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.

 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)

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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.

More Podcast Episodes

 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)

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

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.

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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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Elatia Abate: Regenerative Resilience TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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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.

More Podcast Episodes

 David Long
David LongEpisode 180: July 21, 2022
Retaining Your Employees

David Long

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.

Podcast (audio)

David Long Retaining Your Employees TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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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)

Podcast (platforms)

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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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Stephanie Linnartz: Leadership & the Marriott Recovery TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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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 will come back. Our company will survive. We're going to get through this. So transparency, empathy, and hope were the main things I think we all tried to focus on as we led through a very challenging time. And sure enough, the hope part turned out to be true because this year, our business in 2022, so just really roughly, a little over two years later, is almost back to 2019 levels, which was a record year for the industry and the company and for any of your listeners who have been in an airport lately or tried to book a hotel, you know that travel has come back. And not just leisure travel, but business travel, too.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Stephanie Linnartz 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 President of Marriott International, Stephanie Linnartz.

Ken White

The pandemic has been so long, it's really worn people down. How did you stay up and focused?

Stephanie Linnartz

Well, I kind of went to my go-to tools for living through tough times. My dad has a funny expression that I like. By the way, it's tough times don't last, but tough people do. But how did I navigate through those times? First of all, a lot of I like to exercise, so to me, it's a big stress release. I like to run. I love my Peloton. So I tried to make sure that even in the depths of these very difficult times, I was focusing on taking care of myself, eating well, exercising most importantly, I should say, with my family. It was always my rock, my husband, my children, my faith. I like to meditate. I find that prayer, meditation, exercise, top of the list family. And these are tools I've always used throughout my career all the time, but particularly when times are tough.

Ken White

I think a lot of incredibly successful people we've had on the podcast, that's self-care, that workout, boy, that's number one.

Stephanie Linnartz

Yeah, cause you can't take care of other people if you don't take care of yourself. You can't take care of your family. You can't be there for your colleagues and your teammates at work, your friends. If you're not healthy and happy yourself, you can't be there for other people. So I do think this idea of self-care and making that a priority, yes, it's important for you, but it's important for the people that you love, too.

Ken White

Yeah. Are you a morning workout person?

Stephanie Linnartz

Morning.

Ken White

Morning.

Stephanie Linnartz

100% morning, yeah. If it doesn't happen in the morning, I have to admit, Ken, I might skip it for the day.

Ken White

It's pretty hard, right, once the day begins.

Stephanie Linnartz

Yeah, yeah.

Ken White

I think most of the people we've had on the podcast are morning workouts, and we've had a lot of runners.

Stephanie Linnartz

Yeah.

Ken White

Yeah, no question.

Stephanie Linnartz

Love to run.

Ken White

As you're moving through Marriott, I mean, obviously, leadership positions. Who have you learned most from in terms of leadership? You mentioned the former CEO, others who have had a real impact on you, and the way you approach leadership.

Stephanie Linnartz

Yeah, I mean, I've had some great bosses over the years, one of whom, Amy McPherson, is also a fellow William & Mary business school grad. And she was a number of years ahead of me at William & Mary and then went to Marriott, too. She was a boss and a mentor to me. I've had some other great bosses, but what I've found over my career is sometimes I learn more, and I'm mentored by people that are younger than me, people on my team. This idea of reverse mentorship, I often say if I want to learn more about data or analytics or cyber security, or some of the newer, relatively speaking, newer fields that are emerging, I will go to a young person on my team. Can you mentor me? I may be your boss. Right. But you know more than me. So how can I learn from, again, more junior people on my team? Because they know more. So I've been blessed to learn from both people that are more senior than me and bosses, peers, of course, and then people on my team.

Ken White

You mentioned earlier about bringing people back. Hiring and retention, I'm assuming, a pretty big priority for you.

Stephanie Linnartz

Absolutely. And the thing about Marriott International that's so terrific is that we are a place to come for a career, not just a job. And 50% of our general managers at our hotels, which is a very good job, started out as hourly workers. So we are it's really.

Ken White

Wow, that's a number.

Stephanie Linnartz

Yeah, it's really an amazing statistic that holds true today. And our turnover is actually relatively low as a result of the career progression. So we say, come to Marriott International. You can start as an hourly worker and work your way up. You don't even need to be a general manager, part of the executive team at a hotel or a regional office, or at corporate headquarters. So many of us at Marriott International started. I started working in my family business, waiting tables, cleaning rooms, checking people in. So many of us started as hourly, myself included. And you learned the importance of at the end of the day, what's really important in our business is the people who are taking care of the guests in our hotels and our other businesses.

Ken White

You were at the World Economic Forum this year. You're a regular there?

Stephanie Linnartz

I am. This is my 8th year. I was there in Davos, Switzerland. It was postponed from January to the spring, which is unusual to be in Davos in warm weather, but it was amazing to be there. While I'm very bullish about the world and the future of travel, in particular, there's a lot of stuff going on. Right. The war in Ukraine, which is heartbreaking. Geopolitical tensions, inflation, food shortages, supply chain issues. There's a lot going on in the world right now. And that event is a good way to bring business people, government officials, academics, altogether to kind of try to figure out how to solve the world's problems. So it's a blessing to go to that event every year.

Ken White

And then you walk away from it this year. Any feelings? Any thoughts moving for the future? What were your takeaways?

Stephanie Linnartz

I left hopeful. Despite all the challenges that are there, I feel like people are really focused on the right things. There's a ton of focuses there should be on the environment. Right. That was a big area of focus again. And the world's problems are not going to be solved just by business or just by governments, or just by academics. We need to come together and not by just one country. Right. That's what's so great about that forum. It's complicated. Right. So we need to work together as a global community and across various sectors. And so I left with a lot of hope that people understand the seriousness of the problems facing the world and they want to find a way to work together to solve them. So I left quite hopeful despite some of the tough things going on in the world.

Ken White

Some of our listeners are students and younger professionals, and if they're listening, saying, I'd love to do what she's doing. What kind of advice do you have for a young professional today?

Stephanie Linnartz

Well, I think it's first of all, decide something that you love and you're passionate about. Again, I think people do well when they love their field, their career. And then this may sound very, very simple, but I think the key is to work really, really hard. Always be a learner. Be willing to take risk. I say this to young people all the time. Take on the thorniest, most difficult project that no one in your company or, depending on what you do, wants to do. And first of all, if you nail it, you're going to get recognized. Even if you don't, you're going to be recognized for trying. So take risk. Once you get into your field or company that you want to work for, and again, work really hard. Be a good person. Surround as you move up the ladder, surround yourself with good people that you trust, and you advocate for. And those have been some of the things that have served me well in my career.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Stephanie Linnartz, 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, Stephanie Linnartz, 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

 Andrew White
Andrew WhiteEpisode 177: June 5, 2022
Leading in a Modern Age

Andrew White

Episode 177: June 5, 2022

Leading in a Modern Age

The role of today's leader is quite different from the role leaders played in the past. Today's senior leaders are navigating several challenges simultaneously: Inflation, fast-moving technology, work from home - and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Andrew White is a Senior Fellow in Management Practice at the University of Oxford's SaÏd School of Business in England. A leadership coach to top CEOs, he leads the Advanced Management and Leadership Program at Oxford. He says leading in the modern age provides CEOs with unprecedented challenges and opportunities, such as meeting sustainability goals, insuring diversity, retaining top talent, and navigating the fast-changing geopolitical landscape.

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Andrew White: Leading in a Modern Age TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What's on the minds of today's senior leaders
  • How has industry disruption changed today's leaders
  • What older leaders can learn from younger leaders
  • What disruption teaches you as a leader
  • How critical are meeting sustainability goals for CEOs
  • Why diversity of thought is just as important as diversity of workforce
  • What makes retaining young employees the most challenging
  • What is the path to leadership for a modern young professional
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, the role of today's leader is quite different from the role leaders played in the past. Today's senior leaders are navigating several challenges simultaneously. Inflation, fast-moving technology, work from home, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Andrew White is a senior fellow in management practice at the University of Oxford Saïd School of Business in England. A leadership coach to top CEOs, he leads the Advanced Management and Leadership program at Oxford. He says leading in the modern age provides CEOs with unprecedented challenges and opportunities, such as meeting sustainability goals, ensuring diversity, retaining top talent, and navigating the fast-changing geopolitical landscape. Here's our conversation with Andrew White.

Ken White

Well, Andrew, it's great to see you. Thanks very much for joining us on the podcast.

Andrew White

Ken, it's wonderful to be here, and thank you so much for inviting me to be part of your work.

Ken White

So we see a lot of leaders and CEOs in the United States and deal with them. You're obviously seeing sort of different groups of CEOs and senior leaders. When you interact with them, what's on their minds? What keeps them up at night?

Andrew White

I think there's one headline I want to talk about, and I've been doing research with businesses for 20 years. When I started, if you got hit by a disruption, you were unlucky. You were a Polaroid. If I fast forward to where we are today, I don't think there's a business; there's an industry that is not either in disruption, having gone through one wave of disruption and facing another, or has got disruption, not on the near term horizon. So that sense that everything's being disturbed, the status quo can't be relied upon, and that for good leaders forces a conversation about transformation. And transformation, I think, is the positive reaction to that. I think that's the headline, Ken. That's what I think a lot of people are feeling. It disrupts them as individuals. It disrupts the way their company functions. It disrupts their markets. It disrupts who their competitors are. And they're having to rethink a lot of things. And I think that's what they come to Oxford for. That's what they come to the leadership program that I run for is to have the space to think through that stuff and to really get on the front foot and see the opportunity as well as address the risks.

Ken White

So a few years ago, not even a generation ago, but a few years ago, as you said, disruption was so uncommon. Does that mean now leaders are different today than they maybe were a few years ago?

Andrew White

I think that's, let's call it, the big transition. If you look at particularly towards the top of the mature organizations, the larger organizations, whether that's in the US, in Europe, or in other parts of the world, a lot of those leaders have got to the top because they've been very good at executing the status quo. And what's being asked of them is a different muscle, so to speak. And many of them haven't been trained for that. They've not been developed for that. That's not what they've experienced. So they're being pushed into it. I think there's a younger group who are coming through, who are more open to seeing the world in all its diversity, all its change, and where I've seen really, I suppose what I would say brilliant older leaders, they've had the humility to be mentored by younger leaders in the organization, often multiple levels lower with humility to recognize that, particularly around things like tech. A 28-year-old can teach a 58-year-old an awful lot, which reverses the hierarchy of power, so to speak. But you need humility to do that. And I think that's what great leaders are recognizing, that they need to lean into these things and have that open mind and that humility to learn.

Ken White

Yeah, and humility would have been a weakness, possibly 20 years for a leader, right.

Andrew White

Exactly. Now I think it's a critical strength.

Ken White

Wow. So one of the pieces you wrote, you said leaders can no longer operate under 20th-century values and models. And that's exactly what you mean then, right? We just can't do what we used to do.

Andrew White

No. And I think one of the other things that disruption forces you to do is to think about the whole question of why you exist. I think purpose has been a bit overused in recent years, but I don't think the notion has disappeared that when you go through disruption, it forces you to reevaluate who you are and why do you exist, and for who? Because your ways of working start to become challenged, and in a sense, you become a bit semi-detached from that. And so, it forces you to think about those bigger questions. I think what workers are looking for is authenticity around that conversation. And authenticity comes in two ways. It comes through an honest conversation about why we exist and for who, but it also comes through concrete actions. And this is where I think leaders perhaps have been a bit slow off the mark. They've been very good at working with marketing and PR agencies around the messaging, but then the lack of authentic implementation of that gets them in trouble, not just from an employee point of view, but from competition overtaking them and then being caught out by people coming in from outside the industry who have got better solutions for their customers.

Ken White

You said through disruption. You've got to stop and think. Are leaders doing that?

Andrew White

Yeah, I think this is I've just completed a big bit of research on transformation. And I think this is the bit that I noticed was very different. Historically, I think leaders were almost dragged kicking and screaming into disruption. You heard phrases like it was like a burning platform underneath them. I think there's a group of leaders who are recognizing the world's changing, who are driving into that, who are embracing some of the difficult emotions, like fear, like anxiety, like stress, but also, let's call it the excitement of seeing what's new. It's not all negative emotions, but they're embracing it, that they're bringing disruptive voices into their executive committees because they recognize that what might have been a voice that you could ignore historically, you can't. And the classic one at the moment is the energy industry. And if you just look at what's happened over the last year with the big oil and gas companies, they're having to pivot huge resources. I really wouldn't want to be leading one of those businesses. I think they've got huge challenges on their hands. They've got shareholders that expect dividends. So they're seen as a dividend stock. But really, I would argue they should be seen as a growth stock for the next ten years as they go through that transition. And they need to embrace the climate scientists. They need to embrace the climate activists. These people could actually be agents of change. And some of them are starting to do this if they really realize that there's a different industry that will exist in the next ten or 20 years, and the ones that can move quickest to it are going to grab that industry land and over and above their existing competitors, and the new competitors that are piling into the space, as well as capital, starts to mobilize into that.

Ken White

And at the same time, those we know household names, great companies of today, may not be around in ten years.

Andrew White

Yeah. And when we look back over history in periods that were less disruptive, we've seen that. And so, I think we're going to see that even more so that they're just not going to have the ability to transform themselves in the way that they need to.

Ken White

You've written some about what you call the modern challenges facing today's CEO, and four, in particular, I'd love to briefly talk about all four. One of them is meeting sustainability goals. How critical is this now for today's leaders and CEOs?

Andrew White

Yeah. So I think sustainability has gone from being something which you could do through your corporate CSR activity. It's now core of the business. And if you're not doing it, regulators will force it on you. Customers will start to demand it coming through social media, and competitors will come and produce products that are better and more aligned with regulatory structures, are more aligned with what customers want, and you're increasingly being measured on it. So you're having to disclose your carbon footprint. I don't think it will be long before that becomes even more of a formal way of accounting for resources. You know, I'm hearing about companies putting carbon budgets into their senior leaders KPI structures. So they'll have a certain amount of carbon that they can spend, typically on travel. How do they choose to allocate that? In the same way, they have an expense account that they have to be accountable for. So these things are no longer separate from the business. They're no longer adjacent. I think sustainability and profitable growth are two sides of the same coin in many cases.

Ken White

It's interesting dealing with young people about to get their Bachelor's or their MBAs. It's important to them, too. They want to work for a company that's got some real sustainability goals.

Andrew White

Yeah. And I think that it's not just you're absolutely right, but it's also I wouldn't want my pension invested in an oil and gas company with 100% in there of my capital in there at the moment. I'm not sure I'd want that much exposed to it for the reasons we've spoken about. So is this business going to be around in ten years, in 20 years, or is it going to be a shadow of its former self like Kodak is, I think, today compared to where it was? And we have to take these things into account as investors, as customers, as employees as well. And I think with a younger generation, for them, it's not just about salary. It's also about questions of values. Does this company have enough of do I see enough of my values represented in this company? Being a leader today, I think a much more complicated job.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Andrew White 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 leadership coach Andrew White.

Ken White

Another modern challenge that you've written about facing CEOs diversity.

Andrew White

Yeah. And I think this has several layers to it. Let's call it a societal level. How do we create a fair and equal society, and how do we address some of the historic problems that we've seen in certain countries, the US and the UK being big examples of those. But also, how do we bring diversity of thought? Companies can be quite homogenous and closed-minded. And in a time of change and disruption, you need people who think differently. You need to bring in people from different communities with different backgrounds who see the world differently and leaders who can see that as an asset and can create that space and that psychological safety that people feel comfortable speaking up. So I think on those two levels, it's becoming increasingly important. I mean, I reflect on myself in terms of the benefit I've gained from the employers I've had. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today without the brand of Oxford behind me. And I think historically, too much of that, let's be honest, has been captured by people that look like us white men. And that resource that good organizations have, I think for a creative, fairer society, has got to be distributed equally. But also those organizations need that diversity, as I say, for the thinking as well. So I think it's in all-round that the arguments just becoming stronger and stronger.

Ken White

Another modern challenge you talk about is retaining young employees. Boy, this is a tough one, isn't it?

Andrew White

Yeah. And I think for all the reasons we've spoken about.

Ken White

Yeah.

Andrew White

I don't know what the job market is like around where you are, but here it's hot at the moment.

Ken White

Very.

Andrew White

And so employees have a lot of choice. You've got more data available so you can see what the experience of other employees has been. You've got more opportunity. And I think if I think about my grandfather worked at the same organization from the age of 14 through to retirement, and it was a cradle to grave. It was a final salary pension, and it was extreme loyalty from the organization and extreme loyalty from him. And that world's gone. And in a sense, organizations have created that. I think because they've got rid of the pension schemes, they've got rid of the sense of a lifetime employment, they've got rid of the training schemes that created that sense of loyalty. And as a result, I think, particularly the younger employees have gone, well, okay, if that's the case, then you don't get my loyalty, you have to earn my loyalty. And so that's moved the needle of responsibility back onto senior leaders to actually ensure that they retain people.

Ken White

Sure has. And your final and fourth modern challenge is the changing geopolitical climate. Wow. We've never seen it like this, have we? Or have we?

Andrew White

Well, I'm always nervous of statements that say never because my father reminds me that when I think interest rates might be higher in the UK, they're starting to go up. He had interest rates of 15, 20% in the 70's, so now I think what we've seen is an era of low-interest rates, an era of low inflation. So some people are old enough to remember a different world. We've had a reasonable run of peace in the world, certainly between the superpowers since the end of the Cold War, and things that we thought were well and truly in history, I think, are showing themselves not to be. And there's a sense of deglobalization. And we've seen that quite strikingly with the way in which companies have pulled out of Russia, even industries that are not regulated to do so. A lot of companies have taken that decision that they don't want to be in that country at the moment because of what's happening in Ukraine, and the relationships with China continue to be collaboration, competition. And you have to almost companies are having to walk that tightrope depending on what sector you're in. That's a greater or lesser challenge. So it's not easy. And who knows where all this will land in five years, in ten years, or even next year, to be honest.

Ken White

Back in the day, if you wanted to be a leader or CEO, maybe you joined the sales team and knocked it out of the park, and then you went over to marketing and did a great job. What's the path now? Because this is so different. These are issues that leaders have not necessarily had to deal with in the past. What kind of advice do you share with young, high-potential professionals who think they want to lead at some point?

Andrew White

Well, I think they have to still do those things. I think that's not become unimportant. It's still really important that you deliver the numbers, deliver at delivery and performance. But I think there's a layer on top of that, which is understanding people, developing the listening skills to really hear what people say and what they don't say. How do you build an inclusive culture around you, where people want to work with you, where they feel that their potential that it will be seen, where their endeavors will be rewarded, where you're somebody that builds and helps other people grow, and step into that? Do you create a safe psychological space around you where people feel able to speak up? Are you curious about people? Are you curious about the world? Are you curious about other industries putting it quite practically? Do you just look at the same websites, which I know we all have the tendency to do, or do you read across the spectrum? Are you curious about why people believe something different from you? I don't want to call them soft skills because soft implies that they're easy. They're not. I think they're quite hard, but I think this is where the edge is. And where do you go for reflection, for renewal? I think what we're starting to see more is a spirituality come back into work, not that's religious or can be for some people, but is questions of meaning and purpose. And how do I find stillness in the midst of quite a chaotic world, particularly for very senior people? So I think all of these things are going to become more pertinent, and we're going to see the shape and form of organizations change as a result of this.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Andrew 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. If you're looking for a truly transformational experience, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Andrew White, 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

 Dan Akerson
Dan AkersonEpisode 176: May 21, 2022
Leading on a Global Scale

Dan Akerson

Episode 176: May 21, 2022

Leading on a Global Scale

To say Dan Akerson has had an exciting career is an understatement. He's held leadership positions such as CEO, Chairman, President, and Managing Director of top organizations—including MCI, General Instrument, Nextel, The Carlisle Group, and General Motors. He's been successful at each stop. He continues to be active, serving on the boards at American Express and Lockheed Martin, but it's his four years as CEO of General Motors that people remember best. He led GM from 2010 to 2014 where he orchestrated a major turnaround. He joins us today to talk about the auto industry and its supply-chain challenges. He also shares a few stories about leadership, working with Vladimir Putin, and how to knock out a billion dollars in losses.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How the supply chain issues are affecting all corners of manufacturing
  • What are the upcoming challenges in managing automotive inventory
  • Will the new Samsung plant in Texas alleviate the automotive chip shortage in North America
  • How are automotive dealerships dealing with the lack of inventory
  • Why Dan met with Putin
  • How Dan raised funds with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild a neighborhood
  • The importance of giving back to your community
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. To say Dan Akerson has had an exciting career is an understatement. He's held leadership positions such as CEO, chairman, President and managing director of top organizations, including MCI, General Instrument, Nextel, the Carlisle Group and General Motors. He's been successful at each stop. He continues to be active, serving on the boards at American Express and Lockheed Martin. But it's his four years as CEO of General Motors that people remember best. He led GM from 2010 to 2014, where he orchestrated a major turnaround. He joins us today to talk about the auto industry and its supply chain challenges. He also shares a few stories about leadership, working with Vladimir Putin, and how to knock out a billion dollars in losses. Here's our conversation with Dan Akerson.

Ken White

Dan, thanks very much for spending some time with us. Welcome to William & Mary.

Dan Akerson

Well thank you.

Ken White

Great to have you here. We can't help but talk about the automotive industry, and it's been a little while since, of course, you led GM, but boy, the automotive supply chain. I mean, it's all everybody seems to be talking about. And it always had been just in time, sort of the supply chain. The pandemic has really interrupted that. What's going to happen moving forward?

Dan Akerson

Well, you're right. It was a just in time inventory type situation, because if you have a billion dollars tied up in inventory, that's not good. So you're going to do it, minimize as much as you can. I also serve on the board as lead director at Lockheed Martin. We see that supply chain, it's affecting every aspect of any manufacturer of any type. You just have to play it close to the vest, do the best you can. I think it's good if you delve into your supply chain and provide some assistance, both managerial and financial, to help these companies stay in business. Hold up inventory if you can. But you can't just stand at the top of the pyramid and expect everything's going to function. You have to kind of through the stone, if you will, of a pyramid, fill the crevices and get down and do what you can to help and keep your supply chain alive and vibrant. And that's going to tie up some capital, but it will be worth it when it finally comes full cycle.

Ken White

Are organizations doing that that you're aware of?

Dan Akerson

Yes, absolutely. I'm more current with Lockheed Martin. We're deep into the supply chain, and I speak routinely with the GM team, and I know they're doing that, but not to the level I do the board I'm on.

Ken White

What do you think the most challenging issues in managing inventories, especially in the automotive industry, will be in the next year, year and a half?

Dan Akerson

Well, I think I would be careful to build deep inventories, whether it was available or not, because it'll come about. But I'd keep above a minimal amount and make sure that I could produce once it turns. You're not going to see a quick turn in automotive. It'll turn over, I think, a six to 18 months. So I'd keep inventory. Let's say I had 100 units prior to this. I'd probably keep 60 to 70 units or add thousands of that number. You're just going to have to eat a little bit of cost to maintain that when it turns. You're not waiting another year to catch up with your inventory and your competitions killing you.

Ken White

Yes. Samsung building a chip production plant in Texas. Does a facility such as this alleviate some problems for North American automotive manufacturers?

Dan Akerson

Well, I don't think it does. It's not as important to automotive as it would be to defense. You've got Taiwan Semiconductor. There's probably 100 billion dollars invested in infrastructure and buildings and technology. I think America I think the Western countries need to recognize and can learn from what's happening in Ukraine today. Who would have thought six months ago, three months ago that Russia would be so foolish as to invade an independent country? And I think it would be foolish not to assume that the Chinese are watching this very carefully. And having served in the Navy for five years, graduated from a service Academy, Naval Academy. Geographically, it's much easier to assist or confront an aggressive foreign power such as Russia in this case. In the next potential case, if they were going to Taiwan, even Taiwan Semiconductor is also building a mega plant in this country, and I think we need to turn some of that resource, that industrial base back to the United States. As we see, instead of a bipolar world, there are going to be likely a tripolar world. And can the United States confront two megapowers on the globe at the same time? And I think, quite frankly, China, which I spent my four years at GM, probably six months. We had twelve plants there building a couple more. It's a huge market. We're serving it. But they are, believe me, I've talked to some senior people in their government. Taiwan is a renegade province. It belongs to China, and that will have to be resolved at some point in time.

Ken White

When you look at when you drive by car dealers, there's just not a lot on the lot right now. What are they thinking? How do they get through day to day?

Dan Akerson

Well, I know quite a few of them. They want to keep getting inventory, car prices, high demand, high price. That's what basics of economics. They'll take cars in before that they used cars that they would have just passed off and put on a lot somewhere to sell for, just to get their money out of it. They're now doing a little spiffing it up and selling it. So they're trying to get inventory of all sorts and it just demands there. But I don't know, it's going to be a while. I think again, I think if we're lucky, you're going to see at least another year, maybe two of this tightened availability.

Ken White

What did you like best about your role at GM? What really excited you about that job?

Dan Akerson

Well, I had the benefit of going on the board in 09 as they came out of bankruptcy, so I knew they had serious problems. I mean, it's hard to describe a company of that stature. The presumed givens were not there. For example, there were four different ledgers, accounting ledgers within the company. So we could barely close the books in the 90 day after the fourth quarter. Get it done before the end of the first quarter. Why? Well, it wasn't that the accountants didn't talk to one another, but it was like they all spoke a romance language. One subsidiary would speak Portuguese, another Spanish, another Italian, and one would be English. And the cross communications was so poor and it took us two years and a lot of money to get everybody on the same balance sheet and the same income statement and the same asset base. It was a nightmare. The fundamentals weren't there, so they had a good view of what was going on in the business. I'm proud to say the last quarter I really was there. It was finished by mid January of the following year, and that usually took until March 31st. And sometimes there were some estimates in there that should have been firm numbers. So that just didn't know what's going on in your business. Payroll was separated in different subsidiaries. We're talking about subsidiaries. Opel was a $35 billion company and we hadn't had a profit in there in eleven years. We were losing a billion dollars a year. We thought about selling it boldly I went out and bought 15% of Puzo. We thought we could amalgamate the two companies and get some scale and it was tough. And I sold transmission plan over there. I did it at an auto show where I said, Well, gee whiz, things are good in Europe, but I won't tell you the name of the auto company, but it was a high end one. A quarter of our production of our transmission goes into their cars. I think that I got a call the next day from the CEO. I said, what are you doing? I says, well, you know, it's true. He says, yeah, but I had an agreement with your predecessor. And I said, well, I didn't see that and I didn't. But I said, I'll tell you what, we'll sell it to you. And he says, well, we got on the books for 400 million dollars. Well, I said, give me $100 million and it's yours, because I don't want all of the post retirement healthcare and retirement and everything else. It's yours. It's all yours. Just give me $100 million in cash. And that cut our losses. And he really had to think. I thought I had a clear field I could do just about anything to improve. To give you an idea, we had four plants in South Korea. Well, the two of them were running at sub performance with a volume that would not produce profit. And we had a half a billion dollars of inventory at sea every day, 365 days a year. And what did we build? We built Chevrolets that looked very comparable to the Opel equivalent. We'd ship it halfway around the world, land in Hamburg, and then we put them in the showroom against Opel, a Chevrolet built in South Korea. Bring it all the way around, having a half a billion dollars money tied up every day of the year. And so I said, we took a 700 million dollar write off to get Chevrolet out. We shut down two plants. My life was threatened by the Korean Labor Union. And so I improved in Korea and I improved in Europe, and we got it to break even. And that was a billion dollars in just losses. And we had to be creative and we had to have a new sheet of paper and come up with a new idea.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Dan Akerson 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 former CEO of General Motors, Dan Akerson.

Ken White

Did you have fun doing that role?

Dan Akerson

Yeah, it was tough. I can honestly say I don't think I slept more than six, 7 hours a night ever in that four year period.

Ken White

You're in high gear the whole time?

Dan Akerson

Yeah. In the middle of night, I'd wake up and write stuff down. I traveled a lot. We sold all of our airplanes. I actually met with Putin in Germany at one time. I mean, I'm sorry in Russia. And we had a plant in St. Petersburg, and I wanted to expand capacity, and they were giving us a hard time. And we were building the plant. We are building Opels, shipping them to a trade zone where they would reassemble them. So we get some break on the import tax. And I said, okay, we'll expand it, but we got to get some concessions to expand this plant. And Putin showed up. St. Petersburg has a version of Davos, only it's in the summer, and it's more attended. Davos is attended globally. This is more European. And I didn't even hear of it before, but I turned up and I thought I was going to meet with the economics Minister. He had a different title, but that's what he was. And Putin shows up, and I'd been on the American Express board for almost 19 years, and he had retired, but we're friends. I asked him if he'd go over with me because I knew if he was there, I'd get the economics Minister there. I didn't think I'd get the economics Minister and Putin. And we walked out of there and he says, Dan, he says, let me tell you, I can read this thing like fortune teller can read your palm. You don't want to meet again. It'll come out. I don't know if this is true. They want a kick back. And I said, I'm not going to jail for this stuff. But it was an interesting job with dimensions to it you can't imagine. And I got very involved in the community. And we raised not literally a five minute drive from the Renaissance Center. The neighborhood looked like something just demolished.

Ken White

Right.

Dan Akerson

And with Habitat for Humanity, I personally put in a large donor. I said, I'd raised $25 million, basically, I called there supply chain, said I put in this much. GM matched mine. So that's about 10% of what we're looking for. And then we ended up raising close to $40 million and rebuilt a neighborhood. It's amazing. And I think back, we had a foundation, GM foundation. And if you want to look like where the money went, all you had to do is look at the executives for the last ten years. And they were spending money to the colleges their children are going to. That had to stop. And I just said, look, we'll help. We'll match whatever you put in then stop. That's one thing. They really weren't all that philanthropic in the good years or the bad years.

Ken White

And that's important for you.

Dan Akerson

Well, I think you've got to be part of your community. I mean, you got to play on the global stage. Heads of State, President of Brazil. I've met some characters. Argentina. There are some very strange people. There are some really unbelievable foreign leaders, too. But it was to me, I always felt a little bit guilty. I went to Annapolis. I served five years. God, and good luck I've had. And here I felt I had to pay something back. So not only did our family foundation, but the GM foundation helped our community. It was funny. A lot of executives that I hired, they were flying in every Monday. I actually bought a place up there. And I pay taxes there. And I even showed up for jury duty. They said, oh, you don't have to do that. I said, I'm like everybody else. Of course I'm the only guy that was there in a suit and tie and of course I didn't get past the first I don't know what they call.

Ken White

They caught you.

Dan Akerson

What are you doing here? I was not representative, but it gets in the local paper. It was your civic duty. The fact that I didn't get selected for jury duty was lucky if I got on one God forbid a murder or something. It could be weeks and I couldn't afford that. But it was symbolism that I wanted to be part of the company. I wanted to be part of the community and I wanted to be a change agent. And it was a wonderful experience.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Dan Akerson 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, Dan Akerson 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

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Nicholas JanniEpisode 175: May 5, 2022
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Episode 175: May 5, 2022

A New Paradigm for Leadership

As businesses, organizations, and professionals deal with change like we've never seen before, it makes sense the way we lead will also change. Our guest today says a new leadership paradigm is urgently needed. Nicholas Janni is a sought-after coach, teacher, speaker, and author. He works with the world's top businesses and business schools transforming the way executives lead. He's written a new book "Leader as Healer: A New Paradigm for 21st Century Leadership." He joins us today to discuss his theoretical and practical path to the highest levels of presence and peak performance leadership. The leadership he says is needed moving forward.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Does leadership need to change post-pandemic
  • How do senior leaders react to the concept of a leadership paradigm change
  • Will different types of people become leaders after a leadership paradigm shift
  • What is the foundational principle of "Leader as Healer"
  • What are the five interdependent aspects of leader as healer
  • How can a leader live a life of purpose
  • Why should a leader practice mindfulness and meditation
  • How can one convince a leader to change their way of thinking
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

Well, Nicholas, good afternoon. It's so great to have you with us. Welcome.

Nicholas Janni

Thank you, Ken. Very good to be here.

Ken White

Leader as healer so very interesting. A new paradigm for leadership. Does leadership need to be different post-pandemic and at this time in our lives?

Nicholas Janni

Well, Ken, I believe leadership fundamentally needs to be different for one basic reason, which in a way is the foundation of the book, because, you know, I work with senior leaders all over the world, one to one in teams, and there is one thing that I meet everywhere. And it is a simple fact that the thinking mind is far too dominant, that has become the predominant modality by which people process everything. Whereas Einstein asked one very crucial question, he said, is your mind your master or your servant? And in 99% of the leaders I meet, it's their master. And this is very problematic because the way I see it, it means we're navigating increasingly complex and challenging times with more than one hand tied behind our back because it's like we're using a limited part of the totality of who we are. And Leader as Healer means we have a very sophisticated thinking mind. We also have an emotional body. We have a physical body. We have an intuitive way of sensing. And we understand what it means to sit in a kind of deeper interior, spaciousness, or stillness through meditation and mindfulness. So Leader as Healer brings everything to the table. And I do believe that in these times, more than ever, we absolutely need that because thinking mind alone is not enough.

Ken White

And you've been, as you mentioned. Working with CEOs with senior leadership teams for years on this. How did they react to it?

Nicholas Janni

Once they comprehend what I just said to you, which is not very difficult to comprehend, they completely get it. They completely get it. Especially when we talk about doing and being, which I know you want to talk about, it becomes obvious to them. Absolutely obvious. And I think, to be honest, I think many leaders do know already exactly what I'm saying. But they don't know an alternative. Business schools do not teach an alternative. I believe, to be honest, that most senior leaders put in senior positions with a crazy lack of inner development. All the teaching is strategic, linear, left-brain thinking, which is very important, but it's not the whole picture by a long way. So yes, people really get it. Absolutely.

Ken White

As we embrace this, will we see different types of people becoming leaders?

Nicholas Janni

That's an interesting question. I don't think so necessarily. I'm very interested in working with young leaders. I mean, most of my work is with very senior leaders. What someone recently called the gray hairs. You and me more than me. But I believe that there is a real need to bring this kind of work to young leaders in the political domain and the organizational domain. The world is shaking as we know Ken, and we need the inner resources to navigate.

Ken White

In dealing with aspiring leaders and MBA students, and undergraduate business students. I can see them embracing this quickly. They think a little differently.

Nicholas Janni

That's true. I agree with you. Yes, absolutely.

Ken White

So in Leader as Healer in the book, you have a foundational principle and then five interdependent aspects. And I thought for our audience. They'd probably like us to walk through those. What is the foundational principle?

Nicholas Janni

The foundational principle is that, as cultures for 3000 years have said, we have two fundamental paths to us or modalities. They've been called in Chinese medicine Yang and Ying. In the Greek civilization, they spoke of mythos and logos. Yung brought in the archetype of masculine, the archetype of feminine. I kind of make it more pragmatic by speaking of doing and being. So if you imagine a triangle, the two bottom corners, one is doing, one is being, doing is left brain, analytical proactive what's the next task? Being is right brain, much more receptive, much more sensing, and much more intuitive. My thesis is that high-performing leaders need to be at the top of the triangle using both and not either-or. It's more like we need to learn, and I teach a lot of practices. How do we rest in a bowl of being out of which comes all our doing? That's when we're really in high performance. It's a bit like athletes how they speak of being in the zone. An athlete will say, I receive the ball or in American football, and I feel like I have a lot of time. I know where everyone is. That's there at the top of the triangle.

Ken White

And a great place to be. Athletes will tell you the ball appears ten times bigger than it really is.

Nicholas Janni

Exactly and artists know that scientists know that you speak to. I spoke to brain surgeons who describe exactly that state. And not only do we do our best work, it feels great. It's like a win-win. That's doing and being really in harmony together.

Ken White

Interesting. So that's the foundational principle. Then you have the five interdependent aspects. Number one embracing emotions. What do you mean?

Nicholas Janni

Yes. Well, it's a big one, Ken, because I think we live in a culture where we've got various strange from our emotions. We've created this belief that there are positive and negative emotions, which I utterly disagree with. If we're sad, we need to feel sad. And if we don't, the real danger is we become numb. There's a lot of grief around after COVID. One of the CEOs I work with, very senior CEO, created an extraordinary little grief ritual. When people came back to the office after 18 months out, she gave everyone. It was beautiful what she did. And the thing with emotion is it doesn't need big trauma. It needs acknowledging. Imagine a CEO is leading an important strategic meeting. There's a lot of tension in the air. An emotionally mature leader as healer will pause the meeting and just say, just a moment. There's a lot of anxiety here. I'm feeling it. I'm not sleeping well. I'm sure you're all feeling it. Let's just acknowledge that.

Ken White

Yeah.

Nicholas Janni

And you know, what happens in that moment is literally and metaphorically a sigh of relief. But the important thing, Ken, is that after that, we think much better.

Ken White

Yeah, right.

Nicholas Janni

The critical thinking we prize so highly does not work well when whole parts of us are suppressed.

Ken White

Right.

Nicholas Janni

So this is a really big part of the work. Teams that can sit together and just acknowledge what they're feeling. And my clients report incredible results from this. I put examples in the book senior board meeting, and someone just says, just a moment, how are we all feeling? Two or three minutes sharing whole meeting changes. Whole meeting changes. It's a human being.

Ken White

It makes sense.

Nicholas Janni

Of course. It makes sense. And yet how challenging it is.

Ken White

Right.

Nicholas Janni

This is often the toughest part of the work.

Ken White

Oh, I can see that. Most leaders feel being vulnerable is a weakness. Right.

Nicholas Janni

It's a weakness. Plus, we naturally, I mean, it's a big topic too big for now. But as we develop, we naturally have to close off certain feelings because they were too much to deal with. So this is why I say leader as healer needs to do that in the work. They need to work with a mentor or therapist and get more comfortable with their emotions, or they will not make other people feel comfortable with their emotions.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Nicholas Janni 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 on Leader as Healer, a new paradigm for 21st-century leadership, with Nicholas Janni.

Ken White

The second interdependent aspect is the power of embodiment. Can you tell us about that?

Nicholas Janni

Yeah. When we were children, we were completely embodied. Everything was a physical experience. We closed that down, and we have forgotten the power of the body to feel the world, to receive information. We have completely forgotten that. If you look at any pre-industrial culture, Indigenous tribes, their relationship with the natural world is unbelievable. They feel exactly what's happening. We're hardwired for that, Ken. So by shutting off the body, we lose our groundedness, we lose a whole part of our presence, how we come over to people, and we lose this enormous resource of sensing and getting information. When I work with a client, one to one, I'm feeling their interior with enormous precision. How am I doing it? Not through my thinking. My body is feeling. And we don't have to build that. We just have to uncover it. It's our natural state.

Ken White

And be aware.

Nicholas Janni

Yeah, exactly.

Ken White

Interesting. Third, living a life of purpose.

Nicholas Janni

Yeah, I think it's a big topic now in organizations, as I'm sure everyone will know, more and more organizations. I'm working next week, actually, with a big European law firm who, by the way, bought a program called Leader as Healer, which is pretty interesting. And their CEO just published a report a month ago saying, I've realized we need to pay a lot more attention to our purpose. It's what gives life meaning, Ken. William said living without purpose is one of the most grievous wounds to our soul. And purpose is not to make more money. Nothing wrong with making money. Purpose is much deeper than that. Purpose is always about contribution. And we know from all the psychological research on happiness we get much more satisfaction from giving than we do from taking.

Ken White

Sure.

Nicholas Janni

And I believe many organizations are now waking up to the fact that they need their primary purpose is what are we contributing? And more and more organizations are finding they make just as much, if not more, money when they have that kind of purpose. We're at a very transitional time at the moment.

Ken White

And you work with business school students, too. You see how important that is to them as they're seeking that employer after graduation. Really critical now.

Nicholas Janni

Well, we know that from data. We know that millennials will accept lower pay while working for an organization whose values they believe in. Absolutely. It's clearest.

Ken White

Number four the practice of mindfulness and meditation.

Nicholas Janni

Big one. I mean, listen, meditation mindfulness is now used in hospitals, prisons, violent schools with incredible results. A colleague of mine, pre-COVID, was in China. The CEO took her into the atrium. One sign said conference from the other sign said meditation room. This is coming more and more in. Why? Because the very act of paying attention, which is the core of mindfulness, activates our right brain. It activates our feeling of our body. So we immediately enlarge our bandwidth when we practice mindfulness. So our perception immediately gets much wider as opposed to what I said at the beginning, this kind of narrow view of reality. So I teach a way of practicing mindfulness throughout the day. And it doesn't take any time. It's very important. There are certain ways we need to be practicing whatever we're doing, whatever meeting we're in before a Zoom call. I mean, I've been working with people who are spending 10 hours a day on Zoom. Don't just sit there absent. Practice for a moment before a call. Take a moment to breathe, to pay attention to your body. You will show up differently, and you will listen differently.

Ken White

And the fifth interdependent aspect is the call.

Nicholas Janni

Yes. So this is a kind of more advanced in a way because I do believe the very simple story. I used to work in the theater. If an actor used to come to me, let's say, with the Shakespeare text and say, oh, Nicholas, I don't know what to do with this. I would always say something like, look, that's not the right question. The only interesting thing is, what will it do with you? Now everyone knows artists, scientists, leaders, sportspeople, whatever the best ideas come to us, we say it in English. The idea came to me, but that has a very deep implication. So I'm actually working on a whole project with Bob Anderson of the Leadership Circle. And the basic thing we're teaching leaders to do is to learn a completely different level of receptivity. What is it that is trying to come through? Not what do I want to do? What is being asked of us here? It's listening to a much higher level of intelligence, which always comes when we're in the right receptivity.

Ken White

Seems to come when we're calm, correct?

Nicholas Janni

Exactly. For instance, yes. When we're calm when we feel more spacious inside, and we're listening very deeply when we're walking. People get their best ideas in the shower.

Ken White

Absolutely.

Nicholas Janni

People get their best ideas when working out. It's not a coincidence because our energy is flowing, our energy is flowing, and then suddenly, ideas pop in. That's the call. And that's, by the way, I believe, the basis of innovation as well. We don't do innovations. It does us.

Ken White

Yeah. Interesting. So I can see a leadership team, even a group of managers, saying, wow, my plate is full. And now you want me to think differently. What do you say to them in that instance?

Nicholas Janni

The more you embrace this work, the more you will find. First of all, you get much less depleted. Secondly, you get much higher level of connection between everybody, and ultimately you're going to reach a much higher level of performance that will be much more satisfying as well. The argument we don't have time is nonsense.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Nicholas Janni, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. If you'd like to purchase Leader as Healer, a New Paradigm for 21st Century Leadership, it's available now in the UK and will be available in the United States on June 26. 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 Nicholas Janni 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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Molly NissmanEpisode 174: April 21, 2022
The Psychology of Women Investors

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Episode 174: April 21, 2022

The Psychology of Women Investors

How do you invest your money? Chances are, your gender plays a role in where you invest, how you invest, and the results you generate. When it comes to wealth management, there are considerable differences between the approaches men and women take. Molly Nissman is Vice President, Wealth Management and Portfolio Manager at UBS Financial Services in Norfolk, Virginia. She's spent her career helping people get the most from their money. She was on campus recently for the annual Women's Stock Pitch and Leadership Summit hosted by the William & Mary School of Business and its Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance. She took time to talk with us about women, men, and investing.

Podcast (audio)

Molly Nissman: The Psychology of Women Investors TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What led Molly towards a career in wealth management
  • How did Molly begin targeting women investors
  • Why is the wealth management field still primarily male-dominated
  • What advances might bring more women into the financial services industry
  • Why do more men invest than women
  • Is there a difference where women and men invest
  • Why are women better at long-term investing
  • Has the pandemic affected the way women invest
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. How do you invest your money? Chances are, your gender plays a role in where you invest, how you invest, and the results you generate. When it comes to wealth management, there are considerable differences between the approaches men and women take. Molly Nissman is Vice President, Wealth Management, and Portfolio Manager at UBS Financial Services in Norfolk, Virginia. She spent her career helping people get the most from their money. She was on campus recently for the annual Women's Stock Pitch and Leadership Summit hosted by the William & Mary School of Business and its Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance. She took time to talk with us about women, men, and investing. Here's our conversation with Molly Nissman. Molly, thank you very much for sharing your time. Welcome.

Molly Nissman

Thank you, Ken. It's so nice to be here with you and in Williamsburg and at William & Mary today.

Ken White

And it is quite a day. You've been a part of the Women's Stock Pitch and Leadership Summit. Tell us what you did today, what it was like.

Molly Nissman

Oh, these young women are amazing. They are so smart and organized, and tenacious. There were four teams. I was a judge for a stock pitch and four teams from all over the country. And the women pitched a particular stock, and they did the research and the presentation, and it was all by Zoom, which worked fabulously and just so impressive. These young women are so much smarter than I ever was at that age.

Ken White

I was going to ask you. Did you do any of that when you were that age? Were you into looking at stocks like they are?

Molly Nissman

No, not at all. The only thing that I did was, and I became a stockbroker, which now they call us financial advisers. But back when I was a teenager, I would watch my mother chart stocks on paper on the kitchen table, and she would talk about trends and products and businesses. And I guess that made an impression on me because when I graduated from college, I thought, oh, I think I want to be a stockbroker.

Ken White

Did you study it in school?

Molly Nissman

I was a government major, and I minored in economics. So can't really go to school for being a stockbroker financial adviser. And I was the Treasurer of my class in high school a couple of times. So I don't know if that counts, but.

Ken White

So how did you get into the field?

Molly Nissman

I got very lucky. I knocked on the door of Merrill Lynch in Norfolk when I graduated from college, and I was 21 years old. And I told them I wanted to be a stockbroker and the office was full of men. And I was 21 years old. And they said, well, you can have a job as a margin clerk, and you have some experience with numbers. So I took the job, and that was back when the margin calls were calculated by hand. And so I did that for a year. And then there was an opening in the commodity section of the office that Norfolk was a big grain hub and livestock hub back then. And there were ten commodity brokers trading with the different companies like Smithfield Foods and Purdue. And they needed an assistant. So they brought me in as their assistant. And then I did that for a year, and I told them I wanted to be a trader. So at age 24, I became a commodity trader and did that for 20 years.

Ken White

Wow.

Molly Nissman

And then, after that, I had small children at home, and I needed some more flexibility. And it was extremely stressful job, exciting definitely but stressful. So I made a career change and started with PaineWebber, which is now UBS, and began as a financial adviser with my sister. And we targeted women investors, and that was 25 years ago.

Ken White

Wow.

Molly Nissman

So as I said, I got very lucky with the twists and turns of my career. So I've only worked for two companies in my whole life.

Ken White

And it was male-dominated then. Still, fairly much pretty much male-dominated today?

Molly Nissman

Yes. That's such a great question. It really is mostly still male-dominated. And I think only 20% of the financial advisers still are women. That really hasn't changed that much over the years. And I think there are a couple of reasons. One of the reasons, I think, is because of the way that we're compensated. We're compensated by selling financial products, and the other way we get paid is assets under management. And so we don't get credit for helping our clients with their financial plans or creating a successful college funding plan, or helping them decide about long-term health care. That's definitely part of our job as consultants, but we don't physically get paid for that. And I think women are not motivated by money and how much money they make. And so it's definitely a problem. Definitely a dichotomy in how we get paid and how we take care of our clients. I think physicians have that problem now also. They're on a time clock, but they have to take care of their patients and do diagnoses on them and care for them. There's not enough time.

Ken White

Interesting. Do you think it could possibly change with time going as we move forward?

Molly Nissman

I think it can change. The other issue, I think, for why there aren't that many women, as many women in our business as financial advisors. I think that one of the issues is the markets are always open, which is a good thing because we want the markets to always remain open. But it's hard to take vacations. It's hard to take maternity leave. And I didn't have maternity when I had my children, my young children, there was no maternity leave. You didn't get paid because you were on commission. So that was problematic.

Ken White

Yeah.

Molly Nissman

And so, for women who might want a family and flexibility to go to your child's soccer game or tennis match or take a vacation, it's very difficult. And it's changing because the way that financial advisers are working now is they're working more in teams, which is much more of just a better model. So you might work under a team with two or three or four different advisors, maybe, who are more senior. And that way, you can learn, you can grow, you can have different expertise on your team. And, of course, that's better for clients.

Ken White

Sure.

Molly Nissman

Definitely better for clients. And as Adam Grant, who's the best-selling author, talks about that, group decisions are better than single-person decisions. That's definitely the case when you have a team. So I think that trend is going to help women get into the financial services industry more.

Ken White

Yeah. Time will tell.

Molly Nissman

Time will tell. That's right. Time will tell.

Ken White

And there are certainly differences in the way men and women invest as well, correct?

Molly Nissman

Oh, yes, absolutely.

Ken White

So, for example, and we call this what the psychology of the investor basically. Right. For example, we know, according to most reports, that men invest more so than women, a higher percentage of men. Why is that?

Molly Nissman

I think that is changing, but that trend is a slow trend. But I think you're right. I think, for the most part, more men tend to invest, at least in the traditional stock and bond markets, than women. I think it goes back to women have not controlled their financial destiny very long. It wasn't but 100 years ago where women couldn't vote or own land.

Ken White

Sure.

Molly Nissman

So that trend takes a long time to change. And I also think that men are much more willing to take risk. That's in their DNA. They're the hunter-gatherers. Their job is to go out and hunt and protect the family and to take those risks. And that, I think, translates into taking risks in the market. They're much more from what I've seen. They're much more willing to take a gamble. They want to make a killing. They want to do the quick win. And that's not necessarily bad. I've heard from women, I'm not going to invest in cryptocurrency until they get the bugs out. I'm not going to invest my hard-earned money in this until I can be sure that it's going to survive. So, yes, there is a difference. I think a lot of it is just the difference in genetics.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Molly Nissman 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 Molly Nessman.

Ken White

What about where men invest, and women invest? What are some of the differences there stocks, gold, and so forth? Is there a difference that you see?

Molly Nissman

Yes, I have seen a difference. I think women have been much more drawn to investments like bonds, which produce an income stream, predictable most of the time predictable, reliable income stream, not as volatile as stocks. And that's more comforting for women who aren't as willing to take risks with their money, but they are willing to invest in stocks, and they're much more willing to hold the stocks for the long run. And so that makes them better investors. It's hard to quantify, but because they're looking at the long run and they're willing to invest for that long term, that gives them a better outcome in the end. And that just goes back to what we talked about, about the men wanting the quick kill, the quick win, the gamble.

Ken White

But much of what we read is saying that women outperform men.

Molly Nissman

Yes, and I do think that's true because they are willing to commit their money for the long run and leave it in place. That's the key because if you're getting in and out of the market all the time, you're going to miss a lot of the upward movement. So it's tempting for sure, especially lately when you've seen these huge decreases and increases in the market, the volatility because of the pandemic, and because of the Ukraine situation. It's very tempting to say, well, I'll just get out for a few days and buy things back when the market is down three or 4%. But what happens is nobody can predict that. And so, most of the time, you're better off to leave everything, have a plan, leave everything in place, continue to add money as you can add money, and stay with it for the long run. And women are really good at that.

Ken White

Who's better at seeking advice from a professional like you? Do men tend to do that more so than women, or women do that more so than men?

Molly Nissman

Oh, that's another great question. I hope I won't get in trouble with this one. I think women, it's the same thing. We are really good at outsourcing. And just like you would hire a CPA to do your taxes because you don't want to do your taxes and you don't want to learn all the tax rules, and they can do it a lot faster than you can and more efficient and less likely to get audited. It's the same concept with financial investments and investing. I think women are willing to say I'm willing to pay somebody for their expertise, and that will save me time and money over the long run. And I think men, it's a bit of a macho situation where I can do this myself. I'm smart, and the men are smart, and I think both men and women can invest themselves. If you have enough time and it's a full-time job, if you have enough time, I do think you could do it yourself, but I think men are probably more likely to say, I want to do it myself, I can do it myself, and I don't need help with it.

Ken White

We've seen the pandemic affect women differently than it has affected men. I mean, as soon as we saw people leave work, it was the women who were leaving work in the early part of the pandemic versus the men. Has the pandemic affected the way women have been investing over the last couple of years? Have you noticed anything?

Molly Nissman

Yes, it has. It's made it difficult for women because women were the ones who lost more jobs because they make up a greater percent of the service industry. They also were the ones who were more likely to stay home with the children because the children are out of school. And so when you've lost your job, or you're working part-time because you can't work full time, because you have to get home at two o'clock when your children get home, or you have to help them on their Zoom homework, you don't have as much money to invest, and that's problematic. So, yes, I think the women more likely to make more conservative investments. They had less money, less money to invest, less money to live on, so definitely affecting them more than men in this situation.

Ken White

You may have inadvertently answered it earlier, but what advice? You've been working with these young women during the stock pitch competition. Right. Women that age coming out of college, what advice do you have for them once they start getting that regular paycheck? And in terms of investing, what's your advice?

Molly Nissman

This is definitely my favorite question. My advice would be very clear would be you've got to start now and save money, and you've got to do that with discipline and regularly and be frugal in your lifestyle. And remember that down the road, you're the only one who's going to be in charge of your destiny. And the earlier you start investing, the better. And always remember to buy quality. Buy quality stocks, buy quality bonds, buy quality real estate, because when the markets turn down, which they always do, real estate, we have downturns. That's a long cycle. Stocks and bonds have their different cycles. There's always some kind of downturn. Quality will hold up better, so in all things, stocks, bonds, art, precious gems, cryptocurrency, do not buy any sloppy cryptocurrency. That's a highly technical term, even furniture. Nobody wants to sit on a lumpy sofa for 20 years. So you want to buy quality for sure. And that if you invest regularly and commit yourself for the long term and continue to add money, even if it's only a few hundred dollars a month, you will be a very successful investor.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Molly Nissman, 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 Molly Nissman 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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Episode 173: April 8, 2022

Holistic Wellbeing at Microsoft

More than ever before, companies and organizations are placing great emphasis on their employees by offering more flexible work schedules, or investing greatly in education and training programs. Some, like Microsoft, are focusing on the general wellbeing of their employees. Microsoft has created and launched its Holistic Wellbeing Program - a series of offerings that support employees in four specific wellbeing areas: physical, mental, financial, and social. Kristen Roby Dimlow is a graduate of William & Mary. She's Vice President, Total Rewards, Performance, and HR Business intelligence at Microsoft. She joins us to talk about the Holistic Wellbeing Program there, what it entails, and what it's doing for Microsoft and its employees.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How long Kristen has been at Microsoft and what it means to be a “boomerang”

  • What the Microsoft Holistic Wellbeing Program is

  • What the response has been to the program

  • How COVID has de-stigmatized mental wellbeing

  • How Microsoft is making their products more accessible

  • What are financial wellbeing needs

  • How the Holistic Wellbeing Program started

  • What have been the effects of the program

Transcript

Kristen Roby Dimlow: Holistic Wellbeing at Microsoft TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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, more than ever before, companies and organizations are placing great emphasis on their employees by offering more flexible work schedules or investing greatly in education and training programs. Some, like Microsoft, are focusing on the general well-being of their employees. Microsoft has created and launched its Holistic Well Being program, a series of offerings that support employees in four specific well-being areas: physical, mental, financial, and social. Kristen Roby Dimlow is a graduate of William & Mary. She's Vice President, Total Rewards, Performance, and HR Business Intelligence at Microsoft. She joins us to talk about the Holistic Well-being program there, what it entails and what it's doing for Microsoft and its employees. Here's our conversation with Kristen Roby Dimlow.

Ken White

Well, Kristen, it's nice to see you. Thank you very much for sharing your time with us.

Kristen Roby Dimlow

I am thrilled to be here. Thanks, Ken.

Ken White

So when you think about William & Mary. What comes to mind?

Kristen Roby Dimlow

Oh, my gosh. I have so many happy memories of William & Mary, and it was a great education. And I also had so much fun being in Williamsburg, and I still have some very close friends. So it's been with me my whole life just about.

Ken White

That's great. And I walk these halls every day, and I'm just in awe of the students who are a part of our University and our business school. It's really something here. Yeah. And it's nice to speak to graduates like you. Who've been doing some really wonderful things. So Microsoft, how long have you been there, and what's your role?

Kristen Roby Dimlow

I've been with Microsoft off and on for 23 years, and I'm what we call a boomerang. So about seven years ago, I left Microsoft to be a head of HR for a small technology company in Seattle. And I lasted all of 16 months because I missed Microsoft so much. But my current role there is head of Total Rewards and HR Business Insights. And so that is compensation benefits, global mobility, and people analytics. And it's perfect for me because it's a blend of HR and finance. And my career has kind of been half and half started out in finance and then moved into HR and have found myself in the perfect hybrid role for both.

Ken White

Yeah, fantastic. So tell us about the Holistic Well-being at Microsoft. This is interesting.

Kristen Roby Dimlow

This is really neat. I think most companies have always been very thoughtful about physical well-being. If you think about benefits, everybody has some sort of health care plan. Many of us have more recently started to accentuate the importance of fitness for a healthy body. But what we've realized is I think of it as a positive success loop where there are different elements of well-being and wellness. So physical, obviously, but mental more recently, I think we're getting more and more comfortable across the globe in talking about mental well-being and mental health, financial well-being, and then we talk about social well-being. And what we found is if you're off on any one of these, it manifests in the others. And so over the last, say, four or five years, we've been really trying to promote holistic well-being.

Ken White

And what's the response been? The reaction?

Kristen Roby Dimlow

Fantastic, I would say, especially on mental well-being. This was something that we started a few years ago, and we were somewhat naive. We had an employee assistance program, just like many people do, where people can call and get counseling support as needed. But we started 1 May. May is mental health awareness month, and we started that year with a campaign called It's Okay Not to Be Okay. And our idea was to try to destigmatize mental health. We started in a very sort of small way. We just reminded people about the EAP. We also brought in a few documentaries on mental health. And what we didn't expect was the outpouring of support. And we had leaders who actually stood up and told their own stories. And we got such a positive response that just this little foray into reminding people it's okay not to be okay really started something very, very cool at Microsoft. And we've continued to build since then. One of the things that's been interesting, the COVID pandemic, has really accelerated the destigmatization of mental well-being. I think there was a study that 42% of Americans about a year ago were feeling more anxious. And I would say that anxiety has only grown given geopolitical events, given some of the racial injustice, given just the lack of control in people's lives. My heart really goes out to people with young children where they're trying to juggle school from home or even when they do go back, then having to have them come back because someone in the classroom has become infected. It's just ongoing anxiety. And so we've all sort of woken up to realize this is something we all have. And so it's been, I would say a bit of a silver lining is that it's really destigmatized mental health.

Ken White

No question. It is amazing how people will self-disclose in that area now compared to even just a few years ago. I think you're right. It's the pandemic, right. I think it put everybody on equal footing. So other than the initial introduction to that piece of it, have you done more or plan to do more in other things?

Kristen Roby Dimlow

We have done more. And I would say we're only really getting started because I think there's so much going on in this space that we're just learning every day. But beyond our EAP, we tried to make sure that people understood what their medical benefits included. We wanted to make sure that they understood leave practices. At Microsoft, we have a certain amount of sick days per year. We relabeled them sick and mental well-being days. And that was something that didn't cost us a dime but was hugely influential. And again, saying, it's okay not to be okay. It's okay to take time off from work if you need it. We also have an amazing what we call an ERG, which is an employee resource group on mental health. And so, they have been phenomenal. And then even in our products, Microsoft is trying really hard to build products that are accessible, and that includes for mental health or neurodiverse populations. And so, I would give big kudos to our Xbox group. We have a game studio in the UK that is building a game based on mental health, has a character with mental health condition. And so, all of this is coming together in a beautiful way. My team sort of brings the benefits. We've also introduced talk space where people can do chat counseling. In addition to the EAP, we've offered Headspace, which is a really cool app to support mindfulness and mental well-being. And then the ERG brings in their own expertise. They have people who are very brave and willing to share their own journeys and support each other. We've also worked with our training organization to provide trainings to both employees and managers about what to do when you're not feeling okay, how to articulate it, whom to go to for help. If you're a manager, hey, you don't need to be a counselor. You do not need to be the one to diagnose. 80% of it is listening, and then 20% is helping them find the resources that they need to support. So it's been amazing. I would say it's a beautiful one Microsoft moment where everybody's coming in together to try to lift this initiative because we all have experienced anxiety ourselves, or we know people with mental health conditions.

Ken White

Are you seeing in terms of participation any more from younger versus older, male versus female, one sector or part of the company than the other?

Kristen Roby Dimlow

That's a wonderful question. I actually haven't broken it down in a huge amount of detail, but I would say across the board, we're pretty much up. And one of the challenges we've had, and I think everyone's experiencing this is our EAP providers are overloaded. And one of the things I did I had a leadership team strategy meeting, and we invited one of the counselors to come in and talk to us about what they're seeing. And they said they just feel bad, that they cannot get through all of the people in their cues. And so there are cues of people that are sort of waiting. They also talked about the importance of putting their own oxygen masks on. So even our counselors need counseling, so that was helpful. The other thing we learned through this, again from our ERG group. So not from the one on accessibility or on mental health, but our Blacks at Microsoft ERG asked us to have more diversity in the counselors themselves, which makes so much sense, right? There are different cultures around the world, different races, different ideas on things. And so it's important that the counselors look like the employees whom they're serving. And so that was a huge unlock for us. I don't see it as one area or another. I will say that across the board, we have to think of that diversity and inclusion piece. And I'd also say anecdotally. I feel like younger generation is more comfortable saying that they're not feeling okay. So I think maybe some of us call myself out baby boomers. You were taught to be stoic and not complain. And I think that's really unhealthy. So I love to see that earlier in career, are a little more willing to step up and say, hey, I need a mental well-being day.

Ken White

Being around young people, they are changing the world for the better, I can tell you for sure.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Kristen Roby Dimlow 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 on Holistic Well-being at Microsoft with Kristen Roby Dimlow.

Ken White

So how about the financial side? What do you seeing there and the needs that you're seeing?

Kristen Roby Dimlow

Well, this is great. So many companies have a lot of financial well-being benefits for employees, starting with pay. And so pay, 401K, some people have ESPP programs. A lot of times, if you have a 401K program, you probably have access to financial counseling. And we do through our provider. And so we try to spend a lot of time working with employees to make sure they understand what their benefits are and then try to also think about what are the different groups, what are their needs. So earlier in career care a lot about student loan payback. So we try to offer that up at the right time. People who are maybe a little older have children who are thinking of going off to college, need assistance, thinking about how am I going to finance that. As you get close to retirement, thinking about how am I going to retire? What do I need to know? So we try to think about those different constituencies. I think another interesting one is people who might be new to the United States. So we have a lot of global mobility. We have people come in from other countries where the financial landscape is very different, or maybe there's a greater social safety net than in the United States. And so we need to teach them what is a 401k program? What is an ESPP? Why is this? I was talking to a young woman, and I said to her, hey, you're investing in our 401k, right, because there's a massive upside for you to do that. And she said I have so many student loans. I'm really not. I have a real cash flow issue. First of all, that motivated me to do more on student loans, but also made me realize I really need to educate people of the importance of retirement and really thinking about how to put their money to work for them.

Ken White

This is a massive undertaking. I mean, employers, a generation ago, it was a paycheck and maybe some health insurance. Wow. How did this start? I mean, I know it's a big organization, but where did it all come from and the momentum?

Kristen Roby Dimlow

Yeah, well, we were lucky in that we've always had pretty decent benefits, but we have more recently been more thoughtful of our diverse populations and what sorts of things they need. And so we've been trying to ensure that when we look across the landscape that our benefits are inclusive, that they're supporting our culture. So Satya Nadella has been our CEO for about seven years. He brought us the idea of growth mindset. He's very inspired by Carol Dweck, who wrote the book Mindset and brought that to Microsoft. And so, as part of growth mindset, we also have cultural pillars around diversity and inclusion, customer obsession, and one Microsoft. What he brought us was so incredible because we really needed to reinvent ourselves. We were sort of like the 45-year-old startup, and it was time to let some of our old practices go and embrace some new ones. And one of them was this idea of growth mindset where we don't have all the answers. We need to think more about our customers, and we needed to act as one Microsoft. So that sort of started a lot of stuff, including this idea of what do we need to do with our benefits and compensation in order to be more diverse and inclusive and to promote one Microsoft. So that's how some of this started. It's been really great.

Ken White

You're obviously doing it for the right reasons, but there are certainly some benefits to the organization. We're seeing people just leave jobs so quickly now. I mean, it is really something. Have you seen some positive effects in terms of the great resignation?

Kristen Roby Dimlow

We have. So I like to think of it as the great reshuffle because what I see is people taking on new opportunities, and we have been lucky in that while we have seen attrition rates resurge to pre-pandemic levels, I'm not seeing some of what I see in our industry, which is great. And part of that is having a great value proposition. So again, like you're reminding me, one of our challenges was articulating everything that exists for employees at Microsoft. So I had someone on my teamwork with one of our corporate communications people to think about value proposition. And luckily, they didn't listen to me because what I wanted them to do was so far off from what they learned our employees needed. So what they did was global focus groups. They went around the world and talked to all different, and virtually they didn't get on planes. They did it virtually, but they talked to employees all over the world to say, what is it about Microsoft that you love? And it wasn't the pay and benefits. The pay and benefits were like entry into the door. It's the ante to get into the game. But what they loved was it came down to four pillars, community, growth, the ability to grow, well-being, and flexibility. And Ironically, this all happened pre-COVID, which was wild because these pillars are so durable and, especially during COVID, the idea of flexibility. What they meant at that time when we were doing these focus groups was they loved that they were able to go to a kid's soccer game, that they were able to start early, that they were able to work from home a day or two a week because commutes were so difficult. That was their idea of flexibility. We've now learned after two years of this that there is this future of work which was much more nimble, much more flexible. And so I feel like, to your point, it's important for an employer to try to get all of these things right, and holistic well-being is the primary part of that. So when we articulated the value proposition, then we realized, okay, our go-to-market strategy is to start telling people what exists in each of these buckets and the way we did it, which, again, not my idea. Their idea they were smarter than I am was they got employees to tell the stories. So they went and found employees who would tell stories about why is community important to me? Why is well-being important to me? We got people to tell unbelievable stories. And those I'm sure with your background, you probably know this. There's nothing better than a real person telling, like, I can tell somebody, but as the head of paying benefits, people feel like I have an agenda. So it's much better to hear from one of their peers what's going on.

Ken White

Nice. All forms of media in terms of the storytelling.

Kristen Roby Dimlow

Yeah. Mostly right now, we're doing a lot with just online because videos, but even just short anecdotes that go in mail. And of course, a lot of people don't read mail these days. So we also promote social media. We have a hashtag Microsoft life, and so we encourage employees to do hashtag Microsoft life. My thing is called essentials. So I do hashtag essentials as well. But I think you'll see Microsoft Life more than essentials if I'm honest. But it's been just a fabulous way. It scales globally. It resonates globally. We sort of did a walking kit for people so with lots of PowerPoints or images that they could use so that they can customize campaigns. So if you're in Germany, you can take our collateral and customize it for what's going on in Germany. So that's been great. I'd love to share one other thing we've learned with you, and I got this from my boss. So she came up with it, but her name is Kathleen Hogan. She's the CHRO of Microsoft, and she was trying to articulate the importance of employee engagement, and she took a riff from Maslow's hierarchy of needs. So she came up with the five P's of employee engagement. And so it's purpose at the top, followed by pride, people, perks, and pay. And so, if you think of pay and perks are foundational. It's what I was saying earlier. It's like food and shelter. That's got to be good before you even think about retaining anybody. You need to have a decent story there. But then it's sort of the top of the pyramid are more of the intrinsic benefits. Right. And thanks to Satya for giving us amazing purpose. So the Microsoft mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. And that's one of the reasons, honestly, why I came back to Microsoft. I probably was at a stage where I could have been done, but Microsoft's purpose is so aligned to my personal purpose. And then the pride in the company, so proud of the products we make and what they do for employees or do for people around the world. And then the people with whom I work, it's really cool. We work with some amazing people. And that was another reason why I think I came back. And then the perks and pay are super important, too. But all of that comes together. So both our five P's as well as our essentials. If we can kind of keep that in balance, then we're able to retain people. And some people do leave. Some people feel like the grass is greener, but we have a lot of boomerangs, too. I think 11% of our hires back are boomerang employees. So I think that they kind of go like, you might get a teaser right, you might get a little bit of a sign-on bonus or a bigger stock package. And I do believe you can get pay anywhere. You can get more pay anywhere where you go. But it's the holistic package that keeps you sort of coming in and feeling great about a company. Anyway, we're trying to make all that work. We're not perfect yet. We're still learning a bunch. But I feel like both of these have been helpful ways to try to articulate what the Microsoft deal is for employees.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Kristen Roby Dimlow, 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 looking for a truly transformational experience, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Kristin Roby Dimlow, 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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Chris CaracciEpisode 172: March 21, 2022
The Customer Experience

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Episode 172: March 21, 2022

The Customer Experience

We've all been there: You go to a local business, or visit a hotel, or go online to make a purchase, and the experience is awful. If it's bad enough, you decide to never go back again. Which means the business - at a minimum - has lost a customer. That's where Chris Caracci steps in. He helps organizations improve their customer experience. He spent years at the Disney Institute working with clients across the world. Today he continues to help all types of businesses and organizations deliver a high quality customer experience. He joins us to talk about the customer experience, its importance, and how improvement starts at the top.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is the customer experience
  • What are the top measures of good customer experience
  • How important is customer loyalty in relation to high quality customer experiences
  • How many different touchpoints contribute to the customer service experience
  • Why businesses should not put their customer service policies on autopilot
  • How good customer service practices can translate in the healthcare field
  • Why hiring the right people is important to good customer service
  • How has the pandemic affected the customer experience
  • What is step one for an organization that is lacking in quality customer experiences
Transcript

Chris Caracci: The Customer Experience TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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, we've all been there, you go to a local business or visit a hotel or go online to make a purchase and the experience is awful. If it's bad enough, you decide to never go back again, which means the business, at a minimum, has lost a customer. In today's competitive market, no business can afford to lose customers. Well, that's where Chris Caracci steps in. He helps organizations improve their customer experience. He spent years at the Disney Institute, working with clients across the world. Today, he continues to help all types of businesses and organizations deliver a high-quality customer experience. He joins us to talk about the customer experience, its importance, and how improvement starts at the top. Here's our conversation with Chris Caracci.

Ken White

Well, Chris, thanks so much for joining us and sharing your time with us. Great to see you.

Chris Caracci

I'm happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Ken White

Right before we hit the record button, I was saying that I think literally on every episode we've done, customer comes up. Of course, we're always thinking about the customer. I think you think about customer a little differently when you talk about customer experience. What is that?

Chris Caracci

Customer experience, and we hear that a lot is really the accumulation of service experiences end to end. When you have in your business, you have a customer. I'll call them the customer doing business with you, whether they're buying a service from you or they're buying a product from you. It's everything from their first touchpoint with your organization. And that could be through an advertisement that they see online all the way through any kind of follow-up service or follow-up care that they need post them using your service or your product. That's the customer experience. But it's filled with sometimes hundreds of what we call customer touchpoints. And those customer touchpoints are really where the service if you want to use that phrase customer service, that's where the service takes place. But it can be anything. It can be, as I said, it can be viewing an advertisement because there's a service moment there all the way through to a voice to voice experience, a face-to-face experience, a computer to computer experience, whatever that looks like. All of those add up, and they leave an impression. All those touchpoints leave an impression that impacts whether or not you as a consumer walk away with a positive impression of my organization. Who's selling whatever I'm selling to you, or a mediocre impression, a neutral impression, as we call it, a neutral series of touchpoints, or even negative. And the goal is to come out of that with a positive customer experience. That doesn't mean that it's perfect. It's never perfect.

Ken White

Sure.

Chris Caracci

But the goal is to have more positive touchpoints than neutral or negative touchpoints because that leaves a positive impression in your head, the consumer. And that is what drives loyalty back to the organization, to repurchase the service or product or to recommend us. Those are the two top measures and a lot of organizations that take customer experience seriously to find out whether people are loyal to them in one of those ways or the other.

Ken White

That loyalty pays off, obviously.

Chris Caracci

It does pay off because we all know the cost of acquiring new customers is very, very expensive. The cost of retaining customers that you already have is far less expensive. And we know that over time, a loyal customer that stays with you for a long period of time, their average spending with you goes up. So ultimately, it's about creating that loyalty. I think where the confusion happens sometimes, Ken, is that organizations equate customer service with loyalty. They will measure customer service. If I can use that phrase again, they'll measure that and think, well, we just need to be good at customer service. We don't need to look at the continuum of that experience very much. If we're just good at the service points here and there enough to be positive, and there's confusion there because they think that that drives the customer coming back. There's not, at least in my experience with working with industries around the world in different cultures, is that loyalty is not talked about enough. When we talk about the customer experience, we're too focused on the moment, and we're not focused on the long-term effects of high-quality customer experiences.

Ken White

And there could be so many touchpoints. I'm thinking of a local dry cleaner. There's quite a few touchpoints, let alone a massive organization.

Chris Caracci

Absolutely. And that dry cleaner needs to pay attention. I'll give you an example. I went to a dry cleaner all the time in a location that I used to live in Florida, and it was a small dry cleaner. And I used to drop off my dry cleaning every week and pick it up every week. But when I pulled up in the parking lot, the dry cleaner had these big picture windows so they could see the parking lot clearly from inside. And by the time I parked my car and came inside, my laundry was waiting for me on the stack, and she'd already rung me up. And that's a small business. Right. But what that tells me is they've hired somebody and taught them that you need to pay attention to the customer, get to know your customers. Not only that, when I walk through the door, they call me by my name. Those are all touchpoints. And at the end of the day, I will pay more for my shirt to be cleaned there. Then I will go across the street where they don't have that kind of personalized service, and the price point may be lower. So we know that customers will pay more if you pay attention to them and give them care.

Ken White

You worked for a long time for the Disney Institute. Is there any organization better at this than Disney? I think that's who most people think of.

Chris Caracci

Disney is up there. I think because it's always historically service has been always historically a part of the organization. It was an important thing, a business piece to focus on for Walt Disney himself. And I think the beauty of the company is that they still live the things that he taught that he believed in all these years later. He died in 1966. That's a long time ago.

Ken White

Wow, yeah.

Chris Caracci

But yeah, the fundamentals around how he cared for people, the service that he wanted to give to his customers, the experiences he wanted to get very high quality still with the company today. And the beauty of that, as I've taught it for years, 20 years with the Disney Institute, is that that is so foundational and fundamental that it doesn't change very much. The customer still wants you to pay attention to them, and that has not changed. Maybe you do it a little differently. Maybe technology helps us do those things a little differently in some ways now than it did in 1966, surely, but the customer is still looking for the same kinds of things. So when I work with organizations, as I do now around the world, teaching them these philosophies around, how do you bring that great customer experience to your own organizations? The things that I impress upon them is that you can never take your eye off this. You always have to be making sure you're paying attention to every detail every day. You can't put it on autopilot because it won't sustain. You have to give it attention every single day. So I have especially enjoyed with my years with the Disney Institute, working with healthcare way back when, when I first came out of college, I worked in hospitals as a respiratory therapist. So a lot of my work with the Institute was healthcare-related because healthcare, at least in the United States, is looking to come back to the patient's experience. The patient got lost in healthcare in the United States for many, many decades. You were just another last name on a chart. And the focus became so much around the medical care that they forgot about caring for the human that you're actually caring for.

Ken White

Sure.

Chris Caracci

So they came to us early on at Disney and said, can you teach us the same fundamental things about how you've structured your culture around service so that they will work in our environment with our patients. And that's precisely what we did. So, again, even in an industry like healthcare, we're coming back to you have consumers, you don't call them customers, you call them patients, but they're the same thing. They're consuming healthcare. You're providing healthcare. They need to have a quality experience that matches the quality medical care that you're giving them. And those two things have to be married.

Ken White

Yeah. If they have a good experience, they'll come back.

Chris Caracci

Absolutely. And in health care, you don't always necessarily want them back. You want them to do something for them, hopefully in some situations where they don't have to come back. But the other part of that loyalty is not only returning to come back for more service, but it's also the recommendation, which means speaking highly about that organization to your friends and to your colleagues and letting them know that you had a great experience there. You may never have to go back there for care, but you have spread the word now to other people that your experience was one that was very worthwhile.

Ken White

Yeah. Having brand ambassadors makes life easier, doesn't it?

Chris Caracci

It does.

Ken White

Yeah.

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. 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 on the customer experience with Chris Caracci.

Ken White

I may have shared this with you. I've actually shared it on the podcast several times because it just stuck with me. When we had Kim Lopdrup on, he's been on twice. He's the former CEO of Red Lobster. He said people who succeed in his field have the hospitality gene. They take great pleasure in seeing a couple of folks come in, a group of people come in and have a great meal and a good time and leave. Is it like that with the customer experience? I'm assuming you've got to have that gene to really get into it.

Chris Caracci

It is. So much of service can be trained, but if you don't start out with somebody that's trainable, then you're not going to get anywhere. So it was a definite strategy for Disney, and it still is today when they hire people, especially working in positions where they're dealing with customers every day, but certainly, internally as well, they're looking for the individual who has generally a positive nature and a positive attitude towards everything. Towards their lives, towards their work experience, because we know and the Society for Human Resource Management tells us this, that there is a percentile in the teens of individuals in the United States that don't have that positivity and it affects their whole lives. I don't know the reasons behind that. All that I know is when you're hiring people, and you're hiring people to deliver service and experiences, you don't want to hire anyone coming from that 15% or that 17% of the population that doesn't find, as you call it, that hospitality piece that doesn't find that comfortable or isn't outgoing in a way that they can be positive with people that they're dealing with either internally or externally. So you have to back up the process of good service all the way into your hiring practices to make sure that you hire the right individuals. That, to his point, have that hospitality gene that you can see that's very visible and very noticeable in the individual, because then, you know, we have the service structure, as Disney does, that we can train them to use, and they're going to hit it out of the park every single day.

Ken White

We all know those people. Yeah.

Chris Caracci

We all know those people. And you know the people who are part of the 15 or 17%.

Ken White

That's true.

Chris Caracci

As I joke, we have those people in our families, too, right? But we all know who those are. You don't want them working for you. If customer service is a primary focus because you will spend a lot of time and energy with training, that most of the time won't go anywhere.

Ken White

I think most of us would put Disney up there in the Hall of Fame in terms of the customer experience. Who else is in that group?

Chris Caracci

Some other names that come to mind immediately. Ritz Carlton. They do it extremely well. They have a system around their service. They have a structure around their service. They hire people into their organization who can function well in that structure. Organizations like Nordstrom, from a retail standpoint, family-owned company originally but very focused on the customer experience and the personalization of the experience. Southwest Airlines to that, now a lot has been going on with Southwest in these last ten years, but their focus has been on customer service and trying to improve the experience, sort of disrupting when they first came on the scene, disrupting the airline industry and doing things differently than anybody had done, all in the name of trying to make the experience better for their customers. So there was a focus there. And you can always tell with a company the way you're treated by their employees, the way you're treated by the experience, whether or not they're actually focusing on it or not, you can tell right away because those things just don't happen by accident. They're highly customized. The experiences are customized, the touchpoints are all customized, and you notice it right away as a customer.

Ken White

So who's responsible when you're working with companies and organizations? Is there a certain title with whom you're working? Or does that change from company to company?

Chris Caracci

Very few companies, even today, will have somebody in charge of the experience, the customer experience. Some of them do. The ones that are out ahead of the rest of the pack will have people devoted to that at a senior position. Typically, the organizations that are looking for my help do not have that. And that sits typically in the realm of human resources because so many of the elements that go into making great experiences for customers, so many of those pieces lie within human resources. It's about hiring the right people. It's about training them. It's about onboarding them to the culture of your company. It's about onboarding them to the things that are important and the values that your company espouses because that is all preparation for that individual's time in front of your customer. And then, you add on training around your service structure and your service framework. It has to be very intentional. So much of my work tends to be with the human resources department because they're the one managing the people processes. They're managing the leadership processes usually, and it's about impacting those because, without a quality leadership experience and a quality employee experience, you will never get to a quality customer experience.

Ken White

How has the pandemic affected customer experience in the way organizations view it?

Chris Caracci

Every organization, even Disney, has had to pivot and go online with much of what they do. Which meant, I think, thinking, like every organization thinking, how can we do this? How can we translate quality to a virtual environment? Which is difficult because you take away so many of the things that exist in a voice-to-voice interaction or a face-to-face interaction, and they become virtual, which makes them you lose some of that emotional connection that you want with your customers, and that's been difficult. And we've tried to do that because we've had to do that. I think Disney with their parks. The parks came back very fast. They closed in March of 2020. They were reopening again in the summer of 2020 after that break, that three or four-month break, and brought those face-to-face experiences back, even with masks and whatever other restrictions were in place. We knew that as a company, especially in our parks and resorts business, that people were yearning for that even after a few months of isolating at home and being afraid to go out in some cases and doing everything virtually, that there was still a yearning to get out there and to see people again and to have conversations again, even with a mask on whatever that looked like. But again, to have that contact because it's so critical. It's critical for Disney's parks and resorts business, obviously. And since then, they've remained open to some degree. The Disney parks around the world have adjusted how they've needed to adjust and kind of going up and down. But I think we're coming now in March of 2022. We're finally seeing the light out of this pandemic. It's becoming much more endemic to the population, and we're going to deal with it moving forward. But I think our ways forward as industries and businesses now is the freest it's been in two years time.

Ken White

So for an organization that is lacking in this area, what is step one for them?

Chris Caracci

Step one is always, and I do this with every client is, even somebody on that team has brought me in to help them. And that may be a senior leader, it may be somebody in the middle, but the first thing that I do is get all of the senior leaders in the room and say, this is what you've asked me to do. I can help you do this for you, but are all of you on board with doing this? Because if just one of you out of five or ten if one of you doesn't see value in this, then you've automatically handicapped our process. Because you're going to hold us back to whatever extent you have influence as a senior leader in this organization. So I need all of you, and I'm very frank about this with them. I need all of you to line up. And if you can't line up, then I need to ask you, do you really want me here? Do you need to wait until you think you can line up? I mean, I'll help you line up, but if you don't want to, I can't force you. I need you to come with me on this journey, and then I can help you. But if you don't, if senior leadership if executive leadership in any organization doesn't want to make improvement, no matter how much the middle of the organization is screaming for help, it'll never happen because the executive leaders have all the levers. They pull all the levers. And if they're not on board, it's not going to work.

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. If you're looking for a truly transformational experience, 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 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

 Michael Medline
Michael MedlineEpisode 171: March 8, 2022
Leading Transformational Change

Michael Medline

Episode 171: March 8, 2022

Leading Transformational Change

In 2017, when William & Mary graduate Michael Medline became CEO of Empire, he knew the organization was in need of major change. He’d been successful at PepsiCo Canada and as CEO of Canadian Tire but turning around Canada’s second largest grocery retailer, would be a significant challenge. Fast forward to 2022. Medline has executed one of the most effective turnarounds in Canadian retail. Empire and its key brands — Sobey’s, Safeway, IGA, and others — is stronger than ever and people have noticed. Medline was named CEO of the year by the Globe & Mail. He was also named Canada’s most admired CEO. He joins us to talk about leadership, company culture and transformational change.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What changes Michael has seen in students today compared to when he was a student himself
  • What was the state of Empire when Michael started in 2017
  • Which steps did Michael take to try to boost morale across the company
  • How long did it take to convince employees to adopt to the change
  • What was the primary goal of the Project Sunrise plan
  • How to deal with risk when trying to change company culture
  • How did the pandemic affect the plan to turn the store around
  • Why does Michael use sports language in business
  • Why is it important for a leader to be involved with their community
Transcript

Michael Medline: Leading Transformational Change TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

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. In 2017, when William & Mary graduate Michael Medline became CEO of Empire, he knew the organization was in need of major change. He'd been successful at PepsiCo Canada and as CEO of Canadian Tire. But turning around Canada's second-largest grocery retailer would be a significant challenge. Fast forward to 2022. Medline has executed one of the most effective turnarounds in Canadian retail. Empire and its key brands, Sobey's, Safeway, IGA, and others, is stronger than ever, and people have noticed. Medline was named CEO of the Year by the Globe & Mail. He was also named Canada's most admired CEO. He joins us to talk about leadership, company culture, and transformational change. Here's our conversation with the President and CEO of Empire, Michael Medline.

Ken White

Well, Michael, welcome. It's so great to see you in person. Welcome to William & Mary.

Michael Medline

Oh, I'm so glad to be here. Thanks for having me on the show today.

Ken White

Yeah. And you're going to be interacting with a lot of students. That's just going to be so fun.

Michael Medline

Yeah. I always look forward to that. And anything I can impart, but usually I'm learning from others. I'm going to try to impart some wisdom today if I can.

Ken White

When you see and interact with younger professionals, those at the beginning of their career, are they very different from you and your peers at that stage in your career?

Michael Medline

It's hard to compare that many years on, but I do find them more sophisticated, more mature, and that they can take on larger roles than I thought I could take on or some of my peers could at that stage. So I'm really impressed.

Ken White

Yeah. They think differently, but they can get it done.

Michael Medline

I think they're better, and they're just as hard-working and just as ambitious.

Ken White

Yeah, that's great. And I know you'll have a wonderful time meeting all the students. You're meeting the whole group undergrad all the way on up to the executive MBA.

Michael Medline

They're keeping me pretty busy, but I'm enjoying it.

Ken White

That's excellent. That's great. Well, we want to talk to you not only about your career but especially at Empire—some of the things that you've done. You arrived in 2017. What did you see when you first got there?

Michael Medline

I like to look forward, not backward, but in this case, I think there are some learnings from it. And what I saw was a company in total disarray, which you don't see very often. And these things happen. If you're a 115-year-old company, you're going to go through some good times and bad times. And I saw a crisis in leadership, low morale, very regional business, not we're big national company and acting like five different regions. So we lost our way. We didn't have numbers that I would usually associate with running a company. I asked when the weekly operating meeting was, and there were no operating meetings, never talked about brands, and had some very angry customers, especially in Western Canada. But other than that, everything was great.

Ken White

So was that an attraction for you?

Michael Medline

I'd always, in my heart, wanted to work for Empire Company because I knew a CEO there years before, and I knew that the Sobey family were great and they had a good culture. So I'd always kind of in back of my mind thought this would be a great place to work. I never thought of myself as a turnaround person, but I was looking for a job. And in fact, now I probably wouldn't take on anything that isn't a turnaround if I were ever to do anything again, which I probably won't because it was so exciting and used all the skills I'd learned here at business school and all the experiences that I had in my business career.

Ken White

Is retail something that's in your blood?

Michael Medline

It is now. I never thought of myself as a retailer, but I've been doing it for over 20 years now, so I guess it is. But I think retail is really broad. I think an airline is retail. I think in many occasions, banks are retail. So I have a big expansive version of it, not just a grocery store or sporting goods store.

Ken White

Yeah. So, where did you start? You get in, you see it, and you say, I've got to come up with a plan. Where do you begin?

Michael Medline

I've done a lot of work while I was in the interview stages because they were doing a search worldwide search. And what I did is I quietly traveled the country and went in stores and talked to teammates there and did a lot of reading. There's nothing more boring than reading investor call scripts from years before. And I dedicated myself to it. It was tough going, and so I had an idea of what to do, but we did have to. It took us some months to put together and only three months to put together a strategic plan we called Project Sunrise for the first three years to turn around the company. But you knew that wasn't going to take effect. You couldn't change the place right away. And the number one thing I wanted to do is boost morale. When you're at a company, and you're not doing well, you're embarrassed to work for it. Whether you're a cashier or a senior executive, you want to go to a Christmas dinner and be able to talk about what a great place you work for. And so, how do you boost morale quickly when you still don't have the results? And that was the biggest thing I had to take on, other than traveling around, talking, and putting together the plan.

Ken White

Yeah. How did you do that? Because morale is tough.

Michael Medline

Yeah.

Ken White

Yeah.

Michael Medline

I told them what the vision of the future was going to be. Where we're going to be five years from now, and how proud they were going to be and what they were going to do on the journey. I told them it wasn't their fault that we were unsuccessful and that they would be part of the journey to make it successful. And I used a phrase which I've used often talking to my teammates after that, I said, they're a diamond. They just need to be polished and buffed up a bit and then did some little crazy things like sponsored the Blue Jays or the national baseball team and put our logo on the outfield fence. And so when you see that, you go, okay, I guess my company is not going down for the count. And there's something to be proud of. Little things like that, but mostly just talking about the future and how great it was going to be and how they could be part of that.

Ken White

You have over 130,000 employees. What was your strategy, communication-wise, to get to reach everybody?

Michael Medline

Yeah, it was just over-communicate. You can always talk to the backstage employees more easily than you can than the front line. We have 1700 stores across the country. I can't get in all of them in any given year. But messages get around. So if senior management goes into a store in Alberta, in Calgary, everybody in Alberta knows that senior management's in the store. And if you then talk about it and send out a video or speak about how great the store is, everyone hears about it. So it's a thousand things. It's not just one thing. There's no silver bullet in these things.

Ken White

How quickly did people jump on board?

Michael Medline

Almost immediately. Almost immediately. I'm sure there were some doubters. Right. And we've seen this before. It's flavor of the month. This guy won't make it. But I was so ultra-confident in the place. And so they started responding right away. And we started getting results much sooner than I ever could have hoped. Some of them were very not everything you teach Dean at school or the other professors, some of things very crude at first because we didn't have an infrastructure. And so, I knew it would take six years to put an infrastructure that we'd be proud of in place. But I had some advice. Let's put the infrastructure in for five years, then go at it. You can't do that. You've got to start getting results, and your teammates and your customers, and your shareholders expect it.

Ken White

So project sunrise was three years?

Michael Medline

Three years long.

Ken White

What were you hoping? If there was one main goal. What might that have been?

Michael Medline

Unify the country have it run under one leadership team instead of five. We have four regions in the National Oversight Committee. They fought with each other. They had different pricing. Nothing was the same, including when I asked for what's our margin this month? Which region would you like to see?

Ken White

Probably somewhat convenient if you work in a region, but inconvenient for you, the leader.

Michael Medline

Yeah, I couldn't do it. And I had said when I interviewed I would not take the job on unless I had the support of the board and the Sobey family, the great Sobey family, to make it one company and to unite it. And they were 100% behind it. You can make way more change when you're in dire circumstances than you can when you're successful. And sometimes I worry now are we still the risk-takers we used to be when we were trying to turn the company around.

Ken White

Oh, that's a good point. Risk, I mean it can be frightening, not just for the CEO, but people on the team. What if we fail? How do you deal with that when that comes into play?

Michael Medline

Yeah. I knew I was going to get the job, but it was before I was announced, and the company came out with their results. And I remember where I was. I was standing in front of a drugstore, and it was freezing in Toronto that day. And I looked at results, and I called my wife, and I said, I hope I can do this because this was going down. We made, I think, $0.13 that quarter. And last quarter we made over $0.70 in the quarter. And there's a great cash flow business once you start pumping up. But we were going in the wrong direction. So were there times of doubt? Maybe a few dark nights? Not many. Not many. Was I confident in the team? I liked the culture. I like the values. And I thought we could do it because there was so much upside. I look at things, not sort of I go, wow, if we knew what our margin was, then we could really run this company. We could have operating meetings. Wouldn't it be great? If we had better structure and better teammates at the top, what a company this could be. So I always look at things optimistically.

Ken White

Yeah. But there's got to be those times where there's some self-doubt.

Michael Medline

I hope we're making the right call here, and you make decisions without perfect data, and you've got to make them. And at the beginning, I had some key teammates, the interim CFO, the head of HR CHRO, who is still there, and they helped, but it was a small team making a lot of key decisions, and that can be a little scary at times.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Michael Medline 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 Michael Medline, President, and CEO of Empire.

Ken White

And then, after Project Sunrise, you moved into Project Horizon. What did that entail?

Michael Medline

We now were a national company. We're getting decent results. We're throwing off cash. We had the confidence. We had good teammates. But the infrastructure, especially in technology and data and in our store network, was not as strong. So it was a time to invest in the company. And now we're starting to reap those rewards. And this one, there wasn't a burning platform, so you had to get people excited about space productivity in the store or on-shelf availability or renovating stores. It wasn't a moment where you're really questioning whether the company could go on. It's how good the company could be. But we've had great results through Project Horizon, even though we were put off a little bit by some emergency measures during the pandemic, which put us behind, and the team was unbelievable catching back up after we went through the emergencies.

Ken White

Yeah, I actually took the words right out of my mouth. What about the pandemic? What did that do? Did it derail some things?

Michael Medline

I think that if we hadn't been a national company, didn't have the structure and processes and disciplines and people we had in place. It would have been a complete disaster. Instead, I got to tell you that I have far less of a role in the company now, which I'm proud to say, and that my teammates, from the stores to my executive teammates, came through, and I started to realize how important it was that we didn't have to be as centralized. We didn't have to have that top-down, that there were great ideas, especially at the beginning of pandemic, when no one knew anything right what to do. And we were getting ideas from everywhere, and so many were coming from the stores. And I said, okay, we got it now. I feel really good. And in fact, it made the team closer, and it polished their skills. If you could go through this, it really showed your mental in good times. No kidding. I mean, anyone can lead in good times, anyone. But when the chips are down, we saw that so many of our leaders stepped up.

Ken White

And you had some fun.

Michael Medline

Yeah. I mean, I don't like working out of a basement. I went back to the office as soon as I was legally allowed. But you know what? It was fun because everything I learned at school and, as I said earlier, everything that you're trained to do. Are you any good? Can you put it all in place? And that same test for any leader, not just CEOs, but not just in my company. I think many of our competitors did a great job. I think that CEOs across the world stepped up for each other to help when they could. So it really was a heartening event. Wouldn't want to do it again. And the team is a little tired.

Ken White

Yeah, no doubt.

Michael Medline

But they're coming back. But it tested you. So in a weird, sick way, it was somewhat fun because it challenged you.

Ken White

Sure. It's interesting in talking to you. You use the word teammate quite often. And when I look at the news releases and reports and your quotes, there's a lot of sports language. Teammates win, lose, offense, defense. Where does that come from?

Michael Medline

Well, I like sports. I liked playing them when I was younger, and I love watching them. And it unites my family because my kids are all big sports fans with me. But I do think that a lot of people can relate to sports. They can relate to the competition, to the fact that you have to have the back of your teammate. And I like the lexicon. I like the way to thinking of business is highly competitive, to beat your adversaries, and to succeed while playing within the rules and having values. And so I think I evoke it quite a bit, probably more than I even think I do when you mentioned that because I just write or say what I want to say. But then, if you put it together, I guess there are a lot of sports analogies.

Ken White

Well, it's competition, right? It makes sense.

Michael Medline

Yeah. And that is a way to unite the team, too. So we're the second-largest retailer in Canada. We really don't like the largest retailer.

Ken White

Of course.

Michael Medline

And I've not been very good at this. I've really not been helpful in terms of fostering a better relationship. And one of the ways to unite a team is to have a common adversary. I might have to tone it down because I think we're doing better. And I do have respect for the adversary.

Ken White

Sure.

Michael Medline

But it does unite a team to say, look, we're behind, and we got there's someone else that we have to go after. We have to be a better team.

Ken White

I assume you see a big shift in people's attitudes and the culture from when you arrived to now.

Michael Medline

Yeah, I do see a total shift in the attitude. I would say, though, I was very cautious about changing. I really didn't want to change the 115-year-old culture and values that have made the company so successful. And I think it's not right for one leader to impose on that or try to change it too much. So I really studied the culture and values and the people and then just sort of highlighted. I didn't think we were results-oriented enough. I didn't think we were competitive enough, but I used our current values. I didn't change the values. And I love the culture. I just think that we needed to lead the company better and have a better vision and strategy for the company. And to a change culture and values is probably a task that is not going to be successful and certainly will take too long. And so I just embraced the culture values and just highlighted them and stressed them in different ways.

Ken White

Yeah, well, that's a fine line, right? Because people could take it as criticism if it goes too far.

Michael Medline

Correct.

Ken White

Yeah.

Michael Medline

Not many companies are as successful as ours had been over a long period of time. There's some good things there.

Ken White

Yeah.

Michael Medline

Don't throw them out.

Ken White

Yeah. You do a lot of work in the community. You work for nonprofits. You're on boards. Why is that important for a CEO?

Michael Medline

Well, I think at a certain point when you're first in your career, you're working so hard and trying to learn. You don't have time to. If you do, you're a better person than I am. I didn't have time when I was early in my career, but I always tried to coach kids teams and do things like that as my kids were growing up. But then I just felt I enjoy it, first of all. And I felt that if I could add anything to those causes, that it was pretty well my duty to do so. And if I felt I wasn't adding anything, it wasn't really the cause. They were already good without me. And so, it was places where I thought I could add value. And I've learned a lot from it. Anytime you go out, and you meet other people, and you talk about brand, or you talk about how to treat your teammates, etcetera,  you're learning a lot. So I felt it was exposed me to other business leaders and other organizations in a good way. So I got something out of it as well.

Ken White

So what's ahead? What do you have planned for the next couple of years?

Michael Medline

Well, we are nowhere near perfect. We have a long way to go. But I like where we're going. I don't think we'll do another three-year plan. I think that's for turnarounds, in my opinion, that we are a much more mature company. But that doesn't mean we should be any less audacious. And that's my number one message I sent to the teams and to our board of directors. I'm worried, will we be able to take the risk in a smart way that we did before? Or do we just kind of rest on our laurels. And every single day, I ask myself, when I wake up, are you going to go for it? And can we make this company? The goal is to be the greatest retailer in Canada history and then the greatest company in Canada history. So just kind of sitting around and being happy with where we are is not going to do it, but that's what concerns me the most is that we become a bit complacent, and I'm being in my role now over five years, I can't become complacent, so I'm always trying to challenge myself and make sure that I'm as passionate about the business as I've ever been. I think I am. I think I'm more excited now because I wasn't a turnaround guy. Now I get to do the great things when you have a great infrastructure and a great team.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Michael Medline, 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 your life and career are in need of a transformation, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Michael Medline, 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

 Patrice Lincoln
Patrice LincolnEpisode 170: February 16, 2022
The Hot Job Market

Patrice Lincoln

Episode 170: February 16, 2022

The Hot Job Market

If you're looking for a new job, now is the time to look. Due to a number of factors, we're experiencing the hottest job market in decades. Salaries are up, the number of openings across sectors and industries has increased, benefits are improving, and employers are becoming more flexible. The news is great if you're a job seeker. Patrice Lincoln is a career coach. She's the Director of Graduate Career Advising and Education at William & Mary's School of Business. She's on the front lines in the job search environment helping graduate business students land the right positions. She joins us to discuss our current hot job market, and how - if you're seeking a new opportunity - you can succeed.

Podcast (audio)

Patrice Lincoln: The Hot Job Market TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How is the job market different this year than in years past
  • What sectors of the job market has The Great Recession affected
  • What is important to people who are seeking a new career
  • How have companies responded to employees' request for flexibility in the workplace
  • How has recruiting changed during the pandemic
  • When is a good time to seek a new role with a new organization
  • What steps should one take when looking to change industries
  • What qualities are employers looking for in potential candidates
Transcript

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, if you're looking for a new job, now is the time to look. Due to a number of factors, we're experiencing the hottest job market in decades. Salaries are up, the number of openings across sectors and industries has increased, benefits are improving, and employers are becoming more flexible. The news is great if you're a job seeker. Patrice Lincoln is a career coach. She's the Director of Graduate Career Advising and Education at William & Mary's School of Business. She's on the front lines in the job search environment, helping graduate business students land the right positions. She joins us to discuss our current hot job market and how if you're seeking a new opportunity, you can succeed. Here's our conversation with career coach Patrice Lincoln.

Ken White

Patrice, thanks so very much for joining us. I know you are absolutely swamped right now. How has it been for you this academic year versus maybe some years past in terms of volume and activity?

Patrice Lincoln

Volume has been incredible. Students are just coming in one after the other. They all are coming in for different reasons, but it is busy in career management.

Ken White

So we hear and we're reading about this great job market. Is that what you're seeing and you're experiencing?

Patrice Lincoln

For sure. Right now we are actually 20% above where we were at this time last year. And then to put that into perspective, we are 16% above where we were pre-COVID in terms of full-time acceptances. And so we're seeing that companies are really pushing to get those students in early, signing them and having them sign that dotted line and securing their full time as well as internship opportunities.

Ken White

So 20% means that you've got more students that have jobs in their pockets while they're finishing up their degree than you did a few years ago.

Patrice Lincoln

For sure. Acceptance, yeah, for sure. So that's really good.

Ken White

We hear a lot about the great resignation. We've talked about it on the podcast. Is that real, and are you seeing it affecting jobs?

Patrice Lincoln

It is real, as you can probably see just by driving down the road, that a lot of that is in hospitality, restaurants and hotels. So a lot of that great resignation is coming from that. Not as hard hit in the white collar professionals, but it's still people over the pandemic really struggled because companies had laid people off due to the pandemic, and then those that were left were left with a bigger workload. So people are really starting to reassess what is important to them. One thing that is adding to the Great Resignation is the baby boomers are retiring. People that would have continued to work later are not going past retirement age. And then there are early retirees. They've just really decided this is not worth it. We can bow out. So that's leaving a big gap.

Ken White

Yeah. We've never seen anything quite like this, have we?

Patrice Lincoln

Never, never.

Ken White

When you said what's important, what is important to many professionals, whether they're younger, mid level or mid career, what seems to be important to people when they're looking at maybe leaving or seeking a new job or career?

Patrice Lincoln

I think one of the biggest things is flexibility. So people want to work hybrid or work from home, and especially those that have small children or caring for an elder. They really need that flexibility to work on their own terms, work the hours they need to work. So they are looking for more vacation time. One of the big things that companies are offering now that I'm seeing is just a bigger area of mental health awareness. And so mental health support for those workers that have been through the pandemic, people are just done. They're tired, they're burnt out. And so looking for companies that are offering that support, they're looking for higher wages. Why should I work for this company when I can work for this company for a significant amount of money with the flexibility, the adaptability? Another big thing that our current students are looking for is really that social impact and sustainability. That's been a huge trend over the past couple of years. And I've really never seen anything like it this year compared to this year where students are saying, I want to work for a company I believe in.

Ken White

Yeah. And when you're talking students, you're not necessarily talking 21 year olds. These are graduate students.

Patrice Lincoln

Graduate students, correct.

Ken White

Yeah, you're talking about 40s.

Patrice Lincoln

Absolutely. And it's important to the vast majority of them. They want to feel good about the company. They want to feel good about their leadership. They want to know that their company is doing good for the world, whether it's environment, whether it's equity and inclusion or just that corporate social responsibility.

Ken White

So you mentioned the importance of flexibility. Are companies and employers hearing that and doing something about it?

Patrice Lincoln

I think they are starting to hear it. So with the pandemic came a lot of hiring freezes. And so companies were not able to recruit or hire, which really helped cause that burnout with the people who are left. And so they really need to kind of retool how they go about recruiting people and the same benefits that were important two years ago or not even on the radar anymore.

Ken White

You mentioned how they recruit people. Has that changed the process?

Patrice Lincoln

So one of the things that has changed dramatically over the years is the applicant tracking system. So here is artificial intelligence helping us do our jobs better. And what it really is doing is it's preventing the candidates from meeting the recruiters. And so the recruiters really need to figure out how to get past that applicant tracking system because they're missing out on a huge majority of people that would be well suited for those jobs, but they're not making it through the word match algorithm that they have.

Ken White

Yeah. For those who don't know that, can you explain how that works? The word match?

Patrice Lincoln

Sure. So for most large companies, they're going to have something called the applicant tracking system, the ATS. And it's all done by artificial intelligence. So your resume goes in and gets parsed, and there are certain keywords that the hiring manager or recruiter selects as important. And if you don't have that word exactly on your resume, the artificial intelligence is not smart enough yet to figure out that a project manager is the same thing as having project management. And so because it's not 100% word match, you get passed over on that. And so there is a deficit in how many students or how many candidates are passing through that applicant tracking system. And so one way to counter that is I tell our students, please go back and do that tried and true networking. Really go back and meet with people within the company. Try to get your face and your name out there. That likability factor is huge. But when you have a hiring manager walking your resume down to HR versus the machine, saying good fit, not good fit. That makes the world a difference.

Ken White

In terms of and no one likes to network. I don't think right.

Patrice Lincoln

There's like 2% of the class will tell me they love it.

Ken White

It feels like of all the human beings I've met, most of them say I'd really rather not do that. Do you coach your clients when it comes to the systems to actually go back and write the resume so that it does match the job description?

Patrice Lincoln

Yes. We've tried to pick up some new tools. One of the newest tools we have is called Job Scan, and it does just that. It takes the name of the company and it tells the student or the candidate what applicant tracking system they're using and tips about that particular applicant tracking system. So that's a brand new tool for us. We haven't rolled it out fully, but it is pretty incredible in terms of making these small changes on your resume can get your foot in the door for this particular job description. That's going to take time for students to go back then and tailor every resume for every job they're doing. It's always age old quantity versus quality. Your first year, it's typically quality. You don't even know what you want yet. Recruiting season comes so early, throw it all out there, see what sticks. Second year, we really migrate over to that quality versus quantity. So spend the time on this particular job description. And so those quick applies. Quick applies. We're seeing less and less success with those because they're not tailoring their resumes to that particular job.

Ken White

We'll continue our conversation with Patrice Lincoln 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 each 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 Patrice Lincoln, Director of Career Advising and Education at William & Mary's School of Business.

Ken White

You mentioned earlier people are tired, and there's no question in every industry people are wiped out. It's affecting how we innovate and how we work. If you're tired, is that a good time to seek a new role with a new organization?

Patrice Lincoln

Yes and no. I mean, the first thing you need to do is raise the white flag and say, I'm tired. What can we do here in my current position to make things better? And that's where that mental health support is coming in with a lot of companies just trying to retain their employees. And if they're feeling like they're not being cared for, they're not being heard, then the next thing you need to do is really spend that time getting your resume up to shape and getting excited about what type of work would you really like to do if you had your pick right now compared to where you were two years ago and you just needed a paycheck to survive.

Ken White

If one of our listeners wants to change industries, what's a good way to start that search? What are some of the steps they should take?

Patrice Lincoln

That is a great question. So really taking a look at what jobs are out there. There's so many different jobs out there now that just didn't exist pre-pandemic. We're seeing a lot on the equity and inclusion pace. As you know, the country has been struggling with that for the last several years, and we're seeing that employees want that in the company. And companies are now having Executive Director director level roles in corporate social responsibility, in diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging. So those are all things that are important if you're interested in going into something like that. We have a lot of students always coming in that want to go into that space. And years before it was there are no jobs that are out there right now out of school that you can get for something like that. Get into a company that you enjoy their mission, their vision in another function and work your way over. Well, you don't need to do that anymore. And we're also seeing a lot of our students who want to job shift. They're finding it easier because companies are looking for how do we do things differently? How do we do things that are out of the box? And the only way they're going to get there is by hiring people that have a diversity in thought and background. And so no longer is it somebody in finance. You have to have five years of finance to get in here. Companies are willing to train you as long as you come with the basic skills. They can train you on how to do it, but they can't train you on how to bring strategic thinking without bias. Right. So that's something that students are coming with.

Ken White

That's a bit of a shift

Patrice Lincoln

It's a big shift.

Ken White

Yeah. What other specifics are do you see employers seeking today? First of all, I assume they just want people. Number one, get me some people. But after that, what are they in general?

Patrice Lincoln

So according to the latest GMAC Recruiter survey, 73% of recruiters are looking for versatility in skills. So they're not really looking for those hard skills anymore, although those help if you have them. Communication is the number one. Since the pandemic we're seeing digital savviness. You have to be digital savvy or you're not going to survive in this world when your entire team is remote. They're also looking for employees who can be flexible. So not just the other way around, but employees being flexible. So you can work from home, but we're going to need you at least once a quarter in the office or we have a big event coming up. You're going to have to come in for that. And the final thing that they're really looking for is strategic thinking as I was saying, strategic thinking without bias, but not just that strategic thinking, but how hiring students or hiring candidates who can actually have an impact on that. So drive the great strategic thinking they're thinking about drive that home and really implement that rather than just thinking about it.

Ken White

The fact that we're looking for people to lead remote teams, that's not all new. I mean, we've had Salesforces all over the world and all over the country before, but in some respects, it is somewhat new. What do you see employers? What are their concerns in that arena when it comes to hiring? I mean, not all of us have experience leading remote teams.

Patrice Lincoln

Right. I think you're going to see companies coming up with specific training on how to lead a remote team. Some people work better remote than other people, and that's just a fact. And so having checks and balances in terms of not necessarily are you working eight to five? Because as we know, our days have shifted, especially with parents who are caring for children during the pandemic and all the kids who were home from school. But are they getting their jobs done? And so how do you check in with those individual people? So for me, I had a diverse team in terms of how they like to be checked in. So I would call one person on either FaceTime or the cell phone while I was having a ten minute power walk in between meetings. Other ones would want to be on Zoom. And so we do a quick Zoom check in. And so we just made sure we were staying connected during that whole pandemic. So it wasn't like they felt lost and didn't have a chance to ask questions. It's not like you can just pop into somebody's office if you have a question. And if you forget to ask them all the questions at that time, you poke your head back in. Well, now you have to actually call them back or reconnect with them or chat with them on Teams or whatever your instant messaging platform is.

Ken White

Yeah.

Patrice Lincoln

And so just understanding how each employee really wants to feel connected. And I think that goes a long way to I had to onboard two new employees, 100% remote, and that's a hard thing to introduce them to people outside of our department, people within the company. And so I really had to make a conscious effort on, hey, let's have a Zoom link with this group so that you can meet them because you don't necessarily have a lot of day to day overlap with them. But it's really nice to know people that you're working with. So when you do need them, it's not like a cold call.

Ken White

Yeah. And it's interesting how it is changing culture. Job searching, to me, is one of the worst things. It's just so difficult. It's on your mind when you're looking 24 hours a day. It's difficult. And now it is an exciting market, but the world is somewhat unknown. What advice do you share with people seeking right now to kind of get through the process and land that successful you know that opportunity?

Patrice Lincoln

That is a great question as well. I'd say having that resilience. And so you're hearing this is the best job market in 20 years. It doesn't mean that you're going to get hired in a week's time. You have to put the time and energy into your resume and so work with somebody on that. And what you think you are understanding because you're putting it down in bullets, somebody else might not pick up on it. And rather than have it be your job duties, what were your accomplishments? What had a big impact on the company's bottom line? Because that's what management is interested in is what kind of impact can you have? And then they're also looking for ways that you can address your leadership skills, ways that you can address your flexibility or adaptability or innovation. So we're talking about innovation. If you want to get into one of the tech companies, which is one of the big industries that's hiring like crazy, they want to see innovation and they want to know how can you scale it?

Ken White

So be smart and hang tough, though, right?

Patrice Lincoln

Be smart, hang tough, keep trying and network. I really can't say enough about networking. So if you find a company that you love. Reach out to people for informational interviews even if there's no connection, reach out to them and ask if you can have ten minutes of their time so that you can get a better understanding of what the company culture is like. And is it really a good fit for you?

Ken White

That's our conversation with Patrice Lincoln 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 your life or career is in need of a transformation, check out the William & Mary MBA program at wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Patrice Lincoln and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Megan Cunningham
Megan CunninghamEpisode 169: January 22, 2022
Brand Storytelling in 2022

Megan Cunningham

Episode 169: January 22, 2022

Brand Storytelling in 2022

Every aspect of business deals with continuous change, but one area has constantly evolved from the beginning: Marketing. The audience, tools, and channels change rapidly as marketing continues to grow in terms of complexity. It wasn’t that long ago that reaching your audience was as easy as placing an ad in the newspaper. But now, marketing is more sophisticated, strategic, and segmented than ever. And when done right, it’s tied to the organization’s mission and purpose. And while marketers work to manage the changes and opportunities in front of them, our guest says one element is critically important to successful marketing in the year ahead: Brand Storytelling. Megan Cunningham is the founder and CEO of Magnet Media, a creative studio that uses brand storytelling and data to drive business results for some of the top brands in the world. She says brand storytelling has the potential to do great things for marketers and the products, services, and organizations they represent.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How long Magnet Media has been in the business of Brand Storytelling
  • Why Brand Storytelling is so important right now
  • What is the audience's role in brand storytelling
  • How important is length and quality when telling a brand story
  • What are the marketing trends for 2022
  • How should smaller organizations stay abreast of marketing trends
  • What role did the pandemic play in the further need for brand storytelling
Transcript

Megan Cunningham: Brand Storytelling in 2022 TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, every aspect of business deals with continuous change, but one area has constantly evolved from the beginning, marketing. The audience, tools, and channels change rapidly as marketing continues to grow in terms of complexity. It wasn't that long ago that reaching your audience was as easy as placing an ad in the newspaper. But now, marketing is more sophisticated, strategic, and segmented than ever. And when done right, it's tied to the organization's mission and purpose. And while marketers work to manage the changes and opportunities in front of them, our guest says one element is critically important to successful marketing in the year ahead—brand storytelling. Megan Cunningham is the founder and CEO of Magnet Media, a creative studio that uses brand storytelling and data to drive business results for some of the top brands in the world. She says brand storytelling has the potential to do great things for marketers and the products, services, and organizations they represent. Here's our conversation with the founder and CEO of Magnet Media, Megan Cunningham.

Ken White

Megan, great to see you. Thanks for joining us on the podcast.

Megan Cunningham

Ken, thanks so much for having me here this morning.

Ken White

I'm excited to talk with you. I've looked at Magnet Media. I've seen your background doing some really exciting things. For our listeners, tell us about Magnet Media and what it and you do.

Megan Cunningham

We are essentially the OG of brand storytelling. We just celebrated our 20th anniversary in business, and while it's been a lot of highs and lows over the last two decades, I really feel like brand storytelling is having a moment right now, and we're in a privileged position where we're growing at an ever-accelerating rate.

Ken White

Why is it having a moment? It's been around a long time. But it is being talked about now. Why? What's causing that?

Megan Cunningham

I think there's a number of dynamics, but I'll just focus on two. I think that when the pandemic hit, there was a real revelation at a lot of large enterprises that their supposed digital transformation that they felt they had already gone through was really in its first inning, and that having a website that they bought a bunch of Google AdWords to drive traffic to was not really being digitally transformed, that there were a lot of other opportunities for innovation that they hadn't tapped or hadn't taken seriously. And a lot of that, frankly, falls under the umbrella of brand storytelling from our perspective. The second is that I feel like Mission and Purpose, which have been kicked around the board room and discussed and debated for many years, are finally arriving as a not nice to have, but a must-have, and so there's been a lot of indicators in prior years, even on the global business level. Right. With Larry Fink's letter at BlackRock and conversations at Davos, and endless Ted talks, that mission and purpose is really a key driver of value in the business community. I still think that a lot of people, frankly, we're paying lip service to that or avoiding the topic altogether. And what the last two years has shown us is that that's a real mandate for attracting and retaining talent in addition to attracting and retaining customers.

Ken White

That's what I was going to ask the customers. Where does that audience fit in when it comes, and it's a tough question, I realize. But where does the audience fit in in terms of storytelling?

Megan Cunningham

I think it's like a tree falls in the woods if no one's heard it, even did it even fall. Similarly, what's the story told if no one's ever heard it or viewed it? It's an open question, existentially. So I think the audience is absolutely a key element to creating value in storytelling. And I think that there's been a misnomer for many years that either it's all about audience, and there is no actual real storytelling or craft there. Right. And that, I would say, as evidenced in the era of content farms where people were just sort of flooding the internet with articles and poorly written sort of blog posts to try to hijack search engine topics. Right. And drive traffic to their lame-looking microsite at its worst moment. At the same time, I think that what we found over the evolution of brand storytelling as it's become more strategic as it's become more thoughtful that you can now see branded content that rivals traditional media and entertainment. And that to me, is where the future lies, really aspiring to well-crafted stories that are created in partnership with your audience, cocreated even, and that resonate and are searched for and shared socially and celebrated instead of advertising in its traditional forum that is increasingly blocked and skipped and avoided.

Ken White

Do you think often about the length of the story? I know personally, I love to watch YouTube, and we've got 5 seconds, right. 5 seconds to hook the audience. And some campaigns do it so well. And I think, wow, what another hurdle in the storytelling realm. So do you think much about length?

Megan Cunningham

I think duration is interesting. Duration has been something that has been in some ways overthought if that makes sense. I do think that there is value in short-form content. I also think there's value in long-form content. And some of the most impactful brand stories are not just sort of little gifs or social posts, but they are full-length episodic content that may exist on YouTube that may be celebrated in Spotify as a podcast. Right. I mean, there's lots of ways to bring brand stories to life. And I think that, again, the original vision was like, oh, we have to kind of like adapt our story for this really short attention span audience. I think that sometimes works, but it's not the only way in which you can execute on-brand stories by any means.

Ken White

In terms of video production and the overall quality of the look. Does it need to look great? Can it be pedestrian looking like someone off the street shot it? Where does it need to lie?

Megan Cunningham

I think it depends. And I know that that's not the greatest of answers to any question, but it's the truth. I think that when you are engaging with authentic content created in partnership with influencers or brand ambassadors, people do want something that is real, feeling real. It feels like it was shot on a selfie Cam or that you're talking about this pet food while walking your dog or something that's really like in market, infield, and that feels raw and rough, almost like you're catching a weathercast like from the eye of the storm. Right. That's like you're really there. You're getting a first-hand experience. It's believable. It's trusted because it's witnessed by someone who is experiencing something themselves and telling you personal story about that experience. I think that there's on the other end of the spectrum of production values, real value in things that are glamorous and that are shot on a produced level. And I think that we've seen that work very successfully with drone cameras and celebrities and things that just excite the audience so much because they know that they're going to be taken on a journey and entertained and informed in a really dazzling way. And so I think both of those have meaning and usefulness in the sort of customer journey or employee journey if you're doing something that's aimed at new recruits, but it's not a one-size-fits-all if that makes sense.

Ken White

I find it interesting how sophisticated that the customer and the viewer have become. I mean, I worked in television a million years ago. No one knew how video worked. They had no idea. They were impressed with pretty much anything. Now we all shoot our own stuff. We have iPhones, and we know how to create videos. That's a sophisticated audience now that really looks at production quality, don't they?

Megan Cunningham

I do think that is the case. And I think that there's been an emergence in even Hollywood productions of complimentary parallel content series like, for example, you'll see something launched a series on HBO and almost always now they have a stay tuned for after the episode where we dialogue with the cast and the directors, and they will really do what normally pundits would have done, where they analyze the episode and separately you also have pundits that are frankly supported by the show. And HBO has commissioned original podcasts from The New York Times, and New York Times has been paid by HBO to create content now. So it's this whole merging of traditional media and independent commentators and audience members, all participating in, again, a cocreated way around the creation and celebration of a brand. And I think that's super exciting.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Megan Cunningham in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The full-time MBA program at William & Mary is one of the nation's best, according to The Princeton Review and its Best Business Schools for 2022. William & Mary's full-time MBA program was named Princeton Review's top ten in five different categories, including Best MBA Professors, Best MBA Students, Best Resources for Minority Students, Best MBA for Human Resources, and Most Family Friendly MBA Program. You can find the Princeton Review's Best Business Schools for 2022, where you buy your books. And you can learn more about the William & Mary MBA program by visiting wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Megan Cunningham.

Ken White

So storytelling has been around always been important, very important today as we're going into the new year. What else do you see in terms of marketing? That we should keep our eyes open? What might we see?

Megan Cunningham

I mean, I feel like those that are winning are moving quickly and nimbly at this challenge of digital transformation and innovation. And they are not taking themselves too seriously. They are not sort of breaking their arm, patting themselves on the back for doing something that was sort of seen as innovative, maybe last year or the year before. I think that they're constantly evolving and committed to continuous improvement. And so underneath that sort of theme and strategy, I would say test and scale is the name of the game. It's taking a look at things like if you've been in the podcasting space and you feel like, wow, that was like a big breakthrough for us. We're now able as a brand to produce a podcast like so many of our clients have. Now let's take it to clubhouse. Let's make it a live recorded experience. Let's put it on replay there and really adapt as the audience is moving into new networks and environments. If you've been successful at events and gatherings, and it was a big transformation for you to go from live dinner parties and trade shows to virtual experiences that had similar dynamics. Think about where you could show up in the metaverse. And so I think just constantly moving forward and thinking about what's next, what's new, and what's next. That's the role that we play with brands at Magnet Media. And I'll say there is one thing that we come out with every year that is called the State of the Story Trends Report, and we drop that in various chapters now. It used to be once a year at annual trends. It's now sort of an ongoing quarterly release that we've structured based on the fact that things are changing at such a rapid pace that we want to keep people abreast of those changes.

Ken White

So if I'm a small business owner, if I'm a part of a small organization, my head just exploded as you're saying that how in the world can I possibly keep up with that? What advice do you give? Maybe smaller organizations who have to be in this realm, they have to be playing in the game but may not have the expertise or the people on board.

Megan Cunningham

I think the simplest thing you can do as a small business owner is put a mirror to your organization. And by that, I mean survey your customers and survey your team and really get a sense of where the puck is moving for them. What are they curious about? What's a change that they've made in their own consumption habits over the past 6 12 18 months? And ensure that or what are they thinking ahead about testing themselves? Are they increasing their podcast listenership and retiring their YouTube consumption? Whatever it is, that's sort of a change. I think knowing that from your own customer base and your own team is very vital as a data point, and then that to me gives you really like reading into the tea leaves that gives you the basis for your content strategy. You don't have to be everywhere by any means. In fact, one of my advisors once said to me this known mantra of you can be anywhere, but you can't be everywhere. Right. And I think that's very true when it comes to brand storytelling and posting and building community on these different channels.

Ken White

And we definitely see that, don't we? We see organizations trying to be everywhere. And if you're everywhere, nothing is effective. Right. When you go that route. Interesting. So taking it to that next level, thinking greater, thinking bigger, moving on. And as you said, being nimble, what else do you think we might see in terms of marketing and promotion in the new year?

Megan Cunningham

I think there's going to be continued development of real community on behalf of businesses. And I think that again, we've seen this already where there are sort of cherished gatherings in different sectors that people gravitate towards and look forward to, and they're more than just, oh yeah, I have to go to that annoying trade show, and it's going to be exhausting and whatever. They're actually looking forward to connecting with their friends to learning new things from fresh content. And I think that sort of a well-run experience is something that is at the foundation of a community. But that what we've learned is that a community is also ongoing, and you're providing opportunities for members of that community to connect with one another. Whether it be through setting up a Slack or a Reddit channel, or a standalone app providing that opportunity and reasons for people to connect with one another, that, to me, is a big asset that businesses can be developing and creating that will add to their value and their sustainability.

Ken White

What role did the pandemic play in the experience and in the community and our need for those?

Megan Cunningham

A huge one, probably the biggest one that we've seen, frankly, since the birth of the internet. I think that I've been interviewed repeatedly about sort of events and gatherings and sort of what's on the horizon. And I'll say there's really four reasons why we gather, whether it be on a personal level or on a professional level. And I think when it comes to marketing and business leaders, thinking about those four reasons of why people are coming together is really critical. I'll just quickly list them. It's exclusive access, unique experiences, social connection, and a solution to a challenge. And to me, the more you can kind of layer in those four value props into your experience or event, the better off you will be in terms of perceived value from the participants.

Ken White

So as we wrap up last question, people thinking about the new year, their brand, their stories, where they need to go, connecting with the customers. What last piece of advice do you have for them as we move into the new year?

Megan Cunningham

I think being intentional about your own objectives and sort of what value are you putting out in the world? What gift are you giving to your constituents, whether that be to your team, your investors, your customers? I think that, to me, is like a great place to start in terms of focus because it can be very overwhelming. And I think that is the case for all of us. We work with many of the world's leading brands, and it's a huge privilege. But I often hear that sort of like swirl and sort of chaos is cluttering people's thinking and decision making. It can be like analysis paralysis. So I do think that just thinking through as we have hopefully time to take a break over the coming weeks and months, thinking through what is your purpose and mission and how does that inform your choices? To me, that's a great way to start.

Ken White

That's our discussion with Megan Cunningham, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. William & Mary's MBA program is among the best in the nation. In Best Business Schools for 2022 by the Princeton Review, the William & Mary MBA program was named in the top ten list in five categories, including best Professors, Best Students, Best Resources for Minority Students, Most Family Friendly, and Best MBA for Human Resources. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary by visiting wm.edu. Finally, 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 to our guest, Megan Cunningham, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Jennifer Engelhardt
Jennifer EngelhardtEpisode 168: January 5, 2022
Work Reimagined

Jennifer Engelhardt

Episode 168: January 5, 2022

Work Reimagined

As we’ve seen, the pandemic has changed just about everything; the way we live, the way we communicate, and no doubt the way we work. Transformational change is taking place at work and it will continue for the foreseeable future. And at the center of the changes: People. How can employers create a new work environment that attracts, retains, and satisfies the best people? One organization has its finger on the pulse of the evolution of work - EY. The global organization recently conducted a study that included over 1000 business leaders who shared their strategies to reimagine work. In addition, EY surveyed over 16,000 employees worldwide. The result: A report titled “Work Reimagined - How are companies redefining work with humans at the center.” Jennifer Engelhardt is a principal at EY. She joins us to discuss EY’s Work Reimagined report, and the implications and opportunities that come along with a new work environment.

Podcast (audio)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How the pandemic has shifted the influence employees have with their employers
  • How many employees prefer to work remotely versus those who wish to return to the office
  • What new behaviors leaders need to adopt
  • What EY’s report says about fairness and equity in the workplace
  • How employees and employers should think about workplace flexibility
  • What companies are looking for in collaboration tools
  • Why employers should focus on wellness for their employees
  • How employees feel workplace culture has improved after the pandemic
  • Do employees want to restart business travel
  • What are the major takeaways from EY’s report
Transcript

Jennifer Engelhardt: Work Reimagined TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business. The podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, as we've seen, the pandemic has changed just about everything, the way we live, the way we communicate, and no doubt the way we work. Transformational change is taking place at work, and it will continue for the foreseeable future and at the center of the changes people. How can employers create a new work environment that attracts, retains, and satisfies the best people? Well, one organization has its finger on the pulse of the evolution of work EY. The global organization recently conducted a study that included over 1000 business leaders who shared their strategies to reimagine work. In addition, EY surveyed over 16000 employees worldwide. The result, a report titled Work Reimagined, how are companies redefining work with humans at the center. Jennifer Engelhardt is a principal at EY. She joins us to discuss EY's Work Reimagined report and the implications and opportunities that come along with a new work environment. Here's our conversation with Jennifer Engelhardt.

Ken White

Jennifer, nice to see you. Thanks very much for taking time with us.

Jennifer Engelhardt

Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Ken White

And you taught a class this morning. How was that?

Jennifer Engelhardt

I did. I love being in front of the students and just seeing how resilient they are with everything that's going on and just hearing their feedback and fresh voices and perspectives. So it was great.

Ken White

When you meet William & Mary students, you kind of think future is going to be okay.

Jennifer Engelhardt

Yeah, you do. You do, indeed.

Ken White

Yeah. It's fun to be around them. No doubt. Thanks very much for sharing EY's report; work Reimagine Employer Survey 2021. And I like the subtitle how our companies redefining work with humans at the center. This is different from other reports like this because it's very people-centered. I assume that was very intentional.

Jennifer Engelhardt

Yes, talent is, I think historically, may not have been the most nurtured asset of an organization, but that shift is definitely happening. And it's great to see.

Ken White

Are you seeing a shift in terms of the influence employees have with their employers? Now that through the pandemic?

Jennifer Engelhardt

Absolutely. And I was just talking to the students about just how the role of the employee and the employer has changed. When our grandparents went to work, they would go to work, show up, clock out, and then go home and be done. And now we expect so much more of our employers. We want them to. Students are coming out of school saying, I want to work for a carbon-neutral company. I want to work for a company where the board looks like my graduating class. I want to work for a company where my leaders are transparent about their promotion decisions and espouse my values, and have a focus on wellness, not just physical wellness, but emotional wellness, financial wellness. So the role of the employer has changed quite a bit, and that change has been accelerated, I think, and compounded by everything that's happening with social justice and with the political landscape and obviously with the pandemic.

Ken White

Yeah. No question in the report talks a little bit about this. Are employers on the same page as employees in general?

Jennifer Engelhardt

It varies so much by different dimensions. The survey talks about where are the biggest disconnects, and I think the survey shows three personas, really. One is the people who want to stay remote 100% remote, which is a small number; I think it's around 7%. We have about, I think, 20% or so who want to be back in the office full time. And then the balance is what we call this hybrid hopeful. And what's interesting is that people want flexibility, not just in terms of where they work, but even more so in when they work. As a parent myself, just having to tutor my kids all last year, and still, we need that flexibility. And people are demanding that some companies are saying, come back or else, and people are saying, see you. So it's something that trend is, I think if you've heard the term with a great resignation.

Ken White

Absolutely.

Jennifer Engelhardt

Yeah. So that's definitely a phenomenon that's been a byproduct of the pandemic.

Ken White

It's a totally different landscape. Yeah, no question. Flexibility does seem to be the key. But leadership is also throughout the report and how leaders need to take on some new behaviors, such as what moving forward?

Jennifer Engelhardt

Yeah. I think historically; they've been called soft skills. I don't like that term. I call them behavioral competencies. So the ability to DENI space, the ability to create an inclusive culture, the ability to be agile and react to new technology. If you're the CIO, what new technologies, all these technologies being brought up so fast, which ones do we want to integrate and build into our platform? So yeah, I think it's changing very much. And there's a lot of that's happening in that space.

Ken White

Fairness and equity seems to be a big umbrella, sort of the umbrella over all of this. How do we make all of these changes moving forward? And be fair, what are some of the things you saw in the collection of the data and in the report about fairness and equity and what companies can do?

Jennifer Engelhardt

Yeah. It's interesting. So when we look at equity, we're looking at more and more at diverse segments. And historically, the focus has been primarily on gender and race, and ethnicity. Now we're looking at things like diversibilities, military status. We're finding that there's actually a lot of unconscious bias in job postings. I had a friend come back from Afghanistan with amazing experience. These adaptive skills, things like being able to function very well under pressure, being able to manage conflict. These adaptive skills are much more important, and experience moving tons of material around the Middle East and managing multimillion-dollar budgets. And he says, I can't find a job I'm qualified for. So working with clients to reduce bias in job postings and all along, the hire to retire, schedule, or cycle. But I do think that one of the things that's really notable is that the focus on EQ versus IQ because if you don't have the correct mindset and you don't come across as an inclusive leader, if you're not transparent if you don't really hold your company's values, show that publicly and react in a certain way that blends with the values of your organization. People say this is not authentic.

Ken White

Yeah.

Jennifer Engelhardt

If you say you're a diverse and inclusive organization, but your board is all white men. No one's going to believe you.

Ken White

So we could see some very different leaders moving forward.

Jennifer Engelhardt

Absolutely.

Ken White

I think the report is just so interesting, and it breaks down into various segments that EY has looked at, and one of them is addressing the desire for flexibility in the new normal. And we talked about that just a little bit. But what does flexibility entail when employees and employers are thinking about that term?

Jennifer Engelhardt

I think it's where they work and when they work. And so we're seeing a lot of I had a client, a regional bank located in Minneapolis right before the pandemic. They were doing a location strategy to decide if they wanted to open another regional headquarters in Austin or Atlanta. And since then, they have decided not to do it at all because the thing that the pandemic has done is it's accelerated this transformation of the talent value chain. What we thought was going to happen in ten years has happened in ten months. And for the first time in human history, geography is no longer the primary driver of where people work. Your next best employee might be in Bangalore or Liverpool. So we're seeing where people work and when they work. So on the real estate point, you can see it reflected in the corporate real estate market. Right. There's so many organizations who are moving out, and there's definitely been a lot of visibility and focus on that in the markets, but just reconfiguring office spaces for safety, having collaborative spaces, downsizing, and then people at home, they want that flexibility in terms of giving me the right set up so that I can look professional online so that I can have my Internet compensated. And then when they work. So with caregivers, child caregivers, elder care, people need that flexibility in when they work. So they're looking at flexibility on those two fronts.

Ken White

Yeah. You sort of touched on one of the segments, the approach to workplace safety and real estate. So it looks like the redesign of office is happening and will continue to happen.

Jennifer Engelhardt

Yes, especially with the Biden administration and the mandate around vaccination or testing. So we are working with a lot of our clients in that space right now on how best to respond to that.

Ken White

Interesting.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Jennifer Engelhardt in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The great resignation continues as record numbers of people are leaving their jobs. Gallup reports almost half of all professionals in the U.S. Have their eyes on other opportunities. Well, if your company or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's, part-time MBA, online MBA, and executive MBA programs are all designed for the professional who works full-time. So the employee and the organization both benefit from the experience. Employees want to feel supported by their employers. Show them your organization cares by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary by visiting wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Jennifer Engelhardt.

Ken White

And then there's another piece, the need for enhanced digital tools and technology that you sort of touched on a little bit. Collaboration tools seem to be sort of at the head of that.

Jennifer Engelhardt

Yes.

Ken White

In terms of what are companies looking for?

Jennifer Engelhardt

They want ways that they can share documents in the consulting space. How do we share documents with our clients in a secure way? They want collaboration tools that allow for the ease of use. There's lots of different maturity in terms of skills and proficiency levels and using the different tools. Obviously, they want reliability in the tools the whole home set up that you have to have now with all the cameras and things like that, especially if you are presenting at a conference and we're doing all kinds of conferences online now. So there's a whole host of different infrastructure that you need in that space.

Ken White

You just can't open the blinds and hope it's sunny outside. Right.

Jennifer Engelhardt

Exactly.

Ken White

Yeah. It doesn't work. I love the part future of work. Remote hybrid work is here to stay. I know there are people trying to fight it, but it's here to stay.

Jennifer Engelhardt

It is here to stay. Yeah. And I think it also talks about the concept of work as being a place or an activity. And I think how many months are we in now? Almost two years post COVID, we've proven that our productivity, we can do work remotely. We have proven that. I think at the beginning of COVID, there was a lot of focus on let's look at productivity metrics, and now that the world has, we're still building shampoo bottles and curing diseases and doing everything else that we always did in a different way. We have shown that we can do that. So I don't think there's any going back in that regard.

Ken White

There's an interesting video that EY's put together, just a 1-minute video on YouTube that sort of summarizes the study. And there was an interesting quote from an employee saying that I'm not sure when my day begins or when my day ends because I'm just working from home and working constantly. Is that something employers need to be concerned about?

Jennifer Engelhardt

Yes.

Ken White

And what can they do?

Jennifer Engelhardt

There's been a tremendous focus on wellness, and I have a friend who's a nurse, and I check in on her regularly for obvious reasons. But one of the things that surprised me a bit, she said, forget the COVID stuff, not forget it. But what's really disturbing is the attempted suicides. And I think if you can even say this that COVID has a silver lining, it's been destigmatization of mental illness. And at EY, for example, we have focus on emotional, physical, and financial wellness and having people speak up. Even on our internal calls. People they ask leaders to come forward and tell their stories, talk about everyone has struggled with we all have life events, and everyone is struggling having care available, having therapists available. We have unlimited vacation now at EY. So employers really are responding to that. And because employees are demanding that the well-being of their employees, we are at the nexus of huge, tragic events, with social justice, with the pandemic, with the political and sociopolitical environment. It's a tough time to be alive right now.

Ken White

Yeah.

Jennifer Engelhardt

And so, having mental health and mental illness as a focus area is something that's very good to see.

Ken White

Right before we started recording, you and I were talking about a completely different subject. And the bottom line was we can talk about mental illness now if there is a silver lining, and it's okay to talk about that. And then when you do, you find out there's some colleagues who have been in the same boat that you've been trying to paddle the whole time.

Jennifer Engelhardt

Yeah. And it's fact that EQ versus IQ, the ability to empathize, and the ability to have a shared purpose and purpose being the new currency. I've heard that investors want to work for to invest in companies that espouse their values, supply relationship management, having supplier diversity. I can't tell you how many RFPs we get these days that ask us if we're a minority-owned business, for example. So it's good to see that while some of the events have not been pleasant, it's enacting change that needs to happen.

Ken White

Some of the quotes and some of the interesting, I think pieces of this report talk about culture within organizations and how some employees and employers feel the culture has gotten better because of the pandemic and other events. Is that what you're hearing?

Jennifer Engelhardt

In many regards, yes. I think we are looking at culture, and I think skeptics who think that culture is kind of the soft and fuzzy thing we're really showing how it is. I look at culture as being a collection of behaviors and mindset. So if you want to be an inclusive leader, for example, we work with different tools that encourage behavior nudges we call them. And I'll give you a quick example. We used a tool that said, every morning on your smartphone, it would come up with some quote or some statistic about the benefits of an inclusive culture. And it says today; I want you to reach out to somebody in a diverse segment who you haven't talked to in three months. Will you do it? And you have to click on yes. And then at the end of the day, it comes up, and it says, Did you do it and to participate? We actually did this for our partners in Asia Pack, and we've done it with several clients as well. We had 92% participation rate. Of course, we had different very type-A folks competing. And once you throw some competition in there, everyone participates. But if you look at culture as being a collection of behaviors and mindsets that then if we can make people do these little actions day after day and give them ideas of how to be inclusive, then it becomes part of the ways of working and ways of working leads to culture. So we're seeing a lot more. We're seeing that one it's actionable, and we're also seeing that it's measurable. So we're seeing things like we've always had engagement surveys, but really taking to heart the feedback from those surveys and reacting to it because data that's not reacted to is really not valuable—so making sure that the data that we collect and the social listing that we do with AI predictive analytics, we can really start to take that unstructured data and make sense of it and take action based on what we're finding.

Ken White

The last piece we haven't talked about in the report is restarting business travel. People want to travel somewhat.

Jennifer Engelhardt

Yes.

Ken White

Yeah. Is that surprising to you?

Jennifer Engelhardt

Not so much. I think people miss. Regardless of whether you're a hybrid or remote or an office person, people miss that connection, and you're starting to hear terms that would have surprised us five years ago having on-sites versus offsite meetings. So I think travel will continue to increase, but I think it's going to be much more limited. I was talking to a colleague who said. I cannot believe how much time we spent before in airports when we can work just as well the way we are. But there's nothing that human connection. You can't get that on a Zoom call. It's better than on just a conference call, but it's still not the same as being able to sit across the table from someone.

Ken White

So when someone looks at the report, when you look at the report, what's the major takeaway? What should people be thinking about as we move forward?

Jennifer Engelhardt

I think that we're still in a time of tremendous change. I think that most of the changes that are happening, even though they've been caused by very unfortunate events. I love that we call it the radical transformation of the talent industry, and I think these changes are all for the good. I think that we have a lot of work to do. But I think that in the end, once we get this figured out and nobody hasn't figured out yet, there's no optimal mix. I know people who go into the office, and no one's there, and it has the reverse effect it's a ghost town. I hate this place. If you're in the office two days a week, how do you make sure that your colleagues are in the office on those two days a week? So there's still a lot of strategy that needs to be determined. And as we continue to progress along, as we continue to progress and eventually get COVID behind us, it will be very interesting to see where we land in terms of how we work. And I think it's going to be very different than before the pandemic started.

Ken White

That's our discussion with Jennifer Engelhardt, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. If your company or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's part-time MBA, online MBA, and executive MBA programs are all designed for the professional who works full time. So both the employee and the organization benefit from the experience. Employees want to feel supported by their employers. Show them you care by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary by visiting wm.edu. Finally, we'd like to hear from you regarding our podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Jennifer Engelhardt, and thanks to for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Kelly Crace & David Long
Kelly Crace & David LongEpisode 167: December 21 , 2021
Flourishing Through Life's Transitions

Kelly Crace & David Long

Episode 167: December 21 , 2021

Flourishing Through Life's Transitions

For those who’ve spent years in the military, or intelligence community, transitioning to the private sector (or any sector) can be daunting. That’s why William & Mary, and its Center for Military Transition has created a unique two-week on campus program to be held in June called Flourishing Through Life’s Transitions. Designed to be a transformational experience, the program will train veterans and members of the intelligence community to transition to civilian positions while flourishing in their lives and careers. It’s a transition program like no other. Two of the program’s faculty leaders join us today to talk about this unique program. Dr. Kelly Crace is the Director of the Center for Mindfulness and Authentic Excellence at William & Mary. David Long is a veteran and professor at the William & Mary School of Business where he teaches organizational behavior. They join us to discuss flourishing through life’s transitions, what makes the program special, and how it will prepare each participant to be successful during the transition and beyond.

Apply for the Flourishing Through Life Transitions certificate

More information about the program

Podcast (audio)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is the concept of flourishing
  • What does flourishing look like for each individual
  • Why having a shared social reality like a military background helps individuals flourish in groups
  • What are some objectives of the Flourishing Through Life's Transitions workshop
  • The importance of finding purpose in one's transition
  • What makes this transition program different
  • What the difference is between a career path and a career portfolio
  • What question should military personnel ask themselves before signing up for the program
Transcript

Kelly Crace & David Long: Flourishing Through Life's Transitions TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, for those who've spent years in the military or intelligence community, transitioning to the private sector or any sector can be daunting. That's why William & Mary and its Center for Military Transition has created a unique two-week on-campus program to be held in June called Flourishing Through Life's Transitions. Designed to be a transformational experience, the program will train veterans and members of the intelligence community to transition to civilian positions while flourishing in their lives and careers. It's a transition program like no other. Two of the program's faculty leaders join us today to talk about this unique program. Dr. Kelly Crace is the Director of the Center for Mindfulness and Authentic Excellence at William & Mary. David Long is a veteran and professor at the William & Mary School of Business, where he teaches organizational behavior. They join us to discuss flourishing through life's transitions, what makes the program special, and how it will prepare each participant to be successful during the transition and beyond. Here's our conversation with Kelly Crace and David Long.

Ken White

Kelly, David, welcome. Thanks for joining us. You both have been on the podcast before. Nice to see you again. Thanks for being here.

Kelly Crace

Thanks, Ken. It's good being here.

David Long

Thanks for having us.

Ken White

Kelly, we'll start with you. Flourishing for those who subscribe to the podcast, they've heard of it. You've been here. But for those who haven't, how do you explain and describe the concept of flourishing?

Kelly Crace

There are so many wide and varied definitions of flourishing these days. But in our work around our research and both our application of thinking about flourishing, it's this deeper level of effectiveness. It's kind of taking well-being and wellness to this higher level of more effective productivity, fulfillment, and resilience. It's not looking for a perfect level of it, but it's looking for a more consistent, deeper level of productivity, fulfillment, and resilience.

Ken White

Now, in the program that you'll be offering this summer, you're spending quite a bit of time on flourishing as an individual. What are you looking for in the program?

Kelly Crace

So flourishing looks different for every individual, and especially when you bring those three variables in. In terms of what does productivity look like for me, I think the word that's most characteristic is what is optimal productivity, what is optimal fulfillment, and resilience that looks different for everyone. As you kind of explore this further, it has to be very individualized. We've learned a lot through our research as to things that can predict flourishing. But when you look at the pathway and the journey of that and what that process looks like for every individual, it's a little different, and so we want to honor that individuality. We want to bring people in as a group. We find that doing it in a collective with other people. It enhances that sense of understanding what flourishing looks like for me, but it needs to be personalized and individualized enough to where they feel like this connects to me. This is not a general self-help book that is generally applicable. It's designed to be something that's personalized and very specific to them.

Ken White

And so, while it's individualized, there is the group. What does it mean to you to have the group with similar backgrounds transitioning from the military or from the intelligence community? How does that affect it?

Kelly Crace

Having that shared social reality is a form of support that really is helpful when we're doing hard personal work. This is the work of flourishing. Flourishing is not a feeling. It's a mindset, and it's a mindset that requires work. And we all know that we do hard work better when we feel supported around us, and support can be both challenge and affirmation. It can be. When do I know this person needs encouraging? And when do I know this person needs to be challenged and coming from a shared social reality, like the military or like the intelligence services. That is one thing that has done very well in terms of providing that right blend of challenge and support to really grow through something that, at first glance, looks impossible to me. I don't see how I'll ever be able to do that. And yet, they find themselves looking back and seeing just how they did that. I'm when they look back. Other people are around them. It's not just them by themselves. And that's why we try to do it as a group.

Ken White

So that first week, what are some of the objectives that you have in store for the participants?

Kelly Crace

So we've learned in our research that a lot of this mindset of flourishing actually involves paradigm-shifting. It's taking away from our just natural way of thinking. We're kind of challenging some of the platitudes that exist in our society and in our world as to what leads to success or what leads to flourishing and really looking and taking some things that we have learned truly predict flourishing and applying them to their lives. And what that basically involves is paradigm-shifting, thinking differently about values, thinking differently about stress, thinking differently about fear. It's about building from the strength that is already their foundation of where they're coming from. But the important issue in all of this, Ken, is transitions are stressful. Even the best of transitions. The best of change is still seen as stressful because our body processes change as I'm leaving something. So you experience that as loss and what I'm going to is uncertain. And I experience that as fear. And so, how do we manage this stressful experience in an optimal way? So for us, we're going to take different paradigm shifts that move them toward the work of flourishing, and they'll end up with an action plan. We call it dynamic blueprinting, where each of them will end up with a blueprint print that has their mental training program that's designed for them individually. And that's for individual as a person. And then they move into the second week with you and David, in terms of how does this compare to my professional identity? How do I apply this to my professional identity working in the business world?

Ken White

David, you transitioned. Did those terms sound familiar, right? Uncertainty and fear.

David Long

Absolutely, yeah. And that's kind of the benchmark of that major transition is the uncertainty and the fear. I was in Florida this past weekend, and I was at a big military ceremony with some friends that I've known for 25 years. I was talking to one of the senior wing commanders who's going to be retiring at the end of next year, and I was talking to him about that transition. And I said to him, I said, what are you looking for? What are your goals here as you go through this transition? And he said I don't know what it looks like. I just know I want to find something with purpose. I said, okay, I completely understand that. And that, to me, has a lot to do with what this program is about. It's helping people find purpose, whether it be in their personal life and flourishing in their personal life, in that transition, or in their professional life in that transition, and how to flourish in that aspect, too. And that's really what the second week does. It builds on what Kelly has introduced in the first week and that personal aspect of it into the professional aspect of it.

Ken White

So to break down that week, too, the professional, I'm a participant. I don't even know where I'm going or what I want to do. So what will I learn in that second week?

David Long

Right. And Kelly hit the nail on the head with the paradigm shift and thinking about things differently. So if you think about a professional life, you can really break it down into five different components. There's the job you do. And that's the first pillar, the second part of the relationships you have in the workplace and in your professional life. The third is in your leadership and your ability to be a good communicator and to lead other people. The fourth is teams. In your professional life, you work in teams. You're put on teams, often voluntarily or involuntarily, and you need to find a way to work effectively in those teams. And the fifth pillar really is more of an umbrella term, which is career. And so, If you think about the sub-components of your job and your teams and your relationships, they all kind of work into a greater career. And so, for example, in the first of those pillars, the job aspect, we call it the craft. What our research shows is that people who flourish in their craft find meaning. And this is what my friend was talking about when he said purpose. What is it about a job that's meaningful and the things the antecedents of meaningful crafts are things like having variety in what you do, not feeling stuck and doing the same routine every day, having differences and variety across different things, different experiences throughout your job? Second part is something called identity. Identity is where you have identity with your work so that you can look at your work and say, there, I did that. That's something that I can see from beginning to end a finished product. A lot of times, we find ourselves in jobs where we're contributing a piece of it. But we never see the total and so finding identity. A third thing is significance if you think that your work contributes significantly, not necessarily to yourself but to others. If you're making an impact on someone else, that's another way that we find meaningfulness and flourishing in the craft. And so in this second week, that first day, we focus on the craft, and it culminates with the transitioning students, the students going through the transition, getting to spend time locally at one of our alumni's workplaces. And it happens to be a brewery. So they'll get to share a pint and hear about how somebody who graduated from here found flourishing through opening a brewery and really applying the components of a flourishing craft. Things like meaningfulness and making beer. We'll hear a lot about hops and barley, but we'll also talk about customers and impact and coming full circle on a craft that's flourishing. That's kind of like the first day they'll get to learn about it and then see it applied in the workplace.

Ken White

Those elements, the identity, the significance, that meaningful component, in your opinion, most people in the military feel that? Don't? Does it depend on the position?

David Long

Yeah, I think let's go back to something we learned from week one is about the paradigm shift. Some people may know it, but they may not understand exactly what it means. And so thinking about it differently, thinking about it, as it's saying like, hey, I'm looking for a job, and I need a job to provide certain things for me. It can be, hey, I'm looking for a job, and I want this job to have purpose and meaningfulness, and I get it through these things. This is the path to get that. It's a lot different than just the means to an end. It's more of a journey along that path to provide those things that we find are so important to people.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Kelly Crace and David Long in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The great resignation continues as record numbers of people are leaving their jobs. Gallup reports almost half of all professionals in the U.S. Have their eyes on other opportunities. Well, if your company or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's part-time MBA, online MBA, and executive MBA programs are all designed for the professional who works full time. So both the employee and the organization benefit from the experience employees want to feel supported by their employers. Show them your organization cares by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary by visiting wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Kelly, Crace, and David Long.

Ken White

Now you've gone through some transition programs, and Kelly, you've taught in somewhat makes this different? The one that's being put together for William & Mary?

David Long

Yeah, I'll take it first. So I have gone through the transitioning programs before, and they're effective at the blocking and tackling much more of the basic skills that you may need. Here's how to write a resume. Here's how to land a job, and this can be extremely invaluable. This is a much deeper level of understanding. This is much more of a requires some introspection. It also requires you to have a little bit of a growth mindset because you're going to have to get uncomfortable. You're going to have to learn some things that weren't necessarily intuitive to you and to then think about how you're going to apply those things so that you can thrive. And so, it does force you to learn some new things and step outside of your comfort zone a little bit. But that can be extremely rewarding to people. And it's just different than the typical transitioning programs that we see offered.

Ken White

Yeah. Kelly, what do you think regarding those you've seen?

Kelly Crace

I would echo what David said, but also, I think for me, one of the things that makes it distinctive is there is an assumption of strength. We're taking a very positive approach from this. There are oftentimes transition workshops, and seminars can be based on an assumption that's more remedial, implying that there's deficits that need to be corrected. We're taking the opposite approach that the career they have had so far that is moving them into this next chapter in their life has built strength, has built a foundation that we can then use to take them to a deeper level. So it is less kind of remedial, less surface level, and more advanced. We're not talking about resilience. We're talking about advanced resilience. We're not talking about various platitudes that people here to make us feel good. This is about moving people from emotions-centered habit-focused kind of approach to a value-centered healthy-focused approach, and that takes work because our own neurology and the culture around us can move us in directions that actually lead us astray. Well, we're taking the evidence-informed approach of, well, what have we learned about consistent flourishers, the ones that do it at a deeper level and more consistent level. What have they taught us? And what can we predict from that? And then how do we apply those strategies in a more personalized way? And frankly, we've just learned that there are no natural-born flourishers people that flourish work at it. So what is that work, and we get in for two weeks of hard work. The good thing that we know about this group of individuals coming in, they're no stranger to hard work. So we're going to take that platform and that foundation and build on it.

Ken White

All of us agree that the transferable skills these folks have because we see it. We see it in the business school. We see it at the University. So to me, I find it so fascinating that some people don't see that as a positive. It's so evident to us when we see our military students walk in the door. It's like, wow, look what you've done and look what you can do. But it is David, isn't it speaking another language practically? It's like you have to be bilingual.

David Long

Yeah, it is. It is a different language. And sometimes there's those language barriers that don't allow the proper communication to flow as they go through that transition because they really have known one way to speak, and the language is often different in the different context. One of the things that we focus on is building strength across mind and body can be very important in your personal life and in your professional life. The two things that we do, especially in the second week, is focus on relationships and building deeper connections. And how if you have deeper connections in the workplace, not only is it better for your professional life, it's better for your own health, your own health, and wellness. Right. We know that having social connections, having closeness with others can be good for destressing. It can be good for having energy. It can be good for your professional life. It can really help you get along and get ahead in the workplace. And so there's a mutual beneficial aspect of this when you combine the personal and the professional side through flourishing. The other thing is, you mentioned all the different experiences that people who are transitioning bring into—we kind of cap this with the career aspect, that pillar of professional life. But we talk about career, not as a career path but a career portfolio. And when you start to understand the experiences that people in the military and in the intelligence community and government have and how that's part of their portfolio and a portfolio of experiences is extremely invaluable to prospective employers. They want people who think differently who look at problems differently, not just with a unidimensional mindset, but come from it different perspectives. And so when you think about all your experiences, not as a path I've been on, but a portfolio like a diversified investment portfolio. That's the power of that. And you bring that to the table, and it can be really beneficial to the individual personally and professionally.

Ken White

So if someone is listening and they're getting ready to transition, and they're from the military or the intelligence community. Kelly, what question or questions should they ask themselves before deciding I want to be a part of this program?

Kelly Crace

I think any question the most common question before engagement in anything is what purpose does this have for me? Being able to lead with purpose moves you away from what we naturally move to as human beings are most naturally motivated by fear and comfort. So we just drift into this thing of dealing with all the have toos of the day and then seek comfort. But the deepest form of motivation and resilience, and engagement starts with the question of the why? What is the purpose of this to me? So I think people that see this as a good thing to check off a good credential to add to their portfolio probably would not be the best people that will find meaning out of it. It's them asking, what's the purpose of this transition for me? What do I feel I need to be able to move myself to the next level and then look at our curriculum and see if that fits that purpose. If it does, then we're the right fit. If it doesn't, there's something else out there somewhere else and keep on looking for that.

Ken White

Yeah. David, what do you think? What questions?

David Long

Absolutely, yeah. Just to build on that, I think a good question to ask is, am I willing to step out of my comfort zone a little bit? It depends on the level of the person who is transitioning. I expect that we're going to see a lot of different levels. And what we find is that the more senior you get, the less willing you are to take risks and to make yourself vulnerable. Well, I think a lot of this program is going to be willing to accept some of that risk and to look at things, new ways to build new relationships, to be self-deprecating, to show some humility, and that can be tough for certain people. So if you're willing to take off the heavy armored coat and learn from other people, I think this is going to be a good fit.

Ken White

Yeah.

Kelly Crace

We're going to create a safe environment, but not a comfortable environment. And I think anybody, when they look back at their lives, can see, was there ever a time where they comfortably grew? And so we're going to take them through a growth process that's uncomfortable but safe.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Kelly Crace and David Long, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. If you're interested in learning more about the Flourishing Through Life's Transitions program, there's more information on the William & Mary website for both participants and companies, and organizations who would like to get involved, go to wm.edu. And type flourishing in the search box, and you'll find everything you need. The dates of the program are June 6th through the 17th, 2022. Be held here on the William & Mary campus. You can also contact the Center for Military Transition for additional information. Finally, 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 to our guests, Kelly Crace and David Long, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White from all of us here at the William & Mary School of Business. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

More Podcast Episodes

 Brad Martin
Brad MartinEpisode 166: December 5, 2021
Qualities of Great Leadership

Brad Martin

Episode 166: December 5, 2021

Qualities of Great Leaders

There is no one path to a leadership position; some people are asked to lead, some are assigned. For others, leadership is a goal. At an early age, Brad Martin sought leadership roles. As a 20-year-old, with no political experience, he ran for public office and became the youngest person ever elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives where he served for five terms. Later he turned to business where he became the CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue and its predecessor firm for nearly 20 years. During his tenure, the value of the company's stock increased more that 12-fold. Martin's leadership journey also took him to higher education where he served as interim president of the University of Memphis - his alma mater. He's currently chairman of RBM Ventures and CEO of the Riverview Acquisition Company. He visited the William & Mary School of Business last month as part of the 10th Annual McGlothlin Leadership Forum. He joins us to discuss leadership, his experience, and the attributes he says are critical to being a successful leader.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What drove Brad to seek out leadership roles
  • What inspired Brad to run for office
  • What it means to be purpose driven
  • How being principles based can strengthen leadership qualities
  • Why collaboration is key for good leaders
  • What it means to communicate with clarity
  • Why leaders should believe all employees are important
  • How leadership has changed in the past 40 years
Transcript

Brad Martin: Qualities of Great Leaders TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership and Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. There is no one path to a leadership position. Some people are asked to lead; some are assigned. For others, leadership is a goal. At an early age, Brad Martin sought leadership roles. As a 20-year-old with no political experience, he ran for public office and became the youngest person ever elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives, where he served for five terms. Later, he turned to business, where he became the CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue and its predecessor firm for nearly 20 years. During his tenure, the value of the company's stock increased more than twelvefold. Martin's leadership journey also took him to higher education, where he served as interim President of the University of Memphis, his alma mater. He's currently chairman of RBM Ventures and CEO of the Riverview Acquisition Company. He visited the William & Mary School of Business last month as part of the 10th annual McGlothlin Leadership Forum. He joins us to discuss leadership. His experience and the attributes he says are critical to being a successful leader. Here's our conversation with Brad Martin.

Ken White

Well, Brad, welcome to William & Mary. Thanks for joining us on the podcast. I appreciate your time.

Brad Martin

Gee, Ken, it's absolutely terrific to be here today.

Ken White

Well, thanks. You're interesting as a leader, and that you sought leadership roles at an early age. What drove that? What made you do that?

Brad Martin

I felt like I really wanted to get involved in some serious things. And initially, it was public policy. It was politics. It was issues in the community, and in high school, I had done service projects and things of that nature and felt motivated to serve and thought, gee whiz, do I want to get in line or do I want to go the head of the line and have the opportunity to really sit down and try to have an impact on things. And so, really, the only way to do that is to find a leadership role and jump right in. And I was privileged to do that.

Ken White

If you think back to your 20 21-year-old self, did you know what you were in for at that time?

Brad Martin

No. When I was 20, I decided to run for the Tennessee House of Representatives. And my friends, I think the most encouraging thing I heard from anybody was it will be good experience. You will get your name out in front of the community. Later on, it'll be helpful when you want to pursue a career in politics. But I told my friends, no, I plan to win the election, and winning the election is how I could go have a seat at the table and deal with some of these community issues that I thought were serious, and that needed some attention. And so I just jumped in, ran for office, and kind of in spite of no experience and probably no qualification, I won.

Ken White

Yeah. What a great story, right. What a great story. And I imagine incredible experience at that age.

Brad Martin

Well, it was clearly when I showed up as a 21-year-old member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, there were kind of two approaches I could take. One was act like I knew everything about everything because I'm 21. And here I am, boy wonder. Or I could show up and say, I'm here to learn. I actually gravitated to the most senior and, in some instances, the oldest people in the legislature and just sopped up everything I possibly could from them to really help me understand how to get things done.

Ken White

Interesting. And that was just the beginning of many leadership roles. And when you talked to our students here, you said that you shared some attributes that you've seen in successful leaders throughout your career, seven in particular. And I thought for our audience. We just sort of walk through them.

Brad Martin

Sure.

Ken White

The first one, purpose-driven. A successful leader is purpose-driven. What do you mean by that?

Brad Martin

I think that you really have to show up for a reason that people are willing to follow the leader. And so it could be in the not for profit area because there is something absolutely critical that you've got to do for a population or a community or a neighborhood, or it could be in a business where you believe there's a service or a product that is absolutely important to people, to customers, again, to communities. So I think there has to be something more than the work involved in any successful enterprise and the leader's job. One of them is to define what that is. What is it about we're doing that is important and therefore purpose-driven.

Ken White

Principles-based.

Brad Martin

Yeah. I think you have to stand for something. Many of the great leaders I have seen are very clear in what they believe in. if it's their personal integrity, if it's their transparency, if it's hard work, if it is relationship-oriented, if it's service oriented. So again, I think if you follow a leader, you want someone who you understand and can sign up for what they believe in what their principles are. And if you're comfortable with those, jump on that team and be willing to be part of that team.

Ken White

Interesting, you say the best leaders need to and have a growth mindset.

Brad Martin

Yeah. I hate working with people who know everything about everything. I absolutely find that boring and unproductive. I want people who want to learn. I want people who want to get better. At our session here last night, I was taking notes from this enormously successful speaker that we had. I learned so much last night, and I'm going to share those notes with my business colleagues, my family members, et cetera. And again, I've seen the best just want to get better. And you do that by being willing to change and being willing to grow.

Ken White

I think early on, for many people in their career, they assume the leader knows everything. And then once they get in, they realize sometimes the leader knows the least amount in the room.

Brad Martin

Well, I think that's right. And I think that's why you better be darn good at asking questions and also establishing a relationship of trust with the people that you work with. I mean, you really want to know the truth, right? I would visit one of our Department stores. I remember one day I visited one of our stores and terrific store manager. And I said, Ralph, I'm here to talk about the business. I said, what can we do at the home office with better advertising to support your store? Nothing, everything's great. I get great support from the advertising department. Okay. How about Merchandising? I said I'm sure there's something we could do in women's apparel or men's or home furnishings. No, I get great support. I got everything I need. It's all fine. I think a third issue I asked him related to staffing or funding for the budget. Everything was perfect. And I told him, Well, that's great because the company is running a 7% sales growth rate. You're running two. And if everything that the home office is doing for you is fine, we must have a problem with the store manager.

Ken White

Oops.

Brad Martin

He said, Well, actually, there are a few things that I think we could do better, but he needed to understand not only did he have permission to tell me what I needed to do better, what my colleagues at the home office needed to do better. We have to know that. And the only way you can get that is to have a relationship of trust.

Ken White

Interesting. Collaboration is key; you say to good leaders, you have to have a collaborative mindset.

Brad Martin

Yeah, you really can't. Particularly as the organization gets larger. You can't do everything by yourself. And what I found as our team got bigger and bigger is there are a number of jobs that I couldn't do at all. In fact, I told our team one day my goal was to have a series of leaders around me, all of whom could do their job better than I could do their job. A I wanted that sort of talent. But B, I wanted everybody to have the opportunity to chime in on, to push back on, to challenge each other. Really interesting experiences where I knew darn well what the decision was I wanted to make. And but by fostering an environment where my colleagues could push back, challenge, question, argue, we ended up getting to a better place. There was one particular instance where I had told my management team I was going to promote a particular person, and they clearly had a different point of view. And they went around the room and told me why that was a bad decision. And I looked at my colleagues and said, Well, you know, this is my decision. I'm the CEO, but I'm supposed to be collaborative. I'm supposed to let you weigh in value your opinion. So what we're going to do is I'm going to wait six months just to show you how much I respect your insight. But I know I'm right. Within six months, that person had left the company. I had fired that person, so I was about to promote someone who would have been a disaster. My colleagues had the permission to tell me it's a mistake, even though they knew I felt otherwise. And by collaborating and listening and letting them win one, we got to a much better place.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Brad Martin in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The great resignation of 2021 continues. Record numbers of people are leaving their jobs. Gallup reports almost half of all professionals in the US have their eyes on other opportunities. If your company or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's part-time MBA, online MBA, and executive MBA programs are each designed for the professional who works full time. So both the employee and the organization benefit from the experience. Employees want to feel supported by their employers. Show them your organization cares by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary by visiting wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Brad Martin.

Ken White

For that up and comer, that new professional, it's critical that they speak up and share their mind. That's what the boss wants. But for some, that's pretty tough to do, especially when you're early in your career.

Brad Martin

Oh, sure. You just really don't want yes, ma'am and yes, sir, all the time. Right. Because you just don't want the salute, and let's go. You typically have attracted people with new talents and different talents and immediate understanding. You want them to show up with that day one and feel comfortable. Now you've got to create the environment where they can do that on a risk-free basis, where they can feel safe. And they also can say, I don't quite understand that issue. Help me better see how you're thinking about that.

Ken White

Successful leaders communicate with clarity.

Brad Martin

Yeah. I think that that's hard. It seems sometimes that the more intelligent one might be, the more difficult it is. I mean, I remember one instance where I asked a very smart, highly educated, IV-type MBA to do a session on return on invested capital for our store managers. And I watched the draft of the presentation, and I had a lot of trouble understanding. Now, this was a finance guru, but I didn't need the finance guru to show me everything he or she had learned in business school. I needed a store manager to understand here's how much we spend on the building. Here's how much we spend on the merchandise. Here's how much we spend on the equipment. Here is the revenue we generate. Here are the margins associated with that. Here's what you can do to impact return on invested capital. So simplifying complicated matters is really important for a great leader.

Ken White

You say the best leaders are willing to accept accountability.

Brad Martin

Yeah. That's something that I think can be a challenge for all of us. For me, I was willing to because my only job I ever had in the department store business was the CEO. It was a small company that we acquired. I was the lead investor. I became the CEO without having any idea what I was doing. So I clearly was accountable for performance. The thing I had to learn was to drive accountability throughout the organization, too. I know there were instances where I would say, Gee, this person in finance is great at accounting, but not very good at transactions, but I'm good at transactions. So I'll help that person. Or this colleague in apparel is really good at women's, but not men's. But I'm pretty good at men's apparel. I'll help that. And I would tend to do that with six or seven or eight or nine or ten individuals in my organization. Next thing you know, I'm doing part of their job, not mine, and their accountability is diffused by me being involved in doing their job. So really, driving that accountability throughout the organization is a key element of leadership.

Ken White

So the leader being accountable but also holding everyone else accountable to what they're supposed to be getting done.

Brad Martin

Absolutely. And if you don't, it's not fair to the organization, and it's not fair to the team, and they know it.

Ken White

Or the person.

Brad Martin

Exactly.

Ken White

Yeah. I've had so many interviews with human resource professionals who say people know when they're not performing. They're the first ones to know. As a matter of fact.

Brad Martin

It's really the company's fault. And the leaders fault if they're not because they're obviously not in the right job.

Ken White

Believe everyone matters.

Brad Martin

Yeah. This is a big deal to me. We actually operate on a first-name basis at the company. We had an organizational chart where we actually put the customer at the top of the organizational pyramid and the CEO at the bottom. I really looked at my job as a servant leader-type responsibility. And while the CEO's job gets a higher degree of compensation than somebody working in the distribution center. The human value of the individual we're the same from my perspective. And so very, very important to me that we had an organization where every single individual was treated with dignity, with value, and had the opportunity to be everything that individual wanted to be in the work.

Ken White

I assumed then people felt very comfortable approaching you regardless of what they did for the organization.

Brad Martin

Absolutely. There's no question. I had many relationships throughout the organization. A couple I can recall. One evening I'd work late, stopped, and got some a quick bite to eat. It's about 830 at night, and I decided I'm going to drive over to this kind of suburban locations, see the store. So I walk in about 30 minutes before closing, and I see one of our associates in one of the departments. Barbara and Barbara said, Brad, I'm so glad you're here. Thanks for coming. And I'm so glad you didn't tell us you were coming. And I said, well, why Barbara? She said because we're kind of busy. I got a lot to get done. And if we had known you were coming, we would have had to drop all of the important things we're doing to get ready for your visit. So thanks for coming. Thanks for not telling us. So is that sort of an environment that you really want to work in?

Ken White

Well, that leads to your last one. And that is personal authenticity being yourself?

Brad Martin

Yeah. I think that, as I always quote Oscar Wilde, who said, be yourself because everyone else is taken. People get it when you are authentic, and they get it when you aren't. And I think they want to work with and for somebody who brings the honest, authentic self to work. Not something they've read in a textbook seen on TV or attempting to model because there was a successful entrepreneur executive somewhere that they heard that's the way you manage.

Ken White

Has leadership changed since you at the beginning of your career? What I mean by that is culture is a little tough these days with a lot of gotcha mentality out there. You make one mistake. It could be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Has that changed or what has changed, I guess, is my real question. What has changed with leadership from the time you started to today?

Brad Martin

I think the existence of the digital and social world just magnifies everything and gives a voice to everybody that didn't quite exist obviously before that. And that's good and bad. It's good that there's no filter in terms of access to bringing the spotlight on something inappropriate behavior. It's bad in the standpoint that there's no filter for unfair or unaccountable, if you will, observations or postulations. I think that there's a lot of sensitivity associated with the social world that I never had to deal with before. But I think you always have to operate on the assumption that what you do will be second-guessed, questioned, pushed, and be comfortable in your own skin. I had many successes. I had many failures, and I was never really permitted myself to be defined by either. I am who I am, and I had a better idea than the person writing about me. I was never quite as good or quite as bad as I tended to read.

Ken White

Great point. This might be an unfair question, but as you look back at the leaders whom you worked for over the years, are there a few that really stand out that helped you and affected you positively?

Brad Martin

Oh, there are so many, I think the Pope said. Part of all I have met and anybody that comes on the podcast and talks about being a self-made man or woman, throw them off, cut them off. It doesn't exist, right? You can work hard, and you can overcome a lot of obstacles. But I guarantee you each of us have had mentors, supporters along the way. I knew nothing about the department store business, and ex department store retired executive took me under his wing. And when I was CEO, the company said, I'm going to teach you something about the business. Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx unbelievable executive who taught me the humility associated with executive leadership as well as the absolute critical importance of culture. Henry Loeb, the former Mayor of Memphis, Mayor of Memphis when Martin Luther King was killed, a political leader who was quite controversial, also had this very, very private part of him that was involved with providing a lot of personal support to disadvantaged and disabled people. And Loeb taught me there are no little people.

Ken White

What advice do you have for a young professional who thinks leadership is something they might want to have in their future?

Brad Martin

I'd say, just go for it, just go for it and be prepared. In my view, the biggest risk you're going to face is the risk of embarrassment. So what, right? If you don't lay it all out there, you'll never have that opportunity. So don't worry about the risk of an embarrassment. You're the only one that's going to remember that for very long, and then just pick yourself up and do it again and again and again.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Brad Martin, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The great resignation of 2021 continues as record numbers of people are leaving their jobs. If your company or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's part-time MBA, online MBA, and executive MBA programs are all designed for the professional who works full time. So both the employee and the organization benefit from the experience. Employees want to feel supported by their employers. Show them your organization cares by investing in their growth and future. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary by visiting wm.edu. Finally, 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 to our guest Brad Martin and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

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Creating Value

In today's highly competitive environment, the best businesses, organizations, and professionals create value. How and for whom may differ somewhat, but the outcomes's the same: Creating value helps you succeed. The target may be customers and organizations, stakeholders or others, but the goal is fairly consistent across sectors. Creating value often means delivering an outcome the client seeks. One that leads to a benefit. Quimby Kaizer knows all about creating value, she's a consultant and principal at KPMG. Over the course of her 25 year career in consulting, she's learned that value does not manage itself. It's deliberate. She visited the William & Mary School of Business recently as a guest speaker in an undergraduate consulting class, afterward she joined us on the podcast to talk about creating value and the necessary steps involved, such as presenting a fresh picture of the problem, defining value, and nailing down the goal.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is value and how is it defined
  • Who decides what value is placed on a problem or opportunity
  • How is value determined among all of the stakeholders
  • How value is deliberate and doesn't manage itself
  • How to identify the proper stakeholders
  • How have organizations become more complex in the past 20 years
  • Does having a large workload equal value
  • How should a young professional create value
Transcript

Quimby Kaizer: Creating Value TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. In today's highly competitive environment, the best businesses, organizations, and professionals create value. How and for whom may differ somewhat, but the outcome is the same. Creating value helps you succeed. The target may be customers, an organization, stakeholders, or others, but the goal is fairly consistent across sectors. Creating value often means delivering an outcome the client seeks, one that leads to a benefit. Quimby Kaizer knows all about creating value. She's a consultant and principal at KPMG. Over the course of her 25-year career in consulting, she's learned that value does not manage itself. It's deliberate. She visited the William & Mary School of Business recently as a guest speaker in an undergraduate consulting class. Afterward, she joined us on the podcast to talk about creating value and the necessary steps involved, such as presenting a fresh picture of the problem, defining value, and nailing down the goal. Here's our conversation with Quimby Kaiser, consultant, and principal at KPMG.

Ken White

Well, Quimby, thanks for joining us, and welcome back to campus.

Quimby Kaizer

Happy to be here.

Ken White

How was class? You just taught a group of undergraduates. How was it for you?

Quimby Kaizer

It was great to be back in person. I'm so delighted. Even masked, it's better to be in person and interacting with the students than doing it via Zoom. So it's great to be down here.

Ken White

It's interesting to just watch their reaction and listen to their questions. Our undergraduates are so sharp; what an interesting time to interact with them.

Quimby Kaizer

Yeah. And fun to be with them as they've already started their projects, their consulting projects, and they're already coming against some stumbling blocks, which is fun because it makes it more relevant, less theoretical, and more practical of I really need to do this, and I can apply this immediately.

Ken White

Yeah.

Quimby Kaizer

So that's a really good questions.

Ken White

Yeah. So it was a consulting class, and you came in to talk to them. Basically, what you're talking to them about is value and creating value and how consultants do that how you and your colleagues do that. What is value? How do you define that?

Quimby Kaizer

Well, I think value is achieving an outcome that your client will benefit from. I guess in the simplest terms. We call value management or value delivery benefits realization. There's tons of different terminology for it, but ultimately, achieving an outcome that has benefit. Now how you define what the benefit is and who defines that benefit is part of what we talked about. But ultimately, I think that's what value is.

Ken White

So if they're bringing you in, there's usually a problem or an opportunity. How important is seeing that the correct way?

Quimby Kaizer

I think it's critical to as a consultant when you are deliberately trying to define what value is. Since value is in the eye beholder, and that could be different people. It could be the sponsor could be multiple people who are involved in a particular project, but really understanding where you can have an impact and what is going to help them accomplish what their goal is. I'm amazed that the more that I'm in this field, which has been quite a while. It is really going back to basics and asking people, what are you trying to accomplish? Starting with the end in mind and just asking that question really will sometimes kind of shake people up because we're so used to whatever we've been doing or whatever we've always approached, how we've always approached things. We just keep doing the same thing, but saying, what are you really trying to accomplish so that we can design something that does that, and that's where I think the value that is achieved.

Ken White

And how do you get there? I assume conversations.

Quimby Kaizer

Yeah. Lots of questions. And I think we talked about in the class, too. It's lots and lots of questions, but not the questions about necessarily the technical aspects of what you're trying to do. But what is the outcome? Who will be the recipient of those? What do they want to accomplish as a next step from what you're doing? What is happening in their environment that may influence what you might do? Like there's a lot of things that are context. We talked about painting done, but there's a lot of context that is a presenting problem you might not otherwise be privy to. So making sure that you're asking lots of questions so that you're getting the full picture, the full, colorful picture of what the context is.

Ken White

And I'm assuming different people have different context. So it's not so clear, is it?

Quimby Kaizer

Yeah. Lots of questions. And I think we talked about in the class, too. It's lots and lots of questions, but not the questions about necessarily the technical aspects of what you're trying to do. But what is the outcome? Who will be the recipient of those? What do they want to accomplish as a next step from what you're doing? What is happening in their environment that may influence what you might do? Like there's a lot of things that are context. We talked about painting done, but there's a lot of context that is a presenting problem you might not otherwise be privy to. So making sure that you're asking lots of questions so that you're getting the full picture, the full, colorful picture of what the context is.

Ken White

And I'm assuming different people have different context. So it's not so clear, is it?

Quimby Kaizer

No. Actually, typically it isn't. Even if you think about meetings, we're in a lot of meetings every single day. I mean, how often does someone say, what are we trying to accomplish here and starting from that vantage point, if you can just take it down to the meeting and saying, so everyone has a different context, knowing what their paradigm is, and really, if possible, even walking in their shoes in order to really understand that will help really give you a leg up on being able to add value versus doing what you've always done or doing what I think might be valuable. But it isn't going to be valuable to you.

Ken White

You said value doesn't manage itself. It's very deliberate. Can you talk about that? What do you mean?

Quimby Kaizer

Well, the concept of when you are thinking about what outcomes you're trying to accomplish, you can never lose sight of that. That you need to be thoughtful about it on the onset. You need to frame and think about what you're doing from a project perspective. But you also need it to be your guiding light throughout the entire project. It's very easy to get enamored with the technology or enamored with the data, or where it's easy to lose sight of what are we trying to do? So it's easy to get lost in the forest. And I think value is a way to rise above and really look at the point. Which can also help you be more efficient and effective, too, because you're not necessarily doing things that aren't needed, right. You can really kind of keep that bigger perspective in mind. And I think value is a great way to do it because, ultimately, consultants do projects right. There's a beginning, there's a middle, and there's an end. There's always an end. Typically, otherwise, you're probably not a consulting. So knowing that there is an end and staying focused on that, I think, is a way to just ground the project.

Ken White

You said beginning, middle, and end the beginning. The beginning that's an important time to create that value. How do you approach that at the beginning?

Quimby Kaizer

Really, by asking lots of questions, setting a lot of expectations, getting a lot of feedback. So I think we tend to shortcut the start-up phase of projects, maybe because of demands or because we're moving really fast, we don't stop and really explore. What are you trying to accomplish? What would success look like for you? Where have you been successful before? Can you tell me about that? What would be the next step that, if we're successful, would help you accomplish your goals? What goals are you trying to accomplish? Where does this project sit in the context of your strategy? So a lot of those types of questions we quickly go through or never go through and kind of jump in on the task at hand, which doesn't always necessarily you not necessarily failing. But you have a greater likelihood of being successful and really achieving value. If you do have those questions on the onset of the project with the right people, by the way.

Ken White

That was going to be my question. Because you said to the students, you got to start with who, who is important, and that means identifying the right individuals.

Quimby Kaizer

Yeah. Absolutely. So the sponsors, the stakeholders, we talked about the stakeholders being anyone who can influence or is influenced by a project and stakeholders. I think the more integrated our businesses get, the more complex the stakeholders get. Right. And so I think knowing and understanding who those people are, why they're important, what voice they're going to have in the process, the different perspectives, the whole concept of go slow to go fast. I think sometimes, on the front end of projects, we want to quickly get into the analysis or quickly start to show, quote, unquote progress. And we miss the foundational settings that really ultimately are going to help us guide what success, ultimately, what it will be.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Quimby Kaizer in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The great resignation of 2021 is in high gear, as record numbers of people are leaving their jobs. Gallup reports almost half of all professionals in the US have their eyes on other opportunities. If your company or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's part-time MBA, online MBA, and executive MBA programs are all designed for the professional who works full time. So both the employee and the organization benefit from the experience. Employees want to feel supported by their employers. Show them you care by investing in their growth and future with a William & Mary MBA. To learn more about our MBA programs for working professionals, visit wm.edu. Now back to our conversation on Creating Value with Quimby Kaizer of KPMG.

Ken White

You mentioned complexity in organizations in your career. Are you seeing is it fair to say organizations are more complex today than they were when you started?

Quimby Kaizer

I don't know if they're more complex. I think there are more complex parts of organizations. I think with technology and data becoming so just so common. I think that adds an element of. I guess an element or maybe a dimension of complexity. But I think we tend to overemphasize that. Where we think it's going to be. It's funny to me, after being in this business for a long time, people still think there are silver bullets out there. There are no silver bullets. Truly. I just don't think they exist, right? But I think it's almost easier to think that there's a silver bullet because of what's available to us. But Interestingly enough, we don't step back and say, Why are we collecting this data? How are we going to use this technology? What are we trying to accomplish ultimately with what we're doing? So if all of those things would be put into context, I think they would be a lot more effective than what they are today. I think we do a lot of suboptimal investments because we really don't know what we're trying to accomplish, or we kid ourselves on what, and when I say kid ourselves, we're unrealistic about how much energy it will take to actually adopt or implement. So we just don't get the full value of what we set out to do.

Ken White

Are we working faster? It seems like the pace is pretty high right now across most industries. Are you seeing that?

Quimby Kaizer

Oh, yeah. I think it was that way before, but I think it's even more so now everyone is very heads down, very operationally oriented, and I think a lot of even bringing it back to the value part of this. It's heads up. It's heads up thinking to stop and say, Why are we doing this? What are we trying to accomplish? I think it's harder today to do that and have the patience to do it because we're so busy. Busy feels good. I guess in one sense of the word, if I'm really busy and I'm always multitasking, I feel like I'm getting things done. But am I really getting value from what I'm doing? Right. And I think that's slowing down, maybe a good thing.

Ken White

Yeah. Absolutely. Activity doesn't necessarily mean excellence, right? Far from it, you said value is in the eye of the beholder. You were telling the students that can you tell us about that?

Quimby Kaizer

The more I know, the less I know, right. I think that it's sort of the idea of just what I want to accomplish isn't what may be valuable to you. So my objective is to really, truly walk in your shoes and understand what are you trying to accomplish? Paint your environment, paint your organization. Make sure that you've got all of the perspectives, which maybe is the harder part these days. Is there's enough variety of people that are involved in a particular project or initiative, or what have you? But bringing those people together in a way that is truly helping the organization move forward or accomplishing whatever the goal is it's maybe bringing people together is becoming more important in order to get that focus on priorities. I guess that's the other thing that I see, too, is I've been doing a lot of work. A lot of strategy workaround setting priorities because I think it's harder and harder for organizations to discern the few things they need to do really well because everyone is always heads down tactical. Right. And so that prioritization the strategy being able to stick to a strategy kind of the same idea. Right. Stay focused on what are you trying to accomplish?

Ken White

And we all know that we all know we should be doing two or three things, but our list has twelve things on it.

Quimby Kaizer

And we do them poorly, or we never finish them right. It's funny. It's not hard. We all get it right. When you talk to anybody, everyone says, well, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Why can't we do it? What makes it so hard for us to stop and just focus or stop and ask a question? It is hard, though.

Ken White

Yeah. No doubt. Let's shift from consulting and creating value as a consultant to that professional, the manager, the young professional in an organization. What kind of advice do you have for those folks to create value? Do you take some time out of your when you're thinking when you're strategizing? Where does that come into play do you think for a professional?

Quimby Kaizer

It's a good question when I think about a person in an organization. That role is there for a purpose. Right. So you have a job description. You have outcomes that hopefully you're aware of, right of what you're trying to accomplish in the organization. You have a role. You have potentially performance outcomes that you're measured on. I think if you even think about it from a role perspective, there's an opportunity for every single person to say, how am I adding value to the organization? How do I connect what I'm doing to my team or to my division, or to my organization? So that one, you're grounded in that, and you understand what that contribution is. But then two, you may have the ability to influence impact, change, improve on that as well. I think a lot of people desire clarity on the why. Why am I doing this? I think by asking that value question, you can also unpack the why, which also can help you, maybe even just kind of rekindle that purpose with organization as well, too.

Ken White

It'd be great if people look at you and say that's someone who creates value in this company, right? Wow.

Quimby Kaizer

Yeah, absolutely.

Ken White

And I assume that some of the steps you talk about as consultants find the problem, figure out what it is. Talk to people that would be the same for the professional.

Quimby Kaizer

Absolutely. Every organization and every person in an organization is just a microcosm of a project. Right. And there is unlimited ways to stop and say, how am I adding value? What is success look like seeing opportunities for improvement? I think there's so many changes going on in the world today, and there's so many opportunities to frame value and your value in an organization or to reframe what that looks like, or god forbid that you're bored in your job. Right. And you say, I just need a challenge to go find ways to add value, and just having those conversations with people, I think, will rekindle a conversation around where the needs are at. Right. And how people can step up and start to fill those needs or fill those gaps.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Quimby Kaizer, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Record numbers of professionals are leaving their jobs in the great resignation of 2021. If your company or organization is interested in retaining your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's part-time MBA, online MBA, and executive MBA programs are all designed for the professional who works full time. So both the employee and the organization benefit from the experience. Finally, 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 to our guest, Quimby Kaizer, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Strauss Zelnick
Strauss ZelnickEpisode 164: November 5, 2021
America's Fittest CEO

Strauss Zelnick

Episode 164: November 5, 2021

America's Fittest CEO

Leadership is tough. For that matter, just about every job today is tough; the hours, the effort, the competition, the people, the pandemic. Success today requires a certain level of mental and physical fitness. As a result, exercise is key. And while it's important, it can be challenging to find the time to work out regularly. If you're ever in need of some motivation, look to Strauss Zelnick - the Chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software, and founder of the private equity firm Zelnick Media Capital. A successful leader, entrepreneur, and executive, he's in his 60s and he's often called "America's Fittest CEO." He's the author of "Becoming Ageless: The Four Secrets of Looking and Feeling Younger Than Ever." Zelnick believes that if he can do it, you can do it. He visited the William & Mary School of Business last month as part of the 10th Annual McGlothlin Leadership Forum. He joins us on the podcast to discuss the connection between success and fitness.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What motivated Strauss to get involved with fitness
  • Why one should start slowly on their fitness journey
  • How to manage workouts at home
  • What is a typical workout for Strauss
  • The importance of working out with other people
  • How do personal trainers help with a workout regimen
  • How does physical fitness help a professional
  • How does exercise benefit mental health
  • Why a good diet should always be considered when considering one's fitness journey
Transcript

Strauss Zelnick: America's Fittest CEO TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you to a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Leadership is tough. For that matter, just about every job today is tough; the hours, the effort, the competition, the people, the pandemic. Success today requires a certain level of mental and physical fitness. As a result, exercise is key. And while it's important, it can be challenging to find the time to work out regularly. Well, if you're ever in need of some motivation, look to Strauss Zelnick, the chairman, and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software and founder of the private equity firm Zelnick Media Capital. A successful leader, entrepreneur, and executive, he's in his 60s, and he's often called America's Fittest CEO. He's the author of Becoming Ageless: The Four Secrets to Looking and Feeling Younger Than Ever. Zelnick believes, if he can do it, you can do it. He visited the William & Mary School of Business last month as part of the 10th annual McGlothlin Leadership Forum. He joins us on the podcast to discuss the connection between success and fitness. Here's our conversation with Strauss Zelnick, America's fittest CEO.

Ken White

Well, Strauss, welcome back to William & Mary. And thanks for joining us on the podcast.

Strauss Zelnick

Thanks for having me.

Ken White

So in terms of fitness, what were you like as a kid? Into sports, not into sports?

Strauss Zelnick

No, I wasn't particularly athletic. I was a student. I played guitar. I wrote music. And athletics just weren't a primary interest to me.

Ken White

How did you get into it?

Strauss Zelnick

Well, I did run, and I lifted weights when I was a teenager because I was so skinny. I wanted to put on some bulk, and it seemed to be impossible. There was nothing I could do. I think when I was 17, I think I was 5'10" and weighed about 115 pounds. So you get the idea. But I sort of got into weights as a result of trying to address that. And then what really motivated me was I was in grad school, and I was hanging around with some friends one night, and my buddy Ted looked at me and said, "Strauss, you have a ponch." My response was, "No, I don't. I'm skinny. I've always been skinny." And he said, "Well, you may be skinny, but you have a ponch." And I looked down, and I thought, wow, that's probably not so far off the mark. And the next day, I decided to get involved with fitness. And I went to the gym at school, which wasn't much of a gym, and developed a very rudimentary program and started really slowly.

Ken White

And isn't that the key for people who are new starting slowly?

Strauss Zelnick

I think so. First, you have to be realistic about your goals, and the media doesn't do us any favors here. So when you see a website that says, take this pill and you can have perfect body in three weeks, everything in that sentence I just said is not true. A pill won't do it. You can't have a perfect body, probably ever, and certainly not in three weeks. And the second thing that you're told or people feel they're told often is do this program for three weeks or four weeks or 90 days, and you will be transformed. That's also not true, but it's actually worse than that. If you take someone who is sedentary and ask them immediately to engage in robust exercise, their mind may discipline them to do that for a week or two, but that's about it. You just can't do it for longer than that. It's just too hard and unpleasant. So what I recommend is start very slowly and gently and be kind to yourself. And if you're not getting any exercise now, start by walking one day a week for 15 minutes, preferably with a friend or a partner, to make it more enjoyable. And as you get used to that, maybe bring it up to 30 minutes and make it two days a week, and do that for a few weeks. And your body will ease into it. And your body will let you know when you're ready for a bit more. And then maybe add a day of calisthenics. So some push-ups and sit-ups for five or 10 minutes at home. Add that. So now you're walking two days a week, and you add one day of calisthenics. And then, if that feels okay, add a second day of calisthenics. And maybe at that point, you go either do an online fitness program, which is super easy to do. Just go to YouTube, and I can give you some recommendations and maybe add a bodyweight fitness class. And then, if you're motivated, join a gym and meet a trainer. But what I just described that period of induction, if you're not doing anything right now. That should probably take you two or three months. And if you push it and you make it go faster, you run the risk of abandoning the program.

Ken White

Or injury, and then you'll never get back again, right?

Strauss Zelnick

Exactly.

Ken White

You mentioned cardio and strength. Important to do both, in your mind?

Strauss Zelnick

I think unquestionably as you move along the process. When you start, however, anything that you do to start is okay. Whatever feels best.

Ken White

So how do you work when you're at home, not traveling? How do you work your workouts in? What's your plan?

Strauss Zelnick

So I schedule my workouts like a meeting. I treat my workouts with the same respect that I would treat having a cup of coffee with a friend or having a meal, or having a business meeting. So as I look at my calendar for the upcoming week, and I do plan ahead with flexibility as things have to change, I'll make sure that my workouts are scheduled. And by scheduling those workouts, I have a sense of the variety that I've built in or lack of variety sometimes. I do a lot of weightlifting.

Ken White

Preferably, are you a morning lifter? Evening? What do you prefer?

Strauss Zelnick

I like to get exercise in the morning. I generally do, but not always. And then sometimes I'm fortunate enough to get back to the gym and do some more exercise in the evening.

Ken White

What about when you travel?

Strauss Zelnick

Pretty much the same. I'm pretty good. This morning I missed my workout. It was a late night last night, and I knew that I needed more sleep than I needed more exercise. But I'll work out this evening when I get home.

Ken White

You'll push a little harder tonight to make up for missing this morning?

Strauss Zelnick

Maybe or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just give myself a break and understand that I've already worked out a lot so far this week.

Ken White

So you've touched on it a little bit in terms of what do you do. What would be a typical workout for you?

Strauss Zelnick

A typical workout would be high-intensity interval training where I'm lifting weights and doing some cardio, often with a timer with other people for somewhere between 40 and 60 minutes. Another typical workout would be a weights workout built out of supersets. So one exercise followed immediately by another exercise before you take a rest.

Ken White

Twice, you've mentioned other people. Is that important to you to work out with others?

Strauss Zelnick

Very much so. I think working out by yourself is boring and a missed opportunity to connect with other people and enjoy their company and in a low-stress, natural way. So I think it's why people play golf with other people, and it's why we go to the movies with other people. It's nice to pursue leisure with other people, but no matter what kind it is. And lifting weights can be boring and painful, so if you have someone else there, it takes the edge off.

Ken White

Yeah. I assume you've worked with personal trainers?

Strauss Zelnick

I have and still do.

Ken White

What do you think? How do they help you? I guess number one.

Strauss Zelnick

Well, their expertise helps, and you definitely want to work with someone who knows what they're doing, who's not going to get you injured, and who's going to help you along your path. They're also motivating, and I often train with my trainer. So not always I have a trainer I'll be training with Friday who does not train with the group. In other instances, though, the trainer actually will work out with me, and that's beneficial in two ways. First of all, it's motivating. Secondly, I seem to do better when I see something done, as opposed to listening to the words about how it should be done.

Ken White

Yeah. So how does fitness, physical fitness help you as a professional?

Strauss Zelnick

I think fitness is really tied to leadership. First, I think to lead people. You have to convey energy. And being reasonably fit will help you feel energetic and appear energetic. Secondly, I think looking your best is a sign of self-respect and respect for others, and it's probably not popular to say that, but I believe that. And I think if you show up feeling fit, feeling energized, feeling young, even if you're not and I'm not and looking the best you can look, these things are consistent with doing a good job in business, doing a good job in relationships. It's a way of showing up for yourself and others.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Strauss Zelnick in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The great resignation of 2021 continues as record numbers of people are leaving their jobs. Gallup Reports, almost half of all professionals in the US have their eyes on other opportunities. Well, if your company or organization wants to retain your best people, consider enrolling them in one of our MBA programs for working professionals. William & Mary's part-time MBA, online MBA, and executive MBA are designed for the professional who works full time so both the employee and the organization benefit. Employees want to feel supported by their employers. Show them your organization cares by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary by visiting wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Strauss Zelnick.

Ken White

How does it affect your mental health and your attitude?

Strauss Zelnick

Oh, hugely. Once you get into exercise, it's hard not to do it. If I don't exercise for more than a day, and I have to force myself to take a rest day. If it goes on for more than a day, then I start feeling low. And even my wife will say, you should probably go to the gym even though she thinks I work out too much. So getting exercise really is an emotional boost.

Ken White

Those who work for you, do you try to promote it verbally or by example?

Strauss Zelnick

Everything comes from the top, good and bad. I don't need to promote fitness. What I do say to people is, at all my organizations, look, no one will ever criticize you for leaving the office to go watch your kid play music or play sports. No one will ever criticize you for taking an hour to go to the gym during the day. We encourage you to have a personal life, and they know that I do that. And they know that I go to the gym and I work out with my colleagues sometimes. But I stopped well short of saying because I like this, you ought to do it. So any more than I would say because I like I don't know. I like to read nonfiction about US history that you should do that. But when the leader of an organization is doing stuff that's positive for him or her, that comes across that. People see that. And so, as a result, we have pretty fit organizations, but it's not demanded. We also pay for gym memberships or partially pay for gym memberships. And at our biggest company, we have an array of fitness-oriented programs because the team likes them, and we're happy to provide them. Actually, my biggest company, I lead two workouts a week on Zoom that people join from wherever they are in the world, and I usually have somewhere between 60 and 100 people show up.

Ken White

Wow, what that does for culture is going to be fantastic.

Strauss Zelnick

Certainly for the people who come.

Ken White

Yeah. Now food, of course, is critical. I think of my friends who work out. Food might not be terribly important. You pay attention to that. How did you get interested in food? And how did you start looking at food?

Strauss Zelnick

Well, I don't pay meticulous attention, frankly. I try to eat a healthy diet because, again, that's consistent with feeling good and longevity and health, and we ought to pay attention to it. And you know what's good for you? In the book that I wrote about fitness and health, there's a whole section on food and diet, but it's relatively straightforward, which is there are certain things you just shouldn't put in your body, like soda. Diet or otherwise or fruit juice, because fruit juice is just sugar and water or vegetable juice, same thing. You shouldn't drink your calories. It makes no sense. You should shy away from as much as possible; highly refined carbs and fried foods. But I eat dessert, so I mention that just so people don't think I'm misleading anyone. You should eat a lot of vegetables and salads. And I have a salad before lunch and dinner every day and keep the dressings as light as possible. You should eat whole carbs more than refined carbs. But again, some refined carbs are okay, too. And then lean protein. And then the truth is, if you put too many calories in your body, then you're going to gain weight. If you manage the calories you put in your body, you will either maintain or lose weight. And that's pretty much what any dietitian will tell you. You can spend lots of time and write lots of pages, but that's pretty much what people will tell you.

Ken White

So many people will say I work out so I can eat. So that's difficult to get on that healthy eating path for many people. Do you recommend they do it slowly like you recommend starting a fitness program?

Strauss Zelnick

Yes. Again, if you decide, I'm going to go on a keto diet tomorrow and some extreme diet. You can lose weight quickly. You'll probably gain it all back. If you are aiming to lose weight, the only way you can lose it and keep it off is with a very gentle approach. And it's easiest to just understand there are certain food groups that you have to eliminate or limit strictly, and then you have to watch your portions. Those are the easiest ways to look at it. In terms of I work out to eat. Well, you better be working out a whole lot because working out really doesn't burn calories. If you're running a whole lot, you will burn calories. But I'm talking about someone who runs for hours. If you go and run for 20 minutes or 30 minutes, you burn 300, 400 calories. That's one and a half candy bars. That's it. You can't really outwork your mouth. You got to control what you put in your body.

Ken White

You mentioned your book. Why did you write it? What got you to sit down and actually do that?

Strauss Zelnick

Well, I have a lot of friends in the fitness business. And my friend Dave Zinczenko, who runs his own media company and was formerly responsible for Men's Health magazine, encouraged me to write a book. And his label published it through Simon & Schuster. I think the motivation was that I've been doing this for a long time. I'm now in my 60s, and his view was, you have a great story to tell about how you can look pretty good and feel very good and be very energetic well into an age where a lot of people don't think that's possible. And so the book is called Becoming Ageless. And it's about taking care of your health. It does mention diet. It talks about exercise as well and then having a spiritual life, which I think are the four tenets to a healthy and happy life at any age.

Ken White

Yeah. We've had many guests who've written books on the podcast. I always have to ask, how did you write it? Because I know we have a lot of listeners who can write books. What was your process?

Strauss Zelnick

Well, I had a co-author on this. I've written two books. One, I did not have a co-author on. This one, I did, Zack Zeigler, who is a great writer and is editor in chief of Muscle and Fitness. And so Zack did a great deal of the writing with me. He interviewed me. The interviews were transcribed that formed the basis of a lot of what's in the book. I then physically wrote a bunch of the book, but he also wrote a lot of it and edited it carefully. And he had a great deal to do with the sections on specific exercises and specific diet plans. So that was a help. But basically, we spent about a couple of months doing interviews. I spent perhaps six or eight months writing, and then we spent about a year working on the editing the final copy and the design.

Ken White

Now you're here at the business school. You've met with a number of undergraduate business students and MBA students as well. Man, these are busy people who do like working out, but it might be the first thing to go when their list is heavy. What advice do you have for them and for all professionals who might say, I'll skip that workout, and eventually they're just not doing it?

Strauss Zelnick

Look, you can't have it all. You have to decide what your priorities are, and it's a uniquely American fantasy that we can be all things to all people at all times. We can't be. And there are times in one's life where certain things do have to take a backseat. And you have work to do. You're going to school. You have kids at home. You have partner with needs. These things may have to take precedence at times. However, you also have to know what you want. And truly, to show up for yourself and others, you do have to take care of yourself. You have to engage in self-care. And for me, exercise is part of that self-care. So I think there are times in one's life when you can easily create a priority around fitness, and there are other times when it will be harder. I think you have to be gentle with yourself. But I think if you're really not going to get exercise for more than a week or two or three, then you're going to pay a price that probably will be more costly than finding time to exercise along the way.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Strauss Zelnick. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, we'd like to hear from you regarding our podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks to our guest, Strauss Zelnick, thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Kim Lopdrup
Kim LopdrupEpisode 163: October 20, 2021
Successful Turnarounds

Kim Lopdrup

Episode 163: October 20, 2021

Successful Turnarounds

Virtually every leader has been faced with a turnaround situation - bringing a failing organization back to its former successful state. Or finding a high-quality solution to a problem that can no longer continue. A new leader is brought in to direct the turnaround situation in some instances. In other cases, the current leadership team is expected to get things back on track. And most often sooner rather than later. Because turnarounds are challenging, complex, and often situation-dependent, each one is unique. But all turnarounds have one thing in common: They require effective leadership. As Rosabeth Moss Kantor wrote in Harvard Business Review, "turnarounds are where leadership matters most." Kim Lopdrup knows how to lead turnarounds. He successfully faced a number of them in his career at Red Lobster, where he served as CEO for 14 years across two different stints before retiring this past summer. Under his watch, Red Lobster has more than exceeded expectations through the pandemic. He joins us today to talk about the elements of successful turnarounds, including communicating with employees, believing in the plan, and getting it done quickly.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Which organizations Kim has successfully led turnarounds
  • What are some key steps to a successful turnaround
  • How Kim and his team were able to turnaround Baskin Robbins in Japan
  • The importance of retaining employees
  • How to decide who should be on a leadership turnaround team
  • How do you motivate leaders to help with a turnaround
  • Is there a standard time frame for a turnaround
  • What does navigating a successful turnaround do to team dynamics
  • The role of confidence in regards to decision-making
Transcript

Kim Lopdrup: Successful Turnarounds TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, virtually every leader has been faced with a turnaround situation, bringing a failing organization back to its former successful state or finding a high-quality solution to a problem that can no longer continue. A new leader is brought in to direct the turnaround situation in some instances. In other cases, the current leadership team is expected to get things back on track and most often sooner rather than later. Because turnarounds are challenging, complex, and often situation-dependent, each one is unique, but all turnarounds have one thing in common. They require effective leadership. As Rosabeth Moss Canter wrote in Harvard Business Review, turnarounds are where leadership matters most. Kim Lopdrup knows how to lead turnarounds. He successfully faced a number of them in his career at Red Lobster, where he served as CEO for 14 years across two different stints before retiring this past summer. Under his watch, Red Lobster has more than exceeded expectations through the pandemic. He joins us today to talk about the elements of successful turnarounds, including communicating with employees, believing in the plan, and getting it done quickly. Here's our conversation with the recently retired CEO of Red Lobster, Kim Lopdrup.

Ken White

Well, Kim, thanks for joining us, and welcome back to William & Mary. It's nice to have you back.

Kim Lopdrup

Thank you. It's great to be back, Ken.

Ken White

And you'll be seeing some students later on today. I'm sure that'll just be a lot of fun for you.

Kim Lopdrup

Yes, I'll be in Professor Ron Hess's class. Really looking forward to that.

Ken White

When you and I talked about sitting down again for the podcast, we thought turnarounds might be an interesting topic. You've led quite a few of these in your career. Tell us about that.

Kim Lopdrup

Yeah, actually, I've been part of five turnarounds at this point. The first was when actually my first chance to be CEO. I was CEO of what really the international division of Dunkin Brands, which was Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins. The business was losing money, and the parent company frankly lost confidence in it and said the assignment was, please stop losing money quickly. And we did within 90 days and went on to get profits 82% above the previous record in about three years. The second one, I was not CEO, but Chief Operating Officer at Burger King, which was suffering declining same sort of sales. The parent company was looking to sell it, and we were able to turn around same thing. Get the trend from like minus five to plus five. Get the company restaurants from being some of the lowest-performing in the system to some of the best performing in the system. Third one was at Red Lobster, where the brand had really kind of become dated and suffering declining results, and Wall Street had lost confidence in it. When I joined, there was an analyst report from one of the investment banks titled Dead Lobster. But we were able to build a very comprehensive turnaround that dramatically improved the guest experience and updated the brand, and led to the seven most profitable years that the brand had to date and then went off and did some other things, other assignments at Darden and the parent company at the time. But while I was away, unfortunately, things eroded at Red Lobster, and they decided they were going to either spin it off or sell it. Asked if I wanted to be CEO, so we sold it to a private equity firm. I came back as CEO for a second seven-year stint, it turned out, and we were able to again get it turned around quickly by dealing with solving some of the mistakes that had been made and really improving the kitchen and the quality of the food and building the off-premise business. And then the third turnaround was really one sparked by COVID, where the government required that we closed all of our dining rooms across the U.S.

Ken White

Wow.

Kim Lopdrup

And then, of course, that's not very good for sales in a casual dining restaurant. So we work to triple our off-premise business and make some very rapid pivots to putting in rapid red curbside pickup, touchless delivery. Areas of opportunity and we simplified our business model, and we were able to get through the crisis and refinance the business. And anyway, those are the five turnarounds.

Ken White

Wow. Fantastic. So what's the key to success, so to speak? When you're thinking of a turnaround? What made things work for you?

Kim Lopdrup

Well, by definition, if you're in a turnaround, you're in a crisis, so you have to very quickly take steps that will, first of all, retain your employees. The key ones are going to be successful who are key to making you successful in the future. And so they need to understand what the current situation is because you're going to have to do some tough things, and they need to know why you're going to have to do tough things. They then need to see you've got a solution to the problem pretty quickly because their patience is thin. Actually, I remember with the first turnaround of the international division of Duncan Brands when I took over, they've recently done an employee survey, and an alarming percentage of employees didn't really expect to be there in three years. And it was a situation where we were losing a lot of money because of the financial crisis that had hit Russia and East Asia. But what we were able to do is I took 30 days to decide which of my senior team was going to be on the team.

Ken White

Hmm-mmm.

Kim Lopdrup

And we then took and to work together with a team to come up with a future plan. Took 30 days, and in that 30 days, we not only simplified the senior team, but we looked at all of our markets around the world based on whether we thought we could have a future there or not. And we looked at the unit economics of the business, the growth potential of the business. Obviously, if there was a lot of growth potential and good economics, we would fund those markets. If it was low potential and bad economics, we would exit those markets. If it was good economics but limited potential, we would support them in a really efficient way. If you had a market with a lot of theoretical potential, but the economics weren't working. You'd figure out, can we change the business model? Japan Baskin Robins Japan was an example of that, where it actually was a public company. And following the bust, they had years of decline in Japan, and the stores had lost average sales, and they'd raise prices to try to make up for it. And we did decline to like half, I think from 500 units to 322, and those 322 were only breaking even. But we were able to figure out we backed into the solution. We said we have to grow. We're operating our factory at way too low utilization. We have to grow. We think we need a 30% ROI to the franchisee to get people to invest to grow. But we're only at break-even right now. We knew we had a new design, a store design that could raise sales 15%, but that wasn't nearly enough, and we've actually backed in to give franchisees 30% ROI. We'd have to cut ice cream prices by 23%, and our J.V. was already only at break-even. So we backed into okay, how do we save money to enable a 23% price reduction? And we went to franchisees and said, tell you what, if you invest to remodel your restaurant to this design, we'll cut your ice cream prices 23%. They all signed up. They all signed up, and we were able to over-deliver on our cost savings targets. And it turned out that 15% sales increase. Well, that was the year one number. It was 20% if you include the year two growth. So we dramatically turned around Japan, there are over 1000 stores now and very profitable.

Ken White

Wow.

Kim Lopdrup

But here's the thing. We took 90 days to implement that plan. So on day 90, we were above break-even again, and we were able to tell communicate to employees why we were going to have to do some painful things but assure them there were no other shoes to drop. And we kept that promise. And surprisingly, on our next employee feedback survey, the percentage of people planning to be with a business in three years had tripled despite the fact there were some tough things. I thought I was going to be viewed as Darth Vader. This is my first time doing it. I thought I was going to be vilified for having to part company with some employees who've been around a long time, which we had to.

Ken White

But like you said to say that no other shoe is going to drop. And then you follow through, that's huge.

Kim Lopdrup

Right, and we saved a lot of jobs we wouldn't have saved had we not taken decisive action.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Kim Lopdrup in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. You know, the great resignation of 2021 continues as record numbers of people are leaving their jobs. Gallup reports, almost half of all professionals in the U.S. have their eyes on other opportunities. If your company 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, the part-time MBA, and executive MBA programs are all designed for the professional who works full time. So both the employee and the organization benefit. Employees expect to feel supported by their employers. Show them your organization cares by investing in their growth. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary by visiting wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Kim Lopdrup, the former CEO of Red Lobster.

Ken White

What's interesting about your store you never said I it was always we. It sounds to me like your team was extremely important to you in this. How do you choose the team? How do you decide?

Kim Lopdrup

Well, first of all, it was a great team. And the interesting thing is, they were all there when I came in as CEO. I had to part company with some people because we had more people than we should have had, and that made it too hard to make decisions. Some of those people had contributed to the problems, frankly. But in life, it's easy to say. I wish I had all perfect people, but yet I'm not one, and I haven't met one. You got to make it work in a turnaround. You really don't have the time to totally rebuild a team. You've got to figure out it's like an Apollo 13 when they had all the systems go out, flight director Gene Kranz says, well, what is working and start with that.

Ken White

What type of motivations involved? If I'm one of those team members, I kind of contributed to getting us in this spot, right? And now you're looking at me to get us out. So, where's the psychology and the motivation? Where's that play into that?

Kim Lopdrup

Well, first of all, you don't go in blaming people. That's completely unproductive. You have to focus on what we're all in this together. Failure is just not an option. For all of us to have jobs, but more importantly than us for all the people in the organization to have jobs, for this organization to have a bright future. We have got to get through this, and you have to be willing to look at all options, including those that are painful. And what's fascinating is what I found is when you explain to the organization what needs to be done and why they actually are willing to accept a pretty high degree of pain to get to a bright future. But you can't come out and just shock them. Like when we were reorganizing, and we were going to make some jobs go away. We didn't just blindside people with it. We actually told them we were going through this process. We were looking. We'd give them an answer on a certain day. Nobody was blindsided. And I think that is so important as you're leading an organization along the way, giving people foreshadowing what the next step is and then directly telling them, so they're not surprised. Credibility is everything, building and maintaining credibility. And to do that, you can't surprise people even on bad news.

Ken White

Yeah. I mean, the trust that builds is incredible. Speed, you're saying 90 days, 30 days, boy, that's fast.

Kim Lopdrup

People can put up with uncertainty, but only for so long. You have to move extremely quickly in dealing with a crisis. Some people are dusting off their resume, sending it to other employers if they're not sure about the future. So you have to compress that time by articulating a clear vision and then following through on it. Now, sometimes you have the problem. Well, gosh, to figure out the very best solution, that's going to take all this research and this time. Well, actually, I had a boss once, Joe Lee at Red Lobster, who once said, if you know, you need to be over in the other corner of the room someplace, but you're not sure the exact spot. You might as well start walking and then figure out the exact spot as you get closer. So on that first turnaround at Red Lobster. Interestingly. We looked at our research, and we said, Gosh, the most important things to consumers are that the food be fresh, that the restaurant be clean, the service be friendly. Those are the three most important things. And our gap versus our targeted competitors was widest on those three things. It was pretty obvious we needed to work on those three things.

Ken White

Yeah.

Kim Lopdrup

And so phase one was fresh, clean, and friendly, and a whole bunch of things designed to enable that. But over time, through research, refined a more precise and more compelling brand vision that was built around that but in far more detail. You remember the old Polaroid pictures where you take the picture, and it's like, well, okay. I think I can see there's sort of a car there, and there's sort of a house over on this other corner. But then it just gets clearer and clearer and clearer. And that's sort of the approach we took. There was a vision, but it was blurry

Ken White

Right.

Kim Lopdrup

in the early days. But then, as we got more research, we were able to clarify it for people and ultimately lead people through a transition that got pretty remarkable improvements in guest satisfaction and allowed us to outperform the industry by a pretty strong margin over a seven-year period.

Ken White

What'd that do to the team? I mean, when you experience something as a team, they tend to get a little closer and turnarounds like that when you come out the other end, a winner. What's that do to team dynamics?

Kim Lopdrup

Well, it obviously helps a lot. When things are not going well, unfortunately, people tend to start pointing fingers at everybody but themselves. But when things are working, people are really happy to take the credit. And I think it is important to give the credit to the team. And I think finger pointing is completely, utterly unproductive. But the other thing is, it builds confidence. When you go through a turnaround, it builds confidence. And one of the things I've learned in life is that because, candidly, when I was a William & Mary student, I wasn't a terribly confident individual. And you started getting some successes, actually, here at William & Mary that built confidence and led to greater challenges that built more confidence. And now I'd say I'm pretty high on that scale. But to lead other people effectively, confidence is actually one of the biggest determinants of success because everybody will have massive challenges and struggles in life. I don't know anybody. I know lots of incredibly successful people. I don't know anybody who hasn't gone through extreme challenges,

Ken White

Sure.

Kim Lopdrup

but what allows them to keep going that they're confident. They can overcome things. People who start companies, they have to be confident, they can succeed, or they won't even try. And to lead other people, people look you in the eye, and they say, do you really believe we can do this? You can't fool them. They can see right there. At least I can't fool them. Having that inner confidence that people can see is absolutely critical to leading others successfully. So it's kind of like Tom Brady just completed his 50th game-winning drive the other day for Tampa, and he's got all these comebacks. But when he gets in these impossible situations, it's like, yeah, we've done that before. No problem.

Ken White

Yup.

Kim Lopdrup

And he just calmly keeps doing what he needs to do. Anyway, those situations build confidence that makes people better equipped for the next challenges that come along.

Ken White

There's always times where the confidence is waning a little bit, right? You're just not feeling super confident tomorrow, as you might feel today. And we all hear about the imposter syndrome. There's got to be times where you're saying I'm right. Right? What do you do in those situations?

Kim Lopdrup

First of all, I'd say choose your assignments wisely because what I found is that if I'm working on something that I truly believe is incredibly important, you start to forget about. Well, what are the risks here? You're doing it because it's important, and it's necessary that you be successful. And when you get to that point, you quit thinking about the risk. But it's really important that you choose an employer, a job, an assignment. That's something you're really passionate about, and say no to those things that you really don't care about because you won't be a great leader unless you are passionate about it.

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. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, we'd like to hear from you regarding our podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and thoughts with us by emailing us at podcast@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.

More Podcast Episodes

 Atul Minocha
Atul MinochaEpisode 162: October 6, 2021
Lies, Damned Lies & Marketing

Atul Minocha

Episode 162: October 6, 2021

Lies, Damned Lies & Marketing

What does your CEO think about marketing? Or if you’re the CEO, what do YOU think about marketing? The way CEOs position marketing and the way they partner with the Chief Marketing Officer has a huge effect on results and the bottom line. Unfortunately, though, for many CEOs, marketing is nothing more than a source of frustration. In some cases, the marketing team has overpromised and under delivered. In other cases, the leader struggles with the investment marketing requires. Whatever the case, it can be disappointing to the CEO. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The CEO and CMO can be close partners, working together to generate positive results. Atul Minocha is a partner at Chief Outsiders, a marketing consulting firm. He’s also the author of “Lies, Damned Lies & Marketing,” a book recognized by Inc Magazine as one of 8 books to sharpen your strategic thinking. He says with help, CEOs can understand the benefits of marketing by partnering with their CMO and utilizing their dollars for real results.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What was Atul's process for writing "Lies, Damned Lies & Marketing"
  • How COVID affected Atul's consulting practice
  • What drew Atul to the CEO/CMO relationship for his book
  • What causes distrust between CEOs and CMOs
  • The importance of a CMO forging a positive relationship with a CEO
  • Why there's confusion between sales and marketing
  • The difference between "bigger marketing" and "smaller marketing"
  • How involved should a CEO be in their marketing department
Transcript

Atul Minocha: Lies, Damned Lies & Marketing TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. What does your CEO think about marketing, or if you're the CEO, what do you think about marketing? Well, the way CEOs position marketing and the way they partner with the Chief Marketing Officer has a huge effect on results and the bottom line. Unfortunately, though, for many CEOs, marketing is nothing more than a source of frustration. In some cases, the marketing team has overpromised and underdelivered. In other cases, the leader struggles with the investment marketing requires. Whatever the case, it can be disappointing to the CEO, but it doesn't have to be that way. The CEO and CMO can be close partners working together to generate positive results. Atul Minocha is a partner at Chief Outsiders, a marketing consulting firm. He's also the author of Lies, Damned Lies, and Marketing, a book recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of eight books to sharpen your strategic thinking. He says, with help, CEOs can understand the benefits of marketing by partnering with their CMO and utilizing their dollars for real results. Here's our conversation with Atul Minocha.

Ken White

Atul, thank you very much for sharing your time with us. It's nice to see you today. Thanks for being here.

Atul Minocha

Thank you, Dr. White. Glad to be here.

Ken White

Before we dive into the book, we have so many of our listeners who are great professionals and subject matter experts. They could probably write a book. And so I love to ask some of our authors who are our guests. How'd you do it? What was your process of writing?

Atul Minocha

A great question, actually. I think two paths. One is just building up to writing the book and then writing the book. Right. So building up part was that as I was practicing my craft of marketing consulting and helping other businesses use marketing effectively, I discovered that there was a gap in the understanding at the CEO level of what marketing is and what it can do versus what they thought it was. So it's not as if they got it wrong, but they definitely had an incomplete picture. So I kept on sort of saying, These are the things that I need to inform my CEOs about when I get a chance. And of course, I was doing it as I went along, and the list kept growing and growing and growing. But I never put a stop to it because, heck, the list was growing. So you don't want to cut short anything good, right. Then COVID happened. And then I said, you know what? I think now is the time to directly put it in a book form. So that was when the decision was made. Part of my thinking about writing the book was that I felt that my consulting business was going to go down. But actually, it did not. So what happened is when I signed up with the publisher to write the book, my thinking was that I'll have more time. I can write the book, and it could be a good, productive use of my COVID stay-at-home kind of time period. But since it didn't happen that way, I had to switch gears. Now I'm answering the second part of the question as to how did I actually write? So when I had to switch gears, I switched to the process, which was a little more extensive, but it was a little less time-consuming. So instead of literally writing for 2 hours every day, which was what I was beginning to do. I realized that it's much faster if I actually gave an interview or if I spoke to somebody who actually wrote it for me. So for the first two, three, four weeks, the person transcribed so-called scribe, sort of we worked back and forth to make sure that he actually got my voice, he got my tone, he got my style. And then, after all, after all that, it was simply a matter of speaking to him, you know, an hour, an hour and a half, once a week, or twice a week. And that's how the book came about.

Ken White

Excellent. Well, it's fantastic. You know, recently featured in Inc magazine as one of eight books that sharpen your strategic thinking. Boy, that's nice to have that attached to the book. Yeah, it's interesting.

Atul Minocha

It is very nice to be attached to books, which are other books which are on that list. I'm the only first-time author on that list. So I feel, talk about impostor syndrome. I think this is the perfect case of that.

Ken White

So why did you decide to focus on this? This CMO CEO sort of relationship? What was it about that that you like?

Atul Minocha

I think it's extremely important for any CMO to be successful that they have a very positive and a two-way relationship between CEO and CMO. It's not that the CMO has to worship the CEO. CEO also has to have respect for CMO. Otherwise, they're not going to do what the CMO is going to recommend. In my work experience, I realized that it was extremely important to have that positive, healthy relationship, even to the point where if you disagreed, you could say it so and explain why you're disagreeing. And it cuts both ways. And I found that the foundation for that relationship for that healthy relationship was missing in most instances, especially in small to mid-sized companies. Why? Because for various reasons, previous experiences that CEOs had had with marketing was less than positive. So they actually had very low opinion of what marketing is or what marketing can do. And there was a fair bit of misunderstanding. There was a fair bit of gap in understanding. And that was what I was trying to fill in.

Ken White

Why? What causes that this many CEOs to have that less than positive experience? What were some of the issues that you saw?

Atul Minocha

I think there are a few reasons for that. And some of the I don't want to call it blame, but some of the attribution perhaps lies on the CEO side. Much of it lies on the marketing lead side. So on the CEO side, the reason could be that A marketing is if you look at sort of all the MBA kind of functions right. Production, marketing, finance, accounting, HR. Marketing is perhaps the one which is the broadest in terms of you can sort of say this is marketing and that is also marketing. Whereas in most of the functions, it's slightly more narrow. So many CEOs don't have the full understanding of what marketing is. I'll give you an example most CEOs think of marketing as, oh yeah. When I think of website, I think marketing, but when they think of what new products they should launch three years from now, five years from now, they don't think necessarily of marketing. What new markets to go after. They don't think of that as a marketing function. They'd rather talk to the CFO and say, I'm thinking of going to Asia, or I'm thinking I'm going to Lithuania, but they will probably not bring in the marketing guy or Gal. Do you think there's a market for this in Lithuania? So I think there's that sort of incompleteness in CEO's understanding. But then a big part of the attribution for this misunderstanding is on the CMO side, and that's or the marketing lead side that often many of my peers and I'd probably have been guilty of this myself some time in the past. Where I may have overpromised that yup, marketing can do this. Why? Because I just wanted to get out of that hot atmosphere in the CEO's office or get away from the stare of the CEO. Or I was put in that spot in a leadership team meeting where everybody was signing up for something good. And I didn't want to be the only one, as the naysayers. I also said, yeah, I think we can do so. We tend to over-promise sometimes, and that leads to dissatisfaction. So I think those are some of the main causes of why CEOs have had some bad experiences in the past.

Ken White

So what advice do you give to the CMO? We could easily say don't over-promise. But I get that I could see being at the table and saying, I want to add, I want to show my value. How do you coach the CMO in that sort of a situation?

Atul Minocha

The way I would coach the CMOs is that don't be so short-term-focused. In other words, it may be an easy way out for you to say yes and sign up. And then when you get to your office, you yourself are sweating as how the heck am I going to deliver this? It's better to take time, and it's better to actually build that relationship with your CEO. That when you do say no or when you do say we need to rethink this, the CEO has respect for you. He said, you know what, since you are saying it, why don't we spend some time together? Why don't we go out for lunch? And maybe you can explain to me why you think this may not be the best thing. So it really starts by building that relationship or having that relationship so that you can actually explain to the CEO how it actually works, as opposed to simply saying yes, sir, or yes, ma'am.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Atul Minocha in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Our world continues to change, meaning new skills and new approaches are required. Well, those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different formats in the MBA, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed and lead in our continuously changing world. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary by visiting wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with Atul Minocha, author of Lies, Damned Lies, and Marketing.

Ken White

Is there any confusion among many CEOs that you've seen between sales and marketing?

Atul Minocha

Oh, absolutely. I mean, on one hand, sales and marketing have to work together. So when people think of sales and marketing, the fact that they say it almost without losing a breath is a good thing. But on the other hand, when people use the word sales and marketing, what they're really saying is sales. And the reason I say that is because sales is about making something happen right away. Marketing is about making something happen, maybe a little bit down the road. So urgent always wins over important, as Steven Covey might say. So sales always wins.

Ken White

Walk us through the book a little bit. What were some of the main topics? What were you trying to get through to your reader in the book?

Atul Minocha

Yeah. If I can share a little secret. And I think I already told you how the book germinated.

Ken White

Hmm-mmm.

Atul Minocha

So there are about 19 chapters in the book. They did not occur in my head in that sequence. In fact, the first seed was planted in what is now chapter 14 in the book. So sort of that's where it started, and then it kept expanding. So when I started to write the book, I realized that it cannot be sort of a random list of the way it thoughts and my experiences occurred because they occurred in that sequence only based on what kind of projects I was doing when. So there was really no sequence to that other than circumstances. So I broke it up into what we at our company Chief Outsiders called Big M marketing and small M marketing. So let me explain what that is. So small  M marketing is actually the most visible part of marketing. If you talk to anybody who's not from marketing, if you ask them what is marketing, they'll say it's the website, it's the logos, it's the advertising, it's the Facebook thing, it's the LinkedIn thing. It's the fade show. It's the radio ad. It's the Billboard. That is marketing. But the way I look at that is, yes, that is marketing. But that's what we call small M marketing or the tactical side of marketing. But then there's a big M marketing, which is the most strategic foundational part, which is what segments to go after? Who are your segments? What are the customer's pain points? How should you price it? What channels should you use? Those kind of big M marketing questions are very important. So I actually structured my thoughts. Those 19 chapters is in either big M or small M, or the ones that sort of transcend those two put them in the third category of big M and small M, so that's how the book is laid out.

Ken White

Interesting. I'm guessing; correct me if I'm wrong, do some CEOs focus or some CMOS focus on the little M more so than the big M, and could that cause some issues?

Atul Minocha

Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, I would say nine out of ten CEOs focus on small M. And if you explain to them the big M and small M, they'll say, yeah, intellectually, I agree with you, but I really want you to do this on the small M side. In other words, they don't want to invest the time on the big M because that looks like a little nebulous. What will I get out of that? My answer to that is there's somebody who said 60, 70 of years ago that I know half of the marketing dollars are wasted. The only problem is I don't know which half is wasted. So that's what I use to explain the value of big M. If you just focus on small M, you'll end up with wasting at least half the dollars. If you spend a little bit of time, not too much, a little bit of time, maybe 10% of your overall marketing time and 10% of your overall marketing budget on big M, you are very likely to improve that 50% waste stage down to maybe 20%, maybe 10%. You'll probably never bring it down to zero. But heck, if you can get you know 40 50% improvement on your marketing spend, that's a heck of an ROI.

Ken White

How deep into the spend the details should a CEO be?

Atul Minocha

It really depends on the CEO's personality. Let me sort of turn the question around a little bit. It's not so much how much detail they should get into. What I would like the CEO  to do is get into as much detail as you want, but don't start from the weeds. It would be my point. In other words, let your marketing person have an overview and spend some time both the CEO and the CMO. As to why are we even doing this? Instead of sort of saying, let's get to what can we do in social media? Why aren't we doing social media? Do our prospects at least spend time on social media and with social media? I mean, I've run into so many instances where they'll say, okay, we'll have LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter on our website. But are your prospects or customers even spending time on Instagram? I mean, I have nothing against Instagram, but I'm saying use what's useful, not because everybody is using it. Therefore, I should use it too.

Ken White

That's interesting, and some of your responses, it shows that a close relationship between these two individuals can really pay off. How do you create that? Have you given advice to CEOs on getting closer to the CMO and spending more time?

Atul Minocha

Yeah. So in my current role as a partner in a consulting firm, I work with CEOs. And the truth is that that relationship is, for the most part, very easy to establish because the CEO has hired you. In fact, if that relationship is not there, the project will end pretty soon. So that's kind of an obvious way that if the relationship is there, the project is there. If the relationship is not there, you just part company and go on separate ways. I think the more difficult challenge is in a corporate environment. That you have been hired as the Marketing Director or a Vice President of Marketing or a CMO, and yes, they hired you. So they obviously liked you, and it respected you. But then, over time, you may find that they treat marketing as though that's just a service side of things. Business really doesn't depend on that. Or we lean on the marketing Department when a trade show is coming up or when a new press release has to be made, as opposed to having a strategic seat at that primary leadership table. So that is a more difficult challenge, and you just have to try. You just have to sort of work and make sure that there's deeper understanding on the CEO side of what marketing can deliver. One other point if I may make on this is that what can really help to build that relationship is that instead of answering the question of what marketing can do, answer the question, what marketing can do for the business. In other words, don't make it a marketing thing. Make it a business thing. Why? Because the CEO is really not interested in a marketing award. CEO is interested in the business achieving certain goals. So put your services, marketing services, translate the value of that in terms of the business as opposed to that it's just good for marketing.

Ken White

If there was one takeaway you'd like readers to have after reading the book, what might that be?

Atul Minocha

I'll give you two cause the two are related.

Ken White

Great.

Atul Minocha

One is don't discard marketing in spite of your bad experiences. Marketing is extremely important, and the related part that I would say is that if you read the book, you will find ways you can actually use marketing very effectively in spite of your bad experiences. So A don't throw the marketing away, and B, there are really nice, creative, simple ways by which you can extract more value out of marketing.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Atul Minocha, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, we'd like to hear from you regarding our podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, thoughts, and questions with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks to our guest at Atul Minocha and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 JD Due
JD DueEpisode 161: September 21, 2021
Transitioning from the Military

JD Due

Episode 161: September 21, 2021

Transitioning from the Military

Every year over 200,000 U.S. military personnel separate from active duty. Transitioning servicemen and women cite a number of reasons and motivations for their departures For example, they may be retirement eligible, others have completed their service agreements, some are seeking a career change. For others, the move is related to family. Whatever the reason, transitioning from the military to the civilian world is challenging. According to militarytransition.org, about half of all veterans say their transition was more difficult than expected. Not surprising when you consider their entire world, in essence, changed. JD Due is the Executive Director of the Center for Military Transition at William & Mary. The center is located in the William & Mary School of Business and was created to help active duty and veteran students at the university successfully navigate their transactions. He joins us today to discuss military transitions, the importance of networking, and how a successful transition includes patience, and a plan.

Podcast (audio)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How JD got into the field of military transitioning
  • Why is it difficult for military personnel to transition to civilian life
  • How military personally can identify who they want to be as a civilian
  • The importance of having mentors while transitioning
  • What are the commonalities for people who are transitioning out of the military
  • What is different for everybody as they enter civilian life
  • When should one start thinking about their transition out of the military
  • What can companies and organizations do to help service members in the workplace
  • What services does the Center for Military Transition offer
Transcript

JD Due: Transitioning from the Military TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business. The podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Every year, over 200,000 U.S. Military personnel separate from active duty. Transitioning servicemen and women site a number of reasons and motivations for their departures. For example, they may be retirement eligible. Others have completed their service agreements. Some are seeking a career change. For others, the move is related to family. Whatever the reason, transitioning from the military to the civilian world is challenging. According to militarytransition.org, about half of all veterans say their transition was more difficult than expected. Not surprising when you consider their entire world, in essence, changed. JD Due is the Executive Director of the Center for Military Transition at William & Mary. The center is located in the William & Mary School of Business and was created to help active duty and veterans students at the University successfully navigate their transitions. He joins us today to discuss military transitions, the importance of networking, and how a successful transition includes patience and a plan. Here's our conversation with JD Due.

Ken White

JD, thanks very much for sharing your time. Great to see you in person. Thanks very much for being here.

JD Due

Absolutely. It's interesting. One of the I guess positive upsides what is a catastrophe, and the pandemic is that you find out that people are ready to be together, right? To be a part of a community. You find out who's maybe not normally a hugger, and they might be a little bit more of a hugger. And again, keeping all those things in mind. But it is wonderful to be here in person. So thank you for having me.

Ken White

No, our pleasure. So as the Executive Director of the Center for Military Transition, what an interesting job. How did you even get into the field? Where did that start?

JD Due

Well, I've always been a fan and a friend of serendipity, right. In some cases, I literally stumbled into the field of myself, and it starts out biographically. Whenever I was at the culmination of my 20 years in the Army, I was actually granted an extraordinary opportunity. I was working at the Pentagon. I had been there for just a little bit over a year, but the US Chamber of Commerce had a what they described as a corporate fellowship program. And really, within my last six months of active duty, I got to spend twelve weeks with one of their corporate partnerships, and I was in a program manager role, and I worked in that civilian firm while the Army still took care of pay and housing and all of the wonderful things that the Army can take care of. But I was a program manager for four days out of the week, and then on the fifth day, the Chamber of Commerce would organize different transition skill-building events. And so there were about 25 of us going through this program at the same time. So we were able to share experiences, good and bad. And then we went to these different host companies. And the HR element of Deloitte gave us a rundown of what resumes should look like. If you're interested to go into consulting. Amazon gave us a rundown of if you want to go through an intensive interview process. Here are different sort of skills to refine. And in the midst of that process, about two weeks in, I realized I was in a role I did not want to be in beyond that fellowship. But what I discovered is this desire of what I really wanted to do is run a program to assist veterans in transitioning broadly. And that's sort of how I came into this place as well as then simultaneously and again; this is where serendipity comes in. A colleague whom I had never met but had been closely associated with on LinkedIn shared an opportunity that was the Pat Tillman Foundation. I saw the job description. I shared it with my wife. She looked at me. She's like, hey, don't mess this up. This seems like a great opportunity. And it was. And that's how I got into this business of providing resources, conceived broadly to assist veterans transition into a new chapter of service.

Ken White

Fantastic story. And I know just in the short time you've been here, how the active-duty military and the student body just love to talk with you and interact with you. The transition is a big deal for everybody, but especially for people in the military. Why is that?

JD Due

Well, for one, I think the military is a huge and complex organization, right? I mean, one of the joys in the national treasures that the all-volunteer force is. Is it has an opportunity to bring people from many different parts of the country and many different backgrounds together. And so, even students that are in the military on active duty now, part of the reason why the Army or the Navy or the Coast Guard send them here is actually broaden their experience. So they're going through a transition themselves, of moving from maybe a tactical focus in the Army to then helping out the institutional level of how does the army conduct marketing for these broad institutional pieces? So that's one of it. But then, over the past, really 40 years of the all-volunteer force, each of these services have a very strong culture process, right. When you go into the Army, you'll spend six, sometimes up to twelve or 18 weeks in any one of the services learning your job. And just the first thing isn't even learn your job in the military is to learn how to be a soldier or a sailor or a Marine. And then when you leave, you don't have that benefit of time always, right. That was the key thing that fellowship program I was a part of. It gave me additional time to ask really big questions of how does my identity fit in a new culture? And those are really important first-order questions to try and address. And that's, I think, a key element of the challenge that's there. And it applies to any human being, but particularly in the military, right.

Ken White

Right.

JD Due

The military helps you choose what to wear when you go to work, right. We can joke and chuckle about that. But there's so much of that regimentation and framework that's there that sometimes it can be very challenging when you're entering a realm that doesn't have that same framework.

Ken White

You and I were talking earlier before we started to record, and you said for many transitioning military personnel, it's not what do I want to be is who do I want to be in that transition? How do you figure that out when you're trying to transition?

JD Due

Well, I think one of the best ways to sort of figure that out. And it is probably I think it is the question. It is the first-order question to figure out. I think you figure it out in the context of a community. You figure out in terms of introspective questions. If you're asking yourself, what does light my fire, what are my interests, what are my strengths? But then, if you're able to do that in a community where you have allies, where you have other people within that network, mentors this case here professors to be able to ask those questions of and get feedback. I think that's a really, really important mechanism because by communicating those pieces, it helps you really refine not only what your experiences mean, and it helps translate that, which is great on a resume. But that's not the first-order question. It really helps you understand, hey, what are different areas that I can move to, that I can still serve, that I can still be a leader, but doing so in a new context.

Ken White

When you look overall at the types of folks who have served our country, male, female, older, younger, a long amount of service, a shorter amount of service. What are some of the similarities they face in their transition? What are some of the differences among all those various different groups?

JD Due

Well, I think some of the similarities that they face is the fact that they will have unique experiences that also occurred in the unique context. So similarities are the challenge of taking those experiences and translating them to new context, right. That is, I think, one of the key challenges, and it is generally universal across the veteran community to be able to clearly articulate. This is how I can be a asset to assist any organization, be it one that wears uniforms or one that does not. Solve problems and do so in a creative manner. And I think in a lot of ways. And although it might not be at the forefront of their tongues, they actually have a lot of creativity that the military has so much regimentation and framework it's because it's designed to operate in the realm of chaos and uncertainty.

Ken White

Right.

JD Due

This was as true for the Greeks as it was for the Persians as it is for us. It is just madness and chaos, and being able to take some of those unique experiences and put it into new context actually is both the challenge and an opportunity that's there. Now the difference is is that just like anyone else, the members of the military are unique. The way that they process the experiences that are there are going to occur in wildly different manners. So the stereotypes that might exist really, really don't necessarily apply. And one of the challenges that the Department of Defense has been doing a lot of good work really over the past six or seven years to refine their transition assistance programs. But the Department of Defense is a big, big Bureau. It is a big organization, and some of those processes tend to be a bit generic. So if you're able to look at an experience that then has very personalized transition plans and to have centers and programs help an individual piece those different things together. That's where some of those differences occur.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with JD Due in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Today's world requires new skills and new approaches. Well, those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different MBA formats, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary by visiting wm.edu. Now back to our conversation with JD Due, Executive Director of William and Mary's Center for Military Transition.

Ken White

When you're talking to someone who's serving, and they know at some point there will be a transition. When should they start thinking and doing? When do you start acting on your transition? How many months? How many years?

JD Due

Yeah. The thinking probably starts now, right at any point in time. And it's really interesting. Here one of the wonderful joys, and it's really a gift that William & Mary is able to bring. It's collaboration with the Army and the Major General James Wright fellowship. So these are fellows that come from a highly selective process in the Army, and they're at the midpoint of their army career. So they probably have at least ten, sometimes 15 years of additional service. But it's also an important transition and an inflection point in their career. They will be moving from doing direct leadership-type tasks to then be part of this broader institutional basis. And again, the Army, the Navy, the Coast Guard. These services are large institutions as they exist. And as they make that transition, it also gives an opportunity for them to really build and diversify all the resources and the human resources that they have contact with, right. They look within the Marine Corps or the Air Force. They're going to have a long list of folks that they can count on as allies and mentors. Well, a trip here as that broadening assignment as the military will often call it. Helps them to broaden that network. And it does so in a way that's actually transformational and not transactional. And so by starting to think about, hey, how can I maintain relationships that could benefit my service, could benefit and augment my service to my country? How can that also then establish a relationship that creates future opportunities whenever that time comes? And it always does come regardless of the rank that you depart. Where it's time to unlace the boots and hang up the uniform, and then probably within about 24 months, that's when serious series planning should really be initiated. To answer the more specific questions of what industry do I want to go into? Is that industry more important to where I want to live and to do that in a systematic manner? Just to be able to reduce some of the variables and a really, really complex equation that they're going to have to deal with.

Ken White

And there are opportunities and programs for those serving that they can experience to kind of get them moving on their transition?

JD Due

Absolutely. Again, one of the current ones and it grew out of the program that I was able to participate in back in 2018. It's called SkillBridge, the Department of Defense SkillBridge program, and it is oriented to a wide array of military personnel. Some that have been enlisted personnel. And sometimes, that might mean that they are then transitioning to get a bachelor's degree. Officers commissioned officers s have to have a bachelors degree already, but then it allows them to be in a position to get a professional degree, a Masters or even higher degree, to again add aspects of specificity to their skill set, to be able to again address those challenges and opportunities of what comes next.

Ken White

Many of our listeners are professionals, leaders and managers, business owners. What can companies and organizations do in terms of the transition to help to get involved, to bring veterans on board?

JD Due

Well, I think one of the key aspects is A recognizing that the service members are actually an integral part of their community, and they always have been, right. One of the huge benefits is the G.I. Bill. So when we think about 1944, in terms of military history, massive things are going on. There's an invasion of Normandy. There's the Battle of the Bulge. The tide is turning against the Nazi regime. But at the same time, we're passing the G.I. Bill, and that's really significant. So at the height of combat in World War II, Congress actually has the foresight to establish this program that allows the reintegration of a very, very huge army compared to what the size of the military is today back into the civilian world. We still have elements of that going on right now. The post 911 GI bill is a wonderful benefit that is really, really geared towards, you know, MBA programs. Towards law degree programs in terms of the amount of time and benefits that folks have. And so for companies to be able to look at those opportunities as well as even inside their own companies, they're going to find, oh, wow. I didn't realize that this leader that she was a Marine Corps veteran.

Ken White

Right.

JD Due

And yet those human beings are going to be there listening to them in terms of their own stories as well as listening to our students and clearly communicating, I think, is the answer of how folks can help best.

Ken White

So tell us about the Center for Military Transition. This is new at William & Mary. We've always had a I call it a love affair between the military and William & Mary. It's been going on forever. But we've got a good number of servicemen and women here in our school, undergrad, and graduate programs. But this is a big deal. Tell us about the Center for Military Transition.

JD Due

It is and Bob Merkle who's the Special Assistant to the University President on Military Affairs. He talks about William & Mary that we have an abundance of riches. And he's absolutely true. Dean Pulley talks about that. Active duty and service members have always been this integral part of the Mason School and this broader community. And it's really this element on opportunity for the Center of Military Transition to integrate all of these things that the Mason School does so well, right. You know, when we look at professional business education, when we look at leadership development, this development of skills, mentorship programs is what the executive partners are able to provide for life. Those are all the key contributors of a really world-class transition program. And that's what makes this opportunity so exciting. All the necessary factors are here. And then, the center can help to integrate those and again right-size them to a personalized experience. That's really the huge opportunity that we have. And I think it will be differential. It'll make a huge difference in the lives of the student veterans that are here. It will help inform students that are coming through the Mason School that have no or very little exposure to the military as well. And that is the wonderful aspect of this ecosystem that can really make a big difference.

Ken White

And working with those who will be transitioning soon and maybe not so soon.

JD Due

Exactly. And again, you can almost think of it as a timeline. And for those that are coming out of the military, they are used to some very regimented timelines. They know hey within X number of months at some point in time at 42 months, I was going to receive a promotion, right? Why it was 42 months and not 48. I'm not quite sure. But how can we then create similar timelines that might not be as regimented because they don't need to be mindful and to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities that are out there? But what are different steps that someone can do? How can they take something that might come out of a course that they take in the first two months here and then the center can help extend some of the tools that they're building with their professors and then link those in with potential employers and where a student wants to go. Again I think that's what's really, really exciting as we both develop individuals and then empower them to really be able to serve and to lead and to be the assets that they have the potential to be in a wide variety of companies.

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. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guests, JD Due, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Phil Wagner
Phil WagnerEpisode 160: September 7, 2021
Stepping Up Your D&I Efforts

Phil Wagner

Episode 160: September 7, 2021

Stepping Up Your D&I Efforts

In the last decade, the interest in Diversity & Inclusion has grown significantly at companies and organizations. For the most par D&I has been accepted: It's seen as a positive contributor to employee engagement, employee retention, company culture, and a healthy bottom line. While D&I has become mainstream, not every organization has it figured out. For some, Diversity & Inclusion efforts are simply transactional - a series of workshops or lectures delivered by a vendor. Our guest today says it needs to be transformative in order to make a real difference. In other words, D&I vocabulary and knowledge should be shared among all employees and leaders as a supportive and inclusive culture organically grows. Phil Wagner is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management Communication at William & Mary's School of Business. He teaches communication and D&I to undergraduate and graduate business students in addition to working professionals. He says, while considerable progress has been made in the D&I space, there are still opportunities for professionals, leaders, and organizations to be more effective.

Building upon other D&I experts' work, particularly Jennifer Brown's How to be an Inclusive Leader, Aiko Bethea's work on transactional vs. transformational D&I leadership, and Brene Brown's Dare to Lead, this discussion focuses on practical takeaways that leaders can employ to demonstrate their commitment to inclusion.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What's the difference between a D&I transactional model vs. a transformative model
  • What is the role of the leader/CEO/boss when it comes to D&I efforts
  • How can authenticity help when considering D&I work
  • How can leaders best prepare themselves when approaching D&I
  • What is the role of a D&I officer
  • Who makes a good D&I officer
  • How does one train to be a D&I officer
  • How do you teach D&I to leaders/employees/students
  • What is Phil's new podcast "Diversity Goes to Work"
Transcript

Phil Wagner: Stepping Up Your D&I Efforts TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business. The podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. In the last decade, the interest in diversity and inclusion has grown significantly at companies and organizations. For the most part, D&I has been accepted. It's seen as a positive contributor to employee engagement, employee retention, company culture, and a healthy bottom line. While D&I has become mainstream, not every organization has it figured out. For some, diversity and inclusion efforts are simply transactional, a series of workshops or lectures delivered by a vendor. Our guest today says it needs to be transformative in order to make a real difference. In other words, D&I vocabulary and knowledge should be shared among all employees and leaders. As a supportive and inclusive culture organically grows. Phil Wagner is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management Communication at William & Mary's School of Business. He teaches communication and D&I to undergraduate and graduate business students in addition to working professionals. He says while considerable progress has been made in the D&I space, there are still opportunities for professionals, leaders, and organizations to be more effective. Here's our conversation with Professor Phil Wagner.

Ken White

Well, Phil, thanks for taking the time to join us. Great to see you. Isn't it nice to be in person?

Phil Wagner

It is nice to be back in person.

Ken White

And you're in the classroom because classes have started. How's it been?

Phil Wagner

Filled to capacity 118 bright MBAs so eager to be there, you can feel the energy. It's great.

Ken White

It is it's so fun. So thanks. It's a busy week. Thank you for joining us. D&I DE&I your area this is something you teach, something you're passionate about. We were talking earlier before we started recording, when I said to you, What's the difference between doing this? Maybe right and wrong? And you said there's a transactional model and a transformative model. What does that mean?

Phil Wagner

Number one, I think we back up and say there's just so many different models. Look at the terminology D&I, DIEO, DIEB. I mean, it's constantly iterative. And you look at how things have developed, particularly over the last 20 or so years. It's been a rapidly changing conversation along that rapid sequence of change. I don't think we've paused to make sense of all of the pieces.

Ken White

Right.

Phil Wagner

We know we have to do diversity, equity, and inclusion work, but I don't think we've stepped back to ask what that really means. And so we've done a lot of that transactional stuff. We have built a culture in which we say D&I matters. So I'm going to put on four different lunch and learns. I'm going to have another training on microaggressions. I'm going to do X, Y, and Z. I've done a lot of programming. I've collected a lot of data, and we say, let's respond to that. And so what you've done is we created this culture where people are shamed into participation. They're guilted into participation. They're pushed into participation because we say this is important. But we never stop to explain why. And so where we need to get to, I truly believe, is to really focus on that why. To move from transaction to a more transformational model, one that really stops and asks, Why are we doing the things that we're here to do? And I think that transformational model doesn't build a culture in response to D&I. It says we first build our diversity. We first focus intentionally on inclusion, on support, on culture. Once we've got those locked and loaded, we've invited everybody to participate. That can then be a transformational experience, one that's harder to push back against and one that's inclusive for everybody to get involved.

Ken White

Where does the leader, the CEO? Where does the head honcho? What's the role of that individual in these efforts?

Phil Wagner

I think that's another misconception we tell ourselves. We think a lot about diversity and inclusion crises. Somebody getting canceled, somebody who makes an inappropriate sexual comment. Cuomo being a great example recently. You've done something, and you sort of tap out. I think we think that in times of diversity and inclusion crises, it's going to be human resources and public relations. HR and PR are they're going to swoop in. They're going to save the day. And I, as a leader, get to sort of just step back and let them do the work. And that's a fundamental misconception. As a leader in the current climate in which we exist, you have to have the vocabulary of inclusive leadership communication. You have to have a knowledge of what the current D&I issues are. You have to have a hand on the pulse of the political and social climate. You are hiring people in that climate. You have people in your organization. We're clocking in nine to five who come in from that climate. So you've got to be well prepared to orchestrate a culture that recognizes it's complicated out there. You got to reflect that complication in here with the nuance of our D&I work.

Ken White

And in the past six to eight to twelve months, we've had several instances where leaders have had to react and say something about what's happening in the real world. That's where that vocabulary, knowledge, and understanding comes into play.

Phil Wagner

Yeah, this is about storytelling. Right.

Ken White

Yeah, it is.

Phil Wagner

As a leader, you need to be able to tell the right story and accurate story and authentic story that exists in response to the public because that public is comprised of storytellers who can get out ahead of you if you're not telling the right story. And so they're increasingly looking for you to figure out how all these things merge, how they align.

Ken White

You thought you talk about authenticity; how does that? What do you mean by that?

Phil Wagner

I think it's a variable that's often missing in D&I work because it's so cheap for us. It's easy to put on again. Those lunch and learns those microaggression trainings, and so that's devoid of an authentic connection, particularly for the leaders who are putting them on. You need to be the person that the people in your organization look to set the tone for inclusion there. And so that's going to require some work on your end, some uncomfortable, deep digging, some self-reflection, certainly some time. But all of those things are definitely going to work out to make you a better leader in the end. Beyond just increasing your D&I knowledge, they're going to make you more self-reflective. You're going to have a better pulse on the culture within your organization. All of this, though it takes work certainly worth the effort.

Ken White

I would assume some CEOs are afraid. I mean, that's tough to step into some of these issues. Afraid that I might offend this group or not offend that group. What have you? A tough spot to be in at times.

Phil Wagner

Yeah, because things have transpired so rapidly again past 20 years. Look at everything has happened post 911, just politically, socially. The conversation has changed so quickly. It's gone in so many different directions. We have terminology that's on the spot, introduced in 1 second and 20 minutes later, it's expired. It is bewildering to do this work. It requires a significant amount of vulnerability. There's some significantly discomfortable, uncomfortable, I should say, conversations that need to happen. And I don't think we've appropriately prepared people to have those leaders in the making. I don't think MBA programs historically have done a good job of isolating space to really focus in on these issues. And so you've got a generation of leadership that knows that this is important. I truly believe wants to engage in it. They simply don't have the toolkit. They don't have the knowledge to do this well. So, the authenticity piece, how can it be authentic? Because it's changed so much?

Ken White

What are D&I officers doing today? What are they spending their time on?

Phil Wagner

I think D&I officers spend most of their time helping leaders set an agenda. So they work in the nuances of data gathering and collection. But they're also going back to what we talked about with storytelling, helping leaders tell the right story. And I think what D&I leaders are struggling with is that rapidly changing climate, and they're helping those leaders who have not been historically well prepared learn how to deal with the real raw issues in the professional setting. We like to think that the world of work is an apolitical context. Excuse me, but you don't get the luxury of clocking in nine to five and forgetting about discrimination or me too or pay inequity or all of the issues that our employees bring to the world of work. So it's doing a deep dive into sort of that human-oriented perspective that I think D&I officers help leaders get to.

Ken White

A tough job.

Phil Wagner

A tough job, a job that can be fundamentally rewarding and also humiliating, exhausting, because, in many ways, you're always wrong. I mean, you're always outdated because this is a conversation that never has no endpoint. It's constantly growing. It is iterative. And there are so many different pockets or factions of people that have ideas about diversity and inclusion. Who's right, who's wrong? We're always looking for that binary, black or white, right or wrong. This is a space where that doesn't really exist, aside from some significant extremes. And so this is about equipping people to toil in that nuance to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That's a core component of our curriculum here to take initiative to say; this is all so complicated. What do I do? And to rest in that but to be able to lead through that with clarity and transparency, and authenticity.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Phil Wagner in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Our post COVID world will require new skills and new approaches, and those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different MBA formats, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Phil Wagner.

Ken White

Who makes a good D&I officer today? I mean, some jobs, that job description is so easy, right? The qualifications so simple. Where do we begin with D&I officers?

Phil Wagner

I think a D&I officer has to know that they want to be a D&I officer. Has a strong understanding of the realities of that position, how it has come to be as a sort of now permanent fixture in most successful organizations, and a person that understands that that job description is going to update constantly. As the world around it updates. But I also think that this is work beyond just becoming a D&I officer. I think in many ways, we now have an organizational sphere that expects that every new hire, every emerging leader, every C-suite executive has that knowledge and that vocabulary of diversity and inclusion. So while this focus is good for D&I officers, I really think it's an important focus for everybody because, again, the public is looking to the organizational sphere, and they're expecting people who are succeeding and thriving and becoming leaders in that sphere to have this knowledge, to respond to the climate, to speak the language of diversity and inclusion.

Ken White

So how does that C-suite member or someone knocking on the C-suite door? How do they get the information? What's a good way to train and be well versed so that you're as comfortable as possible in this space.

Phil Wagner

Yeah, this is such a cheesy answer, and it's simplistic, and it's not to be a land-all. But take some time to read. I mean, you have now so many new spaces of knowledge that are being published, new authors of color, new books, new blogs, new initiatives solely dedicated to these conversations. Uncomfortable conversations, conversations on inclusion conversation that take really age-old ideas, but update them for where we are in the here and now. So as a leader, quiet yourself. Spend some time in your own self-development process, dedicating some of that content to this and also another cheesy answer. But as a communicator, I think it has great value. Take some time to talk to your people. Get a pulse for what the culture and the climate is at your organization. That's not just a culture and a climate conversation. That's a diversity and inclusion conversation. Your people, I think, will often reveal to you where you can focus your energy to make that world of work a more inclusive place for all.

Ken White

We hear our Dean Larry Pulley say it because he does that. He'll listen. He says it over and over again. I learned something new. I had no idea. I never thought about it that way. So those conversations, they get anything, are huge.

Phil Wagner

And you have to have that growth mindset because it's really easy to retreat into a shell and be offended or feel like your ideas are outdated; therefore, you are outdated. I mean, you have to be ready for growth, and you have to be ready to encounter ideas that you don't agree with and be willing to not quite know what to do with those. That disagreement there's this great tweet Adam Grant, who's at Wharton, talked about this actually on Twitter this week, and he says, intellectual friction it's not a relationship bug. So just because you find yourself in an uncomfortable conversation in the context of your organization, with people who are bringing new ideas that you have not fully yet grappled with. See that as something of great value, that vulnerable space. You can do a lot with that. And that friction can be actualized for some great good. So again, it goes back to get comfortable with becoming uncomfortable regularly.

Ken White

So you do this for the MBA students. You teach this? What are some of the ideas and some of the lessons that you're trying to get across to these leaders in training?

Phil Wagner

We do this for our full-time MBAs, part-time MBAs, our executive MBAs, our Masters of Accounting students. We teach it to our undergrads. We really strive to have this be an iterative conversation. We don't want to just jump into D&I for D&I sake. Because we're doing what we say we shouldn't be doing, which is just that transaction this matters here do this, and you're good. Well, that's not really how it works. So we start with a very personal place. We work with our students to tell and sell their story well. We help them find their why and speak from it. And that's a really prime space to explore that inclusion element because once a student knows who they are and they've gotten into contact with that framework of empathy, that's required to hear and receive other people's stories and do something with it. Well, then they're primed to move into the D&I space. So we do give them what we think is a modern and helpful language or vocabulary of diversity and inclusion. What do those terms mean? How did they come to be? How has this come to be such a thing in the management enterprise? We give them a history, we give them a vocabulary, and then we give them space to test that out. So we talk about what it means to be an inclusive leader. And then, we talk about what it means to be an inclusive organization. The purpose of an organization is no longer to just generate profit. That original conception always had a clause, which was that holds true as long as the rules of the game are acknowledged. Well, the rules have changed. The rules now require that we have a vocabulary and a knowledge of this work. So we teach our students to go out and engage in that. So we talk about it through public relations. We talk about it through crisis management. In all of those different facets, students are getting an inclusion focus that can only help them in their career. And I think that's really the key point. Focusing on this can certainly help you, and it can't really hurt you. It's only going to make you better in the end, both as a leader and as an organization. So we spend time preparing our students to do just that.

Ken White

Because we know anybody who they're going to employ wants it and expects it moving forward.

Phil Wagner

Expects it, and we'll ask them what they can contribute to that enterprise, and we want them to be ready to say here are some action-oriented items that I'm bringing to your organization. I have a full understanding of what this is, what it involves. Here's how I'm going to roll up my sleeves and help.

Ken White

So you're going to share your expertise, your interest in diversity with a new podcast. It will be launched literally days from now is we're recording on the 3 September. Diversity Goes to Work. Tell us about it, that's exciting.

Phil Wagner

Yeah, really exciting. This came to be after multiple conversations, and our goal is really simple. We want to have casual conversations with friends most of the time. That's really two strangers on the podcast and the process of becoming friends. And that plays out in a really nice way. We've got Alum, we've got experts from all across the nation and the world, and Diversity Goes to Work really tries to push past the noise of diversity and inclusion efforts. And we're not talking diversity strategy necessarily. We're not talking a list of things to do or don't do. What we're doing is really simple. We're cutting right to the heart of the issue, and we're taking a human-oriented lens and using it to examine this work. So really, it's a storytelling podcast. We're bringing people who have lived this experience either as a diversity consultant, somebody with a diverse background, somebody who's experienced this in the real world and is coming back to offer their insights on our podcast. And so we're going to kick things off with an alum of the College, Amandeep Sidhu is coming to speak on what it's like now 20 years post 911. Amandeep is of the Sikh faith, a turban-wearing professional who has had a very successful legal career. And he's got a great story on that first episode of on 911 working in DC, just minutes after the plane hit the towers, experiencing that same sense of collective grief that we all felt as Americans. Yet just minutes after that, being run off the road by a truck because he had Brown skin. And so that duality of identity. We really center that here throughout the podcast will be bringing in consultants, professionals, everyday laypeople, blue-collar, white-collar, C-suite executives, everyday people really with the focus of centering that human element that I think is so often devoid of our D&I work.

Ken White

So we'll hear a lot of stories from a lot of interesting people.

Phil Wagner

Lots of stories from a lot of interesting people with the focus on strategy in the end. Now that we know this, now that we're aware that there's so many different perspectives that we have to grapple with as leaders, what do we take that? And how do we move it forward to actually implement successful D&I work that has real value, in the end, isn't just cheap frivolity.

Ken White

Yeah. What are you hoping listeners get from this?

Phil Wagner

Engagement number one in a low-stakes way, if you pull up a diversity podcast, you never know what you're going to get with us. It's pretty clear. You're going to get to hear real stories, real ideas that come from people who have experienced the discrimination that we talked about, the disenfranchisement that we talk about. But you'll hear it in an accessible way, and it's really an opportunity for learning, me included. So I'm not there as an expert. I'm there to learn from these stories as well. And that's what I love. I have emerged from every single one of those podcast recordings with my mind blown of new perspectives that I have not yet been able to fully understand because I've never walked in those shoes. So, that's really our goal.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Phil Wagner, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest, Phil Wagner, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Christopher Lee
Christopher LeeEpisode 159: August 20, 2021
Performance Conversations

Christopher Lee

Episode 159: August 20, 2021

Performance Conversations

The annual employee review. The performance evaluation. The employee appraisal. Whatever you call it, in many organizations, the process of evaluating employee performance is often ineffective. In many instances, the evaluations do little to help the employee, the supervisor, or the organization. Among other things, employees are rarely satisfied with the score they receive, and they find it challenging to write a self-evaluation when they know it may be tied to their future compensation. And while evaluations and appraisals have not evolved significantly over the years, working professionals have. They seek feedback, coaching, and support. And many professionals want to perform better and feel better about their work. Knowing that, the old evaluation system is changing. Christopher Lee is a long-time Human Resources professional and leader. He's the Chief Human Resources Officer at William & Mary, and the author of "Performance Conversations." He joins us today to explain how conversations and questions can be used to coach employees, improve productivity, and boost confidence all without appraisals.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Why don't traditional employee appraisals work
  • What happens to an employee when they hear negative feedback
  • How can an employee/supervisor relationship change during evaluations
  • What are The Power of Questions
  • What is a Performance Conversation
  • How the self evaluation is fundamentally flawed
  • What are the goals of the seven Performance Questions
  • The importance of checklists
  • How are bonuses and raises tied to the structure of a performance conversation
  • The difference between managing performance and rating performance
Transcript

Christopher Lee: Performance Conversations TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. The annual Employee Review, The Performance Evaluation, the employee appraisal, whatever you call it. In many organizations, the process of evaluating employee performance is often ineffective. In many instances, the evaluations do little to help the employee, the supervisor, or the organization. Among other things, employees are rarely satisfied with the score they receive, and they find it challenging to write a self-evaluation when they know it may be tied to their future compensation. And while evaluations and appraisals have not evolved significantly over the years, working professionals have. They seek feedback, coaching, and support. And many professionals want to perform better and feel better about their work. Well, knowing that the old evaluation system is changing. Christopher Lee is a longtime human resources professional and leader. He's the chief human resources officer at William & Mary and the author of Performance Conversations. He joins us today to explain how conversations and questions can be used to coach employees, improve productivity, boost confidence, all without appraisals. Here's our conversation with Chris Lee.

Ken White

Chris, thanks very much for being with us today. It's great to have you here.

Christopher Lee

My pleasure.

Ken White

And face to face, too.

Christopher Lee

Yes. Absolutely. Three dimensions.

Ken White

Yeah, which is really great. So one of the things you say is those employee appraisals that so many professionals grew up with

Christopher Lee

Yup.

Ken White

just never did work and never will work. Why not? What's wrong with them?

Christopher Lee

Yeah. I think for me, it's the fundamental underpinnings of them really were never aligned with their supposed purposes. Right. So as an example, it's called performance management as an example. But you can't manage past performance. I mean, you can only reflect upon past performance. So we talked about managing performance. Truthfully, it was performance documentation, accountability, record keeping, and negative reinforcement because the assumption was that if I tell you you didn't do well, you'll do better. But we missed the part of well, why didn't I do well? What do you mean? How do I adjust from that? And the whole framework, the set up of the once-a-year, some people call it the bloodletting, wasn't the space to have that conversation because once people received negative feedback, they shut down because it was also contingent upon so many other things. That 1-hour meeting, that half-hour meeting, whatever it was, was going to determine whether you got the minivan or not. Right. So you come to that conversation with hopes of getting a promotional opportunity, a raise, or many other things, and you got some negative feedback. Right. And you knew that negative feedback meant okay. I don't get a 4..8. I get a 4.6. In my organization, that means I get less pay well; I'm a 4.2, and why? And then you want to say, let's talk about getting improving? Well, I'm in shock.

Ken White

Yeah, yeah.

Christopher Lee

Some people in tears, right, you know, and all kinds of research shows that it's just not the time and space and who gets excited about planned, constructive criticism. I mean, all the research shows people had tremendous anxiety and fear. It's like, okay. You know, Chris, I got some negative feedback for you. How about let's wait till Thursday, and we're going to talk about it. The whole setup was fundamentally flawed at the beginning.

Ken White

In both ways, for the supervisor and the employee. Right. Because the supervisor, it's pretty high-stress situation.

Christopher Lee

Absolutely. Mcgregor said it best. Mcgregor is like 1954 quote, and he talked about why appraisals aren't good, and they shouldn't work. But we ignored that. He basically said that no supervisor, if they were informed, would want to sit as a judge of their subordinates because they wouldn't understand the impact. An the example would be a judge. If someone you don't know you don't have a relationship with, they are on their high horse. They are well trained, and they're actually protected by someone with a weapon. Right. And when they pass judgment on you, you never see them again. Now, we're asking a manager to pass judgment on someone and then have a relationship with them the next 15 minutes, 15 days, 15 years kind of idea. The relationship changes when you're giving negative feedback that is judgmental. And we're going to talk about feedback and appraisal and how they're fundamentally different. So the whole idea of the judge is what changes the dynamic. Because giving anyone negative feedback, whether it's your kids, your spouse, your friends, or whatever. It changes the relationship dynamic for a while. And people got to recover from that. Then they might be open to growth in movement from there after that recovery.

Ken White

Yeah, excellent, yeah. So in the book, you talk about the power of questions.

Christopher Lee

Yes.

Ken White

Well, what do you mean by that?

Christopher Lee

Yeah. Questions are the Holy grail of management, if not humanity. I know it's a big statement, but if you think about it, kids learn. Everybody learns by questions. If you've been around any kind of five or six year old, they ask questions incessantly because they're trying to learn. They're trying to calibrate try to understand. Right. If you're a lawyer, you interrogate witnesses by questions. Police officers gather facts. Doctors. When you go to them, how do they know what's wrong with you? They ask you a series of questions. You're a professor, right. The whole scientific method is based upon questions. If you're a journalist, you just go through the whole process. Questions are amazing. And as a leader or manager, everybody knows that's your job as a leader to find out where there are gaps to diagnose situations and do things. And you're asking questions. And then, most importantly, when we hire people, what do we do? We set up this whole elaborate thing called an interview, which is a series of questions, but we don't do the same to evaluate that same performance.

Ken White

That's great. You talk about performance conversations, and we've experienced those here at William & Mary. But for those, obviously, who haven't. What is that?

Christopher Lee

Well, it's really just a series, a brief, structured conversations about the things that matter most. Right. So a series. It's a planned series of conversations because you can't get everything done in one conversation. When I'm dealing with personnel matters, I've often over my career advise leaders about performance challenges or personnel problems to say, is this a one conversation conversation, a two conversation conversation, or three conversation conversation. Meaning that if you're delivering bad news, you're going to discipline someone or put them on a performance improvement plan. You can't get it all done in one conversation sometimes because people are shocked, don't understand they're coming back, etcetera. So there's a series and then its structure. It's not just a conversation; it's a structured conversation. There's a plan for this conversation. There's a framework around it. And I call it semi-formal. It's formal in that it's structured and planned. And then it's informal in that it's conversational. So it's kind of semi-formal, right. And then it's about the things that matter most. Right. And the question is what matters most that changes. And it's the timing of the year, who you're dealing with, how the work is going, et cetera. So it's a series of brief, structured conversations about the things that matter most. And the conversation is very important because it's giving and receiving information. It's feedback, adjustment, and calibration. And I think the calibration is a really big part of it. What do you mean by good? What do you mean by great? What do you mean by I need to adjust this? Can we talk about that? And if it's non-evaluative, then people are more likely to be forthright and honest when they're sucking win. Right. Because if I'm being evaluated people, they aren't totally truthful because it's just self-preservation. So it kind of goes like this. I never understood the self-evaluation things. I always say it's kind of a mini IQ test. So we set up that. Okay, Chris, we going to have your evaluation next week. How about you do the self-evaluation come to the thing or whatever? And at that meeting, we're going to determine whether you're going to get a promotion. We don't say that, but that's kind of what it is all designed for. And so it says, okay, tell me how you did on these things, and you give yourself an assessment. Okay. Let me think this right. So if I say I did anything other than excellent, you're gonna use this information against me to determine whether I get a promotion.

Ken White

Right.

Christopher Lee

The research shows that superstars, man, they're hard on themselves because they know that feedback and improvement is the Holy grail to getting better. The people who just don't have a clue, they think they're a plus. All the research shows it, and then you spend all your time talking them off the ledge. So the self-evaluation is really kind of a crazy idea.

Ken White

And think of the manager. The further away they are from their feet on the ground, the less they know about what's going on. So what a great way to get information from the team, because you're not quite on the team anymore, right?

Christopher Lee

Yes, absolutely.

Ken White

And you're out of loop fast.

Christopher Lee

Yes. In the first Performance Conversations book, which I did in 2006, I basically reviewed the literature of the past 50, 60 years and had these 15 fallacies of appraisal. And one of those is that the leaders initiate. I know what I'm saying, that the leader sees and knows all this going on. And that's just I don't know how we ever assume that that was accurate. Right. You know what I'm saying, right?

Ken White

Right.

Christopher Lee

Because you don't. And if you have good employees, hopefully, they're doing things that you've given the right direction in charge, and they're on the plan, and they're just knocking things out. And so you never really know 100% of what they do. And if you do, you must be a minor deity to be able to understand and know everything all of your subordinates do.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Chris Lee, author of Performance Conversations, in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Our post COVID world will require new skills and new approaches. Well, those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different MBA formats, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Chris Lee.

Ken White

You talk about performance questions in the book? What are they? What's the point?

Christopher Lee

So the performance question is kind of like the 2.0 from the first book, really of refining things. There's seven questions, and the idea of those seven questions are they're aligned with the major purposes of performance management systems? And the goal is if you ask these seven questions, then you've really kind of taking care of all the major concerns and opportunities and things that you would want to do when you're managing performance. Right. And each of them is kind of a chart that kind of shows how these questions are aligned to the various purposes and how they're kind of designed. So there's two kind of questions that I propose. One is I call it the kind of Magic three, which is the original three. And then there's a four additional ones. So I kind of call it the Magnificent seven. Right. So it's kind of 2.0, but it's elegantly simple, and for me, simple is best. Right. It's that kind of Da Vinci's kind of quote about simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. And so the first one is what's going well, and how can we replicate it?

Ken White

Yeah.

Christopher Lee

The second question is, what's not going well? How might we adjust? And then the third question is, what else is going on in your work life that we need to be aware of? And there, your troubleshooting for potential problems and just seizing opportunities. Right. And if you're just asking those three kind of open-ended questions, you'll be amazed where the conversation goes.

Ken White

I experienced it. There's no question. Evaluation went out the window. That's not what it was about. It became about strategy. It became about the future. And are we supporting you as best as possible, or are we creating our own roadblocks? It was amazing. Yeah.

Christopher Lee

Absolutely.

Ken White

Yeah. Just that conversation. Wow. And then you have your checklist, and that's in the book that helps people sort of get through that part of it.

Christopher Lee

Yeah. So we're talking with one of your colleagues earlier. He's a retired army officer, and it just reminds me of one of the examples in the book. I talk about being a Marine officer Lieutenant called the Basic School, the entry-level training. They always gave us this little checklist for anything we did. If you need to call for artillery, if you need to call for aircraft support, if you needed XYZ, they gave us all these checklists, and it's like go down his checklist or whatever. And at the end of training, they would always say, laminate it, take it to the field, meaning take it with you, because it may save your life one day. So imagine you're in a chaotic combat situation, and you need to precisely ask for help. In every little variable to include where they're going to place, this ordinance matters because if you're off a hundred yards, it might land on you versus the enemy. So it's a really a life or death situation. It's the same thing for pilots. So, pilots, they get on a plane. If you get on any commercial aircraft, you walk in. You see the pilots door open. There's two pilots sitting there, and they're going through a checklist.

Ken White

Yeah.

Christopher Lee

Now they've flown 10,000 hours. But missing a step on that checklist means whether you go up and come down the right way or not.

Ken White

Mmm-mmm.

Christopher Lee

So it really really matters, right? There's a whole movement in the medical field, the same idea. Where surgeons incredible human beings, but you'd be amazed at how many times they miss things less than 1%, the experts say. But 1% is 5000 deaths a year. And there's one study. There's a book called The Checklist Manifesto that argues the point that if you're in ICU, there's something like 180 actions they need to take with you every day. And that's incredible number of opportunities for failure.

Ken White

Yeah.

Christopher Lee

So with 1% error, there's still a lot of issues. So checklists are designed to keep people from making mistakes. So we borrow that idea and say, hey, you're going to have this dynamic conversation about performance. We give you a tool to help kind of be a toggle for your memory on things that you want to cover and keep track of over the series of conversations.

Ken White

So I was going to ask if you're the supervisor, the leader, you're maybe introverted. This isn't all that easy for you. The checklist sort of bails you out, doesn't it? That helps you in this conversation.

Christopher Lee

It absolutely does. You're absolutely right. And the questions and checklists are designed for that purpose. And in the framework of the performance conversations method, you actually empower the employee to be prepared for the conversation as well. So you're not just totally driving the conversation. They're going to come with their own questions because they're going to say, Chris, here's what I need from you. One of the Magnificent Seven, the last one is, what can I do for you? And so we were talking about a superstar on your team earlier before we started, right? Man, performance conversations are great for superstars because that's what you should be asking them, which is how do I keep you on the team?

Ken White

Right.

Christopher Lee

I mean, you're not really coming out saying, how do I keep you on a team? You're saying, oh, man, Jennifer or Paul, you're doing great, right? You're doing this whatever. What other opportunities do you want? What growth things can I hand off to you? What are you thinking about? Because if you're not keeping them fulfilled, they're going to go look for something else.

Ken White

Yeah.

Christopher Lee

Right. And so this is an opportunity for them. I can recall one lady; I'll give her a shout-out. Her name is Jennifer James, who's on my team at my previous shop, amazing professional. I think I managed two of our performance conversations. After that, she managed me, and it was a yes, ma'am because she would walk in. She was prepared all the prompts and ticklers or whatever, and she comes here's what this is going on. I'm concerned about that. I want to do this whatever. And I was like, yeah, okay. Got it. Check, check, check. Because I wanted to keep her on the team.

Ken White

Right.

Christopher Lee

And so my job as a coach, you got Michael and Michelle Jordan on the team. You're trying to figure out how can I best utilize his or her talents?

Ken White

Right.

Christopher Lee

And so it's really a great sort of approach because we've shifted the metaphor from boss, employee to coach and performer.

Ken White

Or even teammate it felt like, to me a little bit, it didn't seem like there was one person was, quote, unquote, higher or lower than the other. Yeah. It seemed like it was a real collaborative kind of effort. So if I'm with an organization for years, we've done the scale of one to five, one to five. Everybody gets irritated if they're below a five. But that's how we determine our raises. How do we tie the money, the bonuses, and so forth to this kind of an evaluation on our system?

Christopher Lee

So I would say two things. One is that if you work for an organization this is still 20th century oriented in its thinking, you might have to comply with their rules, policies, and procedures. And I would encourage you to use this framework inside of that because all existing or historical method said the same thing. Evaluations only work if you're doing regular, ongoing feedback. We're giving you a feedback system here. And so that kind of fulfills that need or whatever. I don't think you actually need the evaluation. And we can talk about that another day because there's a lot of information there. But on the issue of tying it to compensation. That is one of the biggest problems with evaluations because then we've shifted for the purpose. Are we trying to manage performance, or are we trying to rate performance? Two fundamentally different issues and the research shows that the tail wagged the dog because here's how it goes. I have a list of 23 reasons or criteria upon which we make compensation decisions in organizations, and evaluations are only one of them. So that's part of the challenge. So let me give you an example. I'm the HR guy happens here as anywhere else. A manager thinks that the salary scale is wrong or my person is not treated fairly. Or I'm really trying to keep Jennifer on the team, and I want to pay her more than the University or the company wants to allow because it matters to me to keep her on the team. So if that person's performance is a 4.8 or 4.2, doesn't matter what the number is. You want more. So you may give them a higher raise than they deserve because you're trying to keep that person on the team. That's an example when the tail wags the dog. And then all evaluation system, there's two different kinds, right? One is against a standard against another. If you're Scotty Pippin, life's tough because you're on the same team with the world's greatest right. And so, if you're on a team by yourself with Scotty Pippin, your chances of getting a higher raise is higher at organizations that use the relative to others.

Ken White

Right.

Christopher Lee

And then the same thing with a great team in an average organization or a good team in a great organization so that calibration across units is always a problem as well. Again, there are 23 different variables. Many private organizations, as you might know, also give you increases according to where you are in the salary range because they want to move people towards the midpoint to keep their salaries competitive overall. So if you perform at the 90th percentile but you in the third quartile, they may slow your growth versus if you're in the first quarter. So again, there are so many variables there. And so when we tie to performance, then we bastardize the performance system. And again, that's just another one of the fallacies around appraisal. So I discourage that, I'm saying, but you have to use that. Information is valuable information. But let's be truthful about it. That's one of the reasons and ways. And the biggest and the easiest is last year. The vast majority of organizations did not give anyone an increase because of the economy turned, if you're in the middle of the year fiscal year in July, because if you're not profitable, you can't give people. So the whole idea that they call it expectancy theory and compensation, that if I do what you say, I expect that you will do what you say, which is give me a raise. And that's never been true because it's the profitability of the company or the division or whatever case may be. It's the largest factor that would drive what your pay will. So then it's kind of hard for you to promise is that if he does his part, you're going to do your part. So again, that's five of the 23 variables, and that's why it's really problematic to tie it together.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Chris Lee, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who can think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest, Chris Lee, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White, wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Jeremy Martin & Kevin Dwan
Jeremy Martin & Kevin DwanEpisode 158: August 5, 2021
NIL & The Changing Face of College Athletics

Jeremy Martin & Kevin Dwan

Episode 158: August 5, 2021

NIL & The Changing Face of College Athletics

For years, student athletes competing at colleges and universities governed by the NCAA were considered to be "amateur athletes." That amateur status meant they were prohibited from making money using their name, image, and likeness. Well that changed recently thanks to the NCAA's Name Image and Likeness policy, known as the NIL Policy. Now, any person, business, or organization can pay a college athlete fair market value to endorse or represent them. For example, athletes can now be paid for personal appearances or for mentioning a business on their social media feeds. In the weeks since the new policy went into effect, stories of athletes signing deals have popped up all across the country. Two leaders in William & Mary's athletic department join us today to discuss the changes. Jeremy Martin spent the last 10 months as Interim Athletics Director. Kevin Dwan is Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Operations for Revenue Generation and Brand Management. They join us to discuss NIL, what it all means, and what lies ahead.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Why was pay for college athletes brought to the forefront
  • What percentage of school athletic programs create net positive revenue
  • How are Title IX and gender equity supported by the NIL policy
  • What are student athletes now allowed to do under NIL
  • What can colleges and universities provide to student athletes
  • What restrictions are on student athletes as they monetize their name, image, and likeness
  • What do businesses get by sponsoring a student athlete
  • How does the NIL policy affect the NCAA
  • What should parents do to prepare their kids for college athletics
Transcript

Jeremy Martin & Kevin Dwan: NIL & The Changing Face of College Athletics TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. For years, student-athletes competing at colleges and universities governed by the NCAA were considered to be amateur athletes. Well, that amateur status meant they were prohibited from making money using their name, image, and likeness. Well, that changed recently thanks to the NCAA's name, image, and likeness policy known as the NIL policy. Now, any person, business, or organization can pay a college athlete fair market value to endorse or represent them. For example, athletes can now be paid for personal appearances or for mentioning a business on their social media feeds. In the weeks since the new policy went into effect, stories of athletes signing deals have popped up all across the country. Two leaders in William & Mary's Athletic Department join us today to discuss the changes. Jeremy Martin spent the last ten months as Interim Athletics Director. Kevin Dwan is Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Operations for Revenue Generation and Brand Management. They join us to discuss NIL, what it all means, and what lies ahead. Here's our conversation with Jeremy Martin and Kevin Dwan.

Ken White

Kevin, Jeremy, thanks very much for being here. I appreciate it your expertise on a very interesting topic. Jeremy, to get us started, can you kind of take us back from the beginning? Where did all this come from, and where is it going?

Jeremy Martin

Well, there's certainly been a lot of conversation around college athletics for a number of years. And so I always like to sort of start with a broader financial reality of people assume, and there are billions of dollars annually spent on college athletics, and people say, okay, well, you've got a multibillion-dollar industry. How is this working, and how is this benefiting what often is called the labor in the student-athletes and those sorts of things. But to sort of frame financial reality. So, according to the NCAA's report in FY 19, you had 25 of the 350 plus universities that were NCAA Division One institutions had had an athletics department that generated a net profit. And so among those folks, the power five programs, which are the ones that you generally hear about, the sixty-five schools in the ACC, SEC,  Big Ten, PAC 12, and Big 12, their median expenses exceeded median revenues by seven million dollars. And among the institutions outside the power five. So sometimes called the Group of five. The other conference, the median deficit was twenty-three million dollars. So to start with, you've got a range of institutions within the FBS Sixty-five. There's a high of a net profit of forty-four million a low of a net deficit of sixty-five million. But most institutions are not making money on athletics.

Ken White

Right.

Jeremy Martin

Now there are sports and, by the way, no SES program, a football championship subdivision program like William & Mary. None of these departments generate a net profit. Now there are sports that generate profit at specific schools beyond those twenty-five. So you may have a school that has a football generating net revenue, but not other sports and not the department as a whole and those sorts of things. And so anyway, that's where is the background of the reality of like the institutions are not making that revenue on athletics in general. You have a few other things that are going on. NIL is obviously one of these. But the Austin case, which was just decided by the Supreme Court, basically upheld that the NCAA could not restrict education-related benefits to Division one basketball and FBS football student-athletes. Now, the specificity, I think, of who those athletes are will quickly go away. But that's the specifics of this decision. And it also establishes that the NCAA is not exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act, which had previously been the viewpoint, and that if there's an exemption granted like that, which is unlikely, it would have to come through Congress. And so what that's done is sort of set this broader environment with NCAA government or Mark Emmert and others are sort of saying, well, now the conferences and individual institutions have more sway over what they do in the market than the NCAA does as the constrainer or the definer of the entire market. So a conference could say no education-related benefits because it doesn't affect the other 30 plus conferences. But the NCAA can't say it for the entire market from the Austin case. So in the mix and at the same time, you have name, image, likeness, which is basically previously no student-athlete can monetize their name, image, likeness, NIL. You had state-by-state actions that were coming. You had some federal proposals. And basically, what happened was before July 1st, when some states policies were going into effect, the NCAA passed an interim policy, basically granting freedom for everyone in states that had not yet passed policy to do so, to allow the athletes to monetize their name, image, likeness. That, by the way, is where William & Mary fits. The Commonwealth of Virginia is expected to take action at some point but has not yet. And so we fall under that. Our policy falls under that. And so you also sort of have this uneven, a little bit differentiated landscape and that you have institutional policies in NIL. You have state legislation in NIL, and you don't have a fully consistent playing field. And then the last is sort of always plays in anything around college athletics is where Title nine and gender equity plays into this and really in regard to NIL. And it will ultimately play out in terms of educational benefits from the Austin case, how people apply that you put the institution, the notion of the role of facilitator; sorry, the role of educator in regard to educating student-athletes on what they can do with NIL, but not in the role of being the facilitator or the deal broker to say and we're bringing these NIL deals to you, because how you differentiate that between markets from men's sports and women's sports and those kind of things are really difficult. So really, you have the institutions almost stepping back as the third party saying, here's who can help you with your NIL. Here's what you need to know about your NIL, and you too will independently have to meet it won't be facilitated by us.

Ken White

If I'm an athlete and you say, here's who can help me. Who do you mean? Agencies?

Jeremy Martin

You've looked at a lot of the products?

Ken White

This is your area, Kevin?

Kevin Dwan

I mean, there are agencies. You know, you can secure an agent now as long as it's a talent agent and not for playing your sport.

Ken White

Got it.

Kevin Dwan

Tax advisors, financial advisors, attorneys to review contracts, things like that. So those are all the types of things that we certainly recommend our student-athletes take advantage of and educate themselves on. But like Jeremy said, we can't specifically provide that service to them.

Ken White

But this was not something you've done in the past. So this is work. This is effort and a lot of it. Correct, because there are a million question marks.

Kevin Dwan

Yeah, this is all brand new and the amount of companies that have kind of come into being just in the last several months is unbelievable. I think both of our inboxes are probably filled with them on a daily basis with new solutions and new ideas and opportunities. So we've taken the time to learn as much as we possibly can about them all. In order to provide a service for our student-athletes as much as we're able to. But it's definitely hard to kind of weed through all the different.

Jeremy Martin

So getting ready for this, Kevin, who deals with all the external revenue generation not affiliated with fundraising, and Paul Cox, he's our Assistant AD for Compliance, have been leading a working group throughout the university because we know that there are partnerships that we're going to need to help educate our student-athletes how to function that way.

Ken White

Yeah.

Jeremy Martin

But it's the notion of compliance, marketing, and sponsorship like the differing expertise. But they have to come together to make this work for student-athletes.

Ken White

So compliance for the non the non-college sports fan, what is what does that mean?

Kevin Dwan

So our compliance department, in our case, Paul, is is the one who's making sure that we're all following all the NCA guidelines, that our student-athletes remain eligible, that our coaches are following the recruiting guidelines, that we're doing all the right thing. You know, the NCA rule book is sizable.

Ken White

Yeah.

Jeremy Martin

I believe it's four hundred seventy-five pages.

Kevin Dwan

So it's a big job, and it just got a little bit bigger, you know, adding this onto their plate as well.

Ken White

Absolutely. It's a huge job, and it sort of shifts everything, doesn't it?

Kevin Dwan

Yeah, it really does. It just adds a completely new component to what Paul and NCA compliance officers all around the country have to deal with it and have to think about. And like I mentioned, Paul's priority and our priority is making sure our student-athletes remain eligible. You know, typically rules that are broken, you know, the ones that make headlines are not the most common ones. Typically, it's inadvertent. Jeremy said 400 something pages. It's impossible for everyone to know everything that it says. So Paul's job is to make sure that he's a resource for our coaches and our student-athletes, so they don't get into in any trouble that they're not intending to get into, especially in this added a whole new area that's new to all of us.

Ken White

Jeremy, do you think there will be winners and losers in this? Big winners and big losers, is that possible?

Jeremy Martin

Yes, I wouldn't necessarily use those terms. I think it'll be a differentiator. And so, again, feels fitting to talk about markets while you're in Miller Hall. So, really, the fascinating thing to me is there's an assumption of the size of the market that exists for student-athletes name, image, likeness. And where those things really are is around. Hey, if you are a college athletics superstar in whatever sport it is, you have all of this exposure, all these things. What can you do? And the reality is that's a very small piece of the student-athlete market, talent market, so to speak. So I think it's interesting to look at student-athletes, particularly the mid-major level that William & Mary and other places, and say this is actually going to be an indicator to say, here's what your value in the marketplace is. It may not be what you thought it was. The other piece for student-athletes, frankly, NIL monetizing it, will be a third job. So you have the first job of being a student at William & Mary. The second of you're spending a lot of your time at twenty hours a week as a student-athlete. And now we're saying, okay, how many hours do you want to spend trying to build a brand for yourself? So I actually think you will have some student-athletes who say it's good to know that we could.

Ken White

Hmm-mmm.

Jeremy Martin

I'm interested in being a student and an athlete, and I'm not going to have time for anything else. But also sort of as some student-athletes find that there is value, there is value to monetize in their name, image, likeness, and their personal brand. How that balance of okay I have commitments to the classroom. I have commitments to competition and now commitments to corporate sponsors and things like that. How do I balance those and what happens when potentially you see overreach and that that sponsorship area in which it suddenly becomes, okay, I'm not actually performing as well as I was because I don't have as much time for athletics or the academics that I once did. So there definitely will be differentiators. And the markets from an institutional respect markets individually markets from an institutional perspective. Kevin and I have talked a lot about this. It's fascinating to think of are the student-athletes winning? Are the departments winning, or is there some balance that's sort of a zero-sum game we're in? And we've talked a little bit about whether sponsors view themselves as sponsors, as in I'm getting a return on what I offer or whether they're boosters. And I know you've thought a little bit more about that, Kevin.

Kevin Dwan

Yeah, and I think that there's a variety of those. I don't think everyone fits into one box, you know, so the ones who view themselves more as boosters and they want to support a school because they're part of the community. I think those are the ones that you've got to be careful as an athletic department. They're going to be very interested in working with directly with the student-athletes.

Ken White

Right.

Kevin Dwan

But the majority of the businesses that we work with want to see a return. And I think they're going to have to make a decision, a business decision, whether they see more of a return working directly with student-athletes or with the department as a whole. And I don't think there's one answer. I think it's going to be unique to each partner.

Jeremy Martin

It's also fascinating sort of in the interplay because most of the policies that you see have specific stipulations around use of institutional logos and things like that.

Ken White

Yes.

Jeremy Martin

So, for instance, can you appear in a green t-shirt? That's fine. Can you appear in a logo t-shirt? Well, you now are actually someone looking to do a licensing.

Ken White

Yes.

Jeremy Martin

As an independent NIL, you're a person you're looking to do a licensing to be able to use the logo. And that's that sort of changes the nature of the relationship as well in some ways, so we're just going to keep track of and watch as it develops.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Jeremy Martin and Kevin Dwan in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Our post-COVID world will require new skills and new approaches. Well, those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different formats in the MBA, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Jeremy Martin and Kevin Dwan.

Ken White

And Kevin, I think it was University of Texas, their bookstore has made some agreement with student-athletes in terms of so those are the kind of things someone like in your position be dealing with.

Kevin Dwan

Yeah, those would come across my desk as well as Paul's. And, you know, like Jeremy said, it's complicated when you write your own policy. You know, the state of Virginia hasn't issued guidance yet. So we had to make a decision how restrictive or how permissive our policy was going to be.

Ken White

Right.

Kevin Dwan

And, you know, we tried to make it as permissive as possible. You know, we don't want to limit our student-athletes opportunities at all, but we do have to protect our business interests. So if we work with one car dealership and a student-athlete has a partnership with another, we don't necessarily want that William & Mary logo on their chest when they're in a commercial, you know, with a competing car dealership? So those are the sort of things that we try to spell out in here and give a pathway to be as permissive as possible while still protecting our interests.

Ken White

One athlete in Alabama who's not been a starter yet has not, as a starting quarterback, taken a snap. We're looking at almost a million dollars in endorsements. How does that happen?

Kevin Dwan

I think people are making a bet on, you know, looking at the history of Alabama starting quarterbacks.

Ken White

Yeah.

Kevin Dwan

That's probably a pretty safe bet, to be honest with you. So, you know, there's some speculation there for sure. And I think at the outset, you know, we're so early in this. I think a lot of people are testing it, and they want to see how well it's going to work. You know, I do think things will come back down to earth a little bit in the next couple of months, maybe a couple of years. But there's no question people are out there pushing the limits and trying to find the loopholes and see everything that they can do. And some student-athletes are going to benefit from that in a big way.

Jeremy Martin

Well, the Alabama quarterback is a great example. So from, again, valuing this NIL, you're looking at the projected starting quarterback and saying, we think that you're going to be on national TV

Ken White

Absolutely.

Jeremy Martin

ten Saturdays this fall.

Ken White

Yeah.

Jeremy Martin

You know, all those sorts of things. And then it sort, again, other stuff that hasn't just been settled out. At the end of every Super Bowl, it used to be that they, you know, put a Disney camera in your face and say, oh, no, are you going to see student-athletes pulling cell phones out on the sidelines after wins. Like all of this stuff, just in terms of relation of, okay, when are you in your athletic capacity versus when are you in your individual capacity, all those sorts of things. We're going to have to go through a few cycles of these to figure some of this stuff out.

Ken White

No question. Will we see athletic departments have new positions, associate director for NIL? I mean, for example, I mean, just to handle all of this.

Jeremy Martin

You already are. Most of the new positions I'm familiar with, Ken, are actually on the compliance side.

Ken White

Oh okay.

Jeremy Martin

And also, a number of folks are outsourcing sort of, again, that third-party educator to say we want you to provide the educational component. And in the marketplace, there are few. I think it's it's actually just a handful that have we provide the education component. And we also have a marketplace in which student-athletes can meet with potential sponsors and things like that. So, yes, there will be yes. It adds work. There will be additional staff hired at a number of places. I don't know that at our level. We haven't seen the floodgates open at William & Mary. And so that our student-athletes, I actually think, are more likely to benefit from their creativity and entrepreneurship beyond their capacity as student-athletes. But the classic is we have student-athlete who was an avid fisherman and had had a podcast or had had a video blog related to that like he could now monetize that and be sponsored by fishing companies and things like that. That's unrelated to his ability as a student-athlete.

Kevin Dwan

Yeah, and I think the areas where in addition to the compliance positions that you're going to see, we're starting to see creative positions in college athletics. So even though we can create content for someone to use for their name, image, and likeness activities for a student-athlete to use. We can talk to them about how we'll grow their brand and, you know, help them to grow their social media following. And, you know, athletic departments were already creating content, not branded content that the student-athlete monetize, but they were creating content for student-athletes to share on their own social media, you know, videos, graphics, things like that. And that's a big part of recruiting now. Student-athletes want to know how you can help me grow my individual brand so that I can then go out and monetize it. So those creative positions, I think there's really going to be a run on that one as well.

Jeremy Martin

If you think about the classic recruiting day photos where it's like, well, how did they get that recruit in the jersey? You know, I think things like, well, they did a photoshoot when they're on their visit.

Ken White

Right. There you go.

Jeremy Martin

There, you know, they were ready and creating graphics

Ken White

Yeah.

Jeremy Martin

for that individual.

Kevin Dwan

Yeah.

Ken White

What does this do for the NCAA and its future? I mean, this was one powerful organization for decades. Does this strengthen it? Weaken it? Nothing.

Jeremy Martin

Sorry, my pause is weaken is a fascinating thing. The NCAA has always been made up of its membership

Ken White

Right.

Jeremy Martin

and Mark Emmert would say that regularly.

Ken White

He's the executive director

Jeremy Martin

of the NCAA. What's really fascinating is, again, this is where the Austin case comes in, and you start to see, okay, the NCAA is effectively setting the entire market for college athletics. Likely has lost clout in terms of its ability to set that market. The institutions and the so governance wise, whereas you had the institutions of the conference, is looking to the NCAA saying, what could we do? You now likely find yourself in a scenario where the NCAA is saying we have some risk averseness of what we can do at the national level. What are you as a conference, what are you as an institution going to do? Which is really just a sort of a governance. It's a reframing of the governance relationship. And it remains to be seen. I mean, there's obviously some right now as we're filming this, you know, there's speculation about where Texas and Oklahoma ultimately will land.

Ken White

Right.

Jeremy Martin

Some of these developments may make more likely that differentiated on market institutions are affiliating themselves differently in the future.

Ken White

Interesting. I was talking to a former student-athlete recently who a female said, I think women are really going to jump in this. I think there's some really cool opportunities because some of the female student-athletes in some college towns have incredible followings. Right. Kevin, have you seen some of these who are just absolutely. They're the leaders of their communities. They're such stars.

Kevin Dwan

Absolutely. I mean, I know there's a specific instance of twin basketball players, twin sisters, out at Fresno State University who came in with massive followings and now going to be able to to take advantage of that, which I think is wonderful because, you know, previously they were going to have to make a decision. You know, they stand to make a lot of money, but they couldn't do that and play college basketball.

Ken White

Yeah.

Kevin Dwan

And now they don't have to make that decision. They can stay at Fresno State and hopefully have great careers. And so it's a huge opportunity for people like that.

Jeremy Martin

One article not that long ago, more than half of the top ten Instagram followings among college athletes were actually women's athletes

Ken White

Right.

Jeremy Martin

in various sports. But if you think about someone like Paige Bueckers at UConn, she may actually have a larger platform.

Ken White

Yeah.

Jeremy Martin

As the star player at UConn, then turning pro, which was never the case before. And if you want to make any money, you would have to change. So it is fascinating to see on my YouTube feed right after the William & Mary recruit's, you know, that always search us, and it is interesting to see, okay, the twins from Fresno State appear on my feed. Paige Bueckers might be in that kind of thing and how that works out and all of those things, by the way, whether or not you can advantage yourself in YouTube algorithms or things like it.

Ken White

Wow.

Jeremy Martin

For all these student-athletes.

Ken White

Any Jeremy, any advice to parents because they're going to play a role in this. This is affecting them. They get involved in the recruiting aspect of it. Any advice to them as their son or daughter comes through the pipeline?

Jeremy Martin

Parenting is hard.

Ken White

Yeah.

Jeremy Martin

I would I don't think the role of momager or dad managers is a great one. You know, I think you love and support your children, and you let them follow their interest. I think that I think that sometimes you run into parents who believe that, like there's naturally a scholarship for my child in the sport, whatever it is. And, you know, there's a lot of coverage to sort of recognize. Oh, well, like the percentage you actually get scholarships is really small with travel teams and all sorts of things. Now, like you find huge investments in parents from a very, very, very young age. So my advice to any parent would be and what I try hopefully doing, but that failing and Kevin I know you got love your kids, encourage them as they pursue their interests, but it's going to be a very, very slim few that are going to have, you know, multimillion-dollar value in NIL by the time they reach college or even during college. And so enjoy your kids. Love them.

Ken White

Kevin, this might be unfair but looking through your crystal ball. What do you think is coming? What should we be watching out for in terms of NIL? What are some of the bigger issues?

Kevin Dwan

Yeah, you know, I think NIL in conjunction with the transfer portal and, you know, removing restrictions, I think is, you know, creates some risk for student-athletes just in the sense, like we had talked about previously. Student-athletes chasing things, you know, trying to get to bigger markets, bigger teams, because they think that's going to be a benefit. And there are only so many opportunities in Division one. You know, you already hear horror stories about thousands of student-athletes being in the transfer portal, and they're just not being that many scholarships available. You know, so there are kids who are no doubt being left without opportunities. And I think name, image, and likeness, you know, there's some risk that that makes that a little bit worse. It gives another incentive to look to other opportunities to look to change things. But in general, I do think it's positive. You know, I think there are student-athletes who've had to make difficult decisions, you know, whether they have to go pursue a career, whether that's professional sports or other opportunities, or stay in college and be a student-athlete. And, you know, NIL kind of helps to solve that problem, you know, now, hopefully, more kids can complete their degrees, and maybe you see student-athletes sticking around longer. Playing three or four years instead of one or two because they don't have to make those difficult decisions. So, you know, there's a lot to learn, and there's a lot we don't know yet. But in general, I think if we stay on top of it and just keep the best interest of the student-athletes in mind, it's largely positive.

Jeremy Martin

I think the Duke example, again, not that everything has to revolve around the Blue Devils, but if you think about. All right. In the classic days when players stayed for three or four years in that program, what was Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hills? What were their initials worth having literally having built a following while they're in college versus the one-and-done player who comes in with a huge reputation, to begin with, but doesn't necessarily have the loyalty of a fan base immediately? And hopefully, actually, my personal opinion, I love to see it play out the way you just mentioned there, where it's like, hey, you could stay in college two or three or even four years because you're not penalized for being here in that regard. But that's my hope, at least.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Jeremy Martin and Kevin Dwan, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guests Jeremy Martin and Kevin Dwan. And thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Ram Ganeshan
Ram GaneshanEpisode 157: July 16, 2021
Supply Chain & The Pandemic

Ram Ganeshan

Episode 157: July 16, 2021

Supply Chain & The Pandemic

If you’ve tried to purchase new furniture recently, or chlorine for a pool, or even certain makes and models of new cars, you may have been told you’ll have to wait several weeks - possibly several months before the product is back in stock. Items from lumber to clothing to electronics have been difficult to find in recent months. The reason is often tied to the supply chain, which has been adversely affected throughout the pandemic, forcing consumers to wait until their new purchases arrive. Ram Ganeshan is a Professor of Operations and Information Systems Management at William & Mary School of Business. He teaches supply chain management and digital strategies courses. His research and consulting interests include supply chain management and logistics strategy. Professor Ganeshan says the shortages we see now are the results of decades-long developments in supply chains, and the pandemic simply tipped it over the edge. He joins us today to discuss supply chains, their complexity, and why the shortages are happening.

Podcast (audio)

Ram Ganeshan: Supply Chain & The Pandemic TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Podcast (platforms)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is a supply chain
  • How does a supply chain compare to a reverse supply chain
  • How have labor costs contributed to global supply chains
  • Why are there shortages of semiconductors and computer chips
  • How do geopolitical forces affect supply chains
  • When might the semiconductor shortage end
  • How are the U.S. ports affected by increased demand
  • Was the pandemic supply chain issue predicted
  • How should organizations prepare for supply chain shortages
  • How is the U.S. - China relationship affecting supply chains
Transcript

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business. The podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, if you've tried to purchase new furniture recently or chlorine for a pool or even certain makes and models of new cars. You may have been told you'll have to wait several weeks, possibly several months, before the product is back in stock. Items from lumber to clothing to electronics have been difficult to find in recent months. Well, the reason is often tied to the supply chain, which has been adversely affected throughout the pandemic—forcing consumers to wait until their new purchases arrive. Ram Ganeshan is a professor of operations and information systems management at William & Mary's School of Business. He teaches supply chain management and digital strategies courses. His research and consulting interests include supply chain management and logistics strategy. Professor Ganesan says the shortages we see now are the results of decades-long developments in supply chains, and the pandemic simply tipped it over the edge. He joins us today to discuss supply chains, their complexity, and why the shortages are happening. Here's our conversation with Professor Ram Ganeshan.

Ken White

Well, Ram, thanks for joining us. Great to see you. I appreciate you sharing your time and expertise with us today.

Ram Ganeshan

Same here.

Ken White

So supply chain, it's one of those things. I think people know the term, but they don't. Many people don't understand really what this is. What is supply chain? You've used the term division of labor. Can you explain what supply chain is?

Ram Ganeshan

The easiest way to think about it as supply chain is the series of activities that source the components, and something is made out of it, assembled, produced, manufactured, and then it slowly makes its way to the end customer via our distribution centers and ports and rail and truck and so on and gets to your local store or stuff like that. So it's a series of events that gets makes the product and gets it to you. And then the second part of the supply chain is once the product is used, how it's disassembled and reused and recycled, and so on. So that's the reverse supply chain. So that, in a sense, is what I would consider a supply chain.

Ken White

And in our world today, we need to rely on that because some products are pretty complicated, aren't they?

Ram Ganeshan

Yes, most products are. You know, your iPhone, for example, is it has at last count more than 60 or 70 metals from the periodic table.

Ken White

Wow.

Ram Ganeshan

Those of you have it hanging on your bedroom wall would know that. Not only that but it's designed in, of course, California. And all the components are made in Taiwan and Korea, and Japan. And it's actually assembled in China, and it's shipped to the United States. Where most of the demand is for the iPhone. So supply chains have not only are complex, but they've also become very global.

Ken White

We're seeing some shortages right now in various products. This didn't happen overnight, did it?

Ram Ganeshan

No, it didn't. And part of the reason we are actually seeing it now is of how supply chains have evolved over time. It used to be that 30 years ago, the common reason why large multinational companies outsource, especially this may be obvious in apparel to the Far East, is because of labor costs. So they were able to save on labor and then show a quarterly increase in profits and so on. But the way it's evolved now is supply chains have what I would call become not only global, but they've also become very specialized and very concentrated. The semiconductor was a case in point, actually. If you look at the semiconductor supply chain if you look at the demand for chips. China and the U.S. account for half the world's demand of semiconductors. Twenty-five percent each. But if you think about how the semiconductors are actually made, the U.S. spends the value added by the United States is largely in the design and the core I.P. Folks like Intel design the chips. And what has happened over the last twenty-five years is we don't have any fabrication at least of any sufficient capacity in the United States. And most of the fabrication of those chips happened really in three countries, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. So they do most of what they call wafer fabrications. And you've seen pictures of people in white suits going in cleaned rooms. And so that's where that happens. It's a very expensive thing to do. And the industrial policy in those countries and the particular companies have decided that this is the way they want to go. So most of wafer production happens in the Far East, and then China has taken the more of the assembly and the testing of the semiconductor. So the United States still, if you look at the in totality, the United States still, if you look at value-added, has 40 percent of the value chain of some of the largest in the world still. But they only make certain things. They only do certain parts of it. And we can call it division of labor, if you may. So Taiwan is the only country in the world that does the less than 10 nanometer, which is the faster, more advanced logic chips. So that's how they've sort of become not just global but concentrated and highly specialized, which is leading into some of these shortages.

Ken White

Yes. So what happened then, for example, the semiconductor.

Ram Ganeshan

So the first signs of the pandemic was in February. That's when things in China and Taiwan, and Japan started shutting down.

Ken White

Yes.

Ram Ganeshan

So we lost some capacity there. And then in March and April, when we shut down. The demand for let's talk about the auto industry because that's where we're seeing it.

Ken White

Right.

Ram Ganeshan

The demand for new cars and rental cars just plummeted.

Ken White

Sure did.

Ram Ganeshan

And if you look at the auto industry, they have long been operating on what is called the Just-In-Time system. So they hold just enough inventory, and they become extremely good at cutting costs and cutting costs and keeping it running a tight ship. So as soon as they saw the demand go down, they just cut their orders for parts and supplies of semiconductors from the Far East because that's also spread globally. Interestingly enough, as we were shutting down demand for certain products and we have all heard of the pelotons, right.

Ken White

Sure.

Ram Ganeshan

That started increasing your webcams and your computers and iPads and so on and so forth. So what was happening is the semiconductor capacity started being reallocated from auto to all these different products where there was an increase in demand. So the change in consumer patterns caught the auto industry in a bind. But then there are other issues. They were geopolitical issues, obviously. President Trump, for example, banned Huawei and GTE. And what they started doing was they started holding the 5G chips because they saw this coming.

Ken White

Right.

Ram Ganeshan

And they started holding the chips at a time. And then certain semiconductor companies in China got blacklisted, some of the big fabs, for example, and they lost that we lost that capacity there. The issue then we had some small hiccups like fires and fabrication plants and Taiwan and Japan that sort of jammed up the system. That clearly put a lot of pressure on semiconductors. So and because it's a very capital investment intensive industry, you need big machines and clean rooms and so on. A small fire can mess things up quite a bit.

Ken White

Yeah.

Ram Ganeshan

So it's not a matter of, you know, cleaning it normally.

Ken White

Right.

Ram Ganeshan

It's a special thing. So, yeah. So it's not easy to change capacity.

Ken White

Right.

Ram Ganeshan

It takes about nine to 12 months. So what we are anticipating is maybe the semi shortage might ease up by the end of this year.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Professor Ram Ganeshan in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Our post COVID world will require new skills and new approaches. Well, those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different MBA formats, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to lead and succeed in our new world. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Professor Ram Ganeshan.

Ram Ganeshan

I don't know if you want to talk about the logistics of getting those things to the U.S.

Ken White

Yeah, I think that's we see it in the press, right?

Ram Ganeshan

Yeah.

Ken White

We see the cargo ships sitting, you know, outside of Norfolk or Los Angeles.

Ram Ganeshan

Yeah, so I talked about the increased demand. Part of the issue of the increased demand is you had all these containers full of stuff. I mean, this could be board games or whatever else.

Ken White

Sure.

Ram Ganeshan

It's filled with that people were ordering. And part of the reason is the demand shifted from services to products. So we no longer going out to eat and we not going to cinemas or concerts or getting massages or whatever. So disposable income was being spent on these different things.

Ken White

Right.

Ram Ganeshan

And they were all a significant portion of it was coming from outside the United States and the supply. So you saw even a small increase, you know, 10 to 30 percent increase in some products. The suppliers were working overtime, and these containers full of stuff were coming towards usually they come towards the California ports because those are the closest to China. And clearly, that created a huge logjam. And I read a statistic somewhere that an average of 40 ships were waiting, an average of anchored for seven days to actually get into the port.

Ken White

Wow.

Ram Ganeshan

So think about this big not only that, the folks who are working in the ports were at lowered capacity simply because COVID restrictions. Ports couldn't go in 100 percent capacity. So those two contributed to the port congestion. But an interesting another statistic was the Port of L.A., for the first time last year, handled more than what they call one million TEUs. TEUs the easy way to think about it is a 20-foot container would be one TEU. So typical 40 foot would be set to. This is simplifying things, but more than a million the first time ever.

Ken White

Wow.

Ram Ganeshan

So they're working, and it's not like they're doing significant business. There's a problem that's associated with that, which is the trade imbalance. I mean, you heard you heard of politicians talk about it all the time. So we're getting the containers full of stuff, but then we're not shipping them full of stuff. Now, second issue that has come up in port operations is container availability. So we have these full containers that take several days to empty out. And the reason it's taking several days to empty out simply because the warehouses are full. So they don't have room to put these containers anywhere.

Ken White

Wow.

Ram Ganeshan

So it's sort of backed up that way. And now, when you have an empty container now, it has to go back to get it fulled. So so you have to load it up onto a ship which takes significant amount of time.

Ken White

Sure.

Ram Ganeshan

Ship it to wherever it needs to go. So this has created a sort of a global maritime problem of port congestion. Of course, we could talk about the ship getting stuck on the Suez Canal.

Ken White

Right.

Ram Ganeshan

Wow.

Ken White

Yeah. I mean, it makes sense. It makes sense that when you think about it, when organizations, when it comes to supply chain companies, Fortune 500 companies, manufacturers, they'll practice crisis communication. Right. They'll practice for something that could happen in a public relations manner that could affect them. Do they do that with supply chain? I guess my question is, did no one see this coming, basically?

Ram Ganeshan

They saw it coming. I think there are multiple reasons why we find ourselves here. You know, Don Rumsfeld, who was our defense secretary, once said, you know, he did a four by two by two grid. The known knowns and the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. The pandemic was definitely unknown, known. And so we just didn't know when it was going to hit. But we know it was going to hit. I mean, firms do take a lot of spend a lot of time and energy managing risk in the supply chain and disruptions in the supply chain. But most of it involve, for example, you hold a little bit more inventory than before to buffer against it, or you find some capacity somewhere, or you diversify your supply base. So if some something goes down, you can. So there are several examples that do exist. But the pandemic was unique because, for several products, the demand went down to zero. So did the supply. If you take recreational vehicles, for example, the demand was shooting through the roof, and you didn't have enough supply to make it. So it was on both sides. I mean, so I think many planners need to grapple with should we plan for a state of being in a pandemic all the time, which can be a very expensive supply chain. So you have to take your you have to balance your risks.

Ken White

Yeah.

Ram Ganeshan

So you go with the smaller risks, you cover them, the larger risks, you have a larger, bigger plan so.

Ken White

Long-term, how is important? How is the relationship between the U.S. and China affecting supply chain long term?

Ram Ganeshan

Well, we about when China joined the WTO 20 odd years ago, we really joined hands with them saying we're going to work with you. I mean, if you look at the Fortune 500 companies, it'd be hard to find a company that does not do business in China or actually get its revenues from China. So it goes both ways. So we buy stuff and sell stuff to them, too. So the real solution is, do you know what I would call broker a détente between China and the U.S.? I think we need to figure out a way to work together. I think that's the real solution. Trying to posture sort of adversarial posturing is not going to help.

Ken White

Were there winners or losers? I assume a lot of losers throughout the pandemic in terms of products and sales. Were there any winners in all of this?

Ram Ganeshan

I think it's a sort of a scale. Right. How much did you win and lose? And unfortunately, I think the biggest losers let me start there are small businesses that didn't have the scale. You know, I am, for example, big coffee drinker. And I also love craft beer. And unfortunately, because demand simply disappeared and they didn't have the sort of the skill to do digital delivery and have like a touchless thing. Many of the small businesses, unfortunately, didn't fare really well. The Cares Act did help, but not enough. I think some of the large multinationals are doing really well. I mean, I mean, just look at some of the quarterly announcements for profits, right. It was a blockbuster quarter last year, and it's going to be a blockbuster quarter this year for some of the big guys in the Fortune 500. So they were winners, I think, in many ways. So, yeah, it's unfortunate. And I think we do need some sort of an industrial policy. The U.S., I think, has been hesitant to have a policy, but I think we do need something to protect this knowledge. And because small businesses are the majority of what we have here.

Ken White

And for the consumer, if you're waiting, you just hang in there. It's coming right. Whatever it is you're waiting on is coming eventually.

Ram Ganeshan

I mean, yeah, if you have to buy a house, you don't have a choice, you pay more. I mean, that is the nature of things. But we've heard about the lumber shortage, but it's coming slowly back to normal. Of course, toilet paper is also somewhat back to normal.

Ken White

Yeah.

Ram Ganeshan

There has been some adjustments, but some of these inflationary pressures are sort of easing, at least from a supply chain perspective. I think the economy is going to do really well, at least the next quarter, from what I can tell. Yeah, I think I think hopefully, as more of the world gets vaccinated and things slowly begin, normalcy begins to appear. I think in the U.S., it's still somewhat feel to normal now, since about, oh, close to 70 percent of us are vaccinated. But you still can't travel around the world. It is still not normal for most of the rest of the world. So I think once that eases, I think we'll see things slowly getting back to where they were. At least, let's hope so.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Professor 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. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest Ram Ganeshan and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Mike Seiler
Mike SeilerEpisode 156: July 1, 2021
The U.S. Housing Market

Mike Seiler

Episode 156: July 1, 2021

The U.S. Housing Market

Of the many sectors and industries affected by the pandemic, one in particular has caught the attention of consumers, buyers, sellers, and investors: The US housing market. Mortgage rates, prices, labor, supply, demand - they’ve all changed over the past few months, making the housing market one of the most interesting to follow. Saying the market is “hot” in some areas is a major understatement. Houses are selling quickly in many regions, often for well above the listing price. In some cases, buyers are doing whatever it takes to secure the property, like foregoing home inspections and making all-cash offers. But while we hear about the hot markets in many parts of the country, that’s not the case in every region and city. Mike Seiler is a Professor of Real Estate and Finance at William & Mary School of Business. He joins us today to talk about the US housing market, how it differs from region to region and where things might end up in the months ahead.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Why the residential real estate market is hot right now
  • What does a hot market mean for people who aren’t considering selling their homes
  • How has the pandemic affected home prices
  • Are bidding wars good for the real estate market
  • How has new home construction affected the price of existing homes for sale
  • How have supply and labor shortages affected the real estate market
  • How do homes bought as investments affect the overall market
  • How do iBuyers make the market more efficient
  • How can a 3D-printed home be more energy efficient than a standard home
  • What will the US home market look like in 2022
Transcript

Mike Seiler: The U.S. Housing Market TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Of the many sectors and industries affected by the pandemic, one, in particular, has caught the attention of consumers, buyers, sellers, and investors. The U.S. housing market. Mortgage rates, prices, labor supply, demand, they've all changed over the past few months, making the housing market one of the most interesting to follow. Saying the market is hot in some areas is a major understatement. Houses are selling quickly in many regions, often for well above the listing price. In some cases, buyers are doing whatever it takes to secure the property, like forgoing home inspections and making all-cash offers. But while we hear about the hot markets in many parts of the country, that's not the case in every region and city. Mike Seiler is a professor of real estate and finance at William & Mary's School of Business. He joins us today to talk about the U.S. housing market, how it differs from region to region, and where things might end up in the months ahead. Here's our conversation with Professor Mike Seiler.

Ken White

Well, Mike, thanks very much for joining us. It's nice to see you. Hope you had a good, good Memorial Day weekend.

Mike Seiler

Yeah, we sure did. Enjoying the recovery of the weather. It's really good to see you. I can't wait to see you in person.

Ken White

Yeah, how about it? How about it? You know, I thought of you immediately when I keep hearing about the real estate market now, it seems to be exciting and interesting. And right now, when you look at the residential real estate market in the U.S., what are you seeing? I mean, how do you describe it?

Mike Seiler

Well, as you know, it's super hot, right? I mean, we have the fewest number of homes on record that are out there on the market. So you just can't find anything. And I haven't heard a stat they said that there are fewer homes out there available, that you have agents represent them. So any time you have more agents in a market than you do homes, you know, you have a restrictive supply. So that's just pushing home prices way, way high.

Ken White

Wow. Well, you know, one of the downsides is people think, yes, I'll sell, I'll make money. But you need another place to live. If you buy, that'll be expensive.

Mike Seiler

Yeah. In fact, it might be the other way around. Let's say that you live in a home, and you just want to be there for a super long period of time. Well, in most states, that's just going to cause your taxes to go up. Your property taxes are going up because your home value went up. So if you're in a state like Virginia where they just say, well, every year your taxes are going to be based on market value, then that's not good for you. You actually want home prices to go down for all of the years that you're going to live there and then go right back up again, and then you sell. That's what you want. So, yes, this means higher property taxes for us owners who are more thinking in terms of staying in place.

Ken White

Yeah, great point. When you look at today's market, does it remind you of any other period of time in the last generation or so?

Mike Seiler

Well, the home appreciation aspect of it reminds me of two thousand four. But thankfully, we are not in a two thousand four environment. You know, two thousand four. We had home prices going up and then this fear of missing out to where you think, oh, well, if I don't buy now, I'm never going to be able to afford to buy. And then you go to your lender, and your lender says, oh, sure, we'll do these ninja loans. No job, no income, no assets. Sure, that's fine. We'll lend to you for no reason at all. People also pulled their money out in the form of treating their house like an ATM. And so a lot of problems back then. But while I see home prices going up, I think it's a lot of it is pandemic related. So it's not really as big a risk of a crash as it was in two thousand four. I say that now. Please don't replay this podcast in five years if I'm wrong. But, you know, the warning signs are not there now. That said, don't forget the Kahrizak brought about this mortgage forbearance, but we have a lot more equity in our home right now. So I understand that the market can pull back, and I think it will do that. But I don't see us with a massive void of equity. Back then, we had home prices dropping, and every time they went up, people followed that loan to value ratio by getting a second lien, pulling money out of the home. And we're not really seeing people do that now. And thank goodness, because that just sets you up for failure when that loan balance just trails the price of your home. So when the price of your home comes down, your loan balances high, and now you're underwater. We're not seeing that this time. So I am much less fearful of a crash.

Ken White

What are you seeing from the pandemic? What is it doing to the home prices in the market right now?

Mike Seiler

Well, the home prices, of course, they continue to go up. And let me say this right off the bat. Real estate is local. So if I tell you one thing, if you're in a part of the country and you say, well, I don't know if that feels as true here, someone else in a different city might say, well, he's understating how this works. Have a super hot market, and the prices have gotten so high that I don't think I'll ever be able to buy a house. So real estate is very, very local. I think a lot of what we're experiencing is pandemic-driven. So, for example, you might wonder why are home prices are going up, what's happening here. And some of the reasons are what they were before low-interest rates. But interest rates have been low for a while. So that's not really a sufficient or complete reason why home prices are going up. And we talked about restricted supply. And you might ask, why is supply restricted? Well, think about the pandemic. When it first rolled out, we had an immediate shutdown. You were afraid to physically be in proximity to other people. You certainly don't want those other people walking through your house. So we just don't see that supply of homes on the market. And spring is coming. The pandemic, we hope, knock on wood is ending or at least nearing an end. And so I think you'll see that supply of homes come back onto the market and maybe that equilibrium price will be reached.

Ken White

Bidding wars, we read a lot in certain markets. It's amazing what buyers are offering, not just the listed price, but even more foregoing inspections and so forth. Are these bidding wars good for for for real estate?

Mike Seiler

Well, they're good for sellers of real estate, right? They're not great for buyers. A bidding war that's in the eye of the beholder. So let's go back to your home inspection. The home inspection is typically done just to find anything that's hidden in the house because a buyer may maybe you're a surgeon and you're a genius and so forth, but you don't necessarily know how to crawl under a house, and you don't know what to look for. So you hire a home inspector, maybe you pay five hundred dollars. They will go through all the nooks and crannies of the place. But the point of the home inspection is not necessarily to kill the deal. The point of the home inspection is to find out what might be wrong with the house so that you can negotiate a more accurate price. But if you have a market that is super hot and you've got a line wrapped around the corner, a potential buyer, a seller does not want to hear what the problems are. The seller might think, well, if you don't like the house because you perceive there to be a problem, then just jump out of line. I'll talk to the person right behind you who is either not going to take the time to require a home inspection or might just kind of look past it and think, I'll just do that work myself in my downtime, whatever. So, yeah, home inspections right now, always a good idea. But in this market, if you're looking to buy, be really careful. That might cause you to get bumped out of line.

Ken White

Wow, and that's a tough spot. That's a tough spot for buyers to be in. What about new home construction? What's happening there in terms of how is it affecting the price of existing homes at this point?

Mike Seiler

So, of course, when you're out there to buy a house, you can buy existing or new. And so they are competing goods. One of the factors I hear often is, yeah, but if I want a new home, it's not like there's a new home everywhere. So maybe a historic neighborhood, you only have existing homes. That's all true. But still, these two compete with each other. Now let's talk about the cost of a new home. There's a great meme going around on the Internet, and it's about a lady who's very well dressed. And she says to her husband, she says, take me somewhere expensive. And then, the next part of the meme shows that they are in the lumber aisle at Home Depot at a table waiting for them. But it's not just lumber. A lumber prices have gone crazy high, but it's everything that you put into construction. And I'm not even just talking about the building materials. I mean, remember, it wasn't that long ago that ships were parked out in the Pacific Ocean waiting to come to port because there was just no room they couldn't unload. Their 20-foot containers and 40-foot containers has been resolved for the most part. We still saw crates being shipped back to Asia empty. So imagine you're a taxi driver, right? You take someone to the airport. And logically, what you would do is you would think, well, I'm at the airport, I'm just going to get in the taxi line. But now that things two miles long, you're like, forget it. I'm going back in the city taking someone else to the airport. That's what was happening, taking goods from Asia to North America. They got here. They had to wait. They finally unloaded them. They would send them back empty. Those are signs when you're willing to traverse the largest ocean on that globe with an empty amount of freight that is telling you something is very much wrong. So logistical issues are causing prices of actual materials to go up. You also see in your homes that are being built where the people cannot get appliances for there. So you might have the home completed, but your kitchen doesn't have a refrigerator and a stove and a dishwasher that's not ready to go. It's not turnkey at that point. All kinds of problems there. And then let's talk about labor real quick. You're only as good as the people who put their hands on that home. So if you're trying to hire skilled labor and these folks are during the PPP money, you would have, let's say, five people on a construction team, maybe a construction team. They knew the work had to be cut back originally. And so they thought, well, what I'm going to do is I can either have all five of my workers have fewer hours, which is not really going to work for anybody, or I can pick three of them, the same amount of money they were earning and put two of them on unemployment. And that's what a lot of people were doing. So as we're coming back into the workforce, you're trying to get people to do work on your home, or your builders are trying to get new people to construct the home. And the skilled labor that they need is not always there. And so, again, your construction quality is a lot harder to do it with new people. I just had a company I won't name, but they were doing some foundation work in my house. I was not at all pleased with it. And they said, oh, we're just training a whole bunch of new people. And so even that name recognition, you think all of this going to a reputable company with a great name and sound history of work, that's not even enough these days. So this is really tough as a developer to do what they had been doing in the past because of a labor shortage as well.

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. Our post-COVID World will require new skills and new approaches. And those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different formats, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty, the William & Mary MBA, will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Professor Mike Seiler.

Ken White

The Wall Street Journal recently reported about one-fifth of all homes are sold that are sold are purchased by investors. How does that affect the market?

Mike Seiler

Well, what's so interesting about that is we should think about that number being very different. So in some places, you're going to have a lot more investors that are institutional. In other places, not so much. And I'll just give an example. We've got a really interesting paper on ibuyers, and these ibuyers are going in, and they're making a cash offer for your home. Now, initially, you might think, well, how are they going to do that? And the process is they have something called the AVM or automated valuation model. So they use machine learning and deep learning techniques to figure out how much people's homes are worth over a very, very large area. It's like a mass appraisal concept but done on a much greater scale. And then they'll make a cash offer too, let's say, five hundred thousand dollars. And you say, well, my home is worth five-sixty and say, well, Ken, the reason why I'm offering you a little bit below market value is because there's going to be no sales commission paid. Right? You're not going to pay that to me, certainly. I'm going to buy it directly. I'm going to write you a check, and then I'm going to take that home, and I'm going to make some very simple improvements. And then I'm going to turn around and sell maybe within three to four months. And that's where I'll make my money on kind of that low-hanging fruit. Let's do those high ROI projects, if you will. To a person, you might say, well, why would I be willing to accept less money? Okay, fine. There's going to be no or less commission. I get that. But what about the rest of the money? And I ask you. We have a tremendous MBA program. Let's say someone graduates, and they get a job in Seattle, but they own a home in Williamsburg, and they're concerned about that delay. I don't want to afford a mortgage in Williamsburg and then go to Seattle and pay another mortgage or rent in Seattle. I can't afford to do that. So these ibuyers are more of a kind of a grease in the system. They're providing liquidity to a market to allow labor mobility to go to its highest and best use. So in a way, they make the market more efficient. But just in terms of price, what we found in our study is that they will cause the prices of markets to go up by about two point eight percent. And it's because they're demanding these homes. So there's greater demand. Basic Econ 101 push up the price. The interesting thing is they're not just pushing up the price in that local market. It's happened what we call spillover effects in the neighboring communities. So it makes not just that community a little bit more expensive, but it makes affordability go down in the neighborhoods that are right. Sharing those borders.

Ken White

Wow. Interesting. And I got the peek at the abstract of the paper. It looks so interesting when you're discussing ibuyers'. You also talk about another segment, buy to rent. What's that all about?

Mike Seiler

Sure. So the ibuyers are companies, and they get institutional money. They could be hedge fund, private equity. And the same is true for these buy to rent. The difference is that the buy to rent are not just providing a liquidity mechanism. They are typically going after these distressed properties, which means they can buy them for a much lower price in real estate. They say you make money on the buy, so they're following that that and they say, well, we're going to go in, we're going to buy these homes that are distressed. Then we're going to hold them for a longer period of time, so we're not as worried about market fluctuations in a way. We're going to be a property manager. We're going to buy them now at a cheap rate because of the maybe it's in foreclosure. We're going to own them for many, many years and rent them out. And then when the market goes even higher price than we could sell it for a profit. So we'll make money on both the cash flow and ideally, of course, in a cap or game situation.

Ken White

Yeah, no, no question. Yeah. You mentioned something that I thought before we started to record that that really just sounded so interesting. 3D printed homes. Tell us about that.

Mike Seiler

3D printed homes is what I consider to be one of the next hot things. It's a it's a proptech. So you've heard of fintech financial technology proptech just for property. And this proptech idea is something that has been really burgeoning. I know there have been some of these type homes in the past, but now we're talking about the ability to get a blueprint and really have a house built. And I'm talking about the frame of it all. Of course, you have to have someone go in and do all the appliances, the wiring separately. But as far as pouring the actual concrete of the house, imagine a very large 3D printer. So you have these rails on the perimeter of the house and then a large machine over above. It looks like maybe a cake decorator and it just kind of gently pours out concrete into whatever shape you want. The interesting thing about this is you're not just talking about a box design. So that's what you think of as a home. But you start putting two by fours next to each other in the air escapes to the vent. And so people in construction, they know about how inefficient some of these homes are. But with a 3D printing, there's no reason why you have to have right angles all the time. You know, imagine decorating a cake, you don't have to make right angles with your arm. Your arm can move freely in any way that you want it to. So think of very different designs that might be very appealing from an architectural standpoint to your eye. But also think of energy efficiency. Think of these homes as being produced much, much faster. So your wood is not being exposed to the elements for months on end during rainstorms and all that kind of stuff. And think also about the strength of it. So there are people who use ICF these hurricane-proof walls, and they form 11 inches thick and so forth. They're very nice because they can withstand very strong weather conditions. So imagine you're using kind of a commercial real estate grade material in a residential house that is going to withstand the weather. You would hope that that would translate to better efficiency because people want to escape through those thicker walls but also lower insurance rates. So don't just think of when I buy a house, what is my mortgage? It's not just principal and interest. It's also taxes and insurance. Right. And it's also repairing that house. You would imagine that the house would last a lot longer. So when you're thinking about putting money aside for roof repairs and anything with wall repair and so forth, that fund should be a little bit smaller. If you have a, you know, kind of the three wolves kind of thing, you know, the big bad wolf mentality. So a stronger home should be cheaper in the long run as well, not just more energy efficient. So those are some of the exciting things that are happening in the world of construction.

Ken White

So we'll put you on the spot. If you had your crystal ball a year from now, where do you think the market, the residential home market, might look like?

Mike Seiler

I imagine that here's my opinion on COVID. I think we obviously are winning the battle. If I imagine COVID being a really bad person. We have our boot on the throat of COVID, but we need to finish it off. And I don't know that COVID is going to be a thing may be where we have it, and then we don't. It's not like we're never going to see an outbreak again. For that reason. I don't think that we just snap our fingers, and we're done with COVID. So I don't see its effect on real estate is going away immediately. But I also, in my mind, to have this visualization of a snake that had swallowed a big pig, we need to get that pig digested, and then probably smaller animals will be consumed after that by the python. But I can see home prices continuing to go up, but far more gently. I don't think there's going to be a crash. I don't even know that they'll be necessarily a soft landing. But I definitely think that the escalated home prices cannot last forever. I mean, think about Newton's law. What goes up must come down. You don't want home prices going up too fast because then they have to come back down. It's the same type of stability that you look at in any part of the economy, of the economy. You don't want the economy to grow super fast because then it's going to end up contracting. What you want is a nice, predictable, steady stream of growth. Right now, we're in kind of a hyper normal growth in real estate. And I would like to see and think we're going to see it come down somewhat.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Professor Mike Seiler, then that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest, Mike Seiler, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Anna Milholland
Anna MilhollandEpisode 155: June 15, 2021
Good Books for Summer Vacation

Anna Milholland

Episode 155: June 15, 2021

Good Books for Summer Vacation

The masks are coming off, we're gathering with family and friends, and many people are making plans for a much needed and well-deserved summer vacation. Whether you're heading to the beach, the mountains, or the in-laws, if you're looking for the right book to take along we have the right person who has several recommendations in terms of good reads for your summer getaway. Anna Milholland is the business librarian at the McLeod Library at William & Mary's School of Business. She oversees the Library, its databases, books and publications, and works closely with students and faculty. We invited her to join us today to share the titles of six books she thinks you'll want to consider for your summer vacation. Some on the list are new, some not so new, some are fairly easy reads while others may be challenging. But each book on the list is relevant, interesting, and thought provoking.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How "Leading Change" by John Kotter can help multiple industries in a post-COVID world
  • Why "Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism" by Safiya Umoja Noble is extremely relevant
  • How "Fish: A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results" can help managers motivate their team
  • What Karlos K. Hill asserts is the lasting legacy of the racial violence in "The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: A Photographic History"
  • How Glennon Doyle's "Untamed" can teach people to live their authentic selves
  • Why Anna would take Brene Brown's "Dare to Lead" to read on vacation
  • How the McLeod Library was able to successfully pivot to virtual services
  • What the library services will look like once everything goes back to "normal"
Transcript

Anna Milholland: Good Books for Summer Vacation TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, the masks are coming off. We're gathering with family and friends, and many people are making plans for a much-needed and well-deserved summer vacation. Whether you're heading to the beach, the mountains, or the in-laws, if you're looking for the right book to take along, we have the right person who has several recommendations in terms of good reads for your summer getaway. Anna Milholland is the business librarian at the McLeod Library at William & Mary School of Business. She oversees the library, its databases, books, and publications and works closely with students and faculty. We invited her to join us today to share the titles of six books she thinks you'll want to consider for your summer vacation. Some on the list are new, some not so new, some are fairly easy reads, while others may be challenging. But each book on the list is relevant, interesting, and thought-provoking. Here's our conversation with the business librarian at William & Mary School of Business, Anna Milholland.

Ken White

Anna, thanks very much for sharing your time. We should say it should be quiet today. Graduation just occurred as we're recording. So it's the day after the big storm. What a great weekend it was. Right. It's so nice to see all those grads get their diplomas. And now it's nice and quiet again.

Anna Milholland

Absolutely.

Ken White

Yeah.

Anna Milholland

Yes. We have this giant celebration and then a day of recovery.

Ken White

And you work closely with faculty and students. So, you know, you get to know everybody. So it's a big day for you as well.

Anna Milholland

I do. Yes. Graduation is always a campus-wide celebration, and the library certainly takes part in that. We really relish in our student's successes. We recognize how hard it is to graduate from William & Mary, and certainly, we celebrate with our faculty as well.

Ken White

Yeah, it was a big weekend. It's nice to have you here. So now for a lot of folks heading off to vacation. Right. And it's always nice to take a good book or two with you. And so thanks very much for bringing a few suggestions with us. In terms of your list. Why don't you share it with us? What do you have? What are you recommending?

Anna Milholland

Absolutely. So my first is a classic business text, Leading Change by John Kotter. Dr. Kotter is the leading change management expert. He's on faculty at Harvard Business School. In this particular book, which was initially published in the mid-90s, is considered by many to be sort of the defining change management text.

Ken White

Yeah.

Anna Milholland

There was this recent commentary from the Canadian Medical Education Journal, which discussed how a hospital emergency room employee, Dr. Kotter's eight-step process for change management during COVID, which is really inspiring. I think this is one that can be used and is used across industries.

Ken White

Yeah, what has not changed.

Anna Milholland

Right.

Ken White

Especially the last couple of years, right?

Anna Milholland

Yes.

Ken White

Interesting.

Anna Milholland

And we use this text in libraries, too, and I think it's really helpful, and it resonates just across the board as we all kind of consider how to create a sense of urgency around a change, how to build that guiding coalition, forming that strategic vision and initiatives, enlisting volunteers, removing barriers and enabling action when we do that, generating short term wins, which are just critical for any success to continue in sustaining that acceleration and then instituting the change.

Ken White

It could be an interesting read, especially because we all just went through a considerable amount of change.

Anna Milholland

Yes, yes.

Ken White

So you're looking back and forward.

Anna Milholland

Yes, absolutely.

Ken White

Excellent.

Anna Milholland

I think we will continue to see monumental change. So, yes, it's a great piece for reflection, but it's also a great piece for propelling us.

Ken White

Wonderful. So the first one is leading change. How about your second recommendation?

Anna Milholland

So this I would classify as my all-around must-read for summer. It's called Algorithms of Oppression How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble. It's published by NYU Press. And Dr. Noble is a professor at the University of Southern California. And she came to academia with an extensive background in working in advertising and marketing for Fortune 100 accounts.

Ken White

What do you like about it?

Anna Milholland

Yeah, so this particular book was published after years of study about search engines, particularly Google, though Dr. Nobel does include examples from others and how Google queries for black and Latino girls and women reveal and reflect systematic racism, which is it's really interesting. It's incredibly relevant, as it always has been. And it's not an easy beach read, but I think it is a book that requires attention and focus and personal interrogation about biases, and it's 100 percent worth it.

Ken White

And relevant again.

Anna Milholland

Absolutely.

Ken White

Right. But the first two seem extremely relevant. We can tie it right to what's happening today.

Anna Milholland

Absolutely.

Ken White

Interesting. Now your third recommendation.

Anna Milholland

Sure. This one is for motivation, motivating your team. I think, again, this year has been challenging for many of us. And as we are returning to the workplace in many places, we're kind of redefining who our teams are again because we've existed in this virtual environment, and now we're face to face. So a book that I have loved since I was in grad school is called Fish A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results. And it's by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen. And I first read it, as I mentioned, as part of a library management course. But the philosophies and attitudes, I think, just really continue to resonate. I particularly love the concepts of choosing your attitude. I think that's so critical for coming to work each day and for framing your workday, but also play because it's so important for creating a workplace where people want to be and where they can be their best creative selves.

Ken White

Yeah, again, relevant. Wow. This is what's happening today. Right. And work is changing so much. So fantastic.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Anna Milholland in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Post COVID World will require new skills and new approaches. And those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different MBA formats, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty, the William & Mary MBA, will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Anna Milholland on Good reads for your summer vacation.

Ken White

How about your fourth?

Anna Milholland

Yes, this is what I would call the twenty twenty-one-themed read, and I want to preface it with this. So amidst Jim Crow, segregation, and racial violence against African-Americans, Tulsa's Greenwood District, a center of African-American commerce which was also known as Black Wall Street, thrived. In light of the one 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. I want to highlight a book that I haven't read, but I want to read. And it's called The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre A Photographic History by Karlos K. Hill. Dr. Hill's research expertise and scholarship centers on racial violence. And he is a professor at the University of Oklahoma. And is it okay if I read the description from the OU press?

Ken White

Yeah, please. That's great.

Anna Milholland

Okay, here's an excerpt. Historian and Black Studies Professor Karlos K. Hill presents a range of photographs taken before, during, and after the massacre, mostly by white photographers. Some of the images are published here for the first time. Comparing these photographs to those taken elsewhere in the United States of lynchings. The author makes a powerful case for terming the 1921 outbreak not a riot but a massacre. White civilians, in many cases assisted or condoned by local and state law enforcement, perpetuated a systematic and coordinated attack on black Tulsans and their property. Despite all the violence and devastation, Black Tulsan's rebuilt the Greenwood district brick by brick, by brick, by brick. By the mid 20th century, Greenwood had reached a new zenith with nearly 250 black-owned and black-operated businesses. Today, the citizens of Greenwood, with support from the broader community, continue to work diligently to revive the neighborhood once known as Black Wall Street. As a result, Hill asserts, the most important legacy of the Tulsa race massacre is the grit and resilience of the black survivors of racist violence.

Ken White

No doubt a light read this sounds powerful.

Anna Milholland

It really does. It sounds like an incredible read, especially considering the anniversary of the race massacre is May 31st through June 1st of 2021.

Ken White

And your fifth recommendation?

Anna Milholland

My fifth is Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I want to say that I did not read this book. I listened to it, and I don't listen to audiobooks very often. But this one was amazing. So I was really on pins and needles waiting for this book to come out last year because I followed Doyle for a long time from when she was a blogger, and she authored a blog called Momastery. And this memoir was really a story of her living into her values and living into her authentic self. And I think after a year at home, a year of change, and a year of chaos, for many of us, it might have also been an opportunity for us to figure out what our values are and maybe do a deeper dive into who we are authentically and who we want to be. So I highly recommend this, and I recommend it as an audiobook because Glennon Doyle narrates it.

Ken White

Yeah, excellent. I'm going to put you on the spot. If you were going to leave for the beach today, what would you take with you? Something on this list or maybe something else?

Anna Milholland

Oh gosh. I would take Brene Brown's dare to lead brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. I listen to one of her audiobooks actually about parenting. And it really, again, it really struck me. And I was able to apply many of the principles that she mentioned in my own life. And so I've long wanted to read this. I think it would be what I would take.

Ken White

Fantastic six excellent recommendations. And while we have you here, let's shift gears a little bit. You know, on our podcast, it seems almost on every episode we're talking with somebody in an industry and in a sector that is that's been disrupted. It's evolving. It's transforming. Your space I think if someone has not been to their alma mater and their business school library, they're not ready for what they're going to see. There aren't stacks of books anymore. If someone were to ask you what's the library look like in the business school, could you give them a, you know, sort of an explanation?

Anna Milholland

I would say we are a place where disruptive change happens. And it's funny. When we all went when we when the world shut down, and many of us left and began working from home, I think there were there were concerns across the board about how we would all adapt to doing our work from home.

Ken White

Yeah.

Anna Milholland

Librarians, because we are so closely tied with IT, library, and information science, we had already pivoted. So we offer so many resources virtually, including our databases but also our research consultations. And I think that we were really adept and prepared for what that shift from physical to virtual would look like.

Ken White

Yeah. How do you spend a typical day with students and faculty? What do you do?

Anna Milholland

So I still work with books, but academic libraries, I think, are really centered on the research and curricular needs of our faculty and students. So this might involve engaging with work like Bibliometrics, which involves benchmarking faculty scholarship against our own brand, as well as other institutions. Thinking about how much our faculty are producing, how many citations those works are garnering, and so forth. But it also includes teaching students and teaching faculty about the resources that we have. So we I work with students in one on one and group research consultations via Zoom right now on finding appropriate resources that would meet their research question. But it also goes beyond just the discovery of the content. So we work with students on how they might analyze and use some of this information to create new knowledge. With faculty, we also can help with and do help with research as well. So it really runs the gamut. We license materials. We're copyright experts. We field questions about open education resources and open access, and where faculty and students can publish their content. So it I would say, like the scholarly communication side of the libraries, is really it's really grown in the last 15 to 20 years. And the publishing side, and we're all part of that.

Ken White

The typical, say, undergraduate student who uses the library, what do they tend to be coming for? Is there something they use more than other items?

Anna Milholland

Sure. I would say that many of them are looking for our undergrads are really smart. I should just say our undergraduate students are brilliant. So I'm not sure William & Mary, typical undergrad, is is analogous to another school's typical undergrad. But our students are looking for data. They're looking for a primary source market research about an industry or about a consumer. They are looking for scholarly articles, many of them. I work very closely with our marketing research undergraduate course. And so, they are looking for a primary source scholarship about marketing research methodologies that they could potentially apply to survey methods and so on.

Ken White

So some printed materials, some traditional kind of research, but also the database.

Anna Milholland

Absolutely.

Ken White

Databases seem to be huge.

Anna Milholland

They're massively huge. So we have about 50 databases that are I would consider to be business-centric. We also license a lot of data through a variety of providers. And, yeah, our students, they long for it. I mean, they desperately need data to make good decisions and to make their research fuller. So we work with them. Yeah. To on a lot of those things.

Ken White

But part of your job is to determine which data are important.

Anna Milholland

Absolutely.

Ken White

To give them access.

Anna Milholland

And that's all part of the research question. So we do a research interview, rather. We do what's called a research interview with students whenever they come in for a consultation, or they come to the desk, and we ask a lot of probing questions to figure out exactly what they're working on and exactly what data they need to be able to complete their assignment.

Ken White

And this can be costly.

Anna Milholland

Oh, data are expensive.

Ken White

Right.

Anna Milholland

Yes. Our subscriptions, I mean, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ken White

Right.

Anna Milholland

And that's just for the business school. That's not considering all of the other databases and information that students at William & Mary, students, faculty, and staff at William & Mary have access to through William & Mary Libraries.

Ken White

What do you see in the year ahead as we and I put the word normal in quotes? How do you see the year ahead? Any major changes in terms of the library and the services and how it's used?

Anna Milholland

You know, I think that we're still all trying to figure out what back to work will look like.

Ken White

Yeah.

Anna Milholland

I think across the board, though, I would say that the library services will remain consistent. We are still offering course reserves. We still offer students and faculty in our community the opportunity to come to the library and browse for books. We still will offer research consultations. How we do, that might be a little bit different, but our same core services will be the same.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Anna Milholland once again. Her six recommendations for summer reading include Leading Change by John Kotter, Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble; Fish A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Lundin, Paul, and Christiensen; The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, A Photographic History by Karlos Hill; Untamed by Glennon Doyle; and finally Dare to Lead Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts by Brene Brown. Well, that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest, Anna Milholland, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Micah West
Micah WestEpisode 154: May 17, 2021
The Class of 2021

Micah West

Episode 154: May 17, 2021

The Class of 2021

It's graduation season, and if there's a class that deserves to be celebrated, it's the class of 2021. This group experienced higher education like no one before them. Most of these new grads began school before the pandemic when college campuses operated mostly in a face-to-face environment. Then the pandemic forced schools to quickly shift to virtual learning, and eventually for some schools a mix of virtual and in-person instruction. Things were different on campuses, and for many students things were challenging. The class of 2021 was forced to be flexible and resilient. Micah West is a member of the MBA class of 2021 at William & Mary. A BYU graduate, he entered the MBA program after working in digital marketing and e-commerce for organizations like eBay, overstock.com, the Dress Barn. In addition to being a full time grad student, he's a husband and father of four school-age daughters. He joins us today to talk about the class of 2021, their experiences, and the lessons they'll take away from attending school during a pandemic.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What Micah was hoping to get out of his MBA
  • How COVID changed the landscape of higher learning
  • What it's like to learn over zoom
  • Why Micah elected to remain in class via zoom during hybrid learning
  • What were classroom discussions like over zoom
  • How were team assignments dealt with in a remote setting
  • How are internships managed during a pandemic
  • What it was like going to school and raising a family during the pandemic
Transcript

Micah West: The Class of 2021 TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. It's graduation season. And if there's a class that deserves to be celebrated, it's the class of 2021. This group experienced higher education like no one before them. Most of these new grads began school before the pandemic when college campuses operated mostly in a face-to-face environment. Then the pandemic forced schools to quickly shift to virtual learning and, eventually, for some schools, a mix of virtual and in-person instruction. Things were different on campuses, and for many students, things were challenging. The class of 20 21 was forced to be flexible and resilient. Micah West is a member of the MBA class of 2021 at William & Mary. A BYU graduate, he entered the MBA program after working in digital marketing and e-commerce for organizations like eBay, Overstock.com, and Dress Barn. In addition to being a full-time grad student, he's a husband and father of four school-aged daughters. He joins us today to talk about the class of 2021, its experiences, and the lessons it'll take away from attending school during a pandemic. Here's our conversation with Micah West.

Ken White

Well, Micah, thanks very much for sharing your time. First of all, are you done? Are you officially done now?

Micah West

Today is the last day I've got one more final.

Ken White

So I can't congratulate you just quite yet.

Micah West

Yeah, yeah.

Ken White

Well, I will. I will say congratulations. That's really exciting. Graduation's coming up. Will you participate.

Micah West

Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

Ken White

Wonderful. Wonderful. So you came to business school after a good, good career. You had some great jobs, and back in August of nineteen, you decided to pursue your MBA. What were you thinking it would be like because it wasn't exactly what you thought it would be, but what were you hoping to experience?

Micah West

Yeah, I was really hoping to come in and network with incredible individuals and, you know, come out the other side with a bit of a career change, honestly. And, you know, to the, for the most part, that's what's happened. I mean, there's been some really amazing people in the program that I've met, and I'm looking forward to continuing those relationships postgraduation.

Ken White

A lot of people in your who were pursuing MBAs, undergraduates not right now, are saying, I didn't sign up for this. You know, this was really different. What were some of the unexpected things that that you experienced?

Micah West

Well, COVID was huge, right? I think for everyone, you know, you come into a full-time in-person MBA program, and then COVID hits and, you know, everybody's trying to adjust and well, you know, we went to this complete remote schooling for a while and then we kind of switched to hybrid. But I mean, you just come in and roll with the punches, really. But I mean, the class the professors were incredible. They adjusted well, you know, and you still felt like you got the learnings out of the program, which is, you know, what you came here for in the first place.

Ken White

That transition was pretty quick. I mean, for all of us, of course, all industries. And one day, we're all together. The next day we're not, and here we had a little bit of a break because of spring break. And then suddenly, you were in Zoom world. What was it like to learn that way?

Micah West

You know, it was interesting. I think, to start with, you're fine, right? I mean, you jump in, and it's the same concentration levels if you were in class. I think the things that you miss ultimately are just the small conversations that you get to have before class and after class, the conversations, you know, the small talk that you'd have with the professors. So it's more of a formal situation, at least it was in the beginning. And then I think we all learned to relax a little bit and, you know, take it in stride and have fun. But, yeah, it was challenging, I think, in the beginning, but still good.

Ken White

Then after a set period of time, William & Mary's MBA program was able to go hybrid, as we call it. You could go to class in person, or you could stay on Zoom. You elected to stay on Zoom.

Micah West

I did.

Ken White

Yeah. Why did you make that choice?

Micah West

You know, I was by that time I had acclimated to online, and I thought to myself, you know, I don't have to come and pay for parking, and you know, I can still get the same education, you know, online as I can kind of in person. I've built decent relationships already, kind of having that in-person experience at the beginning of class. And, you know, I figured out a way by that time to, you know, still not work. And so I was like, hey, we're golden. You know, we can. I can do this from home and still get all the benefits, which was great.

Ken White

What were classroom discussions like?

Micah West

It's always interesting on Zoom because you've got, you know, just the reality of it. You've got people that are really engaged and some that are not. And so, you know, it's the people that are engaged make the experience worth it, you know, and, you know, you try to be one of those people so that the that experience for everyone is really good. But I mean, we had amazing discussions. Ron Hess, I remember, you know, joking with us and just really diving into subjects and doing learnings that you didn't think you were going to be able to have that first semester during, you know, during the Zoom calls. And man, it was just it was great. Kudos to the professors for making that shift so quickly.

Ken White

And Ron Hess is a marketing professor here at William & Mary. So you're listening to your professor. But I've seen in a number of calls. Students will start talking to each other on the chat function.

Micah West

Absolutely.

Ken White

How do you manage both of those?

Micah West

Yeah, no, I think it's great. I mean, there's always the in student to student banter going on behind the scenes.

Ken White

Right.

Micah West

So I've got one of my buddies, Dan Kelly. He you know, we're that's kind of the whole class. We're listening to Professor, and we're making comments.

Ken White

Right.

Micah West

You know, in the back row, as it were.

Ken White

And what was interesting is a lot of faculty initially were very worried about that. I remember all of us getting together. Do we turn chat off? Do we leave it on and found leaving it on was great. I mean, students really enjoyed this. And it wasn't like they were talking about what's on ESPN.com.

Micah West

Exactly.

Ken White

These were really good conversations.

Micah West

Yeah.

Ken White

Yeah.

Micah West

Yeah, you're having these conversations, I think, about the topics in class and, you know, there's some other joking stuff

Ken White

Sure.

Micah West

going on, of course. But, you know, it just made the environment fun, and it kept it real still. Which was nice.

Ken White

What about team assignments? Because an MBA is so much teamwork. How is that in a remote setting?

Micah West

It was it was great. I mean, given Google Docs and given, you know, one drive, Microsoft one drive, I mean, you were able to go in. You know, the nice thing, I think one of the learnings for me coming out of this is just remote team management. Right. And you get in, and it's like, okay, I've done this enough times now where I know that we've got to on this document that we're working on this for this assignment. We've got to make sure that all everybody's clear on, like, what their part is when things are due. And so it's like you almost write this mini agenda for workplan almost on the top of your document. Right.

Ken White

Yeah.

Micah West

So that everybody's clear on what and then everybody can go back to that because you have these conversations on Zoom and you forget things, obviously, because you've got so much going on. Sure. So anyway, it's just been great. I mean, the I think that aspect has been good, especially going into the workforce. I'm going to GSK.

Ken White

Right.

Micah West

We're all remote still. So, I mean, you still have this remote work environment that we've been prepped for, which has been great. Yeah.

Ken White

So do you think the work world and the education world will embrace some of the remote functions that we experienced this year when things are, quote, back to normal?

Micah West

Yeah, I mean, you've got Google, you've got Facebook. I mean, there's a bunch of different companies, even some of the management consulting firms or, you know, a lot of them are remote or going to this hybrid workforce. GSK was a part-time remote. They were a 3-2 before. And so the switch to full remote wasn't that big of a deal. And I'm assuming they'll get back to kind of a three-two. But yeah, I mean, it's I can totally see that shifting.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Micah West of the class of 2021 in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The post COVID world will require new skills and new approaches. Those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different formats in the MBA, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA program at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Micah West from the class of 2021.

Ken White

And the job is a huge aspect of the MBA, and normally you meet with recruiters face to face, there are career fairs, people come here. That was all turned upside down. Where did you intern?

Micah West

GSK.

Ken White

And then how did you get the internship? How did you manage that in this in this different way?

Micah West

Yeah. So luckily we I went to National Black before COVID.

Ken White

The National Black MBA Career Fair, which is this huge career fair for MBA students all across the country.

Micah West

Correct.

Ken White

Yeah.

Micah West

And it was the last. It's a two-day fair for those who don't know.

Ken White

Yeah.

Micah West

And I, you know, I went in talking to kind of my core, wanting to talk to all the core people that I was interested in interning with. And I'm walking out at four o'clock. The conference ends at four o'clock. I'm walking out at like four o five the last day.

Ken White

Wow.

Micah West

And GSK is like I'm walking past their booth. And they just happened to catch my eye. And I'm like, you know, I haven't talked with them, and I don't really know who they are.

Ken White

Yeah.

Micah West

And so I went and spoke with them, and I was like, this is exactly what I've been looking for. And they loved my resumé. And so it was like this match made in heaven. But I it was just happenstance on the very last day, the final hour, which was just, you know, you just go and go and go for two days. And

Ken White

Yeah.

Micah West

it was great. I did go to National Black remotely the second time.

Ken White

Right.

Micah West

And I'll tell you, the experience was not good.

Ken White

Right, it couldn't be the same. I mean, that is such a phenomenal event where we take all of our full-time MBA students every year. Chicago, I think it is next year. And there are hundreds and hundreds of fantastic companies. They're looking for MBAs. It is just the quintessential speed dating.

Micah West

It is. It's fantastic. Yeah. So I mean for people that I would suggest if you're a full-time MBA student, like go

Ken White

Oh yeah.

Micah West

go in person. Like, the opportunities are incredible there.

Ken White

So what was your internship? Was it mostly remote?

Micah West

It was mostly remote. Yeah, it was all remote. In fact, they before COVID, they flew us up for a weekend, and we were able to kind of meet the teams and meet our fellow interns. And then everything switched because of COVID, and we were remote for the summer, and it was still great, you know, it was still fantastic.

Ken White

What will you be doing?

Micah West

Brand management.

Ken White

Great.

Micah West

So I just got my brand assignment yesterday, actually.

Ken White

Yeah. Excellent. Excellent. So you, like many MBA students, have a family?

Micah West

I do.

Ken White

And you have children who are in school. What was that like managing? I can't imagine our children are grown, and we were even talking about it recently as one graduated from college. What would it have been like that when, wow, what was that like?

Micah West

The first month was fascinating. So I four daughters, a set of twins that are in first grade. I've got a second-grader and a fourth-grader. So all in all, in elementary school, luckily, three of the girls are extremely studious. And I've got one that, you know, needs a little bit of handholding—our sports girl. But yeah, it was interesting. They you know, they were my wife was working, and so they were doing remote school on Zoom, and I was on remote school. And so I literally had to go back and forth between their classes and my classes for a good couple of weeks, month. And it was pretty stressful for the first month. But, you know, after that, my wife was able to transition a little bit, and she took over the day-to-day, and it got better, which was great. But yeah, it was a little hairy there for about a month.

Ken White

Yeah, I'm sure one of the things that I think was unexpected or at least people didn't think about, but many experienced was simply the bandwidth at home. Everybody needed Internet. Did you have any problems?

Micah West

Yeah, all five of us were on computers. So, you know, it's, and we had a we ran into a couple of challenges, but luckily there was enough. The girls had like set times, and we had set times. And so we were able to mitigate that, you know, for the most part. But yeah, there were definitely some bandwidth challenges.

Ken White

You know you seemed to have weathered the storm, so to speak, quite well. You know, there are a lot of people in school, whether undergrad, MBA, Ph.D. programs had a rough, rough time. It was just very difficult. What would you do? Did any classmates come your way and say, I'm struggling here? And if so, what kind of advice were you able to share with them?

Micah West

You know, you could just tell that people were, you know, we're having some challenges and, you know, especially with internships and other things. And, you know, we had a lot of internship, I wouldn't say a lot, but they're a fair percentage of internships that dropped out. People had internships, and then, you know, companies had to pull back because of COVID. And, you know, I just remember reaching out to everyone on my LinkedIn network that I possibly could to say, hey, what is your company doing? I spent hours, like, just trying to do. Because you like you feel so bad like you've got these just really incredible people in your program, and you want to help them, and it turned out great. I mean, it ended up working out for everybody that I know of.

Ken White

Yeah.

Micah West

But, you know, it's just. Yeah, I mean, you band together as part of that network and, you know, try to help each other and, you know, try to have each other's backs as much as possible.

Ken White

I mean, this has to be the most resilient class ever in the history of education. I mean, you guys have really been through it. So there have been some definitely some highs and lows and some challenges. Does it bring teams together at the end? For the most part, we are helping each other and those instances.

Micah West

Yeah, I think you have to. I mean, you know, you've always got the people that just give their 120 percent. And then, you know, every once in a while, you get somebody who doesn't, and the rest of the team bands together. And that's what I mean. You get it done. It's like what you have to do. It's like, you know, if you're in a job and, you know, you work with those teammates that are just stellar, and you get it done.

Ken White

Are there lessons that you and your classmates will take away from your experience? Because it was rather unique.

Micah West

I think some of the biggest lessons for me were just around the remote work managing teams remotely. And I think just taking a step back and recognizing that you know, everybody's kind of going through something different, and you have to give people a little bit of space to be able to kind of work through things on their own. And just, you know, you'd be a you just support people as much as you can and meet them where they are. You know, I think those are some of the bigger takeaways for me.

Ken White

Which is good advice in any environment, whether you're in school or at work, too. Yeah. So graduation's in a couple of weeks you'll be there. I'm sure it'll be a great day for you.

Micah West

It will be, yeah. Hopefully have the family there, and we're waiting on one ticket, but we'll get there.

Ken White

Yeah. And we're praying for 70 degrees and sunny skies.

Micah West

That's right, exactly.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Micah West, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals to lead in our post COVID world. Professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively, and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the William & Mary MBA program to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest, Micah West, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead. And to the class of 2021 in high schools, colleges, and universities all over the world, a heartfelt congratulations.

More Podcast Episodes

 Henry Broaddus
Henry BroaddusEpisode 153: May 1, 2021
College Admissions & the Pandemic

Henry Broaddus

Episode 153: May 1, 2021

College Admissions & the Pandemic

College Admissions. Like many other sectors, it has seen significant disruption this past year. Admissions offices across the United States are in the midst of a cycle the likes of which they'd never seen. First, COVID-19 hit which kept college-bound high school students from visiting campuses. Then, some high schools moved from letter grades to pass/fail grades. Then, many colleges and universities waived the required SAT and ACT. Those events and others have changed the admissions landscape considerably this year. As a result, some schools like William & Mary have seen significant increases in applications while others experienced dramatic drops. Henry Broaddus is Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Public Affairs at William & Mary. He spent over a decade in the admissions profession at Dartmouth and William & Mary. Now admissions and financial aid are a part of his leadership portfolio. He joins us today to talk about the pandemic's effect on high school students, their families, and college admissions here at William & Mary and across the country.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • Why are some universities seeing more of an influx of applicants than others
  • What have been the biggest factors for the increase in applicants
  • How have universities adapted to applicants not being able to visit campus
  • What is the Common App and how has it had an effect on admissions during the pandemic
  • How have admissions formulas changed during the pandemic
  • What have universities and colleges done to ensure a diverse incoming class
  • What does the future hold for college admissions
Transcript

Henry Broaddus: College Admissions & the Pandemic TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. College admissions. Like many other sectors, it has seen significant disruption this past year. Admissions offices across the United States are in the midst of a cycle the likes of which they've never seen. First COVID-19 hit, which kept college-bound high school students from visiting campuses. Then some high schools moved from letter grades to pass-fail grades. Then many colleges and universities waived the required SAT and ACT. Well, those events and others have changed the admissions landscape considerably this year. As a result, some schools like William & Mary have seen significant increases in applications, while others experienced dramatic drops. Henry Broaddus is Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Public Affairs at William & Mary. He spent over a decade in the admissions profession at Dartmouth and William & Mary. Now admissions and financial aid are a part of his leadership portfolio. He joins us today to talk about the pandemic's effect on high school students, their families, and college admissions here at William & Mary and across the country. Here's our conversation with Henry Broaddus.

Ken White

Well, Henry, thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule. Seems like everybody's so busy today in our Zoom world. So, thanks very much. I'm sure your schedule is just as packed as it's ever been.

Henry Broaddus

Well, it's delightful to be with you, Ken. And what's fun about this Zoom is this is a little bit more like one of those hall conversations that one would have when going between meetings. So this is the life.

Ken White

Exactly. Yeah. Thank you. So much written about college admissions this year in the media, it seems like that's the big topic. What's going on? We hear a lot about test-optional, what's happening with admissions, and what we're seeing is many top-tier universities are seeing an influx of applications. Other universities, not so much. What's happening? What's causing that?

Henry Broaddus

Sure. Well, it's a great question to start with. And we are seeing a very interesting set of dynamics in these applicant pools. The Common Application saw an increase of applications submitted this year that was at about 11 percent. But the increase in applicants was less than three percent. And as you point out, there was clustering of where you were seeing this kind of growth. So here at William & Mary, we had a twenty-three percent increase in our applicant pool, which was substantial. That puts, as you would expect, strain on process. But elsewhere, it's been uneven. And I think it's fair to say that the most selective places, flagship universities, flagship, both in terms of size and stature and also urban campuses prior to the pandemic were where a lot of the action was you know there's going to be some interesting disruption, and we're going to still see where things fall out. But that's been where the growth occurs. And one other thing I'd point out, Ken, is that the decision to go test-optional has been one of the things that has stoked the growth in these pools because it's really removing a barrier. So more students are electing to take a shot at a pool in that way. And then another factor that I think you have to take into consideration is the inability to have visited campuses in the same way and pare down college lists. So I think many students are taking more of a broad net approach just because they've not had that ability to evaluate which ones are really the best fit.

Ken White

Yeah, wow. Didn't think of the fact people can't get to campus, but William & Mary, along with some other schools, did some pretty clever came up with some pretty clever ideas so prospective students could see campus and get a bit of a feel, right.

Henry Broaddus

Well absolutely. I think every college and university has been going through reinvention of what outreach and recruitment looks like in these new minutes, not unlike what you and your colleagues in the business school are doing with classes that are hybrid and remote. So actually, it's interesting as I speak to you. Although we are not yet running in-person campus tours through our undergraduate admissions offices, we are, in fact, offering four varieties of tours. So there is a video tour, there is a virtual tour with even richer media. There is a self-guided tour that's available to a visiting family that wants to walk around on its own. And we do have tours for which one signs up that are guided by a student, but they're more like a slide show and with a student presenting via Zoom.

Ken White

Yeah, interesting time for families to look at schools. You briefly mentioned the Common App. I think a lot of people know what that is, but many people might not. Can you give us a definition on what that is and how that sort of changed things?

Henry Broaddus

Absolutely. And you're right to point out that it's still going to be new. I expect a lot of your listeners really only about a generation old. So so the Common App started in the mid-70s, but it really took off late later than that and became the ubiquitous tool to use to apply to colleges and universities. And the benevolent function of the Common App is that it reduces the strain of what it takes to submit individual applications. But there is a downside to that. The University of Chicago, for example, was one of the later adopters of the Common App and for a time really prided itself on saying, look, when you apply to us, we don't want you to be applying to college generally, we want you to be applying to the University of Chicago specifically because you've done the research and you see it as a match. So there are pros and cons. I think overall, most in the profession would say that the Common App has done a great job of creating more access, enabling students to grow lists in responsible ways. But others would say it has led to a kind of shotgun approach, that means you're going to see declines in yield, more volatility within the system, and many students that will just misuse the instrument thinking kind of a fallacy that if I just apply to enough of these highly selective places, at least one of them is going to take me. These aren't random trials or rolls of the die. So that's just not how it works.

Ken White

Yeah, we look at the test-optional, so many schools have embraced, how does the admissions profession and universities in general, how do they view the test? Why is the SAT the ACT? Why are those important today?

Henry Broaddus

Yeah, excellent question. And even prior to the pandemic, this was a conversation we were having internally at William & Mary? And the only thing that the SAT is intended to measure is not even to measure, to predict is freshman year GPA. Now, what we know and what the College Board itself shows through its own research is that high school GPA by itself is more predictive of first-year college GPA than the standardized test. But having both is more predictive than either in isolation. And actually, at William & Mary, we had a ten-year study of research looking at a single school system in Virginia with more than twenty-seven hundred data points in this study. Where we were looking at how predictive is the GPA from high school, how predictive is the SAT for a William & Mary first-year GPA? And what we concluded was that, yes, having both adds predictive value, but having one or the other, but not both is pretty close. And so the debate we were having is, is it worth it in terms of all the other things that a standardized testing requirement imposes on families to get that modest additional predictive value? And what we also know is it's more predictive for some groups than others. So we know, for example, low- income students tend to outperform what their test score predicts. Many students of color, same thing. This is okay in the context of our process as long as there is keen awareness of that limitation of the measure. And so one of the things that I would say is there is great acknowledgment of the flaws of the test, but that doesn't mean it's useless as long as that awareness is being brought to bear. So we were again in the midst of this debate when then the pandemic created, I think, what was a clear and compelling reason for at least one year to be test-optional because students did not and did not have access and could not get access to a test administration. We went further than that, as did several others and said, if we're going to do that, let's really embrace this as an opportunity to see if we can conduct a test-optional process, not the same thing, by the way, of saying we don't want standardized tests where there's no rule, but that we're not going to require it for all of our applicants. And we've committed to a three-year pilot. We just finished the first cycle of that with the class that will arrive here next fall. The reason to do three years is that we that will give us time to see their first-year GPA, evaluate any unforeseen consequences of this ship, and then make a longer-term decision about what the right role for testing is in our process.

Ken White

Interesting. You know what? I think people who are unfamiliar with admissions find fascinating is in that world, there are formulas that the admissions professionals use to determine. Okay, we have a number of apps over here. This is how many we need to accept and so forth. Is that, I assume, sort of turned a little upside down this year because of all the changes.

Henry Broaddus

It's turned a lot upside down. And I think maybe you'd say there used to be formulas that one could apply here. So the year under pandemic. So going back to last spring when we recognized that we were going to have a really crazy year ahead of us, even then, I don't think we saw just how volatile it was going to become. So give you again an example in the context of William & Mary; usually, our admission team will see what you refer to as summer melt on the magnitude of about one hundred students. So we're enrolling a class of 15 20. You would get you'd want to get north of that by about one hundred so that you're buffered against waitlist activity elsewhere. Students who decide to take a gap year. Other reasons that students are going to fall out between that May one deposit deadline and convocation. In the cycle that that ended when students arrived in the fall of 20, we had lost more than two hundred and fifty students to summer melt. So really shot holes in the predictive value of that formula. And I think the great question is whether the cycle we're in now, where we're in the month of April, the cruelest month, as T.S. Elliot would say, but the one that puts admission officers on the edge of their chairs because they're waiting to see what choices students will make. The question is, will we see a rebound or a rebound to kind of the old yield, or is last year the indicator of the new normal?

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Henry Broaddus in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Post COVID World will require new skills and new approaches. And those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different MBA formats, including the full- time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty, the William & Mary MBA, will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Henry Broaddus.

Ken White

I don't think the average person has any idea how tough the admissions world is. Wow, it's brutal, and it's a profession, you know, it takes a lot of education and an experience to do this the right way, doesn't it?

Henry Broaddus

Yeah, absolutely. And I think the reality of it is Ken that at some point, the craft of building statistical models gives way to the instincts of something like a gambler. And you're really trying to read what the signals are based on a variety of many of them highly qualitative indicators. Tim Wolfe, our dean of admission, is a master at that. But you are right. It is a is an art as well as a science.

Ken White

Yeah. Now I know you and I, you were talking to some of our business school faculty and staff recently, and you were talking about some of the efforts William & Mary has put into place to ensure that those incoming students include a diverse population as well. Tell us about some of the things that the school is doing. It's pretty cool stuff.

Henry Broaddus

Yeah, absolutely. Well, obviously, we take very seriously the obligation to enroll a diverse class. We know that that's going to create the best learning environment for all of our students. A great letter Emmerson writes, where he says, I pay the schoolmaster, but it's the school mates to educate my son. And I think what we all know about a great undergraduate residential college experience is that it's those late-night dorm conversations. It's getting challenged by somebody who approaches a problem from a very different perspective or background that leads to the best, the best outcome. So it is critically important, and it's critically important for us as a public university. So we've been looking at a variety of ways to help do even better on that measure, one that I'll just give you as an example because we're in our first year of it. And it's something that that I'm just enormously excited about is our partnership with the Posse Foundation. And the Posse Foundation has a concept that quite literally, Debbie Bial, their founder, received a MacArthur Genius Award because it is just a genius idea, which is that one of the ways to improve success for students who are often first-generation is to not expect them to be solo operators but to enroll a group of them and have that group start working together late spring into summer. So that then when this posse of 10 students arrives together, they have that peer-to-peer support that's going to contribute to successful outcomes. So what Posse does is they work with partner universities. We became a Posse partner university, and we'll be the first university in the country to enroll a posse of Virginians. And one of the neat things is that heretofore posse has tended to operate in a single metro area. So if a partner university wanted to enroll a posse from Washington, D.C., that could be done from New York City, that could be done. The posse that will arrive at William & Mary is actually coming from across the Commonwealth of Virginia. That's another thing that was possible because of the broken constraint of needing to get people together in person. Posse had to learn to do that work remotely, and now we're going to capitalize on that. So we will enroll a posse of 11 students. We couldn't get it all the way down to 10 because they were just that strong. That were identified based on a nominating process at the school level. More than four hundred students across Virginia were nominated for it. Posse conducted group interviews. They use their dynamic assessment process, which is a lot like the way we would want to interview somebody for a job. And it also includes things like problems that are approached by groups in evaluating students in that way. They get to 20 finalists are Dean of Admission Tim Wolfe and I and our Associate Dean Tish Canady spent six hours with those 20 finalists, and we picked our posse of 11. It's a really exciting process. A lot of students of color, a lot of first-generation college students in that group. And we are committed to providing full scholarships for them in order to ensure the access and affordability.

Ken White

Fantastic. Yeah, how great to come to school and people have your back, right? I mean

Henry Broaddus

Yeah, in fact, that's the name Posse came from a college dropout who said if I had been there with my posse, we would have made it. And former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said, you don't send a person to the moon, you send a team. So, again, that idea, I think, is a beautiful idea. And it's going to extend our reach. Not just for the 11, by the way, but the fact that William & Mary is now a leader working with this foundation and working within school environments where you have a lot of under-represented students. We hope that's going to raise our institutional profile overall and that will attract even more underrepresented students through that initiative.

Ken White

I think it depends which publication, website, or media outlet you read. It seems one day there's a survey saying people are not interested in sending their children to college, and the next day there's an uptick in people who want to do send their children to college. I'll put you on the spot a little bit. What do you think we'll see in the next couple of years in this strange environment? Where how do you think it all? Where will it all land?

Henry Broaddus

I think we're going to see an acceleration of changes that were already in progress. Certainly, again, you don't have to get to the pandemic to see that disruption was at work already. My friend Bill Conley at Bucknell had had a piece it ran in the Chronicle of Higher Education in the fall in 19 called the Great Enrollment Crash. And it was looking at especially you go through two thousand eight. The economic downturn there, and I think the thinking and the value proposition about education was something that was already very much in flux. And I think what we're going to have to see is a faster evolution. And I think that's in play already. And I think it's also going to mean, Ken, that we need to look at different ways of accessing higher education that may not be the traditional ones we know now. One that we're rolling out. This will be our second year doing this, by the way, is revisiting the notion that fall is the only real point of entry for a first-year student. The reality is that education has been artificially constrained, some say, to an agrarian cycle. There's some evidence that's actually more like mid-19th-century affluent family vacation cycles to have summers off. But we now have another partnership I'm really excited about with a company that enables a gap semester experience abroad. And we're turning to our waitlisted students, who are a really strong set of students. And we're saying, hey, many of you want to be at William & Mary next spring. And it excites you to do something like a Costa Rica field experience through our partner Verto education. We would guarantee your admission as a second-semester freshman at William & Mary if you do that. In the spring, we have more capacity than we do in the fall. We have a lot of students who study abroad. In fact, you know well, we have the highest participation in study abroad among all public universities in the country. We also have students who finish early and so those seniors who finish in the fall. So I mean to be able to optimize by growing the enrollment through a new entry point in spring. I think we're going to see more of that. And then summer would be the other important frontier. And are we going to figure out new ways to use that time?

Ken White

Exciting times.

Henry Broaddus

It's exciting, fraught, and a little stressful would be another way to put it. But yes, I think the great thing from my standpoint, I think what keeps me really energized right now is that every spring that we've endured, and we've had a tremendously successful academic year, as you know well, despite having to operate so differently, I think all of this is revealing new opportunities and new ways to do things. So it's an exciting time to work in this space.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Henry Broaddus, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals to lead in our post COVID world. Professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively, and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary MBA program offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the William & Mary MBA program to learn more. Finally, we'd like to hear from you regarding the podcast. We invite you to share your ideas, questions, and suggestions with us by emailing us at podcast@wm.edu. Thanks to our guest Henry Broaddus, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Tim Murray
Tim MurrayEpisode 152: April 15, 2021
Leading in a Post COVID World

Tim Murray

Episode 152: April 15, 2021

Leading in a Post-COVID World

Since last March, businesses, organizations and professionals worldwide have made continuous changes in order to compete in the environment caused by COVID-19. Many important elements of business and leadership were put on the back burner this past year in some organizations. Training and professional development, performance evaluations, coaching and other programs were among those often pushed aside as organizations dealt with new hurdles and opportunities. As we get closer to what will hopefully be the end of this chapter, it's time to think about the post-pandemic world and what it means for your organization, and for you as a leader. Tim Murray has some thoughts on the subject. After a successful tenure as CEO of Aluminium Bahrain, also known as Alba, Murray's been focused on leadership after the pandemic. He says some aspects will be different in the post-COVID world, and some will remain the same. Whatever happens, he says it's important to think about it now.

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What it was like for Tim to reintegrate into U.S. culture after 18 years in the Middle East
  • What prompted Tim to write a book
  • What lesson can be taken from "tomorrow will be different than today"
  • Why personal networking and relationships are important
  • Why a leader should remain positive even through tough times
  • What leaders should look for in an individual when deciding upon promotions
  • Why you should never hire or promote someone you won't be able to terminate later
  • How is coaching going to change in the post-COVID world
  • Why organizations shouldn't cut training programs
Transcript

Tim Murray: Leading in a Post-COVID World TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that can make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, since last March, businesses, organizations, and professionals worldwide have made continuous changes in order to compete in the environment caused by COVID-19. Well, many important elements of business and leadership were put on the back burner this past year in some organizations. Training and professional development, performance evaluations, coaching, and other programs were among those often pushed aside as organizations dealt with new hurdles and opportunities. Well, as we get closer to what will hopefully be the end of this chapter, it's time to think about the post-pandemic world and what it means for your organization and for you as a leader. Tim Murray has some thoughts on the subject. After a successful tenure as CEO of Aluminium Bahrain, also known as Alba. Murray has been focused on leadership after the pandemic. He says some aspects will be different in the post-COVID world, and some will remain the same. Whatever happens, he says, it's important to think about it now. Here's our conversation with the former CEO of Aluminium Bahrain, Tim Murray.

Ken White

Well, Tim, thanks for joining us. Nice to see you. Welcome back to William & Mary.

Tim Murray

Yeah, it's nice to be back after all this time, and we're in the virtual world. It was nice. You said would you be okay with coming down to Miller Hall to do it in person? And I said more than happy to come down and get out of my house and engaged.

Ken White

As long as we're socially distanced.

Tim Murray

As long as we're distanced and, yeah, safe. But yeah, it's great to be here. And actually, it felt good to walk in the building. It's been a while since I walked in here.

Ken White

It's nice to have you.

Tim Murray

10 minutes from here.

Ken White

It is so fun to see students in the halls again. Yeah, it's absolutely wonderful. You're in a unique position. You had such an interesting, wonderful position in Bahrain for a number of years. What was it like as you were finishing? What were some of the things say in the last year you were trying to kind of nail down?

Tim Murray

Yes. I mean, as you know, I mean, I was in Bahrain for 12 years, so I finished as the CEO of Aluminium Bahrain, which is the largest smelter in the world outside of China, to produce one point five million tons, roughly three billion dollars a year in annual turnover they're about 12 percent of the GDP of the country. It's a big, big, you know, you've been there.

Ken White

I've been there. It's huge.

Tim Murray

It's like a little city. And, you know, so my contract, I ended up staying a few years longer. My wife and kids came back to the U.S. for high school. And then we had the big line six project. It was a three billion dollar CapEx project that took roughly four years. So I kind of stayed commuted, if you can believe, commuting back and forth from the Middle East for a few years. But, yeah, the last year it was tough. I mean, last year, it was bittersweet. When I left, I mean, is a great place to live: great people, many friends, family. We had great success in many things on safety. The line six, it was hard to leave. And when we finished basically, my contract finished lined up with the finish of the project. So we finished the project in July of 2019 August. I came home. I took a few months off, and then I set up this consulting company, which is we'll talk about this year in the book I wrote. But, you know, it was an interesting transition out because it was planned. And then my deputy CEO at the time he took over, he was, you know, trained. He was under me, you know, coached by me. He's actually one of the chapters in the book. He became the CEO that he's done very well. And I think we've actually had a very good transition, which is something that usually doesn't happen

Ken White

Yeah.

Tim Murray

in the corporate world.

Ken White

Right.

Tim Murray

So so, again, I think there's many lessons in terms of, you know, I ultimately wrote this book, which we'll talk about, but it was tough. It was a tough transition to kind of let it go. And when you live for 12 years outside the country, to reintegrate yourself back in is very different. You know, I was gone for twelve years and to come back and then, you know, you're at the neighborhood parties or doing this, and you start, you know, I don't know these people. And my wife knew people I didn't know.

Ken White

Yeah.

Tim Murray

And so but it was, you know, I'm glad I came back. I am back for a little, you know, eighteen months now and, you know, reintegrated

Ken White

Right.

Tim Murray

and reenergized to get out of the house and do stuff once the world opens up. But it was a great, great experience. I have no regrets about it.

Ken White

And so one of the things you did was you wrote a book, and you call it Words of Wisdom. And these are things that you've shared when you were at in Bahrain at Alba. But also, you're looking at it more as these are some lessons for the post COVID world.

Tim Murray

That's correct. So so the book I'm a big reader, as you know,

Ken White

Right.

Tim Murray

I've given you many books like people books, and many people ask me, when are you going to write your own book? And so with when I came back, actually it was on my list to do. The COVID actually greatly accelerated that because obviously, we were trapped in the house with not a whole lot to do. So I said, okay, well, I can take this one, let's work on this. So it took me probably about six, seven months. I started it in February of twenty twenty. Obviously, the COVID accelerated all that. I self-published it. I published it through a company called iUniverse. So I wrote the book. I had to get an editor. I worked with a graphic designer on the cover, but I'd say seven months it was actually in one respect. It was easier than I thought. Writing it was harder than I thought. But yeah, I wanted to share these words of wisdom. These Wows, as I call them, as you recall in Bahrain, my P.R. department created these little bookmarks, and they would take some of my sayings like you never get a second chance for first impression. The best communication is direct communication. Perception is reality. So what I did is I took I have twelve short stories. I have a wow. Then I have a story that's actually linked to it. And then the end of each chapter, there's three or four takeaways. So it's very practical advice. And I believe if you look at the stories and kind of the messages, they really do spin what's going on in one, surviving through COVID and then emerging from COVID. I talk a lot about communication. I talk a lot about preparation. I talk about what makes you successful at one level is not what makes you successful at the next. I have one that's called tomorrow be different than today. So we think about COVID. Let's go back a year ago when it started; nobody thought it could happen. Okay, now I think we have the reverse. We are going to emerge. And I think I actually I think the world is going to boom to much more of a degree than we're talking about now because we're in the negative zone on everything. So so, yeah, I think there's many lessons in there about coaching, training, feedback, all these things I think are even more critical now as we kind of you know, you think about it for a year, we haven't done a lot of things we would do. Think of performance review, think of giving feedback, think of training, you know, all that's been okay, maybe we're doing Zoom to a degree, but it's not the same. So so I think there's a lot of lessons in the post COVID world that can be applied.

Ken White

Let's talk about some of them. One of your chapters, Chapter five tomorrow, will be different than today. You just mentioned that. What do you what's the point of that? What are you trying to what lesson are you trying to teach us?

Tim Murray

Well, one, the lesson is how quickly things can change in the world and be flipped upside down. So, again, when you look at COVID last year, I remember I was traveling. It was the last time I was on a plane in February of 2020, and we had the China virus. And there was one case in the U.S., and nobody was worried about it, and the stock market was booming. And then okay, in two months after that, we shut the world down, and all that happened. So, you know, things can change on a dime to a very drastic degree. I recently gave a presentation actually to a university about leading through adversity. And I actually gave a slide about the last pandemic we had, which was in 1918. So it was the Spanish flu. And if we look back at that, 50 million people died. This was 1918. World War One had just ended. So the world was in bad, bad, bad shape. And so you think about that, and then you think, what happened after that? Then we had the roaring 20s. We had ten years of pretty good boom. Also, we had a bang at the end with the stock market. But so how things can shift. And I think where we are today; we have to get out of this negative mindset. And all that's happened and whatever has happened has happened. We got to focus on the reopening, be positive. The vaccines are here. They are going to roll out faster. I think I think we will get back to normal quicker than people are talking about today. You know, and I think I think everybody's ready. Everybody's got COVID fatigue, Zoom fatigue. We were talking about it before we started the show. We want to get out. I mean, I was happy to come down to Miller Hall and do this face to face versus a Zoom. So I think, you know, we as people, we okay, we've proven a lot. We can do a lot with this, you know, virtual Zoom reality, many good things. But we can't take away that personal element of communication and training and meeting people and relationships and networking. So so, again, you know, tomorrow will be different than today. So I'm optimistic. I think within two, three months we're going to see a very different world. I think we're going to see people on planes again, going traveling again, doing things again. And I think, you know, we will have a boom in terms of good things. And I think we have to be positive and embrace and get ready. Get ready to run.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Tim Murray, former CEO of Alba and author of Words of Wisdom, in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary's School of Business. The post COVID world will require new skills and new approaches. Those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different MBA formats, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Tim Murray.

Ken White

What I liked in the book is, is, yes, positive mindset, but you were right up front and said there were some issues you ran into like we all do in our careers that really knocked you out. I mean, you know, that messes you up mentally. Maybe you can't sleep. How do you how did you deal with those kinds of issues where? Wow. I can't even think straight.

Tim Murray

Yeah, I mean, I would my biggest when you say that; what pops to my mind is the safety issues. So Alba, when I took over as CEO, we were having bad safety performance. We were having fatalities in the plant. We had it. Was it five fatalities in less than three years? So I remember two months before I became CEO, we had another fatality. And this was actually one of the main reasons the former CEO was removed, and I was put in. And so you think about, you know, you go to bed at night, you put your phone down in your saying a prayer that you don't get a call in the middle of the night. I mean, it's a tough, tough thing. So but how do you be positive there? I mean, here you are, the leader. You know, things aren't going well. You have a fatality. You're trying to drive a message. You, as the leader, you have to be positive. And if you look at COVID, it's the same thing. As tough as it is and is probably worn out as you all are, you have to be positive. You're the leader. If you're positive, your people will be positive. And even when you're dealing with those tough issues or those negative issues, and you're stressed, you as the leader have to absorb it. You have to, I say, almost be like a shock absorber. You got to take that negative energy and spin it in a positive way. You got to get people thinking positive. And again, as we emerge from the COVID, I think that's one of the things we got to really focus on and not complain about or go look back. And I say, you know, in the book I talk about a story, don't cry over the spilled milk. What's done is done. And so you got to look forward and as tough as it is. You know, the leaders today, we've all had a tough time. You got to move forward and be positive for your people as hard as that is.

Ken White

One of your chapters is what makes you successful at one level is not necessarily what makes you successful at the next. How does that tie into where we're headed?

Tim Murray

So this one this is one I learned early in my career. And in the book, I talk more about how you go from the role of a doer. So you're an individual contributor to a manager role. And we were talking about this earlier. When you get promoted, okay, normally we promote somebody for doing a good job in their existing job. We say he's a great engineer, he's a great accountant, he's a great technical person. And then we make him a manager or she a manager. And now you're a manager. And it's a totally different skill set. And, you know, engineers, I like to pick on engineers, but when you take an engineer, usually a good engineer is somebody who is very detailed, micromanages, follows up. Okay, as a manager, maybe that's not the best thing. So so that you have to think differently. So, you know, you as leaders, when you're promoting, people really look at the position and say, this is what I want for the position, not necessarily the person that's there. And I'm a big believer from promoting from within, don't get me wrong, but this is a big one. So if we look in the COVID situation, okay, what made us successful prior to COVID is not what's going to make us successful post COVID. Talk about Zoom, okay, as much as we're all probably sick about talking about Zoom. I think we can use Zoom in a lot of different ways. We talk about business travel and conferencing, and networking. We've proven a lot of what we did was probably wasted time and money. So and I think as we emerge from the COVID, you know, there was winners and losers during the COVID. There'll be winners and losers post COVID. So again, what made us successful and got us through all the COVID things is not necessarily what's going to make us successful after. So just think differently don't get stuck in that kind of fixed mindset of, you know, this is how I've always done it. I'm going to always be successful. And we look today in terms of technology and all the stuff that Google and Amazon and Zoom face, but all these things that have emerged as a result of the COVID. Use them, leverage them. But I think it'll be different than what you did previously.

Ken White

When I saw the name of this chapter, I immediately just jumped off the page. Never hire or promote someone you're not willing to terminate later.

Tim Murray

Yeah, this is probably the harshest story in the book. It's a lesson I learned in my actually my first job. I was working for a small family-owned business. And the gentleman who ran it, he was the owner slash president, and his CFO was his sister-in-law. And it was very small family business. So so you can imagine the dynamics there. The gentleman who was the owner president, he was a very dynamic sales guy. Talker wants to close deals, wants to keep the customer happy. Of course, the CFO was very tough on the credit and payment terms, and so they were constantly clashing. So, you know, I finished my job. I was there two years. He was gracious enough to invite me into his office. Give me a kind of an exit interview. Hey, we appreciate what you did. And he said to me right at the end, he said, listen, he said, you know, when you become a boss, you know, never put somebody in there that you can't terminate. And he said, look at this mess I have with my CFO. It's my sister-in-law. I can't get rid of her family dynamics. I should I never put her in there. And so when you're hiring or promoting somebody, really think about that. You know, if you have to terminate them later, are you going be able to do it? Because in the business world and wherever we are, you know, it's friends, it's family there with you for many years. And in the book, I talk about a gentleman who was a former executive of mine. He was promoted up the ranks with me. He was my right-hand man that we started having some performance issues, some ego issues, and ultimately, you know, he left on an early retirement package, but it was one where it was not an easy thing to do. And he was close to me. And, you know, but business is business. And when people aren't performing, you have to deal with it, because if you don't deal with it, my view, it's like a cancer. You know, people see that you don't deal with a performance issue or a poor performer. They'll say, oh well, look, he gets a he's coming in late every day, or she did this, and they get away with this. It's a very hard thing. So you have to step up and make those decisions. But so when you're back to the, wow, you know, when you are going to promote somebody or hire somebody, and it's a friend or a relative or stuff like that. All right. Put yourself in the shoes that say, listen, if I have to get rid of them later, am I going to do it? Because if you're not, then don't put them in there because and it does happen, and it's a particularly family-owned businesses. It's a very, very, very common thing.

Ken White

Yeah, great. Great advice. You always liked coaching. That's an important piece of your leadership. And you talk, and you talk about coaching in the book. How do you see coaching now in the middle of COVID or hopefully toward the end of it, right?

Tim Murray

Yeah.

Ken White

And then in the post-COVID world.

Tim Murray

Yeah. So I'm a big believer in coaching. So I grew up a sports guy. I played baseball all the way through university. I was always playing sports, and there was always a coach. And I say coaching is a gift that must be returned. So I think anybody who coaches you. One, you should thank them because they're not getting paid extra to do it. Usually, it's a lot more work. A lot of people don't want to do it. So if you're fortunate enough to have a coach, a mentor, it's a big, big thing in your career. So, so, yeah, I'm a big believer. So at Alba, I did a lot of coaching. The story I have in the book actually is about the current CEO of Alba. His name is Ali Al Baqali. So he was under me, and he was my deputy CEO, and as part of me leaving, there was a planned transition. Ali was a lifelong Alba guy, very smart guy, very clever guy. And so as we planned out the path of me finishing the project, leaving. You know, he was identified as my successor. He was deputy CEO for the last two years. And then he moved into that role. But we spent a lot of time coaching him because he was at that time, he was before the deputy, he was CFO. And so he transitioned into a few different roles there. Back to what makes you successful at one level is not what makes you successful at the next. You know, we had to groom him. We had to go over all these things and train these things. And so when you go from CFO to deputy CEO to CEO, they're all different roles. So I think so it's very important. But it was a proper transition. Ali is doing a great job today. Alba's running well. The safety is running well. The production is running well. And it's a nice story because today, in most corporations, you don't see plan transitions. Usually, it's bang the CEO's gone the next day he was terminated by the board. Stock price goes down twenty percent.

Ken White

Right.

Tim Murray

Usually, it's a it's an ugly story. But but but to spin it on the COVID, you know, if we look over the time of the COVID, we've probably had a big lack of coaching or feedback. I mean, think of the basic things of a performance review or a quarterly review, and okay, maybe we're doing them via Zoom to some degree, but it's not the same.

Ken White

Right.

Tim Murray

And you think about training sessions. Are we still doing training sessions? Okay, maybe to some level, but you know, you would think about pre COVID you're constantly training session. You're going here, you're flying here, you're doing this. So I think we've got a big, you know, pent-up demand probably for coaching, feedback, training. So so as you emerge as a leader, really look at that. Because training, my experience with training is really something that motivates people and coaching. If you read all the big surveys, there was a survey in The Wall Street Journal a few months ago, and it talked about what's the most important thing to people, you know, and it's not pay, it's not benefits, it's not bonuses. It's coaching and development. You know you look at pay, bonuses wherever you go. That's going to be generally within the market.

Ken White

Right.

Tim Murray

It's not going to be drastically different. But why people leave? They don't feel they're appreciated. They're not feeling that they're developed. They don't have opportunities to move up within the company. So they leave. And again, today, I think you're going to see that. I mean, this is you want to keep your good people because the good people can always go. I mean, and so I think spending that time on coaching, development, and training and it's a tough one because training it's an easy thing to cut. And my view is, once you cut it, then the next year when we roll up the budget and the bean counters say, well, we cut it last year, why do we need to put it back in this year and then it goes away forever? So my advice is, don't cut training. It's the worst thing. It sends a bad message to your people. They say, oh, look, they're cutting training. They don't care about us. And again, once you cut it, it's very hard to put it back in. So so as we emerge from the COVID pandemic and people are able to communicate and travel and do those things. Do stuff on the training, do some workshops, do some off-sites. I think people are dying for this. And this is a good way to motivate your team, you know, build that momentum back forward and get people moving in the right direction because everybody is COVID fatigued. So so to do training and development and workshops and feedback and coaching, I think people are really wanting it. I think so. I think it's a big, big thing that can differentiate you.

Ken White

And learn all these lessons that we've been taught throughout this and apply them as we move forward, and maybe good things will happen.

Tim Murray

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Ken White

That's our conversation with the former CEO of Alba, Tim Murray, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals who can lead in the post COVID world. Professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively, and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary MBA program offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the William & Mary MBA programs to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest Tim Murray and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Jim Roddy
Jim RoddyEpisode 151: April 1, 2021
The Walk-On Method

Jim Roddy

Episode 151: April 1, 2021

The Walk-On Method

If you're familiar with college athletics, then you're familiar with the term "walk-on." Walk-ons are college athletes who, unlike many of their teammates, were not recruited by the coaching staff. They had to try out to make the team. And, unlike many of their teammates, walk-ons do not receive scholarships to be a part of the team. Yet virtually all college sports teams at all levels have walk-ons on their rosters. Most coaches will agree that walk-ons are a special breed. They work extremely hard, they're focused, they tend to persevere. Resilience is a part of their DNA, and the spotlight doesn't matter much to them. As a result, they not only make the team, but in many cases they make the team better. Our guest today says the pattern of behavior adopted by walk-ons in college athletics can also be adopted by professionals. And he has several examples from a variety of sectors to back up his claim. Jim Roddy is a former college basketball walk-on and author of "The Walk-On Method." He joins us today to discuss his blueprint for professional success.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What is the definition of a "walk-on"
  • What is the typical mindset of a walk-on
  • How Jim found his walk-on interviewees
  • How does the walk-on mentality translate to the business world
  • What are the commonalities between sports and business
  • How do individual sports athletes think about business differently in relation to team sports athletes
  • What does it mean to "take a big shot"
  • The importance of making a passion statement
  • What it means to "run uphill"
  • Why one should Maximize Unique Strengths
Transcript

Jim Roddy: The Walk-On Method TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

 

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. If you're familiar with college athletics, then you're familiar with the term walk on. Walk-ons are college athletes who, unlike many of their teammates, were not recruited by the coaching staff. They had to try out to make the team. And unlike many of their teammates, walk-ons do not receive scholarships to be a part of the team. Yet virtually all college sports teams at all levels have walk-ons on their rosters. Most coaches will agree that walk-ons are a special breed. They work extremely hard. They're focused. They tend to persevere. Resilience is a part of their DNA, and the spotlight doesn't matter much to them. As a result, they not only make the team but, in many cases, they make the team better. Our guest today says the pattern of behavior adopted by walk-ons in college athletics can also be adopted by professionals. And he has several examples from a variety of sectors to back up his claim. Jim Roddy is a former college basketball Walk-On and author of The Walk On Method. He joins us today to discuss his blueprint for professional success. Here's our conversation with Jim Roddy.

Ken White

Well, Jim, it's nice to see you. Thanks for taking time to join us on the podcast.

Jim Roddy

Thanks for having me, Ken. Great to cross paths with you again.

Ken White

You know, in the introduction, when I was telling our listeners what a walk-on is, and certainly, some of them know that. But how do you define walk-on when you're talking to someone? Maybe, isn't too very well versed in college athletics. What's a walk-on?

Jim Roddy

Sure. A walk-on is someone who endeavors to be part of a college sports team. But that college sports team, most everybody else, is a scholarship athlete. And so it's a person who says, I would like to do exactly what they're doing, but for no scholarship money and for far less playing time. So there's certainly an element of servant leadership and sacrifice right off the bat, just the decision to try to be a walk-on.

Ken White

What's the mindset of a walk-on? I'm assuming it's quite different from the teammate who was invited and has a scholarship.

Jim Roddy

Good question. For a lot of folks, it kind of runs the gamut. And that's part of what we had in our book. There are some folks who felt that they were overlooked and said, I think I can work my way into a scholarship. And many of them did. And not just a scholarship, but actually ended up as professional athletes. They kind of thought that they were overlooked. And then there were other folks who and that this is kind of the spot that I was in was, boy, what an amazing experience this would be. If there's anything that I can do to be part of this team, I would give anything in order to just to be along for the ride. But I think what everybody saw in the walk-ons that I talk with. At some point, it got to servant leadership that I was here for something bigger than myself, bigger than just my individual statistics. And so that was something that as I talk with these walk-ons, you know, I'd say after about ten interviews, I realized that servant leadership was really core to this whole walk-on process. Then I would start bringing it up to folks. They would say, you know what, I never thought of it that way, but it's so true. So that was one thing that was really revealing. And I think that is a common mindset among all walk-ons.

Ken White

And so, in your book, you interview people who were walk-ons, who went on to successful careers. How did you even begin to find people?

Jim Roddy

Good question. Thank goodness for Google, and thank goodness for John Saracino, who is from Erie, Pennsylvania. He's also from Erie, and he wrote for USA Today for many years. And he just gave me a whole bunch of guidelines in terms of what search terms in order to use. So I ended up interviewing 30 people for the book, but I must have gone through more than one hundred people that I was researching, reaching out to trying to find contact information. But I can say of all the folks who I ended up connecting with. Nobody had a bad story. I always thought I'd run into somebody who's going to be like, oh, this is pretty boring or lame or the same old, same old. But boy, at some point during every interview, I was like, I can't believe the great story or multiples of stories that were behind it. So it was a lot of digging, sifting through dirt in order to get a lot of great gold nuggets.

Ken White

You realize there's some commonalities, and there's some lessons that a walk-on takes through life. When you reached out to these professionals, did they realize that, or did you have to plant that seed before they realized it?

Jim Roddy

For many of them, I did have to plant the seed because so like the gist of the book says, ordinary people, even underdogs and maybe especially underdogs, but ordinary people will accomplish extraordinary feats when their energy is properly channeled. So the way that the walk on's were behaving in their professional life today was more second nature for them because they were forced to behave that way just to survive as a walk-on. So for many of them, it wasn't an intentional act that they were going through and saying, oh, I have to have this walk-on mentality. It was like them looking around and saying, how come other people don't behave this way? I don't get it. How come other people aren't driven like I am? How come other people aren't showing up early? How come other people aren't trying to really push themselves and educate themselves and drive to get better and drive to help other people? So for many of them, it was they thought it was in their blood, and maybe it is, but it was a lot that experience, at the very least, enhanced their skills in their mindset.

Ken White

I was walking into work today with a colleague, and I mentioned that you and I were going to talk, and she's not a big sports fan. But she said, you know, I guess there are some commonalities between sports and business. Yeah, they sure are. But when you hear that, what do you think some of the obvious commonalities are? What are the lessons that that that kids and adults take away from being athletes, whether they're a wrestler and or a track and field athlete on their own, or baseball, football, soccer, lacrosse, a team sport? What are the lessons?

Jim Roddy

Well, first, I'll just take a step back. When I was planning on writing this book, I knew that sports fans would find it entertaining because sports people love reading about sports. But I test-marketed a handful of chapters on folks who couldn't care less about sports. But they're in the business world, and their reaction was, this is great, can I have some more? And that's what I really knew, that I had something because they were able to see the connections that were able to be made. So I think one is, you know, the correlation is team goals over personal goals. If you're playing on a sports team and you're putting your personal goals ahead of the team goals, you're not a good teammate. Your team's not going to be very good or be very successful, and no matter how talented you are, right, there's going to be all sorts of disharmony in that realm. And then there's also another thing that I see is from a correlation is by going through a sports team and this will sound terrible, but you have to tolerate people, right? You have people who were just thrust onto the team. You do not get to choose them. And you have a choice of quitting that team or tolerating that person. A lot of times with the coaches as well, like there's a coaching turnover. And so you're staying with the school, but the coach comes in. You have to learn how do I tolerate that person? Might be a cynical way of looking at it, but also, how can I adjust in order to make sure that things work with that person? And I was on a team with a guy from Sudan, from Croatia, a guy who graduated in three years, guys who struggled to go to class. You know, people from inner-city Detroit, people from Tippecanoe, Ohio. Right. And so you had all these different worlds that are kind of coming together, and you got to learn to deal with that or not. And the same in the workforce, the better that you can adapt to the culture and the better that you can fill in gaps for people and be a great teammate for them, no matter what their position, their perspective or background, that's going to be successful in business as well.

Ken White

Any differences in that athlete who plays a team sport versus an individual sport in terms of the outlook at work and the lessons learned?

Jim Roddy

I would say yes. So there are things that you might not have to go through so much as a tennis player or as a track and field athlete than you would a basketball player who's, you know, forced to sit on the bench or forced to practice or determining playing time. So, yeah, I'd say the team aspect of it has, I'd say a little higher degree of difficulty. Not that it's easy for the other people in the individual sport, but there's certainly another dimension there from a team aspect that isn't from an individual aspect. Though the thing for the individual aspect is like, quite frankly, I was a walk-on for four years. People tolerated the fact that I wasn't very good. Right. But if I was in an individual sport, they'd be like, oh, this guy's not going to play like I don't want him on the team because he's not going to contribute at all whatsoever. Like, if you're a wrestler, you're getting pinned every match. That's not going to go very far. So there is definitely a give and take for both those opportunities.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Jim Roddy in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Post COVID World will require new skills and new approaches. Those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different MBA formats, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Jim Roddy, author of The Walk on Method.

Ken White

In a previous episode, we had William & Mary graduate, who is a successful entrepreneur, and he was a tennis player at William & Mary, you know, what he was saying is those individual sports, it's all, you. No excuses, right? You learn you either step up and perform, or you fail, and you can't point fingers. So I think there's some great lessons, of course, in the team sports and the individual sports. So the walk-on method, you have steps as you as you go through. Let's go through those for our listeners. Your first step is take a big shot. Tell us about that.

Jim Roddy

Yes, so the subtitle for Take a Big Shot is that anybody can make a layup. And so one thing that we saw in common with these walk-ons in both their athletic career and their professional career is that they tried something that was really hard. They didn't look and say, boy, that would be great to do, but I'm only going to go halfway because that's probably more achievable, right. To say I'm going to walk on to the University of Florida football team, and I'm going to be a meaningful player is crazy if no one's offering you a scholarship whatsoever. But that was Chris Doering, and then later in his life for him to say, I'm going to make it as a mortgage broker. Right as the recession hit in 2008. That's crazy as well. But he's very successful with what he's done because he had that mindset about taking a big shot.

Ken White

Boy, and that takes guts, doesn't it, to do that to walk on to a powerful program like that.

Jim Roddy

There's a fine line between bravery and insanity. So the walk-ons tend to dance on that line.

Ken White

Your step to make a passion statement?

Jim Roddy

Yes, p passion, not f fashion. So it talks about preparing with passion, practicing with passion, and then playing with passion. So too many people wish that their dream is going to come true or they have a goal set in business, and they hope that it's going to come true. And they say, boy, when that moment comes. I'm really going to give it my all. But you can't wish. You can't wait. `We talk about you have to walk on to that dream. So what we saw very common is the folks who are successful. It wasn't just that they were gamers, but they did all sorts of preparation, and they practice, practice, practice, and improve their skills. They didn't say; I'm going to go with what I got. They really worked on themselves to improve themselves. They realized they had weaknesses in areas to improve and focus on those instead of making excuses.

Ken White

In passion also, does that mean passion for the sport and passion for the business that you're in as well?

Jim Roddy

Correct, yes. You have to find something that you say; I really want to do this, not ugh I got to get out of bed and painful. And, you know, you roll your eyes when this thing comes around, you have to make sure you're aligning yourself with something that really makes you go, really charges your engine, and really make sure that you have the self-initiative behind it.

Ken White

Step three, run uphill.

Jim Roddy

Yeah. So run uphill. We say that it takes longer to run uphill, but it makes you stronger. So we're taught to avoid obstacles and seek the path of least resistance. Right. For these walk-ons have been way easier just to play intramurals and not to actually try out for Division one team. And so what we're told is when there's an obstacle, you should shrink; you should close your eyes. You should get apprehensive right when things get difficult. But walk-ons don't avoid those obstacles. They actually lean into the difficulties of the situation, and they embrace the obstacles because they know on the other end of the experience, they'll be battle-tested. Right, going through that fire. So when you encounter a career challenge or business challenge, you see everyone around you like wishing the moment will pass. This is way too difficult. Show courage, jump headlong into the problem, convert it into an opportunity or a potential victory for yourself. Don't shy away from those obstacles. Really embrace them.

Ken White

Are people born with that ability, or do you learn that ability to take on tough challenges?

Jim Roddy

I'd say some people are naturally born with it, just like I would never jump out of an airplane. And I work with somebody who loved high altitude extreme, you know, jumping out of airplanes. Like, I could not do that. But there are things that can be taught. And that's what a lot of these walk-ons had as well, is it wasn't just natural for them that all of them are just these wired wound up. I'm going to go get them. Some of them needed to kind of kick themselves in the butt or throw themselves into a situation where they were under a lot of stress and had a lot of difficult coaching. And they practiced and learned that we had one person who the only reason who went to Cal State, Chico, is because it was a good party school. And the only reason he ran track is because he was bored. Right. And but the coach really pushed him. And now he's a very successful doctor and actually an instructor at a college in Tennessee. So these are not just born traits. These can all be developed.

Ken White

Step four, no fuss all MUS.

Jim Roddy

Yes, so no fuss means maintain emotional control and all MUS capital m capital u capital s. Maximize unique strengths. So it's very important that especially not just in the sports world, the business world, you control your emotion, especially the negative ones as you advance through your career. Right. If you get passed over for promotion that you thought you deserved, just shake your head for a moment in private and then resolve, I'm going to work harder. I'm going to get better and then maximize your unique strengths. A lot of these walk-ons in the book, almost all of them, they were shorter, skinnier, slower than the more gifted scholarship athletes. But they figured out what is my special ability or attitude that I could bring to the team in order to do that. A great example of that is Brandon Landry. He's actually the founder of the Walk On's restaurant, the sports bistro that's growing down in the southeast. And so he got cut from his high school team, and he said, I got to get better. He got cut from the LSU team. He said I got to get better. And sure enough, they had some injuries. They called him back, and he ended up working, and being a long-term walk-on on that team took so many experiences from it. Again, he spun off an entire business model that's called Walk On's, bistro, and restaurant.

Ken White

That that that attitude that I'm not going to lose attitude, it's so incredible to see, and especially college athletics, we see it over and over again. I just read about the point guard for UMBC. He's five feet two inches tall, and he plays like he's six feet two inches tall. You know what? That's all that's that step, isn't it? That's just going after it.

Jim Roddy

And it is a choice. You know, a lot of our walk-ons, Megan Lightfoot, she walked into UCLA rowing office, said, I'd like to try out, and they're like you can try out, but you're probably going to quit. This isn't for you. So she could have walked out with an excuse to say, okay, I guess this isn't for me. I guess it's fate. And she walked out and said, I will show you. We have that choice every day where we get rejected, or we have an obstacle. We have a choice to embrace it, learn from it, get better, maximize our unique strengths, or we have a choice to crawl under our desks and cry.

Ken White

Step five, make them throw you out of the gym.

Jim Roddy

Yeah, so one person misinterpreted this as your goal is to make them throw you out of the gym. I'm like, no, the emphasis is on them. Make them throw you out of the gym. And we say never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever quit. So what we saw with a lot of our walk-ons, both again from an athlete standpoint and a business standpoint, is they said, I'm going to take that big shot, and I'm going to keep trying until they throw me out. And once they throw me out, I'm still going to go back in. A lot of folks that we've seen from an athletic standpoint, a business standpoint, the reason they never achieve something great is because they quit before they even started. Right. They just assumed it wasn't for them. They just assumed a CEO job wasn't for them. They just assumed a growing company, a highly profitable company, wasn't for them. They just assumed entrepreneurship wasn't for them. But those who said, I'm going to keep trying, I'm going to try every angle until I get my goal. Those are the folks who actually end up succeeding. So, again, it's make them throw you out. We have a lot of examples of even when they throw you out. They keep going back and back and back until they get what they came for.

Ken White

And you say all five steps are within your power. Can you explain that?

Jim Roddy

Yeah, so none of these require some advanced degree, right. To take a big shot. It doesn't require some specialized skill. Right. And to prepare with passion. Right. It's the time that you put into it. You can develop preparation skills and things like that. But you don't need, again, those advanced degrees to control emotions or maximize unique strengths. So if you want to increase your knowledge, your skills, and your competence, and if you want to change the trajectory of your business or your career, you can start thinking and acting like a walk-on. There's nobody who stopping you from doing these things. And again, these are folks we profile. Ordinary people, right. Very few accolades among them. Everybody around them was bigger, faster, stronger, smarter oftentimes. But they figured out how am I going to get it done? And they just kept coming back for more and more until they got what they wanted.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Jim Roddy, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals to lead in the post-COVID world. Professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively, and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest, Jim Roddy, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Rajiv Kohli
Rajiv KohliEpisode 150: March 15, 2021
Light at the End of the COVID Tunnel

Rajiv Kohli

Episode 150: March 15, 2021

Light at the End of the COVID Tunnel

After a year of social distancing, virtual meetings and homeschooling, people are ready to shed their masks and get back to life as we knew it before we were introduced to COVID-19. As the weather improves and we see family, friends, and colleagues receiving vaccinations, people are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. As we record this episode of the podcast, the CDC reports 11% of American adults have received both coronavirus vaccine doses. And two million doses a day are being administered. Rajiv Kohli is the John N. Dalton Professor of Business at William & Mary. He's a leading scholar in health information technology and a healthcare expert. For over 15 years, he's worked and consulted with several top healthcare organizations. Kohli says we're getting there, faster than many experts originally predicted. And as events continue to move in a positive direction, there are many things to think about before COVID-19 is in our rearview mirror.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What does life getting back to normal really mean
  • Is there a timeframe for life getting back to normal
  • Why Thanksgiving is an important benchmark
  • Why people should still be diligent in their mask wearing and social distancing
  • Why one should still wear a mask even after getting vaccinated
  • What are the dangers of students traveling for spring break
  • Are there any differences between the three vaccines
  • How does the coronavirus vaccine work
  • Why do people not feel well after getting their second vaccine shot
Transcript

Rajiv Kohli: Light at the End of the COVID Tunnel TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that can make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, after a year of social distancing, virtual meetings, and homeschooling, people are ready to shed their masks and get back to life as we knew it before we were introduced to COVID-19. As the weather improves and we see family, friends, and colleagues receiving vaccinations, people are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. As we record this episode of the podcast, the CDC reports 11 percent of American adults have received both coronavirus vaccine doses, and two million doses a day are being administered. Rajiv Kohli is the John and Dalton Professor of Business at William & Mary. He's a leading scholar in health information technology and a health care expert. For over 15 years, he's worked and consulted with several top health care organizations. Kohli says we're getting there faster than many experts originally predicted. And as events continue to move in a positive direction, there are many things to think about before COVID-19 is in our rearview mirror. Here's our conversation with Dr. Rajiv Kohli.

Ken White

Rajiv, it's great to see you. Thanks for sharing your time and expertise with us today on the podcast.

Rajiv Kohli

Thank you, Ken. It's a pleasure to be here.

Ken White

So you know, everywhere I seem to go, almost everyone I seem to talk with has the same sort of question on their mind. And that is, when do you think life will get back to quote-unquote normal? What do you think? Where where are we heading at this point?

Rajiv Kohli

Yeah, so that's a tricky question because normal means different things to different people. So I think we will go through stages of normality or normalcy. We think that a July 4th around that time frame, we'll begin to step outside. If we are fully vaccinated, we can hang out with our family members. And CDC has just issued some guidelines on that, that you can go mingle with people in small groups if you are fully vaccinated without risk of infecting others. And then I think come Thanksgiving, things will start to crawl to normal, and there will be a test period between Thanksgiving and Christmas where we will see how we fared after Thanksgiving, how things went, did the spread increase, and then that will determine that Christmas and New Year's. So to answer your question, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I think we might have a normal as close to normal Christmas as we can expect. Some of that is also dependent on how the virus mutates and also dependent on how we behave as individuals.

Ken White

Oh, and that's a big piece of it, isn't it? We're already seeing people who have been vaccinated who may not want to wear masks or people whose families have been vaccinated and don't want to wear masks. So, so much of this is behavior of human beings, isn't it?

Rajiv Kohli

It is. And it's very understandable that there is some fatigue setting in where we are tired, and we don't know what to do. And, you know, we've spent a good part of this year, almost a year now spent indoors. And so it's natural for us, for us to feel that way. That we don't want to wear masks. But I think we are in the homestretch. It's not surprising that if you look at some other context, a lot of the traffic accidents, more than 50 percent of the traffic accidents happen within five miles of a person's home, and they usually hit parked cars. And the reason is that we get complacent because we are almost there. But what I would say to anybody listening is this is not the time for us to be complacent. We are almost there. We stuck it out for a year. Let's wait another few months and will be home.

Ken White

But we really crave contact with one another, don't we, at this point.

Rajiv Kohli

We do, and that's part of why we are so frustrated with wearing masks and social distancing. We do crave human contact and seeing our loved ones as I know they feel the same about meeting us. So that's why it's very important for us to exercise restraint at this time. And just to wait a little longer. I like the phrase that was being used around last Christmas when they said, let's be restrained this Christmas so we can have the next Christmas and the following one. So, yes, it is very frustrating for people who been so patient for so long.

Ken White

But as you mentioned, maybe Christmas might be a good target. Would that mean at that time we would still wear masks? Like when would the mask possibly disappear?

Rajiv Kohli

Yeah, so that also is is somewhat unclear at this time and dependent on where we are going, how many people are we mingling with, and who are we mingling with. So I would say if you are meeting people who are at higher risk, either because of age or other underlying conditions, we may still want to wear masks. The other aspect of wearing masks, Ken, is that it is also a signaling mechanism where even when you are vaccinated, you may still want to wear a mask because by wearing a mask, you're saying this is what is acceptable behavior, this is what the norm is. And that I am looking out for you because you don't know who will in your surroundings is not vaccinated. So even though we may be vaccinated, we still want to wear masks because we are telling others that this is the norm that we are following right now.

Ken White

Yeah, I think we've grown a little bit over this past year, right? We are looking at others a little more, maybe than we did Pre-COVID as a society.

Rajiv Kohli

Yes, we are. And, you know, when we talk about herd immunity, for example, that is all dependent on how others are taking care of themselves and, in doing so, how they are keeping you safe. So in that regard, we are our brother's keeper. We are our sister's keepers,

Ken White

Yeah.

Rajiv Kohli

because what we do matters to not just us but to others around us.

Ken White

We're starting to see some stories in the media about people traveling already. It's spring break time. Although most colleges and universities did away with their spring break and took the days and made them nonsecutive on nonconsecutive days off. But still, we're hearing reports about students heading south to Florida and folks who've been vaccinated traveling. What's the travel situation right now? What would you advise people to do if they want to travel at this point?

Rajiv Kohli

So let me first address the spring break issue. And I've seen those pictures on T.V., people having a good time on beaches and so on. I worry about the young people because while they are less susceptible, they also think they're invincible. So while they may not see the same impact of COVID if they were to get infected as others would. They could be carriers, unwitting carriers, and bring them home. And if they're traveling from different parts of the country, they might bring it back to their communities, and we might see another spread. So in terms of travel, that is also this question about whether I should travel by air or by road. The air travel itself, the flying portion of the travel itself, is not that risky. In fact, it's relatively safe. It's what people do and where they mingle and who they come in contact with after the travel after they take their flight, and then they take the flight back. That is causing some concern. So the travel part is not that big a problem right now. So I would say that if you're traveling by road and you are going to a place where you are going to be by yourself with your family, perhaps on the beach and you rent a house, it's fairly safe. It's fairly safe. In fact, we did see during last fall, or even last summer, increased traffic going to beach areas where people were renting homes and not necessarily hotels. So to answer your question, travel right now within certain boundaries and constraints is relatively safe, or we can make it safe. It's just that when we travel, what we do post-travel is, is what causes some people concern.

Ken White

So three vaccines out there now. Are they different? Are they similar? Is there one that seems to be the favorite? What's up with all three? How do you approach those?

Rajiv Kohli

Yeah, so I'm also hearing about the effectiveness of different vaccines as far as the vaccines are concerned. They all do the job. They all do the job. And there are differences in the efficacy rates, but they are not really comparable because the trials were done at different times. And these numbers, this is 90 percent effective, and that is seventy-two percent effective. They all come from the trials. And again, remember, there were trials, which means they were controlled population experiments done at different times. So the Johnson & Johnson one, which is supposedly less efficacious than the other two, was done later, which means it was exposed to more variance. And so to the people listening, I would say take the first vaccine you can get because it will all make you safe and others around you safe. So I wouldn't worry about which one is more effective, which one is in numbers. It's almost like if you have a headache, and I give you a medication that's seventy-five percent effective versus sixty-nine percent effective. We don't know how it's going to act on our bodies. So just take it.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Professor Rajiv Kohli of William & Mary in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The Post-COVID world will require new skills and new approaches, and those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different MBA formats, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with Professor Rajiv Kohli.

Ken White

How does the vaccine work? What is it actually doing to us?

Rajiv Kohli

So I guess without getting into the science of it, what the vaccine does, it learns from or the development of vaccine learns from how the virus is made up, what is the structure of the virus. And it passes on the harmless part of that instruction of how the virus behaves into the vaccine to the human body so that the human body sees how the virus behaves. And in doing so, it starts to develop these protections, self-protection, which is our immune system, so that when it actually sees the real virus, it knows what to do. So there are differences in the viruses or the vaccine that we have. One is a messenger RNA-based, and the other is a slightly different approach. That only means that how we deliver that vaccine into the human body, one has the instructions, only the other has the actual messenger automated. So that gets a little scientific. But the bottom line is it's preparing our bodies before it actually sees the virus as to what the virus looks like so that the body can prepare itself and the immune system is built up strong enough that when the actual virus hits, it knows how to neutralize it.

Ken White

That's pretty amazing when you really step back and think about it. It's amazing, isn't it? And it was developed in a relatively short period of time.

Rajiv Kohli

Very short period, and so the mRNA approach is not new. It has been used for Ebola. It has been used for other viruses. So that technique has been around for about twenty-five, thirty years now. So it's not new. What is new is how we use that for dealing with the coronavirus, whereas the previous vaccines were generally taking the weaker version of the virus itself and injecting into the body. We are not doing that. So, in fact, that makes it much safer because, with the old approach of putting in a weak virus, there was actually some small probability that people will get sick because it's actual virus, even though it's weak. But in this case, we're not putting any virus in. We are just simply putting the code. Think of this as a computer program that tells the body that this is what the virus looks like. So if you see this, how are you going to attack it? And the body says, okay, I'll build these antibodies, and I will attack it, and those t-cells float around your blood. And if you do get exposed to the virus, it knows what to do, and it kills it before it comes in.

Ken White

But yet some people are saying they didn't feel well for a few hours or maybe a day when they received their second shot. But how is that happening?

Rajiv Kohli

Oh, actually, if they don't feel well, that's a good news because that means the vaccine is working. So the temperature that we see oftentimes as a side effect, people get fever and so on, is actually body's way of learning how to deal with that virus, because it is a new thing that it's seen. So while building immunity, what the body is doing is getting used to that. But it's in a controlled environment. So that temperature usually lasts for twenty-four or 36 hours, usually after the second shot. After the first shot, you might get some muscle ache, or you might feel a little bit feverish, although we haven't heard many people get high temperatures. So that's just the body's way of getting used to this new intruder if you will. But in a controlled environment.

Ken White

It's been interesting to watch various countries, the rest of the world, and how they're dealing with it and fighting back. For instance, earlier a few days ago, the prime minister of New Zealand made the announcement that she was choosing one particular vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine. Why would they do that versus what we're doing in the U.S. with multiple vaccines?

Rajiv Kohli

So my research indicates that there is no real reason why they chose Pfizer over others. And it's not to indicate that they think that's safer than the others. New Zealand operates on a national health system, which is very different from the U.S., where it's mostly private. So when New Zealand decides to adopt a drug or a vaccine, in this case, it usually makes a deal with a company on a national basis. So the contract for the whole nation. That way, they can get a good deal, they can get a good price because they get better-negotiating power, and it's standardized. Everybody gets the same. New Zealand is a small country of four million people who need vaccination, the population maybe a little higher. So they really need about eight million shots, two for each. And it's not a large number that they want to divide up among multiple providers, which is what U.S. did, also U.S. was trying to kind of balance the risk, if you will, that if one company cannot make it fast enough, we have another one that's making. New Zealand has small numbers, relatively speaking.

Ken White

You and I are surrounded by college students, undergraduate, and graduate students, and one of the things they ask me almost daily is when can we travel abroad? They want to study abroad. And we've been doing that, of course, in a virtual arena. But they'd love to travel. When do you think the world will return to that day when we can visit one another across borders?

Rajiv Kohli

Ken that also is a very complex question because a lot of that depends on other countries and their readiness to receive us when we go over there and their own policies about how they will reopen their countries. I suspect that we'll see Europe and European countries be more open and willing to admit U.S. students, travelers, whereas countries in Asia that are slower to immunize their population, either because of resources or because of large populations like China and India, that will take some time. They will be a little bit later. So a lot depends on how much they are ready and also what happens between now and say end of this year. How the virus itself mutates and how effective are the vaccines against those, and how we are living our lives and trying to prevent the spread. So if you become lax and it spreads more, and there are there's more community spread, it'll slow the whole process down, and it will slow down the reopening, whether it's within the U.S. or outside the U.S.

Ken White

We certainly don't want that—fear of missing out. I talk to people who haven't had their vaccine yet, but it seems like everyone in my family has had it. You know, some people say, what do you say to those who are waiting? They're just not going to get the vaccine for a little while. What kind of advice do you have for them to feel better?

Rajiv Kohli

Well, the advice is that keep doing what you were doing until now. I go back to my earlier comment about we are in the homestretch. I know it's frustrating. I know you're looking at other people and saying so-and-so got an email to go get their first shot. How come I have not, or when will I get it? Just patience. So there's nothing different you have to do if you if you've done well this last year. Keep doing what you were doing. You know how to keep yourself safe and others safe. The vaccine rollout is actually moving faster than we had anticipated. And we are hearing now doctors' offices calling their patients and saying we can schedule a vaccine for you, which means that there is ample supply. So I know President Biden announced that there will be enough vaccines at the end of May. Now, that doesn't mean that everybody will have shots in their arm by the end of May. But the way things are going, we might see soon after May, everybody actually vaccinated, which is what gives me somewhat encouragement that July 4th may be the first time we'll hang out in and out outdoors with our friends and have a barbecue. We might still practice safe distancing and mask-wearing if we are too close or if we are with people outside our family group or bubble. So this thing is moving quite quickly and rapidly, and I'm encouraged by the speed at which we are moving along and giving vaccines to people.

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. Companies, organizations, and businesses are seeking professionals to lead in the Post-COVID world professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary 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 to learn more. Finally, we'd love 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 to our guest Rajiv Kohli, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Cara Simpson & Vicki Harrington
Cara Simpson & Vicki HarringtonEpisode 149: March 1, 2021
Helping Others Through COVID

Cara Simpson & Vicki Harrington

Episode 149: March 1, 2021

Helping Others Through COVID

When the pandemic first took over the United States last March, two William & Mary MBA students decided to use their talents to help others, Cara Simpson and Vicki Harrington quickly founded the CrimDell Small Business Network, named after a popular landmark on the William & Mary campus. They formed a partnership with the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center, then began offering free strategic business advising to small businesses in the greater Williamsburg area affected by the pandemic. Over 60 classmates joined in to serve as business analysts. Professors and leadership coaches at William & Mary's business school stepped up. The school's Graduate Career Management Center got involved. In less than a year, the organization has spent over 1500 hours helping 50 small businesses navigate the pandemic. Most of the businesses are women-, veterans-, or disability-owned enterprises. Simpson and Harrington join us today to talk about the success of the CrimDell Small Business Network, the lessons they've learned, and how utilizing your strengths can help others.

Podcast (audio)

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Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How did Cara and Vicki come up with the idea of the CrimDell Small Business Network
  • How many students are involved in CrimDell
  • What is the focus of the CrimDell Small Business Network
  • How CrimDell was initially funded
  • What does CrimDell offer small business
  • What is the inspiration for the CrimDell business model
  • How have businesses reacted to the service
  • The meaning of Use Your Skillset
  • What the future holds for CrimDell
Transcript

Cara Simpson & Vicki Harrington: Helping Others Through COVID TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. When the pandemic first took over the United States last March, two William & Mary MBA students decided to use their talents to help others. Cara Simpson and Vicki Harrington quickly founded the CrimDell Small Business Network, named after a popular landmark on the William & Mary campus. They formed a partnership with the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center, then began offering free strategic business advising to small businesses in the greater Williamsburg area affected by the pandemic. Over 60 classmates joined in to serve as business analysts, professors, and leadership coaches at William & Mary's Business School stepped up. The school's Graduate Career Management Center got involved. In less than a year, the organization has spent over fifteen hundred hours helping 50 small businesses navigate the pandemic. Most of the businesses are women, veterans, or disability-owned enterprises. Simpson and Harrington join us today to talk about the success of the CrimDell Small Business Network, the lessons they've learned, and how utilizing your strengths can help others. Here's our conversation with Cara Simpson and Vicki Harrington.

Ken White

Vicki, Cara, thanks for sharing your time and your story with us. Welcome. It's nice to have you here.

Cara Simpson

Thank you, Dean White. Thanks for inviting us.

Ken White

I'm trying to think full-time MBA students. How many have we had on the podcast series? Not many. So you're in an elite group, so. Yeah. So thanks for being here. I have to ask you this question because I've told so many people this story. I don't know if you remember. And that's my question. Do you remember when COVID first hit and we started to have meetings with the classes and we met with your class? And after a couple of basic questions, when do you think class will return to normal? You know, basic questions Vicki, you said what can we do as a class, as an MBA program, and as a business school to help others? Do you remember that?

Vicki Harrington

I do. And what's funny is I think the behind-the-scenes is a lot funnier than you realize because Cara and I had already started talking about ways to help. And Cara is the one that prompted me to ask that question.

Cara Simpson

I was driving. I was driving in my car, so I wasn't able to unmute.

Vicki Harrington

So it's funny. It's funny that you bring it up. You bring it up a lot. I'm glad you do it. I think it's it speaks to hopefully what a lot of us in the class were thinking.

Ken White

Absolutely. But it set the tone.

Vicki Harrington

It was Cara and I that did that from the beginning.

Ken White

But it set a tone. I think in the early days, early March, all of us humankind was saying, oh, no, what am I going to do? How is it going to affect me? I think that's a natural response. And so to hear that that early was really amazing. So how did you come up with the idea?

Cara Simpson

Well, I think we just looked at what we could do, and we looked at where we were poised as business students. And I remember talking to Vicki over WhatsApp one night, and we were both talking about our internships. We were thinking about how does this affect us? But thinking about, okay, well, we know this is also affecting small businesses. And so I think that's what made CrimDell work so well was the idea that we had this mutually beneficial relationship and we saw that there was something there, I made this really rudimentary infographic in PowerPoint, that basically it was a picture and had William & Mary community on one side and it had greater Williamsburg community on the other. And I put a bunch of circles in the middle of like EPs, government, MBA students, and drew some arrows back and forth. And this was the basically the proposal document. We were like. We know that we have something here. We know that we have skills that other people could use.

Ken White

Yeah. And so then from there, where did you go? I mean, because it's a funded organization. It has really grown. Where did you go from the beginning and from that original document?

Cara Simpson

The first person we texted was Nancy Turner, the EP.

Ken White

An executive partner, which is the organization here at the business school of some active, some semi-retired, and retired executives who are absolutely fantastic. So you reached out to them.

Cara Simpson

And Nancy has been a huge advocate for Vicki and I as well as other students since we've gotten here. And so she actually introduced us to a bigger group of people in the William & Mary community, including Rachel Frazier, Graham Henshaw, Julie Summ's. There is a bunch of people at this meeting, and it was a zoom called mostly designed around these MBA students have an idea. And we didn't know that we were being put sort of in the center of attention like this, but we were ready. So we basically

Vicki Harrington

And it was interesting, too, because, you know, we had this idea in what we thought was a silo of saying we want to help. We don't know-how. Who can we go to? Someone, you know, executive partner. And she was like, oh, these conversations are already happening all over William & Mary. People are already trying to figure out how to help. Let me put you in touch with them. And so, you know, we had Cara's beautiful sketch of, hey, students need internships, businesses need help pivoting and reimagining. And really, we just kept knocking on virtual zoom doors until we didn't hear the word no.

Cara Simpson

And people were really excited about it really quickly. I think

Ken White

Yeah.

Cara Simpson

it was. I think it made easy sense to people, even though we didn't have a really clear vision of exactly how we were going to do what we wanted to do. And the more we pushed, the more conversations we had, the more barriers did come up in front of us. People were asking us, well, did you consider liability? Did you consider how you're going to get a hold of people? All of these things and our answers are basically, no, but we can now.

Ken White

Yeah.

Vicki Harrington

Thanks for bringing that to our attention.

Ken White

No kidding.

Vicki Harrington

Now we will accomplish it now.

Ken White

Yeah.

Vicki Harrington

Now we will do it.

Ken White

So how did you get other students on board quickly?

Vicki Harrington

We tried to get them involved pretty early on, really in the beginning. And to this day, we consider ourselves a very flat organization. We've had over our lifetime sixty students involved. Currently, we sit around thirty-five, and it's this idea that you know how you can help best. We want to bring a culture and a community together of show me what you've got, you know, and what can you bring to the table for CrimDell.

Cara Simpson

And early on, before we were called, Crimdell. Students were texting us left and right. They're like we hear you've got something going. There's a buzz. We didn't even know we didn't intend for there to be a buzz right away. And it was really overwhelming because I remember having this feeling of I don't totally understand what this looks like yet. How can I bring in a team of people to help when I'm just

Vicki Harrington

We're still figuring it out. But then we realized we're only two people. Let's open a door and see what happens. And I think that's something that we've been. I would say, very successful with, is listening to others and bringing other people's ideas in.

Ken White

It sounds like you were sort of, you know, building the plane while you were flying it, so to speak. Right.

Vicki Harrington

We say that all the time, we're building the car as you drive it over the bridge.

Ken White

Yeah. So how did you come to the how did you come to everybody's hearts and minds were in the right place. Let's use our expertise to help others. How did you actually kind of focus in on what are we going to do and who are we going?

Cara Simpson

Well, I think a bit of a chance introduction Rachel Fraizer from the from Launchpad. She introduced us to Jim Carroll at the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center. And he in our first meeting, he told us that he's willing to meet with us every Friday, 1:00. And at first, we didn't really understand what it was he was looking to do, but he did counsel small businesses, and he saw what we were able to offer. And it was really key timing because this was right before the first round of PPP. The funding was released to the public.

Ken White

Hmm-mmm.

Cara Simpson

Of course, the payroll protection funds as part of the Cares Act. So they knew at the SPDC that they were about to be overwhelmed with requests from the small business community. So he gave us an opportunity. He helped us find that first bit of funding that allowed us to pay students for this work. And we thought that was something really important and we really excited about.

Ken White

So, yes. So then, yeah, you had payroll, and you had some money in the bank. So the checks didn't bounce, so to speak. Right. And then what were you offering businesses at that time?

Vicki Harrington

So and it's similar to our model today. We act as SPDC counselors. So SPDC, like Cara mentioned, is the Small Business Development Center. It's an organization funded through the Small Business Administration as well as local entities in the community. And their whole mission is to provide free counseling to businesses. So what we do is we kind of do a little bit more in-depth than the usual business counseling that SPDC does. We take teams of two students and set them up with a business, and they have to define a project scope, something that's, you know, bite-size, something that they can chew on. And over the course of a roughly 20 hours or three weeks, depending on the project, they meet with local experts. They, you know, do a lot of fact-finding, get things from the business, and present actionable recommendations at the end.

Cara Simpson

And this was inspired a lot by the corporate field consultancy class that is offered here at the School of Business.

Ken White

Hmm-mmm.

Cara Simpson

And we actually had a conversation with Terry Shannon, who's in charge of the CFC class at the very beginning, because we recognize the parallels between what they offer as a seven-week course and what we wanted to be able to turn out at a faster rate, not for corporate clients, but for small businesses here in Williamsburg.

Ken White

Right.

Cara Simpson

So we had his help in terms of design and guidance. We also reached out to Dawn Edmiston, and she helped us a lot with creating an organizational structure that allowed us to function more efficiently as a student organization. And that's where we went from. Vicki and Cara trying to figure this out to Vicki and Cara, co-founders and managing directors.

Ken White

And Dawn Edmiston, one of our marketing professors here at the business school.

Vicki Harrington

It took a village of business school.

Ken White

It sure did. It was so interesting to see the documents and more names and more names and more expertise.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Cara Simpson and Vicki Harrington of the CrimDell Small Business Network in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. You know, the post COVID world will require new skills and new approaches. And those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different MBA formats, including the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed and lead in our new world. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary. Now back to our conversation with William & Mary MBA students Cara Simpson and Vicky Harrington, the founders of the Criminal Small Business Network.

Ken White

One thing comes to mind how do businesses react when you say we have a couple of fairly young MBAs who are going to help you in something you may have worked on for 40 years? What was the reaction?

Vicki Harrington

It's such a great question because it's something that I think we stress so much to our students. Our students have just as much to learn from the business as the business owner may be able to learn from the student. So our business owners, like you said, a lot of them have been in the field for 10, 20, 30, 50 years.

Ken White

Yeah.

Vicki Harrington

And they are an expertise at whatever they do best, and no one has an expertise at everything. Right. And so, you know, business students, we're young, we're hungry. We're trying to prove ourselves, and we need practice. So it's this amazing opportunity to take what we're learning in the classroom and actually translate it into a hands-on experience that really, honestly helps the business owner just think a little bit differently. Right. It's that second eye.

Cara Simpson

We look at the counseling. We offer, as, you know, some form of catharsis for these people that are spending all of their time just totally in tunnel vision, looking at their problems really close up. And so we're offering this opportunity for a different perspective. And even and if we're able to make sure that students are coming at this, not as I'm going to tell you what to do and how to run your business, I'm going to instead share with you my skills and my background and see what would work to make your life better.

Ken White

Yeah.

Vicki Harrington

And all of our first meetings, we have a little presentation. We have students run through, and on one side, huge, it's just as at CrimDell we work with you, and it's not for you. It's not beneath you. It's with you.

Ken White

What are some of the success stories when you look back?

Cara Simpson

Oh, so I think one of the earlier clients, maybe, maybe halfway through, I think it was really interesting talking to the business analyst, the student. This is what we call the one they're working with the business, the business analyst. We were talking with them, and they were almost finishing a project with someone in early child care. And they were talking about how they were just so excited about how incredibly complicated working in this industry is and how she's explaining to us. Do you realize how they are on razor-thin margins, and now their capacity is cut in half, and they have to do this in their prices? And it is a complicated business problem. And it's something where, you know, to someone day to day, you don't think about these like strategic business challenges that people are facing. So that's a success in terms of our side feeling like we're opening up people in our organization, their eyes, to the business problems going around. Also, we've got some really great testimonials on the other side, and those are always really great to read. I don't think we've gotten one negative feedback yet.

Vicki Harrington

Yeah. And I mean, we are constantly trying to narrow our scope, but reality is we'll do any kind of project that's brought to us, and we like that. We consider ourselves generalists. We've done cash flow projections. We've done pricing strategies. We've done social media marketing plans. Gosh, we've done we do a lot of IT counseling. That was a big thing, especially in the beginning, businesses needing to get online. And so, you know, it's the site, it's two students being able to take that time and say, no, let's compare websites. You know, let's and not only let's compare websites because that's kind of functions in a vacuum. Let's put it on your cash flow statement. Let's see what it's going to cost you per month.

Ken White

Nice.

Vicki Harrington

Let's see. You know what that looks like.

Ken White

Yeah. Before we started to record, you mentioned use your skillset. Vicki, tell me a little more about that. What did you mean when you say that.

Vicki Harrington

Yeah. So everyone has something to bring to the table, right. Everyone, you know, has innately what they think they're good at, what they want to do. And it's this idea that you know, especially in times of uncertainty and crisis, it's the best thing you can do is kind of look within and say, what can I offer? What can I do? So, you know, as business students can't go and administer vaccines, we can't give PPP to folks in need, but we can provide the skill set that we have to help in the crisis that's happening with small businesses.

Cara Simpson

And that's, I think, how as a society we achieve maximum potential rate, everybody contributing what they are best suited to contribute. So I think that was the attitude we started with. And actually, during our orientation, you had an alumni from some year, and I don't remember his name, but I remember that he was talking about how success happens, where preparation meets opportunity. I don't know that student's name, but I remember listening that and thinking like that's a bit cliche, but it stuck in my head so well, and I think about it all the time to that, okay, this is really like what am I prepared for right now? And if I'm not totally prepared, and I have this opportunity. What can I do to get prepared as fast as possible?

Vicki Harrington

Yeah.

Ken White

So what's up moving forward? What are you hoping to do? You two will graduate not too far away. That's coming up pretty quickly here in May. Yeah. So what are you hoping takes place moving forward?

Vicki Harrington

So we just hired 14 new business analysts from our first-year class, so.

Cara Simpson

And one undergrad.

Vicki Harrington

And one undergrad.

Ken White

Nice.

Vicki Harrington

We do like to include some all-star undergrads in our cohort. Everything moving forward for Cara and I has been related to how do we continue to sustain this program.

Cara Simpson

And these conversations they started in August when the school was coming back. We are recognizing this is our second year. Everything we need to do needs to be based around a succession plan.

Vicki Harrington

Because we think, you know, born out of crisis, but something that continually will contribute to the community. So we are currently looking for a replacement managing director. We're currently trying to get funding in line. You know, there's a lot of moving parts.

Cara Simpson

Our board of directors already has to first-year students on it. And they've already given their word that they want to keep doing this into next year. So we know we've got at least a couple of leaders on board and ready to go. And we are still in communication regularly with Jim Carroll with our SPDC partners. We have a dedicated advisor, Tim Ryan. We've been forming more connections at the business school in terms of oversight to Professor Wagner, Phil Wagner. He's actually taken on a little bit more responsibility.

Vicki Harrington

He's our faculty advisor.

Cara Simpson

Yes. Yeah. So he's talking to us about what he can do to make sure this keeps going.

Ken White

Yeah.

Cara Simpson

A lot of pieces.

Vicki Harrington

We try and weave ourselves in ways that make sure we stay around even when we're gone.

Ken White

The crisis or not. It sounds like your goal is to be there for small businesses in the region who could use some expertise they may not have.

Vicki Harrington

Yeah, and it's I think it's a model that really does work for both sides. You know, it's I I myself was doing applications and interviews last semester, and I had to continually remind myself to talk less about CrimDell because

Ken White

On your job interviews, you mean.

Vicki Harrington

Yeah, because I had so I was like, well, this one time, you know, planning this meeting. And I had so much expertise coming from working with small businesses. So, you know, it really, really helped students in the job market to say, no, let me tell you about the time. And I did this.

Cara Simpson

And also, I mean, the idea didn't come out of nowhere even before COVID, Vicky, and I were planning an event as MBAA club leads, and we attended the Williamsburg Economic Development Luncheon to try to meet some small business owners to talk about potential for them to get more interaction with the business school. And we were meeting people from Williamsburg local government, and they were so excited to have William & Mary MBA students at the luncheon, they were telling us to come back again to invite friends. Yes, they'd love to do more. And so we saw that there was this desire from the community to increase interaction with us. And this desire won't go away

Vicki Harrington

Yeah.

Cara Simpson

once COVID is over.

Vicki Harrington

Or and once we're gone. Yeah.

Ken White

And that's our conversation with Cara Simpson and Vicki Harrington, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Organizations and businesses are seeking professionals to lead in our post COVID world. Professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively, and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary MBA program offered in four formats the full-time, the part-time, the online, and the executive. Check out the William & Mary MBA program to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guests Cara Simpson and Vicki Harrington. And thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Trey Taylor
Trey TaylorEpisode 148: February 15, 2021
A CEO Does Three Things

Trey Taylor

Episode 148: February 15, 2021

A CEO Does Three Things

For some CEOs and leaders, getting pulled in countless directions each day is par for the course. Many leaders feel they have to be involved in all aspects of their business. When that happens, they end up spending valuable time, effort, and focus on low priority items and low priority decisions. Before they know it, they're overworked and burned out. And they fail to move the organization forward. Trey Taylor says instead of doing everything, leaders should focus on the right things. Taylor's the Managing Director of trinity | blue, a consultancy that helps C-Suite leaders succeed. He's also the author of "A CEO Only Does Three Things: Finding your focus in the C-Suite." In the book, Taylor shares his three pillars of business: Culture, people, and numbers. He says when leaders embrace the three pillars, they create fulfilled and efficient professional lives. They end up focusing on the work they love, and they avoid CEO burnout.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How Trey found the time to write his book
  • Why do most leaders spend so much time on low priority items
  • What leads to CEO burnout
  • What are the three pillars CEOs should focus on
  • How is workplace culture defined
  • What is the role of the CEO in defining culture
  • why should a CEO have a good understanding of people
  • How involved should a CEO be with recruitment
  • Why should a CEO be transparent with the company's numbers
Transcript

Trey Taylor: A CEO Does Three Things TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business. The podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. For some CEOs and leaders, getting pulled in countless directions each day is par for the course. Many leaders feel they have to be involved in all aspects of their business. Well, when that happens, they end up spending valuable time, effort, and focus on low priority items and low priority decisions. Before they know it, they're overworked and burned out, and they've failed to move the organization forward. Trey Taylor says instead of doing everything, leaders should focus on the right things. Taylor is the managing director of trinity | blue, a consultancy that helps C-suite leaders succeed. He's also the author of A CEO Only Does Three Things: Finding Your Focus in the C Suite. In the book, Taylor shares his three pillars of business culture, people, and numbers. He says when leaders embrace the three pillars, they create fulfilled and efficient professional lives. They end up focusing on the work they love, and they avoid CEO burnout. Here's our conversation with Trey Taylor, author of A CEO Only Does Three Things.

Ken White

Well, Trey, thanks very much for taking your time and your willingness to share your expertise with us. Nice to see you.

Trey Taylor

Ken, a real pleasure to be with you.

Ken White

A first question, because we have so many listeners who, like you, have great expertise, are extremely busy, could write a terrific book, but just don't find the time. How in the world did you manage to write a book when you're working so much, and life is full?

Trey Taylor

It's a great question Ken, the only way I ever made progress in writing a book, and it did take me probably two and a half years. Number one was to carve out time to do it. So I would take a week every quarter and go away somewhere from the family. So I'd go nice places to treat myself, but I would work on the book in those places. And number two, I had to hire people to help me with things that they knew how to do that I didn't. So I didn't hire a ghostwriter, but I had somebody come in and interview me sort of for 12 one-hour sessions, put those things on paper for me so that I could move them around a little bit and get some semblance of order into my thoughts. I'm a huge believer in the outsource economy anyway, and I outsourced as much of this as I could while still making it mine.

Ken White

That's that's great. Everybody seems to have their game plan. And yours is interesting because mostly what I hear is I try to write an hour a day or every other day. But yeah, that's interesting. And it worked. Obviously, the book is out. It's doing well. And you're helping people find their focus in the C suite. So why, in your experience, do so many leaders spend so much time on those low-priority items instead of the big items?

Trey Taylor

Because leaders are good people and they're people-focused people and the people that work for them, they want to be successful. And if I just help this person with this task once or twice or three times, then they will learn it, take it over and do it for themselves. It's a complete myth that we tell ourselves over and over any executive that tells you that he is not guilty of that particular management sin is not then is then guilty of another management sin of lack of personal candor because we all do that. There's a famous HBR article about the monkey on my back, the most famous Harvard Business Review article. And we're all guilty of that. So the answer to the question is we do for others hoping they will do for themselves. And in reality, over time, we're teaching them that they don't have to do that. So we are the buck stops here. We're the final stop on the tour. And so we end up doing not only the job that we are hired to do but pieces of the job that we hire other people to do as well.

Ken White

In doing that, to a large extent, lead to ineffectiveness, lead to burnout.

Trey Taylor

Absolutely. It absolutely leads to both of those things. I'm really glad you brought up the burnout piece because it's you are doing the work that you've hired other people to do, and you've invested a lot of confidence in people to come in and work for you. And you every manager gets super excited when they hire somebody because they say this person is going to do great. I'm going to do less of that kind of job and more of my own job. The organization as a whole is going to perform better, but in reality, we get into these bad habits of over helping, of overdoing for other people. And it's a little counterintuitive because I'm a full believer that we should really practice whole person management, but no part of whole-person management is doing someone's job for them. That's actually a very defeating thing to teach someone.

Ken White

You say leaders and CEOs should focus on three items, three pillars, culture, people, and numbers. Let's start with culture. How do you define that? What do you mean when you say that?

Trey Taylor

So for me, culture is the ethical environment in which we live and work. Some people refer to it sort of as the fish tank. You don't know that the water is there until the water gets dirty until you get into this dysfunctional culture. And really what it is, is it's the sum of agreed values and behaviors that come from those values that we all agree that this is how we want to behave. This is how we want to react to certain challenges, and this is how we want to play up and down the field of business and life that come to us. What I notice about cultures, it's every organization has a culture. Whether you like the culture that you have or you don't care for it. It all you have one no matter what. And what I find is that people and we preach this very religiously, that CEOs should articulate the culture. Now, sometimes that means just announcing this is what we have in the culture that exists. And then sometimes there's some art to it to say, hey, we really don't like this part of the culture. So we're going to manage away from that with aspirational values and applied consistently over time. You really can remake the culture in the image that you really want to see.

Ken White

So it's more of repeating and communicating the agreed values. That's the role of the CEO in culture.

Trey Taylor

Yeah, absolutely. So you articulate the values first, the ones that you really want to be true for the organization. They have to be grounded in some truth of what's already there, but they can be aspirational to some extent as well. Number two is that you're going to overcommunicate the culture. My team, when I started this in my own company, they were sick of the word culture by three months in because I overcommunicated it all the time. And then third, I'm going to pass that responsibility for communication over to other people in the organization so that it becomes a conversation and not just me preaching it all the time. It's not a sermon. And in doing that, we ritualize the culture.

Ken White

But that third piece is so tough to hand it over because most leaders want to do it right and be a part of it.

Trey Taylor

Yeah, absolutely. So I don't cede it to anyone. I simply invite them into the conversation and say this is how I feel about this particular value that we have identified as something important. How do you feel about it, and where do you see it show up in our organization. And we do that in a ritualized format. We just do it by email on the Monday of every week. Someone takes one of our values. We have 13. We call them b attitudes. Someone takes it, and they say, here's the value. This is what I think it means to me. And this is where I've seen another person in the organization practice it well. And we've been doing that exercise for six to seven years now.

Ken White

Interesting. William & Mary does the same every time we meet someone has the value, and they have a little personal story about what it means to them and how they've seen it sort of in action. But you have three elements, and you've chosen culture as one of the three.

Trey Taylor

Absolutely.

Ken White

So obviously, you feel this is very critically important for leaders.

Trey Taylor

Yeah, so the CEOs, the only position in the company doesn't come with a job description. Right. And so, my argument here is this is the job description for the CEO, and the CEO should do the things that no one else in the organization can do. And I don't mean by ability. I mean by perspective. Right. So is it okay to cede the culture formation and management to someone without the authority to build cultural rituals or necessarily the ability because of where they stand in the organization or the information necessary to do it? No, none of that is okay. So I think that that you have to trace that to the one position in the organization that has all three of those, and that happens to be the CEO.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Trey Taylor, author of A CEO Only Does Three Things, in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary's School of Business. The post-covid world will require new skills and new approaches while those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different formats, including the full-time, the evening, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed in our new world. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary today. Now back to our conversation with Trey Taylor, author of A CEO Only Does Three Things.

Ken White

Your second pillar, which CEO should prioritize, is people. How do you define that? What do you mean by?

Trey Taylor

Absolutely you won't have much of a culture if you don't have people participating in the culture. And it becomes a cultural exercise in the selecting of people who are going to go on the journey with you. And that really is what it's all about in people. So we give a little bit of a primer on here's how you understand people. And a lot of that work comes from the work of  Ron Willingham, who you probably know, and then it becomes about how do we recruit? And we have a little bit of a different take on what recruiting has to be in this style age today when it is so very easy to get a gig economy job or something of that nature. So we have a little bit of a specific process that's different than what people have said. And it's very challenging process. So a lot of people look at it and say, well, I could never do that. And then, we show some examples of where that works. And then finally, it's about talent retention and the mindset around. You're not hiring a team member. You're not you're hiring talent the same way Hollywood hires talent. Who's the best person to play this role that we have scripted for them in this movie?

Ken White

Recruiting, doing it right is is so time-consuming. And I think some organizations just aren't willing to put the time in, put an ad out, see who applies and let's go with it. That can certainly backfire. Can't it?

Trey Taylor

Yeah, absolutely backfires all of the time. And what I hear from CEOs so many of so many times when we do consulting engagements, I don't have time to worry about my literal, most important thing that I could possibly do today, which is add someone to the team. And we've got some great examples. Larry Page, when he used to be the CEO of Google, which was a huge company then, even bigger now, you could not fill a job until he had at least put eyes on the resume. And this is when they had about eighteen thousand employees. Now, at some point, I think that bottlenecked, and they went a different way with it. But the whole point is, if Larry Page can do that for five years, my client, who's running a 40 life insurance company or something, definitely can take a little bit of time to do that and be engaged in the process in the conversation.

Ken White

Also, with people, you mentioned retention. What are some of the more effective ways you've seen and you liked to retain the high-quality players on the team?

Trey Taylor

Retention is all about letting your people know that the role that they are playing and the person that they are are important to the organization and to you personally. So CEOs really do have to reach out and say thank you for what you're doing in several different ways. And one of those ways sometimes is you're doing well, but you could do so much better. Let's invest in that together or something of that nature. But it's all about being personally involved in the life of the team member of the person who's on the journey with you.

Ken White

It's always nice to hear from the boss, isn't it?

Trey Taylor

Absolutely.

Ken White

Your third pillar is numbers. What do you mean by numbers?

Trey Taylor

So numbers, this is the biggest pushback that we get in the book numbers. The CEO says, well, that's the CFOs job to do. And for me, it's like James Madison was the first guy at the Constitutional Convention. Why? Not because he thought he would hijack something or influence it. All he wanted to do was to set the agenda of what was debated. And so he got there, and he got on the agenda committee. They called it something else, I'm sure, but that's all he wanted to do. So the CEO's job is to set the agenda when it comes to numbers. Here are the numbers that we need to achieve for the organization to live up to the potential and us be able to achieve the goals that we want to achieve long term. Someone else can manage those numbers. Someone else can measure them and report them out and that sort of thing. If your CFO or finance director, whoever that happens to be, but the CEO has to set the agenda, and then common theme overcommunicate. These are the goals. These are the goals. These are the goals. This is where we are and that sort of thing and be remarkably transparent. This is one of the big pushes in the book is to really share numbers that you think may not be something of interest to people in the organization. But when you do, you empower them to help you achieve those numbers in really startling ways.

Ken White

Absolutely. Any can you think of an example of someone who embraces the culture, people, numbers framework that you've created?

Trey Taylor

Yeah, I've had several clients go through the whole process with us, and we had a an insurance company in Corpus Christi, Texas, and they were going through a management transition so that the number two was becoming the number one and the previous number one was still in the organization as the chairman and still had an enormous moral influence over this is how we do things, very cultural icon for the business. And so we wanted to articulate the new generation of culture and how those behaviors show up in our people on a daily basis. They had a numbers issue because the previous outgoing CEO was sort of old and set in his ways and hadn't modernized and adopted systems that would embrace the current environment. So we had a numbers issue there, and then some people were leaving some natural attrition, but some also because their boss was leaving, they were going to transition out as well. So we had a recruiting problem as well. So over the course of a couple of years, we had a lot of work to do and tweak. And because it was very much almost a vaccination of a lot of new principals coming into a host organization, we were worried about the possibility of rejection. And so we had to do a lot of very good internal one-on-one conversations. So the first three months we scheduled, she had eight hours of conversations scheduled every single day. One on one

Ken White

Wow.

Trey Taylor

with about one hundred and forty people.

Ken White

Wow.

Trey Taylor

And we just banged it out. And she went in with an articulated strategy and said, here's where I'm going to take this organization over the next two years. Here's an invitation for you to come along with it.

Ken White

Wow, and obviously, if you're using it as an example, it worked.

Trey Taylor

It worked beautifully for her. She had started in that organization, in the mailroom or secretarial support or something of that nature, and had risen to the top of the organization. No one knew it better than she did. But knowing it was not enough, she really had to lead the organization to the vision that she had and very successful in doing that over a two-year period, yeah.

Ken White

For a CEO who says, I don't know if I can do it, I don't know if I can focus on three things. I know how big the job is. What do you say? What advice do you have?

Trey Taylor

Yeah, so I admit defeat on that point because we all get to that point. Here's what I ask CEOs to do. And I have a little pad on my own desk that I print out once a year. And it has the date on it, and it has culture, people, numbers, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And what I give myself permission to do is once I have satisfied something on those three things every single day, then I'm allowed to go do my to-do list for the day, because, of course, we have full-time jobs outside some of us, multiple jobs outside of just running the culture, people and numbers of this organization. All I'm really trying to do is to get C-suite executives to touch the long term on a daily basis.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Trey Taylor, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Businesses and organizations are seeking professionals to lead in the post-covid world professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the evening, the online, and the executive MBA. Check us out online to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest Trey Taylor, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Fawn Germer
Fawn GermerEpisode 147: February 1, 2021
Unemployed at 60

Fawn Germer

Episode 147: February 1, 2021

Unemployed at 60

There are few things in life more stressful than being out of work. Mid- to late-career professionals face an especially difficult challenge. The unemployment rate for older professionals is more than three times the national average. And as this group exits the workforce due to downsizing, COVID-19, or termination, it takes them twice as long as others to get hired, and often for less money than they had been making. The picture for unemployed workers over 50 is not pretty. But rather than blame the market or age discrimination, our guest today says "look in the mirror." Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of nine books, including her latest, "Coming Back: How to win the job you want when you've lost the job you need." She says many experienced professionals have not kept up with technology, the skills needed today, social media, and the overall pace of change. She says older workers want to come back, but they don't always know how. She shares her advice with us today.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • What's the first thing a mid-career professional should do when they lose their job
  • Should an unemployed mid-career professional strive to stay in the same industry
  • When should someone take a job that isn't the right fit for them
  • Where should an unemployed professional start to look for work
  • What are networking best practices in the time of COVID
  • How should a job-seeker employ social media
  • The importance of presenting well on video calls
  • How to mentally overcome age discrimination
Transcript

Fawn Germer: Unemployed at 60 TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. There are few things in life more stressful than being out of work. Mid to late-career professionals face an especially difficult challenge. The unemployment rate for older professionals is more than three times the national average. And as this group exits the workforce due to downsizing, COVID-19 or termination, it takes them twice as long as others to get hired and often for less money than they had been making. The picture for unemployed workers over 50 is not pretty. But rather than blame the market or age discrimination. Our guest today says, look in the mirror. Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of nine books, including her latest Coming Back How to Win the Job You Want When You've Lost the Job You Need. She says many experienced professionals have not kept up with technology. The skills needed today, social media, and the overall pace of change. She says older workers want to come back, but they don't always know-how. She shares her advice with us today. Here's our conversation with Fawn Germer, author of Coming Back How to Win the Job You Want When You Lost the Job You Need.

Ken White

Well, Fawn, thanks very much for being with us. We appreciate your time and sharing your expertise with us. It's nice to see you.

Fawn Germer

It's great to be with you.

Ken White

For the mid-career professional or someone even later than mid-career who just lost their job for whatever reason. That's a boy that's a life event that can really shake you with your experience and expertise. How would you advise somebody? What's the first thing maybe they should do when that happens?

Fawn Germer

Well, I think I'm supposed to say buy my book, but it's make up your mind. That you're going to get in the game, that the people who will win and believe me, if you make up your mind, you will win. But the people who win are the ones who say; I'm not gone. That you don't buy into this idea that it's going to be so hard and you're never going to breakthrough. You're going to breakthrough. It's going to be a challenge. It's going to be a test to see how tough you are. But if you make up your mind, you will get where you need to go. And then I'm going to give you one more thing. The next thing you do is you make a list. You make a list of every single thing you need to do so that when you start to lose momentum or when it gets discouraging, you always have one more thing to do because, you know, you work out, you know this when your feet are hurting, and you feel like you can't go any further if you just take the next step and the next step, you get where you need to go. So if you have a list, you just do the next thing on the list and the next thing on the list and with the certainty that you are going to do it.

Ken White

Excellent. I think most people if they were to lose their job late in their careers, might think I better look in the field where I've spent the most time. Do you recommend they stay in the same profession or look elsewhere?

Fawn Germer

Well, that's hard to say because it depends on what the field is. You're looking at a former newspaper person, and if somebody lost their job in newspapers, I'd be like, you got to go look for another gig because that dance has about run its course.

Ken White

Right.

Fawn Germer

But what I would do is do some research on your industry, see if it's still viable. And then the first thing you ask yourself is, do I still like this? And if you still like it, can you get hired? And really, you want to eliminate the negative out of your mindset, saying I'll never get a job because that's going to make it hard for you to make a good decision. You have to be able to be realistic about it. Is that do you have opportunities that you can get? And if you still love it? Stay in it, but don't try to force the world to accept skills that are no longer being utilized. The world has changed. If it's still a viable profession and you love it, stay. If not, go.

Ken White

How about fit? How much does the job have to fit? And do I have to like it 100 percent, 80 percent, 50 percent at this stage in life?

Fawn Germer

Well, and sometimes it depends on how long you've been unemployed because sometimes you need to have a job in order to get a job. So you may take something that's not a good fit just to show that you're employable, but you want the right fit because you are entitled to have work that is meaningful, that makes you happy. Sometimes you have to, on a short term basis, take something that doesn't feel quite right. And you do it because you've got to take the next step to get where you need to go.

Ken White

Which might mean lower pay, for example.

Fawn Germer

Sometimes that is common. I really tell people that from the beginning, keep your mindset that you're going to be able to get pay. That is going to take care of you. You have to be able to eat. But there are times when you will take something for less. And largely that's something I write a lot about, is that the world changed. So if you're the person in the office who has the highest paycheck, that automatically makes you more vulnerable because technologically younger people are coming out of school who will work for a third the cost and who likely can do more than you can. So they're going to take the cheaper work. So in those kinds of situations, if you can't justify the higher paycheck, you will be taking a pay cut. But you want to upskill and learn everything you possibly can. So you're not just seen as somebody with experience, but as somebody who can lead your company and your organization into the future so that you're not the best person for the job today. But in five years.

Ken White

Upscaling is a great point. I'm not so sure some people even know where to begin. Is it determining maybe what you want to do and then getting the skills? How do you approach that?

Fawn Germer

Well, I say it's pretty easy if you regularly read The Wall Street Journal, Ink, Fast Company, and you don't have to read every article, scan the tables of contents, see what's going on, and then Google your industry. If my industry if I were in the news industry, I would Google trends in newspapers, and I would see what's going on with that if I'm in the insurance business trends in the insurance business and see what's coming. And everybody really needs to look at artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, big data, and machine learning and see how those things are going to impact their specific skill set. And then you just one by one take something, so you're at least familiar with those things. And that's the easiest thing in the world. There is so much learning out there that is free with these online courses. And you can say I've studied artificial intelligence from Harvard professors for free. You don't have to get an A in the class. You need the information. So always add something into your repertoire. And sometimes it's confusing. Blockchain that that's something I couldn't understand it. It took me forever. I did so many YouTube videos. I still didn't get it. And then I found a video on how to teach a, I think, six-year-old about watching. And then I watched that ten-minute video, and I understood blockchains like even if you take it to its easiest level and then start from there, you get the training you need. And let's admit it, we thought we were technologically up to date. We're not, and companies don't care about experience as much as they care about relevance. So if you've got time and you're not working, make yourself relevant. It's not hard, and the payoff is huge.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Fawn Germer, author of Coming Back How to Win the Job You Want When You've Lost the Job You Need in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The post COVID world will require new skills and new approaches. And those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different formats, including the full-time, the evening, the online, and the executive, all taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty. The William & Mary MBA will prepare you to succeed in our new world. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary today. Now back to our conversation with Fawn Germer.

Ken White

What about networking? That's uncomfortable for a lot of people, but when you're out of work, that's a that's an important thing to do. What advice do you have for people in terms of networking?

Fawn Germer

Well, I am an introvert. If I go to a party, it's kind of, you know, unless I'm there as the speaker, I'm very engaged because people come up to me. But if I have to go up to them, it's hard. So you do want to get in the room, and it's very easy to network during COVID because you people are available, so you can do informational Zoom calls all the time and ask people who are your mentors to hook you up with their mentors and just do these little informal meetings, and you build this network, and it's useless if you don't ask your network for help. And I don't mean saying, hey, do you mind sending my resume out? I mean, you say, can you send my resume to Jim Davis tomorrow? It's about this job. And I would like to make an appointment to see him next week, blow some of your clout because it's no good to have clout if you don't use it. And so it's you got to go guerilla. Your network will help you again and again, but you have to specifically show it what you want.

Ken White

And then in terms of personal branding, social media, you say that's a place that people have to have to look at. They've got to embrace it. How do you what do you do what you say when you talk about social media to folks later on in their career? So we're looking for new work?

Fawn Germer

Right. LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn. And I'm somebody who is not that crazy about all of those social media. I do like Facebook so I can post my kayaking pictures, but we have to do this, and it shows that you are a player. And if you have ten companies that you're targeting, start adding contacts in those companies because recruiters see that you have people in their company already. So that gives you points. And then if you start commenting on those people and what they post, that gives you more of a connection to be able to say, hey, I'm really interested in your company, what would you suggest I do? So social media automatically builds your network, and your ability to use it makes you a viable player in that network. It's just the way we do business now.

Ken White

Do you recommend people write and publish on LinkedIn?

Fawn Germer

Yeah, LinkedIn is the place. That is the place. And so you do that, you write your articles if you want, but be in the right groups, and people love it when others comment and say they did a good job with their posts. So just schmooze the right people, and they'll start noticing your name.

Ken White

You and I are talking on Zoom. I can't think of too many companies that do not use video interview, even pre-COVID. Is video and communicating on video something that this generation is adapting to, or they having struggles adapting to that.

Fawn Germer

Well, I think people like it. The older people are certainly figuring out how to use it so they can stay in touch with their children and grandchildren. So they just have to realize that this is the way that business is done then.

Ken White

Yeah.

Fawn Germer

And it's frustrating to me because I can't sneak off and look at Amazon while I'm having a business meeting. I have to pay attention fully. But it is the way business is being done. It is the way people are being interviewed constantly. And then, you know, companies don't think a thing of it. So when you're on that, you've got to really be sure that you've got good lighting, that you've got good sound, test out your camera and your sound before you do it. So you reboot your computer, and when you start, you say, hey, let me get a callback number in case something goes wrong here. Stick your dog in the other room, all of these things, because you want to create an impression that you've got it going on. And the other thing is get the garbage out of the back of your room. You want people to see that you have a professional set up, and sometimes it's you can make it interesting with whatever books you have or whatever things are out there. But what you don't want to do is look like you're a mess and that this was just some afterthought. And particularly for older people, your appearance is so important that you don't look like you're some frumpy old person. And believe me, I'm in the age group that I could qualify for that. But get your hair done. Get the right outfit, dress for your top and your bottom, because you may have to stand up, but you don't have to wear shoes, okay, and just make a good presentation. And you know, the other thing being that that connect, look into the camera, look at that person and validate them by just showing that you're seeing them, you're looking at them, you're taking them seriously.

Ken White

What do you say if someone says there's no way I'm going to get hired? There's just so much age discrimination out there.

Fawn Germer

Then you're not going to get hired. I mean, come on. I learned that lesson when I was young, and I went to River Country. Disney used to have the first water park, and there was this T bar. And if I kept watching people and they would get on the T bar, and it would go down this line, and then they reached the end and then jump in the water. And I kept saying to myself; I'm never going to be able to do that. I'm never going to be able to do that. And then the minute I got on that thing and left the platform, I lost it, let go, fell in the water. But of course, I fell in the water because I thought I couldn't do it. The next time I said I can do this, they all did it. And then I went easily. So if you think that's the case, it's the case. Yes, there are definite age discrimination issues. We can't pretend that they're not. But usually, those issues are magnified because there is an assumption that we are not relevant. So if you can say what you are learning today, that you're taking a class on innovation at MIT, which incidentally, I did, and it was free and it was wonderful. Right. If you're, you can say what you're learning constantly. That's what they want. They want somebody who's an insatiable learner. And if a younger person is interviewing you, don't say, oh, I have a kid your age, or back when I was your age, I was doing whatever. We don't care about your experience anymore. I'm sorry. It's just the way it is. We want to know what you're going to be able to do in the future. And if you try to make it look like you know so much more than the person interviewing you, you're automatically setting yourself up as a threat. So that is how you make age an issue for yourself.

Ken White

So, yeah, great. So so be proactive about it. I do hear sometimes I'll hear someone older say things, wear things, and it screams I am older

Fawn Germer

Right.

Ken White

and out of touch and just wow. Get it together, you know, get it together. And it's not the company's fault. It might be your fault, actually.

Fawn Germer

Well, you know, when and when I start writing that chapter, you know how to de-frump. I looked in the mirror, and I went, well, you're not looking so hot yourself. So we really have to give ourselves a good look in the mirror, not just physically, but that's important, but also in how we are presenting ourselves as professionals because we don't automatically get points for having been there and done that anymore. That can work against us. I think the most important quote in the book came from a millennial who said, if you have thirty years of irrelevant experience and a millennial has three years of relevant experience, the millennial is the expert. And that is the truth.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Fawn Germer, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Businesses and organizations are seeking professionals to lead in our post COVID world. Professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively, and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and more in the William & Mary MBA program. Offered in four formats the full-time, the evening, the online, and the executive MBA. Check us out online to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest, Fawn Germer. Thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White. Wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 David Jay
David JayEpisode 146: January 15, 2021
The New Email

David Jay

Episode 146: January 15, 2021

The New Email

Imagine a world without email. While that's not likely anytime soon, the way email looks and the way we use it is changing. The days of video email have arrived. Everyone's familiar with the negative aspects of traditional email: It leads to overloaded inboxes, there's too much back-and-forth, writing and replying take up a great deal of our time. But beyond that, email and websites that rely on the written word are "low touch," and the intent is sometimes misinterpreted. David Jay is out to change that. He's the Founder and CEO of Warm Welcome, a company that helps professionals and organizations change the way they use email and the online written word and instead use video to form better relationships with customers and prospective customers - which has a positive effect on the bottom line. He joins us today to discuss the downside of using traditional text, and the upside of replacing it with video.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How does Warm Welcome help a business stand out
  • What led to the creation of Warm Welcome
  • How does video make the customer interaction more personable
  • What has been the response to replacing email with video
  • What is a video signature
  • What are the advantages of a video business card
  • What is the future of email
  • How should a professional who dislikes seeing themselves on screen embrace video
Transcript

David Jay: The New Email TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Imagine a world without email. Well, that's not likely anytime soon. The way email looks and the way we use it is changing. The days of video email have arrived. Everyone's familiar with the negative aspects of traditional email. It leads to overloaded inboxes. There's too much back and forth. Writing and replying take up a great deal of our time. But beyond that, email and websites that rely on the written word are low touch, and the intent is sometimes misinterpreted. Well, David Jay is out to change that. He's the founder and CEO of Warm Welcome, a company that helps professionals and organizations change the way they use email and the online written word and instead use video to form better relationships with customers and prospective customers, which has a positive effect on the bottom line. He joins us on the podcast today to discuss the downside of using traditional text and the upside of replacing it with video. Here's our conversation with David Jay, Founder, and CEO of Warm Welcome.

Ken White

David, thanks very much for joining us. It's nice to see you. Thanks for sharing your time with us.

David Jay

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

Ken White

And you're, of course, I'm in Williamsburg, Virginia, and you're totally on the other opposite end of the country in beautiful Oregon, right?

David Jay

Yeah, Bend, Oregon. So we're kind of this little island out in the middle of the desert. It's not as rainy as Portland, and yeah, we love it.

Ken White

Yeah, nice. Again, thanks for joining us. When when you explain warm welcome to people. How do you explain it? What do you tell them?

David Jay

Well, the way that we talk about it is, and you know this, people have a really difficult time standing out in their business. You start a business, whether it's a service business or a software business. And the struggle is always like kind of getting recognized and standing out from everyone else, you know, that's in your market. And so, what we try and do is help businesses stand out by transitioning from the boring text that most businesses communicate into personal video. So, just like we're on video now, you know, it really helps businesses stand out, and it helps them build better relationships. And, of course, we all know relationships lead to revenue. So that's what we do, is we try to connect those dots and help people transition from kind of an old archaic way of communicating to a new, more modern way.

Ken White

Where did the idea for warm welcome originate? Do you remember?

David Jay

Yeah. Oh, I sure do. Actually, it was right in this little office. I had a friend come over. Eric Knopf is his name. He has a company called Webconnex. And I was showing him some other video technology that we were building. And he said I want to use that to send personal video emails to all of our customers and just thank them for being our customers. I was like, that is a really cool idea. I was like, I'm going to steal that, and I'm just going to make a whole business around it. And so he's like, do it. He's like, just make sure I get the first free account. And so he did, and he uses it in his business now. He has like five accounts now for all his different companies. But yeah, it's neat. People always kind of iterate and come up with better ideas than my ideas. So I try to listen to them and change what we're doing to fit what they want.

Ken White

Yeah. And it's obviously working. It's so interesting that the business it's part technology, it's part communication, it's part email, it's part relationships, part bottom line. How do you see it when you think about it?

David Jay

Yeah, it's a very holistic business, and that's the way that we wanted to approach it. You know, in a new sort of space like this, a lot of companies will tackle things tactically. Right? They'll take on a piece of the pie. So they'll do like video emails, and people will be like, oh, I want to send video emails, I'll go to this company or that company. And so that's where we started. But then we said, well, gosh, if video emails are effective, then wouldn't applying video to just about every point in the customer experience be effective. And so a video business card or a video bubble on your website or a video email signature or video embedded in your website that someone can engage with and send a video back. And so we thought, gosh, let's just connect all those dots and create a nice, consistent client experience through personal video rather than just kind of taking on one piece of the pie. And so that's what we've done. And it's been a really fun switch. We've been surprised how much we've enjoyed it because of the personal connection. And it's like, how many support tickets do you get or how many emails do you respond to every day? And after a while, they all start to feel the same. And it's easy to not see your customers as people anymore, but to just see them as another, you know, support chat or another email or another, you know, just words on a webpage. And when you change it to video, and you can see someone's face and hear their voice, you're like, wow, that's another human, another person on the other side of this that I get to engage with, and business gets to bring us together. And so it's really brought a lot of passion to our company.

Ken White

It is interesting just to look at your website. It's a very as a visitor; it's a very different experience from another website. I there was hardly any text on there.

David Jay

Yeah.

Ken White

I was watching videos. Yeah. And of course, we like to watch videos as human beings anymore. It seems like it's the thing we do these days, you know. Yeah. What about results? What have you heard from people using it, your clients? What do they what's the reaction from them and those receiving videos from them?

David Jay

Oh, the response rate and the open rate on these is just, I mean, it's night and day. It's like 10x, you know, we used to send, you know, just mass marketing emails, and you get, you know, 20 percent open rate and then one percent, two percent click through rate on them. And now we're getting 90 plus percent open rate and almost a hundred percent response rate on them. And I think the reason one is it's very new, and not very many people are sending these videos out yet. But the other reason is because you recognize that it's a real person on the other end of the line if you will. And so it would be like if we met up on the street or we met up at a coffee shop and I, I engaged you. I said something to you. I said, hey, Ken, what do you think about this? Like, it would be very odd and awkward for you not to respond. Right.

Ken White

Yeah.

David Jay

But yet we feel completely okay not responding to a text email or not responding to some, you know, old form of communication, but a video, you know, where the person is engaging you saying, hey, Ken, I was thinking about you the other day. You know, I was wondering if this would be helpful for your business. So I wanted to send it along right. For you to not watch that video or not respond to that. It starts to feel a little bit odd. Right? So

Ken White

Absolutely.

David Jay

everyone responds now because it's human to human communication again, rather than text to human.

Ken White

Right. Interesting. Let's talk about some of the features. For example, a video signature. What is that?

David Jay

Yeah, so when we started with video email, one thing we found is the people who were very proactive, more sales types, marketing type people, they would go, and they would ground and pound on these things, and they were like having tons of success with them. But there's another type of person that isn't going to be as proactive with it but still wants to personalize all of their communication, all of their emails. So we said, well, when you get an email, you see a bunch of text, right. So it doesn't stand out. And so people just trash it or don't respond to it. Well, what if we could personalize every single email that somebody sent out without them having to do something every single time? And so we said, well, shoot, let's take it. You know, let's take the signature portion of the email, you know, the part that's just auto included in there. And personalize it. Let's add a smile and a wave to it just like that. And if you just do it one time, right, you record a little video. Hey, I'm David. This is my video email signature. Feel free to send me a video back or send me a text message back or email me back, whatever you want. But now every email I send has my smile, has my wave, and as humans, those are trust-building tools, right. And so if somebody sees me and they see me smiling at them, that communicates to them that I like them and that we're friends. And immediately, you start the conversation off. You start the relationship off on a better foot than just a big old page of words.

Ken White

Yeah. And yeah. And all those things we can't do in text we can do in video. Yeah. That's so interesting.

David Jay

We'll continue our discussion with David Jay, CEO of Warm Welcome, in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The post-COVID world will require new skills and new approaches. And those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different formats, including the full-time, the evening, the online, and the executive. All taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty, the William & Mary MBA, will prepare you to succeed in our new world. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary today. Now back to our conversation with David Jay, CEO of Warm Welcome.

Ken White

I assume the video business card is quite similar.

David Jay

Yeah, very similar. You know, the video business card was another thing that we thought, you know, hey, everyone has business cards these days. But there's so many limitations to a paper business card. One is you just give it to one person, and that person usually throws it away. That's the downside of it. And so it doesn't scale at all. But two, you can only communicate as much as you can cram on this little business card. Right. And it can't be shared in a digital environment. There's like so many things wrong with it. And yet, people still do. You get a promotion? Guess what happens to all your old business cards? Trash. So a video business card. Now, when I share it with you, you can share it on with a thousand other people, and there's no extra cost to anybody. Right. So there's a scalability factor, a marketing factor to this business card. You can also communicate so much more in a video business card than a paper business card. The last one, which is really fun, is you can actually communicate through it. A paper business card like you still have to go and send the email or go and do something. A video business card, they can click and send a video right back. They can send an audio message back. They can send text back. And so it's a really nice like container and delivery mechanism for a person rather than a piece of paper.

Ken White

What do you think about the future of email and the way we're communicating? Do you see video? What do you think about it? Yeah. Where do you see it going?

David Jay

Well, I think we're on, you know, maybe a thousand-year shift, certainly a six hundred year shift in the way people communicate. You know, six hundred years ago is when the printing press came out, and the printing press was this revolutionary thing because it was one of the first things in the world that scaled. And so we all became obsessed, humans became obsessed with the written word because it was the first thing in the world that you could do one time and replicate a million times. And so, for the past six hundred years, almost all of our communication has been geared towards text or written communication. Right. And you've got Post-it notes. You've got text messages. You've got emails. You have spiral notebooks, leather-bound notebooks, bound books. We have so many ways to communicate with text-based communication. But the problem is the text-based communication is a terrible way for humans to communicate. I mean, look at Facebook, look at Twitter, like are these environments that people are leaving happier and better? No, they're terrible.

Ken White

Yeah.

David Jay

And it's you know, you say something, you type something, I should say. And people read it in a negative slant. Right. Almost all written communication is read and judged in a negative state, whereas video is the opposite. And so, in the last 10 or 20 years, we've had the Internet and video come together and create the opportunity for a much better way for humans to communicate at scale than we've ever had in human history. And so it's a it's an exciting time, and there's going to be a million iterations of it. And so

Ken White

Right.

David Jay

that's why we're not a competitive company or Blue Ocean Company because there's going to be a million services just like cars. And that's great because it makes the world better. Like when people start communicating as humans again, the world a better place. That's, you know, sounds cliched, and I'm sorry for that. But it's true.

Ken White

No, and I get it. And as one who loves video and loves audio, this is exciting to me that hopefully, we're going this way. But one of the things I've learned when many executives reach out to me or many of our students and say, I don't like Zoom, I don't, I don't like teams, I don't want to see myself. I'm so uncomfortable on video. What do you say to the professional who feels that way but probably knows they should be embracing video?

David Jay

Yeah. So, again, it's kind of a tactical question, right? And they're thinking about the technique. They're thinking about the medium that they're communicating in. And it is a little bit different. And I think the video communication is young, right? It's in its teens. It's a teenager's awkward. It's uncomfortable. Right. But over time, it's going to mature. And some of the things that I think we're changing already is seeing our self on video, like the tendency when there's a video up on the screen is to look at our self.

Ken White

Right. Absolutely.

David Jay

Right. When we're talking to somebody at a coffee shop like we don't hold a mirror up and look in the mirror the whole time. Right. And so when we're communicating one, we should get ourselves off the screen, first of all, like, we don't need to see ourselves. But the second thing is the entire goal or the hope in a conversation is that we're adding some sort of value or contributing something to the other person. And when that's our focus, it gets off of our self. How do I look? How do I sound? Like all these self things that are terrible, like but that's not what we want to think about, as we're in a relationship with somebody, we want to be thinking about the other person. And so the technical, tactical things of get your own video off the screen, stop looking about yourself, stop thinking about yourself, start thinking about how to add value to the other person. And when you do that, you're able to get beyond some of those insecurities that we have.

Ken White

That's our conversation with David Jay. And that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. Businesses and organizations are seeking professionals to lead in the post-COVID world. Professionals who think strategically, communicate effectively, and manage ambiguity. You'll learn those skills and much more in the William & Mary MBA program offered in four formats the full-time, the evening, the online, and the executive MBA. Check us out online to learn more. Finally, 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 to our guest David Jay, CEO of Warm Welcome, and thanks to you for joining us. I'm Ken White wishing you a safe, happy, and productive week ahead.

More Podcast Episodes

 Jen Lee
Jen LeeEpisode 145: January 1, 2021
Managing Your Finances in 2021

Jen Lee

Episode 145: January 1, 2021

Managing Your Finances in 2021

There's no doubt the pandemic has had a significant economic impact on the people of the United States, and the world. Since March, many individuals and families have experienced a reduction in employment, and a loss of income. People of all ages have been affected. The news isn't all bad, though. For example, in the second quarter of 2020 credit card balances in the U.S. declined considerably. The percentage of delinquent loans also declined in most consumer debt markets. And while you can't dictate what the financial picture will look like in the new year, you can be a good steward of your money by embracing quality personal finance principles. Jen Lee is an attorney who helps her clients with debt and credit strategy. She joins us today with tips for everyone - from the young professional, to the retiree, to everyone in-between. She'll fill us in on savings, 401(k)s, managing debt, and the elephant in the room.

Podcast (audio)

Podcast (platforms)

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

Show Notes and Transcript
Show Notes
  • How did Jen get into debt and credit strategy
  • What advice does Jen have for younger people regarding money and savings
  • Why should on start a 401(k) as early as possible
  • The importance of having a budget
  • How should one handle serious debt
  • What does Jen consider the "elephant in the room"
  • How can one tell what financial services are a scam and which ones are legitimate
  • How do you improve your credit score
  • How much of a percentage of one's income should they spend on housing
  • Why should someone get life insurance
  • When should one use a financial wellness program
Transcript

Jen Lee: Managing Your Finances in 2021 TRANSCRIPT DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Ken White

From William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, this is Leadership & Business, the podcast that brings you the latest and best thinking from today's business leaders from across the world. We share the strategies, tactics, and information that help make you a more effective leader, communicator, and professional. I'm your host, Ken White. Thanks for listening. Well, there's no doubt the pandemic has had a significant economic impact on the people of the United States and the world. Since March, many individuals and families have experienced a reduction in employment and a loss of income. People of all ages have been affected. The news isn't all bad, though. For example, in the second quarter of twenty-twenty, credit card balances in the U.S. declined considerably. The percentage of delinquent loans also declined in most consumer debt markets. And while you can't dictate what the financial picture will look like in the New Year, you can be a good steward of your money by embracing quality personal finance principles. Jen Lee is an attorney who helps her clients with debt and credit strategy. She joins us on the podcast today with tips for everyone from the young professional to the retiree to everyone in between. She'll fill us in on savings, 401k's, managing debt, and the elephant in the room. Here's our conversation with Jen Lee of Jen Lee Law.

Ken White

Jen, thanks so very much for joining us and sharing your time and your expertise with us. Nice to see you.

Jen Lee

Nice to see you, too, Ken. Thanks for having me.

Ken White

Debt and credit strategy. How did you get into that? How did you choose this?

Jen Lee

So debt and credit strategy came about because I started out in the legal world as a bankruptcy attorney. And as I was talking to people, I was realizing that people need help way before they get to bankruptcy. And there were so many people that I could help avoid bankruptcy if they understood how debt and credit actually works in the real world. So then I made up a totally new name for it. And we call it debt and credit strategy instead of bankruptcy, which sounds so much more soft and cuddly.

Ken White

Yeah, it does. It sounds quite human, doesn't it?

Jen Lee

Yes.

Ken White

You know, we normally think I normally think when it comes to personal finance of younger people, and as we talk, we'll find out that's not the case. But why don't we start there? When you think of younger people, maybe they're in their first job. They're just sort of starting their new career. What kind of advice do you have for them regarding their money and savings?

Jen Lee

So if I were going back to when I was twenty-two and my first job, what I would tell myself is if you have student loans, have a plan for them, whether you're on a forgiveness track or you are on some type of payment plan, have a plan for them, because so many people get 10, 15 years down the road and find out that they could have gotten portions forgiven or they could have done something. And now the balance has grown. So my first piece of advice is always have a plan for your student loans and try to pay them off if you can. Don't jump into the forgiveness if you don't have to. And the second piece of advice is start a 401k or a retirement the day that you start your first job. So they are always saving for retirement cause compound interest when you're that young, it makes great returns in the future.

Ken White

I remember being that age and saying I can't afford to save for retirement. I'll do that later. That's the kiss of death, isn't it?

Jen Lee

Yes.

Ken White

How do you convince somebody? How do you say it's so worth it to do this? Any amount, right?

Jen Lee

Any amount. It can be 50 dollars; it could be one hundred dollars at one percent. And if your employer matches, you should always contribute up to your employer match. But having a budget, and that's another go-to piece of advice too, is having a budget so that you can work out where that money can come from each month. It's really important to have a plan. So I think if you have the plan for the student loan and you have a plan for your budget and a plan for retirement, some of those I can't afford its become possible. So but even a small amount, as little as possible, but just put something into retirement so that it's always growing for you and don't take it out when you switch jobs, don't take it out.

Ken White

It is amazing. It is truly amazing how it grows as it's magic. 2020 has been rough, and many people, as we know, that seem to have their bills are larger than their paychecks. Many people facing that right now. What kind of advice do you have for them?

Jen Lee

So when COVID first hit back in March, and all the shutdowns started, depending on where you're at in the country, it started earlier than others. I did daily webinars, and I told people you should write down all of your bills, all of your debts and see what your status is first and then make phone calls and communicate. So if you can't pay your credit cards because your paycheck has shrunk, your laid-off call and communicate with your lenders, with your creditors, because a lot of the CARES Act rules and things that they're allowed to do, they have to know that you're affected by COVID. And so my first step is for everyone write down what you have and what has to be paid to keep your four walls and your food going, necessary things, and then figure out from there what you can pay and what you can't pay. At some point, it becomes you have to do larger triage. But at the beginning, just make sure you write everything down so that you know what you have to pay and what you should pay versus what can wait and what you can negotiate on.

Ken White

And when someone does contact, say, a credit card company, is there a way to possibly negotiate what's owed or the or the interest?

Jen Lee

There are. So most of the time with COVID, it's they're just putting you into a forbearance. They may be freezing your interest. They may not be, but they're usually putting in a forbearance. You can often negotiate the interest rates down to zero or one percent or something very low, but they'll usually cut your credit line so that you won't have access to that credit line anymore. So you have to be a little careful with that. But yes, there are ways to negotiate and come up with payment plans so that they're not reporting you late on your credit or so that you're not getting sent to collection in the middle of this whole pandemic.

Ken White

What about those in serious debt? I mean, it's looking bad, and the money's not coming in. What do you advise them to do?

Jen Lee

Talk to someone who could let you know what your options are there people who come to me for bankruptcy or come to you with serious debt? We're looking to see is there a way to budget out? Is there a way to consolidate? Is their debt settlement? Is that an option that we should look at? And then start looking at bankruptcy options. What I find with bankruptcy and this is the B I call it the B-word because. People are so scared of it. They think that the world's going to end. Is that almost every misconception people have about bankruptcy is what I hear as I can't do that. And so at least have someone explain to you what your future looks like and how to use legal options as tools versus thinking that it's the end of the world. Some of it's mindset. There's a lot of mindset issues.

Ken White

Yeah, well, it's funny when you say bankruptcy. It makes me think of what you call the elephant in the room, which is clever. Please share that with us. What is that?

Jen Lee

Sure. So as I was starting out talking to people, we talked about debt and credit strategy. I found that the elephant in the room was that more than 70 percent of Americans have a debt or credit problem of some sort. And that was before COVID. And we all go on to Facebook, and we talk to our friends. And no one talks about this elephant in the room that we all have these debt and credit problems. So you think you're alone? It's very isolating, and it makes you think feel like you're almost an idiot because you can't figure these things out. When everyone around you is flopping around the same elephants that are around. And so I tell people all the time, it's very savvy for you to find out what your options are before it gets to the point of no return. And you'd be really surprised at the number of people around you who have the exact same debt issues that you do.

Ken White

It may explain all of the people, all of the mail landing in people's mailboxes right now, all this stuff for new mortgage rates, and so forth. You know, that's a lot to handle. How do you determine what's legitimate, what's not, what you should pursue, and what maybe you shouldn't?

Jen Lee

So that's a really good question because I deal every day with the scams, and what things aren't always great options. Mortgage refinancing is huge right now because of the interest rates being so low. That's unprecedented how low they are. And if anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s remember what interest rates were like, it's a very different world these days.

Ken White

Yeah.

Jen Lee

So mortgage refinancing, most of those offers, generally you can reach out to the company and get things underwritten, find out what it looks like. I don't worry as much about mortgage refinancing offers unless they're offering something really shady like fifty thousand dollars and closing costs or something crazy. The scammy ones tend to be the debt consolidation, and debt settlement offers that you get. And those are the ones that come in the mail. And they'll say you can resolve all your debt for five hundred dollars a month for forty-eight months. Give us a call. And when you call into those places, usually you don't qualify for consolidation because, by the time you get to the point where you have enough debt, where you would need to consolidate, your credit score has suffered, and you don't qualify for consolidation loans. So they pass you on to their debt settlement company, and then they start talking you through this great program that they have that they can settle all your debts, four years of payments, and then you'll be debt-free. And it doesn't that sound great? Well, they don't tell you that your credit score does worse under debt settlement than it does under bankruptcy. First of all, it will destroy your credit. They don't tell you that you'll get sued in most states if you do debt settlement because the debts don't stop. They just try to sell them all, and they don't give you all the downsides of them. So I always tell people, if you're calling in for a free consultation and it's not a nonprofit consumer credit type organization, they're going to be selling you something, and likely you are the product at that point. So that's how I tell people to watch out for scams is. If you're calling in for a free consultation for something that sounds too good to be true, find out what the downsides are.

Ken White

We'll continue our discussion with Jen Lee of Jen Lee Law in just a minute. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary School of Business. The post COVID world will require new skills and new approaches. Those skills and approaches are taught in the William & Mary MBA program. We offer four different formats, including the full-time, the evening, the online, and the executive. All taught by our top-ranked MBA faculty, the William & Mary MBA, will prepare you to succeed in our post COVID world. Check out the MBA programs at William & Mary today. Now back to our conversation with Jen Lee of Jen Lee Law

Ken White

You mentioned credit score a couple of times. How does how do people go on improving their credit score?

Jen Lee

So credit scores are there difficult because you can have three hundred credit scores at any given time? Depends on who's running it, what bureau it's through, different types of scoring for mortgage or cars. So your credit score can be vastly different. Even the same day of the year, credit score, repair, or credit repair is a very scammy industry. I refer to it as credit rebuilding. So if you need to rebuild your credit, first of all, you should run your credit and find out what's on there because a lot of people are scared to run their credit and dispute things that are incorrect. Also, making sure that your balances are lower than about 30 percent of your limit is one of the biggest reasons people's credit scores are low. So if you have a card that's maxed out, that will significantly impact your credit score. So credit scores are one of those things that's a mystery out there. No one releases exactly what goes on, but your balances and making payments on time are the two top things that you can do to improve your score.

Ken White

You know, we hear a lot of especially 20 somethings moving back home with parents, can't afford rent, can't afford to buy what's a good percentage of income that you should be spending on housing? Is there a limit you like?

Jen Lee

So this goes all over the place. I've seen recommendations. And if you do the mortgage underwriting, they'll sometimes go up to like 40 percent of your your your gross income to housing, which I think is a huge number that shouldn't be used. But I, I like about 20 percent of gross income for housing, and it depends on where you live too. I live in California. I have family in North Dakota. So I see a very big difference in cost of living.

Ken White

Hmm-mmm.

Jen Lee

And I do see people in especially the Bay Area of California, Los Angeles, where housing is more than that percentage. But that's just about a factor of the cost of living of the area. But I would say about 20 percent of gross income is what I feel comfortable at.

Ken White

What do you tell people about life insurance in these times? More important than it was pre-COVID, less important?

Jen Lee

I think it's more important. I always think life insurance is important. My background before law school was in life insurance underwriting. And so I find that a lot of my clients that I get for bankruptcy would have benefited if the person that they loved who passed away had life insurance. So I think life insurance is very important. We also don't know what COVID is going to do to insurability if they're going to be long term effects if it's going to cost people to be uninsurable. So I think everyone should have some type of life insurance. The amount varies greatly depending on what you need to protect and what you have for family and that kind of thing. I think it's good for everyone.

Ken White

What are you advising people of all ages in terms of their personal vehicles, rent, lease, buy, cash, payments? What do you think?

Jen Lee

I have a really good lawyer answer. It depends.

Ken White

Of course.

Jen Lee

Cash cars, if you can buy a cash car, that's usually the most economical thing that the first thing that personal finance people will tell you. I'm a little bit more flexible on that. I think if you get a good deal to buy something newer and is going to last for a while and have a low-interest rate, then buying as reasonable. Leasing, if you're a business owner, there are all kinds of things you can do with car leases. So I'm not opposed. I am not a you can never lease a car because it doesn't make sense to rent a vehicle, or you should always buy a cash car. But please watch the amount of money that you're spending each month on a car payment because I've seen some pretty ridiculous car payments that were more than rent. So I would tend to error on the make sure it fits your budget more than buying, leasing, cash, loan that kind of thing.

Ken White

Yeah. As as we head into this, this New Year, what kind of overall advice do you have for not just your clients and our listeners, but for everyone when it comes to their personal finances moving forward in this new year?

Jen Lee

I would say for personal finance goals for anyone is know what you have, know what's in your portfolio of debt and what's in your portfolio of assets. It's scary to look at, and I find I do a lot of debt therapy when we're talking through, trying to figure out what exactly you have and what your plan is for it. It's really easy to put it off to the side and say, I don't want to look at that. I don't want to touch that. I don't want to think about it because it hurts. And so, some good personal finance goals are just to sit down and have a plan. You have to find something that works with you and your family. Some couples are really good about talking about finances. I would say 70 percent of couples are not good at talking about finances. And so you have to find something, a system that works for you and use that system. Don't just let it go off to the wayside. Ignoring the problem is probably what contributes to the most stress. The other thing I'm seeing a lot of is employers, those financial wellness programs. Financial wellness is great. If your already in a good financial place. It's a proactive step to take is financial wellness. Most of the time, I see people who don't benefit for financial wellness programs because they can't even get to a place where knowing how to budget and knowing what their 401K options are are steps they can even take. So I find that financial wellness programs are missing the mark needed.

Ken White

That's our conversation with Jen Lee, and that's it for this episode of Leadership & Business. Our podcast is brought to you by the William & Mary Sc