November 22, 2017 - No Comments!

Can You Tell Your Story in Three Minutes? Absolutely!

Charles Antis, CEO of Antis Roofing invited an impressive group of OC leaders to an event yesterday (in their amazing Irvine headquarters) to learn from an accomplished and inspiring Story Teller.  Charles models the power of story and purpose in big ways for all of us. He generously hosted Jay Golden, Author, story coach and storyteller who showed us how to tap into our own stories so that they are retellable and impactful.

It only takes three minutes and within a very short time we were practicing our stories with each other.  Jay says, that "the ability to find, shape and share your own story - told one to one and one to many - is one of your greatest assets as a leader."

What is a retellable story?  Jay's new book introduces concept using a simple framework.  You would think that we know how to do this. Not really.  I learned it can be simple and yet powerful in creating connection quickly. It does start with us.  Our stories reveal a lesson that helps inform and inspire others.   Antis 2

At this time of  year, we often retell stories at family gatherings or create new experiences that become future stories.   It is not just simply a beginning, middle and end process.  There is more to it and I recommend getting Jay's book to dive into this for yourself and your team.

Stories matter today.  The human connection we make with a memorable personal story takes our relationships and engagement with others to a different level.  This takes us beyond the noise and data flying at us every day. I can see the direct link of story to insight and creativity. I am going to try this out.   Jay says in his book, "The twists and turns of the story draws us in, gives form to the journey and enables us to gain new understanding. The teller is the guide to that understanding."

The concepts fascinate me and I am going to reflect on the stories that have been meaningful for me so that I may share them, plant some seeds and see how they grow. Any one who references Joseph Campbell is my hero, Jay closes his book with a quote from Joseph, "The hero is the one that comes to know."  Bravo.

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

October 14, 2017 - No Comments!

Are Robots Taking Over?

Some people think that dramatic improvement in robotics and AI puts us on the road to a jobless future.  MIT researchers Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee say we are in the "second machine age."  It is true that many jobs will be at risk of being automated and it is happening right now.   It is true the workplace is transforming.  However, the job market does not show that robots are on the rise yet.  Our clients share that they see a shortage of skilled folks and not a labor surplus.  If automation to replace humans was really impacting us now, we might see more job turnover.  One study written by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation says that "levels of job churn are at historic lows."  Barcelona star sculpture

We can't deny huge changes in work, workers and the workplace.  I respect what exists today and look forward to having the influence to change everything.  This sculpture is in the harbor in Barcelona, called Miraestels.  I was just there and loved this inspiring structure - he is holding a hidden star behind and he seems to pose a question, and imagines a possibility yet he is awaiting a response.

We in the people business don't have to wait for a response.

To get at some of the workplace questions, we hosted Kevin Mulcahy, author of the Future Workplace Experience and Dean Carter, head of HR and Shared Services for Patagonia on October 3rd with 100 senior executives to ask questions and learn of their perspective on change.

One message was, "The strongest organizations today are learning machines."  That does not mean robots that learn, it means humans learning to leverage technology and be agile in the face of huge change.

There is a focus on productivity (app-ification) for almost everything, from performance, to how you give feedback, understand your talent and worker expectations as well as profiling success.  The majority of our attendees, who are senior executives in HR or Talent said that digital analytics and workforce analytics is the next big thing for them. Data is king.  But there was recognition that having a strategy and clear assumptions about change needed is essential.

Kevin Mulcahy says, "Pick your trends."  Make the case for change and articulate the assumptions around this before you leap ahead with analytics or how you want to transform the workplace.

There was also discussion about Recruiting and the automation that will allow greater efficiency and the ability to build eco-systems of talent that are aligned with the organizations values, purpose and career paths.  Dean Carter talked about building communities of people who might want to work with Patagonia but the company or individual may not be ready.  His company curates conversations with talent that shares their values and purpose driven culture.  He urged us all to think broadly about ongoing and continuous conversations with talent and why having a clear and compelling employer brand is critically important to answer  the "why work here" question.

