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Great leaders often go through a process of figuring out who they are and what they want to achieve for themselves, their people and their customers. We spoke with Tammy Heermann, SVP in Leadership Transformation for Lee Hecht Harrison around the world. She shared her process of self-discovery and her work to help other leaders discover their path to navigate this high stakes business environment.
Sherry Benjamins: Tell us about your personal leadership journey?
Tammy Heermann: It started when I built the learning and development function from the ground up at a global software company. I started thinking about what goes into creating a strategic, people-centered plan. Then I had the opportunity to build a leadership development practice at a consulting company. During this time I was able to live my own journey as I taught others how to live theirs. Through 360 feedback research, I learned that women were perceived as less strategic then men. I saw it in my own 360 data. It required me to reflect and then shift my mindset and behaviors which resulted in successful promotions over the years.
SB: What did you do differently to make those promotions happen?
TH: I pushed my comfort level to delegate more to create the space for me to work “on” the business, not just “in” the business. I started to show up in meetings differently in how I communicated. I found better results when asking questions in a way that showed my thought process. I also learned how to speak with a point of view that was informed, assertive and confident. It was a very different way of just giving an opinion. I also dramatically shifted how I spent my time. I was better at what I said “yes” and “no” to. And finally, I started building valuable relationships. Leadership is about relationships and we shouldn’t feel guilty about doing coffees and lunches to build important relationships around, within, and outside of the business.
SB: What holds women back from self-awareness and making this shift?
TH: The biggest barrier is making the mental shift ourselves. A leader has to be courageous and be just as dedicated to their own personal leadership as they are to their teams and their customers. We are no good to others, if we aren’t good to ourselves. You can’t please everyone. You have to be OK that people may get angry or disagree with you. You have to let go of perfection and taking everything on yourself at work and at home. That’s the biggest shift that has to happen first.
SB: What has changed to make the advancement of women a front-and-center topic in businesses today?
TH: There are three things converging at this point in time. First, from an organizational standpoint, there have always been sectors that are proactive in advancing women such as tech, consulting and financial services. But there are many others that are being driven by grassroots efforts – speaking in town halls and challenging their leadership teams to create change. Customers too are challenging their suppliers to achieve diversity goals if they want to get or keep the business. Secondly, there’s political factors. There are news stories of gender reform: female leaders are being elected and women around the world are demanding change. Lastly, there are societal influences. For instance, for the Super Bowl, GoDaddy had new ads celebrating women in computing, which was very different from their earlier content. Society is expecting to see change. Everything is converging and it gives me hope.
SB: How can we accelerate progress? What can I do to start things with some teeth to it!
TH: If you want to have some teeth to your initiatives you have to treat this as a cultural shift in the organization. It’s common for companies to create networking events or implement policies just to check the box. These things don’t have a true impact because they don’t create real opportunities that women need to advance. You have to create a culture of accountability towards a diverse and inclusive workforce. Leading companies expect their leaders to be accountable for developing talent at all levels because it is just as important to the future of the company as it is meeting sales and financial goals. All the development programs and flex policies mean nothing if women hit conscious or unconscious barriers that are engrained in the culture.
SB: Looking back, do women want something different now than they did 10 years ago?
TH: I’m not sure that the wants of women have changed. I think it’s just more acceptable to push, to protest, to vote with your feet. Women in every generation have desired financial and educational freedom, fair treatment and equal opportunity for advancement. Today we are talking about it more, fighting for it more, and making different decisions about where we choose to work.
SB: Is there a reinvention of how we develop future leaders?
TH: There’s a big movement right now in how Millennials are pushing the way we work differently; work-life flexibility, choosing to work at organizations where they feel connected to a cause, or finding a culture that values feedback is high on their list. Millennials have gotten negative press for being demanding, but I think that other generations needed the same things too. It’s not that we have to do anything different; it’s that we have to do what we said we were going to do all along. Build accountability for giving feedback. Provide development opportunities and transfer knowledge. None of this is new. Today’s successful companies are modeling talent practices that should have been in place all along and now the rest of us are trying to catch up.
SB: Are there examples of earlier stage companies taking development seriously?
TH: I’m seeing it happen in pockets, but not nearly enough. Talent is a long game and when companies are in start-up mode, people investments are about getting the right technical talent to get the business off the ground and keep it afloat. It’s when they reach a size of around 100-200 that they realize that they need structure and great people leaders, which often the tech experts and entrepreneurs aren’t always great at. Early stage companies that “get it” understand that a longer term view is needed from the beginning, not just about the business plan, but the people that need to be brought in, developed and retained for growth. They are always asking, how can we make sure that great people see they have a future here?
This month, our creative director, Erik Benjamins, sat down with one of his close friends, Ryan Sheffer. Ryan is a Millennial entrepreneur and co-founder of Zero Slant, an AI-driven news agency that creates automated content from social media. His path from filmmaker and editor to programmer and entrepreneur is inspiring and representative of changes we see in the future of work. He’s crafted a unique path that’s been driven by asking ambitious questions about the future of our relationship to technology and the media. His highly successful blog has been a resource for other young entrepreneurs in the industry and beyond.
