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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 www.exponential.healthcare

https://www.linkedin.com/in/chriskrusiewicz/

Published by: Corey Kachigan 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: Corey Kachigan 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

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

August 5, 2018 - No Comments!

A Culture Story – Meet Bilal Khan, CEO of New World Medical

It is rare to meet a CEO who invests as much in people as he does in products. Bilal Khan, CEO of New World Medical is on a mission to deliver innovative solutions in vision to benefit the global community. As a matter of fact, one of their key values is to Benefit Humanity. The company works to achieve this lofty goal by developing, manufacturing, and marketing cutting-edge medical devices intended to alleviate the suffering of glaucoma patients around the world. 

We had the honor of meeting Bilal and his senior team last year to help them answer the question: “As we scale our efforts to Benefit Humanity, how can we maintain and enhance our mission-driven culture?”  Only an enlightened and open leader asks this kind of question as he embraces growth and greater impact in the world.  I was eager to catch up with Bilal to see how they are doing.

Sherry Benjamins: Tell us about New World Medical and the progress on your culture initiatives.

Bilal Khan: We are an ophthalmic device company based in Rancho Cucamonga focused on developing and distributing glaucoma implants and devices that empower surgeons to enhance the lives of their patients.  

Our team is proud of our tremendous growth, which has been driven by our collective focus on building collaborative relationships with surgeons and developing innovative technology to enrich the lives of patients.  Equally important has been New World Medical’s investment in our culture. Late last year we embarked on a journey to refine our core values and build upon the special foundation we have at New World Medical.  

Our partnership with your team, drove us to broaden executive coaching efforts, refine our charitable initiatives, create a culture committee, launch quarterly town halls, and refocus our employee engagement activities around community-building.  This work was essential for us to establish a scalable and authentic foundation for our rapid growth.

SB: You have mentioned the importance of coaching in your company – how does that show up today in your culture?

BK: We have an ongoing commitment to develop our team through coaching. It’s important for us to invest in our colleague’s success if we are going to be true to our mission. In our effort to better understand them and what they need from us to flourish; we have brought in external coaches for our managers and continue to build-out our professional development efforts. 

SB: What are you learning about innovation and taking risk? 

BK:  As the CEO, you have to decide whether you are building a business or only a product. If you’re building a business, invest in and empower your talent. I have learned that giving talented people autonomy, allowing them to take risks and creating the room to recover from occasional setbacks builds capabilities.  We strive to create an environment that gives our colleagues this space, while also holding them accountable to our collective mission. 

I have seen far too many entrepreneurs limited by their inability to recruit, maintain, and cultivate the necessary talent to scale and sustain the remarkable platforms they have built.  My philosophy is, you help me grow the business and we can share the success together. Talented folks yearn for a sense of ownership, and it is only a zero-sum opportunity if you don’t plan on growing.

SB:  What is your leadership philosophy?

BK: My leadership team needs the freedom to take on more responsibility and that requires trust.    My job is to coach them on process not tactics, which is a hard transition to make.  Most individuals that ascend to a leadership position do so by always having the right answers, but once your are charged with greater responsibility, you need to continually identify the right questions.

SB:  Is that part of the family owned, privately held philosophy?

BK: We are fortunate to have the luxury of a long-term perspective to building our business that is not distracted by the constant pursuit of a liquidity event.  Our family believes in New World Medical’s mission and this is something we focus on with potential hires.  When you join a family-owned business there are freedoms that come with our ability to focus on mission and values, however, there can be struggles too if it is not run as a meritocracy or there are confounding objectives. 

SB: How do you think about innovation in your industry?

BK: There have traditionally been two primary types of innovation in our space.  First, there is venture-driven R&D that is capital intensive and necessitates a substantial business opportunity to justify acquisition by a strategic. Second, there is less rigorous, incremental innovation driven by firms with narrower capabilities. 

These models leave the needs of many vulnerable patients unaddressed.  There may not be enough of them to attract the attention of multinationals or venture investment, and their ailments beyond the technological capacity of smaller firms.  For glaucoma patients, New World Medical hopes to bridge that gap.  Additionally, our long-term approach allows us to develop institutional knowledge and chart an iterative path towards improving patient care.

SB: What is your advice to other CEO’s who are growing their business?