Are you a workplace activist?  You need to be...the robot will not play that role at all.  We have the opportunity in the people business to be the catalyst for change and to speak boldly about the big bets for the future and what can be started now. Go to it.

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

August 28, 2017 - No Comments!

SBC August Newsletter – Meet Gayle Karen Young, Culture Builder & Catalyst

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Today leadership is about visibility and being authentic. Earlier this year, I attended a session with my favorite living poet, David Whyte, who inspires us to be vulnerable in being ourselves. I have followed his writing and enjoyed his workshops for many years. This session included a most intriguing organizational expert, Gayle Karen Young, who I was totally taken by. I found her perspective on leaders finding their way in this messy organizational life quite mind shifting.

Gayle brings wisdom and warmth to the conversation about how we develop as leaders within complex and changing systems.  She calls herself a “rogue provocateur.” Join me in our fascinating conversation about how we thrive in this unpredictable place called leadership.

Sherry Benjamins: Tell us about your perspective on leadership today.

Gayle Young: Its been fascinating to watch my own thoughts on leadership and culture evolve as I’ve moved from being an external consultant to taking on a role as Chief Talent and Culture Officer (essentially the CHRO) at the Wikimedia Foundation, and then going out on my own again.

For background, the Wikimedia Foundation is a fascinating organization for being one of the top five visited websites in the world. It’s the only top 50 website that is a non-profit. The actual organizational size is small, but a huge number of volunteers help run it and essentially create the product. Each language has their own Wikipedia and governing bodies. The volunteer base influences a lot of the dynamics. We worked in more of a network or influence-based structure.

Any dynamic that impacts the geopolitical news landscape, shows up on Wikipedia. Whether it was a downed flight in Ukraine or conflicts in South America, you can see ideological differences pop up across different wikis. It taught me a lot about complexity, permeability, culture, and of course, the day-to-day of business management like performance, quarterly goals, large implementations, etc.. I grew to have an appreciation for the intersection of complexity and organizational development and culture.

Being a leader in these contexts for me means having a capacity to work both the mythic and the mundane. It requires working on the mission, the values, the intangibles, and the day-to-day experiences that become tangible components that nudge a complex system in a particular way, like the way that decisions are made or that meetings are run. I say “nudge” because I believe that we don’t get to manage culture. We do small things that ripple through a system in profound ways.

SB: You’re now collaborating with fascinating leaders and companies.  What made you decide to go out on your own? 

GY: I was at the Wikimedia Foundation for four years and I loved it. It was a great place to practice leadership and my own mission. I was working with one of the executive directors, Sue Gardner, who I would follow anywhere. There was a leadership transition where the organization didn’t need me in the same way and I had personal needs that led me to take a year off. At that time, I was at a retreat at the Burren Executive Leadership Program, which aimed to foster a leader’s action by way of reflection. That’s when I first met David Whyte, who was an artist in residence. It changed the course of my life.

SB: Tell us about what you do to help a leader with running their company? 

GY: I do have one-on-one coaching with clients where we reflect on their own practices of leadership. I also work with executive teams. Sometimes I go in and support a new team as it’s coming together. We explore how do they lead together? What does collective leadership look like? A team that’s high-performing doesn’t just do their own thing and then come together. They practice what they want to do.

I also have my passion projects. I work with an organization called Hidden Leaf that offers grants for personal development for social justice leaders, or I work with organizations like Uncharted, that supports social entrepreneurs.

SB: What would you say to a CHRO today about their leaders and the organization  of the future? 

GY:  I think it starts with understanding the evolving nature of the workforce and it’s an interesting one. There’s an upsurge of people looking for meaning. A lot of Millennials tend to be part of the compulsive-awesome generation. In terms of designing work and roles, people are asking, “what is their evolving portfolio of their skill set?”

An organization’s culture is a nested set of environments. If you’re going to understand the culture of Wikimedia, for example, you have to understand the values of the Enlightenment and the spirit of the Gutenberg Press, as well as seeing that it is rooted in the ethos of the free knowledge movement and in the open nature of the internet itself. Those streams of values, norms, and beliefs are part of the operating ecosystem. A CHRO can understand and track the streams that are influencing an organization’s culture.

SB: How do we start to see the often subtle influences at play when understanding what influences us? 

GY: If you’re going to try to understand yourself, try to understand the contexts you emerge from as a beginning. I’m an immigrant with a Chinese family, raised in California.  Each of these things gives a window into what makes me up. In that way Toms Shoes would be influenced by philanthropy, the shoe industry, manufacturing, and its location in Silicon Beach. It’s like mapping out what all the elements are of being you, but at an organizational level.

SB: As we reflect on who we want to be as leaders, are you seeing more partnership between CEO’s and HR?

GY: If you're CEO doesn’t get you and has a traditional view of HR, in other words, a compliant-based version of HR instead of a development-based version, that makes for a very difficult relationship and forward thinking partnership. Particularly if the CEO doesn’t appreciate and value and support that function, it is almost a non-starter.

SB: I attended the workshop that you and David did together and I’ve followed David’s work for over 20 years.  He facilitates new conversations that guide  personal development. . Do you see executives investing in this way?   

GY: If you want people to follow you with a kind of whole-hearted engagement, then personal development and professional development are inextricable. One metaphor is the difference between a hollow core and a robust one, and that IS visible in the world whether you know it or not. As a leader, by the very of nature of leadersihp, you must have a willingness to really be seen. What you’re seen as standing for, since every movement you make is watched and noted on, as an active, conscious choice, makes all the difference in the world. That’s where the self-knowledge comes in. With the work David does, he helps get us to be grounded in our own robust vulernability. But we have our own work to do to understand how we want to be seen in the world, what we stand for, and what we live out. It’s this notion of when you’re unaware of what you put into the world, Jung said, “that which remains in the unconscious comes back to us as fate.” Unless you work with your own interior landscape, then you don’t have a hope of influencing what it is that you invite.

In closing...We are in a time when doing the “internal work” of a leader is seen as high value, yet many find it challenging to accomplish. Gayle’s refreshing and honest perspective encourages us all to dive in to move forward. Clearly, the benefits of finding a friend or coach to help you in your leadership journey are invaluable.

June 9, 2017 - No Comments!

Pressing Re-Start in Bali – Many are doing it

We just returned from one of our favorite places on earth - Bali.  It had been six years since we had visited our Balinese family (former business partner and friend of my husband) and now our adopted family far away but close in heart.  Life is changing there and while all the magic and beauty of the island remains, you can see that business is more entrepreneurial, tech savvy and global.  For me global means a richer more diverse group of people doing work and living in Bali than I observed years ago.  We met Europeans, Americans, Australians, professors, musicians, academics and entrepreneurs - it was more like a mini United Nations. 

Eighty five percent of the population in Bali (which is 4 million people) are Hindu.  They belBali offeringieve that spirits inhabit trees, stones, forests, and places.  It is truly a fascinating mix of ancient tradition and contemporary life yet a focus on culture, spirit, family, music and art.  I always wondered how the mash up of corporate work and spiritual practice would play out as businesses grew. It seems to work so far with such an influx of folks from all over the globe who respect this wonderful culture and people. 

This island in Indonesia offers a confetti of sensory experiences, smells of frangipani and burning trash along with sounds of Gamelan that soothes the soul.  What better place to grow an idea, start a business or re-start your psychic and physical energy.   I even found a company called Hubud (hub in Ubud) that brings coworking, coliving and colearning experiences to entrepreneurs from all over the world. They look for digital nomads.   I do hope all these global citizens or corporate escapees embrace the gift of Bali culture and respect for tradition and not change it too much. 

There is a total engagement of social media now that we did not see six years ago.  Trip Advisor is king in a land of tourism and growing hospitality businesses in a big competitive market.   I don't recall on previous visits the requests in a  very nice yet direct way for feedback, comments on facebook, and please share your customer experience.  We met two business owners that are focusing on marketing plans, improving their on line presence and learning about branding.  That is new.

The good news is that religious expression, colorful ceremonial dress, daily offerings, dance and music remain key to their life.  Ceremonies which are daily communicate ideas about community, status and aspects of life as well as afterlife.  People embrace living fully and honestly today for it might impact later in the next life.   Not a bad idea to take with us and cherish in our home and work here today.

      

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Communication, Management, Talent Economy

May 13, 2017 - No Comments!

Learn the Unexpected

There was a fascinating article in the Opinion Section of the Wall Street today that highlights Barbara Oakley,  a Professor at Oakland University, Michigan and her book called Mindshift.  It is a deep dive into the science and practice of learning. Her personal story truly demonstrates a multi-faceted journey in learning.   We place obstacles in our way when confronted with new learning challenges.  I can say that from personal experience.  However, according to Professor Oakley, this holds us back from new outlooks.

I was taken by the notion of learning something new as a workout to the centers of the brain that are most affected by aging.   That was not a new notion but hit home for sure.

What really captivated my imagination was the idea of learning the unexpected. Do we allow ourselves the vulnerability to ask, "Who do we want to become in our work and what needs to be explored in this life?"  Not often enough.  It is consuming to just respond to everyday challenges that are right in front of us let alone think out into what we want for our future self.

I attended a workshop a few weeks ago in San Francisco, facilitated by my favorite corporate poet and philosopher, David Whyte.  He is working with executives to help them be "Half a Shade Braver" (his new topic and CD) and be vulnerable and risk yourself in leadership. That often means surrendering to the unknown and reflecting on key questions that we have inside of us that will patiently wait for us to answer.  Those questions are not going away, says David Whyte.

The mindshift that Professor Oakley speaks of had me reflecting on the workshop with David. The question that I want to ask is, "what parts of me have I not spoken of or developed yet in my work?" What are the possibilities?  It is an exciting time at any age to hold the possibilities in your hands and learn how to learn.

 

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

May 9, 2017 - No Comments!

Are Millennials Taking Over?

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-win-over-skeptical-coworkers-as-a-young-boss-1493717406

As Millennials, we grew up in a world surrounded by technology, a known social stigma for a love of taking selfies, and we are infamously known to “steal” jobs away from experienced Baby Boomers. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, Millennials surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce - which means that Millennials are here to stay. But how can Exec Millennials gain the trust of older, skeptical peers?

In a recent WSJ article, it discusses multiple instances where our young generation is taking over Executive-level roles in organizations. Although this can be seen as unfair, and perhaps unwarranted, I think that many organizations understand the need for innovative leaders with new and fresh ideas to change their company in the direction of the future workplace. Nobody understands the Millennials like Millennials, ourselves.

-Ashlee Sutherland

Published by: Corey Kachigan in Blog
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May 1, 2017 - No Comments!

Are 2017 College Grads Falling Short?

https://www.wsj.com/articles/where-college-seniors-are-falling-short-1493118000

As a recent 2017 University of Oregon graduate with my degree in Public Relations, I found this article very interesting and, let’s be honest, somewhat alarming. It seems as though 2017 grads are getting a bad wrap - and while many may be unprepared to enter the workforce, I find myself in a different place post-graduation.

University of Oregon’s PR program really encouraged students to get involved with work opportunities and internships while in school. I was able to take advantage of this advice – this not only gave me valuable experience, but helped me better understand what I wanted to pursue post-graduation. I was able to complete multiple internships throughout my time at UO and received college course credit for the work I was doing.

Something I found interesting about UO is that almost all of my professors had previously worked in the corporate world. This opened up opportunities to gain a strong network with professionals around campus and within the community.

As a final graduation project, I was able to work with TrackTown USA to complete a Public Relations and Marketing campaign and host an event to help identify their brand more effectively. My professor had a relationship with the CEO of TrackTown, so this connection allowed myself, as well as other students, to work with a professional client and get real world experience outside of the classroom.

As a communication major, I find myself somewhat confident in my interviewing skills, but that's because I do my homework. I research the company and position, any recent articles in the news about the organization, make sure to bring up what I can offer the company, how I can make an impact on the company culture as well as have at least 2 questions prepared for the interviewer. I understand that the interview is as much about me interviewing the company, as it is the company interviewing me. Most importantly, the follow-up email is essential. I think that writing a note thanking the interviewer for their time leaves an impact and can make the difference between an average candidate and a great one.

Upon first glance, this article is making a blanket statement that 2017 grads may not be as qualified as previous classes - but that doesn’t mean there aren’t highly qualified candidates applying for jobs at your company. Most importantly, college students need to capitalize and utilize the resources on campus before hitting the real world to optimize their chances of post-grad opportunities.

-Ashlee Sutherland, SBC Recruiting and Events Coordinator

Published by: Corey Kachigan in Blog
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April 24, 2017 - No Comments!

Writing as an Active Practice

KPCC hosted the first event of three this past Sunday called UNHEARD LA.  It is about the stories where we live.  There were ten fascinating people that told their story to an auditorium of 400 people at Whittier college on this first night of the series.  It just so happens that one of those people was our son, Erik Benjamins.  The stories were incredible and so diverse and offered an inside view of living in Los Angeles.  It truly highlighted what many of us love about LA - the multicultural community and culture, openness, along with stories of opportunity and possibility.  The storytellers were from very different backgrounds and experiences for sure and KPCC did their magic in producing a rich introspective into people where we live. Erik FullSizeR

So our son, Erik shared his story about a recent successful book project.  His book is called Last Day First Day and he shares the process of gathering the letters from 186 individuals from all over the world and this country so that they could write to former President Obama and incoming President Trump on what they wanted to say to each on their last or first day.

I really appreciated that Erik talked about writing as a practice like going to the gym. Through this project he realized so many of us are hesitant to or chose not to invest in this practice for ourselves.  Maybe it is easier to text these days.  In this exercise others were asked to express thoughts in word, image, drawing or whatever to write this letter to our outgoing and incoming Presidents on January 20th.

I like the idea that writing is a personal and even intimate practice and there are so many rich ways to express our thoughts and vulnerabilities.  The individuals that told their stories were vulnerable, honest and inspiring.  They expressed an optimism and possibility even in light of some that had great adversity to deal with.   Thank you KPCC for bringing the voices of LA to our community and thank you Erik for encouraging us to write and start new conversations.

 

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Communication, Employee Engagement

April 14, 2017 - No Comments!

Nicole’s Story

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SBCo has proven to me how a small team can work together to make a big impact. We are a close-knit, collaborative group that fosters creativity, flexibility in thought and in working logistics. It has amazed me that while we all work virtually, we manage to operate as if we see each other daily. Our small group never seems to miss a beat; both in finding creative ways to help our clients or working together as a cohesive unit. While the nature of our business has ebbs and flows, what remains constant is our commitment to clients and the holding of ourselves to the highest standards.

April 13, 2017 - No Comments!

Lisa’s Story

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I can’t believe it has been over 17 years ago that I started this journey with SBC. As I made a leap from the corporate world to consulting, little did I know that I was joining an organization that would make such an impact on my life, working with the best leader and team. After working with our first client, Allergan and AMO, I remember thinking to myself that this organization was something different - it's not just an ordinary firm, but one that has built its foundation on relationships and integrity. These core values aligned with what I was looking for and have truly allowed me to experience the perfect work/life balance. I have been able to pick my kids up from school, work in their classroom, and attend sporting events, all while being able to fulfill my passion for building relationships and helping great people connect with great companies. I love that each person on our team is always willing to help out and brainstorm ideas, and even though we are virtual, we are able to collaborate and support each other. As I look back I feel so blessed to be part of an organization that values its clients and for the relationships that I have made along the way. Congratulations to 20 years and thank you Sherry for being a mentor, and allowing me to be a part of this journey!

Published by: Corey Kachigan in Blog
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