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?
Following the election last fall, our son, Erik initiated a project called "Last Day First Day." I was taken by his initiative and timing to ask us all to actively reflect through writing. Writing, creating, performing allows reflection and self-expression. Whether you voted for either candidate in the election, the process of sharing your views in a simple letter results in shifting or embracing a new mindset and yes, we are creating art in doing this simple act.
We can apply this exercise whether it is for a political, personal or business reason. Engagement means diving into new conversation so that we understand more clearly where we stand and learn from each other's perspectives. How about embracing honesty? There is honesty in our own action and words. Every day we have a chance to share an honest perspective and walk through new doors; maybe you have the first day in a new job and a last day to leave what you knew behind. You now have a new story to write. The story will emerge through your words and experience.
I am suggesting (thank you Erik) that whether you are writing to Obama or Trump, or writing to your old boss and or a new one, the power of your reflection opens you to creativity and courage that might surprise you. Julia Cameron, author of the Artists Way, suggests daily morning pages. What if you simply wrote for last and first days of any change this year. New job, new project, new boss, or new relationship. Let your creative self speak up this year. Imagine the stories you have inside you. Thank you Erik for inspiring us to action and an idea that might serve us all well over the course of this new year beyond January 20th.
Forbes recently posted top workforce trends for 2017. I was delighted to see at the top of the list that companies are focused on strengthening their candidate and employee experience. There are several ideas around this that make it so powerful and relevant.
First, a great candidate experience means first understanding the power of common courtesy. Being respectful of others matters for it reflects on who you are as a person and how your company brand is experienced. Our candidates tell us stories of prior interview experiences that make your hair curl and yes, we need more leaders to learn about being respectful of others.
Second, a great experience also means reducing the candidate's efforts to obtain feedback that matters to them. I am not saying that we need to give everyone all of the granular data but where is common courtesy in this step? We have heard stories where someone might be a contender for a cool role, interview, return for many discussions and then never hear what happened in the end, assuming there was an end to the process. This happens to external partners of the company as well. What gets in the way of closing loops? I know everyone is very busy but it matters in building real connections that do result in good business. Just like Zappos ability to connect to customers, track their questions, address challenges, every step of that journey is intended to be pleasant and respectful.
Third, relationships matter to your business. These are relationships with candidates, parents of candidates, service providers that know candidates and it goes on from there. You may not see a need for that candidate today or that service provider, but most likely you will tomorrow or next year.
How often are we creating experiences that connect everyone to what your desired intention is? Posting a job is one thing but offering an experience that turns the whole process upside down to say, "share your skills and passions with us, we want to know you" even though we don't have a job now, we want to know who you are, is powerful. By seeking connections, there is a longer lasting benefit to everyone. A great experience means a lot to those you want to work with, fans, loyal employees and even appreciative partners."
Last thought: A week ago I met Matthew Emerzian, the founder of Every Monday Matters. He created a not-for-profit organization committed to creating a new normal where individuals and organizations understand how much and why they matter. His book and education programs are taking off. He captivated a room of business leaders looking to bring "purpose" into their culture. Matthew said, "we have lost our ability to engage with each other." He shared such a simple and powerful message that we all matter and can change from the inside out. Let's look at both candidate experience and courtesy.
Are we over it yet? Half of the workers in your organizations will be under 30 and by 2025, everyone under 25 will be a digital native. They grew up with all things tech. Innovation inside our companies will come from the digital natives. So, why are we hanging on to old structures and ways of thinking about work? Do we have leaders who just don't see this coming or chose to stick to models they grew up in?
It was great to see an LA Business Journal article last week about nontraditional work in LA. There is an astounding number of workers who are self employed and data shows it is one in five or upward of one million people in this county. They work in non-traditional jobs and are part of the underground cash economy. They rule and love the entrepreneurial life.
There is a concentration in entertainment and creative however, this trend is spilling over into other sectors. We are about 50% higher with number of self employed compared to other states in the country. We are on a "fast - forward" when it comes to contingent workers, says, Manuel Pastor, professor of sociology and American studies at USC.
Remember our story about the creative economy that Otis College of Art and Design created? Their 2015 report spoke about 166,000 non-employee arrangements and now we see that number increasing rapidly. The government agencies will eventually have to deal with this new reality. It is not going away anytime soon.
Great talent is all over this -they don't need the structures of legacy systems. They want to work in collaborative networks where skills matter. Our clients are willing to pay for the skills they need, however, they are still hanging on to old models. Now, we just need our Hiring Managers to get over it and think more about work, the plan to get things done, how to use technology and ensure that everyone understands the respected cultures in their network. I know that is not easy.
What are the skills that will allow us to let go of controls that used to work but don't now?
Let's open up the conversations so that we can get over it and move forward.