Erik Benjamins: How did you choose the path of entrepreneurship?
Ryan Sheffer: Up until I was applying for college, I thought that “becoming a business person” was the thing you did as a career. I didn’t know that becoming a filmmaker—or doing your own thing—could be a job. In my head, it seemed like something that others did. When I started to get into the technology industry about ten years later to start my own company, I didn’t know what venture capital was. I didn’t use the word entrepreneur to describe myself. I was just an editor doing my own thing. I had this inherent desire for freedom, but didn’t have a clear cut way to define it. I realized that the key to choosing a path was understanding that it’s there. We often define our ceiling because it’s what we’ve seen, what we know.
EB: When was that moment for you? When you shifted from working in the film industry to the tech industry?
RS: It was a process. I was always brought into the film industry as the tech person that you’d call when something was technically difficult. Around that same time, I made a New Year’s resolution to teach myself how to code. It made sense given my interest in the tech side of the film industry. A few months later I sat down with some coders and showed them what I built after dedicating a month to learning this new language and they thought it was pretty good. I walked away from that meeting thinking that this may be something I could do. It was a shift in perspective.
EB: Tell us about your interests in an open source education?
RS: Before teaching myself how to code, I taught myself how to use a camera. My desire to continually learn has objectively fueled my career path. When I first went out and tried to start a company, I felt like no one wanted to share the simple things. Everything I found online were either stories of great success or massive failures. There wasn’t any “brass tacks” information like what to do when hiring a lawyer. No one thinks these are interesting things to share, but it was all I wanted to know. I started a video series called 12 Months to share these brass tacks kinds of things I was learning as I was starting my own tech company. It didn’t do very well, but I did get a lot of emails from people thanking me for being open and honest about all the non-sexy stuff I had to go through.
My blog has been the most successful thing I’ve done in my career. It now gets hundreds of thousands of reads per year. My outlets for sharing these process, successes and failures have a lot to do with sharing outward, but also forcing myself to verbalize my process. It lets me understand and follow through on it.
EB: What have you learned about your professional trajectory thus far?
RS: I need to be building something ambitious. Success isn’t going to happen instantly so I want to build something that will light me up as I struggle through it. Setting ambitious goals lets me work as my best self. The most important thing for me is to pursue my own excitement about learning and discovering, pushing myself to be better and better.
EB: How do you see and engage with risk in your work?
RS: I don’t see risk the way others might. With my first foray into the tech industry, I invested a lot of my own money I had been making as a filmmaker into a company that I eventually ended up shutting down. But I viewed that decision as an education. I could have spent the same amount of money for a masters or PhD, but I’d rather invest in this style of learning. That being said, I’m starting a family now and need to work in a more responsible way. Risk is important, but I also need to set hard deadlines. For example, I’m in the process of fundraising right now and if I don’t raise the amount I need, I’ll have to put the company on hold and find a job.
EB: What advice do you have for someone struggling with their identity as a worker, or someone interested in taking the non-obvious work path?
RS: If you find yourself working at a job and you feel like they can’t give you enough work to do and you have six other side projects going, you’re not an employee. You can either choose to refocus your energy towards being an employee or you can accept that this seems like the energy of someone who wants to start their own thing.
EB: How can upper management engage with entrepreneurial minded talent?
RS: I had an employee like this and my method was to put that person in charge of their own department. I gave them as much autonomy as I could without sacrificing the clarity of vision for the company. Once you identity someone with an entrepreneurial spirit you need to incentivize them with responsibility and autonomy. My experience in the film industry helped with this. The director is the dictator, but he or she surrounds themselves with department heads like lighting, costume, etc., that make large decisions without the director’s constant oversight. When it comes to managing Millennials, it’s about working with people who have a ton of passion and have a desire to have an ownership in what they do.
EB: Is this an experience that for you is generationally specific?
RS: I don’t like using the phrase the “Millennial attitude”, but there is definitely an element of Millennials not wanting to hear you tell them your business. The counterpoint of empowering Millennials is that they may feel deserving of autonomy, but are unable to provide the output. The “Millennial attitude” lends itself to a side effect in which the second you micromanage, they are upset. It’s an attitude of “we do it differently and you don’t understand”. It may also have to do with the fact that jobs and work is shifting. For example, I don’t have folders and I don’t have an office. My whole company works remotely. There’s an element of needing to find people that work more comfortably in that environment, to be go getters and get stuff done. I think we’ll see a trend of a company having it’s separate sections run like individual companies.
EB: Lastly, who has been your influence or inspiration?
RS: My grandfather for always wanting to learn and my father for being the most dedicated family man I know.
It never hurts to reflect on the powers, complexities, and new styles of the Millennial mentality as we continue flying into this new year. It speaks to the changing nature of work and our ability to balance existing structures with entirely new ones so we can do our best work.
Recently I had the good fortune to meet Charles Antis, founder and CEO of Antis Roofing through our shared work supporting the nonprofit, OneOC, that helps organizations enrich their missions with instituting giving and volunteering efforts. Charles is a role model for all of us. He has artfully blended giving back to the community with his business's purpose.
Sherry Benjamins: What do you attribute to your company’s success?
Charles Antis: I have to start with the people. You can’t carry on or achieve much of anything without an amazing team. Before we understood how to leverage marketing or social responsibility as a means to get more work, we were always extremely customer focused. If one person in the room is unhappy, I’m going to do anything I can to fix that relationship. This belief led to an extremely high expectation for customer care. Our first level of success started there and allowed us to grow.
SB: Can you tell us more about customer care?
CA: The customer needs to be right. It doesn’t matter why they’re upset because in their dissatisfaction is a kernel of absolute truth on where we can do something better. In our company, we always air on the side of generosity towards the customer.
SB: Part of your success has been social corporate responsibility. When did that start?
CA: In the company’s first year, I received a call from a lady with a leak problem. I went to check it out and as she opened the door, I was overwhelmed by the smell of mildew. Her daughter grabbed my hand to show me the house and in her room was a mattresses with moldy bedding. I went home and organized a relief party to immediately fix the problem. We didn’t start with a policy to fix situations like this, but they happened again and again. We never let anyone have a leaky room just because they didn’t have the money for it. We can’t be good at what we do unless we’re willing to help people in need.
In 2008, Sharon Ellis, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity, OC asked if we would donate a roof to a development and we’ve donated every year since. We quickly realized that we were making an impact and it was exciting! When we talk about it inside our culture, our people see it happening and want to be a part of it.
SB: Are your employees onto this mission of giving?
CA: We have about eighty employees and for our industry, it’s a pretty young workforce. In the office, we’re about half millennials and out in the field, we’re a bit older. We embrace newer voices and perspectives and have a common response when thinking about social responsibility. We also embrace a changing workplace. I know that we have to adjust to a changing culture and we are all listening to create a more flexible workplace. Our employees want to give back. Even the baby boomers, who at first don’t want to talk about these issues as much, get really excited about the conversation and join in. We’ve gotten a lot of recognition for being philanthropic and it’s important for me that this recognition is directed towards the employees.
SB: What do you think gets in the way of an entrepreneur building a “cause” culture with a commitment like this?
CA: Small business owners have to scrape by to survive. I understand how difficult it is to take that hard earned money and donate it without seeing a clear bottom line of investment. We always share anecdotal stories about the benefits, but we haven’t seen a clear algorithm yet to support this decision. But only by doing shows others a way to understand and follow. It’s hard to shed the biases of our past, but with the shifting climate right now, everyone is re-thinking strategy and culture. I don’t see myself as a pioneer, I’m just quick on transitions.
SB: Can you share more about your mascot and visual graphic of the Roof God?
CA: I grade myself by how well I sleep at night. We serve up to half a million homes so when it rains, I understand how our customers worry about their castle being in danger. In 2008, I started to think about how I could tell this story with images. We went to an artist specializing in comics to create the Roof God as a way to encapsulate this feeling of being able to relax, knowing that your roof is being taken care of.
SB: What have you personally learned on this path as CEO?
CA: I’m trying to create value. If the value isn’t coming to me or my employee’s wallets that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not good value. I could be putting money into securities, but instead I give it back to the community. This is where I differ from a lot of small businesses. If I put an extra half million in the bank to accrue interest, that’s great. But if I take that same half million and put it out into the community, it will create an exponential ripple effect that will find its way back to me and my stakeholders. I haven’t figured out how to show it on paper—yet—but I believe that the return is ten times more than keeping the money in the bank. Once you understand that it’s OK to give away more than think you can, I think it’s the safest and most secure path to creating success.
SB: What do you recommend for the new entrepreneur interested in trying this strategy out?
CA: Don’t wait. Build giving into the model. Be generous. The Toms model stands out. You’ll have a difficult time competing in the market if an intention like this doesn’t ring with authenticity. It’s a tougher economy with slimmer margins, I get it. But try it! Make it a living breathing part of your everyday and you will notice the difference.
SB: How does your new President share your values?
CA: Our new President, Karen Inman comes into work every day with the same, likeminded passion and enthusiasm. She believes in what we do and loves it. She wouldn’t be at a roofing company if we didn’t have a cause built into our brand. We get the Google people because our brand is visible and powerful. We make decisions that reflect family values and our recruiting has gone up to a level that I never knew could exist!
How can businesses today create and value the space, time, and culture to give back to their community, to be driven and inspired by a cause?
Search and selection is a high stakes game and there’s pressure to get it right. As we all know, great talent is hard to find!
Our clients see the value of strategic approaches in the search for talent. More important than finding great talent is finding “the one” person who is not only adept at the technical skills of their role, but can also seamlessly integrate into the culture of your organization.
At S. Benjamins & Co., our creative intention is about helping you find the ONE. With that in mind, we recently revamped our web site to focus on our unique process and purpose. Check it out here!
In the spirit of our new website and our long standing purpose, we asked three of our favorite clients and friends how they find the ONE. Read on to see how Jamie Latiano with Renovate America, Steven Milovich, ABC Entertainment Group and Carol Geffner, Professor at USC and healthcare entrepreneur see talent acquisition today.
Jamie Latiano, SVP People & Culture, Renovate America
San Diego based – The leader in Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing
SB: How do you find the ONE in your business?
JL: While cliché, hiring for attitude, energy and training for skill is one of the biggest keys. Here at Renovate America, we are growing dynamically and there is a lot of change as our business is scaling quickly. Identifying behaviors such as resourcefulness, flexibility, comfort with change, leadership, communication and alignment with our Core Values has proven to be an effective assessor for hiring the right talent.
We are fortunate to attract great talent by having an awesome corporate culture grounded in impactful work, smart, dedicated, fun people and a philosophy of empowering people to do great things…together.
SB: What do you see changing in this landscape as you look ahead?
JL: It is becoming more important for us to identify specific experience and competencies that serve as pillars for our growth and success. While the foundation of hiring people aligned with our culture and values will remain strong, identifying gaps in competencies or knowledge is important so that we can be targeted in getting the right people in the right place, at the right time.
SB: What is your advice to other leaders who are focusing on finding or developing the ONE?
JL: My advice is that there should be foundational or “non-negotiable” things that a hiring manager looks for. For me, this is in the areas of values, attitude and behaviors. Diversity is important, especially diversity of thought. Also, in order to keep great talent showing up great, we have to allow them to shine, be their best and bring their discretionary effort to drive success daily through business deliverables, contributions to teams and to the culture of the organization. It is a two way street; we need to be able to recognize “the ones” that fit our culture and values, and they need to want to jump on board, be inspired to grow, drive, and deliver. When there is that symbiotic relationship, it is magical; there is incredible accomplishment, people own the outcome, enjoy the journey, and make history together.
Carol Geffner, PhD – Professor of Management, Governance & Policy, USC
USC Price School Professor and CEO of Newport Healthcare Advisors
SB: How do you find the ONE in your business?
It starts with clarity about what the organization is looking for. We work with our clients to re-think what is and will be needed in key positions rather than making an assumption that what worked in the past will be acceptable today.
We also take a holistic view of candidates. Think about how an individual will fit into the culture, how they work with others and if they have the attributes to lead change. And in most leadership positions it is critical to screen for emotional intelligence. Organizations are social enterprises and working well with others is one of the most important aspect of success.
SB: What do you see changing in the landscape as you look ahead?
CG: Healthcare is the industry undergoing a true transformation. In a world that is changing so radically, it is imperative that we build leaders who can lead through uncertainty while simultaneously move their organization toward a compelling future. From a behavioral and neuropsychological point of view, people respond more favorably when they move toward something positive vs. negative. What this means is that an element of leadership success is being able to create (with others) an emotionally interesting and vivid picture of the company direction.
We have four generations in the workplace. This has enormous implications for the way in which we structure and lead businesses. Millennials are more concerned with making an impact than fitting into a structure. This means organizations will re-think how to recruit, manage and engage people with very different motivations.
Lastly, we are operating within a customer-focused paradigm. One implication of this is that transparency is the norm. Determining on a daily basis what openness means is a central responsibility of leaders. Insular management will not work in the future. Leading from the “outside-in” and building a customer-centric organization is a mandate for success.
SB: What is your advice to other leaders who are focusing on finding and developing the ONE?”
CG: Think about the whole person and how they will fit your culture. Consider their emotional and social intelligence and the ability to work with and lead others. Be mindful of bringing in talent who can lead the business to the future as opposed to preserving what exists today.
Our Final Thoughts...
The best people in HR go against the norm. They are early adopters for change and compete to find the ONE. We hope this story has inspired you to new thinking about the future of talent.
Culture Talk with Ron Schrader & Jennifer Pietrzak
This month we sat down with the dynamic culture-savvy duo of Ron Schrader and Jennifer Pietrzak Carlson. Ron and Jennifer have their own respected firms and clients, but have also collaborated often over the past nine years. We have had the pleasure of working with them also and were so pleased to catch up and hear what they're up to.
Working together, Ron and Jennifer have built a reputation for helping organizations realize the business benefits that come with having a healthy, active and evolving company culture.
What is it about the work that you do that gives you the most positive energy?
J: We’re both really energized when we get to work with organizations going through transformation. It could be implementing a new system, a merger, a sudden growth, or a business realignment.
R: Yeah! These are the very situations where culture is a major contributor to the success of the endeavor.
Why does it give you energy?
J: I love when an organization thinks about culture as a living and breathing thing, not something you create once and put on a shelf. They get it. They understand that what I do, and what they believe in, really matters. Helping organizations turn culture into a competitive advantage is to me, the “wow” factor.
R: I agree! The other element that excites us is having the creativity to do things that the client hasn’t tried before. Sometimes we get called in to help a client who is stuck—they don’t know what’s getting in their way of achieving a given business objective. We see that more and more clients discover that it is about their culture. The clients that are designing creative cultures understand that this ultimately moves them and their organization forward.
Do you have an example?
J: One client had acquired 4 separate lines of business, with different processes, values, cultures, etc. The objective was to evolve into one organization with one set of values and a common culture throughout while still allowing for some individuality among the lines of business. We developed a recipe book, not the expected way to communicate a major business initiative like this. So it had a surprise factor, and that made it interesting to read. It also fit the situation well because just like food, to get real culture change you need to invoke all the senses. The recipe ingredients (core values, mission, vision, etc.) were the same, but each business line was able to customize the way those ingredients were folded into their business.
R: Organizations value a tailored solution. Needs vary and what works somewhere may not work everywhere. We agree that a custom designed solution is best. We’ve developed unconventional tools like comic strips to illustrate process, storybooks to share the vision, and homemade videos to generate grassroots excitement. We love figuring out how to craft something that is unexpected and novel, but also meaningful to our client’s audience.
Bringing up the idea that you’re using unconventional artifacts and visual elements to communicate culture… is this something new that we’re seeing in organizations today?
R: I don’t know if it’s new, but it’s not common from what I’ve seen. And that’s what makes this work exciting. It can inspire your own teams to think beyond what might have worked before. When a company says they’re really hip and innovative, but they communicate to their people through very formal, corporate-sounding memos, there’s a cultural disconnect. Paragraphs in an email aren’t the only way to get a message across. We suggest helping your internal clients bridge the gap through the use of visuals, artifacts, language and other creative approaches.
What’s changing in the work that you’re doing today?
J: Executives say, “Oh culture, we’ve done that”. But the reality is that as your organization lives, so does your culture. It needs to adapt. A lot of time people feel like they are being disingenuous to their history when they say they want to do something new with their culture. But your culture is like a sea nautilus. As the nautilus grows, it adds layers to its shell, but never discards the previous stages. In the same way, you can add to and adapt your culture while still preserving the best of who you are.
R: Your culture is being actively created every single day, either consciously or unconsciously. People need to understand that when you take your eye off culture, it can go adrift really fast. And I think there’s a growing awareness that culture is not just a fluffy HR thing. There’s loads of research that shows that culture has a tangible impact on your bottom line and business success.
In the future, 50% of the work in companies will be done by project-based, contingent workers. How will cultures be built when we’re committed to projects or skills and not to the company?
R: There’s going to be more of an onus on having the culture defined and healthy so the project-based workers can come into something that already exists. It’s then easier to find people that align with your vision.
J: In those situations with 50% of your workers project-based it will be even more important to have clarity in all aspects of culture. “Here’s our expectations for behavior. Here’s how work gets done. Here’s how you’re rewarded and recognized.” That will expedite onboarding new people and getting the work done. It saves time and money too because you don’t have to figure out the culture as you go.
Culture can propel your organization forward or hold it back. Every day the people in your organization live out your culture. They are either doing this consciously, resulting in behaviors and norms by design, or unconsciously (culture by default). In order to get clear on this, talk to your line leaders and bring them together to ask, “What do we value and celebrate? And, how might we get to understand each other and our employees even better?”
About Jennifer and Ron
The self-proclaimed odd couple of organizational development consulting, Jennifer and Ron (they sometimes humorously refer to themselves JennRon) have spent the last 9 years collaborating on culture engineering and change design work for companies large and small, established and start-up, formal and casual. They’re known for their energy, passion, and their unique design approach. And they like to draw pictures.
JPCarlson.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
I am grateful to have worked for a few “healthy leaders” early in my career; they seem tougher to find today. There are unprecedented challenges in leadership in this chaotic world. Bob Rosen, CEO advisor and founder of Healthy Companies International, knows from his extensive research and hands-on experience that healthy leaders pave the way to healthy companies.
Bob and his Chief Knowledge Officer, Kathie Ross, are joining us for our Great Starts Breakfast Series on June 1st in Southern California to share their perspectives and challenge our assumptions about what it means to be a great leader. I talked with them about their work.
SB: What led you to research healthy leaders?
Bob Rosen: I was trained as a psychologist and was originally interested in family dynamics. As I began working with families, I was struck that fathers were not showing up for sessions, and I became intrigued with the psychology of successful businessmen and entrepreneurs. That led to working with the business roundtable and watching how larger companies manage or mismanage their human capital. It became clear that leadership was an issue.
I was fortunate to interview Max DePree in the early part of my career and he was my first image of a healthy leader. I began to meet leaders who either cast light or cast darkness. I was interested in understanding this further. The McArthur foundation called and was interested in this subject as well. Since then, we’ve interviewed 500 CEOs of large companies to really get our arms around how great leaders build great companies.
Kathie Ross: Like Bob, I started with a psychology degree. I joined corporate America and found it intriguing to observe the relationships we form and how those relationships impact our effectiveness. Some bring out the best in people, and others are the opposite. After a Masters in Human Resource Management and a PhD in Organizational Behavior and years of fascinating work in HR, Bob and I were drawn to work together because he is rooted in the psychology field and I bring 25 years of experience as an executive inside organizations working to understand behavior.
SB: What have you learned about yourself in this journey?
BR: In my 20’s when I got my PhD in Clinical Psychology, I learned a lot about the importance of personal intelligence. When I went into the business world, and started researching CEOs, I learned about the importance of business intelligence. In my 40’s, I spent time working globally and recognized the importance of cultural intelligence. I think leaders need to connect with and cultivate all three of those intelligences inside themselves.
We operate under a paradigm that what you do defines who you are. But the best leaders have operated from an alternative paradigm that says who you are as a human being drives what you do. I’ve grown into this alternative paradigm more each year and recognize that leadership is a deeply personal act; both for you psychologically and for how you touch other people.
SB: Why are the best CEO’s investing in self-reflection?
BR: The outside world is changing faster than ever and leaders must turn inside to be more grounded and more conscious in terms of who they are. It is the only way to operate in an environment that is more uncertain, more competitive, more transparent, and more global than ever before. Only five percent of our beliefs, feelings, actions and decisions are conscious. Incredibly, 95% of our mind’s activity is unconscious. Lack of self-awareness, then, is the greatest obstacle to strong leadership. Increasingly, CEO’s understand that if they fail to see the reality about themselves and their leadership, then they are less likely to be successful in building their organizations. Those operating with outdated mental models are simply under pressure to change.
KR: The work we have been doing with CEO’s most recently is in how they and their teams change. We know why the world is changing so quickly, and there are many opinions about what we need to do differently to deal with this, but it’s the how. How do we accelerate transformation? What are the personal and organizational accelerators and hijackers that move us forward or hold people back and undermine their success?
SB: How are younger professionals learning leadership?
KR: I think that is an issue. We are in a period of transition. We make a lot of generalizations about millennials that I don’t think are very accurate because I see a lot of variations. Many millennials have grown up with leaders early in their career with the traditional mindset, and so they are struggling with this as well. It is not easy just because they are younger.
BR: We see four or five generations in the workplace today. It is time to appreciate differences and yet recognize that human beings are fundamentally the same and they want to learn. Leaders at every level want to be in touch with their purpose, values, and passion. They want to contribute. So this means it starts with the leader seeing a bigger picture, and understanding how their leadership impacts others.
Leading is courageous work. Bob and Kathie see this as a time of choice for all of us. We can focus with intention on the healthy roots of leadership and be the person we are truly meant to be, or hope to get there someday.
You can learn more about Bob and Kathie and their leadership philosophy at our June 1st, 2016 Great Starts Breakfast event where they are presenting"GROUNDED: How Leaders Stay Rooted in an Uncertain World" at the Center Club in Costa Mesa. Visit www.greatstartsbreakfast.com for more details.
Hotel guru. Armchair psychologist. Traveling philosopher. Author. Speaker. Teacher. Student. Chip Conley has lived out more than one calling in his lifetime. Many of you know of Chip from his best-selling leadership books and TED talks. He is an inspirational entrepreneur and the founder and former CEO of Joie de Vivre hotel group. During his nearly 24 years as CEO, he grew the company to become the second largest boutique hotel company in America. After selling the company, he joined Airbnb in 2013 as Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy to share his hospitality methods with hosts in nearly 200 countries.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak with Chip about leadership and what fuels his passion within Airbnb.
SB: I just read your book Emotional Equations and immediately saw the power of practical strategies for leadership. Tell me more about your view on leadership today.
CC: Leaders are the emotional thermostats for the business. Whoever is the top dog conveys mood and tone. How they talk is amplified across the organization. It is contagious and sensed by employees.
Today, anxiety is the number one emotion felt across organizations. According to Abraham Maslow’s “psycho-hygiene”, we can sense stressors in our environments. People don’t do their best work in anxious circumstances and lack of confidence impacts our work. I’ve observed that the best companies allow for vulnerability and they consciously strive to build trust.
SB: Are you seeing leaders today that are more in touch with their authentic self?
CC: Yes, and I think there are influences working in our favor. There are more women in the workplace and with that there’s a better reading of the room and emotions. Secondly, coaches have become a normal part of leader development. We also offer feedback through multi-rater tools. And the issue of diversity is now part of the Board conversation. This adds to a CEO’s understanding of the environment and ultimately themselves.
SB: What prompted you to join Airbnb after selling the largest boutique hotel group in the west?
CC: It began when the CEO asked me to be his coach. This was my first tech startup, and I found the organization so intriguing - it was a total immersion. It wasn’t what I anticipated at that stage in my life, but I found it fascinating and it was a great work-life fit for me.
SB: What have you learned at Airbnb?
CC: I am beginning to understand tech. Today we know the face of our mobile phone better than the face of an actual person. At Airbnb our workforce is intergenerational. Prior to working in strategy, I was the head of learning and development where I was teaching twenty-five year olds how to manage twenty-three year olds. I was able to help people through great emotional growth. Now I work on public policy and help our clients all over the world be the best hosts they can be. I am proud to say that our guest satisfaction is the highest it’s ever been.
SB: How do you find top talent?
CC: Success breeds success. Now Airbnb is the leading world hospitality company and our culture and values drive our decisions. We have 2,700 employees and 100 recruiters on staff. Of course it helps to have thousands wanting to work with us, but we start our talent assessment with core values - every candidate goes through a core values interview.
SB: How do you continue to disrupt your industry?
CC: We have to disrupt ourselves before we can disrupt the industry and that begins with looking beyond where we are right now. My advice would be to talk to people outside the industry you’re in and find your blind spots. Be evangelical about what you do. You don’t succeed by meeting customer expectations – you have to go beyond and imagine their unrecognized needs. Highly successful companies know how to increase the intimacy of their customer relationships, and they surprise and delight them with something unrecognized. Reinforce the emotional connection between you and your customers to help them meet their highest goals.
SB: What’s next?
CC: I am constantly curious. I was curious about tech so I joined Airbnb. In 2013, we were booking 8 million room nights a year and now it’s up to 150 million. I was drawn in by the combination of home-sharing, tech, and startup culture. I will continue to work at transformation and coaching others to find their path, always reaching for new work-life fit experiences.
Many of us are working in virtual teams and organizations across the globe. Chip’s reminder is an important one: to be smart in today’s workforce means not just understanding people but to also understand ourselves. Are you investing in you and the intangible relationships inside and outside of your organization? Are you caught up in the tangibles of day-to-day? What are you curious about? Let us know what you are learning!
Jeremy Hunter, PhD is the Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Institute as well as Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. He creates and teaches The Executive Mind, a series of demanding and transformative executive education programs. They are dedicated to Drucker’s assertion that “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.” He also co-leads the Leading Mindfully Executive Education program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
Jeremy balances a full portfolio of teaching, writing, speaking and consulting with the most important role, being a new dad! He has designed and led leadership development programs for Fortune 200 and Fortune 50 organizations in aerospace, banking, research, finance, accounting, the arts and civic non-profits.
S. Benjamins: Jeremy, it has been some time since we caught up with you! What are you up to in 2016?
Jeremy Hunter: It has been an exciting year so far! More leaders are realizing that to positively face all the demands and distractions coming at them, they must learn new skills. They are learning to focus better and help their teams stay focused. They are learning to better manage their reactions to all the “incoming” coming their way. Executives handle challenges and take on more work than ever while also wanting to maintain a healthy personal and family life.
As Founding Director of the new Executive Mind Leadership Institute, I am focused on the practical inner development of executives. It is the first of its kind on the West Coast and builds on the Drucker School’s leadership position of helping executives learn skills to up their game to be more productive while also enjoying greater well-being. The institute is supported by a team of Drucker faculty who believe in the power of human development for organizational success. Our goal is to cultivate the inner skills of executives and offer public and niche programs to help them thrive in an increasingly arduous environment.
SB: What do you hope the Executive Mind Leadership Institute will provide?
JH: The Executive Mind Leadership Institute is built on idea that leaders have to cultivate their minds in a different way to flourish in this turbulent environment. I have been teaching executives for 13 years and at the core of that is something called mindfulness, which is now recognized as a powerful solution for facing an unrelenting and chaotic business environment. Many talented leaders work hard but would like more tools to meet demands in this pace of change and more effectively address the contemporary business environment.
SB: In regards to your consulting, what do you think makes clients call you for help?
JH: A few things come to mind. First, leaders now realize that their quality of self-awareness impacts the success of their organizations. To be effective now, they have to be more than just skilled at the technical aspects of what they do. They also want to increase their capacity to stay focused in a distracting environment, or approach challenges in fresh ways to be more competitive. They also know how important it is to create a culture that attracts and keeps talent. Managing is no longer just about the kind of work people do, but it is about the “why and how” as well.
Secondly, forward-thinking leaders see the nature of work is changing. Good work now demands the ability to connect to one another in more sophisticated ways. Better solutions arise from better connections with one another. My last client was a highly technical organization that understood through enhancing their ability to have higher-value conversations they gain a competitive advantage. The work we did improved the tenor and quality of their meetings which resulted in clearer communication and forward-moving action.
Lastly, work has become more stressful and firms want useful ways to deal with it. I hear so many people describe their work by using war metaphors. They walked in the office braced for battle and already exhausted.
SB: Are you seeing changes in leadership development?
JH: Yes, and part of that is the new generation of leadership. When I first started this work 13+ years ago it was not a foregone conclusion that leaders had develop themselves internally to be effective externally. Now, we know that research supports the idea that healthy leaders who understand and manage themselves lead more effectively.
SB: We see in our search work that Hiring Managers want a long list of skills; however, more place equal importance on “fit”. Are your clients doing this?
JH: Yes, it’s the “do they play well with others” question. To answer the “fit” question, you need a set of tools that give employees the opportunity to display strengths and improve weaknesses. A “diamond in the rough” candidate can survive and thrive with a strong set of tools to help them develop. Survival is about continually adapting to change, not about perfection.
I’d personally love to see companies replace their fit assessments with a real life situation. Instead of measuring someone’s ability to be flexible via an assessment, take them to lunch and have the waiter mess up their order. Then you would really see how they handle situations that require flexibility!
SB: Between being a new father, teaching, consulting, writing and the Institute how do you keep all the balls in the air?
JH: I have to practice what I preach! Every morning I meditate for 40 minutes to an hour. It is a way for me to set the tone of the day and let things unfold more calmly. I also take vacations where I get to decidedly disconnect from work.
SB: I love that. What have you learned about yourself this past year?
JH: Beyond practicing what I preach, I have learned to take paths that challenge me. It allows me to actively practice adapting and staying in the moment with the challenge. We all go through difficulties and many of us prefer to take the path most easily traveled, but I have found taking the path outside comfort zones offers better solutions in the end.
We can thrive and have a high quality of life and performance, but it does take work. Right now we live in a world where people think the answer to productivity is technology. The root of productivity is not technology. Productivity happens because people develop capacities between and within themselves to perform better.
Our final considerations. . .
Just as medicine is shifting from reactive treatments to pro-active wellness, more organizations are shifting to well-being at work. Jeremy has worked with enlightened CEO’s who are now seeing that building a healthy culture starts with the leader. Those that self reflect know how to shift attention and get better results.
The conversation at the leadership table is changing. When it is more human and honest – the research shows better results. The human agenda is now more centered than ever on values, leadership, talent management, motivation and learning. This is a huge sign that leading indicators for success start with leaders who understand what matters from the inside out.
This month we sat down with Kristie Griffin, Director of Talent Acquisition for our wonderful client, Dignity Health. With a compelling trajectory of moving from big tech to healthcare, Kristie exemplifies a kind of agency that leadership expert and author, Bob Rosen, defines as grounded. Kristie’s drive to balance her personal and professional goals have fostered a flourishing career path that welcomed change. It reminds us of the importance as leaders to look inward as much as outward.
How did you come to working in the “people business”?
Before I knew the people business was my niche, I was a student athlete at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on a full basketball scholarship. It was a constant balance, competing on the court, leading as a team captain and figuring out what my future held. I knew, since the time I was twelve, that I wanted to be a senior leader of a company. Graduating with a degree in Business, I began my career as a Technical Consultant for Deloitte and then transitioned into my first HR role, as a college recruiter for Stryker Corporation.
After working at tech giants like Google and Microsoft, what brought you to Dignity?
If you look at my career progression, I focused on personal growth, learning and reprioritization when needed. From Google to Dignity, where I now lead a talent acquisition team, I have gone through some major transformations. On the family front, while at Google I went from having two children to four. This shifted my mindset to a place where I wanted to go from fast track to being present in life as wife, mother and employee in an environment that did not operate at burnout pace. After 5 years I made the very hard decision to leave Google and join Microsoft who provided me the opportunity to work on complex business challenges, manage a large team and work 100% remotely from home.
That was the first big shift and it was amazing. I managed a team of thirty, including three managers, and I expanded my scope to a global reach. As a co-lead for all the staffing managers at Microsoft (over 100 employees), I learned from experts, experienced exciting career growth and most importantly, was able to balance and thrive in my personal and professional life.
The next huge shift was to move our family out of Silicon Valley. After a wonderful move to Sacramento, while at Microsoft, I took the next step towards community involvement and was looking for a work culture of purpose. This led me to Dignity.
Dignity’s core values revolve around ideas of compassion, humankind and advocacy.
How can a company shift their culture to promote a philosophy of compassion that’s not a “nice to have,” but a “must have.”
It has to start at the top. It can’t only be a grassroots effort and happen organically without buy-in from executive leadership first. Creating a very deliberate action plan and communication strategy is essential and hiring practices should engage people authentically. That’s why our function is so critical. We work closely with leaders to ensure that our talent attraction strategies and interview practices focus not only on the technical aspect of a job but also key behavioral attributes. This ensures that every person we hire is aligned to the company’s mission, vision and values.
What are you most proud of accomplishing this past year?
I’m the most proud of defining and building a team that values and operates collaboratively and doesn’t engage in silo mentality. It is about partnership and honest relationships, both professionally and personally. I was just explaining to my daughter the relationship between team sports and work based teams. It’s very clear to me the correlation between team unity, team chemistry, team bonding and being a leader that motivates your team to peak performance. And that’s not just applicable to athletics. It’s very applicable to professional life. I take that team concept and apply it to my work every day. We’re only as strong as our weakest link. How can we optimize the work we do together and build synergy? What are the steps we need to take to build a world class organization? What can I do different as your leader to help us achieve our collective goals? That’s my biggest accomplishment. Creating a team and helping define how we can win together and support each other.
What is on your challenge for 2016?
What keeps me up at night is working towards, and being a critical voice for shifting culture. It’s something I can’t do by myself. It’s something I can express my passion about and share data to support the notion, but it takes a partnership and a team approach across multiple business functions to really shift the culture. How can we prepare ourselves as a company to be a major competitor in the war for talent? With the looming mass exodus of baby boomers, we have to make sure that in health care, we are completely poised to capture the next generation of talent. We must first engage and acquire the talent and then manage and grow them. The culture of healthcare will continue to shift and it will be an on-going challenge to help shape and define the healthcare workforce of the future.
Any final thoughts?
I love that I work for a company who has a reputation of being a high-quality, values-driven system with a commitment to extending our mission of care and service to those in need.
We keep Hello Humankindess at the forefront and makes coming to work every day extremely enjoyable.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Kristie’s mindful navigation as a leader from big tech to healthcare at Dignity. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by big picture planning and small-scaled daily demands, but we must not forget to look inward to ask ourselves if what we do every day is fulfilling what we value the most, not just as a leader, but as a human being.