The number one thing is to invest in and empower your talent.  If you do this and hold your team accountable to an inspiring, higher cause, it will lead to special results.

Closing thoughts...

Most of us like Bilal, probably want to give people autonomy and freedom to develop ideas that will take your business further.  It is logical yet we revert to company controls that used to work but today are obsolete.   It seems we invest in data, systems, machine learning, AI and now block chain today.  And, we underinvest in building a creative, agile and risk taking culture for our employees.  In Michael Arena’s new book, Adaptive Space, he talks about “fueling agility” in our business and touches on this freedom that we talk about.  Thank you Bilal for reminding us that the human investment is what matters in setting a collective mission that energizes us.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter

June 9, 2018 - No Comments!

Why it Pays to “Break the Rules” – Are you a Rebel?

There is a new book out that is worth exploring.  Francesca Gino, Professor of Business at Harvard just published, "Rebel Talent: Why it Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life."

It is refreshing to read about others who break the roles, re-invent or change the world for better.  At a time when there is so much disturbing news and divide across the country, Francesca speaks to possibility and prospering even in this turbulent world.

The rebel leader is not just about people who lead others.  It is about those of us who thrive in a world of change and at times welcome discomfort.  It might be more natural for us humans to accept conformity, but Francesca shares rich stories of those that know themselves and stretch the boundaries.  One of her guiding principles is to encourage constructive dissent.  It is really about understanding all perspectives and gaining understanding before making decisions.  Her examples from Robert Kennedy to leaders at General Motors brings to life great rebels.

I so appreciated another one of her principles, which is "fostering happy accidents." One of our colleagues, Gina Codd from Edwards Lifesciences introduced the refreshing concept of "welcome surprises" at her company.  Cultures that welcome idea exchange, making mistakes and enjoying what you learn from accidents is clearly a place I would want to be.

What type of rebel are you? There is an assessment that allows us to explore that and learn.  Check out Francesca's book and begin to recognize that we need rebels in our work and life in order to bring about positive lasting change.  

 

 

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

May 20, 2018 - No Comments!

A Unique College strategist – Meet Joe Teske

I met Joe Teske, business owner in the financial advising and career strategy arena, at a networking event this past March. I was taken by his passion and purpose around coaching others to be their best. He is a unique guide to those looking for answers and ideas about careers, money, college for kids or grandkids, or looking for insight and action in an unpredictable economy. 

Joe has been providing college planning and financial strategies for families for over 15 years.  Prior to this, he was an executive in aerospace, hiring/managing over 250 people. He has a deep understanding of college planning and job acquisition skills students need to succeed and he is a certified College Planning Relief specialist. His early years and continued expertise in financial planning helps him see the interconnectedness of financial and career in order to help families set direction and minimize costs. 

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Sherry Benjamins: How do you work with students before they are considering college?

Joe Teske: Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I learned that there are numerous ways to make the college journey more efficient and effective. In our firm, Reliant College Planning Solutions (Reliant CPS), we work with students and their families to educate them on career, cost and college, in that order.

Up to 40% of students entering college undeclared (without knowing their major), will not graduate. I believe student’s and family’s focus should be primarily on the “40-year career” and not necessarily the 4-year college. We have tools to help students identify a best-fit career and major in which they will enjoy their work and be productive.  Isn’t this the hope of every parent – a child in an occupation they love?

The other element of this work is helping families characterize the affordability of college.  Oftentimes families don’t truly consider the total cost of attending college. Graduation rates in 4 years at public colleges averages 34%. Most students can take 5 or more years to graduate. When you consider this for each child in the family, and with the costs of college growing each year, it’s clear that laying out a multi-year budget is critical to understanding how a family will afford a college education.  

SB: What do you learn from students in this process?

JT: Each student has unique wiring. While the education system is structured around a relatively standard set of coursework through the first 14 years of education, each student can find a path that supports their specific interests.  Helping families themselves find the distinctive profession where their child will love the work they do is an extremely rewarding process.  

When you look at the education system outside the U.S., many adolescents are choosing their occupational direction by the 8th or 10th grade. It could be a trade, a technical path or academic. There are very few teachers bringing an assessment process to 10th graders. I believe that is a big loss. Why not introduce the potential careers to students much earlier?  When that is accomplished, there is a real sense of relief and hope as they are able to address their most pressing question, “What am I going to be/do?”  With a career narrowed-down, students choose classes in line with their future profession. I also see that often their GPA improves as they’re taking classes that match their wiring.  Life has just gotten much simpler – and easier for them.

