All Posts in Newsletter

July 8, 2019 - No Comments!

Newsletter story for July 2019 – Game Changers – Meet Brian Wilkerson, Managing Partner, hrQ.

Sherry:  What led you to the business of helping companies improve performance? 

Brian: I started in the non-profit world and was attracted early on to the concepts of servant leadership.  I learned quickly after joining Anderson Consulting that those principles apply to the corporate world as well.  A deeper insight into the client world resulted in me helping others solve complex and even crisis driven projects.  It was rewarding and important work and I enjoyed it.  My work in strategic planning, talent strategy and leveraging technology was frankly before we had labels for this kind of forward looking analytical consulting.

SB: What attracted you to then start your own business after the corporate experience? 

Brian:  It started early on for my grandfather emigrated here from Italy and he had his own business.  I had an early exposure to what that meant and felt it was potentially a path for me as well.

SB:  What is your perspective on the workforce and workplace today?

Brian:  We have change coming at us from so many angles.  I understand the complexity of this and how dealing with it holistically is a challenge.   There are multiple generations that have driven change.  There are clear differences in what we value and I observe that many companies are ignoring this element.  Company structures, products, services and how we think about work and relationships with talent has changed in huge ways.  In 2008, following the recession, we saw a shift in mindset and actions that reflected a clear hesitation to grow in the same ways as before.  The range of talent options we have today from full time, to part time and freelance or gig is just a few ways to look at the availability of talent. Organizations have not figured out a systematic way to manage through those options.

SB: Do you think your clients are overwhelmed or facing these changes head on?

Brian: I think our clients are overwhelmed by the sheer pace of change and what they want to change.  It is a challenge to make progress in that kind of environment.  It results in a lack of time to focus on strategy.

SB: What can be done to help clients lead change?

Brian:It is about helping clients re-prioritize and think about the critical things.  When I work with my clients and we go through that process and there is a realization that it may shift their focus.  We can then create a cohesive roadmap and they feel confident in executing more efficiently.

SB: What are you seeing when working with companies today?

Brian:There are four areas that seem to cover the challenges we see today.   The first one is to identify and manage against key analytics that link to business goals.  Dashboards provide a foundation but are not sufficient to provide dynamic insight and concrete linkages between people and business results – more complex analytics are needed to understanding the business issues and the value add work is creating a line of sight to progress and results.

The second one is helping clients shift the way they think about talent. It is time to think about customer and talent relationships in the same way.  We know everything about the ideal customer profile. It is time to do the same thing with talent. Our talent today is less tolerant of bureaucracy and corporate politics and works in a new way.  Take the time to understand them and personalize your approach.

Our best companies have been linking employment brand to brand management. It is all part of the value proposition for the organization.  Lastly, it is time to upgrade the skills of people in HR.  Our more progressive clients are investing in top tier talent and equally investing in developing a deeper bench for HR.

SB:  Engagement studies reports over 80% of workers are less engaged than we need them to be.  What is your take on this?

Brian:  Work needs to be more like life.  Those that seamlessly integrate both are using technology, flexible work models and creative adaptation so that work and home needs are met.

It is also important to find out what motivates and engages others – great people bring their passion to work. Let’s take the time to understand what that is for each worker.  Managers are not often skilled in these conversations or take the time to learn and really know their people.  How are we preparing managers to be better?  I have seen significant improvement in engagement when investing in developing managers to manage in this unpredictable and fast moving environment.

In order to learn more about hrQ and their perspective on the world of work, check out their site.


Thank you Brian for sharing your perspective on the challenges you see your clients tackling today and how you are working with them to accelerate their people strategy.

I am also seeing that the most forward looking companies are proactive in adapting and changing to this workforce.  It takes different approaches for sure.  One thing I do know, is that we need more of these!

Competitive advantage today is about our people and how quickly we can prepare them with new skills and capabilities.  Continuous learning is the new edge.  How are you creating your own competitive edge?  Let us know and we would like to highlight you and share with others in our news stories.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Employee Engagement, Newsletter

July 8, 2019 - No Comments!

