected?

According to Bob Johansen, a trends forecaster with a discipline around moving from foresight to action, the more complex the future, the further ahead leaders need to look.

We don’t have to imagine a heated, highly competitive talent market of the future, it’s here today. It has been heating up for years and the competition is fierce. Urgency is driving decisions to buy experts, and search professionals are being tasked with finding “the unicorn” or being told to “look under rocks” for that unique leadership skill set everyone wants.

On more occasions than executives may want to admit, after a long, exhaustive search process, someone inside the company is identified to take the role. The client realizes the unique mix of skills and experience they’re looking for doesn’t exist in the external market – at least not at the rate they’d like – and they should “develop the internal talent after all.” Ultimately, this decision benefits the internal candidate, but squanders time and money, sends mixed signals to employees and the talent market, and potentially creates new challenges in the future.

Reactive, tactical talent processes cost more from every perspective, and yet many organizations keep repeating the same, costly cycle.

How did we get here?

Increasing talent scarcity, with a narrow view of options, caused a level of pain and cost that almost paralyzed hiring decision makers. The talent market had changed dramatically, and many were unprepared to confront the change, adapt, and regain their advantage in the critical war for talented workers.

Some have no idea where to start, others are not even convinced they’re off course. Everyone is trying to navigate a new landscape without a functional map.

One quick caveat – a few organizations recognized and reacted to the evolving market. They’re currently winning the war for talent without just throwing stacks of money at candidates. The very best organizations are already planning for how they’ll manage the talent race as the field continues to evolve.

Meanwhile, at the average organization, the external talent market began to wonder why they weren’t hearing back from the recruiter or hiring manager. Was something wrong with the company? All the waiting gave candidates more time to look at social networking platforms to research the company, the department, the manager, and to connect with existing and even former employees. They want to understand the inside picture and get an idea for what they might be getting into.

Interview panels were not aligned on what they were selecting for and didn’t put a lot of value on creating a positive candidate experience.  While the recruiting and management teams slogged through the old, process-driven, tactical hiring process, internal talent was getting burned out and stressed wearing too many hats and trying to fill vacant shoes.

None of this is sustainable, and certainly isn’t the best way to drive value, improve the bottom line, or set the organization on a path to sustained success. The negative impact to the company’s brand and the bad impression on the talent market may impact their ability to attract the right talent for years.

Change is Inevitable

The perspective needs to shift, and the approach must change.

Those with a longer view have already shifted from “filling a need” to understanding business initiatives, people implications, and future skill requirements, and then planning to develop and acquire the talent for the next phase today. Seeking to understand is more important than advocating for a predictable, yet ineffective fix for old problems.

Organizations need to identify their mission-critical work – now and five years from now – and its impact to the bottom line. Then, know your game changers. This informs options to build a go-forward plan that ties business and talent strategies together and creates room to address todays unique talent marketplace.

It has been more than 20 years since we faced a 3.7% unemployment market, and the first time we have had more jobs than people looking for work.

This scarcity dynamic forces us to pay more attention to what a company offers, their culture, their brand and market presence. It demands a compelling answer for, “why join us,” and more detail on leadership values to engage the Amazon review-age of contemporary workers.

Rather focusing on finding a costly “unicorn,” go for a deeper and broader exploration and compete authentically to attract and grow the best people for your unique business and future objectives.

In today’s talent world:

• Attracting is all about telling a story and marketing a compelling message, so candidates inside and out are eager to learn more and consider an opportunity.
• Finding is building a strategic out-reach plan leveraging your employee network and diverse talent pools to build relationships for the future.
• Growing includes building acceptance for a new role, onboarding to drive immediate engagement, and ensuring a new hire is prepared to succeed in this new team and culture.

So the Story Goes…

The new talent perspective makes it clear these changes impact all our businesses in critical ways today, and the impact will only accelerate in the future. Inevitably, employment cycles will go up and down, but the “do more with less” mentality must head for extinction.

The future of work and talent dynamics compel us to trade outdated approaches and recognize the value of our limited resources, as well as the possibility and hidden value in creative solutions to getting work done.

The first step is a system of self-inquiry to create an actionable plan using the real perspectives of your leaders and workers. These insights must be integrated with your business strategies, talent needs, and real-world experiences attracting, finding, and growing a workforce to meet your objectives and help you stay at the top of your game.

Will you be a game changer?

Expect the unexpected and:

1) Create a dynamic lineup – Imagine how you’ll execute on key initiatives without the right team or back-ups.
2) Define the BIG jobs – Which are essential for taking the mission forward and what is the most critical work?
3) Reimagine talent acquisition – Develop internal potential, address your employment brand, align your values, and market your compelling story to attract needed talent.

Time to be trail blazers again - the stakes are high to get ahead of this challenge and  it will take business leaders and Talent experts to tackle this together.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Talent Economy

May 12, 2019 - No Comments!

Count Up Your Transitions

When were you at your best? Jot down memories where you were energized and enthusiastic. What were you doing then? Imagine creating more of those welcoming moments. I bet some of them were during a transition.

I decided to count up the transitions that I have had over my career and it is well over 15 when I look at the change in roles and responsibilities as well as new culture, organizations or starting my own company. Each change required a shift in mindset and a deeper understanding of me. I was impatient at times and wanted the answers much faster than they came to me.

I recall a very big transition which was to leave corporate America and figure out what was next. Although this was many years ago, I recall it vividly. I had been in the career consulting business and focused on helping others with their story but I had not thought about my own story. Have you ever been in the pace and groove of your work? You try to convince yourself that it is all right. Over time, you realize it doesn’t feel right.  It was welcoming at first but you start to ask yourself questions about your new perspective or direction and whether you are still learning.

Fortunately, I was asking those questions and was introduced to LifeLaunch, a program of the Hudson Institute which is now called Life Forward. Back in those days it was a five day program focused on your inner talk, possibilities, feelings, prized memories and eventually goals and action steps. The concepts introduced were about reflection, revision, and renewal. It was focused on where you are today, where you want to go and how you will get there. There was a phase called “go for it” and being a results-driven person, I liked that phase. But, that is not where you start. The process begins with reflection and slowing down to think about dreams, passion, and interests and of course, purpose.

Whether you are making a job change or taking on a bigger role in your company or moving into the entrepreneurial world, the transitions we go through from one stage to another is a gift. They are exhilarating and they can also cause anxiety.

I was ready to create something new but had no idea how it would work out. That was stressful and exciting.  This can happen when you are inside a company and have a role that you enjoy and then you hear of an opportunity that you can transition to with more responsibility along with a very steep learning curve. It is what you were looking for yet scary at the same time.

What I observe today is that the speed of transitions and personal change in our careers is so fast that there is little time to move through the changes and or the emotions. We need that in order to understand ourselves, what might accelerate our effectiveness or get in the way and how best to navigate an entirely new challenge. The people are different, expectations vary and the social norms might shift but you are not aware of that yet.

As you embark on your change, it may be that the rules have changed or the way to get things done is entirely different. You might have to navigate this on your own or if you are lucky, you will have a change “Sherpa” in your company. We are never really on our own and change does not mean you will be in “free-fall” as one of my clients expressed. However, I know that feeling of fear and internal second guessing that takes us down a path of non-constructive self-talk even during a positive expanded role. Slowing ourselves down to reflect, envision and then act is a human thing to do. Reaching out to your network is a human thing to do as well. Our company cultures are not great at slowing down.

Here are my suggestions on moving effectively on a wave of transition.
1. Celebrate - Did you celebrate the ending – you may have just accepted a promotion in your company and moving on to a bigger role. Did you celebrate and congratulate yourself for the accomplishment of getting this far? Take the time to do this with your team and acknowledge success. It is easy to let the voice in our head worry about the new job or jump to action with enthusiasm but take the time to breathe and celebrate this ending before starting a new beginning.

2) Welcome the new – Meet your team, get to know the business and how things work. Ask a lot of questions. Your focus is on learning rather than doing. We are all programmed to do but few of us focus on the learning part first. Step back to figure out the new landscape and what small steps of success will look like. Determine how your network will expand and who will be there to guide you. Sometimes it is not your immediate boss.

3) Envision – Listen to your internal voice but also gather the perspectives of others. I recall my voice telling me, “you are responsible and you will do the right thing.” I had to add something critical to that inner dialogue and that was “enjoy this adventure and trust yourself.” Not so easy to accomplish but it was my daily mantra.

4) Grow – The aging process is inevitable and I don’t recall ever thinking about it until my 40’s. That is when I realized mid-course corrections are a good thing and if we can look at our learning and development as part of our investment plan that is cumulative, than we are ahead of the game. It takes time to learn a new role. You have more decisional capacity than you realize so learning, risking and experimenting is part of the deal going forward. Your company will not drive that for you so you get to set that growth plan and course correct along the way.

What is your learning agenda for the next chapter of your life?  Who are the people you would chose to have as mentors, friends, and guides? Build this into your plan and you will see that endings, celebrations, beginnings, and your feelings around change will be more aligned with your level of satisfaction and connection with those that matter.  Do not hurry this process. It takes time and intention.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Communication, Employee Engagement, Talent Economy

May 8, 2019 - No Comments!

Expand the Circle

Imagine you have a circle of friends that you have known for a long time and they are just the folks you hang out with when you yearn for connecting and comfort. Often, food accompanies this connecting time.

You know these friends, their unique perspective on life, what makes them laugh and their favorite food. True appreciation for who they are and why you enjoy this circle of friends or friend, is very clear knowledge that you have lived and experienced with joy.

Now think about what it is like to step out of that circle and connect with new people – that are not in your circle. It takes a different energy to expand beyond your comfort zone. It amplifies our curious self to meet new people and listen to other perspectives of the world. This is the space where we don’t know things.

We should not take advantage of our circle. Relationships are not static and the world is dynamic, so why not consider new dimensions to explore. This does not mean we abandon our circle of “confidants.”   However, do you want to learn about other people, cultures, interests and or experiences? We are only one person, so when we can learn from others, it is truly a gift and from a practical standpoint it makes us more productive and maybe even a bit worldly. We learn about the things we don’t know.