SB: What are the stresses from their vantage point?

JT: The pressures placed on students today far exceed what we’ve seen, even ten years ago.  The competition now for each seat in college is international! And with an admission process that evaluates leadership, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, writing ability, and demonstrated interest, along with their GPA and aptitude test scores, our adolescents are facing more demands than ever before. The mental health of these students is strained to the limit. They are trying to please everyone – parents, teachers, coaches, friends, and even the yet-to-be determined college admissions office. Focusing your student on a direction matters, even if it changes over the process.  Earlier is better. 

SB: What is your perspective on the future of education?

JT: I am a parent of children in this age group and I see first-hand visibility of the demands placed on my children and others. In addition, with my background in financial advising, I understand the economics of the education system. Families are doing whatever they can to get in and get the degree. This has led to a national college debt level at $1.5 trillion- growing at $100 billion each year. This far exceeds credit card debt. College has become the new credit crisis.

I believe that going to college and finding your way – does not work any longer. Knowing your career path first is critical. It is too costly to be left to chance, and not knowing often leads to five or more years to get a degree. Families are exploring alternatives to this heavy cost burden. Many are sending their students to a 2-year college and then transferring to a 4-year university. Some colleges offer co-operative programs where the students alternate academic and work semesters to gain experience and pay during their education process.  Students are taking online coursework as well. One change I anticipate that will grow in the future is companies/industries working collaboratively to customize job structure and learning for their future employees. This has already started in the healthcare and information technology industries with certification programs. Entry- to mid-level position qualifications are met through specified course content without needing a 4-year degree.  The amount of money spent on education will draw more creative solutions like this in the near future.

SB: What is your advice to parents?

JT: Building a network is not just for the experienced working professional or parent. It is the right thing to do as a high schooler as well. Imagine having a LinkedIn profile and networking strategy starting in high school. This is now the new 21st century life skill.   


We will see creative solutions to these education challenges. We are learning from recent generation Z research, those children born into the digital everything, smart phone era, after millennials about how they learn and where they want to learn. They do not remember a time before social media.  Stay tuned for what education will need to look like for this next smart, start-up mentality talent of the future. 

If you have interest in learning more about the college and money challenges and solutions, please reach out to Joe Teske, Reliant College Planning Solutions at www.reliantcps.com. 

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter

May 19, 2018 - No Comments!

Education 2.0 with David Finegold, PhD

What will learning communities look like in the future?  Will universities transform themselves in light of the advancements in AI or robotics? What will students want to learn and how should their expectations be tailored to this new world of work? I met with a long-time friend, Dr. David Finegold, President of Chatham University, to listen to his perspective on these changes.

 Some of you may know David from his time at USC or the Keck Graduate Institute at Claremont before he navigated to the east coast with Rutgers and then onto some fascinating entrepreneurial ventures in the academic world. He has over 30 years of experience in higher education as a researcher, author, professor, academic dean, senior vice president and chief academic officer. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1985, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, from which he received his DPhil in Politics in 1992. He has dedicated his career to education reform, the design of high-performance organizations, and extensive comparative research on education and skill-creation systems from around the world.  David’s story of his move to Chatham to focus on leadership is a fascinating one.


Sherry Benjamins: Congratulations on your role as President, Chatham University! Tell us about your path to this leadership role.

David Finegold: I have always been involved in advising students and have been open to where my career might lead.  I took assignments that I was passionate about and now it seems everything I have done prior to this has prepared me for the leadership work at Chatham.  I have a blend of working for large, complex Universities, like USC and Rutgers with thousands of students along with being at small, innovative campus environments such as Claremont. There were also entrepreneurial challenges at American Honors when I worked to grow an academic business. What makes Chatham unique is that it blends the big and the small:  I can make a personal impact given our relatively small size – 2,200 students – where I can get to know each faculty member and student. Yet we have a far more exciting work and complexity than most institutions our size: with three campuses, online innovation as well as focused and recognized success in our wellness and sustainability programs. Chatham offers over 40 undergraduate majors and over 20 graduate programs in sustainability, the health & lab sciences, business & communication, and the arts & humanities.

SB:  When you imagine the future of education, where do you see value and affordability?

