All Posts in Employee Engagement
Charles Antis, CEO of Antis Roofing invited an impressive group of OC leaders to an event yesterday (in their amazing Irvine headquarters) to learn from an accomplished and inspiring Story Teller. Charles models the power of story and purpose in big ways for all of us. He generously hosted Jay Golden, Author, story coach and storyteller who showed us how to tap into our own stories so that they are retellable and impactful.
It only takes three minutes and within a very short time we were practicing our stories with each other. Jay says, that "the ability to find, shape and share your own story - told one to one and one to many - is one of your greatest assets as a leader."
What is a retellable story? Jay's new book introduces concept using a simple framework. You would think that we know how to do this. Not really. I learned it can be simple and yet powerful in creating connection quickly. It does start with us. Our stories reveal a lesson that helps inform and inspire others.
At this time of year, we often retell stories at family gatherings or create new experiences that become future stories. It is not just simply a beginning, middle and end process. There is more to it and I recommend getting Jay's book to dive into this for yourself and your team.
Stories matter today. The human connection we make with a memorable personal story takes our relationships and engagement with others to a different level. This takes us beyond the noise and data flying at us every day. I can see the direct link of story to insight and creativity. I am going to try this out. Jay says in his book, "The twists and turns of the story draws us in, gives form to the journey and enables us to gain new understanding. The teller is the guide to that understanding."
The concepts fascinate me and I am going to reflect on the stories that have been meaningful for me so that I may share them, plant some seeds and see how they grow. Any one who references Joseph Campbell is my hero, Jay closes his book with a quote from Joseph, "The hero is the one that comes to know." Bravo.
Some people think that dramatic improvement in robotics and AI puts us on the road to a jobless future. MIT researchers Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee say we are in the "second machine age." It is true that many jobs will be at risk of being automated and it is happening right now. It is true the workplace is transforming. However, the job market does not show that robots are on the rise yet. Our clients share that they see a shortage of skilled folks and not a labor surplus. If automation to replace humans was really impacting us now, we might see more job turnover. One study written by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation says that "levels of job churn are at historic lows."
We can't deny huge changes in work, workers and the workplace. I respect what exists today and look forward to having the influence to change everything. This sculpture is in the harbor in Barcelona, called Miraestels. I was just there and loved this inspiring structure - he is holding a hidden star behind and he seems to pose a question, and imagines a possibility yet he is awaiting a response.
We in the people business don't have to wait for a response.
To get at some of the workplace questions, we hosted Kevin Mulcahy, author of the Future Workplace Experience and Dean Carter, head of HR and Shared Services for Patagonia on October 3rd with 100 senior executives to ask questions and learn of their perspective on change.
One message was, "The strongest organizations today are learning machines." That does not mean robots that learn, it means humans learning to leverage technology and be agile in the face of huge change.
There is a focus on productivity (app-ification) for almost everything, from performance, to how you give feedback, understand your talent and worker expectations as well as profiling success. The majority of our attendees, who are senior executives in HR or Talent said that digital analytics and workforce analytics is the next big thing for them. Data is king. But there was recognition that having a strategy and clear assumptions about change needed is essential.
Kevin Mulcahy says, "Pick your trends." Make the case for change and articulate the assumptions around this before you leap ahead with analytics or how you want to transform the workplace.
There was also discussion about Recruiting and the automation that will allow greater efficiency and the ability to build eco-systems of talent that are aligned with the organizations values, purpose and career paths. Dean Carter talked about building communities of people who might want to work with Patagonia but the company or individual may not be ready. His company curates conversations with talent that shares their values and purpose driven culture. He urged us all to think broadly about ongoing and continuous conversations with talent and why having a clear and compelling employer brand is critically important to answer the "why work here" question.
Are you a workplace activist? You need to be...the robot will not play that role at all. We have the opportunity in the people business to be the catalyst for change and to speak boldly about the big bets for the future and what can be started now. Go to it.
There was a fascinating article in the Opinion Section of the Wall Street today that highlights Barbara Oakley, a Professor at Oakland University, Michigan and her book called Mindshift. It is a deep dive into the science and practice of learning. Her personal story truly demonstrates a multi-faceted journey in learning. We place obstacles in our way when confronted with new learning challenges. I can say that from personal experience. However, according to Professor Oakley, this holds us back from new outlooks.
I was taken by the notion of learning something new as a workout to the centers of the brain that are most affected by aging. That was not a new notion but hit home for sure.
What really captivated my imagination was the idea of learning the unexpected. Do we allow ourselves the vulnerability to ask, "Who do we want to become in our work and what needs to be explored in this life?" Not often enough. It is consuming to just respond to everyday challenges that are right in front of us let alone think out into what we want for our future self.
I attended a workshop a few weeks ago in San Francisco, facilitated by my favorite corporate poet and philosopher, David Whyte. He is working with executives to help them be "Half a Shade Braver" (his new topic and CD) and be vulnerable and risk yourself in leadership. That often means surrendering to the unknown and reflecting on key questions that we have inside of us that will patiently wait for us to answer. Those questions are not going away, says David Whyte.
The mindshift that Professor Oakley speaks of had me reflecting on the workshop with David. The question that I want to ask is, "what parts of me have I not spoken of or developed yet in my work?" What are the possibilities? It is an exciting time at any age to hold the possibilities in your hands and learn how to learn.
KPCC hosted the first event of three this past Sunday called UNHEARD LA. It is about the stories where we live. There were ten fascinating people that told their story to an auditorium of 400 people at Whittier college on this first night of the series. It just so happens that one of those people was our son, Erik Benjamins. The stories were incredible and so diverse and offered an inside view of living in Los Angeles. It truly highlighted what many of us love about LA - the multicultural community and culture, openness, along with stories of opportunity and possibility. The storytellers were from very different backgrounds and experiences for sure and KPCC did their magic in producing a rich introspective into people where we live.
So our son, Erik shared his story about a recent successful book project. His book is called Last Day First Day and he shares the process of gathering the letters from 186 individuals from all over the world and this country so that they could write to former President Obama and incoming President Trump on what they wanted to say to each on their last or first day.
I really appreciated that Erik talked about writing as a practice like going to the gym. Through this project he realized so many of us are hesitant to or chose not to invest in this practice for ourselves. Maybe it is easier to text these days. In this exercise others were asked to express thoughts in word, image, drawing or whatever to write this letter to our outgoing and incoming Presidents on January 20th.
I like the idea that writing is a personal and even intimate practice and there are so many rich ways to express our thoughts and vulnerabilities. The individuals that told their stories were vulnerable, honest and inspiring. They expressed an optimism and possibility even in light of some that had great adversity to deal with. Thank you KPCC for bringing the voices of LA to our community and thank you Erik for encouraging us to write and start new conversations.
We launched our second HRoundtable this past week with the help of my long-time friend and wonderful consultant, business owner Sonya Kemp. Sonya believes in the notion that giving to others and allowing a group to learn from each other strengthens the outcome for everyone. Adam Grant talks about this in his giving book, "Give and Take." We have eight wonderful managers in this group from premier companies and they are already demonstrating their passion to give to each other and learn.
They are energized to be sitting at the table with their peers from other companies and industries. The range of perspectives is broad and fascinating. They will meet quarterly to focus on forward looking ideas in order to build their influence as new managers and strengthen their strategic points of view.
The idea of a peer learning group is not new. We have seen many models like this across the executive suite and beyond into other functional areas. What is exciting about this group and our HRoundtable in general is that we build the notion of giving from the start and it becomes the norm for the group. People carry it forward in their interactions and ultimately this improves the process and how they contribute overall. The bar is raised on who fits in the group and how they will build enriched networks and collaborate too.
It dawned on me that the HRoundtable that Sonya is now leading is embracing the four attributes that contribute to being a giver. As Adam Grant writes about this in his book he states that "givers rise to the top." The have a unique approach that includes; networking, collaborating, evaluating and influencing. Adam also explores how givers, takers and matchers build networks. It is quite different. The taker might be described as a self promoter or self absorbed. The giver looks at the world in abundance terms and in generosity. Givers gain. Thank you Sonya for being a part of this newly formed group and giving your generous spirit and experiences to this team.
I had the opportunity to meet an MBA class from the Talent Management program this past week at Pepperdine Malibu campus. Apparently this is a new one year MBA program within the Graziadio Business School that is focused on talent management. The students come with experience in HR. They have an impressive curiosity and point of view around talent and what it takes to engage people today. They are engaged and enthusiastic about the new world of work.
They are redefining success for themselves and no doubt will challenge the status quo. That is refreshing. If you have not met any of the Pepperdine grads - take the time to do so! Some are unconventional, however, and that is what was exciting.
Professor Jack Gregg asked me to speak to the class and knowing Jack for so many years and respecting his passion for learning, I accepted and really enjoyed the experience. We discussed the "New Take on Talent" and how that is playing out in work, workers and the workplace of the future. Specifically I shared perspective and data on engagement and how that is changing with many driving forces in the business and with what talent wants now. I shared real examples of what we are seeing in progressive organizations and how the employee experience is driving change.
They asked great questions and were energized with our discussion about where new work is happening in the next few years and how they can redefine that for themselves.
Following the presentation several students introduced themselves and expressed interest in internships for the summer. This is part of the requirement for their graduation. What a great way to meet new grads with new ideas. Upon returning to my office later that day (yes, it was a long drive) there were many linkedin requests from the students. They were personalized and thoughtful. Congrats to them for using the concept of "tailoring" your message to a new connection. Check out this program. More important is to meet an MBA or graduating student who expresses interest in talent and talent managing. They have redefined success and we can all learn from this.
Our brain has not kept up with society. That was the opening remark from our special guest, Dan Radecki, PhD for the first HRoundtable of 2017. Dan is, Chief Scientific Officer at the Academy of Brain-based leadership and Executive Director of R&D at Allergan. He met with us to share how teams thrive but he first set the foundation for how our brain works. It was interesting and quite scary to hear that the unconscious brain makes 99% of our decisions. We talked about the prefrontal cortex and it's braking system. Then there is the dark side or lower brain, the amygdala, that responds to fear and many of our emotions.
Dan brought such rich examples of the research being done in brain science and the application to neuroleadership. We all have a better understanding of how brain function helps leaders get the results they want for the business, themselves and for their teams. It also shows how we get in our own way to desired results.
We had an inside look on how and why we behave the way we do following thousands of years of slow brain evolution and basic fundamentals on how we are hard wired as humans. He introduced the psychological model that is used as a tool (S.A.F.E.T.Y.) to understand human motivation. The tool allows you to see that the brains seeks; security, autonomy, fairness, esteem, trust and your own unique perspectives.
In order to experience this model we were able to participate in an assessment that facilitated a discussion about how we act and how the conscious and subconscious regions of the brain operate. A group seeks psychological safety and this tool provides a language to understand each other.
Bottom line - people want to come to work and feel safe. They want to feel that others care and will support them. This all fits with the engagement discussion many of our HR colleagues and CEO's are having about what workers want today.
Thank you Dan for a lively, very open and candid discussion of how we think and the power of this information for our managers and future leaders. Maybe our brain will start catching up with social change after all.
I read today that Brenda Barnes, former CEO of Sara Lee Corporation and also 22 years at Pepsi, passed away at too young an age. In 1997, she had the courage to make personal choices that many did not understand at the time and created quite a stir for "resigning corporate America" to spend time with her children and focus on family. It prompted a discussion about whether women can have it all - family and career.
I am hopeful that we are shifting from the "have it all" conversation to "doing it all." Listening to her daughter on NPR this morning made me think about the doing it all with the support of enlightened leaders and CEO's that get it. This happens to be a month of hearing from women, men and diverse populations that they care about issues that impact them and this community.
Women need to work and want to do good work as well as care for their family. Why aren't more companies who say they care about bringing women into their organizations and developing them, stepping up to policies that support them? I know a lot of good things are happening and I plan to ask more about what they are and write about it.
Two observations here:
First, I respect and admire our team here at S. Benjamins & Co. We are fortunate to have amazing women who have designed blended life styles with family as priority and work (that we are proud of) that is meaningful and making lives better. They inspire me and they deliver incredible quality work in a flexible yet highly accountable environment.
Second, I had the opportunity to meet the new head of HR, Legal and Finance at Patagonia two weeks ago. They embrace family in a way I have just not seen and it was incredibly refreshing. From the day care center to the kitchen in the morning filled with parents and kids before kicking off the day and learning of their family supporting policies, and commitment to the environment, inspired me beyond words. I learned that 100% of their new mothers return to work because they are supported in such unique ways to be successful. They believe in family in their words and actions. A great outcome is their tremendous passion for their work, succession and loyalty. They take work life culture to a new level and their commitment to make the world better is serious.
If we want women and men to put family front and center (as I imagine you would want for yourself) then our practices must change. What is one step you can take to express your thoughts on this and start a new conversation with senior leaders and listen to what your workers value?