How To Improve Your Working From Home Game With These Hacks

Working from home for the last eight months has certainly created its share of challenges for me as an entrepreneur and I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone. It took me a short while to get myself and my team situated, and, thanks to their adaptability and dedication, we were able to flex to our new reality and demands rather easily.

As the months of working remotely wore on, I decided to begin adapting my home office to better meet my needs on a more sustained basis. I did a lot of research and was pleasantly surprised to find some key products that have made my home office a work environment that really supports both my work style and productivity as well as my comfort. I thought that it might be interesting to share some of the more innovative and helpful office enhancements that I’ve benefitted most from in 2020.

I realize that everyone has their own preferences and tastes and that the nature of work can vary quite widely so I am not suggesting my favorites would be a surefire hit for you but, if you’re interested in getting settled in the work-from-home situation over the long-term, then these might be worth checking out.

Productivity and Focus Perspective.

Getting focused.

With kids, animals, buses, and every other noise-emitting entity on earth doing its very best to distract and disrupt your calls and video meetings, a pair of noise-canceling headphones is an absolute must. While there seems to be a near-endless number of headsets and headphones one might choose from here are a few of my favorites.

Hands down the very best headphones, in my humble opinion, are made by Shure. Shure is no stranger to fantastic audio quality and their Aonic 50 noise-canceling headphones are simply amazing. The over-the-ear style makes them exceptionally comfortable for all-day wear and the sound quality is so good that I often think people are behind me when I’m all alone in the office. They are so crisp and clear-, in fact, that they put many other headphones to shame. If you (typically) spend a lot of time on the road, you may want to find more compact options for audio than the Aonic 50 but while confined to your home, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that can stand up to these headphones.

For those of you who require superb clarity for meetings, podcasts, or other recordings, they can be hard-wired to a microphone like Shure’s MV5 which provides very high-quality sound input in a small package that can certainly travel with you.  Once removed from the small base, the round microphone is slightly smaller than a tennis ball and is light as a feather. Easy to operate with on mic controls, the MV5 makes a solid option for someone wanting top-quality audio without taking up a lot of desk real estate.

Another headset that has quite a bit of sound quality and versatility, in my opinion, is the EPOS ADAPT 560, an on-ear, Bluetooth headset that includes a very discreet and handy boom arm microphone that can be stowed away when not in use. They are also small enough that they may be a decent option to travel with. The sound and microphone quality are fantastic on the ADAPT 560s and they boast a very long (up to 46 hours) battery life giving them utility both in the office and on the road making for a great all-around headset.

If you are looking for a headset that can serve double duty during the workday and also support your after-work gaming inclinations, I would recommend considering the HyperX Cloud Mix. The Cloud Mix provides really nice audio quality, can be used in both wired and wireless formats and has a microphone that can be easily added or removed to customize to whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. They are light and, in my opinion, great value for the price. They are also small enough to travel with when, and if, you ever get back out on the road.

Staying focused (especially during those never-ending Zoom calls):

I pride myself on my ability to focus for long periods of time. This is probably a function of time spent in the military and my line of work consulting and coaching for so many years. One thing that I didn’t realize was the challenge of maintaining the same level of focus on hours upon hours of Zoom calls and the fatigue that can be associated with it.

Mindfulness exercises have helped but I’ve also come across some simple, yet elegant, methods for keeping myself present during long periods where I am not active on video calls. Calm Strips are sensory adhesive strips that can be easily secured to a desk, laptop, or phone (mine is attached to the side of my Fluidstance Slope). During those periods where I find my mind beginning to wander, I can rub my finger or nail along the approximately 2.5” strip and I find that similar to a fidget device, it provides just enough stimulation to keep my focus without anyone being aware.

Another product that I’ve grown to appreciate is made by Speks. This Brooklyn-based firm creates some really interesting desk “toys” that I’ve found to be helpful when working to stay present during long, back-to-back Zoom calls over the last months. They’re fun and surprising tough to put down. Speks has managed to scratch my itch for staying focus while also creating products that are just plain fun. They also come in handy if you have a young child who wanders into the office at an inopportune time.

What did we do before whiteboards?

In all my years, I’ve never met an entrepreneur who is far from a whiteboard. Unfortunately, in today’s work-from-home world, setting up whiteboards around your house may not be the best bet to ensuring peace with your family. I find that Fluidstance’s Slope is just the right mix of form and function without taking up a lot of space.

I work off of a laptop that sits atop a Nulaxy adjustable laptop stand. This gives me the ability to raise the laptop to a better ergonomic position while also raising my camera, so I am not sharing lovely under-chin shots on my Zoom calls. With this setup, the Slope slides right underneath, giving me a small, erasable whiteboard at my fingertips when that next bit of inspiration hits. My keyboard slides right underneath the slope when I need to clear some disk space as well making it useful and adaptive to my various work needs. Simple and effective.

As a consultant and executive coach, I need to capture a lot of notes. Nothing says, “cold and disengaged” like hammering away on a keyboard while talking with a client about sensitive or emotional information, so I prefer to take handwritten notes. A lot of notes. Trouble is, not only is it not very friendly to the environment but if oftentimes means needing to transfer those notes to a digital format for storing or to combine with other data and information later on.

Enter the reMarkable2 next-gen paper tablet. If you’re looking for a tablet with tons of diverse functionality (i.e. to replace your computer) this is not your speed. If you are a notetaker, doodler, if you live your life by lists, or if you just don’t want to be distracted by notifications, games, and other temptations you will find on other tablets, you may have found your next love.

At 0.19 inches thin, this tablet is smaller than an ordinary pencil. It’s sized like a full sheet of paper and the stylus feel against the screen is the closest thing I can find to the pen to paper feel of everything I’ve ever used. The reMarkable2 is the first digital notetaking product that has seemed to have solved the sensitivity of both my hand resting on the screen and the stylus sensitivity, allowing me to vary the pressure to write lighter or stronger just like I’d do with a regular pen and paper.

It also allows me to transfer my handwritten notes to text and to either sync those to my computer or email the file to where I need it. I can download files from my laptop to my reMarkable2 and mark them up by hand and the templates that continue to be added to via software updates are very helpful in organizing my work.

The only thing that I would love the folks at reMarkable2 to consider when evolving the tablet might be adding the functionality to integrate my notes to another note capture system like Evernote. That said, the remarkable is an absolute gem in my work-from-home life and I can’t imagine my life without it.

Comfort, Health, and Wellness Perspective.

Getting comfy.

Spending a significant amount of our waking hours working, many of us find ourselves sitting and plugging away at our workstations for extended periods of time. If this is your reality, you’ll understand the benefits of a comfortable and ergonomic chair. The X-Chair provides full customization of your office chair to meet your specific height, weight, and personal needs.

There’s something truly amazing about a chair that molds to you while also providing you with a heated massage via X-Chair’s Heat and Massage Therapy (HMT) Work Chair. I also appreciate the myriad of adjustments that you can make to refine your experience. As someone who has suffered from lower back issues for years, X-Chairs Dynamic Variable Lumbar system provides just the right amount of support as you move and shift throughout the day. Throw in the memory foam cushion and you may never get up.

As comfortable as you might be, we all know that sitting for long periods of time isn’t so great for you over the long-term. Having space in our homes to have a sitting and a standing desk setup takes up a lot of space and isn’t a feasible reality for many people. Thankfully, there are a variety of products available that can keep you from staying too stagnant during your work-from-home experiment.

Depending on your personal work setup, there are a variety of adjustable desk elevators that will allow you to transition from a sitting to a standing desk on the fly. The Mount-It! desk converter is an electric sit-stand workstation that makes the transition a breeze. These products do tend to make your workstation a bit bulkier and Transformer-like but the flexibility they provide will give you options throughout the workday to move your body a bit. Mount-It!’s design with this particular model is quite streamlined when compared to other sit-stand workstations, the electric elevator is quiet and smooth, and the mounting brackets can be ordered to support one, or two, monitors which can’t be beaten.

If you do work with multiple monitors, an on-deck sit-stand solution may not be feasible. If you are willing to make a bit more of an investment, the UPLIFT desk products offer users the ability to fully customize a workstation surface that elevates as a single unit allowing the user to move from sitting to standing without losing access to their entire desktop. The commercial model includes a stabilization crossbar that helps to keep larger UPLIFT desk styles rock solid regardless of the configuration. As a multiple monitor user, the UPLIFT desk keeps everything ergonomically optimized for me in any position with the push of a button.

If you do go with a standing workstation setup, I highly recommend investing in a balance board. A natural addition to a standing desk, I really like the Fluidstance boards which can be customized to provide more or less challenge depending on your comfort. Keeping the blood flowing, working your core and legs while you work, and helping you to develop your balance makes me feel like I’m being super productive while churning out TPS reports. I am able to increase the difficulty by simply increasing the distance between my legs on the balance board’s oblong surface.

Getting into the groove.

I’ve been a longtime fan of Sonos. They offer a number of fantastic speakers that have really amplified my work and personal life. I like the One SL for my workstation because it doesn’t take up a lot of real estate yet provides fantastic audio quality. Paired up with my Spotify subscription and the Focus Flow playlist and I’m off to the races!

Keeping the juices flowing.

Courant’s Catch1, Catch2, and Catch3 provide sleek design and functionality while keeping your various electronics charged throughout the workday without having to hassle with plugs and wires. Personally, I find the Catch2 really handy at my workstation as it has a small profile. It has five charging coils across its length, so I am able to charge all of my gadgets and devices at the same time.

The Catch3 takes up a bit too much desk space for my liking but it makes a fantastic option for my nightstand table where I’m able to charge while also keeping track of my wallet, glasses, and other personal effects. The Italian leather on these products really adds an element of class to my desk and the technology in each of them charges any device that’s compatible with Qi wireless charging, helping to ensure that I am able to reduce the total number of charging cables choking up my workspace.

If you’re looking for a wireless charging option to charge a bunch of products simultaneously, you may want to check out the ChargeTree by STM Goods. Capable of charging three devices at once, the ChargeTree also keeps your phone canted upright so it’s easy to read those incoming texts, etc. while you charge. If you’re tight on available desk space, the standing cant of the ChargeTree also has a minimal profile.

Setting the mood.

Face it, you’re going to be working from home for a while yet. Nobody wants to see a blank wall behind you and the fake backgrounds available on most video conference platforms have run their course. It’s time to start settling in for the long haul and creating a workspace that makes you comfortable while also creating a professional space in your home from which to engage in video calls. As more and more companies begin to come to the realization that working from home does not mean that productivity will tank, many employees may find themselves having to (or having the option to) work remotely post-COVID. Settle in.

Finding ways to shape your environment to best support your work from home during these times will not only benefit you now but will likely continue to benefit you as more people will find themselves working from home than ever before. Finding ways to make your workspace your own, maximizing your comfort, and focusing on keeping yourself productive are key. It will be interesting to see how creative companies continue to develop products and services that help us through this cultural transformation in the years to come.

With all of the time I am spending on video calls these days (and likely into the future), I decided to make the extra effort to create a bit of a higher quality and professional vibe by adding some supplemental lighting to my office setup. There are a ton of techniques and products in the lighting space and you can really get buried in it all.

I am not a lighting technician nor am I a professional YouTuber, so I don’t need a movie studio set up in my office. I find the Lume Cube Video Conference Lighting Kit really meets my needs. The Panel Mini is just slightly larger than a credit card and can easily mount to your laptop, monitor, or the wall (like I have it set up). It’s LED lights can be adjusted in brightness and warmth and an additional, rubber lighting diffuser helps to soften the light allowing you to have a lot of control in creating just the right lighting for your needs at a cost that won’t break the bank.

What’s right for you?

This pandemic has really ignited a passion in me to find the “perfect” home office setup. I have been really energized by the in-depth research that I’ve conducted over the last months as I work to find the best-fit solutions for me and my work. I fully realize that what works from me may not suit your work or style.

The more I dug into my research, the more rabbit holes I found myself diving into (you can spend hours just researching a good office chair!). It can get pretty overwhelming quite quickly. With all of this research under my belt, I felt that I should share my findings with others in the hopes of aiding them as they work to find the home office setup that is just right.

COVID-19 has forced many of us to adapt to working from home. Even when this pandemic is behind us, in all likelihood, many people reading this article will either continue to work from home to some extent or may find themselves working from home to be a permanent situation. Whatever your personal situation, finding the right setup to keep yourself focused, productive, and comfortable is key.

This article originally appeared on

Related Reading: Learning To Work In New Ways Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic


Recognizing A Toxic Work Culture Before You Get In Too Deep

Toxic Work Culture

Maybe I’m the one wearing rose-colored glasses, but I refuse to believe that most leaders wake up every morning intentionally trying to create a toxic work culture. Why is it then that there seems to be a constant flow of breaking news stories of employees sharing claims of workplace toxicity stretching from The Ellen Degeneres Show, to the Washington Metro, to a slew of tech companies like Weta Digital? Even the Hawaii Department of Health recently became the target of allegations from a whistleblower about the effects that a toxic work culture had on epidemiologists’ efforts in contact tracing in response to COVID-19.

With tensions running high these last months as organizations grapple with massive disruptions stemming from the pandemic, one might assume that tensions are high due to losses in revenue and profits, elevated levels of professional and personal uncertainty, layoffs, and furloughs it is not surprising that many leaders may be reverting to their most instinctive flight or flight mentalities. We’ve seen similar things happen in years past as organizations met with disruptions that shook them to their core. We’ve observed leaders in these situations become overwhelmed to the point where they make knee-jerk decisions in an attempt to navigate the storm.

How do you know if a culture may be toxic?

Bullying, abuse, threats, incomprehensible hours and demands, overt sexism, and racism are all pretty in-your-face signs that there might be an issue but there are quite a few more subtle signs that you should be attuned to should you find yourself in a potentially toxic environment. Think of these as your canary in a coal mine- signs that something may be amiss.

  • Constant gossiping. When things become nebulous and stressed and when leaders being to behave markedly different than usual or begin to cut off open lines of communication, people tend to start to fill in the gaps with their best guesses. Unfortunately, those guesses then not to be entirely (or even remotely) accurate. Gossiping serves a function in groups, but it can also derail your efforts and be a sign that something may be off.
  • Significant turnover or sick callouts. Toxic environments can really deplete people’s willingness to extend themselves for their employer. Increases in voluntary turnover or absences from work may be an indicator.
  • Resistance to taking chances/fear of failure. In a world that relies on an ever-increasing pace of innovation, companies find themselves becoming more and more tethered to rapid iteration, failing fast, and learning quickly. These types of behaviors are only achievable in organizations that are willing to make mistakes. In toxic cultures, where people are blamed and punished for making mistakes, people will do exactly what you would expect- they shut down and toe the company line to not make any waves or to attract any negative attention from leadership.
  • A lack of communication. Toxic environments put people on edge. To protect themselves and their power, many may begin to hoard information from others.
  • Fear of leaders. Fearing one’s leader may manifest in a variety of ways but it all clearly points to toxicity. As the saying goes, “fish stink from the head”. Dr. Julian Lagoy, MD, a psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry, elaborates- “In a toxic work culture… [t]here is a real lack of leadership. [B]osses are usually toxic themselves and this trickles down and affects the entire work environment and culture. This results in declining productivity and decreased overall wellbeing and happiness of everyone in the office.”
  • An over-reliance on rules, hierarchies, and policies. When panicking from a perceived loss of control and an inability to influence people in more positive ways, leaders can begin to exert power through their authority via rules and policies. While it might work for a short while, it stinks of ineffectiveness and desperation.
  • Cutting mid-level managers off at the knees. Stemming from the previous point, leaders in toxic environments may tend to consolidate power by limiting middle managers’ authority. The assumption being, “I alone can fix this.”
  • A lack of ‘energy’. If you ever worked in, or visited, a toxic work environment you’ll agree- the energy just gets sucked right out of you when you walk the halls. It’s palpable and there’s no disguising it.
  • A hesitance, or outright refusal, to take stock and engage employees in open dialogue. It’s no secret when things are toxic. Leaders, whether they want to admit it or not, realize in their heart-of-hearts that things are not going the way they should be. During these times, leaders may tend to steer away from wanting to get input from employees about the state of things because they are afraid to face the truth.
  • The punishment to praise ratio is out of whack; a focus on consequences versus opportunities. Toxic cultures have to survive on something and it’s not the tears of puppies. Toxic cultures thrive when blame is placed on “others”; accountability is shirked, and praise is hard to be found or reserved only for those few that are in favor at the moment.
  • An increase in micromanagement behavior from leaders. When leaders fall into assuming that only they have the intelligence and skill to drive success, they naturally begin to engage in micromanagement.
  • A noticeable lack of pushback. Toxic cultures do not tolerate dissent. As employees begin to realize the situation they are in, they learn not to speak up. As they continue to disengage, things only continue to get worse.
  • A lack of a clear purpose and vision for the future. Toxic environments tend to be in sink or swim situations. These situations create confusion for people as behaviors tend to run the spectrum. This is exponentially worse when organizations lack a clear purpose and direction to aim in when times get tough.
  • Your main reason for wanting to work there is the paycheck or the ‘prestige’ of working for such a well-known brand. Some people will put up with quite a bit of toxicity simply to be associated with a brand. I never really understood this but it’s not uncommon. If you’re showing up to work simply for a paycheck you have to ask yourself why.
  • Rivalries, in-groups, and out-groups develop. Since toxic cultures are situations where effective organizational dynamics are extremely skewed, people tend to rely on playing politics. These politics lead to in-groups and out-groups which make it easy to find scapegoats and assign blame to those who are not in favor.
  • Leaders define the culture by the perks and freebies people get. This is a reg flag that even prospective employees can assess. Asking specific questions about the culture of the organization and how work gets done can be enlightening, especially if you can talk to several people. If they are misaligned and they tend to talk about the free snacks alone, you may want to take note.
  • People begin taking credit for the work of others. Desperate times call for desperate measures. When it’s dog-eat-dog, some people will do whatever it takes to stay in favor. Taking credit for others’ work and success while finding creative ways to pass blame is classic.
  • Discretionary energy is not put toward furthering the purpose of the organization; bare minimum. In toxic environments where employees are disengaging with the organization out of self-preservation, you will be hard-pressed to find many instances of people expending their discretionary energy in ways that help the organization. Instead of going above and beyond to help a customer, for instance, they will sit in the back room tapping away on their cell phone.
  • Teams and individuals begin to self-isolate. To the point above, toxic cultures create a system where people intentionally isolate themselves to protect themselves. In some cases, highly effective leaders will work to isolate their teams to protect them. In these instances, it is not uncommon to find small sanctuaries within larger, toxic environments. Unfortunately, these leaders wind up bearing an enormous load, shouldering the dysfunction on behalf of those they lead.

Unfortunately, toxic work cultures are not as uncommon as we’d like to admit. The speed of business, relentless competition, rapid technological innovation, and other complexities continue to strain the capabilities of leaders and teams to continue to adapt and reinvent themselves to stay viable. Many leaders find themselves getting in over their heads and their attitudes and behaviors begin to permeate dysfunction throughout the organizations they lead.

Nobody says being an effective leader is easy. Creating an environment in the workplace that promotes value-add behavior and attitudes has a significant long-term impact on an organization’s ability to thrive amidst the myriad of challenges that are encountered. In my opinion, leaders exist to align work effort and to accomplish the mission of the organization they lead. This cannot be accomplished sustainably if these leaders allow toxicity to permeate their teams and organization.

This article originally appeared on

Related reading: Toxic Cultures: Where Does The Buck Stop? 

Pivoting For Pandemic Success

Times are tough for a lot of people, entrepreneurs included. COVID-19 and the safety requirements associated with minimizing its spread have wreaked continuing havoc on businesses of all shapes and sizes. Despite government stimulus programs, well over 11 million Americans remain unemployed.

While a great many American businesses have struggled during these times and while some have been forced to close their doors for good, others have successfully navigated these chaotic times, pivoting their product and service offerings to adapt and thrive. While many businesses, especially early on in the year, took a defensive posture to preserve their resources, some took a dramatically different approach, finding ways to quickly adapt to meet the challenges of the pandemic head-on.

These are the stories that inspire me. The ones that energize me and steel my resolve that American ingenuity is alive and well. These are the stories that I feel compelled to share with others.

Less than a year ago, former United States Marine Chris Rawlings, was growing a small business in Virginia helping his customers evaluate and optimize their lighting and HVAC systems to save money and to create less of an environmental burden. His company, Veteran LED, was expanding into more commercial clients and even began supporting clients in the government sector. They were doing good work and enjoying the success of a rapidly growing business. Enter COVID.

To Freeze or to Act?

“During the first few weeks [of the pandemic] we moved into ‘double time’ to be the best of things while working remotely,” Rawlings shares. While many of Veteran LED’s clients and competitors “froze” in the face of the pandemic, Rawlings and his team focused on taking action. Quickly, Rawlings came to the realization that simply out-working his competition might not be the solution he would need to thrive in this new environment and he and his team dove deep into a new approach- understanding the research behind germicidal UVC lighting and HVAC systems. What they found inspired an opportunity to pivot their business to meet the new needs of their clients.

Betting on the science, the Veteran LED team quickly dove into the latest germicidal research and technology and tested ways to integrate it into their existing practices. This enhanced product and service offering received overwhelmingly positive feedback from clients as they were struggling to find ways to keep their employees and customers safe as they worked to reopen their doors.

Germicidal Lighting
Veteran LED Germicidal Lighting in Silver Diner

The first organization to partner with the team at Veteran LED was Silver Diner, a regional 20-restaurant chain located in and around Washington, DC and New Jersey. It became the first restaurant group in the country to implement germicidal cleaning throughout all its restaurants. Silver Diner’s Co-founder and Executive Chef, Ype Von Hengst, felt that the business, “ha[s] some hard choices to make.” Being in the foodservice industry, Hengst and his colleagues have had to adapt and take risks to stay current and competitive. “ As a business that has seen the advantages of adapting to meet changing customer needs, Silver Diner has led in the integration of heart-healthy items, farm-to-table, and the elimination of trans-fats over the years. This ability to assess the operating environment and to adapt their business to changes in the market gave Silver Diner the ability to survive and thrive over the decades and it’s the same approach that Veteran LED has taken during the current pandemic. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the two companies felt comfortable moving forward with their current effort to make all of Silver Diners’ employees and customers as safe as possible through their germicidal efforts, which include germicidal UVC lighting, HEPA filtration, microbial laminated menus, plexiglass shields, and personal protective equipment.

Considering a business pivot yourself?

There are likely quite a few of you out there who have found yourself in a similar situation these past months, finding yourselves impacted by the pandemic in ways you may not have seen coming. If you are looking to figure out ways to pivot your businesses to survive and thrive in this new reality, here are some things to consider:

1.     Resilience is powerful but only if you’re moving in the right direction. The ability for an individual or organization to gut through the difficult times is commendable to the core. A bit of ‘intestinal fortitude’ is what can really separate the good from the great but doubling down on a strategy that is doomed from the start will just leave you exhausted.

2.     Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. To the point above, working your heart out to find yourself careening down the path you’re comfortable with won’t guarantee success when the operating environment shifts on you. Being brave enough to take a deep look in the mirror and to admit that there may be greener pastures on the other side of the tracks may be the difference between long-term success and failure.

3.     Be prepared to capitalize on a chaotic environment but do it for the right reasons. As Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” For those entrepreneurs who can read the tea leaves, committed enough to push through the difficulty, and humble and creative enough to see the opportunity that lays before them, crises can become rare opportunities to pivot into new situations that bear fruit for years.

It feels like it should go without saying but the decision to pivot may make sense for your business but does it add value to your customers? Making sure that you are making decisions both in the best interest of your business, your people, and your customers is not to be underestimated. Making decisions that will only help you aren’t going to set your pivot up for long-term success.

4.     Don’t make the decision to pivot lightly. When considering a fundamental business pivot, there’s a reason why that voice deep in your head tells you you’re crazy. Pivoting forces you to face a lot of things all at the same time- The prospect of doing something new that you’ve never done before. The judgment that what you’ve been doing to this point was wrong. Consider making sure that you know what you’re getting into, and why, when contemplating such a big move.

5.     Do something. Whatever your final decision is. Pivot. Hold what you’ve got. Do something. Don’t let the situation paralyze you. This may have a bit of a pang right now if you learned this lesson the hard way over the last few months. Rawling’s advice, “Listen and reach out to those who have more experience and then put in the work.” You may be tempted to get lost in the land of analysis paralysis when considering a pivot. Do your homework, analyze the variables, and act.

6.     Don’t fake the funk. You owe your existing and potential customers the truth about what you’re doing. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘fake it till you make it’ philosophy. When Rawlings began initial discussions with the leadership team at Silver Diner, he told them directly, “Over six years,  I have garnered extensive knowledge in lighting and building systems. I’ve spent the last two months researching the science behind germicidal lighting, air purification, and everything I’m selling to you today. You can refer to my 7-page white paper and 20-minute webinar that dives into the details of it all, but I just want to be clear, I’ve never done this before. I will make every possible effort to make sure this project goes smoothly and we both reach our desired outcome of creating a safer indoor dining experience for your customers, and workplace for your employees.”

Rawlings and the team at Veteran LED were stepping into a completely new situation and service offering and they respected their customers enough to be honest about it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted individuals and businesses quite differently over the past six months. Unfortunately, for many, this meant unemployment or shuttering the doors of businesses forever. Others have bared down and figured out a way to survive. Still, fewer have been able to see the opportunity to serve new markets and have been brave enough to make the tough decisions required to adapt to thrive. In partnership with a customer who is brave enough to be first adopters to lead their industries to do what’s best for their customers, employees, and businesses they are forging new paths to help others learn to thrive in today’s new operating realities.

This article originally appeared on

Going Slow To Go Fast

Going Fast to Go Slow

In a recent discussion with one of my colleagues, she compared the work she is doing with teams to rebooting her computer. Every once in a while, we realize that we have opened so many files, folders, web pages, and software programs in the course of our work and life that things just aren’t operating as smoothly and quickly as we might expect. To get things back in working order, we need to carve out some time to reboot- to close everything out and to start over. To go slow in order to go fast again.


When this happens, and it happens to all of us, you have a couple of options. First, you can ignore it and muddle through, hoping to avoid the dreaded “blue screen of death”. You can shut the computer down and walk away. Or, you can take a pause, reboot, and clear the decks of all of those things that are no longer serving you well.

Rebooting your team.

This counter-intuitive notion resonated with me quite deeply. As a business owner and the leader of multiple teams navigating through the disruptions of the last few months, I have the relentless voice in my head telling me to be decisive. To move, to execute, to push through. But what if this self-imposed reaction to all of the “chatter” in my life wasn’t something to try to simply push through but, rather, they were signals that it was time to reboot?

What if the fastest and most effective way to get to speed was to slow things down? What if we pressed pause as a team, assessed the current operating context, and worked together to realign in order to enable us to work faster in the long run?

What does a reboot take?

Realigning or rebooting a team takes time and effort and requires bringing people together to engage in sense-making and dialogue. This may mean a series of shorter, video-based, meetings over the course of several weeks, or months, that help your team reset for success in this next chapter.

When preparing to reboot your team there are few critical areas that you should consider in order to ensure that you can move forward with clarity and alignment.


In any change, it is important for teams to reassess their purpose to ensure that it is still relevant to their internal as well as the external circumstances. Gather your team and ‘meet the moment.’ Capture where you are and recalibrate your collective purpose as a team in response to the changes.


The shift of how work gets done between people on a team, such as a shift to remote work and virtual teaming, can trigger some uncertainty around whether or not people are getting the work done and holding themselves mutually accountable to results. Acknowledge these issues and engage the team in agreeing on ways to demonstrate transparency and accountability.


In order to fulfill a team’s purpose, members need to have the right knowledge and skills to do so. Ask your team to reflect on their collective skills and knowledge, and to be creative with how they are leveraged. This is a great way to acknowledge and celebrate the many gifts the individuals on your team can bring to the table.

James Sasser, CEO and President of federal government contractor GovStrive describes some of the unique bridging and relationship-building challenges that his clients working through which are especially challenging during the current COVID pandemic- “We are working with large federal agencies that are faced with the need to onboard new hires remotely, and these employees not only need job-specific training, but also want to establish personal relationships with their supervisors and peers and desire to learn more about the agency mission, culture, and values, so they can be productive on day one.”


Team collaboration can feel very different in person than it would online. Without properly revisiting what virtual collaboration might look like for a team, members can feel more siloed, and efficiency can drop. Have your team look into various collaboration tools and techniques and bring their recommendations to your next meeting.

“Our clients have been forced to accelerate adoption of virtual technologies. Many of our clients have been pleasantly surprised by how well employees have embraced virtual collaboration through video platforms,” says Clyde Thompson, Senior Vice President at GovStrive. “We’ve worked with our clients to develop remote webinars and engagement platforms for new hires and have deployed personal messaging campaigns that develop and enhance the employee-supervisor relationship well before the new hire’s first day, so they feel like they’re part of the team at the onset of their new job,” adds GovStrive’s Director of Marketing and Change Management, Joe Abusamra.


Even in real time, managing conflict can be a daunting task that people might feel is better avoided. In virtual work, the ability to identify let alone address conflict becomes even more difficult. Borrowing from the research on delivering feedback, conflict is best managed when it is timely. And although uncomfortable, conflict doesn’t have to be feared or negative.


There will always be obstacles that stand in the way of any successful change, whether there are planned or unplanned disruptions. Invite your team to reflect on what they have learned through their experience of this disruption/pandemic, and to share any potential roadblocks they envision encountering as the team continues to work together. Then have the team collaborate to design a plan to overcome them.

Michelle Boullion PhD, Director of Executive Education at Louisiana State University’s Ourso College of Business, suggests that leaders must, “Always be thinking like a futurist.” As many business leaders continue to struggle to effectively adapt to working remotely Dr. Boullion advises that leaders can pave a clear path forward by, “Getting out of the mindset that employees can’t be trained to work remotely.” Though it may be difficult to make this change in such a dramatic and all-encompassing way as a result of COVID, there are lessons that leaders can take from this experience. What is the next challenge your organization may face as things evolve around us? How can you prepare your teams to be ready to adapt quickly to whatever the future holds?

Reboot coaching.

These tips make sense, but they can be a bit overwhelming to think about as you navigate the day-to-day requirements of your work environment. In order to organize and expedite the realignment process, it may be helpful to obtain the guidance of someone who can help organize the effort. Not only does this allow for you to manage all of the balls that are in the air at one time but it affords you with the opportunity to be an active participant in the process with your team as opposed to having to balance the roles of participant and facilitator. Your coach can be a respected peer or colleague, an HR business partner, or an external resource. Whatever path you choose, it is essential that you identify a coach who has the facilitation skills necessary to productively navigate some potentially challenging and emotionally charged discussions.

Regardless of what sector or industry you may be in, the events of the last few months have undoubtedly created some dynamic disruption to the way you get things done. Before diving headlong into the breach and relying on what worked in the past to get you through the current situation, it may be an opportune time to consider slowing things down, reevaluating the current operating environment, and realigning your team to move forward with clarity and purpose.

This article originally appeared on

Podcast: A Citizen-Centered Approach to Police Reform

In this episode, Chris Cancialosi talks with customer experience expert and CEO of TribeCX, David Hicks, and law enforcement officer and mindset and wellness expert, Joe Smarro about taking a citizen-centric approach to police reform.

Released: June 24, 2020

Show notes and transcript:

A Citizen-Centered Approach to Police Reform – gothamCulture Podcast Transcript

Chris Cancialosi:

Welcome to the Gotham Culture podcast, where we talk about any issue you like, so long as those topics are organization of culture, leadership, or people strategy. Each week, we talk with industry leaders and discuss cultural opportunities and challenges in the workplace, providing you with actionable tips and strategies that you can implement in your organizations. My name is Chris Cancialosi, and this is the Gotham Culture podcast.

Nationwide, calls for police reform have reached a fever pitch. Systematic racism, the excessive use of force and power by select law enforcement officers over the decades, the militarization of police have created a culture within law enforcement that really is misaligned with the diverse needs of the citizens that they’ve sworn to serve and protect. According to, more than 1,000 people a year are killed by police in the United States. In 2019 alone, 1,098 people were killed, 24% of them being African American, despite African Americans only making up 13% of the United States population. That’s nearly 1,100 people killed by police in the US, compared to other nations like Germany, the UK and Australia, for example, that have police-related killings in the single digits annually. So, something is obviously going on here, and it needs to be examined.

As law enforcement agencies begin to rethink the way they approach their work in order to ensure law enforcement is able to serve and protect in equitable ways, they’re going to be forced to examine the culture of policing in this country to its very core. How did law enforcement’s identity in our society form and evolve over time? What beliefs and assumptions do law enforcement officers and the agencies they serve believe to be true? And how do those beliefs and assumptions stack up against the current realities and the needs of their communities?

This is going to be a difficult process for many to engage in, as it fundamentally asks people to question their own personal and professional identities. One of today’s guests, Joe Smarro, discussed during one of his own recent livestream discussions with several police officers of color. He said, “The system is not broken. In fact, it never worked to begin with.” And his point was that the system was created by white men as a system of aggression. This is a pretty deep thought that challenges us all to take a hard look at the systems that we’ve created or perpetuated only because they make us feel comfortable. We’ll have a link to that discussion in the show notes, and I encourage you to take some time to check it out.

And it’s not just law enforcement organizations that are asking themselves these questions. I recently read an article by Dustin Riker in Northwest Sidebar about the need for law firms to do the same. It’s heartening to see organizations across the spectrum taking time to stop, to learn, to reflect, and to commit to changing for the collective good. We’ll also include a link to that article in the show notes, as well.

My guests today join me in a discussion about how law enforcement agencies might take a very different approach to evolving their cultures by building their reform in a citizen-centric way. Joining me today are two respected colleagues, David Hicks and Joe Smarro. David Hicks is CEO of TribeCX, a customer experience advisory firm that works with organizations globally. Amongst his expansive clientele, David has partnered with police agencies to redesign the way in which they approach their work in order to have more positive impact on the experience of their constituents, those being the citizens that they are sworn to serve and protect.

Joe Smarro is a police officer, and CEO of the wellness firm, SolutionPoint+. He’s also one of the police officers who was featured in the HBO documentary, Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops, which tells the story of the way in which San Antonio Police Department evolved its approach to responding to mental health-related calls, and the impact on those individuals and the community as a whole. I highly encourage you to check out this movie if you have not seen it. It really illustrates different ways of approaching police work. We’ll also include that link in the show notes for you, as well.

I’m thrilled to have David and Joe with me today to share their experiences and perspectives on this important topic. Gentlemen, welcome.

Joe Smarro:

Thanks, Chris. I appreciate you having us.

David Hicks:

It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for the invite.

Chris Cancialosi:

To start off, I’d like to start with you, Joe. As somebody who’s worked in law enforcement for many years, and you’ve worked also with other law enforcement agencies as a trainer around some of the lessons and best practices that you and your colleagues at San Antonio PD have developed in the mental health unit, this was really a seismic shift in the way that law enforcement officers interacted with the portion of the community that was suffering from mental illness, and it had a lot of really positive effects. Tell us a little bit about it, Joe.

Joe Smarro:

Yeah, thanks, Chris. Our mental health unit started in 2008, but what people really don’t realize is that what we refer to as CIT, crisis intervention training, it started in 1987. There was an incident in Memphis, Tennessee, where a black individual was killed by police, and there was outrage in the community, and as a result of that, they came together, they partnered with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the University of Tennessee in Memphis, and they created what is now known as the 40-hour CIT model, and it’s called the Memphis model. So, this has been around for a long time.

In San Antonio, they started this practice in 2002, they started the 40-hour training. Our full-time mental health unit started in 2008 as a pilot project, just to see, is there a need? Can we justify allocating manpower to this type of unit? And it was just two officers, and over six months, they collected so much data that it was like, okay, we have to actually make this a unit. That’s when I came on. It was in 2009.

So, I’ve been serving on the mental health unit full-time for about 11 years, and it absolutely goes against what most would expect when you think of a policing or law enforcement unit, because we wear plain clothes, we drive unmarked vehicles, our weapons are concealed, and we show up, and everything about our approach is different, right? For starters, we introduce ourselves by our names, not Officer Smarro. It’s just, “Hey, my name is Joe, and this is my partner. We’re here to help you out. We’re here to check on you.”

But because we are so saturated in this environment, because every call, 100% of the calls we respond to are people suffering from mental health crises, we know what we’re going into. Patrol officers, it’s such a wide variety of calls that they’re going to get, so it’s very, very difficult for them to have to put in the right mindset, if you will, for every call. And some are really, really intense. Some are low drag. And so, they have to be able to fluctuate. We know, every call we go into … Now, granted, they’re all different on some level, but we know, hey, we’re dealing with someone who here is a consumer, and they’re having a mental health crisis, and so it’s much easier for from that stance.

Chris Cancialosi:

Got it. And what’s the, in terms of the approach, because this is really the way in which you and your team interact with your customers, your citizens, those suffering from mental health crises, and you talked about plain clothes. Talk about the process, interns of how it differs, just in terms of the engagement, interaction dynamic.

Joe Smarro:

Yeah, so, for a long time now, I’ve been saying that one of the big differences between us, and again, nothing is one, right? So, I’m not saying 100% of anything, but a majority of patrol officers, their priority oftentimes is time, and when there’s calls holding in the queue, they’re trying to wrap up what they’re doing and get to the next one. For us, we truly, as cliché as it is, the most important call that we’re on is the one that we’re on, and we’ll take as long as it needs until we find a resolution that we’re all happy with.

But beyond that, we focus on the person, not the problem. Just understanding human behavior, understanding psychology, understanding what people are doing when they’re in a crisis. Even if they have a serious mental illness, they’re still human beings, and they’re essentially communicating something. And most often, it’s like, there’s something wrong, there’s something off. I need something, whether it’s attention, whether it’s love, whether it’s housing, whether it’s food, whether it’s medications, I need something.

And so, if we only focus on the behaviors of the individual, if we’re only looking at the surface … And that’s what I teach these officers. I say, your eyes deceive you. Don’t ever react based on what you’re seeing. Pause, take a step back, and think. What is actually happening underneath this? Why is this behavior being presented? And it’s in that curiosity I feel like where, that’s what we teach, is learn to be curious. Yes, this person is over here acting very, very symptomatic to their mental illness because they’re off their medications.

Where some officers, if they’re not educated or comfortable, they’re going to overreact oftentimes, or this is where we quickly see people resorting to a use of force, is because cops are very comfortable handling things through using the use of force continuum, right? We have this old way of policing called ATM, and it was ask, tell, make. I’m going to ask you do something, I’m going to tell you to do it, and then I’m going to make you do it. And it’s very quick. You get two chances, a third one, I’m going to force it on you.

We have to learn to slow down. Patience is one of our best friends. It’s one of the best tools that we rely on. And so, earning how to take a step back and just observe. As long as someone is not being physically hurt or injured, we can pause. We can take a step back and pause, and just observe what’s happening, and then ask ourself, I wonder what actually is going on here? This is a person in crisis.

And then I tell them, hey, learn to have some empathy. Imagine that that was you. Imagine that at 25 or 30 or whatever, that you were dealt this deck of cards, and it was like, you know what? You’re going to have schizoaffective disorder. You’re going to have major depression, or bipolar. How would you deal with that? And so, how would you want to be treated?

We talk about this all the time, but people get so lost or confused, and again, especially with officers, because if you think about everything going on right now, there’s this huge debate about police should not be responding to people in a mental health crisis. And I can understand, from a cerebral point of view, I can get that, because I do believe that if you are a person with a mental illness, you shouldn’t have to interact with the police just because you’re symptomatic.

But what’s the alternative? There isn’t adequate social services. There’s not adequate resources in the community, and because people aren’t trained in mental health, because it’s not a mandatory course, oftentimes people overreact when they see someone who’s simply symptomatic, and they end up calling the police. And then the police show up, and if we’re not trained to deal with it, it’s like, of course this is going to go wrong. Of course this is going to be handled pretty poorly, because I don’t know what it is I’m dealing with. But here’s what I do know how to do: force my presence on people, be overly authoritative, and then put handcuffs on people and figure out what to do with them after the fact. And so, sadly we get there very quickly, sometimes.

Chris Cancialosi:

Yeah. Thank you for that background and that context, Joe. It’s really enlightening. I’ve got a million questions.

Now, David, you’ve got a very different background, as the CEO of TribeCX, working in the CX field, the customer experience field. But you have worked with various law enforcement organizations over the years. Talk to us a little bit about your background, and how your work has evolved within law enforcement agencies.

David Hicks:

Glad to, and I want to pick up from what Joe said, and so, what’s the alternative? If somebody’s got mental health issues, what else could you do? Well, let me take you back a few years. When I started to get involved with this, Tony Blair was responsible for the British government, and they had this interesting mechanism for directing police funding based on some key outcome dials, and how well local constabularies … the UK is split up into not quite state-based institution, and 20 or 30 separate constabularies based on geography.

And the one in Cheshire, where there’s Manchester, so it’s a large number of rural areas, was doing particularly badly in the measures related to stalking and harassment. And a guy from the sort of central police body, the National Police Improvement Authority, saw me speak at a conference, and my area of interest is in helping organizations make change, so as they’re better aligned to their customer and to their stakeholders. Those are large telcos, government institutions, yes, but principally commercial organizations.

But the tools that you use in commercial seemed to be of interest to this guy from the National Police Improvement Authority, that said, we’re putting more and more and more cash into Cheshire to improve their stalking and harassment. The more we do, the more we spend money on that, the worse the actual scores get, the worse the outcome measures are. Can you take a look, and maybe use some of the tools that I’ve been describing at this conference around mapping the end-to-end experience from a customer’s or victim’s point of view?

And I’m happy to dive into that with more detail, Chris, but the reason that Joe’s point stuck in my head was, do you know, there really was a better way of doing it. There’s a whole bunch of folks in the voluntary sector, in the other state institutions like the health professionals. When you stitch together that end-to-end experience with the victim in mind, then you find that the areas where the police service need to be evolved are a lot fewer than they were. They were basically the first call that was made.

And what Cheshire piloted was a different approach, a differently-designed approach, one that had the victim at the center of the whole thing. Good news for police service: they reduced their costs in this area by 70%, seven-zero percent. Massive reduction in cost, and the improvement in the outcome was off the scale, three or four times better in the eyes of the victim.

So, I hope to go into more detail there, but the alternative is, Joe, maybe organizations responsible for the police service and sort of state institutions should do some thoughtful, what’s the best way, from a victim’s point of view, from a person suffering those mental health crises, what’s the best way of actually designing that intervention? Because rarely, when you do it with the customer or the victim at the center, does it cost you more. It ends up costing you less, directly and indirectly, all the downstream issues that those things cause. So, that’s what stuck in my mind from Joe’s point. Police shouldn’t be the first port of call, because there are probably better ways of doing it, if you were to design that.

Chris Cancialosi:

Yeah. And from my perspective, as somebody who works in the area of organizational culture, I get why there is the call for reform and change. I also understand why there would be pushback against, that as people who have committed their careers to the beliefs and assumptions that have been there for many decades. There’s a certain way of doing things, and sometimes you start to develop your own professional identity around that, and it’s hard to kind of zoom out and see, and really take a look at what is working, what’s not working, and why.

Joe, from your perspective, I know there seems to be lately, especially in the last few weeks, there are all sorts of announcements coming out from left, right and center in the law enforcement community of police departments making massive changes. It seems from the outside to be reactionary or quick, and that may or may not be the reality of what’s really going on in those organizations. But for example, the NYPD commissioner last week announced the immediate reassignment of 600 plain clothes officers to other assignments, immediately. I’m curious from your perspective, Joe, what are some of the pros and cons of taking on some of those actions so rapidly?

Joe Smarro:

Yeah, I think, I agree with you Chris. I do believe, this is my opinion, that there are a lot of decisions being made based on emotion, based on the desire to please a part of your base, whatever that is, and there’s also a lot of political pressure, and there’s community pressure, and people are getting squeezed from every side. And so, I think that from leadership, they’re doing whatever they can to survive right now, because in essence this, as a profession, it feels so much like we’re drowning. We’re flailing right now, trying to grasp at anything that we can hold on to.

I worry about, as someone who’s been doing mental health for the last 11 years, we know the significant trauma that comes with doing this job as a first responder in this country, and we know the toll that it’s taken on the officers’ mental health. In the last year, we had 228 completed suicides, and I fear that we’re going to have a catastrophic, hockey stick-type of an increase, off the charts, of officers struggling. Whether they’re quitting out of emotion, and then they’re just negatively impacting their lives and their livelihood, or they’re trying to stay the course and fight the fight, to no avail if they’re not emotionally resilient or if they haven’t been taught self-care courses, or whatever it is, and they don’t have supportive policies in place from their department, and there’s nowhere to turn to.

I can tell you, as a first responder, our agency hasn’t done anything drastic yet. It’s like status quo. Everything is just happening. And what’s even more compounding to this is, it’s right on the heels of COVID, right? So, we were already dealing with this pandemic and the quarantines and all this stuff, but now, since the killing of George Floyd, it’s like this is a whole different thing that we’re dealing with. And so, when you talk about automatically saying we’re going to move 600 people, those 600 people are like, whoa! How come … it feels like a punishment. I had my job, I had my duties, my responsibilities, and now suddenly I’m just going to get moved over here just because of something that happened somewhere else.

And one of the frustrations internally, there’s no … I really am not trying to be insensitive about any of this, but we are all aware in this country of what happened in Minneapolis. Many are aware of what has happened over this profession in law enforcement. But when you make changes nationwide based on a singular incident, or even a trend of incidents, which we can then say have happened over the course of time … Again, there’s data for all of this stuff, but you could say, let’s look at the last 25 killings, whatever, and changes are being made just sporadically throughout, or universally across the board. It doesn’t always make sense.

And again, as the end user, as the officer who’s being told, we’re just foot soldiers, right? So it’s like, hey, you’re going to do this now. Yes, sir. I don’t understand it. I don’t know why I’m doing this. It’s not being communicated, but I know that I have to just say yes and do whatever I’m told. And so, all this ebb and flow, the wishy-wash and the go do this now, no, no, we’re going to do this now, it’s clear that there’s just a lot of attempted effort to please the constituents and keep the community at bay and keep them happy, but at what cost, is my fear.

Chris Cancialosi:

Yeah, thanks for that perspective, Joe. And David, for your perspective on this question, I’m curious from you, what are the costs of not including all of the stakeholders in this process, so that we really understand what’s going to be most positively impactful for the citizen, in this case, or the customer?

David Hicks:

Well, I’m not qualified to comment as Joe was from a policing point of view, but I was listening to him and nodding, because it reminded me of the major changes that commercial organizations are facing, of necessity. And these are organizations where people have put their whole life into careers, and there’s a degree of positional power, and the onset of digital, onset of different competition sets and so on, meaning the very fabric of their organization, the very fabric of their lives are being ripped apart. And they have no control over that, and people feel pretty bad about it. What folks will do is what they believe is a good job.

It reminds me, do you know, of a situation. There was a guy, I think his name was Dr. Dao, a Korean dentist who got on a plane to O’Hare, a United plane, to fly south. Last plane of the evening to this particular airport, and three pilots needed to get there for the next day. So, the United Airlines crew said, “Anybody want to get off?” Nobody did. They said, “Well, we need to take the last folks on the plane off,” and the three folks were a family, it was a guy and his two daughters, and they refused to. So, they went and got staff from off the plane, and they dragged this poor guy off. They dragged him out physically. They knocked his teeth out, apparently. Everybody was filming this, and it wiped a massive amount of value off the value of United Airlines.

I was fortunate enough to talk to the folks, the leadership of United Airlines. I said, “What did you end up doing with those folks?” And they said, “Well, we kept them off, because we couldn’t in all honesty do anything about that,” because they were doing what they thought was a good job. The good job is, you’ve got to be able to get pilots in the right part of the world. It’s a very different context, Joe, to your point, but folks will do what they believe is a good job, and in the absence of clear understanding as to what’s important and why, they’ll do what they sincerely believe is the right thing, even though that’s often at the cost of the other stakeholders: the passengers, and in this case, the shareholders. In complete innocence, they’re doing what they believe to be the right thing.

So, it strikes me that there’s some real things to be learned here, because the scale and pace and extent of change that folks face in not just the police service, but in many walks of life, there are some practical things that are proven to work, in terms of giving folks support, being clear around that purpose and intent. All the good stuff I was seeing Joe talk about in his shows, that helps folks to actually understand, to recalibrate, and to make the right sorts of choices when they’re executing their roles, whether it’s a police officer’s role, or any role that’s facing folks.

We’re crazy, frankly, not to be leveraging those sorts of proven approaches, because the casualties are the folks getting the rough end of it, but also, you’ve got to really, obviously, wonder about the police officers. I mean, you were quite earlier on, Joe, about the 220 folks that took their lives because all their career and belief systems are being eroded. They don’t know which way is up because of the changes that they’re facing. That’s what happens. I can give you some corporate examples.

A great example, a tragic example, in the French telco sector, they massively changed the way that telco was working, and people threw themselves out the bloody windows. I mean, can you imagine that? That was happening because their whole set of priorities and beliefs were being challenged by the commercial realities of that company. So, you do this role, and there are casualties at every level, every layer in the organization.

Chris Cancialosi:

Absolutely. Yeah. It kind of goes back to this concept, the word that keeps ringing in my ears as I’m listening to you both, I mean, it’s about learning. We have to be comfortable enough to be uncomfortable and say that maybe, just because we’ve done things for a long time a certain way, maybe that’s not necessarily the best way to do it, but that’s not necessarily an indictment that you are a bad person, but there may be a different and better and more equitable way to do it, and accomplish the results that you want in that career to accomplish to begin with.

We’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, we’re going to talk about what this might look like, really, from both of your expert perspectives. If we were to truly look at law enforcement reform through the lens of the citizen or customer, how might that change things in a way that are sustainable and positive and equitable? So, when we come back, we’ll continue our discussion with Joe Smarro and David Hicks. Be right back.

Chris Cancialosi:

This epsidoe of the Gotham Culture podcast is produced and sponsored by our partners at Blue Sky Podcasting. Communicating with your customers, stakeholders and employees can be challenging at times. The team at Blue Sky Podcasting provides high end production and post-production support for organizations looking to leverage podcasting as a tool to increase transparency and engagement with their customers and employees. If you’re interested in learning how podcasting can provide your organization with a highly engaging communication tool that’s easy to scale, you should check out our partners at Blue Sky Podcasting at

Chris Cancialosi:

Okay, welcome back to the show, everybody. I’m joined today by Joe Smarro, CEO of SolutionPoint+, and Mr. David Hicks, CEO of TribeCX. Let’s continue on with our conversation. David, I’d like to start with you on this one. Really, from your perspective, in order to take a truly citizen-centered approach to re-imagining policing in our country, what will need to happen? And I’m curious because I’d love to learn more about your example you were talking about earlier in Cheshire.

David Hicks:

Right. I think the answer to the first question is, you do this one piece at a time. I’m not sure if throwing everything in the air works in any context, whether it’s commercial or police. But you do this one set of problems at a time. And I mentioned the National Police Improvement Authority doing a pilot in Cheshire around stalking and harassment, and what we did, Chris, was we basically got the various stakeholders involved. There was the local health service, the volunteers, victims, of course, and we basically mapped out everything, from before I’m even a victim and I learn about these sorts of issues, through to I’ve had an incident, I’m reporting it, and I’m an ex-victim. All of the possible stages, and all of the possible sort of points where I touch institutions.

In commercial terms, you call that a customer journey map. We called it a victim journey map. Two great female colleagues actually run this project, and what emerged was a map, for the first time, from the victim’s point of view, of all the possible touch points. And that was invaluable, frankly, not just from the police service point of view, but from the point of view of all of the stakeholders involved there.

And then, you started to ask the victims, “Okay, where were the really touches that were really, really important to you as a victim?” And they had a chance to vote. And then we said, “Where, in your view, were things broken? Where did they actually cause you hurt, cause you discomfort and pain?” And what you’re able to do was to look at those really critical touch points, and the ones that were broken. And the ones that were both critical and broken, they needed to be redesigned first.

So, we did some very basic things around who’s best to deliver that, what is it that’s important, in terms of the needs of the victim at that point, and just redesigned, reallocated the really critical points first, and tried it. We actually tried to change the delivery of that service in Cheshire.

We piloted it and tested it, piloted it and tested it, and over about four or five months, what emerged was a redesigned, re-imagined end-to-end experience that really had, not because anybody was trying to minimize the amount of police involvement, but police weren’t helpful from a victim’s point of view, to be involved very much. What was more important was to have the victim, support groups and other volunteers and professionals involved.

So, when this was running after five months, we baked it into a process that was actually scalable. We did it for the rest of the Cheshire constabulary, and took it back to the national body for police officers in the UK, the Association of Chief Police Officers, it’s called, and that’s where we shared it. We described it. The home office, this is the central governmental body, endorsed it as a proven practice.

So, that was very pleasing, but what was also interesting was, we always, six months after, we can go back and ask how it’s working. And we sat down with some of the victims that had been involved, the two folks who did the delivery. Said, “How do you feel?” “I still feel the victim.” And that wasn’t expected. So, somebody asked the really dumb but incredibly smart question, said, “What would it take to make you not feel the victim anymore?” And the women, it was all women, they said, “I want to stop this happening. I want to get in front of the game. I actually want to stop these guys doing this to other people. So, we need to build something, create something at the front of this whole process that gets people like me out to school, social clubs, and so on, so I can actually educate women not to become victims.”

Now, when we did that, we’re about six months later, boom, that was when something magical was happening. Those folks didn’t feel like victims, plus they’re actually just reducing the whole number of women that got involved, in terms of stalking and harassment, as victims. So, it was … it still chokes me up to even describe this, but it was a fantastically powerful, very cost-effective, from an economics point of view, but the service that was delivered to the victims was significantly better than what was there, and all of the stakeholders felt better about it, more specifically, the really critical ones. The victims, they actually took control, and they felt great, or I guess as best as you can as a victim, that they were actually taking charge, taking control of this, and preventing young women getting involved and becoming victims in their own right. Those tools enabled all of that to happen.

Chris Cancialosi:

Thanks for sharing that, David. What a fascinating story. In terms of just an outsider looking in on that story, it is interesting because you don’t often hear about any organization, law enforcement or otherwise, bringing in all of the stakeholders, including the customer or victim in this case, to have a discussion about what the issues are and what the best solutions would be. And I would imagine that the relationships that were built between those people that were engaging in dialogue, coming to the table, wanting to do the right thing, and able to learn from each other and have honest conversations with each other, was something really, particularly magical.

David Hicks:

Yep. And also, what’s the worst thing that could happen? It helped because the funding, just to be really cynical for a second, there was some significant funding implications to getting this right, so that helped. The net net was it cost less. Some of the discretionary funding available from central government flowed in the direction of those places that were doing a better job. But yeah, at the end of the day, it’s about the leaders of those institutions just being brave, and what’s the worst thing that could happen, just getting some folks together and humbly listening? And giving folks some of the basic tools to listen, not to be defensive, not to react crazy and sort of fishbowls, as we call it, where you just sit down and listen to everybody before you have a chance to respond.

And you can see people growing and developing, and it was cathartic, frankly, for everybody involved. So, what’s the worst that could happen? People would start shouting at each other? What’s the best thing that could happen, is you can actually end up with something that’s better for everybody, and people grow in the process.

Chris Cancialosi:

And David, what was your experience, or I guess, what was the experience of the officers in that process? How easy or difficult was it for them to shed certain identity, take on different aspects of an identity?

David Hicks:

Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question, and is, they were frustrated, Chris, to be truthful. I mean, they were deploying standard operating procedures that were there in the Cheshire constabulary. They were doing the right thing, and the more they did the right thing, the worse the numbers got, which was perverse. So, they were actually, at the end of this process, it was those folks who were involved, the officers who joined me at the Association of Chief Police Officers, to actually describe how it felt being part of that team in Cheshire.

And they were very different. Sorry, I feel emotional talking about it, but you actually had people in tears, saying, “I actually feel I’m making a difference now, rather than being part of the problem.” So, it was truly transformational for those folks. They wanted to do a good job. I mean, that’s the irony of this, that the procedures are getting in the way of folks doing the right thing.

Chris Cancialosi:

Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. Joe, I mean, as a law enforcement officer yourself who has been re-imagining, you’ve been part of the process of re-imagining law enforcement with a mentally ill population of your community. What needed to happen in order for that to be accepted within the culture of the police department? That was a rather, it may not necessarily be a new concept anymore in your organization, but it was for a time. What did it take for people to be open to really reimagine that?

Joe Smarro:

Yeah, it really came down to having an excellent delivery and a really good product. The original, again, the CIT model believes that you should only train about 25% of each agency in the 40-hour crisis intervention. I don’t agree with that philosophy. I believe that if you’re in law enforcement, until there’s a day where you get to pick and choose what calls you respond to, you shouldn’t get to pick and choose how prepared you are to respond. And so, I think everyone needs to have a certain level of training, at least a basic level of training. And so, for me, I think even the 40 hours, while it’s great, I still think it’s quite introductory.

And so, to say that it’s only for voluntary officers that wanted to volunteer to sign up for the training, here’s what we learned when our chief mandated it, and we’re a large department, right? 2,300-plus officers. And the original goal was 10%. I’m going to strategically place officers on certain shifts, at certain substations, and any time there’s a call involving a mentally ill person, we’re going to deploy one of those trained officers. Well, the problem was that as soon as we hit our 10% mark, the calls were still so far beyond our manpower allocation for that call that he finally was like, okay, let’s just do 100%.

Now, as the trainers, we were like, whoa, this is going to be a huge undertaking. But here’s what we learned, and this is why I believe it should be mandated. First, anytime you mandate anything to first responders, law enforcement officers, there’s pushback, right? It’s like, why are you going to make me go do this? If I wanted to do it, I would have done it. Why are you making me do it?

But here’s what we learned, a very, very valuable lesson by mandating this training: the officers that would show up by force to be there, on that first day, Monday morning, they were the most outspoken, like I don’t want to do this, I don’t believe in this type of stuff, this isn’t police work, this is social work, I shouldn’t be doing this, and just mad about it. They let us know. And then, when I started, I had four years on at the time, and so these guys with 20 years on at the time were like, what the hell do you think you’re going to teach me with your four years on? I’ve been doing this for two decades. But I’m like, okay, here’s your seat right over here. Enjoy the class.

And we learned by Friday, because our delivery is good. It’s based on experience, because we’ve really fine-tuned it over the years. The people who were most outspoken on Monday became our biggest advocates on Friday. And just like David was saying, they became our champions, because they were like, mind open, blown. Because of the way we structure our training, we were identified under Obama’s administration as the gold standard in 21st-century policing for having this national standard of CIT.

So, so many people were looking at what we created, and it was really based on collaboration. Again, it was put the end user in mind. On Thursdays of our training, we bring in consumers with lived experiences, and we let them talk to the officers, not on a call during crisis, but in a moment of training to learn. And for them to have that shared experience, it really is for the officer like, whoa. They see them as a human being, not as a problem, and the person with the lived experience sees the officer as a human being, not an authority. And so, just to see those relationships established is a beautiful thing.

And so, yeah, I believe in the mandated training, but also, too, I think there’s this whole thing of CIT isn’t for everybody, or everyone’s not for CIT, but CIT is for everyone. Again, I think it’s something that needs to be mandated very early on. I know that there’s departments making these emotional reactions. I think San Francisco was like, effective immediately, we are no longer responding to non-criminal-type calls. There’s departments that are being stripped from responding to any type of mental health related call, and they’re saying, we’re just going to create some arbitrary city department to handle this. I think we really have to be slow to respond on things like this, and not just think we’re going to put some team together.

And it goes both ways, too. I hear officers, out of frustration, and it’s funny to me, it shows that they care. They complain a lot about these types of calls, right? Because not only are they emotionally taxing, but they can be time-consuming. But hearing that they’re going to be taken away from us, it’s like, what are they going to do, just send clinicians out there to handle these types of calls? Good luck. It’s only a matter of time before they get shot or stabbed. I’m like, why does it immediately have to go there?

And then I ask them, how many mentally ill calls have you handled where you’ve been shot and stabbed? And they kind of looked at me like … And I was like, exactly. Our mind goes to worst case scenario, but I’ve never been killed one time on my job, and I’ve been doing it 11 years. Thousands of interactions, and I’ve yet to die. And so, to just assume we’re going to send clinicians out there and suddenly it’s going to be deadly, I don’t think that that’s a fair jump.

Chris Cancialosi:

As you guys are talking, and it’s really going to take us, again, being courageous enough to sit down and say, hey, none of us have it all figured out. We have to be willing to engage each other in dialogue and not just in throwing memes around and hashtags. There’s a lot of emotion about it, rightfully so, but there are productive ways to handle this.

Joe Smarro:

Let me jump in real quick, Chris, on that. I want to make a point I was going to say earlier when you were talking about learning, and you’re touching on it again right now. I think what’s also important is that we focus on what we are learning, because I believe, it’s much like the public education system in this country. We’re teaching kids how to take a test, to pass standardized tests. We’re not teaching kids how to become adults in this country.

And I believe it’s the same thing in law enforcement. We’re teaching the wrong things. The emphasis is misplaced. We’re prioritizing so much, and if you really peel back the layers on all things within law enforcement, you can Google or YouTube any police agency in this country and look at their recruiting video, and so many times it is this high speed to heavy metal, and it’s showing this minutia to police work that just doesn’t exist. It’ not that it doesn’t exist, but it’s so infrequent. But you’re going to see the helicopter, and people rappelling, and the K-9 unit and the SWAT members, and they’re clearing houses and doing all this stuff that 99% of police officers are not going to do.

And so, we’re attracting people the wrong way, and then we get them into the academy, and right away we start telling them about the dangers, and we’re showing them videos of ambushes and cops being killed while they’re eating at a restaurant, and so we’re instilling paranoia to a certain level in these officers, and they graduate terrified, thinking my goodness, I’m going to get out here on the first day, someone’s going to kill me because I’m in this uniform, and it’s so scary.

But I want to point back to the data and the numbers. 228 officers killed themselves last year. 59 killed in the line of duty. And while that’s terrible, it’s not even close to the amount of harm we’re doing to ourselves. And yet, the emphasis is so much on preparing for the enemy, and I feel like we just really could do a better job of restructuring, I mean, entirely.

And just to David’s point of one thing at a time, I think that that is a great place to start, is let’s take an honest look at our academies. We’re so decentralized. Nothing is standardized. Some places academies are eight weeks. Some are eight months. Some are three month. It’s just, you can make up whatever you want based on your location and your own set of laws. And then, your training curriculum, even that, we’re going to pick and choose what we’re going to train you. And there’s so much of this warfare type training and militarization of policing in this country.

And I tell people, you cannot wear an outer carry vest with nine magazines and tasers and drop holster guns and all this stuff, and show up to someone in crisis, and say, “I’m just here to help. My name is Joe and I want to help you.” They are so terrified by your physical presence that you’re not going to be able to get that interaction or their engagement. And again, it can happen, but it’s not likely.

And so, why not be honest about what are we really doing? What’s the message that we’re communicating to the communities that we’re claiming that we’re here to serve, and how are we training our officers to prepare for this job? And I think that there’s a lot of work to be done there.

Chris Cancialosi:

Absolutely, and it’s interesting, because having been in the military, I can obviously tell the minute differences when I look at images of certain police and soldiers. But to a layperson, I bet that they would be hard pressed, in many cases, to tell the difference. It’s a really interesting point, just the way you show up, the way you look, it sets a tone. That’s where a lot of this dissatisfaction and anger and frustration and rage that we’re seeing is coming from. It’s disproportionately affecting people. I’ve never had somebody in combat gear knock on my front door. That’s for damn sure.

Joe Smarro:

It’s no different than when we have a jumper. A person, clearly unarmed, wanting to jump off of a bridge or an overpass. And you’ll have 15 cops show up. They’ve got shields, helmets, long guns, screaming commands, and it’s like, what the hell are you actually communicating here? How is this an attempt to help somebody? And we believe, because all we know is showing force, oftentimes. I have such an issue with this, when we’re talking about, whether it’s someone who is suicidal or someone in crisis, and I argue that a vast majority of police calls, people don’t call the police because things are going well in their life, right?

So, there’s always some level of emotional disturbance happening, and so having people trained, having people experts and knowing how to deescalate, and having that be their mindset, not rushing to the scene, adrenaline pump hitting, acting irrational, just so you can show up and start screaming and pointing your gun at people, which is just going to exacerbate the problem. Very rarely does that deescalate someone, when you’re pointing weapons at them and shouting commands at them.

Oftentimes, we’re just not willing to take that honest look at ourselves and say, are we responsible for things going wrong sometimes? The answer is yes. I’ve seen it so many times in my career that we showing up is what escalates the situation, because immediately they want to challenge us, and if you show up in that turtle gear, and you’ve got shields and helmets and armor and all of this, they’re like, the assumption is you’re going to inflict harm or pain on me, and then the animalistic response to that is I’m going to fight back, or I’m going to flee, or do something, which again just creates a bigger problem.

Chris Cancialosi:

Right, and we see that happening daily in the last few weeks, with protests and beyond. So, David, let me ask you. We’ve covered a lot of ground here, and I think the lesson for me is, it’s all about the dialogue, and bringing people to the table, and establishing authentic relationships, so that we can solve the issues that we’re confronted with today. There’s a law enforcement official listening to this program right now, saying, holy cow, yes, I get it. Where the heck do I start? What would be your response to that person?

David Hicks:

I’d probably give them the same answer that I often ask that in commercial context, and I say, start where there’s … maybe an inappropriate analogy. Start where there’s blood on the floor. Start where there are problems, because you can actually help and improve things. Or start where you’ve got a turned-on, tuned-in leader. Or better still, start where you’ve got a turned-on, tuned-in leader, where there’s blood on the floor, because you’ve got all the things pointing in the right direction, and then start. I mean, start with dialogue. I mean, your earlier point, Chris, is around getting people in the room, the stakeholders in the room, humbly listening to each other. That can only do good.

I’d say, for law enforcement, a leader, to take a look at the metrics by which you run your organization. What we’ve been talking about here is, there are rational and emotional components to policing, yeah? There’s a what you do and a how you do it. And you leave that to accident, people gravitate to what they believe is right. You need to deliberately design that. And when folks turn up to jump, you need to deliberately design how you present yourselves, or you’re quite likely to present yourselves in the wrong way.

So, there’s a rational and emotional. There’s a what and a how. And the measures, certainly the RCMP and the British police service, when I was working with those guys, they were saying, these are our metrics. The number of miles our patrol car has traveled every month. The number of arrests we’ve made. The number of firearms that we seized. The amount of drugs we seized. Those are activity metrics. Those are input metrics. Relatively few of them were actually measured on how safe, how policed do I feel as a community?

Now, that’s a much harder thing to actually go after, but candidly, that’s the reason why, as taxpayers, we’re investing in our police force. I want to feel safe and secure. I want my family to feel safe and secure. And that’s an outcome metric that I would imagine is relatively rare, in terms of police administrations worldwide.

So, I would say to that police leader, the worst you can do, you get groups of stakeholders together, the worst you can do is actually reflect on what your success metrics are, and tackle those two pieces. Start there, and that will start to highlight where maybe you should redesign.

And in terms of some of the things that I mentioned, the mapping of the end-to-end experience, what’s our intent? It’s a commercial tool that seemed to do very well when they’re applied to policing. UK, Canada, US, it’s been useful in all of those contexts.

Chris Cancialosi:

Yeah. Thank you for that, David. And Joe, we touched on it earlier in the intro. You’ve got a lot of great content out online, and being one of the primary subjects of the HBO documentary, Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops, really goes into the work of you and your colleagues. I mean, you’ve got a really unique perspective on all of this. From your perspective, same question. I mean, you’re talking to the law enforcement leader out there somewhere listening to this right now who is just kind of overwhelmed by it all. Where do they start? What do they do?

Joe Smarro:

Yeah, I love what David said, and I agree, and I would just add that you have to be willing to take an honest look at yourself and your department. And again, in this country, it depends on where you are, right? Not every city has the same problem as every other city and town and county and state. And so, it does matter geographically where you’re located.

But to the point David was making, if the people are paying for the service and they want to feel policed, but they’re saying they’re not, it does no good to defend it or start talking about things you’ve done well or right. And this is one of the problems that I’m seeing, is police chiefs and sheriffs are coming out and they’re promoting the good things that they’ve done. Now is not the time. People don’t want to see or hear about that right now, and also, all it’s being met with is just, “And?”

Policing, it’s the equivalent of, say, a pilot. The expectation is 100% pass rate, right? You don’t get to crash your plane with everyone and be like, “We messed this one up, let’s get the next one.” There’s massive fallout, and that’s what we’re seeing right now. We’re not allowed to have the errors that we’re having, and the entire profession takes a toll.

And so, if I’m a law enforcement leader, I genuinely want to meet with the community, but not to defend my stance, not to promote anything that we’ve done well, not to say, well, what about this and this, and we’ve done this, or you guys do this. No. Healing starts where listening begins, and I feel like we have to be willing to listen and have those difficult conversations. You have to be willing to listen to what people are actually communicating.

But I think that’s just a piece of it. There has to be, then, an outlet. Okay, I’m hearing you. I’m listening to what you’re saying, but now what? And I feel like if we’re truly going to move forward from where we’re at, there has to be a true integration, and we have to allow the communities to come in and be a part of. There has to be some civilian oversight. There has to be not just the optics of it. I’ve seen it where it’s like, this is just for show. Yeah, we have a civilian board, we have civilians involved, but really, they have no control over what’s actually happening internally.

And so, not just doing something for the points or the show, but genuinely doing something, allowing civilians to have some type of oversight role, so that there is more transparency, because I think transparency is the best disinfectant. When you start hiding things, and you’re trying to shove things, or you’re trying to keep things out of the public eye, all we’re doing is further pushing their trust away. And so, just open yourself.

And again, an apology goes a long way. We’re all human. We make mistakes. If you’ve done something wrong, own it, apologize, and then let’s say how we’re going to move forward from here.

Chris Cancialosi:

Brilliant. Joe, David, I thank you so much for your insights. It’s a real honor to have you both sharing your perspectives, here. We’ve covered a lot of ground, and honestly, I feel like I could crack a beer and talk about this subject with you two for hours and hours and learn a whole lot. There’s a question that I close out all of my episodes with, and I’d like to keep that tradition going, but acknowledging we have talked about a lot, what haven’t I asked each of you that I should have? Joe, what do you think about that?

Joe Smarro:

Yeah, Chris, if I’m sitting here thinking, and I am, because I wasn’t prepared for this question, so that’s on me. But if I’m thinking about something you should ask me that you haven’t, I guess I would say, do you feel hopeful, or should we feel hopeful, that things are going to improve from this? And my answer would be absolutely yes. And the reason that I choose to have hope, and again, I do believe that hope is a choice. We can choose to be negative, we can choose to see the ill in everything, we can choose to go down all those paths. To me, that’s very easy to do. But also, we can choose optimism, and we can choose hope, and we can choose a better way forward.

I genuinely believe that we’re in an important part of history in this world, right now, that we’re fortunate. I choose to see it as a part of my gratitude, that we get to experience times like these, because there’s so much learning that’s about to happen. We’re witnessing, we’re a part of, we’re right in the middle of massive police reform that’s about to happen, that I would argue is long overdue. I am wary about the knee-jerk reactions and the emotional decisions that are being made, but I do feel that over the course of the next couple of years, there are going to be significant changes that are long overdue, and they’re going to be made for the right reasons, with intelligence, that have been thought out.

And so, I am excited about that. I do think that there are a lot of things that need to be looked at within law enforcement. I do feel like there needs to be some community buy-in, and there needs to be some responsibility placed on other community partners and stakeholders to help, and this needs to be a more collaborative approach to dealing with societal failings, but I am hopeful, because I believe in people, and I believe that while all people are entitled to having a bad day or a bad moment, I believe all people want the best, not only for themselves, but for each other. And so, I would end with that, Chris. Thank you.

Chris Cancialosi:

Thank you so much. We focused this discussion around law enforcement, but this conversation can extend to any industry, any sector. Every organization should be thinking about involving their stakeholders and really understanding the impact they’re having. Intentionally or unintentionally, you’re impacting other people, and if we can be intentional and thoughtful, we can be equitable, we can be the things that we want to be. The things that 99.9% of this world wants to be when they wake up in the morning. So, thank you so much for sharing that.

David, same question to you. What haven’t we asked you that we should have?

David Hicks:

Well, Chris, you lead a world-renowned cultural change organization, and you know that what’s critical about cultural change is just making it stick. When the spotlight is off, how do you actually make sure that these changes aren’t window dressing, aren’t the flavor of the day, they actually get embedded and adopted? Maybe we should speculate a little bit about that, lasting change, actually getting through to everybody that’s involved, not just police officers, but the support structures around them, their other stakeholders. And so, how do you make sure that this sticks?

And that’s not easy. It’s something that requires persistent, consistent effort to make sure that things do stick, you’re finding your champions. Joe made the lovely point earlier on about when you run these sessions, the folks that were the loudest at the start, showing the strongest resistance, became the greatest advocates. It’s finding those gems, because they’re the folks that anchor this, and make sure that you get adoption. So, maybe you could draw it into that a little bit more, on how to make sure these changes, once they are decided, get adopted and stick. Not easy, but there are some levers there that you can use to give it the best chance of success.

Chris Cancialosi:

Absolutely. David, thank you for your insights. I want to thank our guests, colleagues and friends of mine. I’m really, really blessed to have a diverse network of folks out here, and what an honor it is to have you both join me today as we discuss something that’s really important in my view, and something that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. It doesn’t escape me that we are three white guys talking about topics. While we have our own perspectives, there’s only three of us here, and we need to broaden the lens and invite more people to the table to have conversations about this.

Joe, I know you do a weekly livestream that we’ll definitely link to in the show notes, but I listened to your one last week, and you had three different folks on, all people of color who are involved in law enforcement, either police officers or administrators, and I was really thankful that you did that. I had never experienced the ability to sit down and listen to a conversation like that, and I think that’s really important in my own personal learning. It’s time everybody stopped knowing all the answers, and start seeking to understand.

So, thank you both from the bottom of my heart for joining me, and I wish you both a wonderful, wonderful day.

Joe Smarro:

Thank you, Chris. It was a pleasure sharing space with you, David. Thank you.

David Hicks:

And a pleasure joining you guys, and your family, Chris. Thank you for the opportunity to join you.

Chris Cancialosi:

Thank you, gentlemen.

Thanks for joining us this week on the Gotham Culture podcast. Make sure you visit our website,, where you can subscribe to the show, find show notes, or contact us for support regarding your organizational cultural challenges.

Special thanks to Blue Sky Podcasting for producing and sponsoring this episode. To learn more about producing custom podcasts for your organization, check out the folks at Blue Sky, at

Until next time, this is your host, Chris Cancialosi, and I look forward to our next discussion.

On a personal note, there are folks out there who really get up in arms about discussing the need for police reform. There are people on all sides of the issue, many of whom would prefer to lob hate grenades over the fence at each other, rather than engaging in some thoughtful and productive dialogue about some tough issues. This topic of police reform, to me, is not about dissing the police. We all need law enforcement to hold citizens accountable to our collective social contract, and I believe that 99.9% of the people who go to work today, regardless of if it’s in law enforcement or some other profession, go to work trying to do the very best job they can.

To me, this is about working together to figure out better ways to build trusting relationships that enable the police to be effective in their mission by re-imagining their approach from the perspective of the diverse communities that they’re serving. Doing this opens up doors for learning and dialogue. It opens up possibilities for a brighter and more equitable future, and in the end, it makes us all better.

Thank you for joining us today on the Gotham Culture podcast. If you are interested in learning more about police reform, or the ways in which other industries are grappling with the same cultural change efforts, check out our show notes for some resources and links. I challenge you, regardless of the industry you work in, to engage your colleagues in real, uncomfortable dialogue. Take time to learn from others, and really ask yourselves how you may evolve or revolutionize the way you do things in the spirit of creating a more equitable and anti-racist world. Thank you.

Podcast: Going Slow to Go Fast

In this episode, Chris Cancialosi talks with gothamCulture’s Shawn Overcast about her experience realigning teams after disruptive events. Like those of us who keep way too many applications open on our computers for too long, slowing our ability to get things done, sometimes our teams can experience the same effect when grappling with mounting priorities and disruption. When that happens, it may be time to reboot.

Show notes: Shawn references an interview with Storied CEO Michael Margolis titled Storytelling in the Age of Disruption

Podcast: Mental Wellness and the Short- and Long-Term Impacts of the COVID Pandemic on Your Workforce

As the United States looks to begin a scaled approach to reducing pandemic restrictions in the coming weeks and months a hidden enemy lingers that is not getting much attention. While many healthcare workers are facing the brunt of the risks associated with supporting pandemic response, they are certainly not alone in shouldering stresses associated with the last few months. The acute and chronic stressors during difficult times may have negative repercussions for many people and organizations for years to come. During this episode, we talk with Joe Smarro and Jesse Trevino of SolutionPoint Plus, advisor to healthcare systems, education systems, first responders, and corporate clients in the areas of mental health, wellness, and resilience.

Released June 5, 2020

Show notes: Below are links to mental health information and resources mentioned in the show:

Former POW Shares Thoughts On Surviving And Thriving In Difficult Times

The last few months have fundamentally changed the way many people live their lives day-to-day. Over the last few weeks, in particular, I have noticed an increase in a variety of what might normally be considered “unhealthy” behavior during my interactions with people.

Some individuals seem to be taking one of three paths as they attempt to make sense of their new realities and as they come to grips with being thrust into a reality where they have limited control and where the situation is rapidly changing-

  1. Finding false hope. These people keep finding a date that they hang their hopes on when things will “return to normal”. The challenge is that every time one of those dates comes to pass and things have not returned to normal, they pick a new date, each time seeming to lose a piece of themselves.
  2. Losing hope altogether. These people really seem to be struggling. They seem consumed with every news story and conspiracy theory that they come across. They feel like the sky is falling and they are beginning to (or have) lost hope that things will get better.
  3. Finding resilience. The rest seem to acknowledge their new reality and face facts without losing hope that things will get better (a concept articulated by Admiral James Stockdale called the Stockdale Paradox). They don’t hang their hopes on the next date that things will be fine and they don’t fall into a pit of despair. It is these folks who seem to be best adapted to survive and thrive in environments where they have little control.

Read More…

CEO Spotlight: Dispelling Myths About Military Veterans In The Civilian Workforce

Every so often, I dedicate my writing to a topic that is near and dear to my heart- raising awareness of employment trends and challenges for military veterans who are transitioning out of the service and back into the civilian world of work. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a conference on this very topic at Amazon’s headquarters, hosted by Deloitte and other organizations dedicated to hiring veterans in their organizations as well as organizations that exist to directly provide transition support. 

Part of the day’s events included a presentation by representatives from LinkedIn who shared their latest Veteran Opportunity Report, a study using the massive data and insights available to the digital networking platform. What is important to acknowledge is that LinkedIn’s positioning as a powerhouse of professional networking puts its teams in a unique position to understand this topic in great detail. If you are interested in learning more about this untapped talent pool, I encourage you to download their report for yourself. In the meantime, here are some highlights that might surprise you. 

The quick stats:

  • Veterans remain with their initial employers 8.3% longer than their nonveteran counterparts
  • Veterans are 39% more likely to be promoted than their nonveteran colleagues
  • Veterans are 160% more like to have a graduate degree or higher as compared to nonveterans
  • Veterans with bachelor’s degrees have 2.9X more work experience than their peers

Read More…

Podcast: Organizational Culture Consulting: Turning Data Into Action

In this episode, Chris Cancialosi interviews Dylan Flavel Managing Director of Melbourne based Spring Point.

Consulting sometimes gets a bad reputation which seems to come from the root issue of “overdiagnosis.” That means consultants spending way too much time assessing the situation and leaving little focus or budget to help their clients making tangible change. Dylan talks about how now clients are hiring consultants to quickly turn data into action. He also discusses how to find the right consulting firm for your organization.

Released: March 27, 2020