Be honest, is it tough for you to make new connections? Are we good at getting to know others? Is this a new skill to master? And, where do we find the time to expand these connections? Are we good at the art of inquiry – really getting to know someone?

I believe the next generation will offer us more perplexing situations and opportunities to expand our notion of “circle of friends” and learn new skills in connecting with others. It will be a broader definition and produce more meaning, complexity and fascination as the world seems to get smaller.

I was invited to a dinner party a year ago, for my son, a visual artist and creative writer, was fortunate to be the first artist and one person show for a new gallery in Echo Park, Los Angeles. He was so excited and the opening night was invite only for this special celebratory dinner. We sat down with 12 other folks and what was astounding was the diversity of people, backgrounds and areas of interest beyond art. Saying they were eclectic is an understatement. They shared a love of art. Beyond that, they worked in the finance area, teaching, performance, coaching, making art and professional traveler. You might say this is an LA thing but it clearly is an example of an open circle of connections that invites you in to a new conversation.

We knew before getting there that we might feel like a stranger among strangers. However, it did not take long to see more of the synergies and possibilities, and delightful peculiarities of this group getting to know each other.  Yes, there was some trepidation at first which moved into wanting to learn more about each person.

My take away is to suggest we abandon the mental models in our head about how we should meet new and different people and just embrace the unknown. That is not hard to do under an LA warm summer night while we get to share pasta, grilled zucchini and wine.

Are you part of a peer learning group? What are you learning that is unexpected? How does this group support you in the challenge of navigating work and personal challenges? I am passionate about helping others learn and build meaningful connections. As humans, we all lean towards these kinds of relationships where people can be authentic and find their voice. Enjoy expanding your circle along with wonderful food!

Sherry Benjamins facilitates peer learning groups that are forward looking, and have a keen interest in building relationships that strengths impact and direction on work and career. They begin in building a new circle of friends where it is safe to be themselves, learn about each other and accelerate their success as leaders and learners in business. Contact Sherry to learn more 562-594-6426 or sherry@sbcompany.net

 

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Communication, Employee Engagement

March 23, 2019 - No Comments!

Meaningful Work Produces Results – Keep Your Talent

Wouldn't it be great to fix a problem before it is a problem?  And, even better with something that is simple.  For decades we have talked about engagement and developing managers.  It seems, from a sneak preview of Gallup's new research that much has not changed. A third of workers are highly engaged.  What about the other 70%?

The study's conclusion laid out in Jim Clifton and Jim Harter's book that is to be released next month, says the overwhelming driver to sustained performance is the manager as coach.  We know that, right?  However, it is still a topic of deep conversation with my clients and colleagues about what is missing today.

I recently met with several of my clients to learn about their perspective on disruptors in their business and impact on talent.  One theme that is emerging is the need to prepare and develop managers so that they respond to fast moving changes in the business and understand what workers want today.  Workers expect to do meaningful work that supports personal growth.  They are not shy to ask for and expect this.

This goes for the new professional as well as the seasoned one.  This past week I also had three calls from accomplished professionals in HR who see limits to their own growth in their organizations and are now exploring  new opportunities.  There is a problem here that we are not solving for.  It is avoidable yet, with all the demands and accelerating pace of business, senior leaders have forgotten the reason we have growth in the first place.  Yes, you have to have a great business model and service too but it also means equally hiring,  keeping and inspiring talent.  What if you could fix your problem simply by investing in managers?  Hiring good ones matters.  As Gallup states, they are the rocket fuel of the future.

Companies that enjoy engaged workers consistently post profit gains. What is not to like about that result? It is time to go for the simple solution, before you find that 30% or more of your best talent is planning to find the next chapter of their career somewhere else.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Employee Engagement, Management

November 8, 2018 - No Comments!

Landon Taylor, CEO of Base 11: Accelerating Development of Talent November 2018

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Base 11 to learn how their creative partnerships are making a difference for students and corporations in regional “ecosystems” across the country.  They are successfully collaborating and connecting all the right pieces of the talent gap puzzle for young talent in underrepresented populations.  My hope is that as you read this story your curiosity takes over to learn more and take action.

Sherry Benjamins: What brought you to the leadership role with Base 11 after many successful years of corporate and business strategy roles?

Landon: Running a non-profit company was not originally planned as a part of my career plan.  I have invested 25+ years building a career as a corporate executive and entrepreneur, including 12 exciting years as a senior exec with First American Financial which is what brought me to Orange County.  In 2014, after helping position the sale of a software company to CoreLogic, I had the opportunity to think deeply about what I wanted to do next.  I knew that I wanted to get involved in a project that not only leveraged my strategic leadership skills but also captured my passion to make a difference.  Many of us recognize the strategic importance of human development on an enterprise level and frankly, I predict that it will be the industrial revolution of the 21stCentury. A transformation that will change our country in big ways. With transformative education, and training and empowerment in real world scenarios and environments, we grow exponentially as individuals, and then have a multiplier affect impact on the organizations and communities around us.

This issue around solving the STEM talent pipeline crisis as a long-term solution to building a sustainable middle class in America made up of allAmericans, became a calling that I simply could not ignore.  So, four years ago I stepped in as CEO to design and drive the national initiative, which we now affectionately call “The STEM Revolution!”

SB: Are you optimistic about progress when the needs are staggering?

Landon: My optimism is fueled by the fact that there is no shortage of stakeholders who want to solve the STEM skill gap challenge. There is also a shared recognition for diversity and inclusion for this critical talent need.  We have significant progress in breaking down the silos that had existed prior to creating what we are calling our regional ecosystems.  The stakeholders are aligned around a common vision – and a problem to solve.  They are academia (K-University), philanthropy and government, industry and students.  They all care about solving the skill gap and have demonstrated that in our first regional ecosystem markets, LA, Orange County, San Francisco Bay Area and Phoenix. Each of those ecosystems has a successfully integrated partnership with diverse and fully engaged stakeholders.  We plan to add three more regional ecosystems by 2021 in Seattle, NY and Washington DC.

SB: How is success defined at Base 11?

Landon: Our true north has been set for 2021 and that is to accelerate 11,000 students on a pathway to what we call our "Victory Circle".  The Base 11 Victory Circle is achieved by completing a Base 11 program or a hands-on project in a Base 11 Innovation Center, which prepares students for STEM success at a four-year university, at a major corporation, or as an entrepreneur. We are on track to achieve this with 6,000 students already on their direct path to the Victory Circle.

SB: What have you learned from your members of the Victory Circle?

 Landon: First, I have learned to never underestimate our talented students.  Their passion, commitment and capabilities exceed our expectations.  Students who are under-resourced work twice as hard as others.  We know we are on the right path for we are confident they are our future leaders.

SB: How does this influence your 2019 goals?

Landon: Our plan in 2019 is to grow our regional ecosystems and bring in additional students and corporate employer partners.  More companies and students involved translate to better jobs, greater opportunity and more robust talent pipelines.

SB: What have you learned about yourself through this journey so far?

Landon: I have learned that I must always be learning and growing, and that is essential every day as we build this transformational capability. I have also learned that it is possible to align your professional experiences with something that creates a viable business (economic) opportunity while also solving a big societal  problem. It’s very fulfilling when you get the chance to work on something that will have a multi-generational impact. Everyone can define what that means for themselves personally.  There is not one path to take.  You can serve on a Board, be an advisor, identify a cause that you are passionate about and contribute in a meaningful way.  That might be contributing your expertise, time and/or money.

SB:  What is your advice to corporate leaders and those reading this newsletter?

 Landon: If you are interested in a cause that impacts business, growth of jobs, positive culture and individual empowerment – get involved.  We would be pleased to have you help us accelerate our goal to go from 6,000 students to 11,000 students on their pathway the Victory Circle.  You can offer to be a mentor, advisory board member, financial supporter and/or share our mission with your organization.   Ask yourself if you can see your company joining a powerful network of partners who want to empower 11,000 student leaders of the 21stCentury and create a positive impact for their families and our country at large.

 If you want to learn more call Ingrid Ellerbe, our SVP Partnerships at (714) 371-4200

Or check out site at  https://www.base11.com/

 Conclusion by Sherry

Landon’s energy and passion is contagious.  He and his team are inspiring a revolution.  I understand now that the results he sees in students energizes him and his team while changing their lives and their families in a powerful way.

We are in a time where this kind of difference making is purpose driven and feeds the spirit.   I believe this is a refreshing shift in energy from the drain of intense public and political discourse today to something where we can all have a positive impact.   Why not shift our perspective to the power we each have to change our community by developing others.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog

October 17, 2018 - No Comments!

Newsletter – Bruce Swartz, SVP Physician Integration, Dignity Health – The Future of Care October 2018

Imagine having a unique leadership role and charter to disrupt healthcare as we know it today and have it designed for us the patient.  Sounds logical yet few have led the way.  We do have disruptors in healthcare using mobile platforms; however, I met with my friend Bruce Swartz who leads Physician integration at Dignity Health, the fifth largest health system in the nation and the largest hospital provider in California to learn about their transformation in healthcare.  Bruce leads integration of physician practices for Dignity Health and is building a patient experience with a foundation of technology that defines “care of the future” in entirely new ways.  I caught up with Bruce to learn how he sees this unfolding for this generation.

Sherry Benjamins: Bruce, it seems you have a very positive outlook about healthcare today.  Tell me about that.

Bruce:  I do have a positive outlook and we are focused on the future.  We are seeing the entry of Amazon, Apple, and Google, for example and we must maximize the applications of electronic records to create true sustaining clinical integration. Through Population Health initiatives, we have an aggregation of patient data across multiple technology platforms.  The analysis of that data into a single, actionable patient record is possible and our line of sight is to improve systems and clinical outcomes. When I first joined Dignity, six years ago, we were not connected and are now single instance linked throughout the Dignity Health enterprise which facilitates improved patient outcomes and lower costs.

SB: How will you define this patient experience?

Bruce:   Exceptional service and positive member experience is the answer.  For example, we are launching a fully integrated patient contract center to support the improved patient experience from end to end that not only meets your scheduling requirements, but also facilitates population health outcomes.  Eventually we will utilize Artificial Intelligence, and robotics in both the ambulatory and acute settings.  In fact, we are already we are looking at artificial intelligence to support scribing services for our providers.  .  That stated, we intend never to lose sight of the importance of the human connection throughout the Dignity Health enterprise.

Care of the future means newer and more efficient and patient centered clinics.  We took 42 people at all levels of our system and had them meet for almost a year as a task force to design the clinic they would want to work in.  This will be a footprint for the future and define how care is delivered.  Efficiency, better working experiences for our employees and patients is the driving force for this change.  Our goal is to create a delightful experience for all.

SB: Will virtual care take off?

Bruce:  Today, we are designing pilots that will offer virtual visits.  We are in the early stage here at Dignity but see the infrastructure to complement or go beyond the clinic when it makes sense.  There are many start-ups that are offering high end concierge and mobile apps. We will learn a lot in the next few years and incorporate this into our transformation as well.

SB: What advice do you have for our heads of HR who are looking at designing new benefit plans for their workers?

Bruce:  Don’t be afraid to be more prescriptive with your workforce.  Not everyone will be happy. Creating options and offering different plans to support more personalization matters.  We now have almost five generations working at the same time. Workers will have to support some of the cost. Integrating wellness initiatives is well meaning, but we have seen that the people utilizing those programs already value good health and understand they have a stake in the game to manage their wellness.  I recommend wellness initiatives that require a “stake in the game.” It is a very exciting time to look at revolutionizing care which goes beyond the clinical practice.  We are trailblazing and engaging our leaders to truly hear from our patients and workers about the future they imagine serves us all.

Conclusion by Sherry

Uber and Lyft disrupted the transportation industry. There are so many other examples.  It is exciting to hear about the disruptions in patient care as Bruce describes it.  The largest providers are not going away – however the focus has shifted to member engagement, care management, leading to healthier populations.

I am encouraged that organizations like Dignity Health are replacing old structures with healing environments and designs that will delight a patient and improve outcomes. Why not be a central place for the wellbeing of mind, body and spirit in health? The old system can no longer afford a focus on disease at the exclusion of wellness and self-health managing.  As consumers of healthcare, we are getting pretty sophisticated in choice making. I look forward to a day when we can embrace a conversation about our care with a positive, data-rich and informed outlook.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter

September 11, 2018 - No Comments!

Jaclyn Martin: Story & Image, A Powerful Duo

Jaclyn Martin is a content strategist, writer and artist.  I was fortunate to meet her early this year when one of my long-time colleagues in HR connected us.  After you speak with Jaclyn, you'll quickly learn that she is passionate about listening, learning, and how to create a bold combination of words and images to tell a story.

She is wonderfully curious and, in her quest to understand others and what they want to achieve, she helps them find the truth of their ideas to write a unique story.  We have been fortunate to have Jaclyn as part of our team, participating in interviews with our new clients, writing, and creating web content to showcase their truth about new job opportunities.  I always learn something when speaking with Jaclyn, so it is my pleasure to introduce you to her as well.  


Sherry Benjamins: Tell me about your experience in the talent business? 

Jaclyn Martin: I first started in the talent business in 2001 as a proposal writer for an international staffing company. I learned quickly that there was deep internal expertise about their services, yet there was less known about how the customer or user perceived their service.  I decided to spend some time speaking with HR professionals and my sister, who led an HR function, to better understand the external user perspective.  

It was fascinating to work in an industry with diverse points of view and learn the challenge of selling a service rather than a product.  I believe it is all about potential – the potential of the people and the customer, as well as the potential of building a relationship that results in quality services and trusted partnering.  The different perspectives translated into addressing very different needs.  

My work in this business ranged from writing proposals, helping sales people create compelling presentations, to managing internal communications.   My team conducted research, collected data, interviewed internal and external clients, and identified themes and trends.  It was great to see how the data informed a new strategy, service, or decision about business investments.  I learned a lot about a wide range of businesses and industries, and found it was fun to help leaders craft a compelling story to engage workers or communicate more effectively with their clients.

SB: How do you incorporate story telling in your work?

JM: Everything we experience in life is a story – in order to engage others, we have to engage on that level.  I found I got the best results when engaging people in their own story.   It helps them clarify their desires, goals, and what matters most to them.  I could see that process moves them forward and hits emotional buttons to create connection.   

SB: What interests you in this work?

JM: People interest me – I want to know what motivates or drives them.  I enjoy the process of helping figure out how to get the reaction they want. There’s a difference between spinning a great story and misleading – I am about finding the compelling, honest story.  Helping people figure out how to take complex elements of their work and translate it into something other people can understand is very satisfying.  

One of the challenges we all face in communicating is, the more we know about our industry or work, the harder it is to explain to someone else.  While we’re speaking with insider colleagues we use a shorthand, efficient communication because we both know what we’re talking about.   That can backfire when your goal is to engage a broader group.  Some people are aware of this difficulty and some not, but it’s always a challenge for creating a simple, engaging, and effective message. 

SB: What do you attribute to your success in taking stories to reality?

JM:  Getting my writing degree was an important part of my foundation and allowed me to be humble as a writer.  I believe staying humble about what we know is a key to success.  Listening is important too.  I pay attention to clients and their challenges, but I also pay attention to the concerns and challenges of their clients or target audience because the content we’re creating needs to speak to both. Creating a strategy from that information is more critical than the actual task of writing.  That may not sound logical given my role of writer, yet, listening genuinely to the client and learning what they want to accomplish provides the understanding and context required to craft an authentic, compelling story.  

SB: As an artist as well as writer, how does being an artist inform your work?

JM: Because I work with both visuals and words, I’m more focused on producing less text. Instead, I pair the right words with compelling visuals to create content that’s truly engaging – giving the client more impact from their narrative.  

I get to do this when helping SBCo with their unique micro-sites for high-end talent sourcing.  We create one-page microsites to tell a unique story about a career or new job opportunity.  The unique combination of a compelling position description and engaging visuals in a web site tailored to the position and employer is a truly differentiated way of communicating about a job opportunity and grabs attention.  Our goal is for them to “see themselves in this job,” and elicit the desired response, “tell me more.”   I really enjoy creating a unique message platform that speaks to potential talent.

SB: What is your advice to companies that are starting the “story telling” journey?

JM:  First decide who or what you want to be – it should be based on your values and the authentic way you approach whatever it is you do. Then, check with your clients and employees to see if their experience matches the story you want to tell. Finally, create the simplest version of that story – if you can’t explain it in just a few minutes, it’s too complex and not as compelling as it should be. 

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter

September 10, 2018 - No Comments!

Jay Golden and Stories that Unlock Power

Early this year, I had the opportunity to meet Jay Golden and learn about the power of “retellable” stories. Jay is an author, keynote speaker, and storytelling coach, who helps leaders shape and share their stories in transformative ways. His work was so fascinating that I asked him to coach me through the exploration of my own stories and experiences to uncover what he calls our own “purpose” through discussion of journey. It truly changed how I see my stories, and how I view my career. I am eager for you to get to know more about Jay through this interview. I agree with him that the power of story helps us navigate in this unpredictable and chaotic business world. 


Sherry Benjamins: How did you begin this work on coaching leaders on storytelling?

Jay Golden:  I began working in all types of communication in the 1990s that focused on education, production, strategy, and video. By 2009 as a new dad, I took a break and looked around. I saw how many new forms of media were emerging every day, and instead of being at the edge, I wanted to be at the center. I knew that the center of all communication was story. And that it begins with personal stories. Audiences are open to hearing about what they truly care about on a personal level.  However, we often bury that or shift in a different direction because of necessity – lack of time, impersonal media, and the perception that people don’t want to hear stories. But how do we truly connect? After all the 1000’s of bits and bytes of information we absorb in a day, what do our audiences remember? And on a personal level, where do we keep and share our key life lessons and insights that guide our careers and organizations? I found that helping leaders, especially founders, identify their stories and use them as a guide towards the future they sought often resulted in a life change.  Whether you are speaking to thousands of people or one on one across the table, practicing the art of sharing stories brings people together. It reinforces why our work matters.

SB: What holds people back from telling their story?

JG: Today, with such an emphasis on rapid-fire communication and data delivery in the work world, we often miss the opportunity to reveal a greater journey, and illuminate lasting change for our audiences. Both the individual and company stories matter. They are equally important to ensuring lasting change. Stories that can be retold have personal power and impact.  Today, we are faced with such rapid, distributed information that is devoid of some of the most precious human elements that inform our organizations.  However, because so many of us are being asked to deliver on change in a rapidly changing world, we get to share our stories to support that process in highly effective and personal ways.

SB: Do you see confidence building as an outcome of your work with leaders?

JG:  Confidence builds as you explore the collection of stories that you hold, and the lessons you’ve learned along the way. These stories are alive - they live inside you. Once you tell them, they can inspire others to see a new way. And while many leaders can feel very separate from their teams, stories humanize them. That process builds personal confidence and organizational resilience.

SB: What have you learned from your clients?

JG: Everyone is different. It’s fascinating to take people back to a story that they’ve experienced and see if they can re-tell it. It does take space and a commitment to engage in this process, but I find that they absolutely can transform their leadership by gathering their stories and retelling them in a focused and fun way.  Heart-centered leaders adopt this practice quickly. They are not driven immediately to ROI on this process, because they see how it can transform communication and engagement in an authentic way. These leaders have an openness and willingness to change and set up the change which will most certainly impact the bottom line.

SB:  In our talk, you mentioned that a key part of change is in how you “set it up.” Tell me more about what “setting up the change” means?

JG: There is a deep dark place where we may not be conscious of our own story. Joseph Campbell says, “the hero is the one who comes to know.”  He refers to the belly of the whale, the innermost cave where the mystery lives. Think about Star Wars, when Luke, Leia, and Han Solo are in the great garbage compactor. The serpent almost takes them down – if there’s a serpent there’s often an innermost cave! This is the dark place of not knowing, and often we work very hard to avoid these difficult places in our stories, afraid we might get stuck there. But with some attention and practice, this becomes critical to your stories, and critical to the change you’re delivering. You may not think about it this way, but before social media, there was story-telling. Retellable stories were delivered to others across the world, to take them through a deep journey so the participants could gain the lesson without having taken the journey. This had far-reaching impact. There would be a mystery revealed, a journey explored and in the final moments, something became very clear and transforming. 

SB:  How is this like culture work?

JG: Companies are interested in how stories drive culture. And often this work is about finding those key stories that are hidden. They may be hidden behind the over-simplicity of testimonials, behind values that are stated on the wall but not understood on a visceral level, or hidden behind the focus on gathering ‘likes’ and not insights. Providing the right incentives to your audiences, either internal or external, can provide a treasure trove of data on what true changes you’re delivering on, and give real life to your values. It begins with a commitment to finding your stories. About 60% of my work is with the individual leader who is looking to clarify direction or engage and inspire others which supports empowerment or a culture shift. I’m interested in the stories that workers share and how that translates to their environment, trust and relationships.

SB: How do you see communication changing today in corporations?

Even with the acceleration of messaging, there is a recognition that we should return to mechanisms that offer personal relevance.  Everything is going to the cloud, yet human relevance is even more important than ever – that which is shared live, in conference halls, at lunch meetings, and in interviews. The cloud doesn’t help as much there. Deep, authentic connections become even more precious.  I lived through the boom and bust of San Francisco, while so much was changing. What stayed constant was this: what makes us individually alive and what we hold dear will remain. Our precious memories, our insights, and our lessons, well delivered, will hold our attention, and the attention of our audiences, even in difficult times.

There are so many changes coming at us from all perspectives that have social, political, technological, and economic impact.  I believe that the leader who has resilience and can adapt to and navigate these changes, while retaining the core of “what they are here to do” will thrive. Stories will be essential for them to inspire and take us into the future. 

Check out Jay’s book, Retellable: How Your Essential Stories Unlock Power and Purpose.

Conclusion

Have you ever worked for a leader who shares a story and it sounds like, “it’s always been that way here” or “this is just how things get done.”   It leaves you with a sense of resignation without much inspiration to change.  For good or bad, our stories offer a vision of how things are in our mind and we use them to interpret forward thinking actions.  Imagine if we could review our stories so that we can acknowledge our strengths and inspire others to challenge them themselves through the gift of personal story.

As you start to scan your own stories, think about what you learned and how it shapes who you are today. That is a great first step. Enjoy the journey.  

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter

June 19, 2018 - No Comments!

Does M&A Bring Welcoming Surprises?

This past week we hosted our pre-summer HRoundtable and were fortunate to have Gina Codd, VP of Global Talent Management & Development, Edwards Lifesciences, and Mark Oshima, Managing Partner of Aon’s Strategic Advisory Practice facilitate this session. 

Our HRoundtable is comprised of senior leaders in HR and meets quarterly to discuss forward looking topics and insights into relevant current challenges.  The goal is to learn from each other and think outside the box.  Gina and Mark did just that with a deep dive conversation into the world of M&A.  They were a fabulous duo looking at the work of due diligence and integrating companies, culture and people.   

Mark has extensive global experience with fascinating companies and provided the overview and the structure of a “perfect deal”.  He discussed the major phases of “doing the deal” and “making the deal work” as well as why deals fail and the criteria that drives a deal to success. There are a range of integration strategies based on the type of transaction and Mark shared insights on how the areas of Behaviors, Beliefs and Decisions intersect and ultimately shape culture.  

Gina has experience at the ground level with leading HR M&A efforts throughout her career.  Both Gina and Mark confirmed that while every deal is different, the value is in the learnings from repeatability and looking for patterns and trends.  Gina shared various dynamics and situations where a mentality of “welcoming surprises” and thinking like an air traffic controller is necessary to be agile through initial due diligence through integration.   

What is HR’s role in the M&A process? Both Mark and Gina talked about the critical role HR plays from the very beginning.  HR often enters at the integration stage but Gina shared what happens in the early stages of due diligence when companies are initially being evaluated and the initial requests for information are made.  Both Mark and Gina discussed how aspects of business acumen, critical thinking, adaptive capability, judgment and understanding cultural and strategic insight are all roles HR plays in Merger and Acquisition activity.  It dawned on me the Mergers and Acquisitions are an excellent opportunity for those in HR to get close to the business. 

I have been known when asked about HR career opportunities, to advise professionals to step out of HR into the business functions.  If M&A, business strategy and being the best HR Business Partner is a goal, then there could be nothing better than rotating out of HR to the business to gain this perspective.  In Ram Charan’s book, Talent Wins, there is a great chapter on “The New HR Career Path” that highlights specific case studies showing the power or rotations like this.   It is a two way street – for business leaders can rotate into HR for a talent immersion experience and HR moves out to the business to learn about adding value as well.   Want to add value to your business?  Consider this as a possibility to differentiate yourself and contribute at a higher level.  Although Gina is contributing her expertise from HR, she is clearly a key participant in a complex, multi-dimensional challenge with colleagues from diverse functions in order to help guide the company in its strategic business decisions.   Although Mark is a seasoned consultant in M&A he is extremely tuned in the importance culture and people play in the success of a deal.  The HRoundtable and I thank you both, Mark and Gina for sharing your wisdom in a fascinating interactive discussion which inspired us to think big.

