On the Brink with Andi Simon
On the Brink with Andi Simon
Andi Simon
On The Brink is a podcast where the goal is to help you better "see, feel and think" about your business, your job, your personal life and your purpose. There will be great interviews and conversations with people who are deeply involved in change—consultants, change agents, managers transforming their teams, entrepreneurs just starting out and CEOs running well-established companies.
Mimica Tsezana-Hyman—How Does An Entire Jewish Community Escape The Holocaust Due To Kindness?
Hear an incredible story of courage, kindness and resistance Mimica Tsezana-Hyman is our guest on this podcast today. It is difficult to tell you about all that we discussed in a short paragraph. I encourage you to read the transcript and listen to the entire podcast, or watch it, which is even better. Mimica has a great story to tell which will move you deeply. The question is, how does an entire Jewish community escape the atrocities of Hitler’s 1943 occupation of Zakynthos, a small island in Greece? Because of courage, and kindness, they all survived, which is why Mimica is alive today. She will tell you about her own personal discoveries and what she is doing to keep our understanding of that horrific period alive so we don't find ourselves doing that again. It's an amazing story. I urge you to listen and be changed. Watch and listen to our conversation here Mimica is doing something quite remarkable Mimica was introduced to me by a good friend of mine, ML Ball, who said, “You must talk to Mimica. She's Greek and has an amazing story to tell.” I was absolutely intrigued because I did my Ph.D. research in Athens. I took my daughters with me to the Greek island of Antiparos when they were four and five to spend three months learning about Greek women. I really loved the Greek culture, and am so glad that I had a chance to live in it, learn about it, and share it with my family. But I had never heard about this story before, and I am so glad I know it now. Mimica grew up in Athens, graduated high school, then studied linguistics at Tel Aviv University. She emigrated to the United States in 1987 and now lives in Newburgh, New York, with her husband, Barry Hyman. Her family is very engaged in her story and the tragedy that was avoided in Greece so many years ago. She discovered this story a little bit by chance, and it has taken her on a journey you'll enjoy listening to.  Sharing the past to educate and safeguard the future For the past fifteen years, Mimica has been retelling the story of the Zakynthos Jewish community's miraculous survival through the presentation of the documentary “Song of Life” by Tony Lykouressis and the personal recollections of her father, uncle and grandparents. Her presentations summarize Jewish life on Zakynthos in the days before World War II, and describe how when Hitler's Nazis came to the island in 1943, the Jews were protected by the Metropolitan, the mayor, and the island’s residents. All 275 Jews, the entire Jewish population on Zakynthos, were saved. Their survival came through the courage of the non-Jews living in the villages and the powerful actions of Mayor Loukas Karrer and Metropolitan Chrysostomos Dimitriou.  I am not going to give away the rest of the story. Listen in, watch, and read the transcript. Just remember that courageous people can rise against tyranny and save the lives of others if they choose to. What would each of us have done? A big question to ask as we live in a very volatile and violent world today. To contact Mimica, you can find her on LinkedIn or email her at mimicahyman@gmail.com. To see the list of all the places Mimica has given her presentation since 2000, click here. More stories of courage and human kindness:  Blog: You Can Find Joy And Happiness In Turbulent Times! Podcast: Rebecca Morrison—Women, Are You Ready To Find Your Happiness? Is It All Around You? Podcast: Patrik Birkhane—Helping Us Live Healthier, Happier And More Peaceful Lives Additional resources for you My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businessand On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants   Read the transcript of our podcast here Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon. I'm your host and your guide. Remember, On the Brink is designed to help you get off the brink and help you see, feel and think in new ways so you can change. That may be something you want to do or don't want to do. But, I want to bring you people who are going to help you see the world through a very fresh perspective. I'm thrilled today to bring you Mimica Tsezana-Hyman. Mimica has a great story to tell. I'm going to let her tell you about it. But the question is: How does an entire Jewish community escape the atrocities of Hitler's occupation in 1943 on a small island in Greece? That's sort of a setup for today, because she's going to tell you about her own personal discoveries, and what she is doing in order to keep our understanding of the atrocities of that period alive and aware so that we don't find ourselves doing them again, even in bullying somebody. A little bit more about Mimica. She was introduced to me by a good friend of mine who said, "You must talk to Mimica. She's doing something quite remarkable," and that she is. She was born in Athens. Now I was absolutely wonderfully intrigued because I did my research in Athens. I took my daughters when they were four and five to spend three months learning about Greek women. I went to the Basilica. I really love Greek culture and I was interested in how it changes when it comes to the United States. She grew up there in Athens and graduated from high school, and then studied linguistics at Tel Aviv University. She emigrated to the United States in 1987. She lives in Newburgh, New York with her husband, Barry Hyman. She has a daughter, Sabrina, and a son, Samuel. And they are all very engaged in her new discovery because what she discovered was a little bit by chance, but it has taken her on a journey that you're going to enjoy listening to. Mimica, thank you for joining me today. Mimica Tsezana-Hyman: Thank you for having me, Andi. Andi Simon: It's such a pleasure. Tell the listeners a good deal more about your own background, this discovery that happened by chance, and what happened as a result of it, because all of us go through life and then have an aha moment and epiphany. And some take us in new directions and others take us deeper into where we are. Who is Mimica, what is your journey? Mimica Tsezana-Hyman: I was born in Athens, Greece. I grew up during the 60s. And towards the end of the 60s, the government changed and we had a dictatorship. During the dictatorship, I was a little girl, I had no idea. My parents never spoke of politics in the house. And a friend of mine told me one time we were out walking, he says, "You know, we cannot be speaking about politics because we're not allowed to. Things may happen." And then all of a sudden I said, "What things may happen?" But it stayed there. At home as I was growing up, I had my grandmother, my aunt, my uncle, my father, my mother. Life was very simple, very beautiful. We never spoken about what this generation had gone through. Not a word about the Holocaust. I remember specifically, Mrs. Esther was my grandmother's friend and Mrs. Esther had the number on her arm. And I would ask my grandmother, "Why does Mrs. Esther have a number written on her arm?" And my grandmother would say, "Oh, you don't know what we went through. I can't tell you. Something happened. I can't tell you." And this is where it would end. My grandmother would never speak about it. So I figured I wasn't supposed to ask anymore. My generation, it's not only me and my brothers, it was the entire generation, the second generation post-Holocaust. We grew up with an immense amount of love and immense amount of protection from the family. And we never knew why. We thought that every child in the world was being brought up like that. We didn't know why. As we grew up, we realized that there was a stronger love towards us. We felt special. When I went to Tel Aviv University, I met other people my age. I realized that they grew up the same way. They felt special. My friend Kosovo from Spain, my friend Carla from Brazil, from Iran, I had friends from Turkey, from all over. Our generation had something in common. We were special, and we didn't know how it happened. Why? My father was very traditional in his Judaism. So tradition carried on beyond holidays. We were not allowed to turn on and off the light. And this was very strange, because the other Jewish people, the other members of the Jewish community of Athens, they would allow their kids to turn on and off the lights. My father was very scarred by the Holocaust. He was very influenced. But he never told us why this is the way he was. And we had to obey, we had to listen because otherwise... I was a little miserable at home. That said, we had Christian friends, and of course, I went to the Jewish Elementary School of the Jewish community of Athens. And then I went to the American High School. And there I met a lot of other Christian classmates. In the elementary school, everybody was Jewish, but in the high school, I was the minority. And actually, it was wonderful because during the lesson of religion, the Jewish kids and one Catholic, we were allowed to leave the classroom, go to the library and focus on our homework. So that was the bonus of being Jewish. Having said that, my name Mimica is not my true name. This is my Hollywood name. This is the name that everybody knew me by. Everybody was calling me that. And it wasn't only me. It was all the Jewish kids of my generation. We had our Hebrew names on our documents, on our diplomas, on our IDs, on our bank accounts, on everything else. But for everyday life, we were called Mimica, Solomon was called Sony, David was called Vikos, etc. My father Menahem-Moses was called Armando. My uncle Elkana was called Noulis. So we had the names that were the everyday names. But when I came to America, I said, "Oh well, you know, this is my Hollywood name" because everybody signs a check to me, Mimica Hyman. And the bank looks at my papers and says, "This is Simha Hyman" and I say, "Yes, Mimica is my Hollywood name." It does cause a little bit of a problem but what can I do. And then of course I tell them, "You know, I'm a Greek Jew and this is what we do because anti-Semitism in Greece is still quite high." During the Holocaust, Greece lost 87% of the Jews. So the story that I am engaged with, which is the story of my father and the Jewish community of the island of Zakynthos, is a very unique story. It's a story of a mayor, a priest, and the people of the island of Zakynthos saving the entire Jewish community of the island, saving 275 people and breathing life to the generations that followed. I am here with my kids, my brothers, my niece, my nephews. We are here because of that act. I didn't know about the story. Life continued. We kept our traditions, we had our seders and we went to the synagogue every high holiday and Passover. And then I decided to go and study in Tel Aviv. And my mother told me, "Every Wednesday you're going to find a public phone, and you're going to call me collect so that I know that you are well," because of course, there were no cell phones in those days. The dormitories of Tel Aviv University did not have phones in the rooms of the students. And every Wednesday I was going to that phone calling my mother to tell her that I am alive and I am well. One Wednesday, my mother tells me, "Don't call me next week because we're not going to be here." It was winter time. So where are you going? My parents rarely left Athens. "Oh, we are going to Zakynthos." "Why are you going? It's winter time." Zakynthos was a summer destination, a beautiful island with the Caretta turtles that chose that island to give birth. You know, Greenpeace was protecting the beaches there. So we are not allowed to speak loudly. You're not allowed to speak at all, don't disturb the turtles. But everything was happening in the summertime here because the planets are going into winter time. "Oh we're going to honor a priest and the mayor." I was brought up so Jewish that I wasn't even allowed to speak to a normal Christian. Here you are going to honor a priest? Something is not right. Something was very, very different. And I said, "Dad is going to honor a priest?" "Well, don't you know this story?" "What story?" and she told me the story. She told me the story that I had never heard before. I didn't know. In 1941, the Italians had invaded the island of Zakynthos during the Italian occupation. The people of Zakynthos were living in fear as did everybody. But the Italians were not very aggressive. In 1943, The Germans came to the island; they sent the Italians away. And the next morning, Officer Berens calls Mayor Loukas and tells him, "I want the list with the Jews of the island. Be very careful because the next time it will be my gun that will speak instead of my mouth." Mayor Loukas Karrer said, "Okay, tomorrow you will have the list." He goes away. He speaks to the Metropolitan Chrysostomos Dimitriou, they call the rabbi. And they decide overnight to tell the Jews of the island to leave their homes overnight and go hide in the mountains. They tell the locals, "Protect them and don't give them away."  My grandmother, she was the daughter of a merchant and her hobby was jewelry. I must say that in those days up until today, there was no stock market. So jewelry was not only given as a form of beauty and durability, but because of the gold or the silver metal that they were made of, it was also given as a form of investment because women were not allowed to work. So they went from the house of the father to the house of the future husband or the husband. So all they had were the jewelry. If they would find themselves in need, they would exchange jewelry towards whatever the need was. She talked about how my grandmother put all her jewelry inside, tied it around her waist, threw a long skirt over it, and she went hiding in the mountains with the rest of the family for an entire year. They lived through selling the jewelry or exchanging the jewelry towards satisfying their daily needs. The locals that were hiding them were very good to them. They would bring them some bread or food or whatever they could because don't forget, there wasn't a lot of food in those days. But still they did what they could. The next morning, they found themselves in front of the German officer with a list. On the list there were two names written in German and in Greek: Mayor Loukas Karrer. Metropolitan Chrysostomos Dimitriou. "Take us. The Jews are part of our followers. They have done no harm, they will never do any harm. This is our decision." Through further negotiations, they were able to save 275 Jews. My father, my grandmother and my uncle were part of that Jewish community. At this point, I must point out that the neighboring island of Corfu which also had a much more vibrant and more affluent Jewish community. lost 95% of the Jews. The locals handed the Jews to the Germans. I remember when I was writing my speech...actually, I should tell you how I started doing speeches about this story in the year 2000. I was expecting my son. And all of a sudden my aunt and my mother called me. The reason? "A documentary is being done and your uncle is part of the documentary. And he's becoming a star." I said, "Send me a copy." "Yes, yes, we will send you a copy." I never saw a copy. The documentary is traveling around Europe, it went to Switzerland and it went to France, and it went here and it went there. "Send me a copy." "Yes, yes, we'll send you a copy." I never saw a copy.  Life continued in America. And one evening, I got a call from a friend across the river, George Petrakis. He lived in Poughkeepsie. And he tells me, "Mimica, turn on the satellite TV, there are some Jewish ladies that are speaking. You may know them." Now, of course, Greece having lost 87% of the Jews was left with 5000 Jews. When I left Greece, it was 4999, the Jews that were left there. "You may know those ladies." So I turn on the TV and I see those ladies, and they did look very familiar to me, and all of a sudden here is my uncle sitting in his living room having all those photographs on the mantle of his fireplace. One of them actually was of my wedding. And I said, "Oh my God, this must be the documentary about the story of the Jewish community of Zakynthos during World War II." So I told Sabrina and Samuel, "Please take your negotiations to the other room because I really have to watch this." And the more I'm watching, here are some cousins from Corfu, survivors, and here are other people that I knew from the Jewish community of Zakynthos. And all of a sudden tears come down my face. And my husband came with a box of tissues and he sat quietly next to me on the sofa. When the documentary ended, I had an outpour of expressions and feelings. I went in front of the computer, and I started writing an email to all my friends. That email traveled. And all of a sudden, I'm getting responses from people I had never even met. And one of the responses was from a couple that were born and raised in the island of Zakynthos. They were diplomats and at the time they were serving as the Greek Consulate in Montreal. His name is Harry Manesis and his wife Efi Pylarinou. During the Passover vacation, we took the kids and we went to Montreal. We met with them and I told both of them, "You know, I started doing these presentations and people are interested," and Harry turns to me and says, "Mimica, take a piece of paper and write down every presentation that you do, because the day will come that you will not remember how many presentations you have done." And thank God that I listened to him because I am at this point that I don't remember how many have done if I don't look at the paper. That winter, when Greece commemorates the Holocaust of the Jewish community, the Greek Consulate of Manhattan was showing this film, “Song of Life” by Tony Lykouressis. And of course, I went because I always want to support anything that has to do with the Jewish community of Greece, and Athens especially, and they asked me to speak. And I spoke and my husband said, "People were crying." I said, "Was I that bad?" He says, "No, I think you touched them, you touched their feelings. It is very rare that adults will tear." I said, "Okay, that's nice." And then I was invited to speak at the second annual Greek Film Festival in Manhattan. And I went to speak and of course, my son was six years old at the time, and he was very attached to me. And I remember at that event, they first showed the movie, which was an hour and 10 or 15 minutes long. That's how long the “Song of Life” is. And I was drawing all kinds of little animals for my son on the back of my speech. So when I got up to speak, and I had my speech, the audience could see all the little turtles and rabbits and elephants that I drew. But it was very interesting. In every presentation that they have done, something happens that makes me remember the presentation. In this one, I remember the people were lining up around the block. It was at the Village Cinema down in the Village. And my husband says, "Mimica, you have to speak to this gentleman." And of course, I have to tell you, when I went to that first actual presentation, I brought with me Anna Yianakis who has a Greek restaurant in Newburgh, I brought with me the Foundas couple who had a beauty salon, I brought with me George Petrakis, my kids, my husband, so I had all my close friends that supported what I was about to do. They came with me down to Manhattan. So my husband finds a man and says, "Mimica, you have to speak to this man." And I go, it was a gentleman with a long coat. And he opens his jacket, and he brings out a photograph and he says, "Mimica, look at this photograph. Is this your father?" I look at him and I said "No." He says, "This is my father and they were friends. Are you sure this is not your father?" I said "No but I know who you are. You are Jeff Mordos, our fathers were friends, you came to Zakynthos back in 1967, 1968, you were from America, you spoke English. I couldn't believe how well you spoke your Greek, then you had an accent." He just couldn't believe I knew who he was. And we've stayed friends ever since. I remember my mother telling me, "Mimica you have a husband that works from five to nine, you have two small kids, what do you need this for?" I wasn't doing it for the money. And that was a little bit discouraging. And then I sat back and I said, The story must be told, because it's a story with a lot of messages. First of all, it is the only story in the European Holocaust selection of stories that you have the state, the church and the people work together towards a successful result. The Jews were hidden by monasteries, by families, by individuals, by organizations, but here, having such a collaboration of the state, the church and the people to work together and have a successful result, it's unheard of. And that to me, it gave me a reason to get up and speak. When I speak to high schools, and usually I speak to the 12th grade. I tell them, "Now that you're about to graduate and your life will change, make sure you pick your leaders well, because these people listen to their leaders. Keep your friendships because it's the friends and the neighbors that hid the Jews, protected them and saved them." I tell them, "Listen to what goes on around you in a big university, because Metropolitan Chrysostomos Dimitriou had befriended Hitler at Munich University when he was a student. I will never forget that my uncle and my father told me that the people of Zakynthos knew of what was going on in other parts of the world. They knew how the Jews were being burned dead or alive, mass graves, executions, etc. I mean, not to forget all the experiments that were done and we have all these beautiful medicines today. They even told me that one day, there was a truck that came to the island of Zakynthos with soap, and they saw that the truck had come from Germany. And they took this soap and they buried it because they knew it was the body of a Jewish person. A friend asked me, "Mimica, how did the people of Zakynthos know that the Germans were killing the Jews? Here we know that in other parts of Europe, the Jews like flocks they were going to the center square of their town. They went in the trains, they went in the trucks, they went in the boats. If they knew that they were walking towards their deaths, they would have reacted. How come the people of Zakynthos knew and they protected them?" I said, "That's a good question." So I go back to my uncle and my father, and my uncle tells me the following story. And this is a story where I alert the students of high school. And I say, "This is where you come in. The family in downtown Zakynthos, they had the pharmacy, had the son. The son went to study medicine in Germany. During the summer vacation, the boy came home and told them what was going on. And of course, the parents spread the bad news to the rest of the island. So when you go to the universities, keep your eyes and ears open, see what's going on around. You are not invisible. You are very important and you  matter." These are the messages that I want to pass to the people that hear my speeches. Kindness, respect for human rights, are more contagious than hatred and destruction. And that's what we should aim for. My father told me that one time the Germans had put him on the line to impose forced labor onto him and other people. The Christians were going in front of my father, directing him towards the end of the line, trying to avoid contact with the German officers that were in the front of the line and were dispersing people to work. This is an unbelievable act of kindness.  The sister of Metropolitan Chrysostomos Dimitriou, Mrs. Vasiliki Stravolemou, was the head of the Home Economics School in the island. I have to point out that this was the only university for women in those days. She had some Jewish students, and they got sick, and they needed medical attention, and she had to bring them to a doctor. Now the only facility for medical care was the German military hospital. What was she going to do? She takes the girls, she finds herself in front of the German doctor and says, "I bring to you these girls, as patients and not as Jews. I expect you to remember that you gave the oath of Hippocrates when you became a doctor and treat them." The German doctor treated them and on the way out he told her, "Medicine is a science and awaits patients." Which was wonderful. I mean, she did everything that she was supposed to do. She was gutsy and strong and she really helped. My father tells me a story. He says, "When we were hiding in the village of Gaitani, at the Sarakini family, they had the little black dog." And one day my father was in one of those rooms of the house. And a soldier comes into the house looking for men to put them to forced labor. And the dog starts barking. I mean, as the soldier is looking in the rooms, he's quiet for the first, second, third room, and starts barking at the soldier when he was about to enter the room where my father was hiding. He made so much noise, that drove the soldier away. My father tells me, "You know, that dog that day saved my life." Even the pets were protecting the Jews in that island. But I must tell you my father never allowed pets in the house. He was allergic or I don't know how to explain this, he was too clean. But every time that we had a meal, he would take the leftovers for the stray dogs and the stray cats. I think this was something that stayed with him all his life. There were other stories but I think I've told you the most part, the biggest part of my journey. Is there anything that you can remember Andi that I should mention? Andi Simon: No, I'm listening here as I'm sure our listeners and viewers are listening, because remember, when you tell a story, the story in somebody's mind begins to change. And last night before our podcast today, I watched “Song of Life” by Tony Lykouressis. It is available on YouTube. It's about an hour. It is transformative. The people in it are like Mimica’s uncle: anxious to tell you their story. You will never know the story. We're never going to go back to the past. But the past sets the stage for the future. And what Mimica is communicating to us is this amazing place where people came together in a very unusual way to save others and to give them love. One of the scenes in there is, one of the gentlemen goes back to the village where he was being cared for. And the woman is crying and she is hugging him. And then at the end of the video it really brings tears to your eyes, because they're all together around the table. Nothing better than breaking bread together. And the music and they're singing. And the singing of the songs remind us that we are all one in a fashion that brings us back to love each other. Mimica, you're smiling at me. Mimica Tsezana-Hyman: I have to tell you about that specific scene when Samuel would go to Mrs. Rapsomaniki. They used to, when they would hear the Germans were coming, they would leave the baby with her and go hiding somewhere else. And it was an unbelievable scene to see her alive and well, to come out of her house and hug each other. They were more than family, these people.  But what was interesting to me is, you know, when I was growing up, in my generation, we cared about what we looked like. We cared about what face cream to put on, to go to the gym, to look good. I mean, before we did anything in our daily lives, we always cared about what we looked like, and the hair, and the things, and the jewelry. And here is a giant of a hero coming out with just a plain dress. She was a little heavy. She didn't care about the gym. She didn't care about fashion, she didn't care about going to the hairdresser. She didn't care about her looks. Yet here is a hero, a true life hero. So I remember specifically, I was at a school where all the girls looked alike. And they had the long hair and they had the similar outfits and so on. And it was clear to me that this was done with a lot of attention to the looks. And I said, "Now look at this woman. Do you see this woman? She saved an entire family. Do you think she goes to the gym? No. Do you think she goes to Bloomingdale's to buy clothes? No. Do you think she goes to the hairdresser to have beautiful hair? Do you think she does makeup? No. Yet she is the biggest hero, in her own right. You know, it was very interesting that you were impressed by the same part of the movie that I was. Also, I have to say, this is very important, that when everything ended, my father and my uncle and all the other Jews of the island donated the windows and their personal labor for the St. Eunysis Cathedral. I have to say that in Greece, the main religion is Greek Orthodox. And in Greek Orthodoxy, there are a lot of saints. So every island has this saint that is the protector of the island. Zakynthos has St. Eunysis and this was the cathedral that was being erected. And when it came to finding proposals about the windows, the Jews went and said, "This is our expense. We will do it as a give back because of our gratitude to our saviors." Another thing that was very interesting to me is that, and this is a very touching moment, in 1953 there was a massive earthquake that leveled the island. And that's when the Jewish community left the island. Part of the Jewish community went to Israel and part of it went to Athens. My family decided to go to Athens. The first boats that arrived in the island with humanitarian and medical help were the ones of the Israeli Navy. And it's very interesting because now we could give back. Up until then, we were just guests, and nobody wants guests to stay on their premises forever. It's very touching for me. Um, but you know, looking back at the summers that I spent in the island, the people that I met didn't know about this story. And I usually finish my speech by saying that I didn't know then, while I was enjoying everything that the island had to offer: the beautiful beaches, the beautiful weather, the beautiful restaurants where the waiters throw away the apron and get their guitars and they start singing to you the very traditional Zakythenian songs, the cantadas. I didn't know that I was brought to the safest place on earth that a Jew could have been brought. Life continues. And the people of Zakynthos, some of them still don't know the story but slowly, slowly, they will learn it. Andi Simon: Here's what I'd like to do. Because part of the joy that you're bringing, in sharing this, is inspiring young people and people like ourselves, to not simply accept what is but to understand the role we can play through kindness, through courage, through boldness, to change. And I must tell you that the world isn't easy right now. And giving back is very important and kindness. You have to remember that acts of kindness improve your own sense of well-being in ways that are difficult to truly understand. You too can do things that are going to make someone else's life really beautiful. And what Mimica is doing is taking this story, part her story and part the larger story and making it come alive so others can in fact, both understand it, learn from it, and then look at their own lives and make sure that they too can do something meaningful, moral, ethical, and kind. Mimica, last thoughts as we wrap up, because I think this has been a beautiful opportunity. You did not read your speech but you told it from your heart, and I just loved it. Any last thoughts for the listener? Mimica Tsezana-Hyman: Yes. I think that this story should be told everywhere, especially in Holocaust classes and young adults. We teach Holocaust to our schools. And they have to learn about the atrocities that happened and more or less genocide that the Jewish people underwent. But also they have to learn about the happy stories, and this is a happy story. To me, it's very important to direct the young people towards doing good, not only showing them how horrible other people behave, but how beautiful life can be by doing good. Andi Simon: Loving, caring for each other. This is truly a beautiful story. I will tell the listeners that in the blog post and on the video, I'll have the link to “Song of Life" and I urge you to watch it. It captivates you and you cannot leave it until it's over. And then you want to know, what has happened next, and so Mimica will bring you back at another time to talk about the impact you're having on those students, the stories they're bringing you, and I urge our listeners to send us your stories. I'm going to wrap up now because I think it's time for us to let our listeners move on. Here's what I'd like you to do: info@Andisimon.com is where you can get information about both Mimica and about our work. And I'd like to help you see, feel and think in new ways. This certainly has been a transformative interview. Our podcast is just beautiful. And when you watch it, you're going to be engaged with Mimica as if she's standing in front of you. Invite her, invite her to come. I promise we will have all her information there so that you can find her as well. And take a look at her website. She'll tell you about the Jewish Museum she set up at the temple, all kinds of things that she's doing to make this world come alive for people who are Jewish and not Jewish together, because it isn't just one or the other, it's together we can do better. I want to say goodbye, and thank you all for coming. Bye bye now. 
Mar 20, 2023
41 min
Julia Wolfendale—How Many Ways Should You Focus To Find Your Path Forward?
Hear how to rethink your life to find what really makes you happy Today's guest is Julia Wolfendale, executive coach and director at On The Up Consulting. Julia is from the UK and has developed an exciting and valuable approach to helping people find happiness, success and fulfillment. Her book is entitled Five Ways to Focus and we discuss it as a starting point to help people better understand themselves. Julia has a master's in leadership and has trained and coached hundreds of leaders on understanding themselves and improving their daily lives. You are going to find our discussion itself very interesting. Do please tune in! Watch and listen to our conversation here The five ways to focus These are significant to understand, and they follow other research which we use at SAMC to help our clients understand why focus is essential to their success. The five forces are freedom, money, recognition, fellowship and fulfillment. As you listen to Julia, you're going to ask yourself, Am I the person I would like to be? Or do I need to take stock of where I am and consider where I'm going?  At Simon Associates, we have developed a program that's entirely complementary to Julia's approach. Take a look at it at www.rethinkwithandisimon.com. It's all about trying to discover how can we change our story to find the kind of person that we want to be? And so much of this has to do with how the mind works to keep you comfortable and confident that where you are now is the best place for you.  To connect with Julia, you'll find her on LinkedIn, Twitter and her website On The Up Consulting, or email her: julia@ontheupconsulting.com.  Ready to examine what really motivates you and makes you happy? Start here: Blog: You Can Find Joy And Happiness In Turbulent Times! Podcast: Meg Nocero—Can You Feel Joy As You Rethink Your Life? Podcast: Richard Sheridan—How To Lead With Joy And Purpose! Additional resources for you My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businessand On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants   Read the transcript of our podcast here Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon. I'm your host and your guide. My job is to help you see, feel and think in new ways so you can get off the brink. And I'm always delighted to find people who are going to help you do just that. You know, I'm a corporate anthropologist. I'm a business owner and entrepreneur. I coach lots of folks. But I've learned over the years that new ideas come to you from different places in different ways. And somehow you'll hear something, and you'll go, oh, that's what Andi's been saying. But here's somebody else who said it and all of a sudden it clicked, and it helps me do something I've been trying to do. So I have with me today a wonderful woman from England. And if you've been listening, we've had somebody from Paris, and somebody from South Africa. The world is coming to us and we're sharing great ideas. Julia Wolfendale is a terrific individual for you to listen to. Let me tell you about her and then she'll tell you about her own journey. She's an executive coach and director at On The Up Consulting. What a great name! She's the author of a new book called Five Ways to Focus. And she's qualified to the master's level in leadership. She has trained and coached hundreds of leaders on how to have the best sales and get things on the up. She had previous roles as a marketing director for a large global company and also worked in large public sector companies. She's developed an innovative set of tools, training courses and programs to transform, and I say this is a very important thing, to transform conversations at work. We've had other podcast guests who talked about conversations, and Judith Glaser has that wonderful book called Conversational Intelligence that I use in all my leadership academies. But we live conversations. And those are the crux of who we are and how we interact. She now specializes in strength-based coaching and writing, helping organizations get the best out of their people with coaching conversations. So this is going to be such fun. And she also wrote another book called The Trouble with Elephants that she started when she was 12. And so there's a story behind that story I'm sure. Julia, thank you for joining me today. Julia Wolfendale: Hi, it's great to see you, Andrea, thank you for having me. Andi Simon: Julia, I gave them the overview of your bio, but I know your story is a rich and very important one for them to understand why as an executive coach and a trainer, you've moved into this whole area of improving conversations, but building better places to be and also to find them fulfillment and happiness. Who is Julia? Let's understand who you are so they can understand why this matters so much, please. Julia Wolfendale: Oh, thank you, Andrea. So I guess my work career really started out when I got a Business Studies degree and went to work for Adidas, the sports clothing brand, and really being part of a big corporate setup really interested me. And then I was fortunate enough to move on and become a marketing director at Helly Hansen, again, a global sports brand. And having that opportunity to see different cultures, different people in different cultures of the organization, and in different countries in the organization sort of coming together and sharing ideas, that was always something that really interested me. But particularly, I guess I've always been interested in what motivates people, what gets them to do the amazing things, and working with sports brands was really interesting because being able to see people perform at their best, use their body in the most incredible ways to compete and to perform and to really challenge themselves. But from a marketing point of view, I was interested in how do you get people to think differently about what they're capable of. So I suppose there was always something in me that led me to now, which is this coaching. So really recognizing that we are capable of so much more. And sometimes we have to challenge our situations, our environments, and ourselves, to make some changes to think differently and to find ways that we can be at our best. So that's taken me many years to kind of come to this point now where I can say I have a successful coaching consultancy. I'm coaching leaders. Throughout the week, people have really important jobs and CEOs of hospitals and working with public sector organizations where people have really tough jobs and helping them in their professional lives, and thinking about how they can be at their best, but I also train in organizations and help them develop their leaders by having chats that matter. And that's our signature program, which is about changing the way they have conversations with their people using a coaching style of recognizing people's strengths, really unlocking that potential, and tapping into people's passions and what they care about so that they can be motivated and successful, happy and fulfilled at work. And I guess that's what so many of us care about. But perhaps we don't always have the ways to do that. And I suppose that's why I wrote the book, because sometimes having the chance to focus on the stuff that matters to us and recognize what we're capable of is kind of the first step towards that. So the book, Five Ways to Focus, is around dealing with all the other stuff we could be doing. We end up getting involved in all the other things that we're thinking about, and actually just getting it down to really what matters to you. What changes are you ready and able to make? And what difference will that make for you, if you did? Andi Simon: You know, it's interesting, because I have several leadership academies for corporations. And we're actually at a point where we're talking about understanding that leaders must focus on themselves on one hand, and on empathy on the other, and then the third on the environment around which they are operating. And I often worry that there are too many things to focus on. And we're preaching a methodology of getting to understand what matters at the moment. I am so interested in what you have learned. Talk to us more about when you say the word focus in on conversations, intelligent conversations, give us a little bit more flesh to this so that I think our listeners and viewers can all sort of grab what is it you've discovered. Julia Wolfendale: Well, I think it's around cutting through the noise and the distraction. So sometimes the little distractions get in the way of us getting on with the work that needs to be done, or the plans that we need to make. But I think there's also the kind of the internal noise as well. There's the self-limiting beliefs that show up the things that we give too much attention to really, and believing when actually we perhaps could look at them, listen to them differently, challenge them, question ourselves. I think being able to focus on some of the things that are physically and literally in our way, but also what are the things that we've kind of manifested in our own minds that we believe to be our obstacles, but we've had them for so long that they've become things that we don't even imagine not having that or don't even imagine overcoming. So the book really helps break down and is focused around what matters much. So really getting someone to understand, what are they really looking for? And if they are thinking about a career change, really helping them understand and assess their life right now. What's working well, in all aspects of their lives. And what do they want to have more of? What do they need less of? You know, why they value the things that they give so much time and attention to? Or do they value the time? And do they value those things or if they just took over? And so helping people sort of reassess their lives and their work included in that. And help them think about what do they want to learn? What do they want to be able to be or be able to do? And then also helping them think about the things that are really driving them. So what are they looking for, by way of a change, and if it is a career change, there might be things that matter to them that they have lost sight of? So I do find that when I'm coaching with people, when I ask them questions around some of the one of the five ways to focus is, what are you really looking for, and it's based around freedom, fellowship, fulfillment, kudasai, and money and getting people to rank those in order. So if freedom is a big one, it might be because it might be their first thing, and they realize they don't have enough of that now. And that's what they really do want to focus on. So I'll ask them about, what does freedom mean to you? And it might mean they've got more freedom to make decisions, so more autonomy. It might mean freedom in the sense of being able to have a better flexible working schedule and then they will come to fellowship and it might mean that fellowship is something that is important to them, and having a sense of belonging. Great connections with people at work really matters. And, they may not have that now and people are suffering from that, aren't they, because of the hybrid working environment and so long remote working, that sense of fellowship might really matter to somebody, but they kind of lost it or forgotten about that. So help them understand what does fellowship mean to them? And if they're looking for it, what would it be? How could it be represented at work, so that it might be about moving into a new team, or joining a new organization where they really share the same values and they feel really connected. And so they belong and that's a strong driver for people's sense of belonging. Or it might be fulfilling. And I think too often we forget to think about what makes us feel good about work. Work can take up a lot of our lives, but it can be so much more enjoyable when there's a sense of purpose and a sense of personal reward, as well as you might be serving others and that might be enough. So where does that fulfillment come from? And what does that look like, and really getting people to recognize that. I'm feeling unfulfilled at work and that's the thing that I want to prioritize. That's something I want to focus on. And that's such a lightbulb moment when people realize that something is missing. But that's not the thing that's ever in a job description, or ever advertised. You don't apply for a job because that gives me fulfillment? No, you just hope that might come along. Or you might forget that that was ever important at all. And then curious, what do you want to be known for? What is it that you might stand out? And there might be that you have some great contribution to make, but it's just not being seen or heard in your organization? Or in your role? Have you been known for that thing that you do or the thing that you want that you want to have that kind of recognition for? And you might be the go-to person in your organization for that. But is there another place where that could be valued as well? And you take that to a sort of a biggest regret or grander scale? Or do you want to start a blog around the thing that you know really well that other people struggle to express or struggle to understand? And then, you know, money. What will it take? Do you have enough already in use, this is just okay. Just finding something that will equally help you pay the bills? Or is this a financial move for you? I want to make the move that will really give me the money that I feel is important to me in my life. So yes, just shifting the focus on to the things that really matter. That's what I'm talking about in the book, when you want examples. Andi Simon: When you work with people, have you had your own epiphany about how important this is, I won't ask you which of the five matters to you most. But, I have a hunch that when somebody does have that epiphany, do they then begin to act on it, or help them actually change so that if in fact they're looking for kudos or recognition. They can find ways to do that or if they're looking for fulfillment and purpose, they can redefine what the world is, and actually act on it. How do you actually take them from discovery to implementation or something? Julia Wolfendale: Yeah, that's a bit that really excites me as well. So I love that whole exploration with clients to help them think about things they've never thought about before. I'll bring to the fore the things that they are clear that matter to them now. But yeah, I don't like to leave people hanging. So I always kind of frame my sessions around how do we make that happen now, so very practical steps. So another part of the book is, can you do that? What's possible? So, I'll be asking them, so what can you do in the next two hours about that? What could you do in the next week, the next month, the next three months, the next six months? People need to feel that they can make those incremental steps towards the goals, whether it's a short term, or longer term, we think about changing the timescale as appropriate. So just breaking things down. That's another part of the five ways: the focus approach makes it small and achievable, but still aspirational enough that someone feels this is stretching them and challenging them and changing them but with the courage and the confidence to do that. Andi Simon: You know, I think you get so excited about what you're doing. It's really quite remarkable because people are in need of a pause and a rethink of where they're going, and to create a new story about what they are becoming because they live already what's in their minds today. Once you got that story, there you think that's reality, but it may not be right. So true. Julia Wolfendale: Yeah, so true. And for me, particularly, I can remember sitting in my business studies degree and I can remember being asked in my university class to sit and write down what I wanted to be and do. So I wrote down that I wanted to be a marketing director by 25. And I was, and then it's like, oh, now what? And then I had my first child, and I had a fantastic, fantastic job, as marketing director, and had my first child, and then everything sort of changed my priorities pane. And I can remember being stranded at Schiphol Airport in Holland, after having this problem with the plane, and we couldn't fly home after having traveled over to a sales conference with the company, and really just weeping that I was already going to have to leave my six month old daughter for even longer. And at that moment, I thought, something's really changed for me that if I'm going to do the work, if I'm going to try, if I'm going to have to be away from my child, I really want the work to be fulfilling. And it changed. So what excited me when I was 25 and 30 was the marketing, the campaigns, the brand building, all of that was fantastic. And then suddenly, my social conscience just really kicked in. I worked for 13 years in the public sector as a manager in a local authority, managing and organizing Children's Services, really deeply fulfilling as well. I think, to be able to ask these questions of yourself at different times in your career and different times in your life, because you'll want different things. And it's okay. And I think people think that you get one shot at choosing your career, whereas there are very many paths to get to feeling fulfilled and satisfied at work. Andi Simon: You know, so it's interesting, Julia, after my second book came out, Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business, I took the "how do you do that" at the end, and I turned it into an online do it yourself video program where you can rethink your story, not just for your career, but for your life. And I love when people take it because sometimes you need a guide, or you or me, but more often, you just need the discipline to try and pause and know what to do to rethink your story. And as you start to walk me through your own story, you had to have an epiphany, something went off in your mind and it was a catalyst. I always say, people, if you want to change, have a crisis or create one because the habits take over. It's so much easier not to change. Even if you're not happy at the end of the day, and you're not happy in the morning, when I coach people, I say, well, if you're not happy in the morning, we have to change the story. Let's go to bed with a happy story that you're going to wake up with so your mind is working on the happy not on the you are, just what you believe. And it is so true. It isn't somebody's doing it to you, you're doing it to yourself. Julia Wolfendale: Yeah. And I think the thing to notice is that we all experience our jobs differently. We all experience our own situations differently. So just because other people in your team might think this is the best job ever for them, but if it's not working for you, it's really okay to just check in with yourself. And if it's not fitting in with your family or your other priorities in your life, it is totally okay to ask yourself, what am I really looking for. In the book we're talking about change points and boiling points. And the difference between those is the change points is when changes are coming about. So the organization is restructuring, to mean that change is kind of naturally occurring. Or it might be a change in yourself like you're approaching 40. We see a lot of people who are kind of reaching milestone birthdays and have a rethink, like you say, pause, restart, reevaluate. Or it might be that a pandemic has caused a lot of people to reevaluate their lives. So there's change points that occur anyway. And they either come about unexpectedly because of external circumstances, or because of the natural process of aging or life change. And then there's boiling points. And it's important to pay attention to both because the boiling points are kind of less easy to spot. But if we tune ourselves into them, we know we're approaching them. So it's when those work stresses are just compounding and then it might just take something happened at home as well, which is the trigger but actually work wasn't great anyway. But, then suddenly, work just fell short of being sustainable or too difficult to face every day because there's now other stuff that's not going well in another part of life. And so many people have additional caring responsibilities now that haven't been, with our aging population, etc. So, I just think, noticing what those boiling points are as well and having that courage to kind of check in and ask for help. You know to reach out and ask for a coach or read the book. So you know, the help is available, but to notice that you might be at a boiling point, and people might be thinking, I need to change things for me. It's about taking charge, it takes a lot of courage. Andi Simon: It does. And you know, as you think of your own story, I love the story, because you had a plan at the beginning. And you actually fulfilled it, you didn't have to stay in it. And your life took a turn because you had this wonderful child, and you realize there was more to what you were all about than just what you were doing at the time. That's okay. Now, you've taken another turn past that and I do think that the most interesting time is a startup time, because that's when you're in the explore stage. You're really not quite sure what this is. But I know what I'm doing isn't whatever that means, and life is a short journey. And when one of the biggest challenges, and I have a hunch, you're going to begin to see it as people are reaching that age of retirement, and they have no plan for the next phase. So the next phase in their journey, and it doesn't take them long to have an aha moment, which says, this is not what I expected. There's only so much golf I can play. And it's not the financial money that's motivating me, it's fulfillment, it's purpose, it's recognition, it's fellowship, it's belonging. It's all the other things. Now you have to remember, we're humans, and humans need all those other things. You know, Daniel Pink has a wonderful book called Drive. He talks about autonomy, mastery and purpose. And I do think that humans are herd animals. The secret to our success is our collective minds, sharing ideas. It's really understanding that what you think is not just about you, it's more than just about you. It's about the world that we live in as people and it's a great time. And your book is great. I mean, as I'm listening to it, I'm saying this is really terrific because it gives people a way of reflection, as well as purpose and intention to begin to move into the next part of their journey. And it's okay, you don't fail. On the next part, well, that's pretty cool. Are there any illustrative cases that you can share? Or are they all private cases? Julia Wolfendale: Confidentiality is with coaching people, so I always really preserve that. That's really important. But I suppose the book really has the tools that I use in coaching that are in the book. So you know, they've come about because they're tried and tested, and they are the things that help people shift their thinking. And I think that what I know really works well is giving people that space to reflect like you say, and think about what's possible, and really tap into their true potential. And I think focusing on people's possibilities is such a shift because their self-talk can be so negative around what we're not going to be able to do or why we're not as good as somebody else. So I just think through that, and I've learned that through the coaching that perhaps we do share a dim view of ourselves. And through coaching, it's always about discovering what someone's really capable of, and that's really exciting. And through the book, as well, the questions that I asked people to ask of themselves will be ways that they'll discover what they're really capable of. And, even sometimes, just giving people a chance to check in and go at their pace. And that's the beauty of it and reading the book is that it's just all kind of in you. It's in bite sized chunks. Andi Simon: Sometimes the mirror isn't showing you what is real. And you can have a hard time figuring out where am I? And the pandemic sort of accelerated a lot of those questions. And in some ways, everybody started to reflect on what's next. And coming out of the pandemic is as challenging as almost being in it because you can't go back to what was before, and you're not quite sure what's coming next. And uncertainty is one of those things that make people most uncomfortable, basically should be the way they are. Well, they aren't really and you're crafting them as you're living and you need to see the future if you're going to live today. This has been such fun. Are there one or two or three things that you don't want our listeners to forget? Because those are always important. Julia Wolfendale: Yeah, so I think that they get to choose, they get to choose how to think and they get to choose what to do with their thoughts. You can choose how to think. You can choose to cut through the noise and to focus on the things that matter to you. But that does require you to sit down and really think, Okay, what matters to me? And if you feel that you've been driven very much by what other people's expectations are, you might find that things feel a little empty for you at the moment for people to really reevaluate and have that kind of life. Through the book, there's always a big question that helps people reflect, followed by some action questions that really help people move forward with that insight. And I just think everybody's insights are true for them. And everybody's actions have to be right for them. So it's not about comparing with other people, everybody is on their own path. And sometimes it feels like you've strayed from the path. But hey, that can be part of the path to realize too. You're where you don't want to be right now. And that's a chance to come back a couple of steps or take a different turn completely. And you know, so not to be so harsh in judging how you are in your situation, and remind yourself that there is a way to rethink and think yourself out of a particular situation. But a lot of it will mean thinking well of yourself. And just rediscovering really what's available within you. Coaches always think about things particularly like this stance. As a coach, I'm very much a supportive, challenging coach. But I really believe in people's resourcefulness and reminding people of that. I think it's important to sort of tap into what's already there, and how it can be reused and then kind of used to point the way forwards for somebody. Andi Simon: And what's so exciting about what you're saying is that it's in your hands. I preach that as well. If you think that the problem is outside yourself, that's the problem, because you can't fix the outside of yourself. You only can fix how you see, feel and think about it. And if you can't craft a new story, you can't live a new story. When I work with people who move this way, as you're asking them hard questions, you have to come to the point where you're ready to move this way to begin to hear your own self, your heart beating. If you can focus on that heart, and begin to see what makes you remember, we decide with the heart, and the head comes in as the eyes, the heart, the gut, and then the head. So don't try and beat yourself out of it. You've got to feel yourself out of it. Julia Wolfendale: That's right. And those boiling points, notice that you're experiencing those even if people like you aren't. If that's your experience, notice it. Notice what you can do about it, rather than kind of sit with the problem too long. Because though, that's when we get really stuck and withdrawn and disengaged and disillusioned and disconnected. And it's so much harder then, isn't it, to kind of come back and offer up your best self to the situation. So just notice that it's good. Andi Simon: Often when people look at career changes, I say, Well, have you spent any time with anyone who's in that career? Often, somehow they're imagining what it would be like to work in that field. I say, Well go. Take a leave from your job and go test out your imagination and see if something is better than what you have. But you may not really know what it is and why it's better. And just give yourself a little room to grow. I'm an explorer by nature, my archetype. I'm an explorer. And I like discovery. I'm an anthropologist. I like to see things. All of the folks that you're working with need a little time to step back, pause and take a look at where they are and what comes next. And it's okay, and it may not work. I taught a course on entrepreneurship as a visiting professor at Washington University. And every one of the entrepreneurs said the same thing. I opened three businesses and I never failed. And I thought, interesting way to distance yourself from the outside. And never think of yourself as the problem. Where can they find your book? And can they buy your book on Amazon or someplace? Julia Wolfendale: Absolutely. Yeah. So the book Five Ways to Focus by Julia Wolfendale is on Amazon, in the US and the UK and worldwide. And also on my website ontheupconsulting.com. And there's more about the book in there and what we're referring to coaching and consulting services as well. Andi Simon: Okay, my friends, thank you for joining us today. Julia, thank you for joining us. It's been such fun. Your book is full of really important insights about how people can see, feel and think in new ways. So it's actually perfectly aligned with what we try to do and help people. For those of you who are watching, thanks for coming. It's always a pleasure. Remember that you decide with your heart and your eyes. So if you're stuck, or stalled, go explore. Spend a little time talking to people, maybe even Julia, maybe even me, but begin to think through, who am I? Where am I going? You don't have to do it alone. You often need an echo back or place to vent, someplace to see, feel and think about where you are in life at a moment. And when you get too closed in, you don't see anything that's going on. Your mind deletes anything that challenges that story you've got. It's time for a new story. But you don't need to do it all by yourself and create it. And remember, your brain loves the habits, the familiar. They love the story that you've got, and they love pleasure. But it's what you're doing, giving you pleasure. So it's a great time to pause, step back and rethink the five forces that will help you do that. So on that note, remember, I love your emails, info@Andisimon.com . Our website is Simonassociates.net and my books Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business and On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights are both on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and local bookstores. And they continue to sell now. On the Brink came out in 2016 and it's still going strong. So I thank you all for just being good fans. Thanks again. Have a great day!
Mar 13, 2023
33 min
Richard Medcalf—Why Is Strategy So Challenging When Running Your Business? Shouldn't It Be The Best Part?
Hear what good leaders should really be thinking about  Richard Medcalf describes himself as "what you get if you were to put a McKinsey consultant, a slightly unorthodox pastor and an entrepreneur into a blender.” In this podcast, you'll hear from an amazing thinker who has tackled strategic challenges in companies all over the world. In his new book, Making Time for Strategy, Richard speaks about the difficulties he has encountered working with high-powered leaders. Far too often, they find themselves focused on the wrong things---from how to respond to emails to how to get tasks completed on time. Instead, Richard preaches that a leader’s mindset should be focused on the future, where the organization is going, and how everyone in that organization needs to be aligned around a core strategy to get it there. Listen and learn! Watch and listen to our conversation here Richard outlines four important ways you can refocus your time and energy to get where you want to go and find pleasure in the journey of getting there (TIME): Tactics Influence Mindset Environment About Richard Medcalf Richard founded xquadrant in 2017 with the mission of helping elite leaders reinvent their success formula and multiply their impact on their purpose, their people and their profit. He is bi-national (English and French), lives near Paris, and is also a licensed lay minister in the Anglican Church. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter and the xquadrant website. Ready to be a better leader? We recommend these for great learning: Blog: How To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times: The Five Things You Need To Know Podcast: Sara Canaday—Can You See The Gaps That Are Holding You Back From Being A Great Leader? Podcast: Kris Baird—Yes, You Can Teach A Leader How To Lead Additional resources for you My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businessand On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants   Read the transcript of our podcast here Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon. I'm your host and your guide. And my job is to help you get off the brink. I want you to see, feel and think in new ways, so that you can change. And if you come here and listen, you know that each time I bring you somebody new, it's because they've done something that really is transformative in some fashion. They're tackling a problem that my listeners, my audiences, my viewers are all tackling as well. And I'm so really honored today to have Richard Medcalf here from Paris. And it's a wonderful opportunity for us to share his new book, Making Time for Strategy, but also to share Richard. Let me give you a little bit of Richard's personality. He sends me an email, and he wants to be on my podcast. Why? "The first thing is because I'm a fan," he said. "I will thank you for the time and energy you invest in putting this out into the world." I have not had many of those emails, even though I have lots of emails from our listeners. But that was really a sweet opener. The second: he said he was sure that my audience, our audience, will find value in the topic, because many of our listeners will be running teams or businesses and hitting the ceiling of complexity, as daily operational demands suck all their time, leaving no space for strategic thinking. Now I'm a Blue Ocean Strategist. I work with lots and lots of companies who are seeking to create markets, not simply compete in them, which is Blue Ocean thinking. And they often get so tied up in making the plan, they forget they have to do something with it. And conversely, though, if they don't think about the plan, all their actions can take them nowhere, a very good point we're going to focus on. And Richard thinks I'm a good speaker, which we will see today, because I think he's a good speaker. He describes himself as what you get if you were to put a McKinsey consultant, a slightly unorthodox pastor, and an entrepreneur into a blender. So you have an idea of what we're going to talk about today. He's the founder of xquadrant, and a trusted adviser to exceptional CEOs and entrepreneurs and their leadership teams. I think you're going to enjoy him because he has advised all kinds of folks in all large and small companies. We're going to let you hear his story from his own perspective. It's much better than reading it. But he's binational. He's both English and French and lives near Paris, happily married and the proud father of two. He's also a licensed lay minister in the Anglican Church, and has an insatiable love for spicy food and the electric guitar. Is that enough for us to think of this mash up today? Richard Medcalf is joining me now. So happy to have you on today. Richard Medcalf: Yeah, thank you, Andi. Pleasure to be here. And thank you for the great intro. Andi Simon: Tell our listeners and our viewers who is Richard Medcalf, because your background is rich with experiences that have led you now into your own business. I liked what you discovered as you were wandering through. You have been very successful, whether it was Cisco or elsewhere, and who are you so that they can now understand why you're so focused on making time for strategy. Richard Medcalf: Yeah, thanks, Andi. Well, obviously strap yourself in if you've got a spare six hours, because talking about myself is my favorite topic. So here we go. I'll try to keep it brief. I better keep it brief. But so yeah, so I grew up in the UK. Started at Oxford University, went into strategy consulting, started at that point to move over to Paris. Five years later, I'm still here. I'm married to a French woman and have bilingual kids and everything else. So life doesn't always take you in ways that you expect. When I was at Bynum, in my strategy consulting company, I became the youngest ever partner. I'd been there about 10 years, and decided it was time to become a smaller fish in a bigger pond, rather than a big fish in a small pond. And Cisco was knocking at my door, and I thought it'd be interesting, you know, a huge tech company. Joining them, I did various roles. The last role was a small team set up by the CEO of Cisco and its chairman in order to kind of catalyze strategic relationships between Cisco and its key customers. I like to describe it as fulfilling rash commitments made by the chief exec when he was talking to big customers. And that was all great. And I enjoyed that. And it was quite prestigious in its own way and all the rest of it. But I got to a moment when I said, you know, Richard, what do you want as a legacy? What do you want to tell your great grandchildren in the future when you're 90 and they're on your knee, and they're asking you about your professional life, what you did in your job? And I realized that although I really enjoy and I still enjoy creating financial results for my clients, and back in the day, I was doing that a lot. I realized I didn't want to just talk about how I helped AT or whoever it was, increase the EBITDA margin by 1%. So I started to think, well, what do I really want? What are the real stories that I want to tell, you know, of my life and my professional life? And that's when I started to really deep dive into, what makes me different? What's my biggest gift? What's my passion, all that kind of stuff. And I started to realize that I went to work at this intersection of leadership, strategy and purpose, or to put it another way, helping people, great leaders. I suppose the way I now describe it, or they didn't describe it that way at the time, was, I want to help great leaders reinvent themselves to achieve breakthrough goals that change the world. So there's a few things in there, that personal transformation, and it's about making a positive impact in the world. So up to now, I've given you all the external facts that allowed me to build this business and my new business. You know, I work with amazing leaders, CEOs of billion dollar companies, some of the founders of scaleups, tech unicorns. One of my clients is an Olympic medalist and is now building a billion dollar business. Another of my clients was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young. These are amazing people. But they're already impressive, but they're looking to connect their impact or make it make a big difference. But let me take you back to my childhood. With me, my sister was born mentally handicapped, very seriously mentally handicapped. She passed away just a couple of months ago. And she made a huge impact on me. She was an amazing character, very determined, very joyful. But we had very different paths. You know, like she stayed at home, she needed 24 hour care, a whole care team. She couldn't be left alone. Basically, she was so needy. Andi Simon: Yes, but it sounds like it had a big impact on who you were. Richard Medcalf: And yeah, I've realized that recently. Yeah, I realized that recently. I mean, I had this high flying career, went to Oxford. I went to a high tier strategy consulting company. I went to Cisco. I started my business. I move countries, all this stuff. And she didn't do any of that. And so I have this real sense that when we have the gifts, the talents, the resources, the opportunities, we kind of owe it to the world to make it a better place and to make an impact. And yet I see so often, we end up in our comfort zone, scared of doing things because we're a bit worried about what we might lose if we were to dare to do something different. Even when we're playing a big game, we can be busy, but in our comfort zone. So impact is a huge word for me because of that impact. Andi Simon: It's interesting, I read an article this morning about purpose. And don't worry about purpose unless you have an impact. Purpose-driven companies don't necessarily do anything, they just have a purpose, and actually I worked with one about a month ago. But your point about having impact is important for our listeners, because you are coming to that epiphany, that aha moment, where more of the same of what you're doing, even if it's financially lucrative, or even if it's for good companies, isn't personally purposeful. And that becomes a real interesting driver for you of what your calling is and why it's so important that you choose where you go, and you do it in a very intentional fashion, so that you have your own legacy and can answer to those kids and grandkids. You know why I've done what I've done in this life? Because it has made other lives better. So tell us from your company perspective, as well as from the book. You know, my segue is, how are you doing that? Richard Medcalf: How am I making that impact? Well, I think concretely, what I do, we're one-on-one with high-end leaders, CEOs or founders, entrepreneurs, sometimes C-suite leaders with their teams. I have a couple of programs that I run with perhaps more junior leaders. And I'm always helping them think about how they don't need to challenge my thinking. Where do I need to shift who I'm being as a leader in order to achieve things which right now are outside my zone as a reference? And, you know, what is that? What's really important? I think it's the fundamental question of what's really important in terms of what I want to accomplish, what's really important in terms of where I put my attention and my focus? What's really important in terms of where I build my skills? I think I described myself as being strategically lazy. I've always been a strategist. So my life, you know, it's why I got to the top, first at Oxford University, because I just knew where to put the focus, and what was important, what wasn't so important when I was studying. And I think it's strategic laziness. I just want to get a big result by focusing my efforts on the key areas. So I think I bring that to all these different parts of leadership, from ambition to goal setting to habit formation to dealing with people. That's kind of, I guess, the fundamental part. But what I find is that in all those conversations, whenever I sat down with a new leader, and we were looking at how you're going to multiply your impact, how you're going to, really just in the exponential, how you're going to break through, the first conversation we would always have, and he was like, "Yeah, I'd love to do that Richard. But right now, to be honest, I'm just so overloaded. I've got so much on my plate. You know, where do I go? Where do I go from here? And how do I even make time for all this exciting stuff?" I know, it's possible for me because that really was the seed of the book that I've now written. Andi Simon: But it's an interesting reflection. I am an anthropologist, and you're an observer. And as you're talking, I'm thinking about you meeting with your clients and listening to their stories, because we're story creators. And the story was a catalyst to change your own story in your mind. And I often preach that because telling stories isn't incidental, it doesn't stay outside of the other person. And as you're talking and sharing your story, our listeners' stories are also changing. But what's important is, as you're coaching your clients and they're sharing their sense of pain, success has now turned into, "I no longer have a vision, I no longer can see where we're going. I'm not even quite sure how it's all aligned with a strategy." You had an epiphany, a moment, which said, Wow, there's something here beyond simply helping them personally transform it that could be instrumental for them to get back to being the big leaders who are supposed to be visionaries. And they're not supposed to be worried about managing the tactical details. They're supposed to be leading people into some particular direction. So once you had this epiphany, then the book came out of it. Richard Medcalf: The first thing I want to just clarify is, for me, strategy is really a shorthand for strategic activity. So as a top leader, we might lead literally focusing on corporate strategy. But no matter where we are in the organization, we always need to focus on what is the most strategic, what's going to move the needle, what's going to have the biggest leverage. And that's really, when I talk about strategy, I mean that. So for somebody, that literally is: "I need to think about the vision and strategy for my company." But then I need to just step back and think about how am I going to maximize the impact for my business unit, or my department or my team or myself? So, yes, I think the book came out not necessarily immediately, but I started to go, "I've got stories here." I realized that a lot of people think that what they need is a time management book, a productivity tip that you think about how to maximize, filter their emails better or something. What I realized was that no, the breakthorughs my clients had were in these deep conversations. They weren't just in the area of tactics, which can be important, but it's not everything. So with the book, I wanted to really bring, if you like a transformation perspective, to this question of how do I free myself up for this? So because I realized that was what my clients were dealing with, they knew that theory about, you know, working on the important things, even if they're not urgent, and this kind of stuff, they knew all that. But what was really getting in their way. And when I realized this, I came to a few key areas I wanted to share. I tested it with those leaders. I tested it with a couple of group programs that I ran with multiple leaders from different companies in and then I realized, yeah, there's a book in this. It's actually quite easy to write because they've got the experience. Andi Simon: Pause for a second, Richard, because what you're saying is, while they didn't need time management, the title of your book is Making Time for Strategy. And so I just want to make sure that the listener understands that it isn't simply reorganizing your to-do list or your calendar for the day, it's a different way of thinking about what is important, and you're seeing, also it's not just for the senior leadership teams. This should be on every person in that organization's thinking about what it is that matters. So I can also not do things that are off-strategy and are done the way we've always done it, but don't need to be done anymore. Am I hearing you correctly? Richard Medcalf: Yeah, that's right. I mean, the way I see it, we live in a world of infinity. There is infinite stuff available to us for the first time ever. We've got infinite messages in our inbox, IM messaging platforms, infinite social media opportunities to converse and connect with people, infinite content to consume, to stream, to read, to whatever. It's just like, the more we look at, the more recommendations we get, and we have more to look at. So it's never ending. And so there's so many opportunities for every leader. It's infinity. And so we can't beat infinity with productivity. Most people, they hit the accelerator, they try to go faster and faster. And they find within hours in the day, they've hit the ceiling of complexity, as it can be called. Where do we go from here? And what I found is, we need to level up. We need to change gear, we can't change gear when one foot's on the accelerator. We have to start to invest our time, rather than investing more in your business and you're making like zero profit. You've got to invest in the future. You can't make things better, probably you're going to have your costs go up over time and you're going to get a business. Most leaders are running their life like that business. They're using their time. Every day is going and they've not got any margin available to invest in the breakthrough activities to invest in the future. And so they're just running along on a hamster wheel. Andi Simon: So I'm curious, what did you advise in your book Making Time for Strategy to help them get off that hamster wheel, reassess, and now invest in time? And I love your comments. You can't touch infinity with productivity. And I have a hunch you have a bunch of things that I want to make sure that we have time to discuss with our listeners because I think there's something of great value for them. And I think your discovery is very powerful. Please share. Richard Medcalf: So in the book, I talked quite a bit to start with about what you want to put your time on. It's really important. So I like to say, you can't free yourself up from things, you've got to free yourself up for something. What if you've actually got a spare minute or spare hour? What do you want to put your time on? What's going to make a breakthrough? So I spend a bit of time talking about that. And for me, people get clear on that. But in terms of how much we actually get into that freeing ourselves up, there's four strategies to use. And they actually spell the word TIME, which I was very happy about when I noticed that. So there's TACTICS. We do need a plan to get back into profitability. If you'd like more time, we do need a plan to go get rid of things which are not serving us and to stay at that level. So there is a tactical issue. The issue is that most people have over rotated on tactics, and they haven't thought about the other parts. But if we're actually finding diaries too full, we need to deal tactically with it. Then I is for INFLUENCE. I like to say, if you want to go on a diet or exercise, the people that are going to get in the way are your own family. Other people are going to want the chocolate cake under your nose, because they're used to dealing with you in a certain way. And when you're trying to change who you are and what you focus on, it impacts them. So in a business situation, you can make your plan or tactical plan for what you want to do and meetings you don't want to be in anymore and projects you don't want to do anymore. But you've got to sell that internally, but tell your boss that "I don't want to be in that. It's not helpful for me to be in that meeting anymore." But you've got a colleague saying, "I don't want this stuff coming from your department into my department because it's not what we should be focusing on." You've got to sell it to your team. "I need you to deal with things in a different way and stop involving me in the details." So influence is a really key part. That's what I call the Leadership Challenge. How are we actually leading other people so that we can take that higher ground? Then M is for MINDSET. Mindset is really important. That defines the bounds of what is necessary, possible, desirable in our lives. If we don't, if we don't have a good mindset, a broad enough mindset, well, we believe that we haven't got any choices in this matter. So I'll give you an example of one of my clients. I was helping him drive some transformational projects for a large company. He was in the C-suite of a several-billion-dollar company. And he was driving through internal transformation projects. I was helping him with that as he was onboarding into the C-suite. One day he comes to me and says, "Richard, I need some tips. I'm spending too much time on my email." So I joke and say, "Well, you pay me too much money if you want me to go and go through those, but tell me more." He explains, "Well, you know, I don't want to be the guy who's untrustworthy, unreliable or not a team player, who people are waiting on to reply to them, that you're stuck on projects." Andi Simon: So it's not alone. And it's a common recurring theme. My clients say, "I have to manage my email." But what did you tell him? Richard Medcalf: So he'll say, "Yeah, so that's why I have to regularly go into my inbox and help people." So I was like, "Okay, I can't help you." "You can't help me?" "Well, whatever I tell you about spending more time on these important projects, you're not going to do it because you want to be a reliable, trustworthy team player. And if I tell you not to do that, you're not going to do it. It's against your values. And I totally understand." "So, okay, well, what do I do?" "Tell me about your CEO. What does he want us to do?" "Oh, these transformational projects are going to make a big difference." "Okay. Where is your board? That, you know, makes a big impact on the bottom line." "They really want these big projects to happen." "Okay, what about your customers?" "If they were to know about it, they'd really want this internal transformation because it's going to free up the team to work on their projects." "Okay. What about the team itself?" "Oh, yeah. Well, they're desperate for more modern work experience." "Okay, so you're telling me that all these people want you to focus on these transformational projects?" "Yeah, that's right." "Okay. Well, I put it to you that that's what you're paid the big bucks for, and that when you're in your inbox, you're doing the easy stuff. You're actually being unreliable, untrustworthy, and not a team player. When you're doing the big stuff, then you're being the reliable trustworthy team player that you've been." Andi Simon: He really had to change his mindset, didn't he? Richard Medcalf: So in that one conversation, he got it and it was the aha moment. He didn't need any other tips from me because he had shifted his identity in the way he saw things. And so for all of us, we have places in our mind which are holding us back. And that's the mindset challenge. And actually, before that, let me pause. You don't have to do these in order, actually, in the book, and you can do it even before buying the book. I have an assessment that allows you to actually identify each of these areas. What's your score? What's your total score? What's your score on each category? And therefore, where's your weak spot? Where should you focus first? Because perhaps there's no point doing the tactics if your mindset is getting in the way. Or, you know, if actually you've got the plan, but you haven't got enough influence, then you need to start there. So you can read the book, but not only... Andi Simon: I'm sure you heard a little pause in our conversation. Richard in Paris froze for a moment. So we're going to pick up the conversation here, because we're down to the E. And the E is an important part of TIME. If in case you haven't noticed, it ends it but it also creates a setting for which everything else is taking place. Richard, please share with us what E stands for. Richard Medcalf: The final part of the type acronym is E for ENVIRONMENT. Environment is important because I wanted this to be a book for leaders. And as a leader, we have a responsibility to make time for our own strategy, our own focus, but also we need to create an environment where our team can thrive, where our team can focus on what's important as well. And that's our whole organization. So many organizations, they get caught up in busy work with too many priorities, mindlessly doing what the boss said, without thinking about "Why all this stuff?" And the question for the environment challenge is, how do I scale this into my team? How do I actually create a culture where, when I have something to delegate, my team is able to receive it because they've got TIME. Or if I've got a new project that I wanted to deliver because I've been thinking strategically, that we have capacity in the organization to take it on. And so for me, that's a really important part. We often focus on our own personal productivity. But in the book, I wanted to focus more on how do I go about changing the culture of my team in my organization, on this topic as well. Andi Simon: Do you have a client situation you can describe that might illustrate these four points and make them come alive a little bit? I can see them because I'm working with them. I hope my audience can as well. Anything you might share? Richard Medcalf: Yeah, so often I find that the breakthrough is on an individual basis for one of these points. So you don't necessarily need them all at the same time to get your breakthrough. That's why I said at the start of the book, you can take an assessment to find out which area you should focus on first. But I'll give you some examples. I've talked about mindset already, the fact that it's one conversation. Let's say around influence, it's quite a key one. Now, often one thing about influence is around not setting the boundaries with people. So often what happens is, we take on things from people and we haven't actually created an agreement with them. So yeah, I've had several clients who've realized, as we've talked about influence, that actually they have not had a real conversation with their own team about what do I expect from you in our relationship? When should you bring a problem to me? And how would you know where you need my support? And how do I want you to bring it to me? So many times, team members seem like leaders and feel they're being Sherlock Holmes, trying to diagnose the problems that their team brings to them because their team just says, "Hey, can we talk about x. I've got a problem with x." So in the book, for example, it's been one of the tactics which works really well, is the thing called SCARS. It's a five step acronym. It's a way we can bring a subject to a manager in a way that the manager can then really deal with. So, Situation: what are we talking about here? Context: what's the background I need to know? Analysis: what have I actually done to examine the different options available? Recommendation: what's the one or two options that you'd want to put forward on the table at this point that's memorable, and then Stakeholders is the last one, which is, don't use me as your manager to have to pull rank. Have you spoken to the other people who might be affected by this decision? Do they agree? So often, many team members come to us wanting us to make a decision so that they can then pull rank and say, "The boss said we're doing it this way." So the Stakeholders are actually key parts of SCARS. The S is quite important to make sure that they're actually managing the stakeholder environment, not just putting that back on it. The point is, when you've got this, when you've got those points, your team starts to come to you with what I call fully formed requests. But they actually know, "Hey, boss, I want to talk to you about the new, unknown Austrian office that we want to open. There are three options, ABC, these are the pros and cons." That's the analysis. The recommendation is: given all that, I think we should go for the city center office, because ABC, if that's too expensive for our budget, I'd recommend we go for an office by the airport, because of X Y, Z. And we explain that and then stakeholders: by the way, I've talked to the country manager, and he is happy with any of those options. And we've got something we can work with. Andi Simon: I am fascinated by your insights into how to change people so that they can be more effective, thinking beyond the immediate tactical thing, and how do I get this done. They can do it in a way which shifts their minds, their mindset, so they can see a bigger picture and a better way, changing that culture and culture. As an anthropologist, cultural change is one of the most challenging things, but one person at a time is extremely effective. We're getting to the point where we need to wrap up, as much as I would love to keep going on. But you know, as you said, you could talk all day. I have no doubt that you have great wisdom to share. Share with us two or three things you don't want our listeners to forget. And then we'll talk about where they can reach you and how they can get the book.  Richard Medcalf: Sure. So I think the first thing to realize is that the number one key performance indicator governing your future success as a leader is strategic time. I view investing in the future to make the future better. It's the difference between leaders who plateau and stagnate and find it hard to progress, and leaders where every year seems to bring new opportunities. It's that investing in the future that's so important and many leaders said they're running on empty. They hardly have any time in the week to work on those game changing projects, so it really matters. Second thing I want you to remember is that it's not just a productivity challenge.All these four areas: tactics, environment, mindset, and environment are really important. Work on the one that's most important for you. Go and take the test, if you want, on my website; it will help you. But, find out which one is important and really focus on that. Deal with the limiting factor and everything else will become a lot easier. And thirdly, always get really clear on what that breakthrough project would be. If you've got three minutes, just put a timer on your phone and brainstorm. Just write down questions. If I could answer some questions, if I had time to think and time to work, what would those powerful questions be? That would be a game changer for me. So you might write down, How can I get the best out of so-and-so on my team? How is artificial intelligence going to change my industry or change my workflows in the next three years? You know, how can I be more influential with a CEO? What new networks? Do I need to become part of it? Whatever it is, start to brainstorm interesting questions. When you do that, I guarantee after three or four minutes of writing ideas down, you'll suddenly go, Oh, there is a new level available to me. There is a new level that I could be involved with if I wasn't so stuck in the day-to-day. Andi Simon: Richard, I love our conversation. I have all kinds of thoughts, but where can they reach you and get your book? Richard Medcalf: So the book is available on Amazon. It's called Making Time for Strategy: How to be Less Busy and More Successful. And if you can also go to makingtimeforstrategy.com. Find out details about the book there. If you're interested, I put some resources specifically for listeners of the podcast at my company website, which is xquadrant.com/onthebrink. And there'll be a link to the assessment I mentioned, a link to the book, and a few other resources as well. That could be the best place to start. Andi Simon: Good, good. And we'll certainly have it up here. And we'll be promoting it as well. I want to make sure the listener understands a couple of things that I was struck by in Richard's conversation. Remember that humans are really futurists. And the only way you can live today is to see where we're going tomorrow, what's the future and the future you don't really know so you create and craft an illusion story about it. And now the interesting part for you, as a CEO or member of a C-suite or a manager in your organization, is to help the organization see where it's going, for its customers, its stakeholders, its board, whoever else you're really concerned about. But don't do it by just simply looking at that email list that comes in, or the immediacy of something you need to change. And humans hate change since that amygdala of yours will hijack the new, which is why I bring people like Richard here to talk to you because your brain hates him already. And we are going to love what it can teach you about time and how to invest in it. Because infinity can only be really captured and used well with not productivity, but with reframing it. The changes are here. Now if you haven't read Bernard Marr's book Future Skills, the skills for looking at data, AI, all types of things that are really right in front of us, please don't wait. But I do think making time for strategy can help you prepare yourself emotionally as well as intelligently for intentional transformation. All the time. Somebody once said the future is all around us. It's just not widely distributed. And I love that. I also know that the future is really here. It's today. And now we have to go push our way out. Richard, thank you for joining me today. It's been a pleasure. Now for all of our listeners, thank you for your ideas. Send your emails to info@Andisimon.com and our website is www.simonassociates.net where we talk about all the stuff we have for you there to help you see, feel and think in new ways. My two books are both on Amazon: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business and On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights. I'm here to help you see, feel and think in new ways. That's what I love to do. My third book coming out in September 2023 is called Women Mean Business. You can't quite get it yet, but I promise to keep you as you subscribe to our podcast in the loop and let you know when it's available. It's going to be a cool book with 101 women telling you their wisdom so that you can soar. On that note, I'm going to say goodbye. Have a wonderful day Richard. Enjoy Paris.
Mar 6, 2023
36 min
Imogene Drummond—How Can A Brilliant Artist Show You How To Communicate Effectively—Online?
Hear how to really hear what people are saying in meetings Imogene Drummond is a woman whose story I love to share. She is bold and courageous about things she wants to do or learn more about. Today's topic is how her new program, ACQUITS, grew out of her interest in helping people communicate better, especially in the virtual environments so many of us find ourselves in these days. Imogene's professional life evolved from her training in psychology to her very successful career as an artist, to filmmaking, and now to working with people to develop their online communication skills. This is so timely. Do enjoy. Watch and listen to our conversation here ACQUITS stands for the 10 essential principles for successful meetings This process is based on how we must: listen before we speak hear what others are saying adapt our thinking to understand what the speaker intended, not what we think we heard do all this without the body and facial cues we use during in-person conversations Meet Imogene Drummond Imogene Drummond is an artist, filmmaker and educator. She has an MSW from Catholic University, was a family therapist in the late 1970s, is the founder and principal of Divine Sparks Media, and is currently Director of Social Media at the Deeptime Network. She studied at MICA's Mt. Royal School of Art and her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions from New York to Australia. Her paintings are in private, corporate and hotel collections, as well as the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. Her new program, ACQUITS, came from observing how people behave while engaged in zoom calls, and focuses on teaching people how to change their communication strategies to engage better and benefit more fully from online conversations. You can connect with Imogene on LinkedIn, her website, or by email: imogene@imogenedrummond.com. Want to communicate better? Here's a great place to start: Podcast: Monique Russell—To Lead With Clarity, You First Must Communicate Confidently Podcast: Lisa Perrine—Clever, Creative Ways To Enhance And Amplify Workplace Communications Podcast: Nadia Bilchik—How To Master Communication In A Virtual World Additional resources for you My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businessand On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants   Read the transcript of our podcast here Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon. I'm your host and your guide. And my job is to get you off the brink. So I go looking for people who can help you see, feel and think in new ways, opening your minds to solutions to problems you may be working with or dealing with, but aren't quite sure how to solve now, particularly as we emerge from these years of pandemic. You never want to waste a crisis, and it's a great time for you to learn some new techniques. And today I've brought to us Imogene Drummond. Imogene is a wonderful woman. I'm going to tell you about her. But she also has a program you're going to be very interested in. It's called ACQUITS, and it's a toolkit for facilitating conscious and effective communication for online groups. Now that is a really interesting topic. You know as well as I do that we are spending so much of our time online. And for women in particular, it isn't giving us more opportunity to participate. But the dynamics are much more obvious when you're watching men and women, different genders and age groups, on the screen and how we're competing for time and space. And what actually happens with communication, people often saying, "You didn't hear me. I may have said something, you may have thought what you heard, but may not have been what I meant." And so communication is very hard. Let me tell you about Imogene. Imogene is an internationally-collected painter, award-winning filmmaker, writer, artist, educator and foremost psychotherapist. You're going to say, "How interesting, where did ACQUITS come from?" ACQUITS is a toolkit for facilitating this effective communication. The acronym refers to the lesser-known definition of the word acquits, meaning how one conducts oneself. Imogene's educational course for middle school students combines creativity, self-worth and the universe. That is pretty cool, particularly when we learn that we are billions of years old. And who knows how we ever emerged from a few molecules of this, mixed with the fuel of that? Options for The Future is the closing piece in a thought-provoking anthology, The Rule of Mars, which was endorsed by Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist and author Jared Diamond. Now, if you haven't read Jared Diamond's work, it's well worth reading. And I have all his books and just love him. Due to her painting expeditions around the world, Imogene was invited to join the Society of Woman Geographers, whose membership includes explorers of ideas as well as geography, among them, Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart and Jane Goodall. I must tell you that when you discovered who I was, I was an explorer. Now I've done a recent self-assessment, and I'm also a philosopher. And I guess that's why you and I have eclectic interests that come together around helping people see, feel and think in new ways. Thank you for joining me tonight. Imogene Drummond: Exactly. Thank you, Andi. And thank you for the opportunity to be on this wonderful podcast. It's great that you create these interesting podcasts that support women's amazing stories and important work. So I'm honored to be here today. Andi Simon: Please tell our viewers, who's Imogene? What's your journey? How did you get here? Where are you? Imogene Drummond: Well, speaking of where we came from, the last 7 billion years, my journey has been really a series of evolutions. And I started out as a psychotherapist, and then I decided I really needed to do something for me. And so I became an artist. And I was painting and going on these trips, expeditions. And then I created a script with paper cutouts. So it became an illustrated manuscript. That was really a new origin story that I thought would help children and help the world. And then I decided I needed to do more with it. And I made it into a film. And I had never made a film and I decided, Okay, now, really, it's a feel-good film. It's gotten a nice award. But I mean, it needs to help people to be more practical and functional. So I made it into a curriculum. And it became a curriculum at a middle school, a visionary school in Newburgh. So it's just surprising because when I started to go on this journey, I just thought, Well, who knows what will happen? Maybe I'll start painting pastel tulips? I don't know. So I'm very pleased that I just kept being creative. And I kept exploring new ways. Andi Simon: You know, there's a wonderful book, The Secret to Our Success. And in the book, Joseph Henrich talks about his own realization that human evolution has come about because of our shared collective brain. And as I'm listening to you, I think our listeners would love to know, did you go on this journey alone? Or were you picking ideas up from people? How did you begin to evolve? Personally, you didn't have many careers, you had sort of one person moving through different stages here. How does that happen? Imogene Drummond: Very interesting question. No one has ever asked me that end. You know, it felt lonely at times. But it's true, I have had a group of mostly women. I did, my father was like a guide. So he was very helpful. But especially this group of Society of Woman Geographers there, the woman who invited me was herself an artist. I just kept finding people who were supportive, and kind of just finding them. Then I ended up with this group, the Deeptime Network, that I'm on the advisory board of, which is why I made the ACQUITS toolkit. Oh, it's interesting. It has not been alone. And I think that's something in our culture, where we're influenced to think about me, me, me. And really, we need to shift and think about we, so that's one of the ideas behind the ACQUITS toolkit. Andi Simon: So I think that the ACQUITS came about because you saw some unmet needs. You're very much a blue ocean thinker. It isn’t about doing more of the same, a little bit better. It's really about how do I solve a problem, create a new market, find solutions that may be right beneath us, but could be done in a different kind of fashion. Tell us a little bit about ACQUITS and then you can put up your screen so we can talk about the elements of it. Imogene Drummond: Well, just to give you some background, I've been working with this fascinating cutting edge nonprofit, the Deeptime Network, which provides educational courses to connect us to the cosmos; again, exactly what you're talking about. It talks about this evolution of humans, and the whole cosmos through this. They were gearing up to shift from having three-month courses to nine-month courses, somewhat early in the pandemic. And I had been on a number of zooms with diverse situations and groups. And there were a number of things that were needed that were problematic in each experience. And the main noticeable one was that, oftentimes, somebody would speak too long. And so I had said to the co-founder and president Jennifer Morgan of the Deeptime Network that some communication guidelines would be helpful to people. And she said, great idea, Imogene, you do it. Andi Simon: I have a hunch that it wasn't a bad idea, anyhow. Imogene Drummond: Well, I thought, "You know what, I've been thinking about this," which is why I suggested it. And so I thought, "Okay, I'll run with it." And that is exactly why I developed it. It is to help people be more conscious in communicating in groups online. The techniques are also good for lots of situations, including in-person. But, I noticed that it's difficult to get feedback when you're speaking in a group on zoom because everybody else is muted. And so you're not hearing things that you might hear if you're in a boardroom or a classroom, where people might be drumming their fingernails or rattling their coffee cups or coughing, or being wrapped with the tension. And also with the monitor, you're just looking at this inanimate technological thing, versus people's real faces. So you don't get the feedback online that you do in real life. So I think there are many reasons why there were problems on zoom that aren’t in real situations. Andi Simon: You know, in some ways, I am wondering two things. One of which is, many years ago, I did a television series for CBS Sunrise Semesters when people got up at six in the morning to get college credit; it was a long time ago. But I remember talking into the camera with no audience. And sometimes when you're doing a zoom workshop or something, people don't turn on their cameras. And you're talking as if you're doing a television show with no audience. And you have to imagine, and you require a lot of creative emotions. We, as you and I are talking, respond to each other listening or not, based on my face and how I'm responding. And then you can take it to the next stage, because you're trying to figure out, Am I making my point? Or am I not? So it was interesting, as I went back in time to remember the feeling. Somebody once said to me, as I was recording, You're really good, but you should smile. I went, Ah. He said, When you smile, the thing is that we learn. But this is very important, because I don't think zoom calls, webs, are going to go away. In fact, I hope they don't, because it gives us a multiplier, both of our time and our topics and so forth. But, I'm also not sure that interpersonal relationships aren't truncated by the very same things that happen in a virtual one, except we don't pay attention to the same way. And I'll segue into you talking about your programming in a second because I've been starting to go back and do live workshops, or live public speaking, keynotes. And I forgot the high that I get from being in an in-person experience. Now, the audience, when I've done it remotely, gives me great reviews. And, they too, though, are coming back. Because people are herd animals, we like each other. And we must be better when we watch each other. And we can celebrate what others are doing. Put up your screen, and let's take a look at what the elements of ACQUITS are all about and how to apply them because I have a hunch our listeners or watchers are going to want to do it. And for those listening, I promise you, Imogene will talk you through what is here so you can understand why it's so important for the techniques that she teaches and that you can learn. Imogene Drummond: Okay, thank you, Andi. So, this is a slide from my PowerPoint presentation with all of the techniques together. And through the PowerPoint presentation that I give about the ACQUITS toolkit, we go into each one in more detail. So this is a summary. And the first one is the A is for agree, and everybody in the course or on the zoom call agrees to these principles or these techniques. So you have to get everyone to buy in first. And also I think it's interesting because I wrote up these techniques and then it was like, Oh, if we make it into an anagram, it becomes ACQUITS. And there's two definitions for the word acquit. One is the one we're familiar with, where you get off, but the other one is about how you conduct yourself. So this ACQUITS refers to how one conducts oneself. So the first actual technique is affirm, that we affirm others. The next one is C for contribute. We contribute to the conversation. And that means you don't add something that's not on topic. You stay on topic and you contribute something that is helpful to other people. The next is the Q. Ask a question, ask people what they mean or to explain better or more clearly, or in more depth. The U refers to unite. You want to have a conversation where people are getting feeling connected versus disconnected. So we want to keep this attitude of uniting people. The I is for include. Let's make comments that include people; oftentimes there's a quiet or a couple of quiet people in the group. So it's important to remember to include them. The T is for "think gratitude," is so important, really goes a long way to facilitating connections and good communication. So the next three really refer to the idea of helping people speak more succinctly and clearly. So Share and Stop. The S means stop, give one idea, not three. Share your one idea, and then stop and breathe, and let other people respond to it. The next S is for self-regulation, which is to think ahead of time. You know, editing is vital for good writing, right? So, to be a good speaker, we need to edit our thoughts. So if we think that it's important to edit our thoughts first, before we speak, then we can do that better. And self-regulate is about editing ourselves. And also speaking for two minutes, not more than two minutes; a lot can happen in two minutes. And to set parameters as well, that you should try to express your idea in less than two minutes. So that's the very basic techniques, really. Andi Simon: But when you articulate them, we become aware of them. And if we're not aware of them, we won't know whether we are self-regulating, or contributing or dominating. We really don't know how to do better at sharing ideas, and building, affirming each other's position. It's interesting, because the nature of the online experiences is that I have to manage my leadership academy participants, for example, so everyone has time to talk. And if I don't, some of them will fall asleep. But I mean, there's an ease with which you go on and off the screen. When we were in person, I had to make sure everyone had an opportunity to talk as well. And the whole nature of talking in a group, it was almost a training session without calling it such. And because I was the orchestrator, as if this was a symphony, and each person was playing a different instrument. But for the whole to really sound like great music, we all had to come together over the same piece of music. What are we here for? The metaphor was interesting because nobody had to duplicate each other. You know, the violins didn't have to play the cello part. And the oboe couldn't play the flute. But you can see them visualize, because that's how we learned what I was trying to achieve on the screen. It's not that different, and a good presenter knows how to orchestrate it in a way that equips everybody for coming up with ideas, almost preparing them before they come with, You're going to contribute how and how are you going to regulate yourself? So in middle school, what do you do to teach kids?  Imogene Drummond: Well, what I do in middle school is a whole different creativity program that helps to facilitate their own creativity. I don't teach art. And that program combines creativity, the cosmos. Again, I'm connecting them to the cosmos and self-worth. So that's what I'm affirming continually, that in terms of what you just said, they are all unique. There's no two alike, even if they're twins. And each work is unique. So every time, they're really creating intentional artwork, to express themselves. So every time they do that, I consider it a success, because they have intended to express themselves. And, I just wanted to mention that with the ACQUITSS online, I don't give the whole presentation myself because it's about the process. The whole toolkit is about processes. And so what I do is I involve three or four other people from the program, and we divide up the text and practice it. And then we share different people, give different parts of the toolkit, the presentation as I go along. And it's been really terrific. It's really working well and engaging people because it's very content heavy. And in the program at the Deeptime Network, one presentation included a Sikh from India, a Canadian with a French accent, an Irish American with a beautiful lilting voice, and me. Andi Simon: And all of those things added quality and color. I misrepresented you. This isn't being done in the middle schools. Tell us where the program is? I didn't mean to misrepresent it. Imogene Drummond: The ACQUITS is really for communication to help people be more conscious online. And so I really think educational programs are perfect for it. I'm using it in the Deeptime Network for a nine-month program. It's now part of their curriculum. It's the second week of the whole course. So that people set the ground rules, basically, because it's really about delineating expected behavior. And I think it really helped optimize what they're doing on the network in these courses. They're phenomenal courses anyway. They're fascinating. There's a wonderful community emerging out of it. And the ACQUITS, it's just made it easier to help people communicate well and be heard. And, for example, it's interesting, Andi, 10% of the participants returned to take this nine-month course a second time. Andi Simon: Wow, that's great. Isn't that remarkable! Imogene Drummond: And I think that's a testament to what the course is, and to that, Steve Martin, the facilitator, is phenomenal. But I think the ACQUITS kind of smooths it, it greases the wheels and facilitates it. And I was really excited when one time, Steve Martin, the facilitator of the course, said that ACQUITS is a good model to improve our relationship with the environment. I would have never thought of that. Yes, brilliant idea. How about if we change our relationship to the environment? And here's a set of techniques we could use as guidelines, because they are really just guidelines. Andi Simon: Yeah. But you know, there's a structure to relating what you've created. Whether you're affirming it or you're self-regulating it or you're contributing,it is a structure to relationships. Well, I'm not sure, as a young person growing up, you really appreciate the possibilities of a structure to those relationships as you're trying to build friendships and play on sports teams. And, you know, everyone is theoretically a guide, but often they don't have anything to guide you with. So this is really powerful. You know, it's interesting because I have a hunch you're leading this somewhere. What comes next for you? Imogene Drummond: Well, actually, Andi, that's why I called you because I want to get it out into the world. More people in the Deeptime Network, they're using it on their own. But I want to give presentations about it in courses or places that have online meetings on a repeat repetitive basis because then you can use it. It's not like it's not for some. Oftentimes I give a presentation, that's just a one-time presentation about my artwork or something. This is not that; this is about setting the ground rules for a course, like you were saying: the structure of the relationships. So they use it in the Deeptime Network now every year for their nine-month leadership course. And I would like it to be used elsewhere, other educational courses, or any kind of group where people meet online for more than one for multiple sessions. Andi Simon: You know, I hope our listeners and our viewers consider ACQUITS for themselves in their organizations, or to refer you to others, because I know no other programs like this. I think that the time couldn't be more ripe because as we are rebuilding hybrid relationships, they are trying to figure out, How do I manage other people? How do I build a global business, in a hybrid fashion with the tools that are needed? How do we keep our humanity when we don't see each other on a daily basis? You're shaking your head, right? Imogene Drummond: Yes, yes, absolutely. Well said, absolutely. Andi Simon: And when you think about it, we don't realize what we give up when we go hybrid, or what we have to do when we come in. It's very complicated. I can't tell you how many of our clients have people coming in and sitting on their computers doing zoom calls with the people who haven't come in, wondering, Why they drive in for an hour? I have one prospective client who was upset because they were having a flywheel of hires who are leaving because there was no community to come into. And so there's a moment where this is extremely needed. Imogene, as we think about wrapping up, two or three things you want the listener not to forget, other than they have to call Imogene. As you're thinking through your own program here, you know, what is it that a listener should remember? Imogene Drummond: Well, I think it's important that we start thinking in terms of shifting from me to we. We have to be more community-minded and not always me first, me first trumpeting my own work. And also, I think listening is important, but I think we're taught to listen because, how often have we heard, especially as children, our parents or teachers say, Listen, listen to me, listen to this. But I think we haven't really been taught to speak clearly and succinctly in group settings. So I think it's important to learn to do that, and affirming people asking questions, expressing gratitude. All these are easy, but important things to do that really help and they help build bonds with connections with people. Andi Simon: You know, Imogene said something that I want to emphasize, if you haven't read Judith Glaser's work on creating we, or conversational intelligence. Judith passed away about three years ago, maybe two years ago now. And her work in neuroscience, she was an observational and organizational anthropologist, and she realized that what we were learning from the neurosciences is that the words we say create the worlds we live in. Others have said similar things, but to use the word AI, your amygdala immediately protects the listener from the imposition of your thoughts on theirs. And the amygdala starts to create cortisol. And it flees it, it fears it, it's unfamiliar to it; anything that is unclear to it, it rejects. But when you say we, the oxytocin in your brain begins to flow, and you bond with the person who wants to build trust, and it creates a solution. I know how you said we without that context, so I'll add the context to it. Because I think that ACQUITS is about a we world where it isn't about me, or I, but it's about co-creating meaning. Now remember, humans are meaning-makers. We evolved because we can create meaning on things, as the virtual is an interesting catalytic moment for how to create new meaning about what people are saying, what they're doing, and how to behave to do what to achieve what is. And I do think ACQUITS is very timely. And for those of you listening, I think you're going to want to follow up with Imogene to find out how to become more into acquitting each other for the way we communicate. Imogene, where can they reach you? And how can they find out more about you? Imogene Drummond: Well, my website is immogenedrummond.com. Andi Simon: Good, we'll have all that information for you on the video and on the blog around the audio as well. Let us wrap up a little bit because I think Imogene in her creative way, she hasn't quite made a film yet about life on the internet, but she might. But I do think she wants you to begin to see that the new isn't feared, it's something that can be really embraced. And the gap is between the way we're communicating and what we're doing in that communication that could really make for better bonds, the same way she and I are talking here today. I must tell you that when I do just audio, it's fine for a podcast, but I certainly love doing the video card because she and I are having a great conversation. And for all of you are listening to it. So enjoy the conversation. Let me thank all of you who have been coming to On the Brink with Andi Simon. We launched this in 2017. And the reception has been just fantastic. I mean, you've pushed us into the top 5% of global podcasts. And I'm always impressed with how people find me to say, I'd like to be on your podcast, or bring me people who they think should be on my podcast. So I open that up: info@Andisimon.com gets right to me. But I have two books out there: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business and On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights. My third one comes out in September 2023. I can’t tell you its name quite yet, but it's terrific. And you're going to really enjoy learning more about how to see, feel and think in new ways. That's the whole point of our podcasts and our blogs in the way we are trying to help people do something they hate, which is to change. Don't ever waste a crisis, I tell my clients. Use a crisis and learn from it, and begin to see how to do things better, or at least differently and test them. I love pilots. In any event, it's been a delightful day to share Imogene Drummond who came to you from the Hudson Valley. Thank you, Imogene. It's great fun. It's great fun to share your story. And I wish you all to get off the brink. So thanks for coming to On the Brink with Andi Simon, and let me know how you're doing. Goodbye now. Have a great day.
Feb 27, 2023
32 min
Britt Titus—Let's Use Behavioral Science To Help People Live Better Lives
Hear how understanding someone's culture can improve lives I was so excited to have the opportunity to speak with Britt Titus on our podcast. As you will learn, Britt found her calling when she discovered how behavioral sciences and humanitarian concerns could transform the world, one step at a time. The two of us are crazy about behavioral sciences, so it was such a joy to share our fascination with the difficulties people have understanding others who differ from them. Whether addressing Ebola in Liberia and West Africa or helping mothers in Mali avoid malnourishment in their children, Britt is constantly humbled by the challenges of helping people do things that seem so logical to those of us from the Global North. As she says, nothing is as simple as it might appear. And humility can often be the best way to bring about changes that can have a huge impact on health. Don't miss this one! Watch and listen to our conversation here It isn’t that people cannot understand what you are saying They just have different stories in their own minds about what those words mean and how or why to change their behaviors. Solving problems with others requires us to understand what matters to them, what they believe to be truth. Remember, as I like to say, the only truth is there is no truth. Listen in to Britt Titus and enjoy our journey as part of your own. About Britt Britt’s background lies at the intersection of behavioral insights and humanitarian action. She previously worked at Nudge Lebanon where she managed projects that applied behavioral insights to issues related to conflict and violence, ranging from gender-based violence to social cohesion and refugee integration. Beforehand, she spent most of her career working for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in humanitarian response and preparedness across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, including emergency deployments to Liberia for the Ebola outbreak and the Middle East for the regional Syria response.  Britt has a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the University of Oxford where she focused on applied behavioral science and completed research at the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) in London. You can connect with Britt on LinkedIn or her page on the Airbel Impact Lab website. For more stories about living with a purpose, we recommend these: Podcast: Lisa McLeod—If You Want To Succeed, You Must Find Your Noble Purpose Podcast: Pat Shea—Use Your Passions To Become Who You Want To Be Podcast: Theresa Carrington—Transforming Impoverished Artisans Into Entrepreneurs Additional resources for you My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businessand On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants   Read the transcript of our podcast here Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon. I'm your host and your guide. As you know, I'm the founder and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants. We specialize in applying anthropological tools to help people change. And you know, as I've told you, so many times people hate to change, so we help you see things through a fresh lens and get off the brink and soar. Today, I'm absolutely honored to have with us Britt Titus. Now this is a very interesting woman whom you are going to love to meet to learn more about and understand how behavioral sciences can be applied in humanitarian ways that you may be unfamiliar with. Let me read you her background and then I'll introduce her. Her background lies at the intersection of behavioral insights and humanitarian actions. She previously worked at Nudge Lebanon where she managed projects that applied behavioral insights to issues related to conflict and violence, ranging from gender-based violence to social cohesion and refugee integration. She's going to tell you more about that. Beforehand, she spent most of her career working for the United Nations World Food Program in humanity, humanitarian response and preparedness across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, including emergency deployments to Liberia for the Ebola outbreak in the Middle East for regional Syria response. Britt has a Master of Public Policy from the University of Oxford, where she focused on Applied Behavioral Science and completed research at the Behavioural Insights Team in London. It's really an honor and a privilege to have you here. I'm so glad you could join me. Tell our listeners, it's so much fun. Let's add one behavioral scientist to another who are working in different areas, but in similar ways, sort of tell us about Britt. What's your journey like? Let's make you come alive so people can appreciate how you've applied behavioral sciences to all kinds of different problems. Please, who's Britt? Britt Titus: Thanks, Andi. Happy to share. So I started my journey really working for the United Nations when I was in my early 20s, which seems like a long time ago now. And, you know, the team that I was working with within the United Nations was really like a fire response department. So we were responsible for responding to emergencies all over the world, across many different continents, which included a lot of kind of rapid deployments for sudden onset emergencies. And so I really started my career by being thrown in the deep end. My first year with the UN, I was deployed to work on the Syria emergency across Jordan and Lebanon, trying to support the humanitarian community to get aid and relief supplies into the country across borders. And shortly after that, I was also deployed to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, if you can remember that, at that time. So being deployed to Monrovia, that capital, and working within the UN system to try to better respond to the growing number of Ebola cases at that time. And so this was a really formative period in my life. It was extremely rewarding. But something that was always the most interesting to me was the human element. Why are people responding the way they do? Why, when we, the humanitarian community, are bringing relief supplies to communities in Liberia and West Africa, why is there so much fear, and, you know, the incredible, impossible task of trying to encourage people who are experiencing the Ebola outbreak, to kind of turn over their sick family members to these faceless, masked PPE-donned health workers? In the midst of this crisis were all actions that needed to happen and we were struggling. We were building these large Ebola treatment units across the country, these large hospitals, and the beds were empty. And so we had to try and understand very rapidly, why are people not bringing their loved ones, their family members to these hospitals. What we understood was, it was the human element. It was the fear, it was the misinformation, it was the rumors. And the very, very difficult task of taking someone who's very ill and handing them over to these places that were very unknown and unfamiliar and foreign. And so these were the questions that I always grappled with and was so fascinated by. And so, partway into my career within the UN, I really knew that I wanted to go back and spend some time studying a little bit more and understanding how we can shift the way we do humanitarian response. A lot of organizations, you know, the way that we've been doing humanitarian response now is the way we've been doing it for 50 years, and so there's a lot of growing interest in more innovative ways of responding so we can improve outcomes for people whose lives are affected by crisis and conflict. And so one of those ways that I found, maybe my first week doing my master's of public policy, someone mentioned behavioral science, and I said, what's that? As soon as they told me what it was like, that's what I've always been interested in. I just didn't know the name of it. I didn't know that it had a whole evidence based theory behind it. And so I signed up for every course that I could at the University of Oxford, and really delved deep into it. The struggle was, of course, that I found that it was being applied in government, and it was being applied in private sector companies around the world. But, it was not being applied in a systematic way in the humanitarian sector to deal with the issues that I cared about, like pandemics, and health, and prevention of violence, and education for people affected by crisis. And so I was searching high and low for people who would be interested in this behavioral science thing. And it was difficult at that time, that was 2016. I had a lot of really interesting conversations with people who thought it was a great idea. But, it was definitely difficult to get some traction. And so eventually, I found Nudge Lebanon which is a small NGO working out of Beirut, in Lebanon, applying behavioral science to issues like social cohesion between the host population and refugees, health, nutrition, all of these topics that I care so deeply about, and really was able to start start running experiments to understand human behavior, and all for the purpose of trying to improve humanitarian outcomes for people, Syrian refugees, and Lebanese, in Lebanon. And so that was really the beginning of my career in this intersection of these two areas that I care about so deeply, and eventually found that IRC, the International Rescue Committee, the organization I currently work for, has an innovation team called the Airbelt Impact Lab. And within that, one of their core areas, or kind of tools in their toolkit, is behavioral science and so I joined that team, and now I lead the behavioral science team there. So that's my journey, Andi Simon: The most exciting part is that you have gone through your own self discovery. At the same time, you're now trying to bring a new perspective and way of seeing things to people who think they're doing just fine, thank you very much. The most interesting part, you know, there are many things that are interesting about what you're doing, but the hardest part is that it isn't working but that's the way we do it. And if that's the way we've always done it, that must be the right way to do it. But it's not working. Well, maybe it could work better. But that's the way we've always done it. And I can tell you, it's not that different from going into an organization, a business that is fractured, a toxic culture. And they say, well, this isn't good, but it's the way we've always done it. Humans are wonderfully resistant to leaving that shiny object and going to a new way of seeing things that might do better. And the big question is, how will we know? You know, the unknown becomes a crux for not doing it. And so I'm anxious to hear about some of your extraordinary experiences, helping them honestly do just what we said today: see, feel and think in new ways, so they can really overcome the resistance and do better. Help us understand some of the ways that this has been working for you. How have you been able to start the transformation of people's minds? And you know, breaking down the resistance to change? Britt Titus: Well, yes. So yeah, normally with our work, applying behavioral science in humanitarian settings, we are aiming to shift behavior in the population that we're serving. So for example, we're aiming to shift behavior of teachers in a refugee camp or parents in a conflict setting. But you're absolutely right, Andi, that the change needs to start at home. And it is really difficult. And a lot of the behavioral biases and the resistance to change that we see in all of us also happens in our own organizations and our own teams. And so, yes, we are a small team, doing behavioral science work, a team of around four people at the moment, sitting within a wide integration of 15,000 people almost in 40 different countries around the world. So it is no small feat to embed this new approach into the work we're doing. So yeah, I think, you know, a lot of what we try and do with the population, we also try to do at home. I think one of the good things, one of the opportunities, is that a lot of what teams have been doing for a long time, their aim is ultimately what we're trying to do is try to shift behavior, or help people kind of align their actions with their intention. So supporting populations to achieve the outcomes that they want for themselves, whether that's improved education for their family, improved health, whatever it is, and so often, that's really an entry point for us. Because ultimately, we want the same thing. We want to shift behavior in some way, or help people kind of leverage these drivers of behavior, which can help achieve outcomes. So that's our first entry point. And so I think, what is important is to first kind of help these other teams see that we're trying to achieve the same thing, which is always important for behavioral science work, is kind of identifying where the kind of similar values are, or where your shared values, your shared objective is, and then coming in and offering behavioral science, and that is something that's going to replace the ways of doing things from before, and it's definitely not a silver bullet. But what we try to do is help teams see that we can all use it as an added boost. All of these projects, especially for these humanitarian contexts, are working in where the challenges are extremely complex, and extremely just have a lot of complexity in them. Using these tools that can help us understand human behavior, not just at the individual or household level, but also at the system level within a country can be extremely, extremely helpful. And what's also beneficial is that behavioral science interventions tend to be quite cost effective, whether it's shifting the way that people see an intervention, or using different types of messaging, or helping people plan for the future. These are not tools that are incredibly expensive. And so they actually work very well in these contexts, especially where we're resource constrained, which we often are in a humanitarian context. So there's a lot that we can do there to kind of help people see that this is something that can be added on to their existing way of doing things and be embedded within program development and design and doesn't have to replace it. I think what's also really important is bringing teams along in the entire journey. So we know that if people are involved in things early on, they tend to have a sense of ownership, which is really good for building momentum and having buy-in. But at the same time, we know that these programs and these projects are only really going to be effective if we have the input of the people who are closest to the problem. And so it's really twofold. It is important to build ownership. But it's even more important to have their input, because behavioral science interventions are only as good as we understand the context of the problem. And typically, it's our project teams and and our teams on the ground who know those things the best. Andi Simon: How my head is going through at least a dozen questions. Let me take you through the first question. I'll be an apologist. How do you access real insight into what they think the problem is, or how do you begin to, because to your point, people have a story in their mind and that's the one they're trying to live. Like, we don't want to. You're trying to show them a different way that might be more effective, whether it's teaching or it's abuse in the home, or it's whatever the issue is. So somehow, we have to change their story. The Ebola one is a perfect one. You know, the big place wasn't the right place for my sick mom. But you didn't know how I felt or my story about it so I'm not going to do what you say. Even if it may be the right solution, but doesn't fit the way we do things. So story, changing your messaging point is extremely important. And it has to resonate with both the people you're collaborating with on your side and the people who you're trying to engage. Because if they don't engage in the solution, it'll just sit on the surface and never get below it. Am I right? Britt Titus: Absolutely. Yes. What do you do? Great. It's a great question. So I think, traditionally, behavioral science has tended to be a little bit top down. So behavioral scientists get together in a team, they come up with an intervention. You know, they try and understand a bit about the context in which they test that intervention, usually in a rigorous way or with some type of evaluation, but what we've found especially, definitely around the world, but definitely in these contexts, is, we have to spend a lot more time doing this in a more bottom up approach. One, because a lot of the behavioral science evidence including anthropology and psychology and social sciences is really based in the Global North and stable Western context. And so we don't actually know, as a field, as a community, a lot about the unique psychologies of people who are experiencing conflict displacement, or people who are living in the Global South. What is challenging about that is that means we have to do a lot better. But there's really an opportunity there as well, because I think it really forces us to be more humble about what we don't know, and really go in and speak to our clients, we call them clients, the communities that we're serving, as the experts. They are the experts in what is going to work best for them. They are the experts in what has been tried before and has failed. If we create something for them without them being included, then it's never going to be a sustainable solution. Even if we encourage people to take something up once, it doesn't mean they're going to change their behavior in the long run. And so I have an example of a project where this was very evident in northeast Nigeria. So in northeast Nigeria, and globally, the community has been trying to roll out a different way of teaching children, which is called social and emotional learning, which really tries to improve the social and emotional capabilities and skills of children, especially vulnerable children in places like the ones we work in northeast Nigeria, and Yemen, and Lebanon. And so the reason we're doing this is because there's a lot of evidence in the Global North about how these types of activities that can improve emotional regulation, or conflict resolution in children, have been extremely effective. And so humanitarian organizations have tried to roll those out in these contexts as well, except they found very little impact or even no impact when they roll them out. This obviously leads to a lot of confusion. Why are these interventions, these very effective evidence based interventions, working in the Global North and not in places like northeast Nigeria? And so when we went into the project to try and look at this, we had two hypotheses. One was, maybe these activities have not been contextualized enough for the northeast Nigerian context. And the second one was, teachers may not be using them enough for them to have the skill building effects on children so we're not seeing any impact. And so what we did is, we started from the very kind of most local way we could start. So we started by speaking to teachers, parents, headmasters, to the local government in the area, and trying to understand how they see social emotional learning happening in children. What does it mean to grow up to be a successful, socially adapted, emotionally regulated adult in Nigeria, not in the US? What does it mean to do that in Nigeria, and we learned a lot from that exercise. What we learned is, the skills that they thought were most important did not sound very much like the ones that we had been trying to promote. From the US context, the skills that teachers told us in northeast Nigeria that were the most important for children to learn were things like self discipline, obedience and tolerance, which is very different from terms like emotional regulation and conflict resolution. And at first, this was quite alarming to some of our colleagues in the US because words like obedience and discipline don't go down so well in the US context. And so, we had some people who didn't want to use those terms. Andi Simon: Forgive me for laughing, I'm holding back my laugh, because those aren't the right terms? How would they know? Well, they are who they are, and what they know. But I'm sitting here going, we can deny right? Britt Titus: So yeah, we had this little bit of a moment of tension where the local terms and the locally valued skills sounded very different from what had been promoted and studied in the Global North. And so what we did is, we actually did a mapping exercise where we try to understand: what did these words mean to you? We asked the teachers: What does it mean for a child to be obedient and have self discipline, what does that look like? And they told us things like: being able to focus on a task for a long period of time, being able to work well with other students in the classroom and not getting in fights. And it was all the same thing that we were trying to promote in the Global North, they just had completely different ways of talking about it. And that was a real breakthrough, because we realized that teachers were going to be far more interested in using an activity that promotes self discipline and obedience than one that promotes emotional regulation, a term that meant nothing to them. And it meant the same thing, it was promoting the same outcome. And we found as we tested, as we used more of this local framing, and more of this local content, the way we talked about the activities, how we talked about the benefits to the children of engaging with these, we saw more uptake. Teachers were more and more interested in using these activities. And it was almost like, finally, you've created something that's actually for our classrooms. And so we did this kind of iterative approach of working with, I think it was about 12 core teachers over a year, continually improving, adding more local content to the program, infusing these local framings, to the point where every single word we used throughout this program, from the training to the activity cards to the illustrations, were completely localized. And we saw really big improvements. And we just did a pilot study that ran for about six months, and found that on average, teachers have been using these activities for about 18 minutes a day, up from pretty much zero. So we're really excited about this progress. And, yeah, it seems to be the evidence so far showing that teachers are really excited and motivated to use these activities for the first time since we've been testing them, so just an example. Andi Simon: That's a big example. And for our listeners or viewers, think about what Britt is talking about. First, they are co-creating it with the end user. And the second thing is that words create the worlds we live in. And they are words that may sound like your words, but they don't have the same meaning. And the third part is that if you don't understand the story and what they're looking for in the behavior, as opposed to the words, you won't know what it is you're trying to actually achieve. And it becomes an interesting, I'll call it my aha moment, when you realize that we're trying to both do the same thing really well, but if we don't think of it from your perspective, you know, not mine, and it isn't what I do, it's what you need, how do I help you? It reframes the whole conversation and now we become a support team. And maybe that's not how you see it but our job is to be an enabler, a facilitator, a support team, and then watch what's actually happening and redirect it along, and we become collaborators and partners in transformation. That is a very exciting place to be, isn't it? Britt Titus: Yes, absolutely. I think you summarized it perfectly. Andi Simon: But your word humble is very important as well. Britt Titus: Yes, it's a mindset. But I think putting it into practice looks exactly like what you said. It is working extremely closely with the people that you're designing for. It's treating them as experts. It's co-creating with them at every step of the way. It's making sure that you are checking every assumption you have and everything down to the words and what they mean, and how they know what they mean, to people that might be different from the way you think about them. You know, I think all of those things are the practical applications of a humility mindset. And I think every project could benefit from that type of approach. Andi Simon: Well, what you're really doing is something very powerful because if you have 4000 folks out there who all think that they know better, and the folks are trying to help, don't, you can't go very far. I don't know if you know Judith Glaser's work on conversational intelligence and the power of neuroscience. She was an organizational anthropologist. The brain assuming they're all very much the same brains. When you say I the amygdala immediately fears, it flees, it hijacks it, it fights, it runs away from it, it just protects you. You're challenging me. But if we say we, all of a sudden: procreation, the trust, the oxytocin flows through your brain. We bond and if that's the way our minds work, regardless if you're in West Nigeria, or Lebanon, and we say the right words, however that said, and that doesn't necessarily mean we, but it is a different response for reasons that are good, but the mind isn't fighting you or fleeing you. It wants to know how, and that creates a behavioral sciences. An enormous power of transformation. As you're thinking, is there another illustrative case of things actually working? Britt Titus: Yeah, Absolutely, yeah. So I think another really exciting project we have been working on using a similar approach is in Mali. And one of the big problems that we're trying to address in Mali and other countries is severe acute childhood malnutrition. And so one of the big problems with trying to address childhood malnutrition is being able to detect it and diagnose it. And a lot of children don't get the treatment that they need because they never get diagnosed, and it's too late by the time that they are diagnosed, it's too late in their journey. And, it's too difficult to either bring them back or there's a lot of health morbidities that come with that. So, in rural areas, like in Mali, where we work, typically the place to get diagnosed is quite far away. Mothers and fathers tend to have to travel very, very far distances, hours a day, if they want to go visit a clinic. And so one of the kinds of solutions within the humanitarian space is to put the opportunity and responsibility of screening children in the hands of parents themselves. And so there's a tape that is given out to mothers which goes around a child's arm, upper arm, and can measure whether or not they're malnourished or not, with a red, yellow, green kind of traffic light type measurement. The problem is, if you are going to screen your own child for malnutrition, you have to do that every single month at least, sometimes every single week, in order to detect these small changes that can happen that you might not notice just by looking at your child if you see them every day. And so this is a behavior that is quite difficult. It's something that you have to do every single month, which is a very difficult timing to remember. I think, if you and I were told to do something every month for the next year, at some point in the month without a phone reminder, or an email calendar, notification, there's pretty much no way I remember to do that. And also, these mothers are expected to do a lot. They are cooking for the family, they are cleaning, they are sometimes working. And so, in terms of mental scarcity, and in terms of all the things that they're expected to remember and to do every day, it's pretty much impossible that they remember to do this. And so we've seen in areas where the majority of women were trained on this approach, very little, maybe a fifth of those women, ever use that tape to screen their own children for malnutrition, which is a big problem. So we wanted to understand why this is happening. What's going on? What is the reason why we're seeing so much kind of drop off after the training, and how can we encourage women to screen their children because ultimately, they want their children to be healthy and happy and to know if their children are experiencing malnutrition, so they can get help in time. So when we did this kind of exploratory phase, which we'd like to do, especially based on what we said earlier, we don't know a lot about the psychologies of women in rural Mali. And there are no papers out there that say how to encourage mothers in rural Mali to screen their own children for malnutrition. There's actually very little to go on. And if you were going to try and develop a reminder, which is a common behavioral science tool used across the world, if you were going to try and set that up, for example, in the US or the UK, you might send text message reminders, once a month. The problem is these women do not have their own phones, maybe they share a phone in the household. Even if there is a phone, they might not have a signal. Very often it might be in and out. And they might not have the ability to have phone data on a regular basis. So that's really not an option for us. And many of them are illiterate, meaning that even if we sent a text message, it would be very difficult for them to read it. So we had to come up with a way of reminding women in rural areas without using any technology or any kind of, you know, device or data which we often rely on. And, this is especially difficult in areas where these women have a different way of considering time and timekeeping than we would. There's no calendars in their home, there's not necessarily kind of the same way we would think about timing and marking days. And so we really have to understand how these women think about time. How do they remember to do the things that they already do? What are their existing things that they have to remember to do once a month or once a week? And how can we really leverage what they're already doing and the way they already consider time and piggyback onto that. And so we did a lot of testing with these women over and over again, going back and back and forth to this region of Mali, and testing and prototyping and showing them examples, which was really fun and they really enjoyed being able to rank different ideas and give us feedback, and they were very honest with us. One of our ideas was, should we get a little device that goes off once a month, a little beeper? They very confidently said, Well, where are we going to get the batteries for that? That's a silly idea. And so they were very, very helpful in that co-creation. process. And I think we've found across projects that the more time you spend with the user group, the more you build trust, and the more honest answers you start getting. It's not always the case at the beginning. So really investing in those relationships, and seeing the same women over and over again, was very, very helpful for the project, to really get the nitty gritty out of the context and their lived experience. And so what we ended up finding out is that many of these women are in these informal women's savings groups. So they meet about once a month, with other women, and they pool their savings. And we were like, Great, well, you're already doing this thing once a month. And so we thought, Well, what happens if we piggybacked on that, and we encourage women to bring their children to these meetings once a month, and they can all screen together, which would be socially reinforcing. You'd be seeing other women doing it. It would be the reminder to you and have the ease of doing it there when everyone else is doing it, and you have support of other women if you're not quite sure, if you're getting the right reading especially if you are holding a wiggly child on your lap and trying to get their arm to hold still is, is an impossible feat on its own. So we tested this out, and they really, really loved it. So we got really positive feedback. And we're able to continue iterating on that idea, and kind of create the social network reminder that came out of months and months of spending time with a population understanding their lived reality that we would have never known had we tried to come up with a solution and implemented in the first few weeks, that took months of getting to know the population before we're able to find that kind of sweet spot between what they're already doing, and what also meets the needs of the program. So we've also just run a pilot study on that and found really promising results from that activity. And women are really excited about using those groups with other women to screen their children for malnutrition. Andi Simon: We don't have to talk now about what they do if they find out if they are malnourished. But that's another piece of this, but I think that the power of the group is fascinating for Westerners who think about isolation. And families having new grandparents here. There's a great bunch of articles that just came out on the power of the grandparent and that the nature of society and smallest scale societies is very much about each other, about a collaboration. Even if you live in isolation, you need the others to help you save, take care of your kids, and know-how and doing it together. It's much more exciting and fun, and something purposeful, in your mind, as opposed to simply tactical and practical. Yes, it was tactical and practical. Take the measurement, and you'll know. Britt Titus: Much better to have that kind of social accountability and to have that reminding point, and to know that other women are going through the same thing, which also can help a lot with stigma and norms as well. So we believe that can also be a kind of an intervention that picks up momentum, as people start to see that this is the new norm, and start to see others doing it more often. Andi Simon: I think you'll probably have a bunch of detours along the journey. I don't think there's a destination per se. But I think the other part you might find is that there'll be self-appointed leaders who begin to take ownership of this and who now feel a responsibility to the group, casual, informal leaders, who now talk to each other in a way that they can see the benefits and then it becomes contagious. It's so interesting because it doesn't matter whether it's here in the States or anywhere else, humans are fascinating. And if you don't pause for a moment and see through their eyes and how to do it, you can't go anywhere, even if we know where we need to go, it won't get there. And then they're the problem, but they're not the problem. You're the problem. Actually, you're not the problem, either. The problem is a problem. Then the question is, how can we get past it to find some solutions that are clever and creative and innovative? There's a book called, The Secret of our Success. It's a wonderful book about how human evolution has happened. You and I both love to look back to go forward. But it's because of our collective brains. And what you're describing as a collective brain, not an isolated one. The isolates didn't do very well, they didn't survive very well. But together, we can do far better, in the shareables, and you will almost probably become part of the shareables. You are no longer the outsiders but part of the insider. This is such fun. You and I could talk for a while. We've probably taken our listeners' and viewers' time up, but I so enjoy the opportunity to share your sharing with us. And I can't thank you enough for doing that. The organization: would you like to share a little bit more about the work that you're doing at the IRC? And how people might find out more about it? And why it should be important for them, please? Britt Titus: Absolutely, yes. So the IRC is also speaking of looking back in time, quite an old organization. So it was actually set up in 1933, at the request of Albert Einstein to support the Germans who were suffering under Hitler's regime, and also eventually refugees from Mussolini's Italy, and Franco's Spain. And so this organization has been around for a long time, and has also had many iterations. And so yeah, now we're a large organization, as I mentioned, serving around 40 different countries around the world. And within that organization, we have the Airbelt Impact Lab, which is our research and innovation, part of the organization. And so within that team, we're really focused on trying to create breakthrough solutions in the areas of malnutrition, which I've mentioned, education, and emergencies, which I've also mentioned, women's health, and climate resilience and adaptation for the future climate shocks and current climate shocks that are disproportionately affecting people in humanitarian contexts. So those are the main areas that we are focusing on with our innovation, behavioral science, human-centered design, and all of these different approaches. And so I welcome everyone to have a look at our website, which is the Airbelt Impact Lab website, which I think you can probably share with people. It's airbelt.rescue.org, to read about some of the projects we've been working on and see how you can support it if you're interested in being involved. Andi Simon: Don't you love it! You have found your calling. It is so beautiful. Thank you, I don't know where your journey is going to take you, but thank you for sharing it today. And for all of our listeners and viewers, thank you for sharing our podcasts with your network and wherever you can. As I mentioned, we are now in the top 5% of global podcasts. It's truly an honor and a privilege to be able to find great people like Britt to share with you and then you take it from there. If you've got folks you want us to interview, info@Andisimon.com is just how you can reach us. And SimonAssociates.net is our website. My books are available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And they continue to be best sellers and award winners and having fun. My next book comes out next September 2023 and I will tell you all about it when it happens. But for now, I want to wish you a safe and happy journey wherever life is taking you. And please enjoy yourself for every day is a gift. And we have to leave it like that. And Britt is doing some marvelous work. Go look at her website and take a look at how you might be able to help her or at least learn from what she's doing. The messaging is very important. She is helping you see, feel, and think in new ways. And that's what we're here to help you do. So on that note, I'm going to sign off and say goodbye. Thanks for it.
Feb 20, 2023
40 min
R. Karl Hebenstreit—Who Am I? Try The Enneagram And Take A Better Look!
Learn what motivates you and others so you can collaborate better While I have used the Enneagram personality framework with clients, I have never had as great a discussion about it as I had with Karl Hebenstreit. Karl is a certified executive coach, organization development consultant, international speaker and author of two books: The How and Why: Taking Care of Business with the Enneagram and Nina and the Really, Really Tough Decision (for younger readers). So what is the Enneagram, you may ask? More than just another personality test or behavior identification technique, this human psychology-based theory opens your mind to how you see yourself, the teams you work with, and the world at large regarding motivation and behavior. Which of the nine personality types are you? Listen to Karl to find out! Watch and listen to our conversation here: Ready to learn what makes you tick?  Whether it is the Enneagram or Myers-Briggs or the Culture Index or Hogan Assessments, there is an abundance of tools available to help us see, feel and think in new ways about ourselves and others. You will enjoy this podcast conversation as Karl takes us through his own journey of discovery and how he is using his tools to help people build diverse organizations. The Enneagram is a really unique, really effective tool It does not focus on the typical racial, ethnic, gender or sexual orientation conversations about diversity. Or even about neuro- or cognitive diversity. Rather, as you study the nine types of Enneagrams that are all partially inside ourselves, you realize that creating strong organizations requires us to learn more about each other and build better together. Are you an Active Controller? A Considerate Helper? An Enthusiastic Visionary? You might just be surprised. About Karl Hebenstreit With 25+ years' experience in the biotechnology, healthcare, telecommunications, high-tech, pharmaceutical and real estate services industries, Karl is an expert at building relationships at all levels, fostering and integrating collaborative environments, and leading and motivating others to realize their full potential by adopting new mindsets to achieve extraordinary results. To contact Karl, find him on LinkedIn, his website www.performandfunction.com or by email: rkarlh@gmail.com. To learn more about how personality types affect collaboration, start here: Blog: Achieving Business Change Using The Enneagram Personality System Podcast: Maureen Berkner Boyt—Yes, Diversity And Inclusion Can Happen But Only If You Work At It Podcast: Johanna Zeilstra—Let's All Build Companies That Make Gender Fair Additional resources for you My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businessand On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants   Read the transcript of our podcast here Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon, your host. As you know, I'm the founder and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants. You also know that I don't like to do too much promotion on this podcast. What I like to do is celebrate the guests whom I'm honored to bring to you so you can do something special: get off the brink. I want you to see, feel and think in new ways. Fast-changing times are asking you to do just that. Most of us hate change. And we're not quite sure how to really respond. But I promise you, never waste a crisis. And even though the pandemic seems to be sliding back, the new is so unfamiliar. And I don't care what kind of business or work you do, you're facing people who are also trying to adapt to fast-changing times. Somehow, you're going to have to figure out who they are now that they're hybrid. Are they the same people that used to come into the office? What do I know about myself? How do I manage this wonderful array of people now, some are in, some are out? The world has become global, and AI sticks its nose into the thing and chatbots are doing all kinds of stuff. How can I help? So today I have Karl Hebenstreit with us. And Karl is a wonderful individual I will tell you about. And then he will tell you about his own journey. Who is Karl? Karl is a certified executive coach, leadership and organization development consultant, and author of two books that I'll tell you a little bit about, and an international speaker. His career spans the areas of HR and OD in biotech, clinical diagnostics, life sciences, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and many other industries. He has really taken his expertise to places that needed him. He holds a PhD in organizational psychology, and is helping organizations to attract, retain and motivate employees. He has an MS in HR management from Rutgers. And so he's in New Jersey near us here in New York. But it's really quite interesting. He's the author of The How and Why: Taking Care of Business with the Enneagram now in its second edition, and a children's book called Nina and the Really, Really Tough Decision. I'm not sure which we're going to spend more time on, the really tough decisions. And don't think that even though you're grown up, you aren't still Nina and trying to figure it out. Karl, thanks for joining me today. Karl Hebenstreit: Thank you so much, Andi, this is a pleasure and an honor and privilege to be with you today. And absolutely. You are so correct. And we are all Nina, we all have Nina within us forever for our entire lives. And how do we access Nina? And how do we access all of the gifts and just perspectives that she can get from everything that's within her? And that's really what we're here to talk about today. Andi Simon: Well, you've had a wonderful career and a journey and people like to hear your story. Who are you? And how have you come to the point where this has become a focus, because I think it's evolved for you, hasn't it? Karl Hebenstreit: It really has, and I love to say that it was planned and strategized, but it wasn't. The only planning and strategizing was that I needed to get an education to be able to figure out what I'm going to do in this world and how I can impact change. And I started in one direction and ended up in a completely different direction and that was the right direction. So yes, as you said, there is a total East Coast connection. I was born in New York on Long Island, Mineola, Long Island, and was raised in Greece, my mom is Greek. So we went back to Greece when I was two. And I was there for seven years. I came back to the United States with my parents with a Greek accent, which maybe every once in a while you hear some weird syllable or pronunciation, but it's pretty much all gone. And we settled back in Old Bridge, New Jersey, and I was in New Jersey for pretty much the rest of my formative years, until I moved to California in 1998. And my formative years were spent, as you said, in New Jersey, my education was from Rutgers. My undergrad is from Rutgers. My master's is from Rutgers. And I really didn't know what or where I was going to go with my aspirations. My parents had ideas for sure, just like everyone's parents do. And my mom steered me towards languages and I started learning French and Greek as part of the school system there, along with Greek and English of course, and my dad was/is very much about politics, so he was political science, so I dutifully said, I'm going to do French and political science as a double major. I can use them. I can become a diplomat and lawyer or who knows what I'll become but that's what I'm going to do. That's what I'm going to pursue and I dutifully went forward using those as my majors. And then I took an elective course in psychology. And my eyes opened up. And I'm like, wow, this is interesting. This is really, really cool trying to understand people, trying to figure out why they behave the way they behave, why they do the things they do, what's brought them to where they are. And I took more and more elective courses because I needed elective courses to graduate. And I got to the point where I ended up with a minor in psychology, but I still had one more semester to go. And I figured out, you know, if I just take six classes in psychology for my last semester, I can get a third major. So it'd be psychology, French and political science. So then that gives you a little bit more of a hint of where my Enneagram type might be because of a wing of mine, probably that went into play there, which I didn't know at the time. So yeah, I ended up graduating from Rutgers with a triple major in psychology, French, and political science. And at a time, this was back in 1993, and the economy was not very good. So I ended up figuring, well let me start trying to find work. I couldn't find anything that I could use for my degrees. So I took this one course in industrial and personnel psychology as it was called back then. And I thought that was it. That's really the direction I want to take. But how do I get into that? So since I wasn't able to get a job right away in an area where I wanted to go into, I decided, well, let me get a temp job, I can become a temp. I was a temp during all of the school vacations and the holidays and everything like that. So back to the temp agency: I said, I have these parameters. These are my boundaries that I really want to focus on a job in human resources and a large organization that's headquartered here, which hopefully that would mean I'd get a job there after being a temp with them, and proving myself to them. And it had to be in the human resources department for the long term. It couldn't just be like, you know, a day here and a day there. It had to be something that was substantial. So they came through with me with Merck. Merck was a huge or is a huge employer in New Jersey, obviously. And I went to work there covering maternity leaves. I did two years of covering maternity leave after maternity leave after maternity leave, lots of people got pregnant at Merck. I don't know what was going on there. But yeah, covered for all the maternity leaves, and at the same time, at night was going to school for my master's in HR management. So it was a really cool way to pay for my education, and get to practice what I was learning during the day at work. So that's what immersed me in the field of human resources. And when I eventually moved from, eventually landed a job at AT&T, which then moved me from being headquartered in New Jersey, moved me from New Jersey to California, which is where I ultimately always knew I wanted to be. I don't know why it was just within me, ingrained that I was going to end up in California somewhere, didn't know whether it was going to be, north or south or wherever. I ended up in Northern California, knowing no one, absolutely no one, just moved out here. I knew this is where I needed to be. And that's where I fell into the Enneagram. So I decided my HR career was great. And I loved many, many aspects of it, but I wanted more. And so the next step, the next evolutionary step would be to go into organization development. And how do I do that? I need to get more of an education. So through AT&T's very generous tuition reimbursement program, I went to school again at night for my PhD in organizational psychology in California, and that's where I was introduced to the Enneagram. One of my professors was friends with Helen Palmer, who is a big name in Enneagram. She's in the peninsula. And she came in for one of our classes. It wasn't even a whole semester long class. It was just one class. And she came in and she introduced us to the Enneagram. And much like you, I know you use Myers-Briggs in some of your engagements, I was a Myers-Briggs guy. Myers-Briggs was great. It was awesome. It helped explain how things worked. People understood more about themselves. They understood more about their co-workers. People weren't crazy, or maybe they were but they were at least explainable. And then I found out that, Oh, wow, Myers-Briggs just scratches the surface. And we really don't know what's below the surface, what's causing or motivating those behaviors that we're seeing that Myers-Briggs is telling us that we do. So Helen Palmer explained that, all in that one class, that one less-than-three-hour class, and I was hooked, I was so hooked. I originally thought I was a certain type. All my classmates said Yeah, right. You're not, look at your actions. And they were right. Because we always want to be something we're not. Andi Simon: We don't really know what we are. And we don't have a good mirror to help us do that. And, consequently, we know humans are storymakers. We create a wonderful living story. In our mind, our mental map, and however we create it, that's where we live. We only see the things that conform to it. And if it doesn't fit, we just scrap it. We didn't delete it and so we're good at that. And so an Enneagram begins to create a way of understanding that story through a really sophisticated lens. They're all trying to help you see yourself through a fresh lens. What's interesting is that, I just want to pause for a moment because people listening and watching, you too may have had an epiphany at some point. I discovered anthropology when I was an undergraduate. And I really didn't have a major. I was wandering, trying to figure out what life was about. And then I took one course and next thing I know, I went, Oh, wow, this is who I am, not just what I want to do. It sounds like that's what we did. It's a calling. And so I am, and then I went to Columbia, and I finished it, but it's a very interesting feeling. And so if you're listening or watching, don't miss it when you have that aha moment in your brain. I can remember the professor, it was like, wow, yeah. While the Enneagram may help tell you more about yourself, you know, sometimes somebody will help you see yourself in ways that you couldn't imagine. And I don't think those are separate. So when you discover this, you know what you do with it. Karl Hebenstreit: I wanted to know more. Just that one three-hour class wasn't enough. I wanted to know more. So then I became involved in the International Enneagram Association, went to my first conference, started seeing all the different presenters and seeing what the different ways that people were using the Enneagram were. I really saw how I wanted to use it in business because I was in business, I was in human resources at the time. And I saw the connection. I was doing lots of recruiting at the time, and I saw how we were recruiting for the same type over and over and over again. And we were recruiting not only in our own image, but in the culture of the organization. We were excluding certain people right off the bat because we weren't acknowledging different drives and needs that they had that would be important for them to have in an organization, to offer them those options, for benefits, for culture that they would need. And the realization from a diversity perspective is that we do need all nine of those different drivers and perspectives in any group, team or organization. Otherwise, we're going to succumb to groupthink. And we're going to miss out on serving the needs of this whole other populace that is not being served, whose interests are not being thought of or considered. So that's where I just became totally immersed in it. And sort of practicing experimenting in the organizations for which I worked at that time, this was after 911. So AT&T had done some major layoffs. I was then working with many other different companies, and was able to practice the Enneagram and use the Enneagram model and framework in many different settings. I know traditionally, it's been used mostly for individual coaching, executive coaching, and team development and team building. But, there were so many other applications that I saw from all the other models that we use as consultants. And I saw the overlaps and the correlations. And I started saying, hold on a second, why do we need to know all these different models? What if we just tap into this one model and use its robustness for all these different applications? Andi Simon: There are so many and I can begin to wonder how many colors you are with disk and you know what, what flavors are you and what does it really help you do? So can you give us and the listeners and viewers some idea about a problem where you applied it, or a case study that worked well, because I want to dig a little deeper. We're torn in our society, between embracing the words diversity, equity, belonging, inclusion, and living it and being an apologist. Birds of a feather flock together; humans are herd animals and they feel the safest, out of danger, when they're with people who are like them, who look like them, talk like them and affirm them. I mean, we live with a mirror and we're looking for a mirror that looks like us in some fashion. But cognitive diversity, neurodiversity, racial, ethnic and gender diversity and sexual diversity, bring new ideas and new ways of doing things at a time when we really do need to embrace them as well as to realize that that's the world we're in. And I have a hunch you've been applying this in different places. Can you give us a couple of illustrations? Karl Hebenstreit: Absolutely. The one that immediately comes to mind is when I worked for a clinical diagnostics company, and my clients. I was internal. And my clients were the R&D division. So I had the Vice President of Research and Development, and all of his direct reports. And they had the introduction, and I did an introduction to the Enneagram for them. They loved it. They saw they understood each other better, and it was more for their own team development. But they were struggling, it was a type six company overall, and still is, I believe, and it was very much about that conservative nature, which really doesn't work in an R&D environment. You need to promote innovation and experimentation, and not basically punish people for exhibiting those behaviors that may not be successful because not all of R&D is going to be successful. I saw something somewhere that said, If we knew what we were doing, we wouldn't be calling it research. So it's experimentation and learning from failures, and not really punishing the people that went out of the box and did that. So they're struggling. Andi Simon: They want to create a new sandbox, but God forbid you walk outside the door and try something new. Karl Hebenstreit: Exactly, it's unsafe, you can't do that. So they knew the Enneagram. And this was a totally different engagement. We were totally different off site, because they were talking about empowerment. Empowerment was really something that they were wondering, why aren't people innovative? Why aren't they taking the initiatives to take things on? Why are they always coming to us for approval? Why does it have to go up the chain? And again, type six company, right? Andi Simon: So the second type six is a loyal skeptic? Is that what we're referring to? Karl Hebenstreit: Exactly! The loyal skeptic, their superpower. The type six superpower is the ability to see every single worst case situation that could possibly happen and plan and prepare for it, is how they stay safe. Because if it does happen, they are the ones that you want to follow. They have the plan, they have the kit. They have everything planned out and thought through and just follow them and you will go to safety. Andi Simon: Until there's a pandemic and they haven't got a clue what to do. Karl Hepenstreit: Exactly, exactly. They're more conservative there, you know: I need to stay safe, I need to be secluded, I need to be isolated. That kind of thing until they can figure out exactly what is the safest way to do it. And of course, we can dive a lot deeper into this. And there's a subtype that takes it to a different extreme where they push the boundaries, and they want to say, what will it take for me to be safe? Let me go and do all these outlandish things to know what the possibly horrifying, terrifying effects are and then plan for that afterwards, so that I know that it will be safe if these things even happen. So I will go skydiving, even if I'm afraid of heights, that kind of thing. So thank you for bringing that back to type six, the loyal skeptic and a little bit more conservative to be safe, to stay safe. And necessarily push those boundaries unless you're that specific subtype, or instinct. And what I thought I brought to them was because they were struggling, they were coming up with all these different things through their own lens, their own cultural lens that had all those barriers around it, all those walls around it. They couldn't figure out how to help their employees be more empowered. And I said, Hold on a second, you have a model, you think about what this model has taught us, right? So what if we created this structure that we have in this culture that we have that needs a safety net? Let's create a safety net that helps people be empowered. So why don't we look at the nine different types on the Enneagram and the insights that they provide and let's think about how we can help people say, let's look at what a type one lens would help us choose or look through. And that will be the perfectionist, that would be the mission, that would be the quality. So if someone has an idea as an employee, and wants to do something that's out of the box, have them go through each of the nine types and the questions that would be offered by them. And if they can answer them in a positive way and say, Yes, I've considered all these nine types and I know that this is going to work or it should work from everything that we know. And they go forward with it without running it up the flagpole, and if something does go wrong, or the pandemic strikes or whatever, that we didn't plan for, oh, well, this person did everything with due diligence in the positive intent. And, most of the times that would have been successful. But, if you know we have this weird one-off, the pandemic or some other thing that happens, we couldn't plan for that anyway. So guess what? The vice president would probably make the same decision if they did it with good faith and good intent and due diligence and followed all nine questions or nine perspectives. Something fantastic will have come of it, or they will learn a lesson and reapply it and tweak it and make it into something fantastic. And that's what can help us drive that innovation and empowerment that we're looking for, rather than people feeling like, if I do something and it goes wrong, I'm going to be punished. Andi Simon: Well, you know, part of the challenge, since we do a lot of work on cultural change, is that culture defines the way we do things here. And if you deviate from the way we do things here, it is scary, because you become an outsider. And, you know the book, The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter. I love that we've evolved because of this collective brain that we've shared, and not because of isolates who have fooled us, sometimes they have. But it is an interesting opportunity. The Enneagram, though, gives you a methodology for really understanding diversity in two new ways. And if you all find yourself at sixes, then you're going to have a hard time trusting anybody who comes in as an explorer or an inventor. But you could if you understood the differences there. Are there some illustrations about how it's being used to embrace diversity, and begin to understand what it means, something you can share perhaps? Karl Hebenstreit: Absolutely. There's actually some really great work through Dr. Deborah Threadgill Egerton. And she just published a book called Know Justice Know Peace: A Transformative Journey of Social Justice, Anti-Racism, and Healing through the Power of the Enneagram. And I love the way that she presents the Enneagram as a way that we have all these nine styles within us, and how do we tap into them. And obviously everyone is not at the same level of integration or healthiness in their journey, their development journey, and understanding themselves, and seeing how the Enneagram can help them be even more effective and productive and happier in their lives. So there are three different basic levels. And the really cool thing is, she shows how each type has this opportunity to leverage these gifts, the superpowers that each type has, and ultimately lead into an ally, to become an ally for all elements of diversity. So wouldn't it be great because we do have all nine types within us? We just concentrate on one core, that's our core motivator throughout our entire life. But wouldn't it be great to also explore these other eight styles that we have within us and see when they would be more appropriate in each different situation and know that other people are leading with one of those eight other styles or our style as well, but maybe through a different subtype or instinctual lens. And understand that we need all those nine perspectives in order to see the world as it really is, rather than just that 40 degree sliver that we're looking at it through. So there's an application that way, where we can teach people about the Enneagram. So it doesn't really take into account heredity, or sexual orientation, or race or anything like that, but it's all about, we're all human. We are all human. And we all share these nine primary motivators. And let's understand each other through those nine lenses and not exclude them, not separate them, but include them and integrate them into ourselves as well. So we have this robust, diverse power that we can then catalyze for making change, and making the world a better place. Andi Simon: Karl, if I hear what you just said clearly, and clarify for me, the words that are being used around diversity, all the different categories are fine, but maybe we should change that thinking not around gender, or sexual orientation or race or other things, but think about us as people who have different parts of us operating in different ways, nine different ways, to be looking at our different Enneagrams. I remember when I did mine, it was a one something and a seven. But I'm an explorer, but I'm also an artist, and I've been a boss. I've been, you know, EVP of a bank, and an achiever and the balance of them create who I am, not one, but all of them that I'm heavier in. And then there are others where I'm even an anthropologist, and I know I'm a server, I really do five things all the time. And a skeptic, not much. I don't over-plan, and I let life move me through a journey. But what's interesting about it is that it redefines the diversity that you need for effective relationships for effective business. And that makes sense, right? And now it gives us a platform on which to understand each other, as well as to personally know how we're evolving within the organization. Right? Karl Hebenstreit: And, tapping into the differences, because knowing that whatever every organization is going to somehow end up being a certain culture, it's going to align with a type one culture or two cultures, whatever one of the nine cultures just because of the nature of the industry, the nature of the leadership, and just who it attracts that way. However, wouldn't it be great to find the diversity that we need, and call it out rather than shun it and put it aside, knowing that we need that diversity because we know we're in groupthink world. Whenever we have more and more of these type threes congregating together, or seven kinds of getting together. And we just need to integrate these other perspectives as well, rather than close them off and shut them down and not allow them to speak and not allow them to have a voice. And we have all nine types within us. Andi Simon: I often use theater as a metaphor. This woman in Manhattan has a company called Performance of a Lifetime. And she's an ex-theatre person. And I've used her for public speaking training and all kinds of stuff. But usually, if you think of life as theater, and then the question is, what are the roles that you're playing when the context will influence what part of you. I mean, if Robert Redford can play Out of Africa and The Way We Were, so can you play multiple roles. You can be cast in one by others or you can begin to cast yourself in a way for now that you can lead or you can follow or you can be an adventurer, and you can reframe yourself and the story you have based on the context. And you know that you understand that, like, theater. We do have to wrap up because I'm watching our time and our listeners are very, very engaged for about a half hour. And we're just about at that point; a couple of things you don't want them to forget. Karl Hebenstreit: I don't want listeners to forget that it's really about the readiness of the person or the organization to which instrument you use. In some cases, the Enneagram is not the be-all and end-all for everything. Myers-Briggs is not the be-all and end-all for everything. Hogan is not the be-all and end-all, Leadership Circle is not. It's whatever the organization or person is ready for, to get that information about the feedback, to understand themselves better if they're not at that point of self awareness yet. So I think readiness is critical. The other thing is the platinum rule, which we didn't discuss. A lot of times people get hung up on the golden rule, which is to treat others the way that you want to be treated, which is not true and it's not diverse, inclusive, it's not. The platinum rule is a far better rule for people to help understand how other people want to be treated. So treat people the way they want to be treated, which then helps us use any of these other instruments that we mentioned. But the Enneagram really tends to be the best one in that realm because it helps us understand where they're coming from, what their drivers are, their motivations, and what's how they want to be treated. Andi Simon: Well, you have to listen and listen without pushing it through your mind map so that you can really hear what they are saying and what they're all about. Karl Hebenstreit: You're absolutely right to interpret it through your lens. And we need to be more curious and not jump to conclusions about that, and hear their story and build that relationship with them to really know where they're coming from. And the third one is that we are all diverse inside of us. We have those nine diverse perspectives and ways of looking at the world. And we should not just stick to the one that is our core. We need to integrate all nine types, all the eight other styles that are lesser used, and are less accessible. So integrate all those and then we'll have a much better idea of what's going on in every single situation. Andi Simon: Now I have a hunch you have really elaborated on this in your book, right? Talk a moment about the name of the book and where they can find the book. Karl Hebenstreit: Yeah. So the book is called The How and Why: Taking Care of Business with the Enneagram. And it's in the second edition right now, the second edition got published during the pandemic when I had some time to really add more stuff to the first edition and make it even more robust and add more new learnings and more new exercises and models. So that is available to help people to basically use the Enneagram for any organizational development, organization development intervention that they have, or any organizational situation or challenge that they're put in. So that's available on Amazon. You can also check out more about it on my website, which is www.performandfunction.com. There's also another book intended for all audiences, especially people that may not even know the Enneagram in advance, not that you need to know the Enneagram in advance for the business book either. But this is intended to help people learn about the Enneagram at a much younger age so it makes their life easier so they can understand the importance of the diverse perspectives that lie within us and that we can really integrate. It's called Nina and the Really, Really Tough Decision. So they take one of the chapters in the business book and really reinterpret it through the lens of a child learning about all the different perspectives that her different friends have, and so how can she greet them whenever she needs to make a difficult decision. Andi Simon: You know, you're tickling my curiosity about whether I should take Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business, my second book, and begin to rewrite it for a teen book. And it's an audience. But I'm not quite sure that teens can't read the book already. It's sort of like, Who do I want to be, and how. So it's a really interesting time. This has been such fun, if they want to reach you, your website is where they should go? Karl Hebenstreit: Performandfunction.com has all my contact information as well. LinkedIn, of course: Karl Hebenstreit. Andi Simon: I think that the listeners are probably listening to us talk about nine different types, and kinds of things that are difficult to talk about in a half hour. So I would urge you to Google Enneagram, and then get into Karl's book because it offers you a way to see, feel and think about the world and yourself through a fresh lens. That's my job to get you off the brink. I want you to soar again, to change. And sometimes the mirror isn't going back to what you need to know, to see the world the way it's developing. And I know in particular, people managing in a hybrid world really need to understand what people are going through as they are reassessing themselves, understanding how to get things done differently, and changes are unsettling your mind. You're amygdala gets hijacked and hates change and wants to go back to the familiar and you can't go back. The world that was, I'm not sure it's coming back that fast. Might be a little bit of time. But it's been great fun. Thank you for joining me today. Karl Hebenstreit: Thank you, Andi. This has been awesome.  Andi Simon: It is! For those of you who come, I can only tell you, thank you. You can pick up my books at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and, you know, Google them. They are selling really, really well. And I have colleges and universities still using On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights , and Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business is helping women see themselves through a fresh lens so they know that they should not accept limits. And McKinsey's writing about the great breakup, and then women leaving the workforce, it's time maybe for women to understand themselves better, and help the organization understand why those women are so important to them. But you can reach me at info@andisimon.com and learn more about us there and about our programs. And Simonassociates.net is our website. It’s brand new and ready for you to explore and learn all about what we do to help people see, feel and think. Goodbye Karl. Have a great day everybody who came, thank you for joining us. Have a wonderful day, bye bye now.
Feb 13, 2023
35 min
Naomi Redel—Energize Your Business With Games That Tap Creative Teamwork
Hear how games can make your employees' effectiveness soar! Several years ago, Andy (my husband and business partner) and I went to Brussels to train in Innovation Games. IG is a wonderful set of creative tools to help people see things in new ways by playing games. In fact, IG downloads are the most frequent downloads from our website, www.simonassociates.net. Here at SAMC, we integrate IG into many of our workshops and leadership programs. Take a look at some of our IG white papers and PowerPoints which might open up your mind to what gamification can offer you, your team members and your customers as you rethink your organization to face the challenges of these fast-changing times. Today's podcast is with gamification strategist Naomi Redel I was thrilled to recently meet Naomi Redel to discuss how she has become a gamification strategist with her own methods for increasing the effectiveness of organizations through what she calls “Collaborative Emotional Intelligence.”  Our podcast was global. Naomi was in Israel, and I was in New York. We had a wonderful discussion about people, the power of games, and the type of work she does with organizations that need to boost their people power.  Watch and listen to our conversation here Some background on Naomi and what she has created After years of working as an innovation and marketing consultant with leading Israeli companies, Naomi felt firsthand the frustration of watching brilliant strategies flounder in C-suite silos, unable to trickle down and make an impact, because of lack of time, motivation, and the right tools to institutionalize them. So what did she do? Create a multilayered system that uses collaborative emotional experiences with cutting-edge technologies and gamification to push the boundaries of implementation and embed those strategies into people's hearts and minds. She then followed this with the creation of the first-ever board game in positive psychology, Positive Turn, which is recommended by the VIA Institute of Character Strengths and used as an innovation for companies in France.   She also co-founded HappierMe and led the design and development of the HappierMe platform, a system of minigames and exercises designed to make the practice of happiness easy and accessible anywhere and anytime.  Naomi earned her Master's in Business Administration and Economics (with distinction) and graduated Cum Laude BA in Economics (with distinction) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. You can contact Naomi on LinkedIn or by email at naomi.redel@gmail.com. Special offer from Naomi for you, our audience Available only to On the Brink listeners: a free presentation about collaborative emotional intelligence at work. To receive this game-changing power point, simply DM Naomi (or email her at naomi.redel@gmail.com) and say “I am an On the Brink Listener.” Enjoy. Want to know more about what Innovation Games can do for your company? Blog: Innovation Games: The Bridge To New, Previously Undiscovered Ideas And Innovations Blog: Why Are Innovation Games In Such Demand? Podcast: Andy and Andi Simon—Innovation Games® Are What You Need To Imagine Your Future Additional resources for you My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businessand On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants  
Feb 6, 2023
39 min
Maria Colacurcio—Stop The Revolving Door. Help Your Employees Embrace A Diverse And Equitable Workplace.
Hear how to build workplaces where everyone is valued  This podcast interview is exceptional. Just listen to Maria Colacurcio tell you about her journey and think about your own. Her career has spanned many different industries, propelling her to leadership positions in innovative companies. Our conversation took us through those profound experiences and unexpected moments that can transform our lives in new ways. Others often accelerated her career, seeing her talent and advocating for her. She speaks about learning on the job and being excited when new career opportunities opened up for her. She also provides wisdom to other women and men trying to build more diverse, equitable and inclusive organizations, and how women are changing our society, a step and then a leap at a time. Enjoy. Watch and listen to our conversation here Maria's mantra: "When preparation meets opportunity" Today, Maria is CEO of Syndio, a SAS startup helping companies worldwide create an equitable workplace for all employees, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. Before Syndio, she co-founded Smartsheet.com, which went public in 2018. She then spent three years at Starbucks, one of the first Fortune 50 companies to go public with pay equity results. As a CEO, she is walking the walk on eradicating workplace inequities, serving on the board of the nonprofit Fair Pay Workplace and having been named one of the 100 most exceptional entrepreneurs by Goldman Sachs Builders + Innovators Summit for two consecutive years. While her professional career has been exceptional, I was particularly impressed with how Maria wove into our conversation that she is the mother of seven children, gets up before 5am, works for an hour, and then works out. After listening to our interview, let us know how you are growing in your own personal and professional life and who is helping you along the way: Info@simonassociates.net. To connect with Maria, you can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter. Is DEI really possible in today's woprkplaces? Yes! Check out these 3 podcasts Maureen Berkner Boyt—Diversity and Inclusion: Let’s Go Beyond Hoping and Make Inclusion Really Happen Rohini Anand—Can Businesses Create Cultures Based On True Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? Kim Graham Lee—How To Build A Culture Where Men And Women Truly Support Each Other Additional resources for you My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businessand On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants   Read the transcript of our podcast here Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon. I'm your host and your guide. And as we come together for all of our podcasts, I want to celebrate my audience because we're in the top 5% of global podcasts. And I thank you for your support for sharing and collaborating with us on great ideas. My job is to help you do something that's very painful: to see, feel and think in new ways so that you can soar. And I love to bring you my guests because they're going to give you some insights about their own journey, and about how you can get some key takeaways on how you can build your own career, your business or wherever you're doing. So today, I have Maria Colacurcio. And Maria is smiling at me because I'm so delighted to have her here. We're in the process of writing our next book, Women Mean Business. Maria has a whole chapter in it. And in sharing her wisdom, I was just absolutely impressed with who this woman is, what she has done and why she's a wonderful person for you to know more about. Let me tell you about her bio. She's passionate about helping companies build equitable workplaces, where every worker is valued for who they are and their contributions that sort of sets the stage for what she's doing today. And she'll tell you more about it. And Maria is CEO of Syndio, a growth startup, it's really on its way. She helps companies around the world create equitable workplaces, for all employees, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity. My clients tell me how difficult it is to know whether or not they're paid the same salaries for the same job depending on who the people are, and whether or not they're really doing it intentionally or by chance. Well, give the data to Syndio and next thing you know, you have a really good database, and you know what's going on. Prior to Syndio, Maria co-founded smartsheet.com and went public in 2018. She spent three years at Starbucks. But she started her career working on congressional campaigns and has a long history of mission-driven work, and a compassionate and competitive attitude to spur change. She's smiling. Sometimes when you hear yourself coming back and you go, oh, who is that? And is that really me? She serves on the board of the nonprofit Fair Pay Workplace, and has been named one of the 100 most exceptional entrepreneurs by Goldman Sachs' Builders and Innovators Summit for two consecutive years. She went to Whitworth University where she studied history, political science, and minored in music and studied vocal opera. Isn't that a beautiful Renaissance woman we have? Maria, thank you for joining me today. I truly appreciate it. Now, your turn to tell the audience who is Maria, what's your journey been like? I can read a bio, but you make it come alive. And it's so rich. Please, who's Maria? Maria Colacurcio: Yeah, thank you so much for having me today. It's just a delight to be here. And I've had such a great time collaborating with you on the book. And I'm so looking forward to seeing the 99 other women who are profiled in that. So I am sort of, as you stated, I think I have a very nonlinear path in many, many ways in my life and career. And I think it all culminates in this idea and experience around how do you think about a growth mindset as it actually unfolds in front of you? And for me, when I think about being a history major, going to a very liberal arts-oriented college, being a first generation college grad. I grew up in a very strong Italian American family. My dad and my Italian uncles all served in different branches of the military, none had ever gone to college. So it was really important to my parents that the four of us kids go get an education. And they made that very, very clear to us. So I think being a first gen college grad, it sets you up for your career in a way that you don't even really know what to expect because you haven't had a model to follow in terms of looking at a parental set that sort of did college and then did their entry level internship. You don't really know what to do. So I think as I sort of took the twists and turns of a very nonlinear path, one of the things that it really made clear to me is, I want to be that mentor for other folks that may not have a model to follow in terms of what are the right moves to make. How do you look at a door that may open just a crack and have the courage and confidence to kick it open and go pursue something that might not be the exact sort of choice that most people would make in that situation? So I think to sum it up, non-traditional start in terms of where I ended up as the CEO of a SAS software company. But I also think that's exactly what women need. Women need to have role models who have come from different and diverse backgrounds and are forging ahead and not necessarily looking like CEOs typically look. And so that's something I'm really, really passionate about. Andi Simon: As I'm listening to you, I'm smiling as you're smiling because the absence of role models. So I had a program at Washington University to help women entrepreneurs, and they all said, We need some role models. If you can't see it, you can't be it. And you somehow managed to move your way through things trusting in yourself, not necessarily with a mentor. Were there others who were giving you guidance, or there's some interesting stories you might share about how you began to migrate through? You had different career points, not all leading to something, but all leading somewhere? It was very interesting listening to your bio. Maria Colacurcio: Thank you. I think I owe a lot to other folks, other people who were generous with their time and their experience. And one of the reasons that I am so active in the words that I choose when I talk about our accomplices. So some people use the word allies, but in my career, in my life, the folks that have been in the ring with me fighting for things like equality for folks in the workplace, whether it's gender, race, ethnicity, looking across intersections, the folks that have been in the ring with me, they're accomplices, they're in the fight, back-to-back, holding swords, forging our way ahead. And I certainly personally had that experience. I had a lot of white men in power, who made it a point, for whatever reason, typically a personal case, whether it was something they had experienced or seen a loved one experience, where they had decided they were going to be an accomplice in this fight. And because of that, they took it upon themselves to really put the time in. I had several folks at Starbucks who really mentored me and helped me understand a couple of new areas around pay equity, what was the legislation, what was the process with external counsel, what was the math, all of these things that are the underpinnings to what I do today that I would have had no idea had they not taken the time. And the second example, I think, was when I was hired at Syndio, the CEO, I was hired by people who took a chance on me. I had never been a CEO. I had co-founded a startup that was very successful, but I co-founded it from the seat of marketing and communications. I never led anything as that person in the seat of CEO. So they had to take a chance. They had to say, "We're going to take a chance on this person. And if she doesn't have everything we need, we're going to figure out how to support her." Now, the flip side of that is, I have so much privilege because I'm a white woman. And so if you think about the leg up that I had, it's now incumbent upon me to make sure I'm taking that privilege and bestowing it and helping others make sure that they have those growth opportunities that I had. Andi Simon: I love your story, because you're right, we have an obligation to lift up and to share. But also there is to your point, there's no straight line. And it's not as if there's a ladder we're climbing. We're sort of exploring, and people see something and pluck us up and put us into roles. You know, this imposter syndrome stuff is so interesting. I've always been an imposter. You know, I was SVP of one bank, and EVP of another bank. They all thought I knew more than I knew. I never knew what I didn't know. But in fact, it was okay, we were bold and courageous. And there were always accomplices who wanted to help us move somewhere and they weren't afraid or worried either. As you're doing this, are there some really important lessons that you've learned about how to find the right ones because I had some bad ones along the way. And I never like to share them too often because I want them to go away. But I also know, being an anthropologist, that change is painful. The guys aren't all sitting there saying, "Oh, please come in and take my job. I know you can do a better job than I can do. But why can't I do that job or I don't know, maybe you can't do a better job than me." So the complexity of this means that we need to stand out in some fashion. And as you're helping others move up, they need a great story to tell so that they can pass through this. Your thoughts? Maria Colacurcio: Yeah, I think that's exactly right. I think you've got to take chances when you get them because then again, as you're walking down sort of the corridor of your life's experience as it relates to your career specifically, you'll walk by doors that are open just a crack. And I think our natural response, particularly as women, is to say, Well, I have no business trying to peek into that door that's open just a crack, that's for someone else. That's for someone with more experience, better skills, but more confidence. And I think when you have someone sort of on the other side holding it open for you saying, "Just give it a shot. I've got your back if things go sideways," that's the confidence you need to walk through. And I had that at Starbucks. There was a woman who really took it upon herself to guide me. And I had been in marketing and communications my entire career, and a role opened in finance, working on a team doing enterprise operational planning for the CFO and doing deep finance, work that I had never done before. I was terrified. I was a history major, I was a writer, I was a marketing and communications person, but this woman said, "You gotta do it and here's why: because you're an entrepreneur and if you want to continue fostering leadership and capabilities that will help you run a fortune 500 company someday, you have to understand GAAP and non GAAP, you have to understand these financial terms" that at the time seemed absolutely terrifying to me. But knowing that I had her there, her name was Carrie, and knowing she had my back, it gave me the confidence I needed to sort of walk through the door. And those are the moments I think that are really turning points in a person's career when they're willing to make that nonlinear pivot because they know they have somebody behind them. Andi Simon: You know, we tend to think of our own stories as we share this story. So my story begins to come through because I was a tenured anthropology faculty member, and my husband introduced me to Citibank. And they said, Why don't you come and be a consultant? And I said, Sure, why not? And I had no idea whether it could lead somewhere or not. But what was interesting, being a woman, as you're describing it, is that it was okay to take a step in a new direction, without any linearity to it. But once we got going with it, you say, I can do that. And then where does that take you? But you've been in different kinds of companies. Is your journey different with them? You know, somebody saw you and said, Why don't you try this? Or you went public? And so you can move on to something else? You know, how did you move from one stage to the next? Maria Colacurcio: Yeah, so early in my career when I was in Washington, D.C., working at the Smithsonian, at the National Museum of American History, and then went on to work at a firm that supported nonprofits through nonprofit management, it was as random as meeting a woman. And this is what really happened. I met a woman at a dinner party who said, "You need to be in tech, my company's hiring right now. You would be so great." I was like "Tech? I know nothing about tech. I'm a history major. I've been on congressional campaigns. I work at a history museum." And she said, "Come interview for my company, we're hiring someone in marketing, your background would be perfect. We need a great communicator, communication skills are a big need right now." She really got it, she really got that concept of skills over experience. So I was like, What the heck sounds interesting. The tech boom was going strong. And so I flew to San Francisco, and I interviewed for this startup company. And it was a really technical startup, it was an Israeli-based startup. All the folks that work there were former Israeli military, because they're all encouraged and actually, they must serve. And so it was quite technical. But what I realized was, I had this incredible chance. I took the leap, got the job, and moved cross country. And I found that I really loved applying my communication skills to translating these deep technical concepts into things that could help the sales team go out and sell them. And it became this realization for me that's continued, which is, someone might not have the experience, they may not have the matchy matchy experience of 10 years as a B2B professional and enterprise, you know, SAS, sales, marketing, whatever. But they might have the skills to really get it done. And I think that translates to the work that I've done with veterans moving into the corporate environment from former active duty and applying those skills as operational pieces of expertise. I worked with this incredible woman named Kelly McCoy who was one of the first female colonels in Afghanistan and Iraq. And she taught me so much about this because she was so brilliant. And the way she translated that experience to running operations at Starbucks was incredible. I think you can extend it to moms who have spent a couple of years out of the workforce caring for young children. What are the skills they're gaining that you can apply back to work? Do they have to go back in their career five, six years? Or can you actually give them credit for some of the things they're doing? And I think that started very early when I realized through experience, that wow, I do have something to offer here. I can make this work. Andi Simon: Now you have seven children. Maria Colacurcio: I do! Andi Simon: And you got funding in the middle of being 8 months pregnant with your seventh. I don't think there's a way here to push past the stereotypes in such a way that our listeners can begin to understand that yes, you can carve for yourself your own personal story that others immediately grab hold of you, and your point about serendipity should not be underestimated. You were at a dinner party, you were talking to someone, you weren't selling yourself, but she pulled from what your story was immediately and said you'd be perfect. And then you get into tech, and you're not quite sure what you're doing, but you have the skills and the comfort to translate the tech into understandable communication. And then as we move along, and I do think that having seven children, or two or three, teaches us a whole lot about navigating complicated worlds, because nothing is simple at all, the personalities aren't that different than the ones you're going to run in a company. But as you're looking at it, then it leaves you with the sense of, Of course I can. And now it's at Syndio, you're growing something that is so needed in such an innovative way. Are there some key insights from this, this company in particular, because it's intended to do exactly what you want passionately to do, which is create the equality, power and position for women and men so that we don't have this kind of battleground going on. Maria Colacurcio: Yeah, thank you. Yes, exactly. Syndio is our workplace equity analytics platform. So what we do is, we help Fortune 2000 companies analyze and resolve pay and opportunity gaps that are because of something like gender, race or ethnicity. So we're really looking at how you provide workplace equity. How do you make sure that you're letting data guide the discretion that's inherent to decision-making to get the bias out? There's so much discretion in decisions of compensation and decisions of promotion. Who gets promoted in decisions around who gets that promotable project. And if you let data guide those decisions so that you have a roadmap, you have guidance in terms of what's the right pay range for this person. They may be a great negotiator, but what's the right pay range for them that looks beyond that to see what do other folks make in this same role that are from different genders, different diverse backgrounds, whether that be race, ethnicity, whatever, but really letting data be your guide to ensure that you're providing workplace equity and that workplace equity is really embedded into how the company does business. I think what's exciting right now is that the companies that are doing this, and have been doing this, are actually performing better and are more durable because of it. So this isn't just nice to have when times are good. This is something that needs to be sustained. And I think we're seeing pay transparency legislation accelerate across the country. We're seeing global compliance explode in Western Europe. We're seeing median and mean pay gaps really rise to the top in terms of shareholder proposals and what the activists are talking about, in requiring public companies to do race and gender audits. And I think we're going to see more and more of that. So we really help companies be ready and to use data to guide that discretion, as folks make decisions. Andi Simon: I'm curious about "who I am, and how we do things." Changing culture is a painful process. Humans believe whatever they're doing is true. And I preach that the only truth is no truth. And so when you give them data, and there's some great articles, they've been republished recently about why humans don't read the data or the facts and actually believe them, they believe their own shared mythology about what it is. But, you're watching them actually take the data and turn them into reality. So they begin to believe that in fact, there is a better way to define the job, promoting the job and get the biases out and look at what's factual. What I'm curious about is, what are people actually doing to do that? Hiring new people, training them but beginning to build? Because so often they get the data and do nothing with it. Maria Colacurcio: I think we have a couple of things going for us. Number one, when you have to communicate to your people what you're doing to commit to things like pay equity, which has become table stakes, companies must ensure they are not paying unfairly or that there are parent pay disparities because of something like gender or race. And when you get into this situation where you have to communicate that to your people, you have pay ranges that are now public. You have to communicate to your people, why they're paid what they're paid, because the first question, when someone sees a role that's the same as theirs posted in terms of a company's now hiring, and they've got to publicly post that pay range. The first thing folks look at is, what's the job title and what's the top of the range? And so the next question is going to be, why am I paid what I'm paid? So when companies are forced into a position where they have to communicate with their people, the data all of a sudden becomes not so much a negative but a positive because now it helps you explain, it's this huge benefit around pay explainability. You've got to be able to explain why people are paid what they're paid while they're in the area of the range that they are and the more companies have to explain. Mean and median are another thing. Median reflects representation. So why are some people up at the top? Why are some people in the middle, where some folks are at the bottom, and when you have to explain that, the data all of a sudden becomes to unlock it and it becomes the context. It becomes the story, the narrative as to why these things are happening. And it's the authentic truth. So that's where we've seen an incredible amount of momentum as companies have had to go explain these things. They now have these data visualizations to rely on. Andi Simon: Don't you love it? You know, I can only say that quietly, because I hope they love it as much as I love hearing about it because transformation is so hard. Data can be so transformational if you believe it and you use it, and if others are asking for it and make sense out of it. So I think it's really propelled the moment that is really propelling us to the next stage. And if businesses can do so better, and retain people better, and grow them better with the data, that bias can really get diminished. It never goes away, but at least it can become far less powerful. Wow, exciting! You know, I could talk to you all afternoon and this is really a wonderful time, but I also know that my listeners like about a half hour together. As we're going to wrap up, are there two or three things that you think are takeaways? Things you can do? Some of them are serendipities right in front of you, but for you some things that you'd like them to be able to actually maybe do when they leave. Maria Colacurcio: Yeah, I think one quote that sticks with me and I don't even know who said it, but it's: You get lucky when preparation meets opportunity. It's something that I try to live by because I'm a preparer and I work really hard. And I prepare for everything in my life, from the personal side with the kiddos and my husband and putting time and effort into my relationships. And also saying no to a lot of things that go against the goals that I have. A lot of people ask me all the time, like, how do you do it all? I have the same amount of time as everyone else but there's a lot of things that I say no to in order to have time for the things that I really care about. And are those decisions difficult sometimes? But when you're really clear about what you're trying to prepare for, and what your targets are, that sets you in a position to have that luck when your preparation does meet opportunity. So I think that's number one. I think number two: thinking about skills over experience and thinking about how you communicate your skills. So going back to communications and the power of communications, when you think about your skills as a whole, not necessarily your experience, but how do you talk about your trajectory and your nonlinear journey? And can you talk about yourself in a way that's more wholly encompassing of who you are as a person versus what you do right now? Or maybe what your last career choice was? I think that can be incredibly beneficial. And for companies, I think just understanding this moment of transparency, if you can look at it as an opportunity. Right now there's a tidal wave coming in terms of transparency around workplace equity. Instead of waiting and being a laggard, taking this opportunity to be one of the first to dive into the center of the tidal wave to figure out: How do I embed this into the core of my company and take advantage of some first mover opportunities here. I think companies are going to see a huge leg up as it relates to employee loyalty and retention and keeping those high performers that you want to keep, even in times of incredible volatility. Andi Simon: And they are very volatile. I think McKinsey's latest research on women in the workplace 2022 said: There's a great breakup happening. Women are leaving, they're frustrated for all the things that could help them turn around, and they're not getting the pay equity they're looking for. They don't see upward mobility. They don't have the sponsorship or the mentorship and they are just saying, "I've had enough. I'm going to find another path. Let me open up entrepreneurial opportunities for myself or new types of businesses emerging." But, remember that women represent 60% of the kids in college. They graduate, they've got lots of talent, and they are tremendously capable of doing many things, including raising seven children at the same time you're CEO of a company. And if nothing else, Maria is a wonderful role model for how you can do all the things that matter, including saying no when you don't think it fits into what's important to you. This has just been terrific. Let me wrap up for our listeners and our viewers. Thank you so much for coming. Keep sending me those emails. I love to share with you. And at the end of the day, whether it's collaboration, or they're allies with you in some fashion, but they're all trying to help us move in a new direction. That puts all of us on the climb of trying to figure out how to do this right and how to do it even better. And I'm always delighted to share with you our my two books, On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights and Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business, and my third book is coming out and I can’t tell you a lot about it yet, but it'll be coming out in September of 2023. Maria has a chapter in it that you are going to love to read. It's just a great time to celebrate 100 amazing, trailblazing women who mean business, and they really do. Thank you for coming today. Maria, thank you again. It's been a pleasure. Bye bye now. Have a great day. Bye Bye.v
Jan 9, 2023
28 min
342: Kerry Flynn Barrett—Learn Why So Many Brilliant Women Have Ditched The Corporate Ladder To Start Their Own Business
Hear how to refuse to be held back, especially as a woman  I listened to Kerry Flynn Barrett give a marvelous talk recently about burnout for the Westchester Business Council and couldn’t wait to share her ideas and insights with our fans. Careers like hers are common among many women I know who have started in a corporate job, moved up the ladder to higher positions in leadership, and then took off to form their own business. Kerry has done just that, and now she is building an exceptional business serving as a fractional CHRO officer and also a business partner and solutions provider. Do you wish to do this too? Listen in! Watch and listen to our conversation here Faced with a wall? Like Kerry, leap over it! In some ways, Kerry Barrett reflects the tensions women in business and corporations are feeling today. Perhaps exaggerated by the pandemic, women are abandoning the corporate ladder to find their own purpose and passion, much like she has done. Kerry spent her entire career in healthcare as a Human Resources executive. She, like so many women, has found that the wave of consolidations taking place these days strips employees, particularly women, of their roles and responsibilities, as centralization moves the decision-making process into other departments. So what do smart women like Kerry do? They craft another pathway and make it work for them. Women today are fleeing dead-end workplaces and starting their own businesses. As you listen to our conversation, think about your own path. Where are you on that corporate ladder? Give serious consideration to what you want to do with your life. As was clearly apparent in the McKinsey “Women in the Workplace 2022” report that came out in October 2022, women are finding the corporate world neither open to their expertise nor accommodating to their talent and ambition. Rather than trying to find a niche, they are leaving rigid workplaces to find others that see them as talented contributors, not women looking for a job. In some ways, many women I know, including myself, have had to confront the limits which corporations offer and discover other avenues where we can contribute, have a personal and professional purpose, and earn an excellent income. Perhaps it is time for business and corporate leaders to see what they are missing and rethink the place of women in their organizations. The women aren’t waiting. In fact, they are very smart ladies on their own missions to build better businesses. To connect with Kerry, you can find her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or her website, or email her at kfb@flynnbarrett.com. Want to find a better workplace environment or strike out on your own? Start here: Blog: Businesses Must Sustain Diversity And Inclusion For Women Podcast: Christina Sistrunk—Is There Magic To Excel As A Strong Woman In A Man's Industry? Podcast: Jodi Flynn—How To Go From Dreaming To Doing, At Work And In Life Additional resources for you My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businessand On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants   Read the transcript of our podcast here Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon. I'm your host and your guide. And as I say in every podcast, my job is to get you off the brink. Remember, this all came about after my first book, On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights, was published and won an award. And everybody said, How do I get off the brink? And there's no better way to do it than to listen to the speakers on this podcast talk about how you can get better at whatever you're doing to change. Remember, people hate to change. And so our job is to make change your friend, embrace change, and see things through a fresh lens. And I say that because we decide with the eyes and with the heart and how it feels. And then our brains get engaged and you begin to think about it. So today, I'm absolutely delighted to have with me Kerry Flynn Barrett, and let me tell you about Kerry. Kerry gave a talk at the Westchester Business Council not too long ago. And I was just intrigued by her presentation. That topic was on burnout. But what was most interesting was her perspectives that came from a healthcare background, like my own. I did that for seven years in healthcare as an executive. I wasn't a nurse as she was, but I sure understood the feelings that you get when you're working with an organization of over 2500 or 5000 people, all of whom work hard to make your life better. And then she launched her business not long ago to be, of all things, a Chief Human Resource Officer. And she's going to tell you a little bit more about her journey. But the question she's asking is, Are you an organization that understands that people are your most valuable assets? And I must tell you, coming out of the pandemic, people are reaching out to us and asking us what to do because everything's changed. Managing individuals with individual needs and roles is challenging for even the best companies, and managing people is the hardest job, full stop. In fact, we can't get anything done as leaders or managers without followers. And why do people follow you? Are they bystanders? Are they invested in what you're doing? Do they believe in you? Every leader asked me the same question: "How do I get things done through others?" To begin with, how about with others instead of through them? It's an interesting question. Kerry, thank you for joining me today. Kerry Flynn Barrett: Thank you Andi so much for having me. It's such a pleasure. Andi Simon: Well, it was a pleasure to meet you. But let's tell our listeners and our viewers about your own journey. You have a great story to share. Please share it. Kerry Flynn Barrett: Sure. So I believe very strongly in the fact that we are all "a person" from the start. It doesn't mean that's what our journey will be where we began. So I began as a nurse. I have worked in healthcare for so many years. But that doesn't mean that's the only place where my journey was. So I was a nurse, an ICU and emergency department nurse, for over 12 years. And I love doing what I did. But then I switched over to the world of HR. And I worked in that field for 25 or so years, and loved every minute of it, really, truly. It's such a fascinating world. And when you think about it, it's all about working with people, right?, nursing, and HR. It's all about working with people and coming up with different strategies. And as I have said, and what I work in in my practice, I use the nursing process all the time in my practice. So it's all about that process. It's about how we assess what's going on in a scenario. We have to listen, as you said, we have to use our eyes. We also have to use our ears. So that's such an important part of my journey in going from nursing into HR. Three years ago, I started my own practice, Flynn Barrett Consulting, right before the pandemic. So probably all of you are saying, Oh my goodness gracious, how do you start a business and then boom, the pandemic hits. So I have been incredibly lucky. Or just happenstance to be in HR at a time in the pandemic when HR was really needed. So it's been quite the journey and even from the time of starting my business, that business has flowed very differently in the three years of time. So I refer to myself as a fractional chief HR officer. So I help companies with their HR strategy. And I use, as I said, the nursing process in what I do with companies. So,often companies come to me because they are having people problems. As we said, in companies, really the most important asset are their people. And this is such a difficult time in the world right now, with people finding new jobs, leaving their organizations, the great resignation. How many people are just really sick of hearing that term? I'm sick of hearing that term, or the other term, which is quiet quitting. I have employers saying to me, or CEOs saying to me, "How do I know that my employees are not quiet quitting?" Well, you know, this is one of the challenges that a lot of companies are facing. So people's problems are huge right now. So it is a lot of fun working at this time. But equally, there are so many challenges that are out there. And it doesn't mean that there is always the perfect solution for one company or if it is exactly the same solution for that next company. Andi Simon: Well, you know, Kerry, when we were preparing for this, I mentioned that we have several leadership academies. And the topic is around how does one get things done with others? That's the essence of a company. And sometimes people come to me and say, "We have an enormous retention problem. It's our culture, we want to go back to the culture of pre-pandemic." But what was that culture of pre pandemic? I love the Financial Times, my favorite reading in the morning, and its tremendous insights. In France, for example, they insist that you do not work on the weekends. You have your private time. Talking about burnout. And now I think Portugal and Spain have adopted this as well. The hardest part when you're remote working, is: what is the weekend? The weekend? And how do you do it? And then you have a hybrid? And there was great research from McKinsey, I was just reading, where women are perfectly happy not going back. And how are they using the time that they're not commuting? Well, they're doing all kinds of fulfilling things. Remember that work-life balance? Well, it got imbalanced, because now I have time to do life. And so there are real transformations going on. And as you shake your head, yes, our listeners, she's shaking her head. The question is, What are you seeing in your process analysis to help a client listening to think through what would I do now to begin to assess the major questions that are facing us as employers and employees to get our businesses really thriving? Your thoughts? Kerry Flynn Barrett: Well, I will tell you, very often, in this time, right now, employers are saying, Should I bring my employees back full time? That seems to be the top question. And my response is by answering it with a question: Why do you need to bring your employees back full time? And so I think it's important for that analysis to be done as to: Is it important for that particular business. And it does depend upon the business. Obviously, if we're talking about the hospitality business, that's a different story, and the healthcare business. Depending upon the position within the business, it makes a difference. If you're talking about a finance position within healthcare, that's a position that could be remote or hybrid, as opposed to a direct caregiver obviously needing to be in-person. So we need to be looking at this very specifically down to those nitty gritty details to make sense of whether or not we're bringing people back. So that makes a very big difference when we're talking about culture. And when I hear companies say, "Oh, I want to go back to what the culture used to be," or "Employees are being very demanding now," I will say, "Well, tell me what you mean by employees being very demanding?" "Well, my employees are saying that they require that they work hybrid." And so my response is always, "Well, is it something that works for your workplace for them to work hybrid?" "Well, yes, it does." "Well, then if it does, why is it that we're calling those employees demanding? Isn't it something that actually is working? And why aren't we working together as a team on what's best for your organization, rather than having more of an argument about it, and fighting about it?" So it's really fascinating because in my lifetime, I think about these demanding employees and I wish I could have been a little bit more demanding as an employee when I was earlier in my career. I probably would have done way better. But I don't think that in many cases, employees are actually being demanding. I think employers are actually looking at some scenarios, and actually looking at them now with rose colored glasses, but looking at them thoughtfully and saying, Does it really make a difference if I'm doing this work at home or in the office? And I recently actually wrote a blog about this. If in fact, we're bringing employees back to the office, and they're sitting in an office, and they're on Zoom calls in the office, what is the point? That just makes absolutely no sense. So then the employees feel like, "Well, you've really kind of duped me, that is just not really treating me as a professional." So if in fact, you have meaningful work for somebody in the office, and that makes sense, then absolutely. But if you don't, then let's really think about that twice. All in all, sit down with your employees, talk with your employees, listen to what their challenges are. Just listen to them for their ideas because they have great thoughts. That's why you hired them. Otherwise, it's not a great reflection on you if you think that you've hired people who aren't that smart. You hired them because they're smart, and you should listen to them. Andi Simon: I love the conversation where it's about feeling. Two things I want to add. I often preach, being an anthropologist as I am, that words create our worlds. And as I'm listening to you, I can hear the leadership, the C-suite, mimicking others who are all too often men thinking about their stature. And they're mastering being in the C-suite. And that is about demand, and owning and controlling the environment in which people are working. And I find that the most exciting clients I have are the ones who are asking the questions with a real openness to change the words that are creating their worlds, that we know that the challenge for humans is, we live the stories in our minds. And there's nothing more frightening than change because the cortisol is flying around there saying, Oh, fear this. But for those who are leading, pause for a moment and change the story: couldn't you be a leader in the next breed of companies that thrive and thrive? Remember, some of the major companies weren't perfect. For example, in a global company with everyone remote, take a look at what people can do if they aren't in the office. And the gig economy has become a really interesting, flexible workforce for you. But it requires you to change your mind. And don't be a copycat. Think about what it is that you can do and create something new. Because everything is new now. It's not what used to be, right? Kerry Flynn Barrett: That's right. It doesn't mean that just because somebody isn't working in front of you, that they're not working. And productivity can be measured in different ways than tracking someone's computer. Andi Simon: Now, that's a big topic. Are we moving to outcomes evaluation as opposed to punch cards? And time? Are we still in a machine model mode of a workplace? Are we managing minds? And I thought, I've been preaching for many years now that we've moved from managing hands to managing minds. But the mindset of coming back into the office feels like, "I kind of manage that person," as opposed to the product. What do you see? Kerry Flynn Barrett: I'm seeing a little bit of both. I'm seeing a little bit of both, and I think it depends upon the particular leader. I think that unfortunately, sometimes past practice or past performance of someone has created a fear factor. So for example, if a particular leader has had someone really perform poorly in the past, they have unfortunately taken that model and said, "Well, because X person did this, I'm not going to allow anybody else to do it." Instead of saying, "Okay, that person was the anomaly. And I'm going to allow others, who are professionals, to rise above and be able to do it." So unfortunately, I'm seeing some of that. And there's just too much of a fear factor. And I think that's because the threat of the recession is there. And I think there's just some fear of the recession and money. So there's a little bit more of that right now. But I think the more progressive leaders, to your point, are just more comfortable in their own skin, and more comfortable in their own practice. And they are very open to saying to the employees, What works best for you. Unless, of course, it is an environment where it is very dictated by, like a creative environment, where they do need to bring people together, for example. Andi Simon: Then we have the challenge of another generation. I often talk about demography is destiny. And so you have a workplace. I mean, I had one great client, whose board were mostly Boomers, and most of his new hires were all the Gen Ys and some Gen Zs. And they had very different ideas about everything. It was like they were foreign languages, both speaking English, but boy, they didn't understand each other at all. And so now you have that added to the mix. Are you finding that as well? Kerry Flynn Barrett: Absolutely, absolutely. But in addition to that, I don't really discuss that much about the generations as much as I discuss empowered workers, because I find that empowered workers can be of any generation. And I think sometimes those in Gen X and Gen Y are just like Millennials who get a bad rap. And they get kind of stereotyped as being difficult. And I don't necessarily find that to be the case always. And so it is funny, though, that I am seeing a lot of the empowered workers versus the seasoned workers, is what I refer to it as. And so there is somewhat of the seasoned workers who feel that the empowered workers need to go through this rite of passage. "We did this and we had to suffer, so therefore, you're going to have to do that." And I don't know, I don't understand that. Why would want anyone to have to go through something and suffer? Andi Simon: The interesting part is to your point, there's nothing reasonable or rational about it. It's a human symbolic transformation of coming from the outside to become part of us, and we control the space. So therefore, you can't get in unless we let you. But remember that Millennials are 50% of the workforce now. The Boomers, hang on tight, because the changes are coming. And somehow you got to embrace it. Kerry Flynn Barrett: Right. And I have said that to some of the companies that I've worked with: "You can stand there kicking and screaming, or you can accept, listen and learn. It's entirely up to you which way that you go. I could make a suggestion." Andi Simon: I actually had one situation where they gave the new hires the job of mentoring those who had been there a while. In other words, How do we introduce you to them instead of them taking charge of you, and you come in and really educate them as to the things that matter, because you are our future, let's face it, and if we can build it together into a future that will thrive. But there are also things you don't know, maybe those are all changed. I have one great client, and their buyers had all retired and their salespeople were calling their buyers, nobody was buying. And they didn't understand why nobody was answering the phone. And as we did the research, the retirees were replaced by 30-somethings, and they didn't answer the phone. And they weren't going to answer the phone, and they weren't going to buy on the phone and maybe because of one relationship. And it was sort of like, But what are we going to do? I said, I think you're gonna change. So you gotta figure this out. We're gonna have to figure it out. Now, when you spoke at the Westchester Business Council, you spoke about burnout. And I don't want to not discuss that, you had some great insights, because this word, you're telling me, let's not talk about the great resignation. I'm sort of looking around and saying, burnout is self-induced. You know, if in France you don't have to work on the weekend, is anyone telling you to work on the weekends? Or is anyone telling you to work all the time? And so can you share with our listeners and our viewers about your perspective on this thing called burning out? Kerry Flynn Barrett: Sure. So for sure. And some of it is self-inflicted. Some people are just naturally driven people, and they want to get ahead. I understand it, I'm a type A through to the core, always was, probably always will be. In my own business, I made the choice on how it is that I want to do things. So I get to work when I want to work. So I changed the whole structure of how I do it. So I understand it. I think that women have a very, very difficult time, especially those who were young in childbearing years and trying to get ahead in the workplace, who are trying to do everything. And I think that our work community isn't always as supportive of them, as it should be. And I don't know that women are equally as supportive of fellow women as we should be. And I think it is not always allowed or thought to be allowed, because of stigmas for somebody to stand up and say that they just really are burnt, they're just really burnt out and they need a break. I don't think a lot of women feel that they have opportunities to make career changes. I don't think that they think that they can take a break, and be able to come back into the workforce successfully. And so I think those are the types of things that we need to do a better job with. I hope we will do a better job with it. There are some groups that are really helping women with that. But I think that that is something that is a real challenge. And I think it is something that is real. And I think that there are corporations, some corporations are very, very helpful and known to be supportive of women in the workplace. Andi Simon: Well, that's an interesting word. Because whether it's gender bias, or it's understanding that women do have to care for children and what's wrong with that, can't we get a childcare center here to make it easier for them, and actually thinking about women as a whole, as opposed to another worker. And it's an interesting time. I always preach, never waste a crisis. Use the pandemic as an opportunity to think big. You know, the women aren't coming back after the pandemic the way the workplace could use them, right?, with a recession. But they just aren't; they basically are looking for jobs or careers that will allow them to balance in a different fashion. They've discovered they can work from home. And I used to coach women who were executives, and they were taking care of the laundry and cooking dinner and working on a computer and taking care of the kids and working on the computer and taking care of meetings and they didn't miss a beat. But they had life in a very different, very interesting fashion. And they said to me, "You know, this is really cool, I can get life done and also work." And I went, Oh, there's some kernels of real interesting stuff. Was it hard? Yes. But life is, unless you're going to be a stay-at-home mom. And that's hard. There isn't a thing, "easy," right? And I used to laugh. People would say, "I have to balance life and work." I said, "Isn't work life? And Isn't life work?" I mean, through words we do create our worlds. So you know, you have a challenging time of it. But as you guys were talking about burnout, there was this sense that if it's not in our hands, and we can't control it, it isn't really in the boss's hands either. And I've heard too many places who have said to their management don't talk about behavioral health, emotional well-being, it's not appropriate for us to talk about. I don't want to talk about it, and I'm saying to myself, Well, maybe it's not a bad time to put it in part of the discussion. Because, you know, 30% of Americans are depressed. And that's not just those who are unhealthy; way more, way more. And you can't simply all deal with it with a pill. So life has become challenging. It's never been easy. But I do think it's an interesting time to really rethink women in the workplace in a way that can be exciting and exhilarating, instead of painful, and why not? 60% of the college graduates are women, they're all smart. They're all looking for good opportunities. So as you're looking ahead, anything coming into your future or ours that we could share? Kerry Flynn Barrett: I do have to say this, Andi, just to go backwards a little bit. 30 years ago, I had a boss who told me that when I walked through the doors, I needed to park my life outside the door, when I walked in. And I had a 6-week old child. I told him that there was absolutely no way that I could ever possibly park my life outside the door. Okay, that was just not humanly possible for me as a thinking, breathing person to do that in order to be able to do my job. And he said, and I learned more from him, and I say this to this day, on what never to do as a boss. During the pandemic, there was a woman I knew who is a C-suite person and her 4-year-old was climbing over her, she was on a Zoom call. And all the other C-suite individuals were men. And she was criticized afterwards by her boss, because of the fact that her child was climbing on her. And she did the same work, just like everybody else. And it was not a problem. And she said to them, she said, "You do realize all of your wives probably were taking care of your children? And my husband was on his business call. And I didn't skip a beat on that call." So why is it that we criticize our women who are doing this? Totally unacceptable. So we have to do a better job. Andi Simon: Did they say anything to her? Or was it just simply her trying to establish the credibility? I mean, I couldn't agree with you and her more. But the attitude was, you know, don't mix that. I mean, "I didn't miss a beat on my call, I perform for you." Kerry Flynn Barrett: I met her boss and he said something to her afterwards that it was inappropriate for her to have her child in the call. So what's going forward? I think that we can do a much better job: for men, for women, for everyone, for transgender, for every single person in the workplace. I think we can be incredibly inclusive. I think that we could do a better job with just general equity. Just hearing about wage equity, thinking about that this morning. What's going on? November 1st is here tomorrow. New York City and Westchester County declaring wage equity. Thank goodness we're doing this. I think it's important for people to know that they have choices in the workplace. And then they should speak their mind. And if the workplace doesn't accept that, then maybe it's just not the right workplace for them. And there are people out there who will help them to find another workplace. So I think that's very important for people to know. Andi Simon: And the times, they are a-changing, like Bob Dylan told us. But I think that we can't go backwards. And when people say the pandemic put women back 30 years, it breaks my heart, but we can't let it happen and we must vote. And mostly for business's sake, our economy depends upon vibrant businesses, and women leading companies are doing amazing jobs. And it's a time for change. So let's embrace change and make it our friend, and see how great things can be. Kerry, one or two things you don't want the listeners to forget. Kerry Flynn Barrett: I just don't want people to stop listening. I mean, I think it's just the most important thing. And to stop and listen, to put your phone down. Don't be looking at your phone while you're listening. Whether or not it's your child, your husband, your employee, whatever it is, I really say to listen. I think that is the one thing that you could do for your employees. That's so important. And every single employee deserves 10 minutes of your time, whether or not it's once a week, once every two weeks. I think that is absolutely critical. And if you tell me you don't have time for that, then you and I could really talk, and we could talk about how you could better use your time that would help you so that you can find that 10 minutes of time. Andi Simon: And to add to that, that when you listen, try and stay focused on what they are saying, not what you're thinking, because our minds are trying to take the words they're saying and make sense out of them in the story that we have in our mind, not really what you're hearing. And I'll only tell you how many times in our careers, it wasn't what they said, it's what we heard. And it had nothing to do with what they meant. And that is ask questions to clarify. Kerry Flynn Barrett: Make sure you really understand. Andi Simon: And that means you cannot have your cell phone sitting there or your computer in front of you. This has been such fun. If they want to reach you, where could they do that, Kerry? Kerry Flynn Barrett: Oh, very simply, I'm on LinkedIn. My email is KFB so, easy to find me KFB@Flynnbarrett.com. I have my own website. It's www.Flynnbarrett.com. And please reach out to me on my website. And you can just send a quick question or an inquiry. I look forward to hearing from anybody. Andi Simon: If you want a very smart fractional Chief Human Resource Officer, or just a very sharp coach, or someone who can help you see, feel and think in new ways, meet Kerry Flynn Barrett, because she's here to help you do just what we love to do, which is to change and the times they are changing. And so for all of our listeners, thank you for coming. It's always so much fun to share with you smart people who are really here to help you do what I love: to see and feel and think in new ways. And remember, we're here to help your organization adapt to these fast changing times. Stay with us. Stay tuned and listen to some of the webinars and speeches that I have posted on our website. We're talking all the time about how to make change and how to embrace change, and particularly how to rethink women in the workplace. And on that note, I'll say have a great day. Remember our theme is take observation and turn it into innovation. I hope you've had a great day today. Bye bye now.
Dec 19, 2022
35 min
341: Christina Sistrunk—Is There Magic To Excel As A Strong Woman In A Man's Industry?
Hear how to make the most of your choices, at work and in life Meet Christina Sistrunk, former President and CEO at Aera Energy. You are going to love listening to her wisdom for thriving in the male-dominated energy industry. As Christina will share with you, she found that the hardest problems to solve usually were the ones around how well people work together, or don't, that made the problems more complicated. She explains how figuring out how to bring people together and enable them to be as successful as they had the potential to be was the most challenging part of being a leader, especially a woman leader. A lot to learn! Watch and listen to our conversation here Your ability to think independently actually creates opportunities One of Christina's main joys at this stage in her career is helping people understand how they can be more effective, not only in their career, but even in their personal life, about seeing the opportunity to make different choices. Better choices create better outcomes, whether at work, or at home. You can connect with Christina on LinkedIn or by email, sistrunk1984@gmail.com. For more guidance about career choices and following your passion, start with these: Blog: How Can You Thrive As A Woman In A Male-Dominated Industry? 5 Steps To Follow Podcast: Vicki Baker—Isn't It Time For You To Power Through To Your Next Career Stop? Podcast: Claire Harbour-Lyell—Disrupt Your Career To Reach Even Greater Heights  Additional resources for you My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businessand On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants   Read the transcript of our podcast here Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon. I'm your host and your guide. And as such, my job is to help you get off the brink. I want you to soar again. And sometimes you need some new ideas, a fresh approach, interesting ways to see, feel and think in new ways. Remember, we decide with our eyes and our heart. And all of a sudden you say, "I don't know where I'm going." I keep hearing over and over among my clients, even my colleagues, my friends, "What's next?" So it's important for you to begin to see what is next, regardless of where you are on your life's journey. It's good to have a vision for yourself, a personal one of what you would like to see happen as you go through life. It's better than figuring it out on the fly, and it's better than trying to make decisions without any direction. But it's always interesting to listen to wonderful people who have had great journeys. And they want to share them with you so that you too can see how life can move along and take you to great places. So today, Evelyn Medvin is a wonderful woman who has a chapter in my book, Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Businesss. And Evelyn is just wonderful. Her story's wonderful. She celebrates being a geoscientist when there are many women there. So she introduced me to Christina Sistrunk. Now, Christina has had a very wonderful career. Let me tell you about her, then she'll tell you about her own journey. But listen carefully, because she has grown up in a world where women aren't usually successful. And when you begin to understand others, and they become your role models, you begin to say, ah, that's how we do it. And of course, I can do it. And next thing you know, remember, if I can't see it, I can't be it. So see her as somebody who you too could be. So here's Christina's resume. Over 30 years, Christina has held management and executive roles, focusing on assessing and delivering next level performance. And that's always an interesting term. She's led organizations across EMP industries, both IOC and independent, ranging in revenue from two to ten billion. She was CEO of Aera Energy for five years. I'm going to let her tell you a little bit more about what EMP means and what the CEO of Aera Energy was like. But I'll finish her resume so that we can get into her story of how she has experienced organizational turnarounds, including cash management and restructuring. Her focus has been on value creation, through the development of effective strategy, execution, improved leadership capability and accountability. Now, you know that I have several leadership academies out there. And one of the themes for leaders as followers, and how do you hold them accountable? And how do they get inspired to want to do this, so that they're giving the gift of giving back, as opposed to waiting to be told what to do? So her expertise is extremely relevant, regardless of what industry you're in. She's improved cash flow and profitability while creating step changes in safety and environmental performance and stakeholder engagement. Prior to her CEO role, she was a VP focused on, of all things, deep water production, and then the Arctic strategy, which is sort of interesting all by itself. Now, she started her career after earning a BS in Chemical Engineering from Ohio State University. But she's ready to tell you more about who is Christina Sistrunk and why it's so wonderful to have her on today. Christina, thank you for joining me. Christina Sistrunk: I'm so glad to be here. Thank you for making the time for me. Andi Simon: You have a great smile, we're going to do a lot of smiling today. I know the audience wants to know about Christina, your journey. How did you choose to go into this field? I have a hunch that there weren't a lot of female role models who were embracing it and tasting it. But you're an explorer, and one who's willing to take on all kinds of new stuff, solving complex problems in different ways and giving a great twist to the journey that you've been on. Who are you and tell our audience all about you? Christina Sistrunk: Well, thank you so much. I think I'll start kind of at the beginning, right. So I was raised in a town of 7,000 people in a rural part of Ohio and neither of my parents graduated from high school. And so thinking about what I wanted to do career-wise, I went through public school and really had an interest in science and math. And actually, at a fairly young age, my recollection is, it was sometime around when I was about 12, my dad, who worked in a union job in a factory, sat me down and said, "Look, every time you come home excited about what you might want to do, what you want to be when you grow up, it requires college.. You have to understand, we don't have the resources to do that. We'll do everything we can to try and support you, but that's not something that you can necessarily count on. So you're going to have to figure out how to make this work if that's what you really want." So I got very focused on academics and what I needed to do and where there were opportunities for scholarships. And just as I talked to people, and I talked to people that were a couple years older than me and as I got closer to college, I talked to friends who were in college about different career choices. I realized that the interest I had in science and math probably put me on a pathway to better financial stability. And I'd also seen my father work in a job for decades that he didn't seem to like or enjoy. And so I wanted to find something that I could do that I could support myself, that would also allow me to have a satisfying and rewarding career. And so I decided to go into engineering, partly because I was torn between advanced math, education and engineering. And a friend who was a little older said, "Well, here's the thing. If you go into education, and you figure out you don't like it, and then you want to switch to engineering, you can't do that and get out of college in four years with your scholarships right now. But if you start in engineering, decide you don't like it and want to switch to education, you'll still be able to get out in four years. The first complex problem to solve, what's the backup plan?" And so I started engineering, went to Ohio State University, partly because of scholarships that were available to me there and the affordability of that as an institution, because I didn't want to have a bunch of debt when I got out of school. And had a great education and had a lot of opportunities because of making that choice. But also, I never met an engineer until I got to college. So the worst engineers that I ever met were professors at the university. So I committed to studying something that I really didn't have a good understanding of. But the more I learned, the more excited I got about the opportunities that were open. And in fact, how many opportunities were available. If you studied engineering or other STEM fields of study, the choices were much different than had I chosen other disciplines to start with. And that kept me very excited. I then did some interning while I was still in college, got a better idea of what was involved in various aspects of the industry, and in fact, did an internship after my sophomore year in exploration and production in oil and gas. So that's the part of the business that figures out where to drill the wells, how to drill the wells safely, how to get the oil and gas out of the ground, and then deliver it to pipelines, where it then goes to be made into a variety of products. But the upstream part of the business kind of lets go of it once it goes into the pipeline, and others take over from there. And it was like a giant puzzle every day trying to figure out where the oil was. How do we get it out in the best way possible? How do we figure out what's going on with the wells? And so it always felt like a puzzle where you try to figure out what was going on, sometimes three miles away from you underground, to keep the process flowing. And I really enjoyed that. As I went through my career, I got an opportunity to take on a lot of different kinds of roles. And then I started to see that, as much as I was originally drawn to the business because of the technical challenges, I found that actually the hardest problems to solve usually were the ones around how the overall system worked and how people work together, or didn't, that made the problems more complicated. And that actually figuring out how to bring people together and enable them to be as successful as they had the potential to be was an even more challenging part of the business. And that's when I started to move into supervisory and then managerial roles, and ultimately winding up as a CEO running a California oil and gas company for five years. And, it really was about taking things step by step, thinking about often, "If this were my business, whatever job I was in, if I was a supervisor, or a department manager, if this were my business, how do we actually deliver value?" And that's just not financial numbers. How do we make the business safer? Or do we make sure we're developing our employees and do the employees feel valued in what they're doing? So how do we deliver that value? Better than we did last year? And where are the opportunities? Where are the risks? And how do we unleash the capacity that we've got to make a difference in this part of the business? So, honestly being a woman in oil and gas for over three decades, I won't tell you that everybody I worked with just embraced me with open arms and expected me to succeed. But I will say, I think many more people did than the industry often gets credit for. I think what helped me be successful was, I almost came from such an odd background. So my parents didn't have a lot of expectations about what I was going to do educationally. I had to figure out why I was there. So I had always had an underlying desire or compass that was driving me about figuring out how these things worked, and figuring out how I could make a difference. One of the great things about working in a technical field, even if you don't see a lot of other role models that might look exactly like you, that commitment around understanding those challenges and contributing to those challenges, and your ability to think independently, maybe partly because my background was so different, actually creates opportunities. And it's about kind of having your "Spidey sense" up to say, "If that opportunity isn't going to be available to me, where else can I go, and contribute and learn what I need to learn next?" And usually, there's some other place where somebody's looking for talent, and we'll be happy to have you come join if you're committed to making a difference and helping people around you be successful. We might have to take a little different path, but if you just keep looking for those opportunities, you will find them. Andi Simon: Let's emphasize that there isn't a straight line between where we start and where we end up. And if you think there is, perhaps there was at one point, but no more, and I don't really think there ever was. It isn't about others making the path for you. It's about you being able to control and accelerate your own growth and curiosity, and know yourself and tell a story that is embraced by others and not threatening. I hear a lot of this is around collaboration, this is creativity, this isn't about an ego that needs to soar. This is about a woman who wants to build. I need a few illustrations because I'm just a curious person. So as you're digging for oil, in the underground deep water area, and then the Arctic, lessons learned, insights to share? I'm just curious, what was it like and how did you live there? Christina Sistrunk: Well, you know, it looked different in different times. So you know, a parallel path on this journey: I actually met my husband on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, that's a great step. I think any woman that is going to be successful in business, you make lots of decisions that help you along the way in business, but I've got to say, who you choose as your spouse, and the level of support that they're willing to put on the table to make your partnership work, to make you successful, for you to make them successful, that is a really important choice. And it can make the road a lot easier, or it can make the road exponentially more difficult. And so that's an important choice I made career-wise as well, we're also trying to balance, you know, we had a child fairly early in my career. And because my husband worked away from home about 50% of the time, there were times in my career when I knew I wanted to limit how much I wanted to travel or what kind of roles I wanted to be in for a period of time, because our child needed a level of stability at home that I wanted to make sure we could provide. And, so you think that that might automatically change what you have the potential to do. And it probably did. But a career is a very long runway. And so, again, the path may take some jogs in it, but it's about how you are true to your values. How are you true to the talents that you start to realize that you've got, or that you have the ability to develop? And what's your plan for what the next one looks? And the next after that? And how do you start to gain the skills and experience that you think you're going to need? If you were the hiring manager, what would you be looking for? And how do you put yourself in that position? So you know, at one point in time, I'll tell you about a story when I was actually working as a VP in the Gulf of Mexico, for Shell. And we had done a lot of good things in the organization, but we had seen our safety performance plateau. So compared to where we had been five years before, we were doing great. But when I looked at the number of people that were still getting hurt and going home hurt in our operations, day in and day out, the number was really too high. And when I had come into that role, I had worked in the global headquarters, leading a big safety improvement effort, so I knew all the things to do technically. And we had done all those things technically. And we had still kind of hit this wall. We weren't getting any better, we were doing everything we knew how to do, but it wasn't good enough. And I went home over the holidays, had to look myself in the mirror and say, "My people are generating the level of performance that my leadership is asking for, and so what is it about the way I'm leading that has got to shift if we're going to get to a place where everybody in our operation is going home safe?" At the end of every shift, I had to do a lot of soul searching, I had to reach out to some people and ask for help. So I could look at some people, some other organizations that were making faster progress. You know, were they willing to talk to me when I picked up the phone? They absolutely were and to share their story with me. And then it really was about sitting down with the leaders that reported to me and saying, okay, here's our performance. We've got to own this. And it was interesting, because I asked them to do some things that were pretty pressing on their parts and their plates were already full and I was asking them to spend a lot more time working with their people in this area. And it wasn't clear what was going to come off their plate to enable that. And one of the more senior people that worked for me, looks at me, and he says, "Well this is all well and good and we're all bought into what you're encouraging us to move forward on. But you know, you're asking a lot of us and we don't see that you put any skin in this game." Now, the interesting thing was that, coincidentally, as I've been thinking about how I could lead differently, I actually already had an action plan that I had planned to put in place, but I hadn't shared that with the rest of the team. And I said, "Well, here's what I'm going to do. Everybody makes fun of how busy my schedule is. And it is. And I'm going to tell you every single time somebody gets hurt anywhere on one of our operations as long as I'm in the United States. So if I'm somewhere in Europe at a global leadership team meeting, I can't honor this, but it'll just take me longer on set as long as I'm in the United States. Within 48 hours, I'll sit down with the operations manager who was based in the same office I was in with the actual site manager, with the supervisor, and the person who got hurt. If there's anybody else in that kind of chain of command, we're going to have an open and honest discussion about what we missed, what we have to learn and what they need." And so at first, quite honestly, I was kind of going all over the place, and breaking into my calendar a couple of times a month which sent a loud message to the organization. And in fact, one of the times I actually went to the site was on December 23, and I went home on Christmas Eve because that's when the injury had occurred. And boy, did that send a message to that crew about how serious we were about wanting to understand what was going on and how we needed to change so that they could go home safe to their families at the end of every shift. And that was a real turning point, because for me, as a female leader in an oil and gas company, you don't know all the answers. And in fact, we're going to experiment. And we're just going to keep at it until we figure out how to make this better. Yeah, that's not a traditional way to lead. Andi Simon: But control going on? Christina Sistrunk: No, a mentor of mine many years before this has said, "You know, your value for safety has to be higher than your discomfort at what you'll need to do to change." And I thought I understood what that meant at the time. And I thought, well, of course, my value for safety is higher than that. When I had to look in the mirror and say, "Am I willing to walk into my guys and say, 'I don't have the answers, but this is what we're going to try next and we're going to figure our way through this.'" Yeah, we learned together. That was, you know, that was a moment of truth for me. Andi Simon: And the results were? Christina Sistrunk: We reduced the amount of injuries for the next two years by 60% every year. That's a big deal. And when you think about every one of those people, even if they were going home with a few stitches in their hand, it might have been much more serious and that was going to interfere with their life when they got home. So whatever it is that they chose to do in their free time, whether they had kids or they didn't have kids, it was a disruption in their life that they didn't deserve to have to deal with. So it was a very big deal. And again, we can talk about policies, and we can talk about values til the cows come home: the question is, what are we doing to really demonstrate them? And how do we send a message to people about what's important, and how important they are to us without saying a word? You know, just by them being able to see how you show up is really important. Andi Simon: Now, as you know, this is a rich conversation, and I'm enjoying it. But some of the things that we're looking at for your next phase in your journey is, how do you take all of these lessons learned, experiences that many other people will never experience? And you're no longer the CEO of a company, you're looking at the next phase in your own life? And what's the multiplier here? Because just that you did it, and your group did, it was great. What do you want to see next? Because I think that's where the reflection is turning into for yourself. What matters to me, in my next phase of my journey here? What are you thinking about? Christina Sistrunk: If I could wave a magic wand, I'd like to help people understand how they can be more effective, not only in their career, but even in their personal life about seeing the opportunity to make different choices. And having that creates better outcomes, and that can be at work, or it can be at home. So I think one of the hallmarks of my career, and it looked different at different phases, but one of my hallmarks of my career was learning practical ways to bring people together to solve problems that seem too complex. So these are the kinds of problems, maybe you've tried two or three easy answers and they haven't really given you the results that you want or the improvement that you want, or it may actually have created new problems for you. So how do you kind of break that cycle and see opportunities to solve problems differently. So when I worked for Aera, Aera had built a very strong problem-solving capability. They were a company that ran Visual Lean Manufacturing. That's the way of designing work processes and solving problems that Toyota had created, and then they applied it to the oil and gas business. So they had a lot of discipline about solving problems. But if you don't think about the why, and I'd say, "Employee, a few things that I want to share with you," you can almost become so rote in the way you think about problems that you don't actually get to the root of the problem and actually solve it. You just paper over it, so to speak. And in fact, one of the things that I saw that cropped up in that system, for a little while I think got around it, was that if you have a particular set of questions that you ask, you can actually reverse engineer that process to implement a solution that you think the solution is the right answer. And I've been in a lot of organizations where people think they're solving a problem, but what they're actually doing is advocating for a particular solution without defining the problem in front. And that usually is not as successful as it needs to be. So the key is, I think the first question you have to ask is, why do we even need to work on this at all? Now, it may be a pet peeve for you, but is it really worth the time and the effort to take it on, to think about what the real problem is, to create a few collaborators, which will probably be important. If it's a complex problem for you to fully understand it, others will need to be impacted by it as well or they're not going to put the time into helping you solve it. So first, why do you need to solve it at all? Is it an irritation? Or does it really need to be tackled? And why now? So how do you define it in objective terms? What is this costing you, or what opportunity is precluding it from happening? And taking the time to kind of go, "Relative to everything else that we're working on, why would this go to the top of the list?" Just thinking about those things before you get started. Actually it is really important because you can't do 10 major things at one time well. You can probably only do one or two if they're really significant. So why that problem? And why now? Then once you get thinking about it, can you really explain the problem? I would challenge from at least two points of view. So what's the problem? Why now? And how does it look to you? But how does it look to somebody else in the organization? Maybe who vehemently disagrees with you. You've got to see the problem from at least two very different points of view, or you don't understand the problem. Then you start to work with others and actually trying to understand that other point of view, go into somebody else in a different part of the organization or somebody you know that would actually disagree with you, and just listen to him talk about what it is that you think is a problem. Where's the commonality? Look at it through their eyes, or, you know, if you're seeing the problem because that group is so screwed up. Well, I bet it looks entirely different in that other group. What are they saying about that and taking the time to understand that? Well, then the question is,How do you think about what options there might be to solve it? Push yourself to come up with multiple ways that you think you might be able to solve this again, work with others, test what you see as the problem statement, the points of view around what this encompasses and what it doesn't encompass. And then, you know what?, what are different ways that different groups would suggest a solution? And then which one do you think is the right one? And why? And I think a really important part of this is, if you've done your homework, the perfect solution is very rare. If you don't think about it very robustly, you're going to know what the answer is pretty quickly and it's going to be easy. But if this is a complex problem, you've probably heard one of my favorite quotes from Thomas Sowell, the economist, is: There are no solutions, there are only tradeoffs. So when you think about the multiple solutions you would have to this problem, where are those tradeoffs? And so which one do you think gives you the best performance for the least amount of effort, or the best performance that is consistent with your company culture, or the most effective long term solution because it's actually pragmatic enough that you can implement in a minute, maybe it gets you 80% of the way there. But if it's relatively easy to implement, maybe that takes away the pain and actually gets you where you need to be in the last 20%. So thinking through those kinds of tradeoffs so that you can have an impact. You do it in a way that it's not just you telling people what the right answer is, but you've worked with others to really improve quality of life satisfaction with the work environment, and you've had a positive impact on how everybody involved in this process actually contributes. And you've learned some things along the way. Andi Simon: When you do come to a decision full of the paradox of choice that Barry Schwartz writes about, where you end up feeling like, "If I had just a little more time, I can figure out a little bit better decision. And so I won't decide now, because the abundance of options are overwhelming. So why decide because whatever I decide won't be right." Anyhow, I love what goes on in the internet world where you buy stuff more than you need, and probably test different sizes. And then you send most of it back. And then you go back on to see if you could have gotten it cheaper someplace else. And the shopping experience is a pretty complicated decision process at times, where you're never convinced that your decision was the right one. It was just one of those options, and you had to finally decide.  But the world has so many options today that sometimes you feel stalled or stuck trying to figure out which one will my boss like? Or which one will I have the least problem doing or which one's going to be the most complicated or the most simple? And I do think his opinion is correct, that it's just too many options. And how do we decide? What did you learn? Christina Sistrunk: Well, I think I learned a couple of things. One is, the more complicated your solution is, the less likely it is to succeed. And even if you can implement it, you probably can't sustain it because other things will come along to draw attention. So I have learned to really think about it, but if we go ahead and implement this, how dramatically is it going to change how we work? And how much energy is it going to take to keep this solution in place right over time? And so I think a little pragmatically, and if you've got, you know, an equal chance of being successful, err on the side of the simpler solution. You know, I think the other advantage to that is that, if you think you can get a good way down the road, with a pretty simple solution that's easy to sustain, go ahead, do that. You'll learn a few more things in that process. Maybe then you have to tweak a few things on the back end. But it's much easier than trying to implement something wholescale that maybe you think was perfect but not very pragmatic. And so part of it is knowing the organization, part of it is knowing the resources that are available. Even those questions about why are you solving it and why are you solving it now will help direct you to know what that right answer is, as you as you measure some of those tradeoffs. There may be something just so critical that you're working on that actually the whole company needs to reoriented to either capture that opportunity or prevent that risk from being actualized. There are times like that but they're very few and far between day to day. Andi Simon: Yeah, you're sort of on the edge and moving, now don't let the perfect get in the way of the good. How do you look to the edges, as opposed to trying to create a whole new sandbox? That's often what I find as I'm working. So as you know, I'm a corporate anthropologist, and I work with organizations that need or want to change. And as I'm listening to you, I'm saying, you have a couple of clients who are at a point in their growth where growth has stalled. And these are strange times. And so the question becomes, do I fix what I have now so I can do better at it? Or do I try to move it into new market spaces in different fashion? Or change the sales story? Or what do I do to accelerate growth again, united? And those are not small questions, because usually the trend lines have been going along, and then all of a sudden, they're in the wrong direction. We worked with one university that went from 12,000 students to 8000. And I said, when are you going to call us? I mean, that was the wrong direction. There are some timelines where you have to reinvent what you're doing. But often, you just have to be on the edges trying to see what's possible through a fresh lens so that you can do better. Christina Sistrunk: Well, and I think that's the real key. So, you know, I've seen examples in the course of my career where people want to adopt a new strategy and it's all going to be hearts and flowers, and everything's a hockey stick to the right. We just go do this and magic will happen. But you're not asking the tough questions about, well, what are our underlying capabilities? So is there a match here, if you only have to build one or two new capabilities? That's serious, but doable. If you focus on it, and you really think strategically and resource strategically to build those capabilities, but if what you're trying to create actually requires the culture of the company to be different, your talent pool to be completely different, and requires several capabilities that you don't currently have, you may be able to draw a plan out that in theory looks great, but your chances of actually delivering that are pretty darn slim. So, you know, again, I haven't found a formula, but I do think it's about what you pragmatically think about. How much change can your organization handle? Some organizations are very comfortable with a high pace of change, and some aren't. So if you really need to make a change, maybe part of that is really recognizing what you have to do to start to build a level of resilience and comfort with change in your organization that doesn't exist but that will absolutely derail what you're trying to do if you don't take that head on. And it does mean, you have to engage with your leaders differently. You have to bring in some opportunities to develop them differently. And in some cases, you may find that you've got some leaders that were great for the journey you were on before, but maybe they're not in the right role anymore. Or maybe this organization where it's headed may not even be where they want to go. And just being honest with that, treating them respectfully in that space, but being willing if the right thing for your employees, your stakeholders, and your business is moving in a given direction, then everybody's got to get on board to help make that happen. Andi Simon: I'm thinking about the enterprise agiltity conference, a global conference on building a culture for fast changing times. And the times are just moving very fast. They are and change fatigue is not uncommon. But people don't quite know how to change. And they haven't figured out how to put it into their happiness sphere. You know, it's a habit where they immediately can sort through the options available in a systematic fashion, and begin to be comfortable that the choices they make are small wins going somewhere. And it may not be enormous. You don't always need a pandemic to change a little bit. I had a client who was giving remote work as a benefit to his employees before the pandemic. And now he has them all working remotely and can't get them to come back to the office. And I said, "Well, it was a benefit to them but now it's a penalty box. Now look how interesting the meaning of something has changed." So be careful how you interpret what the benefit is to somebody. How will you change them? But this is a fascinating conversation. Christina, one of the things that you and I had chatted about was that the problems that you've learned to solve may or may not be in the toolkit or the interests of young people looking at the STEM industry, engineering, oil and gas, but anything in the science, technology, engineering, math, and even, you know, some people add the arts in there, because I do think creative arts are tied into how we think you're talking about creative problem solving. It's real, whole brain storytelling, really understanding. And once you understand that, it isn't a technical skill, it's a perception of reality that works. How are you advising? What do you see, because there's so much literature on how women aren't sticking out in STEM. And so it's not a place where people of color find themselves comfortable, moving up through the hierarchy is difficult. But, part of your own mission now is to begin to identify these folks who may not want to move into this zone, but who really could find great gratification. What are your thoughts? Christina Sistrunk: Well, you know, I just like to spend time talking with young people as I have the opportunity. This is part of problem solving, what are your real choices? Something that I learned a long time ago, and I try and encourage young people around this as well, is, early on, I think you've got to get really clear about whether that voice you're listening to is one that's based out of fear, or based in a place around the vision of what you're trying to create for your life and others. And I promise you, you will never reach your potential staying on what you see as the safe path. Right now, that doesn't mean you should be taking life threatening risks, but often, when we unpack what we see as risky, it's because it makes us uncomfortable. But I have never learned anything, I have never grown in the course of my career, where it felt safe. I didn't know the answer when I started. It means sometimes you're going to, you know, you're going to scrape your knee and you're going to clean it up, you're going to put a Band-Aid on it, you're going to keep going and that's okay. Andi Simon: But you have to say that many times. I love Oprah and her advocacy for small wins, because I preach the same. I say, you cannot turn a battleship with an oar. But you want to either do what you really want to do or find those small wins that move you forward so that you can learn what works and what doesn't without great risk, but enough risks so that you're testing and trying and learning. And these are all, you know, the whole world of mistake-ology, what you learn from making mistakes and that's a really big thought. So as you're working with these young folks, up and comers, what are you finding? Christina Sistrunk: Well, you know, one thing that I'm finding is, I hate to say this, but I'm not sure that they're always getting good career counseling, which really disappoints me. So when I was high school age, as I mentioned, I didn't have a lot of resources at home helping to guide me. And even then, the guidance counselors that we had back then, I remember the one that I had to deal with telling me that, you know, nursing or teaching was a perfectly fine thing for me to consider, but why think about engineering? I guess I was so naive, that I didn't think that it was going to be an issue. Thankfully, I didn't see the risk there. And so that kind of propelled me forward. But, part of that is really getting people to say, okay, so what are the real choices that intrigue you? And why? And how is that likely to play out in the quality of life that you're hoping to have? So I do think there's this mystique that all college degrees lead to a certain outcome and a certain lifestyle, which they do not. To what extent are you a person that's really turned on by challenge? To what extent do you like to be comfortable or like to feel like you have mastered something? Those are important questions to ask because some fields are easier to do that in than others. But also, I think it's very legitimate to have real candid conversations with people and say, you know, if you go down this path, these are some of the life choices that you're going to face. And these are different life choices that you can be exposed to on a different path. And so how do you factor that in? Although you might be really passionate about this, does it lead you where you ultimately want to go 20 years from now, or 40 years from now? I think it's Mark Cuban who talks about when he talks to young people, he says, if somebody is telling you to follow your passion, it's because they're already wealthy. I don't think that's entirely true. I can say I had the luxury to follow my passion, and I think a lot of people would have told me that there was not much chance of that becoming a reality for me, at different phases of my life. But I do think helping people see it's not necessarily a binary decision; there can be multiple places where you can be challenged, you can learn things, you can figure out a way to contribute. And some of them will open up different kinds of financial and quality of life issues for you than others will. And I think it's just about being pragmatic about how you make those choices. And not saying I've got to be miserable, or I can be happy, or I'm only passionate about that. Well, why are you passionate about that? Are there some other fields maybe that can give you more of the total package that you want in your life that you might also feel passionate about? Andi Simon: You know, it's interesting, because I'm helping one woman, and she has a nice job, but she doesn't get the kind of gratification out of it she thinks she should, although I'm not quite sure what she thinks she should. You know, it's sort of like, what would you define to be the right kind of work that you can do? You can raise your two children, you're making a nice living, you've got enough flexibility so that you don't need to be in the office all the time, you're really in control. You're almost a freelancer without calling it that and you got good benefits. So tell me what would be a replacement part for this that would raise you to the next level, what's missing? And I have a hunch what's missing is somebody acknowledging what she's doing and giving her a sense that she has a good purpose there or something that gives it more than just tactical and practical, but something that matters, and she matters to them in some fashion. And I do think flexibility is in isolation. You know, and I often laugh because we are enjoying this flexibility, but solitary confinement in prison is the worst place to be. And I'm not convinced that is in creating these kinds of reactions. Your thoughts? Christina Sistrunk: Well, I even frame it a little differently. I mean, it's great. A work environment anticipates what you need, and gives you what you need. In all honesty, I can tell you that certainly is often not the case in the course of my career. And I will say at one point, I was advised by someone who was a mentor of mine, and who I have just a ton of respect for, and he basically only had time to have a very short conversation with me and told me to apply for a job that I did not want at all. He told me it was an IQ test, that for this job, this is what you need to do. It was the lowest job on the list that I could have thought of. Even though it was going to be a big promotion for me, I just didn't want it. So I went home for a couple of days saying, how might I change this job so that I would want it and so it would be a job that I would find to be highly rewarding? And when I sat down and had a conversation with the hiring manager, I said, "Look, if you want me to do the job the way it has always been done, please don't put me in it because I will be miserable and you will be miserable. But here's my vision for what I could do in this role, and why I think it makes sense to approach the role this way. And, you know, this is what I think I could add, how I could add value by doing it in this way and why it would be important to do so," and I got the job. And in fact, it was one of the best jobs I ever had. I learned so much and I learned about a different part of the business and in different parts of the world. I mean, I think often it's almost like, what is it about that job? And there's white space in every single job I've ever had, and I think that most people have had. Where's the boundary that you want to just nudge? Because it will make you actually not just more satisfied, but probably more productive. And sometimes what that looks like for people is using some of that flexibility maybe to take some of your skills and work in another area where you feel passionate. It may be at a nonprofit that you actually can do that. And that satisfaction is about more than just work. It's about the totality of your life. How does it line up with your values? What about family and friends? What about your spirituality? What about causes that you feel passionate about and want to contribute to? It covers a lot of the landscape. I've never been at a point in my life where I could tick all the boxes on all those and say it's all perfect at this moment in time. So it's a bit fluid, and it goes back and forth. But how do you optimize across all of that to give you the quality of life that you want to live, and it makes you feel good about the conscious choices you've made? Andi Simon: Yes, balance those things. And every day is a gift. Christina, this has been absolutely wonderful. We can actually keep going, but we can't. So I'm going to ask you for only one thing for our audience not to forget, because I think they've heard so many rich perspectives on life, on the problems that we face, in the work/non-work life. They're equally relevant here. But also that your lessons learned over your career that are now setting you up for the next phase where you want to give back in many different ways, to help people soar who are really on the brink, like I am about what comes next...one thing you want them to remember. Christina Sistrunk: So I really think that, if you've got an area that you see as a problem or an opportunity, be really clear with yourself in terms of what those choices are. And why you might make them and challenge yourself before you just automatically go down a path...to really, perhaps, get some other inputs to help you think through what are some different choices. Make sure you recognize that we always have choices. Now, we may not like some of them, or we may like some of them less than others, which only means that they are right. We always have a choice. It is very rare for human beings to be in a situation where they have no choices to make, and it's about that conscious choice that over time actually leads to the quality of life that you can have. And I think it's a really important way when you recognize this to empower yourself, no matter where you are in your journey. And it is about staying on that journey, continuing to learn, continuing to make good choices. And moving forward. It's your journey. Andi Simon: The other part is that you really don't know what's a good choice or a bad choice 'til after the choice. And I was reading something the other day and the comment was, Once something has happened, the best thing you can do is just let it happen. Because you can't go backwards and change what's happened. But the best thing you can begin to do is learn something from it, move forward past it, and think about what comes next, because that's all we can do. Christina Sistrunk: I would challenge that. I think the other thing is giving yourself enough grace to say, did I make the best choice I could with what I knew at the time? Andi Simon: That's a very powerful point: what I knew at the time. We're not clairvoyant, no, but the other part of it is, and then I will wrap up, is that what you hear isn't necessarily what someone else said, or what they meant. But it is what you heard. And I can't tell you how often I work with my clients, my coaching clients, about what they really mean as opposed to what you think you heard and wanted from me. Because that's where the rubs come, and sometimes the tensions as well. This has been such fun to my listeners in my audience. Thank you for joining us today. Christina Sistrunk has been with us and I know you're going to have lots of questions so send them along to info@Andisimon.com. Christina, if they want to reach you, I know you're building your website, but what would be a good email and we will put that on the blog as well. Christina Sistrunk: Okay, it is sistrunk1984@gmail.com. Andi Simon: That's perfect. And, I promise you, she will get back to you if you have these great questions or ideas where you want some coaching or mentoring. Now for all of our listeners, remember, both my books are available on Amazon. And I'm always very excited to hear your comments on Amazon. Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business has been an award winning best seller, and On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights is how a little anthropology can help your business grow, which is what we do. So thank you for joining us today. All of my listeners have propelled us to be among the top 5% of global podcasts. That is truly an honor. And so whoever is listening, share it away. And you're going to want to share today's talk with people who you work with or you live with to listen about how to solve these complex problems because they're all around us. And in times that are fast changing like they are, we need room for some skills and a mindset. And in some ways, this is a state of mind as opposed to stuff. It's not a toolkit, but it is a way of thinking. Christina, thanks again for coming. Christina Sistrunk: Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed this. This is a highlight of my afternoon. Thank you. Andi Simon: You're welcome. Bye bye, everybody. Thanks for coming to On the Brink.
Dec 12, 2022
57 min
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