DF: There is no doubt that access and affordability is critical, especially as we see the costs of a degree going up. As a private college we are addressing the challenges in several ways. First, we are doing more with scholarships and fellowships. Secondly, we are innovating creative ways to serve our students by looking at on and off campus options, such as online, cooperative arrangements with business and study abroad in order to expand our capacity. We have more part-time students, and are also very transfer-friendly, seeing the 2+2 path as a great way for students to lower the overall cost of getting a degree. Roughly 25% of our undergraduates transfer from a mix of community colleges and four-year universities. 

As we look to the future, there is a significant population of those over 50 who remain engaged and want to continue working, though perhaps in an entirely new career.  They are looking to have social impact and continuing to learn throughout their lives; we are in the early stage of exploring how we might best meet their needs.  Also, there is more with dual enrollment as we collaborate with high schools in order to help their students get a leg up on studies and their career goals at the university level.  

SB: Chatham is known as an innovator in areas such as, women in leadership, entrepreneurs launching new business, cooperatives and sustainability – what are your students asking for? 

DF: Students are attracted to our campuses for these innovative programs. Our Center for Women Entrepreneurship’s Women’s Business Center, ranked #1 in the country, offers experienced business owners the opportunity to engage with and enhance the work of women entrepreneurs.  We support internships and diverse work experiences which brings high quality business connections to the “eco-system of talent” in our region.  Students want good careers so that they can join or build companies that are socially responsible. They want a quality of life that supports their values and we have multiple ways to offer this through 60 undergraduate and graduate programs and innovative ways to deliver content and experience.

SB: How is technology influencing your longer term plans?

DF: Technology allows us to deliver strong online degree programs.  Chatham’s College for Continuing Education offers one of the largest and most successful Doctor of Nursing Practice programs in the US, serving working professionals across the country who wish to advance further in leadership roles. Students can also complete a range of other degrees with flexible and low-residency formats.  We also have business, psychology and nursing undergraduate online degrees, masters of creative and professional writing with a focused online production skill building capability and a doctorate of occupational therapy. 

We recognize the next wave of disruptive employment is at the intersection of AI, distributed learning and the internet.  One study suggests we are potentially going to see 2/3 of the US employment automated by 2030.  As one example, our University is already adapting to this new world by introducing a new interdisciplinary degree in “immersive media” or virtual reality.

SB: What is your advice to the new generation of talent? 

DF:  My advice to our students and the new generation of talent is that liberal arts continues to be very important.  Students want to go where they will learn the most and grow personally.  I do see a stressed generation across the system and at all abilities.  They are feeling anxiety, financial pressures and uncertainty.  They do have a social consciousness and want to make things better.   They are open to creative entrepreneurial options and have the platform to create global companies with the technology available.  They are not looking exclusively to larger corporations as a career choice.  It is ironic that the best education is returning to liberal arts for improving problem solving skills, using critical thinking, working in diverse teams, and learning to learn. These are high on the list of new literacies that matter. 


Learn more about Chatham on their website!

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter

May 19, 2018 - No Comments!

Kelly Hoey and the Future of Learning and Connecting in the New Economy

Where do we learn to network? I think it is a natural curiosity to understand others, however for many of us, it might be pretty scary too. We are seeing that building connections is a new leadership literacy.  Kelly Hoey has a unique take on why and how this works. After reading her book, Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in Hyper-connected World, I reached out to her on Linkedin to thank her and ask if we might connect in order to explore further. She graciously agreed and I am so glad she did!


Sherry Benjamins: Tell me about your career path and how you developed the many professional hats your wear, which have included a lawyer, a social media influencer, a start-up advisor, an investor, and an author?

Kelly Hoey: Networking has enabled me to make some interesting career changes. I went to law school in ’91 and was working in a very suit-oriented world. I had the good fortune of working at prestigious law firms and there was decorum and an expectation around how you treated clients and how you held yourself in the world.  It was the way you interacted with people in your firm and profession. In the legal community, we refer to it as “practicing” law: you never reach the destination of expertise, but instead are a life-long learner.  That enabled me to go from lawyer to law firm management. Back then it was an uncommon change for lawyers to make.

Looking back, everything I’ve done has come from a foundation of successfully jumping into something new and working it out. I jumped into the deep end when I moved into the start-up world, and it goes back to that idea of what do you want to be known for?  What’s the reputation that you hold out to the world?  How do you interact with people?  A couple of women I respected had the idea for a start-up accelerator. They needed a third co-founder and when asking their network for anyone with a particular skillset, my name kept coming up. This is how opportunities happen.  Sometimes it means doing things that don’t make sense on paper.  Did it make sense for a lawyer with expertise in finance who had no experience in start-ups take on this new world?  I believe that it is not about what you know or who you know, but instead who knows what you know. That’s what can move one along their career.   

SB: Was it rare for a woman to be in investing at this time?  

KH: In late 2011, there were few investors committed to women led ventures.  Looking back, it was an overlooked and undervalued opportunity. Our idea was that “if you boys won’t invest in women, we will”.  It was a great thing to start and also a great thing to stop participating in when the time was right.  The realization though, came from the power of an entrepreneurial mindset.  I learned that even if you’re an employee, you should assume that mindset. Give yourself 1, 2 or 3 years to try something and ask yourself if it’s a long term venture and if not walk away.

SB: What did you learn from your start-up experience with Women Innovate, the NY accelerator?

KH: It was the best MBA learning experience I could have. It also affirmed my strengths as a business woman.  We can ask ourselves in our own careers: what am I really good at? What rocks my world?  Where’s the universe sending me a signal? For me, I realized that happens when I get handed big, bold ambitious projects with limited resources and somehow I make it happen. That was also the case in Law Firm management. So rather than thinking “outside of the box”, I like to get in the box and figure out a creative way through the problem. 

SB: In the forward to your book, Tom Peters says you have written about “revolution” not networking. What do you think he meant by that? 

KH: For Tom, its always been about the people. When you read the word “network” in a book title, you go to a certain place. Tom realized the book is about careers and ambitions and the decent human being in a digital age. It has everything and nothing to do with what we traditionally think about networking. It has to do with the importance of putting people first. Even though we are in an economic and industrial revolution with upheaval and uncertainty, the one thing that is more certain than ever is that our human relationships and people skills are more essential and valuable than ever before.

SB: How will building connections change in the future?

KH: We’re at an interesting inflection point because all generations are struggling with how to make meaningful connections. The more comfortable we get in being uncomfortable with how we make relationships is the first step to building strong, viable relationships and vibrant networks. The more we realize that these things can grow via a conference call, in person, or otherwise. It’s not one versus the other, it’s everything. The more we are genuinely, authentically ourselves, regardless of platform, the more we remember that it’s a real human being with a messy complicated life on the other end.  We are not just a user or a follower. To understand this is to become better human beings. 

SB: Talent forecasters say that “on demand” curated networks of people will replace the need to recruit. What’s your perspective on that?

KH: As long as you’ve got diversity, in the fullest sense of the word, the idea that people bring their whole network to their environment may solve some of the challenges in recruiting.  However, this rarely happens.   The notion that we’ll use these curated networks and also be aware of our blind spots in order to ensure diversity, could bring better problem solving, creativity, analytical thinking and more to our organizations. 

SB: What is your advice for the next generation of talent?

KH: I’m pausing for a second because don’t we say that every generation is going to be different and more difficult than the last? I’m thinking about Mr. Zuckerberg and congress. Tech companies were supposed to act differently, but when you think about it, he’s created a company that operates like the rest of them. You think about companies acting in extraordinary ways and they aren’t run by Millennials. It’s Patagonia or Ray Anderson of Interface Inc. When I think of revolutionary business leaders, it’s a bunch of older white guys and it’s kind of tragic. Why put pressure on a younger generation rather than look at it and say, we all have a responsibility to make this a success and strengthen how we interact and how we understand each other.

For the younger generation, I would say: It’s fine to have your way of doing things. We all have our preferences. Understand the environment you’re going into. Understand that you’re going to need to flex. You’re going to alter your choices. Know what your values are and what is most important to you so when you step into a workplace, you know which stuff you have to compromise on and which stuff you don’t. 


In closing, Kelly may be wired to connect the networking dots, but you can be too! I recommend reading her book and consider checking out her Creative Lives Program on June 6th. 

Don’t relegate networking to the bottom of your list.  If you want to pursue your dream career, networking must become a priority. It is about understanding others, how you add value to them and in return for yourself too.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter