May 22, 2019 - No Comments!

The Team Advantage – It’s about Talent says Sarah Pearson

Business has never done so much hiring as they do now. Companies are building internal capable recruiting teams and using external experts as well. It could not be a more challenging time to build a team of energized recruiters and partner with the business to keep up with talent demand. I recently learned that Sarah Pearson, head of Talent Acquisition and Corporate Strategic Business Partners at Orora Packaging Solutions won the HR team of Excellence award given out by NHRA in Orange County. I wanted to know what her “secret sauce” was for building her team and found a time to speak with Sarah about this.

Sherry Benjamins: What brought you into the talent business?

Sarah: I grew up in England and attended high school here in Southern California. I was fortunate to land a position at the Walt Disney Company and stayed for 12 years. I learned from the best and appreciated their marketing genius. It was there that I began to see the importance and power of brand and what motivates us as consumers. I then went on to recruiting and worked for an executive search firm, I learned more about people and what they are capable of, as well as, what gets in the way of them tapping into their own individual genius. Next stop in my career was a dive into fashion and brand with a tech start-up in LA, where I scaled the organization from 80 employees to 2500 across 12 countries in less than 4 years. The differences of experiences, companies, industries and strategies I’ve encountered prepared me for the business of attracting and engaging talent in a meaningful way.

Sherry: What do you think it takes to select and lead a team today?

Sarah: Leaders need to be future-focused. I study the trends that will impact us in the future. When I look ahead at potential change, and work backward from there, it helps me determine the strategies needed for the team. I believe that future leaders need to be self-aware. They need to know what they are good at and to allow themselves to be vulnerable (admitting where they have blind spots and/or deficiencies).

Imagine a culture where failure is rewarded, not feared or avoided. Imagine the innovation that can occur when you create a safe space to experiment and fail. I launched a new system (Applicant Tracking System) at Orora and I am rewarding mistakes as we implement this. Those on our team that raise the most “bugs” will get a reward. I am working to create a culture where it is ok to fail and it is important to foster risk taking.

As a leader, it is also important for me to understand what drives each person and then learn what success looks like for them. Leading a team means getting to know each team member very well and helping them unlock the career that they truly want.

Sherry: What have you learned about yourself from leading teams that surprised you?

Sarah: I have learned to give up the idea of perfection. Being perfect was a killer of any attempt at innovation. I can see that now. I was fortunate to have a role model earlier in my career who understood teams and celebrating differences. She was the leader of a gaming company and exposed us all to mindfulness and the importance of intention and balancing physical as well as mental well-being.

Sherry: What is the role technology plays in bringing your team together?

Sarah: I have a team that is 90% remote. This forces me to think about technology as a tool for communicating and sharing information. It means we need to be there when we can’t physically be there. The team is encouraged to self-organize and use tools such as instant messaging, social platforms with a blend of planned update calls. I am proud of our ability to perform remotely and serve such a diverse customer base. We implemented a team meeting conference and video call every two weeks and I schedule a weekly touch base call one on one with each team member. Other parts of the organization have not yet adopted virtual work in the way we have however, I see that happening at some point.

Sherry: What is your operating priority for the team?

Sarah: I think it is all about service. That is service to each other and our customers. If you recall, I grew up in the Disney culture and personally experienced their practices of “concierge” service to guests. I believe in aspiring to that level of service. One idea is to aim for a “zero inbox mentality” – getting back to people quickly. In today’s world of communication that may seem daunting. We tackle this in steps; first establish clear email etiquette and second, decide if the email is action required or information sharing. I work hard at modeling this concept of service and managing communication for our team.

Sherry: Bob Johansen, the trends analyst, says that “the best leaders in the future will be gritty gamers and prototypers.” Do you see that?

Sarah: I agree that the power of games is here to stay and for something we can learn from. I have an eight year old son who loves his games and frankly, rather than worry about it, I embrace it and see it fosters a growth mindset. He is continuously learning about strategy, creating a hypothesis for action, learning from mistakes, and figuring out how to navigate change. When I play with him, I can see these skills in action.

Our future leaders will have to anticipate and shift, iterate, learn and improve their tactics. I agree with Bob, that it is all about simulation and immersing yourself in unfamiliar environments so that you can learn in a very personal way.

Sherry: What is your advice to new managers today?

Sarah: There are three areas that I would suggest new managers focus on.

First, utilize a tool for feedback – to spark honest conversation. I use a tool called “Stop, Start and Continue.” This quickly builds a trusting relationship with your team, especially when you supply them with feedback and ask them in return for feedback on a regular basis. Each of us gets to say what is working, what should continue and what we can stop doing to make things better.

Secondly, connect the work to a mission or purpose. Be specific – so that if your purpose in the next three months is to complete a project that everyone is participating in, then be clear on the deliverables and why it matters to them. Be realistic and pragmatic. They will feel committed and clarity moves everyone closer to your success.

Lastly, audit your reputation. Ask peers, clients and your boss for feedback. Ask how you are doing and how you are known in the organization. It takes being vulnerable. And, be willing to listen and respond. I have learned the most from asking for this feedback to support relationships and future success.

Conclusion by Sherry

I have respect for leaders in our community who are building high performing teams. Peter Cappelli, in his recent HBR article, talks about how hiring is all wrong today. He is referencing the challenge in retaining talent. Sarah’s advice on building teams and understanding what each individual member wants works across the business. Not every manager has this focus or intention, so we lose quality people.

LinkedIn data shows that the most common reason for employees leaving is to consider a position elsewhere which meets their career advancement goal. Hiring managers sell the career conversation but they also need data. Analytics tells the story of why retaining internal talent results in stronger outcomes. It is time for us to do the numbers and reveal the truth.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Uncategorized

May 12, 2019 - No Comments!

Count Up Your Transitions

When were you at your best? Jot down memories where you were energized and enthusiastic. What were you doing then? Imagine creating more of those welcoming moments. I bet some of them were during a transition.

I decided to count up the transitions that I have had over my career and it is well over 15 when I look at the change in roles and responsibilities as well as new culture, organizations or starting my own company. Each change required a shift in mindset and a deeper understanding of me. I was impatient at times and wanted the answers much faster than they came to me.

I recall a very big transition which was to leave corporate America and figure out what was next. Although this was many years ago, I recall it vividly. I had been in the career consulting business and focused on helping others with their story but I had not thought about my own story. Have you ever been in the pace and groove of your work? You try to convince yourself that it is all right. Over time, you realize it doesn’t feel right.  It was welcoming at first but you start to ask yourself questions about your new perspective or direction and whether you are still learning.

Fortunately, I was asking those questions and was introduced to LifeLaunch, a program of the Hudson Institute which is now called Life Forward. Back in those days it was a five day program focused on your inner talk, possibilities, feelings, prized memories and eventually goals and action steps. The concepts introduced were about reflection, revision, and renewal. It was focused on where you are today, where you want to go and how you will get there. There was a phase called “go for it” and being a results-driven person, I liked that phase. But, that is not where you start. The process begins with reflection and slowing down to think about dreams, passion, and interests and of course, purpose.

Whether you are making a job change or taking on a bigger role in your company or moving into the entrepreneurial world, the transitions we go through from one stage to another is a gift. They are exhilarating and they can also cause anxiety.

I was ready to create something new but had no idea how it would work out. That was stressful and exciting.  This can happen when you are inside a company and have a role that you enjoy and then you hear of an opportunity that you can transition to with more responsibility along with a very steep learning curve. It is what you were looking for yet scary at the same time.

What I observe today is that the speed of transitions and personal change in our careers is so fast that there is little time to move through the changes and or the emotions. We need that in order to understand ourselves, what might accelerate our effectiveness or get in the way and how best to navigate an entirely new challenge. The people are different, expectations vary and the social norms might shift but you are not aware of that yet.

As you embark on your change, it may be that the rules have changed or the way to get things done is entirely different. You might have to navigate this on your own or if you are lucky, you will have a change “Sherpa” in your company. We are never really on our own and change does not mean you will be in “free-fall” as one of my clients expressed. However, I know that feeling of fear and internal second guessing that takes us down a path of non-constructive self-talk even during a positive expanded role. Slowing ourselves down to reflect, envision and then act is a human thing to do. Reaching out to your network is a human thing to do as well. Our company cultures are not great at slowing down.

Here are my suggestions on moving effectively on a wave of transition.
1. Celebrate - Did you celebrate the ending – you may have just accepted a promotion in your company and moving on to a bigger role. Did you celebrate and congratulate yourself for the accomplishment of getting this far? Take the time to do this with your team and acknowledge success. It is easy to let the voice in our head worry about the new job or jump to action with enthusiasm but take the time to breathe and celebrate this ending before starting a new beginning.

2) Welcome the new – Meet your team, get to know the business and how things work. Ask a lot of questions. Your focus is on learning rather than doing. We are all programmed to do but few of us focus on the learning part first. Step back to figure out the new landscape and what small steps of success will look like. Determine how your network will expand and who will be there to guide you. Sometimes it is not your immediate boss.

3) Envision – Listen to your internal voice but also gather the perspectives of others. I recall my voice telling me, “you are responsible and you will do the right thing.” I had to add something critical to that inner dialogue and that was “enjoy this adventure and trust yourself.” Not so easy to accomplish but it was my daily mantra.

4) Grow – The aging process is inevitable and I don’t recall ever thinking about it until my 40’s. That is when I realized mid-course corrections are a good thing and if we can look at our learning and development as part of our investment plan that is cumulative, than we are ahead of the game. It takes time to learn a new role. You have more decisional capacity than you realize so learning, risking and experimenting is part of the deal going forward. Your company will not drive that for you so you get to set that growth plan and course correct along the way.

What is your learning agenda for the next chapter of your life?  Who are the people you would chose to have as mentors, friends, and guides? Build this into your plan and you will see that endings, celebrations, beginnings, and your feelings around change will be more aligned with your level of satisfaction and connection with those that matter.  Do not hurry this process. It takes time and intention.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Communication, Employee Engagement, Talent Economy

May 8, 2019 - No Comments!

Expand the Circle

Imagine you have a circle of friends that you have known for a long time and they are just the folks you hang out with when you yearn for connecting and comfort. Often, food accompanies this connecting time.

You know these friends, their unique perspective on life, what makes them laugh and their favorite food. True appreciation for who they are and why you enjoy this circle of friends or friend, is very clear knowledge that you have lived and experienced with joy.

Now think about what it is like to step out of that circle and connect with new people – that are not in your circle. It takes a different energy to expand beyond your comfort zone. It amplifies our curious self to meet new people and listen to other perspectives of the world. This is the space where we don’t know things.

We should not take advantage of our circle. Relationships are not static and the world is dynamic, so why not consider new dimensions to explore. This does not mean we abandon our circle of “confidants.”   However, do you want to learn about other people, cultures, interests and or experiences? We are only one person, so when we can learn from others, it is truly a gift and from a practical standpoint it makes us more productive and maybe even a bit worldly. We learn about the things we don’t know.

Be honest, is it tough for you to make new connections? Are we good at getting to know others? Is this a new skill to master? And, where do we find the time to expand these connections? Are we good at the art of inquiry – really getting to know someone?

I believe the next generation will offer us more perplexing situations and opportunities to expand our notion of “circle of friends” and learn new skills in connecting with others. It will be a broader definition and produce more meaning, complexity and fascination as the world seems to get smaller.

I was invited to a dinner party a year ago, for my son, a visual artist and creative writer, was fortunate to be the first artist and one person show for a new gallery in Echo Park, Los Angeles. He was so excited and the opening night was invite only for this special celebratory dinner. We sat down with 12 other folks and what was astounding was the diversity of people, backgrounds and areas of interest beyond art. Saying they were eclectic is an understatement. They shared a love of art. Beyond that, they worked in the finance area, teaching, performance, coaching, making art and professional traveler. You might say this is an LA thing but it clearly is an example of an open circle of connections that invites you in to a new conversation.

We knew before getting there that we might feel like a stranger among strangers. However, it did not take long to see more of the synergies and possibilities, and delightful peculiarities of this group getting to know each other.  Yes, there was some trepidation at first which moved into wanting to learn more about each person.

My take away is to suggest we abandon the mental models in our head about how we should meet new and different people and just embrace the unknown. That is not hard to do under an LA warm summer night while we get to share pasta, grilled zucchini and wine.

Are you part of a peer learning group? What are you learning that is unexpected? How does this group support you in the challenge of navigating work and personal challenges? I am passionate about helping others learn and build meaningful connections. As humans, we all lean towards these kinds of relationships where people can be authentic and find their voice. Enjoy expanding your circle along with wonderful food!

Sherry Benjamins facilitates peer learning groups that are forward looking, and have a keen interest in building relationships that strengths impact and direction on work and career. They begin in building a new circle of friends where it is safe to be themselves, learn about each other and accelerate their success as leaders and learners in business. Contact Sherry to learn more 562-594-6426 or


Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Communication, Employee Engagement

April 26, 2019 - No Comments!

Humans & Technology Meet-up with Dr. Kevin Fickenscher

As we navigate through 2019, there are intensifying changes and disruption in many industries along with an avalanche of new information every day. It is hard to keep up with this and digest it all. This disruption is clearly happening in healthcare and following my interview with Dr. Kevin Fickenscher, I am hopeful and less weary. It means a robust intersection with technology and in the case of our own health care, I am hopeful that ultimately we will have the benefit of better information and care.  

A long-time friend, from my Baxter Healthcare days connected me to Dr. Kevin Fickenscher, a pioneer in bringing technology to medicine. He has a fascinating and deep expertise in academics, large healthcare systems, start-ups, leading tech companies, and now transforming how we educate doctors in the age of diagnostics with AI and Machine Learning.

Kevin is known as the thought leader and strategist who “stirs things up.” I wanted to hear more about how he sees change coming.

Sherry Benjamins: Where are you seeing innovation today?

Dr. Kevin: There is significant change from applications and process change, to infrastructure and adoption of entirely new technologies. There is change in how, what and where we receive care and it is challenging the way we think about the delivery of services in the future. All industries are impacted but I would say healthcare is experiencing more dramatic disruption because society demands more value today with reduced cost. A significant driver of this change in the last three years has been AI and Machine Learning. Just think about hands-free driving and Siri and how far that has gone. In healthcare we see diagnostics being transformed. In one example, there are physicians at Stanford who are teaching computers how to diagnose skin cancers. That is just one of many innovations utilizing machine learning.

Sherry: How has this changed the life of the Physician?

Dr. Kevin: The new systems are offering “clinically augmented intelligence” with physicians having access to information that was not available before. It changes processes that have been in place for decades. In times of change, we tear things apart before we put them back together. That is where we are today and the pace of change is impacting how we use tools, data and information.

Sherry: You are known to stir things up – tell me about that?

Dr. Kevin: I provoke thought and action. There are some people resisting changes even in light of all of the new possibilities coming at us. It will leave them in an old and non-competitive place. Or, for those embracing change, there will be incredible learning and growth for patients and clinicians. As a metaphor for this change, think about a tsunami. The tsunami wave is a result of disruption in the middle of the ocean. When it gets close to shore, you can’t stop it and will cause mass destruction…or in this case disruption. This process started a decade ago and now we see entire change in processes and traditions as well as how we teach and prepare clinicians in healthcare.

Sherry: What is being done to prepare the new breed of healthcare leader in this age of disruption?

Dr. Kevin: Training - we are training in areas that did not exist before. We are seeing the emergence of virtual diagnosis, remote care delivery and the creation of virtual communities. I call this “virtualist” training. The elements of this include; AI, machine learning, social immersion, and managing of virtual teams. Remote care delivery requires new operational guidelines, new curriculum for physicians, and a new way to communicate with other humans about their care.

Sherry: What will be essential for the new leader in this augmented world?

Dr. Kevin: They must be given the technology and development across disciplines. Collaboration skills and working in teams remotely or virtually will be critical. Skills and knowledge and analysis capabilities will grow. Organizations will be “learning empowered” and not hierarchical any longer.

Sherry: What concerns you about the human and machine interaction?

Dr. Kevin: At the end of the day, the potential loss of human touch concerns me. A caring voice and empathetic smile will be essential. As we embrace the power of this new technology, we need to embrace the emotional intelligence of those using the technology. At first glance, it is possible that we as Physicians will be holding the knowledge rather than being empathetic. This is a critical element of our new role that means we must retain the human side of our work even in light of the machine supporting us.

Sherry: Are you optimistic about the future of healthcare?

Dr. Kevin: Always. I am known as the optimist and was seen that way even in medical school. We will get through this immense change and move forward using virtual, collaborative, and human touch with the goal of managing and delivering care in new and evolving ways. I am now being asked to consult with medical schools in order to re-design curriculum for Physicians embarking on the new age of “augmented clinical care.”

It could not be a more exciting time to participate real-time in preparing the next generation of physician leader in the revolution of telehealth, telecare and telemedicine.

Dr. Kevin Fickenscher is frequently called upon to speak on issues related to the future of the hospital industry, networking and diversification of local health care systems, the applications of technology to primary care, future scenarios on the delivery of health care in the United States, the impact of the global economy on health care, and a host of other related topics.

Conclusion by Sherry

Automation has arrived in healthcare and in the workplace. Whether it is an algorithm that figures out our tasks or encourages our behavior in specific ways, technology is invading our space. While it seems systems have advanced, the “human element” needs to speed up. Dr. Kevin addresses that in his suggestion to build EQ and the human side of patient care while we ask computers to do more.

We now have the opportunity to design new operating principles with a human focus. In the newly released 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report, there is a very interesting framework presented that outlines the social enterprise and its operating principles. Workers still want a sense of purpose, to be trusted, know that the organization is ethical and that personal relationships move us further than digital ones. Fortunately, we will always look to the human for creating meaningful connections at work. If you find a robot to do that, let me know!

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Uncategorized

March 23, 2019 - No Comments!

Who Owns Development?

In my earlier blog post, I talked about the simple act of preparing managers to manage in order to strengthen worker engagement.  The simple part is committing to this focus.  The hard part is learning what is needed and how to move forward.

Who owns development?  Each of us decide that path and if we work with an enlightened boss, we get to discuss how to move forward that engages us personally and organizationally.  There is such a great opportunity today to turn the workplace into a learning place.  Forget hierarchy. Everyone has to be learning to compete.  My friend, Beverly Kaye talks about contemporary "lattice-like" career growth and expanding skills. Managers can be our role model here.  I suggest the following;

  • Determine what your learning plan is for 2019. (You also need to know the mission critical and prioritized business goals for the year)
  • Are you doing work that is satisfying for you and adding value? If not, what is the one thing you can do to change that?
  • Are you able to live the values that matter to you?
  • Discuss this with your peers and leadership team.  Create your company learning philosophy.  Get specific about how you support learning in your company.
  • Now take this conversation to your workers - share the philosophy.  Help them create a personalized learning plan.

This is the beginning of a strong foundation for engagement.  Not simple yet critical for you and your worker to grow and not let them go.


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

March 23, 2019 - No Comments!

Meaningful Work Produces Results – Keep Your Talent

Wouldn't it be great to fix a problem before it is a problem?  And, even better with something that is simple.  For decades we have talked about engagement and developing managers.  It seems, from a sneak preview of Gallup's new research that much has not changed. A third of workers are highly engaged.  What about the other 70%?

The study's conclusion laid out in Jim Clifton and Jim Harter's book that is to be released next month, says the overwhelming driver to sustained performance is the manager as coach.  We know that, right?  However, it is still a topic of deep conversation with my clients and colleagues about what is missing today.

I recently met with several of my clients to learn about their perspective on disruptors in their business and impact on talent.  One theme that is emerging is the need to prepare and develop managers so that they respond to fast moving changes in the business and understand what workers want today.  Workers expect to do meaningful work that supports personal growth.  They are not shy to ask for and expect this.

This goes for the new professional as well as the seasoned one.  This past week I also had three calls from accomplished professionals in HR who see limits to their own growth in their organizations and are now exploring  new opportunities.  There is a problem here that we are not solving for.  It is avoidable yet, with all the demands and accelerating pace of business, senior leaders have forgotten the reason we have growth in the first place.  Yes, you have to have a great business model and service too but it also means equally hiring,  keeping and inspiring talent.  What if you could fix your problem simply by investing in managers?  Hiring good ones matters.  As Gallup states, they are the rocket fuel of the future.

Companies that enjoy engaged workers consistently post profit gains. What is not to like about that result? It is time to go for the simple solution, before you find that 30% or more of your best talent is planning to find the next chapter of their career somewhere else.

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

February 15, 2019 - No Comments!

SBC February Newsletter – The Engagement Challenge from John O’Brien

Newsletter – John O’Brien, VP Employee Performance on Engagement in our work world

We see heated competition for many categories of talent across multiple industries and specialties.   With unemployment at an all-time low and a scarcity of skills, we thought it was good timing to talk about how critical it is to keep those human assets.

I learned of BI Worldwide, a global firm, headquartered in Minneapolis, focused on inspiring the people that matter most to customer success.  That intrigued me so I hope you enjoy this discussion with John O’Brien, VP of Employee Performance for BI Worldwide.  He shared his view s on the challenge and unprecedented realities of worker and workforce complexity.

Sherry Benjamins: What brought you to this work in performance and engagement?

John O’Brien: Early on in my college career I was drawn to behavioral psychology and that is where I focused my studies. I had the chance to be a counselor and learn there were opportunities to make a difference when helping others understand behavior and what changes might lead to their increase in happiness.  With a Psychology background, I landed at BI Worldwide and over the past  34 years have focused my work in engaging talent which supports strategy and ultimately profitability for our clients.  The work we do for customers is specific to HR strategy.  Large organizations are looking at ways to attract and retain talent. We see that as relevant today.

Worker expectations have changed. We once defined ourselves by who we are and what we do.  Staying in one career was not uncommon.  The new generation defines themselves by what work will provide them.  They define themselves differently.

It is fascinating today to see five generations in the workplace.  The average manager age is 30 to 32 years old and managing two generations ahead and behind themselves.  This would challenge any of us in understanding the mindset and behaviors of our workers and leaders.  Out of the gate expectations have changed so drastically that through many channels, our worker today is more sophisticated.  The manager to employee connection is more important than ever.

SB: The collective wisdom of workers is a concept and not always a reality. How are you seeing the best companies understand this?

John:  There are organizations that do this really well.  I see three factors here.  First, workers want to lead.  So, letting them lead gives them an opportunity to take risks and engage with others earlier.   Leaders are working to understand the collective wisdom for it comes from a very diverse group.  The younger generations want to be challenged and have an emotional connection to the work, the team and the company.  Great leaders give them the confidence to take risk and allow them to lead. It can start in the onboarding process.  As an example, a new hire in the onboarding process may be invited to participate in a cross functional team working on a new product or service. This comes at an early stage in the worker relationship and great managers allow this to happen for those with potential.  Workers can see their future and how they will progress.  This is important to their career plan.

Secondly, organizations that offer meaning in what you do allows a context which drives performance.  Meaning provides an emotional connection to the company.  Workers want to be part of something bigger.

The third important factor is collaboration or “unite them.”  People will go above and beyond when collaboration and connection occurs.  Environments that support collaboration allow a unified approach and improved performance.  Our clients are utilizing technology to collaborate across the globe and we encourage them to use reinforcement, progress to goals discussions and team oriented behavior so that goals are met and rewards are given for those reaching goals.  Sometimes we get held back due to culture or language or the way things are done so being transparent is key to helping our clients build a unified approach.     

SB: What does the future require of leaders that we have not seen before? 

John:First, recognize good work and be transparent with expectations.  Managers need to understand each employee individually.  This will maximize performance.  It is still true that people leave managers and not companies. We are spending more time helping our clients set goals and reinforce good manager and worker behavior.  Compensation and benefits can only take you so far in the engagement space.  Once an employee sees compensation is fair, the discretionary contribution matters.  How we deliver the message will need to be new.  There are more individuals working on jobs that they are not necessarily trained on.  As an example, we may have to rely on a team in India for work needed.  The future of how we work is more distributed and requires new skill sets for managers.

You will see more technology based tools to help managers in the future.  We have a recognition tool that uses data and insights as a way to inform managers to take action. We also have some predictive models that indicate turnover levels based on frequency of recognition.  Watch for developments in this area across the engagement market.

SB: How do we shift from a doing more with less mindset?

John:  Organizations will continue to work with less. The shift to AI and technology is not there yet to do more with less but we are moving in that area – such as what we see more of in retail or manufacturing.  Individuals will be asked to work on assignments where they hold newly developed skills and they are learning as they go.  Work will also be done in a distributed, team structure that changes how work gets done with greater efficiency as the goal.

SB:  How do we do more and better?

John:  Are organizations challenging their workers to bring forward creativity?  Managers think they may know a creative solution but are removed from processes.  Let’s look to those that have direct line or touch to the work. It is important to understand the current state and what work flow looks like.  Employees do know what can be improved.  The generations that are coming in have access to technology and are more productive in how they operate their social and work life. Simplifying the message and the clarifying intention helps this new generation move to greater levels of participation and happiness.

The biggest shift I have seen is that recognition and engagement is a key pillar to the strategy of the company, it is a stated initiative from the CEO.  It is aligned with a return on the expense of an investment.  Recognition is strategic.

SB: What have you learned about yourself through this work?

John:  I have learned that if I put in the effort and the attitude, it is good for me and the organization. I have also learned the value of being curious, taking risks and being recognized for contributions.

We all have more of a say in how and where we do our work .The best talent steps up takes initiative here.  Of course, that means our company cultures needs to be ok with that.   I have learned that makes the difference for me. 

Conclusion by Sherry

Today’s business environment grows more complex by the minute.  It could be AI, technology, process efficiency or the newest thing in bitcoin.  We then add the power of choice into the mix.  Workers have choice and are exhibiting that in assessing career options and where and how they want to work.  We are in a new place where feedback is even more critical across your organization.  It is a fluid labor market. One of our clients said they are embracing all workers (Regular, Full time, Part time, contract and freelance) in hopes to improve engagement inside and out.  It isn’t just a one size fit all initiative.  Feedback is driving performance for customers and workers of all types.  How are you stepping up to this reality today? Your current and future talent will want to know and they are impatient.

Make sure to check out the BI Worldwide Event in Orange County next month: Innovative ideas to inspire the people who impact your business in 2019

Thursday, March 21, 2019  4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

This event is complimentary. For more information and to register check out their website:

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Uncategorized

January 24, 2019 - No Comments!

Looking Forward: A New Chapter for S. Benjamins & Co.

It’s hard to believe we started S. Benjamins & Company 22 years ago. We’ve cherished the relationships with our clients and partners over the past two decades. Talent strategy consulting was our initial focus, and we have always sought to bring fresh ideas and strong talent to your organizations.

I am excited and ready to move to a new chapter in my business and work with our clients and trusted partners.  Upon my return from a long planned trip to Italy in February, I will launch my work with CEO’s and leaders on the human capital issues related to talent.  This is about advancing the human side of business.  It is the most strategic business issue facing leaders today.

In order to shift my focus and define this next chapter for me, I will be transitioning our search services to Kate as she launches her new company, TalentWell,on February 1st.   She has consistently served our clients with care and proven results.   I am delighted to support her as she makes this her own venture. Please feel free to connect with Kate to discuss search needs.

We will continue the HRoundtable, our facilitated forums for connecting HR executives to experts with diverse perspectives for shared learning and community building. This is an extension of a mission I chartered over ten years ago  to provide thought leadership on the changing world of work.

I look forward connecting with you and hearing your thoughts.  I will be in touch soon to share more and as always, collaborate to learn more from you so that we can uncover new opportunities for change.

Wishing you all a great new year!

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Uncategorized

December 11, 2018 - No Comments!

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

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

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

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

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

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter

December 11, 2018 - No Comments!

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

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

 Why this matters so much now

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

The essential skills we never learned in school

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

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

We have to master both the inner and outer games.

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

How effective are you at managing yourself?

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

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

What is one method for building resilience?

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

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

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

More about Jeremy


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

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

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

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Newsletter