Newsletter July 2019 – The Next Talent Wave – Wanted: 600 Women to Govern California Companies – Kate Kjeell, TalentWell

Quietly last year Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill 826 requiring publicly held companies based in California to have a minimum of one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019. From there, women’s representation will increase. By the end of July 2021, companies must have at least two women on boards of five members and at least three women on boards with six or more.

According to the Los Angeles Times, this means over 600 women will be needed just for the boards of the largest publicly traded companies in California, not to mention smaller companies. If this is expanded across the nation, this would translate to over 3,000 women needed by 2021 to balance the board rooms across the country in the Russell 3000 companies.

While many forward-thinking companies recognize the glaring need for gender parity in the board room, California companies should actively attract this talent as other companies across the country are sure to follow suit.

Finding, attracting and hiring your next talented board member, who also happens to be a woman, should be part of your company strategy. This should not be a haphazard approach but a planful, proactive process.  Below are four steps that will guide any board of director search.

  1. Align your board

As with many senior level searches, multiple stakeholders weighing in on the position, requirements and candidate profile often lead to disparate opinions.  Success depends on doing the upfront work to align all the members of a hiring team, in this case your BOD.

To facilitate consensus, ask the following questions prior to engaging with candidates:

  • What is the role of this individual?
  • What background is needed to successfully accomplish this?
  • What qualities have made other board members successful in the past?
  • Where do we think we might find this person? What companies or industries are our targets?

This information should drive a candidate profile that is based on the work to be done and background needed, versus a gut-feel that a certain individual would fit.  This will also help encourage diversity when subjective assessment is replaced with objective evaluation based on agreed upon criteria.

  1. Define your value proposition

Don’t overlook defining your value proposition; that is what your company offers a new board member in terms of impactful initiatives as well as financial compensation.

With the certain increase in demand for savvy female board members, companies need to not only assess candidates but provide a compelling story for why join their board.  What are the key initiatives, growth opportunities and board dynamics that would be exciting to a new member? Make sure your board is united in their view of this opportunity and value proposition. In this tight employment market, competition for top talent extends to the board level.  Come armed with a unique and exciting message that is tailored to engage female board members.

In addition, make sure the key leaders in your organization have a strong social media presence that speaks to their personal brand.  Most passive talent will research your board and leadership team prior to deciding if they are interested in having a conversation.  How do your senior leaders show up on the internet? Are their LinkedIn profiles bare bones or non-existent?   A weak social media presence is a red flag for top talent and can prevent your organization from having a preliminary conversation with highly sought after board candidates.

  1. Leverage your network

Networking and referrals have always been the best source of quality candidates and that has never been truer than at the board level. Chances are your senior leadership and board members have a strong network of talented individuals.  This is the holy grail for board searches.  Tap into this pool of talent using your aligned profile (step one) and value proposition (step two).

Don’t accept that your board and executives “can’t think of anyone.”  Our experience shows that some prompted discussion around where this person might be, target companies, industries and shared connections can surface a nice slate of potential candidates.  “I can’t think of anyone” quickly turns into, “Let me call her and make an introduction.”

  1. Build a pipeline of talent

For many the reality of hiring female board members has just hit them.  Now what?  Smart companies have started to build a pipeline of talented women executives for current and future board positions.  CEOs and other leaders in California should be engaging and wooing top talent for all of their senior positions, including board members.  If you are not actively building a talent pipeline, you are not preparing for the future.  As Benjamin Franklin aptly said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

The statistics are clear on the supply and demand of female board members.  That alone should prompt action to address both immediate and long-term talent needs. But the numbers are not the only reason to identify, attract and engage with female board members. A diverse board is the right business strategy and leads to better decision making and ultimately higher profits. What company wouldn’t want that?

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter, Recruiting

July 8, 2019 - No Comments!

Interview with Soren Kaplan – Game Changer

Our interviews this month are with “game changers” and my discussion with Soren Kaplan, best-selling author, innovator, consultant and professor had me reflecting on what it means to innovate and disrupt the status quo.  I learned that Soren is a role model for rewriting the rules, challenging our assumptions and relentlessly driving change.

Soren knows this space well. He has been leading disruptive innovation, culture, and business model innovation for many years.  Based in Silicon Valley, Soren works with both fascinating Fortune 1000 firms and technology start-ups.   He is the author of two books on Culture and Innovation and an Affiliate at the Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business. He writes for Fast Company and Inc. Magazine and he’s also the founder of Innovation Point and upBOARD.

We discussed the illusive formula for innovation.  It takes time and focus to shift a culture and employee behavior to drive change and get greater innovation.   Soren has a refreshing take on this- in his view, for transformation happens in big small and unpredictable ways.  Few leaders focus on the levers that directly influence innovation however, Soren shares insight on how all of us can design our own invisible advantage.

Sherry:   Tell me about your work at Innovation Point?

Soren:  Early in my career I led the internal strategy and innovation group at Hewlett-Packard (HP) during the roaring 1990’s in Silicon Valley.  I have worked with Fortune 1000 companies and technology start-ups with the goal of guiding leaders in creating cultures that support innovation.  I would say that 80% of companies place innovation as a top priority.

Sherry:  What is the invisible advantage?

Soren: The only defensible competitive advantage resides underneath the products, services, business processes, technologies, and business models we deliver to the world. It’s generally invisible to your competitors, your partners, and even your own employees. It’s your culture.

CEO’s want to clarify what innovation means for them.  Is this a big or little challenge?   Some are thinking a technology platform, structure, process or system change.  All of this impacts culture.  It would be great if we had the formula for gaining competitive advantage through your culture but it is a combination of art and best practice.  I share more about this in my book and it is true that every organization has the power to design their innovation culture.

Sherry:  Check out Soren’s book, The Invisible Advantage

Sherry: What are you learning since writing the Leapfrogging best seller and The Invisible Advantage?

Soren: I am seeing the red flags which indicate a desire for innovation or growth yet it starts with a new business model and entirely new time horizon for change.  It used to be we could create a plan with a long term time line.  Today we are looking at one to two years at most. Our clients are also balancing the need for growth and big change with the need to invest in new stuff while experimenting in smaller ways in order to solve customer problems now.

Sherry:  What surprises you today in your work on innovation?

Soren:In the past year and half we are seeing every industry undergoing disruption. We have converging technologies, AI, Block chain, robotics and more and we are all impacted by these changes.  It forces an expanded mindset and new skill set in dealing with the breadth and depth of this ecosystem that is created to help navigate new technologies.   Business platforms change the way we work and serve our clients.  LinkedIn has changed recruiting.  Airbnb has disrupted our experiences in the sharing economy.

Sherry:  What will it take to lead in this new ecosystem of internal and external markets?

Soren:Future leaders will live with adapted strategies vs. long term planning.  They will have to consider the personality of the organization.  External viewpoints and collaboration across a network of resources will be required.  Leaders will be comfortable with rapid experimentation and they will see failure as a part of the new learning mindset.  Also, every organization will unlock innovation culture in its own way.

Sherry: What are forward looking companies taking action on as they build innovation into their culture?

 Soren:  Companies will embrace “shark tank” like sessions.  Hackathons and learning experiences will happen more frequently on the inside.  Culture will shift because people have these new experiences, then make assumptions about behaviors which get shared across the organization.  We will also work across the world and in virtual models to support innovation which really means creating a culture that links professional development with value creation.

Sherry:  We see you are part of the faculty on the Innovation segment of the Leadership InSITE program that Ian Ziskin leads.  What would you like the attendees' takeaway to be?

Soren:  At the end of the day that I facilitate, which is focused on innovation and strategy, I would like the participant to have an understanding of what innovation means for them and their organization.  They will know how to define this and identify the skill sets needed to support idea generation and new thinking in their companies.


There could not be a better time to let go of the old ways of doing things and embrace something new.  Everything around us is changing, so why not jump in.

The stakes are too high to stay in place.   Soren reminds us that innovation and change can occur incrementally and be as simple as process improvements or enhancing a customer interaction.  Since we really want everyone innovating, the steps forward can start simple and in the line of sight for each of us.   It also means we are learning.  And, learning is truly the new “competitive advantage” as our work world transforms and nudges us forward.

Kelly Palmer and David Blake, in their new book, The Expertise Economysee that companies play a huge role in shaping our future of learning.  If we want to stay in the game or get ahead of it, we will have to harness innovation and learning in entirely new ways.  Our next issue will tackle how CEO’s are driving for learning cultures and seeing the pay – off.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter

December 11, 2018 - No Comments!

My favorite books to read in the coming year by Sherry Benjamins

We face confusing, changing social and business forces.  It is a challenge to stay grounded.  Here are some of my favorites for thoughtful consideration and coping.  Are you interested in inspiration for the new year? Look at these options and enjoy.

  • “Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True belonging & Courage to Stand Alone” by Brene’ Brown. This is one of her best books and she challenges what we know and think about true belonging in communities, companies and culture.  Brene’ says we are going through a crisis of disconnection, and in this book she introduces four practices of true belonging.  It is the advanced discussion of authenticity she writes about in earlier books.   Teach your kids these practices.
  • “The Bell and the Blackbird” by David Whyte– Okay those of you that know me well realize I admire and follow the work of David Whyte.He is a poet and corporate philosopher. His other books are equally thought provoking and are heart felt.  His “Crossing the Unknown Sea” is about reuniting the imagination with our day to day work.  His poetry and writing helps you connect to what is important.  One of my colleagues from early career life introduce me to David Whyte and it was life-changing then and remains an inspiration for the importance of finding our path or paths many times in our life.
  • “Rebel Talent: Why it Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life”by Francesca Gino, Harvard Professor and award-winning researcher – I really appreciated the stories that illustrate a rebellious approach at work that leads to great advances. The rebel has power and isn’t simply about breaking the rules.  Share this book with your team and take one chapter at a time to explore real life case studies.
  • “Pivot: The only Move that Matters in Your Life is Your Next One” by Jenny Blake.  If it is time to start thinking of your next move, this is the book to read.  Jenny talks about the pivot and how we shift to stay agile, whether you are making a change or not. This is very practical and she shares lots of great online tools.
  • The Knowledge Project Podcast by Shane Parrish( My favorite blog and podcast.  There is a wealth of information each week and Shane gives us ideas, methods, and mental models that expand our thinking aimed at living deliberately.  He hosts podcasts with fascinating people, writes articles and newsletter and you can join his community to share ideas with others. It is my go to place each week to feed my curiosity and desire for learning.

Enjoy your adventures into the New Year and be courageous.  David Whyte says that courage is the measure of our “heartfelt participation with life and with another, with a community, and our work.”

I used to have trepidation about the first month of the year.  As a business owner, it was always like starting over each January.  Now, I have entirely reframed so that it is the time to let go of things that don’t work and reach out to accept something new.  Explore what a new year means to you and often you find out what you already know and trust about your future.   We wish you the best holiday season and a peaceful Happy New Year!

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter

December 11, 2018 - No Comments!

SBC Newsletter: Building Resilience for 2019 – Learning from Jeremy Hunter

We held our end of year HRoundtable session this week with an amazing group of leaders and a very special guest facilitator.  Jeremy Hunter is a long-time friend.  He is Associate Professor of Practiceand Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Instituteat the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.We were able to snag him from his teaching, speaking and coaching of senior leaders and teams to facilitate a conversation with our group on Resilience and Adapting to Challenges.

 Why this matters so much now

It mattered to our HRoundtable, comprised of 15 top HR leaders and for this session their bosses.  They wanted to talk about how they can build capacity for more positive energy and resilience to face constant and unexpected challenges. They also wanted to learn about where the human aspect of our work is going in light of AI, machine learning and robotics.  We talked about specific methods to move from mindless reaction to clear intention and ultimately effective action.

The essential skills we never learned in school

Jeremy states that while school teaches us to think, it doesn’t teach us to see. Yet, executives need clear perception in an intensely changing world to be able to effectively adapt to it. Without these tools leaders will revert to being reactive, overwhelmed with work and settling with unwanted results.

No one ever taught us to train our mind to transform our results.  It reminds me of the Keith Yamashita book, Unstuck. He writes about change and how getting stuck is just part of life.  In Keith’s change model he suggests that we must perceive the change before we engage in it.  Jeremy started us with an exercise on seeing an image and how each of us has different perceptions based on unconscious biases.  We discussed how our immediate experience is in part a unique construction based on our past, our cultural assumptions, our biological condition, and our emotional state.   Learning to see how these non-conscious forces limit our perceptions, actions and results is the necessary skill leaders need to move forward and thrive.

We have to master both the inner and outer games.

We excel at the outer game.  We historically spend a lot of our time in the external game skilling up in strategy, communications, management and more. We have perfected the learning in this area with MBA courses, how-to workshops and more.  The inner game is all about self-awareness, self-management and self-transformation. Much less time is spent on building these skills.  Yet, they are key to effectively meeting quickly changing conditions.  With over 16 year’s experience Jeremy created and teaches The Executive Mind, a series of demanding and transformative executive education courses dedicated to Drucker’s assertion that “You cannot manage other people unless you manage you first.” This is the essence of inner game.

How effective are you at managing yourself?

Managing ourselves means managing our nervous system. He introduced the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the nervous system. One branch raises our adrenaline and energy level while the other slows us down to relaxation.  When kept in balance, you can engage, connect, adapt.  When energy shifts too high, we experience a frenetic sense of scatteredness, rigidity and irritability, and an inability to relax.  In extreme cases, we withdraw, isolate and experience low energy like depression or lethargy.  Where are you most of the week?  Are you engaged and connected or running in overdrive to meet unrelenting demands and tapped out of personal energy?  Where are you your best self?

I see in the HRoundtable members a desire to connect and learn from each other. They do have huge plates of work and responsibility so finding the balance is a struggle at times.  I guess what keeps me committed to the HRoundtable (now 15 years+) is that I curate opportunities for self-awareness, learning and connection.  That is what matters and where we experience positive impact and wellbeing.

What is one method for building resilience?

We all have resources to call on in times of stress. Resources bring balance to the nervous system.  Jeremy suggests that a resource can be a positive experience you reflect on, a treasured place you enjoy or even a beloved pet.  He had us all explore three resources that help us feel strong, loved and safe. Then we detailed one resource and in doing so, we talked about how that experience positively and immediately impacted our breathing, sense of calm or muscle tension.

You could sense the calm and the energy shift in our group within ten minutes. That was pretty powerful – just imagine if we took a few moments each day to reflect on a positive resource and allowed us all to breathe.  I can’t help but imagine that this builds the capacity to stay calm and steady when things are not?  The new norm is the opposite of steady.

If you would like to learn more about building your own and leaders capacity for change or resilience, reach out to Jeremy Hunter. His site is

More about Jeremy


Jeremy is Associate Professor of Practiceand the Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Instituteat the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.   His work redefines productivity by cultivating quality of mind.  He graduated with a PhD from University of Chicago in Human Development and from the Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government with a Master’s in Public Policy.  His work is also deeply informed by more than twenty years' experience with Asian contemplative practices.

Jeremy draws on the work of management philosopher Peter Drucker, who believed that a healthy society rested on good management.  He understood that managing oneself was the first and most essential management challenge. After all, we can’t manage anything well without first managing ourselves.

Jeremy sees life as an ongoing series of moments. How present we are for these moments determines our quality of life and the quality of our results. When we are scattered and unfocused our life becomes stressed and frenetic. “In the midst of a multitasking we react to our emotions. Misguided actions then lead to unwanted and wasteful personal and professional results. When we live with greater attention and presence we act more deliberately, prudently, and effectively. Life starts to work as it should. In short, we find peace amidst the chaos, “ says Jeremy.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter

October 17, 2018 - No Comments!

The Exponential Healthcare Conversation – Conference hosted by Chris Krusiewicz

Last week I was fortunate to attend a conference hosted by Chris Krusiewicz, VP Burnham Benefits.  The presentations were focused on the future.  The goal of this session was to help business leader’s move from being “linear thinkers” to being “exponential thinkers.” He brought impressive thought leaders together to help us learn about the trajectory of change in healthcare being driven by artificial intelligence, genomics to block chain.  

Chris set the tone for the conference by introducing us to the 6D’s of exponential growth.  This term exponential growth is often associated with Ray Kurzweil, an expert in artificial intelligence and leader at Google.  Inc. Magazine ranked him #8 among the most fascinating entrepreneurs in the US today.   Kurzweil says that as humans, we are biased to think in a linear fashion.  As builders of new businesses, we need to think exponentially.  Chris introduced us to the 6 D’s of Kurzweil’s model which outlines the stages of growth we are going through. It starts with “digitized, deceptive, and disruptive” in technology advances thus far.  Each of these technologies, “dematerialized, demonetized and democratized” access to services in a non-liner way, states Chris. 

The concept is really that we should get ready to take the next wave of change.  With the personalization of healthcare and technologies that simplify our patient experience, we can imagine the wave that is coming.  We learned from guest speakers about revolutionizing the patient care experience.  There was a topic on transforming care with machine learning.  Kaiser Permanente’s Lead Data Scientist shared how big data is empowering them to leap ahead in virtual care and predictive models that boggle the mind.

It was refreshing to be with business leaders who are ready to take the next wave and embrace exponential thinking in healthcare. We appreciate your forward thinking ideas and passion for staying connected.  If you want to learn more about future programs – check out

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter, Uncategorized

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.


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

August 5, 2018 - No Comments!

The Shifting Power Base with Employer & Candidate – Kate Kjeell

By Kate Kjeell

“Why do you want this job?” That was the ubiquitous interview question a decade ago.  Candidates needed to demonstrate their interest and prove themselves worthy of consideration.  

The question that now needs to be answered is “Why should I take this job?” and it is the candidate that is doing the asking.

You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist to know that times have changed. We are collectively coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the great recession and nearing full employment.  In addition, technology, social media and access to crowd sourced information on hiring managers, companies and job openings have shifted the power to the consumer, in this case the candidate.

No longer can any of us sit back with the mentality “if we post it, they will come.”  Job opportunities need to be marketed just like products and services, and candidates need to be treated like your customers.  They expect to be wooed and presented with a compelling value proposition.

This shift in power extends all through the hiring process even to negotiations around compensation.  In many states, as in California, it is now illegal to ask about current or prior compensation.  The candidate is entitled to know the compensation range without divulging any information other than their expectations.

To attract great talent, progressive companies are already changing their approach to talent.  The early adopters will win.  It is not too late to shift your strategy.

Here are four things you might want to think about:

  • Value Proposition: What is the value proposition your company offers? Can everyone involved in the hiring process articulate that in a few concise sentences?  A clear message that authentically engages the individual sees an  improved response rates with higher quality passive candidates.  
  • Marketing Message: What is exciting about this particular job? What will this candidate get to do in the first year?  Call us at SBC to learn how we market a role with a very unique and tailored micro-site.  Our goal is to leave the job description as an artifact of the past and create a forward looking, digital friendly and compelling  story so that ideal candidates want to learn more.  Trust me – it works!
  • Market Savvy Total Rewards: How does your company create total rewards offerings that match up with the market? In this competitive market and with more access to compensation information, candidates are savvy.  Be prepared with an understanding of what the candidate wants balanced with your best thinking on an attractive offer.  Act quickly.  We are seeing more candidates with competitive offers than ever before. 
  • Back-Up Plans: What is my back-up plan to fill this position?  Based on all the factors outlined candidates do have multiple offers.  This leads to offers that may be declined or your need to explore a counter-offer.  Be prepared to engage with multiple candidates so that you have alternatives in this tight talent market. 

The rules of the hiring game are ever changing.  You have the opportunity to adapt and excel in successful hiring.  It will take some strategy, selling and astute selection.  Those of you adapting will thrive while seeing others go the way of Blockbuster Video, Polaroid or Tower Records.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter