Podcast: The Great Resignation? Reshuffle? Reimagination? Renegotiation?

In this episode of the gothamCulture Podcast, guest host Conrad Moore from MAiUS Learning talks to Marcelo Dias, a Talent Performance & Development Leader about how being burned out actually changes your brain chemistry resulting in exhaustion, cynicism, or just lack of effectiveness. Once employees reach this level of dissatisfaction with their jobs, it just ends up taking up a lot of their mental space. What can we do to get back to flourishing at work?

Production note: This interview was originally recorded in January 2022.

Released: December 20, 2022

Kate Gerasimova, gothamCulture:

I’m happy to present to you a series of episodes involving culture gathered over the past year, asking experts in the industry for their advice and recommendations for leaders of organizations in this always-changing environment. These three episodes touch on how organizations need to be resilient in these vulnerable times. Each guest has a unique background and brings their own expertise and experience to what organizations, leaders, and employees need to do to be successful.

Conrad Moore:

All right. Hello, this is Conrad Moore from MAiUS Learning. I am happy to be back today on Gotham’s podcast as a guest host. And I’ve brought with me Marcelo Dias, who is a learning professional with over 15 years experience leading learning and development teams and supporting digital tech transformations. He spent most of his career at Intuit and Visa and since then, has been an independent learning consultant for about three years. Marcelo, first of all, thank you for joining.

Marcelo Dias:

Thank you. Yeah, really happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Conrad Moore:

Yeah, and one of the things I’m excited, you don’t have to name any names, but I think it’s interesting to talk to you, because I actually don’t know the names per se, but I know that you talked to some folks, as a coach, who have some interesting perspectives when we’re thinking about this whole great resignation right now. So what are you hearing from some of your clients about what’s going on?

Marcelo Dias:

Yeah, this is a very popular topic. Some people are calling it the great reshuffle. I hear great reimagination, great renegotiation, even in the media, a lot of conversations around it. What I’m personally hearing is that a lot of people are either burned out or numbed out. And being burned out actually changes your brain chemistry and you see this exhaustion, cynicism, or just lack of effectiveness. And what I’ve learned from some of my clients is that once they reach this level of dissatisfaction with their jobs, it just ends up taking a lot of their mental space. And actually, I have here some notes as one of my clients, the way she described it is I might be done early for the day, but it’s difficult for me to be present with my kids, because I am still caught up in the politics of what’s going on at work.

And this, I’m hearing a lot. People are just having a really hard time disconnecting from that. On the other hand, I’ve also talked to a couple people who are kind of numbed out. They’re basically disengaged from their jobs. I’m thinking of a learning professional, he’s mentally done with his job, but continues to hang in there because the pay is good, honestly, and he couldn’t afford to go a month without that income. So yeah, he’s miserable, but he’s still managing to do the bare minimum to get fired. That’s kind of what I’m seeing right now.

Conrad Moore:

Yeah, and I think that makes a lot of sense, because I think that was always people’s experience, but then you layer on top of that a pandemic and it kind of just amplifies some of those feelings, and brings them into focus perhaps, which is maybe what we’re seeing here. So what can people do if they’re feeling burned out or disengaged? Is there anything that you’ve advised people to do?

Marcelo Dias:

Yeah, and what I’ve seen is there are people who are getting out of these situations. They’re even flourishing right now. And I think a big first step for them is just taking a hard look at their priorities, right? And he mentioned the pandemic, it’s hard to get away from that, and that’s, I think, forced a lot of us to face our own mortality. And there’s this phrase in Stoic philosophy, you may have heard Memento Mori, right, which roughly translates from the Latin as remember that you have to die, right? And I think consciously or unconsciously, this is driving a lot of people to reprioritize what’s important in their lives. And for work, you can see that as no longer wanting to be tied to a company office. And so I talked with someone who moved closer to his kids after a year into the pandemic, because that not knowing, somebody was getting sick, somebody not getting sick, they really wanted to be together, and he was able to do that by just going to remote.

And fortunately for him, he liked his job, he got to keep his same job, and that was how he find that ideal work-life balance. Able to stay in the same job, but having the opportunity to be closer with families. But for others, they may be they were just tired of the 60-plus hour work week. And so I know former colleague of mine, when she decided she needed to look for another job, and she knew what kind of questions to ask in the interviews, because she was really looking for a well-resourced team. She wanted a laid back team. She didn’t want this craziness anymore, of working nights, working weekends. And so thankfully, that’s exactly what she found. But it’s interesting that that was the mindset that she had going in, where she was asking the questions. Is this, we’re all going to be the kind of thing that I’m looking for?

So maybe what we’re really seeing, in my mind, is this great reprioritization, right? For a lot of people, they’re not saying I’m done with work, they’re just reshaping it in a way that fits in with the rest of their priorities. And I can tell you from my own personal experience, actually, I’m kind of in the midst of this still, but I started my consulting business and for a while, I was kind of saying yes to anything I could possibly get. And fortunately enough for a while, there actually was getting more hours than I wanted to, which started getting me to this other side, where I decided okay, I just need to be more selective about the engagements that I’d taken on.

So yeah, this reduced my income, but on the plus side, I gained a lot more time back, and even that mental space that I was talking about before, right? Because sometimes it’s not just the hours, it’s also how much of that mental space is taking up your day. And so I was able to deepen my relationship with my kids, my partner, even my parents, having more time with family, which is really, really important for me. And it kind of brought me back to some of that foundational stuff. And finally, it’s given me an opportunity to reflect of what kind of impact at this Memento Mori. I took it seriously. What kind of impact do I want to have before I die?

Conrad Moore:

That’s a very deep thought. And can I also ask you maybe if you’re trademarking the great reprioritization?

Marcelo Dias:

No. I’m sure somebody out there has used it, but it’s just what’s really resonated just based on my experience, yeah.

Conrad Moore:

All right. Well I heard it here first.

Marcelo Dias:


Conrad Moore:

And so I think you said it. I like that kind of thought process though. And I do think you’re right, people are doing a lot of deep reflecting and thinking about the prioritization of their lives and their families and work, and so I think that that resonates with me in terms of what I’ve seen out there in the world and conversations with other people. So let’s flip that around and look at the other side of that equation. If we’re thinking about organizations who we know, obviously, are working hard to either retain the top talent that they have or attract new top talent now that people have left, and so if that’s what we’re seeing in the labor market is people who are really looking deeply at what maybe their purpose in life is, what do you think organizations can do to align to this new set of priorities?

Marcelo Dias:

Yeah. And I mentioned this earlier, I mean, there’s no question, flexibility goes a long way, right? The ability to live where you want to live, it’s a really important benefit. And I know there’s a lot of organizations debating this, what does this really look like, but time and time again, I hear this is really important. The other one is just a flexible schedule, right? It’s very important, especially for parents, caregivers, the ability to kind of shape their work around other responsibilities.

But I think if companies really want to stand out, they need to do some more of this, of what you just mentioned, right? How do you create the space for employees to gain that kind of clarity, what’s important for them personally, and then to kind of help them achieve that balance in their lives. And I see very few companies take an active role in supporting their employees’ wellbeing. I mean, maybe they provide EAP, right, the employee assistance program where you might get eight free counseling sessions. But right now in the pandemic, it’s nearly impossible to access, right? So you may have other benefits like apps and services, but I’m not seeing a genuine commitment to help their employees live their best lives. So I think that’s a really big opportunity for companies to stand out.

Conrad Moore:

Yeah. As you were saying that, I was just reflecting in my head that that actually feels right. All of these additional extra benefits, EAPs, maybe a monthly gym membership or something like that, it all feels almost more in service of can we trick them into wanting to work here for our bottom line, versus how can we actually provide space for them to find deeper meaning in the work that they do, and see an alignment with a larger corporate mission, or even if it’s not a corporation. So that all sounds interesting. I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit more about what we can find from you out in the world, if people want to learn more about what you do and what you’re working on.

Marcelo Dias:

So lately, I mean, I’ve been asking this question many times. I’ve been asking myself, what does this look like, really? And one way, I think, is to give people the tools they need to find the healthier, more balanced kind of foundation that they can work from. So, you mentioned the coaching practice, right? So I think this has been one way to do it. I’ve been able to provide that kind of support on a one-on-one basis. But really, I think there’s an opportunity to scale that more to kind of a larger audience, more of a classroom base, and that’s something a lot of organization can do on their own. I mean, in my case, I’m basically applying my skills as a learning professional just to create a curriculum. I’m starting with three classes around this 8foldlife framework, but there’s many other frameworks out there. But in this case, it’s body, emotions, and mind, right?

So sort of the foundational areas from a self-care standpoint, and I’m calling it the 8foldlife School, and each class is peer supported, it’s a hybrid, flexible model, but it’s also very much focused on developing helpful habits, while letting go of some of those unhelpful habits. So as an example, for the body focus class, there’s three primary areas that we’re looking at. One is sleep. That’s such a critical piece in ensuring people’s wellbeing. Nutrition, which can look very different from one person to the next. And then movement is also another thing that can look very different.

But the idea there is that we discuss the benefits and we commit. We, as each, individual person commits to making a change in their lives in each one of those areas. And then my eventual goal is to actually scale this to all eight dimensions, which includes relationships, career, finances, self-fulfillment, and then beyond self. And this to say, any organization, if you have people passionate about any one of these areas, I would encourage you to run with it and be able to create a program like this that, again, helps people to take that step back and feel like they’re more connected to the work that they’re doing, and that they’re better able to coexist in all the other priorities in their lives.

Conrad Moore:

Great. Well then I have one last request for you. We’ve got an upcoming guest and I’m wondering if you can ask that person a question, so we can continue the conversation.

Marcelo Dias:

Absolutely. Yeah. And they’re difficult, challenging times for organizations. I guess my question is, what can leaders do in this current environment?

Conrad Moore:

Great question. Well, thank you Marcelo Dias.Thank you so much for your time today.

Marcelo Dias:

Thank you, Conrad. It was a pleasure. All right. Till next time.

Podcast: Leading With a Learning Lens

In this episode of the gothamCulture Podcast, Kate Gerasimova, Senior Associate at gothamCulture talks with Brooke Rufo-Hill, Head of People and Culture at Rippleworks about what it means to be a learning organization. How can we focus on improving everything instead of proving anything? Brooke offers examples and strategies about how to move away from focusing solely on productivity and more on learning and how it improves performance as an organization.

Released: December 13, 2022

Kate Gerasimova:

I’m happy to present to you a series of episodes about culture gathered over the past year, asking experts in the industry for their advice and recommendations for leaders of organizations in this always changing environment. The three episodes touch on how organizations need to be resilient in this vulnerable times. Each guest has a unique background and brings their own expertise and experience to what organizations, leaders, and employees need to do to be successful.

Kate Gerasimova:

Hi, my name is Kate Gerasimova and I’m a host for today’s podcast. Here I am joined by our guest, Brooke Rufo Hill, head of People and Culture at RippleWorks. RippleWorks Foundation brings the practical support social ventures need to scale faster and improve more lives. Brooke, thank you so much for being here.

Brooke Rufo-Hill:

Kate, thanks so much for having me. I’m really looking forward to the conversation and I’m excited to talk about a topic that is near and dear to my heart and something that has been incredibly inspiring and motivating to me in my first six months with RippleWorks. So thanks so much for having me.

Kate Gerasimova:

That’s wonderful. Well, today, the big surprise, we’ll be speaking about how leaders can show up with a learner’s lens versus performance lens. Generally speaking, the learning organization is a concept first described by Peter Senge as an organization where people continuously learn and enhance their capabilities to create. So Brooke, in your experience, what does a learning organization look like?

Brooke Rufo-Hill:

Well, I think something that our CEO, Doug Galen recently shared really articulates this well. He talked about, at a recent company meeting, that in a learning organization we focus on improving everything instead of proving anything. So I’ll say that again, improving everything instead of proving anything. And at first it just kind of rings as a nice little slogan, but when you really start to think about what the kind of core message is in that phrase, there’s actually a lot of unlearning that is required and encapsulated in that slogan that helps to lead us towards wholeheartedly becoming a learning organization.

So when I think about learning organizations, maybe it’s a bit obvious, but learning, and maybe the new pieces and unlearning, is absolutely at the center of all that we do. One example of this might be, at my current organization, we are in the process of really moving away from a more traditional performance management context and moving towards a learning and growth framework where you no longer need to try to prove anything to yourself or your manager or anyone else, but instead, when you enter into these twice a year conversations with your people manager, it is really about focusing on improving everything, and getting into an open and honest conversation with your manager as a partner around progress and ongoing or future opportunities related to learning and growing and acquiring additional skills.

Another example of this in our organization is that when new hires join, and all of us have been new hires at different points in our career, we often feel, when we join an organization, like we need to prove something. And so one of the things that we’re actively encouraging all of our new hires to partake in from an unlearning standpoint is to really embrace a learner’s mindset rather than a performance mindset from day one. So actually this morning I was with a group of new hires and doing an onboarding training as part of their kind of first month with us at RippleWorks. And one of the things we talked about is listen, we have an understanding within our organization that you absolutely have what it takes to do the job you were hired for. That is why we selected you through the hiring process and brought you into this role.

So please set aside this need to prove that you have every right to be here doing the work, sharing in the work with us, and instead just embrace from day one this mindset and focus that is all about improving and not proving.

Couple other quick things I’ll offer around a learning organization with maybe a bit more concrete examples from our organization is that in a learning organization, everyone is regarded as both a teacher and a student. And this really does not matter or depend on your tenure in the organization, the number of years you have in your career, the job level that you are at. There’s really this shared belief that no one ever fully arrives and we all have something to learn and teach one another.

And the final thing I’ll mention, we are also kind of actively going through this unlearning within our organization, is that while of course experimentation is encouraged, and this idea of not overthinking things and really testing and learning, so doing experiments all over the place, one of the kind of concrete outputs of that is that we as an organization are moving towards more wholeheartedly embracing this idea of iterating in public. So no longer kind of doing all of this design at the whiteboard by ourselves or within the team, but rather starting to iterate out in the open.

And a really simple way to do that is as we are coming up with ideas, crafting projects, crafting proposals, rather than kind of the disclaimer that we all feel a bit more comfortable is when we put a WIP in the title of the doc, that means work in progress. A commitment that we’ve recently made is that we will be removing work in progress from all the docs, because if we are trying to create and really shape an organization where iteration is embraced and this idea that really we never fully arrive and the work is never over, then there really isn’t a need for a label such as WIP. So Kate, those are just a few examples around learning and unlearning and this idea of a few hopefully practical examples of what you might see in a learning organization.

Kate Gerasimova:

That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing those practical steps and you’re definitely changing a lot of behaviors there. Well, in preparation for this conversation, I also did some research and I came across the Harvard Business Review where David Garvin was saying that the rate an organization is learning is the only sustainable factor for organizations these days. So my question to you is really what needs to be in place to continue learning as an organization?

Brooke Rufo-Hill:

Yeah, great question. I think of these as the ingredients in a recipe for an organization that is striving to create a culture of continuous learning and really establish themselves as a learning organization. So a few things, and I’m sure the listeners will have other ideas, but a few core things that I have found to be critical are one, first and foremost, psychological safety. And there are a lot of different definitions out there of what we mean by this. And I think the most kind of simplistic but poignant way to describe this that’s really stuck for me is employees need, and all team members, again, regardless of how long they’ve been in the organization, their level, et cetera, really need to believe and feel in their bones that they can make mistakes without retribution. That I can put myself out there, try something new, not do it perfectly the first time, maybe even make a big mistake, and that I will be given grace around that, and that I’ll be supported in the learning that can come out of that mistake. So psychological safety’s a big one.

Okay, so a second ingredient, I would say, that is absolutely critical to building a learning organization or creating a culture of continuous learning, is a culture of continuous feedback. Feedback is absolutely our greatest tool to help facilitate not only our own growth by asking for feedback, but also certainly as leaders and people managers, it is the greatest tool we have to help our people and other colleagues learn and grow.

A third critical ingredient is, we’ve talked a little bit about this, but it’s really beginning to understand and frankly honor the role that unlearning plays in learning new ways of doing and being, in the workplace or frankly anywhere in our lives. And another kind of more practical way to think about this is in order to be convinced to try something new or to do something in a different way, I have to really understand that why what I have learned previously, or the narrative I hold in my head based on previous learnings, is no longer serving me or the organization. So that’s really kind of one of those first critical steps in understanding how unlearning plays such a significant role in the learning that we are striving to achieve, both for ourselves and for our teams.

And finally, I’d say one additional ingredient critical to learning within an organization is really creating a culture that celebrates mistakes and the lessons learned from those mistakes, and ensuring that that mindset and that practice are integrated into the fabric of the company. And when I say the fabric of the company, I’m talking about not the things that happen once or twice a year, but those daily or weekly rituals, practices that we have, within our organizations. So anything from team meetings to company wide meetings to presentations or fireside chats done by leaders. When we think about what gets rewarded, how are we compensating people, what are we celebrating, maybe through formal awards programs, how do we bake learning into our projects by creating post action reviews or moments to pause and debrief and to collectively learn with one another?

So those would be the four things I’d say, Kate. Psychological safety, culture of continuous feedback, understanding the role unlearning plays in learning, and finally, celebrating mistakes and the lessons learned.

Kate Gerasimova:

This is great. And while the organizations have these all four components and is continuing being a learning organization, I’m curious how do you measure the success so you know that you’re continuing being that organization, whether it’s on an organizational level or at the individual level?

Brooke Rufo-Hill:

Yeah, it’s a great question and this is kind of the hump, I think, some folks need to get over when they think about doing something outside of the box. The example I gave earlier was kind of moving away from a more traditional performance based culture and systems of performance management, where we’ve learned one way to measure success. And so how, I would say, in a learning culture, or where we are really putting learning at the center of all we do, I’d probably change the word success to progress, because what we’re actually measuring is not the ultimate accomplishment, but where someone is within a continuum of growth in their current job level. So for instance, within our organization, we have within each job level, there are three growth milestones and we articulate those as exploring, delivering, and mastering. And at first glance you might think like, ah, that’s just another way of articulating performance ratings, but it’s not.

And we’re really clear about this with employees and talk about how what this is measuring is not the output, and what they are being invited in these learning and growth cycles, and learning and growth conversations with their managers to focus on, it’s not coming in with a proving mindset where I have to show you and tell you about all of my accomplishments, all of the outcomes, everything that was kind of the end result, but rather it’s quite the opposite of what many of us have learned professionally growing up in a variety of organizations where, where we focus is more on the inputs and the process itself. And so great, it’s understood you’ve accomplished these things, but how did you get there? What has been that learning progress over the past six months? What are the skills that you either have built that have progressed or maybe new skills that you’ve begun to acquire?

And then ultimately for us, in lieu of a performance management system with ratings, we leverage these growth milestones as a way to both celebrate kind of the incremental growth along the way, as well as then we tie our compensation framework to these growth milestones. So in essence, the more you learn within our organization, the more you earn. And what makes this fundamentally work for us is that we have an inherent belief that if we focus on the learning and growth of employees in ways that are relevant to the work that they are doing, to the mission of the organization, that the performance will take care of itself. That if people are engaged, if they are growing and learning and acquiring new skills, that then that will translate into the impact that we are hoping to deliver, in our case to social ventures that are out doing incredible work in the world and improving lives.

Kate Gerasimova:

Well that’s wonderful, Brooke. Honestly, RippleWorks sounds like a really innovative organization with the practices that you’re doing, so thank you for sharing all of them. Brooke, one of our podcast guests has asked, what can leaders do in their environment? Meaning, what can leaders do tomorrow to move towards more of a learning organization?

Brooke Rufo-Hill:

I love this question because when we think about what can you do differently tomorrow, it feels highly practical and very actionable, which is something I feel like we’re always striving for. So yeah, maybe just a few things, a few suggestions. One encouragement or nudge I would give is really starting with yourself, start to reframe feedback. I think we all know that feedback, in many cases kind of comes with a lot of baggage for folks. And often we hear feedback described as either good or bad or positive or negative. And so the reframe that I would offer you to kind of try on for size and kind of squirrel around in your head a bit is this idea that it’s all positive and good. All feedback regardless of if it’s reinforcing feedback where you’re telling someone that was amazing XYZ and I want to see more of that.

Or if it’s more developmental where you’re pointing out where maybe someone’s behavior had some unintended negative consequence on someone or impact, and here’s what they might do differently. So I think there’s this reframe and an opportunity around feedback that really all feedback is positive because it is the greatest tool we have, and the gift we can give to each other is to help them grow. Of course, as long as it’s done with kindness and with care. So that’s one I think reframing feedback.

A second one is something we talked about earlier in terms of an ingredient, or what you might see in a learning organization, is this invitation to see every person in your workplace, regardless of their age, tenure position level, as having something to both teach as well as something to learn. And so I think it is seeing the youngest employee or the newest employee in your workplace as having something to teach and learn just as much as your most senior leaders, your CEO.

And it almost works in reverse when we think about senior leadership. And frankly, for many of us may provide a bit of relief in this idea that if we never fully arrive, no matter how much knowledge, experience we amass, there is always something for us to learn. And so kind of just seeing that in others and honoring that and all the folks you work with.

A third opportunity I would say that you could start tomorrow is really as leaders, and in your leadership role, getting into the practice of being the first one to acknowledge when you don’t know what to do, or you actually don’t know something, or you see an opportunity for you to learn something. Probably goes without saying, and I think in our minds, we all know that this is a helpful thing to do that it really invites, then, others, especially when this is coming from someone in a position of leadership above you in the organization, invites others to do the same. But I think it’s one of those that sounds nice in theory and can be much more difficult in practice. So just that nudge to be brave and to really start to model that it’s okay that you don’t know everything, and acknowledging and being honest about that.

And finally kind of ending where we started at the beginning of this podcast, this idea of improving everything instead of proving anything, I would just encourage you, on an individual level, start to try that on for size. The next time you’re feeling nervous, you’re going to possibly give a big presentation, or you’re meeting with a group of folks that you haven’t engaged with before. Think about really entering that situation, that meeting, that conversation, through a learner’s mindset where you’re there to improve everything and invite others to do the same, instead of showing up with more of a performance mindset where you come in ready to prove anything and everything.

Kate Gerasimova:

Yeah. This has been great really Brooke, and to give you the part of the feedback to say is this has been amazing. Thank you so much for being here and I’m hoping our learners will get to learn as much as I did today. And it’s really great to hear about vulnerability and how brave you are and how brave people at RippleWorks are. And it’s a lot about what I’m hearing is being vulnerable and being able to change their mindset because we’re so engraved in the behaviors day to day and what we’re used to do and this little change is a lot. And so it’s really great to hear some of the practical tips and things that people go through as really their own evolution to be there and to learn for themselves and for the company. So thank you for your time today. And last question, how can our listeners get a hold of you?

Brooke Rufo-Hill:

Yeah, I think probably the best way to connect is on LinkedIn. My name is, again, Brooke Rufo Hill. And feel free to send me an invitation to connect, and message me with any questions or anything you’d like to go into further. I would love to learn from you all as well, and happy to connect, and look forward to continuing the conversation.

Kate Gerasimova:

Thank you so much, Brooke. I really appreciate speaking with you today.

Brooke Rufo-Hill:

Thanks so much, Kate. It’s been fun and really grateful for the opportunity.

gothamCulture’s 2022 Summer Reads

Summer reading at the airport

Whether you’re sitting at the gate in the airport for your long-awaited trip or just relaxing in your backyard, it’s a great time of year to read a book. The team at gothamCulture has some interesting summer book choices to keep your attention and stretch your thinking.

Partner, Tim Bowden, is reading Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall. A Ph.D. physicist and biotech entrepreneur look at why the most important and successful breakthroughs often come only after “they pass through long dark tunnels of skepticism and uncertainty, crushed or neglected, their champions dismissed as crazy”. Bahcall applies the science of physics to help organizations understand how to best unlock and nurture these “loonshots” through small changes in the structure, rather than culture of an organization. Just changes in temperature can transform a tub of water into a block of ice – Bahcall outlines how organizations can undergo “phase shifts” by changing structural elements to unlock transformational innovation. As a culture practitioner, Bahcall’s initial rejection of culture as a key lever for innovation was hard to get over. But, as the concepts develop throughout Loonshots, it’s clear that organizations need to attend to both structure and culture to master the complex process of creating the right conditions for transformational innovation and change.
Senior Associate, Kate Gerasimova, is reading Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and Language of Human Experience by Brené Brown. In Atlas of the Heart, Brown takes us on a journey through eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. As she maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe of new choices and second chances—a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.
Senior Associate, James O’Flaherty recommends How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes. What is that magic quality that makes some people instantly loved and respected? Everyone wants to be their friend (or if single, their lover!) In business, they rise swiftly to the top of the corporate ladder. What is their “Midas touch?” What it boils down to is a more skillful way of dealing with people. In her trademark entertaining and straight shooting style, Leil gives the techniques catchy names so you’ll remember them when you really need them, including: “Rubberneck the Room,” “Be a Copyclass,” “Come Hither Hands,” “Bare Their Hot Button,” “The Great Scorecard in the Sky,” and “Play the Tombstone Game,” for big success in your social life, romance, and business.
Marketing Manager, Andrea Bennett, is looking forward to reading Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less by Leidy Klotz. We pile on “to-dos” but don’t consider “stop-doings.” We create incentives for good behavior but don’t get rid of obstacles to it. We collect new-and-improved ideas but don’t prune the outdated ones. Every day, across challenges big and small, we neglect a basic way to make things better: we don’t subtract. Klotz’s pioneering research shows us what is true whether we’re building Lego models, cities, grilled-cheese sandwiches, or strategic plans: Our minds tend to add before taking away, and this is holding us back. But we have a choice―our blind spot need not go on taking its toll. Subtract arms us with the science of less and empowers us to revolutionize our day-to-day lives and shift how we move through the world. More or less.


Can I Overuse My Leadership “Strengths?”

In executive coaching, we spend considerable time helping clients build awareness about their range and capabilities as leaders.

A foundational element of that work is helping clients make meaning of their long-held understanding of the ideas around “Strengths” and “Weaknesses.”

The lens we use instead focuses on the idea of “well-developed,” and “less-developed” capabilities and attributes. A recent blog by my colleague Lisa McNeill so eloquently described those concepts.

Each of us has many well-developed sides. One example may be an ability by some leaders to speak and make their voices heard. For others, it may well seem to be almost the opposite, with attributes of listening and appreciative inquiry.

So, too, do each of us have less-developed sides that we can explore in coaching to help expand our range. The person who commonly uses the well-developed ability to speak can use choice, for instance, to include pausing and listening. The well-developed listener can expand their range to include expressing themselves more. It takes awareness and practice to expand their range as leaders. And it also takes an appreciation that they need not give up the “well-developed” attributes – just know when they are using – or overusing – them and choose to move towards their less-developed capabilities.

It is often a revelation for individuals to realize that the appreciation of where they are “well-developed” are attributes like muscles that serve them and that adding other muscles – the “less-developed” capabilities – expand their range.

Consider this: I once worked with a client who described himself as “stubborn.” He characterized it for me as a weakness. Through a series of questions, I asked if being stubborn had served him in any way. He admitted that he was not the type to give up on a project or in working to develop a subordinate.

“And how would you call that a weakness?” I asked.

“Well, I guess it isn’t always that way,” he said.

We explored more together and it emerged for the client that being stubborn had served him throughout his career. He was the person who saw things through to their completion. He had devoted countless hours towards the success of his company. His well-developed “stubbornness” was the grit and determination of a leader.

In our sessions, he realized, too, that at times his stubbornness had come at some personal expense.

“When did that happen?” I questioned.

“Well, sometimes I just don’t give up, even when I know the project is a dead end.”

“Anything else? I asked.

“Sometimes it is hard on my family as I work all night long to complete an assignment.”

Then he admitted: “And there are times I don’t accept an idea that differs from my own.”

Such moments can serve as breakthroughs for a client, as they realize that their well-developed sides serve them, but, if overused or if they become habitual, can stop serving them or even cost them.

As Gestalt coaches, we often use the concept of “polarities.” Using the example of the “stubborn” client, I invited him to think of a polarity related to that attribute. His answer: “flexibility,” along with “receptivity,” and “openness.” I asked him how he would “glide” between his stubborn side and his flexible one. Neither side was good or bad, strong or weak – they were both attributes that could assist him in his leadership style and personal interactions with those around him.

Throughout the next few sessions, the client spoke about how he wanted to “try” using both his well-developed and less-developed sides. His practice with a new capability grew through his own intentions and choices he would make working with others. He became skilled at reading a situation and knowing when to use his already-developed “stubborn” side, along with his developing “flexible” one. He became more adept the more he practiced and reflected on his success in our sessions together.

Working with clients as a coach teaches me more than I can relate, and it serves me in helping leaders throughout the world. Expanding our range is a worthy goal for all of us – and appreciating our own “well-developed” sides is such a great first step!

This article originally appeared on Bostonexecutivecoaches.com.

ATD NYC Volunteer Spotlight – gothamCulture’s Kate Gerasimova

Kate Gerasimova gothamCulture Senior Associate

By Rosemary Okoiti, ATD NYC

1. What three words describe you and why?

Empathetic: I always make a good effort to make sure I’m considering the other person and the other side of the story. This is one of the reasons I love human-centered design so much as well. 

Ambitious and driven: If I set my mind on something, it would be extremely hard to get me off that road. I have a high inspiration for myself which comes with higher standards. Knowing this about myself helps me realize when to let things go and be more agile. 

Versatile: I am curious about a lot of things and have a wide range of interests, psychology, design innovation, learning, art, business, tennis, biking, and the list continues. I once was going to major in math and law.  Read More…

High-Potential Programs Can Help Some Employees And Hurt Others. Here’s How We Can Design A Fairer System

High-Potential Program

By  and 

Companies invest in high potential programs with the goal of developing their star employees into future leaders. As exciting as these programs seem, poorly designed versions of them might cause more harm than good. While there is no secret recipe for a high potential program, here are three ideas to keep in mind when designing your company’s program to ensure it is effective and fair:

1. Companies that invest in high potential programs financially outperform their competitors.1

High potential programs sit in talent management, a practice that focuses on identifying and developing the ‘A players’— those who have the highest leadership potential and are of great interest to companies — with the potential to fill future leadership roles.2 This segmentation of the workforce allows companies to achieve their business objectives and motivates those labeled as high potential A players to strive and thrive. After tracking 300 organizations across 31 countries over 7 years, researchers found that investment in high potential programs correlated with better financial performance.1

These programs are not faultless, however. Regardless of intention, high potential programs can alienate the B players who make 80-85% of the workforce,3 leading to demotivation, a decrease in productivity and engagement,4 and even at times, higher turnover.5 Read More…

Podcast: Storytelling in the Age of Disruption

gothamCulture Podcast

In this episode of the gothamCulture Podcast, Shawn Overcast interviews Michael Margolis, CEO of Storied, a strategic messaging firm that specializes in the story of disruption and innovation. He is also the author of a new book titled Story 10x: Turn the Impossible Into the Inevitable.

Organizations in every industry, across the globe, are experiencing perhaps the greatest disruption of our time, with the pandemic COVID-19. We haven’t experienced a public health or economic disruption of this scale in our lifetimes. And yet, (strike this – over the past 20 years), individuals and the organizations that we work in have been no stranger to the experience of serial disruptions. Whether that be the way (italicize to emphasize these words) we work – through advancements in technology, where we work – with the continued expansion of globalization, and with whom we work – and the growing workforce demographic to include 3-4 generations working side-by-side. Michael discusses strategies for how leaders can “meet the moment” and evolve their narrative. In this podcast, we learn practical ways to move our teams and organizations from the story of the past to the story of the future, by first recognizing and reflecting on what comes with the place of ‘no story’ – the place of in between.

Released: May 20, 2020


How to Stay Creative While Working Remotely

When we meet in person, something absolutely magical happens. We look each other in the eye, share a story or two, then something may just click and we may even bond! Enforced remote environments for those of us that can stay home and work remotely may not seem as magical, but we can look at it as an opportunity to redesign the way we work and improve upon what doesn’t. We can begin by finding creative ways to do our work and incorporate it in each day. Read More…

Essential Leadership in the New World of Work

Since March, our world of work has changed more than any of us ever would have imagined. Now organizations are starting to explore a phased return to previous work arrangements. Last week I shared some thoughts on practices leaders should employ to help their teams successfully navigate their return.

But, for teams and organizations to thrive in the long run, leaders will need to embrace new skills and new ways of leading. And, while there are numerous areas you could focus on developing, here are three key capabilities that will help better prepare your team for future disruptions:

Authenticity – A recent literature review on team resilience suggests that team identity is a key enabler of teams that can successfully recover from disruption. Strong team identity requires a leader who engenders trust through authenticity. Authentic leaders are genuinely self-aware and inspire loyalty and trust by consistently being who they really are. And research has shown that authentic leadership is the single biggest predictor of employee satisfaction. As your team slowly returns to more typical ways of working, you have the opportunity to show up in a more authentic way. Practice openness and true humility. Be honest about the challenges and opportunities you are facing as a leader and as an organization. And, create a safe space for your team to do the same. Read More…

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…