If you are interested in learning more about joining the HRoundtable – please call Sherry at 562-594-6426 or sherry@sbcompany.net

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog

June 19, 2018 - No Comments!

Brad Younggren and the Future of Healthcare

Meet Brad Younggren, Chief Medical Officer at 98point6

Imagine realizing breakthrough solutions with a one of a kind approach to primary healthcare in a way that has never been possible before. The Seattle based firm, 98point6 is embarking on that journey. They are using AI technology paired with distinguished, hand-selected and board-certified physicians from all regions of the country to bring on-demand care, diagnosis and patient engagement to all via our smartphones.  It is evident that innovation in accessible care that enhances benefits and creates passionate employees is just a glimpse of what they are creating.  

I spoke with Brad Younggren, Chief Medical Officer, so that I might learn a bit more about their journey to transform care with affordable scalable solutions to patients young and old. 98point6 delivers personalized consultation, diagnosis and treatment by using technology and smartphones to patients in 14 states with the goals of reaching 50 states by year’s end.  

Sherry Benjamins: Brad, tell me about you?

Brad Younggen: My career into medicine began in the Army as an emergency physician in Iraq.  Early on I could see the potential of using digital technology in saving lives.  I also had a great experience in using ultrasound to transmit digital information. We saw that phones could be medical devices, which allowed us to scale beyond where technology began in telemedicine. A friend of mine connected me to the impressive leaders at 98point6 where I saw Robbie Cape’s vision for allowing physicians to do their best work in offering quality care for all patients.  It was clear that the notion of leadership and investment in the physician side of the business as well as the technology platform had tremendous value and opportunity so I joined the organization in early 2017.

SB: How are patients dealing with technology?  What needs to be done to overcome the hurdles to adoption?

BY:  Most of us have leveraged the mobile phone in ways that make it essential for daily living.  The relationship that we aim to create using mobile technology is already something people understand.  Who isn’t making texting the go-to for their communication with others? We are not seeing age as an obstacle in adopting our platform. We do have video capability but it may surprise you that people don’t naturally opt for that.  

The smartphone is at the core of how we live.  We were pleased to see broad usage across demographics. 30% are ages 25-34 and 28% are 35-44. Over 90% would use the service again and last month 42% of visits were returning users with a new condition or question.  It does not appear that the technology is getting in the way at all. The top 5 categories treated range from upper respiratory conditions, dermatology issues, gastrointestinal or digestive and ear, nose and throat issues.  

SB: What does personalization mean for your company? 

BY:  We are meeting our patients where they are comfortable with technology. There is a board-certified doctor on our back-end model which means a personalized diagnosis and virtual high-quality care for each patient.  We deliver the whole spectrum of primary care and we are seeing patients really responding to the platform.  Some wonder how a text-based service can offer quality care.  Much of what is diagnosed today by primary care physician’s in-person can be treated by our physicians via or app.  Our in-app resolution rate is consistently over 85% and in March it was 93% and April 96%.  If we are unable to meet a specific individual need, we refer patients to an in-person primary care specialist or urgent care.

SB: What attracted you to 98point6?

BY:  It was clear from my first meetings with our CEO that quality care and physicians are at the center of this solution. They are carefully selected and physicians participate in in-person strategy retreats and contribute actively to product reviews. They really get to do what they value most here and that is to deliver care and have an impact.  We now have more than 100 employees and some of the very best minds in technology, medical and regulatory.  We have a Medical Advisory Board of 18 physicians and are recognized leadres in their specialty. They guide us in a powerful way. We attract top talent because our social mission is as compelling as our technical vision. 

SB: What are you learning from this experience?

BY: There is a leadership commitment to investing in technology, but more importantly investing in technology as it intersects with medicine. Our core values serve as the foundation for our behaviors and allow us to be focused on selecting new hires that are a long-term fit. These values include a bias for action, building trust, collaborating and committing to our patients and our team members as well as relentless improvement that guides our growth and success.  These are not just words on the website, they are seen in the actions of our leaders.

SB: And what have you learned about yourself so far?

BY:  I am learning that amazing things can inspire people to do great work.  There is a drive and a collaborative culture here focused on solving complex problems and I have seen this energy and tenacity consistently here at 98point6.  Through this experience I am also improving my own capacity as a leader. 

Conclusion

To be totally transparent here, after I spoke with Brad I had to try this service.  They make it really easy for you to log in and ask your health question. The Automated Assistant even had a sense of humor! We already have personalized experiences with other virtual applications and services so this seemed natural in many ways. I did not expect that as the skeptical baby boomer I am.  All I can say is, Alexa, watch out!  Thank you Brad for introducing this innovation to our community and we will be eager to learn more about this transforming journey for all of us.   

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog