Leadership & Business Podcast

Ken WhiteLeadership & Business is an award-winning podcast series. It features the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Each episode features subject matter experts discussing strategies, tactics and information to help you become a more effective leader, communicator and professional.

Launched in 2015, Leadership & Business is produced by William & Mary's Raymond A. Mason School of Business. Ken White, Associate Dean for MBA & Executive Programs and former award-winning broadcast journalist, hosts the podcast.

 Zar Toolan
Zar ToolanEpisode 220: April 5, 2024
Human Centered A.I.

Zar Toolan

Episode 220: April 5, 2024

Human Centered A.I.

The adoption of artificial intelligence and generative AI is moving so quickly. Leaders, companies, and organizations are working to determine how AI can best help them, their employees, their customers, and others. And while the work continues, some organizations have found the sweet spot: developing ways AI and employees work together to provide outstanding customer service by using the best of technology and people. One of those organizations is the financial services firm Edward Jones. Zar Toolan is Principle, Wealth Platforms, Data & AI for Edwards Jones. He recently visited the William & Mary School of Business to talk with students. Then, he talked with us about artificial intelligence and leveraging AI to build better connections.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How Edward Jones leverages "human-centered" AI
  • What differentiates the information age from the intelligence age
  • How fast people are adapting to the age of intelligence
  • The importance of organizations adopting ways to utilize artificial intelligence
  • How AI can accelerate our humanity
  • How AI can promote deeper connections with stakeholders and partners
  • What constitutes responsible use of AI
  • How should a future leader understand the roles of AI
Transcript

Zar Toolan

We actually are seeing more and more, even in the younger generations, that are saying they want a human to be part of that equation with them along with the A.I.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. The adoption of artificial intelligence and generative A.I. is moving so quickly. Leaders, companies, and organizations are working to determine how A.I. can best help them, their employees, their customers, and others. And while the work continues, some organizations have found the sweet spot. Developing ways A.I. and employees work together to provide outstanding customer service by using the best of technology and people. One of those organizations is the financial services firm Edward Jones. Zar Toolan is Principal Wealth Platforms, Data, and A.I. for Edward Jones. He recently visited the William & Mary School of Business to talk with students. Then, he talked with us about artificial intelligence and leveraging A.I. to build better connections. Here's our conversation with Zar Toolan.

Ken White

Well, Zar, welcome. It's great to have you on campus, and welcome to the podcast.

Zar Toolan

Thanks so much for having me, Ken. Great to be here.

Ken White

You spoke to a class today. How was that?

Zar Toolan

It was just phenomenal seeing the future leaders that we get to educate and see the way that they see the world and really bringing out the best in them from how they view leadership, how they view their own accountability to not just university, but society, and really thinking big picture like that. It was just so great to see it in person in real-time.

Ken White

You talked specifically more about leadership with the group?

Zar Toolan

I did. It was great. We talk a lot about resiliency in leadership and lessons that we all take with us, not just intellectual lessons but really experiential lessons. What does resiliency mean in the face of the inevitable adversity that will come our ways? How do we think through it and do more with it as we go?

Ken White

Yeah. Business school is a good place to learn a little bit about resilience.

Zar Toolan

It's a great place, for sure.

Ken White

Yeah, I am so impressed, and I do more work with our MBA students and love them to death. But I don't do that much with the undergraduates. But when I meet them, they are so unbelievably impressive.

Zar Toolan

And genuine, and really bringing their full selves into it, and just the responsiveness and the back and forth dialog throughout the entirety. It was really special.

Ken White

Well, that's great. Glad you had a good time. We told our audience a little bit about you and what you do in Edward Jones, but if you wouldn't mind, what are you doing in terms of your role? Tell us a little bit about the organization.

Zar Toolan

Sure. Thanks for that. I really appreciate it. Well, at Edward Jones, we have the privilege of serving over 8 million clients and investors across all of North America. We have a client in every county in the United States, except for one in Loving, Texas, which is fun, every province of Canada. We have about 50,000 colleagues across Edward Jones. Our purpose is to partner for positive impact for our clients and our colleagues, and together really better our communities and society as a whole. We take that very seriously. For me, for my role, getting to lead our wealth platforms, data, and A.I., we really think about how can we use those platforms. How can we use that broad reach that we have with our clients? Now, with the world of A.I. and generative A.I., how can we do that differently? How can we do that in a responsible human-centered way to really accelerate the way that we are able to serve our clients where they are for what they need for whatever is needed for them in the future?

Ken White

What an exciting time, right?

Zar Toolan

It really is.

Ken White

With so many things at our fingertips today. When you hear human-centered A.I., what's the definition 50,000-foot view of that? What does that mean?

Zar Toolan

When we think about it, Edward Jones, when I think about it, A.I., artificial intelligence, has been around for 40-something years at this point. It's been around, and it's only been recently with this explosion of generative A.I. and really bringing that front and center into the marketplace. You have disruptors like ChatGPT and all the things that Open A.I. are doing. When you think about that, that is something that's going to, I think, accelerate that way we as humans are going to be able to operate and interact with each other. It's going to give us the ability to, I say, do the fun stuff. Computers are really good at doing the routine, maybe the more mundane. We talk about taking the drudgery out of things, out of work. For me, being human-centered just allows us to explore more of that humanity using A.I. to accelerate that in many ways. I actually add a third kind of A.I., which I always call augmented intelligence. That's really where we can take all the human specialties that we have, applying it with A.I. to have that augmented intelligence to really help us do what we think is right and best for our jobs, for the things that we see every day.

Ken White

I've heard you talk about transitioning from the information age to the intelligence age. What does that mean? Tell us about that.

Zar Toolan

Sure. When I think about growing up in '70s and '80s and really being a product of what you may even call the back end of the space age and then going into the information age, which you think about the computers of the '80s and '90s and really bringing us there, you think about the things that happened in the late '90s, whether it was AOL or Google and then with YouTube. That was really this beautiful information age that really took us from that space age into where we are now. Over the last 5-10 years, really that shift into the intelligence age, where we're able to do things faster, more easily. You think about computing power. You think about the way that the gaming industry has enabled us to harness that computing power for things like not just A.I., but now generative A.I. You think about the exponential curve of that. For me, the intelligence age is really about we're taking these incremental steps on an exponential curve. For every one step to the right, we might get five out or, ten out or 100 out of that. That, to me, is really that acceleration into the intelligence age and the way that we can start thinking differently and acting and behaving differently as humans and doing things at a faster pace than ever possible in our history.

Ken White

Are people adapting and adopting fast enough?

Zar Toolan

That's a great question. We wrestle with that every day. What is fast, and what does that really look like? If you think about some of the classic business studies, you think about diffusion of innovation, and you think about things like early adopters versus the laggards. We're really in that innovator and early adopter phase right now. We're not quite probably to that early majority, let alone the late majority or the laggards. In that early part of the curve, and so what is fast, I think folks are exploring this in their own way at their own time. I equate it a lot to when you think back 20 years ago, think about or even 25 years ago at this point, where you had things like e-commerce showing up online. Folks are like, I would never put my credit card information into a computer, or it's going someplace into some black hole that I wouldn't otherwise know where it is. But think about today, where everything is on your phone; everything is at the tap that you can just put out right there. It's that big shift. We're still pretty early on in this phase. I think it's up to everyone to figure out what is fascinating for them and what does that adoption curve look like for them.

Ken White

But I assume if you're not early and if you're not on it, you got to get passed up. You've got to be there right now as an organization.

Zar Toolan

Yeah. For sure, as an organization, if I take off my individual persona hat and put on the the Edward Jones hat, for us, this is what we talk about a lot is. What is that right pace? How do we benchmark ourselves against the rest of the industry? How do we benchmark ourselves outside of our industry? How do we look across, whether it's regulators or legislators, across that entire landscape to really say, are we going fast enough as an organization? How do we know if we're going fast enough? At the same time, how are we doing that in a responsible and ethical, and trustworthy way to make sure that as we do it and when we do it, we are taking care of our clients, which is our most important asset that we have across the board. When we think about how are we protecting the things that they give us to hold most dear, which is their financial futures. We want to do this at a measured pace, an intentional pace. I like to say we want to be in the front pack, not necessarily leading the front pack.

Ken White

Do you see a different differentiation between generations and their willingness to jump on board?

Zar Toolan

It's surprising. We actually are seeing more and more, even in the younger generations, that are saying they want a human to be part of equation with them along with the A.I. We have a study we did with Gennext and with some other internal work that we have done, which shows that actually when you look at it, the majority of Gen Z and even some of the earlier consumers in the marketplace still want to have that human interaction, human alternative. We see that consistent across all four of the generations that we surveyed as part of that, going from our boomers to our Gen X, Gen Y, millennials, and now on into Gen Z. It's fascinating to see that even with this proliferation of A.I., it's becoming more easily to capture and get. There's still that desire to have connection points with a human, and that's where we really believe that human-centered component. It's not going away, but this is how we can augment that each and every day.

Ken White

Then, from an employee standpoint, as you said earlier, these are some tasks I no longer have to do that interfere with my relationship with my client.

Zar Toolan

That's exactly right. How can we take those tasks? The more routine tasks that are, the more day-to-day, move it from A to B to C to D. Those are things that computers can do really well. What computers can't do really well is recognize emotion. They can't react. They can't really see the feelings that are happening across the table with a client. How can we use A.I. where A.I. is really good at doing things? How do we keep the human front and center? Because that's how our clients are telling us they want to continue to interact with us.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Zar Toolan in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and U.S. News & World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the U.S. and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has world-class faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with Zar Toolan.

Ken White

I heard you mention talking about accelerating our humanity, how A.I. can do that. Can you tell us more about that?

Zar Toolan

Sure. It's an interesting concept. I had the privilege of having dinner with Garry Kasparov about two years ago, which was the 25th anniversary of his Championship game with Deep Blue if you remember that from IBM. Garry talked a lot about this concept of augmented intelligence and really the idea that how can one plus one plus one equal 25 or whatever the math might be there. When you think about accelerating our humanity, it's really that augmentation of let A.I. do what A.I. can do really well and then let us as humans do what we can do really well. How can we combine those two things together to have a better outcome, a better solution? You think about all of the breakthroughs that are happening, whether it's in medicine right now or in financial services as part of that. Humans are able to do the human things, the quick thought, the creativity, the strategic thinking, but then use A.I. use the computers to then synthesize all that information to make some of those breakthroughs occur.

Ken White

How can A.I. promote deeper connections with clients, stakeholders, partners?

Zar Toolan

I think about a great example that we have at Edward Jones, which is really around our financial advisor match program as an example. What that is designed to do is really taking the eye, really understanding what is most important for a given investor or a client who might need a financial advisor relationship, taking all those characteristics, knowing what's most important to them, being hyper-personalized and focus on those outcomes that are for them the future of what they need, and then pairing them up with a financial advisor who is right there with them who understands what that is. Making those deep personal connections and then enabling that advisor and that client to then explore what that might mean for them.

Ken White

What a response have you had from clients?

Zar Toolan

The response has been tremendous. We've been able to get our clients more tightly connected with our financial advisors. They're able to have a more immediate connection with them. Then we're able to then more quickly move them through the process of understanding their financial goals, what's most important for them and how we ultimately bring that to life.

Ken White

Yeah, so interesting. Yeah, saving time and creating the relationship. What about responsible use of A.I.? What do you think about when you hear that? Is that something that keeps you up at night, or is that just part of the job?

Zar Toolan

It absolutely is. I think it's paramount for us to think about A.I. with a responsible lens around it. We have at Edward Jones our A.I. guiding principles. There's five of them, and those are sacrosanct to us when we think about this along lens of responsible A.I. The first one is human-centered. We've talked a lot about that and what it means to put the human first, which includes our clients and our financial advisors and our branch teams, and our colleagues across the board. The second one is around accountability, making sure that we are accountable for the things that we do, how we use A.I., where it is. The third is around having our privacy, our data secure and safe, because that is the thing that our clients entrust us with the most, is making sure that we are taking care of them and we're taking care of the things we know about them. The fourth one is around inclusivity. How are we being inclusive with how we're using A.I. to make sure that we don't have any disparate impacts, that we're bringing folks along, that we're having the right equitable approaches to what we're doing with A.I. The fifth one is around transparency. Being very visible, being very transparent and open around that. For us, those five things, human-centered, being accountable, safe, secure, and trustworthy, all-inclusive, and transparent, is the coin of the realm for me for responsible A.I.

Ken White

How did you get into this role? Are you a tech guy? How did it happen?

Zar Toolan

I am a tech guy by background, an engineer by training and trait. I've always been into the math, if you will, of it all. Then getting to spend some time in financial services here over the last almost 20 years. Then, having led data organizations and other digital and scaling parts of that was asked to step into this role and lead the charge forward. It's a pretty exciting time. It's something that's going to be transformative both for us at Edward Jones, but also for us as a human race.

Ken White

Yeah, it is a very exciting time, right? What do you like about it? What's the thing that really gets you going?

Zar Toolan

Oh, gosh, there's so much that I think through, but it's just the ability to go from thought to reality in a matter of moments. What I mean by that, I'll give you a couple of examples. There are things that today might take us six hours to do. I think about it from an Edward Jones standpoint; it could be preparing for a client meeting, could be getting ready to do a summation for a client, could be processing paperwork. We want to take things from 6 hours to 6 minutes. That's the exciting part is that this actually will allow us to do that. What then that allows our branch teams to do is it frees them up to do the things that they do best, which is interacting with their clients, which is having those deep, personal, meaningful connections that only they know about. It's about finding those ways to go deeper with them, giving them personalized nudges that they may know, but they might not know how to actually get after those. It's just There's so much I could talk about in the space.

Ken White

For someone who wants to get into that, what should they do? What should they know?

Zar Toolan

It's such an opportunity now for A.I. to be part of anything, whether it's an undergraduate business major or a pre-med or a pre-law, or whether it's someone that's already gainfully employed and thinking about what they're doing each and every day. There's a place for A.I. in all of that. The places to start are really just getting more familiar with what it is, what it isn't; just start dabbling and understanding where it can play out. I also think there's so much to be said for understanding the underlying data and components that it can do with that. You think about the interactions that we have each and every day. There's no wrong place to start. Just start.

Ken White

How much of your role is leadership involved?

Zar Toolan

This is an emerging space, and leadership is key in any space that you're going to have something that's net new. What we look at is really having the playbook that we've developed over years and now applying it to something different. We talk a little bit about resiliency. We talk a lot about the experiences that we have that we're able to bring to bear. But this, to my mind, is a new variable, a very exciting and powerful and exponential variable, but it is just another variable. When we think about it from a leadership standpoint, we're still leading humans; we're still leading change, we're still leading on this long-term journey. We've got a really good playbook, especially at Edward Jones, for that, as well as with the leadership team as we take in these new variables, and then we do more with it. But again, back to our purpose, back to making a difference. It's all part of that same routine, same playbook.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Zar Toolan, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Zar Toolan, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Sean McDermott
Sean McDermottEpisode 219: March 23, 2024
Football & Principled Achievement

Sean McDermott

Episode 219: March 23, 2024

Football & Principled Achievement

Succeeding. And doing so in the right manner. That's principled achievement. The William & Mary School of Business defines the principled achievement leader as one who values people, diversity of thought, empathy, humility, and success. This leader listens and inspires, practices ethical compassionate behavior, and embraces the tenets of the William & Mary honor code. This year's Principled Achievement Award Ceremony was held on March 21st in New York City at Rockefeller Center's Rainbow Room. The award was presented to Sean McDermott, a William & Mary graduate and head coach of the National Football League's Buffalo Bills. Before the ceremony, McDermott sat down with us to discuss his thoughts on football, leadership, and principled achievement.

Podcast (audio)

Sean McDermott: Football & Principled Achievement TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • When Sean decided he wanted to pursue coaching
  • What the pros and cons are of frequently switching coaching jobs
  • How to build good coaching culture
  • What the roles and responsibilities are for an NFL head coach
  • How the new generation of NFL players has changed in the past few years
  • What it takes to win at a high level in the NFL
  • How Coach McDermott dealt with Damar Hamlin collapsing on the field
  • How NFL coaches prepare for talking to the media
  • How Sean embodies the principled achievement pillars
Transcript

Sean McDermott

It doesn't matter what you look like, who you are if you're older or younger. If you can help them achieve their goals, they're going to listen to you. They're going to buy into you.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Succeeding and doing so in the right manner. That's principled achievement. The William & Mary School of Business defines the principled achievement leader as one who values people, diversity of thought, empathy, humility, and success. This leader listens and inspires, practices ethical, compassionate behavior, and embraces the tenets of the William & Mary Honor Code. This year's Principal Achievement Award Ceremony was held on March 21st in New York City at Rockefeller Center's Rainbow Room. The award was presented to Sean McDermott, a William & Mary graduate and head coach of the National Football League's Buffalo Bills. Before the ceremony, McDermott sat down with us to discuss his thoughts on football, leadership, and principled achievement. Here's our conversation with Sean McDermott.

Ken White

Well, Sean, thanks so much for taking time with us tonight, not only to be here in New York with us for the principled achievement ceremony but to take time to do the podcast with us. Thanks very much.

Sean McDermott

It's my pleasure, Ken. I'm happy to be here and looking forward to a great conversation.

Ken White

Yeah, thanks. You're a Philadelphia area guy. How did you end up at William & Mary?

Sean McDermott

Boy, when I spent some time my junior year speaking to my guidance counselor, I went to LaSalle College Prep School, an all-boys school outside of Philadelphia, and he said, hey, Sean, there's a lot of really good schools down south, and they have football as well. I wanted to play football in school and go to a good school at the same time. He said, A lot of the people from some of the more well-to-do areas, even though I didn't live in that area, were sending their kids down south to go to school. William & Mary being one of those schools, and so I said, hey, I'll look into that. The football and the sports, I met the academics side of things, and it all worked out.

Ken White

Yeah. You also wrestled in high school?

Sean McDermott

I did.

Ken White

Did you think about doing that in college?

Sean McDermott

I did.

Ken White

Was that a tough decision?

Sean McDermott

Yeah. One of the things that swayed me to football, Ken, was that my grades started to dip every wrestling season because of the grind of a wrestling season, naturally. So, I decided to stick with football.

Ken White

When did you decide coaching might be something in your future?

Sean McDermott

Oh, boy. That's a rabbit hole now. We might go down. My dad was a coach, a part-time college coach, and I was a finance major at school. I just had my vision for myself was, I'm going to get a business finance degree and go live in Northern Virginia and get a dog, have a white picket fence, and have the whole American dream in front of me. Then, I got to my senior year, and I said, wait a second. I think I want to coach. I don't think I've had enough of this football stuff. I started coaching a little bit in the spring of my senior season, my fifth year when my eligibility had already run out. Then it just turned into, let me give it a try in the fall, and here I am.

Ken White

Is it what you expected? Did you expect to be in the NFL?

Sean McDermott

No, I didn't. I mean, who would have ever thought, X amount of years later, that I'd be in the NFL, in particular as a head coach? It's like anything else, though. For driven people like us, it's, hey, trying to be the best at what we can be, at what we do, and that's a goal. It's always been a goal of mine, whether it be at William & Mary or postgraduate.

Ken White

It's interesting. Sports fans who are our listeners know this; nonsports fans might not. But in your profession, many coaches change jobs almost annually for 20 straight years. Your background is quite different. You were basically with two teams before you landed your current role. What are the pluses and minuses of jumping so often? Because we can't do that necessarily in business. But for those who do that, what's the game plan there?

Sean McDermott

The minuses, I would say, because they're mostly pluses of not jumping, but the pluses of jumping would be that you get a chance to be around a lot of different cultures and a lot of different ways of thinking and doing things naturally. The minuses are it's hard on the family, right? This is a tough business, like many businesses out there. We've been blessed and fortunate to have only been now in three places, and hopefully this is our last stop.

Ken White

As a head coach, if you have some coaches who have the background of they tend to jump, how do you build culture with that kind of a staff?

Sean McDermott

That are new on my staff?

Ken White

Yes.

Sean McDermott

They're a little bit gun-shy, I would say, because of the situations they've been in. And come the end of the season, what I've noticed is they're on pins and needles because, hey, this is the time of year I'm usually looking for a job or the staff gets let go and, yes, again, we're looking for a job and just some bad luck or whatever it is. And so through when it's come up for me as a head coach, it's like, man, wow, this doesn't happen. What I've been able to experience doesn't happen to everyone. And so you try and ease their mind a little bit and pump some confidence and trust into them and reassure them and their families that, hey, you're good, and we're going to be good here.

Ken White

Who are some of your mentors in terms of head coaches and assistant coaches?

Sean McDermott

Well, I think you'd start with Coach Laycock. He's since retired at school, and he really had a professional style approach to the way he ran the program at the collegiate level. Then, since I've come into the NFL, Andy Reid spending 12 years with Coach Reid in Philadelphia, working my way up from somewhat low on the ladder to the defensive coordinator position. Then I would say Ron Rivera as well in Carolina, who I worked for, and I'm just super grateful for those opportunities.

Ken White

What's a head coach in the NFL do? What are the roles and responsibilities in less than an hour?

Sean McDermott

Oh, yeah. Well, the bandwidth is incredible. It really is. I'm going to talk about this a little bit tonight at our event here. It's years ago when I interviewed for multiple head coaching jobs over the course of two or three years. In the way it works in the NFL, you kind of get your name out there, you get recognized, and you get on the radar, and you get an interview, maybe two, and you may not get them, but then the next year, you come out the next year, and you're expected to get one. At all of those interviews, Ken, I was asked, how do you define leadership? What is leadership to you? Back then, I really hadn't been through what I've now been through. I was in a leadership role, but only for a few years. That being the coordinator level job is a leadership job. In this case, now being through eight years or seven years, now going on eight of a head coaching job in the NFL, it's, hey, you tell me what the situation is, and I'll tell you what type of leader I have to be. And that's just, to me, you've got to fit the situation and what the situation calls for. And whether it's a player and trying to get them to play better, that's the simple stuff. It's caring for people, caring for players, their families, and really trying to help them become the best version of themselves by building a great culture and an environment around them whereby they can do that. And not just our players, but our staff. And we are dead set on doing that. That is our vision. That is my goal daily, is to build that type of environment where people drive down. One bill is driving, they said, hey, I like going to work here.

Ken White

And I assume also you're basically a CEO?

Sean McDermott

Correct.

Ken White

Yeah, the parallels are definitely there. In your role, I know some head coaches have a lot to say in terms of player personnel, who we draft, who we trade for. Is that part of your role?

Sean McDermott

It is. The structure of that is a little bit different at every team. At our team, Brandon, being our general manager, is primarily responsible for that, but he's great. He asks for input. The reason being is no GM wants to bring a player in here that a coach doesn't want. That doesn't usually work. But I'd like to believe that we've got a great partnership, and we've worked well together for seven years now.

Ken White

You've been in the NFL long enough that players have changed, not just the names, but attitudes, how they've grown up. The generation today is different than it was even five, six years ago. How do you work with players? How do you try to embrace the differences that we see today in players who are 21, 22, and 23?

Sean McDermott

Well, it has changed. I think what has changed has also stayed the same in terms of the core principles that I believe in. The number one thing is what my dad told me years ago of, hey, they don't really care what you know until they know how much you care about them. And then Andy Reid taught me, he said, hey, listen, all the player cares about after that is, can you help them accomplish their goals? It doesn't matter what you look like, who you are, if you're older or younger. If you can help them achieve their goals, they're going to listen to you. They're going to buy into you. But it really starts and ends with people, right? I think those are the two bookends. And then in the middle of all that is the guiding principles and the process and the culture and the environment you try and build. That's really where, to me, the rubber meets the road.

Ken White

So they need to trust you?

Sean McDermott

Absolutely.

Ken White

What can a player do so that you trust them?

Sean McDermott

I think it's mutual. It's showing that they're committed, showing that they're open to being coached. It's a two-way street, that trust. I think there's probably debate out there of, is it given? Is it earned? I think it's probably a combination of both. I'm one of those guys where it is mostly earned, but you have to give it a little bit at the beginning in order to move forward in an efficient manner.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Sean McDermott in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News & World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has world-class faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Sean McDermott.

Ken White

You've been to a couple of Super Bowls. I don't know that the average fan realizes what the odds are and how much that takes to get there, but what's it take to win at such a high level like that?

Sean McDermott

Oh, man, boy. If I could find the formula, it'd be over. To get us back there every year, it's been. I mean, you're talking about the best in the world at what they do at every position around the building. Every week, there's such parody around the NFL. It's the greatest team sport, yes, but also the greatest spectator sport because your team may be not having one of those great years, but those fans are watching because the margins every weekend are very small. That's what leads to you're seeing every weekend a new team win or five new playoff teams because of the parody around the NFL. It's a great business model.

Ken White

Yeah. You look at the standings; everybody's at 500 half the time. Like, wow, it certainly shows.

Sean McDermott

It does.

Ken White

A couple of seasons ago, I think the whole world was watching Buffalo Bills when Damar Hamlin went down. For nonfans, he literally collapsed on the field in all of America watching; I remember everybody else watching and worrying, was he going to survive? What was that whole ordeal for you as a coach? What were you trying to do in terms of being a leader?

Sean McDermott

Sometimes, when you prepare, you feel like you've covered everything in your handbook or the manual. In this case, that was well outside of the manual. As I said earlier, the way I responded was how I thought anyone would respond in that situation and caring for Damar's life at the time. The way I look at our players and our staff, for that matter, is, hey if that was my son on the field, you're responsible as the coach. That's how I feel about it. I am responsible for his well-being. It doesn't mean that no one's going to get hurt. It's a violent sport. In that case, it was an extreme situation. We're just extremely grateful that Damar is now healthy, and doing well, and really thriving.

Ken White

Yeah, remarkable story. I think one thing that you and your peers do, probably more than anyone else, is interact with media. Is it daily? It's at least weekly.

Sean McDermott

Just about.

Ken White

It's pretty much daily.

Sean McDermott

There's about four or five mandatory interactions with the media a week during the regular season.

Ken White

How do you prepare for that? How did you learn to deal with the media?

Sean McDermott

Well, I had good training in Philadelphia, one of the larger media markets in the world, especially in the United States. That's a tough media market. At a coordinator level, you get a little bit of a junior look at what it is and the exposure once or twice a week. Then, as a head coach, now in Buffalo, it's, like I said, four or five, sometimes six times a week. And the further you go, the more concentrated it gets and the more the spotlight is on you and your team. So it's really about, like anything, preparation. And my approach, and some would rather I be a little bit more telling, but my approach is to lead. And to me, that, as far as the media goes, comes back to making sure that I do everything I can to help us win the next game. And so try and protect as many as I can and keep them as confident as they can be through the journey of NFL season.

Ken White

Well, you're here because you're the winner of the Principal Achievement Award, and we explained what that was to the listeners when we first started the podcast. You're the third winner, and this is really exciting. I know people like William & Mary are very excited. How did you hear about you were being selected? Tell us about, was it a phone call, email?

Sean McDermott

Yeah, Todd Mooradian, I'm tempted to call him Professor Mooradian, called me, and we had seen each other at my induction in the Athletics Hall of Fame last year about this time. A couple of months after, he reached out, and I think it was before our season actually started, and said, hey, we'd like to honor you with this award. I said, well, tell me more about it. I'm just extremely grateful and honored to be here and to be selected.

Ken White

Well, we're grateful and honored that you're here. If our listeners don't know, Todd Mooradian was one of your professors, of course, now the dean of the business school. That's going to be cool for you to see him. He was a young guy, a young professor.

Sean McDermott

He was.

Ken White

That's going to be fun for you to see him in this role.

Sean McDermott

Oh, it is. He was that young professor that everybody loved. Had that young family, a dog, and lived close to campus. He was just a big fan of the football program, but fair, too. I would say he definitely held us to a certain standard, and there were no freebies, as one would maybe tend to hope for or expect at times from time to time. Once in a while, you need that at William & Mary. But no, he was a leader amongst leaders.

Ken White

That's great. Yeah, the young prof. I think students come in and say, this is either going to be extremely easy, or it's going to be extremely hard. There's nothing in the middle. Yeah, absolutely. You've already actually touched on some of the pillars that the school came up with, the defined principle, the achievement. You sound very other-centric. Your approach seems to be very other-centric. You've mentioned players, you've mentioned coaches, you've mentioned family. So obviously, other-centric is a thing for you. And also empathy. You've mentioned that. One of the pillars is diversity of thought. How do you bring that into your staff, the diversity of thought?

Sean McDermott

Well, number one, hire a great staff, and then trust them to bring things to the table, and then once in a while, to just be quiet and listen. One of our assistant coaches actually has. I don't know if it's a branding thing that he does, but it's talk less, listen more as a little bit of a maybe a clothing line he's doing. I don't really know, but I think that says a lot, really, about the job of a leader is to listen. When you hire the right people, you empower them to do their jobs, create the environment by which they can do it at a high level. I tell our staff, listen, any idea can come from anywhere on our staff. As much as it's vertically structured, it's horizontally aligned as well. Just because it's an idea coming from what we call a quality control coach or a graduate assistant coach at the college level is something similar. An idea is an idea. If you have an idea, bring it up, bring it to the table. That's what it's about. Come Sunday, we want the right game plan.

Ken White

The principal to achievement leader is one who embraces compassion when dealing with others. This is the NFL, man. This is a rough game. There's not a lot of time to be compassionate. Where does that fit in to your grand scheme as a head coach, compassion?

Sean McDermott

Well, it's big. Empathy and compassion are huge. To be honest with you, they don't come naturally for me. I've had to learn that people need to see that. People need that because through the course of a business day, week, year, people go through things, whether it's on the job, off the job. I've just learned over the years that if you're not right at home, we're off the field. In this case, it's going to be hard for you to be good on the field, and so caring for people off the field is step number one.

Ken White

Humility. You're winning. The whole nation is watching you win. You're on TV. It's hard, I think. At times, probably to stay focused and embrace humility. How do you do that?

Sean McDermott

Well, the NFL humbles you rather quickly if you don't stay humble. No, we embrace the humble and hungry approach. I think that fits A, who I am and what I've come from, and the support and the guidance that my parents have given me over the years. Then William & Mary, no different, to be honest with you. The environment around our program at William & Mary and the campus, and you earn things at William & Mary. Things are earned. Even though it's got a great reputation, you're not walking in there, and it's going to get all of a sudden easier just because you got in. I love that about William & Mary. When you hire people from William & Mary, you know that they're battle-tested because of the experience that they've been through. Staying humble in the NFL is critical because if you get too comfortable or too complacent, you'll be reminded rather quickly.

Ken White

For young leaders listening to the podcast, we certainly have a lot of working professionals in the audience, but we also have students, MBA students, and undergrad students who, whether they know it or not, are going to end up in leadership positions. Whether they want to or not, will get there. What's some advice you have for a younger professional who you see, oh, wow, they've got a great future ahead of them in terms of leadership?

Sean McDermott

Well, I would say, don't make the mistake that I made. I used to think that leadership, you either had it or you didn't. For many of us who go to William & Mary, we've been successful all the way through our lives, to that point, at least, whether it's undergraduate or graduate at this time. When you get out of school, it's a little bit of, hey, I may not have the experience, but I know what this takes. Leadership is, yes, I believe it's borne in a little bit, but it's also learned and developed. I'm a big believer in that. Most jobs have some degree of leadership baked into them. I would just encourage those young leaders to continue to grow, take notes, watch, and develop all the while because before you know it, you're going to be in that seat.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Sean McDermott, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Sean McDermott, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

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 Martha Rouleau
Martha RouleauEpisode 218: March 8, 2024
Grief & Grieving

Martha Rouleau

Episode 218: March 8, 2024

Grief & Grieving

If you've lived for any length of time, you have experienced grief. It's a universal emotion caused by losing someone or something you've loved or cared about. Whether it's the loss of a job, the death of a family member, or loss of a pet, grief and grieving can be intense—strong enough to adversely affect your work and life. Martha Rouleau is an adjunct lecturer and mindfulness/wellness professional at William & Mary. She works at the university's McLeod Tyler Wellness Center. She recently delivered a presentation on grief and the brain to William & Mary faculty and staff. Afterwards, she joined us to talk about grief and grieving, what they are, and how to approach them as a person, colleague, and leader.

Podcast (audio)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is grief and grieving
  • What are some events that can cause grief
  • How grieving is a personal process
  • How long should the grieving process take
  • What grieving feels like
  • How grieving is connected to the brain
  • What someone can do to address grief
  • The importance of having a support group on one's grieving journey
  • How leaders and managers can help grieving employees
Transcript

Martha Rouleau

The grieving process evolves over time, and the reason it evolves over time is because of the way the brain happens to work and begin to make sense of this new shift in its new change in its experience.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. If you've lived for any length of time, you have experienced grief. It's a universal emotion caused by losing someone or something you've loved or cared about. Whether it's the loss of a job, the death of a family member, or loss of a pet, grief and grieving can be intense, strong enough to adversely affect your work and life. Martha Rouleau is an adjunct lecturer and mindfulness wellness professional at William & Mary. She works at the university's McLeod Tyler Wellness center. She recently delivered a presentation on grief and the brain to William & Mary faculty and staff. Afterwards, she joined us to talk about grief and grieving, what they are and how to approach them as a person, colleague and leader. Here's our conversation with Martha Rouleau.

Ken White

Martha, thank you so much for joining us. It's great to see you and great to have you on the podcast.

Martha Rouleau

Oh Ken. Well, thank you so much. I'm happy to be here and to be able to shed any light on this you know particular topic because I've really learned so much from learning about grief and grieving through my own personal experiences and through some additional training and research that I did. So thank you.

Ken White

Yeah, oftentimes some of our guests have just spoken to a class they've been visiting the building and we talk about what they talked about with the students. You had just given a seminar that I sat in on just several days ago and I thought, oh, we've got to have Martha come and join us and to talk about grief. How is it defined? What is grief?

Martha Rouleau

Well, so we look at Ken grief and grieving. So grief is actually the emotion that we have. It's a very natural emotion that we have and it's really the notion that if we have loved, we will experience grief. It is one of those emotions that really is universal. And because we are connected beings mammals that there will be loss and that we are wired to feel the loss because it is one of these bonding experiences that we have. And it's an attachment. It's an attachment that happens in the brain and all the chemistry that goes along with it. So typically when we talk about grief, we understand that it's the emotion. Very often it can come as certainly big waves. We can even years down the road have an experience and we can feel that pang of grief again. And that's all okay. We remember, right? And the body will remember, particularly when there's attachment. So now we look at grieving. And grieving is actually the process we go through as we continue to evolve and experience what it's like to be living in a different situation, with different parameters, with different experiences than what we had when we were with a loved one.

Ken White

Yeah.

Martha Rouleau

And I want to just jump in here and add this piece too. Where is very often. Sometimes grief can be minimized because people can consider that there's like a hierarchy and someone's grief should be considered worse than my grief. But we all have our own unique experience of the situation or unique experience of the person, animals, transitions, that letting go and that shift through transitions is also important to notify, to recognize as a part of grief.

Ken White

You've worked with so many people. What are some of the events you mentioned? It could be a person, it could be a pet. What are some of the events that you've seen that have caused people to grieve?

Martha Rouleau

Right? Oh gosh, certainly a loss of a loved one. I just mentioned loss of a pet. I think retirement. I think retirement is a very interesting place to go, that very often people don't want to acknowledge. And usually society basically says, oh, you're so lucky. Right? You're so lucky, you're retiring. Not realizing that it's a shift and a shift in the way the brain is perceiving your world. And certainly loss of employment. It can be people who have lost their health and there's a chronic illness that comes up. And their way of being able to move throughout the world can be very different than what they're used to. And being able to come to an understanding of what's that, of how to do it differently is another.

Ken White

So not necessarily losing an individual, losing something that, like you said earlier, you love something, it was very important to you.

Martha Rouleau

Sometimes that matters to you.

Ken White

You had said, it's a personal process. How do you explain that?

Martha Rouleau

So as a personal process, I think it's important to hopefully, I wish this for people to have ease is to understand that there's no set deadline, there's no set arrival point that we're going to get to, that the grieving process evolves over time. And the reason it evolves over time is because of the way the brain happens to work and begin to make sense of this new shift in its new change in its experience. So the hardest part, I have found for most people is to give ourselves permission to be able to take the time that it takes. And so there's many stigmas or cultural beliefs that go along with this, of, gosh, if you don't hurry up, you're not going to be a productive enough member of society. Keep back the emotions. It's not okay to express them. You're supposed to be strong. Let's not overdramatize the situation. And when are you going to be back to normal? So the reason we have to honor the fact that it's a unique process is because our brains are going to be putting things into perspective and it's going to take a bit of time for that. And particularly when the attachment has been strong biologically, but also, I want to say, the attachment to meaning and purpose, when we think about retirement or the loss of a job, right, that's given that person meaning and purpose. So there's that whole new way, perhaps even values based, of how do we redefine ourselves?

Ken White

So yes, there are some similarities, but yes, there are major differences then, and that's that personal. Time frame, I would assume there is none.

Martha Rouleau

There is no time frame. And I think that's what we have to really think about, particularly when we think about the five stages of grief that are very familiar out there, that yes, they have a lot of truth and merit to them, but if we begin to use them as a measuring stick of how am I doing and evaluating ourselves, then perhaps we're not allowing ourselves to just trust in the fact that it's going to evolve. And grief is a very. Grieving is an interconnected process, because if we're all recognizing that and can share that this is what I experience, then we can elicit support, really, from others to help us, help us understand and help us feel connected. So that's why even having other people who are grieving or other people who are supportive us going through grieving is probably one of the key factors that can help the trajectory as we continue to evolve.

Ken White

What can it feel like? What can people experience as they're grieving?

Martha Rouleau

Well, the motion of grief itself is clearly, it can be sadness, it can be overwhelm. It can be anger, it can be frustration, it can be even some people get to the point where they hold two feelings of, this is so hard, this is so difficult. And I'm thankful for. Thankful for the fact of whatever it might be. There's this sense of uncertainty, for sure, because we're living in such a different place, how do we actually see or imagine? Because the brain wants to predict what's going to come next. And if we have that familiar way of someone always arriving home at 06:00 p.m.? Right? At 06:00 p.m. is going to come up for the longest time where we're going to keep predicting that that person is going to come home. And the brain's right there predicting until again, it can make peace or shift the neuroplasticity to see things a little bit differently. Some people feel very isolated as well, too. And that's where I'm just going to be stressing. You'll hear my theme, Ken, of making sure we understand. It's that connection, interconnectedness, that helps us have compassion and empathy and feel not alone.

Ken White

That 06:00 p.m. thing. I just had a colleague who had lost a dog quite a while ago, maybe three, four years ago, who said, just the other day I pulled in the garage, I was expecting the dog to greet me. And I know that's not happening, but, yeah. So that leads me to what you were talking about when you were sharing your session earlier. This is all tied to the brain, and one of the words that you had shared was neuroplasticity. What is that?

Martha Rouleau

Right. And I want to make sure I give credit to Mary Francis O'Connor's work. She's written a beautiful book called the Grieving brain. And there's also a TED talk out there. As you know, I showed just a little clip of that, and I think she's got beautiful examples of what to do. So over time, as we have experience, the brain creates that neural pathways of what the experience is. So 6:00 person walks in the door, animal walks in the door. And because we attach our neurobiological attachments, which means also through our experiences of connection, not just a physical act, the brain is continually looking for those same patterns over and over again. So the reality and the dissonance is when at 06:00 the brain is predicting, because it has such a strong, I can even say, like maybe even a superhighway, depending on the number of years of that experience, of 06:00 p.m. And all of a sudden it's not happening. The brain is going to take a while to try and make sense of this. Okay, so, no, there's an absence here, although my memory, my virtual memory, right. My virtual memory is that person is going to come in. And Mary Francis O'Connor has a lovely phrase where she says, we're actually creating our new cartography inside our head. And that's why it takes time. Right? And that's why it's okay. In that moment when there's that sense of, oh, yes, it's 06:00 and they're not returning home, feelings are going to come up. And that's why there can't be a definite end line because it could be years. And that doesn't mean that we're not adapting. And I think that's where it's real important to remember about evaluation and not evaluating ourselves, because we are adapting all along. The more and more we have the courage to stay present with your experience of emotions, because emotions are messengers. They're telling us that something mattered, and they're not, I believe from my mindfulness background, they're not to be put away, pushed away. They're to be just really seen, experienced, so that they then can shift. One thing that I definitely want to add right here is because I offered the program a second time for students and it was in person. And at the end we stood up and we offered some movement. And one student came up afterwards and indicated how she actually experienced the shift of from having sat, having listened, having felt some of the experience she was having, and then to move things around in the body. So I'm jumping ahead a little bit about what are some important things we can do, because there has been some research, just like trauma lives in the body, grief. And grief can be such a traumatic event lives in the body, too. So whatever feels good for the body to move and shift and allow things to not stay stuck, it can be really valuable.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Martha Rouleau in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, the Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and U. S. News and World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has world class faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you the full-time, the part-time, the online and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Martha Rouleau.

Ken White

You took the question right out of my mouth. So what does someone do when you say movement or you mean exercise?

Martha Rouleau

It can be walking. It can be anything that resonates with them, but something really to get the body moving. So, of course, here at William & Mary, how lucky are we with all the amazing yoga classes and the rec center has all those classes. It doesn't have to be vigorous. It can be just the fact of gentle opening of the body. So energetically some people might like a more stronger aerobic workout, and some people, and this can shift from day to day, might just say, you know what, I just feel like a real gentle walk to do. So no prescription here. It's really, again, making this process be your process.

Ken White

Yeah. So many of our listeners are big exercisers. So many of our guests work out at 06:00 a.m. every day because they know if they don't, they're not going to get to it later. And so, yeah, it would be interesting, I think, for executives and leaders to what does this do? I already work out. Does that mean a lighter workout? A heavier workout? But bottom line is it is tied to the body and that can help a healing process. You also mentioned breathe. Breath or breathing. Where does that come into play?

Martha Rouleau

Oh, breath comes into play because if we really take a look at breath and breathing, we understand it's probably the only remote control of an organ system that we have. So the reason I say that is that it's our central nervous system with our breath that we actually can control. So because of that, and if we think about when we're contracted, when we're tight, right. Very often our lungs aren't filling to the full capacity, which means our oxygen intake is limited. And it might be scary to offer full breath and to open up for some people and if it's an intense emotion and if there's a lot of anxiety around it. But I think anytime anyone can just bring a little bit of deeper inhale and deeper exhale, and I think it's valuable, I would always be really cautious taking, seeing where the person is at in their process and how the emotions are impacting their body before there was any prescription, but anytime, and I shouldn't say but, and anytime we can bring awareness to the breath and feel any value from it, even outside, just looking up and taking in a nice big breath, feeling spaciousness around us, can be very healing and calming to the body.

Ken White

So if a listener experiences a loss and grieving is coming, it's going to be part of life for a while. What's one of the first couple of things they should do?

Martha Rouleau

Yes. I think that one of the first couple of things they should do is definitely reach out, find their support right away, make sure they have that. Whatever way they can begin to offer some gentle movement, I think is really helpful as it feels valuable for them. It's so valuable also to have the mindset that this is going to be a journey and look at their relationship that they want to have with their journey. And there's going to be some days where it's just like, you know what? I am just going to go put my head under the covers and that's okay. Right. And if there's people along the way that can help, kind of you check in and see where you're at is really valuable. I never, and I've learned that in my work with grief. Want to say to anyone, oh, there's hope down the road? No. I think planting the seeds that, gosh, is there an opportunity maybe to see that this is going to evolve and there might be hope down. Hope down the road. We sometimes talk about it in the training as, like, the tunnel of darkness, and sometimes we feel in it and then sometimes, oh, yeah, there's a glimmer of hope. Let's not overlook that glimmer. And even if it's in hindsight, retrospective. Oh, yeah, look at that. Yesterday I was able to blah blah blah, or yesterday I chose to blah, blah blah. Finding that self nurturing. As we're supported in community.

Ken White

And you've worked with leaders and managers, what should they think of if a team member is experiencing a loss? How can we, as colleagues, support someone else and as leaders, support those who work with us and for us?

Martha Rouleau

Right. And it's interesting you say that because people who are in the workplace, it was actually someone, after our time together last week in the program, sent me an email and said, it's so hard to be able to have grief and be in the workplace. Feeling that level of comfort of course, in many ways of where's the support? And there's not necessarily supposed to be the closest people, your support network right there, but to be able to be allowed to come in and to feel comfortable that, yeah, their emotions might eb and flow during the day, and that's not an indicator of who they are, their quality or their productivity. It's just they're going through a process.

Ken White

So the leader saying, do what you need to do. I'm here to support you.

Martha Rouleau

Yeah, I mean, beautiful. I love those words. That would be great. And also checking in. And it's interesting how people have shared that the event happens. There's a lot of intensity around the event and maybe for a bit afterwards, but then where are the people later down the road? Where is that check in? So I think it's important because you know, that anniversaries of the events really, it's actually the end. We call that anticipatory grief of either it being an anniversary date or it could also be we're in the process of, we know someone is soon going to be passing or we're even unsure. That's the anticipatory grief that can be difficult. So those people that come in and have that sense and maybe want to share and talk about it is great. But to do that check in to see how things are going, just to know that, oh yeah, they remembered, I think makes that interconnectedness feel really meaningful.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Martha Rouleau, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program offered in four formats, the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Martha Rouleau, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

 

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Episode 217: February 21, 2024

Resilience

Success today requires resilience. Whether it's a company dealing with a major shift in the market or an individual faced with a significant personal or professional obstacle, resilience is a requirement. Casey White knows all about resilience. A young, fit, working professional at the start of her career, she became unexpectedly and critically ill and began a lengthy fight for her life that would ultimately take away her ability to walk. Now, five years later, her life and career are back on track. She credits much of her amazing recovery to resilience. She joins us to talk about the lessons she learned about resilience.

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Casey White: Resilience TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What Casey's memories are from her six month hospitalization
  • What were the effects of Casey's illness
  • What life is like for Casey five years after her treatment
  • How to effectively understand human potential
  • What it means to think your way to success
  • Why the road to success will sometimes be mundane
  • The importance of visualizing your desired outcome
  • Why you should seek and accept help from the right people
  • How to create a success dashboard and commit to it
Transcript

Casey White

Doctors had come in and said, we know what's going on now, and the good news is that we can treat you. The bad news is that you're not going to walk again. And at that point, I was 23, and I had been an athlete my entire life. I was a personal trainer in college, and to hear at 23, you'll live, but you're not going to walk sounded worse than you're not going to live.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Success today requires resilience. Whether it's a company dealing with a major shift in the market or an individual faced with a significant personal or professional obstacle, resilience is a requirement. Casey White knows all about resilience. A young, fit, working professional at the start of her career, she became unexpectedly and critically ill and began a lengthy fight for her life that would ultimately take away her ability to walk. Now, five years later, her life and career are back on track. She credits much of her amazing recovery to resilience. She joins us to talk about the lessons she learned about resilience. Now, before we listen to our conversation with Casey, I should point out she's my daughter. My wife and I have three daughters. Casey is our oldest.

Ken White

Casey, thanks for being with us. I appreciate you sharing your story.

Casey White

Yeah, thank you for having me.

Ken White

And it is an incredible story. Do you remember the beginning? What beginning do you remember when it all began? What goes through your mind?

Casey White

I think in my mind, when I think about when did this start? There was one very specific moment. I had already reached out to you and Mom and said that I was really unwell. I had a fever of 104, 105. And obviously, that is not normal. But I didn't really understand the extent of what I was about to deal with until one morning, I was in my apartment, and you and mom were there, and I went to walk from my bedroom into my bathroom. And when I got to my bathroom, I knew that I was about to fall. And I sort of thought I had stood up too quickly, that I was lightheaded, that I was losing consciousness. And that's why I was about to find myself on the floor, and as I laid on the floor, I realized that I had memory of that whole fall. I was fully aware. So it wasn't that my brain had given out. It was that my legs had given out. And as I laid on the bathroom floor and I realized that I couldn't get back up. And that's when I knew this was different, and I was in for something very different than just the flu or a fever like I thought I was having.

Ken White

Yeah. Because initially, doctors thought when first time to the ER, it might be a virus, but at that moment, you knew it was a lot worse than that.

Casey White

I did, and I don't think I wanted to accept that, but it sort of stuck in the back of my mind of, we're getting ready to start something.

Ken White

No kidding. Yeah, that's the understatement of the year. I mean, you were hospitalized for the better part of a year, and most of that, not knowing what was going on. They couldn't figure out why this incredibly high fever, why your resting heart rate was double where it should been. What are your memories from that, being in the hospital?

Casey White

I don't have very coherent memory of that time. So I know that I was in the hospital for six months. I know that most of it was in the intensive care unit. I do know that, at some points, I was on the cancer floor. I don't really remember the context of the switching, but I largely remember the emotions. It is so isolating and so terrifying to be in the hospital for that length of time and also to not know what's going on. Right. And there's this sort of external locus of control kind of thing happening where you don't get any agency over any of the decisions. Right. I, as a patient, just had to go along with what the doctors were saying. And so it was really a lot of fear, a lot of exhaustion, a lot of pain, but I don't necessarily remember a timeline of events.

Ken White

And in a relatively short period of time, you had lost half your body weight. You were down to 62 pounds at one point. But then, after a few months, there was a bit of a breakthrough.

Casey White

There was. It took at least half of my time in the hospital to start figuring out some answers. I think initially, doctors were trying very hard, but it was just a really baffling situation, I think, to everyone involved. But eventually, we received the news that I had early-stage Hodgkin's lymphoma, and we started chemotherapy. Not long after starting chemotherapy, we also discovered that I appeared to carry a gene for a very rare autoimmune condition called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH. And part of the problem of having the Hodgkin's lymphoma and HLH simultaneously was that they both had caused my immune system to turn on myself. And that explained the really high fever, that explained the rapid weight loss, that explained the weakness in my legs. And as heartbreaking as it is to hear you have cancer, it was an answer, and that was something that we had not had for the first three or four months of my time in the hospital.

Ken White

Yeah, and the chemotherapy knocked your fever down a little bit. I remember what a huge victory that was. But, yeah, there you are at half your body weight. You have somewhat of an answer now. And at what point do you recall them saying, you're not going to walk?

Casey White

I'm not fully sure if I actually remember this conversation or if I just remember knowing that we had had the conversation, but I do know that doctors had come in and said, we know what's going on now. And the good news is that we can treat you. The bad news is that you're not going to walk again. And at that point, I was 23, and I had been an athlete my entire life. I was a personal trainer in college. And to hear, at 23, you'll live, but you're not going to walk sounded worse than you're not going to live.

Ken White

Yeah. So you kept fighting. You hung in there. You eventually got to a skilled nursing facility for a while. What was that like?

Casey White

Skilled nursing is intended to be physical rehab. Right? For patients who have experienced a change in mobility in their time in the hospital. So the intention was that I would go to the skilled nursing facility, do extensive inpatient physical therapy and occupational therapy, and then I would be a little bit more functional, and I could go home and start living my life in the new normal. Unfortunately, I was still so sick. I still had cancer. I think when I was there, I still weighed. Maybe I'd gained a couple of pounds and weighed 65. So largely, what my stay in the skilled nursing facility was for was caregiver training to make sure that you knew the level of care you were going to need to provide for me because I was not capable of doing anything at all for myself. I was fully bedbound. I could not feed myself. I couldn't brush my teeth. And so rather than really teaching me those skills, it was teaching you guys how to help me.

Ken White

So, not fast-forwarding seems like the worst thing to do. But let's fast forward. So here it is, five years later. What's life like now for you?

Casey White

I think I'm going to answer this in a way that would have shocked me five years previously. But my life is very normal. I am in a wheelchair, so I'm now what's classified as an incomplete paraplegic. So I'm not able to walk, but I do have a little bit of feeling and movement below my legs or below my waist. So, I do use a wheelchair, but I live on my own. I have a job that I absolutely love in medical sales that actually allows me to pull on my experience as a patient and my time in the healthcare system. I'm a competitive rower. Again, I think largely my life is pretty normal. It's just that I sit down.

Ken White

Yeah. But after all of this, as you were recovering and you were in an apartment, you had your job, you're driving, you're living and going everywhere with Roxy, your dog, and living life, you and I looked back and said, there's some lessons here. There's got to be some lessons here. And as a result, we've come up with some. That's really the point of having you here today, is to share those lessons and how people can be resilient and how they can, in fact, overcome unbelievable odds and unbelievable hurdles. And you've got them into two different sorts of categories: mindset and action items. Let's start with the mindset items. And you have three of them. And the first one is understand human potential.

Casey White

So when I say understand human potential, what I mean is embracing an unlimited ability. Embracing the idea that humans have an unlimited ability to achieve, right? And I think often we hear stories about people doing something really incredible, right? Climbing Mount Everest or running a marathon or whatever it is. And I think that we tend to see those stories and think that there must be something extraordinary about the people that are able to do things like that. I think that what I have found, and even in sharing my own story, people will hear the story and say, I could never do that. My first instinct is to say, well, why not? Right? Of course, you could if you had to. And so, while I was able to unlock sort of this belief in my ability to achieve because of an incredible challenge, I also think that it can be unlocked with a passionate and limitless belief in yourself. And I think that's sort of what carries me through now. So we're five and a half years later, and I honestly can't say that I've encountered an obstacle that I haven't felt like I can meet head-on and overcome.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Casey White in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News and World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has world-class faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Casey White.

Ken White

Your second mindset item to help people understand and embrace resilience; number two is think your way to success.

Casey White

Exactly. So I think that your mind plays a big part in whether or not you're successful. And to me, thinking your way into success has two aspects. One is focus, and one is control. So, first of all, I think it's absolutely key to define your success clearly. You then, though, need to devote 100% of your mental energy, so your thoughts and your self-talk to achieving that goal because you can't think about more than one thing at 100% simultaneously. So you need to be able to block out the noise and then control. Something that I learned as an athlete growing up was the phrase control the controllables. So, in life, there are always going to be circumstances that are outside of your control. For example, in my story, the Covid-19 pandemic fell right in the middle of my recovery. And there was not one thing I could do about the fact that it was happening, how long it was going to be a thing that I needed to contend with, but I could control how I reacted. And so that's what I mean when I talk about control, understanding that there are going to be things outside of your control, and knowing that you can control the way that you respond.

Ken White

Mindset item number three: realize the journey is going to be somewhat mundane.

Casey White

Yeah. Unfortunately, the road to success can feel very mundane. It's often very slow and it's also not linear. And that's a huge reason, I think, why people give up. Because to achieve success requires an intensity, a repetition, and a focus that is honestly not glamorous. And so it's very easy, I think, to lose passion when you're not seeing really dramatic leaps forward. And I think, first of all, acknowledging that the process can be a little bit mundane makes it easier to push through. But again, I think passion is also very important in overcoming the monotony of what trying to achieve can be. I know that I have never in my life been so singularly focused on anything than I was in the two years after I came home from the hospital because, truly, my life depended on improving my functioning and my independence.

Ken White

So, in an effort to be resilient to overcome unbelievable challenges, you've got your three mindset items. Understand human potential, think your way to success, and realize the journey as mundane. But there are also three action items that we came up with. And action item number one is visualize your desired outcome.

Casey White

Yes. So this, to me, means a few things. So, I was an athlete for my entire life. And on one of the teams that I happened to be on, we had a sports psychologist. And his advice to us the night before every game was to visualize your perfect play. Now, as an athlete, that meant what was I going to contribute? See, the exact moment of my perfect play in my mind, play it out, play what it would feel like, play where I was standing, how I would hit the ball, every aspect about what that scenario would look like. And I realized in trying to recover from my health journey and try to put the pieces of my life back together that I wasn't going to be able to do that if I didn't know what that looked like. And so I truly did one day sit down and very intentionally visualize what I wanted my life to be when I put those pieces back together. And as we alluded to earlier, there were a couple of different things that I saw in that visualization. And one was being able to live on my own because when I came home from the hospital, I was living in your old bedroom, in your house.

Ken White

Right.

Casey White

I wanted to be able to work full time to support myself because while I wasn't aware of a lot of sort of what life would look like to me as a disabled person, I did know that if I had the ability to work, I wanted to take it because I like working. And then I also wanted to be able to drive. Right? I mean, I'd been driving since I was 16. I wanted to be able to do it again. So when I sat down and visualized putting my life together, that's what I saw.

Ken White

Action item number two, seek and accept help, especially from the right people.

Casey White

I think especially from the right people is the key to this one because when you're going through a challenge or when you are openly working toward a goal. People are going to come out of the woodwork to help, and it's very well-meaning. Right. People like to help, but it can not only not push you forward, but in some cases, I think, can push you back to take help from people that aren't in a position to actually be advising or be helping. So we were incredibly lucky that you happened to be at a grocery store at the same time as a man and his daughter were doing their own grocery shopping, and he was in a wheelchair. And this was at a point in my recovery where I was sort of starting to think about, okay, what do I do now? I'm a disabled person, I'm 24, and I have no idea what I do with that information. I didn't know what life could look like, and you just went right up to him, and he was so beyond willing to offer us help, and I was very willing to accept it. And meeting with him and learning about the possibilities of what life could look like as a disabled person was not dramatically; was life-changing.

Ken White

Yeah, that was absolutely amazing. I'll never forget it. Yeah. Action item number three: create and commit to a success dashboard.

Casey White

I think it's very important to both define your goals and track your progress. So something that I, in my professional life, have always heard is that a goal that you can't track is just a wish. And so, again, define your goal. Define it, but also make sure that it's trackable. Because, as we said, success is mundane. And if you're not tracking your progress, there's never going to be sort of a signpost where you can look back and think, wow, look how far I've come. And I know for me, my initial goals were so incredibly dull. One of the things that I had tracked religiously at the beginning was how long I could sit on the edge of the bed, and I had a little notebook. And every day, I would sit on the side of the bed, and my mom would time me because I didn't want to see the time while I was doing it. So my mom would time me, and I would write it in a notebook. And in 30 days, I remember going from 10 seconds to 30 seconds to 45 seconds. And the last day of that month, I sat on the edge of the bed for ten minutes. And that doesn't seem particularly exciting. If a friend picked up the phone and said, hey, Ken, I sat on the side of the bed for ten minutes today. You probably wouldn't think anything of it, but because I knew the starting point was 10 seconds, I was really, really able to celebrate the wins along the way. And I think that's something that's really important as you move toward achieving.

Ken White

So you've got three mindset items, three action items. But there is a foundation, the one thing that must be done in addition to these six items if you are to overcome an incredible setback. What is that one item that is absolutely required?

Casey White

You've got to be ready to fight like hell. And honestly, these lessons that I've shared with you today, and we're sharing with your listeners, I learned these the hard way. I really learned these the hard way. But it doesn't have to be that difficult. And that's why I'm really proud to be able to share this with you and your listeners. And that's why I'm proud of what we do in sharing this with companies, and students, and medical professionals. I've learned a lot from my experience, and employing these strategies really works. I'm living proof.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Casey White, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Casey White, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Rachel Chung
Rachel ChungEpisode 216: February 5, 2024
Myths & Truths About AI

Rachel Chung

Episode 216: February 5, 2024

Myths & Truths About AI

It's been a little over a year now since most of us were introduced to ChatGPT. Since that time, many professionals, businesses, and organizations have worked hard to understand not only ChatGPT, but machine learning and Artificial Intelligence and what it all can do to assist employees, serve customers, and positively affect the bottom line. There's no shortage of information in media coverage regarding Artificial Intelligence, but in the race to embrace AI, it can be challenging to determine what's fact and what's fiction. Our guest today is here to help. Rachel Chung is an award-winning professor at William & Mary's School of Business. Among other things, she teaches business analytics, machine learning, and AI. She joins us today to discuss the myths and truths about Artificial Intelligence.

Podcast (audio)

Rachel Chung: Myths & Truths About AI TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What are AI, machine learning, and large language models
  • How people use artificial intelligence in their daily lives
  • What are the differences between AI, machine learning, and deep learning
  • How reinforcement learning differs from machine learning
  • Are AI systems only as good as the data it uses for training
  • How AI systems are inherently unfair
  • Will artificial intelligence make human labor obsolete
  • How close AI is to human intelligence
  • What the future holds for AI
Transcript

Rachel Chung

During the course of a day, you probably use at least a dozen different AI applications, starting with Google Search, right? So, if you search for something online, that algorithm is an AI.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, it's been a little over a year now since most of us were introduced to ChatGPT. Well, since that time, many professionals, businesses, and organizations have worked hard to understand not only ChatGPT but machine learning and artificial intelligence and what it all can do to assist employees, serve customers, and positively affect the bottom line. There's no shortage of information and media coverage regarding artificial intelligence. But in the race to embrace AI, it can be challenging to determine what's fact and what's fiction. Our guest today is here to help. Rachel Chung is an award-winning professor at William & Mary's School of Business. Among other things, she teaches business analytics, machine learning, and AI. She joins us today to discuss the myths and truths about artificial intelligence. Here's our conversation with Professor Rachel Chung.

Ken White

Well, Rachel, thank you very much for taking time. It's nice to see you. What an interesting topic. Everybody's been talking about AI and ChatGPT, probably for at least the last year. And it's funny how, to me, the knowledge, some know a little, some know a lot. I think most people are sort of in the middle of all of this. But to start off, could you help us define because I think these terms tend to be interchangeable. At least, that's how people tend to use them. What is AI? What is machine learning? And what is ChatGPT?

Rachel Chung

So that's a great question. And we hear about AI all in the sudden, in the news all the time. And a lot of people seem to think that AI just kind of started in 2022. But AI actually has been around for decades, not hundreds of years. It's still a relatively new science, but it's been around for probably over 40 years at least. AI stands for artificial intelligence, and intelligence is something that we all have. So people are intelligent, babies are intelligent, even your puppy is very intelligent. And artificial intelligence just means instead of natural intelligence, like what your puppy has. Artificial means that it's something that's artificially made by people. So it's something that we create. And in this case, usually, it's a machine that has somewhat intelligent behavior. I would say that AI is really the scientist's best effort to simulate the brilliance that you and I have. Right. So, we are the true brilliance, and AI is just an approximation of the intelligent behavior that we have.

Ken White

Oh, that's terrific. Machine learning. How do you define that?

Rachel Chung

So, machine learning, the key part is learning. So, machine actually is equivalent to the word artificial in AI. So, remember, artificial intelligence is intelligence that's implemented by machines that are artificially made by people. So, machine really just means machine learning is almost like artificial learning, right? So it's a machine that's capable of doing the kind of learning behavior that you and I are able to do. Your puppy can learn as well. A baby can learn. And we can also get a machine to learn from not knowing something very much to being able to perform a task very well. So that learning curve that we're talking about, basically starting with making lots of mistakes and then reducing the number or the quality of the mistakes over time, is the kind of evidence that we want to see in learning. And for machines to learn, we need to be able to see that as well. The machines starting with making a lot of mistakes but making fewer and fewer mistakes over time.

Ken White

And ChatGPT, how do you define that?

Rachel Chung

So, ChatGPT is a type of AI, artificial intelligence, and it's an implementation of a large language model. And the large language model it really just means that it's a model that has lots and lots of parameters, and it's used primarily to generate language. Language can be speech or text, written text. And that is a model really is a mathematical model. And all AI models are mathematical models, actually. So these are computed by your computer. So, a machine really is, in this case, a computer. And the computer computes, just like your calculator calculates, the computer computes. So, computation includes doing a lot of math repeatedly. So, it's an automation of all the mathematics that we usually do in school.

Ken White

And you said earlier AI has been around. We might not be aware, but what are some examples of how we've been using this recently and in the past few years?

Rachel Chung

So, during the course of a day, you probably use at least a dozen different AI applications, starting with Google Search, right? So, if you search for something online, that algorithm is an AI. If you watch Netflix videos and you see all these recommendations, if you respond to a recommendation by watching something that's being recommended to you, you're using AI. However, if you are recommended a film and you decide not to watch it, you are also helping to train AI. So you're giving some sort of feedback that you don't like this film, you like something else. And that signal is used to train the Netflix AI algorithm to make it smarter and getting to know you a little better.

Ken White

That ties into, I look at a story on a log cabin, and then suddenly I'm getting more information on log cabins, for example. Is it similar to that?

Rachel Chung

Exactly. Yeah. So, the algorithm is calculating all these correlations and associations to determine what you like. So when you decide to watch something on log cabin, you are giving positive feedback to the AI machine and to get it to recommend more and more products that are similar. In a way, it's very similar to how you train your puppies to learn something that you want your puppy to do.

Ken White

Interesting. So there are some myths out there about AI, a lot of misunderstandings, and people just aren't quite sure what's happening. And we've got a couple, I'll say them, and I'd love for you to respond. For example, AI, machine learning, and deep learning are the same things.

Rachel Chung

So deep learning and machine learning are very popular types of AI, but AI also include other algorithms that are not deep learning or machine learning. So, as we mentioned earlier, machine learning is a type of learning algorithm and that includes many different kinds of algorithms that learn. And deep learning is what we traditionally call neural networks. And that is just a type of learning algorithms, a type of machine learning algorithms. However, AI also includes other algorithms. For example, recommendation systems is not necessarily deep learning. It can be deep learning, but there are other types of recommendation algorithms that are actually very popular everywhere. It's probably one of the most well-known and well-used algorithm, probably the most successful for businesses. Right? Think about how many businesses actually use recommendation systems. That's probably the number one most popular, wildly used, and we all love our recommendation systems. So, that is something that's not necessarily deep learning. Another one is called reinforcement learning, and that is not deep learning. So reinforcement learning is learning to do things step by step, sequentially. That does not have immediate feedback on whether your action is right or wrong. So that is actually used for AI's to play chess or the go game. And the algorithm that Alphago and a lot of the algorithms that are very successful for winning these chess games are reinforcement learning. So, those are also not deep learning algorithms.

Ken White

AI systems are only as good as the data they train on. Is that a myth?

Rachel Chung

So, data is a very important part of AI. However, the algorithm is also very important. So yes, you need to have high-quality data, but you also need to have algorithm that is appropriate for that data. So both of those components are very important. And these days, there are also many ways to address poor data quality issues or small data issues because there are many, many innovative methods to generate synthetic data, meaning that if you have a small data set, we can duplicate or clone that or simulate to make it a large data set. So basically, making up a lot of fake data for the machine to learn from. The fake data set start look very similar to the real data set. That's actually very popular in both healthcare and finance when data has to be confidential. And so, it is very difficult to train machines using real data. So, these sectors actually are very invested in generating simulated data.

Ken White

AI systems are inherently unfair.

Rachel Chung

So, AI systems, when we talk about AI systems, they are the algorithm and the data. The data are, in fact, generated by the world, right? So you and I, even when we breathe, we are generating data. Every moment that we're alive, we're typing something into the computer, we're speaking to our computer, we're generating data. So, ultimately, data are usually generated by people, not by the computer. The computer is really just learning from the data that's generated by people. So, if there's any sort of bias, it's usually inherent in the data that is coming from the people who generate that data. So, if people are biased, the data is biased. The algorithm, on the other hand, is a set of mathematical models, really, and they are really mathematical equations. I think people are trying very hard not to write biased math algorithms, and ultimately, the machines are really just executing the math for us very efficiently. They really don't have any inherent bias in them, usually.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Professor Rachel Chung in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News and World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has world-class faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with Professor Rachel Chung of the William & Mary School of Business.

Ken White

AI will make human labor obsolete.

Rachel Chung

So that question is very interesting. So there's a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety about job loss due to AI and the news in 2023. We have seen so many headlines and discussions about that. And all the consulting firms have all these numbers, either calculate that they can replace 25% of their workforce. Lots of these different reports have really high numbers estimated for AI replacement. However, today, I just saw an article, a research study coming out of MIT, saying that these are overestimates based on their very detailed interviews and economic analysis. A lot of these tasks because AI can do specific tasks. We don't have general artificial intelligence yet, meaning that we might be able to replace how you write an email, but we cannot replace what you actually do during the day. So, the human actually can do a bunch of different things. AI can only replace a very small set of that. And then, whatever the AI produces, the human still has to inspect it, refine it, edit it, approve it, and so on. So, at the end of the day, you still have to hire a human because the AI can only replace a very small portion of a specific task, and the AI can only do things under supervision. Someone still has to verify if the output is correct or not. Developing and deploying these AI models is still very expensive, and then it's also very expensive to maintain the AI as well. So, so far in the year of 2024, for many, many tasks, it's still way cheaper to hire the human labor than to hire the AI labor.

Ken White

It was interesting you mentioned the MIT study. I just read it just this morning in an e-newsletter from the Kellogg School at Northwestern. They looked at the 1950 census, and there were 270 jobs listed in the census. And the question was, how many of those have disappeared because of automation and technology? And it turned out just one. And it was an elevator operator, which I thought was, wow. So, yeah, that overhype again. We hear that so often, don't we? Oh, look out. Here's what's coming. Your job is going to be gone. So it's interesting to hear your take on that. One final myth AI is approaching human intelligence.

Rachel Chung

So, AI currently is very good at performing very narrow tasks. For example, AI can recognize an image, label an image. But for you to be able to do complete a task, you might have to recognize something, and then you have to turn around to say something, right? Or maybe you have to go write something down. So, a human usually can perform a number of tasks together in a specific job, whereas AI, right now, we do not have the general intelligence that humans typically have, which means that you can perform a variety of tasks. Current AI technologies can only perform one specific task at a time. So, for example, ChatGPT can write text, but ChatGPT cannot sing. ChatGPT cannot pick up trash from the floor. There are very simple things that we do. ChatGPT cannot walk down the steps and go up, or ChatGPT cannot prevent you from running into the wall. So there are many, many tasks that we do every day that we take for granted that ChatGPT cannot do.

Ken White

What's the future hold? What do you think? Where are we headed with AI? That's a huge question.

Rachel Chung

Well, the future, I think, is very exciting, with so much attention, and energy, and investment in AI, which is really something I think the AI scientists deserve. AI, the field of AI, went through a long winter when nobody thought that there is a future for AI. Many, many leading AI scientists today, they're still fairly young because it's a young field. And they will tell you that when they were in graduate school and they told people that they were doing AI, most people will tell them that you will not be able to find a job. There's no future because your results are not going to happen. And many people, actually, that I know personally, did not complete their PhDs because it was just way too difficult to actually finish and deliver your AI results. And that, a lot of times was, now we know it was limited by hardware. So, thanks to all the video game players, we now have GPUs. And these GPUs, the graphical processing units that supplement our CPUs, is what enabled AI because the video games need very fast processors, and there was a market for that. And that's why these companies produced GPUs, and they were really produced for video gamers, not for AI. But the AI scientists realized that those units can be used to actually run the AI tasks that they were unable to finish ten years ago. So thanks to all these technological advances, that's why we can enjoy a lot of the AI innovations that we see today. And I think that given all the interest and opportunities for AI, we are going to see leaps and bounds of innovation in the coming years.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Professor Rachel Chung, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Rachel Chung, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Navdeep Gupta
Navdeep GuptaEpisode 215: January 23, 2024
A Retail Destination

Navdeep Gupta

Episode 215: January 23, 2024

A Retail Destination

If you're an athlete, or someone close to you is an athlete, you've most likely spent time in a DICK'S Sporting Goods store. Depending on where you live, the next time you visit your neighborhood, DICK'S Sporting Goods, you might be surprised. DICK'S has launched its House of Sport: A new type of sporting goods store. DICK'S House of Sport isn't just about sporting goods; it's experiential, and there's a tie to the community. Navdeep Gupta is Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at DICK'S. He says the new stores have been embraced by customers, employees, and suppliers. He joins us today to talk about DICK'S House of Sport, how the concept was created, and where it's headed.

Podcast (audio)

Navdeep Gupta: A Retail Destination TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is there to see and do in a DICK'S House of Sport
  • What sorts of amenities are available at each store
  • How were the locations chosen
  • Where the idea came from for DICK'S House of Sport
  • What the customer reaction has been like
  • Why community is important to DICK'S
  • How successful the House of Sport concept has been
  • What's next for the overall retail landscape
Transcript

Navdeep Gupta

Can you create a concept store that, if that store opened right across the street from our existing DICK'S sporting goods store, that this new store will put the existing DICK'S sporting goods store out of business?

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. If you're an athlete or someone close to you is an athlete, you've most likely spent time in a DICK'S sporting goods store. Depending on where you live, the next time you visit your neighborhood DICK'S sporting goods, you might be surprised. DICK'S has launched its House of Sport, a new type of sporting goods store. DICK'S House of Sport isn't just about sporting goods. It's experiential. And there's a tie to the community. Navdeep Gupta is Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at DICK'S. He says the new stores have been embraced by customers, employees, and suppliers. He joins us today to talk about DICK'S House of Sport, how the concept was created, and where it's headed. Here's our conversation with Navdeep Gupta, Senior VP and CFO of DICK'S Sporting Goods.

Ken White

Well, Navdeep, thanks very much for taking time to be with us today. It's nice to see you.

Navdeep Gupta

Ken, thank you so much. This is exciting time to be coming back and speaking about an interesting concept.

Ken White

Yeah, no doubt about it, you know the house of sport is so interesting. Everybody I've met who has seen one can't wait to tell you about it and talk about it. What do people see and do when they go there? What's it look like?

Navdeep Gupta

Yeah. So, we call it that there are four key pillars around which the House of Sport concept was created. So, the four pillars that we talk extensively as part of every new store that we open: it's about experience, it's about service, it's about community, and it's about product. So those are the core foundational pillars on which the House of Sport is built. Virtually everything that we do in House of Sport is around the concept of creating an engagement and an elevated athlete experience. And so, just as a thought, we call our consumers as athletes, we call it that. It's all built around the athlete experience. So it's about merchandising standard. When you go and go into a walk into a DICK'S sporting goods, you will see merchandising display. The visual appeal of the store is going to be dramatically different than anything else that you may have seen. Even within the DICK'S sporting goods store itself, there is a clear focus around community involvement. We want this to be not just your store, to go and buy the product. We see this as a hub where the community can come together and engage collectively, not just within the store, but as a community also. We talk a lot about the brands the way the brands are. Brands are very important part of retail, but they have to be showcased in a way that differentiates and how that brand itself is presented to the athlete, how the athlete actually experiences that brand. And then we talk a lot about the experiences. So if you walk into a house of sports store, there are house of sports stores that actually have a 15,000 to 20,000 squat field that is attached to the store. So when you're buying a baseball bat, when you're buying a cleat, you want to be able to experience that cleat on a normal turf on which you will be actually going and experiencing that. So you should be able to buy the product, walk out onto the field, and actually experience the product. Some of the stores have batting cages, or we call them the multi-sport cages, that if you're buying a baseball bat, you want to be able to explain the bat, you want to be able to feel the bat. If you're buying a baseball glove, you want to be able to experience that glove. If you're buying golf equipment, we have trackman simulators. Each of these stores will have three or four trackman simulators that you can actually go and swing the golf club and see what it is to use that product or even get fitted for it. So it's all about athlete, it's about brand, it's about community, and it's all about experience.

Ken White

When you talk about athletes, is there a particular age, or is it pretty much all over the landscape?

Navdeep Gupta

No. We love every athlete. Every athlete, that we say, has an aspiration of trying to better themselves. We talk about bettering your best. You have a dream that you want to accomplish, right? Sometimes, I want to be just a better swimmer. Sometimes, I just want to be a better runner. So it's not just who you are, but what type of sports that you have ambitions with. And we want to be able to kind of provide a good destination for all of the athletes that have their own personal dreams, and we hopefully can bring some of those dreams to reality.

Ken White

And you mentioned square footage. Am I correct in assuming most of the house of sports locations are larger than your typical store?

Navdeep Gupta

Yeah. So DICK'S prototype is around 50, maybe as high as 80k. But the House of Sports locations are typically 100 to 120,000 square foot locations and may actually have a field attached, but adds another 15 to 20,000 square foot on top of that.

Ken White

How did you choose your locations?

Navdeep Gupta

I would say that it started out as, when we started out, the first two stores were opened up where we were thinking to relocate our existing stores, and we said, let's go test out this concept in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then Victor, New York. And those were where we had a really good performing box. The store was coming up for lease term, and then we decided to relocate. But since then, we have become significantly scientific about which market, how large the market is, what the addressable population there is, and we're really excited about that. We'll be opening ten new House of Sports locations in 2024.

Ken White

Fantastic. The old term out of the textbook is a concept store. Is it, or is it more than that?

Navdeep Gupta

Yeah. When you think of a concept store, you tend to think in terms of, it's about discovery, it's about learning, it's about offering something different type of an experience. So, as I think about the House of Sports locations, we call them these are concepts. We were trying to better understand how can we serve an athlete in a very differentiated way. They originated as a concept, but I would say we have so much of confidence and how well the concept itself has resonated that we are much more in the rollout phase.

Ken White

Yeah, no doubt. Where did the idea come from?

Navdeep Gupta

So there's a nice little story behind it. Our Executive Chairman, Ed Stack, it was probably in 2017 2018. He challenged the organization, and it was actually one of the meetings that we have as a town hall that we do for the full leadership team. And he challenged the organization to say, can you create a concept store that, if that store opened right across the street from our existing DICK'S sporting goods store, that this new store will put the existing DICK'S sporting goods store out of business. And that's kind of the disruptive thinking that at DICK'S sporting goods, we challenge ourselves a lot. And so this was like, rather than somebody else coming and disrupting your model, how do you not think about something that can be radically so different and new that can disrupt your own existing one? So that's how this idea came about. It was an internal challenge given by our Executive Chairman, Ed Stack.

Ken White

Yeah, how fun. Let's run ourselves out of business by creating something new. That's fantastic. I assume people immediately got on board with that and had some fun with it.

Navdeep Gupta

Well, I would say took us almost about a decade. The challenge was given. We went back to the drawing board. We actually drew it and said, no, this is not different enough. And we just put it on cold storage for several years. And then we came back during COVID and said, okay, we have new things that we have learned. Let's go test this out. And so, I wouldn't say it was a straight journey right after the challenge. It was quite a lot of trials, tribulations, putting it on a cold shortage and then bringing it back out.

Ken White

What's the customer reaction?

Navdeep Gupta

Oh, it's been fantastic. We have been so happy with how well the stores have resonated, and we look at it through multiple angles. So, an athlete is one of the most important angles. The community involvement is really important. Right. Is the field actually getting used? And we convert the field, like for example, in Minnetonka, we converted the field to an ice rink during the winter months. So now you can have the community teams come there and use the ice rink for their own local games, or they are doing the combines. There are training classes being held in the field that we have attached to the store. So, the community has embraced it really well. We look at the drive time radius; how far is an athlete wanting to travel to come to this? And we are seeing that the average drive time is almost three times as large as what it is for a normal DICK'S sporting goods store. But then we looked at beyond that to say, is this resonating with our brands? And our brand partners have said that this is the best presentation of their products in any location, even including their own locations or the stores that they manage. And then, we looked at it also through the lens of, if you can imagine, real estate community; the landlords are really important constituents in this value chain as well. And the landlords feel that we are bringing a new form of theater, a new form of excitement to the malls. And so it's resonated with them also very well. And then financially, it has to make sense, and couldn't be happier with the results that we are seeing across all four of these pillars.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Navdeep Gupta in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News and World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has world-class faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Navdeep Gupta, Senior VP and CFO at DICK'S Sporting Goods.

Ken White

What about employees, those in the stores? What do you hear from them?

Navdeep Gupta

It's really a different type of an experience, right? They find that this is such. And then, first of all, the athletes love it. So it makes their jobs much easier. But they are appreciating the fact that there is big focus around not just selling, but it's about service, and it's about servicing not just the product, but our athletes as well. And so it's been, overall, the level of engagement from our team, the level of theater that is available within the store has all been very well received by our teammates as well.

Ken White

You know DICK'S has always been about community. You were on the podcast several months ago, and we talked about what you do in Pittsburgh, where you're located, building a school, and so forth, and offering supplies and making sure kids have the equipment they need to play with. That seems to be such a big pillar of the organization, correct?

Navdeep Gupta

Absolutely. We say that you have to be able to engage with the community and find opportunities to actually give back to the community. And to your example, we have provided opportunity for 2 million additional kids to be involved with sports. And the challenge we ask ourselves is, if these kids are not playing sports, what else could they be doing out there? And sometimes you don't end up in the right answers or answer for those questions. And so we feel this is the right way to give back to the community, actually be much more involved, member of the community itself on a local level, and then continue to be part of the community and servicing that community.

Ken White

My question is, per square foot, did the number of employees have to increase? Does that basically stay the same?

Navdeep Gupta

It does go up because you have like. So for example, the House of Sport location has a climbing wall. And so now you have dedicated team members that are available to be able to help the athletes climb the wall. Right? We have a dedicated area to be able to provide servicing. So if you have a tennis racket that you want the tennis racket to be strung or lacrosse string to be strung, or do you want your bike to be teched out, we have a service area, so there's definitely a bigger focus around service engagement with the community. You have the community marketing managers, or community leads that engage with the community to all these types of community events. So definitely more team members as well.

Ken White

Yeah. And I would assume different type of team members, hourly workers that you've had in the past.

Navdeep Gupta

Yeah. You're looking at a leadership level that is different, as well as you're looking at an hourly lead that is going above and beyond just then selling the product but also providing that differentiated experience. What we call as the solution, selling. Right. You have to be able to understand the problem identify what opportunities you have with the product or with the service that you have available in the store to be able to meet the athlete's demand.

Ken White

From a financial standpoint, do you consider it a success at this point?

Navdeep Gupta

Yeah, absolutely. We'll share more details as you can imagine. Right. Three years, few stores is not enough of a sample. But with twelve stores now open, and we actually opened eight of them, or nine of them, actually, in 2023. So, our sample set is so limited. But the results that we are seeing from a financial perspective couldn't be more happier about them.

Ken White

Can you even compare time in-store since the store is that different?

Navdeep Gupta

Yes. So we have technology within the store that we can see. What's the dwell time like, how often, first of all, an athlete is spending going to different parts of the store? How often are they going there? How long are they staying? And so these are not in every store, but we look at in samples of stores and continue to see how best do we create what we call as curation of the product, the adjacencies of the product, and continue to refine and learn through that data.

Ken White

As someone who loves the old-school DICK'S store, I'm assuming you probably have to practically drag people out. I've talked to a few students here who've gone to one. There's one not too far from Williamsburg who actually spent the better part of an entire Friday night going down. So I assume some people really spend some time there.

Navdeep Gupta

Yeah, I think so. I'm guilty of that myself every time. And I've gone to all of these locations that every time I go. And I know I can spend a couple of hours and find a lot of unique products that I find it attractive each time I go.

Ken White

Everybody listening regardless of their field, they're always thinking of new ways. What's next? How do we innovate? Just in general, the retail landscape, do you think this is sort of where it's heading, the experience versus the old-school store?

Navdeep Gupta

Yeah, I think so. One of the things that is not very well understood. Sometimes, retail is construed as an old way of format or old way of doing business. What people don't realize is the amount of data, and the analytics that is going into the new form of retail is parallel to lot of other industries. So imagine, right? I'll just give an example. DICK'S carries $3 billion worth of inventory. We have 800 different points of distribution. Now, think of the math problem that you have there. That first of all, which 3 billion do you buy, how often do you buy, how deep do you buy, what size do you buy? And then now you have to do the reverse calculation to say, okay, how do I tape all of this data or the product that I bought in different sizes, color profiles? How do I allocate that effectively to the 800 points? And now you have six distribution centers. So what is the most efficient routing this product to? Should it go directly, or should it go through across Doc? How often should you be sending it? So we tend to sometimes put retail as an old format of doing business, but the amount of data, the analytics, the amount of new and innovative ways of thinking is just phenomenal, and so we not only love the fact on what we are doing with House of Sports but how much amount of personalization information that is getting used, how much amount of data and how effectively do we buy, how effectively do we curate the product, how effectively do we throw the product? All part of new ways of thinking that is being implemented across the company.

Ken White

The passion for your job is obviously in your voice. I see it in your face. What are the few things that you really like about what you're doing?

Navdeep Gupta

I'm an athlete by heart. I love to run. I love to work out. To me, first of all, like I said, it's a theater. When I walk into the store, just because I can not only appreciate the product, but I know what I'll be using it in my own personal life. So, my appreciation starts from the product. And then the team that I work with is probably that second highlight that I would give. The third is there are not many people that are familiar with we have a very interesting product portfolio as well. So, from a finance perspective, we have a BC firm that we started about two years ago within the company where we are making small equity investments into unique products. Unique type of capabilities that we could be bringing to our athletes. We actually own a platform called as game changer. Game changer, from a youth sports perspective, is the best tool out there for video broadcasting, scorekeeping, and just the engagement with the youth athlete. And so it's like, not just about retail; it's about unique things that we are doing within the company that keeps it really exciting.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Navdeep Gupta, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Navdeep Gupta, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Mike Lord
Mike LordEpisode 214: January 6, 2024
Understanding Corporate Public Affairs

Mike Lord

Episode 214: January 6, 2024

Understanding Corporate Public Affairs

It's difficult to succeed in business today without having a solid grasp of public affairs, public policy, and politics. Regardless of the size of your business or sector, decisions that are made in your state capital, Washington, DC, and beyond, can greatly affect your bottom line. Learning to strategically manage corporate public affairs was the focus of a recent three-day workshop for William & Mary's Executive MBA students. The workshop took place at The Washington Campus, a non-profit, non-partisan education consortium in Washington, DC, that partners with top business schools and universities around the world. Mike Lord is the President of The Washington Campus. He joins us today to talk about public policy, public affairs, and why business leaders must be well-versed in this arena

Podcast (audio)

Mike Lord: Understanding Corporate Public Affairs TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Why there is economic pessimism around the country
  • What role social media plays in policy setting in Washington, DC
  • Why it's a new age for public affairs
  • What the mission statement of The Washington Campus is
  • Why it's important for a CEO to be involved with public affairs
  • What the difference is between public affairs and public policy
  • What are some current hot topics in public policy
Transcript

Mike Lord

So it really doesn't matter what type of organization, including if you're an entrepreneurial startup. But the CEO has to be the chief public affairs officer to navigate all of these complexities.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. It's difficult to succeed in business today without having a solid grasp of public affairs, public policy, and politics. Regardless of the size of your business or sector, decisions that are made in your state capital, Washington, DC, and beyond, can greatly affect your bottom line. Learning to strategically manage corporate public affairs was the focus of a recent three-day workshop for William & Mary's executive MBA students. The workshop took place at The Washington Campus, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education consortium in Washington, DC, that partners with top business schools and universities around the world. Mike Lord is the President of The Washington Campus. He joins us today to talk about public policy, public affairs, and why business leaders must be well-versed in this arena. Here's our conversation with Mike Lord.

Ken White

Well, Mike, thanks for taking the time to join me. It's a very busy day for you, but I appreciate you taking the time to do this. Welcome.

Mike Lord

Great, thanks, Ken.

Ken White

You just spoke to our executive MBA students, well, a couple hours ago, and it was very interesting. One of the things that you said that struck me is you thought, there seems to be some pessimism across the country. What is that? Why do you see it that way?

Mike Lord

So, it's a matter of perception versus reality. We certainly have challenges, but the US economy is still quite strong, especially globally. Inflation is down, and even real incomes, net of inflation, are stronger. But people aren't feeling it. They are feeling more anxious than ever. There's actual polling and data that show this. And so it comes down to perception versus reality, including things like, there's one example of the price of eggs, which I know because I eat a lot of eggs, and when it's $6 for a dozen eggs, that hits you. And so even though the statistics show that incomes are doing well versus inflation, inflation is way down. There's a sense of anxiety, and some of that's due to the partisanship and the political environment that we have going on. But overall, the US is in a great position in terms of the global economy. Capital investment and expenditures are strong, and it's a strong economic environment. But people have a lot of concerns about the future, and a lot of that stems from the political environment, but also what they see in media and social media.

Ken White

Right. Yeah, social media. What's the role of that in Washington, DC?

Mike Lord

Definitely, in DC, social media has an outsized role, and it's difficult for a lot of people to understand, but it gets a lot of attention. And again, perception is reality. And so if there's a lot of noise on social media about something, it gets a lot of attention. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's not so good. And so it's a challenge for organizational leaders to figure out how to navigate this new environment and how to make sense of things, including when a lot of what's out there is not true, because social media has no filters, there's no editors, everyone's their own content creator. And that can be really great and empowering and democratizing. It can also result in a lot of misinformation and subpar information.

Ken White

You said it's a new age for public affairs. What makes it so different from the past?

Mike Lord

So I think in terms of public affairs, for any organizational leader, any business leader, it's become a new skill set for the C suite set of knowledge and skills, where it means you need to understand how to navigate this media and social media environment. You need to understand and deal with stakeholders more than ever, including government. So regulators, legislators at the federal level, state level, local level. And it requires diplomacy. It requires judgment. It requires a sensitivity to thinking about different sides of different issues, what your customers are thinking, what your employees are thinking, what public policymakers are thinking. And it really is a new and different challenge for executives to figure that out. It's not just about mastering your functional areas of finance and operations and things of that sort, but it's really the CEO has to be a chief public affairs executive as well.

Ken White

If we look across the board, not many business schools are covering it. And so I think, I'm assuming, many come to you. Tell us about The Washington Campus and who you work with and what you do.

Mike Lord

Sure. Well, The Washington Campus was founded in 1978, so we're about 45 years old, and we specifically were founded to bridge that gap between business and government. Where business didn't understand government, government didn't understand business. So it was a group of senior government officials who had just left the Ford White House, business school deans, and business executives who got together and founded The Washington Campus. And back then, in 1978, and for most of our history, the focus was on public policy, government relations, things like lobbying, understanding regulatory processes. But now, just as much of our curriculum is about that larger public affairs space, which means understanding media and social media, how to navigate it, how to react to it, when not to react to it, dealing with stakeholders, whether it's communities, NGOs, non-governmental organizations, employees, customers, and so on. So, our curriculum has really evolved as the challenges of business leaders have evolved.

Ken White

Now, you work with and instruct MBA students, executive MBA students, like you do with William & Mary, but companies and C suites as well.

Mike Lord

So we do, we used to do, earlier in our history, a lot more executive education. But since the MBA and executive MBA market has evolved, most MBA students now are working professionals. So we've switched to doing it in our regular programming, where I would say 80% of our participants are working professional executive MBAs. So typical profile might be at least in their 30s, some are in their 50s, some are already CEOs, some have started their own companies, and they know that they need to understand this public affairs and public policy environment. So we've switched from doing the traditional exec ed to where every program we do now tends to be 80% or so are working professional MBAs.

Ken White

Right, and exec ed., for those who don't know that, that's where your company sends a group off to a university or somewhere to learn for a few days or a week or longer. Right? So for a CEO who might say, I can only do so much, let me just have a chief public affairs officer, let's throw this to the communication office. What do you say to them?

Mike Lord

It's not a task that you can delegate or contract out. It's an inherent set of knowledge and skills that CEOs need to have, whether it's for-profit, not-for-profit, public sector, private sector. It needs to be part of the C suite and board in terms of their knowledge and their skill set and their involvement. Things have to be coordinated. You can't have one side saying one thing and your comm saying one thing, and then the CFO saying something else. And especially with instant communications, that comes back and bites you. And so, it is a very complex and diverse challenge, but it has to be integrated at the C suite level and at the board level. And we see challenges like, I've used everything from Apple and Tesla to what's going on with university presidents and universities these days, getting embroiled in politics, whether they like it or not. So it really doesn't matter what type of organization, including if you're an entrepreneurial startup, but the CEO has to be the chief public affairs officer to navigate all of these complexities. And it has to be integral to the business strategy, to the investment planning. So even with US-China relations, for example, that's politics. And you need to think about that in terms of your supply chains, your market planning, your investments, where you're going to build facilities, production, and who are you going to use as your suppliers.

Ken White

As someone who teaches communication, I'm thrilled with where leadership is going now. The leader needs to be a communicator. That sounds basically what you're saying. The leader has to be able to interact with people if they're going to be successful today.

Mike Lord

Absolutely. And a lot of it is about framing and messaging. A lot of it is about putting yourself in the other person's shoes. And so it is a different set of skills where it's not just about technical, financial, operational skills and performance, but you have to look at things from 360 degrees, think about all the different stakeholders' roleplay, think about the consequences. And so, communications is absolutely critical.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Mike Lord in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News and World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has world-class faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with Mike Lord, President of The Washington Campus.

Ken White

So when you're teaching a program like ours, what pieces of the puzzle do you try to bring in in front of students so that they get a good understanding?

Mike Lord

We definitely have a pretty comprehensive curriculum. We even have students who have worked on Capitol Hill or worked at a regulatory agency. Then, they go back to do their MBA. They take our course, and they say, I spent ten years on the hill, but now I finally understand how DC works because they all have their own slice. So, if they were a staffer for a member of the House from western Michigan, that was sort of their domain. That's what they focused on. Or if they were working at a regulatory agency, Department of Education, or Department of Labor, that was their slice that they saw. And so it's interesting, we've had many students who even worked in government in DC for ten years or more go back, get their MBAs, and they say, now I finally understand how all of it works, because our curriculum includes lobbying and advocacy, regulatory processes and regulatory engagement, how to navigate media and social media, the role of associations and coalitions, and even some of the basics like we're talking about. What does it mean? Public affairs versus public policy? Politics versus policy, which is often a fraught area because as an organizational leader, you definitely want need to get involved in various policy discussions, but you might want to stay away from the politics. So, just understanding even the difference between politics and policy is pretty important.

Ken White

So, I think we use those terms interchangeably. Public affairs and public policy. How do you define public affairs?

Mike Lord

So public affairs is really an evolution of what we've seen here in DC in terms of the executive functions, where it used to be a traditional government relations executive and maybe an in House or contract lobbyist. And that was kind of the way things were for decades here in Washington, DC. But because public policy is such an integral part of larger public affairs, which includes things like communications, stakeholder relations, and so on. It really DC has become the center of the public affairs function as well, which includes public policy as a subset. So, I think that's the best way to think about it is public policy as a subset of this larger universe of public affairs that includes things like stakeholder communications, media and social media, lobbying, and advocacy. So, it includes the traditional government relations and public policy functions. But it's about a whole lot more because that public policy and the public affairs environment is what shapes public policy.

Ken White

And you also said politics. So, how do you define that?

Mike Lord

So politics is the gamesmanship, the horse race. It's important it determines who's going to occupy that office, who's going to control the House, who's going to control the Senate, the White House. But that is different from policy. So, there's become a much more robust industry here in Washington, DC, of policy expertise, policy engagement, and policy advocacy, which means you are the subject matter expert. So on issues like gene editing or on issues like artificial intelligence, you need to have some serious business and or technical expertise to effectively lobby and advocate, but also just to effectively inform and engage policymakers. But to your point about communications, you also have to be able to simplify that in a way that your average staffer, your average regulator, your average house member of the House or Senate can understand, which really means what is the impact, what's the impact and importance for the country, but especially for their state, their district, for jobs and so on?

Ken White

What are some of the hot issues right now? You mentioned artificial intelligence, I assume. Is that one of the hot topics in the nation's capital?

Mike Lord

Yes, definitely. AI is the hot issue. It's cross-sector. It ranges from education to healthcare to financial services. It's interesting because people are trying to figure it out legislatively and regulatory-wise, but no one's quite even sure what they're talking about because different people have different ideas and definitions of what AI is or what AI should be. So it's kind of hard to legislate and regulate something when you can't even define what it is.

Ken White

But the idea is regulation. Are we headed that way for AI?

Mike Lord

It's already happening. So regulators are working on it every single day, and they're trying to shoehorn it in with existing legislation. So whether it's the FDA, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Transportation, and so on, they're trying to use existing laws to shape regulations. And those existing laws may or may not fit in terms of AI is quite different than anything we've seen before.

Ken White

What are the other hot topics in Washington, DC, besides AI?

Mike Lord

I'd say a lot of it is they are social issues, social and cultural issues, which is something that organizational leaders are going to be drawn into. They are being drawn into. They may not like it, but you don't have a choice. So whether you're the CEO of Disney or whether you're a university president, you're going to be drawn into these issues. And the interesting dynamic, especially in this country, is that the policy is shaped and determined both at the federal level, but just as much at the state and local level. And those are often in conflict, or you have two different states in conflict. So California and the stakeholders and situation there may be very different from how it is in Florida, but you've got thousands or tens of thousands of employees in each state, and then you also have federal issues and federal legislators and regulators to be concerned with. So, it can be a very complicated environment, but it's one that organizational leaders cannot avoid.

Ken White

If someone's interested, one of our listeners, or all of our listeners are interested in this, what should they read? Publications, websites? What's a good thing to look at daily or regularly to learn?

Mike Lord

So, there's definitely good news sources. Politico is for DC insiders, but that means they're not trying to present to your general public. They're trying to present to DC insiders who are trying to understand what is actually going on as opposed to taking sides. So, if you really want to see some of the inside of what's going on, Politico can be a great source. There's also our executive committee member, Vice Chairman Emeritus Bruce Melman is one of the best-known lobbyists here in Washington, DC. He publishes quarterly sort of insight reports, and they're available to the public, and we often post those on our LinkedIn pages. There's less partisan sources or more fact and policy-based sources. Axios, for example, has some great information, great newsletters you can sign up for, and they're brief. You can get a quick, you know, two-minute insight into what's going on and how policy is affecting business. And they're less focused on the politics and more on the policy dynamics and the impacts on business. And by business, I mean for profit and not for profit.

Ken White

You're pretty optimistic about where things are headed.

Mike Lord

I am. I'm quite optimistic. I'm a realistic optimist, but I'm realistic because there's data that show that the US economy and the US within the world is in a stronger position in many regards than it has been in decades, if not ever. We have a really dynamic, resilient economy. We're still the world's innovation leader. People still look to us. The reason we have an immigration problem is people are voting with their feet by the millions. So that is a challenge. It is a problem, but it's also an indication that we are still something that people look up to and are hopeful about. And so even some of our challenges are because we're actually in a pretty good position. The fact that we don't have any major legislation, we were just talking about that earlier today, is because we don't have any crises we're dealing with right now. So it's better to try to avoid those crises. But when you have big bills doing big things on Capitol Hill, passing, that's usually because of a crisis. So even the fact that we're not seeing huge bills on Capitol Hill is an indication that we're actually humming along pretty well. Despite all the noise of the politics and partisanship, especially in the media and social media, which does not represent what's actually going on. Even here in Washington, DC, behind the scenes, people are actually trying to work in a bipartisan way. Most staffers, most members on issues like artificial intelligence, where it's not a partisan issue. And both sides are trying to figure it out and figure out how to tackle it. So I am very much a realistic optimist, and I think the US is in a unique position in some regards more than ever in terms of its strength as an economy, but also in the world more generally.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Mike Lord, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Mike Lord, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

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 Amber Price
Amber PriceEpisode 213: December 21, 2023
Hospital Leadership

Amber Price

Episode 213: December 21, 2023

Hospital Leadership

When you think of a typical hospital chief administrator, who comes to mind? The majority of hospital CEOs are men, and many possess a graduate business degree. But Amber Price is different; she's one of a small number of women who lead hospitals. She holds a doctorate in nursing practice with a focus in change leadership, and she spent years working as a certified nurse midwife. She says those differences and experiences help her succeed. Price is President of Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center—a 145-bed acute care hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia, recognized as one of the nation's top 100 hospitals. She joins us to discuss the unique challenges and rewards of leading a hospital.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How being a nurse informs the leadership qualities of an administrator
  • How being a woman affects Amber's role as a hospital CEO
  • What the biggest challenges are of a hospital administrator
  • The difference between trauma and burnout
  • What the job of the senior executive is in the hospital
  • The importance of hiring for culture as well as skill set
  • What qualities a hospital leader should have
  • What the day-to-day of running a hospital is like
Transcript

Amber Price

I call it healthcare amplification. Right? Everything that happens outside in the world is amplified in healthcare. If you can't find a parking spot at the mall, you're annoyed. If you can't find a parking spot at a hospital, that might be a life-defining trauma. If you have a loved one dying and you didn't get there on time.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, when you think of a typical hospital chief administrator, who comes to mind? Well, the majority of hospital CEOs are men, and many possess a graduate business degree. But Amber Price is different. She's one of a small number of women who lead hospitals. She holds a doctorate in nursing practice with a focus in change leadership, and she spent years working as a certified nurse midwife. She says those differences and experiences help her succeed. Price is President of Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, a 145-bed acute care hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia, recognized as one of the nation's top 100 hospitals. She joins us to discuss the unique challenges and rewards of leading a hospital. Here's our conversation with Amber Price.

Ken White

Well, Amber, thanks a lot for taking your time. This is cool. Usually, we're in the studio, so to be in your office is fun. So, thanks for having us.

Amber Price

Well, thanks for coming.

Ken White

Yeah, this business is so very interesting, and your leadership role is interesting. But your background is a nurse. How does that affect the lens through which you see your job?

Amber Price

Well, it's a great question because it's unusual for a nurse to be a hospital CEO. And I actually did not start as a nurse. I started as a medical assistant, first an EKG tech. I've worked as a telemetry tech. I've worked in the kitchen. I worked as a unit secretary and a nurse's aide, all of that before I ever became a nurse. And so the joke in the hospital is I can relieve anyone for lunch. But there's a relatability here. I can walk through the hospital, and I kind of understand what people's daily work is like. It helps me make good decisions around what we need to do in different units. And that's pretty unique for a hospital president to have had the lived experience. So I think it's helped me quite a bit.

Ken White

I think it's unique for any leader because they normally come up through one chain or just a couple. So do you feel, as you're separated from that, that you're still up to speed on some of the things those units do?

Amber Price

I think I do. I think I'm a little bit more approachable, maybe than somebody who did not live that because intuitively, you reach out to help or you make a comment that makes people understand that you do know what their day is like. So, I think it's very helpful in building good communication with your teams, and it helps you drive needed change on those units from a perspective of a lived experience.

Ken White

I would assume not many hospital leaders are women. How does that affect what you do?

Amber Price

Well, that's very true. Nationwide, only 13% of hospital CEOs are women. We see lots of women in leadership in hospitals. In fact, the healthcare workforce is 67% female, but in the seat, we only see about 13%. And many of those women work in smaller hospitals. They were glass cliff positions where there wasn't anyone else, or it was kind of, by default, a given. So it is very different. And women are important as leaders in healthcare because our consumers are women. 80% of healthcare decisions are made by women. They're made for themselves, for their partners, for their children. And so innately understanding your consumer from a personal place makes a very big difference in how you execute healthcare delivery.

Ken White

What do you like most about what you do?

Amber Price

Well, I like complex work. And running a hospital is absolutely complex. It's not just the business aspect, and this is a big business, but it's the workaround moving cultures and shifting cultures in a direction that help take phenomenal care of people. And this job spills over into the community as well. So it's both inward-facing and outward-facing, so there's no shortage of complexity. And that is what excites me every day.

Ken White

What's your biggest challenge? Because it is complex. Wow. So, what sort of keeps you up at night?

Amber Price

I have to say that we came out of a pandemic that really froze the healthcare system for a while. And we've had to reinvent how we deliver healthcare, how we engage our employees, how we move beyond the trauma that the healthcare system experienced during the pandemic. What keeps me up at night is how I can take care of the people who take care of people best, how we move beyond what was essentially a big traumatic experience for our providers. We saw people exit the healthcare field due to that trauma. People confuse trauma and burnout all the time. And so we want to make sure we create environments where trauma is something that we process in the moment. And so that's the work we're currently doing, is to create a culture where people are free to emote, where we support them in that we actually have counselors here on site, our employees get free counseling, and we're normalizing that as part of your work experience. Prior to the pandemic, if people had a bad day, it was a bad day. And we've realized the impact it has on our team members and that downstream has an impact on how we deliver patient care and our outcomes. So we work very hard.

Ken White

Trauma and burnout. So interesting. I think people do use them interchangeably. What's the difference?

Amber Price

Well, trauma is something either extremely stressful or difficult that is changing the way that you perceive your role in your job. And trauma is something that we can address, talk through, teach people how to manage. But we have to begin by acknowledging that you have experienced a trauma and really understanding trauma-informed care. And so what we tend to do is say, hey, what's wrong with that person? Versus, hey, what happened to that person? And so, I try to approach these situations as what has happened to you to get you to the place that you are today, and how can we process that for you? Versus I'm tired of coming in. I really don't want to do this anymore. I want to go do something different. And if you help people process their trauma, you prevent burnout. And people don't recognize trauma. They don't know that what they're experiencing is the effect of a trauma. So we talk about it, highlight it, help people identify it, and help them process it.

Ken White

That's tough work. Is retention and hiring a challenge?

Amber Price

I think it has been in healthcare overall. I have to say that right now, where we are in our hospital today, that is no longer an issue. We don't have any external travelers here. We just got our employee engagement scores back, which are high. But we're all working on this effort to create a positive work culture. And I'm happy to see that shift from early post-pandemic where people feel resilient again, where they feel that they have a reserve. And that's what we've worked hard on.

Ken White

Positive work culture has got to be a challenge when it depends a great deal on the people who come in. How do you approach patient's families? What are some of the issues and goals you have in that regard?

Amber Price

Well, patients are our customers, and so we have to work with our team members to help them understand what it's like to be a patient and then how we respond to that as human beings. Right. Not distancing ourselves from the patients, particularly when we see behaviors that aren't so conducive to having a great conversation, but really understanding where they're coming from. I call it healthcare amplification. Right. Everything that happens outside in the world is amplified in healthcare. If you can't find a parking spot at the mall, you're annoyed. If you can't find a parking spot at a hospital, that might be a life-defining trauma if you have a loved one dying and you didn't get there on time. So we need to be understanding of that. So we do a lot of work in helping our team members understand what it's like to be that person, and we put all these things in place from the moment you park all the way through, going home as a patient, that really hone in on understanding that everything we do is just a little bit more difficult because you're hurting or you're scared, or you're waiting, potentially, for a difficult diagnosis. So we have to understand that. And when we do that, it helps us kind of de-escalate situations that in any other situation might get volatile. The other thing we do is, every morning, we actually identify people in the hospital who have a high potential for violence or outbursts. And we support our team members in that. So we're all aware of it. We have a plan for each of those patients, and then we have a plan for when people come into the hospital really are in a bad place. So, we de-escalate quickly, and we focus on it every day.

Ken White

One thing that strikes me when I walk in is people who work here look at you and smile at you. I assume that's intentional.

Amber Price

Well, I'm very happy to hear that, but it is very intentional because we know that if you walk into a hospital, you're nervous. You may not have processed whatever instructions you were given. And so we make a lot of effort to intercept people very early so that they know there are people here going to help you. People want hospitals to help them. So we work very, very hard to make sure that people realize that's what we're doing. We're not looking at our phones in the hallway. We know that these patients are nervous and scared, and everybody here knows that it's all of our jobs to make sure that people feel that we are connected.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Amber Price in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News and World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you are thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has a world-class faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with Amber Price, President of Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center.

Ken White

All of our listeners have been to a hospital they've visited, they've been a patient. And I'm thinking of my own experience. I don't recall being in a hospital where people smile, maybe the front desk, but literally walking down the hall and seeing that. Is this something you've instituted? Is this system-wide?

Amber Price

Well, the job of the senior executive is to set the tone and the culture of everyone in that hospital. So you have to model that behavior yourself, and you have to talk about it. People aren't often aware that they're not connecting or that they are distant. So, the way that I approach people in the hallway is to make eye contact and say hello. And so you start to emulate that behavior over and over and over, and then you talk about it. So we host a town hall four times a year, and we talk through what it's like to be a patient, how important it is to feel safe in the hospital. The other thing I talk about is that it's not certain people's jobs to do that, that everyone leads, that everyone is here taking care of the patient. My job is different than your job. But in the end, we are all here to make sure that that patient is safe and is prepared to go home. And goes home feeling like we did everything we could to make them feel safe and welcomed. So, we hold everyone accountable to the same standard. And people do that with pride.

Ken White

I was going to ask. They seem to accept that and embrace it, and run with it. So it's a positive?

Amber Price

Yes. And it goes to, who do you hire? Right. So, what are you hiring for? And I think, particularly in healthcare, there's been a trend of hiring people with a skill set and not worrying so much about their culture or the perfect fit. We were just focused on making sure that we had people doing the job. We've actually made a commitment here to hire for culture, even if it takes a little bit longer. We're making sure we're hiring people who are going to fit in and who emulate that behavior because, in the end, that leads to retention. And so we're celebrating a very high retention and very low turnover rate this year. And I think it is because we made the effort to hire for culture and fit, and that begets more recruitment because when you have a great work environment, it attracts employees as well. So I'm happy to hear that you're noticing it. We're certainly very proud of it, and we will continue that.

Ken White

On hiring like that. I assume it does take a little longer than if you were just looking for skill sets, but it's paying off.

Amber Price

It is paying off. And, you know, the best way to recruit is when your employees are out telling people about what it's like to work in your hospital. So often, people show up because a friend referred them. It's kind of a really nice barometer of how you're doing in your hospitals when people come to apply because somebody who works here referred them.

Ken White

Yeah. What a great measurement of quality, right? In any business, if a customer or an employee referral, boy. Yeah, you just can't seem to beat that these days. What do you think when you look at leadership in general? What qualities should a leader have in order to be effective? You've already mentioned some of them, but what are some of them?

Amber Price

Well, I think if you ask me, what is the hallmark of a leader? What's that one thing that you need to have that's different from potentially being a manager? Like how do you lead? And I think it is the ability to lead change while keeping your teams engaged in doing that, particularly in healthcare now. There's so much rapid change happening with technology changing, with the pool of physicians and nurses changing. We have to pivot quickly and adopt technology. There's so much happening very quickly, and so we need to be able to move through that very fast, take our teams along with us as all of those things get rolled out. So, if you can't lead change, then you're going to struggle to be a leader. And I think the other component of that is figuring out how you lead. Right. So rather than following a playbook, figuring out how you do that as you to be genuine in that and to be able to make genuine connections with the people in your hospital and do it with them, rather than directing those changes, I think those are the two really important things.

Ken White

What's your day like? When do you get here? When do you get home?

Amber Price

I get here usually sometime after seven in the morning. Our first big meeting of the day is a safety huddle at 815. Every leader attends that. We're all aware of what's happening in the hospital. Any barriers to care for the day, we resolve them together. And then I spent my day working with my corporate leaders, working through contracts, making sure that our quality and KPI are all going the way they're supposed to go. But I will tell you, running a hospital is really dealing with the unexpected every day. Probably three or four times a day, somebody comes to me with something that I could not have anticipated happening. And then we need to quickly rally and make sure that we're taking care of that. So there's a lot of connection with my executives here in the hospital. We all work very closely with each other. You met our chief medical officer this morning. It's very fluid, and we do it together. We do it as a team. And if there's anything that needs to happen in the moment, we go together, and we take care of it. Here in this hospital, if there is an emergency of some sort, particularly something that stresses our resources, we all go. We don't think it's one person's problem. We believe that we're all responsible for that together. So you'll see us all over the hospital all day, and that's the job. Then, when the day ends, after the last meeting, which is usually somewhere around five or six, then we go into the community. So, I am out almost every evening, connecting with business leaders, connecting with the community, not-for-profit organizations. And so the job goes seven days a week. And then the question is, how do you make time for yourself? And so that's what you have to figure out, but that's the job.

Ken White

Was there a particular point in time where you said, you know, I want to lead? I want to step up and take on a role like you have now.

Amber Price

I never intended to be the CEO of a hospital, ever. I was going to be a nurse midwife, which is what I did. But what happened to me wasn't really the epiphany of I want to lead, particularly once I got my doctorate, which was focused on change leadership. What I gravitate to is honing in on what a problem is and how you solve it. And so I did have many moments of, dang, I think I know what that problem is, and I want to go solve it. And then offering myself up to do that, and that leadership and the invitation to move up in leadership came from those things. I tend to be attracted to the most difficult, challenging things to fix. And that's what excites me because, in the end, it makes a hospital a better hospital, it makes patients happier, it makes outcomes better. And so the question tends to be, why do you lead? And it takes a while to figure that out for some people, and for me, it was to have an impact. To have an impact on healthcare, an impact on outcomes. So, I tend to seek out those things that make things better.

Ken White

It makes the job fun.

Amber Price

And it makes the job.

Ken White

Do you have fun?

Amber Price

I have

Ken White

Yeah, you look like you have fun.

Amber Price

so much fun.

Ken White

I think when you're observed, people think,

Amber Price

Absolutely.

Ken White

you're having a good time.

Amber Price

I enjoy leadership, and I did not know that I would enjoy leadership. I don't know that I knew what leaders did until I found myself in that seat. And I think each person needs to figure out for themselves how they lead, how they influence, how they connect with people. And so what I tell people to do is get a coach right, get constant feedback, learn what your impact is on others so that you can keep moving on and really working on yourself every day so that the impact you have is the impact you want to have.

Ken White

If you look back at your childhood friends, your family, when they knew a twelve year old, Amber, would they be surprised at where you are now?

Amber Price

Well, yes. My father is still disappointed that I didn't become a flight attendant. He thought that would be a great career for me, which is very funny because, to this day, he mentions that you would have just made a great flight attendant. So I think there is a bit of a surprise because I think I'm seen as very nurturing. I love direct patient care. I did it for many years. I've delivered many babies as a certified nurse midwife, and that became my identity for many people. And so to see the pivot to senior leadership and pulling away from specialty care and taking on that zoomed-out that viewpoint of healthcare and being able to lead that, I think that's what surprises people. I don't think people are surprised that I'm in a hospital taking care of people. I just do it from a different seat.

Ken White

One of our guests a couple of years ago said, you know, you're successful if your parents don't quite understand exactly what you do day to day, right? Then you've hit it. If you had any, you mentioned coaching, any other advice for an aspiring leader, what would you share?

Amber Price

Well, I think coming from the perspective of a woman who is a leader. I think that women don't always understand how they are perceived, and you carry a lot of cultural baggage with you as a leader. I hear women tell me, for example, and I've spoken at the business school before, questions from the audience are always like, I'm afraid I'm talking too much, or I'm afraid I'm going to start crying if I fire somebody. These things that you've learned to believe about yourself as a woman. We know that women do not talk more than men. In fact, many of the studies coming out in recent years show that women actually speak far less. And so you have to really delve into those cultural beliefs for a bit to see where you fit in and challenge yourself in overriding that right. I've learned to interrupt when I need to interrupt because it's the right thing to do if things are steering in the wrong direction. I've learned to take up space. I've learned to speak up more, and I've learned to be brave in many ways. It's something that's harder for women to do because there's so many cultural judgments that sit in that behavior. And so you have to move beyond that to get to a senior executive position because the reality is that in the end, you have to be able to move things, drive the needle, have the conversations, and be the leader in the moment. So, I do mentor women in that as well. I currently have three people in this hospital, one fellow and two interns, that I mentor because there are not that many women who are in this seat in healthcare. So I think we all have a duty to pass that on and show people how to do that and how effective we are in doing that. You don't have to do it the way everybody else does it. You have to figure out how you need to do it.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Amber Price, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Amber Price, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White wishing you a safe, happy, and productive new year.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Stephanie Rentschler
Stephanie RentschlerEpisode 212: November 22, 2023
The Job Market

Stephanie Rentschler

Episode 212: November 22, 2023

The Job Market

When it comes to the job market, things certainly have evolved in the past few years. During the pandemic, the unemployment rate reached almost 15%. Today, the labor market is strong and the unemployment rate is under 4%. When comparing today's employment landscape with that of the pandemic, one word comes to mind: Change. We're seeing changes in hiring practices, employee expectations, and the ages of available workers among other things. Stephanie Rentschler works at the Graduate Career Management Center at the William & Mary School of Business. She's the Director of Career Advising and Education. She coaches MBA students and those pursuing Masters Degrees in Accounting and Business Analytics. She joins us to talk about the current job market, what companies are doing to attract talent, and what job seekers can do to find the right opportunity.

Podcast (audio)

Stephanie Rentschler: The Job Market TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What the current trends are now in the job market
  • Which industries are increasing employment vs which are slowing down
  • How different the job market is for new employees vs seasoned ones
  • Why professionals should conduct skills assessments for themselves when transferring positions
  • What effect artificial intelligence will have on the job market
  • How networking has changed for job candidates
  • How job longevity has changed in the current employment market
  • What employers can do to retain employees
Transcript

Stephanie Rentschler

You have to be able to find and highlight what are those top key strengths that I have. But how does that then correlate to the employer and what the employer is looking for to make it relevant?

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. When it comes to the job market, things certainly have evolved the past few years. During the Pandemic, the unemployment rate reached almost 15%. Today, the labor market is strong, and the unemployment rate is under 4%. When comparing today's employment landscape with that of the Pandemic, one word comes to mind: change. We're seeing changes in hiring practices, employee expectations, and the ages of available workers, among other things. Stephanie Rentschler works at the Graduate Career Management Center at the William & Mary School of Business. She's the director of career advising and education. She coaches MBA students and those pursuing master's degrees in accounting and business analytics. She joins us to talk about the current job market, what companies are doing to attract talent, and what job seekers can do to find the right opportunity. Here's our conversation with Stephanie Rentschler.

Ken White

Stephanie, so nice to see you in a different setting. We normally running into each other in class or in the office, but it's nice to have you here. Thanks for being with us.

Stephanie Rentschler

Ken, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Ken White

Yeah. So what you do is fascinating. I mean, you've got your fingers on many pulses, so to speak, and you're talking to job seekers, you're talking to companies, you're seeing the trends, and so forth in the market. What are things looking like out there right now in terms of jobs? We hear so many things in the media. What are you seeing here?

Stephanie Rentschler

Yeah, it's a great question, and I think it is something that is continuously changing, right? And even harder to have a pulse on. We are seeing lots of fluctuations, lots of things. Where we're seeing ups, we're seeing downs. In particular, over the past couple of years, in general, we've seen a ton of ups and downs. But right now, it's been interesting in particular to see what sectors are being a little bit more open in terms of hiring, where we're seeing some slowdowns. And then for us, as we work with students, trying to find what are going to be those sweet spots that we can get people into. In terms of the market, we're seeing a little bit of slow in hiring in certain areas, but then I would say growth in others. Slowness in particular for us here at William & Mary, we produce a lot of students going into the consulting sector, and that's an area we're not having a ton of traction in for some of our folks right now, a bit of that comes from maybe start dates being pushed back. And now, for folks trying to enter in, having to back up against those folks who are now getting ready to start six months later than when they anticipated, we're seeing some good traction in certain areas like healthcare as well. Something that our population is pivoting into in a way that maybe we didn't see as much of in the past. But then also just finding that creativity with different types of companies and maybe finding opportunities at a smaller or a medium-sized firm. Whereas the opportunity might be more relevant there, too.

Ken White

Yeah, I think a lot of people think big companies not necessarily the case now, correct? There are opportunities everywhere.

Stephanie Rentschler

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's finding those niche spaces as well, but knowing that depending on the size of the company might determine how available they are to hire as well. We're seeing some good traction in the medium size. I know we always focus on the big because that's where the opportunities are. But if we can explore, particularly as we think about tech sector, I know that's something that a lot of folks have questions about for us in our department, big tech companies, where is the hiring, what's happening? We're finding some of these other firms try to focus in on technology-based roles to pick up some of that talent that may have been laid off in those bigger companies or say, hey, you might not be able to get into the Google or the Microsoft right now, but we're hiring tech-based roles. So look at us instead. So I think it's a little bit of pivoting on both sides and creativity from us as the folks that help people get jobs. But I think creativity on the employer's part, too.

Ken White

Yeah, I've definitely heard that in the tech sector, people going from big to large and finding or going from big to medium or small and not having issues finding. Is there, in your opinion, is the market any better, any different for someone starting out versus someone maybe moving from company to company or from one sector to another?

Stephanie Rentschler

That's a really good question. I think for those that are just starting out. What is interesting that we're seeing from some companies, as you mentioned, my office works with students, right? We're working with students in different grad-based programs. Some of those folks that are looking to get into that first professional role are maybe having to cast a bit of a wider net, maybe come up with some different ideas and options, as opposed to, this is the one route I had in mind. And we work with students to kind of, I guess, educate on those different options, too. For folks that are looking to pivot as well, I think it's understanding and taking time to assess where they're at currently. But what are some of those key skills, qualities, traits that they can really sell upon to help pivot into a new sector? A lot of the conversations that we have with folks here at William & Mary is the idea of transferability of skills and how can you use that as selling points to help you pivot and break into another sector. Having the prior years of work experience in some capacity is going to be helpful for sure. It's the creativity coming up with. What else is there to pull from when you are looking at breaking into your first professional career, maybe coming out of school or coming out of another program, where you have to be able to find and highlight what are those top key strengths that I have? But how does that then correlate to the employer and what the employer is looking for to make it relevant?

Ken White

So, how do I figure that out? Do I seek help? Do I get a coach? How do I know what transferable skills I have if I've got my eye on a new sector, for example?

Stephanie Rentschler

Yeah, that's a great question. So there are lots of different things that we talk with folks about, and I think people that folks can do on their own terms as well. I earlier this year gave a presentation to our young professionals group here in Williamsburg, Virginia, and talking about kind of like this two-part process of focusing on where I'm at now and then drawing the lines and connections to where I want to be, and sometimes that might even be working backwards. Right? So, if I know I want to be in a particular role or a particular industry, what are some of those key skills qualities of people that do well in those roles, people I admire in those roles? And how does that map back to where I'm at right now? So what that can look like for individuals and maybe even doing on their own time is doing a bit of a skills assessment and inventory. There are so many free resources that folks can look at through 16 personalities and plenty of other opportunities online. But being able to kind of take an inventory of what have I done and see the places that the strengths are, but then the areas of improvement in order to get to the role I'm looking for. In terms of the things that I've done or the things that I'm good at. Something I talk to even our students about is creating a brag list and having this as something that you're continuously adding to every month, every three months, whatever that looks like, to highlight what are the things that I've done well this quarter. What's a new project that I took on? What's a new skill that I learned? And over time, this brag list starts to get longer and longer of really key specific areas that candidates can then use to help highlight as they're trying to make that pivot into a new role or even new industry.

Ken White

I read. I get everything on Twitter, right? That's where I learn. And I don't know who said it. I don't even think it was attributed to the person who said it, but they said your career in the future is not about what you can do. It's your ability to learn. How does that sit with you? Does that sound right when you're interacting with employers now?

Stephanie Rentschler

Yes. I could not agree more. I think something we hear from employers is the idea of coachability, of individuals coming into certain roles, but then also a little bit of this ability to be a self-starter, too. How can I take in some of this knowledge? Be open to feedback and that coachability aspect, but then be able to start taking that and have more autonomy in certain areas. Take initiative. Be the one who's going to come up with the idea of how we can move forward with something as opposed to maybe sitting back and waiting for constant direction. Maybe this is something I think employers are talking about in a lot of sectors at this point, too, is having folks come in that they can shape and mold, maybe, but knowing that they're going to have a bit of those critical thinking skills, the initiative and those other sometimes we've referred to them as soft skills. I refer to them as power skills that are really going to be transformative when adding value to a team.

Ken White

And so that's what the companies are looking for. And if you're an applicant, don't get so hung up on exact experience. Look broader.

Stephanie Rentschler

Yes. And I think being able to draw some of those lines and connections, and that might come back to the idea of selling yourself as a candidate, too, right? Going back to the spaces of things that you've done well. And how is that then marketable for you as a candidate going into the job search? Employers talk to us about a wide array of different skills that they're looking for in candidates. And I think across the board, it boils down to a couple of different categories. That piece that I mentioned about being a self-starter being able to take initiative. The other thing that comes up a lot is problem-solving skills. And problem-solving in the sense of I'm able to think critically about the next step. I might be able to dive a little bit deeper to find information in order to move forward with the next step. And then I think a third bucket that comes up, depending on role two, is we are just seeing an increase in demand for technical skills as well. And that looks very different, I think, depending on the industry and depending on the role. But as we've seen, technology has infiltrated every single industry at this point, right? It is something that is relevant in almost any job that's out there. So, being able to show a bit of technical expertise in certain areas that doesn't mean you need to be a world-class programmer by any means. But I'm just dangerous enough in Excel to be able to tell you how to run a formula. So, I think it differs depending on industry. But that is another subset that does tend to come up from a lot of the employers that we're communicating with here at William & Mary in particular.

Ken White

And if you're not comfortable with tech skills, just try it right. What's it going to hurt?

Stephanie Rentschler

That goes back to that learning piece you just mentioned, right? Being open to learning a new skill, being able to show an employer that you are willing and eager to learn, too, even if you don't have that skill set yet.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Stephanie Rentschler in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year, the Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News and World Report all have named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with Stephanie Rentschler.

Ken White

We've had a number of guests on the podcast who either have AI expertise or their company is kind of playing in that sandbox. How do you think that's going to affect jobs? I'm talking college graduates and MBAs and so forth. What do you think? What kind of effect is that going to have?

Stephanie Rentschler

It's a really good question. I think we're finding ways to automate processes everywhere, even in the career services space and higher education that I work in. We use AI-related programs for resume development. We use AI-related programs for feedback on interview performance, and employers are using that, too, right? When you think about the way that we're even interviewing these days, a lot of times, you might be interviewing through a video-recorded platform that then is going to use AI to provide feedback to the employer on your performance. So it's something that I think is to watch and for folks to be aware of, and maybe even as you're thinking about going into different sectors or going into a new role, doing some of that research beforehand, how has AI maybe transformed this industry? What are some of the new initiatives that are coming up for this company? And being able to do some of that research beforehand, I think, can help pivot candidates to having just enough knowledge to be dangerous in that interview as well, too, to be able to adapt to some of those changes.

Ken White

Things obviously changing like mad. Networking? Has that changed? I mean, it's still critical, correct? Is that right?

Stephanie Rentschler

Absolutely critical. I think networking has always been something that's important, but especially as we go through so many of these changes in the market right now, I think it's become even more important. And networking for different purposes. Right. And this is something we talk to students about a lot, too is the idea of making a connection and trying to build your network isn't just solely based on you have a job, I need a job, give me job. Right. If it were that easy, everyone would have a job within a couple of weeks. But it's more based on this idea of how can I create, build, and then maintain a longer-term relationship that I can then maybe go back to for different instances. Networking can be really helpful for students or for candidates, in general, to break into an industry or break into a company. But it can also be really helpful from just an information-gathering perspective and utilizing that person you're reaching out to gather intel on what's important in that role, what's important to this company right now, and all of those pieces of information, I think help the candidate then tailor their approach to maybe a particular job search that they're focusing on, too. So when I talk about networking, I think about it outside of just the context of trying to get that one job or that one referral, but how can I maximize this relationship for additional gain as well?

Ken White

When I talk to companies, I'm sure you're the same. I was at a company this morning before we started to record one of the first things we're hiring. We're looking, we're looking, we're looking. How much of that everyone's seeking every company seems to be seeking? How much of that has to do with people staying and their jobs at a first, shorter period of time?

Stephanie Rentschler

It's a really good question, and I think we're seeing a continued trend of I don't really love the terminology, but job hopping. Right. And maybe the way that I talk about it is pivoting right. Now, some of that might be due to the employee saying this was not the best fit, or I'm not getting out of this what I thought I was getting out of this and wanting to make that change sooner than later. Right. We're once again going back to technology. We live in an immediate gratification kind of world these days. So it's very kind of on par for folks who are going into the workforce to have kind of a similar mentality. Now I think, on the other hand, too, it can also be fit-related as well, right? And I think fit from the company perspective, fit from the employee perspective. I think the generation that's coming into the workforce right now has different expectations than prior generations. I think we had more of an idea of getting in with one organization and finding the opportunities to maintain within that company, to grow within that company, potentially. But now I think folks are seeking growth opportunities outside the company they start with and then pivoting from there and again and again, potentially. We have statistics from the Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics that say that individuals of ages 25 to 34 are within a job on average for 2.8 years right now before they might be pivoting. And it's crazy to think about. But even as I reflect on my own job and career development, I see that trend being true for myself in a millennial capacity for me, and I think for others, too. But I think every person has a different reason too for jumping. It could be for growth, it could be for wanting to find increased flexibility. It could be maybe the company wasn't giving what they thought they needed. It could also be from company-related too. Maybe the person wasn't a great fit. So I think there's a lot of reasons people are jumping jobs right now as well.

Ken White

I think it could be I'm done. What else can I do? I don't feel challenged anymore, certainly.

Stephanie Rentschler

At that level. Yeah.

Ken White

And if there's not an opportunity, and so there's some, I think we tend to look at the employee or the professional for that shorter tenure. But I think there's some responsibility for the employer and some things they might be able to do to keep people engaged.

Stephanie Rentschler

Yeah, absolutely. And we have lots of conversations with some of our employer partners, as I will say, about what our students, even here at William & Mary, communicate with us about what they're looking for. And we see those trends kind of across the board when you look at what is important for this generation coming into the workforce. I think one big thing that has come up in the past couple of years is increased flexibility of work schedules, work environment, being able to have opportunities to be remote, maybe not always being in the office. I think there's pros and cons on both sides of that for company and employee. But another really big trend that we are seeing from the candidate perspective is I want to have more of a deeper connection with my employer. And what that means is I want to feel connected to the values, the mission, the culture is going to be a culture of collaborative or focus on employee well-being. And the amount of times that comes up in my conversations with MBA students, specialty master's students, it is so frequent for me to hear that from folks. And I think that is something that employers are starting to catch onto and say, well, how then can I showcase my company in a way that is going to highlight our commitment to employee well-being and mental health and awareness and what have you? So it's a bit of a shift, and I think we're all still trying to figure out what that looks like, but it's something that's important to this workforce. I believe.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Stephanie Rentschler, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Stephanie Rentschler, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Dr. Elias Zerhouni
Dr. Elias ZerhouniEpisode 211: November 21, 2023
From an Algerian Village to Director of the NIH: One Immigrant's Leadership Story

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

Episode 211: November 21, 2023

From an Algerian Village to Director of the NIH: One Immigrant's Leadership Story

Host Phil Wagner fills in for Ken White on this special crossover episode of Leadership & Business and Diversity Goes to Work. Our guest today is Dr. Elias Zerhouni, who has had an incredibly inspiring story of pursuing the American dream while never forgetting his roots. Born in a small village in Algeria, he came to America in his 20s with only a few dollars to his name. Yet through hard work and mentors who saw his potential, he rose to become the director of the world's largest biomedical research agency, the National Institute of Health. He pioneered breakthroughs in medical imaging, including MRI techniques still used today. His scientific innovation combined with leadership skills earned him roles like Department Chair at Johns Hopkins, but few expected a boy from a small Algerian village could someday lead the NIH and its multi-billion dollar budget. We are honored to have Dr. Zerhouni - a radiologist, researcher, and the former director of the NIH - on the podcast today.

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Dr. Elias Zerhouni: From an Algerian Village to Director of the NIH: One Immigrant's Leadership Story TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How Dr. Zerhouni's immigrant experience shaped his worldview as a leader
  • What the journey was like from an Algerian village to the NIH
  • Dr. Zerhouni's role in standardizing imaging scanners
  • What characteristics helped Dr. Zerhouni land such impressive career roles
  • What backlash, if any, Dr. Zerhouni encountered as NIH director in a post-9/11 America
  • The challenges Dr. Zerhouni has faced during his leadership journey
  • What is the role of mentorship in leadership careers
  • What the role of AI will be in the future of medical science
Transcript

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Phil Wagner

Welcome to a special crossover episode of Leadership & Business and Diversity Goes to Work. If you're a regular Leadership & Business listener, my name is Phil Wagner, host of the Mason School's Diversity Goes to Work podcast. I'm stepping in temporarily to fill in for Ken White on this special crossover episode. Our guest today has had an incredibly inspiring story of pursuing the American dream while never forgetting his roots. Born in a small village in Algeria, he came to America in his 20s with only a few dollars to his name. Yet through hard work and mentors who saw his potential, he rose to become the director of the world's largest biomedical research agency, the NIH. Our guest pioneered breakthroughs in medical imaging, including MRI techniques still used today. His scientific innovation, combined with leadership skill, earned him roles like department chair at John Hopkins in his 40s. But few expected a boy from a small Algerian village could someday lead the NIH and its multibillion-dollar budget. His diverse background gave him the global mindset needed to advance the NIH mission and promote better health worldwide. He championed science diplomacy to build bridges between nations and ensured doors were open for emerging leaders of all backgrounds. The trajectory of his life says much about the boundless opportunities America provides to those who dare to dream. I'm honored to have with us today Dr. Elias Zerhouni, radiologist researcher and former director of the National Institutes of Health. Elias, thank you so much for being here. It's an honor to have you on our podcast.

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

Thank you very much. And it's an honor for me, too, Phil.

Phil Wagner

So, I want to waste no time today. I'm hoping that we might unpack the many different elements of your story. So, let's start at the beginning. You were born in Algeria and moved to the US in your 20s. How did that immigrant experience shape your worldview and your approach to leadership?

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

I think it's fundamental, actually, to who I am and what I became. Right. If you go back, the reason I came is because I was pursuing the potential of doing research in a way that hadn't been done before. My father was a teacher of mathematics and physics, and so I was interested in math and physics first. Medicine came in later, and actually, my father opposed that. He said he thought medicine was for less than stellar people, that they just learned by rote and they wrote prescriptions, and it wasn't really challenging. He said you'll get bored. And indeed, I was getting bored after a couple of years because you had to learn all the muscles and all that until somebody showed me a CAT scan, the first CAT scan obtained in the world. It was a radiologist, a mentor. And he told me, he said, you know, this is the future, this is how imaging is going to be. We're going to be able to peek inside the human body without having to open it sort of image. That really was the fuse, if you will. And then, I decided that I was going to pursue radiology and imaging because it was a disjunction of math and physics and biology and medicine. But to do that, you had to come to the United States. I mean, in those days, very few countries, the UK and the US, had that, and that was the foundation. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into, frankly, because when you are sort of taking a chance like this, you know you're leaving, you don't know where you're arriving, and so that was the beginning, if you will, of my career.

Phil Wagner

So you have a very vast, and I would say, complex leadership story from being a medical consultant to the Reagan administration in your 30s to ultimately leading the NIH. Talk to us a little bit about your journey from the University of Algiers to the NIH. Can you give our listeners a little taste of that leadership story?

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

Sure. First of all, when I came, I asked my mentors again. The dean of our med school had been at the NIH, and he knew folks here in the US. And he said, well if you want to do what you are proposing to do, you need to get an exam equivalency so that you can be certified in the US. So I studied that, and then I succeeded, and then he said, well, would you like to go? I said tell me which schools are the best? And he said Harvard, Hopkins. I said, well if you can find me something one of those. I was arrogant at the time. I'll go, and we called the Dean at Hopkins, who he knew, and the Dean of Hopkins was a radiologist. And he also believed that this was a new era that mathematics and physics would converge with medical imaging and medicine in general. So what he heard what I was wanting to do, this converging of physical sciences and medical sciences, oh yeah, bring him over. So that's how I got into the Hopkins program, not as a resident, just as a visiting researcher, if you will. So that's what started it. And then when I got there very quickly, I mean the environment was exceptional, people were not like, you know, saying, well he's an immigrant, what does he know? I spoke, barely spoke English, but in my first interactions, it was very obvious that they were excited by the concept of research that would really combine these things because radiology has always been at the edge of biology and physics with radiations and so on. And so over a few month period, I got to know everyone, and I decided that, yeah, I wanted to stay, but there were no positions. And so, I looked for positions around the US. I was going to go to Loma Linda. I had a job offer. Then, when I told my mentors there, they say, I'm leaving. I got a job at Loma Linda. They said, wait a minute, don't rush. Turns out there was one resident at the time who really didn't like the specialty had spent a year and he wanted to go into dermatology. So he left, and they gave me his slot. And so that is how I became a resident in radiology at Johns Hopkins. But then, I was doing research on pulmonary nodules. One of the things that I always followed is the sense that you can learn more by quantitating a biological phenomenon than by observing it. And medicine in those days was more observational qualitative, and I wanted to bring numbers. And my chairman, Stan Siegelman, Dr. Siegelman, he had the idea that measuring calcium in tumors would be a good thing because it turns out that previous studies had shown that calcium, when it's high, is usually a benign disease, not cancer. And so we started to do that, and one thing led to another. We were successful, except that we were successful at Hopkins. Then, when people try to replicate that, they couldn't. And when that happened, obviously, people always wonder if you massage the data or something like that, and we know we didn't. So I studied why that was. And what I found was that in those days, scanners were not standardized, and people forgot that the image you looked at was really the result of a computation. And the computations were different from company to company to company, which means that they give you different numbers, and you couldn't really make a diagnosis because using a scanner from company A wouldn't give you the same results of company B. And so I solved that problem by creating what we call a reference phantom. And the idea that with computerized imaging, which was becoming standard, whether CT, MRI, ultrasound, the world was going to need a way to standardize, right? So it's like having a meter and a mile or a kilometer and a mile. You need to agree on the measure, right? Well, but you need to provide that measure. And that's what I did. Now, you mentioned I was a consultant of the White House. I was not a political consultant. I was a medical consultant because it turns out President Reagan had pulmonary nodules, which were found after he was operated. And I got called in because, at that time, I was the only one who could use that method to determine whether they're benign or malignant. So, I was asked to be a medical consultant. I met the president. I studied, I examined him, and so on, and told him that it was benign, that they need to reoperate again. And that was really the beginning, if you will, of this research career. And I was coming back to Hopkins at the time and essentially continued to follow the same theme quantitative biology. Bring numbers, bring rigor, bring real data to medicine. That was the trend, and I applied that in many ways.

Phil Wagner

You mentioned earlier you said I was arrogant at the time, but I've listened to your story a lot, particularly over the last few weeks, and I think it's one defined by such humility. And I've heard you talk openly about how you very clearly didn't have the expected pedigree of someone who would eventually find their way into the White House and serve multiple administrations. What do you think it ultimately was that landed you such impressive roles in your career?

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

Right. That's a good point. You don't have that phenomenon as much today as you did then. But in those days, if you were what they called a foreign medical graduate, meaning you have graduated from a foreign university, foreign medical school, and then you got your equivalency, people thought you were inferior, that you didn't have the same level of education, skills, capabilities as a US trained. And that was part of the aura at the time to see we have the best of the best medical system. There was a little bit of arrogance behind that, but then the consequence was that when they looked at you, they, you know, there will be a glass ceiling. You'll make it to assistant professor, associate, maybe professor, but that's it. No more because you're a foreign medical graduate, and it's indeed in your Pet degree. You don't have, like, Harvard or the big Ivy leagues. I mean, University of Algiers, who knows where that is? I mean, they thought it was out of a movie or something. So, you really had to establish your credibility on the ground. And that's where, you know, it really happened because as I was there, I worked hard. I asked a lot of questions. If you ask my professors and Stan Siegelman, somebody asked him what distinguished him from the others you had. He said well, you would never be satisfied by just what we told him. He said, Why you're telling why is that that way instead of oh, I get it. Okay. I understand. The bone is broken. All right, fine. It fixes itself this way. Why? What happens, really, at the molecular level to repair a bone? I mean, can you imagine the mechanism of self-repair?

Phil Wagner

Yeah.

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

Do you imagine if you had a motor that self-repaired itself? Isn't that fantastic? And so this feeling of the world is fantastic. Nature is fantastic. You observe it, and you see things that we cannot do ourselves. We cannot engineer ourselves. A larvae that becomes a butterfly. So the complete amazement at the discoveries that we made inside the human body, both with imaging and trying to coupled with the curiosity, really led to people saying, well, this guy's a little different. And that's where it started.

Phil Wagner

Your tenure at the NIH is notable for a variety of reasons, but I also want to draw our attention back to the timeline. So we're talking the Bush administration, and we're talking post-911 America. And so I'm wondering, during that time, as you rose into this position of prominence, did you face any backlash in that era? We see a lot of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim backlash. Here, you are leading a very well-known and well-regarded entity. Did those collide in any way that were complicated for you?

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

Well, first of all, you know, I have to give credit to Johns Hopkins University. I mean, it's a merit-driven university, and I never really got the direct feeling of, except for what I told you before, if you're a foreign medical graduate, there was, you could know there was a little perception difference there, and people saying, well, it's just not as good. My English got better very quickly, so that was obviously an advantage. But I never felt that at Hopkins, although I felt that it was there. Nobody would come to you and say anything. And when it came time to be promoted to professor, there was no discussion. It didn't matter. What counted is, what did you do? What did you publish? And the rest of it was irrelevant. And so that was the culture that I came from. Hopkins has this culture of merits first, and then when the chairmanship of the department was in question, I always thought I would never make it because of pedigree reasons and so on, but it didn't bother the search committee, and I became that and quickly after that became the executive vice dean, all of that because I brought a different perspective. And I'll tell you what the different perspective was. When I started my research in MRI, I realized that I couldn't do it as just a physician-scientist, and I was a biomedical engineering associate if you will. But what happened was I realized quickly that if you didn't have a multidisciplinary approach to science and your lab was not multidisciplinary, you wouldn't succeed. So I went to the dean. I said I want to recruit a physicist. People raised their hand say, oh, my God, a physicist in the medical school? Are you kidding? We're not doing atomic research here. And I said, no, you don't understand. But without a physicist, we won't be able to understand what is it we're seeing with MRI. So my first recruit was actually a physicist, and then I recruited an engineer in radio waves, and then a biologist in cancer, and then another type of mechanical engineer and electronic engineer that could do signals. So, pretty soon, my lab at Hopkins was unique in the sense that it combined multiple disciplines in one lab, and that had never been done before. So, it was a model that actually attracted a lot of attention because it was successful. We very quickly became one of the most granted lab. We received grants from National Science Foundation and NIH, and so there was a lot of interest in that. And I kept saying, you know, you're not going to be number one again unless you combine molecular biology with mathematics, with physics, with computer science, but nobody knew how to do it. I didn't know it was not possible because, at the time, I didn't really appreciate that the basic science departments and the physics department, the math department wanted to control their faculty. They want to select them. They want to tell them what to do and so on. And I sort of broke that mold. So I broke the barriers between them by just basically saying, don't worry about the salary, we'll take care of that, and bringing them into one lab. Now, I'm telling you that story because that's the fundamental reason I became NIH director. So I pushed a new way of doing research at Hopkins, which, you know, as soon as I became chair, they had seen that model. It had been reported actually in science as the model of the future. And I practiced it, and then I extended it to the whole Medical School as the executive vice dean, and I was dean for research. And if you look back, what happened was that I was more looking at the system than any one project in particular. So, I have this sort of systems engineering mind. And I said the system requires you to break barriers between departments and disciplines. And we created these institutes that had no departmental barriers. They were multidisciplinary by nature, and it became very successful. I think that fast forward. After a few years of that, I got noticed I was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, and I was known as somebody who broke barriers, both as an immigrant, I broke barriers, I broke the glass ceiling, but more importantly, I broke transverse barriers and glued people together. And that's what they thought NIH needed at the time because NIH had 27 institutes and centers, none of which talking to each other. So I can tell you the details of the story, but that's the fundamental thread that led to that connection.

Phil Wagner

So clearly, some big wins mapped throughout that story. What are the biggest accomplishments or initiatives that you're particularly proud of from your tenure at the NIH?

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

Well, first of all, you have to understand what was happening there because your question was related to 911 and the period of time. Right. And at the time, there was a lot of concern in terms of security. You remember there was an anthrax event where they distributed anthrax around, and it turned out not to be a foreign operation but a soldier from the US laboratories. So, it was clear that at the time, the country and Congress was supportive of NIH. They actually agreed to double the budget, and George Bush, the president, also was a big supporter. At the time, I, like you, thought that I'll never make it. I mean, you know, Muslim, Arab, there's no way. I got interviewed by the White House by a fellow Ed Moy was the presidential personnel. And they had had my name by people who said, you should look into this guy. And the president of our university, Bill Brody, was asked, do you have anybody? And he said, oh, I don't want to tell you his name because it's like giving my arm away, but this is who you should talk to. And so when they talked to me after the first interview, they had a very clear idea of what the problem was at the NIH. It was basically a confederacy. It was not a federation. There were lots of things that needed to be done that no institute wanted to do because they say, wait a minute, that's not my business. I'm focused on my budget, with my diseases, and so on. So lack of coordination and lack of synergy, if you will. And I had noticed that because what you don't mention, and that is important, is that in 1996, I was asked by the director of the National Cancer Institute to write a strategic plan for imaging for cancer. And NIH has a bureaucracy. And I said, no, I'm not doing that. And Rick Klausner was his name, and he was a young, very aggressive, very smart scientist. He called me back. He said, you know, nobody turns me down. Why are you turning me? He said because I've seen that we do work for you guys. You put in the drawer, you never do anything about it. And he said, no, I'm the new director. I'm different. I said, okay, well, let's make a deal. If you're different, I just want you promise me to do the following. If I put a plan together, you have two options. You can say yes, or you can say no, but you cannot tell me what you all always say maybe I don't want any maybes. So that was the conversation that I did work, and I told him I said, I don't want a typical plan made by cancer specialists. I want a multidisciplinary team, which is my mode of operation at the time. And so we did the plan, and he loved it, and he put in the resources. It really transformed the way imaging is done for cancer from molecule to men. But then, as part of that, he said, I'd like you to be on my advisory council. So I end up on the advisory council at the National Cancer Institute in 1996 seven, something like that. I sat there, and I started to know the inside, the NIH from the inside. That led to a second step, which also is important in the story because relationships play a huge role in what happens to you. You don't plan, but it does drive the decision that the relationship was the following: Harold Varmus Dr. Varmus, who had become the president of Memorial Sloan Kettering, who was the outgoing director of the NIH, was asking someone to review his imaging programs. So I did. And as part of that, he was happy. He said, well, why don't you become a member of my advisory, so remember, I was on the advisory council of the National Cancer Institute. I was on the advisory council of the former NIH director with his, and then all of a sudden, the White House calls in and says, oh, we'd like you to consider this job. Well, I wasn't unprepared. It wasn't coming out of the blue. People knew me, and I knew them. And that the conversation immediately related not to who you are, what you do, what's your politics. I was independent. I was neither independent, or I mean, Republican or Democrat. So I was completely out of left field choice, right immigrant, not even born here, so on. No, I mean, it was completely out of character for selection. The problem is the conversation led to a convergence of thoughts that said he's thinking systems. He's not thinking his specialty. So that drove the conversation. Then, at the end, I said, but aren't you worried? I mean, I'm not the pedigree you want. He said, look, President Bush, as long as you're an American in good standing, it doesn't matter who you are, what your relation is, and I was shocked. I was really he said, oh, don't worry. If you make it, we'll back you. So that was it. So when you ask about, obviously, discrimination and lack of diversity and so on, I personally did not experience that, although it's there, there's no question. But I didn't because of factors that I described to you. And in other words, you had something unique that was not available; otherwise, you see things from a different way. The system needs a change. And that's when my contributions to NIH started. From a different point of view.

Phil Wagner

Your story is one defined by so many wins. Not just wins for your career, but wins that have changed the lives, livelihoods, health, longevity of, I mean, millions. Is your story one of victory and victory alone? I mean, what are some of the challenges that you have faced or faced during that time that might help our listeners as they find themselves configuring their leadership story?

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

So, first of all, I don't think there's a little bit of hubris in what you're saying, changing the world and life. Who can do that? The second is it was always driven by observations in medicine that told me this is accepted, but it's not acceptable. So, for example, my first thing was to look at these people who came in with a nodule in the lung that you saw an X-ray, and they would get operated. I mean, major surgery. I mean, Thoracotomy, which is opening of the chest, is not benign. And yet you realize that a third of them or more had benign disease that didn't need to be operated. So, it was accepted. But to me, it was not acceptable. Right. And that's what drove the first project if you will. The second message there is that you try to do something, and then you realize that the entrenched patterns of behavior oppose it. So, anytime you try to change, you had a resistance. The problem was, how do you overcome that resistance? Right. And then I was lucky to meet Bruce Holbrook, who was an accountant, and he said, well if the people don't want to change, create your own startup company and convince them. Well, it was bad advice because we almost went bankrupt trying to sell the technology to the big companies. Why? Because the big companies said, look, our main customers are the surgeons, and what you're asking us to do is to prevent surgery. That doesn't make a lot of market sense. And sure enough, there was a lot of resistance to it. So then I realized very quickly and learned that, yeah, you can see that something is accepted. You think it's unacceptable, you find a solution to it. That solution is rejected. And that made me understand that you cannot be just a specialist in your field. You also have to understand the context around your field. And when you talk about wins, that's the secret sauce to wins. Not just be good at what you do, but understand what you do within the context of the times.

Phil Wagner

That's good. You talked about relationships just a few moments ago. You said relationships often define what happened to you. Can you talk to us a little bit about mentorship? The mentorship that you received as you were growing your career, or the mentorship that you've now given and doled to others, developing future leaders? Talk to us about the role of mentorship in careers like yours.

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

That's a very great question. I didn't know how important it was until later. I get it now, but I didn't then. And you look back, and you say, how did it work? And I tell the students that there is a pattern to that, and that is that to really be good leader and innovator and bring new things, you need more than just knowing your specialty, your discipline. Right. You need connectivity. It's like what I call the balance T.

Phil Wagner

Yeah.

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

The letter T that has a horizontal bar and a vertical bar. The two have to be equal because if you just have a vertical and not a lot of horizontal, you're basically a nerd in your specialty, and you connect to no one. If you just talk, talk, and connect to everybody, like a good cocktail conversationalist, you know, a lot of people, a lot of things, but you have nothing to contribute. And so that concept of the balanced T is really what underlies, in my view. The advice I give to students that you got to grow that. Now, why is that? I'll give you an example. So Paul Wheeler was a radiologist who was at Johns Hopkins, and he believed that you cannot be a good physician scientist unless you're a good physician. And then he came went to me one day and he said, let's go read some films. I said, I'm tired. I got to go. Listen, you know what the difference is between a great pilot and not so great pilot? I said no. He said, do you think a pilot who has 40 hours of practice is as good as the one that does 1000 hours? No, obviously not. And the one that does 1000, is he better than the one who does 10,000? No, obviously not. So, okay, let's go. Let's go get 10,000 films at 100,000. So he was teaching you that fundamentally, you need to be good at your game. Your vertical of the T had to be really solid. Otherwise, you didn't have the right to talk. So he taught you that hard fact that at Hopkins, at least, you know, you had to be a good doctor before anything else. So that's mentoring number one, right? And then we had another Bob Gaylor, who was very wise, and he understood the tensions between the interests of different departments and different so he was more like a wise man. And so you talked to that person, and he said, well, don't push. If you push, you're going to get a pushback. And those conversations were really important because you can be an innovator. But if you innovate against people and you don't understand, then you really don't place your innovation in the right place. Networking is also important because it opens new world. So I always tell students, look, 50% of the people you know should be around what you do, but 50% should be completely different. So I have one of my best friends, an accountant. I have friends who are basically artists and friends who are completely out of medicine and kept them for years from childhood to today. So I think nurturing your connectivity, your horizontal bar, is as essential as anything else, but you can't do it by being passive. In other words, mentoring. People say, oh, well, somebody put me under their wing. Listen, mentor; good mentors are busy. They don't have time to go and look you up and put, oh, come in, come it's not a cafeteria plan. You go and pick the mentor you think is attractive to you resonates with you, and you work at it. So it's as big a work from the mentee than it is from the mentor.

Phil Wagner

Let's go and lean into that vertical bar for our final question here. Let's nerd out just a second because you're someone who I think is uniquely qualified to speak to the next generation of medical innovation. So, where do you think medical science is leading us? There's a lot of cause to be concerned if you're a human living right here, right now. You've got wars and rumors of wars. You've got ChatGPT and Generative AI seemingly taking over the world and our jobs. Is there a case for hope as it relates to where medical science is taking us? What do you think?

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

I don't think there's been as much breakthrough discoveries and advances in medicine as there has been last 25 years. I mean, that's just not mince words. I don't think we've ever seen something, the wave of innovation that we've seen the past 25 years. When I became the NIH director, I assembled a 300 scientists and said what is the roadmap for medical research in the 21st century? And if you ask me so, what did you do at the NIH? That's what I did. I reset. It was like a reset button. And 300 people came, Nobel Prizes, great scientists. And I asked them a simple question. I said what is it that the science needs to see done that none of the institutes of NIH is doing but that the NIH has to do? And through those conversations, what appeared was a few concepts that really are underlying what you call medical sciences of today. One was computation and computational capabilities and quantitative capabilities, and the ability to have larger data sets. Okay, so data sciences. And the reason for that is because people were saying biology is more complex than we thought it was. In 1970, President Nixon said war on cancer. Everybody was waiting for silver bullets to come and cure cancer, right? But it wasn't the case. Cancer is not a disease, single disease. It's like 2000 diseases, different ways, different molecular arrangements that make the cancer cell grow. So that complexity was awesome and at the same time, frightening. And so people said we need to unravel the complexity of molecular pathways of disease. And you realize that a disease was not just due to one cause. When you look at cancer or inflammatory disease, it's due to multiple things. And then, when you treat them, you treat them with a combination of drugs because you don't really modify it otherwise. So that emerged, and that posed the question what exactly should medical sciences be in the 21st century. So when you come to that, you then go back to your question and say what did we need to do? We needed to do the blueprint, what's the code, what's the genetic code? So the Human Genome Project, which finished in 2003 to complete the and then, we said yeah, but that's not enough. You need to understand the DNA, but you need to understand the RNA. So whole field of research was put into RNA, and we invested to understand the behavior of RNA, and oh, wait a minute, that's not enough. RNA is only there to code and make proteins. Okay, so what about proteins? So, a whole field of research was invested in what we call proteomics. And what you've seen in each one of these fields, the technology that was needed progressed. And so people today, I would say there is no separation between science and technology. You can't really explore the complexity of science or biological systems without an advance in technology. And so this concept of convergence, of physical sciences, engineering, and biological sciences, is what's driving medical sciences today. Let me give you one example that blew my mind away, frankly. It's a company called Alpha Fold Two. It's not a company. The company is called DeepMind. If you recall, there was these people; these young guys were playing with algorithms that would beat the chess champion, and then they divinely made a game called AlphaGo. AlphaGo was for the game of Go, which is mathematically the most complex game played by humans. And over a period of few weeks, they beat the world champion. And then Google was really amazed. So they bought this company, and one of the scientists, John Jumpers, had really worked on the fundamental problem of protein structure. What I mean by that is everything you have in your body, all the functions that the life undertakes, is related to the shape of proteins and their interactions. Okay? But, we had no idea about how to deduct the shape of a protein from its gene sequence. So we had the human genome, but we didn't know how that translated into shapes. Very fundamental problem. Not new. It's been around for 80 years. And we use crystallography with X-rays and then Tomography, all kinds of methods, magnetic resonance to try to deduct the shape of proteins. These folks came in out of left field. They were not even doctors or physicians or biologists. They came out of mathematics, and they said, well, give us all the known structures which had been studied over 60 years, thousands and thousands of them. They put them into their computer, which is an AI computer with a neural network. And so from that, they started to deduct the roles. And each year, we had a championship where we would provide unknown structure, I mean, unknown structures. And we provide a sequence, and we say, okay, figure out the structure. By then, by 2017, 18, 19, we were able to do 20% of that, and 80% we couldn't. Until these folks came in their first year, they got 40% correct. And then, two years later, with Alpha Fold Two, which was their improved, they got 85% correct. Now, going from 20% to 85% is the equivalent of 200 years of research with the old methods. Not only that but this year, they gave all of their structures, 2 million structures, to the European Molecular Biology Lab, publicly accessible. Now, there's not a single lab that I know that is not using this methodology. I work on antibodies on multispecific antibodies today in my lab. And I tell you, you go, and you basically use AlphaFold to sort of define where your antibody is docking on your target protein. It saves you months and months and gives you insight that you wouldn't have otherwise. So, to answer your question, scale of research is going to be bigger because it's complex. So, data is going to be much bigger. Depth of understanding of the atomic interactions has to grid bigger. But more importantly, we got to understand the disease at the population level, not just the individual, and that is made possible by data sciences. So I think a marriage of complex biology that need to be very specific at the atomic level, at the individual level, at the population level, is what's really going forward. The last frontier is brain sciences. And to me, that's the frontier of the century is the brain and how neurons are amazingly working together. I mean, you look at your child, and in a period of months, they do things that no machine in the world does by itself, self-assembly, if you will, of skills. And how does that happen? Well, what is the miracle of that? So to me, I think we need to continue is to continuously be inspired by nature. There's no smarter teacher than nature itself.

Phil Wagner

Fantastic. Well, what a rich conversation this has been. Clearly, pulling from a rich life and legacy. Elias, thank you. I appreciate all of the insights that you've given and how you've really walked out a commitment to being a T-shaped leader, something that resonates deeply here in these halls in the Mason School of Business. So, thanks for a wonderful conversation.

Dr. Elias Zerhouni

Thank you, Phil.

Phil Wagner

Thanks for taking a second to listen to Diversity Goes to Work. If you like what you heard, share the show with a friend. Leave us a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts, and reach out because we're always looking for new friends. And if you'd like to learn more about any of our programs or initiatives here in the business school at William & Mary, be sure to visit us at mason wm.edu. Until next time.

More Podcast Episodes

 Lyn McDermid
Lyn McDermidEpisode 210: November 5, 2023
The 'State' of Leadership

Lyn McDermid

Episode 210: November 5, 2023

The 'State' of Leadership

Imagine leading and revamping your organization's cyber security system. For Lyn McDermid, that organization is the Commonwealth of Virginia, the 11th most populated state in the US. McDermid is Virginia's Secretary of Administration. She was appointed to the position by Governor Glenn Youngkin in January of 2022. She oversees five state agencies and leads Virginia's efforts in cyber security, IT, elections, Human Resources, and other important areas. Before making the move to state government, she was a successful IT professional and leader. She was CIO at the Federal Reserve System and held similar roles in private and public companies. She joins us today to discuss leading in state government, how states manage cyber security, and where technology may take us in the future.

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Lyn McDermid: The 'State' of Leadership TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What the differences are between private enterprise and state government
  • How to approach and embrace change in state government
  • What is involved in state government-level cyber security
  • What concerns to IT and technology professionals have regarding elections
  • What role does AI play in state government technology
  • The benefits of having an MBA
  • How important passion is for success
  • What is in store for the future of technology
Transcript

Lyn McDermid

We used to look for. We have a vulnerability. We have to fix that, and nobody will get to us. These bad guys are getting much more sophisticated. They're being paid to do what they do, so it's a business for them.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Imagine leading and revamping your organization's cybersecurity system. For Lyn McDermid, that organization is the Commonwealth of Virginia, the 11th most populated state in the US. McDermid is Virginia's Secretary of Administration. She was appointed to the position by Governor Glenn Youngkin in January of 2022. She oversees five state agencies and leads Virginia's efforts in cybersecurity, IT, elections, human resources, and other important areas. Before making the move to state government, she was a successful IT professional and leader. She was CIO at the Federal Reserve System and held similar roles in private and public companies. She joins us on the podcast to discuss leading in state government, how states manage cybersecurity, and where technology may take us in the future. Here's our conversation with Lyn McDermid.

Ken White

Well, Lyn, thank you very much for being with us. It's great to have you here.

Lyn McDermid

Well, thank you so much for inviting me.

Ken White

And you've had a chance to interact with some students. How'd that go?

Lyn McDermid

I did. I interacted with an undergraduate group of students and then just met with some amazing women who are in the MBA program. So, I learn as much from them as they do from me. For sure.

Ken White

Amen. Yeah. They're my students, I can tell you. It's why you can't wait to get to work when your feet hit the floor every day.

Lyn McDermid

Right, good for you.

Ken White

What an amazing experience it is. And you're right. You had mentioned to the undergrad class they're the future leaders. I feel pretty good when I look at that group.

Lyn McDermid

I agree with you. They're very intelligent, very eager, and ready to go to work.

Ken White

So your career is so very interesting. Public, private, the Fed, and now a state government leader. What are the differences that you've seen working in business and now in your current role?

Lyn McDermid

There's a lot of differences, but a lot of similarities when you look at the differences between private sector. So I think my career was private sector, retired from that, then quasi-government, which the Fed is still a government agency, although independent, and then Virginia state government. Each of those is a little bit unique. State government, I think one of the big differences is the time you have to get things done. In private sector, you have very strong goals, you have a mission, and you have time to build on that. In state government, the term of the governor is short. The General Assembly changes a lot. The whole funding apparatus is very different and on a less long-term basis. And I think that is a real challenge for big projects or big initiatives that take a little bit more time to get done.

Ken White

Did you have much experience in government before?

Lyn McDermid

Zero experience in government.

Ken White

Yeah.

Lyn McDermid

When I interviewed with the governor, I said, I vote, and he laughed. So that was my experience, really.

Ken White

But he's a business guy. You're from business. I would assume there's a common language there.

Lyn McDermid

There's a common language, and I think it helps a lot. And he's hired people from business and people from politics. I think he has an idea of what he wants to get done, and we're just trying to get it done as quickly as we can. We're halfway through the administration, and it's just hard to believe.

Ken White

Yeah. How can that be? Time really does fly.

Lyn McDermid

It really does.

Ken White

Yeah. That's a great point you made earlier. Yeah. You oversee a number of areas, IT being one of them, which changes so incredibly rapidly. And you talked a little bit to the undergrads about change. How do you approach change and, embrace change, and think about it?

Lyn McDermid

I think that you have to look at change as inevitable but also as an opportunity. Everything changes the world changes. And I think as long as we're looking at it through that positive lens of how can we take advantage of this pivot point in either business or even in your own life, how do you take advantage of that? How do you guide it in a way that the outcomes are the things that you're looking for? Or even more importantly, if you're a business person that the business is looking for, if everything stayed the same, you're really backing up because everybody else is moving along at a faster pace. So you have to keep changing.

Ken White

Cybersecurity is one of your top priorities. Same with the governor?

Lyn McDermid

Absolutely.

Ken White

Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit about that? I don't know that the average person thinks much about state government and cyber. What is it you think about what keeps you up at night?

Lyn McDermid

There's two things that we think about. One is maintaining services. And I was surprised even to myself, Ken, the state has 100 different agencies. Probably half of them are very different businesses, from running hospitals to getting your driver's license and everything in between. Sustaining those services in a reliable and safe way is the most important job of the state. And cybersecurity underlays all of that, whether it's protecting private information. I mean, we are stewards of citizen's private information, ensuring that those services are reliable and fast. Looking at data in a way that we make decisions. Cybersecurity of our data and ransomware is something that we're all worried about is available so that we're making good decisions for the citizens of Virginia. So, cyber is ubiquitous in just about everything we do. And the threats are getting exponentially more complex. We used to look for we have a vulnerability. We have to fix that, and nobody will get to us. These bad guys are getting much more sophisticated. They're being paid to do what they do, so it's a business for them. And so we have to be constantly vigilant, on alert, have the right tools. Because a lot of what's evolved in the cyber world are new, very good tools for how do we deal with it, have the right people. So recruiting it's an area of shortage. There's thousands, if not more, cyber jobs out there to be filled. So training people and getting the right tools, I think, is most important.

Ken White

Some of our listeners may be listening on election day. Leading up to election day, what are some of the things you think about from a technology standpoint and an IT standpoint?

Lyn McDermid

I think it's important in Virginia to understand that we still have paper ballots. So everybody fills out a paper ballot that goes into a machine, and then that machine actually counts it and sends it on to the system. So we always have that backup. It's not that machines run our elections. That's really important. What we're looking for is making sure that every eligible voter has an opportunity to vote. So a lot of it happens locally in the precincts, in the voting places. Our registrars are angels and saints on election day and work very hard, and we all ought to be very appreciative of that. But the back-end systems are all just crunching the numbers, crunching the numbers. And we have tested every system, we have tested every machine. We have cyber people on alert. We have had a blackout period. So, no changes have been made in a certain amount of time. Because if you know IT, it's usually a change is what causes a little blip. So I am confident that we're prepared.

Ken White

AI. What kind of a role? I'm asking literally every guest on the podcast, right? It's all we're talking about, pretty much. But what kind of a role is that playing in your job?

Lyn McDermid

We're just beginning to think about it, to be honest. And there's two kinds of AI. As you know, there's older kinds of AI that we've been using forever. I mean, we've been doing data analytics and synthesizing data for ten years. What we're really focused on now is generative AI, the type of AI that actually writes the code and what are the models that are being used for that. So our governor just put out an executive director that he wants us to pilot generative AI. He wants it to look at all aspects. He's formed an advisory committee of AI specialists externally, and we really want to learn more about it before we let the horse out of the barn.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Lyn McDermid in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year, the Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News and World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with Lyn McDermid, Secretary of Administration for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Ken White

Your background is heavy IT, but you're a leader. Is that something you set out to do way back when?

Lyn McDermid

No, I think it's something you learn, and it's something that you learn even when you're not a leader. I look at everybody as a leader. I think that wherever you are in an organization, you have the opportunity to lead and develop good leadership skills. And if opportunities arise where you can take that to the next level of your career, so be it. But you learn by doing. You learn by studying people and understanding that to lead people, you have to get to know them. You have to understand kind of how to motivate them, how to reward them, how to incent them. It really is a wonderful part of a career, is to be able to recognize others for doing good work, coaching, mentoring, setting clear goals and objectives. So we all do that, and it's just taking it to another level.

Ken White

And I'm guessing by that answer, not to put words in your mouth, but probably leading not that different in your current role versus roles you've had in the past.

Lyn McDermid

Not at all. Not at all. I think the processes are different. The requirements might be different, but the people are the same.

Ken White

Technology has changed so much in your career. Is there one particular area you look back on and say, wow, boy, do I remember that? Or, that was a big moment for me for others. Was there a certain time period or certain event?

Lyn McDermid

This is kind of techy, but I think virtualization. And when we started going to the cloud. More infrastructure, it's huge. I mean, we used to build these monolithic data centers, have these huge fill-up, the whole data center with mainframes. They were slow. As soon as we learned how to kind of minimize the back end, virtualize, create cloud-like environments. And now, of course, we have wonderful opportunities in the cloud. It opened the door for all kinds of innovation on the front end. We're building applications differently, allowing those applications to run very fast. The whole data aspect of IT evolved out of that. So I thought that was, in my mind anyway, a game changer?

Ken White

Yeah. You have your MBA. How's that helped you?

Lyn McDermid

I think it helped me understand that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of aspect of managing. And the MBA, to me, was for me an opportunity to learn things that I hadn't been exposed to. You're learning HR management, finance management, conflict management, all kinds of different aspects of leadership and business, and running a business that you just don't have the opportunity to see it in the scale that you do with your MBA, but also how it all fits together. And at the end of the day, you're running a business.

Ken White

We don't blink an eye when we see a woman leading an IT team or working in IT. But when you started, that was different.

Lyn McDermid

It was different.

Ken White

What was that experience like for you?

Lyn McDermid

I didn't really know how different it was until I got there. And then, I just tried to work hard, earn respect, be smart, never come to the table without knowing the subject matter. Because I was being viewed through a different lens, we're all different, but I was really different. So I just realized that in order for me to keep my seat at the table, I had to know my stuff.

Ken White

What advice do you give to young people coming out of school getting ready to start careers?

Lyn McDermid

Know your stuff. Really keep learning. Don't close the book when you graduate because the world's going to change the way we do things will change. So be curious. I think curiosity is a trait that is undervalued. And then have fun. Don't take things too seriously. If you make a mistake, get up and try again.

Ken White

I've asked this question of a lot of our guests. How important is loving what you do important to your success?

Lyn McDermid

I think it's really important. And it doesn't mean that you love the bits and bytes of it, but you love the environment that you're in. You love the work that you're doing. You love the output and the impact that you're making, whether it's on one life or a lot or on one solving one problem or many. As long as you know that you're accomplishing something, you're doing good work. You can learn kind of the nitty gritty how to do a spreadsheet, but at the end of the day, you have to feel like you're making a difference.

Ken White

You mentioned change. It is changing. Where do you see things moving technologically?

Lyn McDermid

I think we're about to blow it out of the park. I mean, I think AI, generative AI, is going to be a game changer. I think quantum computing is going to be a game-changer. I think we haven't even begun to tap the wonder of mobility and how we can put applications on a mobile device on a phone. I mean, we've begun to do a lot of work there, but there's a lot more opportunity there. I just think we're at that step change, just like we were getting off the mainframe.

Ken White

Wow.

Lyn McDermid

15 years ago.

Ken White

Yeah. Or, like the introduction of the Internet, some people have said.

Lyn McDermid

Exactly.

Ken White

Yeah. Where does the state fit in?

Lyn McDermid

The state fits in as number one, using it to our advantage so that we can do the work that we have to do as well as we can do it. The other is advocating. Advocating for policies, advocating for funding to actually continue to invest in new technologies or in new ways of doing business or in people's education. I mean, you think about what Virginia state government does: education, workforce, health, and human resources, transportation. I mean, one of the ways we're using AI now is when you get an alert that you have traffic in a certain area, take another route. That's AI. So tons of opportunities in state government.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Lyn McDermid, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Lyn McDermid, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Chris Caracci
Chris CaracciEpisode 209: October 21, 2023
Learning from the Past

Chris Caracci

Episode 209: October 21, 2023

Learning from the Past

One of the best ways to succeed in the future is to understand the past. A new partnership between Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary will count on the past, along with a special place, to teach leadership, civil discourse, and engagement in a unique way. The newly created Williamsburg Institute will offer learning opportunities like no other for leaders, executives, adults, and young adults. It'll use Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary as living classrooms while it relies on some of history's most influential leaders to teach lessons for today and tomorrow. Chris Caracci is Executive Director of the Williamsburg Institute. He's spent years as a senior leader with Disney University and Disney Institute. He teaches at the William & Mary School of Business, and he joins us today to discuss the Williamsburg Institute and its unique approach to learning.

Podcast (audio)

Chris Caracci: Learning from the Past TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What was the beginning inspiration for the Williamsburg Institute
  • Who all is involved with the Williamsburg Institute
  • What are the three distinct audiences for the Institute
  • Why is this program unique to Colonial Williamsburg
  • The benefits of having adult leadership education outside of conventional spaces
  • What the goal is for the Williamsburg Institute
  • What is in store in the future for the Institute
Transcript

Chris Caracci

If we think about it very big picture, we think, well, why would we want to start a leadership institute to teach leadership principles when you can find leadership institutes and leadership executive education in a 1001 other places? And the answer to that is we do have the uniqueness of the power, what we call the power of place.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, one of the best ways to succeed in the future is to understand the past. A new partnership between Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary will count on the past, along with a special place to teach leadership, civil discourse, and engagement in a unique way. The newly created Williamsburg Institute will offer learning opportunities like no other for leaders, executives, adults, and young adults. It'll use Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary as living classrooms while it relies on some of history's most influential leaders to teach lessons for today and tomorrow. Chris Caracci is Executive Director of the Williamsburg Institute. He spent years as a senior leader with Disney University and the Disney Institute. He teaches at the William & Mary School of Business, and he joins us today to discuss the Williamsburg Institute and its unique approach to learning. Here's our conversation with Chris Caracci.

Ken White

Well, Chris, thanks for sharing your time with us. Welcome back to the podcast. You're in that rare group. You've been asked multiple times, and there's only a couple of you, so you're right at the top. It's great to have you back.

Chris Caracci

Well, thank you. It's great to be back.

Ken White

Yeah. We're going to have to tease Dawn Edmiston. Professor Dawn Edmiston is very proud of being the one who's been on the most. I think Dawn's been on four times, and this is three for you.

Chris Caracci

Well, we'll look for another opportunity.

Ken White

We'll have a tie. Yeah. Well, this is very exciting the Williamsburg Institute, but before we dive into that, maybe we start sort of at the beginning. And where did it all start?

Chris Caracci

It all started with the thought that or the idea that Colonial Williamsburg, the organization Colonial Williamsburg, should join with William & Mary and do something jointly together and support something together that was very unique. It wasn't completely Colonial Williamsburg's, and it wasn't completely William & Mary's, but really joining the two together to provide leadership programming for participants that want to come to Williamsburg. All the programming will take place here in Williamsburg because we want to take advantage of the place, obviously, but it's unique in that the institute sits between the two organizations, and it uses the resources of both fully. So it uses the intellectual expertise that William & Mary has to offer and the unparalleled world-class historical expertise of Colonial Williamsburg and the place that is Williamsburg.

Ken White

And you are executive director of the institute?

Chris Caracci

I am, yes.

Ken White

And who else? Is there an organization, a board, or what have you?

Chris Caracci

There is a board. The executive chair of the board is Carly Fiorina, and she represents also the Colonial Williamsburg side. The board is balanced between Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary. Carly is on the Colonial Williamsburg side, along with Cliff Fleet, who is the president and CEO of Colonial Williamsburg, and Jeff Trammel, who is on the board of trustees for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation but also has his foot in the William & Mary side because he's a former rector of William & Mary and a former member of the Board of Visitors for William & Mary. Then, on the William & Mary side, we have Peggy Agouris, who is the current provost of William & Mary, and still one empty seat for William & Mary. That, for the moment, Kendrick Ashton is filling. Kendrick is an alumnus of William & Mary and also the CEO of the St. James Group in the Washington, DC. Area and also a former member of the Board of Visitors for Colonial Williamsburg. I should say I'm sorry. William & Mary and on the Board of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. So there's a lot of representation from both sides.

Ken White

Yeah. So everybody gets both sides and what can be possible.

Chris Caracci

Yeah.

Ken White

So I wasn't sure what to expect when I first heard the name, but it's cool that there are three sort of distinct audiences you're thinking about. Can you tell us about that?

Chris Caracci

There are we are preparing to design programs that will be all Williamsburg-based programs. For the moment, we won't have anything that is virtual or online. Everything will be in person, face to face here in Williamsburg, and three distinct audiences. The first is an audience of what we call lifelong learners. So this is any adult that's interested in learning more about the leadership lessons we can glean from Colonial Williamsburg's past and their applicability to today. Today's environment of leadership and managing. The second group is the executive education group. These are business executives, business leaders, and also community leaders, civic leaders who want to take more of a deep dive into leadership concepts leadership practices. But looking at them in the context of our founding leadership from the nation 250 years ago and, finding out what lessons from that we can apply to today, and finding where those lessons are. And perhaps a lot of those lessons are forgotten. Lessons that we can bring back to the surface and then look at how they can move forward in their own lives as leaders and managers using those practices. And then the third group is for a younger crowd. It's for high school seniors, college freshmen, college sophomores. To give them some context again, going back to colonial leadership, going back to Williamsburg's leadership of 250 years ago, founding leadership, I should say principles, but also giving them some leadership skills that they can take forward with them into their careers because they'll be young in their careers and just starting their careers, but doing something that will give them, if you will, a foot up on their colleagues.

Ken White

The fact that it's in Colonial Williamsburg really differentiates it, for I think everybody knows of Colonial Williamsburg. Maybe not everybody has been there, but for those who just know it by name, why would this be unique to have a program in Colonial Williamsburg?

Chris Caracci

One of the reasons we wanted to start this was because we had that uniqueness. We not only have the uniqueness of Colonial Williamsburg, but we have the uniqueness of William & Mary and the campus for William & Mary that can't be replicated anywhere else. So if we think about it, very big picture, we think, well, why would we want to start a leadership institute to teach leadership principles when you can find leadership institutes and leadership executive education in 1001 other places? And the answer to that is we do have the uniqueness of the power, what we call the power of place. And the power of place is here in Williamsburg. So Colonial Williamsburg is it's going to celebrate its 100th year as a restored Williamsburg in 2026. It is the world's largest living history museum. It tells the story of the very foundations of American democracy, the American representative government, and it does that in world-class ways that aren't duplicated anywhere else in the world. So by bringing people here for these programs, we not only can create programs that use leadership expertise from William & Mary, from the intellectual academic leadership side, but we can blend those with experiences. So it's a very immersive program, experiences that Colonial Williamsburg can help us with because they have a whole cadre of colonial interpreters. And we had our opening event last week, and it was a discussion about civil discourse. We had that on the steps of the Raleigh Tavern, which is the place that debates were taking place, from the discussions in the Capitol just down the street 250 years ago. And our guests for last Friday night were Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Pastor Gowan Pamphlet, Reverend Gowan Pamphlet from the First Baptist Church of Williamsburg. All recreating and, in the context of their roles, talking about what did civil discourse look like 250 years ago and how can that be applied to today. So very unique and really not something that others can replicate.

Ken White

Absolutely. You hit the nail on the head. There is some great executive education out there. There's a ton of it. But this power of place is so unique. What a differentiator.

Chris Caracci

Yes, the power of place, and I call it the power of people, because nowhere else can groups have a conversation with somebody who is interpreting and embodying Thomas Jefferson or Gowan Pamphlet and finding out, well, what was it like when you were debating these things? What kind of discourse were you having? How were you finding common ground to move forward? Those are the lessons that are important for us today. When we're living in such a hyper-polarized environment, everything is politicized, and nobody can find common ground in order to get to the next step. And I think the lessons are really there from 250 years ago that can give us at least some insight into what we can do next.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Chris Caracci in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year, the Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News and World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, unparalleled student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with Chris Caracci, Executive Director of the Williamsburg Institute.

Ken White

And you've had experience in what we call executive education or corporate sort of education, where the leadership team would be taught something, but going somewhere, getting away from the building, the city, and just unplugging, leaving the cell phones and the laptops and focusing for a couple of days is pretty powerful stuff.

Chris Caracci

It's very powerful, especially in adult education. Adults like to learn through experience. They like to learn through seeing and understanding as they see it's commonplace now for executive ed programs or other institutes that teach leadership programs to have programs, but they're limited to a classroom space. They're limited to a ballroom in a convention space. They're sterile in such a way that there's really not a lot of outside influence on that learner other than what they're seeing or perhaps seeing projected on a screen. The differentiator with the Williamsburg Institute will be all of those participants. We may talk about something in a room briefly, but then we're outside, and we're meeting somebody in a historic building or on the campus of William & Mary, in a very historic place, talking about things that happened a long time ago, but have direct relevance to what's happening now. There's nothing more powerful than being able to experience that power of place.

Ken White

Yeah, and this is such a beautiful place. This is my 10th year, and still, every day, every day, I walk in and say, wow, you can't help it.

Chris Caracci

It's like walking into the past but in such an impactful way. History impacts you in such a way that you can't help but not leave feeling changed or transformed.

Ken White

Well, along those lines, you're going to hear from someone who was leading 250 years ago, and it is a human being wearing a costume, and I think it takes a few seconds to buy in. And at least for me, I was like, okay, but doesn't take very long before you're sort of there with them.

Chris Caracci

It's very true. And we think that it's just about somebody putting on a costume and pretending, if you will, to be another person. But what we don't realize is that here at Colonial Williamsburg, those interpreters spend their entire career in that character. They are scholars. They know that person inside and out. So when they speak, at first, you may think, well, it's an actor. They're pretending, if you will, to be James Madison. But within a few seconds, you realize, oh, my goodness, I'm listening to James Madison opine about whatever it is we're discussing. And it's so impressive that you can't help but feel impacted by the experience.

Ken White

Certainly, that's my experience. Absolutely. It doesn't take long at all. And you realize that, wow, this is not an act. It's not even close to that, like you said.

Chris Caracci

Yeah, very powerful.

Ken White

Yeah, it is. Extremely powerful. So you're pretty much starting out.

Chris Caracci

We are.

Ken White

It's fairly new, right?

Chris Caracci

We are very new.

Ken White

What are you working on now? What's the goal for, like, short?

Chris Caracci

We had our kickoff event last week with that gathering at the Raleigh Tavern. We're going to start producing our first program, which will be the programs that we do around those three demographic groups that we just shared. They will be from a day to three days in length, still to be designed. So we're going to start working on the first one, hopefully, and we're going to start with the lifelong learners, and hopefully, we'll have that one ready to go in February or March and be able to invite people to join us and participate in those first programs.

Ken White

And you say maybe you're staying over a night or two nights. Not a half-bad place to stay over, either.

Chris Caracci

Not at all. Even in the wintertime, when it's cool, it can be cold. There is a beauty about Williamsburg in general, a beauty about the campus of William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg that in the wintertime takes on an entirely different complexion. It's stark, but yet it's beautiful, and there might be some snow on the ground, and it brings you to a whole different place than if you're here in July and August when everything is green and the weather is very warm. It's very moving. It speaks to a certain part of your soul and your character and takes you back to another time and to another place that's deeply enriching if you allow it to be.

Ken White

Yet winter is still pretty mild.

Chris Caracci

Well, compared to other places, but it's still cold.

Ken White

Yeah, for us, yeah. I can't believe what I consider cold now compared. Yeah. Growing up in Pittsburgh. Very different.

Chris Caracci

Very.

Ken White

So, what excites you about what's taking place and what's ahead?

Chris Caracci

I think the possibility, just the possibility of coming into an organization that will let creativity be its guide, that will let curiosity be its guide. We're not married to any kind of approach to teaching other people or having people go through a learning experience. We're really open to wherever our imaginations can take us because we want these programs to be exciting. We want people to look forward to them. We don't want it to be one more passive sort of learning experience with not a whole lot of stimulus. We want the stimulus to be all around everybody every moment they're in one of our programs. And that's exciting to me because it speaks to adult learners very much, and we think it'll be very successful. As I said, we're just in the beginning stages of that and beginning to design. But we have high hopes that it'll be a real differentiated set of experiences for our participants.

Ken White

And for listeners who would like to see what's going on and learn about programs. Website? Where do they go?

Chris Caracci

Yes, they can go to our website, which is Williamsburginstitute.org. Very simple.

Ken White

Easy enough.

Chris Caracci

The programs are described on there. There's an about us. Yes, they can go there, and they can also sign up for more information and to be on our mailing list for our programs.

Ken White

Well, it's exciting. You and I have both had a lot of years in executive education. There's not anything like this.

Chris Caracci

No.

Ken White

This is really different.

Chris Caracci

Yes, it's very, very different. And that's what we're hoping makes it a success.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Chris Caracci, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Chris Caracci, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Michael Flood
Michael FloodEpisode 208: October 05, 2023
Leading & Making A Difference

Michael Flood

Episode 208: October 05, 2023

Leading & Making a Difference

About 1 in every 10 American households is food insecure. That's according to the US Department of Agriculture. That means 10% of American households are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all members of the family. In addition, households with children have a higher rate of food insecurity than those without kids. A big problem like food insecurity requires a big solution. Michael Flood is part of that solution. He's the President and CEO of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. A former All-American soccer player at William & Mary, he visited campus for a soccer reunion. And he visited us to talk about food insecurity, food banks, and leading in the non-profit space.

Podcast (audio)

Michael Flood: Leading & Making a Difference TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How Michael became interested in working in the non-profit space
  • What keeps Michael working in the non-profit world
  • How Michael's MBA helps him in his work at a non-profit
  • How athletics prepared Michael for his role as a leader
  • When Michael decided to pursue leadership roles
  • Where the food at food banks comes from
  • What the volunteer force consists of at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank
  • How big of an issue food insecurity is in the United States
Transcript

Michael Flood

Food banking, interestingly, is an American phenomenon started in Phoenix in the late 1960s, spread throughout the United States, and now has spread throughout the world. A way to sort of reuse an existing resource and having it benefit people who really need it.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. About one in every ten American households is food insecure. That's according to the US. Department of Agriculture. That means 10% of American households are uncertain of having or unable to acquire enough food to meet the needs of all members of the family. In addition, households with children have a higher rate of food insecurity than those without kids. A big problem like food insecurity requires a big solution. Michael Flood is part of that solution. He's the president and CEO of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. A former all-American soccer player at William & Mary, he visited campus for a soccer reunion, and he visited us to talk about food insecurity, food banks, and leading in the nonprofit space. Here's our conversation with Michael Flood.

Ken White

Well, Michael, thank you so much for being here. Welcome back to your alma mater. It's great to have you here.

Michael Flood

Oh, it's my pleasure to come back. It's been a little while, and to see the new facility here is really incredible. I have not been in this building, and it's phenomenal.

Ken White

Yeah, our listeners know, I often say on the podcast, you just walk in every morning and say, wow, how grateful to work in a place like this. You just spoke to a group of MBAs. How'd that go? What'd you talk about?

Michael Flood

It was great. I presented about my work, which is in the nonprofit world. I work for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. I'm the president and CEO there, and so I thought it would be good to come back and talk about how, while I got an MBA back in the late 1980s from the program here, I decided to go the nonprofit route. And very pleased I went that route. It's been a great career choice for me personally. That's what I presented to kind of my work and, how I got into it, and some of the challenges in the nonprofit world.

Ken White

What was it about the space that opened your eyes or got you interested?

Michael Flood

So, I came to William & Mary as an undergraduate and have a government degree. Political science, they call it government here. It's an old college. Right. And took history took a lot of courses. I came here also for soccer. I played soccer here, which was also a great experience. I did work in the newspaper industry for a bit of time in the 1980s, and I was trying to figure out really what I wanted to do. I discovered I didn't really want to go into government per se, so I had the opportunity to come back and go to the program here, the MBA program here. Coach for my old coach, Al Albert, as the assistant coach and the MBA program, I knew it was going to give me skills that would be helpful, but I still was undecided in terms of what I was going to do. There was a class while I was here that was taught by Dr. Harrington Bryce, who I think has retired recently. And it was about nonprofit management. And it was in that class. I bought the book, and it was in that class. I thought, you know what? This is interesting. I think this is something I want to pursue. And when I graduated from the MBA program, I moved back to California, where I'm originally from, and went into the nonprofit world, specifically food banks. I work for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and have for the last 20 years or so.

Ken White

In this era where people tend to work two-three years for an employer and move, as you said, two decades, what is it about it that makes you stay and like it so much?

Michael Flood

Well, there's so much variety to the work. And that's part of what I talked about this morning in the class. We have our feet in the food world the agricultural world. We have donated food coming in. So fascinating what's going on in the domestic food industry. Of course, we're in the philanthropic world. We're a nonprofit. We have to appeal for funds community engagement. The volunteer program is huge. We're involved in policy decisions made in DC. Sacramento, which is our state capital locally, have a big impact in our work. Nutrition and health is an important component of our work. Research. So you go down the list, and there's a lot to keep someone busy and engaged in this work. And that's why I've stayed. And it's just been fascinating, not to mention how the external environment has changed over that time. Most recently, of course, the pandemic upended things as it did for everybody. So, demand through the roof. The organization responding to that. It's been very interesting and rewarding work. And in the end, the bottom line for us is what is the community impact? How are we improving the lives of people? So it's a different bottom line, right, than a typical business bottom line. And I think that really is what drove me into the nonprofit sector and looking for that type of sort of reward, personal reward for work.

Ken White

But in one hand, you're the CEO of a business. It's a major business.

Michael Flood

Yes. I mean, there's $250,000,000 worth of revenue and expenses, the value of the food coming in and out, large distribution centers, logistics, trucking, and the like. So, all the factors of planning and budgeting. IT, HR, I mean, everything, yeah, it's the same in terms of having that type of discipline. Because in the end, for a nonprofit, you go out of business just like any business. Right. In terms of if the enterprise isn't managed well, you're going to be in trouble.

Ken White

How'd the MBA help you?

Michael Flood

The MBA helped me in terms of finance and that side of things because, again, that's an important aspect of running an organization. Of course, we have a great CFO and a great finance team, but having that knowledge in my role is important. Spent time here in marketing. Marketing is very important for a nonprofit. You have to attract the resources. For us, it's funding, it's food donations, it's volunteer, it's in kind. That has been important. Organizational development was very helpful here. In the end, there's both leadership in terms of providing the leadership for the organization, but there's also managing the enterprise, managing the operation, attracting talent, retaining talent, determining how to build an organizational culture that people are going to want to stick around. So, there were a lot of things here that I found beneficial. There was a real estate class I took. Well, we bought real estate as the food bank. So, a lot of things that provided me again, I think that foundational knowledge that has been very helpful to apply.

Ken White

And we mentioned you were an athlete and a good one. How does sports, how did that prepare you and athletics for your role?

Michael Flood

So, my parents immigrated from Ireland to the United States. They immigrated to Los Angeles. And for my brother and I, just sports was an important part of growing up. We played all different sports. And soccer is the one that I gravitated to. And as I mentioned, played here was all American. The team was a good team here had good success under our coach, Al Albert. Sports, for me, teamwork, competitiveness, resiliency, learning to lose as much as learning to win. Right. How do you bounce back? Right. And parts of leadership come into play. Sports has been very helpful. I had a brief professional career in soccer and then coached for quite some time. As I mentioned, I came back and coached here for a couple of years but did a lot of volunteer coaching and training right. Because I had really good coaches when I grew up, and that was my sort of give back right to hold coaching trainings. This would be in California, coach my kids, who played also as youth players. And yeah, I think sports has been very helpful for me in terms of the overall kind of just learning leadership skills, and you know, teamwork skills and related areas.

Ken White

I'll often ask our guests this question, and that is, was there a day, a time, a moment when you said, I want to be a CEO? I'm ready for that. Did you ever make that decision?

Michael Flood

That's a really good question. When I went into the nonprofit world, things were a bit smaller. It's grown. It's a big sector. If people aren't aware, the nonprofit sector in America is a huge, important sector doing important, critical work. I think when I got into it initially, it was sort of in an operations logistical role. And I probably thought early on, yes, I want to progress. I would like to lead an organization. So I had a great mentor in that first food bank I worked with in Northern California, guy by the name of Larry Sly, and then moved to another food bank to become the executive director or CEO, as they're called, in the nonprofit world. So, yeah, I think it was sort of a natural kind of evolution for me. Yeah, early on, I thought, one, I want to stay in this work, I'm enjoying it. And two, I would like to progress in my career.

Ken White

And I'm sure it feels pretty good to make a difference every day.

Michael Flood

It does. Even in the most difficult days, great work is going on. People are being helped. There's headaches in any job. Anywhere you go, there's challenges that you deal with. That, for me, was, again, sort of a primary driver, is that I'm a hard worker. I apply myself. It's important for me. And again, seeing the end result day in and day out is very satisfying.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Michael Flood in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year, the Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News and World Report have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, excellent student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with Michael Flood, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Ken White

Where does most of the food come from? Corporate folks? Where does it come from?

Michael Flood

Yeah, you know, so the United States, we're a prolific grower and producer of food, which is great. It's good to be in a position not all countries are. We export a lot of food, and from that, there's a lot of food that's just left over. Nutritious food wholesome food that never makes it to market, either in the retail sector or in the food service restaurant sector. So that's how food banks got going many years ago. Our food bank celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Food banking, interestingly, is an American phenomenon. Started in Phoenix in the late 1960s, spread throughout the United States, and now has spread throughout the world. A way to sort of reuse sort of an existing resource and having it benefit people who really need it. So that has been sort of the working model of sort of food banking since the beginning. There have been a lot of sort of tentacles out from that working model, but that still remains the core work.

Ken White

What about families and individuals? How much of the food comes from that group?

Michael Flood

Food drives, that type of thing can be helpful, I think. It's not a big part of food, but it helps on the engagement side, especially like schools. And that's where the volunteer program is very important. We want high schools, colleges, businesses, universities to come in, and it's a great engagement piece, too. People tend to come back because they feel like, for 3 hours, they're getting something accomplished. Right? So I would say the food drive part is kind of a smaller component, but again, helps, I would say, in just getting people involved and getting people engaged in the issue.

Ken White

So those people, the volunteers, quote-unquote, how many, how much of your time do you spend with volunteers?

Michael Flood

Yeah, so we're organized where we have a team focusing on the food donors, a team focusing on financial donors, a team focusing on the volunteer side of things. So those are sort of three teams that are focusing on various inputs. 16,700 volunteers coming through on an annual basis are at a big number coming on-site to our two distribution centers are helping at the mobile distributions throughout the community. So it's very large. And then the food bank is serving 600 other nonprofit organizations, and they have also a huge volunteer army helping at that level. So this work, in terms of providing help to people, the volunteer component is very important.

Ken White

Food insecurity in the United States. How big of an issue?

Michael Flood

It's been with us for a long time. It tends to increase or decrease depending on what's going on with the economy and also what's going on with government policy. That's why we focus on policy. It's very important. Decisions made in DC. Sacramento, for us, our state capital local, have a big impact in our work, and you know, the pandemic has seen pushed food insecurity rates up significantly. And once the employment situation improved two years into the pandemic, then the impact of inflation came into play. So, in Los Angeles County, about 30% of people are struggling with food insecurity. Doesn't mean they're necessarily going hungry every day. Some are, but it means they have a measurable shortfall of food accessing food for themselves or their family. So it's a big gap. And that's part of what the food bank is involved with in helping fill that gap, not just through food donations and our work, but the policy work also because the resources that federal government and government has is massive and dwarfs what we can do in the nonprofit world, even though we do a lot. So that comes into play and is a very important aspect.

Ken White

So what type of policy, when you're going to DC and Sacramento, what are you looking for?

Michael Flood

So, in Washington DC, there's something called the Farm Bill that occurs every five years, a debate on the agricultural policy of the United States. Everything's in there. It's a critical piece of legislation that provides the framework and the priorities for agricultural policy in the United States for the next five or six years. So that's a very good example that we want our voices heard in terms of all different aspects, and you know, the traditional food stamp program now called Snap is part of the Farm Bill. So that's just one of many different examples that come into play where advocacy is very important.

Ken White

Is that your role? Do you go to DC and Sacramento?

Michael Flood

I do some, but we also have a team, you know, part of this, you know, finding people who are, again, bring sort of a skill set to the work and getting them engaged and the like. But yes, I do go to DC. And also we'll see electeds down at the food bank or at our partner agencies or volunteering sometimes. So that's an important part of educating them of kind of what is going on in their local community.

Ken White

Yeah, absolutely. Someone who mid-career, early career, late career, who says, yeah, I've been thinking about nonprofit, I've been thinking maybe about food bank and those types of industries. What advice do you have for them?

Michael Flood

I would say that get involved. If you're working full-time in business or whatever the case may be, you can get involved now as a volunteer. Nonprofit organizations have volunteer boards of directors. We need smart, experienced, talented people who are committed to the work. So there's an entree already, and that can give you a little bit of an insight of, like, what's this world like and is that something that maybe I do want to do full time, or if not, you're contributing in that fashion. So, getting in as a volunteer, not necessarily right away as a board member, get in and be that working hands so you can see the operation of whatever nonprofit is firsthand that will give you some insight into the work. And I would just encourage people find things that you're passionate about, whether it's education or health care, mental health, children, seniors. I mean, there's all sorts of causes and great nonprofit organizations across this country. The nonprofit world is really an American phenomenon. There are NGOs throughout the world doing important work, but we have a nonprofit sector here that really is unmatched. And that's a great sort of credit to sort of America and our view of contributing to community and our volunteerism, our response to disasters, right yeah, we rely on the government. But as we've seen in disaster after disaster, people don't wait. They organize. They start helping their neighbors right away.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Michael Flood. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Michael Flood, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Brian Miller
Brian MillerEpisode 207: September 21, 2023
Thriving in an Era of Automation & AI

Brian Miller

Episode 207: September 21, 2023

Thriving in an Era of Automation & AI

Professionals, companies, and organizations everywhere are working to determine and refine the role automation and Artificial Intelligence play in their strategies and day-to-day activities. At BDO, one of the world's top accounting and advisory firms, embracing technology, AI, and automation is a way of life. Brian Miller is BDO's national audit, data analytics, and emerging methods partner. He works with the firm's leaders to set assurance innovation strategies, assurance data analytics, automation, and AI strategies. He visited William & Mary recently, where he was the keynote speaker at the business school's Accounting Edge Program. The next day he sat down with us to discuss thriving in an era of automation and AI.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How accountants should learn to use AI tools
  • What skills accountants and new professionals should learn to work with AI and automation
  • How AI is helping data protection technologies
  • What BDO Harmony is
  • The benefits of automating inefficient processes
  • The importance of being able to embrace automation and AI
  • Why a young professional should stay curious about new technologies
Transcript

Brian Miller

People like to think that the bots are coming for the accounting jobs. I don't think that's true, but I think that the accountants who know how to take advantage of the bots and the accountants who know how to use the tools that are available are certainly going to replace the accountants that don't.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Professionals, companies, and organizations everywhere are working to determine and refine the role automation and artificial intelligence play in their strategies and day-to-day activities. At BDO, one of the world's top accounting and advisory firms, embracing technology, AI, and automation is a way of life. Brian Miller is BDO's national audit, data analytics, and emerging methods partner. He works with the firm's leaders to set assurance innovation strategies, assurance data analytics, automation, and AI strategies. He visited William & Mary recently, where he was the keynote speaker at the Business School's Accounting Edge program. The next day, he sat down with us to discuss thriving in an era of automation and AI. Here's our conversation with BDO's Brian Miller.

Ken White

Brian, thanks very much for taking your time. It's great to see. I really enjoyed the talk last night.

Brian Miller

My pleasure. It's great to be on campus. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Ken White

Yeah you know, my first reaction was, man, how accounting has changed compared to way back in the day because if I'd have heard somebody from BDO was coming, I would expect a three-piece suit, black wing tips, and you guys were up there rocking the jeans and the sneakers and the sport coats. I think the students were like, wow, this is pretty cool.

Brian Miller

We were told Tracy was very adamant about startup chic, and it was not a stretch because that's how we are comfortable. That's how we get our most best work done.

Ken White

Yeah, it's great to see that change. You talked about automation in AI. Are the robots taking over?

Brian Miller

The robots are certainly helping, for sure. We say all the time that people like to think that the bots are coming for the accounting jobs. I don't think that's true, but I think that the accountants who know how to take advantage of the bots and the accountants who know how to use the tools that are available are certainly going to replace the accountants that don't. We already kind of see that happening.

Ken White

And you talked about some skills that you think accountants and new professionals need to have in order to work with the technology. What are some of those skills?

Brian Miller

Well, they're all soft skills. From my vantage point, I think being curious, learning, challenging the status quo. Is there a better way? So it just kind of depends. We spend a lot of time with our change management program. I have a colleague, Tara, who runs an entire enablement program. And what we learned is just hand-to-hand combat is kind of the only way to really get people over the hump. You can do all the lectures and all the town halls and all the webinars as you want, but we have some really senior partners in the firm who privately said, I know this is a better way. I know this is the right way to do it. I just need someone to show me. I need some help. So, we spent a lot of time doing job labs and individual kind of coaching sessions. And it works this way. It works that way. You push this button, you do these things, and they're all built to solve business problems. So it's not any sort of crazy coding. You don't need to be a data engineer, you don't need to be a comsci major, but you need to understand data extraction is happening and it's safe. These analytics mean these things and draw your attention here. We spend a lot of time on consistent user experience, consistent learning platforms, and learning education and change management programs so that it becomes increasingly familiar, which is a challenge because you're still in a profession that really is somewhat built around the billable hour. So it's really hard to find time to invest. Now, that's the users of the technology for the folks that have kind of come in and are building it. It changes every day. So we spend a lot of time on if it's Altrix or UiPath or data robot or robotx or whatever the application of the day is. We spend a lot of time looking at the business problem researching what the right tool for the job might be. Then, once you find the tool, you got to figure out how it works, is it safe, what the cyber consequences are. Because I have to prove to our regulator that everything that we use or adopt or build is fit for purpose, right? So if we start directing technology at our issuer client base, the regulator kind of comes in and says, okay, well, you took advantage of this, this, and this bit of technology. Show us all the ways that you either built it, stress tested it, QA, QC, and touch wood. We got a pretty good batting average around doing the requisite amount of QA and QC whether we build or buy. I'm really mindful of that because as soon as we stop if we ever were to mess that up, I know it's just going to be very difficult to kind of continue. So, we spend most of our time doing due diligence and QA QC.

Ken White

When you were talking to the students, you talked about very specific examples of how automation and AI are being embraced at BDO. Can you tell us a little bit about data protection technology?

Brian Miller

Yeah, so everything that we do, I was mentioning earlier that the managing partner of our tax firm basically says, you don't want to be the firm that gets their name in the paper for a data breach or a data leak. So we deal with a lot of sensitive information, whether it's personal information in a tax return or whether it's pre-market information in the conduct and audit. So a lot of times we spend with our clients doing direct extraction and basically say, all right, well, I'm going to tunnel into your ERP. I'm going to grab the evidence files that I need, I'm going to grab the ledgers that I need, I'm going to grab the subletters I need. Our really good, our really savvy clients, we need to kind of prove to them that we're going to take care of their information. What does that look like? It's either encrypted or it is stored in a particular environment, or it's purged after a certain period of time. Most of the conversations with our clients are not about what we're actually collecting. It's mostly about what we're not collecting. So we go in and say, well, I need your sales ledger, I need your inventory ledger, I need your warehouse details, whatever it is. But you have to kind of convince them we're not getting Social Security numbers or HR directories or HR kind of files. So we're seeing our savviest clients are the ones that are asking the right and the most intelligent kind of questions. And we have to get them with our cyber people, or we have to get them with our lawyers or whatever. One of the smartest things that we did very early when we got into deep into the extraction and data modes of working is we worked with our attorneys to lay out some pretty standard engagement letter language. So we are going to do these things in these ways and protect it in this particular way. And most of the time, we had a lot of questions about that language, and it continues to kind of evolve and live. But our clients need to be shown and proven that we're going to take as good of care with their information as possible. And again, we don't want to be the firm that gets their name in the paper for playing fast and loose with the data sovereignty the data protection. So we spend a lot of time and energy working with our cyber guys and our infrastructure guys to make sure that everything is just so so that it's safe. But it changes every day. Every day, there's a new threat and a new spam. We run phishing simulations. Like our cyber guys will send emails that are branded as from our CEO or, branded from me or branded from our learning department. Just have a question, please click here, fill out a survey, and it's a gotcha game. And if you click it, the pop-up kind of happens.

Ken White

Absolutely.

Brian Miller

You're assigned 23 hours of data protection, CPE, or whatever it is because you fell for it. Yeah, it's really working because our folks are now very mindful.

Ken White

That is working.

Brian Miller

I don't want to have to take all this homework, so I'll get a phone. Did you really send this email? Did you really ask me to? Yes, I did. Thank you for being mindful. That's an ominous kind of threat.

Ken White

Yeah. Oh, that's great. What's BDO harmony?

Brian Miller

Man, BDO harmony is the most special application to me just because I'm extremely biased towards hiring for reasons that I think will become clear in a moment. So, we started out by building our routines, and we realized pretty quickly that bespoke analytics for every audit client was just not a sustainable model. I couldn't have an analyst or a group of model architects for every kind of unicorn scenario. So we got pretty good at a common data model upfront, so, well, our clients are on QuickBooks. Our clients are on Oracle or SAP or Navision or Dynamics or a native ERP that was custom and invented the third season of Friends or whatever. We see it all. So the question became, how do we standardize our clients' data to a common language, a common convention, a common schema that all our tools will understand? So we started working on Harmony. We called it initially the front door. And the whole idea was drag clients' data in no matter size, no matter format, whatever, and codify it into a common data model that the tools universally recognize. So get in the front door. It's standardized. Everything kind of happens. So front door was going reasonably good. It's kind of an evergreen project at this point. And around the time it started getting really good and really exciting, my mother-in-law came over for lunch. She showed up unannounced. My wife is Korean. And so Julie showed up, and she said, I'm surprised I'm here for lunch, and my kids are running around, and my house is a mess. And I thought, man, I don't think we have any food, like, in the pantry or in the fridge or whatever. And Julie said, no, don't worry about it. I'll take care of it. And so she went in the kitchen, and she called us in 20 minutes later, and there was this very nice, elegant kind of spread that looked beautiful, and I didn't know where she found half of it and whatever. And my oldest son started eating and said, thank you, Harmony. And Harmony is the Korean word for grandmother. So that it hit me like a bolt of lightning like that is what we're doing. We're basically taking mess from different pockets and different places in different corners of any kind of format. So Harmony is named after an 80-year-old woman who lives in Walnut Creek, California.

Ken White

That's great.

Brian Miller

The logo is actually we had our marketing department take Julie's picture from our wedding and turn it into one of our Bots. So like the same dress and the same Versage. So, the Harmony logo. So now whenever we see her and Harmony is featured in a lot of BDO kind of collateral as the way we do analytics, I try to show her and explain to her. I mean, Harmony is in 31 countries now or whatever it is, but it all started with that kind of effort and that lunch, but it really started with the guys trying to understand how can we take all the world's data in every different kind of format and size and shape and codify it into something that we can use consistently?

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with BDO's Brian Miller in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year, the Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Princeton Review, and US News and World Report all have named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has an outstanding faculty, excellent student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with BDO's Brian Miller.

Ken White

You said last night do what you love and automate everything else.

Brian Miller

Yeah, absolutely.

Ken White

Yeah. Tell us a little more about that.

Brian Miller

Yeah, so last night, we talked a lot about what careers in accounting kind of look like based on the foundation of the type of education you get at the Mason School of Business. Or I went to Wisconsin at our school of business. Or we talked UCLA, North Carolina, whatever. If you got a really good accounting education, there's all sorts of ways that you can go. One of the guys that work in our firm that I speak with a lot is a gentleman named Rich La Marina, who runs our advisory analytics and automation kind of practice. And they do analytics and automation as a service, whereas for audit, we do our client base, or our stakeholders, or our engagement teams. Rich goes out and basically helps companies find inefficient processes, get them optimized, and then automate them so that people aren't just kind of pushing paper from one to another. So, we talk a lot about data lineage. Internally, what that looks like is we're looking at a CRM record. Here's an opportunity. Okay, now it's time to do click a button. Now, your portal provisions, your harmony provisions, your DMs provisions. You answer a couple questions, okay? Subject matter routing. The consultation's been reviewed. Click, click, send it to the next guy. So there's a lot of opportunity there as a service. So Rich has built an entire kind of client base around automation as a service. And his marketing tagline when he goes to his markets is automate everything else do what you love. One of the clients that I had years ago when I was still a client, Beijing practitioner, was these two doctors figured out a way to harvest shrimp membrane and turn it into a hemorrhage control bandage. So they were scientists. They were researchers. And these hemorrhage control bandages were the most efficient hemorrhage control bandages ever. They beat me and whatever off the shelf at Walgreens or whatever. And they ended up with a contract with the military where every servicemen and women deployed anywhere had at least four or five of these hemorrhage control badges. They were that good, and they were that efficient. But their accounting and finance was a mess, and their processes were a mess. And you talked to them about it, and they would say, look, we're doctors, we're scientists. We know we've got this wonderful kind of product, and so we're focused on that. But as a result, they weren't terribly focused on the business or process automation and all these types of things. But there are people who are really dialed into taking concept to opportunity, to action, to de-provisioning lather, rinse, repeat. So we spent a lot of time with clients as a service doing good data, good process, and automating and applying AI algorithms on top of good data and good process.

Ken White

You mentioned it a little earlier. We're talking AI automation. This is a massive time of change.

Brian Miller

Yeah.

Ken White

You got to embrace it, right?

Brian Miller

Or else, well, it's hard. You got to be disciplined to keep up, just to keep your head above kind of water. So what we're finding now, the number one question that we get from our current clients and from our existing clients, is what does BDO do with respect to automation, analytics, innovation, artificial intelligence. In audit, in my world, in audit it's a little bit like going to the dentist, you know what I mean? Nobody really looks forward to going to the dentist, and they judge their dentist by making sure it doesn't hurt. So that's not that far from the service that we kind of do. We got to show that we're providing value in the conduct of the audit. And we also got to make sure that it's as simple and as innovative and as technology-heavy as possible. And if we can do that and we can show some value as a result beyond a compliance activity, here's where we see you compared to businesses like you. That's one of the main kind of jams of Harmony. Once you codify all your client data into a common schema, you can start benchmarking manufacturing, and retail, and bank clients against each other, and suddenly, the audit looks very different. Like we're not just kind of putting our thumb up in the air and saying, all right, this is the concentration of your assets, your revenue, your margin, your inventory turnover, your payroll, your headcount. We're basically looking at jobs now by saying, for a $50 million manufacturing company in the Midwest, you look oddly different in these areas and traditional in these other areas. So we'll go in, and we'll do a bid and say, the data is going to dictate to us how we're going to approach your job, and we have enough experience and enough KPI history now that we can approach clients differently, say, well, what do you care about? Here's what we care about here's, what you see here's, what's a matter of professional standards embedding our technology there. But when we get to a function where we say we're going to scope an audit in a particular way because what we see is atypical compared to, like, clients around this common data model standard, then you're in a really engaging conversation. If we're not doing the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, all our competitors are. So we got to constantly keep our foot in the gas because the stakeholder expectations are continuing to change.

Ken White

What advice do you have for a young professional to have a successful career?

Brian Miller

Stay curious. Stay curious, work hard, and be kind. Those are the three pieces. The colleague who's an alumni here, Tracy Lewis, who brought the opportunity to visit the school she and I started the same year in 2002. And back then, we carried work papers around in suitcases, you know what I mean? And so people were just starting to have their own laptops. Everything continues to change. And so the skills that you're learning on campus right now and the hard work and the rigor and everything you're putting in is going to be very different than two years from now. Very different five years from now. Very different ten years from now. The literacy, the financial literacy, and understanding the language of business, which is accounting, is valuable. We were saying last night it's way easier to teach the accountants the technology. As the world gets more low code and no code, that's going to increasingly be the case. We try to teach the technologists how accounting works and debits and credits and this and that. And one, it's not always terribly interesting, but two, it's also very difficult. But we find the best accountants. You give them the right education and the right curriculum around how the technology works. They could go out and do supply chain management. They can go out and do tax engineering. They can go out and do client advisory automation services or whatever. So, staying curious, and staying interested, and demonstrating leadership, I think that the way we closed the presentation last night. Anything that can be automated will anything that can't becomes more valuable. Leadership, empathy, conscientiousness, mentorship. We had breakfast with the dean this morning, and we talked a lot about well, how can we best prepare students for the rigors of a professional responsibility in your organization. I said we want good team members. We want people we can go to battle with. We want good people who challenge a status quo. Who are interested in is there a better way? People aren't just going through the motions. And so the vibe that I've gotten on campus here while we've been here is that the calibers of the students are that you got a lot of really, why is it this way? Could it be that way? And never lose that level of curiosity, and ingenuity, and philosophy. The other thing I would recommend to undergrads here is just getting off the reservation periodically. Like weave in the business school and take an art class. Take a literature class, take a history class. Round out your portfolio to the extent the curriculum allows. Because you'll find folks in the history department or the English department or the art department have a lot of perspective that may not always exist in the straight line that the business school kind of offers.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Brian Miller. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Brian Miller, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Cody Watson
Cody WatsonEpisode 206: September 5, 2023
Telling the Corporate Story

Cody Watson

Episode 206: September 5, 2023

Telling the Corporate Story

Whether large or small, most companies and organizations engage with their target audiences on social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and others. But what about podcasts? Many companies and organizations have stayed away from hosting their own podcast despite the numbers. For example, the number of podcast listeners in the US has doubled in the last ten years. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 62% of American consumers listen to podcasts. Cody Watson is the Director of Marketing at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business at William & Mary. Before joining the Mason School, he worked in the ad agency space. He says companies should consider hosting their own podcasts because doing so can create solid relationships with customers and prospective customers.

Podcast (audio)

Cody Watson: Telling the Corporate Story TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Why podcasts are a neglected social media space for corporations
  • Why companies and organizations should think about podcasting
  • What questions to ask when considering launching a podcast
  • How podcast audiences compare to other social media channels
  • How long a podcast episode should be
  • What kind of equipment/budget do you need to start a podcast
  • How many people does it take to produce a corporate podcast
  • How good should the podcast quality be to engage an audience
  • How often corporate podcasts should publish new episodes
Transcript

Cody Watson

I think the barrier to entry feels artificially high if you don't know what you're doing. If you've never been in that space before, it feels like something that would be it's too technically complex.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, whether large or small, most companies and organizations engage with their target audiences on social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and others. But what about podcasts? Many companies and organizations have stayed away from hosting their own podcast, despite the numbers. For example, the number of podcast listeners in the US has doubled in the last ten years. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 62% of American consumers listen to podcasts. Cody Watson is the Director of Marketing at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business at William & Mary. Before joining the Mason School, he worked in the ad agency space. He says companies should consider hosting their own podcasts because doing so can create solid relationships with customers and prospective customers. Here's our conversation with Cody Watson.

Ken White

Cody, thanks for taking time to join us on the podcast. It's great to have you here.

Cody Watson

Hey, thanks, Ken. Happy to be here.

Ken White

You certainly get social media, and you understand because you do it for the Mason School of Business. You're all over social media. Why is it that some companies are everywhere in terms of social media, but podcasting they don't seem to be there? What's up with that?

Cody Watson

I chuckle when you ask that question. For me, I think podcasting is perceived to be difficult or a time suck. It's a very big time commitment, and I think the barrier to entry feels artificially high if you don't know what you're doing. If you've never been in that space before, it feels like something that would be it's too technically complex. Maybe I don't have the content. Maybe I don't know who to interview. Maybe I don't know what my topic is. It involves a lot more than just find a pretty image, come up with a caption, post it, move on to the next thing. It really is sort of a commitment to continuing and a commitment to content.

Ken White

Yeah, it's an investment in time, right?

Cody Watson

Absolutely.

Ken White

Why should companies and organizations think about launching a podcast?

Cody Watson

I think for the same reasons that it's intimidating. As you research the topics for a podcast episode versus a social media post, you're going to spend so much more time in a podcast episode talking about that you're going to foster a deeper connection with the brand, with the host, with the content topic. And so you really need to be brushed up on the details. You have to have a guest that knows what they're talking about. Hopefully, that guest today knows what they're talking about. But I really do think that it's intimidating because it's not just a flash in the pan like a post can be. It's content that exists, it's long-form, you absorb it, and people revisit that more so than they would a social media post.

Ken White

I remember when Facebook was somewhat new. You'd see a CEO or a leader say, hey, we have 100,000 followers or 500,000 followers or this is how many followers I want. They didn't necessarily know what that meant or why. What if a leader comes to you and says, I want our company to launch a podcast? What would you ask them?

Cody Watson

I think you ground yourself in the same questions that you would for any content piece that you're looking at from corporate content marketing because that's really what a podcast is: it's content marketing. And so the first thing that you ask is, who is our audience, who are we targeting? And what do we want them to get out of this? Can we impact them? Can we push them in the direction we want to push them? Is this going to be the right platform to do that? I think thinking about podcasting as a type of content rather than just this big scary new world of podcast. We've been doing spoken word and audio for a very long time as humans, and I think podcasting fits in that niche. We just have to make sure that we're targeting the right people with the right message.

Ken White

But content can be frightening. I think back when blogs started up, one of the tricks was, okay, if you want to be a blogger right now, sit down and come up with 50 blog topics or 100 blog topics. Would it be somewhat similar for podcasts if someone came to you and said, I'm thinking about starting one for our organization?

Cody Watson

Yes, and I think you need to know who's in your space because if your Leadership & Business podcast, if someone wants to do what you're doing, then the first thing they need to do is look at this podcast and say, okay, there's 200 plus episodes. It's exhaustive. What is covered? What's not covered? What can I offer that's new here? I think that's not just to have a podcast. To have a podcast, but what are you going to bring to the table that's new, that's not already being addressed?

Ken White

Yeah, because of some podcasts out there. There are some incredibly good podcasts, and that's why, right, they're filling a void, or at least they're better than what's out there.

Cody Watson

Yes. And if you think you can do it better, by all means, give it a shot. But I think you touched on it earlier. Make sure you have enough content for this to last unless your idea is a limited-run series. Did you think you'd be at 200 episodes when you started this? I mean, the idea was to keep this podcast going for as long as possible, but if you're in a niche topic, you might not need a podcast series. You might just need a limited-run show.

Ken White

Yeah. Which might be the reason. When you look at many podcasts, there are very few episodes, and then they sort of go away.

Cody Watson

Absolutely. They covered the ground, and they didn't need to hit it again.

Ken White

I think people are surprised to hear how small podcast. A successful podcast has a relatively small audience, especially compared to social media channels. Is that fair?

Cody Watson

That's fair. Obviously, we're going to remove our Joe Rogans and our Call Her Daddy out of this. Right. When you look at podcasting, you're going to get outreach for advertising at three to five thousand listeners per episode, which is astronomically tiny. Right. As we look at a massively successful podcast may have 10,000 listeners, but you're considered a micro-influencer with 100,000 followers. So, it's not a one-to-one. If you have 100,000 social media followers, you can't necessarily expect 100,000 podcast listeners. So it is a much smaller media but a more dedicated follower base because they're spending a large amount of time with you, potentially multiple times a week.

Ken White

That's a good point. Time. How long should a podcast be?

Cody Watson

What's your topic? I guess that's the question. So, I'm going to shuffle some papers here. I got some stats for you.

Ken White

Okay.

Cody Watson

As far as the time of a podcast is concerned, the average duration broken down by percentage, so 15% are fewer than ten minutes, which

Ken White

Wow, that's short.

Cody Watson

you're not going to cover very much in ten minutes. Right. But only 16% are over an hour. So everything else really lives in that ten to 60 minutes. And the biggest chunk is at 20 to 40 minutes, which everyone says 20 to 30 is kind of the sweet spot for a podcast episode just because the average attention span starts to wane after about 20 minutes as we think about sort of consumer behavior. So, really in, that sort of 20 to 40-minute time span is the really sweet spot if you have the content for it.

Ken White

Right. So you said not only do you have to come up with the number of episodes that you're going to be able to do, but the amount of time you're devoting to each episode as well.

Cody Watson

Exactly.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Cody Watson in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year, the Financial Times, Princeton Review, US News and World Report, and CEO magazine have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, excellent student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now, back to our conversation with Cody Watson.

Ken White

Let's shift gears a little bit. Equipment, right? Say someone say, yeah, we're going to do this. What does it entail?

Cody Watson

Well, a microphone, a recording device, and a host and a guest, I think, all in for podcasting. You can go production studio, millions of dollars all you want, but if you wanted to start something at home, you could probably go on Facebook Marketplace and, I think, get the equipment for less than $100. Buy it brand new for 200, $250, and probably be in the market to start something. So it's really, as far as a capital expense is concerned, really not that much of an expenditure to get something started.

Ken White

So, a marketing team at any organization should be able to.

Cody Watson

You should be able to work it into pretty much any budget you're carrying.

Ken White

Right. Would it fall under marketing in most places?

Cody Watson

Marketing, CorpCom, PR. I think depending on what the purpose of the podcast is if it's an internal podcast, you could debate that HR could even be involved in it if it's for your own employees. But generally, it's going to be a marketing or a corporate communications function.

Ken White

Yeah. What about staff? Who do you need, how do you put it together?

Cody Watson

How many people do you need? I think it depends on whether you're going to outsource or not. Right. And if you have a jack-of-all-trades host for this, they could really get all of this done themselves if they know how to do the back end of the editing. Setup's not that hard. You need to have a personality that can connect with the audience. So, host, a producer, a lot of times that's sort of the same hat that gets worn. An editor. You can outsource that editing. So that could relieve your burden there. Anywhere from one to four people would be all the staff you really need to put against this.

Ken White

Yeah, because many people in marketing or PR comms they do know how to edit.

Cody Watson

To a basic level, I think that most marketers or PR people could probably get into an audio cut and at least get you a good podcast cut and not that much of a steep learning curve.

Ken White

So what we've sort of been talking about are the podcasts where it's like this one person's asking questions, and another one is answering. But they can be much more robust.

Cody Watson

They can be really expansive. There's an American History podcast. I think there's a company called Wondery that does this. And they've got sound effects for horse hooves, and they've got the turning of the page, and was it this American Life is another one where they can really make these as big of a production as you want, but then how many of them are just a bare bones interview? That's really all people are wanting. They want to have that true connection. And all the bells and whistles is good for storytelling, but maybe not for interviewing.

Ken White

Interesting. So if a company doesn't have a staff, then what? The CEO I really like a podcast, the CEO says, but we don't really have anybody to do that. What do you do?

Cody Watson

You outsource it. If you have a good host, you have a good idea, and you have a buttoned-up strategy, you can outsource it for not very much money as well. Companies like Freedom, Castos for putting out in syndication, Libsyn just rattling off people that I know. There are a lot of companies that can really help take not just produce it for you, but even increase your production quality on the back end and make you sound a lot more polished than you maybe think you do when you're doing it in the moment.

Ken White

And some of these companies will make sure it's out there on all the right channels, making sure you're getting listeners.

Cody Watson

And they'll do all the syndications for you. Exactly. They'll do some of the promotions. You can outsource that if you couldn't do it internally. And syndication is not as difficult as a lot of people would think. A lot of the ways that you would push a podcast out are repeatable between Apple and Stitcher and, Spotify, and all.

Ken White

Right. Expensive to outsource?

Cody Watson

Not necessarily, no. I think you can do it for a couple grand a year, honestly, if you don't have that long of a show.

Ken White

On YouTube, when we're talking video, sometimes you hear people say, if it's a little rough, that's good. If it's a little professional, that's good. What about podcasts? How good do they need to sound?

Cody Watson

I think it depends on the topic and who's doing it. I think this is me personally. I would have a higher bar of a corporate podcast if one of our local companies, Smithfield, was putting a podcast out. I would have a higher bar for Smithfield than I would for the guy in a shed that's doing a show. Right. And you expect them to grow over time. You expect them to improve. But I think this is where you have to know your brand and whatever the podcast is going to be a representation of your brand. And so if you are a company that's doing this, it needs to follow sort of what your brand impact is as well.

Ken White

How often should they publish or post? So, exactly when does a new episode be? How often are they released?

Cody Watson

Generally, with a podcast, I don't see anything go out less than once a month that people will say twice a month. Or weekly. And then there are shows that will do multiple a week. But you've really got to have a lot of content to cover that's probably more in the world of sports or entertainment that you can do a weekly or more than once a week or a daily podcast. But I would say every other week to once a month. As long as your content is good and you know people are going to come back to it, it's quality. I think that's the biggest piece.

Ken White

And committing to that schedule is important, isn't it? Whatever you choose, once a week, once a month, really marrying into that is important.

Cody Watson

Be predictable. You don't want people to have to hunt for you because, at a certain point, you'll be forgotten, right? You want people to know that I can expect on every other Tuesday, there's going to be X podcasts. And I know to listen to them because people, we're routine, we're creatures of habit, we want to know when this is, especially if it's part of your commute. We want to know when this is going to be there.

Ken White

It's funny you mentioned that because I was reading some statistics about podcasting and that's the big growth is during the commute. People are listening to them in their cars more than ever before. And I don't think when podcasts started, that certainly wasn't even an option.

Cody Watson

But how much different is it than talk radio? This is just talk radio on demand, right?

Ken White

Yeah. Interesting. So a company creates a podcast, they put it the link on their company website. Is that enough, or do they need to do more?

Cody Watson

I wish it was enough. Don't we all? You really do need to push the content out for folks to make sure that you're discoverable. You really want to take advantage of some of this of trends of download and try to make it up to the charts. I saw a stat that said if you have 30 downloads within the first week of your show coming out, that puts you in the top 50% of podcasts. Just 30 30 gets you in the top 50.

Ken White

30 listeners.

Cody Watson

And so, play the trending game, right? Make sure you have rankings. People are giving you five stars. Make sure you have people leaving good reviews, make sure that word of mouth. But push out on social media and then use that content to fuel other content as well.

Ken White

If a listener thinks they can produce some terrific content, but they just don't know where to start, we want to go with this. It'll be good for our company. What are the first couple of steps they should take?

Cody Watson

Identify the audience. Make sure your content connects with the audience. Make sure someone else isn't already doing what you think you're going to do. And then start to map out how much content you have. If you've only got three or four shows worth of this idea, this might not be the platform for it. Or it might be a limited-run series, but you need to be honest with yourself as to how far your content can go and is it going to connect with your audience.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Cody Watson. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats: the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Cody Watson, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Brian Mann
Brian MannEpisode 205: August 21, 2023
The Business of College Football

Brian Mann

Episode 205: August 21, 2023

The Business of College Football

Some of college football's biggest and most influential teams and universities have decided to leave their longtime athletic conferences. For example, UCLA and USC—members of the PAC-12 Conference for decades are now a part of the BIG 10 Conference. To the non-sports fan, that doesn't sound like much. However, the ripple effects of such moves are gigantic. While some universities have already joined new conferences, others continue to seek new affiliations. Why? Television and money. Brian Mann is the Director of Athletics at William & Mary; he previously served as Senior Associate Athletics Director at the University of California Berkeley, a university at the time we recorded the podcast in search of a new conference. He joins us to talk about the business of college athletics, conference realignment, and where it all may end up.

Podcast (audio)

Brian Mann: The Business of College Football TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What was a tipping point for the massive conference realignment
  • How the transfer portal changed college athletics
  • What makes changing conferences attractive
  • How TV rights play a big part of conference financing
  • The impact streaming services have on college athletics
  • How college athletics are impacted by travel
  • What student athletes look for in a conference
  • What conferences can provide to student athletes
Transcript

Brian Mann

What I worry about is there's going to be relegation. Some of these major conferences are going to look at those schools that they don't feel bring the same TV value same media value, and they're going to have some hard decisions to make.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, some of college football's biggest and most influential teams and universities have decided to leave their longtime athletic conferences. For example, UCLA and USC, members of the Pac Twelve Conference for decades, are now a part of the Big Ten Conference. To the nonsports fan, that doesn't sound like much. However, the ripple effects of such moves are gigantic. While some universities have already joined new conferences, others continue to seek new affiliations. Why? Television and money. Brian Mann is the Director of Athletics at William & Mary. He previously served as Senior Associate Athletics Director at the University of California, Berkeley, a university at the time we recorded the podcast in search of a new conference. He joins us to talk about the business of college athletics, conference realignment, and where it all may end up. Here's our conversation with Brian Mann.

Ken White

Well, Brian, thanks very much. I know you're busy. In fact, you were just at practice. Tell us what you were doing.

Brian Mann

Yeah, it's been a fun day. Normally, as an AD, I don't get out to practice nearly as much as I would like. There's other things in the way, but we're just welcoming back all of our fall sports. And this morning, I had a chance to go out to our field hockey practice and talk to the team for two minutes and then spent about an hour out of football as well. So this is a fun time of year. There's a ton of energy. Everybody's undefeated.

Ken White

Yes.

Brian Mann

So there's all kinds of optimism, and it's a lot of fun for me to get out there and not only reconnect with the student-athletes that were away for the summer but also meet all the new ones joining our teams.

Ken White

Yeah, and all that's going on. And you've got major renovation going on at the same time.

Brian Mann

Yeah, there's an old sort of joke in college athletics if you don't have a crane on campus, you're not moving forward. And we've got that in spades right now. So we're renovating Kaplan Arena. We're expanding off the back to add the McAfee Sports Performance Center, which will be a practice court, another weight room sports medicine. We're really putting a significant effort into upgrading our facilities. And what I love about the way that we're doing it is all 500 of our student-athletes are going to feel this in a positive way. They're all going to have access to two renovated weight rooms instead of one. A brand new world-class sports medicine facility, a new academic lounge. All those things over the next year or so are going to come online as we move forward. And as an AD, that's really exciting.

Ken White

Yeah, very much. Well, you played college football not that long ago. Now you're an athletic director. And think of all the change, especially in major college football, that has happened in that relatively short period of time. But what's happening now is just amazing. Everywhere I go, people are talking about the Pac Ten is no more, and so forth. Did you ever think this was going to happen at this extent?

Brian Mann

I don't. First, if you could tell our current student-athletes I played not that long ago, I would appreciate it. They think I play with a leather helmet? No. And I think, as I was considering this before coming in today, I think one of the major tipping points was COVID, and a couple of things happened. Now, we could talk about conference alignment, which predates that, of course, but during COVID, a couple of things happened that I think have led to some seismic shifts at a speed that college athletics is not used to. You had student-athletes with a whole lot more time than they normally have, and they were able to get organized. At the time, I was at Cal in the Pac Twelve, and the Pac Twelve football players, in particular, organized in a way they sort of put like a Bill of Rights together to come to the leadership of the schools and the conference. We all remember what happened with the Big Ten when they were trying to get organized and play football, and it showed them that, hey, our voices are stronger than maybe we've realized at this point, particularly when we speak as one. The second thing that happened was they opened up the transfer portal, and it went from having to sit a year out. They call it a year in residence before you're eligible to play. They started awarding waivers to people based on being close to their family if someone was ill. COVID really opened the floodgates on that, and once it happened, they were never going to put that back in. This is not long after the Alston case was decided where we can start paying student-athletes up to $5,980 a year for education-related benefits. That was before COVID, but you take that with the organization of student-athletes alongside the transfer portal and then the name, image, and likeness effort that really propelled this forward, which means that there's more money than ever available to people involved in college athletics. And the movement around how colleges and conferences are organized was an inevitable change that was going to come as a result. So I think that though it's inside and outside of the COVID period, COVID exacerbated it and moved it forward in a major way.

Ken White

Yeah. Interesting. Very interesting. So as an AD at the FBS level, what are they looking for in a new conference? When you're thinking about a move, what makes it attractive?

Brian Mann

Well, I think there's a couple of things to consider, and it depends on what's happening in the environment. Meaning if you're in a stable conference and you've got multiple years in front of you of a media rights deal, even if you're thinking about a new conference, you can do so in a thoughtful, strategic way. I think what we've seen happen over the last couple of years is it's probably safe to assume Texas and Oklahoma took their time and were thoughtful and strategic. It's probably safe to assume that USC and UCLA did the same thing. But once that happened, everybody else started scrambling and looking for their seat at the right table. And it frankly comes down to resources. I mean, everyone wants to be associated with schools and groups that have similar missions or makeups. Are you a large public-state institution? Are you a small, rural, liberal arts, private? I mean, those are some of the extremes. There are some conferences that are built around that. It tends to be Division Two, Division Three more than anything else. But what happens is when the pace picks up, you start looking around, and you start seeing, okay, where can I get the resources I need to provide as much support as possible for our student-athletes? There's a lot that goes into how you use that support to make sure that it's actually going to benefit the right people, and it's going to move you forward competitively. But I think that's what we've seen, and frankly, I think since we started this podcast, there could be updates on what's going on right now. It's moving at light speed, lightning speed. And what I worry is that decisions are made without giving it the right thought and care, and we're going to see groupings that just don't make much sense.

Ken White

And so we talk resources. It's mostly television. The money coming from television.

Brian Mann

Yeah, that's right. And we had all assumed over the last several years that streaming was going to become a much larger deal than it has been. If you look at what Amazon, Apple, others are doing, they're being much more strategic in how they're spending those dollars. Amazon's going after Thursday Night Football in the NFL. Apple and others are looking at they're not as tied to United States sports as we might like them to be. They're looking at professional soccer. They're looking at f one. They're looking at international audiences that are going to drive subscriptions, which is what their bottom line is based upon. Whereas if you get ESPN or Fox or others that have a much more larger focus on US sports, they're going to think about how do we get content for Saturday afternoons and evenings where people are watching college football? So this idea that there was going to be an influx of capital from the streaming services hasn't worked out. The dollars that people are trying to get there are more available, but they are concentrating them more than ever. And they're not concentrating them based on traditional conference affiliations, which are based on geography, based on political affiliations. Right. Governors of state saying our two major state institutions are always going to be together. That used to happen, and there used to be political movement to force conference affiliation. Those days are just gone. And these television partners have incredible power because they have the resources that, if used well, can transform the experience of a student-athlete. And that's ultimately, hopefully, what we're all trying to do here. So they're the ones that are driving it. It's based on eyeballs and TV markets and everything else. And if you were to draw that up sort of on paper, it makes sense to go after different markets in every corner of the country. But then you look at practically what that means for your golf team because golf tends to compete on Mondays and Tuesdays because golf courses aren't giving up Saturdays and Sundays. They're now traveling on Sundays, competing on Mondays and Tuesdays, and traveling on Wednesdays because they can't get back quickly. And, oh, by the way, you're supposed to be looking at your studies and going to class. I mean, it's a really hard thing to do.

Ken White

Yeah, there's so many interesting things you just said there that the geography is one of the things that jumps out to me, how somebody at golf or lacrosse or field hockey has to go, who could potentially have to travel three time zones to play a game. Turn around, don't miss class, hurry up and get back in there. That's a heck of a lot on the student-athlete.

Brian Mann

And look, it's obvious to talk about the Power Five conferences, but that's affected us as well. We are no longer in a conference in all of our sports with Richmond, with BCU, with George Mason, right? Old Dominion, all James Madison, all these schools were geographically the rivalries. And luckily, we still play them in some sports, and there's still a lot of really cool things that happen, but it's affected us as well. And so we are now at a position where geographically, we're located sort of in the central side along the Atlantic coast, which is nice, but there's a lot of schools that aren't easy to get to. So we're still asking our student-athletes to travel long distances, whether it's on bus or plane, to be away from campus, away from school more than we would like. And that's not about television money. Right, we're not getting the Big Ten payouts. But other schools have made decisions about conference affiliation for some of those reasons, some competitive, some financial. And so it's not just those major conferences. We're all feeling it in some way.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Brian Mann in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year The Financial Times, Princeton Review, US News and World Report, and CEO magazine have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, excellent student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Brian Mann.

Ken White

What's the student-athlete look for in terms of a conference in your experience?

Brian Mann

I think there's a couple things. I mean, I think any student-athlete who's competitive at all is going to want to play sort of at the highest reasonable level, and then what we look for those student-athletes that want that division One world-class competitive experience, and they also care deeply about what happens in a classroom so they can take care of the rest of their lives. And that's what we're trying to find here. But I think they look for things like, do people care about their sport? Are they coming out and supporting it if they're going to go away from home? Is there a school closer to home that maybe will come play once or twice while I'm here so my family can be a part of it? Is it available on streaming? Can you get access to it? What have other people done who have gone to that school and played that sport before? Or what is that conference known for? The NCAA, for us, we're really lucky. It's really strong. It's far-reaching. We can go into New England or the coasts or down south to recruit student-athletes because we can say, you're going to play down at Charleston or Wilmington, or we're going to take you to Northeastern or Long Island once or twice while you're here, your family will be able to see you. So that's a lucky thing for us. But those are some of the things student-athletes work with. But the reality of it is and the challenges our coach faces, every single kid has a different set of priorities that they're trying to solve for. So it's partly why I'm not a coach. I don't know that I could do it as well. And it's partly why I'm so glad we have some of the coaches we do that have figured it out as well as they have.

Ken White

And Mom and Dad could be involved too, which is another wow.

Brian Mann

Yeah. It sort of goes back. When I was in sales, I had a boss who told me the things you need to look for are pain, power, and purse. Right. So pain is, do you have what they want? The purse is obvious. Do you have the money for a scholarship, or can they afford it? But the power, like, who's really making the decision, is an ongoing thing that coaches have to figure out. Is it the student-athlete? Is it Mom? Is it Dad? Is it some combination of the two? Again, it's a never-ending thing that I'm glad we have the coaches we do because I sure would struggle.

Ken White

You mentioned the money, the revenue, especially from TV. At that level, it goes back to the student-athlete. For those who aren't terribly familiar with college athletics, what kinds of amenities, what kind of support does a big school like in a Pac Ten have to provide for a football athlete, for example?

Brian Mann

There's the things you have to provide, the things you want to provide, the things you aspire to provide. So some of the things that the NCAA requires are sports medicine, right? Athletic trainers, doctors, medical care. In that way, everyone's going to have strength and conditioning coaches. That's sort of moving into more of an athletic performance-based space. So it's not just lifting weights and running, but you're thinking about all kinds of ways to get your body prepared. More and more now, there's mental health. That's an incredibly important part, and that's a higher-ed topic of conversation in addition to athletics because we're also thinking not just about their mental health but their mental performance, which can really be a way to move the needle on the field or the track, the pool, whatever it may. There's nutrition, and some of the bigger schools have full cafeterias and full-time staff that are providing that to them. So one of the things you're hearing some of the schools in the West Coast talk about now is how do they enhance the nutrition that we're providing for our student-athletes. There's equipment. There's a lot of those things. For us, things like academic support matter a lot. And what that means to us is that we have a staff that's helping our student-athletes think about what is it you want to study. How do you get those classes scheduled at the right time? Because there are certain classes, you simply shouldn't take in season. It's a bad idea. Some of us learned that the hard way, which I did as an undergrad, and also help them think about their long-term plans of, hey, is graduate school right? Is the Mason School of Business going to be in your future? If so, here's how we got to make sure you're set up to get there as a junior or as a graduate student down the road. And all that, and I still haven't talked anything about a coach and X's and O's getting you ready for a field, what happens on the field. So it's a lot. It's growing. The NCAA is studying this, and they're looking at long-term care for injuries sustained as a student-athlete. They're looking at further mental health support, and they're going to start mandating greater support services and staff around our student-athletes, which is right.

Ken White

And it all takes money.

Brian Mann

And it all takes money.

Ken White

Yeah. You mentioned rivalries. Some of these have been around for decades and decades, and those games will quite possibly disappear. What does an athletic director and a university president what do they think about that as they're going through some of the negotiations and saying, maybe we're going to leave a conference, and no, we're not going to play Team XYZ anymore?

Brian Mann

Yeah, I hope that's a big part of it. I mean, that's part of what being at a particular institution is about, are the historic rivalries and the competitions that you have with places that people know, they're familiar with, they care about. I think about us and the University of Richmond, for example. We're only affiliated them directly with football. They're NCAA football, but we try to play them in anything that we can. We're in the middle of a four-year series in men's basketball. Women's basketball isn't playing this year, but we're going to try to get them back because that just means something to our fans and our alumni, and so they'll try to do that. The challenge when you get to the top levels are if you're not affiliated in the same conference, your out-of-conference schedule becomes an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. Either you're trying to play at a really high level to make sure that you're going to get the best postseason opportunities, the highest seed, whatever it may be, or you're about to go through a gauntlet in conference, and you want to make sure that what you're doing at a conference is maybe something where it's a more reasonable thing to think hey, I'm going to win this game. Right? And so if you look at some of those schools, I mean, the big ones right now are schools like Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State. And all those ADs have come out in some way or another and said, hey, we're going to try to keep this here. But the realities are going to start to set in at some point. It's going to be hard to do because you only have a couple of weeks of the year where your schedules overlap. Everything else is taken care of by the conference. So you have to prioritize that at a level where you're kind of rising above the traditional way you would look at a nonconference schedule, and that changes too because if you've got a brand new coach who's rebuilding, you're going to think about your nonconference one way, and if you've got aspirations of a national championship, you're going to think about it a different way. And good luck with football, because we schedule so far in advance, it's really hard to do that. But for basketball and other sports, it's much more of an annual reevaluation of those schedules. So even if you can keep it in football, it becomes harder and harder in some of those other sports.

Ken White

So, pulling out your crystal ball, where do you see major college football in terms of conferences going?

Brian Mann

Besides William & Mary and the Big Ten? Is that what?

Ken White

Let's do it. Let's do it. It's a lot of travel, though.

Brian Mann

Yeah. I don't know, and I don't think that anybody does. I could tell you without any hesitation that it's not done. And I mean both in the immediate future where's the four schools in the Pac Twelve trying to figure out what's going to happen with them, but these television contracts, a lot of people now, a lot of conferences are signing shorter-term deals, right? I think the Big Ten signed a seven-year deal. I think the SEC did something similar. The ACC has a much longer deal that goes through 2036. And that's partly why you're hearing some of these difficult conversations with schools that feel as though they're going to start to fall behind in a way that can never a gap that can never be closed. What I worry about happening is after this next round, continuing to expand is almost not possible because everybody's going to be affiliated with a major conference, and that will continue to happen. But what I worry about is there's going to be relegation. Some of these major conferences are going to look at those schools that they don't feel bring the same TV value, same media value, and they're going to have some hard decisions to make because you're spreading that pot equally in almost every instance, not every. And they're talking about doing it differently. But I worry that, at some point, the only way these conferences are going to continue to grow is something like that. And that's disheartening. What I could also see happening is FBS football, particularly as the top level of it, breaking away and forming their own affiliation in some way, the top 30 to 60 in some way, shape, or form. A lot of people are talking about the independent model, right? Notre Dame has it all. Their sports are affiliated with the ACC. They play their own football schedule. Cal and Stanford, I think, are kicking that around. I don't have any insider information. It's what I read. And that could be a path. But it has to be a path where there's a large enough number of schools doing it right. Because if you're an independent by yourself, ask BYU. UMass, I mean, it's a really hard road, and you end up traveling all over the country to the schools that will pay you the most money because you got to make your budget, and Notre Dame obviously has a different setup than that, but I could see that being a path that comes down the road as well.

Ken White

Either way, some interesting times ahead.

Brian Mann

Yeah. Hold on, right? And for those of us that are in the business, you know, I'm not even sure what to compare it to, but the minute we take our eye off it, we're behind. And look, all of this is coupled with NIL and the transfer portal, which continue to change college athletics, most of it for the better. I know that we need to have some more uniform approaches and insights into what's happening. I mean, we're participating in NIL in every way that we can. There's going to be more opportunities as collectives and other things continue to grow, particularly in our world. So get ready to take a deep breath when conference affiliation settles down, but then gear right back up for what's next, which is NIL and the transfer portal and collective bargaining and student-athlete rights and employee status. I mean, it's all right behind it, and it's not going to wait very long.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Brian Mann, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Brian Mann, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

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We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Erin Berube
Erin BerubeEpisode 204: August 5, 2023
Your Leadership Style

Erin Berube

Episode 204: August 5, 2023

Your Leadership Style

You have control regarding the way you show up. And as a leader—or aspiring leader—you also have control over the way others perceive you, so developing your leadership style is important. It can work for you or against you. Erin Berube is a Managing Director and Executive Coach at Admired Leadership, a development program focused on the leadership behaviors that create loyal followership and exceptional results. She says the right leadership style will help you inspire others. She joins us today to discuss leadership style and some of its elements, including presence, influence, and advocacy.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Why upper-level leaders comprise a majority of Erin's clients
  • What seasoned leaders need coaching on the most
  • What kind of a presence an effective leader should have
  • How a leader should manage their influence
  • What advocacy in leadership means
  • What people can do to establish presence
  • What comprises a status marker for a leader
  • How important it is for a leader to get out of their comfort zones
Transcript

Erin Berube

We like to say belief follows behavior. You know, maybe you've got some influence, and you believe that you're a little influential. You might not believe that you've got advocacy yet, but you start showing up more confidently, more powerfully. You start actually practicing advocacy as a behavior, and then the belief follows.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. You have control regarding the way you show up. And as a leader or aspiring leader, you also have control over the way others perceive you. So developing your leadership style is important. It can work for you or against you. Erin Berube is a Managing Director and Executive Coach at Admired Leadership, a development program focused on the leadership behaviors that create loyal followership and exceptional results. She says the right leadership style will help you inspire others. She joins us on the podcast today to discuss leadership style and some of its elements, including presence, influence, and advocacy. Here's our conversation with Erin Berube of Admired Leadership.

Ken White

Well, Erin, it's great to see you. Thanks for taking your time and sharing your expertise on the podcast again. So nice to see you.

Erin Berube

You as well, Ken. Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor to be here.

Ken White

Well, you are doing some real interesting work in coaching, coaching leaders, aspiring leaders. And one of the things you talk about is presence and sort of developing your presence and your leadership style. When you do that, who are you working with? Who are your clients?

Erin Berube

It's a good question because most of them are senior leaders. So these are your C suites, your VP level, and above. And it's an interesting question because they seem to need it more than younger leaders, people who are new and rising and upcoming. Not that it's not applicable to those folks, but when you become more senior in an organization, your competence is assumed. It comes with your title. People just believe that you know what you're doing in your role because you have a C-suite title or you have a Vice President title. The issue that we have with those leaders is that they haven't learned how to create followership, and leadership style and presence is a huge component to that, to creating inspiration and motivation in your team, so that it's not just about your competence, but it's also about your character that lends to your overall credibility as a leader.

Ken White

So how do you encourage leaders and explain that to them? Listen, some of this is because of your title. You need to work on these other areas.

Erin Berube

Yeah. So it's funny because leaders will come to me and say well, I received some feedback that I just don't have presence, and I don't know what that means. So that's a very common question that we get is what do I do with this feedback? I don't know what to do with it. And I started off by explaining I look at it as three rungs on a ladder of leadership style. The very first lowest rung would be leadership presence. And that's often described as this intangible quality that makes others perceive someone to be a leader. So it involves the ability to assert yourself, inspire, make a strong impression that encourages others to follow you. Leadership presence is largely about communication, both verbal nonverbal, and it's often associated with traits like charisma, confidence, emotional intelligence, and the ability to remain composed under pressure. So that's leadership presence. When we think of leaders, and we say, ooh, that person, they have presence to them, that's really what it breaks down to. It's their communication style. When we move up the rung from there, what we want to do is make leaders move from having just presence to giving them influence. And influence, as the next level, refers to their ability to affect the behaviors and the decisions or the actions of others. So you're moving from just having this presence, this feeling of credibility, to actually being able to evoke change in people, and it doesn't necessarily involve any formal authority whatsoever. Influence is often achieved through persuasion, inspiration, and building relationships. So leaders with strong influence, they are able to align their team towards a common goal and then guide their actions effectively. They usually inspire trust, respect, loyalty, which in turn empowers others to take action. So you've got presence as that first rung of the ladder you move up to influence where you're starting to create change in the behaviors of the people around you. The furthest level up the next one is advocacy. So that's your third rung, the highest rung of this ladder. And advocacy and leadership is about standing up for your team, your ideas, a cause, anything that you believe in. A leader who advocates effectively is able to represent and promote their team's interests and often in the face of challenges or opposition. So that could involve navigating organizational politics, negotiating resources, driving change. Leaders who are good advocates are seen as supportive and protective of their teams, and that, in turn, boosts morale, boosts engagement. These advocates are the ones that you would follow to the parking lot if they left. They would have a whole string of people just following them out the door. So you've got those three levels of presence and then influence after and advocacy as that top level. And in order to achieve advocacy, you have to get really good at influence and then understand where you stand on the spectrum of presence.

Ken White

Oh, how interesting. As you're talking about advocacy, I'm picturing people at C suite meetings and at board meetings, the great advocates and then the others who have the ability, they have the knowledge, they have the information, but they just can't get to that level. Is there one level that's more difficult to get to? Is it, for example, moving from presence to influence or influence to advocacy? Is there one step that's harder, or is it sort of just come along?

Erin Berube

Yeah, it comes along. They build on each other. So I think once you achieve influence, you start to look around and find out that you have advocacy without knowing that you even have it. So we like to say belief follows behavior. So maybe you've got some influence, and you believe that you're a little influential. You might not believe that you've got advocacy yet, but you start showing up more confidently, more powerfully. You start actually practicing advocacy as a behavior, and then the belief follows. You see what that impact has on people around you and your ability to promote interests and represent your team in a way that advocates for what they need. In the face of challenge, you start to believe, oh, I have advocacy now. So it's not really as important how you feel about how confident you are, how influential you are. I'm more concerned about how confident and influentially you're behaving in each moment.

Ken White

Let's talk a little bit back down to presence. I've talked to people who say. I just don't have it. There's nothing I can do. They sort of give up. What are some of the things that people can do to establish presence?

Erin Berube

Yeah, I think the first thing to do is to recognize that it is not about your personality. It's about your behavior. So in a lot of leadership literature, there's typically a bias towards psychology. And while that's good context, we find it to be an excuse for bad behavior. So I'm an introvert. You can't expect me to be influential. You can't expect me to have presence, or I'm a blue or a red, so bear with me as I fly off the handle. These are all things that I hear as a coach very often. So we want to focus on the behavioral view of leadership, where I coach out of at Admire Leadership. That's the bread and butter of what we do. Leadership is comprised of our cumulative behavior. So while our psychology might color how we behave as a default, we get to consciously choose how we behave in each situation. So we're very specific and deliberate in our behaviors to drive outcomes. So that's the first thing that I would tell somebody who says I'm just not influential. I just can't do it. My question is, is it that you can't do it, or are you just choosing not to do it? We often mistake our personality with just strong habits. That we've practiced over time and have not been corrected for decades at a time. And so we think that that's personality or psychology when it's not. It's really just the behavioral choices. And then the question that I would have is, well, where do we need to move this leader? Are they too powerful? Do they need to become a little bit more blended in their leadership? Or are they too approachable attractive? On the other side of the spectrum, are they showing up as intimidated, as meek? And there are specific behavioral cues that are verbal, nonverbal, and status markers that we can teach leaders to help them achieve that sweet spot of being powerful enough to be heard and attractive enough to be followed.

Ken White

That's an interesting term. Status marker. Give us an example of what one might be.

Erin Berube

Sure. So let's say you walk into a meeting, and you're always sitting at the back of the room or far away from the power center because you're afraid of being called on. You're afraid to speak up. So you're just going to sit as far away from whoever is facilitating the meeting as possible. A status marker to be more powerful would be simply just to move closer to the power, move closer to the authority, and practice speaking up on one thing that's outside of the realm of your institutional knowledge that you have. Show that you have thought leadership around something that's different than what people expect from you. Those are very easy ways to show a little bit more status in that setting.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Erin Berube in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year the Financial Times, Princeton Review, US News and World Report, and CEO Magazine have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, excellent student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA program. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with executive coach Erin Berube.

Ken White

Whether it's presence, influence, or advocacy, this is a lot of perhaps getting out of the comfort zone, correct?

Erin Berube

It is. It is. And it's like any muscle. The more you lift it, the more you practice it, the better you get at it.

Ken White

What kind of feedback are you getting from your clients in terms of that comfort zone piece? I hear you, Erin, I get. Hmm, it's really tough for me to do X, Y, or Z. Is there some commonalities that you see?

Erin Berube

Yeah, you know, I think the leaders that I work with, I'm blessed to have a suite of clients that are just so committed to getting better. So it's not very often that I have a client telling me, I don't know if I'm going to do this. I don't think that I can because the folks that I work with really, they want to make their people and their situations better every day. So they are constantly having that growth mindset of sure, I'll try this, and sure, I'll practice that. And the behavioral skills that we teach are so easy. They're so bite-sized, and they come across as just obvious when you hear them that you think, wow, okay, yeah, that makes total sense, I can do it. And it's not a major shift. Authenticity is really about consistency of your leadership. Are you showing up the same way to everyone regardless of the triggers, regardless of what's happening around you? So we don't want you to sway too far from your range of where you are. We want you to just make subtle tweaks to the things that you say, the way that you say them, and then some behavioral status markers that you do to show up a little bit more powerfully if that's where you want to go on the spectrum.

Ken White

You're working, as you mentioned, more senior leaders. What kind of advice do you have for younger, newer professionals as they're just trying to make their way through and maybe build a personal brand?

Erin Berube

Yeah, advocacy is huge for those folks because I think there's a tendency to wait around for something to happen or to just wait for a promotion to be handed or to sit around and say, well, I'm doing a good job, and I believe that they are going to see it. And they forget how to have advocacy for themselves and what they want. So learning how to promote yourself in a way that doesn't feel icky, that actually feels very powerful but supportive and creates followership, that's a skill set that I love working with younger leaders on because it's something that's not often practiced with them. And it's incredibly important, especially when you think of women when you think of diverse talent and minorities. Advocacy plays a huge role in continuing to propel them inside their organizations.

Ken White

Yeah. And it feels funny, right? It doesn't feel natural. You're just trying to do your job and do good work, and it doesn't feel right saying, telling the boss, look at the great work I've done. But it's necessary, isn't it?

Erin Berube

It is. It's necessary. And again, it doesn't have to be done in a way that makes you feel like a used car salesman. There are ways to influence without authority, like you mentioned before, in very natural, authentic, generous ways that add value to everyone around you while also adding value to yourself.

Ken White

But that's a key point, though, not just yourself, but those around you, because leaders will recognize that, won't they?

Erin Berube

Yes, absolutely.

Ken White

You mentioned a couple of times belief follows behavior. Can you talk a little bit more about that? That sounds cool, and it makes sense, but can you give us a little more on that?

Erin Berube

Yeah, you know, one of my favorite quotes is from Senator John McCain, and when he was a Vietnam prisoner of war, he said that sometimes he had to act brave to be brave. And I might be misquoting him in that, but the message is that we don't always feel it on the inside. We don't always feel confident. And that's okay. You don't need to. All you need to do is act confidently, behave in a way that you want to show up, that creates that presence that you want to have, garners the influence, and then leads to the advocacy that you need to move things forward.

Ken White

There's a little impostor syndrome in all of us. Is that a correct statement?

Erin Berube

Oh, absolutely. I mean, when you study the literature around the psychology of imposter syndrome, it's typically formed in our formative years. So, for example, let's say I'm in the fifth grade, and I stand up to speak in class, and somebody makes fun of me, or my voice cracks or something happens. The imposter inside of me is going to say, oh, you can't speak up anymore. And that's going to stick with me for decades into my corporate career. Oh, I can't speak up because people might make fun of me. And it's designed as a way for your brain to protect you, to protect you from the onslaught of just ridicule, really. And the question that I always ask leaders who are still grappling with that today when they're far along in their careers is that protection mechanism was put in place at a time in your life when you needed it, but do you still need that protection today? You are an adult human being who is incredibly competent with a long list of accolades. Do you still need to be listening to that protection? Is that something that you really need to do? And if the answer is no, okay, so how do we behave differently? How do we show up and practice it?

Ken White

Of all the people I've met through the podcast, through our alumni, through corporate connections, so many leaders and CEOs who are just doing incredible work will say, I can't even believe I have this job. It impresses them, and they're like, and they're going to find out about me sooner or later, and it's all over. So it seems like it's fairly human to feel that way.

Erin Berube

It really is. Especially when you're looking around, and you don't see anyone like you at the table. You can start to wonder, how did I get here? Did I luck into this? Or what exactly did I do? And what I found working with clients is that the more awareness you create with them around the intentionality of their behaviors, just making them aware of how they deliver their feedback, how they make decisions, what exactly it is that they are doing when they're communicating. Verbally nonverbally, making them aware of their intentionality, they start to attribute their success to what they are doing. And it doesn't feel like you're lucking into it anymore because you're starting to be more intentional and aware of your specific behaviors in these different categories.

Ken White

How do you coach leaders to get into their mindset that their leadership style not only affects them but affects the entire organization?

Erin Berube

I love that question, Ken, because I always tell leaders they'll come to me. The ones who have this particular situation will tell me that they have a team problem. And I'll say, well, that's unfortunate because I don't help leaders with team problems. I help teams with leader problems. And it usually starts off the conversation immediately, like, whoa, okay, let's turn the mirror and let's look at ourselves and see what are we doing to create, promote, and allow the situation around you.

Ken White

So what advice do you have for leaders now who might be struggling a little bit with their leadership style, or they may not be able to even pinpoint who they are and how they lead? What would you tell them?

Erin Berube

Yeah, I would tell them to have a little bit more mindfulness around what exactly it is that they are doing. Sort of the cause-and-effect feedback loop where when I do this, this is the result that happens, and start to become more aware of that. A lot of people don't even think about that piece of it. They go, and they perform, and they speak in a meeting, or they might ask some questions of people, but they're not really thinking deeply about what the reaction is from others. That reaction will tell you everything. And then you could also ask for feedback. It's so important to have mentors above and below you in an organization because you want to be learning holistically from all of the different personalities mindsets of an organization and asking those questions. So, Ken, I would ask you what could I do differently next time we're on a podcast together. Just create more awareness around your personal growth and development and take ownership of it because it's ultimately your responsibility.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Erin Berube, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Erin Berube, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Mike Seiler
Mike SeilerEpisode 203: July 21, 2023
Empty Offices

Mike Seiler

Episode 203: July 21, 2023

Empty Offices

Remember when working meant going to the office every day? Now, countless offices all over the US and the world are empty or partially empty, thanks to remote work. It's been over three years since the start of the pandemic, and there's no doubt its lasting impact on commercial real estate has been significant. And no one's quite certain what the future holds for the office market. Mike Seiler is a professor at William & Mary's School of Business. In addition to teaching, he's one of the country's leading real estate researchers. He joins us today to talk about the future of commercial real estate, as well as other real estate markets, and what we might expect to see moving forward.

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Mike Seiler: Empty Offices TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is the extent of office vacancy across the country
  • How remote work is viewed differently by generation
  • What effects have hybrid and virtual work had on commercial real estate
  • What are companies doing with their empty office spaces
  • What do empty offices mean for cities
  • How are empty offices affecting the residential market
  • How has the retail market been affected
  • What are the major changes in store for commercial and residential real estate
Transcript

Mike Seiler

People don't need to come in. And if you don't need to come into work every day, why do you need to live that close every day? And so now we're talking about a spillover effect onto the transportation system. If people are going to work from home now, you're talking about redesigning residential space.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Remember when working meant going to the office every day? Well, now countless offices all over the US and the world are empty or partially empty, thanks to remote work. It's been over three years since the start of the pandemic, and there's no doubt its lasting impact on commercial real estate has been significant, and no one's quite certain what the future holds for the office market. Mike Seiler is a professor at William & Mary's School of Business. In addition to teaching, he's one of the country's leading real estate researchers. He joins us on the podcast today to talk about the future of commercial real estate, as well as other real estate markets and what we might expect to see moving forward. Here's our conversation with Professor Mike Seiler of William & Mary's School of Business.

Ken White

Well, Mike, thanks for joining us. It's great to see you. I hope you're having a good summer so far.

Mike Seiler

Yeah, things have been going great. Anytime I have a chance to meet with you is always a good day.

Ken White

I appreciate that. Yeah, thanks. And it's nice to have you back on the podcast. So many people seem to be talking about what's happening with office space, commercial space. We're going to offices and seeing a lot of empty spaces. Not many people. Just how empty are offices across the country today?

Mike Seiler

Well, of course, that's going to vary city by city, but if you walk into New York City, for example, people are talking about a day of reckoning that's coming very quickly. So if you're wondering, you know how many people are coming into work, I mean, for some folks, it's once or twice a week, and the companies are trying to adjust as best they can. They're trying to do things like hot desking or what they call hoteling, where you don't put your personal effects on your desk anymore. You come in, and you know that you're going to be there on a Monday and Wednesday, and then I'm going to be there on a Tuesday, Thursday. And if we're going to need a conference room, maybe we keep that big space. But yeah, the individual personalized offices are going by the wayside because there's just not an expectation that people are going to come in five days a week anymore.

Ken White

Yeah. Boy, psychologically, people like their own office space.

Mike Seiler

It varies by person. So I think if you talk to older people, they absolutely want to come in five days a week. They want a picture of their wife and kids and their dog, and that's just how it's always been, and that's what they're used to. That's what they want. But if you talk to young people who graduated in the last couple of years, certainly during the COVID pandemic era, they just view things very differently. They're happy to never come into the office. The unemployment rate is super low right now. It's around 3.6%. And they just believe that they can do their job at a distance, and there's really no reason to come into work.

Ken White

Ever.

Mike Seiler

Frankly, some of them.

Ken White

Right. Which leads to so many other questions about culture and learning and so forth, and finding mentors and so forth. But on the real estate front, what effects of hybrid and virtual work had on the commercial space?

Mike Seiler

Well, I think, first of all, people have been leaning towards this, right? I mean, there are folks who, with exception before the pandemic, they would say, well, we really wanted to keep this person for family reasons. They needed to move to, let's say, Pittsburgh. So we set up a unique remote working opportunity for them. That was a truly rare situation before, but nowadays, that's expected. And so, if you think about companies, there were whisper mandates. So when the pandemic shut down, everyone had to leave. There was no discussion. You just got out of the office, and then the employers wanted you to come back. The employees didn't, mostly, but the employers wanted you to come back, and they were publicly saying you don't have to. It's voluntary. We kind of want you to experience our corporate culture by coming in. But a lot of people just didn't want to do that. But they didn't want to say they didn't want to do it, and companies didn't want to say, well, you have to come in. So there were what we refer to as whisper mandates, where they're saying, hey, look, we don't want to publicly come out and say you have to come in, but we'd really love it if you did come in. And so it was a little of a subtle back and forth, ongoing, and right now we're seeing that really hit because the pandemic has been declared as being over, and what are you going to do about it? Where are we going to settle? The pendulum has swung too far to the right, too far to the left. Where is it going to settle? Exactly? That is the big question.

Ken White

So if you and I own a massive company, we have all of these empty spaces and empty offices. What are some companies thinking about doing?

Mike Seiler

Well, what they would love to do is they would love to reduce that space. So there are a couple of things you can do. Whenever you don't have as many employees that are coming in, you can try to fit them in a smaller area. So let's say if I have one employee per 250 sqft. That's what you would typically do if you are fixed into a lease. So remember, an office lease might be seven to ten years. You can't just expand and contract that with the ongoings of your business or with the contraction or expansion of the economy. You have to make do with the space you have. So if I'm a firm and I'm looking to renew my office lease, so I'm about to expire, I'm looking to renew that. In most cases, I want to downsize. But let's say I just signed a lease, and I've got seven years left. I'm kind of stuck. And so that's where we're talking about being creative with your space. That's where we're thinking, well, can we possibly go to our landlord and say, hey, what if we occupied a smaller space? What if we had maybe employees on different floors of a building? Because when you expand, that's what happens. There's not always contiguous space that you can put people in. So maybe I want to take two floors of people and put them on one floor. Maybe I want to rotate. As we talked about earlier, folks come in into certain days. But if you have too much office space, which is the case for a lot of companies right now, you're kind of stuck. The difference is I guess a lot of these landlords are struggling. So in terms of who has the negotiation power, who has the upper hand, you can test that by having a conversation with your landlords. But that's always a great first step. Lay the cards on the table, tell folks what you want. And you never know what a solution could be. And if both parties have an interest in finding a solution, which I would certainly think that they would, who knows what can happen. But I definitely would have that conversation.

Ken White

Yeah. So it's not just the company signing the lease. It's the owner of the property. And boy, not a great position to be in these days.

Mike Seiler

Yeah, it's a terrible place. Great financial crisis. 2008, people saw office just get wrecked. Obviously, residential got wrecked even worse. But I have talked to many industry professionals, and a lot of experts say that office is headed for a massive just. I don't want to be too cataclysmic about it, but it's just not great, and there's really not a wonderful solution about it. There are a couple of things that folks are trying to do, but even those solutions are not great.

Ken White

Yeah. So many office buildings that are empty. What does that mean to cities?

Mike Seiler

Well, we've already seen that during the pandemic, people are moving to the suburbs. And if you are now talking about living in an urban dense area, people may be in a New York City or San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, one of these more highly dense areas. It's definitely going to hurt the cities because people don't need to come in. And if you don't need to come into work every day, why do you need to live that close every day? And so now we're talking about a spillover effect onto the transportation system if people are going to work from home. Now you're talking about redesigning residential space. At my house, do I have a dedicated office? I mean, I have a space that I use, but now it feels like I need a dedicated office. And if you're a new home builder, you need to factor that into your designs when you're building homes for the future. And if you're selling existing real estate, you're thinking, wow, can I reimagine the space? Is there anything I can do to seal off this room? Because having the kids in the background, having a dog run by or bark or whatever, that was fine during the pandemic, but now we're kind of reaching that long-term solution and that's not as acceptable these days.

Ken White

Yeah, what does that now that you brought up the residential market? What's happening there?

Mike Seiler

Well, just a real quick combining of the two markets. So normally, we say in commercial real estate, obviously, location is unique, so no two cities are the same. We also say that returns and risk vary by property type. But there's been an idea now of blending residential and commercial. So you have all this extra office space, and they're trying to do residential conversions. Historically speaking, if you have a hotel, it's pretty easy to convert that to a residence. And so you'll see that happen quite often over time. People are trying to do that right now with office space. But if you imagine the floor plates of this so, imagine that you're in one of these major cities. The floor plate of an office property does not look like the floor plate of a high-rise apartment. They're just very different. For one thing, you don't have the same bathrooms. You don't have kitchens on every level. Right. And so to redo that, to regut a building, is a lot more work than people think. Laypeople just think on the surface, oh, well, it's a shell. Just redo what's on the inside of the shell. It's just not at all that easy.  So while that's an idea on the table, that is not a great idea, but of the ideas that are available, it's higher up on the list than you would normally think. In a regular situation, you would discount that offhand and say, that's just a dumb idea. Why would you even suggest that? Well, because we're kind of out of great ideas.

Ken White

Yeah. Is it possible that we will have cities that just have a number of vacant buildings or vacant floors?

Mike Seiler

Well, in the short run, unfortunately, yes. In the long run. See, that's the problem with anything that disrupts our structure. If there is a short-term change, it's very, very hard to deal with. We love stability. I mean, if you think about all of our governmental policies, they're all based on stability. We can deal with gradual change. What's really tough is when you have what's called a structural break that just throws everyone for a loop. It hurts returns. It increases volatility. It's really not good for anybody.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Professor Mike Seiler in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year the Financial Times, Princeton Review, US News & World Report, and CEO Magazine have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, excellent student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA program. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Professor Mike Seiler.

Ken White

How about the retail market? What are some of the changes that you're noticing in terms of retail space?

Mike Seiler

Well, in terms of retail, we had already pre-pandemic seen a move towards online, right? I mean, people are shopping online and so forth. The pandemic accelerated what was already trending that way. And the question now becomes, how will people shop in the future? And one of the disturbing trends that we see just from an overall economic well-being and also from an environmental carbon footprint of leaving topic. A lot of people, now that they're used to buying online, they're going to buy, let's say, four different colors of the same shirt or maybe two or three different sizes of it because people complain these pants are not quite fitting the way they normally do. Or this shirt, this company calls it a large. To me, I felt like a medium. And so they understand this frustration. So a lot of people are just ordering too many items of, of the same, and then they're going to try it on at home, and they're going to ship those things back. And that is terrible for the environment, as you might guess, right? Between the boxing and the shipping and the gas and all the people who have to do that, it's just an incredibly inefficient system, and it's not really receiving that much discussion right now. But there's going to come a time when people recognize that and are going to be fed up with it and put a stop to it.

Ken White

Now is that the industrial market? I've heard you use that term. What is the industrial market?

Mike Seiler

Industrial real estate is the delivery of products from one place to another. And that can be very inclusive. Let's say that a container ship is filled in China, and that's going to come here to Los Angeles. And you might have remembered that during the crisis, a lot of these ships would back up into the port. I mean, they would just be literally anchored out in the port for a month waiting because we didn't have truck drivers. Remember, there was a labor shortage going on. And so, one single disruptor tends to spill over into many other areas. More recently, instead of these ships trying to get into the West Coast ports, they're coming all the way through and docking on the East Coast, that's caused an increase in demand there, and we don't have the supply to meet it. So there's now discussion of what about inland ports. So maybe we're going to build this industrial space where you want a port that's by a railroad or major interstate or some type of transportation. But the modality is going to change. Also, you can't just build a port inland and think, oh, let's just build it 50 miles inland. We'll railroad these 20-foot containers a little bit further inland, and then we'll be good. Okay, well, do you have a labor force that's going to be able to deal with it once you get there? Do you have the truck drivers in order to take that across the country? Do you have interstates that intersect? Because not everything goes to one place. It goes in all different directions. These are things that the industry is now trying to work on that we just didn't have to think about in the short run. Yeah, let's consider the long term of all these, but we just did not have to deal with that in a short period of time. So it's really causing everyone to put on their thinking caps and be creative.

Ken White

And there's no quick solution either.

Mike Seiler

There's no quick solution. And one of the other problems is they say, well, you have a need for cold storage or what we call last mile delivery. That means that I want things really close to where the population is. Because when people order something on, let's say, Amazon, they don't want it in a week. They want it tomorrow. And at some point, they're going to say, why can't I have it right now? And there's even a comedian who jokes about Amazon precog. We want you to send me stuff before I even order it because I don't know I want it yet. But you should know because you guys have all these algorithms, and you're so smart. But let's say that this last mile storage, we want it delivered in a very short period of time. But it's not like there's a warehouse in your urban center. So right now, the industrial space is trying to find either vacant land or property that can be converted into industrial warehouse so that these items can be shipped to you, and then when you order them, they're at your door the next day, or possibly even the same day. Of course, there's also the drone delivery, which is problematic for apartment buildings. It's great if I have a yard. You can fly something and drop it on my front porch. But what if I live in an apartment on the twelfth floor? How are you going to get that to me? And there are a lot of concerns about flying objects and what happens when they crash, or they have malfunctions. Of course, this is what happens to vehicles in real life. But these are all questions that are being answered now as quickly as humanly possible.

Ken White

When you look at real estate, commercial and residential, where do you see things? What are the major changes we'll see in, say, two, three, four, or five years from now?

Mike Seiler

Well, on the commercial side, it's really all the property types that we've talked about, right? I mean, industrial has been red hot for quite some time. Office, we know there's going to be a contraction. What type of net absorption are we going to have? I mean, they're already slowing down the delivery of this. But if you think about delivering major commercial properties, you don't just decide you're going to build them, and then they're ready tomorrow. These things need permitting, zoning, the requirement of a lot of people getting together to work together. And so these wheels are put in motion many years in advance and then just the mere construction of it alone. We have constraints on our labor markets and on materials that go into these things. And so there's natural delays. It takes quite a long time to build things. If one ever questions that, then I would encourage you to drive with me over the HRVT as I come in this morning, and you see a bridge that's been being built for many, many years and will continue to go on for years. So these are things that we know we are in a post-pandemic era. However, this is not the only outbreak that we've had over the years. This is maybe the worst one. This is one that affected everyone on a global basis, whereas the others in previous years had threatened to do that. But we would be foolish to believe that this is the end of it and we'll never have another one. I think this was our shot across the bow. Maybe a little bit of a direct hit, you might argue. But there's no reason to believe this won't continue to happen again as we continue to cut into our rainforest and force animals that we did not interact with in the past. Now we have human interaction with them, and so forth. So I view that whatever we're looking at right now as something that we really need to wrap our arms around, not because it is a need today, but because it's absolutely going to be a need in the future.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Mike Seiler. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Professor Mike Seiler, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 J. Singh
J. SinghEpisode 202: July 5, 2023
Agility & Digital Transformation

J. Singh

Episode 202: July 5, 2023

Agility & Digital Transformation

When companies and organizations discuss digital transformation, they often focus on effective ways to drive technology adoption and transformation. Our guest today says there's much more to consider. After earning his MBA at William & Mary, J. Singh has spent 20 years working at some of the world's most recognizable companies, including Target, McDonald's, and now Sport Clips Haircuts, where he's the Chief Digital Officer. His experience is in analytics, merchandizing, digital innovation, and digital transformation. He says there are a number of elements to consider in terms of digital transformation, such as agility and speed, the competition, the customer, the employee, and more. He joins us today to talk about digital transformation and how companies and leaders should think about people, process, and tools as they move forward.

Podcast (audio)

J. Singh - Agility & Digital Transformation TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is the role of a Chief Digital Officer
  • What should an organization look for to enact a successful digital transformation
  • What are the separate elements of digital transformation
  • Who is the beneficiary of a digital transformational strategy
  • What role does innovation play when implementing a digital transformation plan
  • How will artificial intelligence affect companies' digital transformation
  • Which department of an organization should lead the digital transformation
Transcript

J. Singh

While you're doing the things you're doing today and you will continue to deliver value for your organization, the external pressures may change very rapidly on you. And if you don't have as an organization agility to respond to those pressures quickly, you may go out of business.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. When companies and organizations discuss digital transformation, they often focus on effective ways to drive technology adoption and transformation. Our guest today says there's much more to consider. After earning his MBA at William & Mary, J. Singh has spent 20 years working at some of the world's most recognizable companies, including Target, McDonald's, and now Sport Clips Haircuts, where he's the Chief Digital Officer. His experience is in analytics, merchandising, digital innovation, and digital transformation. He says there are a number of elements to consider in terms of digital transformation, such as agility and speed, the competition, the customer, the employee, and more. He joins us today to talk about digital transformation and how companies and leaders should think about people, process, and tools as they move forward. Here's our conversation with the Chief Digital Officer at Sport Clips Haircuts, J. Singh.

Ken White

Well, J, thanks very much for joining us. It's a pleasure to have you here this weekend.

J. Singh

Thank you for having me here.

Ken White

Special weekend. You were just a part of a panel that you and I sat on about principled achievement and leading a life of principled achievement with alumni in the room. What'd you think? What are your reactions to that?

J. Singh

I think this is very good conversation to have. I think where we are all in our careers right now. It's important to think about not only what you're achieving but how you're achieving it. And I think, in my personal opinion, the leaders that I like to follow are the ones where there's achievement and also some principles and values behind it. And I think this is a very relevant conversation for folks our age in general and for leaders everywhere.

Ken White

So when you left William & Mary with your MBA, did Chief Digital Officer, was that on your radar?

J. Singh

Absolutely not. And I don't even know if Chief Digital Officer was even a title back then. I think they were just CMOs, CTOs or CIO, or even COO and CFOs, and so on and on. And I think the Chief Digital Officer certainly is a newer title, so much so that sometimes I get approached by recruiters for a Chief Digital Officer role, and their definition of a chief digital officer is very different than what I do. And I think I'm seeing sort of two flavors of it. One is really more driven by technology, and the other is more around the marketing element of it is the digital marketing. So it is a newer title. I don't think I would ever be driving or leading a digital team. So it's been an interesting series of events which brings me here.

Ken White

You didn't necessarily see yourself as a quote, tech guy, quote unquote earlier, right?

J. Singh

Yes. No, I do have an engineering undergraduate, but when we think about engineers or tech in our industry, we are thinking about folks who can write code. And I really never wrote a code, never an HTML page, not a Java page or any of that. The only code I ever wrote was VBA in Excel. And that's thanks to sort of my early days as an analyst at Cap One, where you had to get really good at Excel. But I never thought my career would be focused on how technology is either transforming or evolving organizations. And it's just a number of interesting opportunities I got in my career, which now put me in a place where I'm driving technology adoption and transformation for organizations.

Ken White

Yeah. Can you get a little more detail? What does that necessarily mean?

J. Singh

In terms of what is a transformation using technology? Yeah, absolutely. So at the very basic level, I think the way I think about technology is it's more a response to our macro environment that we all work in as business. Right. So I'll take a bit of a theoretical approach to it, and then I'll explain sort of how digital transformation works there. So what we learned in our business strategy classes back in the day is for each organization to provide value, it has to have a unique capability. And the unique capability is a function of your people, processes, and tools. And technology is a part of that people, process, and tools. And whether you're a Target or a McDonald's or an energy company or a sport clips haircut where I work right now, your combination of people, process, and tools is a unique combination. And that's why you can deliver unique value and capture unique value. That's what makes one business different from the other. The thing about value, though, is it's not static. It evolves over time. It evolves because you're trying to save costs, and your CFO puts operational efficiency on the table, or your competition is doing something different, so you have to do something different, or your customers' demands changes, and you have to meet customers' demands and so on and on. Or something like COVID shows up, and you suddenly have to change the way you use your combination of people, process, and tools to deliver value and capture value. So the value is not static. It just keeps evolving. If you think about historically, think about Nokia. For example, as a company, they had more than 100-year history of providing value over time and delivering telephones. What ended up happening in the last decade or two their speed with which value evolved increased very rapidly. And as a result, if you could not match up the speed of how the competition is moving, or the customer demands are moving, or how the macroeconomic is moving, if you could not match that speed, if you didn't have that agility, you died. And that's a digital disruption. And so where digital transformation really works, and where technology really works, is at the end of the day, my job is to provide is to enable an organization with higher agility. And the idea is while you're doing the things you're doing today, and you will continue to deliver value for your organization, the external pressures may change very rapidly on you. And if you don't have as an organization agility to respond to those pressures quickly, you may go out of business. And the way you deliver that through digital transformation, it's really not just about technology. Technology is an element, right? Having access to your data rapidly real time helps you make fast decision that gives you agility, but it's also how you make decisions as an organization. Do you have an annual budget cycle? And so once you've allocated a budget to a project, and that's where you're going to spend your money, even if COVID happens. I think just giving agility on governance giving agility on budget decision-making is part of the digital transformation. And that's where you hear about sort of this idea of working on two-week sprints. You decide what you're going to do in two weeks, and that will tell you what you need to do in the future two weeks. So the planning cycle has shrunk a lot, and that gives you agility. And the third element of it is we always keep a close eye on competition, right? What's happening with competition? What's happening with macroeconomics? We all listen to CNN and all the NPR, and we know what's happening economically. We've all been waiting for a recession for twelve months now.

Ken White

Sure.

J. Singh

But the most important stakeholder is really customer or the client. And one of the very important facets of digital transformation is becoming more customer-centric, which means every two weeks, you're making sure what you're doing your customers really care about it. So it's really, if you think about the customer centricity, the data, the speed of decision making, that's what combination gives you agility. That's what digital transformation is really all about, in my opinion. Digital transformation does not necessarily tell you the next big product to make. It tells you how quickly to evolve based on what your customer wants, what your data is showing you, what the competition is doing, what's happening macroeconomically. And if you don't have the agility, you always have the risk of dying with the next big change.

Ken White

That's excellent. That's great. Thank you. In terms of audience, you mentioned customer. Is that primarily who you're focused on versus maybe, say, employees, prospective employees, partners, vendors, and so forth?

J. Singh

Yeah, it's a very good question. So I think a lot of the organizations start with the idea of customers. Who are my customers? How do I make sure they have a greatest experience? What most of the organizations which have gone down this journey has quickly realized is your customer experience will never exceed your employee experience. So your employee experience is a barrier to how good of a customer experience you can ever deliver. So to deliver a great customer experience, you have to deliver a great employee experience. Great employee experiences, for example. Think about Chick fil a, one of my favorite organizations, right? Because they treat their employee in a specific way, the clients or the customers get great experience. And there are other organizations where the employees do not necessarily feel that great. Even though they have great technology, the customers don't have greatest experience. So I think the focus on customers make obvious business sense. However, the path to achieving that is by starting with your employees, and that gets you to the outcome that you're looking for. And when we think about employees, and especially in the digital transformation space, your employees aren't traditional FTEs that you used to have, right? These are my people I've hired. They get wages from me every two weeks, and I do annual reviews. It's also the contractors that you cannot afford to hire full-time anyway. So your contractors are as much a workforce as your employees, but beyond that, your vendors as well. Because in the digital transformation, if I'm using, let's say, a combination of technology stack to deliver a CRM capability, I will written that code, and I will not know what's behind that code. But I need those vendor partners to deliver value for me, and I want them to evolve their product for my needs. And if I treat them as not my employees, a contract relationship, I'm going to kind of nickel and dime them, and they're going to nickel and dime me. That's going to become a barrier to a great customer experience. So you almost have to start thinking about your employees more holistically, everyone who is sort of working on your side of the fence to deliver a great experience for your customer. Whether it's your full-time employees, contractors, or vendor partners, they all are all on your team. And the better you treat them, the better you got the customer experience.

Ken White

Yeah, and we've talked about customer experience on the podcast. Yeah, it's so interesting. We all know everyone listening knows the companies that get it, and we all have examples of the companies that don't.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with J. Singh in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year the Financial Times, Princeton Review, US News and World Report, and CEO Magazine have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, excellent student support, and a brand that's highly respected the William & Mary MBA program. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with J. Singh.

Ken White

It sounds like you're also in the innovation world.

J. Singh

Yeah.

Ken White

Yeah. What role does innovation play in what you do?

J. Singh

Yeah, I think the topic of innovation, to be honest, is I would say this is a complex thought. And the reason I say that is a lot of the times, innovation is seen as just doing something different. And I think if we as leaders don't define innovation for ourselves really well, I think we land in trouble. Right. So what I mean by that, for example, I just love this two by two metric where you think about you have assets that you use today, and you have this operating model that you use today, and if your assets that you're using don't change, but you're just changing the way you use those assets, it's sort of what I'd call sustaining innovation. You're kind of just evolving a little bit, making a few changes. Maybe you're entering a new market where the financials are different, but you're not necessarily changing your assets. But if you don't change your operating model and just change your assets, maybe you're just upgrading. You used to do things with manual paper, now you're using Excel, now using SaaS, and so you've changed your assets, but you haven't really changed the value that you deliver. My favorite example is cloud. People think about cloud, and a lot of the time, you think about cloud as an innovation. It really is innovation for the companies that deliver value through cloud, as in the Google's, the Amazon's, of course, and then the Microsofts of the world. They have walked away from servers to cloud. But I, as a consumer of cloud, I as someone who actually gets cloud implemented in my business, there's no innovation there. I'm doing the same exact thing. I've just upgraded my asset. I don't have the in-house servers anymore. I'm just doing everything on the cloud. I've just upgraded my technology. But I'm doing exactly the same thing that I used to do before the technology change. So if you think about that two by two, real innovation happens when you not only change your assets but also change your operating model. Great examples. Airbnb, they use people's home as assets, and they change the way you pay for those, and they change the entire operating model for that. That's innovation. That's Uber, right? So when you think about innovation, you have to kind of really, in my opinion, as a leader, define what you think innovation is. So going back to your question more directly then, how does digital impact innovation? I think in a big way, but I think if you stay true to the idea that I'm driving innovation by not only changing my assets but also my operating model, then you have to give that team a different set of rules to play with. Right. If, for example, and one of the things that I have seen not work really well, at least in the organizations I've been in, where we try to kind of tell everyone, hey, innovation is everyone's job. You guys know the business. Go figure out what the next big thing is. You do get some operational benefits, you get some adoption of new technology, but you really cannot get to this kind of the idea of innovation. So, in my opinion, the way I've seen innovation work best is you have a select group of people where you kind of have almost this idea of bets, and you may have grand challenges, and you ask them to look internally and externally and find ways to get to those outcomes. And it doesn't matter whether our existing operating model works or not. It can be a new operating model. It doesn't matter whether the assets we have today work or not. It's a new set of assets. And then I think if you have a group like that, that's where digital, the idea of customer centricity, the idea of sprints, the idea of data can really help you be innovative. But you almost have to separate them from sort of what I call the exploit, which is the rest of my business. And this is my explore, and I have to get my explore folks a different set of rules to play with because if they're playing in the same rules as exploit, then they're not going to give me any innovation. They're going to give me a slight improvement in whatever I'm doing.

Ken White

Yeah, interesting. This is obviously in your wheelhouse, and everybody's talking about it. I have to ask you about LLMs Chat GPT. Where's it going? What do you think?

J. Singh

Yeah, I think this is a space I'm watching very carefully and very closely. I do think it is a very, very interesting technology. And I'm looking for use cases, at least within my organization, to figure out where does it work really, really well and where we can apply it for real value. I think there is this initial tendency, I think, of figuring out, hey, is it a huge deflationary technology? And a classic example is, let's say you have this huge call center, and you have a lot of people taking calls and answering questions. Could a generative AI solution do that for you at scale much more effectively? And I think there is probably some application there, but I do believe that the folks on the call center who do problem-solving for our customers or clients. They have to use their brains a little bit more than just knowing what we've done in the past and what generative AI does. It knows what we've done in the past. So it's almost like maybe a combination of your actual call center individuals and a combination of generative AI that can help you get there. So I think there is this idea that it can save a lot of cost, and I'm waiting to see the real applications of those that are really impactful. I think it is also, at least initially, being explored as a way to have a companion who can crunch data for you, look for ideas for you, don't miss the obvious sort of an assistant for you. Whether it's in the legal space or medical space, or even as a writer, you can get inspiration. So I think there are some of those use cases where individuals and specific professions may find some unique value as a coder. What's wrong with my code? You can always use them as an assistant to what you're doing. I think there are probably some use cases there that can generate value. I'm going to wait and watch approach right now.

Ken White

Which area of an organization of the company should have its eyes on this? Is this the technology space? Is this marketing? Who should be looking?

J. Singh

I think it's a combination. I always feel where we get the most benefit from emerging technology is if business comes to the table with something they want to solve. If the business has a problem statement, I want to do this in a better way. Like my CMOs tend to be great partners in pushing the envelope on. I want to be able to reach a customer and do XYZ with them. Can you help me do it? And that's where someone from technology team can come to the table with a set of technologies which can allow you to do that. COOs are also a very good partner where they look at their entire organization and operating model, and they have some challenges and struggles. They come to the table and propose. I'm having this particular challenge with this particular group where I cannot get this thing to be done without errors. Do you have technology solutions? Right. So I think that's where it becomes really helpful. It always is a partnership. Whenever technology team tends to take a lead on this, then it becomes a solution looking for a problem. And while that can sometimes lead to great value, it's a lot of throwing it on the wall and see what sticks. And sometimes, that can get exhausting for those individuals internally who are trying to champion that technology. And I've seen that happen in multiple organizations that I've brought on, where the champion of the technology just gives up because nobody in the business is listening. And I think it's that initial partnership with the business to kind of explore areas where the business needs help and then bringing the right technology to the table, I think, is probably could be a slower process, maybe not that innovative, but it leads to better outcomes.

Ken White

That's our conversation with J. Singh, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, J. Singh, Chief Digital Officer at Sport Clips Haircuts. And thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Rajiv Kohli
Rajiv KohliEpisode 201: June 21, 2023
A Breakthrough Technology

Rajiv Kohli

Episode 201: June 21, 2023

A Breakthrough Technology

Since we first heard about it back in December, the buzz has continued to grow surrounding ChatGPT and other LLMs, or Large Language Models. Companies and organizations are working to determine what role these LLMs will play. Our guest today calls ChatGPT "fast-moving" and "fast-growing." And more importantly, he says LLMs are a breakthrough technology with great potential—much like the internet when it was first introduced. Rajiv Kohli is a professor at the William & Mary School of Business. He's among the top 20 Management Information Systems researchers in the world and an expert in digital transformation. He joins us today to talk about LLMs, what they are, and where they might take us in the future.

Podcast (audio)

Rajiv Kohli: A Breakthrough Technology TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What Rajiv's thoughts are around ChatGPT
  • What are other breakthrough technologies like ChatGPT
  • How does one use ChatGPT
  • How can professional copywriters rely on LLMs
  • Why and how should businesses use AI
  • Should businesses employ a Chief AI Officer
  • Will ChatGPT replace employees
  • Where does ChatGPT fit in within the digital transformation space
  • How should businesses first implement ChatGPT
Transcript

Rajiv Kohli

It is an extremely smart machine that can process many lifetimes worth of experiences in a second and give you an answer.

Female Voice

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, since we first heard about it back in December, the buzz has continued to grow surrounding ChatGPT and other LLMs or large language models. Companies and organizations are working to determine what role these LLMs will play. Our guest today calls ChatGPT fast-moving and fast-growing. And more importantly, he says LLMs are a breakthrough technology with great potential, much like the Internet when it was first introduced. Rajiv Kohli is a professor at the William & Mary School of Business. He's among the top 20 management information systems researchers in the world and an expert in digital transformation. He joins us today to talk about LLMs, what they are, and where they might take us in the future. Here's our conversation with Professor Rajiv Kohli.

Ken White

Rajiv, thanks for being here. Great to see you and great to be with you.

Rajiv Kohli

Thank you, Ken. Pleasure to be here.

Ken White

You've been busy doing some global travel with students. What's that been like?

Rajiv Kohli

Oh, that's been wonderful. Particularly this last trip that we had to Israel. That was just an amazing trip, both from the academic perspective and then visiting Jerusalem was one of my dreams to be there, and it did not disappoint.

Ken White

Yeah, the students are still talking about it. Yeah, they said it was transformational. You can't beat that.

Rajiv Kohli

I've heard words similar to that where it was moving, touching, transformational.

Ken White

Wow. Fantastic. So we ask you today to join us to talk about ChatGPT. It seems like everybody's talking about this, and no one seems to know really what's going on. What's your reaction? What are your thoughts in general about ChatGPT?

Rajiv Kohli

It's a breakthrough technology. It's one that I think brings in a lot of excitement, opportunity, and with that comes fear. But I'm very excited about ChatGPT and systems like those, which are called large language models at LLMs. ChatGPT is a brand name, and there are many others like that. But this is not a surprise, Ken. A lot of the building blocks of what's ChatGPT have been around for a very long time. We've been putting them together, and finally, they've all come together to create something that seems very amazing. And it has a lot of opportunity. It has a lot of promise.

Ken White

So when you say breakthrough technology, what's another one in the past that we saw that you would consider a breakthrough technology?

Rajiv Kohli

Yeah, there were several. So Internet, it was a breakthrough technology that connected the world. Then there have been others, like Nanotechnology. We've seen things that have kind of broken the mold and changed the way we do things. We live our lives.

Ken White

Wow.

Rajiv Kohli

So the Internet and Internet-based models, business models. Amazon changed the way we shop. Airlines, the way we book our tickets. When was the last time we went to a travel agent?

Ken White

Right, so breakthrough. This is big.

Rajiv Kohli

This is big, and it has a huge potential that is not yet recognized. Those models will emerge much like when the Internet was first or worldwide web was first developed. We couldn't have imagined Amazon. We couldn't have imagined eBay. We couldn't have imagined Google search engine. These are all things that were built on top of that.

Ken White

Yeah. Wow. Have you used ChatGPT?

Rajiv Kohli

Yes, I have. I have played with it. I have used it for work. And it's exciting.

Ken White

How did you try it? How did you use it? Because that's what a lot of questions people will ask me, or rather, that is the question I'm asked. How do I start?

Rajiv Kohli

Yeah. So I used it in a slightly different way than most people use it. I've used it for asking questions or trying to find some underlying causes of things of what the research says about a certain topic. But the way I used it, and I found it very interesting, was I had written this paper, which is like 20-page long paper, and I had to then write an abstract, which is the hardest part, to condense 20 pages of ideas into a paragraph that's less than 200 words. So I asked ChatGPT, I put all this, everything that I had in the paper in ChatGPT, and I said, summarize this in 200 words or less. And it did a great job.

Ken White

Really? You were pleased with it?

Rajiv Kohli

I was quite pleased with it. It was something that a professional writer would write.

Ken White

Yeah. So how do you see that? Speaking of a professional writer, people in marketing, and other people who might use this, to what extent can they rely on it?

Rajiv Kohli

They can rely on it for general, basic kind of tasks. Once you bring in creativity, that's where it fails. It's not magic. It appears to be magic. What it is is really a system that has a very fast capability to absorb millions of pieces of documents it has seen. It's not much different than how we have learned to do things. When was the last time we remembered who taught us not to cross the road without looking on both sides? I don't remember that. But somehow, through stories people have told us, through parents telling us when we were kids, and the examples we've seen, somebody getting almost hit, we learned that. That's what ChatGPT is. It has seen a million examples of the question you are asking, and it is now extracting from that this knowledge that it's sharing with you. So that's really what the essence of it is. It is an extremely smart machine that can process many lifetimes worth of experiences in a second and give you an answer.

Ken White

Yeah. Wow. Now, you mentioned before we were starting to recording that you maybe found a mistake or a little error.

Rajiv Kohli

Yes. So I wanted to ask it what was the foundation of artificial intelligence or how did this term come about? I kind of knew the answer, but I wanted ChatGPT to explain the background and all of that. And that's what it does really well. It summarizes, gives you five facts, and then summary at the end. Oh, I know why I asked it because I knew that there was this conference at Dartmouth in the 50s, but I didn't remember what year it was. So I asked when was the AI as a term come about. And it says the Dartmouth Conference. I didn't mention three or four big names, Claude Shannon being one of them, person who's known for information theory. And I got the date. It was 1956. And then I said, did Herbert Simon have a role in artificial intelligence? Because this is a Nobel laureate who was at Carnegie Mellon. I had the good fortune of meeting him when I was a PhD student, and it came back and said, oh, that's right, sorry for the confusion. Herbert Simon was one of the key figures who was at the conference. He and Alan Newell, his student, wrote these papers. There were seminal papers, and thank you for correcting us.

Ken White

Wow. Yeah. So let's not rely on this. We have to do some fact-checking.

Rajiv Kohli

That's right.

Ken White

Yeah.

Rajiv Kohli

For general things, general concepts. It is good enough to get you started on.

Ken White

How do you see businesses using it?

Rajiv Kohli

Right now, the low-hanging fruit for business is to be able to compose summaries of documents. There is a ChatGPT-like or similar technology-based tool that you can download for free on Apple Store, and it's called BlueMail. BlueMail will write an email for you in a very nice way. All you have to say is sorry, I missed the deadline. And it'll compose a very nice email. So that's the low-hanging fruit. You can start to compose emails. Salesforce is using it to replace cold calling on behalf of their salespeople. So it'll compose a nice email to introduce whoever is reaching out. So those are some of the easier things that you can use ChatGPT. The other things, as I described earlier, you can use to summarize a large piece of document, let's say, minutes of the meeting or board's discussion. And then, if you want to pass on that summary to everybody to press, you can say very quickly that this is what the summary of the meeting was. There are other good examples of ChatGPT being used by business. The concern, and we'll talk about concerns in a minute, is how much can we rely on factual information. So, for example, when I asked ChatGPT, who is Rajiv Kohli? It said Rajiv Kohli is at George Mason University is an associate professor of marketing. Everything was wrong about that. Even when I said, here is Rajiv Kohli's web page, it still didn't recognize me. So these simple things that you would think that it would be able to recognize. So my point is that ChatGPT is good to do things that require automation summarization. It will get better. It is getting better as we speak, and it will be able to do more higher-level tasks.

Ken White

Yeah. Imagine where it'll be 5-10 years from now, right?

Rajiv Kohli

Oh, imagine where it'll be in six months.

Ken White

Wow, it's moving that quickly.

Rajiv Kohli

Yeah.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Professor Rajiv Kohli in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year the Financial Times, Princeton Review, US News and World Report, and CEO Magazine have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, excellent student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA program. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Rajiv Kohli.

Ken White

You and I talk to businesses all the time and executives, and I recently talked to a number who said, I think it's time that businesses start thinking about having a chief AI officer. We had a discussion on that. What do you think about that?

Rajiv Kohli

Yeah, so that's a novel idea of having a person appointed for that. I'm not quite sure we are at the point where we need a chief officer. But I think what businesses are thinking about dedicating resources for ChatGPT and ChatGPT-like tools is a great idea. Some of those functions already exist. So, for example, the chief data officer is responsible for data and data use and data summarization and how people can implement the use of data assets that they have. Others may be in the marketing department, for example, people who do statistical analysis on customer behavior, consumer preferences, and so on. So I like the idea that we have somebody who's dedicated to looking into that technology and exploiting some of the opportunities the business has. I think we're a little bit of ways away from having a chief ChatGPT officer.

Ken White

Yeah. I think, at least in the discussions I had, it was more of we're not sure where this is going or what to do. Let's put somebody in charge is sort of where it went.

Rajiv Kohli

That's for sure. A lot of people who are more closely involved with ChatGPT and similar technologies are not quite sure where they're going to go. It's not that they're not sure. It's that they can't imagine the possibilities.

Ken White

Wow.

Rajiv Kohli

The possibilities are tremendous, immense, and huge that we cannot imagine where this will go and how it will build upon itself. So the keyword in ChatGPT, G, is for generative, and that's what's distinct about it. It can create more knowledge based on itself. And that's where the excitement is. That's where the opportunity is.

Ken White

Anytime a new technology comes along, people worry about jobs. And will it take jobs? What do you think?

Rajiv Kohli

Yes. So the way I like to think about it, Ken, is that it won't replace jobs. Any technology does not really replace jobs. What it replaces tasks. So unless a person who's in that job is so tied, so married to those tasks that they cannot do any other task, yes, it'll eliminate those jobs. But the way I like to think about it, it's pushing us as individuals, as human beings, to move up the value chain and do things that are more sophisticated and do things that really leverage our intelligence and then seed or give the tasks that can be done by a machine. And this has happened over every technology that has automated things, that we've given the monotonous things, the easier things to technology, and we've then reskilled ourselves to move up the value chain and do more higher level intelligence work.

Ken White

You are known to be an expert in digital transformation. I think that's how a lot of people think of you when they hear your name. Where does this fit in?

Rajiv Kohli

Yeah. So it's very exciting from a transformation perspective because transformation means, at the very basic level, to take or squeeze the inefficiencies out of a process. And so any place where it's taking me longer, or I'm investing more effort, or I have to deploy more people to do that, I can then replace with a piece of technology. It's transformed that process, and it ties with your earlier question about people losing jobs. As I said before, I don't think that they will lose that job, they will lose the task to ChatGPT, but then it frees them to do more sophisticated stuff. So I think that's where we will see some disruption. From a transformation perspective, it's a wonderful piece of technology that can be inserted into different points in any transaction. And transaction doesn't always mean business transaction. It could be a conversation that you and I are having. It's a piece of information that you want to exchange with me. That's a transaction. If I can make it efficient and quick and low-cost, that's where digital transformation is affected by this.

Ken White

Interesting. It's like using a bot, right?

Rajiv Kohli

That's right. Yeah.

Ken White

It takes care of tasks that other people can then move on to things that where they really need to be.

Rajiv Kohli

And bot was one of the technologies that has created what we know as ChatGPT. So there was bots, there were these Grammarly had this technology. Grammarly is sort of like that because it can process language and put it in. So when all of these and the neural networks and so on, they all kind of came together to create where we are today as large language models.

Ken White

I probably should have asked this right off the bat. We hear the term artificial intelligence. We hear the term ChatGPT. What do they mean? What do they have to do with one another?

Rajiv Kohli

Yeah. So artificial intelligence is an umbrella term which, as I was saying earlier, was 1956 when Dartmouth conference came up with that. Before that, they used to call it simulated human thinking. So it was a term that was created to encompass many different technologies as we know them today. And the key ingredient that makes technology artificial intelligence is that it should behave human-like and it should have the ability to learn from itself, which is also a very human quality. So under artificial intelligence umbrella, you have expert systems. You have computer vision. You have a neural network. You have natural language processing and many other things like that. So ChatGPT is a brand name that is a large language model. So it comes under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, as are many other technologies.

Ken White

And as you said, it's one LLM. It's just one. It's the one that seems to be getting all the press and all of the notice.

Rajiv Kohli

There are many, many others like that that are more, sometimes more focused on certain areas, some that are subscription based, as ChatGPT is also now.

Ken White

Yeah. Where do you think a professional or a business should start in terms of learning about ChatGPT and kind of getting comfortable with it?

Rajiv Kohli

I think it'd be good for businesses to not be afraid of it, first of all. Second, start experimenting with it before putting it in production. Use it for simple things, as I mentioned earlier, summarizing things, writing an email, just double-checking the facts. If you are unsure about something as to what the basis of that was, let ChatGPT summarize that for you. But then again, take it with a grain of salt because it is known to make errors, and sometimes very basic information, it can go wrong on those. So if businesses have an opportunity to start playing with it, but very soon, I think the fun and games part will stop. And in some cases, like universities, it has already stopped because we are now beginning to see students taking advantage of ChatGPT and doing their assignments. And now it's getting serious to the point where we have to say, all right, we need to put some guardrails around it. And that's what I would advise businesses to experiment with it, see where it works well for them, see where it does not work well for them, and then start to think about how they can bring in their own data, information, history to customize ChatGPT for their uses.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Professor Rajiv Kohli, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Professor Rajiv Kohli, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 AnnaMaria DeSalva
AnnaMaria DeSalvaEpisode 200: June 5, 2023
Principled Achievement

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Episode 200: June 5, 2023

Principled Achievement

Succeeding and doing so in the right manner. That's leading a life of principled achievement. The William & Mary School of Business defines the principled achievement leader as one who values people, diversity of thought, empathy, humility, and success. This leader listens and inspires. To recognize this type of outstanding leader, the Business School created the Principled Achievement Award. It's based on four pillars: Serving as a role model for principled leadership, promoting diversity of thought, demonstrating ethical, compassionate behavior, and embracing the tenets of the William & Mary honor code. Last month, the 2023 Principled Achievement Award was presented to AnnaMaria DeSalva, chair and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, one of the world's leading global communications companies. Before the award ceremony in Washington, D.C., DeSalva sat down with us to discuss her thoughts on leading a life of principled achievement.

Podcast (audio)

AnnaMaria DeSalva: Principled Achievement TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How AnnaMaria got into strategic communications/public relations
  • What led AnnaMaria from a public relations professional to a leader
  • Who were AnnaMaria's leadership role models
  • What kind of communicator AnnaMaria is
  • What principled achievement means to AnnaMaria
  • What it means to embrace the tenets of the William & Mary honor code
  • How important is promoting diversity of thought
  • What drives AnnaMaria to make a difference
Transcript

AnnaMaria DeSalva

If you want to go fast and you want to have a big impact, and you want to do well, and you want to have alignment and support, it's so much easier if your currency is trust and if that's supported by ethical behavior and a standard for ethics.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Succeeding and doing so in the right manner. That's leading a life of principled achievement. The William & Mary School of Business defines the Principled Achievement leader as one who values people, diversity of thought, empathy, humility, and success. This leader listens and inspires. To recognize this type of outstanding leader, the business school created the Principled Achievement Award. It's based on four pillars. Serving as a role model for principled leadership, promoting diversity of thought, demonstrating ethical, compassionate behavior, and embracing the tenets of the William & Mary Honor Code. Last month, the 2023 Principled Achievement Award was presented to AnnaMaria DeSalva, chair and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, one of the world's leading global communication companies. Before the award ceremony in Washington, DC, DeSalva sat down with us to discuss her thoughts on leading a life of principled achievement. Here's our conversation with AnnaMaria DeSalva.

Ken White

Anna Maria, it is so nice to see you. Thanks for sharing your time and being on the podcast.

AnnaMaria DeSalva

It's my pleasure, Ken. Thank you for inviting me.

Ken White

We have a big night coming up as we record. We'll talk about that in a little bit. But yeah, so very excited to see you. And, of course, with my background, I just love what you do. I'm so interested in your field. How did you get into strategic communication, public relations?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Thank you. At William & Mary, I was really compelled by two fields. One was English and English Literature, and the other was business. And it was my special riddle as a college student how I was going to reconcile those interests. And I managed to do that. I had a lot of confidence and faith that I could do that. And, of course, William & Mary is a great environment for combining disciplines and taking an interdisciplinary approach to the world. But really, it was my mother who was a little bit ahead of her time. She had had an interesting international career before she married and had children. And she put it in my head, she said, you know, AnnaMaria, I think you would be good at public relations. And I was like, what's public relations? Because at the time, this was quite some time ago, obviously, it wasn't much of an academic field of study. So she tried to explain it to me, and I guess she explained it well enough that it made me curious. And I got myself an internship between my junior and senior years at Ogilvy, the extraordinary legacy company that it is, and still a creative force and company I know very well now as a client and as a colleague. But they hired me as an intern. I was 20 years old, and they gave me the most extraordinary experience, and they sponsored me. They saw what I could do, and they gave me lots and lots of opportunities as an intern. And then they hired me right out of school, and I got the bug, and I thought maybe I would go to graduate school. But actually, I was so engrossed in what I was doing that I just wanted to keep going. So I was, you know, to answer your question, I was blending my interests at William & Mary. I had a little help from my mother, and then I happened to find myself just the right internship, and then I was off and running.

Ken White

Yeah, moms play an important role.

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Yeah, absolutely.

Ken White

So how did you make the shift from public relations professional to a leader?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Great question. You're a communicator and a management professor, so you will really understand and appreciate this. In my career, one of the things that was so compelling and so exciting was understanding the role of communication in business transformation. And because I spent actually decades in healthcare, in healthcare, there's a lot of stakeholder pain, and those companies have came to understand early how important communication was. And so communication had the proverbial seat at the table decades ago. Communication was well-funded decades ago, and smart, accomplished, driven people would go into communications in healthcare because they could have a big impact and they could learn a lot about science and medicine and business and finance and communication. And so I really think that as I began to do really difficult work in healthcare around transformation, I was at Pfizer when we acquired Wyeth, and that was the biggest still, I think, the biggest biopharmaceutical merger in history. And we were having to reinvent the innovation model at Pfizer. And it was like the communications Olympics. I was full on all the time for years at a time. And I was involved in every aspect of integrating the companies, planning the innovation model, making the hard decisions, communicating to stakeholders, making sure employees were informed and, engaged and confident. And then, it started to get interesting because we started to move into adjacent disciplines like public affairs or government relations and public policy. And we started to think about new ways to partner with the public sector to bring drugs to market. So it was very rich. And someone at Pfizer at that time, I remember, said to me, you know, you're like a business person with a communications competency. And that was true, I think, of many of us in the field. But it was an interesting inflection point for that person because they started to see a communicator as not someone who was performing a function but someone who was solving business problems. And so that made it really interesting to me to start to move into bigger roles.

Ken White

Was there anyone you tried to emulate? Anyone, you kept your eyes on in terms of leaders?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Well, when I left Pfizer, and I crossed over into industrials, and I went to DuPont, I ended up working. I didn't know this would happen, but I ended up working for a CEO who came off of our board to run the company as CEO. And that's Ed Breen. And Ed is well known for being a transformational CEO and a serial value creator and someone who saved Tyco from the depths of despair and bankruptcy, or near bankruptcy, I should say, the risk of that, and transformed Tyco over the course of a decade and then really has played an outsized role at DuPont over the last seven or eight years. And so, really understanding what it means to think about sustainable value creation and all the choices and the types of decisions that go into thinking about long-term value creation was just a tremendous opportunity for me to kind of ride shotgun with him. As his chief communicator, also going through the biggest industrial merger in history, the merger of DuPont and Dow, the combination of those portfolios, and the subsequent breakup into three new publicly traded companies, once again, I was, like, in the crosshairs of a fairly extraordinary experience. I really learned a lot working with Ed, and I think he gave me the awareness and the confidence that there was more I could do in terms of leading businesses. And then shortly thereafter, I got the call from WPP to see if I wanted to be the next CEO of Hill+Knowlton.

Ken White

That had to be a pretty big call.

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Yeah, right. It was a big call. Yeah, it was amazing.

Ken White

And before that, how would people have labeled you as a communicator? Some people have an area of expertise. Some are generalists. What was your bread and butter, so to speak?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

I think I was a strategist. I think I was someone who could really look at the context and really understand what outcomes we were driving towards and what problems we had to solve for and was very kind of open-minded and agnostic about ways to get there and would take a lot of inputs from people inside and outside the company and synthesize approaches and test approaches that had a high probability of being successful. So I think that's probably how I was seen.

Ken White

Growing up. Would your friends and family be surprised? What could they have predicted? What you do now, and where you ended up?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

What a great question. Probably most of them no. And maybe a couple of them, yes. And in fact, I was just corresponding today with a friend of mine from middle school or high school who's here in D.C., and she's had a big career in government, and she now leads the McCain Institute for Character Driven Leadership. And she was a big Department of Defense official on the Obama administration. She had a huge career in diplomacy and international relations. And when we were kids, we used to talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up. And she said that she was going to be a career diplomat, and I said I was either going to be an advertising or a chief marketing officer. And every once in a while, I think about that and how close to the mark we both came. So maybe she would. I don't know about everybody else.

Ken White

Amazing when you make that choice so young. That's what you're looking at from that age. So it kind of comes naturally. Yeah, right?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Totally.

Ken White

Well, we're meeting today, we're in Northern Virginia for the Principled Achievement Award ceremony, and you are our recipient. We're so very excited about that. When you hear principled achievement, just those two words, what comes to mind for you?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

What comes to mind for me is sustainable leadership and sustainable outcomes, and sustainable value creation. Because to me, the combination of principles and the type of behavior that creates trust and supports trust and that lifts that elevates and lifts others and elevates talent and converts risk to opportunity, that type of leadership and that type of achievement is what makes real progress possible, durable, meaningful, important progress in the world. So to me, it coheres when you think about people who have outsized impact, impact, many of them, hopefully, most of them, are principled leaders, and they've delivered that impact through, whether by design or not, but through principled achievement. So I think it's an extraordinary strategic platform for the business school at William & Mary. I think it aligns directly with the character of the university and the purpose and the heritage of the university. And I am humbled and honored and have a bit of disbelief that you chose me this year, and I'm very grateful.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with AnnaMaria DeSalva in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year, the Financial Times, Princeton Review, U.S. News and World Report, and CEO magazine have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the U.S. and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, excellent student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you the full-time, the part-time, the online, or the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with AnnaMaria DeSalva.

Ken White

You know, the principal achievement award is built on four specific pillars. One is embracing the tenets of the William & Mary honor code. What does that mean to you as a graduate?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Well, when you really look at the honor code, what it tells you is that there is an expectation of behavior that does instill trust and that it's sort of a high-trust environment that the founders wanted to create and that we uphold at William & Mary now, high trust environment. And what are the benefits of a high-trust environment? High trust environment? Trust is kind of a currency. It allows you to innovate. It allows you to take risk. It allows you not to get bogged down in bureaucracy. It allows you not to get bogged down in regulation. A high-trust environment unlocks a lot of possibility and opportunity. And so if we teach our students to adhere to a code or to a set of principles that helps them trust each other and helps them learn and understand what it means to be trustworthy, then they are. And that becomes really fundamental to who they are as people and as leaders in the wider world. That has a multiplier effect, and I think that's one of the reasons why we're able to have such an impact.

Ken White

Second pillar is serving as a role model for principled achievement. Is that something you think about?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

I'll be honest with you. I don't think that actively about being a role model. I try to live up to my own personal code and to the values that I have about what I'm doing with my life and how I'm doing it. And if that means that I become a role model, then great. But I think, like most of us, I'm always focused on what I can improve. When I do that examination of self, I always see a lot of room for improvement. Right. So I'm not thinking too much about being a role model. I'm thinking about how I can be a better human being and a more effective leader. And I always see a distance to travel still.

Ken White

That's great.

AnnaMaria DeSalva

100% true.

Ken White

I think most people we would consider successful think that way. Right. That's what drives people. Promoting diversity of thought. How important is that in your role?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Extremely important. And as you know, as CEO of Hill+Knowlton. Hill+Knowlton is an almost 100-year-old strategic communications consultancy. It was one of the originators of the category. So the whole exercise of helping companies or other types of organizations connect to their stakeholders effectively, by definition, that entire endeavor has to reflect a diversity of perspectives. Like, if we don't have a diversity of perspectives, we can't produce the product, and we can't succeed. And especially in today's world, it's so multistakeholder. There's such a richness and layers and layers of stakeholder needs and expectations. And so we have to have a very diverse workforce at Hill+Knowlton. And we as leaders have to set a tone that we want lots of diversity, cognitive diversity, diversity of thought, diversity of action, diversity of background, diversity of beliefs. And by the way, I mean, we it's urgent for our business, and we still don't always hit the mark. You know, we have to work as hard as everybody else to ensure that we are as diverse as we need to be.

Ken White

Final pillar is demonstrating ethical, compassionate behavior. Tough to do when there's a lot going on and goals to be met. Do you think much about that?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Yeah, here's the thing about ethics. It does go back to trust. It does go back to the point I made earlier, that if you want to go fast and you want to have a big impact, and you want to do well, and you want to have alignment and support, it's so much easier if your currency is trust and if that's supported by ethical behavior and a standard for ethics. And with respect to compassion, to me, that links very much to talent. And I'm in a talent business, and talent is people are our product in my business. And so you're always scouting talent, sourcing talent, mining the talent, elevating the talent. And there's a commercial reason to do that, but it's an incredibly human endeavor. And really what you're doing is you're putting your arms around people, and you're putting your arms around their abilities and their limitations and their blind spots and their towering strengths, and you're saying, you know what? I love all of it, and I'm going to help all of it, and together we're going to be bigger and better than we could be individually. So I think I benefited from compassionate people who are very compassionate with me and very generous leaders. And also, I think communicators have to be compassionate. I think one of the great communicators, Mike McCurry, who was actually President Clinton's press secretary for a time. And I remember working with Mike on a few things, and Mike saying, talking to me about how great communicators are compassionate, that they have compassion for their audiences, and they want their audiences to understand and both tonally and in terms of what they say and how they say it, that if they're guided by that compassion, they are so much more successful. So, anyway, perhaps I digress, but same zip code.

Ken White

They're other-centric, right? Yeah, very much so. The award is principled achievement. Achievement is part of it, not just principled. What drives you? What gets you fired up and going?

AnnaMaria DeSalva

Wow, well, I want to make a difference. I want to have lived a life that, you know, where I delivered, you know, and I delivered, and I helped get important things done, and I left everything on the field like, that's the life I want to live. And, you know, so that does for me, that translates a little bit to definitely to a sense of achievement and wanting to get big things done and to help transform the things that need to be transformed. And I suppose sometimes that also comes across as like having points on the board or having a competitive spirit. I compete with myself. That was something that my friends used to say to me quite a bit when I was younger. They would say, you know, AnnaMaria. You don't really compete with other people. You compete with yourself. And that is really true. And by the way, I think that's a William & Mary trait. But equally, I like to win, and I think there's really nothing wrong with that. I know that we don't like people to over-index into a fixation on winning, but I like to perform, and hopefully, that shows up in our results.

Ken White

That's our conversation with AnnaMaria de Salva. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. By the way, today's episode is our 200th in the Leadership & Business podcast series launched back in 2015. Each month, we post two episodes that feature conversations with CEOs, leaders, and subject matter experts. As we celebrate episode 200, we'd like to thank all of our terrific guests who have been kind enough to share their time and expertise with us. Also, a big thank you to Victoria Trujillo at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, to our editor Ben Lawrence, and our colleagues at Freedom Podcasting. Most importantly, thanks to you for listening and for sharing your comments and suggestions with us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Amanda Eversole
Amanda EversoleEpisode 199: May 21, 2023
Influencing with Integrity

Amanda Eversole

Episode 199: May 21, 2023

Influencing with Integrity

Energy; it's always a hot topic. And the American Petroleum Institute is happy to be a part of the discussion. API is a 100-year-old trade association that represents all segments of America's natural gas and oil industry. It's 600 members produce, process, and distribute the majority of the nation's energy. Amanda Eversole is API's Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy Officer. Among other things, she's the face of oil and gas in Washington, DC, interacting with influencers and government officials to inform them about the issues pertaining to American oil and gas. She visited William & Mary recently and after spending time with business school students, she sat down with us to discuss the American Petroleum Institute, energy in the US and abroad, and influencing with integrity.

Podcast (audio)

Amanda Eversole: Influencing with Integrity TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is the mission of the American Petroleum Institute
  • What it means to be safe in the oil and gas industry
  • What a strong, viable oil and natural gas industry looks like
  • How the API advocates with the public and government
  • How much energy the American oil and gas industries produce
  • What the API's stance is on electric vehicles
  • What is the role of an oil and gas lobbyist
Transcript

Amanda Eversole

My job is not to try to convince every single person in this country, 330,000,000 people, to love oil and gas. But what we want to do is to provide some level of energy literacy. So there's an understanding of the importance of being able to produce energy in this country.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Energy, it's always a hot topic, and the American Petroleum Institute is happy to be a part of the discussion. API is a 100-year-old trade association that represents all segments of America's natural gas and oil industry. Its 600 members produce, process, and distribute the majority of the nation's energy. Amanda Eversole is API's Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy Officer. Among other things, she's the face of oil and gas in Washington, DC. Interacting with influencers and government officials to inform them about the issues pertaining to American oil and gas. She visited William & Mary recently, and after spending time with business school students, she sat down with us to discuss the American Petroleum Institute, energy in the US and abroad and influencing with integrity. Here's our conversation with Amanda Eversole.

Ken White

Well, Amanda, welcome. Thanks for joining us. You've had a long day, but thanks for taking the time to be with us.

Amanda Eversole

It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Ken White

So you've been in a couple of classes today.

Amanda Eversole

I have.

Ken White

What was that like?

Amanda Eversole

Fascinating. And honestly, I feel like I get more out of it than even the students. Being around the optimism of youth and being able to take time to focus on yourself and your leadership trajectory and the impact you're going to make on the world is such a gift. And if I knew then what I know now, I would have focused more on it at the time.

Ken White

Good questions from the students.

Amanda Eversole

Terrific questions. Students at William & Mary, I have to say, are so smart. I do not think I would get in if I had to apply today.

Ken White

Which is what I think all of our alumni say and feel that. Yeah, they are definitely special. It's truly a joy to walk into these doors every day. Yeah, they're so fun. So, the American Petroleum Institute, I find the mission is interesting because it lists a couple of different specifics, and one is promote safety across the industry globally. What does that entail? What's that mean?

Amanda Eversole

Yeah. We were founded more than 100 years ago to help our industry, and our employees understand how to do what we do, get oil and gas out of the earth, and bring it to markets in a safe and, believe it or not, sustainable way. And one of the most amazing parts of this industry is that we, and again, made up of so many engineers. We know how to optimize molecules, and we continually want to improve and get better, and we want to share those learnings with each other. So inside the beltway, people look at me, and they want to talk about the latest bill in the House or what's going to happen at EPA. Outside of Washington, people look at me and say, oh, you're from API. Thank you for keeping me safe. And that is an extraordinarily important responsibility that we have because we, the industry, want to continually get better. Not just for our employees, for their families, for our communities, but because it's the right thing to do.

Ken White

So I think when the average person hears safety, I'm not sure they know what that entails.

Amanda Eversole

Well, a lot of what we do in oil and gas is working with heavy machinery and equipment and things at high pressures and in places that can be quite dangerous. And so it can be something at the beginning of as simple as the beginning of every meeting that we have. We give a safety moment. And so if we're in a corporate office, it could be something as simple as there are no planned drills that are scheduled to happen in the next hour. So if you hear any sort of alarm, treat it as a real-life issue, and here's where our muster point will be. But if you're in the field, the safety moment can be we had an incident, and here's how we're going to adjust because this happened, or the weather may be doing this, and here's how we're going to adjust our operations. Or here's something I read, and this is something that it would be important for all of us to consider. People don't fully appreciate when they think of oil and gas. They have this default narrative of what it looks like. Dirty and something that just is maybe not so positive, but when you really get to know the people of this industry and the ambition to continually get better and smarter. But at the core, we are about safety for our people and safety for the environment.

Ken White

It's interesting if someone has not seen an industry with sort of a safety briefing in a corporate office. I remember the first time, and I went wow. If you don't come from that sort of a background, it's an interesting culture, isn't it?

Amanda Eversole

It sure is. And I'll tell you, I learned early on things like holding the handrail when walking up to the stage to give remarks. I could give the very best presentation of my life. But if I'm in front of my members and I don't hold the handrail properly, somebody will say something to me because a safety incident, if it means tripping on a stair or a safety incident that could have ramifications in the field, they are treated equally. Safety is safety, and we have to take it really, really seriously.

Ken White

And those in industries who take it seriously know exactly what you mean. Yeah, that's so interesting. Also, looking back at the mission, what does a strong, viable US oil and natural gas industry look like?

Amanda Eversole

Right now, there is a lot of debate about energy. Some even say we are in a global energy crisis, in part brought about by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which sent supply and demand into a tailspin. Supply was depressed. Demand continues to increase in a post-COVID world. And so my job is to help ensure that the American companies producing here and around the world have a climate in which they can continue to do that. We have an obligation to do it in a way that is environmentally responsible, that our product is both affordable and reliable. I think of that as the trilemma because if any one of those three things is out of balance, then we have a problem. And so we are continually working across the regulatory space, across federal, state, and local levels of government, to ensure that there is a good understanding of the role that American energy plays, and specifically oil and gas, in helping our citizens live the daily lives that we rely on energy at every moment of the day and night.

Ken White

So those messages do you target the quote-unquote, average citizen? Is that part of your advocacy?

Amanda Eversole

Absolutely. So we talk to government officials, and we talk to the American people. My job is not to try to convince every single person in this country, 330,000,000 people, to love oil and gas, but what we want to do is to provide some level of energy literacy. So there's an understanding of the importance of being able to produce energy in this country. Presidents dating back for more than 50 years, Republicans and Democrats alike, have called for American energy independence. And the great news is that we have it today in this country, and unfortunately, in some cases, government is working at odds to try to accelerate a transition. And we can talk about that, but a transition away from oil and gas to something different and at a time when that's not technically feasible. And so my job is to try to make sure we understand the role that energy plays, the role that the importance of being energy independent. And there are things geopolitically, like the war in Ukraine, that give us a moment as a country to step back and say our allies in Europe were far over-levered in terms of dependence on Russian gas. And once again, the United States of America and our private sector has stepped up to make sure that they did not have to suffer this winter. But it's not going to stop there. We are now a net exporter of petroleum around the world. That is an important responsibility. But we have to ensure that we can continue to produce so we can continue to help our friends and allies around the world.

Ken White

Do most people understand how much we do produce? Because I was surprised on the website to see the graphic for the year 2040. Wow. Almost half of the energy oil and gas. Do most people get that?

Amanda Eversole

I don't think so. I think energy is one of those commodities that, unless you are out of it, you don't think about it.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Amanda Eversole of the American Petroleum Institute in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year the Financial Times, Princeton Review, US News and World Report, and CEO Magazine have all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that has outstanding faculty, excellent student support, and a brand that's highly respected, the William & Mary MBA program. Reach out to our admissions team to learn which of our four MBA programs best fits you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Amanda Eversole of the American Petroleum Institute.

Ken White

So, obviously, so much talked about in the vehicle space, electric vehicles. So in your job, how do you address that, and to whom do you address that?

Amanda Eversole

So electric vehicles are certainly a topic of a lot of discussion, and I should say that a number of my member companies have great investments within the EV space, whether it's a charging station, whether it's in battery storage, any number of different aspects. And so we are, at our core, one of our principles. We can see on our website, api.org we have a set of ten principles. And one of our principles, of course, supports free markets and free trade. And what's so important about that is that when we talk about EVs, there is an inherent market distortion that's been put in place through subsidies. And I believe personally that there's a role for subsidies in incubating new industries and new markets and new growth, but at some point, there should be a level playing field. And so, there is a question right now around the long-term viability of the internal combustion engine versus EVs. And fundamentally, we don't often think about when you turn on the light switch or when you plug something in. You expect energy to come out. But people don't often think about where does that energy come from? And so it's not a zero-sum game. It's coming from somewhere. Sometimes it's natural gas-powered power plants and natural gas. The switch from coal to natural gas in the generation of electricity is the single biggest reason why the United States have had 20 years of decrease in emissions and have beaten the world by a long shot. And that's because of natural gas, which is a fossil fuel. And there is a reason why where there are groups and others who want to see fossil fuels being kept in the ground, for example, to try to demonize natural gas because they see it as a way to keep fossil fuels around for longer. I'm an optimist, and I happen to believe I want to get the largest benefit for society using the best technology that we have today. And that best technology and that best way, if that involves natural gas, then by golly, I think we should continue to do it because it's the right thing, and it just makes good sense.

Ken White

So you have a story to tell, obviously. Right. And you are a lobbyist. That's part of your role.

Amanda Eversole

That's right.

Ken White

Yeah. Do you enjoy that?

Amanda Eversole

I love it.

Ken White

Yeah. So what's that like? I'm so surprised by how many people don't understand that role or don't think a whole lot about that role. So what do you do as a lobbyist? What are some of your goals?

Amanda Eversole

At my core, I'm an advocate. I represent the members of the American Petroleum Institute. We have 600 member companies ranging from very large, integrated global energy companies to smaller, single basin upstream providers to mom-and-pop service and supply companies that may have just a couple of employees. And because we represent that entire value chain when we internally amongst our membership come up with a policy position, and we have a very complex set of governance and committees and ways of coming up with various policies, but when we externally go out and say, this is what the industry thinks. It allows members of Congress. It allows regulators. It allows people to say, okay, this is where the industry is. Now they may not always agree with us, by the way, but then my job is to bring the facts to the table. My job is to bring the folks impacted by the policies to tell it and explain unintended consequences so we can come up with the best possible outcome. In my view, to have a free and vibrant industry that upholds that responsibility to the public to provide affordable, reliable, and cleaner energy.

Ken White

So the role sounds like part scientist, part negotiator, part educator.

Amanda Eversole

Chief diplomat.

Ken White

Yeah. Wow. A lot of balls in the air for that particular role.

Amanda Eversole

Absolutely.

Ken White

How did you end up with the advocacy part of the job?

Amanda Eversole

I started at API almost five years ago as the chief operating officer. And so I really looked internally the CEO, and I sort of joked that he was up and out, and I was down and in. And so things like putting in new technology systems, understanding the financial systems that we had that needed to be upgraded using really the finances to drive better decision making internally. How do we help educate, really think about our trade association like a business? And what I would say to my CEO very frequently is we should be running our business just exactly like you expect your teams to be running yours. And just because our product is information or our project is advocacy or standards or certifications doesn't mean that we shouldn't have that same level of discipline in running the business. So I did that for almost four years, and then we had some leadership changes on the team, and I was asked to step into this advocacy role. We had fixed a lot of the internal systems and, structures, components, and so I have an opportunity to now be much more externally facing, and I love being the face of oil and gas in Washington DC. It is my great, great privilege.

Ken White

The lobbyist environment ecosystem is interesting. It's not nearly as big, I think, as many people think. What is it that you like about it?

Amanda Eversole

I like convincing people of why oil and gas is so important. And it's funny because when I came to the industry and when I came to API, I did not have a careers background in oil and gas. In fact, I knew almost nothing. And so sometimes people joke and say, well then, how did you get that job? Well, I knew how to run large, complex trade associations, and so that COO role made a lot of sense. And one of my first jobs was to put together a strategic plan for the organization with a huge amount of input from the industry. And at that time, and one of the reasons why I was drawn to oil and gas is we were in an inflection point. Really the debate in society had moved to a point where it wasn't if climate change or talking about the science. It had really moved to what are we going to do about it? And companies and business models, and investment strategies were evolving at a rapid rate, and the trade association, which is a reflection of that broader industry, needed to change and evolve too. And I felt like my skills of bringing my voice to the inside and helping to be part of a solution again back to that optimist part of me being part of a solution inside without 30 years of experience in the industry allowed me to ask the simple, innocent question that sometimes was the very hardest. And that has been an unbelievable pleasure and gift in my career.

Ken White

And I would assume a lot of those questions that you were asking, you get asked now.

Amanda Eversole

I do.

Ken White

Yeah. So, you got the answers before the questions are asked. There's obviously passion in your voice. I can tell by looking at you there's a real passion. And we often ask guests on the podcast how important is it that you have a love for the job in order to succeed. How do you feel about that?

Amanda Eversole

Thank you for noticing. I do love my job. I feel so lucky every day that I can get up and represent the men and women of this industry. And yes, I spend a lot of my time in Washington, but some of my most valuable time is people outside of spending time with people outside of Washington. And the reason is, and you and I were talking about this beforehand is, it's not just we're really powerful lobbyists, or we are able to influence, though we work hard at that, and we do it with high integrity and respect and all of those things. But when you look in the eyes of somebody on an offshore platform and says, thank you for being at API, you keep me safe, man. That keeps you going because they mean it, and it's true. And so people think of us for lobbying. Half of what we do is that safety and sustainability of our operations, our people, and our communities.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Amanda Eversole, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Amanda Eversole, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 JD Due
JD DueEpisode 198: May 12, 2023
Transitioning in Life

JD Due

Episode 198: May 12, 2023

Transitioning in Life

People in the business world have become acclimated to changing jobs and employers. It's a different picture, though, for those serving in the military. For those in uniform, a change in career or employer are rare. And when the time comes to leave the military, the transition can be an overwhelming experience. That's where William & Mary comes in. Next month, for the second time, William & Mary is hosting "Flourishing Through Life's Transitions," a two-week long certificate program that teaches military personnel how to flourish in their new careers and in their personal lives. JD Due is Executive Director of William & Mary's Center for Military Transition and joins us to talk about this unique and successful program that helps veterans and members of the intelligence community flourish in their transition and beyond.

Podcast (audio)

JD Due: Transitioning in Life TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is available to military personnel who wish to transition to civilian life
  • Why William & Mary started their military transition program
  • What it means to flourish in one's transition
  • What activities are included in the transition program
  • What some of the takeaways are from the pilot year
  • How many fears and questions might a transitioning military person have
  • Why businesses don't see the transferable skills of military personnel
  • When is the next transition program at William & Mary
  • Who is the program open to
Transcript

JD Due

And this element of starting with positive psychology, I think, allowed for a series of paradigm shifts, for people to move away from the fear that's associated with uncertainty and really look at different skills they can link into, as well as other community assets that are there, too.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world, sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, people in the business world have become acclimated to changing jobs and employers. It's a different picture, though, for those serving in the military. For those in uniform, a change in career or employer is rare. And when the time comes to leave the military, the transition can be an overwhelming experience. That's where William & Mary comes in. Next month, for the second time, William & Mary is hosting Flourishing Through Life's Transitions, a two-week-long certificate program that teaches transitioning military personnel how to flourish in their new careers and in their personal lives. JD Due is Executive Director of William & Mary's Center for Military Transition. He joins us to talk about this unique and successful program that helps veterans and members of the intelligence community flourish in their transition and beyond. Here's our conversation with JD Due.

Ken White

Well, JD. Thanks for sharing your time. Wasn't James Brown the hardest-working man in show business? I think you're the hardest-working guy in the military transition space, but it's nice to have you here.

JD Due

I am. And I try to do it with as much coordination of rhythm as possible. No promises, but we are staying busy, and it's great.

Ken White

Yeah, no question. It's been fantastic to watch what you've done with the Center for Military Transition in a relatively short period of time. You've been here?

JD Due

Yeah, I've been here. It's been 18 months, but it's been, I think a productive 18 months. And it's certainly, I think, been a fulfilling 18 months for all the different sort of folks that we've been able to collaborate with as well as to empower.

Ken White

Yeah, absolutely. It's been really terrific. Well, let's talk about the transition process. Say someone who has been in the military 10-20 years. They're ready to move on. What's available to them? What's the transition picture look like to them?

JD Due

Well, there's a wide array of sources that are there, which is important because the transition process, particularly when the longer one's been serving right, it's really a question of identity, and some of the very sticky and sometimes tricky questions one has to maneuver their way through. And so the process can be exceedingly difficult. Now, that said, there's a number of different resources. There is a congressionally mandated transition assistance program that each of the different services provide at different bases. It's one of the unique things about William & Mary because we're so close to a large concentration of serving service members, right? Whether that's at Norfolk, the naval station that's there, Oceania Naval Air Station just out in Virginia Beach, some additional naval assets that are there, as well as Fort Eustis. Now Fort Craig outside of Richmond, which used to be recently renamed from Fort Lee, as well as in the DC area. All of those spots will provide some assistance. One of the challenges, however, is because one of the key things that the services are concerned with is finding somebody a job. And those transition assistance programs sometimes tend to be overly focused just on that next step of employment. And there, when you're talking about identity, a huge number of other opportunities that we can empower people with that, again, will help them ease not just finding a job but perhaps making sure that they're on a good trajectory for the right job or really a new chapter of service even though they might be outside of uniform.

Ken White

So why, then, did William & Mary, the business school, the Mason School, and the Center for Military Transition start this program?

JD Due

Well, we looked at it with, in some cases, the transition space is, ironically, a little bit underfunded. It's interesting in the fact that in terms of federal funds so just a few years ago, in the same year that the national defense budget was somewhere north of 700 billion dollars, the combined spending of the DoD, the VA, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, and the Small Business Administration was actually less than $1,000 per transitioning service member. So there are some key needs that aren't being fully addressed, and we were actually approached. The Commit Foundation, which is a world-class nonprofit that supports veterans in the transition process. They work with a really innovative program at Tuck and Dartmouth, which provides folks with business skills. They work with Stanford, that actually provides folks with entrepreneurial skills. But they came to us because of where we are located and a key aspect of the culture of the Mason School as well as the broader William & Mary spirit because they wanted a specific program where people were still wanted the opportunity to explore their own values as well as then sort of see where those values might lead them in an initial career search. So they asked us to be a part of this sort of trifecta where someone could potentially go through all three of those programs. But ours was really important because it had so much of an emphasis on self-discovery and then alignment of personal values with career and future service opportunities.

Ken White

So you may have touched on it. The program that you lead is two segments, so to speak, one week and then the next week. And they're quite different.

JD Due

Absolutely. The first week, they both focus on this notion of flourishing, which, again, I think, resonates with transitioning service members because, in the service, there's a huge emphasis on resilience. Right. There's a huge emphasis on cohesion. But this notion of flourishing is a slightly different twist on that. And we start with the individual. So that first week is actually developing specific skills of how one does flourish as an individual. And it's led through artfully, artfully by the brilliant Kelly Crace, the university associate vice president for wellness. We use the assets of his wellness center. And again, it's an aspect of really having a series of paradigm shifts that allow someone to move away from being motivated potentially by fear to then really look and boil down to these aren't only the values that prompted me to serve in uniform, but these are the values that define me as me. And they address this question of identity that's there, and then we're able to immediately pivot. And again, we put it in the hands of, again, world-class, nationally ranked, and leading business school professors that are then looking at, okay, if these are my individual values, how might those values be congruent with future civilian employment? And then Professor Dave Long is masterful at that. I mean, we look at the science that we know about employee engagement. Typically, that's looked at from a perspective of a managerial or leadership perspective. How can I do certain things to keep my employees engaged? But in this context, particularly on the heels of a week, is flourishing as an individual, the participants are able to see what's congruent in terms of what might keep them engaged. So that second week is then flourishing as a professional, and the two together really go hand in hand.

Ken White

I remember watching last year, that the first year with Dr. Crace, as you were saying. I remember things like yoga and getting out into the woods, and I said, oh, Kelly, no one's going to go, and everyone in the program just jumped in feet first with such enthusiasm. You know more about transitioning than I do. That surprised me. Did that surprise you at all?

JD Due

Yes and no. It was a pleasant surprise. But the other key thing of what actually happened throughout that process was a degree of community building and cohesion that was there. Of all the surprises, I think that was the most pleasant surprise that existed. Because, again, you have human beings that are coming under organizations that use cohesion as a survival mechanism. Right. That's one of the challenges when we think broadly about transition difficulties with the transitioning service members in America, and that added context allowed them to really, really come together. Yeah. And again, and with all the cohesion that comes from there, right? We're on paddle boards out on the lake right behind, right behind the business school. And then, as luck would have it, it's the Coast Guardsmen who falls in the water. That's whose boat capsizes, right? Which, again, folks from the army particularly relish, maybe not as much as some of the Navy veterans, but that was a really, really important sort of component of things. And this element of starting with positive psychology, I think, allowed for a series of paradigm shifts, for people to move away from the fear that's associated with uncertainty and really look at different skills they can link into, as well as other community assets that are there too.

Ken White

Last year was the pilot. That was the first time, and it seemed to go extremely smoothly. But any takeaways or changes that you think about when you think about that pilot year?

JD Due

More than anything, we want to make sure that as we grow the program to be able to help more people. In this particular piece is looking at being able to match up and have a couple of different sort of breakout groups that are there. So more than anything, it's a minor modification, really on the fringes of the program that, particularly when we're looking at that second week, is flourishing as a professional. If some people already have some ideas of different types of industries or roles that they might want to go in, to expand out, whether it's through executive partners, alumni of the program as well, to have some one on one connections with them, to again help confirm these different sort of shifts of transition that they're starting to make.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with JD Due of William & Mary's Center for Military Transition in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. This year the Financial Times, the Princeton Review, US News and World Report, and CEO magazine all named the William & Mary MBA program one of the best in the US and the world. If you're thinking about pursuing an MBA, consider one that's student-centric, well-known, and highly respected, the William & Mary MBA program. Reach out to our admissions team to learn more about our four MBA programs the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with JD Due of William & Mary's Center for Military Transition.

Ken White

You mentioned a little bit ago fear. What are some of the fears and concerns, and questions that the quote-unquote, average transitioning military professional might have?

JD Due

It's an interesting piece. I think through the lived experience of it, it actually sort of starts with its not full gaps, but it's some question marks on some aspects of just basic Maslow's hierarchy of needs, right. Whenever you're looking at particularly the strong cultural indoctrination that occurs over time in each of our military services, it's a question of, okay, where will these skills specifically fit? I have been successful in the past, but what I'm going to in the future is so different that's really those aspects of the fear that exists that's there. Now that's not different from other career transitions and people that might take a pivot within their own sort of professional development. But to do so in a very different way is really, really significant. And then the seriousness of it all. A couple of folks have remarked that they were asking the question what do they want to do when they grow up? However, now they're potentially into their 40s when they're asking that question, and they have all those different sort of uncertainties that sort of revolve around that.

Ken White

The transferable skills is what really strikes that's what strikes me. The people in the cohort last year and all the transitioning military we have in this business school. They have such skills and such experiences that the business would love, but they don't always see it. `Why is that?

JD Due

Yeah, I think it comes back down to this question of identity. If that's the first order question that they're trying to realize with that sort of shifts all different sort of aspects of context of what they're looking at in that because of those questions of identity, they then have a little bit of different gaps in confidence and just seeing where those different sort of congruencies might fit. In many ways, the cohort process, and particularly each day they, became a little bit more cohesive. They're able to share and provide feedback amongst themselves, which again was huge. That was another wonderful sort of pleasant surprise that emerged throughout the entire process. But then I think it's just helping them visualize what that new context looks like. And then it's an aspect of minor translations of making sure that as other-centric as they have been in a life of extraordinary service, they can continue to be other-centric and that other-centricness can then help them to communicate, tell their own story. But again, we're just starting to plant some slight seeds for these slight paradigm shifts. It's not an earthquake, but it's just a slight shift to help them focus on that new context.

Ken White

Are you in touch with some of the folks who went through last year?

JD Due

Absolutely, quite a few. And they're doing great. A couple of chose a couple are actually in our executive MBA program. So they saw what the Mason School had to offer, and candidly they wanted more. Others actually have been able to transition into with some key partners. One of our coasties, a veteran of the Coast Guard, retired out of the Coast Guard immediately after the program. And then we are able to actually connect him with Dominion Energy. So he's now again. He found a new sense of purpose. He's working on Dominion Energy's offshore wind project. Again, which was an alignment of his values but something he wouldn't quite visualizing when he started the program. And it's that value alignment with specific opportunity that's absolutely just wonderful, wonderful to see. And all of them have actually reached back out and have been great in terms of recruiting this new class and plan to help out as well to include one that has actually started to connect us with Ukrainian veterans who are then asking the same broad question when they look forward as they are dealing with some unimaginable issues. They're also asking this question, how can we have similar programs that empower our veterans to help rebuild something new? And again, a stark contrast from the challenges we have, but I think a very meaningful continuation of a virtuous network that this whole program pieces together.

Ken White

So you mentioned the two weeks and how they're different, sort of the individual week one and then the professional week two. What about all the rest? Do they stay on campus? Where do they stay? What do they do throughout that whole period?

JD Due

Yeah, they stay on campus. Actually, we're quite intentional about the timing of the program. And again, it'll start on June 11 and go through June 23. So on their first day here to campus, it's also Williamsburg's second Sunday, so they can then see a very contextualized community event. And we introduce that, not to assume that everyone's going to move to Williamsburg, but to highlight, hey, here's something that's unique that's here, and empower them to ask the question of what's unique in the community that they are going to serve in in that next sort of chapter. So we bring them in on that second Sunday, we get them situated, they have the opportunity to stay in dorms here, and then we host them throughout that entire sort of process. And one of the other key things that we'll actually add to this year, too, is we'll have a more array of what we're going to call dinner time discussions. And as we work through the day, we're just going to, over a meal, have additional guests come in and talk about different topics. One of those dinner-time discussions will be on entrepreneurship, right? We'll work with Graham and his expertise out of the entrepreneurship center to help empower and really inform that conversation. Another one we'll look at our partners with the Virginia Department of Veteran Services to come in and talk about, hey, everyone's really usually well aware of what the VA provides, but here are state-based benefits again to provide people with information and empower them to navigate different ways to find that information wherever their next chapter service may be.

Ken White

So the program is open to whom?

JD Due

The program is open to really sort of three categories of folks. One, it's what we sort of term as a transitioning service member, and that's somebody even within about 24 months of departing the service. The second one is a recently transitioned veteran. So again, someone that might be up to about 24 months on the far side of that transition. And then the third element that we'll have in there are military spouses. Military spouses are a wonderful empowering spot and factor within the broad transition experience for many transitioning service members. And they have to go through these transitions a lot. And sometimes, while that service member is continuing to serve, there's so many different moves that military spouses have both some experience in living through that and then also have that particular need as well. So that's who it's open to.

Ken White

Fantastic. Now, I'll share the website in just a moment, but is that where people should go and check it all out on the website?

JD Due

They can. They can, absolutely. There's a couple of links off the Center for Military Transitions wing of the Mason School website, and then they can also send an email to flourishing@wm.edu. That email gets routed into our team, and we can direct people from there. And that's for participants and or different organizations and companies that also might want to participate as well. Again, this is, I think, a wonderful convening of resources for a really remarkable and talented group of people that are looking to continue to serve even after they depart uniform service.

Ken White

Yeah, a great opportunity for companies and employers to see some potential employees right in front of them.

JD Due

Absolutely. To see those employees, as well as to continue in with meaningful connections and meaningful relationships after the two weeks. That's probably the third sort of piece that exists here in that the Center for Military Transition. As people come through the program, we can then provide some really, really important networking services, professional development services to the folks that come through there. But at the end of the day, it's not just about connections. It's about making those connections meaningful and making them congruent again with the values of the individual and then the professional skills that this entire program can piece together.

Ken White

That's our conversation with JD Due, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at Wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, JD Due, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Jeff Barna
Jeff BarnaEpisode 197: April 21, 2023
Culture & the CEO

Jeff Barna

Episode 197: April 21, 2023

Culture & the CEO

As all leaders know, leadership comes with opportunities and challenges. But leading an organization whose parent company is located in another country poses a different set of challenges, especially when the cultures of the two countries are quite different. Jeff Barna is President and CEO of Yokohama Tire Corporation. He oversees the organization's business in North America. The parent company - Yokohama Rubber Company - is in Tokyo, Japan, where it was founded in 1917. Under Barna's direction, the organization has experienced solid growth, and the relationship between the leaders in the US and Japan has contributed to the success. While visiting William & Mary last week, Barna took time to join us to talk about the importance of company culture, the tire industry, and how liberal arts education prepared him for leadership.

Podcast (audio)

Jeff Barna: Culture & the CEO TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How big is the Yokohama Tire Corporation
  • What it's like working for an international company
  • What challenges are posed to the tire industry by the emergence of EVs
  • How Jeff's William & Mary liberal arts education helped him as CEO throughout the pandemic
  • What made Jeff confident he could fulfill the role of the CEO
  • What it means to be a self-aware company
  • How to ensure a team that it's okay to take chances.
Transcript

Jeff Barna

I want to make sure that we're the most self-aware company in our industry. Self-awareness to me is critically important because if you practice it well, you're brutally honest about the mistakes you've made. You're brutally honest about your gaps and deficiencies. And in earnest, you start to fortify the business with action plans to address those gaps and deficiencies.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. As all leaders know, leadership comes with opportunities and challenges. But leading an organization whose parent company is located in another country poses a different set of challenges, especially when the cultures in the two countries are quite different. Jeff Barna is President and CEO of Yokohama Tire Corporation. He oversees the organization's business in North America. The parent company, Yokohama Rubber Company, is in Tokyo, Japan, where it was founded in 1917. Under Barna's direction, the organization has experienced solid growth, and the relationship between the leaders in the US and Japan has contributed to the success. While visiting William & Mary last week, Barna took time to join us to talk about the importance of company culture, the tire industry, and how a liberal arts education prepared him for leadership. Here's our conversation with Jeff Barna.

Ken White

Jeff, it's great to have you here. Welcome to Miller Hall.

Jeff Barna

Ken, it is an absolute pleasure to be here. I'm blown away by the Mason School. It's my first time in the building, and just what an environment for learning. So thank you for having me here today.

Ken White

It's our pleasure. And you're right. Every day I walk in this building, I'm grateful. And I've been coming in for nine years, and it never changes. Yeah, we're very fortunate to be here. And, plus, the students are phenomenal.

Jeff Barna

That's great. Good to hear.

Ken White

So, Yokohama. Interesting company. For those who don't know much about it. What's your elevator pitch, or what's your 30-second summary?

Jeff Barna

Yeah. Yokohama is a company that's based in Tokyo. We are predominantly in the tire product business. The top line for the business globally is about six and a half to $7 billion dollars. We are actually in the process of making a major acquisition, which could push us as high as 10 billion in revenue annually. I'm responsible for the North American business. We are a priority entity within the context of Yokohama Rubber Corporation, Japan. The North American business does about one and a half to $2 billion dollars in sales annually. And I'm responsible for all operations and sales and marketing, and the growth of the company. So we have two manufacturing plants in the US. We have four major distribution centers, an R and D technical center in Charlotte, North Carolina. And corporate office for me is Santa Ana, California. So we're spread pretty well. And, yeah, it's a great company. The company has been in business for over 100 years. And reputationally, I think the company stands for endurance, quality, innovation. And we absolutely try to tie those themes to the value that we extend our customers in this marketplace.

Ken White

It's got to be interesting working with the Japanese company. What's it like for someone who was born and raised in the United States, now working with a completely different culture? What are some of the lessons and some of the experiences you've had?

Jeff Barna

Yeah, the lessons are I came into the company in January '17, and we had a bit of a reputational challenge in terms of the way Japan viewed the US market. And for years, the business had been underperforming. We were known as an entity that would overcommit and under-deliver. So there were some trust issues, and the company really wanted to take a look at how they could build out a truly independent, autonomous American leadership team, which hadn't existed prior to me joining. The company was being managed at that time by a group of Japanese national ex-pats that were on a rotation program. And unfortunately, the results were a bit underwhelming. So I came into the company, and to the credit of Japan, they had benchmarked other companies and realized that the American leadership was going to be important in order to break through and make progress. So since 2017, I would say the first two years were really spent on how do you establish that trust and reliability that had been lacking before. So I also felt it was important to create a bit of a cushion to allow my team to operate independently and really focus on the business while I was managing, repairing the reputation, or the relationship with the parent company. And the good news is, over a period of about two years, we went from, I would say, a period of high scrutiny. They were very, very interested in everything that we were doing here, to the point now where we have a tremendous amount of latitude and freedom to operate.

Ken White

That's got to feel good.

Jeff Barna

It feels really good. And I think if you look at it, Japan or the parent has been rewarded in so much as we're on a great run right now. If you look at the pandemic period up until now, we measure market share. The last 36 months, I think we've taken market share gains in 32 of the last 36 months. So them relaxing a little bit in terms of their intensity on how a local entity should be managed and providing me the freedom to operate, I think, has benefited all parties involved.

Ken White

You did mention innovation. And I think when most people think tires, they've got to be thinking electric vehicles that's got to be at the top. What does that pose for you? Challenges or opportunities? Where's that?

Jeff Barna

It's probably right now at this moment and subject to change because we're in a very transformational time within the tire industry. But the dynamics of tire construction on electric vehicles is more of a challenge than opportunity at the moment. And what I mean by that is that while electric vehicles by design are masterpieces in technology, I think that the tire application, when they push the car down the manufacturing line, was a bit of an afterthought. And what was not taken into consideration, Ken is that electric vehicles are about 30% heavier in respect to weight, and the torque from the front wheel drive shreds tires prematurely. So every tire manufacturer today is having difficulty with wearability. And the consumers are a bit frustrated because what they used to get in terms of tire life, which would be 50, 60, 70,000 miles on a set, they're now getting 15 to 20,000 miles. And it's posing reputational issues with not just the electric vehicle manufacturers but also the tire companies. So there's a mad scramble underway for the tire companies to try to innovate to a solution that accommodates this heavier weight, more torque. It's easier said than done because the science is somewhat limited. You can do interesting things in the way of compounds or tread design. But if you think about it, electric vehicle companies are selling range. How many miles can I get on one charge? And that is not conducive to the tires that are being put on the cars today. If you want more range from a tire, you're actually going to have a tire with less tread. If you have a tire with less tread, it's going to wear quicker in a high-torque environment. So the whole tire industry, especially the technology and as it applies to EV, is quite dynamic and quite exciting, to be honest with you.

Ken White

Yeah. Great opportunity. Yeah. So let's talk about you a little bit. You started in sales. How does that help you today, and how does that help you through your career?

Jeff Barna

Yeah, I think I'd like to just veer off for 1 second because it's interesting. Coming into the Mason School and coming back on campus, and it's been a long time, created a lot of opportunity for self-reflection. And selling has always been the ability to communicate and socialize and create relationships. That always came naturally. And that was part of the inherent toolkit that came along with my undergraduate degree from William & Mary. But what I've realized, and it just struck me hard yesterday in coming in here, is that when I look at the events of the past two and a half, three years and leading a company in a post-pandemic, or during pandemic and post-pandemic environment. I have arguably had to dive into my William & Mary liberal arts education toolkit more over the past two to three years than prior to that. And while those building blocks were always in existence in terms of it was natural for me, I was comfortable for me to be in a selling environment. What was required from a leadership standpoint to be super creative, be resourceful, be innovative, be a critical thinker in dealing with truly unprecedented events that were happening in our business, not just with manufacturing plants and distribution, but people and talent attraction and retention. I mean, all of these things conjured up a need to really go back to my roots where William & Mary was so formidable in respect to the creation of some of that baselining for me.

Ken White

Yeah, it's great to hear. Yeah, that's great to hear. Was there a moment when you said I'd like to be a CEO? I think that's in my future.

Jeff Barna

That's a great question because I can remember early years being in different elevated positions in the way of, let's call it, middle to senior sales management. And I'm going to drop a name, but I do so with a fond memory. I can remember being sitting in a meeting with Roger Penske and his executive team, and for whatever reason, I was the only person in that representing my company at that time, sitting across from twelve guys that were all buttoned up and super impressive. And we had about a three-hour meeting, and I walked away from that meeting felt that not only did I hold my own, but I made an impression on the people on the other side of the table. And that was the trigger point for me where I said, maybe I can do something more expansive beyond that of sales. I will also say, and I call it crazy, or whatever the case might be, I was always that guy. Now remember I was in the automotive business back during the hardship times of 2007, 2008, 2009 the recession. And during that period of time, the automotive industry was shrinking and consolidating. And so I often found myself in an environment where someone would say, hey, we have a gap here. We have a need. Does anyone want to volunteer to do this work? And oftentimes, it was work that was not core to who I was, but I found it very interesting, and I felt I could learn something and. I also felt if I did that, it would help me from a springboard standpoint experientially be able to be more fluent in other aspects of the business. So again, I took on more opportunities for less pay, and I did that for, and those are concepts that are a little bit abstract for those that are going through college and business school today. But it's what I did, and I think it most definitely has led me to a place where I have confidence now in my decision-making and strategic thinking and those type of things that I feel that I'm on par with anybody of a leadership level that I compete against anyway.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Jeff Barna in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before, and that means change for business and your role in it. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you can be a part of creating the future. If you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead, we invite you to consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA all taught by the number one ranked MBA faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with the President and CEO of Yokohama Tire, Jeff Barna.

Ken White

I would say most CEOs we've had on the podcast have said the same thing. Take those opportunities. Even the projects that look like you can't win take them because you learn.

Jeff Barna

Yeah. And I want to be careful. I'm not a big fake it till you make it, guy. But I always felt that there were ingredients somewhere. And again, that toolkit that I was trying to build out that gave me the confidence that look. I'm going to get knocked down. I'm going to be put in my place. But it also put a premium on knowing that within a growing network, there were people who had the expertise that could help me navigate. And that was so there was on-the-job learning within the context of the role, but there were also people beyond that that were highly influential and gave me the confidence that I could do things in the way of manufacturing or supply chain or finance or legal, whatever the case might be. That was not core to an English degree that was tailor-made for a sales guy.

Ken White

Right. We should mention Penske. I don't know that there's a bigger name for those who don't know in racing. Right. So that had to be an incredible moment for you.

Jeff Barna

It was. It was terribly intimidating to be, to be honest with you, because I didn't realize they'd have twelve people at the table. But at the end, I didn't feel outnumbered. So something happened, something triggered on that day where I felt that there could be something more.

Ken White

Culture is very important to you. When you think that, what do you think? What comes to mind?

Jeff Barna

The first thing that comes to mind is we have very in the North American business, which again, we have to satisfy a very deliberate, intentional, purposeful Japan parent, but we're also able to put our fingerprints on the way the North American business is. So we want to personalize that as ours. So we have a tendency to come up with some very simple themes. Like as an example, I want to make sure that we're the most self-aware company in our industry. Self-awareness to me is critically important because if you practice it well, you're brutally honest about the mistakes you've made. You're brutally honest about your gaps and deficiencies. And in earnest, you start to fortify the business with action plans to address those gaps and deficiencies. So again, self-awareness is key. The other thing that's important to me is organizationally. We make sure that the team is all aligned with all we want to do is make sure that our business, at some point, can meet its potential, its true potential. And I'm not saying I'm not interested in metric-bound objectives, but things like market share growth, profit delivery, hitting a budget, and so on and so forth. We believe strongly that if we focus more on just getting the company to meet its potential, that all those other things will fall in line and then some. We found that to be the case. The other thing that I want to mention, I apologize if it sounds braggy, is that for years, for 103 years, our Japanese entity was always the number one entity worldwide in terms of net sales and operating income or profit delivery. And in 2022, when we wrapped up our financials, we found that the North American business actually eclipsed Japan for the first time. So it just seems like we have a nice marriage of culturally, Japan is allowing us to do our thing, putting the American spin on it. Being self-aware, we're kind of speed, guys. We like to move fast. But again, you can move fast in a business. But if you don't have that self-awareness so, moving fast, I could make a bad call. My team can alert me to that bad call. I would accept the fact that I probably made a bad call, and we can make a course correction and head in a better direction, maybe before some of our bigger competitors can even have that first meeting on that particular subject. So it's kind of exciting to be everyone on the same page in respect to we're in this together, and it's not about titles, and it's not about an attitude. Other than being selfless and being highly self-aware.

Ken White

How do you get the team to the point where they are willing to take chances, and going out there is okay once in a while?

Jeff Barna

How did you get that question? Because that's outstanding. Because again, imagine the parental relationship that existed before was US can't be counted on, exaggerates what they can do, under delivers that type of thing. Well, that would naturally, as you might imagine, would breed hesitancy. There was a lack of confidence. The decisions were not made in terms of bold or daring. They were made in terms of conformance. And that's what I said is in the early years when I said I'm going to dedicate of running myself to running interference and getting that loyalty and trust factor up with Japan. Meanwhile, you're going to start making decisions that you feel benefit our business on composite, whether that's leading with being more customer-focused taking some educated risks. But let's have a forum that we can monitor what these risks or these bold moves are actually meaning in terms of, again, not just wins in the way of performance or achievement but also lessons learned from, hey, let's not do that again. So that is still something that we can do more of. But again, winning breeds confidence, breeds a different application to the strategy you create and the way you make decisions, and how you empower people down the chain or down the line to make decisions on behalf of the company.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Jeff Barna. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the Executive MBA. If you are ready to take charge of your future, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Jeff Barna, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Kurt Matzler
Kurt MatzlerEpisode 196: April 5, 2023
Lessons from the World's Toughest Bike Race

Kurt Matzler

Episode 196: April 5, 2023

Lessons from the World's Toughest Bike Race

Outdoor Magazine calls it "the toughest sporting event in the world." It's the Race Across America: A 3,000-mile bike race from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis, Maryland, completed by cyclists in under 12 days. Last June, 34 cyclists began the race, 14 finished. After cycling 300 miles each day, Kurt Matzler was among the top finishers. Matzler is a strategy professor at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. While competing in the race, he saw a number of parallels between his experience racing across America and leadership. His new book, "The High Performance Mindset: What We Can Learn From The World's Toughest Bicycle Race," has just been released in German. The English version is expected in the US later this year. He spoke to our MBA students recently, and today he joins us to talk about the race, his experience, and how it generated leadership lessons.

Podcast (audio)

Kurt Matzler: Lessons from the World's Toughest Bike Race TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How Kurt raced while only sleeping two hours a night
  • What the training is like to get prepared for the race
  • What US regions are the most difficult
  • How the race led Kurt to create his leadership principles
  • Why leaders should "know the why"
  • How the power of visualization separates top athletes
  • How leaders can reframe problems into positive challenges
  • Why it's important to adopt a strategy that works for your own goals
  • What it means to hire for attitude and train for skills
Transcript

Kurt Matzler

And that visualization must be very concrete. You must feel it. You must smell it. You must even feel the emotion. So you must, when you think about it, about this big goal, when you achieve it, it must cause a goosebumps.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Outdoor magazine calls it the toughest sporting event in the world. It's the Race Across America, a 3000-mile bike race from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis, Maryland, completed by cyclists in under twelve days. Last June, 34 cyclists began the race, 14 finished. After cycling 300 miles each day, Kurt Matzler was among the top finishers. Matzler is a strategy professor at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. While competing in the race, he saw a number of parallels between his experience racing across America and leadership. His new book, the High Performance Mindset: What We Can Learn from the World's Toughest Bicycle Race, has just been released in German. The English version is expected in the US later this year. He spoke to our MBA students recently, and today he joins us to talk about the race, his experience, and how it generated leadership lessons. Here's our conversation with Kurt Matzler.

Ken White

Well, Kurt, it's great to see you again. Thanks very much for joining us.

Kurt Matzler

Thanks for the invitation. It's a great pleasure.

Ken White

So Race Across America. What an interesting athletic event. How did you get involved with it?

Kurt Matzler

Well, I'm a Rotarian, and I'm a cyclist. And a few years ago, Bob McKenzie from Tulsa, Oklahoma, founded the team Rotary Rams Polio. His idea was to combine the passion for cycling with racing donations to eradicate Polio. And so I became part of the team.

Ken White

Yeah, but in this particular race, you raced solo. Why did you make that decision versus racing it as a part of a team?

Kurt Matzler

Yeah, so we did it four times on a team of four, and I'm really a passionate cyclist. And Race Across America is the greatest thing and the most difficult and toughest bike race you can do. And so I got fascinated by the idea, and so one day, I decided to do it solo.

Ken White

Wow. I think one of the things in having heard you share your experiences before, one of the things that really struck me among many was the fact that you slept very little as you competed. In fact, 2 hours a day. Most people can't even fathom that. How did you come to that conclusion to do that?

Kurt Matzler

You have to do that because you have a maximum of twelve days to cross the continent, 3000 miles. So you cannot sleep more than two or 3 hours per day. You have to be on the bike for the rest of the day. For the rest of the day. And it took me eleven days and 5 hours to finish the race.

Ken White

What about the training for it? How long did you train to get ready?

Kurt Matzler

You need about five years to train, and five years means a lot of training. Overall, it was about 60,000 miles of cycling in the last five years. So between 15 and 30 hours of training a week for five years.

Ken White

We've had so many CEOs and leaders and people just like you on the podcast, and so many of them are dedicated to working out every morning. They know that's a major key to success. When were your workouts? How did you do them?

Kurt Matzler

I did it mostly in the morning during the week. So between one to 3 hours per day during the week. And on the weekends I had my long training rides. And long means up to seven or 8 hours per day.

Ken White

Yeah. Wow. And it obviously paid off. And, of course, you had a terrific support team. Can you tell us about the group that was with you?

Kurt Matzler

Yes, you need a great team first, support team. And you need a lot of people because it's very tough for them to support you. I had four cars, four follow vehicles. They have defeat you. They have to support you. They have to give you water. You need a physician with you, a physiotherapist. And basically, everything you need is your responsibility because there is nothing provided by the organizers of the race.

Ken White

Wow. And you had a heck of a team. Yeah. When you look back at the race, what state in the United States or what region of the country was the most difficult as you were racing?

Kurt Matzler

For me, it was the desert in Arizona because it is it was very hot, 120 degrees for almost two days. That was very hard. Rocky Mountains, of course. And then a mental challenge was Kansas, Missouri, the Great Plain.

Ken White

Why were those two states such a challenge?

Kurt Matzler

Because it's just flat, you paddle and paddle, and you think you don't make any progress because the landscape does not change, and there is a lot of crosswinds and headwinds. So it's basically a mental challenge there.

Ken White

Yeah. Having heard the talk that you presented to our students, it seems like doing this race is a lot like running a company or leading an organization. And as a result, you've created some leadership lessons from this experience. And I thought our audience would enjoy walking through them, and you have five in particular. Actually, you can have more, but you have five that you always like to share. And the first one is know the why. Can you explain that?

Kurt Matzler

Exactly. It's a very hard race and it gets really hard. And when it gets hard, you really need to know why you are doing this. And hard means you are sleep deprived. You are physically exhausted. Especially the Rocky Mountains. It was hard for me climbing the Wolf Creek Pass. It was raining, it was cold at night. And there I started to think, why am I doing this? Why am I here? And then we have a motto we are raising donations to eradicate Polio. And then a thought came to my mind. Children that have Polio, they cannot quit. They are in for life. And our motto is we ride so that others can walk. If you have such a great purpose, this is where the motivation comes from. And there is a very good book about purpose written by Viktor Frankl, who has survived four concentration camps in Nazi Germany. And there, he made an interesting observation. Those prisoners who still had a project to finish or a why to live, they had a higher chance of survival. And so he framed the following quote those who have a why to live can bear with almost any how. If you have a good why, you can really go through the hardest sufferings and hardships.

Ken White

Yeah. Wow. Fascinating. Number two, use the power of visualization.

Kurt Matzler

Yes. That separates the top athletes from average athletes. And that also can be traced back to Viktor Frankl I just mentioned. Because those prisoners who, when they went in those concentration camps when they went through all the sufferings and hardships, they all visualized the outcome of the outcome. How will it be when I see my family again, my friends again? So they visualize this and this is what top athletes do as well. How will it be when I reach my big goal? And that visualization must be very concrete. You must feel it. You must smell it. You must even feel the emotion. So when you think about it, about this big goal, when you achieve it, it must cause a goosebumps. So that's the power of visualization. That is where your motivation comes from when it's hard. But I have also learned never think how far you still have to go. When you start thinking in Kansas, still 2000 miles, that leads to frustration. Instead, define small wins that give you a sense of achievement, little progress. And for me, it was the next crossing, the next village, et cetera. So define many small wins along the way that give you the sense of achievement.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Kurt Matzler in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before. And that means change for business and your role in it. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you could be a part of creating the future if you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead. We invite you to consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA all taught by the number one ranked MBA faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation on leadership lessons from the world's toughest bike race with Kurt Matzler.

Ken White

Number three reframe problems into positive challenges.

Kurt Matzler

Yes, that was one of my mental trainings I did before the race. You know, there is a lot, a lot of difficulties. It is the heat in the desert. It is a sleep deprivation. It is pain, horrible knee ache, for example, physical exhaustion. So what I did is I tried to reframe those difficulties into positive challenges. So what I tried was see these difficulties as challenges I have to overcome. And that went so well that I really was looking forward to be in the heat of the desert because I knew once I'm there and once I have that overcome, I have accomplished a very big thing. And then I was looking forward to be in the Rocky Mountains because I knew once I have accomplished this, it's another milestone. And that is a very simple mental technique. And it's also known in psychology. There are many studies, for example, that have shown that students who see test anxiety as something positive are found to do better on tests. So refrain problems into positive challenges. In every difficulty, there is a positive side. So emphasize the positive side.

Ken White

Number four adopt or adapt rather a different strategy. What do you mean by that?

Kurt Matzler

Yes, for such a race, you need a strategy that is clear. And I'm a professor. I'm 53 years old. I'm not a professional cyclist, but I was on the podium of this race, and I was among the world's best ultra cyclists. And when I thought about the strategy, I, of course, analyzed how others do the strategy. And there is one strategy that is adopted by almost everyone. It's the winner strategy. Strategy of Christoph Strasser, who set the world record and has won the race six times. So he sleeps less than 1 hour per day. That's almost nothing. His first sleep break is after 36 hours. He has a motor home where he sleeps, and he sleeps. If he sleeps, he sleeps at night. And everyone copies this strategy. There is a finisher ratio of 50%. The finisher ratio of rookie is less than 30%. And it's in my belief because everyone tries to copy the strategy of the champion, which does not work because it works for him. It works for his objective. He has optimized this strategy. It's based on his unique skills and competencies. And I adopted a totally different strategy. My first sleep break was after 20 hours. So I knew I will fall behind because the other racers will go on. I stopped for 4 hours per day, two to 3 hours of sleep break. I had my sleep break at noon when it was so hot. And I did not have an RV, I had a hotel. So I did it totally different. So my lesson was, as an underdog, you can be among the champion, but not if you copy their strategy. You have to find your own way. And sometimes, it needs an outsider to see what makes sense and what does not make sense. And sometimes, it needs an outsider to have the courage to do it differently. It was not my intention to win the race. It was to finish the race. And it worked very well. So don't copy the winner, don't copy the champions. You need to find your own strategy based on your own goals and based on your own strengths.

Ken White

Yeah. Terrific, terrific advice. And finally, number five, the team is more than the sum of its parts.

Kurt Matzler

Exactly. This is also very hard for the crew. I had twelve crew members. It's not a vacation in the United States. They also suffer from a sleep deprivation. It's very hard work. And when I assembled the team, I did not what most companies do, most companies, when they recruit employees, they hire for skills and train for attitudes, which in my view, usually does not work because you cannot change attitudes or values of people. So what I did was I recruited for attitudes and trained for skills. So hire for attitude and train for skills. And what I was looking for was, first, how well do people get along with others? That is extremely important in such extreme situations. Second, how optimistic are they? Because you depend on the crew, you depend on their motivation because they have to motivate you. They're extremely important. And then skills are important as well. But my lesson was hire for skills and then train for attitudes. And this creates a world-class team because if you have such a team that shares the passion for the big goal for the project and if they share the value, they will do more than 100%.

Ken White

Yeah, the whole thing is fascinating. The race in itself is fascinating. But the leadership lessons that you've created. What kind of a response do you get from leaders and executives, and companies when you share these? What are their reactions?

Kurt Matzler

There are so many executives that love sports, and now when you talk about leadership in such a context, it's much more accessible to them first. And second, some of the lessons are a bit surprising, others are maybe not that surprising. But when they hear it from this perspective or this context, they are much better received.

Ken White

Do they seem to be more interested in the race part of the story or the lesson part of your story?

Kurt Matzler

Actually more the race part of the story, but that is storytelling in education. You always need to tell stories, and then in these stories, in an ideal world, in each story, there is a lesson. So they might remember the story and hopefully also the lesson that comes with it.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Kurt Matzler, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you're ready to take charge of your future, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Kurt Matzler, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Kim Lopdrup
Kim LopdrupEpisode 195: March 21, 2023
Serving on a Board

Kim Lopdrup

Episode 195: March 21, 2023

Serving on a Board

Serving on a board, whether corporate or non-profit, is a goal for many professionals. But how do you get there, and what's required of board members? A Havard Business Review article titled "Are You Ready to Serve On A Board?" lists five types of intelligence aspiring board members should possess. They include a financial IQ, a strategic IQ, the ability to build relationships, understanding where you add value, and having a 'get it done' attitude. Kim Lopdrup is the former CEO of Red Lobster. He currently serves on multiple boards, including Wawa and Bob Evans, and he has experience on non-profit boards as well. He joins us today to discuss the role of the board member, the time and talent required, and how members of the board benefit from their experience.

Podcast (audio)

Kim Lopdrup: Serving on a Board TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What draws Kim to board membership
  • What one learns from board membership experience
  • What to look for when deciding on joining a board
  • The difference between for-profit and non-profit boards
  • What is the time commitment when serving on a board
  • The benefits of being on committees
  • What training is required when serving on a board
Transcript

Kim Lopdrup

I've been fortunate in that the boards I've been on have had, at least well, they haven't been directly competitive with the companies I've worked for. They're dealing with many of the same issues, and actually, I have learned a lot from hearing about the same issues from different perspectives, and I've always found it's helped me in whatever business I'm running day to day.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Serving on a board, whether corporate or nonprofit, is a goal for many professionals. But how do you get there, and what's required of board members? A Harvard Business Review article titled Are You Ready to Serve on a Board lists five types of intelligence aspiring board members should possess. They include a financial IQ, a strategic IQ, the ability to build relationships, understanding where you add value, and having a get-it-done attitude. Kim Lopdrup is the former CEO of Red Lobster. He currently serves on multiple boards, including those at Wawa and Bob Evans, and he has experience on nonprofit boards as well. He joins us today to discuss the role of the board member, the time and talent required, and how members of the board benefit from their experience. Here's our conversation with the former CEO of Red Lobster, Kim Lopdrup.

Ken White

Well, Kim, welcome to the podcast. Nice to have you back.

Kim Lopdrup

Great to be here, Ken. Thanks for having me.

Ken White

And right before you and I are sitting down, you were with some William & Mary students in class going through a case. How did that go?

Kim Lopdrup

It was fun. We were with Dawn Edmiston's strategic marketing class doing the Red Lobster case. So that was one that didn't take a lot of preparation. So that was fun.

Ken White

I think you were ready for that. Yeah. How did you find the students?

Kim Lopdrup

Very sharp and engaged. It was a fun session.

Ken White

Did it bring back memories of being in the classroom for you?

Kim Lopdrup

Oh, absolutely. I was an undergraduate here, and certainly, William & Mary helped change my life. I came here as really having no clue what I wanted to do, and William & Mary helped me figure out what I really liked and got me on the right track. And I am hugely grateful to William & Mary.

Ken White

Always so nice to hear. And again, welcome back. We've talked to you before about turnarounds. We've talked to you about leadership as well, and we were looking back at all of the various topics we've discussed on the podcast, and we've never talked about boards. What are they? How does one get on a board? And so forth. And you are on some boards right now. Why? What is it about that position that makes you say, yes, I'm in?

Kim Lopdrup

There are several types of boards. One of the early ones was just getting on the boards of Boys and Girls Clubs. And Joe Lee, who was chairman of Darden Restaurants at the time, a CEO and chairman of Darden Restaurants at the time, was so passionate about Boys and Girls Clubs, and I respected him hugely. And I did have a passion for kids, and particularly from disadvantaged circumstances. But it was really Joe who got me focused on the organization. And I think because Darden was a supporter, they kind of made me Darden's representative on the Boys and Girls Club board. But boy, oh boy, did I learn what makes that organization so effective and became incredibly passionate about it. And that helped me a lot later. In terms of for-profit boards, I think the first one was Hiram Walker and Sons. I worked for Allied Domecq Plc at the time, which is a big British large-cap company. They were the number two spirits company in the world and then owned Dunkin Brands as part of their management development program. Because they, you know, viewed me as having potential. They said it would be good for me to get experience on the board of one of their other one of the other companies they own, which was Hiram Walker and Son. So that was probably my first for-profit board. Probably the second one was Rubio's Baja Grill, which is a fish taco chain based in Southern California. At the time, I was in charge of M&A for Dunkin Brands and was looking at different things. I saw Rubio's, and it didn't fit what Dunkin was looking for, but I thought it really had some special things, and I actually contacted the company. I said, Are you looking for investments? And they said, well, yes, as a matter of fact, we're doing a round. We've got Rosewood Capital in, and we're doing another round. If you'd like to invest, we'd love to have you. And you know what? Why don't you join our board too? And since I was with a large restaurant company, they were smaller. They were happy to have me involved. But certainly, when you're making an investment in a private company, often they're very pleased to have you on their board, particularly if it's an earlier-stage company. And then the third one would be Wawa, the convenience store chain. They found me through an executive recruiter and my company-owned restaurant experience. I was president of Red Lobster at the time, so the company ownership, the cultural fit, was important. My prior experience at Dunkin Donuts was relevant for their business as well.

Ken White

Sure. What do you learn from an experience like being on a board?

Kim Lopdrup

You really do learn a lot. And I've been fortunate in that the boards I've been on have had at least while they haven't been directly competitive with the companies I've worked for, they're dealing with many of the same issues. And actually, I have learned a lot from hearing about the same issues from different perspectives. And I've always found it's helped me in whatever business I'm running day to day. In terms of the nonprofit boards, I've also learned a lot, and we were very successful at diversity at Red Lobster and named a Forbes list of America's Best Employers for Diversity. That is entirely because of what I learned from Boys and Girls Club entirely. And I've often made helpful connections through work on different boards, and actually, particularly nonprofit boards, made helpful connections I wouldn't have otherwise made that ultimately wind up being important in ways I never would have expected.

Ken White

So I would assume some of our listeners, mid-career professionals, maybe even early career professionals, have the chance to be on a nonprofit board. Your advice would be?

Kim Lopdrup

Absolutely. What I would say is try to pick something you're genuinely passionate about and also expect with a nonprofit. Yeah, they want you there for board governance. But usually, at least for a nonprofit, at least 50% of your time is going to be helping with fundraising and certainly an expectation of making a donation yourself, which is great as long as you've chosen something you're truly passionate about. And I would say with a nonprofit or a for-profit, choose something you're truly passionate about.

Ken White

How do you find out what responsibilities you'll have, and what responsibilities did you have on some of your boards?

Kim Lopdrup

Well, you start out by asking, generally, you ask, what are the responsibilities, what are the time expectations? How often do you meet to make sure you can fulfill the expectations? The purpose of a for-profit board is not to run the company. It is to provide governance and make sure that shareholders' interests are protected. So, for example, public company boards will almost always have an audit committee to make sure the financials are being reported accurately. It will almost always have a compensation committee to make sure executives are being paid fairly. And you will almost always have a nominating and governance committee to make sure that the oversight is truly independent and not being controlled by the CEO or insider forces. So the goal of a public company board is to protect shareholder interests. They will also approve major capital projects, look at the risks the company is facing, things like that. A nonprofit board actually has largely the same responsibilities, but typically with a nonprofit, there's an expectation that you're personally donating and or raising money in other ways. Some nonprofits actually have a very specific target. You need to give or raise this amount to be on our board. So it's perfectly appropriate to ask what the expectation is when you're signing up for something.

Ken White

Yeah. What kind of time commitment?

Kim Lopdrup

Oh, it varies dramatically for, you know, and some nonprofits are less disciplined than a for-profit in terms of enforcing attendance expectations. But for a for-profit company, it will typically range from. I would say twelve days a year. If you've got a well-oiled machine, they'll probably have quarterly board meetings. They might be two-day board meetings, and you have to put in another day of, you know, preparation and other, other things you're handling. So I'd say twelve days would be best case. But if there's a crisis, all of a sudden, it can become almost a full-time job while navigating through that crisis. So it varies a lot. And the better managed, stronger companies, frankly, are generally easier than either a new company or a company that's going public or a company that's going through a crisis.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Kim Lopdrup in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before, and that means change for business and your role in it. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you can be a part of creating the future. If you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead, we invite you to consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA, all taught by the number one ranked MBA faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Kim Lopdrup.

Ken White

You mentioned committees. Do you want to be on a committee where you have expertise, or do you want to be on one where you might learn?

Kim Lopdrup

Actually, it's probably a combination of both. And if somebody's new to being on a board, they're probably all situations where you'd learn. But actually, I think it's very valuable to try to get experience on all the key committees.

Ken White

What about education? On the boards you've been has there been training and education for new board members? And is that something people should seek out?

Kim Lopdrup

There are organizations that do provide training and even certificate programs. To be honest with you, I kind of picked it up as I went. And rather than go through specific training, there is a lot to learn, particularly with a public company there's SEC guidelines and rules are really, really important. And if somebody's going to do that for the first time, there actually are training programs available that I'm sure are quite good.

Ken White

Have you ever chaired a board?

Kim Lopdrup

I am a chair of a board, Botrista's board.

Ken White

And what kind of responsibility does that entail?

Kim Lopdrup

The chairman is really, I mean, a director but is the person who does the coordinate sort of the leader among the directors who's calling board meetings, who is developing agendas, is leading the meetings, often working behind the scenes to understand what the issues are, what people's perspectives are, talk people into position ahead of a board meeting. So they're the leader among the directors, but like other directors, they get just one vote.

Ken White

Right. Fun. What's been the most fun board you've been on?

Kim Lopdrup

I would say it's been Wawa because they are so remarkably driven by their values and really trying to do the right thing at every turn. And it's a fascinating company. It's something like 230 years old that's made such remarkable pivots from being an iron foundry to, you know, when that, you know, making fire hydrants and cannonballs and that dried up. So they went into textiles making diapers and stuff, and that dried up. So they became a dairy farm that brought milk to your door. The economics of that got a little shaky. So they went into dairy stores, and that morphed into convenience stores. Then they decided to add fresh food. Then they decided to become a fuel retailer, and it just keeps morphing and changing in astounding ways. But the secret to it is their employee stock ownership plan, which employees own about 40% of the company. Somebody who is working at the counter making your coffee but has never been promoted but has been there for 30 years has a million and a half dollars in their ESOP account for retirement. And those who've gotten promoted have done considerably better. But I love that it's a company that just has incredible values, cares about its employees, and it's really an opportunity for people who weren't born with a silver spoon in their mouth to actually retire comfortably. But at every turn, they do the right thing first. It's really a joy to work with them.

Ken White

You seem to have a place in your heart for that particular kind of worker because I remember when we talked about Red Lobster, you saying what a great place to be and to succeed where you do not need a college degree. Wawa sounds quite similar.

Kim Lopdrup

Yes, actually, it is. And there's just a huge percent of the population that were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth and maybe didn't have the means and opportunity to get a William & Mary degree. But they're good people, and if you give them an opportunity to make a positive contribution and work hard, they actually are very excited to have that kind of opportunity and tend to be very loyal and tend to have great values and do a great job serving the customer and ultimately creating a success story that will serve shareholders well.

Ken White

I assume you would have had some fun with Boys and Girls Club working there. What are some of the memories you have there?

Kim Lopdrup

Again, that one was special also. What is amazing Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida? We had 17,000 members, most of whom were growing up in single-parent households with low incomes and not a single successful role model anywhere around them, mostly minorities. And yet, out of 17,000 members, we found that typically you'd have maybe two pregnancies a year, maybe four get in trouble with the law out of 17,000, again, growing up in drug-infested, gang-infested neighborhoods, which was astounding, and the high school graduation rate was better than that for the general population. And here's what I learned that was the key. Number one, make it a fun place that people want to be because in, particularly after school hours, which is when kids get in trouble because there's no one home to supervise. Secondly, have the club director. Actually, club directors and employees get to know the kids and see what their strengths and dreams are and actually affirm them. You know, Jamal, I think you've got real potential, and you're really good at this. And you're really good at that. Tell me about your dream for your life, and I think you can really do that. Well, let's talk about how let's build a plan for how to do that. You're right, and here I'm going to help you. And the fascinating thing is, once kids have a dream for their lives and believe it is achievable, they will walk through walls to make that dream come true. The kids who don't believe they can have a bright future are the ones who live for today and make stupid decisions that undermine their potential to have a bright future. Things that get them arrested or pregnant or whatever. Helping a kid believe they can have a bright future is key, and Boys and Girls Clubs does that so well. And it is 100% positive messaging. These kids hear so many negative messages, often from people who are well intended about why they're not going to be successful, why they don't have an opportunity that is so harmful to kids. Boys and Girls Club is a 100% positive message focused on the individual. You, Jamal, have potential. Yes, your dream is achievable, and I'm going to help you. Incredibly effective. And by the way, that's part of why we were so effective at diversity at Red Lobster. When I retired, we had four executive VPs who report to me. Three were black. We had no quotas, no chief diversity officer. But yeah, I did work harder to recruit, mentor, retain minorities. But you know what? When it came time to decide who got that job completely level playing field. Those who got it earned it. But again, if someone believes a dream is achievable and you're helping them, they will walk through walls. They will do whatever it takes to make that dream become a reality.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Kim Lopdrup, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you're ready to take charge of your future, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Kim Lopdrup, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Dawn Edmiston
Dawn EdmistonEpisode 194: March 6, 2023
Taking Stock of Your Personal Brand

Dawn Edmiston

Episode 194: March 6, 2023

Taking Stock of Your Personal Brand

Now that we're settled into 2023, it's a good time of the year to take stock of your personal brand. The way you're perceived by others is important. Yet many professionals rarely take the time to ensure their brand is up-to-date, relevant, and visible. For example, when was the last time you carefully reviewed your LinkedIn profile? Your brand and the tools you use to promote it require your attention. Dawn Edmiston is a professor of marketing at the William & Mary School of Business. She's an author, researcher, and personal branding expert. She joins us today to discuss your personal brand: How you can be sure it's relevant, and why this time of the year is a good time for a personal brand update. 

Podcast (audio)

Dawn Edmiston: Taking Stock of Your Personal Brand TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is a personal brand
  • How the creation of a personal brand is a journey and not a tactic
  • Why an updated LinkedIn profile is important
  • What to think about when developing a personal brand
  • How often employers search LinkedIn for candidates
  • What is the Perfect Pitch
  • How to incorporate videos into a LinkedIn profile
  • The importance of knowing your audience
Transcript

Dawn Edmiston

Individuals should think about their personal brand as what people say about you when you walk out of the room.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, now that we're settled into 2023, it's a good time of the year to take stock of your personal brand. The way you're perceived by others is important, yet many professionals rarely take the time to ensure their brand is up-to-date, relevant, and visible. For example, when was the last time you carefully reviewed your LinkedIn profile? Well, your brand and the tools you use to promote it require your attention. Dawn Edmiston is a professor of marketing at the William & Mary School of Business. She's an author, researcher, and personal branding expert. She joins us on the podcast today to discuss your personal brand, how you can be sure it's relevant, and why this time of the year is a good time for a personal brand update. Here's our conversation with Dawn Edmiston.

Ken White

Dawn, thank you for joining us. It's great to see you. Thanks for being on the podcast.

Dawn Edmiston

It's always so good to see you, too.

Ken White

And you are pretty special. We should lay this right out for our listeners. You have now appeared on the podcast more than any other guest. How about that?

Dawn Edmiston

I will take that. That is a great compliment. I appreciate it. There's no place I'd rather be.

Ken White

Well, thank you. We're almost at 200 episodes, and this is the fourth time you've been on, partly because it's you and partly because of your expertise. And this is something that really resonates with the listeners of the podcast is your personal brand. For newcomers to that term, what is a personal brand?

Dawn Edmiston

I like to share that individuals should think about their personal brand as what people say about you when you walk out of the room. And I think it's important to understand how it is that you're perceived. It's somewhat ironic that we even refer to it as a personal brand because it really is about how others perceive us. So it's not about you. It's about your audience.

Ken White

But you have some control over the audience.

Dawn Edmiston

And you should take control of your personal brand. In this era of online environments and digital technologies, if you do not choose to explicitly develop your personal brand, it will be implicitly developed for you.

Ken White

Great. Yeah. Just like a business, if you don't have your brand, your competitors will be more than happy to create one for you.

Dawn Edmiston

Yes.

Ken White

Yeah. Wow. How do you suggest people create their personal brand? Are there some steps? What do you recommend?

Dawn Edmiston

A personal brand should have two elements to it. You should have an introspective element where you've thought about your why. Why is it that I do what I do? What is it that I want to do? Why is it that I contribute the value that I do? And then you should always have that external perspective. So once you have an understanding of what you believe that you do and the value that you contribute, you should confirm that valuation with others. So individuals that know you well, whether it's family, friends, coworkers, ask them to share three adjectives to describe you. Ask them to share if you can talk about one experience that I made an impact on you. What was that experience, and why? And then, you need to determine what I thought I was representing. Is that truly what's being understood? And then refine your personal brand as needed.

Ken White

So you create it, and then you have to live it, of course, and demonstrate it. And then promotion then is a piece of that as well.

Dawn Edmiston

Yes. It's even hard at this point to refer to it as a personal brand because that seems to be a tactic, where a personal brand is actually a journey. And it evolves as you evolve. Which is one of the reasons I think you're able to continue to invite me back because we're never having the same conversation twice. Because as the market evolves, we evolve or we should evolve.

Ken White

Some say it's good every once in a while, whether it's annually or some period of time to sort of take stock of the personal brand. Do you agree?

Dawn Edmiston

Yes. Yes, I do agree. And I think sometimes that individuals are hesitant to pursue personal branding because they think it will take significant time. And, you know, we live in a world where 24/7 just doesn't even seem to be enough time to do what we need to do. But I reassure individuals for a few minutes every week, even a few minutes every month if that's all you have to give it. If you're intentional about your personal brand. Meaning, let's use LinkedIn as an example since that is a platform for expressing and networking, expressing our personal brand, and networking through professional development if you can just spend a few minutes every month making a connection, engaging with other individuals, sharing an article that you found of value that month, that's what you need to do. And it doesn't have to be that you're engaged in social media 2 hours a day, 4 hours a week. It literally if you can dedicate a few minutes to it, intentional minutes, that can be very helpful to ensuring that you continue to have a personal brand that evolves with you.

Ken White

LinkedIn, is that number one?

Dawn Edmiston

LinkedIn still does tend to be the professional development platform. That has not changed. In fact, when Microsoft purchased LinkedIn a few years ago, that somewhat cemented LinkedIn's position as a platform because Microsoft has continued to invest in them. They don't want LinkedIn just to be seen as the place that you go to when you need a job. They want you to view LinkedIn as a place for professional development, where you network, where you now have LinkedIn learning, where you can learn how to build your skills and promote your skills and connect with others. So it's really become a very powerful community. And yes, if you only have a few minutes to dedicate to your social media efforts for personal branding, LinkedIn is the place to start.

Ken White

Yeah, it really has changed, hasn't it? When it launched, it was a Rolodex.

Dawn Edmiston

Yes, in fact, yes, it was very simple. But when we think about Facebook, when Facebook launched, it really was a yearbook, the days when Facebook and Yearbook. And now it's become a community. And really that's how social media has gained value and it's all about building community. So it's not enough about simply please do not think of LinkedIn or when you're personal branding, it's about what you're posting. It's about how you're engaging with others. And it's not about the quantity, it truly is about the quality. Yes, you do have to have a certain quantity. You do have to be involved. You do have to be there. But I don't want you, or don't need you, or don't even recommend that you post six times a day, six times a month. That would be just fine. And again, if it takes a minute each post, that's that six minutes that you've dedicated to it.

Ken White

So if a listener is saying, I really haven't looked at my personal brand for a while, I'll go, I'll check on LinkedIn, what should they look for? What are some of the things they need to clean up?

Dawn Edmiston

The first thing that you need to think about is where you are from a professional perspective. Your personal brand should be reflective not only of who you are but who you want to be and what you want to become. So, for example, in 2023, you know, as we move from, you know, the great resignation into, you know, all of these new opportunities that individuals are starting to pursue. I often talked about the importance of being able to reframe our experience. So, for example, you might be an accountant who is looking to move in an entirely different field. And there are some real skills, transferable skills that accountants can use in a multitude of fields. The keen attention to detail, being able to work with diverse clientele, project management, those are all skills that could also be transferred into arts management. I mean, something so very different but very valuable and transferable skills. So if you haven't taken the time to look at your LinkedIn profile or really thought about how your personal brand is perceived, now is the time to do that. And again, audit not only where you are but where you want to be. And be certain that it's congruent. Be certain that your LinkedIn profile is reflective of that individual and that value that you want to contribute moving forward.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Dawn Edmiston in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before, and that means change for business and your role in it. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you can be a part of creating the future. If you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead, we invite you to consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA all taught by the number one-ranked MBA faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Dawn Edmiston.

Ken White

How much do employers go to LinkedIn to look for new employees?

Dawn Edmiston

Nearly 100%. I don't, I don't know, and even if an organization is telling you that they do not, the likelihood is that they are. And their HR department perhaps told them that they should not have stated that publicly. And that is the truth. And individuals will search for you. It's part of our daily lives. And so, again, if you do not choose to have a presence, your presence will be built by others. So and LinkedIn, for it being one of the most reputable, well-known platforms, also means that if you're on that platform, you tend to rank high naturally in the Google organic searches. And Google still owns 92% of the search market. So if you have a LinkedIn profile, there is a very good chance, and a personalized LinkedIn profile, a personalized URL, there is a very good chance that when your name is searched, that will be one of the first responses that's returned in the search.

Ken White

You do some interesting things and have your students do a very interesting project regarding video and LinkedIn. Can you tell us about that?

Dawn Edmiston

I do. In fact, we call it the perfect pitch. So it leverages actually YouTube and LinkedIn to your comment earlier about how marketing has evolved, how personal branding has evolved, and LinkedIn has evolved. So LinkedIn now encourages you to embed video, embed media, have featured media within the LinkedIn platform, and in many ways, is serving that you no longer have to have your own website. For example, you can have your own LinkedIn profile, and it can really serve to be a portfolio of you and your work. So The Perfect Pitch video is a 60-second video in which I challenge students to think about how they would convey their value to others in a very creative manner. And of course, William & Mary's students constantly serve as a source of inspiration for me. These videos have now received more than 100,000 views. And I like to think that it's because not just about the content, but about how the content is delivered in a very engaging environment. So in many aspects, individuals would rather engage with you on video than on a one-page static resume. And so if we can create that experiential element of it, it really elevates your brand to the next level.

Ken White

Some of these videos are fantastic, right? Wow. You look at that and say. I'd hire that individual.

Dawn Edmiston

And that is the point.

Ken White

Yeah.

Dawn Edmiston

And it really becomes a distinct competitive advantage for our students because they can use these videos not only in their LinkedIn profiles but if they happen to have networked at a professional event. They can follow up with a recruiter and include a link to that video and share with them. Use it as an opportunity for another touch point and another chance to tell their story.

Ken White

Yeah, great differentiation.

Dawn Edmiston

Yes, yes, yes.

Ken White

Yeah.

Dawn Edmiston

And it also emphasizes the value of storytelling. Individuals can share with you their credentials their titles, but what you're truly going to recall about individuals are their life stories, and what matters to them and, what is it that they did that mattered to others, and how could they potentially bring that value to your organization.

Ken White

As our listeners are doing, they're taking stock of their personal brand and their social media presence, taking a look at LinkedIn, making sure that looks great. What else? Any other channels? Where do you recommend people go next and do next?

Dawn Edmiston

You need to know your audience, and you cannot be all things to all people. I get exhausted just thinking about that proposition. And it's really important that you know your audience. Who is it that you want to reach? And there can be instances where it might not make sense for you to be on Twitter, for example, because your audience is just not there. But if they're on Instagram, then that's where you need to be. So if you're very visual, if you're working in a world where visual and video and those elements are important, then you need to be on Instagram. If you're working in an environment where you want to be able to share resources and insights, and quick thoughts, then Twitter is a good channel for you to be there. I think it's just so critical that we understand who our audience is because we all have limited resources, and that could just simply be the number of hours in a day. And so we want to be really focused upon making the most with what we have.

Ken White

I don't know that people do that very often. Think of the audience first. They tend to think of, at least in my experience, they think of the channel, the outlet first.

Dawn Edmiston

Sure. And again, I think that as a marketer, it's always audience-customer-driven. And I recall having read many years ago how Oprah Winfrey, perhaps one of the most famous, if not one of the most famous personal brands in the world, really did not want to be associated with that term. She did not want to be known as a personal brand because it really commercialized her intent, her soul, her spirit, her the impact that she could have in the world. But when she realized that her personal brand was a tool to reach her audience, that became a different way of thinking about it. And so I hope that our listeners hear that and understand that as well.

Ken White

A great point because some people just roll their eyes, oh, this is promotion. I don't want to do this. But if you put the audience first, makes a great deal of sense.

Dawn Edmiston

Yes. I know that many of my students often find it hard to believe that I am a true introvert. I'm a true introvert at heart. I prefer to be in the library. And what I recognized that if I am not putting myself out there, if I am not developing my own personal brand and sharing that with others, then I'm losing really special opportunities to share value. And once you start to appreciate it, not from the promotional aspect, but from the exchange of value aspect, I think it really does make an impact. And I think it really does allow you to see personal branding as a very different and perhaps even valuable concept.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Dawn Edmiston, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you're ready to take charge of your future, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Professor Dawn Edmiston, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Matt Williams
Matt WilliamsEpisode 193: February 21, 2023
The Leadership Shift

Matt Williams

Episode 193: February 21, 2023

The Leadership Shift

As the world evolves, leadership also evolves. There's no doubt the leader of today and tomorrow will be different from the leader of the past. Qualities and approaches that defined yesterday's high-quality leaders won't work moving forward. Our guest today says a fundamental shift is occurring, and leaders must adapt. Matt Williams is a clinical professor at William & Mary's School of Business and an experienced and successful leader. He's the Managing Director of Brand Federation and the former CEO of The Martin Agency—one of the top advertising agencies in America. He says in order to succeed, leaders have to change their way of thinking; about themselves, their organizations, and their employees.

Podcast (audio)

Matt Williams: The Leadership Shift TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Why does leadership matter
  • What types of people make good leaders today versus 20-30 years ago
  • How the expectations of leaders has changed over time
  • What happens when knowledge outgrows our ability to manage it
  • How the expectations of a leader towards their employees has changed
  • What is the true definition of a work-life balance
  • The fallacy of the "corporate family"
  • Why it's important to celebrate work
  • Why workplace culture is important
Transcript

Matt Williams

Our ability to grow knowledge has now crossed over humankind's ability to assimilate that knowledge. It's growing faster than we can deal with as a species. And when we cross over that line, it fundamentally changes the world we live in.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, as the world evolves, leadership also evolves. There's no doubt the leader of today and tomorrow will be different from the leader of the past. Qualities and approaches that defined yesterday's high-quality leaders won't work moving forward. Our guest today says a fundamental shift is occurring, and leaders must adapt. Matt Williams is a Clinical Professor at William & Mary School of Business and an experienced and successful leader. He's the managing director of Brand Federation and the former CEO of the Martin Agency, one of the top advertising agencies in America. He says in order to succeed, leaders have to change their way of thinking about themselves, their organizations, and their employees. Here's our conversation with Matt Williams.

Ken White

Matt, thanks for joining us. It's nice to see you. Welcome.

Matt Williams

Thanks for having me, Ken. Great to be here.

Ken White

It's been a few years, actually. The last time you were actually on the podcast. Once upon a time when I met you at the Martin Agency. It's been a few years, and it's great to have you here at the Mason School of Business.

Matt Williams

Yeah, things have changed, but it's great to be back.

Ken White

Great. And we had a class over the winter break, our winter break at William & Mary is long, and so I hosted a class called Leadership Forum, where we had CEOs and leaders come in and talk. And you were one of the speakers, and the students just greatly enjoyed what you talked about. And I thought, let's have Matt on the podcast to talk about some of that and share what you were discussing with the students, with our listeners on leadership, of course. And you started out with talking about the point of leadership. What is the point? Why does leadership matter?

Matt Williams

I think it's always mattered, obviously, but it matters through time for different reasons because the context shifts. The context within which we do business shifts over time. And I think right now, leadership matters especially much because of all the changes that are going on in the business world and in the world in general. So that if you think about the advent of technology, the societal disruption that goes on with the murder of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, and the rise of values-based conscious consumption. Right. All of a sudden, leadership matters, not just because we have to run companies that are profitable and contribute to the world in the right way, but because things are asked of us as leaders that maybe weren't asked 30, 40, 50 years ago. Now we have to serve not just as leaders of commercial enterprises but we have to serve as leaders of communities because our companies have really taken the shape of communities. And that puts a whole different level of responsibility on leadership. And that's interesting to me.

Ken White

So do you see different types of people leading now versus maybe 10-20 years ago?

Matt Williams

I think so. I think there are people who are oriented toward leadership that is not just directive, not just operational, but values based. And it requires a different kind of relationship between the leaders and the organizations they lead now. It's not just do what I say when I say, and your paycheck won't bounce.

Ken White

Right, right.

Matt Williams

Now it's we need to work together to create a company that is commercially viable, and that represents a set of values we can all, as members of this commercial community, that we can all rally around and believe in. And that's a whole different level of responsibility for a leader than just an operational responsibility.

Ken White

A completely different mindset.

Matt Williams

Yeah. It requires a different relationship with the people, different relationship with your customers, different approach to how you work together with both those groups to move your organization forward. Much more collaborative, much more dynamic, much more creative, much more vulnerable in some ways. And it's interesting to watch.

Ken White

Yeah. It seems to me check the ego at the door today.

Matt Williams

I think so. And the expectations of leaders are different because of that. So not only are the activities that I, as a leader, have to display to the people I lead, the expectations those people have of me are different. So now it's not just I want to look to you as the sort of the stiff upper lip, forward, ever forward kind of person, but I want some collaboration from you. I want to see you as a human being who can have empathy for the things that I'm going through as an employee. And that's a very different level of expectation between a leader and the people they lead. So the things that I learned about leadership when I was coming up in the business world was all about strength. And this leader always knows where he or she is going or he it was usually a man. They always know where the organization is going. And I can look to them for granite will and strength. And now, if you bring those things, people look at you sideways and think there's something inauthentic about you.

Ken White

Yeah.

Matt Williams

And now they don't follow that as much as they used to. Now they follow that kind of vulnerability and collaboration, and humanity that a leader has to show. It's very different.

Ken White

Very different. A major shift. And you had talked in the class about how part of the shift is due to the fact that knowledge is outgrowing our ability to manage it. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Matt Williams

Yeah, there's a guy at Google. I don't even know if he's still there, but his name is Astro Teller. So he's an aptly named guy. And his job is basically just to think big thoughts about Google's moonshot unit and how they can change the world. And Teller has an idea that mankind's ability to deal with new knowledge rises at an upward but relatively slow upward slope. We're evolving as a species, and we're getting smarter. Our brains are getting bigger. But our ability to grow knowledge over time is increasing at a very rapid pace. Right. Not hard to understand. Technology is growing. All those things are happening. AI, you look at what's happening there. It's crazy. But the idea that he put into the world is our ability to grow knowledge has now crossed over humankind's ability to assimilate that knowledge. It's growing faster than we can deal with as a species. And when we cross over that line, it fundamentally changes the world we live in. Right. So where we used to be experts at things because we knew what there was to know in our discipline, and we could carry that expertise into the world, and people could trust us to know these things. Now even those things we think we're expert in are changing faster than we can keep up with. The organization and the category that our companies operate in are more dynamic and changing faster than our company, and our people can keep up with. And what it means is we have to completely change the orientation of our organizations and the way we lead from practicing the thing that we are expert in to always learning and acknowledging that we don't know everything that can be known because the knowledge, even in our area of expertise, is growing faster than we can keep up with it. So you see the rise of the learning organization. You see the acknowledgment that our brains have to be more plastic than they've ever been, and we have to find new stimuli that changes the way we think about the world. Because the world is changing so fast, we have to surround ourselves with people who know complementary things to what we know because we can't know everything. So we have to bring that knowledge in from different places and different people. So the way we populate teams and the way those teams work together has to change. All that has a tangible and fundamental impact on the way we lead.

Ken White

Absolutely. And the way we follow.

Matt Williams

Totally. Exactly.

Ken White

I mean, you think as a younger professional, you just wanted to know you had to have your area of expertise. That's what gave you the confidence to make you feel a little bit better. But now, that's not the case.

Matt Williams

No, that's right. And as a follower, I remember looking at these mentors that I had and thinking, okay, if I can just be more like them. Well, now the expectation is they're looking at their followers and saying, okay, help us out here. What can you bring to the table that I don't have? Because I don't have everything. And that's a really interesting dynamic. Now the expectations are different on both sides.

Ken White

You created four sort of pillars of leadership in the organization as we move forward. These shifts we have to make. And in the first one, you had talked about what regarded work-life balance, which is such a popular term. Right. Everybody talks about that, but you've got an interesting take on that. Can you share that?

Matt Williams

Yeah. It's rooted in the idea that in this world, that is so dynamic. If we look at the world, we're competing in. Our companies are operating in, the things that will set us apart from other companies are not the same things as they used to be. Right. It used to be things like access to raw materials and, access to capital, and even access to information, knowledge. Right. Well, now money moves around the world more than more seamlessly than it ever has. So access to capital is less differentiating. Access to knowledge is certainly not as differentiating as it used to be. It's growing faster than it's ever grown. So we can't know everything. And if I need a piece of information, I can go to OpenAI or Google and figure that out really fast. So it's not really that. Raw materials are moving faster around the globe than they ever have. Supply chains work outside of a pandemic. Supply chains work really well. It's not really that. The thing that will set us apart is whether we're able as an organization to do what's never been done with the things that everyone has access to. And what that means is we have to be more creative, we have to be more innovative. We have to see things that have never been seen in that which everyone knows, which is like my favorite Schopenhauer quote, actually. But we're in an age of creativity, and if our job as leaders is to unleash the creativity of our organizations, we have to change some things. Like, really fundamentally, we've learned the wrong thing. One of the things we have to change is this kind of futile pursuit of work-life balance.

Ken White

Yeah.

Matt Williams

And if you Google work-life balance, you're going to find 18 million hits because it's such a huge issue. And what I like is if I can lead an organization in a way that is less about helping you achieve work-life balance because I think it's a unicorn. I think it's almost impossible to do. But I can lead in a way that says my job as a leader is to help your time at this company contribute to the aggregate joy you feel in your life. That means I'm not buying a timesheet. I'm not saying give me 8 hours of your day. I'm saying give me the time you need to give me to do amazing work. That's the value exchange between us. And let's make sure that that work contributes joy to your life and to the collective life of our organization.

Ken White

Right.

Matt Williams

Let's do what makes us happy. If this makes us happy, we're going to do amazing things together, and you're going to have great ideas. And maybe those ideas are going to come on a Saturday morning. Maybe they're going to come at 02:00 on Wednesday. Maybe you're going to come and say. I need to take off on Thursday afternoon because my daughter has a dance recital. Awesome. All that's great. So rather than buying your timesheet, I want to buy your notebook. I want to buy what's in your notebook. That's the value you bring me. And if we can do that in a way that contributes to the joy that we feel of the work we're doing and the joy we have in our lives, and we can manage in a way that's flexible enough to allow that joy to happen where it needs to happen, and when it needs to happen, that's a better way to manage today.

Ken White

And imagine a lot of people are unhappy at work if there's some joy in work. Wow.

Matt Williams

Right.

Ken White

I mean, wow.

Matt Williams

Let's not kid ourselves. We do better work when we're having fun and enjoying the people we're doing it with. Let's try to do that.

Ken White

Corporate families. That term is changing. That's your second point.

Matt Williams

Well, it's funny. We've all been in that meeting where we start on our first day, and the CEO or the head of our team stands up and says, welcome to the XYZ family. We're not a family. Let's not kid ourselves here. Right. A company is a set of people who believe the same things about what they do and have a shared definition of what great work is, and believe in the foundations of the culture of this company. How we work, who we work with, the way we work, the way work goes through the place. But it's conditional, right? Our relationship is conditional. I've got two kids and a wife whom I love unconditionally. I'm not going to lay them off if my revenue drops. The relationship between me and an employee or a leader and a follower is not the same. It's conditional. You expect some things from me as a leader, and I expect some things from you as a member of this community. If we satisfy each other in that value exchange, things are going to be great. We're not a family.

Ken White

Right.

Matt Williams

We're a community of people. And the membership in that community, membership of the leader, and the membership of the people in the community are conditional. So let's not kid ourselves here.

Ken White

Celebrate work.

Matt Williams

Yeah, we love to win. Nobody loves to win more than I do, and nobody hates losing as much as I do. Right. We all hate that. But I think we've gotten so focused on celebrating the wins that we've forgotten to step back and say the outcome, win or lose outcome, is part of what's important. Let's not kid ourselves about that, either. That's important. But what's also important is making sure that outside of the outcome, we have a clear shared definition of what great work looks like. And if we can objectively or as objectively as we can step back and say, let's not focus on the win or lose outcome, let's focus on the quality of this work. And regardless of whether we won or lost, let's decide whether this is great work, and if it's great, celebrate it regardless of the outcome.

Ken White

Right.

Matt Williams

Because I want to continually reinforce to the people on this team what great work looks like if we didn't win. It's not going to be quite as much of a celebration as it would be if we do win. And there probably are negative consequences associated with that. I don't want to be Pollyanna about that, but at the same time, I want to help my team look at the quality of that work outside of the outcome and say, this is great. If we do more of this, we're going to win a heck of a lot more than we lose.

Ken White

Culture.

Matt Williams

Yeah. Always important. Always has been important. I remember when I took over as CEO of the Martin Agency, the culture there is incredibly strong. It still is. It's incredibly strong. And my predecessor had codified sort of the values of the company, and they were beautifully done, beautifully done. But I remember talking to people, and they were saying we like the values, and we understand it, and we believe in them, but we don't know how they translate to our day-to-day behavior. So the team that I worked with kind of sat down and said, let's not change these values. The values are our values. They're inside us. But let's go further in how we translate them to expectations of day-to-day work. And we created a set of behaviors around them. Right. And they were, you know, creativity, collaboration, agility, and courage. Those are the four things that we said these values translate into every day. So creativity means we're going to celebrate the creative activity and the creation of ideas. That's our currency. We're going to celebrate that every day. Right. Collaboration. We're going to collaborate more deeply and more often with more people than we ever have. We're going to do that every day. Agility, we're going to move fast, we're going to learn, and we're going to act on that learning. And then courage is we're going to have a strong point of view, and we're not going to be afraid to stand up for it, but we're also not going to be afraid to admit when we're wrong. And those kind of behaviors connected with our values in a way that we could build them into performance reviews, we could build them into operationalizing these values in a way that people said, oh okay, I can walk out of the building at 530 and say, did I do this today?

Ken White

Yeah.

Matt Williams

I think I did. And that was really powerful.

Ken White

Yeah, that's a great advice. A great challenge for every organization, actually.

Matt Williams

It's not easy to do.

Ken White

No.

Matt Williams

Right.

Ken White

Excellent. We're going to shift gears a little bit. You're doing an interesting video podcast that our listeners might want to check out on YouTube. Tell us about beer and brands.

Matt Williams

Yeah, so my partner, Kelly O'Keefe, and I started a consultancy right after I left the Martin Agency about four and a half years ago. And we were sitting around thinking, how are we going to market this consultancy? And we were having a beer at one of the breweries in Richmond, and we were talking about creating content, but then it drifted into a conversation about brands and strategy and marketing, which is kind of where our conversations tend to drift.

Ken White

Sure.

Matt Williams

And then we realized, what if we just put a camera on this conversation? That'd be kind of fun. So we started a video podcast where we travel around from brewery to brewery in Richmond, and we talk about topical subjects related to brands and marketing strategy and advertising, and it's been really, really fun.

Ken White

And so the next one, who's your guest, and what's the topic?

Matt Williams

Well, the next one comes out this week, maybe early next week, and it's right on the heels of the Super Bowl. So our guest is a guy named David Muhlenfeld, who is an amazing creative director who I worked with at Martin for years, who's now running his own freelance creative operation, working with us at Brand Federation, our consultancy. And we got Dave together, had a couple of beers, and talked about the Super Bowl.

Ken White

Great, so anybody into marketing, into brand, any brand geeks would love this.

Matt Williams

It's fun. We have a blast doing it. It's called Beer and Brands, and it's part of our Brand Federation content.

Ken White

And just go to YouTube and hit and type in Beer and Brands.

Matt Williams

Type in beer and brands. Brand Federation, and it'll take you there.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Matt Williams. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you're ready to take charge of your future, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Matt Williams, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI
ChatGPT & NaturalReader AIEpisode 192: February 5, 2023
Meet ChatGTP

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

Episode 192: February 5, 2023

Meet ChatGPT

It seems like everyone is talking about ChatGPT. Today on the podcast, we'll learn about it by going right to the source. First, some background: People in business, education, journalism, law, and virtually all fields are asking what ChatGPT might do to change the way we work, learn, and communicate. In some sectors, there's major concern. In others, there's considerable excitement regarding the possibilities. Introduced in November, ChatGPT is an Artificial Intelligence system that can do some amazing things. like respond to customer service inquiries and write term papers. And it does so quickly, and for the most part accurately. As a result, marketers and customer service professionals are working to test and implement ChatGPT. Meanwhile, school districts from New York City to Seattle banned the chatbot last month. On today's episode, we learn the basics of ChatGPT, but rather than invite a subject matter expert to discuss it, we went right to the source. We submitted specific questions about ChatGPT to Chat GPT and it quickly delivered written answers. To show you the quality of those answers, we combined them with Text-To-Speech technology which generated a voice that will read the answers ChatGPT wrote for us.

Podcast (audio)

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI: Meet ChatGPT TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is ChatGPT
  • What are ChatGPT's limitations
  • What is a ChatGPT chatbot
  • Who founded ChatGPT
  • How much does it cost to use ChatGPT
  • What are the ethical concerns regarding ChatGPT
  • Why are some schools banning ChatGPT
  • How can companies and businesses use ChatGPT
  • What are the implications of ChatGPT on the world
  • Should people be concerned about a future with ChatGPT
Transcript

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

Overall ChatGPT chatbot is a powerful tool that can generate fluent and coherent responses, providing a natural and human-like conversational experience.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. What seems like everyone is talking about ChatGPT. Today on the podcast, we'll learn about it by going right to the source. First, some background. People in business, education, journalism, law, and virtually all fields are asking what ChatGPT might do to change the way we work, learn and communicate. In some sectors, there's major concern. In others, there's considerable excitement regarding the possibilities. Introduced in November, ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence system that can do some amazing things, like respond to customer service inquiries and write term papers. And it does so quickly and, for the most part, accurately. As a result, marketers and customer service professionals are working to test and implement ChatGPT. Meanwhile, school districts from New York City to Seattle banned the chatbot last month. On today's episode of Leadership & Business, we learned the basics of ChatGPT. But rather than invite a subject matter expert to discuss it, we went right to the source. We submitted specific questions about ChatGPT to ChatGPT, and it quickly delivered written answers. To show you the quality of those answers, we combined them with Text-to-Speech technology, which generated a voice that will read the answers ChatGPT wrote for us. Here's our discussion on ChatGPT, what it is, and what it might mean to business and the world.

Ken White

Our first question that we submitted to ChatGPT is this. Can you share a description of ChatGPT?

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

ChatGPT is a pre-trained language model developed by OpenAI. It is based on the GPT or Generative Pre-training Transformer architecture and is fine-tuned for conversational language understanding and generation. It is trained on a massive amount of conversational data and can generate human-like responses to a wide range of topics. It can be fine-tuned for a variety of tasks, such as question answering, dialogue generation, and text summarization. It can be used to build conversational agents and chatbots with a high degree of fluency and coherence.

Ken White

What are ChatGPT's limitations?

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

ChatGPT, like any machine learning model, has certain limitations. Some of these include one lack of common sense. Chat GPT is trained on a large dataset of text, but it does not have a general understanding of the world like a human does. This can lead to nonsensical or irrelevant responses when the model is asked about something it has not seen before. Two bias. ChatGPT is trained on a dataset of text that is reflective of the biases that exist in the real world. These biases can be carried over into the model's responses and can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Three lack of empathy. As a machine, ChatGPT doesn't have the ability to understand or generate emotional responses. It cannot respond or understand the nuances of emotions. Four data availability. ChatGPT, like other models, is trained on a large dataset, and its performance can be limited by the quality and quantity of data that it was trained on. Five limited context. ChatGPT is not able to retain a lot of context over a long conversation. Thus, it may not be able to understand the context of a conversation. Six safety. ChatGPT is a powerful language model and can be used to generate text that is offensive, misleading, or harmful. It's important to use the model responsibly and be aware of its limitations to prevent unintended consequences.

Ken White

What is a ChatGPT chatbot?

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

A ChatGPT chatbot is a conversational agent that utilizes the pre-trained language model called ChatGPT to generate responses to user inputs. ChatGPT is fine-tuned for conversational understanding and generation, making it well-suited for building chatbots. A ChatGPT chatbot can be used for a variety of applications, such as customer service, answering frequently asked questions, and providing information on specific topics. The chatbot can be integrated into various platforms such as websites, messaging apps, and virtual assistants. The chatbot can be fine-tuned to a specific task or domain by training it on a smaller dataset of conversational data that is relevant to that task or domain. This fine-tuning step can improve the chatbot's performance and make it more specialized for a particular use case. Overall, ChatGPT chatbot is a powerful tool that can generate fluent and coherent responses, providing a natural and human-like conversational experience.

Ken White

Who founded ChatGPT?

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

Chat GPT is a pre-trained language model developed by OpenAI, a research company founded by Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, Wojciech Zaremba, and John Schulman in December 2015, with the goal of developing and promoting friendly AI in a responsible way. The model is based on the GPT or generative pre-training transformer architecture and was fine-tuned for conversational language understanding and generation. It was trained on a massive amount of conversational data and can generate human-like responses to a wide range of topics.

Ken White

How much does it cost to use ChatGPT?

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

The cost of using ChatGPT can vary depending on the platform and service that you are using. OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, currently offers a number of pricing options for using its models, including one OpenAI GPT-3 Playground. This is a free online tool that allows users to test out the GPT-3 model and generate text. Two OpenAI GPT-3 API. OpenAI provides an API for GPT-3 that allows developers to integrate the model into their applications. The pricing for the API is based on the number of requests made to the API, with pricing tiers starting at $0.0001 per request. Three Microsoft Azure. Microsoft has partnered with OpenAI to bring GPT-3 to its Azure Cloud platform. The cost of using GPT-3 on Azure will depend on the usage of the service and the resources you need. Four other third-party providers. There are also other third-party providers that offer pre-trained models like ChatGPT, and their pricing varies depending on the provider and the level of access you need. It's worth noting that the cost to use ChatGPT or any other pre-trained model is only one part of the overall cost of building and deploying a conversational AI application. Other costs, such as data annotation, development, and maintenance, will also be incurred. It's also important to note that the cost of using a pre-trained model like ChatGPT can change over time, so it's worth checking with the provider for the most up-to-date pricing information.

Ken White

What are the ethical concerns regarding ChatGPT?

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

Like any machine learning model, ChatGPT has certain ethical concerns that should be taken into consideration when using it. Some of these include one bias. ChatGPT is trained on a data set of text that is reflective of the biases that exist in the real world. These biases can be carried over into the model's responses and can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. It's important to be aware of these biases and take steps to mitigate them when using the model. Two misinformation. ChatGPT is able to generate text that is coherent and fluent, but it doesn't always generate text that is accurate or truthful. It could be used to spread false or misleading information, which can be harmful. Three safety. ChatGPT is a powerful language model and can be used to generate text that is offensive, misleading, or harmful. It's important to use the model responsibly and be aware of its limitations to prevent unintended consequences. Four privacy. When using ChatGPT, one should be cautious about the data that's being input into the model. If the data contains sensitive or personal information, it can be misused. Five fairness. As with any AI model, ChatGPT's decision-making process is based on the data it was trained on. This can lead to unfair decisions if the data used to train the model is biased or unrepresentative of the population it's intended to serve. Six transparency. As a black box model, ChatGPT's decision-making process is not easily understandable. This can make it difficult for developers and users to understand why the model is making certain decisions and to identify and correct any errors. It's important to consider these ethical concerns when using ChatGPT and to take steps to mitigate any potential negative impacts. Additionally, it's important to use the model in a responsible way and to be transparent about its limitations and capabilities.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation on ChatGPT in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before, and that means change for business and your role in it. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you can be a part of creating the future. If you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead, we invite you to consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA all taught by the number one-ranked MBA faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation on ChatGPT. Again, we submitted questions to ChatGPT and combined the answers it produced with text-to-speech technology, which generated the voice that's reading the answers.

Ken White

Why are some schools and school districts banning the use of ChatGPT?

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

Some schools may have chosen to ban the use of ChatGPT or similar language models because of concerns about academic integrity and cheating. These models are able to generate text that is coherent and fluent, which can make it difficult to distinguish between text that was written by a human and text that was generated by the model. This can make it easier for students to plagiarize or cheat on assignments and exams. Another concern could be related to the bias that these models might have and how it can perpetuate harmful stereotypes or even misinformation. These models are trained on large dataset, and if the dataset is not diverse and inclusive, the model will perpetuate the same bias found in the data. Additionally, since ChatGPT is not able to retain a lot of context over a long conversation, it may not be able to understand the context of a conversation, which can lead to misunderstandings and errors in learning. It's worth noting that these are just a few possible reasons why some schools may have chosen to ban the use of ChatGPT and that different schools may have different policies and concerns. It's also worth noting that ChatGPT is a powerful tool, and it can be used responsibly. It is important to use it in a way that is aligned with the school's policies and goals.

Ken White

How can companies and businesses use ChatGPT?

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

Companies can use ChatGPT for a variety of tasks, such as one generating automated responses to customer inquiries. ChatGPT can be trained to respond to frequently asked questions, reducing the workload for customer service teams. Two content creation. ChatGPT can generate high-quality text such as articles, blog posts, and product descriptions, saving time and resources for companies. Three language translation. ChatGPT can be used to translate text from one language to another, making it easier for companies to communicate with global customers. Four text summarization. ChatGPT can be used to summarize long documents or articles, making it easier for companies to extract key information quickly. Five sentiment analysis. ChatGPT can be used to analyze customer feedback and determine the overall sentiment towards a company or product. Six personalized communication. ChatGPT can be used to generate personalized communication, such as emails, messages, and social media posts, to improve customer engagement. Seven chatbot and virtual assistant. ChatGPT can be used to build conversational chatbot and virtual assistant to provide instant and accurate response to customer queries.

Ken White

What are the implications of ChatGPT on the world?

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

The implications of ChatGPT on the world are likely to be both positive and negative. Some potential implications include one increased efficiency and productivity. ChatGPT can automate repetitive tasks and generate high-quality content quickly, potentially increasing efficiency and productivity in various industries. Two improved customer service. ChatGPT can respond to customer inquiries in a timely and accurate manner, improving the overall customer experience. Three greater access to information. ChatGPT can assist with language translation and text summarization, making it easier for people to access and understand information in different languages. Four advancements in AI. ChatGPT represents a significant advancement in natural language processing and AI, which could lead to further developments in these fields. Five job displacement. ChatGPT could automate repetitive tasks, replacing human workers in certain jobs, which could lead to job displacement. Six ethical concerns. As the technology becomes more advanced and versatile, there are concerns about its potential misuse, such as the generation of deep fake misinformation and the spread of propaganda. Seven dependence. As ChatGPT becomes more widely used, there is a risk that people will become too dependent on the technology, potentially impacting critical thinking and decision-making skills.

Ken White

We'd like to give our listeners an example of the content that ChatGPT can generate, so I'll ask this question. Explain the US Stock Market in simple terms.

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

The US stock market is a system where companies can raise money by selling shares of their business to investors. When you buy a share of a company, you become a shareholder and own a small piece of that company. The value of your shares can go up or down depending on how well the company is doing. The stock market is where shares are bought and sold. The most well-known stock market in the US is the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq or National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, but there are many other markets as well. The US stock market is also known as the stock market, equity market, or share market. It is a collection of markets where stocks are traded. The stock market is a barometer of the economy and reflects the overall health of the economy. When the economy is doing well, more people are employed, and businesses are making more money, which often leads to an increase in stock prices. When the economy is not doing well, stock prices may decrease. Overall, the stock market is a way for companies to raise money and for investors to make money by buying shares of those companies. It can be a high-risk, high-reward type of investment, and it's important to have a good understanding of the market and the companies you are investing in before putting your money into it.

Ken White

Should people be concerned about a future with ChatGPT?

ChatGPT & NaturalReader AI

Whether or not people should be concerned about a future with ChatGPT depends on how the technology is used and regulated. On one hand, ChatGPT has the potential to improve efficiency and productivity in various industries, such as customer service, content creation, and language translation, which could lead to a better overall experience for users. Additionally, ChatGPT could help people to access and understand information in different languages, helping to overcome language barriers and improve global communication. On the other hand, the increasing use of ChatGPT and other AI technologies could lead to job displacement, as automated systems may be able to perform tasks that were previously done by humans. Additionally, there are ethical concerns around the potential misuse of ChatGPT, such as the generation of deep fake misinformation and the spread of propaganda. It is important for policymakers and industry leaders to address these concerns and ensure that the technology is used ethically and responsibly. It's also important for people to be aware of the implications of ChatGPT and other AI technologies and to be involved in shaping the future of the technology through their own actions and by participating in the public discourse.

Ken White

That's our conversation on ChatGPT. Again, at this point, ChatGPT is a text-based model it does not have voice capability yet. The answers you heard were written by ChatGPT but read by text-to-speech technology. We hope you enjoyed it. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Take charge of your future. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thank you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Anand Anandalingam
Anand AnandalingamEpisode 191: January 21, 2023
Ethical Leadership for Tech Entrepreneurs

Anand Anandalingam

Episode 191: January 21, 2023

Ethical Leadership for Tech Entrepreneurs

Artificial Intelligence, synthetic biology, blockchain, social media, and other technologies continue to change the way we live, work, and lead. At the same time, the reach of technology is expanding daily as more people are connected today than ever before. Now decisions, thanks in part to technology, are often significant and far-reaching. And with that in mind, our guest says tech entrepreneurs must embrace ethical leadership. Anand Anandalingam is a tech scholar, teacher, and consultant. A professor of Management Science at the University of Maryland, he previously served as the Dean of the Business Schools at Maryland and Imperial College in London. He says while tech entrepreneurs have much on their plates, ethics and ethical leadership should be the priorities.

Podcast (audio)

Anand Anandalingam: Ethical Leadership for Tech Entrepreneurs TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What defines ethical leadership in the tech space
  • What makes ethical leadership complicated
  • What impacts on the environment and society does the tech industry have
  • Why tech companies should make ethics their core value
  • Why leaders should recognize the ethical dilemmas inherent in an entrepreneurial company
  • What does it mean for a tech leader to redefine success
  • How should a leader engage in dangerous conversations
  • How can a leader anticipate potential negative outcomes and mitigate them
Transcript

Anand Anandalingam

In order to raise money. Investors want to see that this company can be successful, will be successful, because they don't really want to risk their money in companies that are not going to make it. So there's a lot of pressure on the leaders of these companies to be hopeful, right? You have to be hopeful. So the thing is, you know, there is much more pressure to be hopeful than to be truthful.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, blockchain, social media, and other technology continue to change the way we live, work, and lead. At the same time, the reach of technology is expanding daily as more people are connected today than ever before. Now, decisions, thanks in part to technology, are often significant and far-reaching. And with that in mind, our guest says tech entrepreneurs must embrace ethical leadership. Anand Anandalingam is a tech scholar, teacher, and consultant, a Professor of Management Science at the University of Maryland. He previously served as the Dean of the business schools at Maryland and Imperial College in London. He says while tech entrepreneurs have much on their plates, ethics and ethical leadership should be the priorities. Here's our conversation with Anand. Anand Anandalingam.

Ken White

Well, Anand, thanks for taking your time and sharing your time with us. It's great to see you. Thanks for being with us.

Anand Anandalingam

Oh, it's a pleasure, Ken. I mean, I'm happy to be here.

Ken White

Yeah, and you have spent a lot of time in the tech space as a consultant, as a teacher, as a researcher. And you talk about ethical leadership in that space. What is ethical leadership? How do you define that?

Anand Anandalingam

Well, ethical leadership, of course, transcends tech space. It's for all industries. So just keeping it simple. Ethical leadership means doing the right thing. It's just that simple.

Ken White

And what does that mean, doing the right thing?

Anand Anandalingam

Well, first of all, a lot of people get confused thinking that ethical leadership means legal compliance. So lots of companies have lawyers helping them, making sure that they don't make any legal mistakes or do illegal things. But that's not what it is. It's really about making sure that you do the right thing by employees, by investors, by customers, your surrounding community, maybe the country, the planet, and even, of course, the shareholders.

Ken White

Right. But it seems complicated. What makes it so complicated?

Anand Anandalingam

Well, yeah, right now, things have become complicated because it take something like climate change. Okay, so at the beginning of the 20th century, you made decisions to improve your company, make money, get a market share, those kinds of things. But what we have discovered is that some of those decisions could actually lead to impacting the environment in a negative way, right? Leading to the warming of our planet, for example. So today leaders have to really make sure that while they are making their decisions, they have minimal impact on greenhouse gases, for example. Right? So that means that you really are taking care of not just the profits or profitability of your company or running your company for the shareholders but also for lots of stakeholders and especially the community near you and also for the planet. But there's another reason for kind of making sure that you do the right thing because the young people today are really motivated for doing good. And so, if you really want to hire talented, well-educated students, they will not join your company if you do not take some of these environmental issues seriously. So ethical leadership has become complicated. It's more than simply being a leader and doing a good job in terms of running a company. It's also trying to make sure you take care of lots of things that are outside your company as well.

Ken White

I think when most of us think of the tech industry, we don't necessarily think about pollution or the planet. But your definition of ethical leadership is yet still important to the tech industry. Why is that?

Anand Anandalingam

Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, right. Most of the tech industry doesn't really impact the planet in a negative way. Certainly, there are no greenhouse gases coming from Facebook. But the impact of the tech industry is really quite widespread. I mean, today, more than 6.4 billion people have smartphones. That's 81% of the world's population. So if you do anything that appears in a smartphone, it goes all over the world. It goes very rapidly to every nook and cranny of this world and can have quite a lot of impact of, both positive and negative. I can give you a couple of examples. I mean one example, of course, is what we saw during the 2016 presidential election. If you remember, I think we were both living in Washington, DC. There was a young man lived in Central Virginia who found out through the internet that some fake news about Hillary Clinton and the National Democratic Committee keeping young children as hostages in a pizza parlor in Chevy Chase Circle in Washington, DC. So he was motivated to liberate these guys, and so he came with a gun to this pizza parlor to try and get rid of these hostages. All because the information in the internet, which was not correct, was widespread, went to his home in Central Virginia and motivated him to do bad things. So when we are interacting with each other right now doing this podcast, we are on the internet. That's good. So the internet is good. Right? But someone charging a pizza parlor to liberate children because of the internet that's not so good. Right?

Ken White

Right?

Anand Anandalingam

So tech companies have a widespread impact, and it may not be pollution or air pollution, but it certainly pollutes the minds of lots of people all over the world.

Ken White

Yeah, no doubt. You have five guidelines to help tech entrepreneurs be ethical leaders. And your first one is make ethics the core value of the company. Can you share a little bit more about that?

Anand Anandalingam

Yeah, I think, as you well know, companies and employees and companies and even the stakeholders of a company are looking to the CEO, looking to the leader of the company to reflect their values in how they run the company. So it is very important that the leader, the CEO, needs to make ethics the core value of that company. So the way you do that is to make it clear to everyone. I mean, employees, partners, investors, the community that you're based in, that what you personally stand for, what your values are. And when you do this, you need to make sure that you also make it clear that there are some things in your values and ethics that are non-negotiable. And so I don't want to suggest that leaders come across as being sanctimonious or domineering and behaving as though they know the answers that nobody else does. In fact, they have to be humble, they have to be empathetic, they have to be compassionate, but they have to be very clear about what they stand for in terms of values and ethics.

Ken White

That's asking a lot from a leader, isn't it?

Anand Anandalingam

Of course. I mean, that's the kind of pressure that we right now have on the leaders in the 21st century.

Ken White

Your second guideline recognize the ethical dilemmas inherent in an entrepreneurial company. Tell us about that.

Anand Anandalingam

Yeah, so this is specific to entrepreneurial companies, but certainly, even well-established companies frequently go through these kinds of pressures. So in order to raise money, investors want to see that this company can be successful will be successful, because they don't really want to risk their money in companies that are not going to make it. So there is a lot of pressure on the leaders of these companies to be hopeful. Right? You have to be hopeful. So the thing is, there is much more pressure to be hopeful than to be truthful. Okay? So you have to really fight the temptation to go that extra step and fudge data, maybe fudge standards, cut corners, sort of build a much more flowery situation than what is reality. And so it is not only important that that becomes part of your ethical core, that you are honest in spite. You can do that while being hopeful. And in some cases, we have seen in the past that company, and especially startup entrepreneurial leaders, have kind of tried to fudge data, and that's got them into trouble, you know, sooner or later. I mean, so one example, of course, is the demise of Elizabeth Holmes, a very famous case. The CEO of Theranos who fudged data to show that her company that was testing blood to figure out what kind of diseases people had. The reason there's a lot of pressure on her to fudge the data was because the industry, the venture industry, had invested a lot of money on her and wanted her to be successful. Then she also became a celebrity. So you had to kind of keep up with your celebrity status.

Ken White

Yeah.

Anand Anandalingam

And so, eventually, she got caught, and she's now in big trouble. So it is important to come to grips with the potential ethical dilemmas and conflicts that companies face and to make sure that while you're hopeful, you're also truthful.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Anand Anandalingam in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before, and that means change for business in your career. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you can play a role in the future. If you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead, we invite you to consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you, the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. All taught by the number one-ranked MBA faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Anand Anandalingam.

Ken White

Your third guideline, redefine success.

Anand Anandalingam

That's right. So when life was simple, you could simply say, look, my success has only to do with improving the share value of the company, making sure that we expand market share, we become profitable, and so on and so forth. But right now, you need to define success, or I should say redefine success to align with your ethical values. Right. So you really need courage to redefine what success means to you, regardless of the judgment or the pushback that might accompany your actions. So you need to really get your organization, bring everybody together to define what it means to be successful. How does your actions and the results of your decisions impact not just the company but also employees, stakeholders, shareholders, of course, but also investors, customers, and the community around you? And come up with frameworks that can help you ground these ethics and values in how you define success.

Ken White

Your fourth guideline, engage in courageous conversations. Wow. That's not easy. How do you define that?

Anand Anandalingam

Absolutely, because sometimes when a leader really talks about what it means to be successful, but they also talk about not simply helping the planet and helping people, but also being profitable, there's a lot of pressure on all the people who help run the company on trying to decide how to make it happen. So there will be lots of questions within the company about ethics and values, there will be debates, and so on. And I think it's very important for the CEO to engage the entire community, especially the employees in their company, on how to deal with some of the ethical dilemmas they're going to face. And they are going to face a significant number of ethical dilemmas. And it's important to have that conversation with courage. And the courage two ways. One is the courage to have the conversation, and the second is the courage to have this conversation without judging people who are grappling with these ethical issues. You need to make sure that the stress that they have dealing with the values and ethics that you bring to the company are dealt with sensitively and also that they have a forum in which that they can engage you and ask you perhaps sometimes very difficult questions. So you have to be courageous in allowing yourself to be challenged by people who work for you when they are dealing with some of these ethical dilemmas.

Ken White

And your fifth and final guideline for tech entrepreneurs to be ethical leaders, anticipate ethical tensions and negative outcomes, and try to mitigate them.

Anand Anandalingam

Yeah, of course, in the tech industry, the ethical tensions and negative outcomes are very specific to specific parts of the company. So, for example, if you have a company that deals with big data and AI the algorithms, you may be very proud of the algorithms you come up with, but there is a potential for those algorithms to lead to negative results. So, for example, there's a very famous example where a company, I think it's in the public domain, so I can say it's Amazon used an AI-based algorithm to decide who to hire, who to interview. And it turned out that the algorithm came up with mostly men who were called in for their interviews to join the company. So it's very difficult when you're actually trying to build these kinds of tech companies to anticipate what could actually happen. So one of the things that people have suggested is to really find a way to do what the financial industry and banks have been doing for many years, which is to stress test your technology. So, stress test not only the products of your technology company but also services that your technology company provides by running several simulations and several scenario-based analyses and those kinds of things to make sure that you can anticipate what kind of ethical and values tensions or negative outcomes could come up. Okay, I should add here that I run a podcast called The Future of Humanity, where I have experts and scholarly thinkers, and influencers talk about the challenge of ethical leadership in specific industries. And so, in the podcast, we really deal with different industries. Not just big data and AI but also synthetic biology. We talk about social media, a whole variety of things, drug development, and discuss a lot about how what you want to do, which is really good, might sometimes have negative consequences and how you deal with those kinds of consequences.

Ken White

Tell our listeners the name of the podcast again.

Anand Anandalingam

The podcast is called Future of Humanity with Dean Anand.

Ken White

Got it. And available on all podcast sites. I'm sure they can just check it out.

Anand Anandalingam

Yeah, they can just check it out. They just keyword future of Humanity with Dean Anand.

Ken White

Terrific. I assume you're having fun with that.

Anand Anandalingam

Yeah, very much so. In fact, it's given me the opportunity to actually learn a lot about some of the ethical dilemmas that people face in various industries. And some of these things are hidden from the public because we are so excited about all these new developments that are happening in the tech industry. And I am excited too. I mean, I am a person with a tech background, as you already mentioned. But nevertheless, I think we have to now be more aware of the potential negative impacts, especially because we are so well connected all across the world through the internet and all these smartphones, that anything that is not so good that happens will have negative impacts very quickly in all sorts of places that you might not even think about.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Anand Anandalingam, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Take control of your future. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest Anand Anandalingam and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership and Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Todd Mooradian
Todd MooradianEpisode 190: January 5, 2023
The New Dean

Todd Mooradian

Episode 190: January 5, 2023

The New Dean

For the first time in 25 years, William & Mary's School of Business, the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, has a new leader. After long-time Dean Larry Pulley announced his retirement and the University conducted a global search, Todd Mooradian was named Dean in August. Mooradian's no stranger to William & Mary or to leadership. He spent 27 years at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business as a marketing professor, Associate Dean, and campus leader. Then, in 2017, he left to become Dean of the University of Louisville's College of Business. After five years there, he was named Dean at William & Mary. He joins us today to discuss his role, coming home, and taking the reins from a long-time and successful leader.

Podcast (audio)

Todd Mooradian: The New Dean TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What role did Dean Pulley play in Todd's decision to apply for the position
  • What it is like returning to a former place of employment
  • How to face new employees who once knew the leader in a different role
  • The benefits of giving people a fresh start
  • What Todd learned about leadership as Dean of the Louisville College of Business
  • What Todd's goals as Dean were in his first semester
  • What is the role of the Dean
  • What does the future hold for the business school post-pandemic
  • Todd Mooradian's message to prospective students of the Raymond A. Mason School of Business
Transcript

Todd Mooradian

But I did commit myself coming in that everybody got a blank slate because when you bring in a new dean or a new leader in any role, that's a chance for people to get a fresh start.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. For the first time in 25 years, William & Mary's School of Business, the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, has a new leader. After long-time Dean Larry Pulley announced his retirement and the university conducted a global search, Todd Mooradian was named Dean in August. Mooradian is no stranger to William & Mary or to leadership. He spent 27 years at the Mason School of Business as a marketing professor, associate dean, and campus leader. Then, in 2017, he left to become Dean of the University of Louisville's College of Business. After five years there, he was named Dean at William & Mary. He joins us on the podcast today to discuss his role, coming home and taking the reins from a long-time and successful leader. Here's our conversation with the Dean of William & Mary's Raymond A. Mason School of Business, Dr. Todd Mooradian.

Ken White

Well, Todd, thanks very much for being with us. It's nice to have you on the podcast.

Todd Mooradian

Well, thanks for having me here, Ken. It's so great to be back at the Mason School.

Ken White

And that's what I hear from everybody. He's back. That's what I wanted to talk to you right up front is it is a bit of a homecoming. Our former Dean was here for a quarter of a century, and as you and I both know, he was effective. He was respected and well-liked. Knowing that, what role did that play in your decision to apply for the role?

Todd Mooradian

Well, I'd been a great admirer of Larry Pulleys for more than those 25 years. I met Larry when I was here to interview, and I can remember coming down the hall. They assigned another faculty member to walk you around. And as we looked ahead on my agenda and it said, okay, at 02:00, you're meeting with this guy Pulley. And the person who was walking me down the hall said, this guy is the real deal. He just won the teaching award, he's the best researcher in the building, and he's the nicest guy you'll ever meet. And that was fall of 1989 when I interviewed to come here as an assistant professor. And I can tell you that for the next 32 years, Larry Pulley has certainly lived up to that billing. He's the real deal. We were friends, but the kind of friends where you know which one's the smarter guy in the room. So I listened to Larry Pulley all along, learned a lot from him. And in thinking about that, how that integrated into my decision to come back? I'm not sure it was the driving force. But I will tell you that in five years at Louisville, I learned what a quality organization looks like, both in the fact and in the breach. You know, what pieces were there that are great and what pieces were missing? But I knew that Larry Pulley had built an organization here of quality individuals engaged in a purposeful work for a great institution. So I knew that when I came back, I would be joining a community and an organization that cares about the right things and has obviously made great progress on all the kind of intellectual dimensions of a business school. Great building, great faculty, great students, rankings, resources. But I knew also that it was people who I would respect and trust and want to work with because Larry Pulley built that kind of place.

Ken White

There's been maybe a micro trend taking place of people returning to a former employer. We didn't see that years ago. We're starting to see it quite often now in the corporate world and in higher ed. What is that like, coming back home, so to speak, after you've been gone for a while?

Todd Mooradian

Well, two things are true about that. I was here for 27 years, and I care very much about a lot of the people that define this place, and I'm humbled by the recognition that they seem to care about me. So it was coming back to friends and people that I had a natural empathy for and connection with. So it's great fun. Kind of like getting out of the car at Christmas and walking up your driveway, you know, where all the cracks are because you grew up there, and you know the faces in the door that are greeting you. It's been very gratifying.

Ken White

From a leadership standpoint, though, how do you deal with people who know you and knew you in a different role?

Todd Mooradian

I haven't faced any real challenges in that area, but I think that I did commit myself coming in that everybody got a blank slate because when you bring in a new dean or a new leader in any role, that's a chance for people to get a fresh start. It's kind of like the new semester. The old professor didn't really like your writing style, or the old professor knew that you'd gotten a 75 on the first quiz. Now you got a blank slate. And I think that everybody gets that chance with a new leader. And being a person returning to the Mason School, you could think, well, that kind of takes that away. And I committed to giving everybody a blank slate. Everybody that I had a history of who I loved and knew how great they were, I made sure that I was looking at them through fresh eyes, and people who I had to manage before and we had had to work through kind of organizational issues gave them a blank slate. Al Page, the Dean before Larry Pulley, actually called me up when Larry made me Associate Dean ten years ago, and he said congratulations. I said, what advice do you have for me, Al? And he said all I can tell you is give people a chance. They will exceed your expectations. And I'm trying to do that with some intentionality because I think everybody deserves that.

Ken White

Great advice, and we have a number of listeners who are aspiring leaders and new leaders. They're in that position where now they're leading their friends. Now they're leading what used to be their peers. And the blank slate is interesting process.

Todd Mooradian

Yeah. And the other part of that is it's not about you. It's not about me. Right. You and I work together, Ken, and we join in to get important things done. And you don't have to treat me any differently than you did six years ago when we worked together as associate deans. We joined again. I hope we have a few laughs, but most importantly, we focus on the work and trying to do the best job we can, and we focus on the institution. If I were walking around making sure everybody treated me like something special, I might get disappointed all the time, even at home. But that's not what it's about. It's old friends, old colleagues, and joining together in really important stuff. And I have the great honor of being the one that's the Dean that kind of has some ability to take the tone from the top and set our direction.

Ken White

You left here when you were associate Dean to become the Dean of the business school at the University of Louisville. What was that experience like?

Todd Mooradian

Well, nothing was right. You go someplace, and I was calling something this. And they said, oh no, we call that this here. And they did. Even overload pay for faculty, they called it xpay. I could never figure that out in five years. Finally, I was starting to call it xpay. I came back here, and now it's overload again. So the systems were different. And you say, oh my God, no, this is the way that works. And they said, no, not here at Louisville. That's not how it works. So I got to learn a new system and learn to build relationships deliberately and, honestly, authentically. And that was good. Figured out what works, what doesn't work, who I am. And then I will say that Louisville has a very different mission than William & Mary, or at least a philosophy to the mission. Louisville is about creating access for a broad group of people in a relatively well-defined geographic space. Louisville serves Louisville in Kentucky, and it's a broad mission. It takes 22,000 students who would not have had an opportunity otherwise and gives them a great education, accelerates their lives, changes their lives. William & Mary is competing with the very best in the world and winning its share of those competitions. William & Mary serves a small population. It's a global scope. So those things were different. And I learned at William & Mary, we have a 92% graduation rate or something like that. At Louisville, we set a goal of 75% graduation rate, and we were working hard to get there. That was great fun. Those people are so deserving and so wonderful, and they're going to change the world in their own way, but it was different. At William & Mary, we just don't talk about retention rate as much. Maybe we should, but it's almost at maxed step. At William & Mary, we don't look at anyone in the world and think we can't compete with them. And if we do anything at William & Mary, we think, how can we be the very best there is at this undertaking? And at Louisville, we were much more focused on the greater good, on serving those people, on building things that changed lives in a very practical way. So I learned a lot. And I actually think as I come back to William & Mary, that broadening of my perspective to think about those things is really relevant to the whole world and to William & Mary today because we are all starting to reassess who we serve, what good we do for the greater good. What could we do for the world, and how we change the future? So that was really great. The other thing that's different about Louisville is their ACC basketball. So there were 20,000 people in the Wheeler Center every night. So it's kind of a different texture to the experience. It was a big-time athletics program where they were using that brand in the city. And, you know, you and I are both sports people, so that was kind of fun.

Ken White

Sure.

Todd Mooradian

So now I'm back at William & Mary and Go Tribe.

Ken White

Absolutely.

Todd Mooradian

Ten and one, and I guess at the end, they were eleven and two in football. What a great year! So things are different in ways that don't matter. Like, I love rooting for the Tribe. I love rooting for the Cardinals. And things are different in substantive things about the mission. And then there's language, things like xpays versus overload. And you just learn that you can adapt and function in any system. I think it was good for me.

Ken White

So you have one semester under your belt. Kind of tough to get a whole lot accomplished in your very first semester as the Dean. But what were you trying to do in that first semester?

Todd Mooradian

Well, I didn't see this as coming back to disrupt. If you follow Larry Pulley, you don't think you're going to come in and change everything? And I was careful to be listening to be assessing where the opportunities are to make us better, and I accomplished that. I got to hear a lot about what had happened over the last five or six years because a lot happened. It's a different organization here today than it was when I left, and there's different people here. So I listened a lot, and I tried not to come in and change everything. Who was it? Didi Gregorius replaced Derek Jeter. He wasn't trying to be Derek Jeter.

Ken White

Right.

Todd Mooradian

But you know what? He signed a $28 million contract, and he hit 20 home runs in three seasons. And he's got to be very proud of who he is.

Ken White

Right.

Todd Mooradian

But he wasn't trying to be Derek Jeter.

Ken White

Yeah, no doubt. You mentioned something that struck a chord about listening. I had a friend who was a long-time associate dean who became a dean, and I talked to him maybe a semester or two into his tenure, and I said, what's the biggest takeaway? He said I didn't realize how much listening I had to do. He goes it's so much. He said, by 01:00 in the afternoon, I can't listen anymore. So you listen a lot, don't you? That's a big part of your job.

Todd Mooradian

I try to listen. To be candid, that's a skill that I always have to work on, listen actively and process and think about what the person is saying and what they're feeling when they say it, and trying to push for more information when we're making decisions. So I work pretty hard at listening. And I don't know if it's exhausting like your friend was kind of implying, but there are days, maybe not at 01:00, but somewhere around three, I'm ready to get back to my computer. But the other part of that is you hire a dean or an associate dean like yourself to be connected to people and to be outside connecting to people outside the school, to be connecting inside. And you shouldn't raise your hand for this job if you don't want to do that. But for me, and especially for me and my wife as a couple, this is really a job for two people. We enjoy those things. Paula worked for the alumni association. We were at a lot of events, meeting people. Now that I'm representing the institution, you have to listen. The only way to raise support for an institution is to listen to what the person with those resources, passions are and to connect what we do to those passions. And so I raised my hand, I'm enjoying it, and twist my arm give me a job where I have to go to wonderful events and listen to wonderful people talk about their relationship with William & Mary.

Ken White

And much of that is working and meeting with alumni all across the country. What is that for people who don't understand the role? What's that like? How much of your time do you spend meeting with alumni? What do you do?

Todd Mooradian

Well, there's various levels of that. There's a lot of events where you're meeting with people in relatively large groups, so you have to be practiced, and you're a great communicator, Ken, so you understand this. In an organized way, communicate what we're doing that's compelling and important. And if you're up in front of 40 people, it's not individual, and it can't be rambling. You have to be able to tell the story about the Mason School of Business pretty quickly, and 30 years here or 27 years before I left helped in a big way because I know a lot of those people. I know the underlying structures and values that drive what we do. So that's a big part of the job. And then meeting with the key donors or the key partners who are thinking about changing our world with the resources that they have. First of all, it's great privilege. Can you imagine representing the Mason School? And it's a lot about listening, as you said earlier, listen to what they want. There's a guy, Panas, Jerold Panas, that has written several books about fundraising, and he turns it around a little bit. You're not out asking for money. You're out asking to go to work for those people, to help them do for the world what they want to do with the resources that they've accumulated. And there's a story about this guy Schuller out in California who was the television minister, and he wanted to build a new church, and he went to an architect and said, I need you to design this wonderful church. And the architect said, well, what resources do you have to build the church? And he said I don't have any. We got no money. You've got to design something that's so compelling. People can't wait to give us the resources to build it. So the great fun of connecting with people who are going to contribute to William & Mary and help us be different in the future than we are today is connecting what we can be in a vision that they can't help but want to support. And that's fun. It's not asking for money. You hear people, and they say, oh, I wouldn't want to be a dean. You got to go out and ask for money. We don't ask for money. We help those people who have been fortunate in their lives to accumulate assets and resources, put those things to work in a way that they and their family want to do to change the world. It's great fun. I'm not sure I'm the best at it. I hope I'm getting better, but that's the two pieces of it. I have to be able to talk to a group, and I have to be able to listen to an individual and connect their passion to ours.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Todd Mooradian in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before, and that means change for business and your role in it. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you could be a part of creating the future. If you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead, we invite you to consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA all taught by the number one ranked MBA faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Todd Mooradian.

Ken White

Not to put words in your mouth, but our alumni blow me away. They are just incredible. We've had several on the podcast, but their success, what they do, what they're doing with their lives, the way they conduct business, and their personal lives, I'm assuming you're in awe half the time, and some of these people are just really remarkable.

Todd Mooradian

Oh, they certainly are. And you go out, and you meet with people, and it reinforces something that I think is true when we come back in here. And you and I have been a lot of strategic planning meetings and talking about what our strategy is going to be going into the future. And one of the things that we've latched on to is that a Renaissance education or a broadening education that creates polymaths or Renaissance people is something special about William & Mary. And that's not just something we say when we're in the boardroom talking about what are we going to build things around, what strengths are we going to parlay into success. It's when you meet with an alum from William & Mary, nine out of ten times they surprise you with the breadth of their understanding of the world, the curiosity, all those qualities of a Renaissance person or a polymath or William & Mary person. There's a book out right now, Range. It's been out a couple of years, but it basically makes a 17-chapter argument for William & Mary because it's all about the virtue of being exposed to ideas broadly and being taught to think critically and to continue to learn. And that's special about our education. And it turns out every time you meet with an alum, like you asked about, sit down with an alum from William & Mary, you come away thinking, what a smart person and what a nice person. Curious, asking questions, learning. That's the special quality. And, of course, some of them have been fantastically successful, and a lot of them have just been great William & Mary alums, faithful to their school, and proud of it.

Ken White

Yeah, no doubt. You've mentioned a couple of times about reading. Are you a big reader?

Todd Mooradian

I am. My mother was a librarian, also an artist, so at the University of New Hampshire, she was a librarian and she taught art in the school system. And my sisters and I always had a book in our hand, and I still read a lot. Of course, now you and I read a lot about what's going on in higher education, what's going on in business education, and with all the digital delivery of things to read, it can be a little overwhelming. But I do read a lot, and it comes honestly. My mother was a librarian. She used to look at us and say, you know what? Let's have quiet time and read. And that might not have been my favorite thing when she said it when I was six, but it became kind of ingrained in me.

Ken White

Your parents have definitely had an effect on you. Most conversations with you, your parents come up, either your mom or your dad. You talked about your mom. Tell us about your dad.

Todd Mooradian

My dad was a football coach really coached football, basketball, and baseball at the University of New Hampshire at a time when coaches didn't just coach one sport in the 50s, and then he focused on football and then became the athletic director at the University of New Hampshire. And as a matter of fact, the football field is named after him. They're not the stadium, but the field is Mooradian Field. And I'm kind of waiting until everybody forgets how that happened and start to tell him it was named after me, but it was named after my dad, and he was a coach that believed in coaching by encouragement. He wasn't a Bobby Knight. He was whatever you did. It was the best you could do. What did we learn, and how do we go on to get better kind of a coach and very emotional, passionate coach? And I do think I learned from him how to get people engaged in a way that we're not going to look back and look to assign blame or what went wrong. We're going to look at what did we learn? How can we go forward and do better? And also something about athletics, I think, teaches you that you should always aim high. And my dad had an expression people would say, oh, well, UNH is playing Boston College. What are you going to do? And it's Boston College. He'd say nobody laces 'em up to come in second. We're going to go out there and give it our best shot to win.

Ken White

Yeah.

Todd Mooradian

And I think that kind of what I took away from hearing him always positive and always looking to aim high was that that's the role of a leader. Give people a chance to be great, encourage it, invest in them. I'm not being critical of Bobby Knight, but that's a different leadership style.

Ken White

Sure. Yeah. What would your parents think? Would they be surprised at what you're doing now?

Todd Mooradian

Well, after my freshman fall semester, I would say that there were conversations that this was not where they thought I was headed. But I learned I thought I was a pretty good student other than that one semester where I was pretty good at getting to know campus and where all the fun was.

Ken White

Yeah, sure.

Todd Mooradian

I was a good student. I don't think they'd have thought I would go on to be a professor and a dean, necessarily. There was a time that my dad asked me if I wanted to be a coach, did I want him to connect me to other opportunities in coaching. And I just decided that that wasn't for me. And then, my dad offered to pay for graduate school when I finished undergraduate because we were in the early 80s recession. And he said, if you get a little money in your pocket, Todd, you'll never go back to graduate school. So I think we found our way together on that. But how did I end up being a dean? Gosh, are so fortunate in so many ways that nobody could have predicted.

Ken White

Just like every industry, everything is sort of upended post-pandemic. What do you see ahead for the business schools and the United States in the world? What's the future hold?

Todd Mooradian

Well, everybody bemoans that the traditional college-age demographic is shrinking. So we're going to come off a demographic cliff here. And there's not going to be enough 18-year-olds in 2025 to fill all the universities. Everybody, all of the deans that you go to these deans meetings as you and I do, and you hear people talking about the spiking competition and all the new modalities and all the new varieties of programming from certificates to degrees, but nobody ever says, and the world is just too smart. The world still needs education. The demand is there. So we're fighting with increased competition. We're using new technologies and new delivery methods. We're packaging our products in new ways like certificates and badges and stackable certificates as well as degrees. And that's all true. But driving the future has to also be a recognition that the world needs business education. So we're going to find our way. You asked earlier about coming back to William & Mary. We've got a great brand. So one of the really refreshing things was to come back and say, I'm at a place that's a top 40 university, second oldest institution in the country. We have a dominant brand in the mid-Atlantic of the United States. We need to grow that to be a global brand. But we have some strengths that we can bring to bear to help define that future that you asked about. I think we're going to define it around broadening education, the thing that William & Mary has always done. We're going to define it around excellent teaching, never compromised for research, but coupled with research. And we're going to define it around the William & Mary notion of quality and impact. And so we'll define our own future. What do I see at the macro level for the whole world of business education? It's going to stay chaotic, kind of dynamic for a while. There's so many competitors coming in, so many new ways of delivering. I wouldn't be able to see that into that looking glass.

Ken White

Yeah, fair enough. What would you say to maybe a family who comes to William & Mary and a prospective student, a high school student who's thinking about business school at William & Mary? Why should they consider the Mason School of Business?

Todd Mooradian

Well, it is a Renaissance degree in management, so it's situated on one of the world's great liberal arts campuses. And we will make a person not only deeply skilled in business but broadly educated to think from different paradigms. That's really important. There's an expression T shaped people now. It's been out about ten years. The first time I heard it was about ten years ago. But it's about giving people the breadth and then also giving them the vertical of a tier, the depth, and we certainly are a great business school. They're going to leave here with all the deep knowledge of business to be a successful and impactful employee from day one, but also across the 30 years of their career. They're going to be able to think from different perspectives. And we have a model for delivering that at William & Mary. They have to take math. They have to take two sciences. They have to take social sciences. They have to take literature and philosophy. And each of those disciplines that they get a deep immersion in has a way of knowing the world and solving problems. So the value of the horizontal on the T, the value of being situated in one of the world's great liberal arts campuses, is that you can solve a problem like a chemist, or you can solve a problem like a philosopher. A philosopher does deep reading, steps away from it in hermeneutic circles and understands the text, and takes knowledge in that way. A chemist sets up an empirical experiment and measures things. Both of those are skills that are going to help a business person. The other thing I'll promise them is four years in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the campus of William & Mary. What a great thing. If I had an 18-year-old looking for a school. Both of mine are out of school now. But four years here with faculty that engaged with you, with wonderful student life in this beautiful place, with your classmates, if we have 6,000 students, there's 5,999 other people that are a big part of your experience. I would tell them they can't do better than send a young person to William & Mary.

Ken White

You have an MBA, which, oddly enough, people, I think, are surprised to find out. Many people who work in business schools don't have MBAs. They may have doctorates in business or doctorates in a specialization. But having an MBA, what do you see with our MBA students, our online, our full-timers, our part-timers, our executive MBAs? Why should they consider the Mason School of Business for their MBA?

Todd Mooradian

Well, an MBA teaches you everything about a business in a particular way. It's not just the tools or the pieces. It's how they fit together. And if you get a good MBA, you understand the lifeblood of the organization. You understand how accounting contributes. You understand what finance does. You understand how the PNL works and where the margin comes in on a sale. You understand in a systematic and holistic way how that organization functions and survives. Nothing else gives you that. If you get an MS in data analytics or you get an MS in finance, you know a piece of that puzzle. And at William & Mary, and I say this, we developed a new curriculum. And when I say that you took the lead on that five years ago, it's a wonderful curriculum to do just what I just said. To get the students deeply involved in experiential education, that shows them how that complex system that is a business organization works. What's the lifeblood of the organization? And I would say there's no other preparation that gives a student that perspective. And we deliver that in four different ways. But we always emphasize that holistic, strategic understanding of how a business succeeds and endures. So I think that there are skill sets that have specific half-lives, like analytics, where they won't be using the same tools in 15 years in analytics, but MS in analytics gives you a great leg up to get into an industry that's going to be there in 15 years.

Ken White

No doubt.

Todd Mooradian

But an MBA isn't as skills-based as it is perspective based and a language-based paradigm, a way of thinking. And there's only one degree like that. That's the MBA.

Ken White

If you had a message for our alumni as a new dean, what would it be?

Todd Mooradian

I'm really pleased to be back in a role that connects us to the alumni. I spent 27 years here, and it's so great to see you. The alumni of William & Mary are just terrific. And people that remember different things that happened in class. So thanks for having me back, would be my first message, and it's great to see you. The other thing I would say is by hook or by crook, I'm the Dean, and I can assure our alumni that we've been working hard to get better across all of this time. So since they left, we've changed, we're doing things better, we've been true to our core values, but most importantly, I'd invite them to come back and help us build better still. Our alumni are one of our great assets, and they have a perspective on the world and how a William & Mary degree can help them or help new generations change that world. And I'd love to have you come back and talk to me about how we can do better.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Todd Mooradian. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Take charge of your future. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Dean Todd Mooradian, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

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 Students, Faculty & Staff
Students, Faculty & StaffEpisode 189: December 21, 2022
Holiday Binge Watching

Students, Faculty & Staff

Episode 189: December 21, 2022

Holiday Binge Watching

It's the holiday season, and ordinarily, at this time of the year, we would suggest some good books for you to read as you hopefully get some time off to relax. Not this year. This year was different. If you're like most professionals, you worked harder than ever this year. On top of that, finding time to exercise, sleep, and interact with family and friends seemed more challenging. Many professionals are flat-out tired. They need some downtime. So, instead of recommending books to read over the holiday, we suggest you kick back and take time to binge-watch some good television. We spoke to students, faculty, and staff at the William & Mary School of Business and asked them to share some suggestions for holiday binge-watching. We have ten recommendations for you, plus a bonus recommendation.

Podcast (audio)

Students, Faculty & Staff: Holiday Binge Watching TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Chandler Blankenship: "The Murdochs: Empire of Influence" HBO Max
  • Stephanie Hilaire: "Ted Lasso" Apple TV+
  • Cody Watson: "Peaky Blinders" Netflix
  • Phil Wagner: "Stutz" Netflix
  • Caroline Engle: "Miss Scarlett and The Duke" PBS
  • Elizabeth Eldredge: "The Amazing Race" CBS
  • Mike Ryan: "Cobra Kai" Netflix
  • Louise Song: "Ugly Betty" Hulu
  • Ben Carson: "The Mandalorian" "The Book of Boba Fett" "Andor" Disney +
  • Ken White: "The Old Man" Hulu
  • Bonus: "Barry" HBO Max
Transcript

Caroline Engle

I recommend it because the cases are really intriguing, really detailed. It's very period specific. If you're interested in Victorian England, it's some of the best dialogue I've ever heard in a show. Really great chemistry between the two leads. It's romantic. The mysteries are really interesting. You don't really see the outcomes ahead of time.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world, sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. It's the holiday season, and ordinarily, at this time of the year, we would suggest some good books for you to read as you hopefully get some time off to relax. Not this year. This year was different. If you're like most professionals, you worked harder than ever this year. On top of that, finding time to exercise, sleep, interact with family and friends seemed more challenging. So many professionals are flat-out tired. They need some downtime. So instead of recommending books to read over the holiday, we suggest you kick back and take time to binge-watch some good television. We spoke to students, faculty, and staff at the William & Mary School of Business and asked them to share some suggestions for holiday binge-watching. We have ten recommendations for you, plus a bonus recommendation. We begin with MBA student Chandler Blankenship.

Ken White

All right, what do you recommend for somebody to binge-watch over the holidays?

Chandler Blankenship

So I just finished the Murdoch documentary on HBO Max. I think it's about eight episodes, and if you have any interest in the business world or News specifically, it kind of pulls the curtain back. It's a deep dive into the family as a whole. The different eras at which News Corp. has kind of gone through. The family turmoil that kind of shaped the show Secession, which is also a really good show. But I'd say if you kind of want to have an understanding of what that whole family did and kind of where News is now, they've had a crazy footprint, so it's really, really good.

Ken White

Did it surprise you? Is it what you expected?

Chandler Blankenship

It's a lot more than I expected. I was familiar with the family solely through some of the low-hanging fruit with Fox News and things along those lines, but it goes through the expansion throughout Australia, into London, and then into America, and then the different aspects of culture they've touched for the last 30 years. It's pretty shocking. It's pretty wild.

Ken White

That's MBA student Chandler Blankenship, who recommends The Murdochs: Empire of Influence on HBO Max. Stephanie Hilaire is also an MBA student at William & Mary. She recommends the popular comedy-drama Ted Lasso, available on Apple TV.

Stephanie Hilaire

Jason Sudeikis plays. I believe he's from Texas, so he's the head coach of a football an American football team, and he travels with his assistant coach, I think is what you call them. But he ends up taking a head coaching role with a British club team for soccer. So it's about his struggles moving to the UK and just really learning the game of soccer and really trying to help the soccer team fulfill its great attributes.

Ken White

It's extremely popular. Why do you think?

Stephanie Hilaire

I think it's because it's so wholesome. It's the way that they've written this show. He's just such a good and wholesome character, and he really just wants the best for people. And he's so kind, especially in the face of all the adversity that he is facing in this new culture. And it's absolutely incredible just to see the differences and the challenges that he's faced with.

Ken White

MBA student Stephanie Hilaire recommending Ted Lasso. For something completely different and darker. Cody Watson, Director of Marketing at William & Mary's School of Business, shares his suggestion.

Cody Watson

I have to recommend Peaky Blinders, the entire series. And there's going to be a movie, but it's not out quite yet, so you get time to get caught up before the movie comes out.

Ken White

Tell us about Peaky Blinders.

Cody Watson

Peaky Blinders, it's a little rough. It's got a little violence in it. But I have to recommend it for the holiday season because it does take place in the 19 teens in the UK. And so naturally, there's a lot of snow and cold weather, so it kind of fits the ambiance. But it's a mob show about some mobsters in Birmingham, in the UK.

Ken White

Why do you like it?

Cody Watson

I like the story behind it. I think the story of a man's gritty resilience to succeed and to go from the bottom to the top. It's like that whole Godfather kind of mobster thing. It's cool.

Ken White

That's Cody Watson suggesting Peaky Blinders available on Netflix. Professor Phil Wagner says this next show is so good it's addicting.

Phil Wagner

On Netflix, there's this wonderful miniseries. It's called Stutz.

Ken White

Oh, tell us about it.

Phil Wagner

Just came out a few weeks ago, maybe a month ago now. So I'll try to represent it well. It is a warning. The weirdest thing I've ever watched but one of the best things I've seen in recent years. It is Jonah Hill, who's in a host of comedy movies like you know him from 21 Jump Street. A lot of, like, lowbrow movies that you've seen. It is him making a documentary in conversation with his therapist, who has dementia. And it is hilarious. It is moving. It is filmed just in a really strange but wonderful way. And it's addicting.

Ken

Professor Phil Wagner recommending Stutz, available on Netflix. Before becoming an MBA student at William & Mary, Caroline Engle worked in network television, so she knows quality TV when she sees it. Caroline suggests this show.

Caroline Engle

I recommend Miss Scarlett and The Duke.

Ken White

Where is it available?

Caroline Engle

It's available on PBS.

Ken White

Why do you recommend it? Well, first of all, tell us what it's about if you would.

Caroline Engle

Yeah, so it's about the first female detective in Victoria in England. She runs her own detective agency, and she is childhood friends with a police detective who works for Scotland Yard. His character is nicknamed the Duke because his last name is Wellington, the Duke of Wellington. So not actual royalty involved, but it's very interesting.

Ken White

Why do you recommend it?

Caroline Engle

I recommend it because the cases are really intriguing, really detailed. It's very period specific. If you're interested in Victorian England, it's some of the best dialogue I've ever heard in a show. Really great chemistry between the two leads. It's romantic. The mysteries are really interesting. You don't really see the outcomes ahead of time, so it's a fun watch.

Ken White

That's Caroline Engle with our fifth recommendation. Miss Scarlet and The Duke on PBS. Of our ten recommendations for holiday binge-watching, only one is in the reality TV category. Elizabeth Eldredge, Associate Director, Digital Strategy and Content Creation at William & Mary's Business School, says The Amazing Race is the show to binge.

Elizabeth Eldredge

So, Ken, I recommend watching The Amazing Race. Have you watched it before?

Ken White

No, I have to be the only person in America who hasn't. But yeah, please tell us about it.

Elizabeth Eldredge

So it's an adventure series. They take contestants anywhere from ten to twelve teams each season, and they race around the world in pursuit of a million dollars. So they have to overcome all these obstacles and whatnot. But what got me into it is they started around 2001, and I had been on my study abroad program then, and so I loved traveling. I was in ten different countries over four months, and getting back, I missed that. I missed the adventure, and I'm an adventurous person by nature. So looking at this coming live then, it was really fun to watch because I could live vicariously through these people. And what's fun now that they're on their 34th season, I believe, is my partner and I. We're going back through all the seasons we missed, and we'll pick out our favorite couple or partner and see who we think has the grit to get to the end. So it's really fun. And we'll make little bets and wagers with ourselves. So one of us has to cook dinner if we get it right or not or whatnot. So it's a really fun show. And what's neat, being in the mix for over 20 years now, is that you can actually follow people and see where they are in life now. What became of them, what did they do with the money, or what couples lasted, what didn't? So it's just a really fun series. I highly recommend it.

Ken White

Some movies you watched as a teenager stay with you for years. That's the case with this recommendation from Mike Ryan, Director of Corporate Relations and Employer Development at William & Mary.

Mike Ryan

100% recommend Cobra Kai. I am a child of the 80s and early 90s. If anybody remembers The Karate Kid, it was one of my favorite movies back in the day. If anybody knows Cobra Kai, it came out, and the series started in 2018. The first season and it really relives really fast forwards to when in Karate Kid, they were 16 teenager old nemesis Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso. It brings you back to real-time where they're in their fifties, and it looks at what they're doing today and how they still are competitors and still going after each other, but kind of roles have reversed. When you looked at Johnny Lawrence was the bad guy back in the day, he was the leader of Cobra Kai, and Daniel LaRusso was the good guy that got the girl. And from the movie's perspective, back in the 80s, you always sided with Daniel LaRusso because he was like the hero beating out the bad guy. Well, it shows how over time, were you really looking at the right bad guy because you see that Daniel LaRusso grows up, became the owner of this car dealer, and he's really kind of a little schister with how he does deals and wheels. And Johnny Lawrence is really becomes a handyman has a tough time finding a career path. And it takes a look at really the challenges they face with how their lives took different paths. And when you look back at the movie, they take snippets of the movie in real-time and show you how really it wasn't Daniel being the good guy. It was really Johnny that might have been not so bad a guy as you thought he was. So season there's five seasons, and season 6 may be coming out soon, but I need to catch up. I've watched season one. I can't wait to watch two, three, four, and five. So I'm going to be really binging over the holiday break.

Ken White

Mike Ryan saying Cobra Kai on Netflix is the one to watch over the holidays. MBA student Louise Song likes to binge-watch a series that originally aired when she was in middle and high school.

Louise Song

So currently, I'm watching Ugly Betty on Hulu, and this show is probably, I don't know, like 15 years old, maybe 20. But it's a story about Ugly Betty, who is America Ferrera, and she breaks into the fashion industry, specifically media, and that's where she's always wanted to go. But she winds up in fashion media, and she's a complete outsider. She shows up the first day wearing a poncho, and everybody's in, you know, like skinny like dresses and heels. So it's got quite a lot of seasons now. I believe it's like ten. So you get to see the progression of Betty Suarez and how she breaks into this industry from an outsider, and she really works her way up and her own character development, her own values, what she keeps with, what, you know, she kind of sheds and transforms into, I love the fashion. Even though it's 20 years old. I also believe fashion is cyclical. So I'm seeing what trends come back through, but I just love the storyline, and I think even watching something that's so old, the values still resonate. And every time that I rewatch it, I identify with a different character throughout. So before, I really identified with Betty, who's trying to break in, but now I kind of identify with the antagonist, which is Wilhelmina Slater, and she's seen as this big, scary person, but you're also seeing her storyline of her breaking through with her own values and what she wants to achieve in her career and her life. So albeit sometimes it's not the best way to go, but it's new tactics that I'm like, oh, I haven't tried that before.

Ken White

Louise Song recommending Ugly Betty, originally an ABC series now available on Hulu. Star wars fans will like what MBA student Ben Carson has to say.

Ben Carson

So I would hop on Disney Plus and check out kind of the three main Star Wars series that have come out. The Mandalorian, Boba Fett, and Andor they all kind of lead into each other. And even if you've never seen Star Wars, they're really good watches because it gives you a different side of it, even if you have seen Star Wars. So that would be the three that I would recommend.

Ken White

Can you describe it to us? Is it sci-fi? What's it like?

Ben Carson

Yeah, so it's more Sci-Fi, and it kind of follows along the different main characters within their own series. And there's action. There's some intensity. I wouldn't say there's a lot of romance in it, but there's a little bit here and there. But it's definitely intriguing because it leads them around on their stories, and you see a lot of character development throughout each series.

Ken White

How much time do you need to invest to watch this? How long is it?

Ben Carson

Each episode is about 35 to 40 minutes, and I would say all in total. There's four seasons right now throughout the three series, and so I would say probably a good 20 hours, 25 hours worth of watching, but it's definitely worth it.

Ken White

That's MBA student Ben Carson recommending the Mandalorian, Andor, and Boba Fett on Disney Plus. For our 10th suggestion, I'll join in, if you don't mind. If you like the Jason Bourne movies or shows with spies, fights, and chase scenes, I highly recommend The Old Man, an FX series available on Hulu. Season one had eight episodes, and it aired last summer, and most published reports are saying season two will be released this summer. The Old Man is a fantastic series with Jeff Bridges and a terrific cast. He plays a former CIA operative who's been living under the radar for decades, and then suddenly, he's pulled back in, and man, is he a force to be reckoned with. It's smart. It's exciting and perfect for binge-watching The Old Man on Hulu. And for our bonus recommendation, we suggest the dark comedy Barry on HBO Max, created by Bill Hader, formerly of Saturday Night Live. Who plays in the starring role? It's a funny story about a professional hitman who moves from the Midwest to Los Angeles to conduct his business. And while there, he gets hit with the acting bug. It's Bill Hader. It's dark. It's funny. That's Barry on HBO. Max.

Ken White

So there you have it. Eleven suggestions for binge-watching over the holidays. We hope you'll take some time over the next few weeks to relax, recharge your batteries, and watch some good TV. You deserve it. That's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Thanks to our students and colleagues at the William & Mary School of Business for sharing their recommendations, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. For all of us at William & Mary, happy holidays and best wishes for an outstanding 2023.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership and Business. 

More Podcast Episodes

 Mano Watsa
Mano WatsaEpisode 188: December 5, 2022
The Commitment-Based Organization

Mano Watsa

Episode 188: December 5, 2022

The Commitment-Based Organization

There are countless parallels between business and sports; teamwork, sacrifice, expertise, winning and losing, innovation, leadership, and commitment. Our guest today is the President and Owner of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. PGC has camps across the United States and Canada dedicated to teaching young people how to succeed on and off the court. While the PGC camps are spread out geographically, so is its staff. It's fully remote, and has been for years. Yet, the organization's president, Mano Watsa, has built a highly successful team by creating a commitment-based organization. He joins us today to talk about the commitment-based organization, the people it attracts and retains, and why it leads to success.

Podcast (audio)

Mano Watsa: The Commitment-Based Organization TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How long has PGC Basketball been in operation
  • What is the mission of PGC Basketball
  • How sports help develop leadership skills
  • What it means to be a commitment-based organization
  • What the difference is between a commitment-based vs. behavior-based organization
  • What PGC Basketball have discovered about their employees using the commitment-based system
  • How commitment-based leadership translates to teaching coaches and athletes
Transcript

Mano Watsa

Every new staff member in our company creates their commitment statement. It's not what they're going to do. It's not their goals. It's who they are committed to being. What we've discovered is that results come from behaviors, but behaviors come from who you are. Who you are drives what you do, what you do drives the results that you get.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. There are countless parallels between business and sports. Teamwork, sacrifice, expertise, winning and losing, innovation, leadership, and commitment. Our guest today is the President and Owner of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. PGC has camps across the United States, and Canada dedicated to teaching young people how to succeed on and off the court. While the PGC camps are spread out geographically, so is its staff. It's fully remote and has been for years. Yet the organization's president, Mano Watsa, has built a highly successful team by creating a commitment-based organization. He joins us today to talk about the commitment-based organization, the people it attracts and retains, and why it leads to success. Here's our conversation with Mano Watsa.

Ken White

Mano, great to see you. Thanks for being with us and sharing your time today.

Mano Watsa

Pleasure being on the podcast, Ken.

Ken White

Yeah, well, tell us about, first of all, your organization, PGC Basketball. It doesn't sound like a basketball camp that I went to when I was growing up. Very different.

Mano Watsa

It is very different, and PGC stands for Point Guard College and our founder, Dick DeVenzio, who passed away now, many years ago. We just completed our 30th year of running our camps, or we like to think of them more as courses, as players hear it in the classroom, they see it on film, and then they go on court and do it at our five-day, four-night overnight camps that we put on over the course of the summer. And we put on over 150 camps through the year across the US and Canada. But Point Guard College was really founded on the premise of teaching players, not just point guards, but any player who wanted to learn how to think the game, to teach them what it actually takes to run the show for a team and to be the coach on the court. So really, we're training players how to be leaders for their teams.

Ken White

Yeah. And, you know, you hear that about point guards, right, and quarterbacks all the time, how they're leaders. Well, you grew up playing ball and playing other sports. How did that affect you and your leadership development? Were you putting the pieces together as you were a young athlete growing up?

Mano Watsa

I think I was putting some of the pieces together, playing a variety of sports, and really competing. I lived for sports growing up, but it wasn't until I actually attended Point Guard College as a high school athlete that then the light bulbs turned on for me in terms of the impact that I could have on our team through my leadership. It really revolutionized for me how I thought about playing sports and the impact that I could have.

Ken White

And then transitioning that from leading on the court or on the field, or on the ice to leading in a business environment.

Mano Watsa

Absolutely. Because one of the things I learned at Point Guard College is to lead. It wasn't just a basketball concept. It was a way of life. If you're a point guard and you're running the show for your team, figuring out how to make your teammates better, how to create a winning championship culture, how to be a great communicator and facilitator, and how to make your teammates stand out, well, that's not just something a point guard in basketball has to be able to do. A quarterback on a football team is the point guard. A CEO of a company is the point guard. And so, really, what I had to figure out as we began growing PGC when I came in and helped to take over for our founder, what I had to figure out was what does it mean to be the point guard of our company?

Ken White

It's interesting over the many podcasts that we've done, how many leaders and CEOs grew up playing sports, of course, and how the vast majority of them are so committed to their workouts as well. So those connections are pretty obvious between the two.

Mano Watsa

Definitely.

Ken White

So you and I were talking right before we started to record about your organization being a commitment-based organization. Can you tell us about that?

Mano Watsa

Sure. So we've attempted over the past 15 years to build a commitment-based culture. And I'll contrast that against a behavior-based culture. In a behavior-based culture, employees and business owners relate to each other based on their behaviors, whereas in a commitment-based culture, we relate to our staff and to each other based on our commitments. And so the way this plays out is this every new staff member in our company creates their commitment statement. It's not what they're going to do. It's not their goals. It's who they're committed to being. What we've discovered is that results come from behaviors, but behaviors come from who you are. Who you are drives what you do. What you do drives the results that you get. And so we pull all the way back to who are you committed to being? And with most sports teams, even with most companies, it's typically the leader setting the expectations for everyone else and everyone else trying to live up to their bosses' or their coaches' expectations. And what we've discovered through creating a commitment-based culture is that when we empower our staff, our employees, to create their own commitment statements, they actually create commitments that far surpass even anything I would attempt to create for them. And so they create these two or three-paragraph commitment statements of how they're committed to showing up, who they're committed to being. And then what we do is we coach them into it. When we see them living out their commitments, we celebrate them and encourage them. When we see them falling short of their commitments, we remind them, and we come alongside them and say, how can we help you to live out everything you're committed to being? And it's created this culture of camaraderie, connectedness, a sense of we're all in this together. Whereas in a behavior-based organization, Ken, what typically happens is we see somebody falling short of our commitment that we had for them, or I should say, our expectations that we have of them, and then we get frustrated with them, and then we're calling them into our office, and we're having a conversation about the standard that we have. We're trying to pull them up to our standard. And what we found is it tends to lead to writing off an employee tends to lead to employees getting discouraged or frustrated. And we found that a commitment-based culture has just given us a significant edge from a business standpoint in terms of how we do business day to day and how we relate to each other day to day.

Ken White

Are there goals in the statement or metrics in there?

Mano Watsa

No. So all goals and metrics would be separate from that. And it's within their onboarding process. Every employee, they'll see a few examples of commitment statements, but they will create their own commitment statement. And then, in our week-to-week meetings every week, employees have the opportunity to share their commitment statement. So it's not just something that's one and done. They share their commitment statement. And then, whether it's within their department or a larger staff-wide call with our 40 or 50 full-time staff, we'll have two or three staff members every month share their commitment statement in front of the whole company with all the staff. And then, we take time to acknowledge how we've seen them live out their commitment statement. We call them celebrations. So part of our culture of commitments is a culture of celebrations because most employees are not encouraged enough, are not recognized enough for their good efforts. And as much as we can try and do it as a business owner, it's like a head coach of a basketball team. They can't provide all the encouragement that their teammates need, and they don't even see all the good efforts of their team. And so, as we help coaches in basketball to create a culture of celebrations, they're actually training their players to see the best in each other. And so at PGC, we're actually training our employees to look for and see the best in each other and to highlight it, acknowledge it, celebrate it. And so it really creates a special culture where everyone seeing the best in each other. And when somebody does fall short, everyone's coming alongside them, saying, how can I help you win? How can I know this is who you're committed to being? I'm not seeing you live it out in this way, so how can I support you? And it's really created a supportive environment.

Ken White

Yeah, one of my questions when you started talking about it, was, they don't share them, do they? But that's part of the backbone of the whole thing is I share my statement with you.

Mano Watsa

100%, 100%, and then we know what we're all committed to.

Ken White

Yeah.

Mano Watsa

And when we see others living out their commitments, we celebrate the heck out of them. It's not only affirming, but for everyone else, it's aspirational as well. When we see somebody else and hear about someone, how somebody else is showing up, I think it inspires us to raise our game and raise our standards as well.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Mano Watsa in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before, and that means change for business and your career. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you can play a role in the future. If you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead, consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA all taught by the number one ranked faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Mano Watsa.

Ken White

Now, you mentioned a couple of people will share at the meetings. Is everybody's statement available to everyone else?

Mano Watsa

Yes, at any time and within departments, commitment statements get shared. And then within the larger company, as I mentioned, on our monthly staff-wide calls, because we all work remotely. And Ken, one of the things we had to figure out, the pandemic has caused many companies to shift over to working remotely. We've been working remotely for 15 years, and so we had to figure out how do we build a world-class culture remotely. And it took us many years and me working with a top organizational culture coach to figure out how do you create a culture that everyone feels a sense of belonging that no one wants to step away from. That's not easy to do. And so we've had to work really hard to create a world-class culture even though we're not together in one place.

Ken White

Something that companies and organizations all over the world are struggling with right now. The fact that how can I lead the way I've always led when people aren't coming in and meeting on a regular basis? Interesting time for leaders right now. You seem to be ahead of the game.

Mano Watsa

Well, we've had 15 years of trial and error and figuring out what doesn't work and what does work. And you have to communicate much more effectively when you're working online. It requires more touchpoints. We have everyone in our company has a weekly coaching conversation with whoever they report to. Every week there's a department call, and then every month, there's our staff-wide calls, which are celebratory to appreciate everyone and connect with everyone, to keep everyone together. And then, we have in-person department meetings and an in-person yearly celebration as well because those are critical to helping to ensure you're creating a strong sense of camaraderie and community.

Ken White

Do the celebrations are they on a smaller level as well or are they mostly on the organizational?

Mano Watsa

Actually, every call that anyone steps into or any meeting in person, we begin every one with 90 seconds to two minutes of celebrations. It could be something as simple as what are you grateful for today? Or how did you see someone else show up this past week? Or what's an accomplishment you're feeling really pleased with and proud of right now? Or how have you lived out some portion of your commitment statement? We have lots of different ways we do celebrations. We try not to just focus on what everyone is doing and accomplishing because we're not human doers. We're human beings. And so we try and focus on who is everyone being. And it really creates a culture of gratitude and a culture of positivity.

Ken White

Have you seen any differences between genders or generations in terms of the culture?

Mano Watsa

No differences. The only difference is when somebody comes in who hasn't been immersed in it. It's a culture shock.

Ken White

I'm sure.

Mano Watsa

Because most aren't used to celebrating others, encouraging others, most people aren't used to finding each day. What am I grateful for? And so there's usually an acclimatization. And our culture is definitely polarizing. There have been occasions where somebody has come in and said, I think that's not for me. And that's a good thing. When you have a culture that polarizes, you're probably on the right track. And for those who step in and say, I love this environment. I want to be at a place where I'm recognized, appreciated, and valued. And when those people come into our company, they feel right at home, and they say, this is a place that I want to be and that I want to stay and work for forever and for the rest of my career. And as a business owner, you love to hear that.

Ken White

We've seen survey after survey over the last ten years where the inputs are changing. It used to be money was the key driver that just keeps going down the ladder. And what keeps moving up is I want someone to say thanks. I want someone to appreciate my effort. And so you're seeing that first hand, which is fantastic. How do you apply that to the young athletes who you work with?

Mano Watsa

Yes. So we train coaches. We train thousands of coaches each year through our coaching clinics. And actually, over 1500 coaches attend our camps as well to see how we build culture and train leaders. So we teach it to coaches, and then with the players, we actually do it. When we're at our camps, we give them the opportunity to partner up and give each other feedback. What are they doing well? What can they improve upon? So we've created an environment at our camps where there's a high culture of feedback. And if you're running a company and you haven't created a culture of feedback, then employees are going to be hesitant to give meaningful feedback. Not just the encouragement but gaps that need to be closed and areas that need to be improved upon. They won't give that feedback unless you've created a culture of feedback. And you have to create a culture of feedback by creating a culture of vulnerability where everyone is willing to stretch themselves and be vulnerable and to be vulnerable. That all begins with humility and understanding that we're all, I like to call it, a joyful work in progress. We're all a work in progress. We are as business owners. Our companies are, our employees are. And if you can approach things that way and, as a business owner yourself, be receptive to feedback, and then your employees will as well. So within our camps, we create a culture of feedback with the players, and then we train coaches on how to, within a team environment, begin practice and end practice with 60 to 90 seconds of celebrations. And one of the things that celebrations often does is it actually reinforces your culture and standards because what tends to get celebrated are the things that you're actually emphasizing. And so, for teams, it's a really potent and powerful way to actually aid coaches in keeping their standards top of mind.

Ken White

You're working with young people, obviously, all the time, as I am. I feel great about this young generation who's going to be the leaders of the future. What are some of the things you see, and how do you feel about the next generation moving in as leaders?

Mano Watsa

First of all, I often hear adults talk about their concerns with the next generation. But I think every generation has this in common. They all want to make a difference, and they all want to be valued and pursue something meaningful with their lives. I know my three teenage kids are the same way. So what I see from young people, especially the young leaders we work with, just amazing, outstanding young leaders. I see them full of passion and full of a sense of purpose, of wanting to contribute. They want to, I think, even societally, they want to fix things that they see are wrong, and they want to be difference-makers in the world. And we do our best to equip them, to give them tools and inspiration to do that within their own team setting. If they can do that within their team setting, they're going to be really well prepared to go do that in a larger world when the ball stops bouncing.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Mano Watsa. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. The new year is right around the corner. Take control of 2023 and your future. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest Mano Watsa and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Mano Watsa

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership and Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Joe Jordan
Joe JordanEpisode 187: November 21, 2022
The Domino's Pizza Story

Joe Jordan

Episode 187: November 21, 2022

The Domino's Pizza Story

It's hard to imagine life without pizza, and difficult to imagine pizza and pizza delivery without Domino's. It all began in 1960 with one store in Michigan. Now, Domino's is the number one pizza restaurant in the world, operating in 95 countries. By the end of the decade, Domino's expects to have 30,000 stores. Ninety-eight percent of the stores are owned by franchisees. And 95% of store owners worked at a Domino's before becoming owners. It's a success story fueled by a love of pizza, opportunity, and innovation. Joe Jordan is President of US Business and Global Functions at Domino's. He's been with the organization for 11 years. He joins us to talk about the pizza business, Domino's guiding principles, and what it takes to stay on top.

Podcast (audio)

Joe Jordan: The Domino's Pizza Story TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What drives Joe's passion for the pizza business
  • What kind of person buys a Domino's franchise
  • How the principles that lead the Domino's organization were created
  • What big ideas helped shape the modern era of Domino's pizza
  • Where the principle of "uncommon honesty" came from
  • How Domino's approaches creative marketing
  • How does Domino's follow the principle of "defining why"
  • How Domino's has been able to sustain consistent growth
Transcript

Joe Jordan

It really is because it can be a sea of sameness. And we like to think that customers think about our brands a lot more than they do. We're thinking about it all the time. But no, there's particular moments and occasions that they're going to be thinking about us. And how do you make sure that one, you're going to be top of mind, and then two, you're going to be top of mind with a relevant brand difference for them?

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. It's hard to imagine life without pizza and difficult to imagine pizza and pizza delivery without Domino's. It all began in 1960 with one store in Michigan. Now, Domino's is the number one pizza restaurant in the world, operating in 95 countries. By the end of the decade, Domino's expects to have 30,000 stores. 98% of the stores are owned by franchisees, and 95% of store owners worked at a Domino's before becoming owners. It's a success story fueled by a love of pizza, opportunity, and innovation. Joe Jordan is President of U. S. Business and Global Functions at Domino's. He's been with the organization for eleven years. He joins us to talk about the pizza business, Domino's guiding principles, and what it takes to stay on top. Here's our conversation with the President of Domino's, Joe Jordan.

Ken White

Well, Joe, you just finished speaking with the first-year students in our full-time MBA program, and several of them afterward came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed your talk. But a number of them caught your passion. They said, wow, he's so passionate about what he does. What drives you?

Joe Jordan

I love the business, and I've always loved food as a business because it's so tangible, and you can get into the stores, you can get into the restaurants and see it. But the thing that makes me, and I believe pretty much everyone that works at Domino's, really passionate about the business is our franchisees. I mentioned in the presentation 95% of our franchisees started as drivers or pizza makers in our stores. And these are people who pizza is their life. It's not a job. We say that they have pizza sauce running in their veins, and they do. And they're in their stores 364 days a year. They're working when I'm home with my family when I'm on vacation. Their stores are open. So I feel an obligation to them, and it's a responsibility that I don't take lightly and that I take a lot of pride in. In helping make their lives better, and they help make their communities better. And so we're not just selling pizza. We say the power possible is what we talk about, one pizza at a time. And that's what our franchisees do, and I try to help them do it, and I love it.

Ken White

Over 90% of the franchisees come from within. That seems like a real differentiator.

Joe Jordan

It is a special sauce for us. Certainly, because it is a hard business, it's not an overly complicated business, but it's a hard business to run well. As I mentioned, you're open seven days a week. You're open late. Your busiest nights are Friday and Saturday when everyone else is at home. Having someone who knows what they're getting into, who isn't just investing in a business or buying themselves a job, as some franchise organizations are that way. This is someone who cares about pizza. They love pizza. They come up. We have a franchise management school that you need to have worked in the store before you can become a franchisee. You can't just write a check and buy a store. You have to know what it's about. If you know what it is about. We've seen that result in better stores, better operations, happier customers.

Ken White

You discussed the principles that lead Domino's and the organization. How are they created?

Joe Jordan

Yes, some of it is explicit. Some of it, I'll be honest, is a little rearview mirror strategy. It's, hey, we were really successful here. What did we do? Let's go back and look at that and try to codify that so we can replicate it. And so things like embracing revolution around new and inspired. When we relaunched our pizza, we didn't say in 2009 2010, let's embrace revolution. We said we have to do something, that this company is in a very tough position. Our franchisees are in a tough position. Then as we worked through that, and it was so successful, we said, all right, what made that successful? It's because we weren't incremental. It's because we were big. We were bold. I've never seen an idea get bigger as it works its way through a company. They typically get smaller as they work through the operational complexities, the legal complexities. So let's start as big as we can, embrace that revolution, have big ideas, and have them be as big and as impactful when they finally hit the market as well.

Ken White

When you think of those big ideas, does one, in particular, come to mind, or are there many?

Joe Jordan

Yeah, there are a lot of them, but it's new and inspired, obviously, and coming out in the first place. And that's the grandfather of them. Instead of just saying, new and improved, we said, hey, our pizza was not good. That was the beginning of the modern era for Domino's Pizza. But since then, we created a pizza delivery car. We worked with Chevy. We worked with Roush and Aftermarket. We crash-tested these things. I mean, we're a pizza company. What are we doing? We're showing our passion to give customers a great pizza experience. And whether it's that, whether it's paving potholes, so our customers don't end up tipping their pizza off their front seat as they're driving home, we want customers to say. I can't believe a pizza company just did that. And that that's our action standard.

Ken White

I can't believe any company would publicly say, we don't like our product. We are starting over. That's bold.

Joe Jordan

It's Cortez burning the ships a little bit. Right. There was no going back from that. And there were a couple of nervous nights. And huge credit to Russell, who is our current CEO. Patrick, who was our CEO at the time, for being willing to take that chance. And it was a chance because I don't think anyone had done something quite like that before. Others have replicated since, but it ended up working. But it was a risk.

Ken White

One of your principles is uncommon honesty. And that ties into many of your campaigns.

Joe Jordan

Yeah, we talk a lot about tensions, and the tensions are these coiled-up discomforts. That's how we talk about them. And one of them in our brand was we were a pizza place without good pizza. That's a real tension. Another tension at the time, particularly around 2009, 2010, a lot of protesting, a lot of people feeling that the government wasn't being honest large organizations weren't being honest. So we could have just said new and improved and been out there and not taking a risk and not had the same reaction. But our values are internally uncommon honesty with each other. Shouldn't we treat our customers the same way? And shouldn't we go out there? And it has the dual benefit of being who we are genuinely. But then breaking through in all the media noise that's out there as we're trying to get our customers attention.

Ken White

Man, isn't breaking through tough?

Joe Jordan

It really is because it can be a sea of sameness. And we like to think that customers think about our brands a lot more than they do. We're thinking about it all the time. But no, there's particular moments and occasions that they're going to be thinking about us. And how do you make sure that one, you're going to be top of mind, and then two, you're going to be top of mind with a relevant brand difference for them?

Ken White

And so many channels requires great creativity. How does Domino's approach that?

Joe Jordan

Yeah, we're fortunate in that we have a fantastic team. Our marketing team in the building are some of the most creative marketers who are as passionate as I am about the business and using that, oh, yes, we did standard. We're also very fortunate. We work with an advertising agency out of Colorado called Work in Progress, and they've been fantastic brand partners for years who understand the brand and what we're doing. They're not coming up with ideas to win awards, which many agencies do. They're coming up ideas that will drive our business then, that happened to win awards as well.

Ken White

The tagline oh, yes, we did. Seems to be a big piece of what Domino's stands for.

Joe Jordan

It really is. And again, from a tagline perspective, I think it's okay. Some customers will play it back. What I want customers to playback is the underlying sentiment underneath it of this is a company that I'm occasionally taken aback by what they're doing. And they care so much, they think so much about this, whether it's changing the ordering process or helping drive recycling on pizza boxes, which a lot of people are very confused about. They're thinking about this whole thing and trying to make this better for me. And I can't believe someone would be that maniacal about pizza.

Ken White

It's fun, and it's a differentiator.

Joe Jordan

It is, and it helps make our business run better, and it helps make our brand stronger for our customers.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Joe Jordan in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before, and that means change for business and your role in it. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you can be a part of creating the future. If you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead, we invite you to consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA all taught by the number one-ranked MBA faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Joe Jordan.

Ken White

When you talked with our students earlier today, you discussed defining why. That's a Domino's principle. Can you tell us about defining why?

Joe Jordan

Yeah, I think otherwise. It's really easy to be in an ideation or to see these ideas from your agencies and for things to feel scattershot, to not feel like they're all coming from the same brand. And we talk about the magic of pizza, and the magic is creating magical pizza experiences. And again, you combine that with the, oh, yes, we did action standard. And is this something that's going to really create a magical pizza experience? How is it going to change our consumers again, ordering process, the value that they're getting from 20 minutes delivery, the guidance around recycling? Just how do we continue to make that better for them?

Ken White

You mentioned the ordering process. How do people order today?

Joe Jordan

Yeah, we say there's over 34 million ways to order Domino's Pizza, so there's a lot of different ways to come at it. But it's digital. There are still double digits of customers who are calling our stores, but the large majority are our business, 80% plus, significantly higher in some markets around the world, approaching 98%, 99% digital. And it's more app and mobile-based than desktop. As we continue to as every one of us is carrying an ordering kiosk in our pockets these days. And that's great because what it helps us do, in addition to giving a great experience for them in that one occasion, is that's our data, that's our information. We know when you ordered. We know what you ordered. We know that you ordered a lava cake last time. You didn't order it this time. On Tuesdays, you tend to order this. But if you're ordering on Sundays when football's on, you order something differently. How can we suggest different things to you? How can we reach out to you with a text or an email at the right time to drive that purchase consideration? So digital has been a huge boon for us. It's something we were ahead of before the Pandemic, certainly. A lot of money and a lot of time has been spent by our competitors since the Pandemic, as we've seen the adoption for more traditional QSRs, whether it's legacy like McDonald's or newer competitors like Chipotle.

Ken White

and QSR stands for?

Joe Jordan

Quick Serve Restaurants, so sorry.

Ken White

When it comes to how people get their pizza, you have two basic types of customers.

Joe Jordan

That's right. Yeah. So carry out and delivery. So delivery is our legacy. It's who we were. It's what we started. We were the first ones to go there. That's a huge part of our business, and it will always be a huge part of our business. There's customers who love that convenience, just being able to stay at home, know that they're going to get a fresh, hot pizza within the promised delivery times. But then there's another group of customers who are a little more price sensitive. Maybe they don't want to pay a delivery fee. Maybe they don't want to tip a delivery driver. And they also like the control of being able to go into the store, grab the pizza, make sure the pizza is right, and then a little bit also be the hero when you come home. We hear that as well. Certainly, from parents walking in the door with pizza, you're greeted by your kids as a hero. So carry out and delivery really two different, certainly in many cases, customers, absolutely two different occasions that we're trying to understand the needs for and fulfill against.

Ken White

Those two customer types. Is that just in the U.S.?

Joe Jordan

That is globally. That is absolutely globally, yeah. And we're traditionally delivery first around the world, but we do have markets that are significantly bigger in carry out around the world. So the great thing about it is it's two different businesses. But the box, the store, we can leverage that store, that restaurant for both businesses. So having more carry-out locations, customers won't drive too far for carry-out. They're not going to drive past a couple other restaurants to get to yours. So the more restaurants we have, and we've seen this as we build more restaurants, we drive our carry-out business, the more restaurants we have on the delivery side, we have a shorter drive to your house. So you get a fresher, hotter pizza, you're more likely to come back. And it costs us less to drive because we're not driving as far. So the two businesses really can be synergistic from a real estate and restaurant development standpoint.

Ken White

Growth at Domino's has been consistent over the years. It's really pretty incredible.

Joe Jordan

Yeah, we've been very fortunate. We've grown the volumes in particular as we think about the orders that we put through the stores. More recently, with inflation, I think we're all seeing prices go up, and so we're seeing growth on that part as well. But when we look back to pre-pandemic and post-pandemic, we've grown both our delivery and carry-out businesses pretty significantly. The great news is we're still in the 20s in our share of pizza. When you look at overall QSR, overall restaurants, we're in the low single digits. So we're just getting started.

Ken White

Getting back to the Domino's principles. One is get innovation ready. Can you tell us about that?

Joe Jordan

Yeah. And that's about aligning your internal teams and making sure that as you think about defining your why does everybody understand that? Not just the marketing team. Your technology team needs to understand that. Your supply chain team needs to understand that so that you can all be rolling in the same direction. Otherwise, maybe they're thinking about some new infrastructure project in supply chain and SAP, and we're trying to launch this new ordering platform. And what's more important, and how do we prioritize, and what are we really going after?

Ken White

In your talk this morning with our MBA students, you showed a number of television commercials that Domino's has aired over the years. And while I was watching, it occurred to me, yes, Domino's is, of course, in the business of pizza, but it's also a storytelling organization. Is storytelling important to Domino's?

Joe Jordan

It is, and we want an emotional connection to the brand, not just a functional connection. Yes, we're going to give you hot pizza at a great value, and we're going to get it to you quickly, but we want consumers to understand the why behind it because that's going to get them to think about us as a brand differently. And the only way you can do that is to first understand that why, but then make sure when you're telling those stories, what's really Domino's about them and is it not just plug X brand in here as a lot of advertising, unfortunately, is what's uniquely Domino's about it.

Ken White

That's hard.

Joe Jordan

It's very hard, but it's fun. It's also a lot of fun. And when you get it right, when you see that ad out there, and you're wearing the logo in an airport, and we were running an Inflation Buster special recently, so it seems like everything is 20% more expensive. We're going to give you 20% off, and you're getting stopped as you're going through. You guys thank you so much for doing that. And whether it's the potholes or whatever it may be, customers continually stopping you and saying, that's fantastic. That's great. Hey, I didn't know all your stores were owned by local franchisees. And when they play that back, it's a different connection with the brand. It's not just functional.

Ken White

What's ahead for Domino's?

Joe Jordan

Oh, it's different flavors, but more of the same. So we need to continue to dominate in delivery and get our service right. And as we're in an inflationary and labor-crunched place, we need to make sure we're staffing our stores appropriately and giving the service that's expected. I continue to believe that, particularly within the carry-out space, we have so much growth opportunity in the U.S. to still grow there. On the international side, missed it by one. We opened 999 stores last year. I would have been swinging a hammer myself if I knew we could have gotten to the 1,000. But there's still so much opportunity for us to grow in markets around the world. Markets opening triple-digit stores per year. Markets like India and China, where, again, we're just scratching the surface.

Ken White

People like their pizza, don't they?

Joe Jordan

People like pizza. Dough, sauce, and cheese works pretty well universally. We might see different topics around the world, but yeah.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Joe Jordan. That's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. The new year is right around the corner. Take control of it and your future. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Joe Jordan, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

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We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership and Business.

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 Chris Caracci
Chris CaracciEpisode 186: November 5, 2022
Building Customer Loyalty

Chris Caracci

Episode 186: November 5, 2022

Building Customer Loyalty

Think of your favorite brand—maybe it's Apple, Bose, Dominoes, Netflix, Jeep—whatever your favorite, most likely the quality of the product is excellent. But that's not enough to make you loyal to the brand. According to our guest today, there are two other important elements that lead to brand loyalty: The environment where the product is delivered, and the quality of the customer service. Chris Caracci helps organizations build customer loyalty. He spent years at the Disney Institute working with clients across the world. Today, he teaches at the William & Mary School of Business and continues to help businesses and organizations with their loyalty creation initiatives. He joins us to talk about building customer loyalty.

Podcast (audio)

Chris Caracci: Building Customer Loyalty TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How important good service is to American consumers
  • How do you embed service into the ethos of the culture
  • The importance of hiring the right people
  • What is the connection between good customer service and loyalty creation
  • How Disney created an exceptional park experience
  • What defines customer loyalty
  • What is the best way to create brand advocates
  • Why it is important to recover properly from customer service breakdowns
Transcript

Chris Caracci

Who are you hiring? If they don't already have a propensity for delivering a great experience, and they do that through their attitude and their behavior. If they already don't have a propensity for that in their own personality, it's very difficult to train.

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world, sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Think of your favorite brand. Maybe it's Apple, Bose, Domino's, Netflix, Jeep, whatever your favorite. Most likely, the quality of the product is excellent, but that's not enough to make you loyal to the brand. According to our guest today, there are two other important elements that lead to brand loyalty. The environment where the product is delivered and the quality of the customer service. Chris Caracci helps organizations build customer loyalty. He spent years at the Disney Institute, working with clients across the world. Today, he teaches at the William & Mary School of Business and continues to help businesses and organizations with their loyalty creation initiatives. He joins us to talk about building customer loyalty. Here's our conversation with Chris Caracci.

Ken White

Well, Chris, nice to see you. Welcome back.

Chris Caracci

Thank you.

Ken White

It's nice to have you on the podcast again.

Chris Caracci

It's great to be back. I'm happy that I could do another podcast with you and talk about another great topic in service and loyalty.

Ken White

Yeah, and this is certainly what you do. This is certainly your wheelhouse, so to speak. How important is service and good service to consumers in America today?

Chris Caracci

For the American consumer, it's very important. You don't find that everywhere in the world. But for Americans, they rank service up there with product quality. So even if they're buying a product of the highest quality, they still want an experience, a service experience around that product that matches the quality of the product. So I always tell my students, when I'm teaching them about experiences and product quality, that those are the two things that every industry experiences. You have a product that you're selling, and then you have the experience surrounding that product's sales, surrounding that product's delivery, surrounding that product's servicing as it goes through the product life. And those two things accompany every single transaction that we have as consumers. Whatever it is we're buying, it doesn't make any difference. And what I have found in my 30 years with Disney is that people really crave a quality service experience. Your product can be one that they can buy somewhere else. Somebody's copied it. If you're like any organization, somebody, if you have a great product, somebody's trying to duplicate it somewhere. They want the quality of the experience because they can feel that. They often will assume this is always the case with Disney because of the brand of Disney. The brand already speaks to a high-quality product. So consumers and customers will come if they come to one of our parks or if they purchase one of our products, or see one of our films. The assumption is it's already going to be good or great because it's Disney, and they have high-quality standards around their products. What they crave, though, is the experience around the delivery because that's not so much something that they can assume is going to be good. And they compare that with everything else in their lives. When they can go out, whether they're buying dry cleaning or they're buying a meal at a restaurant, or they're going to a film, they can look at the quality of those products, but they also want to experience how that's going to be delivered to them and sold to them. And that often is the deal breaker when it comes to a person going back and purchasing that product again or purchasing from that same organization again. They will often, as we have discussed many times, Ken, they will often settle for a less-than-quality product to get a higher level of experience. And that at least is the case with American consumers.

Ken White

But it's nice for a place like Disney to have A+ on both sides of the fence, right? The product and the experience?

Chris Caracci

Well, it's the secret sauce.

Ken White

Yeah.

Chris Caracci

It is that thing that, while Disney left us, always pay attention to your experience because your experience matters. And he had such intentionality around paying attention to detail, the smallest of detail, both around product quality, obviously, but also around experience quality, which means that as a business, you have to invest in the experience as much as you invest in the product. And if you don't, then they become imbalanced. And consumers feel that right away. You go in, and you are expecting a high-quality product, which you can get. You see in front of you that the experience is less than stellar, and they walk away going, hmm, I don't know if we'll do that again. I don't know if we'll buy that again. I don't know if we'll buy that from the same vendor again. They're making decisions because of the impact that the experience has on us.

Ken White

So, where do you start with your organization? You want to embed this service ethos in the culture. Where is step one?

Chris Caracci

Step one is it's in your people primarily. Service is delivered through your product, through your setting or your environment, and through your people. But the vast majority of the delivery is through your people, whether that is face-to-face delivery or voice-to-voice delivery, or keypad-to-keypad delivery. We spend a lot of time there because we know that's at the beginning of the great service experience. And the great service experience is what fuels the loyalty. Loyalty is not generated from average experiences.

Ken White

Right.

Chris Caracci

It's from great experiences. So knowing that, and we've known that for a very long time at Disney, especially from Walt Disney, is we have to invest in our people. And that's going all the way back into that process to who are we attracting to work for us in any capacity? How are we attracting them? How are we recruiting them? And then all the steps following that. How do we interview for attitudinal fit? How do we interview for service fit? How do we place you in roles where we get the highest and best use of your people skills? And I say that, and sometimes it sounds like, well, you know, we can hire anybody. We're desperate for labor. Let's just hire somebody, and then we'll train them to deliver great service. And I would say, well, yes and no. Right. Who are you hiring? If they don't already have a propensity for delivering a great experience? And they do that through their attitude and their behavior. If they already don't have a propensity for that in their own personality, it's very difficult to train.

Ken White

Yeah.

Chris Caracci

So Disney and we've talked about this before, Ken. Disney tries to make sure that it filters out that portion of the population, which we know is about 15% to 20%, at least of the American population, that doesn't have that propensity. They see things negatively. They don't have good outlooks on most things. They kind of live in this gray world that doesn't make for much happiness. And we try to, Disney tries to, at the very front end, filter out that individual because otherwise, if it lets them through, even though they may have the skill sets we're looking for from technical skill sets, we're letting in our door something that we're going to be dealing with their entire career because they'll never have that propensity to the level we want them to. So they'll be, I don't want to say untrainable, but there'll be a difficult training target for us. And we'll spend vast amount of resources trying to change them to the place we want them to be.

Ken White

And we all know them, we know who they are, whether we work with them or they're a part of the organization with which we're doing business, right?

Chris Caracci

Exactly. I joked that we're a part of our family, that 20% exists as part of our families, and we know who they are.

Ken White

Has that 20% changed over generations, over time?

Chris Caracci

No, I haven't seen that. We haven't seen that it roughly fluctuates between 15 and 20. And that's enough for us to know that in the hiring process, we have to have that radar on to be able to detect that kind of personality. A lot of people try to talk their way through that. If they're part of that 20%, they try to talk their way through that. But we've got very keen people who are doing our training, or not our training, but our hiring and recruiting. And they are looking specifically for that because they know it's an uphill battle if we hire those people.

Ken White

But that's a great amount of work and effort. That hiring and investment, basically.

Chris Caracci

A lot of investment. So there are layers of vetting that we put all of our potential employees through, candidates for employment through because we're looking for that fit. It's a behavioral fit. It's an attitudinal fit. If we hire that individual, and most of our 99% of our hires are that individual or that kind of, if you will resume that we're looking for, that will help us, then when we come to the onboarding process, and we start onboarding them to what does great customer service look like? What does your attitude need to be when you're speaking to people face-to-face or voice-to-voice? What are the things that you need to be doing to engage them and send them messages that are friendly messages accommodating messages? We can train the people who have a propensity already for that kind of personality that we can train them much more easily, and they're much more adaptable to than the structures that Disney has around service. So that is our goal. So to have a classroom full of those people is a joy because you're not fighting a few individuals in the room who just don't want to go along on the journey or who just are. They don't believe what you're saying, and we don't have time for that. We want to have a classroom full of people who are. And it's interesting when we talk about that personality type. You find that propensity for service in certain professions more than you do others. You find it in teachers, you find it in people who go into education, you find it in clinicians like nurses and therapists and physicians to a certain degree. It's an attitude of, well, I want to help people. I want to help them do better. I want to give them a good experience. And those are the same kinds of people we're trying to hire.

Ken White

Again, a major investment, but for Disney, it shows that it pays off.

Chris Caracci

It pays off.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Chris Caracci in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before, and that means change for business and your role in it. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you can be a part of creating the future. If you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead, we invite you to consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA all taught by the number one-ranked MBA faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Chris Caracci.

Ken White

So how does that get to what you call loyalty creation? Where's that bridge?

Chris Caracci

As we just spoke about, the product quality, the three things that impact service the most are the product quality, the environment where it's delivered, and the level of service. So if I take one of our parks in Florida as an example, at Walt Disney World, the Magic Kingdom Park, there is a setting there, obviously, that people are entering into as consumers. There are lots of people, thousands of people working in that environment. And then there are processes that are behind the scenes that are driving every single interaction. So in a very real sense, what that might look like is I have an employee who works in the custodial department at the Magic Kingdom. Their primary functions, their tasks, are to keep the place clean, so they keep the ground clean, they empty the garbage bins. That's their primary function from a job perspective, but from a purpose perspective, which is all around the experience perspective. They're taught these are the top ten interactions that, in your role, you're going to have with our guests today. And they're going to very specifically say when somebody comes up to you, and you're going to get this because you're very visible with people in the street doing your work, the top ten questions are somebody comes to you, and they need directions, how do you react? Somebody comes to you, and they need to find the restroom facilities. How do you react? Somebody comes to you, and they have an emergency, a medical emergency, or something. How do you react? So what we do, and our guests never see this, but we are actually not scripting, but we're creating scenarios for every one of those questions. And we're intentionally teaching those to our employees, our cast members because the right answer is when somebody needs directions, I don't know, that's the wrong answer because that's not what they want from you. And that's part of the experience. If you don't give them directions because you're not informed and prepared, and you're not willing attitudinally to take a moment from your work to stop and help them, then they stand there with their map, they still don't have an answer to their question, and they have to find somebody else to ask. Immediately that is a ding on the experience. Right? And they haven't paid a premium amount of money to come into the park that day to get an average experience like that or a no-answer experience. I'm sorry, I don't know. That's not valid. If you take your entire experience environment around anything it is you're selling, Disney or anything, and you dissect it down to, this is what we need to know, this is what our people need to know. Attitudinally this is how they need to approach it when they're talking to somebody on the phone, or they're talking to somebody face to face, or they're problem-solving with a customer, whatever that is, the more information that they have coupled with their propensity for delivering service anyway because that's their personality type. You couple those two things together, and you have a winning service experience. And that has nothing to do with any individual product. That example of somebody who's in the park that day and they're just trying to get from point A to point B, right? Maybe to experience a different product, but point A to point B, now they just need some direction. So it's almost at the periphery of the individual experience. It's a large circle that goes around everything. And for Disney, and this drives completely into creating loyalty. That experience begins with the first contact that that customer has with the organization. So it may be a phone call to make a reservation to stay at one of Disney's hotels. And then it goes all the way through to those repeat visits that the guests may have at the other end to a lifetime, really is what we're trying to do because Disney's business is a generational business. We not only want to win you over as an advocate. As a promoter. As promoter scores would call it. A promoter for our business. But we then want you to pass that on to your children and to your grandchildren and to your family members. Whatever that family is of yours. However, you define that. Because then it keeps moving generation to generation. And we have another opportunity to turn those people into advocates for the business. And that advocacy is really what drives the loyalty. Loyalty is two things. Always two things. It's the customer's willingness to come back and repurchase whatever that is or reexperience. And the second part of loyalty is the intent of that person to recommend. And often what happens with Disney, because it is a premium priced product, is that a family or an individual might be able to come and experience like our park products in Florida maybe one time, two times in their life because it takes a lot.

Ken White

Sure.

Chris Caracci

It takes a lot of resource to be able to do that. We want to make sure that that's a stupendous time for that particular guest and their family or whatever that looks like. But even more so, we want to make sure that they walk away and they talk well about their experiences. And that is the intent to recommend. The intent to recommend is the thing that I think that a lot of people who sell product and service, they don't think enough about. When this person walks away, how many other people are they going to talk to about their experience? And now, they can get on social media, and they can tell thousands of people with a click of a button. I had a great time. The experience was fantastic, or the experience was okay, the employees weren't very knowledgeable, or even worse, this happened, which was disaster, and then this happened, which was disaster, and nobody fixed that disaster. And then there was another disaster. They can talk about that in a click of a button. And that's driving that loyalty factor because if somebody listening to that is hearing a less than stellar story, then they're thinking about whether or not they even want to come experience for the first time. So that loyalty generation is critical for us and creating those advocates in our customers who, even though they may not come back or don't come back that often, they talk about us continually because they're Disney advocates, right? They love the brand. They love the stories. They love the products. And that's what we try to turn every customer into. Now, things happen. We're not a perfect organization. Things happen. But we have found in our own metrics at Disney that when we can recover successfully when there is a breakdown in the service experience, often if we recover, that person will rate their experience higher than if they never had a problem to begin with, which is a very interesting statistic, right? If we recover well because often in that recovery, the recovery is so well designed and so intentionally cared for that the person comes away and goes, wow, I wasn't even asking for that, but Disney did that, and I wasn't expecting that. It's an all very unexpected experience, which is part of the experience, and the recovery happens, and the person walks away, and they're more of an advocate now than they were before. It's a strange thing, but it happens. Yeah.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Chris Caracci, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. Take control of your future. Check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Chris Caracci, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Voice

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership and Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Dan Webber
Dan WebberEpisode 185: October 21, 2022
How Are You Innovating?

Dan Webber

Episode 185: October 21, 2022

How Are You Innovating?

Whatever business or field you're in, standing still is not an option. That's why so many are placing an emphasis on innovation. With that in mind, Tribe Innovation at the William & Mary School of Business recently hosted Innovation At Work, a panel featuring professionals who spoke about innovation and the role it plays in their respective organizations and sectors. One of the panelists joined us afterward: Dan Webber is with Edelman, the global communication firm that works with businesses and organizations to promote and protect their brands and reputations. Webber is the President of Edelman's Washington, DC, office. He says in his work innovation is about a long-term trajectory for success. He joins us to share how he and the Edelman organization view and implement innovation.

Podcast (audio)

Dan Webber: How are you innovating? TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How Edelman helps clients build trust with consumers
  • The meaning of innovation within Edelman
  • How Edelman's clients react to the challenge of "big problems, require big solutions"
  • What Dan learned about innovation as an intern at Edelman
  • Where innovation matters as a leader of a large team
  • Best practices for hiring innovative-minded team members
  • What is the role of failure within innovation
  • How can a student become a good innovator
Transcript

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight that help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Whatever business or field you're in, standing still is not an option. That's why so many are placing an emphasis on innovation. With that in mind, Tribe Innovation at the William & Mary School of Business recently hosted Innovation at Work, a panel featuring professionals who spoke about innovation and the role it plays in their respective organizations and sectors. One of the panelists joined us afterwards. Dan Webber is with Edelman, the global communications firm that works with businesses and organizations to promote and protect their brands and reputations. Weber is President of Edelman's Washington, DC office. He says in his work innovation is about a long-term trajectory for success. He joins us to share how he and the Edelman organization view and implement innovation. Here's our conversation with Dan Webber.

Ken White

Well, Dan, thanks for joining us. It's nice to see you.

Dan Webber

It's good to see you. Thank you so much for having me here.

Ken White

And I'm glad you made it. It's one of the rainiest days of the year in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Dan Webber

I wouldn't miss it. I wouldn't miss it come hell or high water, as they say.

Ken White

Yeah, thanks. Well, it was so interesting. This panel you just served on, a number of industries represented talking about innovation and how the role it plays in various industries. But to start off, for those who don't know Edelman, and I know many people do, I think that maybe a lot of people think, oh, that's the group that is all about building trust and often meeting with clients when that's in jeopardy. Is that fairly correct?

Dan Webber

To some, yeah. There's a lot of reputation protect, reputation repair. But we started as a consumer marketing, consumer PR shop 70 years ago, and that's still a big chunk of what we do of helping our clients understand who their audiences are, particularly in that case, customers, and making sure that we're building trust around their products and services. And that's a fun world to be in because we have creatives, we have digital experts, we have strategists who are helping our clients think differently amongst the noise that's out there of cutting through that noise to reach customers in a new way. And a lot of it is driven by purpose and their values. And that's what we see a lot in our trust data, is that people want to purchase products from those companies and organizations that they believe in, that their values align with mine. So that's a big chunk of what we do. But yeah, I spend a lot of my time on the corporate reputation piece. And that's a place that is super interesting because it also ties directly into the values and the purpose of the organization. And so we're seeing a lot of that in our trust data.

Ken White

So in the panel, the topic was innovation. When you hear that word, do you think how we think about it at Edelman? Do you think how we think about it with the clients? Where does that land?

Dan Webber

Yes, it's a great question, and particularly in my role at Edelman, where I have the privilege and honor of helping run a team, a pretty large team. There's a big part of innovating in how we show up and what we offer our clients. And it is a constant pursuit because if we're not relevant and we're not bringing something new or interesting or challenging to our client, then they might find that from somebody else. So that is an everyday sprint. And we have to keep our eye focused on what's down the line in a few weeks, months, or even years so that we can be relevant for our clients. But at the end of the day, we have to be super focused on our clients missions. And so when we're working with a client, we're really thinking critically about what's making them tick all the way from their customers and then within their organization, our clients, what are their needs so that we can be helping them address their challenges. So it's kind of a split. And sometimes, particularly for anyone new into an agency world, it can be challenging because your mission is twofold. It's growing our work, but you can't grow our work without our clients.

Ken White

I think it was you that mentioned on the panel big problems require big solutions, right? And are clients ready for that when you come in?

Dan Webber

Sometimes they are because they're forced to. And I think in the crisis work that I do, a lot of times when I interact with a client in a rapid response environment, they're being forced to look at it differently. Sometimes they are because the environment around them has changed so much. I think we talked on the panel about COVID and everything that happened in those two years, forcing organizations to think differently about how their values need to then come through their employee groups with their clients and customers with their shareholders. And so that can also be a forcing mechanism. But the other side of that, of a long-term innovation that occurs within organizations with their products, that's another place we play. And I think that's something where you need catalysts. You need something to push the envelope. And competitors are a great place to do that, your peers. But it's really fun to be helping write the brief with our clients rather than receiving the brief. And what I mean by that is, hey, here's some things that are changing with your stakeholders. And we think it would be really great if you did X, Y, and Z to partner with them, or there may be strange bedfellows out there that you've never partnered with that you need to partner with. The only time I ever got to meet Dan Edelman, the founder of Edelman, he talked a lot about not just connecting dots but looking for new dots that you don't even know exist. And I thought, man, I was an intern at the time.

Ken White

Yeah, that's cool.

Dan Webber

This is something I want to be part of because it just changes the way you think. And we have a spirit within our organization that is very entrepreneurial, and I've always enjoyed that piece of that.

Ken White

You talked a little bit on the panel about your internship and the way that sort of the mindset you adopted. Can you share that with us?

Dan Webber

Yeah. It was an interesting question about how you learned innovation or how to be innovative. And it's a pretty tricky industry to get into PR and Agency World, Consultancy World. But I learned very quickly early on that one thing that I had to offer at that time was my time. And that's our commodity within consultancy world is time. We based everything off of time. And as a young person in the industry, I did my best to use the time I could because I had a lot more of it than perhaps the senior most managers. And what I learned very quickly early on was if I did the job and I nailed it, that was one thing. But if I learned how to apply it differently for someone who didn't have as much time available to them, that it made me more valuable to them. And I also have seen this in client service left and right. I can deliver something for a client. That's one thing. But if I deliver it and I started to see even if it's a little bit like 5% more, that was a really cool learning for me. And I've used it across my entire career to add 5% more if I can. I've used it with my kids and trying to share a lesson. It was funny. My son Jack and I were we were talking about this. My daughter had a bad grade, and we were talking about trying a little bit more, 5% more. And I didn't think it was one of those dad-daughter, dad-son talks. I didn't think it clicked until we were out driving around, and my son Jack saw something. He looked at me and goes, hey, dad, 5%. And it stuck out to me. And I think that really is something that I learned as an intern of really what motivates people. What are they trying to achieve with their agenda? What's their mission? I need to deliver on that, but can I do a little bit more? And I always went tying back to innovation. A lot of innovation is just iterating and building on top and looking around the corner, looking left and right to see where those dots are that may not have existed before. So yeah, we have a 5% rule, and that was something I learned early on as an intern.

Ken White

As leading a team, and you mentioned you have a fairly sizable team. Where does innovation come into play in terms of your leadership with the team?

Dan Webber

Innovation within the team should play out every day, in my opinion. But it doesn't necessarily always play out in a carefully crafted meeting or here's our innovation session. And what I mean by this is if we are doing what we should be doing, looking around the corners, connecting dots, then we're going to probably fail a lot or have the wrong answer, as one of our panelists says. And we need to be comfortable with that. We need to be able to give each other feedback. We need to be able to bring ourselves, our full selves, into a team environment as a team get the best out of each other. And when we don't actually hit where we wanted to hit, we need to learn from that. And that's where I see most of our innovation is looking at where did we not show up well. How do we build on that when we get questions from clients 2, 3, 4, 5 clients. That now needs to be something that we tuck away, and we start in our notebook that we carry around everywhere with us. We need to go back to that and start building on that. And so I think that that's a piece where we spend a lot of time. Now we have a value at we have a number of values, but one of our core values is about being constantly curious. And so we have time to dedicate to passion projects outside of the office, whether it be pro bono work and being connected to our communities and the list goes on. And I really like that value because I think innovation starts with curiosity, and it's stuff that you may not even know are lying around where you can just start looking at it and build on it. And that's really what I think we encourage a lot of our team to do. We have 2 hours every day that are dedicated to noninternal admin meetings. It's protected. You can have client meetings during that time. It's called our blue zone. And we started using this during the pandemic to give ourselves a little bit of a break. We have no internal meeting Fridays to focus on client work and other big things that we're trying to tackle. And I think you have to carve out that sort of time, but then you have to look at your normal activities every day and say am I learning from it? Am I building on it? And if you're not, it's where we need to calibrate again and take a look at how can we switch things around.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Dan Webber in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The world is changing like we've never seen before. That means change for business and your role in it. You can sit on the sidelines and watch things evolve, or you can be a part of creating the future. If you want the tools and education needed to succeed in the years ahead, we invite you to consider the MBA program at William & Mary. Wherever you happen to be in your career, William & Mary has an MBA program for you. The full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA all taught by the number one ranked MBA faculty in America. Take charge of your future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Dan Webber.

Ken White

How are you hiring for that individual who does think innovatively is very client-centric?

Dan Webber

That's a tough question because I think a number of years ago, we wanted other agency people. We wanted people who had that, whether it be a PR agency, ad agency, consultancy experience, but we still want that. But we also want to surround ourselves with scientists, with journalists, with pick an expert, a data scientist. We want them as much as we want those with the agency experience. Now, that creates a little bit of a transitional issue because they come in, and they may not understand client service environment, they may not understand how to move in the ways that agencies typically work. So a lot of this is trying to the orientation is particularly important. When we're doing the interviews, we try and dig into some of their experiences to understand when you had that really big idea, how did you sell it to your bosses, how did you sell it to whatever organization? And then, more importantly, how did you activate it? Because it's one thing to just have big, great ideas and sit around thinking of ideas, but we're in client service, so we always have to convert those ideas into actions. And if it is truly just a consultancy, our clients want to know not just what your advice is but what are the next three steps that you would take. So that's been a challenge for us, but it's been an exciting one because I think as we grow, we're going to have more of those nontraditional quote-unquote, anyone, listening to this with my fingers doing quotes, the nontraditional people into our agency experience.

Ken White

It's diverse, right?

Dan Webber

Yes.

Ken White

Great.

Dan Webber

Yes.

Ken White

More thought, richer experience. One of the panelists talked about how companies have chief innovation officers. Would you prefer the chief innovation officer or a team of a number of people who think like a chief innovation officer?

Dan Webber

I liked that comment because I think the spirit of that question was, who owns innovation? I think.

Ken White

I do too.

Dan Webber

And I think you need to have someone who does own it in the sense of a very deliberate strategy and can have the room of thought and focus to be able to build a scaffolding and a process that allows an organization to innovate. But I think innovation comes with the team. And that's one of my biggest honors and privilege in my position is I get to be part of a team, but part of my job is to find the best in our team members. And that's where the juiciest, the most beautiful ideas and concepts come from the team. And it can still be pretty, I think, a very straight line kind of thing where I do it on my own, and then I hand it to somebody else. Kind of a thing that still happens, right? And I see a lot of that. This is as far as I've been able to take it, but that still requires a team sort of environment where you are vulnerable enough and connected enough and trust your team members around you to take it to the next step without discounting anything that you did. That's a great part of being in an agency. We are a matrix organization. We have people all around the world. The most powerful thing we have at our fingertips is each other and the tools in our toolbox at that. And I think that's where you see great innovation is when you can get the best out of each of those team members, building on their strengths, compensating for areas where they're not as strong. And it's great to see that. And it can blow you away because that could come from an intern, which I was, or that can come from the person who has trained their entire career to be able, for that moment, to be the person who can bring the idea to concept, to application, to something that's award-winning or maybe even changing a full industry.

Ken White

Well, we talk a lot about the role of failure and innovation, but the stakes are high for you and your clients. So I mean, failure, it sounds great, right? But it's pretty tough. How do you approach failure?

Dan Webber

Yeah, I've heard a lot of people say fail fast.

Ken White

Right.

Dan Webber

A lot of that comes to just resilience and confidence. Confidence in yourself that that failure is not going to define you as a person. And if you can get over that, and it's like what I do in the crisis world, a lot of what clients and human beings, they get stuck with, even accepting that there is a problem or accepting that you may have screwed up, it's your fault. You got to get to acceptance as fast as you can and then be able to, in a constructive way, look at the issues and break it down into something that you can learn from. Yes, we charge by the hour. And so, yeah, if we spend too much time dwelling on it. It's going to cost us that time that is so precious. Look at it, understand it, memorialize it, and then calibrate again so that you can move to the next thing fast. Fail fast, I think, is an important concept. But one of the panelists talked about there's no wrong answers. Or I think he talked about there are wrong answers. It's not about failing. There are wrong answers. And that you just need to build and learn how you got to that wrong answer so that you can get to the right answer going forward. And I loved that. I think that's a lot of what we need to do and what we try to do within Edelman.

Ken White

One of the questions was, from a student perspective, how can a student become a good innovator? And you had some advice of things to do.

Dan Webber

Yeah, I was trying to break it down into those traits or whatever. When I think of innovation, and I think of resilience and confidence. So confidence you can't be resilient unless you have some confidence. So or a couple of things that came to mind for me on this was the importance of doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable. And in an academic world, yeah, maybe classes, but I would say stretch as far as you can take an improv class.

Ken White

Yeah.

Dan Webber

And we've had improv theater groups come to our office a number of times, and it's fantastic because it just forces you to do something different and to look at things there. And the beauty of it on top of it is that you have to build off of somebody else. It's not you alone. You could be doing stand-up comedy by yourself, and that would make you uncomfortable. But improv requires you to be watching somebody else, not just thinking on your own, and then to react. And through that process of building with your team members, you build confidence, and you're also resilient. But there's structure in there too. And so there's an incredible learning moment. I hate improv. It freaks me out. But I think I would say to students, do that. I also said to students I think they need to do things that help them understand people, sociology, psychology, whatever. Because so much of what we're trying to do in innovation is about helping people and helping trigger the motivations that people have, and that's a lot of what we do in client service, of course, is trying to understand audiences and what they need, what they want, what they desire, and then helping our clients deliver on that from obviously a product or service and how they deliver that.

Ken White

We want so much out of our employees today. Right. They have to be able to communicate. They have to be able to write. They have to be able to build good relationships. Where does innovation fall on that in terms of how good does a person have to be in order to be successful in your field?

Dan Webber

One of our fastest growing groups is our Employee Experience Team, helping provide counsel to clients to understand how one of their most important stakeholder groups, their employees or associates, can connect to the mission the values of the organization. And that is so paramount. And I think in the last two or three years, we've learned a really important lesson around how employees need to evolve. And they also are one of your most important stakeholder groups. And that's exciting because your employees are the ones who want to be with you. They want to grow with you. They're the heartbeat of your organization. And so, if you ignore them in your innovation process, you're ignoring an incredible group who has an amazing amount of investment in you. So it could be your employee resource groups that you have that you're creating. Communities that have certain passion areas or certain experiences. They need to be included in this. Are you asking questions from your frontline employees about how they're interacting with customers or their clients? If you're not using that feedback as precious. Data, inputs, whatever, it's very difficult to just have a room where you can quote-unquote innovate. So I think it has to be an integral part. And so our Employee Experience Group does a lot of pulse surveys to understand what our employees thinking. How do you use that information to inform your strategy? How do you use that information to evolve and, hopefully, to innovate so that you are on a long-term trajectory for success?

Ken White

That's our conversation with Dan Webber. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you are ready to take charge of your future, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Dan Webber of Edelman, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Jeanne Wilson
Jeanne WilsonEpisode 184: October 5, 2022
Leading Remote Teams

Jeanne Wilson

Episode 184: October 5, 2022

Leading Remote Teams

Whether your organization has embraced remote work or a hybrid model, managing and leading a remote team can be challenging. For many managers, it’s a real source of frustration. If it’s causing you headaches, perhaps you’re leading the way you did when everyone was in the office. If that’s the case, our guest says your leadership style needs updating in order to succeed in our new environment. Dr. Jeanne Wilson is a Professor of Organizational Behavior at the William & Mary School of Business. She’s an expert in teams; she researches and teaches co-located and distributed teams, and teams across organizational boundaries. She says to be an effective leader in a remote setting, managers and leaders have to let go of their old way of leading.

Podcast (audio)

Jeanne Wilson: Leading Remote Teams TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes
Show Notes
  • What challenges managers are facing when leading remote teams
  • How to build a culture through remote working
  • What can managers do to measure results instead of activity
  • What are the risks of managing remote workers
  • How can managers resolve geographic conflicts
  • What should employees do to maximize their remote working
  • What communication skills are important for remote workers
Transcript

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight to help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Whether your organization has embraced remote work or a hybrid model, managing and leading a remote team can be challenging. For many managers, it's a real source of frustration. If it's causing you headaches, perhaps you're leading the way you did when everyone was in the office. If that's the case, our guest says your leadership style needs update in order to succeed in our new environment. Dr. Jeanne Wilson is a professor of organizational behavior at the William & Mary School of Business. She's an expert in teams. She researches and teaches co-located and distributed teams and teams that cross organizational boundaries. She says to be an effective leader in a remote setting, managers, and leaders have to let go of their old way of leading. Here's our conversation with Professor Jeanne Wilson.

Ken White

Well, Jeanne, thanks for being with us. I appreciate it. Welcome to the podcast.

Jeanne Wilson

Sure. Thank you.

Ken White

So this is something almost every manager I run into is talking about how do I lead my remote team? When you're working/talking with working professionals, what kind of things are you hearing about them leading remote teams today?

Jeanne Wilson

It is a big source of frustration and, I think, confusion. So as everybody's read about, companies have tried to pull employees back in. There's been a lot of resistance to it. And I think one of the primary problems is that organizations and managers, of course, are having a hard time articulating why they need people in the office. When they do attempt to send that message, they sort of wave the we need to build our culture or maintain our culture flag. And that doesn't make sense to employees. They don't understand that it's too amorphous. And so they're just not providing a coherent message about why people need to be in the office, and people are resisting.

Ken White

And can we build a culture with remote employees?

Jeanne Wilson

Absolutely. Of course. A culture is just accepted way of doing things, and it's just that managers aren't familiar with building a culture remotely or at a distance, so they're resisting it.

Ken White

I think what I hear mostly from managers and leaders is they're kind of confusing. Is someone busy at home, or are they productive? And when they're not busy, they get a little irritated. What are you hearing from that standpoint?

Jeanne Wilson

That's certainly the employee's perspective. So I think, unfortunately, over the years, managers have gotten in the habit of using proxies for performance. I see your butt in the seat. Therefore you must be productive. And they're familiar with that way of judging people, and they're having a hard time converting to managing strictly by results.

Ken White

So what can the manager do to make sure that they do, in fact, look at results as opposed to activity?

Jeanne Wilson

So obviously, the manager and the employee have to agree on what constitutes. How am I going to evaluate your performance? What constitutes results? The employees will have some perspective on that, but once there's clear agreement on how performance will be evaluated, then a lot of objections fall by the wayside.

Ken White

It doesn't seem like many people are having those conversations, though.

Jeanne Wilson

Sadly, they're not.

Ken White

That's sort of the problem here, right?

Jeanne Wilson

Exactly.

Ken White

Yeah. So what advice do you have for someone who's leading a remote team to make sure things are going the right way?

Jeanne Wilson

Well, there's a lot they can do and a lot of things they need to be on the lookout for things to avoid. So one of the concerns in managing a remote team, particularly if some of the team is remote and some of the team is not remote, one of the risks is that managers can inadvertently create a proximal in group and treat people who are in the office differently than they treat people who are not in the office. So I think if managers are self-aware about that, they can counteract that. But if they're not thinking about it, I think those dynamics can crop up. So that's one thing to be on the lookout for.

Ken White

And that could easily cause a divide in the team.

Jeanne Wilson

Absolutely. Completely.

Ken White

And then cause people to either be irritated or just flat out leave.

Jeanne Wilson

That's right.

Ken White

Yeah.

Jeanne Wilson

So one of the things from the employees perspective about this transition is equity and fairness. So we talked earlier about employees don't understand why decisions are being made the way that they are. So they may infer that things are unfair because they don't understand why some managers have to be clear about who gets to work remotely and why what are the boundaries. And just like with managing employees who are co-located, we like to encourage managers to set just a few limits and then give employees as much choice or voice as they possibly can, particularly in this climate where employees have more options than they ever have before. Obviously, managers want to keep employees satisfied. They want to avoid the phenomenon that everybody's talking about with quiet quitting. And one way to do that is to give employees as much choice in how they work as you possibly can to set as few rational limits and let employees make decisions beyond that.

Ken White

It seems mostly like a communication issue.

Jeanne Wilson

Doesn't everything boil down to that?

Ken White

I guess it does, yeah. But almost everything you're saying is we just need to talk. We need to talk.

Jeanne Wilson

Right. We need to come to agreement.

Ken White

What's the difference? What are some of the hurdles that you think people are running into today with hybrid teams or remote teams versus the old way of managing? What are some of the differences?

Jeanne Wilson

So one issue that managers need to be on the lookout for is something called fault lines. So fault lines occur when multiple demographic or work characteristics align to create subgroups. So if, for instance, all the accountants are in Atlanta and all the finance people are in New York, that has the potential to create a fault line. So, where accountants and finance people might have a level five conflict, ordinarily, if now they're separated by geography in addition to function, that creates a fault line, and the conflict gets boosted up to a ten. So one of the things managers should be on the lookout for are those kinds of overlapping characteristics that create subgroups because that will just exacerbate conflict in their groups. And if you have a situation that's unavoidable where, for instance, because of historical factors, all the accountants are in Atlanta, and all the finance people are in New York, what you need to do is organize across the fault line. So if you're going to have people working on stuff, don't give the accountants part A and the finance people part B. Have an accountant work with a finance person on part A and organize across that fault line to keep lines of communication open.

Ken White

So that's great advice for the manager. What about the employee? What's some advice you have for the employee to make sure they're being recognized, they're getting work done, they feel good about all of this?

Jeanne Wilson

Actually, a lot of the burden for being successful on this system does fall on the employee, particularly now, because managers haven't quite figured it out yet. So if you're going to advocate for working remotely, you have to kind of work overtime to keep yourself salient in the eyes of the boss. So one thing that happens, psychological process that happens at a distance, is that it changes people, what's called their construal levels. So they think about distant people differently than they think about co-located people, and they think about their distant employees at a more abstract level of construal. So rather than thinking Ken is really good at communicating in front of executive audiences, but he needs to work on whatever, I'm just making stuff up is what communication skills. That's kind of a concrete level of construal about your skills. At a distance, managers are more likely to think Ken good or Ken bad.

Ken White

Woah.

Jeanne Wilson

They have kind of a global construal about you. And so, as an employee, what you need to do is counteract that by making your work more concrete. So rather than saying, oh, I had a really productive day today, you have to make your accomplishments concrete so you can help the manager and develop a more specific view about you to say whatever, I had a great meeting with one of our key clients, and they agreed to X, so the manager thinks more specifically about you. So that's one thing.

Ken White

So it sounds like communicating up is more important today.

Jeanne Wilson

And in a very specific way.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Jeanne Wilson in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. If your business or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's online MBA, part-time MBA, and executive MBA programs are designed for the professional who works full time. So both the employee and the organization benefit. Show your employees you care by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Professor Jeanne Wilson.

Ken White

So should employees reach out? Should they take the responsibility to find that way to reach out to the boss?

Jeanne Wilson

If the boss doesn't do it? Absolutely. So one of the things, of course, that's a problem managing at a distance is you don't have all the usual queues that you would ordinarily when employees are in the office. So I see Ken has a stack of stuff that's 2ft deep on his desk. He must be very busy. All of those queues are missing. So you have to make those queues explicit in regular meetings with your boss. So again, this comes back to a psychological process about how people attribute problem. So most people probably know the fundamental attribution error, which is if you see a problem employee, we are more likely to attribute that problem to the person rather than the situation. So we say Joe is lazy as opposed to Joe is swamped with work, which is a situational explanation. So when employees are working at a distance, it further obscures all those situational explanations for why they might be having problems at work. They are overloaded, or something else is going on. All of that is going to be invisible to their remote boss. So they have to learn to make that explicit with their boss.

Ken White

That's hard for some people to do. I was talking to one of our MBAs who interned this summer, fully remote. I said, how did it go? And he said, It ended up being wonderful. But at the beginning, it was so difficult. Nobody was reaching out to him. He sort of felt he was on that island and, especially as a younger professional new to the organization, wasn't sure how to communicate. Fortunately for him, the manager did eventually reach out, and then they got the relationship. But if that manager doesn't reach out, the employees got to figure out how to communicate.

Jeanne Wilson

A hundred percent, and that's a unique and particular problem for new employees. So if you're accustomed to working for Frank, and you've worked for him for three years, going remote is not going to be such a big issue because Frank already either trusts you or doesn't trust you. But if you're a new employee, then you have to work even harder to establish that relationship. And there are two communication skills in particular that are extra important in remote work for employees. One, you might not anticipate, and that's to disclose. So some people are you probably may have noticed that some people are natural disclosures. You talk to them for five minutes, and you know all about what's going on in their lives. Those are like velcro. Those are like hooks that you can attach to and form a relationship. Other people are not accustomed or not inclined to disclose. So there aren't those velcro hooks that other people can attach to. So they need to learn how to disclose things about themselves, so other people can build a relationship with them at a distance. And, of course, that's kind of a curve linear relationship. You can disclose too much, but you probably have to disclose more working remotely than you do when you're co-located because some things about you are just going to be obvious from observation when you're co-located. Now you're going to have to make some of those things explicit.

Ken White

I can just hear the introverts saying, oh no, you got to be.

Jeanne Wilson

Okay, here's the funny thing. It turns out that introverts, especially when they're working in groups, are actually more effective remotely than they are when they're co-located. Anyway, that's a fun fact.

Ken White

That's very interesting. Yes. Well, there seems to be a lot written about introverts, the power of introverts, and it's okay to be an introvert, and you can add a great deal to a team if you're that way.

Jeanne Wilson

In a remote team without a designated leader, introverts are more likely to become a leader in a remote team than they are to become a leader in a co-located team. For reasons that are kind of technical, we don't need to go into them.

Ken White

Yeah, interesting. Right before we started to record, I said it seems like a lot of managers and leaders who are struggling with the hybrid environment or the remote environment are a little reluctant. And you shared sort of an analogy about an airplane. Can you share that? Because I think that just nails it.

Jeanne Wilson

Yeah, the way I envision it is sort of like those show by planes where you've got a wing walker out on the plane, and he's got a grasp of one span of the wing, and he is not going to let go of that until he has kind of a firm grasp on another span. And I think what's happening is managers are unwilling to give up this old way of working or evaluating people until they feel comfortable with this new way. So we've got to get them feeling comfortable with this new way of working. Otherwise, they're going to keep managing people by how often they see them working, which is kind of an unfortunate proxy for performance.

Ken White

They've got to let go of the one handle and grab the other one.

Jeanne Wilson

Yeah, they've got to get a handle on the new one, and then they'll let go of the old one.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Jeanne Wilson. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you're looking for a truly transformational experience, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Professor Jeanne Wilson. And thanks to you for listening. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Lucy Vozza
Lucy VozzaEpisode 183: September 21, 2022
The Changing Business Dress Code

Lucy Vozza

Episode 183: September 21, 2022

The Changing Business Dress Code

In 1975, John T. Molloy wrote "Dress for Success." A couple of years later, he followed it with "Dress for Success for Women." As a result, a generation of professionals had guidelines and rules to follow when it came to the business dress code. In 2022 that code is changing like never before. In fact, there is no dress code today. Professionals have the opportunity to define new ways to dress comfortably while projecting an image of professionalism. Lucy Vozza believes clothing and the vibe you send to others are linked. After spending 17 years in sales with biotech companies such as Baxter, Regeneron and Genentech, she recently transitioned to a leadership role at BeiGene. She joins us to discuss today's evolving dress code and what you should consider when getting dressed for work.

Podcast (audio)

Lucy Vozza: The Changing Business Dress Code TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes
Show Notes
  • How the dress code for the pharmaceutical industry has changed
  • Why knowing your audience is important when configuring a dress code
  • How to properly inject your personality into a professional wardrobe
  • What is proper business attire for a video conference meeting
  • How should young professionals dress at their first job
  • What is appropriate business casual
  • Should a leader have a role in setting dress code guidelines
  • The role of business attire in setting confidence
Transcript

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight to help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. In 1975, John T. Malloy wrote Dress for Success. A couple of years later, he followed it with Dress for Success for Women. As a result, a generation of professionals had guidelines and rules to follow when it came to the business dress code. In 2022, that code is changing like never before. In fact, there is no dress code today. Professionals have the opportunity to define new ways to dress comfortably while projecting an image of professionalism. Lucy Vozza believes clothing and the vibe you send to others are linked. After spending 17 years in sales with biotech companies such as Baxter, Regeneron, and Genentech, she recently transitioned to a leadership role at BeiGene. She joins us to discuss today's evolving dress code and what you should consider when getting dressed for work. Here's our conversation with Lucy Vozza.

Ken White

Lucy, thanks for being here. I appreciate your time. This is a big weekend for you as we're recording because tomorrow you'll be receiving your diploma, your executive MBA diploma. So, big weekend. Congratulations.

Lucy Vozza

Thank you. It's very exciting. I can't believe the day has finally arrived.

Ken White

It was a breeze, right?

Lucy Vozza

Sure, no problem. Eighteen months of low stress.

Ken White

It sure was. Yeah. Well, before joining the executive MBA program, you've had a fantastic career in pharmaceutical biotech area. And one of the things right before we were recording you and I were talking about is when I first met you, I thought of an old phrase my mother used to say, and that is she is put together. Right. And so I knew immediately that your appearance for you is important in that personal brand. That's one of the reasons we wanted to have you on the podcast today. When you first started in your profession, what was it? Was there a uniform? Was there a code? How did people dress then?

Lucy Vozza

Yeah, so around 17 years ago, when I started in pharmaceutical sales, you could spot a drug rep a mile away. Everybody had their black suit on, blue shirt, skirt or pants. And it was a requirement that you dressed like that from the very beginning. You're calling on healthcare professionals who have very little time, and in sales, you're bidding for people's time. So if you need to take some time in the way you present yourself so that somebody will give you a little bit of their time, it's very important.

Ken White

And, of course, that has changed dramatically now. So what are you seeing now when you see the reps in terms of what they're wearing?

Lucy Vozza

Right. Also, it's geographically dependent as well. I think people have learned to sort of meet your audience where you are. So, for example, if I was calling on a rural area in Southwest Virginia, I wasn't going to wear a three-piece suit and a luxury handbag. It did not come off as well and didn't show a lot of empathy. Right. Now, if I was in Washington DC, and I knew that there was a doctor who was impressed by fancy restaurants, then, yeah, 100%, I would carry in a Louis Vuitton bag, and he was impressed by that. So it's a lot of knowing your audience that makes a big difference.

Ken White

Why is that important?

Lucy Vozza

Because they know that you understand where they're coming from. Right. Like, people have different situations, and they have different problems. If I go into a rural hospital clicking in and some Christian Dior heels, they're going to say, this woman has no idea what our issues are. How could she possibly understand us or even help us? I just don't have time to talk to her. Right, so it matters.

Ken White

When you think of wardrobe, is it personal brand? Is it professionalism? What is it? What category does that fall under?

Lucy Vozza

Well, it's a little bit of everything. So, for example, I think a lot of the way that the wardrobe has changed, when we want to talk about it, you can inject a little bit of your personality into it but still remain professional. For example, when I would come to class, I always wanted to look put together, as you say, thank you. But it would be a Saturday, so I would wear like a really cool Rock band T-shirt, like a Kiss T-shirt with a nice blazer over it and nice jeans. No holes, please, and some heels. Right. So you can inject a little bit of personality for my own brand, but I still considered it professional.

Ken White

Right.

Lucy Vozza

So it's both.

Ken White

Which means people have choice today.

Lucy Vozza

Yes.

Ken White

Are you seeing people do a pretty good job with that choice?

Lucy Vozza

Making the wrong choices?

Ken White

Yeah.

Lucy Vozza

Yes.

Ken White

Yeah.

Lucy Vozza

Yes, there are choices. It doesn't mean that I agree with them, especially people in senior leadership. They have an image to uphold and, with that image, defines their responsibilities. And if you're going to roll out of bed or wear the T-shirt that you just worked out in, it does not impress me the least bit. I think that you need to take some effort and time if you're going to be speaking from the stage, the Zoom stage, whatever it might be, so people take you seriously.

Ken White

So you mentioned Zoom. We're all spending so much time on there or in some sort of video platform post-pandemic. What advice do you have to that professional who's not quite sure what to wear when they have a Zoom meeting that particular day?

Lucy Vozza

You know, whatever pants you want or sweat pants or yoga pants, whatever floats your boat. But the top half of you is in an office, right? So pretend you're at an office. So put your hair together, put your makeup on, put on some earrings, and be your best self. That is the way that I tell people you need to show up, like, you are going to an office that is your office.

Ken White

Yeah. A lot of our younger students ask about what to wear. What advice would you have for young women entering may be their first job as a profession?

Lucy Vozza

Okay, well, you don't have to spend a million dollars to look good.

Ken White

Great.

Lucy Vozza

So there are various companies that have different price points. So invest in a couple of staple pieces like a nice black blazer, a nice handbag. Again, it doesn't have to be like a $3,000 handbag. Anything that you can mix and match and put together and walk out the door because we're busy. Especially as you get older, as you transition into motherhood and working full time, you just want to get out as seamless as possible. So just have those couple of staple items, and you're good to go.

Ken White

How about men? What have you seen? Because and the reason I ask, I'm hearing from some people that women seem to be paying a little more attention to their wardrobe versus some men today.

Lucy Vozza

Yeah. I don't know why men think it's okay to go to work like they're at the gym. I really don't understand it. I would just say it doesn't take too much effort to throw on a button-up shirt and maybe some chinos. And, you know, right now, fashion sneakers are a big deal.

Ken White

Yeah.

Lucy Vozza

Right. Luxury brand fashion sneakers, like eight nine hundred dollar sneakers. Do I think that's okay? It depends on the situation. Again, I'm not going to wear those in rural West Virginia, but if I'm going to an office meeting, which is very West Coast, that's okay. Throw on a blazer. You're good to go.

Ken White

The sneakers is very interesting because I just had a conversation with some younger students earlier about that, asking, may I wear a suit with the sneakers? That seems to be gaining a lot of traction.

Lucy Vozza

Yeah. And the other thing that's changing, too, is the watch, right? Like, you have your Rolex and as status symbol. And now, with the millennials and the other generation that I don't even know, we're moving more towards smartwatches.

Ken White

Yes.

Lucy Vozza

Right. Especially when you're in biotech, and you're asking for money for startups, like, you're not going to walk in with a Rolex. Again, know your audience.

Ken White

Yeah.

Lucy Vozza

Right.

Ken White

Very interesting.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Lucy Vozza in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. If your business or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's online MBA, part-time MBA, and executive MBA programs are designed for the professional who works full time, so both the employee and the organization benefit. Show your employees you care by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Lucy Vozza.

Ken White

There's been some recent pieces written Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review about this is an interesting time because there are no rules now. We get to kind of recreate business attire. With that said, what are your reactions to that?

Lucy Vozza

I'm not a fan. I will say we had an off-site meeting. And you know what's tricky is business casual. Nobody really knows what that means. Everybody interprets everything different. And to some women, business casual was wearing your yoga pants and sandals into a meeting. That's not okay. I don't feel like that is an appropriate look for a business meeting. You've got to look back at the classics and stick to them a little bit. Do you know what I mean? Like, certain things that are not okay are bare shoulders with spaghetti straps for women. It's a distraction, really. And not to sound sexist, but as a female, we have more opportunity to wear distracting clothes or hair different ways, and makeup and accessories. And to be taken seriously, you need to be dressed seriously. It doesn't mean that your personality can't shine through, but just be very mindful that people might interpret things very differently.

Ken White

What's the role of the leader in terms of setting a dress code, giving people some guidelines?

Lucy Vozza

Well, that's an excellent question because the question really should be, should they have a role? Because it seems like they really don't is what I'm seeing, especially through the pandemic and through Zoom. And when we go to meetings in person, everybody is still just very relaxed. But I will say it's a very interesting time. We did a lot of D&I work here, and it does seem that women and people of color will put in a little more effort into the way they dress so that they are taken more seriously or maybe on the other side. It's not really that important. It's been really interesting to see that.

Ken White

I think you definitely see in here, especially with our younger students. Some of them grew up in a household where clothing was important. It was talked about, and others didn't. And if you grew up in one that didn't. Boy, it's a tough time.

Lucy Vozza

It's a very tough time.

Ken White

Yeah.

Lucy Vozza

It is.

Ken White

What about cost? We're hearing from that. I'll talk to some younger professionals. Wow, it's dry cleaning. It's a lot of money. I can't do this. I'd rather keep it low-key.

Lucy Vozza

Well, there's just so many options, really. When I first started. My go-to was Banana Republic. It's a good starting point. Those suits last a lifetime. I probably still have some pants. They last you, like, ten years. You get two of those. You only take them to the dry cleaners, like, once a month. That's okay. That's totally doable. And you can get a couple of classic shirts and then throw in some different earrings. It's okay. It's totally doable. And slowly, you build up your wardrobe to where you get to your Christian Louis Vuitton shoes and your Christian Diors if you like that sort of thing.

Ken White

Where does psychology come into play?

Lucy Vozza

It's a big part of it, honestly. I think, especially in sales, a lot of it is confidence. And you walking in to talk to a C suite in a frumpy shirt is not going to give you a lot of confidence. Again, you need to meet your customer where they are. So if I'm going to talk to a CEO, I also want to look like a CEO. If I'm going to go talk to minimum wage paid medical assistant, I'm going to change my wardrobe. And all of that has to do with confidence. You have to be comfortable wearing an outfit that is going to put you at the same point as a CEO. And you also have to be comfortable in knowing, like, that is not appropriate in this situation.

Ken White

Right. A million years ago, before I got into higher education, I worked in local television, and one night, the air conditioning in the studio died on us, and it was incredibly hot. And so one of the other anchors said, I'm going to wear shorts. I'm going to wear my jacket and tie, and so forth. And I did the same and had the worst five minutes in broadcast history. Everything went wrong, and it was that psychological piece of it. I didn't have my quote-unquote uniform on right. Even though no one knew that. Somehow I knew it.

Lucy Vozza

Yeah. No, it's so true. I will walk into meetings, and it just sounds silly, but if I don't have, like, five-inch heels, it makes me feel taller. I'm not a very tall person. I have a loud voice, but it just makes me feel taller and I feel more confident. It's silly, but that's just how I am.

Ken White

For those who aren't really into clothing and don't give it a whole lot of thought but would like to. Where can they go?

Lucy Vozza

Oh, my gosh, there's so many things right now, especially with social media, Instagram, and my little secret is I actually work with a stylist. His name is Jeff Banks. He's amazing. But anything on Instagram, first of all, that's free advice, really, and the way that you can just shop and pick from there. And some of these sites will offer you the same outfit with three different price points, so that's really easy. There's just no shortage of information on where to find that stuff.

Ken White

For young men will often see some fashion mistakes that they just don't know. They're getting their first suit. They're getting their first jacket. And so sometimes when you buy a sport coat, the venting is sewn shut. Sometimes they don't know that's supposed to come off, or the label is on the sleeve. They don't know that that's supposed to come off.

Lucy Vozza

Or they're too big.

Ken White

They just don't know. What are some of those common mistakes that a young professional woman might come across as she's learning how to dress?

Lucy Vozza

I think sometimes what I've seen is women will buy these heels that have, like, a front platform, and it just looks like it's made for another type of industry. Maybe their clothing might be a bit too tight, or it might just be too comfortable. I'm a big fan of, like, a well-tailored suit and not a sweater that you throw over. That's what you wear when you're sitting on the couch. So just try to get something that's a little tailored. One piece that's tailored is good that you can mix and match. That's what I would say.

Ken White

What do you predict moving forward? Because what we're reading a great piece in Wall Street Journal, another great piece in Harvard Business Review talking about this and both saying, this is a time where there's no rules. We get to create the rules. So where are we going? What do you think we'll see in the next few years?

Lucy Vozza

I think it's going all over. I don't think we're going to go back to a three-piece suit for sure. I mean, you see these young millennials that are working in Silicon Valley. They're very intelligent. They know what they're doing, and they don't feel that they need to change the way they're doing things right, especially when it comes to clothing. I think their interests lie elsewhere. I think you'll see a little bit of both, though. I don't think you'll see a return of that tailored suit look that I like. I think young people these days are interested in other things like causes and getting enough work-life balance.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Lucy Vozza. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you're looking for a truly transformational experience, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Lucy Vozza. And thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Ram Ganeshan
Ram GaneshanEpisode 182: September 5, 2022
Supply Chain in 2022

Ram Ganeshan

Episode 182: September 5, 2022

Supply Chain in 2022

Last summer, William & Mary Business Professor Ram Ganeshan joined us on the podcast to talk about where supply chains stood in 2021. A year ago we were experiencing lumber shortages, new furniture was challenging to find, and chlorine for the backyard swimming pool was in short supply. Fast-forward one year to today and we're faced with new supply chain issues. Some we could never have imagined a year ago. For example, the baby formula shortage continues, semiconductors are in short supply, and the Russian-Ukrainian war has caused a number of critical shortages affecting people all over the world. Professor Ganeshan joins us again to talk about today's supply chain issues, how they began, and what might be ahead for customers, companies, and countries across the globe.

Podcast (audio)

Ram Ganeshan: Supply Chain in 2022 TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud | Amazon Music/Audible | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Show Notes
Show Notes
  • How the baby formula shortage happened
  • What the federal government is doing to address supply chain shortages
  • How individual states are changing WIC baby formula regulations
  • When the baby formula shortage might ease up
  • How the semiconductor industry is similar to the baby formula industry
  • Why the semiconductor industry cannot rapidly increase production
  • How the CHIPS Act will address the semiconductor supply shortage
  • How the Russia-Ukraine war has affected the semiconductor and food industries
Transcript

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight to help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, last summer, William & Mary business Professor Ram Ganeshan joined us on the podcast, talked about where supply chain stood in 2021. A year ago, we were experiencing lumber shortages, new furniture was challenging to find, and chlorine for the backyard swimming pool was in short supply. We'll fast forward one year to today, and we're faced with new supply chain issues, some we could never have imagined a year ago. For example, the baby formula shortage continues, semiconductors are in short supply, and the Russian-Ukrainian war has caused a number of critical shortages affecting people all over the world. Professor Ganeshan joins us again to talk about today's supply chain issues, how they began, and what might be ahead for customers, companies, and countries across the globe. Here's our conversation with William & Mary business professor Ram Ganeshan.

Ken White

Ram, thanks very much for joining us. Nice to see you.

Ram Ganeshan

Yeah, nice to see you too, Ken. Nice being here.

Ken White

It's been a year. Last summer, you and I sat down. We were talking about the supply chain issues and where things might go. Did you expect the state of affairs to be where they are now? A year ago, when we talked.

Ram Ganeshan

Yes and no, things are improving in certain sectors, but we've had somewhat setbacks in the past years, like the war in Ukraine, for example, and the impending recession in America. So we don't know how that's going to sort of eventually resolve itself. But yes and no is the answer.

Ken White

There are a number of issues in terms of supply chain that it seems like everybody talks about. People are quite aware. The first one is the baby formula shortage. How did this happen?

Ram Ganeshan

Yeah, interestingly, if you look at the baby formula, it's sort of like a microcosm of what has been happening in the pandemic. Interestingly, if you look at baby formula demand, I'm talking a little bit technical here. The demand is somewhat constant. The babies don't. It's not a seasonal thing. It's fairly constant. And it turns out that the average demand is around 60 million 8-ounce bottles, which is how they measure baby formula. And a typical baby, it's been a while, but my kids are teenagers now. But it's somewhere between seven and eight-ounce bottles a day. So that's 60 million a week of eight-ounce bottles is the demand. And that's been constant for the longest time. So as you can imagine, supply chains have sort of organized themselves to make 60 million as efficiently as they possibly can.

Ken White

Sure.

Ram Ganeshan

And one of the ways that the supply chain is organized it's become highly concentrated, which means three companies, if you take Abbott and Nestle, the folks who make Gerber and a couple of others, account for pretty much all the production. And Abbot Nutrition, just in their one plant in Sturgis, Michigan, makes 20% of all baby formula that's made.

Ken White

Wow.

Ram Ganeshan

And of course, baby formula being like a critical product, it's regulated by the FDA. And part of the FDA rules stop us from importing stuff from outside, even from Europe, where nutritionally they may be better. They don't use corn syrup, that sort of stuff. So we can't import there are a few people making it, and then 50% of those who buy baby formula from the shelves. The demand are through what is called the WIC program, which is the Women, Infant, and Children program, which is you get vouchers for families who can't afford it. And they would go and buy, and the vouchers would let them buy only certain types of baby formula. So if your vouchers would let you buy Similac, for example, that's what you'd buy, you can't buy another brand. So somewhat restricted in what you can buy that way too. Most of the demand now. So typically, this was last year, what they call an out-of-stock percentage. You go to the store, how often it's not there, it's about 1-2%, 3%. Right. So that's common. And then suddenly, though, in April, it started to be close to 40%. Geez, what's going on? It's got all the parents up in arms because they can't find baby formula. Turns out that one of the plants of Abbott, which is in Sturgis, which I just talked about, which makes 20% of all production, they found cronobacter bacteria there. I don't know if you know the history of Cronos, the Greek god. I mean, this is the guy who ate babies, so it's kind of named that way. So it's kind of dangerous for babies, but it's in your kitchen sink. So there was a lot of debate about, gee, our cronobacter that's causing it? Because it's such and the company insists it's not there, but I won't go there for a minute. So what essentially ended up happening is they shut the plant down because they wanted to make sure there's nothing wrong. Think about it. You just pulled 20% of the supply out of the market, right? And that's where the domino started. So you take 20% of the supply out, and they also recalled many of the products they made. So the supply started going. So 50 of the demand is taken off the market. And immediately you started seeing and interestingly, another thing that happened was the news broke in April that, oh, geez, this April, that the shortage of baby formula. And then, when I follow sales data, this company called IRI releases sales. So I talked about 60 million 8-ounce bottles being the demand. Suddenly now, it's 75 million 8-ounce bottles. Clearly, they're not more babies, right? So maybe people are holding it in their kitchen shelves. That's a possibility. So the demand bumped up by about 10% or 15%, and the supply reduced by 20%. And go figure, right? So that's what put us in this hole.

Ken White

Makes perfect sense.

Ram Ganeshan

Yeah.

Ken White

Yeah, but now it's gone all the way to the White House to try to come up with solutions.

Ram Ganeshan

Absolutely. Clearly, it's a news story that you don't want to be linked to. Right. And the first thing people did is link it to the White House. So they had to do something about it, and they have. So the first thing Biden did was I talked about how the FDA rules didn't allow us to import. He relaxed some of those rules, saying, yeah, we can import. And he started this program called the Flight Freedom Program, where baby formula was being imported from other countries in Europe and Mexico and Australia, and so forth. But so far, we've only imported about a week's worth of supply. Sixty million bottles, nearly not enough. Right. But we have promises for six weeks worth of demand. So it's coming. And knowing supply chains, maybe sometime in the end of September, we're going to have way too many baby formula cans than we know what to do with. The second thing he did was invoke the Defense Production Act. So if you are baby formula manufacturers, all the things you need to make baby formula are now available to you. You're at the front of the line from these suppliers. Of course, you have our own Department of Defense planes, transport planes, moving these baby formula around, all the supply chain congestion, so trying to get it into the system quickly. Plus, he's doing all this. And all the companies involved Abbott, and Nestle, and Reckitt. They're all reconfiguring their production lines to make more. But that takes time. It's not quick. So there is still a significant supply drop. And to add to all this, the Abbot plant in Sturgis came online, and then there were floods in Michigan. So it got flooded, and they had to close it down again. So the supply hasn't caught up, and not enough has come in. So we're not able to bridge that gap. Another thing states are doing, I talked about the regulations, and the WIC program is now they're giving waivers so you can get those vouchers and buy anything on the shelf. From a state's perspective, you want contracts with some manufacturers because you can get a better deal, right, so large quantities. But now you can buy any on the shelf that are not contracted by you too. So that might give the other manufacturers a little bit more incentive to put stuff on the stuff. So it's still not caught up, the supply and demand. And retailers are now being able to ration these products too. So hopefully, I'm thinking maybe another six weeks or so. I mean, the White House is monitoring this very closely, and they're putting pressure on all these manufacturers. So hopefully, in six weeks, that's my guess. But let's keep our fingers crossed here.

Ken White

Yeah, it's amazing, and like you said, it takes time. It just takes time.

Ram Ganeshan

Yes, because of lead time, at least you're talking here a plant in Michigan, a phone call away, and you can drive there in a day, right, if you want to meet somebody. So the point really is how these supply chains are organized. They are highly concentrated and highly specialized. Few people do all things. And now you sort of expand this to the globe, right? Imagine it's not Michigan but somewhere in Taiwan. It just takes longer for everything to happen and get here. And that's what's happening. It's this crash in slow motion. Let me put it that way. And we're trying to recover from it.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Professor Ram Ganeshan in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. If your business or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals, William & Mary's online MBA, part-time MBA, and executive MBA programs are designed for the professional who works full-time. So both the employee and the organization benefit. Show your employees you care by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with William & Mary business professor Ram Ganeshan.

Ken White

The semiconductor issue, the CHIPS Act, another area that is just people are watching it and kind of scratching their heads what's taking place there.

Ram Ganeshan

Yeah, so I think we had this conversation before. If you look at the semiconductor industry, it is very similar to baby formula in many ways because really three countries pretty much make all the semiconductors Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. Not only that, but I would say maybe five firms make most of the semiconductors. So you got Taiwan Semiconductor, Samsung, LG, and maybe perhaps SMIC, which is in China. What had happened there was the pandemic had slowed the supply of these folks, and we couldn't get anything from SMIC, which was in China, because it was blacklisted by President Trump. So there was a supply drop, and there was a demand increase on the other side. So there was the same sort of things happened. So clearly, it has been a year, and obviously, for supply chains, semiconductor supply chains, trying to increase capacity is not an easy thing because these machines literally cost several hundred million dollars. Setting up clean rooms takes several months. So you can't just snap your finger and say, I'm going to make 20% more. It's going to take you eight to ten months to even get there. And they have been working towards that. But of course, on the flip side of it is, this has also gotten into the political discourse, saying, hey, why are we dependent on Taiwan and China? Why can't we make our own chips? And that seems to resonate with a lot of folks, and that's what the CHIPS Act was about, saying we make about less than 10% of the world's semiconductors. We just design them here in the United States. So the CHIPS Act is going to give incentives to set up fabrication facilities. Intel has already said they're going to put up some facilities in Ohio. Micron has said they're going to put up a facility, but those things are going to take a few years before they even go online. So until then, we are left with what we have, which is most of the semiconductor supply base is still in East Asia, and most of the largest companies, like Apple's biggest suppliers, are in China and Taiwan.

Ken White

And again, patience. Right? Wow. Yeah. I think people would love an easy answer, but I think they know there isn't one.

Ram Ganeshan

Yeah, but it's also the domino effect. If you think about semiconductors and ask people where it's used. You have to think hard to think about a product that does not use semiconductors, and it impacts everybody in cars gee, I can't go to work. Our car prices have increased, computers so on. So yeah, it's the downstream domino effect that's also quite important.

Ken White

And then the war Russia and Ukraine has just disrupted like we couldn't even imagine. What are we looking at now?

Ram Ganeshan

Yeah, that was a surprise. I wouldn't say a surprise. I mean, we knew something was happening, but nobody really thought the war was going to actually happen, and it did. Keeping it semiconductors. Here's what we discovered when the war started. That Ukraine makes most of the world's ion, which is required ingredient in semiconductor manufacturing. In fact, two companies make 50% of the world's ion. One is in Mariupol. You've seen pictures on TV the city being destroyed.

Ken White

Yes.

Ram Ganeshan

They shuttered their operations immediately when the war started, and so did the other one, which is in the port city Odesa. So that's that. And if you think about Russia, they make 30% of the world's palladium. They are the second largest producer of nickel and the third largest producer of cobalt. And you might ask why this is important. I mean, if you think about palladium, it is one of the metals used in semiconductor manufacturing, and if you think about nickel, cadmium, and cobalt, they are all used in batteries and cars. So especially when the Biden administration is pushing electric cars and the future of energy has sort of got a setback here, and trying to mine these and get licenses is not easy. There are deposits available in Canada and Greenland, and Australia, but somebody has to prospect them, and somebody has to mine them, and it's not happening anytime soon. In the semiconductor industry, if you think about automobiles, if you look downstream in the supply chain, Ukraine also makes a lot of what they call wiring harnesses for cars. The first thing they do in a car is put the wiring harness in and hook everything up to it. And that's how it gets its power. Volkswagen and BMW, they were getting their wiring harnesses from Ukraine, and as soon as the war started, that dried up. These car companies are using what they call just in time. Right. Very efficient. So when something when their supplier stops, so they have to stop their lines, making the ID four car Volkswagen, for example, which has American market. So BMW had to stop their production and look for alternative sources in Tunisia and China. It's coming down.

Ken White

Yeah, and then the food aspect of it as well. I don't know that people realize how much food came out of those two countries.

Ram Ganeshan

Yeah, I knew Ukraine was the bread basket, but I didn't think it made so much wheat to feed so much of the world. I think the sad part of that is many countries, like Egypt and Sudan, for example, get almost 100% of their supply from Ukraine. So now they're left in the lurch. I think it's dependent on the developing countries to come and help them. I think some of that is happening, but there is a lot of fear that they might be famine in many parts of the world because of this war. Yeah, that's pretty sad.

Ken White

Do you see things beginning to ease? Are you thinking looking towards the future overall?

Ram Ganeshan

I hope so. I noticed two things. One is many of the supply chain constraints that were in the earlier part of the pandemic, like lumber and accompanying house prices. The usual, see if you take masks and sanitary kind of things, hand sanitizers. We don't have a shortage anymore like our toilet paper. So we found a way to solve it. Cost of lumber is going down. Inflation from everything we've seen has peaked, and hopefully, it's turned a corner. And, of course, the Fed is putting pressure on the demand side of things. So hopefully, the supply and demand will be more in line. Hopefully, we have a soft landing. We'll see about that. And things are easing. But of course, there's the storm clouds in the horizon. And when Russia attacked Ukraine, China didn't condemn Russia. Not only China but India and the Middle East. So I don't know how that bodes for us. Especially when Speaker Pelosi went to Taiwan, you saw the geopolitical risk of that. And interestingly, there was an article on the New York Times. I don't know if you saw that, but how her plane had to make a circuitous route to avoid all the streets just for political reasons. But interestingly enough, when she landed in Taiwan, not only did she meet the political leadership, but she also met the CEO of TSMC, which is a big chip manufacturer. So let's hope the geopolitical risks die down, and let's hope Ukraine and Russia can come to some sort of agreement because I think the supply chain issues, I'm beginning to see an easing in the supply-demand mismatch. So let's hope that doesn't get derailed.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Ram Ganeshan. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you're looking for a truly transformational experience, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Professor Ram Ganeshan, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Elatia Abate
Elatia AbateEpisode 181: August 5, 2022
Regenerative Resilience

Elatia Abate

Episode 181: August 5, 2022

Regenerative Resilience

There's no doubt change will play a major role in our future. We'll experience new business landscapes, new paradigms for leadership, and new approaches to work. The next 20 years of business in the world will be vastly different from the past. For many professionals, that constant change leads to uncertainty, which can increase burnout, exhaustion, and low morale. If not handled appropriately, it can adversely affect the bottom line. Our guest today says that does not have to be the case. She says we can take that disruptive uncertainty and turn it into productive possibility by embracing regenerative resilience. Elatia Abate is an entrepreneur and futurist who works around the world with top companies and organizations. She joins us today to discuss how leaders and professionals can thrive in challenging times thanks to regenerative resilience.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How the pandemic accelerated change in business and thinking
  • What "regenerative resilience" was created in response to
  • Why it's important that leaders can acknowledge their own mental health issues
  • The purpose of clarity for an individual and organization
  • How fearlessness is separate from courage
  • Why person-to-person connection is invaluable
  • What qualities should a leader have that will ensure their future success
  • Why hiring and promotion policies need to change
Transcript

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight to help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, there's no doubt change will play a major role in our future. We'll experience new business landscapes, new paradigms for leadership, and new approaches to work. The next 20 years in business in the world will be vastly different from the past. For many professionals, that constant change leads to uncertainty, which can increase burnout, exhaustion, and low morale. If not handled appropriately, it can adversely affect the bottom line. But our guest today says that does not have to be the case. She says we can take that disruptive uncertainty and turn it into productive possibility by embracing Regenerative Resilience. Elatia Abate is an entrepreneur and futurist who works around the world with top companies and organizations. She joins us today to discuss how leaders and professionals can thrive in challenging times thanks to Regenerative Resilience. Here's our conversation with Elatia Abate.

Ken White

Elatia, thanks so much for joining us. You and I have been waiting a long time to get together, so it's great that we're together. Thanks for sharing your time with us today.

Elatia Abate

Oh, my goodness. Thank you so much for having me. I am thrilled to be here inside of this conversation.

Ken White

As we were right before we were ready to record, we were talking about this world we're living in today. And it's not just post-pandemic, right? What are some of the reasons it is so different right now than it was previously?

Elatia Abate

Sure. Well, first and foremost, the pandemic simply accelerated a whole series of changes that were on the horizon. So you're absolutely correct in saying it wasn't just the pandemic, and the pandemic was simply a conduit for more of what was already coming and into what was already coming. We are at the precipice. We've sort of begun to walk into what the World Economic Forum calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Some might call it the first productivity revolution, like my friend Nancy Giordano in her book Leadering. I call it the Quantum Revolution or the Energetic Revolution because of our advances in quantum physics, quantum computing. So if the world is already running on these more complicated principles, like things wave-particle duality, two truths can be true simultaneously. What happens in a world that's usually data-driven? And when we are only looking for one truth, how do we begin to loosen up our thinking? And in addition to that, the technological disruption. So we are, in addition to as part of this Fourth Industrial Revolution, or first energetic revolution, we are looking at a century of change squished into the next decade. And so, if you look at the evolution of horse and buggy to self-driving electric car, roughly over 100 years, give or take, right?

Ken White

Sure.

Elatia Abate

That's one product. So imagine this in healthcare, biotech, education, traditional manufacturing, literally everything that you can think of. What's the world going to look like?

Ken White

Wow. Total disruption.

Elatia Abate

Total disruption.

Ken White

So, where did you come up with the concept of regenerative resilience, then?

Elatia Abate

So regenerative resilience is an answer to a question of what does leadership look like in this age of continuing and accelerating disruption?

Ken White

Got it.

Elatia Abate

So I was observing the marketplace. I was looking, okay, first and second industrial revolutions. So much of what we understand and study as leadership was born in those places and spaces. Over the last 30 years, certainly more evolved leadership models have come into place. Agile leadership, servant leadership, these kinds of things. But what happens in a world where change is growing, it's accelerating, and there is no foreseeable end? And that was the initial question. And then, during the pandemic, I ran an experiment where I reached out to everybody with whom I was connected on LinkedIn to invite them into a 20 minutes conversation. At the time, it was like 4700ish people. I had no idea what was going to occur. But 161 conversations, over 80 hours of dialogue, people in 24 countries, academics, entrepreneurs, executives of publicly traded companies. And 85% of those conversations were about mental health and resilience.

Ken White

Wow.

Elatia Abate

And so I thought, okay, as we're looking at this unbridled change, how can we adapt our leadership to not simply survive and get through to the other side but thrive in the face of it? And that's where regenerative resilience was born.

Ken White

Fantastic. And leading people who are probably kind of tired of being tired.

Elatia Abate

I can't say everybody right now, absolute. But many, many people are tired of being tired. And I have been even just these last couple of weeks in conversations with hundreds of executives around the world, and sort of the behind closed doors is, I'm exhausted. What am I going to do? I don't see none of the tools that I have available to me for as much training, education, and everything else that I've had. It doesn't feel like it's working.

Ken White

That's so interesting. And not to go off on a tangent, but I, too, have had similar conversations with leaders who don't want to admit they're exhausted, but how do they stay up? How do they continue to motivate when they're exhausted? But I think half the battle is just realizing they're exhausted and then kind of go from there. Right? Yeah.

Elatia Abate

So it's seeing it and naming it. And that's another reason why regenerative resilience comes to play in this space. Because when we talk about resilience, and this is what we see in the popular business press right now, the importance of being resilient. But when the connotation of that word, particularly in American society, is sort of, I'm going to force through and do it anyway, no matter the cost, no matter how tired I am. And that's not sustainable. So regenerative because not only does it bring us back or restore us to whatever state we were in in the first place, but gives us the tools to expand beyond that from survival to thriving.

Ken White

Excellent. So you have three core principles under the umbrella. First one is clarity. Can you tell us about that?

Elatia Abate

Absolutely. So like any good model that comes out of a structure strategy framework, right, three pillars. The first one is clarity, and clarity is subdivided also in the three buckets. But when we look at clarity, it's from a personal leadership perspective. What do I want to create? What kind of impacts do I want to have? How do I want to use my life and career? And from the answers to those questions, how do I define clearly the things that I value? How am I exercising those values in my day-to-day? And then finally, how am I protecting the space where I am allowed to live into those values, whatever they might be? So that's the purpose of clarity because most of us are bumbling along. We don't know what I mean. We think we do, but when we sit down and ask, what are the three things that you find most important right now? Most people take a little while to get there. So if you have clarity of purpose, why you're here, what you're up to, the things that you value the most, and then you can protect that space and even evaluate, am I in a role right now that's allowing me to exercise those? Can I find that in the organization where I am, or should I be looking somewhere else?

Ken White

So it's personal and organizational?

Elatia Abate

Yes. So Regenerative Resilience, as a side note, exists as an individual leadership model. How do I develop my own leadership and then also as an organizational strategic model? How does my organization become regeneratively resilient? So it exists on those two planes.

Ken White

Interesting. But start with the leader, which makes sense. Yeah. Fearlessness is the second.

Elatia Abate

Yes, fearlessness and not courage. Right. So the third pillar also starts with the C, and the alliteration would have been beautiful. And though courage is a fundamentally extractive action, I'm going to feel the fear and do it anyway. I'm going to jump off of, dive off an airplane, or whatever, and that's fine in the moment. Courage has its place. But again, sustainable leadership, when change is going to continue, and the disruption is going to grow, that's not going to work. And so fearlessness is how we first and foremost identify, control, manage the chemicals and what feel like automatic processes that are running around in our body that creates stress and these kinds of things. There's actually plenty of techniques that we can utilize to manage that. But then, secondly, intellectually, how do we build the resources around ourselves and the projects that we're running so that we don't run into burnout? And how do we name, define and challenge the assumptions that we have about what is or isn't true about our world? Because oftentimes, fear comes, or this anxiety comes because we don't think we have options. And we don't think we have options because of the assumptions that we're making about how we're operating in the world. So if we can challenge the assumptions, and I call it a kaleidoscope of questions, right? If we can sort of turn the kaleidoscope around and begin to look and examine and explore it, what might we be thinking is true that may or may not be? We begin to find more options, the fear reduces, and we can empower ourselves and our teams.

Ken White

I think I saw you had written something that said it's a way to discover an alternative to exhaustive strategies.

Elatia Abate

Yes.

Ken White

So it's opening up, in other words.

Elatia Abate

Yes, exactly. Because in my former life as a corporate executive, I was on 100 hours a week burnout train. And so many of us were taught to that that is the prized way of going forward, and it's simply not sustainable. So we move from that exhaustive again over into regenerative.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Elatia Abate in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. If your business or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's online MBA, part-time MBA, and executive MBA programs are designed for the professional who works full-time, so both the employee and the organization benefit. Show your employees you care by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with futurist Elatia Abate.

Ken White

And then the third pillar connection.

Elatia Abate

Connection. Yes. Hello, fellow human beings. How are we going to connect with each other? And particularly in this world that's increasingly hybrid? Minimally. But I think we'll go to asynchronous sooner rather than later or as we evolve over time. And the connection also includes how we communicate about who we are and what we're up to. So, language, I can't stress enough the importance of language because language creates our reality. There's a distinction in there between problem-solving and solution-seeking. If I come to you with a problem that I have to solve, it's usually complaining. It's usually asking some form of the question, why is this happening to me, to us, in the market? It pushes the lens to externalities that we can't control. However, if we go to solution seeking, okay, fine, it's not Pollyanna. We don't ignore the fact that there's a challenge here. We say, okay, given that this is a challenge we're facing, what is it that we want to create? The language that I utilize in connecting with you about something that I'm solving. A solution that I'm creating is different from a problem that I'm solving.

Ken White

Which then changes your mindset.

Elatia Abate

Which then changes your mindset. And it enrolls to the point of connection. It enrolls others in supporting you in ways that are much more productive, as opposed to sitting around the proverbial water cooler and complaining about what isn't working.

Ken White

So in your workshop, you work with six weeks in teams. Generally, how big? Is there a nice number you like to work with?

Elatia Abate

Sure. So that's one of those things where it just depends. Right. I've done from groups of ten, strictly the C-suite or a couple of members of the board. To workshopish of several hundred or a few thousand. For me, I love the individual interaction that comes with smaller groups. So up to 40 inside of a classroom is a really great way to get into a little bit more personal interaction as opposed to solely lecturing.

Ken White

And as you're doing that, what kind of reactions are you getting? Because this is new. This is a new mindset.

Elatia Abate

This is new. Sure. The first thing that happens when I walk into a room, usually because I talk about disruption and change and all the things that are happening, is that there is a moment where we need to recognize that that can feel scary, and that's okay. It's normal to feel scared in the face of uncertainty. The game then becomes, how can we learn to shift this into seeing that there's way more opportunity inside of this change? Once we shift over to that, the receptivity tends to be pretty great, especially because there's data behind all of it, on some level. Yes, I created and though when we're looking at the importance of having clarity, purpose, and direction, the academic research will support that yes, that is a good thing. Psychology research will tell us that. Yes. Learning how to create and construct firm boundaries around your time, your talents, and this sort of thing is a healthy thing for us to do as human beings. Right. So the data is there, and my job is to combine sort of this out at the edge disruption with the data that people already have access to and are familiar to and create a bridge to the future.

Ken White

How do you see the new leader in comparison to one maybe 20 years ago? What's that new leader? What are they like? What are they thinking about?

Elatia Abate

Sure. So I think one distinction that could be useful for folks to understand is there's a big shift from subject matter expertise to becoming a subject matter student and subject matter experts was in the old model, right? The unquestionable authority about the economy, about finance, about fill-in-the-blank, whatever it is. And we kowtowed to that knowledge without questioning it. Today, no matter how much we know about any given thing, you may be the world's most knowledgeable person in a given thing. So we're not saying it's not important to learn, but even if you know all the things, there's going to be something else because of the rate of change. So what else haven't you thought about? What else haven't you seen? And so a willingness to learn, unlearn, do redo and become and continuously and constantly evolve.

Ken White

Which I guess is the same as your advice to those who want to lead. Those are the things to embrace then. How will it be different as we hire leaders? Because there was a pretty set way, a CEO was hired. If things are evolving, and they are, then I think the hiring process could be different.

Elatia Abate

Yes, and so well. First and foremost, the hiring process for most organizations needs to change across the organization, from the C-suite down to the interns, if for no other reason than for diversity, period, point blank. This is a nonnegotiable as we're moving forward in the world. And so, our hiring processes and promotion processes need to change in order to reflect that. So there's that. And then secondly, in the search for right, people aren't going to fit into one neat box. Nontraditional thinkers or nontraditional MBA folks or business folks are likely the ones that you're going to want to put into leadership positions because of the ability to navigate and to be okay with I might not know the answer, and it's okay if we're still in search of the answer, but then what are the criteria for searching for leaders like this? Are they curious? Are they willing and able to say that they are wrong and that they screwed something up and help their team and support their team in doing the same thing?

Ken White

When you look at the next ten years, 20 years, optimistic, pessimistic, excited, where are you?

Elatia Abate

If you couldn't tell from my tone up until now, right? I am incredibly optimistic because inside of this disruption, there is more opportunity than we've ever seen. The very technologies that are creating this disruption are technologies that can help solve all of the big challenges that we're facing. And I mentioned that conversation experiment when I reached out to all these folks, the variety of answers that I received. Some people were having the best years of their lives. Many people were having the worst years ever, meltdowns and family and everything else. But no matter how good or bad the situation was, every single one of the people with whom I spoke was using their life, their time, their intellect, their talent to help somebody else. Being in the listening of that much power in a beautiful way, we're going to be fine. We're going to be great.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Elatia Abate. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home to the MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you're looking for a truly transformational experience, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Elatia Abate. And thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

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David LongEpisode 180: July 21, 2022
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Episode 180: July 21, 2022

Retaining Your Employees

Retaining high quality employees. A priority today. As professionals change jobs faster than ever, businesses and organizations need to hang on to their best performers. While many employers increase salaries to retain people, our guest today says they're often overlooking something more important and more effective. Something that will keep top employees engaged and happy at work. David Long is a professor of organizational behavior at William & Mary's School of Business. In addition to teaching undergraduate and MBA students, he works closely with businesses and leadership teams. He says employers can focus on five elements that lead to happy and fulfilled employees. The kind who stay on the team and contribute.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How extrinsic and intrinsic rewards affect employee retention
  • What leaders miss in regards to intrinsic rewards
  • How variety can help derive more intrinsic satisfaction from work
  • Why identity in a piece of work is important to an employee
  • What role significance plays in employee retention
  • Why leaders need to give their employees some autonomy
  • The importance of getting feedback from the work itself
  • How managers and leaders can ensure employee retention through the five intrinsic reward pillars
Transcript

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight to help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Retaining high-quality employees a priority today as professionals change jobs faster than ever, businesses and organizations need to hang on to their best performers. Well, while many employers increase salaries to retain people, our guest today says they're often overlooking something more important and more effective. Something that will keep top employees engaged and happy at work. David Long is a professor of organizational behavior at William & Mary's School of Business. In addition to teaching undergraduate and MBA students, he works closely with businesses and leadership teams. He says employers can focus on five elements that lead to happy and fulfilled employees. The kind who stay on the team and contribute. Here's our conversation with William & Mary business Professor David Long.

Ken White

David, thanks for joining us. A pleasure to have you today.

David Long

Thanks, Ken. Nice to see you.

Ken White

You had talked to a group of corporate leaders just a few weeks ago about what we're going to talk about. And everybody in the room, you could just see the lights going on. People were really excited, saying, I really didn't think about it this way. And what we learned is that so many people are focused on hiring and retention, but they might not be thinking about the right thing. And you talked a little bit about extrinsic and intrinsic. Can you tell us about that?

David Long

Sure, absolutely. If you think about the way that you view your work and your job, there's really two categories that you can view your job on. The first one is on what we call extrinsic rewards. Those are things, specific aspects about the job that are outside of you. So things like pay, promotions, benefits, perks, vacation time, how big of an office I have, those are things that certainly impact whether you're going to be happy in a job or not. But again, they are external to you. They're nothing about you as a person. The other are intrinsic rewards. Those are things that are more internal to you. And there are specific aspects of the job that kind of map to who you are as a person or what you want to get out of a job. So extrinsic rewards, you think about pay, promotion, intrinsic rewards, you think about things about the job that I enjoy. What are the specific things about the job that I do everyday day in and day out that I derive satisfaction from? That's the intrinsic side, and that's kind of where a lot of leaders miss focus when they're thinking about how can I keep my employees around. It's not just about pay. It's not just about promotions and who you work with. It's about the job.

Ken White

And you talked about five specific elements in terms of that one of them. And as we're talking about this, you're saying this is what you need to think about when thinking about your employees. Right. Or your team.

David Long

Absolutely.

Ken White

And so, the first element is variety.

David Long

Yeah. And these five elements that I think we're going to cover here, they come from a model called Job Characteristics Theory. It's a model that's been around for a long time, but it's based more on that intrinsic side of work, kind of the missed opportunity that a lot of leaders overlook. The first one is variety. So in order to derive more intrinsic satisfaction from your work, one aspect of your job that would be beneficial for you to get that intrinsic satisfaction is to have variety. Getting to do different things. The old assembly line worker just doing the same routine over and over again. Not a lot of variety. But if you get to do different things, maybe you get to work with different clients, maybe you get to focus on different tasks. You get to hone new skills that you never honed before. That's all different aspects of variety that can drive higher levels of job satisfaction.

Ken White

Cross training, for example, right?

David Long

Absolutely. Cross training. When I was leading Home Depot, we had department supervisors. I had a hardware department supervisor. I had an electrical department super. I had a paint department supervisor. And one day, I said, let's learn each other's jobs. The hardware supervisor, do you know how to mix paint. Let's learn that job. That way, if a customer is ever waiting in paint and somebody's helping, they need help in paint, the hardware person can go over there and mix paint for them. It's just learning a different skill set, adding variety.

Ken White

And we know that most people, most employees, do, in fact, enjoy that.

David Long

Absolutely.

Ken White

Cross training. The ability to learn more.

David Long

Right. It's a little bit of a slippery slope because employees do want to be good at what they do. So they do want to be somewhat of an expert in their primary role. But beyond that, do they get to do different things at different times as well?

Ken White

Right.

David Long

You want to be an expert on what you do, but you also want to enhance new avenues for yourself.

Ken White

So we know that doing that under the variety element improves satisfaction.

David Long

Absolutely. And if an employee is more satisfied in their work, they're more likely to stay.

Ken White

Absolutely.

David Long

It's about retention.

Ken White

Number two. The second element is identity.

David Long

Yeah. Identity is a fun one. It has to do with employees being able to see an identifiable piece of completed work that they contributed to that they did. So do you have your own identity in a finished piece of work? I tell my students all the time, look, you guys are going to go off and do great things. You're going to become leaders of industry. You're going to run companies. It would be great if I could look one day and say, here's how I contributed to that. And so if you ever feel like, hey, Professor Long, your class, I learned something about it, and I do it every day, let me know about that. I would love to be able to see myself in an identifiable piece of finished work. People who bake cakes and paint paintings and build things, they have this in spades. They get to see the fruits of their labor. But a lot of jobs, especially in service industries, we just don't get to see the fruits of our labor. So it's important for leaders to be able to connect that back to their employees, show them what their work is doing as a finished product so that they can see it and they can point to it and go, hey, I did that.

Ken White

So it has a visible outcome.

David Long

Has a visible outcome. That's right. If you build homes, you get to drive around town and point to houses. I built that one. I built that one. I built that one. A lot of us don't have that luxury.

Ken White

Yeah, I did that, matters, doesn't it?

David Long

I did it. Yeah, I did it, matters. That's right.

Ken White

Yeah.

David Long

Exactly.

Ken White

The third element is significance. What do you mean by that?

David Long

Yeah, so this is a big one. Does your job offer significance to other people? Is it meaningful to others? If you're a lifeguard, you got this, right? You're saving lives. You're out there. But if you're working in a job where you feel like, I just don't see how what I'm doing contributes to society or the greater good. Back to Home Depot, I had a cashier one time who said, I'm just a cashier here, so what does it matter? And I thought for a second, oh, man, I got to figure out a way to let her know that what she does is significant. And so the Home Depot I worked at, we get about 12,000 customers a week. Only about 500 to 700 of those customers actually need associates in paint or hardware to help them. The rest of them get what they want, and they go check out. So over 90% of our customers only interact with that cashier. And so I went and told her, I said, look what you do, how you engage with the customers ultimately going to determine how successful we are as a store because that's going to drive customer satisfaction. You smiling at them, asking them if they found everything they need, and telling them to have a nice day, and getting them out in a timely manner is really what's going to determine our success.

Ken White

Yeah, it matters greatly. And it's interesting how some people don't see how much their work matters to the organization and to the customer, right?

David Long

And so one of the great studies that did this is there was a call center on a college campus where volunteers were calling and soliciting donations, and they were doing fine. But the leader of the call center said, what if I brought in the benefactors, the people who are benefiting from the donations? I.e., receiving the scholarships from the money that was being solicited? Let me bring those folks in and let them tell the volunteers, thank you, and without your effort, I couldn't be here. I mean, it drove not only how hard they were working but the amount of donations they received through the roof just by seeing the people that they were impacting. The significance that their work had on someone else.

Ken White

So it's important for the manager, for the leader, to find that significance if the employee can't find it.

David Long

Right. And we can't all be lifeguards. We can't all be surgeons.

Ken White

Yeah.

David Long

So you need to find a way to connect. What is it that this employee is doing, and how does it impact something that's more significant than themselves? How does it help the vision of the company? How does it drive our mission? How does it make a customer more satisfied?

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Professor David Long in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. We're discussing employee retention on the podcast today. If that's a priority for your organization, we invite you to think about William & Mary as a way to retain your best people. Consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's online MBA, part-time MBA, and executive MBA programs are designed for the professional who works full time, so both the employee and the organization benefit. Show your employees you care by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Professor David Long.

Ken White

The fourth pillar autonomy. What do you mean by that?

David Long

Yeah. Do you get to decide how, when you do your job right? It's like the opposite of micromanaging. Leaders need to tell their employees, here's the expectation, here's the outcome I want, and then get out of their way. Let them determine an autonomy can be as big as, hey, I have the flexibility to work when I want and where I want, or it can be something as small as, what tasks am I going to do this day and in what order am I going to do them right? So the less micro-managing that employees have, the happier they are. They want autonomy. They want discretion. And the reason is because if people have autonomy, then whatever the outcome is, the responsibility goes back to them because I got to decide how I teach this course. I got to decide who I work with. I always tell my students. I say I'm teaching this class. Do you know who made the decision about what was in the curriculum, what's on the syllabus? And they pause for a minute, and then somebody always says, you did. And I go, that's right. I did. No, dean told me, no department chair told me, no president. I got to determine what is in the syllabus and what content I'm teaching you. The good thing about that is I got to decide. The other side of that is, if you guys aren't happy with this course, that comes back to me.

Ken White

Right.

David Long

So it's an extra edge for the employees to also, hey, look, I want to give you autonomy. You need to make sure you're putting in the effort to get the outcome that we want.

Ken White

Yeah. Autonomy and responsibility go hand in hand.

David Long

Hand in hand.

Ken White

In that instance.

David Long

You're right, Ken.

Ken White

Do most people in your experience want autonomy?

David Long

Yes. Again, they want to become subject matter experts. And so there's an onboarding, there's a ramp-up process for autonomy. Autonomy from day one. Hey, you're hired. Now here's what we need you to do now. You go figure it out can be dangerous. So employees want to learn the steps, but then after a while, back off and let them get their own nuanced way to do something.

Ken White

This is an interesting pillar because when you and I talked to managers and leaders, a lot of what we're hearing now is, this is exhausting. I mean, these people, my team, they're driving me crazy. A lot of that would go away if you allow them to have some autonomy.

David Long

Absolutely. Right. So focus on the outcomes. Hold people accountable for the deliverables, but then let them have a say. And hey, every third Friday, I'm going to do a remote. Okay, fine, if that's what works for you. But just know the expectation is that we get the deliverables that we agreed on.

Ken White

Sure. The final number five is feedback.

David Long

This one's an interesting one because most people, when they think about feedback, they think about a boss or a customer saying, hey, you did a good job, or you did a bad job. This element of feedback actually comes from the work itself. You look at something and say, I either did a good job or I did a bad job. So if I'm an artist painting a painting, I can stand back at the end and look at it and go, oh, man, I really nailed that one. Or oops. Those colors clash. They don't go well together. I'm getting feedback from the work itself. Again, it's not from a boss or a co-worker, or a customer. That's an important aspect of feedback. But the truest sense where people get intrinsic rewards is if they get it from the work itself. So you can pat yourself on the back and say, yeah, I nailed that one.

Ken White

Yeah. My work lets me know how I'm doing.

David Long

My work lets me know how I'm doing. Absolutely.

Ken White

So as I think of this, I go right back to autonomy because they're tied together. So of the five, how do they intertwine with one another?

David Long

So they're all independent, but they can amplify, they can enhance each other. So if leaders focus on a couple of them, that's better than just focusing on one of them. If they focus on all five, that can be super powerful.

Ken White

But you had mentioned at one time that the five lead to real meaningfulness in the work.

David Long

Yeah, right. So these five characteristics of a job, they lead to what we call feeling states of employees where they feel that my work makes a difference, it's meaningful. They feel that they're responsible for the outcomes. They feel that the feedback they're getting allows them to know how they're doing. Those are feelings that these jobs provide. Again, these are intrinsic things. Feelings are intrinsic. And so these five quick characteristics lead to these positive effective states that employees feel, and that's what drives job satisfaction.

Ken White

And how can managers and leaders ensure that they're using this? Because this is a fairly easy fix when it comes to retention.

David Long

It really is. The best way to do it is there are actually two things. The first thing is leaders need to ask employees across these five dimensions rate your job. I've given you variety, identity, significance, autonomy, feedback. Ask them do you feel that your job makes a difference? And if so, how? The employee says no. Okay, great. This is an avenue that I can work and can focus on. If the employee says absolutely, I see exactly how my job connects, great. That's something that I don't have to spend time on. I can go to maybe feedback or identity. So asking employees to give some information, solicit some feedback so that, you know, the second thing is we just need to stop thinking only extrinsically. When they think about rewards, the employees are going to knock on their door and say hey, I'm not happy here. I think I need another 30% pay. Or hey, I'm not happy here. I'd like a little more vacation time. That's an important thing to listen to. Right. Because it does impact job satisfaction. But don't overlook the intrinsic side of thing. Maybe in addition to listening to the concerns of the employee on the extrinsic side, also think about adding some, say, variety to their work or connecting the dots of how their job impacts the overall mission of the organization to drive significance. Think intrinsically as well.

Ken White

Based on what we're hearing so many managers and leaders it is about money because people are job hopping. But this can make a huge difference.

David Long

Huge difference. That's right.

Ken White

Yeah.

David Long

Huge difference.

Ken White

And retention seems to be where it's at right now.

David Long

Absolutely right. And these are just minor tweaks that a leader can do for their employees, and what it is that they do that can really help with retention.

Ken White

And you're calling it being self-fulfilled in your work? We can get our team to that position.

David Long

If I can get a cashier at Home Depot, right? Think about it. A minimum wage job somebody who truly is the lowest paid employee with the least amount of required skills. If I can get a cashier to find significant in what they do, imagine in your organization how easy that's going to be to help employees see what they do and how significant it is to someone other than themselves?

Ken White

That's our conversation with Professor David Long. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you're looking for a truly transformational experience, check out the William & Mary MBA Program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Professor David Long, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business. 

More Podcast Episodes

 Navdeep Gupta
Navdeep GuptaEpisode 179: July 5, 2022
Doing Good and Well: DICK'S

Navdeep Gupta

Episode 179: July 5, 2022

Doing Good & Well: DICK'S

We all know that companies and employees expect businesses to do more than make money. Today, people expect organizations to contribute to society to make a difference. And we've seen how those efforts lead to a number of positive outcomes. When looking for role models in the doing good and doing well arena, one company jumps out: DICK'S Sporting Goods. America's largest sporting goods retailer goes to great lengths to support young athletes. In fact, since 2014, DICK'S and the DICK'S Foundation have committed over $150 million to youth sports. Navdeep Gupta is the CFO at DICK'S. He earned his MBA at William & Mary and was here last month for Alumni Reunion Weekend. He sat down with us to talk about DICK'S Sporting Goods, its special culture, and its commitment to today's young athletes.

Podcast (audio)

Navdeep Gupta: Doing Good & Well: DICK'S TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What Navdeep's responsibilities are as CFO of DICK'S
  • How the culture at DICK'S developed
  • How DICK'S differentiates itself from other companies
  • The comparison between leadership and sports
  • What is the DICK'S "purpose playbook"
  • The purpose behind the DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation
  • How DICK'S community outreach programs affect hiring and retention
Transcript

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. Sharing strategies, information, and insight to help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. We all know that companies and employees expect businesses to do more than make money. Today, people expect organizations to contribute to society to make a difference, and we've seen how those efforts lead to a number of positive outcomes. When looking for role models in the doing good and doing well arena, one company jumps out, DICK'S Sporting Goods. America's largest sporting goods retailer goes to great lengths to support young athletes. In fact, since 2014, DICK'S and the DICK'S Foundation have committed over $150,000,000 to youth sports. Navdeep Gupta is the CFO at DICK'S. He earned his MBA at William & Mary and was here last month for Alumni Reunion Weekend. He sat down with us to talk about DICK'S Sporting Goods, its special culture, and its commitment to today's young athletes. Here's our conversation with Navdeep Gupta, CFO, DICK'S Sporting Goods.

Ken White

Navdeep, welcome. It's so great to have you on campus. Thanks for joining us.

Navdeep Gupta

Oh, Ken, I appreciate that. This has been a great weekend so far, and I'm looking forward to this conversation.

Ken White

How long has it been since you've been on campus? Has it been a while?

Navdeep Gupta

I would say it's been 20 years since I graduated.

Ken White

Right.

Navdeep Gupta

Got a chance to make a brief visit in 2009, actually. Luckily, my mom was visiting from India, and we wanted to bring her down and show her the school. And at that time, the MBA program had just moved into this new facility. So I did take her to the old one, just the Blow Hall, and just to be able to show the small rooms and the few meeting rooms that we had. And she got a chance to actually see my class. And when I told her that I was coming down to the college and she remembered all of that. And it's fun to be able to connect that way with your parents and to be able to talk about the things that you have been through.

Ken White

Absolutely. And then this weekend, getting to see some of your classmates.

Navdeep Gupta

Oh, it's been great. I haven't seen most of the folks that, so we keep in touch, but it's been more through text or phone conversation. And I'm really looking forward to the happy hour now.

Ken White

Yeah, we stand between you and your class reunion happy hour. Yeah. But your job at DICK'S. CFO, that's pretty self-explanatory. But how do you describe your job to others?

Navdeep Gupta

I think so the biggest part of my job is balancing the financial expectation of the company with the strategic intention that we have. When you think about it, right? No company is able to do what it does without having a clear idea of what differentiates them. And to me, the focus that I drive within the finance team is our role is to be the fiduciary champions, which as a finance person, you have to be the fiduciary champions. So the three big things that I talk to my team about is one being the fiduciary champion. Two, taking care of your teammates. They come to the company every day with a dream that they want to accomplish. And so we call ourselves that we are in the dreams business, making our athletes dreams come alive. When that high school athlete walks on the field with a baseball bat, they have a dream that they want to be able to hit that last winning home run. Our team members walk into our offices with a dream of their own, and our goal is to be able to help achieve their dreams. And then, the third thing we talk about is how do you facilitate and enable the long-term growth aspirations of the company and do them through financial analysis, providing insights, and being proactive decision support makers.

Ken White

DICK'S is known for having a pretty cool culture and a place where people enjoy working. How did it get there?

Navdeep Gupta

I think we call ourselves the fortunate ones, right? You love the product. As soon as you walk into the store, we say sometimes, I've heard the phrase that you walk into a Disneyland. It's like that. You can touch and feel every product, you can reminisce, and you can actually think what could you be doing on the field with those equipment? And to me, that's what I enjoy the most. So in terms of the big focus for us always has been that how do we create a company where the culture is about sports, it's about having fun, but it's also doing the right things by the community, doing the right things for the long-term growth aspirations of the company. So we call ourselves the growth company that is always looking to continue to differentiate ourselves and continue to grow, and the culture emanates from that. And the other thing that I just talked about is the fact that at the leadership level, there is a clear focus on being a humble leader. We have this award called as Left Tackle award. It's given not to the leader who accomplished the best in terms of their own department or their own personal effort. It is rewarded to an individual who did the best thing in enabling the company achieve its goal. It's a very unique award, and to me, that speaks a lot about the type of culture that we have both at the leadership level and within the company overall.

Ken White

And you talk about doing the right thing, working hard, and having fun. That is sports. That's what every coach has been teaching players and kids from the get-go. So it makes sense.

Navdeep Gupta

Oh absolutely. I feel like sports at the young age matters so much right now in this community I feel. Whether it is learning how to win, learning how to cope with the loss, learning how to interact with the team, playing on being a part of a team, sometimes you are the leader of that team, and sometimes you have to listen to others, listening to coach at the same time deciding at the right game time on what you are going to do because everything is not known. And those are such core fundamental aspects that a kid is learning. Whatever sports that they are pursuing. I feel those are the things that continue to define them into their adulthood and beyond. All of us can remember that moment when we were young. We were part of the team. You struggled, and somehow one fine day that, you suddenly got good, and you still to this day talk about that day. And to me, those are very unique things that you're able to bring it to life for some of our athletes. That's great.

Ken White

It's interesting on our podcast series, many CEOs and leaders like yourselves so many of them played sports, and they talk about those lessons. It's the same lesson. It's the same goals. It's all teamwork and how it translates beautifully into business and into leadership. It seems like you're right smack dab in the middle of it at DICK'S.

Navdeep Gupta

That's what we love about what we do.

Ken White

Yeah. So what amazes me, and I know a lot of others about DICK'S sporting goods, is what you do for others. You have your purpose playbook. Can you tell us about that?

Navdeep Gupta

Yeah, no. So purpose playbook deals with the big topics like everybody talks about the ESG topics, right? The environmental, the social, and the governance aspect and we have been doing a really clear focus job at this topics for a very long period of time. And I'll talk a little bit more about some of the other topics besides ESG that we are passionate about. But if you think just core on the remaining on the ESG piece itself, there is a clear goal in terms of the pay parity. We employ over 40,000 individuals, and we look at the parity at the right level as well as at the right experience level. We look at the male versus female pay parity ratio, and these are all disclosed in our ESG playbook. We have given out a goal in terms of the greenhouse gas emission reduction that we have for 2030 and how are we making continuing progress about it. This year we are launching another goal where we have committed that we'll be buying $300 million of product from diversified suppliers. Where you can go to DICK'S Sporting Goods and find Nike. You can go to DICK'S Sporting Goods, find all of the large brands. But then what we want to be also to be able to do is to provide avenues for the diversified suppliers that are out there, the small businesses, giving them an opportunity to be able to showcase their product that they are passionate about in our stores. So we have committed that in next few years, we'll be buying almost $300 million of product from these suppliers to be able to provide them an opportunity within our stores. The area that the company is also very passionate about is our youth. As our chairman says, youth are the most precious resource that we have in this country and in this world. And the more you can enable them to be successful, the more successful our company and our community is going to be. Those are the three big areas that I would say we spend a lot of time talking about.

Ken White

And how are those areas targeted? How was the selection made? Mostly internal with some external input. How did you come to that?

Navdeep Gupta

It was a combination of both internal and external. We have a very involved board as well, so board has a very strong say into what we are doing, how we are thinking about it. We have a very diverse board as well, so we have Larry Fitzgerald, the famous NFL player, who brings a very diverse, different perspective to the board. And then you have a very diverse board. So that has been a big focus. That making sure that the board represents the community that we are part of, from the sporting goods industry to technology, to retail, to female leaders that are all part of the composition of the board. And then it translates within the company itself. We are a controlled company, and so our focus is much more on what is the right thing to do for the business, for the community that we are partnering with. And those are the big areas through which we came up with what has gone into our purpose playbook.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Navdeep Gupta in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. If your organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's online MBA, part-time MBA, and executive MBA programs are designed for the professional who works full time, so both the employee and the organization benefit. Show your employees you care by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary at wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with the CFO of DICK'S Sporting Goods, Navdeep Gupta.

Navdeep Gupta

Yeah. So the foundation is called DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation. It's been in place for about over ten years there, and we have given over $80 million of funds to the communities that we are partnering with. And there are three big areas. So one, the company itself funds this Sports Matter Foundation. The other is through the products that we sell within our stores. We contribute a portion of that proceeds from received directly from the athletes to this foundation which the company matches. So this is kind of the funding mechanism, and there are three big areas where we look to provide the funding through the funds that have been raised. First and foremost is access to sport. Today is getting impacted more and more. More and more states are cutting the budgets that are available for these type of activities, especially the sports activity. And so, our hope is to be able to bridge some of that gap. Kids today don't have access to sporting goods equipment. They don't have access to funds to be able to pay the registration fees to be able to participate in these activities. So that's one area that the foundation works very closely with the communities to be able to provide funding. The other is there are not many facilities that are available to be able to go and play safely. And so, we partner with communities to be able to enable that. And then the last is just being able to create our own unique experiences for some of these athletes that we are able to provide. The example is the school that we are partnering in the McKeesport area, and fund that type of activity as well.

Ken White

Yeah, tell us more about that. McKeesport is an area in Pittsburgh, not far from downtown Pittsburgh and corporate headquarters. But you're partnering with the school there. Tell us what you're doing.

Navdeep Gupta

Yeah, so the genesis of that came about like sports really important for youth. The other thing that is really important for youth is also the education. And we know that there are inequities in the educational opportunities that we have today in our society. And we said we can't change everything, but there are small steps that we can take or we can where we can make a difference. And so, this was our pilot project two years ago. The company made a large donation of $30 million to be able to do the Sports Matter Foundation, to be able to start to go on this journey. And then, we did a lot of research to see which community could we partner, and luckily we found in the McKeesport area an opportunity where we could partner with the city to be able to create what we are calling as the Twin River School. So this will be a school where we will be partnering with the city as well as the education institution that already existed there and see what we can create. And the whole vision there is to be able to provide not just the education but much more holistic education part of the community. So like, if the parents need a place to a laundry facility so that will be on the school. If you need opportunities to be able to find meals, also there'll be available at the school. So this is still evolving. It's very early, it's about call it a year old where we are working very closely with the community, and we're excited about what we'll be able to do there.

Ken White

I'm sure people are listening and saying wow, that's so much. Is it worth it? Why does DICK'S do all of this?

Navdeep Gupta

Well, I think so. The question is, if not us, then who? We cannot continue to look to others to lead in this space. We feel we have a legitimate right to make a difference in this world, and we feel like even if few kids or even if one kid is positively impacted by this type of an effort, we believe it will be worth it. To me personally, it's very enriching as I think about my own self because there was somebody that took a little bit of effort on their part to be able to provide these type of opportunities that I've been fortunate to. That's exactly the way we look at it that we need to give back to the communities that we are part of, and these are just testament to some of the things that, as a company, we feel really passionate about.

Ken White

I'm guessing it positively affects hiring and retention.

Navdeep Gupta

Oh, it absolutely affects positively those aspects as well as and it affects both of the CSE, even the corporate center that we have in Pittsburgh office, but it actually affects even our stores. So we have 800 stores that are in different communities and where we are able to provide grants to local communities, local teams to be able to fund them. It actually allows the store team members to become more relevant to the communities that they are part of as well. So it's a win-win all across.

Ken White

Do you see this becoming, I don't want to say important, but required for companies to do this sort of work?

Navdeep Gupta

I would say anything that becomes required becomes a check-the-box type of an activity. So I prefer that this should come what is natural to the company they should. And to me, the way I look at it is every leader should be requiring of themselves to be a meaningful member of the society and the community that they are part of, and to me, it's a calling versus somebody else should be pushing you to do these types of activities.

Ken White

Right. And it can affect the bottom line?

Navdeep Gupta

Oh absolutely. I think there are people sometimes refer to bottom line very narrowly as to say this is the earnings. This is the EPS. But I think so if you look back and say, is my business more profitable? Does it have the longevity that I desire out of it through these activities? Your what I call as the overall lifetime value of that type of an investment is much bigger than what you actually see directly on the piano.

Ken White

Will we see more organizations play a bigger role? It's not just about profit, it's not just about employees, but we need to make a difference in the world. Are you seeing that?

Navdeep Gupta

Absolutely. I feel like to me, sometimes you sit back and reflect on it and say, who do you look to within this community or in the society today as the leaders of the world, and you are left wanting. To me, that's been one of the gaping holes right now in the society. Is you don't have leaders that you can look up and say that these are the true leaders that are going to make a difference. And in that type of a situation, to me, it is requiring upon the leaders of today and tomorrow to be able to say, can I be that role model? Even in a small way? Not in a huge way, you're not the world leader, but in your small way, in the small community that I'm in, can I make a little bit of a difference? And to me, that's kind of a calling for all of us.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Navdeep Gupta. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business, home of the MBA program, offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. If you're looking for a truly transformational experience, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Navdeep Gupta. And thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

Female Speaker

We'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks for listening to Leadership & Business.

More Podcast Episodes

 Stephanie Linnartz
Stephanie LinnartzEpisode 178: June 21, 2022
Leadership & the Marriott Recovery

Stephanie Linnartz

Episode 178: June 21, 2022

Leadership & the Marriott Recovery

Few sectors were hit harder by the pandemic than the hospitality sector. Hotels in particular faced devastating losses as travel came to a halt. For Marriott International, the world's largest hotel company, that meant closing some hotels and laying off or furloughing many employees. Two years later, Marriott is experiencing a remarkable recovery; employees are back to work, hotels are open, and in many cases they're full, almost back to record levels. Stephanie Linnartz is President of Marriott International. She earned her MBA at William & Mary and was recently here for Alumni Reunion Weekend. She sat down with us to talk about Marriott, leading through the pandemic, and her people-first approach.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What drew Stephanie to the hotel industry
  • What Stephanie learned about the hotel business from family
  • The importance of putting people first in the hospitality business
  • How much should someone love a business in order to succeed in it
  • What encompasses Stephanie's role as President
  • How the pandemic affected the hospitality industry
  • How Stephanie stayed focused throughout the pandemic
  • Which leaders have influenced Stephanie in her career journey
  • What were the takeaways from this year's World Economic Forum
Transcript

Female Speaker

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, produced by the William & Mary School of Business and its MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive MBA. For more information, visit wm.edu.

Ken White

Welcome to Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world, sharing strategies, information, and insight to help you become a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Few sectors were hit harder by the pandemic than the hospitality sector. Hotels, in particular, faced devastating losses as travel came to a halt. For Marriott International, the world's largest hotel company, that meant closing some hotels and laying off or furloughing many employees. Two years later, Marriott is experiencing a remarkable recovery. Employees are back to work, hotels are open, and in many cases, they're full, almost back to record levels. Stephanie Linnartz is President of Marriott International. She earned her MBA at William & Mary and was recently here for Alumni Reunion Weekend. She sat down with us to talk about Marriott, leading through the pandemic, and her people first approach. Here's our conversation with Stephanie Linnartz, President, Marriott International.

Ken White

Stephanie, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to William & Mary.

Stephanie Linnartz

Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Ken White

It's been a while. Have things changed?

Stephanie Linnartz

A few things have changed. This gorgeous new building where the business school is now housed it's spectacular. But what hasn't changed is how beautiful Williamsburg is. I went on a long run this morning, and it's a beautiful day here, but this William & Mary has to be one of the most beautiful colleges and universities in the world.

Ken White

No doubt. What a great place to work and come every day. No questions.

Stephanie Linnartz

You're lucky.

Ken White

Very, very and I think we all know it, too. Yeah, we're all grateful. Thinking back to your MBA days when you were here, and you got your degree, what was the plan? Did you have one?

Stephanie Linnartz

You know, I did. I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, and my family owns and runs a small boutique hotel and a number of restaurants in the D.C. area. So I grew up in the hotel business and in the restaurant business, and the service business, and I really did want to go back into that field. So I thought getting in. I worked out of undergrad for Hilton for a few years, then wanted to get my MBA so that I could expand my skill set and get some more things under my belt in terms of, again, knowledge, skills, capabilities. But I did want to go back into the hotel business. And Marriott International started in Washington, D.C., as a nine-stool root-beer stand. And it's a homegrown. It's so global now but started as a local company in D.C., so I knew about Marriott growing up, and I really did want to work for Marriott coming out of William & Mary.

Ken White

Great.

Stephanie Linnartz

That's what happened.

Ken White

It's interesting. On the podcast, we've talked to many leaders and CEOs who grew up in a family business.

Stephanie Linnartz

Yeah.

Ken White

Some great lessons there, right? What did you learn at the dinner table about business and customer service in the industry?

Stephanie Linnartz

Well, I learned a lot from my mom and my dad, and all of my younger siblings. I'm the oldest of a large family, and we all grew up working in the business. And what I learned about the hotel and restaurant business and the service business is, first of all, how great it is and dynamic and interesting and fun. Again, my family's business was on Capitol Hill in D.C., so there's all sorts of interesting people that came into the business. And so I learned about how interesting and fun it was. And also, it's a lot of hard work. The hotel business is twenty-four seven. I learned, most importantly, from my parents. I learned that the people that worked in our family business, they were part of our family, too. And it was an extension. I mean, if someone didn't have a place to go for the holidays in my parents business, we'd invite them over to our house. And so I grew up in knowing that's a really important part of the hospitality and service business is it's really all about the people that work in the business. At the end of the day, that's how you get to your customers is through the employees. We call them associates at Marriott, and that's how you do your work. And so, I grew up at a young age, realizing the importance of putting people first in the hospitality business.

Ken White

To succeed in the business, how much does someone have to love that business?

Stephanie Linnartz

I think you have to love it to really excel in the hospitality business. I think any business, I think, as a general rule, people tend to do well in businesses that they have a passion for and that they enjoy. You know, no job and no businesses is without hard days and hard times. But I think, at least in my own personal experience, and those who I've worked with over the years in other industries, too, and friends and family, if you really love the business you're in, you're going to have a better chance of excelling.

Ken White

When people ask you what you do, how do you summarize it? What do you tell them?

Stephanie Linnartz

Well, right now, my current role is President of Marriott International, which is the largest hotel company in the world. We have 30 brands Ritz Carlton, St. Regis, Marriott, of course, Sheraton, Courtyard, Moxy, Four Points. I won't go on and on with all 30 brands, but ranging from very high-end brands to more affordable brands at the lower end of the spectrum. We have over 8,000 hotels across those 30 brands. We're in 140 different countries and growing, and I'm responsible for leading all the consumer side of the business. So sales, marketing, brand, revenue management, data analytics. I'm in charge of global technology. I'm in charge of global real estate development, which is building new hotels around the world. Global design, which is interior design of our properties. And last but not least, I lead all of our new businesses. So we started a home rental business a few years ago called Homes & Villas by Marriott International. We launched Ritz Carlton Yachts, or we will this year, a new cruise business, which is spectacular. We have a very large retail business called Marriott Bonvoy Boutiques, where we sell Ritz Carlton Bedding and Westin Heavenly Beds furniture, etc. We've just launched a new media business a couple weeks ago. So we are constantly thinking about how to evolve our company, all related to travel. And so I lead that area as well.

Ken White

That's clearly leading on a large scale. How do you get to the point where you're comfortable knowing what you need to know?

Stephanie Linnartz

To me, the most important thing is building, attracting, building, retaining great talent. I am very blessed to have an amazing leadership team, a very diverse leadership team. Diverse in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, different countries, different sexual orientation, different thought. I mean, extremely diverse leadership team. And that is the key to how I do my job every day. I'm extremely blessed to have people and people that candidly, in many cases, very different skills than I have. I think as a leader. You need to complement yourself with people that think differently than you, have different experiences, and then trust them to do their jobs. And so I've been extremely blessed at Marriott to work with, I think, some of the best people in not only the hotel business but any business.

Ken White

What are you working on now that really excites you, really gets you going?

Stephanie Linnartz

Well, right now, our focus is very much coming out of the pandemic and rebuilding trust with our associates. The pandemic was absolutely devastating to the travel and tourism sector, was devastating to Marriott International. Just to give you a little context of how bad it was, even after 911 2001 and the 2008 2009 financial crisis, our worst quarters then were negative 15% in terms of a metric we call red par revenue per available room. Think of it as same-store sales. Our worst quarter after 911 2001 was negative 15%. Our worst quarter during the financial crisis was negative 25. In the spring of 2020, our business overnight was down 90%, overnight. 25% of our hotels were completely shuttered. 80 plus percent of the 750,000 associates we have around the world were laid off or furloughed. It was devastating. And our industry, particularly in the United States and Europe, and in many places, tends to skew very female, very minority, and very youth. And so, these were the people that were just most hurt by the pandemic. And so we are coming out of two very tough years. And so we're rebuilding, rehiring, again getting the trust back with our associates as we bring people back to work. I'm happy to say things are much, much better. It's remarkable how quickly they've recovered, but the focus right now is on our people. It really is. We've got lots of other things going on, as you can imagine, but it's on our people.

Ken White

How do you build that trust? How do you communicate? How do you interact to do that?

Stephanie Linnartz

Well, with a lot of transparency and honesty about kind of what we went through and how things are looking. During the worst of the pandemic, our former CEO, Arne Sorenson, who passed away in 2021 after a very long battle with pancreatic cancer. I look to him a lot as my guidepost about how to lead through something like this. He did it with incredible transparency and honesty, told everybody how bad things were, was really transparent. Incredible empathy about like, this is so horrible. And it was heartbreaking for him and for the entire leadership team and then hope too. Even in the depths of the Pandemic, Arne and the rest of the leadership team, myself included, saying, but we're going to get through this. Travel is part of the human condition. It makes life better. It makes the world better. Travel