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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.

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 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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April 12, 2017 - No Comments!

Katherine’s Story

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Perhaps you can relate. Imagine my surprise when I showed up in corporate life with a burning desire to contribute, bundles of energy to get things done, and an never-ending flow of ideas (at least some of which were even feasible), only to realize the company just wasn’t willing to let me work to my potential. It felt like I was a salmon throwing myself on the rocks time and time again trying to get the company to let me make the contribution of which I was capable!

I finally decided “This Salmon isn’t spawning this year” and moved on. When I met Sherry and came to work at SBCo, I realized this was where people would be allowed to set their bar at the high level everyone wants to achieve in their work. Their ideas would be welcomed, and there would be total integrity, with an unwavering focus on superior client service.  And not one rock in sight! How wonderful. Thank you, Sherry!

Published by: Corey Kachigan in Blog
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April 11, 2017 - No Comments!

Corey’s Story

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What I have always admired/loved about SBC is the authenticity of relationships that are created with clients/candidates/community members. Although the majority of our work is done virtually, there is still a very personal connection we make with those we interact with. Whether it’s the pro-bono work we do for non-profits or the recruiting work we do with Fortune 500 companies, our hearts are focused on the people side of business. I find that you can most prominently see the results of these personal relationships at our learning events – there are endless hugs, personal conversations and cutting edge thoughts being exchanged. It’s rare to find an organization that puts such an emphasis on long-term connections!

April 10, 2017 - No Comments!

Kate’s Story

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The year was 2000 and much of the world was bracing for Y2K and impending disaster.  My family was bracing for a different development; the arrival of our second child.  As parents will tell you, the second one puts you over the top and as evidence of that, I really needed a different work/life blend.  

It was at that time I decided to make a phone call that changed my career and you could say, without being overly dramatic, my life.  I had met Sherry Benjamins on a consulting project when I was working for a recruiting software company.  With some trepidation, I called her and asked if perhaps she might consider bringing me on as a Consultant.  

After 15 years of corporate life, I embraced the vagaries of consulting and recruiting and haven’t looked back. The ups and downs, great clients and crazy ones, interesting projects and those that make you want to pull out your hair have made the journey all the sweeter. My roles have varied but the consistent thread has been SBCo's willingness to try new things and put people above profits.  Sherry has been my thought partner, mentor and the right brain to my left. 

Congratulations SBCo on 20 years.  What a joy it has been to be here for 17 of those.  Can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Published by: Corey Kachigan in Blog, Uncategorized
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April 10, 2017 - No Comments!

Celebrating 20 years!

Many years ago at our five year anniversary in business, I met with a dear friend who gave me sage advice and said; "write a forward looking vision of what you desire for the next phase of your business journey." So I did that and found my notes to share now. Written in 2005 as an aspirational guide for 2015 and beyond:

"I am laughing a lot more these days – not taking myself so seriously! I can step away and have perspective and total trust in a great team. They bring light, love and lots of balance to this thriving business. We are all having fun.

There are a core group of clients that rely on us for recruiting as an extension of their department. They call when multiple assignments emerge or hard to fill positions exist requiring focused effort. We blend into their system, almost seamlessly for we know their culture. Our process is about “we” not “I” and that is unique about us. Our clients trust us and value our opinion.

We are known as possibility thinkers…where each person on our team brings unique ideas and we celebrate what we accomplish for ourselves and our clients. We work in our home offices but connect virtually. It’s a blend of the possible….all meant to be flexible for us. We know how to capture what we are learning in each new project.

Clients give us regular feedback and we publish our results. We are the only firm that does this in a way that helps the client improve. We use this data for re-inventing ourselves. Sometimes a new service is created from this ongoing input of great data from our clients.

We have a brand that reinforces our goal to add value, challenge ideas, build relationships and share knowledge. The HRoundtable and learning forums are thriving for we value human connection in the best way possible.”

Sherry Benjamins, President of S. Benjamins & Company, 2005

SBC-Anniversary

Published by: Corey Kachigan in Blog
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August 26, 2016 - No Comments!

Talent Talk! – The Future of Workplace – The Great Department Debate

There is no denying that we have reached an era of digital disruption.  In the workplace, many CHRO’s are beginning to see the effect of digital disruption through a changing employment style. There is a new workforce rising through the “gig economy” (also known as contingent work, sharing economy, agile talent, non-traditional work relationships, or alternate forms of employment). Gig Economy companies include Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, UpCounsel, Instacart, and TaskRabbit.  The rapid growth of the gig economy represents one of the most significant and all-encompassing challenges faced by human resources professionals. The fundamental challenge for HR leaders is demonstrating the agility to lead the change in culture, programs, processes, and policies originally designed for work completed by full-time employees to a new era where more of the work is being completed by contingent workers (also referred to as gigsters, free agents, temporary help, agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, independent contractors, or freelancers).

To gather some perspective, we decided to reach out to Nick Horney, Ph.D., the founder and principal at Agility Consulting. In addition to leading the Leadership Agility Practice, he has published numerous books on agility and change management and recently published an article on this very topic in HRPS.