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My Summer at Vynamic: Experiencing the Power of a Healthy Culture

By Leah Davidson

According to a 2013 Gallup survey, in the corporate world, there are twice as many unhappy employees as happy employees. An Accenture report traced dissatisfaction to a lack of recognition (43%), inability to act on employees’ entrepreneurial desire (35%), a lack of empowerment (31%), and a loss of trust with managers (31%).

“Is it possible to create an environment of empowerment in a more traditional industry like consulting?” This is one of the questions I asked myself as I started my internship at Vynamic, a boutique healthcare industry management consulting firm in Philadelphia founded by former Accenture executive Dan Calista in 2002.

Redefining the Consulting Model

When I first met with Dan in March, he described Vynamic’s company purpose as a belief in a better way to do management consulting. Vynamic has a unique staffing model, each consultant is in control of where they work and what they do, enabling consultants to select projects based on their career interests and skillset. Staying true to its commitment to a healthy culture, Vynamic promotes physical, mental, and emotional well-being at every level of the organization.

The company’s distinct qualities come across during an initial visit to the office, where every room is painted a unique team member’s “I Am” color to represent diversity and inspire a thriving creativity (my favorite was an office colored and named “Livestrong Yellow”); treadmills, sit-to-stand desks, balance balls, and elliptical bike chairs round out the seating options; and a Balance Bar offers an array of nutritious fruit and snacks. It is clear that, as Stew Friedman advocates in his Total Leadership model, Vynamic defines what’s most important and aligns actions with those values.


Davidson post livestrong

davidson post bike

A few of the programs organized internally at Vynamic to promote healthy living include:

  • Choose Your Own Community Adventure – During the summer, Vynamic team members organize service projects to benefit the local community, such as helping the Penn Vet Center with clean up and stuffing envelopes with Food Bucks, which provide healthy food to low-income families. Some Vynamic employees bring children and spouses along to share in the experience. Vynamic donates $100 to a charity of choice for each team member who volunteers an hour of his or her time, and team members can also vote for two charities to receive a $5000 corporate donation. I spent a Sunday afternoon in the beautiful Franklin Square volunteering at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Annual Picnic, a celebration for 900 children and mentors filled with Star Wars characters, food, crafts, and carousel rides. CYOCA is a perfect example of what Friedman calls four-way wins integrating work, home, community, and the private self. Community service increases work commitment and spiritual uplift and also allows the entire family to partake in company activities.

davidson post thrive live

Courtesy of Vynamic

  • Thrive Live – Every month, Vynamic coordinates social events to promote team connectivity. During my 11-week internship, I participated in a cupcake competition (so delicious!), a Dave and Buster’s arcade night, and a cheesesteak testing around Philadelphia with the new Indego bike-share program.

davidson post feast

Courtesy of Vynamic

  • Women at Vynamic Experience (WAVE) – To support women’s professional development, Vynamic offers personal coaching as well as quarterly breakfasts on themes such as executive presence, networking, and the art of self-promotion. These offer a forum for women to discuss the unique challenges they face in the workplace and engage men in conversations about leadership.
  • Be Your Best Self – Vynamic has a dedicated Health and Care Lead. As part of the programming, team members can set quarterly goals toward healthy living and receive $100 per quarter (up to $400 per year). This benefit encourages employees to try out new activities, such as learning a foreign language or trying Pilates for the first time.
  • zzzMail – The company has a policy to not send emails between 10 pm and 6 am or on weekends to reduce stress and allow people to enjoy more restful sleep and family time.
  • Healthy Hour – From financial planning sessions to healthy cooking demos, Vynamic holds activities on Fridays in the office to foster continuous education. I met Andrew Stober, a city council candidate, and heard his views on the future of public transportation in Philadelphia, learned how to make delicious Mediterranean orzo salad, and discovered the art of mindfulness during my first yoga session.

Engaging The Entire Person

With a core value of “growing for our people, not at the expense of our people” and “thriving with freedom to apply our unique strengths,” Vynamic offers an alternative to the typical corporate hierarchy, structured yet non-hierarchical. New hires are asked to choose a color that embodies their personality, and these are proudly showcased on business cards, the website, and the office wall.

The company uses Yammer as an internal social network to post updates, praise team members, share healthcare industry news, and commemorate company events through photos and videos. They also leverage a document repository, which gives employees access to everything from deliverables from all completed consulting projects to recruiting materials and scores from past happiness surveys (yes, there is a quarterly “Happiness Survey”!). Even as an intern, I appreciated feeling engaged in the company’s culture and knowledgeable about the strategic vision.

Too Good to be True?

Before joining Vynamic, I spoke with a Wharton alum about why she chose Vynamic. She explained, “I used to get anxiety about receiving that phone call, saying you have to be on a plane the next morning. And I knew that as I progressed at a larger consulting firm, I would still have to be away from my kids several days per week. This is the first time that I’ve woken up each morning and felt excited about coming to work.” My immediate thought was that Vynamic sounded too perfect.

After a summer at Vynamic, I can tell that employees face the same challenges as anyone would expect in a demanding client-facing role – many also juggle parenting multiple children under the age of five; however, the organizational design doesn’t force people to choose between their personal and career aspirations. Instead, it embraces the full person.

Vynamic shows how companies can foster four-way wins to promote effective leadership in all aspects of one’s life. Hopefully, more will heed its example.

About the Author

Leah Davidson, Wharton class of 2016, is majoring in Economics with concentrations in Management and Global Innovation and a minor in English.

Leah Davidson

Character in the C-Suite: Fred Kiel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life Stew Friedman spoke with Fred Kiel, a psychologist, author of Return on Character: The Real Reason Leaders and their Companies Win and coauthor of Moral Intelligence. For more than thirty years, he has helped Fortune 500 CEOs and senior executives.  And he’s known for his popular TED talk, Psychopaths in the C-Suite. They discussed how leadership character produces results at work and in other parts of life.

Stew Friedman: Let’s start with the definition of character; how do you define character?

Fred Kiel: fred kielWe look at character in two different ways.   Everyone has their own self view of their character, and only you know what that is, what is in your heart, your intentions.  Most people view themselves as being highly principled and having strong character. However your character is revealed in how you treat other people and that is all that other people see; your behavior. So people judge your character based on your behavior, they view it as a reflection of what is in your heart.

SF: So these are two very different things, aren’t they? How you view yourself and how the world sees you.  And is character something that you see as immutable or is it possible to develop our own moral intelligence as you mature in life?

FK: I think it is very much possible to grow and develop; people do all the time. How you treat other people, a reflection of your character, is a matter of habit.  We have identified a long list of habits, or ways that people reveal their character, and based on how they treat other people.  Because they are habits, they can be changed. You can strengthen habits and you can replace bad habits with good habits; we all know that from other experiences in life. If you change your habits in the way you treat other people, it begins to change the inner you as well, and you become a stronger, more principled person.

SF: Can you give us an example, perhaps from your book, Return on Character, of one of the most prominent habits you see going awry and how to change that habit?

FK: One very good habit that leaders would be very wise to emulate is showing an interest in the development of other people, showing an interest in their personal goals as people.  Leaders are thought to be very goal-focused and a big mistake many leaders make is that they don’t stop to think about the fact that they have relationships with people.  They fail to show that interest in people and that has a major impact on the commitment and the level of engagement of the people around them.

SF: My late friend and mentor, Joel DeLuca, used to say, “relationships before strategy” as way to capture that.

FK: That’s a great way of saying it.

SF: If you have been trained and rewarded for getting results, without really caring about those around you as human beings beyond what they provide in terms of value in the work place, then how can you change that habit?

FK: The first step in habit change is to become acutely aware of the nuances of how you treat other people as objects.  The only way that you can get really objective data from others is through anonymous surveys. We have a 360 tool that we help people use to get that clarity. Maybe it is a series of different behaviors such as walking down the hallway and not giving people eye contact because you are on phone, or looking at your smart phone when you are in a meeting, or when you are talking to someone.   All of that telegraphs that I am not very interested in you as a person. So awareness is the first step.  The second step is deciding how important this is to you that you want to change. One of the things that we have done through our research is to show the impact these bad behaviors, bad habits, have on the bottom line. They really do diminish the bottom line in financial terms.

SF: Tell us how you found that.   What did you find in your observations about the connections between character and economic outcomes for businesses?

FK: We collected the return on assets for the two years prior to the time that we conducted our research with each CEO in our study. Then we compared return on asset figures for the ten strongest character CEO’s and teams in our study compared to those at the other end of the character spectrum, the low character CEO’s.  We found, amazingly, nearly 5 times the amount of return on assets for the strong character CEO’s vs. those CEOs low on character.

SF: How did you distinguish between these types of CEO’s in terms of their strong or weak characters?

FK:  Cultural anthropologists have identified certain practices and beliefs that people all over the world practice.  We chose four of these universal moral principles that all cultures teach their children; integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion. For those four moral principles we the identified a whole list of behavioral indicators of those four principles. We began with 65 and, through our research, we cut it down it a shorter list of 25.  Then we selected random samples of employees to rate how often the CEO’s and their senior teams display those behaviors.  So, for example, behaviors for integrity is how often they tell the truth and keep their promises.  For responsibility, for example, we ask how often do they own up to their own mistakes and accept the consequences of their decisions. For forgiveness, it was how often do they respond in a curious, forgiving way rather than a shaming and blaming way.  And finally on compassion, it’s how often do they show an interest in people and their personal goals and how often do they treat people as people versus treating them as objects. Once we had the independent ratings from random samples of employees we created an algorithm that put them together in to one overall score, which we call the ‘character score.’ Then we were able to rank these 84 CEO’s based on the strength of their ‘character score.’ And we got a nice spread; it was a matrix that could go from 0 to 100; the highest scoring CEO and team was at 92 and the lowest was at 54.  Then we looked at the two extremes.  We selected the bottom ten CEO’s and their teams and we compared those to the top.  There were really no significant differences in tenure, age or education.  But when we put in the character measures it just jumped out.  Nearly five times greater for the strong character CEO’s.  Also for the level of workforce engagement, it was 26% higher.  The high character CEO’s had a much lower risk profile in legal incidents and lower audit fees compared to their revenue base and fewer morality issues, fewer union problems for those workforces.

SF: So it pays to be good! Phyllis is calling from Pennsylvania.  Phyllis welcome to work and life.

Phyllis: As we are moving forward to a society that is more social media driven, one that has virtual office workers where everyone is communicating via email and managing tasks via email, how do you suggest employees or leaders start driving more towards knowing their employees better, understanding what their interests are and their goals are? I think we are getting a bit disconnected.  I have been in Information Technology for about 17 years and I have seen us moving to a virtual environment in communicating and we are not doing a good job of it. I think we are getting disconnected with people.

SF: That’s a great point that you raise Phyllis, about being less connected. Fred, what do you think about how the digital age has changed the nature of how character is revealed and expressed?

FK: This is the new normal.  Most organizations are global. They not only have distances to deal with, they have different time zones to deal with, so it is definitely a challenge.  But technology is also filling in with face-time services like Google Hangout and others.  I work in a virtual organization and only three or four times a year do I see all of our company together in one spot. We have a lot of opportunities to talk remotely through technology. It takes more effort but there is a real art and skill to showing who you are to another person even when you are on the telephone. With email you have to pay special attention to make it very conversational and to focus on not being so very curt and short, as most of emails are.  It really pays dividends to build relationships that way.

SF: So what do you do to make it work in your organization?  What have you seen in strong character leaders in terms of how they operate virtually? What kinds of things specifically, what sorts of habits do they bring to bear on their relationships?

FK: When anyone started off every meeting just by getting right to the tactics, it could be a problem.  There’s usually some conversations in the beginning, and, just like in face-to-face meetings, they are run by people who have relationships. They just don’t jump in to the business context, they talk about events surrounding them and what you might call small talk, but that is just increasing the lubrication for the relationship.  That can be done by telephones, Face-Time and Skype, for example, just as well as in person.

SF: But the tendency, that Phyllis is raising here, is for us to ignore the pleasantries and small talk, as you call it, that are the grease that make the wheels of relationships run. So how do we reverse that? If you are caught up in the hamster wheel of virtual relationships that get right in to business what can you do to break in to that?

FK: I think it is a matter of awareness and personal discipline to not let that happen. Relationships require maintenance and a lot of people overlook that.  That’s why we have such a disconnected workforce in many companies; because leaders treat employees like objects and don’t pay attention to the relationship. Mangers need to see and understand the connection; if you behave this way it has an impact on the bottom line.  The best place to start is to increase awareness because that provides the fuel for wanting to take care of this as an issue.

SF: The awareness provides the motivation.  I would like to pick up on what you speak about and in your book, Return on Character, as the real reason leaders and their companies win. You have got a blue print there for building your own leadership character and creating character driven organizations that drive better business results. How can people build their own leadership character to make it stronger than it is right now; where should one begin?

FK: You need to begin by popping the bubble we live in. All of us have our own cherished view of ourselves. Everyone views themselves as being of strong character. Through our research we discovered that of these 84 CEO’s there were about 30% of them that had a fairly accurate view. But the other 70 percent grossly overestimated themselves. They were at the bottom of the curve, based on the surveys of their employees, but rated themselves higher than how the so-called virtuoso CEOs rated themselves!

SF: So there is a humility factor with the high character, virtuoso, CEOs.

FK: But CEO’s at the bottom of the curve rated themselves 30 times higher than their employees rated them. So first step in change is to pop that bubble and it is difficult.

SF: Scary.

FK: Most people don’t want to tell you the truth; they learn ways to work around your annoying habits rather than telling what they are. So it is only with real persistence that you are able to get people to tell you the truth. You need to make it very safe for them by being very open and reacting with curiosity rather than by being defensive.

SF: Most people are fearful of speaking truth to power so, as a boss, how do you make it easy for somebody to tell you that you are causing problems for them?  And how can you stay open and keep those channels for feedback open so that you are continually learning how you come across, in terms of your character, to people around you?  How do you keep those channels open?

FK: If you are a boss, one way to demonstrate to others that is safe to give feedback is to openly talk about what you understand are some of your weaknesses and mistakes.  Openly ask, ‘I’m open to hear more about this and that’s why I would love to get feedback’. Now if you have a history of not being so open, then you often won’t have people who are willing to say anything. So it will be a challenge.  You may turn to using a 360 tool to provide people with the cover of anonymity in order to get feedback. If you do use the 360 tool, then you are not able to get a very accurate picture from your direct reports. We discovered that direct reports live in the same bubble along with their manager.  Or they are too fearful that they are going to be identified so they don’t tell the truth. We found that we got much different pictures when we went lower in the organization.  When you cast your net wide then you get real anonymity and the wisdom of the crowd, so you get the best judgment.

SF: So the best data for senior executives is at least a level or two removed from where they sit?

FK: Yes, two or three levels down.

SF: But then you have people observing from afar so they are making attributions about very limited data in terms of what they can observe, right?

FK: This is the beauty of the wisdom of the crowd.  When you combine the judgments of people who are independent of each other then you may only have a certain piece of the puzzle.  But with all aggregated and averaged you will come in with a very accurate picture as has been demonstrated over and over.

SF: So the place to start really is to have the courage to look at what people see when they see you. How does this affect your capacity to bring together work with other parts of your life? If  your character central to who you are, then by being a strong character leader, someone who demonstrates these habits of integrity, compassion, responsibility and forgiveness,  how does that help in terms of being able to create a sense of harmony between work and family and community?

FK: As you change your outward behavior, that is the outer journey.   But there is usually an inner journey that people take when they are focusing on strengthening their character habits. Most people go through an inner journey of trying to understand their whole life and create their own personal narrative. A coherent narrative helps to make sense of some of the painful and unhappy experiences earlier in their lives and they can see the impact these have had on the person they are today. This is just a process of becoming a more integrated person.  Often when you become more other-centered, that is what character is all about; it is becoming more other-centered.  The more you become other-centered the more that you find you are curious about others rather than judgmental.  And all of that is an inner journey that helps to become a more integrated person.   As people achieve that sense of integration they generally report a much more sense of balance and peacefulness in their lives.  They have had time for inner reflections so that they pay attention to other things that are important to them other than just career.

SF: I suspect that you have worked with people who have had transformative experiences that kind of shock them into realizing there’s a problem with their character. What is it that typically up ends a person’s view of themselves that opens them to creating some change?

FK: Well the common concept is that of a wakeup call and that can happen in any number of ways.  For example, having your spouse say, “Honey we need to talk.”   And then to discover that things are fraying at the edges with regard to your home life. That can be a wakeup call.  But just getting the data in 360 [feedback from those around you] about how the organization views you, what your reputation is in the organization, can be a real dramatic wake-up call. We have the experience of that being a jarring experience for people to have their bubble popped, to see how they are truly viewed by others.

SF: Especially the people at the lower end of the spectrum of character. You must get a lot of resistance from people who see a view of themselves that is shocking and discordant with their own view.

FK: Actually we don’t.  If you position this as something that is really smart for them to do, they understand that there is a connection between how they treat people and the bottom line.  And they are motivated to improve the bottom line. And then, of course, the art of being a helper in this kind of journey with somebody is not to be judgmental but to shepherd them through this process. Usually when you give that data to people they take it in what appears to be pretty reasonable fashion.  You find out in the next few days that they have gone through a more dramatic, more painful time. We always say this is not the kind of information that will harm you; it will cause you pain but it won’t be any kind of pain that harms you.  In fact it is the kind of pain that is necessary for growth.

SF: When asking students and clients to do a form of 360 that involves not just their work environment but the other parts of their lives as well, when they engage in dialogue to discover directly how other people see them and they are fearful of doing this because they are afraid of what they are going to find out, my offer to them is wouldn’t you rather know than not know? Leaders have to deal with reality, don’t they?

I am going to be at graduation this weekend here at the University of Pennsylvania and at the Wharton school’s MBA program graduation.  What would you say to the graduates here about what they can be doing and thinking about with respect to taking their characters to the next level of strength and development?

FK: I would ask all of them to reserve time in their lives for reflection and for getting feedback.  They should approach life with curiosity and openness.   That is the best formula for moving down the road of character development; is to be open and vulnerable and curious.

SF: You have been studying this for a long time; what changes have you seen at the top of organizations in the time that you have been in this field and exploring questions of character in the business world?

FK: I have seen some remarkable changes where people come to me privately and say, “How did you manage to pull off a personality transplant?” And it is not that we do that at all.  It is just that we bring the tools to people to really get in touch with who they want to be as people so that their outer behavior matches more closely with their intentions and with the good person that they believe they are and want to be.

SF: It is not magic, there’s a method.

What about the changes in society? What have you seen over the last couple of decades in terms of values, aspirations and character of leaders at the top of organizations?   What trends have you observed?

FK: Over the last 3 or 4 decades we have evolved into much more of a me-focused society especially as it relates to business leaders and other leaders.  But I see encouraging green shoots coming up to change that. Harvard business review just published an article yesterday on compassion and leadership that would never have been something that would have been in that kind of publication even two years ago. So I think society is changing. We also have a whole new group of young people coming up called the millennials that I am pretty high on.  I see them as people that are much more willing to take a look at these kinds of issues and place a higher priority on character development and relationships.

SF: I am seeing that too, not only with my students, but also in our 20-year longitudinal survey. I agree that there is hope for the future as more young people are thinking of what it means to have a positive social presence and impact in the world.

For more information about Fred Kiel visit his web site www.returnoncharacter.com and follow him on Twitter @FKiel.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Empowering girls: If You Can See It, You Can Be It — Katlyn Grasso

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life Stew spoke with Katlyn Grasso, a senior at Wharton pursuing a B.S. in Economics with concentrations in finance and strategic globalization. In addition to the many leadership roles Katlyn holds at Wharton, she is also a Community Leader for the United Nation’s Girl Up initiative and C-E-O and Founder of GenHERation, a female empowerment network for high school girls.  Katlyn and GenHERation have been featured in numerous national media outlets, including Forbes, The Huffington Post Live, and Seventeen Magazine where Katlyn was included on their list of “Real Girls Doing Amazing Things. She just won the University of Pennsylvania President’s Engagement Prize, and she’ll be using the funds to host conferences nationwide for 15,000 girls.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman:  Katlyn,  what is genHERation?

Katlyn GrassoKatlyn GrassoGreat question. Gen-HER-ation is a female empowerment network for high school girls.  We’re an online platform that connects girls with national corporations and nonprofits to launch advocacy campaigns on a monthly basis. For example, this month we are working with an international branding house, Brandberry; they are challenging the girls to create a socially conscious brand. The girls have the whole month to submit their ideas. At the end of the month we will put all the ideas into a poll and the girls vote on them.  The winner of this challenge will get to work on their product idea with Brandberry, the branding house for wild Disney and the Wiggles and they do really incredible work.

SF: What’s the Wiggles?

KG: You don’t know what the Wiggles are? I think they are an Australian singing group on the Disney channel.  They’re for the four to eight year old audience.  They’re big deal.  And we have also worked with other companies like ESPNW and The American Heart Association.   We have some other partnerships coming up with Roominate, which was just named by Time magazine Toy of the year for girls. Our website is also a comprehensive media outlet for girls.  Every day we have informative content including videos.  We do interviews in a question and an answer session on our website. We also give away scholarships for girls.

SF: What types of scholarships?

KG: We do scholarships for projects.  So, if a girl wants to launch her own advocacy campaign we can fund that.  But we also fund scholarships for colleges or camps girls want to pursue or online courses they may want to take.

SF: How did all this came to life?

KG: I have always been really passionate about empowering girls.  I drank the Kool-aid; I went to an all-girl school, was a girl scout and when I came to Wharton I thought someday I want to have a Katlyn Grasso Leadership Institute for girls which will be a high school.  Girls have to step up and become leaders if there are no boys that would be hogging the spotlight.  So when they need someone to lead the team or when they need someone to be the class president, then it has to be a girl. When I came to Penn I was sort of shocked that in my classes — and I take financial classes so they are pretty male-dominated — girls were afraid to raise their hands in class because raise their hands even if they don’t know the answers!

SF: I have never seen that happen. Just kidding!  So that’s still a thing, as you said, in your finance classes?

KG: Yeah. Girls they have to make sure they are 100%.

But I think even earlier in my career here, when I said I want to be an entrepreneur and I started googling who are female entrepreneurs and CEO’s, I found that there are very few.  I wanted to create role models, relatable models, for teenage girls 13 to 15 years old so that they could aspire to be like them. I always had the mantra that if you can see it, you can be it.  And it becomes harder when you are in those finance bio-tech, tech worlds so that you need someone out there encouraging you to get out there and get over those huddles that are in those fields.  That’s why I created genHERation.

SF: To provide role models and inspiration for girls to see and be able to say, “I see that, so that means I can be that.”

KG: Right.  I also think that the experiential learning platform is important. Every month, working with a different company, girls actually implement these projects. Last year when we did a campaign with the American Heart Association the winner went to a charter school in New Jersey.  The girl came up with an after school program for CPR training that was implemented in nine schools in the district and she put that together herself.

SF: Is that a high schooler?

KG: Yeah a 10th grader in Newark.

SF: Wow!

KG: We have had girls do financial leadership campaigns where they do financial lessons for girls in schools or communities and arrange advocacy campaigns where they learn so much about themselves.

SF: And about their capacity to lead.

KG: Yeah.  Because even with my experience as an entrepreneur, you really don’t know what you are capable of until you have set really high goals. Sometimes they seem impossible, and then when you achieve them and you say, “Wow! If I could do that I can do anything!”

SF: What was the goal for genHERation when you first started?

KG: I don’t know if I had a really clear cut goal.  I was listening to your earlier guest, Dr. Ned Haollowell, and he was talking about entrepreneurs having a race car mind. I definitely have a racecar mind. We are a year old; we launched our campaign on March 1st 2014 and we have reached 10,000 girls since then. I didn’t think we would be that big in our first year. I just said I want to provide quality content and experiences for these girls so that they feel motivated to go out and make changes in their communities. When we launched our pilot program I said I want to reach 250 girls.  Over the summer we held our first Summer Leadership Series and we visited five cities across the U.S. to hold workshops for high schools girls — and we had over 500 attendees.

At the end of the summer I said I want a 1000 members and then we started growing.  But the true impact that genHERation can have on a girl’s life is not quantifiable.  I go back to that girl in New Jersey who was in the charter school. One day she called me to talk about this project and she said, “Katlyn, thank you for taking a chance on me because no one ever has.”  When I get emails from girls and they thank me so much for helping them pursue their dream; that’s really what is all about for me.

SF: Who influenced you and helped you along the way?

KG: I think there are so many people. I have I great family, my mom, my dad and my sister I am going to be starting a campaign called Dad’s for Daughters soon. I think having strong male role models in your life is important.  When I came a Wharton I really just started talking to anyone and everyone who would listen to me about entrepreneurship and I have met a lot great professors here. I work at the Small Business Development center where I have met incredible entrepreneurs.  Just rounding yourself with positive, optimistic people; they are the ones who have really helped me achieve success.

SF: Let’s talk about Dad’s for Daughters; tell us more about that initiative, what is it about and where you would like it to go?

KG: It’s still in its very early stages but I am working on a really big project that I hope will take place around Father’s Day this year. Growing up I realized what a big role my dad played in my leadership development journey and I realized some dads are not taking this role in their daughters’ lives. I thought that if we really want to get dads who are in the highest positions of power — CEO’s of companies, athletes and professors — coming together and saying,  “We have daughters and we want to pay them as equals to their male counterparts. We want them to be promoted and we want them to work in the tech industry as well.”

We need to come together and raise public awareness about this. I had a conference in the fall here at the Penn Museum for about 200 girls. I put together ideas for my Dad’s for Daughters panel and my dad came down from Buffalo to speak.  It was a big deal.  We also had Michael Rinzler, a Wharton MBA and CEO of  Wicked Cool Toys who has a two-year old daughter. I met him because he is also on the board of a company called Women In Toys, an organization that I am a part of. I was like Michael?  Is it Michelle?  He was a guy.   And he said,  “I think it’s important for me as a man in this industry, and someone who has a wife and a daughter, to stick up for the rights of women and to encourage their advancements.”

SF: What are the keys for fathers?  There is are lot of fathers listening out there who might be thinking,  “I would like my daughter to grow up to be like Katlyn.” What do they need to do?

KG: I think it’s really about being optimistic. My dad always said, “What’s the worst thing that any one could say? No?”  I think that’s why he is a natural salesman. I grew up seeing that he would always do anything it took to close the deal; he would be persistent. That always stood out to me; you have to keep on knocking on doors, pounding on pavement, you have to go on. I think it’s really important to be there when your daughters are going to fall, or have a hard time, and when they are applying to college. You need to say, “You know what?  It’s going to get better from here.”

I also have a younger sister so it’s not like there was a boy in my family.  I always thought that I could do anything that a boy could do.  I never thought because I am a girl I might not be able to do this.

SF: Was there something that your father said or did or implied that made you feel that way?

KG: I think he was just always there for me when I started my first business, Tap for Tots, and I didn’t even know if that was going to work out.  I have tap danced for 18 years now and my first business was teaching kids how to tap dance. When I started I couldn’t drive yet and he drove me to all my appointments during the summer.  And I just said thanks dad for always believing in me. I think it was just for always being there.  It’s not anything I think that they can say or do in particular but it’s just being the number one fan in the audience.

SF: What has been the most challenging part of bringing genHERation to life?

KG: I think this is what the importance of dads for daughters. Being a female entrepreneur can sometimes be the biggest thing that gets in your way.

SF: How so?

KG: I was pitching for a competition here last year. I was the only female finalist out of 10 contestants. They were MBAs, not a junior, like me.  It was a practice pitch and there were two male judges there. One of the male judges just stopped me in the middle of what I was saying.  And I am like, “What did you say?”  And he said, “I just want to tell you right now that this is a good effort and everything, but you are a girl. I don’t know how far this is going to go.”  I am seeing your face right now, Stew, and that’s how I felt.

SF: My jaw is dropping.

KG: He said, “This is cute and everything, but I don’t know if it could be a full time venture.”

SF: I am so sorry to hear that.

KG: I left there and that was the day I started, right after I called my mum and said, “Can you believe that this even happened?”  And she said, “You know what, this is going to happen in the business world. People are going to try to bring you down. You have to keep going on.”  And when talked to my dad he said, “They are never going to understand unless they have daughters of their own.”  Hence the idea for Dads for Daughters was born. I think being a female entrepreneur, especially being a young female entrepreneur, sometimes people don’t take you seriously.  You always have to go in even more prepared, showing why you are just as worth it.

SF: D you see that happening in your generation in the same way it has in prior generations?  Or do you think the dynamics of men and women in the work place have changed so that it’s easier for men and women to play different roles than they might have played traditionally?  There are now more women in positions of power and authority in the public professional world and men having a more active role at home. Do you see change happening?

KG: I think that there is no saying that I can’t work in this bank because I am a woman. I think I have the same skills as my male counterparts but I think in the entrepreneurial world — I am in the venture initiation program here, the incubator program for student startups at Penn — and there are about 30 ventures in it between the Philly campus and the San Francisco campus.  I can name three women in that. Women aren’t prominent in entrepreneurship yet.  I am not saying it’s a bit of an old boys club.  I think it’s because women are less likely, they see it as a risk to be in entrepreneurship. Other than that time [in the contest] I have actually never been discouraged by people saying girls cannot be entrepreneurs.  But there are just so few of them that when I tell my friends you should be an entrepreneur they are like,  “I can’t do that; that’s too risky and I don’t have the skill for that.”

I say, “Why not?”  When I ask them that they don’t even have an answer. I think they just think that’s a career that’s sort of off limits for them.

SF: What do you think is causing that sense of inhibition where these young women are hesitant to take the initiative?

KG: I think entrepreneurship is seen as something that is unstable; one day you may have a job and one day you might not have a job. I always thought that there is a greater likelihood if I worked for bigger corporation that one day they just say we went bankrupt I could get fired just because I am the young analyst on the totem pole. If it’s my company, sure maybe we don’t have a big capital like the investment bank, but I have control over my finances, how much money I want to make, in my day to day life. I feel more in control of my life in that way.  But other people don’t really see it in that way.

SF: What do you see as you look as the next five or ten years how do you see the world unfolding in terms of opportunities for men and women and how men and women are going to be working together both at work and at home?

KG: I think Sheryl Sandberg is the exemplary female icon of this generation saying we need equal agendas at the table. I think we are going to move to parity.  But I think the big change will come in politics.  I think that there would need to be a female president because when you look around the world the United States is 75th on the list on women empowerment.  There are more women in government in Rwanda, Pakistan and Iraq.

I think wow, we don’t have enough women in legislative positions who are working on daycare at work for women, paternity or maternity leave. The legislators aren’t even considering these issues just because they are not women.

SF: Unless men take a greater role for domestic responsibility and child rearing as they are starting to.

KG: Right and I think they are starting to but not the majority.

I think having the example, not even a female president, but more female governors and more women in Congress.  I think that will be a big shift. I also think there is a lot to be done about how women are portrayed in the media. I did a social impact research experience — a program that we do here at Wharton where they give students grants to study over the summer. Last summer I studied how girls’ consumption of media influences leadership development.  I was fascinated to see how the websites and the television shows that girls consume affects their daily lives. I interviewed about 500 people and 92% of them said that they don’t think that the media they consume portrays women in an equal light.

We see this but we don’t take action.  There has been an emergence of shows that are putting women in positions of political power to show that women can achieve. This goes back to my concept of if you can see it, you can be it, and that means female journalists. When you look at female journalists delivering hard hitting news about middle eastern conflicts — its usually not women, its usually men. Men sort of get seen as the trusted sources on important issues and bring more people in because it’s just a subconscious bias, you don’t even think about that.

SF: If you think about the rest of life — and let’s just look at family life — we have been talking about community and changing the cultural values and the iconography of who has the voice of authority and who has institutional power. At home how do you see the roles of men and women evolving in your generation?

KG: I think they will be equal because I think men and women both want to have families and I don’t think women now are content to stay at home. Women are earning more advanced degrees and at higher rate than their male counterparts.  That’s a lot of time and money invested.  So obviously they want to put that to work. I think what we are going to see is that not only are people going to want to have an active role in the household but companies are going to need to adjust in order for there to be more life and work balance.

SF: What do you think is the most important thing for young women to be thinking about in terms of breaking what remains a glass ceiling in large companies especially of reaching positions of authority and power?

KG: I just think that they need to be persistent and not let anyone or anything upset their perception of themselves as leaders.  They can’t worry about what their male bosses or their female bosses might say. They just have to go on with their goals and say I am going to achieve this and make sure that they are surrounding themselves with the right mentors and sponsors to elevate themselves up to those leadership positions.

SF: What’s the best way to get started in developing a network of support?  I am sure that is something you must address on genHERation?

KG: Yes. My best advice is talk to everyone and anyone. I think you can learn as much from a taxi driver as you can learn from a CEO of a company. You never know what you can learn from someone or how that can influence how you think about something.

SF: You’re graduating from Wharton.  What happens next?

KG: We will be working on growing genHERation fulltime in the beginning of May.  We are going to have a big announcement about a summer program. Then I will just continue and growing the company.

To find out more about Katly Grasso and GenHeration visit their web site www.genheration.com and follow on Twitter @KatlynGrasso and @GenHeration

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

How To Invest in Boys — Michael Thompson

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life Stew Friedman spoke with Michael Thompson, a consultant, author, and psychologist specializing in children and families.  He is the co-author of the New York Times best-selling book, Raising Cain: Protecting The Emotional Life of Boys as well as the author of Speaking of Boys: Answers to the Most-Asked Questions About Raising Sons, and It’s a Boy!: Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to EighteenThey spoke about how our hyper macho culture affects boys and ultimately all of us

Stew Friedman: There’s a great deal of focus on girl power, on women leaning in,  on not on using the word ‘bossy’ to describe women, so how did you come to focus is on boys?  Aren’t boys and men the dominant group?  Why do they need our help and special attention?

Michael Thompson: I wrote my doctoral dissertation on, anorexia nervosa — a disease of self-starvation that’s far and away a female disorder.  It’s the second most lethal disorder in psychiatry and it comes about because girls get obsessed with the idea of thinness and they starve themselves.

If you had told me 30 years ago that I was going to end up studying boys, I would have said that’s absurd.  But I began to consult to schools and the overwhelming number of referrals to a school psychologist are boys.  There are more depressed and anxious boys under the age of 10.  There are more boys with learning problems.  And, of course, there are far more disciplinary problems.  Two-thirds to three-quarters of school suspensions and expulsions are boys.  When you get into a school setting, the kids who give teachers trouble, and the kids who get into disciplinary trouble are boys, not girls.

Over my years of school consultation, I’ve seen girls, to a significant extent, thriving more than boys were.  In my lifetime, I’m 68 years old, the academic fortunes of girls and boys have flip flopped. When I graduated from high school in 1965, 58% of college graduates were young men. The pendulum has swung from one side to the other.  56% of graduate degrees now go to young women.  Girls outperform boys in school: in elementary school, middle schools, high school, college and graduate school.   Boys never catch up.

SF: What do you do to help them?

MT: I run workshops for teachers about the nature of boys.  What are the brain differences, between boys and girls?  What are acceptable behaviors that they are going to see in boys which will sometimes disrupt the classroom and which will make some teachers feel boys are the enemy of what they’re trying to do?

SF: Are teachers receptive to this?

MT: They’re really receptive because many teachers see that boys struggle more in school, and they want to help them.  They find that the boys can’t sit still.  I had a woman, I met at an International School in China.  She said she was the first woman teacher at a boy’s Catholic school in a very rough area of London.  She said, “Boys spend the first two years trying to freak me out and gross me out.”  She said that once she passed the test, she was in and stayed there for nine years nine month teaching boys.  She said, “The thing I learned is you can’t ask boys to sit for more than 20 minutes. You have to let them get up and move because by school age, three quarters of the boys in the classroom are more physically active than any girl.”

SF: You were one of the experts who appeared in the film, ‘The Mask You Live In.’ I recently facilitated a conversation about that film here at The Wharton School at the invitation of a group of men centered around the rugby team.  So these were super macho dudes.  They call themselves “the 22’s” to represent how much less women are paid than men in our society.  They’re committed to try to close that gap.  We screened this film and had fantastic discussion about it, and you were one of the people who spoke so eloquently about the risks of hyper masculinity in our society.  One of the points you made, Michael, was that, when you look at the distribution of attributes comparing men and women, there are mostly overlapping.  Mostly men and women are alike in so many ways.  It’s only at the extremes that you see differences.

MT: Some people want to simplistically say, “Boys and girls are the same. Any differences are a result of social learning and training. We just leave them alone they’ll be very, very similar.”  Other people want to say, “Well, the boy brain and the girl brain, as if they were separate brains.”

The truth, as far as I’m concerned, is that the male and female brains are 85% overlapping.  For the most part, children need for love, and attention, and support, and guidance and challenge; they’re mainly the same.  That’s why co-ed schooling works.  If they had two separate brains, then we shouldn’t have the same schooling for both.  But on a number of dimensions, boys and girls, as a group, differ dramatically.

One is physicality; two is the way boys and girls use language; and the other is the standard behaviors which boys, I believe, are biologically wired for, which are dominancy.  A first grade boy may come up to another boy and start a friendship by saying, “I can run faster than you.”  Elementary teachers whose take is “Oh, that’s not nice. We have to fix that. Those boys lack empathy.  Those boys are mean.”

SF: But this is their way of connecting.

MT: Yes, that competitive invitation is often the way boys fall into friendship.

SF: Our show is about works and life and there are a lot of parents out there who worry about their sons.  It distracts them while they are at work and can cause them to fail to be able to pay attention to things that matter to them at work.  What advice do you have for parents of boys in our society to be able to be the kind of mother or father that they want to be and still be able to attend to the things that matter to them in other parts of their lives, such as work?

MT: Because a lot of mothers and fathers worry about their under achieving boys, their boys not living up to their potential, their boys not being organized,  I often ask the dad, “When did you become organized, to take the initiative, to do your homework on your own?”

SF: I was about 49, I think!  Most people would say that I wasn’t organized then either.

MT: Right.  Most of them at least marry somebody will help them organize. Most men answer, Freshman year in college.  Junior year in college. First year of graduate school.”  Then I ask women, When did you get to be an organized student in school?” And they say 4th and 5th grade, 3rd grade, kindergarten, 5th grade, 6th grade.” It’s very different.

Boys and girls, as a group, take to school differently.  Boys often think that they’re in it alone. There’s no team work.   Research has shown that boys work better in conditions of team work, competition, movement, and getting up and showing off. Boys say, “I don’t like to write.” Well, they don’t like to write in a 5th grade journal that they’re supposed to keep about their feelings.  They know it’s really a diary.  They want to write science fiction.  They want to write action.  There are a lot of elementary school teachers who think that they are doing a service as if they were doing violence prevention.  But there is no relationship between what you write in 5th grade and whether you turn out to be a violent person!

SF: The well-meaning redirection takes the boy away from what is natural to him.  So how can parents do to deal with the worries they have about their boys so that they can get their own work done?

MT: I try and get them to stop worrying. Moms worry constantly that their boys are too active, that they’re going to be trouble in school, they’re headed down a bad road.  What I’m telling moms is that if you love your son, if you have good teachers, he may get into trouble because he got up on the desk, he was standing on his chair, and he was telling something to friends across the room but you do not need to panic about that.  If your boy has things he loves, even if it’s sports and you think that that is not academic, if he shows perseverance and focus, and if he is a good member of a team, then all those abilities he is developing are going to serve him very well.

SF: What you tell dads who worry about their sons?  How do you help fathers to stay calm and assured about their son’s development?

MT: Many adult men believe that masculinity has to be won through a series of tests.  It’s a very common belief in men.  Women, somehow, believe they’re going to go from being girls to women without passing tests.  Boys and men devise tests for each other:  Are you truly masculine? Are you truly tough?  Are you truly strong?  Are you not scared?

Of course, most of us are scared on the inside.  When you’re a boy, you worry, “I’m not going to win the respect of other boys. Therefore I’m not going to be a respectable man.” There are a lot fathers who still have that fear for their son, and who think that their sons aren’t going to be tough enough, aren’t going to be strong enough.  The fathers, instead of actually talking to their boys, are constantly benchmarking them. They’re evaluating them.  I work in an all-boys private school outside Boston.  They tell me their fathers try to start a conversation that goes something like this: “How are things going in math?” That’s not a conversation. That’s a conversation killer. That means my father wants me to tell him entertaining stories of how I’m getting high grades in Math.  That’s’ every boy hears and starts to close down.

SF: What’s a better way to approach that?

MT: “Do you like Mr. Bailey better than Mr. Anderson?”  That’s a father who knows the name of his son’s two Math teacher, this years’ and last years.’  That’s a father asking his son a question that only one person can ever answer; his son. His son will know he’s being used as a consultant on his own life as a boy, and he will feel the respect of that.  Everybody likes being a consultant.  Don’t you, Stew?  I do.

SF: So to tap into what he knows distinctively, uniquely?

MT: Exactly.

SF: That’s great advice. What are some other questions that a parent could ask?  What other kinds of questions do you recommend that fathers ask their sons to have a real conversations that invest in and empower their sons?

MT: I think it’s helpful to ask boys about negative things.  Human beings, in general, like to complain.  I guess I believe that because I’m a psychologist and I have heard a lot of human beings complaining, and I complained a lot myself.  If you ask a boy to tell you something that he hates about his day, something that’s real and concrete.  Moms tend to ask, How are you?  How was your school day?” And boys respond, “Fine.” They say, Okay.” They don’t want to open up a long conversation in which their weaknesses might be exposed.  The hyper-masculinity has the effect of making boys want to hide their shame, their self-doubt, and their uncertainty.

Well, who doesn’t have shame, self-doubt and uncertainty?  Every human being does.  Boys are taught if you’re strong, if you’re a respectable boy, you don’t have it. They very often feel that their mothers are going after their inadequacy. That’s not all with the mothers intend. Mothers think they’re being empathic.  The boy thinks, “She’s trying to unravel me.” And they think the father is saying, “You have to live up to these marks. You have to win my respect. You have to pass this test.”  Boys tell me how important it is to hear about their father’s struggle.  I don’t mean eight paragraphs.  I just mean a father saying, “I struggle with that.”

SF: That’s beautiful advice, Michael.

To learn more Michael Thompson visit his web site www.michaelthompson-phd.com.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Stand Out — Create Career Insurance: Dorie Clark

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life Stew Friedman spoke with Dorie Clark, former presidential campaign spokeswoman and a recognized “branding expert,” about how to understand what’s unique about you and use that at work and elsewhere.  Dorie is the author of Reinventing You and her most recent book, Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation. Here’s the podcast of the full interview.

Dorie Clark full podcast

Stew Friedman:  How did you just got into this topic? You started in marketing and publicity and you use those skills and methods, somehow, to help individuals, as opposed to companies, market themselves. What inspired you to do this?

Dorie Clark: Dorie ClarkMy first book, Reinventing You, was really the product of my own experiences because I had to reinvent myself numerous times.  The way that the economy had been going think a lot of people have experienced disruption.  I was a newspaper reporter and I got laid off. I worked on political campaigns and we all lost. So, I had to re-invent myself.  I wrote a book trying to interview practitioners who had done this successfully, to learn about it.  With my new book “Stand Out”, I try to answer the next question which is, once you find the place that you really want to make your mark, once you’ve found the job you love, or the career that you love, how do you actually get noticed above all the noise and get people to really understand and appreciate your true talent?

SF: Why do you think that’s an important topic for today’s business world?

DC: I think more and more, this is the form of career insurance that we all need.  We live in a world where there’s always going to be someone who’s willing to do the job for less.  That’s how the economy is turning.  You have to give people a really good reason to want to do business with you specifically.  The best case you can possibly make is becoming recognized as an expert.  It doesn’t have to be a world expert.  But even if you’re recognized as the expert in your company at a certain thing, or the expert in your community at a certain thing, that’s a powerful form of leverage that you have in negotiation and it shows people, Okay, if I need to pay a premium to work with this person, here is why.”

SF:  How do you think being able to stand out, being able to develop a calling, can help people create a greater sense of harmony among the different parts of their lives to integrate them better?

DC: Well, you certainly know better than most, Stew, that when you look at psychology studies about what really makes people feel happy and satisfied is having a meaningful life.  It’s having a sense of purpose in what they’re doing.  People want to have an impact. No one wants to feel like a paper pusher, or someone who’s just watching the clock endlessly having to do tasks that don’t really matter.  If you can develop this expert reputation, if you can get noticed for your talents, it enables you to play on a bigger stage.  It enables you to have more opportunities coming to you.  The kinds of opportunities you want, so that your career can be as fulfilling as you choose for it to be.

SF: How do you get people to first understand what’s really special about them, what they uniquely bring to the table, so that they can find their niche and gain support from others?

DC:  The starting point is just beginning to understand what is special and what is unique about you.  I think honestly, it’s hard for a lot of people because we know too much about ourselves.  We know too much in the sense that we’re so far into the forest, we can’t see the broader perspective.  We’re in our heads 24/7.  Anything that someone might say about me, I probably heard, right? But the thing that I probably have very little understanding of, is when it comes to the impression that I’m giving the world.  When it comes to the things that other people think are most meaningful, most different, most salient, I probably don’t know that.  A lot of things have equal weight in my own mind.  Or I might think I’m coming across one way, but for the public it’s coming across entirely differently.

So, I suggest that if you’re trying to get a handle on what is unique and special about you, what’s very helpful, and I suggest this in my first book, ‘Reinventing You,’ is to do a three word exercise.  For a week, you go to some friends, acquaintances, and ask them, “If you only had three words to be able to describe me, what would they be?”  This is not a hard question.  Takes a minute to answer.

SF : Sure, and just anybody who knows you can do it. They probably find it fascinating as well.  How does that help you to understand what is distinctive about you, asking about that question of friends and colleagues?

DC: Before long, you’re definitely going to start to see patterns in what people think. That’s helpful because it shows in a really broad stroke, what it is that’s most unusual, or having the most impact on people.  I did this exercise, I was a doing a webinar with a group of Israeli entrepreneurs recently.  They actually took one of their group members and decided to make him a guinea pig.

They did this exercise where everybody took a minute.  They wrote down their answers about him and then they read them out.  Out of 10 people in the room, 7 of them used the word creative to describe the guy.  If you hear feedback like that you know, Okay, that’s special. That’s something that people really think is unusual about me compared to the masses.”

SF: Yeah, that’s going to persuade you.  Although, I can imagine some people might feel it’s a little awkward to ask people to describe them.  Do you encounter that where people are saying, “I don’t know if I feel comfortable asking people to tell me the three words that come to mind when they think of me.” It’s clear that that will be a very valuable thing to do especially when you ask multiple people and they converge on this one concept, like creativity.  Do you have to push people to get past their inhibitions about trying to do something like that?

DC: You do sometimes.  What I tell some people is blame me.  Literally say, “I was listening to this radio show recently and there was this woman named Dorie Clark and she said we should try this exercise.  So just for fun I’m going to ask you, what are the three words you’d use to describe me?”  Throw me under the bus, blame me, use me as your excuse to get the data you need.

SF: That works.  I use that all the time with my students when I ask them to do things that might seem little awkward.  Same exact thing, blame me for forcing you to do this as part of our class work and that will get you over the hump.  That is a very good and practical suggestion.  Now, what if you hear different things from different people when you try that exercise out, and ask people to describe you and eight people different people say different things, or does that not usually happen?

DC: Usually, there is much more of a conversion.   But if eight people would say different things, I think that’s the point where you begin to step back.   Number one: Ask what is the context in which people know you?  Is it that really you’re manifesting an entirely different self to them?  Why did they have such diverse opinions?  That’s an interesting thing. Another thing is to ask yourself, are you actually acting in a consistent manner?  Are you shaping your personality to what you hope other people might want or need.

It’s important to use other people as a mirror to see how we are coming across.  But it all comes back to authenticity.  You don’t want to be shaping yourself based on that they might want, or what you think they might want.  It’s really about getting clear on who you are, and making sure that the impressions that they are getting is a true impression based on what you would wish them to see.

SF: That’s just great advice, and so critical for leadership development, for integrating the different parts of your life, and for learning how to stand out.  Joe is calling from Oregon.  Joe, welcome to Work and Life.  What is your question?

Joe: Hi.  I’ve got military background and I’ve come across it quite a bit where so much about what I’ve done with the military and what I’ve got to bring to the table that I wouldn’t know how to start to explain let alone put something in a resume that my employer might understand.  Where would be a good place to start translating my military experiences and skills?

SF: That’s a great question.  Thank you, Joe.  Dorie, what advice do you have for Joe?

DC: Thanks, Joe. This is actually very appropriate because I work with military veterans all the time. Literally, on Saturday morning I flew out from having just given a speech at The Deloitte University in Texas, speaking to group of 50 service members who are transitioning into the civilian work force.  I’m also involved in a charity called American Dream U, and spoke for them at Fort Bragg last year.  It’s a really common question as people are transitioning out of the military, and the things that you may have done there.  Let’s say you flew helicopters or you were disarming bombs.  Those are not necessarily things that immediately translate in direct way to what you might be doing in the civilian world. I think a really important point in this is to not let yourself be boxed in.  Employers are looking for one to one correlation, mostly because they don’t want their brains to have to work too hard.

You flew helicopters.  What does that have to do with marketing soda?  You need to guide them.  You need to take a 30,000 foot view and say, “Okay, what are my real skills?” it’s not about flying the helicopters or disarming the bomb.  It’s about leadership.  It’s about the fact that you’re able to supervise and safely care for a group of 30 soldiers millions of dollars of equipment.  If you can drive home that message, so that they understand how the skills are transferable, take the broader view that it might be hard for them to grasp immediately, that can be really powerful.

SF: Joe, it sounds s though you’re struggling with the question of how to make that translation.  Do I have that right?

Joe: Definitely because a lot of the jobs that interest me, don’t have anything to do with the stuff I’ve done in the past.  What I’m hearing is I should use general ideas or principles, and not necessarily specifics about flying, or shooting or whatever else.

DC: I think that’s absolutely right, Joe.  In my first book, ‘Reinventing You,’ I profiled a woman named Toby Johnson who was an Apache helicopter pilot who later transitioned into a very successful executive career at Pepsi.  The way that she was able to do it, when she first went to Business School, she thought she was in trouble because her classmates were interviewing for internships, and she didn’t really feel like she had a good story to tell.

A lot of them had come from other corporate jobs.  They can talk about their past experiences that they had had before going to business school. All she’s ever done was work for the army.  But once she realized, it was about leadership skills, it wasn’t about the tactical elements of what she was doing on a day to day basis. Then, people really began to get it.  If you get them away from the line items on your resume, and towards the bigger themes of what you’ve learned to do, that’s how you can win the debate in their minds.

SF: It’s making that translation.  So, how can people begin to feel comfortable to bring more of who they really are to work especially, when it is perhaps at odds or different from, what’s standard or normal, in a work environment? What about when what is different or distinctive, their special passions and interests cut against the norms, or what they think of the norms, in a work place that they want to be a part?

DC: Yeah, some really important points, Stew.  There’s a couple of thoughts that I have. The first one, is understanding the fact that literally, statistically, in terms of the studies that have been done, you will actually benefit.  Your performance will benefit, and your outcomes will benefit by being a more authentic leader. Sylvia Ann Hewlett and her colleagues at the Center for Talent Innovation have done studies specifically about LGBT employees.  They discovered, perhaps in contrary of what many people might expect, ‘out’ employees as compared to ‘closeted’ employees actually had greater workplace satisfaction and greater success, and were  feeling that their careers were moving forward and they were getting the promotions that they wanted.

The reason for that, is that when you’re focused on hiding a certain part of yourself, this goes not just for gay and lesbian employees, but for anybody, when you’re focused on hiding a certain part of yourself that takes a lot of psychological energy.  Its energy that otherwise, if you didn’t have to worry about it, could go to your job.  That’s part of a reframing that I think is really important.

SF: It’s a topic that we’ve talked about a lot here with Kenji Yoshino and Christie Smith on the topic of covering and they make the very same point.  There is a lot of wasted effort that goes into pretending.  If you can eliminate that waste and be yourself, then you have more resources and energy to devote to the tasks at hand.  Standing out, it may come with some risk, right?

DC: Yeah, I think there is a certain degree of bravery that’s required to do it, but you will get untold benefits.  I actually, co-authored a piece in Harvard Business review with Christie Smith about this, about covering and authenticity in the work place.  In my new book, ‘Stand Out,’ I profiled a woman named, Diane Mulcahy.  She is with the Kauffman Foundation.  She has a lot of research on entrepreneurship.  A couple of years ago, they did a study about essentially what was going wrong with the venture capital industry.  Diane came from a background where she was a venture capitalist.

This was highly critical in the industry, and when it was about to be released, she had a lot of people take her side say “Diane, this is suicide. You can’t put this out.” “It’s like she’s attacking her former colleagues,” they thought.  She really felt like this is important information, if she wanted to support entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial ecosystem, she needed to be willing to do it.  She did release the report and got a ton of coverage, and she did get blowback.  But if you want to make change, it has to be about the idea.  It can’t be all about you and she was willing to do it.

SF: It probably benefited her in the long run by taking a stand for something that she believed and believed was going to be helpful to her industry.  We’ve got Gabrielle, calling from New York. Gabrielle, welcome to Work and Life.  What’s your question?

Gabrielle: Thanks so much.  I’m very excited.  I’m moving to Philly in a couple of months and will be joining the work class of 2017.

SF: Excellent.  I hope to see you on my class, Gabrielle.  What’s your question?

Gabrielle: As I begin my MBA journey I’ve been thinking a lot about blending my non-traditional background and trying to transition into consulting. I’ve been thinking a lot about how my colleagues would answer the question “What three words would you use to describe me?” And then how my friends would describe me.  I think that there will be some dissimilarities and I’m trying to think about, how I can bridge the connection and combine them.

SF: Great question, Gabrielle.  Dorie, what do you think?  How do you bridge the divide that you might think is there, in terms of who you are, how you come across at work as opposed to at home, or with your friends in your community?

DC: Yeah, this is really important.  What I will say here is that actually, a lot of us have been trained to think that there’s just one correct way of being at work.  Sometimes that means shaving off other parts of our personality.  We’re becoming the archetypal man in the great flannel suit.  What we’re learning more and more is that these points of distinctiveness, all of the cool personal stuff that your friends might see that your colleagues don’t, that’s actually the thing that can make you a memorable, vivid person that people want to be working with.

Of course, there are things that you might do with your friends that you wouldn’t do at work. You still probably shouldn’t swear.  You still probably shouldn’t come to work in a hoodie if you want to be a management consultant.  There is a huge category of things that people might think are really irrelevant, but bringing them to the fore is sometimes very powerful.  It could be that you’re a passionate musician.  It could be that you love travelling and you’ve been to a bunch of countries and are just fired up about that.  But these things that might seem like they’re a million miles away from your work, actually can lead to interesting intersections because a lot of research on creativity shows that the way to really be innovative, to really be a contributor, is to meld together different disciplines because it enables you to see the world differently.

I’ll actually just mention it for people who want to apply these concepts in their own lives. On my website, dorieclark.com,   I created a free 42-page workbook with 139 questions you can ask yourself to think about ways that you can find your own breakthrough idea.

SF: Gabrielle, I’ll see you again in Philly next semester. Thomas, calling from Texas. Welcome to Work and Life.  What’s your question?

Thomas: Hi, like one of the previous callers, I’m from the military as well.  Now I work at a pretty large employer. We all pretty much do the same thing and I’m trying to figure out how do you, in an environment where everyone is doing the same type of work, let your own character and work ethic be shown.

SF: Dorie, how do you advise people like Thomas on the issue of conformity pressures in organizations?

DC: Thomas, awesome question.  If the nature of the work is very similar, then I would try to distinguish yourself on entirely different level.  What I mean by that is if you can find essentially an extracurricular activity that you can use to stand out and build your brand around, that can be very powerful and also a good way to network, depending what it is.  Literally, this could be anything.  It could be being the chairman of the recycling club, or leading the Latino employee resource group, or it could be something where you’re a fitness buff.  Maybe this is good with the military background.  You could launch a jogging club after work, or something like that.  By either starting your own organization or taking the reigns of something.  It shows people that you’re a leader, and it shows people different facets of yourself that enables you to stand out.

SF: Thomas, I hope you found that advice to be useful.  Kurt’s calling from Oklahoma.  Kurt, welcome to Work and Life.  What’s your question for Dorie Clark?

Kurt: I just completed my MBA.  I’m graduating May 11th and I have a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychiatric Social Work.  Everybody at my community knows me as a therapist who does trauma work and I’m trying to rebrand myself and get out of that profession.  I’m wondering how to do that. That’s my question.

SF: Thank you, Kurt.  Dorie, what advice do you have for Kurt?

DC: Rebranding yourself is always an important area, an important challenge because people’s perceptions often do lag.  One of the best ways to begin rebranding to start creating content so that people can actually see with their own eyes that you’re knowledgeable in this new field.  If you want to get out of the trauma space, and more into MBA stuff, let’s say you’re doing business consulting, if you start blogging and sharing so that your contacts will see them in your news feed and they’ll say, “Oh, I see Kurt writing all these things about improving business processes.  I didn’t realize he did that.” Over time that begins to sink in.  Also, when you’re writing this content, it gives you stuff to talk about; you can talk about what you’re writing.  The second thing, that’s really valuable to do, I will call it, ‘surprise people.’  Snap them out of their previous conception of you.  This is where it pays to do something big, something visible like taking on a leadership role with an organization.  You can be the person who is in charge of business consultants of a greater Tulsa, or wherever, but something that is just off enough from what you used to do, that when you talk to people about it, and when they see it on your business card they’ll say, “Really Kurt, you?” they’ll give you an opportunity to have that conversation, so that they can pivot their perceptions.

SF: Kurt, what do you think, can you do that?

Kurt: Yeah, that’s a great advice.  I think I can do that.  I was just trying to figure how to rebrand myself and get out of that workspace that I was in.

SF: Dorie, so much useful advice for our listeners. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

DC: I think the best piece of advice that I have ever gotten, actually in a really technical sense, is not to have an office.  That might sound really strange because this is the Work and Life show. But I want to mention it.

For me, it’s been a great source of professional satisfaction to be able to work from home.  I buy myself an extra hour or two per day not commuting.  If you’re someone who enjoys working from home and you can do it, I highly recommend it.  I’ve worked for myself for 9 years now, I’ve saved literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on office fees, and I’ve had a better quality of life doing it.

SF: That is great advice, Dorie. What’s the one most important thing that you want to leave our listeners with in terms of core-message of your work?

DC: I think the core-message that I want to leave folks with is that it is more important than ever to stand out.  We all live in a world with a thousand Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections.  We all get way too many emails. You have to make sure that people understand what you’re good at, in fact what you’re best at, and that message is coming through loud and clear.  It’s worth it to invest taking the time to know yourself, and to spread the message to others through the leadership roles you take, the content you create, and things you write and how you talk about yourself in your conversations.

For more information about Dorie Clark’s work check out her web site www.dorieclark .com and follow her on Twitter, @DorieClark.

Empowering Women By Engaging Men — Michael Kimmel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Michael Kimmel Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University, where he is also the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities.  Kimmel is a leading authority on masculinity and gender, and author of numerous books on manhood including his most recent, Angry White Men. They explored the connection between gender and work.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: We’re talking today about the state of masculinity in America    and how this informs our understanding of the connection between gender, work and family. Most of us are familiar with the women’s rights movements and with feminism.  Michael, please tell us briefly what is the men’s rights movements and how did it come about?

Michael Kimmel: Michael KimmelThe men’s rights movement began in the 1970’s. At that time it was very much in favor of feminism and women’s rights. It basically made the argument, just as feminists had, that women were imprisoned by archaic roles and so too were men.  Men wanted to be “liberated” from those stereotypical roles just as women wanted to be. However, the men’s rights movement has since morphed into a very angry and volatile anti-feminist movement of which I have no part. In fact I’m probably the person they like least because I am a big believer in gender equality.

In fact, in my book, Angry White Men, I included a chapter about the men’s rights movement. I was on a TV show opposite these “men’s rights guys,” angry white men, who believed that they were the victims of reverse discrimination in the workplace. The TV show we were on was titled after a quote by one of these men who said “A black woman stole my job.” These guys all believed that they were victims. When it was my turn to speak I simply asked one question.

I said “I want to ask you about the word “My” where did you get the idea it was your job? Why isn’t the title “A black woman got the job?” Or “A black woman got a job.” Without confronting men’s sense of entitlement we won’t see why so many men resist gender equality. The men’s rights movement believes that gender equality is a zero sum game and if women win, then men are going to lose. Stew, you and I both know that the data on gender equality is overwhelmingly persuasive; the more gender equal our relationships the happier men are.

SF: And yet that there is perception among some men that it is zero sum game. Two questions: where does that entitlement come from and what can we do about it?

MK: There is a large number of people in America who have been dealt a bad hand. If you look at the data on family income in constant dollars, family income for a family of 4 in 1973 was about $38,000. If you keep it in constant dollars the average family income for a family of 4 today is about $38,000.

So, you have to ask yourself what’s different about a family of 4 in 1973 and a family of 4 today? And that is mom’s working. So the reality is that if the wage gap has closed at all over the past 40 years, it’s not because women’s wages have risen so much but because men’s wages have declined. Men are getting a bad deal. There are many men whose jobs are being outsourced or downsized.

You work for a company as a friend of mine did he worked for a company for 40 years. You invest in the company and its pension program and then one day as you are approaching retirement the CEO writes a letter saying “I’m really sorry but we can’t fund your retirement anymore” and it’s gone. So guys are getting a bad deal. They have the right to be angry but the question is “who are they angry at?” Do you think its feminist women who issue predatory loans. Do you think immigrants are responsible for climate change? Do you think LGBT people outsource your job?

Not in the least. So I think these guys are right to be angry but they are delivering their mail to the wrong address. Their analysis of the source of their problem is mistaken. The data on gender equality is very persuasive. The more gender equal our relationships, the happier that women are, the happier that children are, and the happier the men are.

SF: How do we break through to get the real story of the data that you’re describing to the American workers?

MK: You’ll probably accuse me of being Pollyanna-ish about this but I’m actually quite sanguine. I think that the hysteria that you get on Fox news is an indication that the reality of people’s lives is daily disconfirming what they hear on Fox news.

SF: What do you mean by that?

MK: Well, the reality is we are in fact happier the more gender equal our relations are. There are more cross sex friendships between women and men these days. Men are spending far more time as fathers and they are happier for it. So everyday I’m happier if I’m doing these sorts of things and if I watch Fox news I know that’s not me. So I think we are living in an everyday the refutation of what Fox News is telling us. And we are daily refuting the idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus — which is probably the silliest book ever written.

SF: Why do you say that?

MK: What do we know about the work place? What do we know about the university? What’s the most successful educational reform of the entire 20th century? It’s co-education. Co-education means that you can sit in the same class, in the same lecture, read the same book, take the same test, be graded by the same criterion and nobody ever goes to the Dean of students and says “I’m a Martian and my professor is a Venusian” so shall we get a translator for extra credit. Nobody ever says that.  The reason nobody ever says that is because in every measurable attitude trait and behavior, women and men are far most similar than we are different.  That’s what we know from the social behavioral sciences.  So we’re not from Venus. We’re not from Mars. We’re from planet Earth and nowhere is this more clear than in the American college classroom and in the contemporary workplace.

SF: And yet there’s a simmering anger or not too simmering.

MK: Once upon a time every single corporate board was made up of all white men and now we have to share. Meritocracy sucks.

SF: Because you’re giving something up, or so it seems.

MK: Yes, you’re giving up the fact that you and only you get to occupy those positions. If you actually get to earn it, then you could lose it.

SF: How do we delve into that sense of entitlement so that the anger either dissipates or is directed to where it should go?

MK: In our daily lives, in our relationships with our children, our  partners, our friends we’re finding that that is sustaining and is fulfilling and therefore the words that we’re hearing [on Fox News], the rhetoric, the ideology that we’re hearing, increasingly rings hollow. We organized the world so that white men in America basically got all the benefits.  And now I would turn to white men and say “Wo how does that work out for you? Feeling great about your life?” No.

All of the power in the world doesn’t trickle down to individual men feeling really great about their lives whether you are in the top 1% or not. Let’s say the guy down the block has 2 Lamborghinis and I only have one! I think this is terrible and I want to get more. Or, if you are part of the rest of the world and you say “I’m making less money now.  It has to go further.  And I my wife is working.  We are trying to balance things. I know that I feel fulfilled when I spend time with my kids.  You’re thinking, “How could I put pressure on this government to provide the kinds of policies that I need to make my life work?”

SF: And we need changes in the workplace to create the kind of flexibility and support for men and women to fulfill the roles that are meaningful to them beyond the workplace.  What we know from our research as organizational psychologies is that when you do that when you give people flexibility and you value who they are outside of work, they bring more to work.  So, what about the workplace?

MK: I talk to CEO’s all the time and when I tell them that gender equality is a good thing they start to roll their eyes and say “Oh God.  This is going to be really expensive.  Gender equality is really expensive. How much is this going to cost me?” And I say “You have it completely backwards.” Gender inequality is really really expensive.

SF: How do you make that case to a CEO’s?

MK: It’s very easy. First of all, think of the labor cost of gender inequality:  higher turnover, lower productivity, lower levels of job satisfaction, higher rates of absenteeism, higher retraining costs. The costs are enormous.  But there’s good news. When a company announces a women’s ascent to the corporate board, stock prices tend to go up. Companies that are more gender equal tend to have higher valuation. They do better. They have higher levels of profitability. There’s phenomenal data on this by Catalyst and other organizations. So, to the CEO’s you don’t make a personal lifestyle case, you make a business case.

SF: So, this sense of entitlement you spoke of, it has gotten stronger perhaps more virulent in its expression.  What else can we be doing in our educational system or through the media to cut into that?

MK: We have to be sensitive to the fact that these changes in our workplace and in our lives have come really, really quickly. My father’s workplace looked very much like Don Drapers’ [in Mad Men.]  I grew up thinking my workplace would look like Don Draper’s.  But, of course, it looks nothing like that. And my son, who’s 16, looks at that world and thinks, “That’s insane! What’s going on there?”

SF: What’s so shocking to your son about the Draper world of Mad Men in the 60’s? What is it that shocks him?

MK: First of all, the men – the entirely white men — are the ones who have all the corner offices with the windows.  And the secretaries are in the middle and the men have their pick of them. The relations of between women and men, the wrestling over the past 6 years of the characters to allow women to enter this world and to achieve in this world, he finds it completely anachronistic.

When we were young there was this riddle that we spent hours trying to figure out.  Everyone knows this the riddle: A man and his son are driving along the freeway and they are in a terrible accident and the father is killed. The son is brought to the emergency room of the hospital where the emergency room doctor takes one look at the son and said I can’t treat him that’s my son. How is this possible? People of my age. I’m a baby boomer were flummoxed by it.

We couldn’t figure out. My son who’s 16 has a bunch of his friends over watching a soccer match.     I used the riddle to them. And they all looked at me like, “that’s his mom, of course!”  Except for my son, who said, “Or dad it could be he has two dads.”  It doesn’t perplex them at all anymore. Think about the sea change.

SF: It’s true.. Just last week I led a conversation among Wharton men and women about the film “The Mask You Live In” – in which you appeared as one of the experts. This was a group brought together by the Wharton women in business — MBA students – and a new group of Wharton men called “the 22’s.”  They called themselves “the 22’s” to represent how much less women are paid than men in our society. Their goal is to close that gap. Most of these guys are in the rugby club.   So these are some seriously macho guys. The room was overflowing with people who wanted to be a part of this discussion.  There’s clearly a lot that needs to be worked through.  As you do your work, not only in the classroom but in organizations, how do you go about helping to raise consciousness about the kinds of things that you’re talking about here and moving us into a world that has less animosity and more support for egalitarian or a 50-50 world that we really all ultimately want to live in? What do you do?

MK: Great question. I think that part of this is to recognize that that since these changes have come about so fast you can’t simply dismiss people’s anxiety or dismiss people’s perceptions.

SF: Right. It has to be accepted.

MK: Absolutely. Every therapist, every psychologist tells you that you can’t tell someone their feelings are wrong. The reality is their feelings are real and you have to attend to them.  You can’t just say “your feelings are wrong, get over it.” That’s not going to produce the kind of changes that you’re looking for.

SF: It will likely create more resistance.

MK: Exactly. So, we need to acknowledge the fear as a result of these changes. At the same time we have to begin to move off the idea that it was women who did this.  That’s part of challenging those notions of entitlement at the same time as we’re trying to work through them.

SF: You have a book, if I have this right, about “Bro” culture, Guyland.

MK:  Guyland is really a book about what kinds of pressures young men are under to prove their masculinity and especially to prove their masculinity to other guys. It’s really a book about college age men. There is something happening that’s new in our culture, a new stage of development between adulthood and adolescent.  It’s now taking us a full decade longer to accomplish the markers of adulthood than it once did.  The average age of marriage in 1950 was about 20.4 and today is about 28.3 so it’s really taking us almost the full decade longer to do all of those things.

SF: So Guyland maps that change, the extended adolescence, and its impact on current society in the workplace.

MK: Right. It’s about what guys are being asked to do on college campuses in order to prove their masculinity to other guys. We want parents and young people to be aware of these issues so we can figure out ways to help young men navigate this world more effectively.  Every day there’s another article about sexual assault on college campuses.  These are the things that men are being asked to do in the name of proving their masculinity.

SF: What have you found to be the most effective means for changing that culture?

MK: The way I try to engage with those guys is not by trying to tell them that they have to be different but rather that what we really need them to do is to live up to their own ideal of masculinity.  The idea is to foster a conversation about what it means to be a man.

I think we have an idea about what it means to be a real man which is stoic and never crying, never showing your feelings and winning at all costs. But I think if you ask most men what does it mean to be a good man — at you funeral you want it to be said of you ‘he was a good man’ —  they have very different models.  They would say things like being a good provider, being responsible, having integrity, doing the right things, standing up for the little guys.

SF: Serving others.

MK: I basically want to foster a conversation between the two ideas of masculinity that we have in our heads that currently vie for dominance.  I want young guys, guys like my son, to know that some times in the name of the brotherhood they’re going to be asked to be a real man and betray their sense of what it is to be a good man.  I want us to foster that conversation so that it costs them. So they can’t look at themselves in the mirror and say “you’re a good man” if they haven’t done the right thing.

SF: So it really begins with a self-definition of what does it mean for me to be the man that I want to be.

MK: That’s right. So, if we are to guide young men my feeling is that if we propose to them that this model of masculinity that they’ve embraced is toxic and therefore they have to change, then it you’ll get nowhere.  What we can do is say “it’s not my idea of masculinity it’s yours.” I believe that you need to live up to your own ideas. When I am asked to work with a fraternity on a campus that has been singled out by the administration as particularly problematic, prone to sexual assault, then I say to these guys: “I don’t want you to fold up. I don’t want you to go out of business.” What I want you to do is I want you to bring your charter. I want you to show me what you say you are.  If you look at the charter of any fraternity it says ‘We’re men of honor. We are gentlemen. We believe in service.’ So, I’m saying I want you to live up to your own codes.

SF: Michael, I want to make sure the listeners get your thoughts about paternity leave in America. What do you see as the important challenges to make paternity leave less stigmatized and more available to men who want to take advantage of it.

MK: This is a really big question because the United States is one of the only four countries in the world that offers no paid parental leave to anyone, male or female.  The other three are Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea. We really have an enormous gap here.  Paternity leave needs to be part of a much larger conversation about changing workplace policies. Men want this. Men want to be involved with their children and when they are given the opportunity to have paid parental leave, they take it. You don’t have to look much further than the Scandinavian countries.  In Iceland, for example, over around 96% of men take paid parental leave.

So obviously, men want this because we do want to be around our kids. Parental leave for both women and men is a vital workplace reform that we all desperately need.  Men need to step up and say that we want this because we think of parental leave in this country as a woman issue and it’s not a woman’s issue. It’s a parent’s issue. Men are identifying as parents.  We all know that women don’t get parental leave unless men support it. There has never been a reform that women wanted that didn’t need men’s support. So, this is the complete win-win.

SF: What’s the one thing you want our listeners to do to advance the cause of men and women as equals in our society?

MK: The model of our center, The Center for the Study of Men and Masculinity, and the work that I do in general, can be summed up in one sentence: We cannot fully empower women and girls without also engaging men and boys and when we do we find out that gender equality is a good thing for men as well as for women.

To learn more Michael Kimmel visit his web site www.michaelkimmel.com.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.




Solving a Problem Created a Business — Nova Covington

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Nova Covington, CEO and Founder of Goddess Garden Organics.  She joins me today to share her unconventional journey from her rural upbringing to leading one of the fastest growing and most innovative natural skin care companies.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Nova Covington is the Founder of  Goddess Garden Organics. She joins me today to tell us about her unconventional journey from a rural upbringing to leading one of the fastest growing and most innovative natural skin care companies and how her mission driven company is profiting by embodying its values. Nova, could you give us the capsule summary of where you came from and how you got to be the founder of  Goddess Garden?

Nova Covington: I grew up in the Canadian wilderness and the Oregon rainforest. My family was always inspired by natural healing. My great grandmother was an herbalist so she passed down to the family love of things like echinacea and goldenseal. I was brought up thinking natural products were all the  rage everywhere.  It wasn’t until I became a mom in my 30’s that I had an experience with my own daughter that inspired the real impetus for starting the company.  My daughter, Paige, was born and was allergic to synthetic chemicals. Even with the products that I was finding in natural grocery stores, she was still breaking out in hives.  That first year we started with sunscreen and I was like “wow! there’s up to 35% toxic chemicals in this bottle.”  And no wonder she’s having a reaction.

SF: Even in those that were labeled “organic?”

NC: The organic movement hadn’t quite started yet.  Even natural products had parabens and known carcinogens and a lot of synthetics were still being used —  especially bubbles and surfactants.

SF: Surfactants?

NC: Yes. That’s the stuff that makes soap foam. Any foaming is usually a synthetic.  There are a few natural sources, but that was the inspiration for starting the company and we really have bootstrapped this brand. We started as a small farmer’s market brand in Boulder, Colorado. Like other great brands, we grew up in Boulder, like Justin’s and Celestial Seasonings, starting at farmer’s markets learning our market. I was my target market so that helped a lot. I understood what I was looking for and solving a problem really created a business.

SF: How did your growth happen so rapidly or is it only recently that you’ve experienced a surge in interest in your products?

NC: The first event we ever did was back in 2005. We sold out of sunscreen at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.  Hindsight being 20/20 I would have ditched all our products and just gone right for sunscreen.  But in 2009 that’s really when we launched in the natural channel.  We launched in Whole Foods and that first year we had about 100 stores. Since 2009 we’ve more than doubled each year. This year we’re on track for more than 170% growth. So we’ve consistently—I jokingly say we’ve — organically grown.  Word of mouth has been huge for us. Folks love our sunscreen.  It’s a little more elegant. If you’ve ever tried a mineral sunscreen, a lot of competitors have very greasy and white formulas.  Ours goes on sheer and it’s nice to use. It even comes in a spray bottle, the container you’re used to with sunscreen. We did some really good innovative things as well. We put testers on the shelf on the first day so folks could try the product before they purchased it.

SF: So sunscreen was the big mover?

NC: That’s right. Sunscreen was the big mover and we’re still only focused on sunscreen. This year we’re launching multiple other categories.  But for that you’ll have to wait till the end of the year. It’s going to be exciting.  You’ll be able to find our new products in the fall in Whole Foods. We’re innovating some really cool concepts between multiple categories in skin care that haven’t been done before. Innovation has really been the name of the game for us. We had the first “testers”, the first family-sized tube in natural and it’s still our top seller. Nobody copied us. And we wonder “why not?” People are always scared of the price point because it is an organic product which has been great for us! It’s made in America. It is more expensive. And we buy from organic farmers in the U.S. So we totally support organic farming businesses here in the U.S.

SF: So you did this out of the need to help your daughter, Paige, deal with the hives she was getting from these synthetic products?  How did that morph into a company with a mission to make a difference?

NC: I think the mission to make a difference came even before the company started.  I started at Hewlett-Packard, had a great corporate career, got a Master’s degree, and did all these different things but the whole time I was thinking, “I’m not using my skills. I really should be doing something good for the earth.” I was training leaders to be better leaders but in the long run is this good for the earth?  That was always in the back of my mind so I knew I needed to do something and my path was going to be to do something influential — developing products like ours.  We’re alternative products is really how I see it, for folks who either have allergies or want a better product for their families. Two, it’s totally safe and effective.  We’re only using pure minerals.  There’s no side effects.  There’s no allergies and in the long run that affects the planet. What’s happening is the sunscreen chemicals are so small that they’re going through our water treatment plants and making it all the way to the ocean — even from the middle of the country like where I am in Colorado. There’s bleaching happening in the coral reef and they have tied it to sunscreen.   If you go to a snorkeling tour in Mexico, if your bottle doesn’t say “reef safe” on it, it will be taken away by the Mexican government in the protected areas.

SF: Wow!

NC: The Mexican government is all over it.  And of course you don’t want to be in and out on a snorkeling trip without sunscreen.

SF: Of course, but you have to have sunscreen that’s not going to kill the reefs.

NC: It’s the same environmental issues. We can’t process it out in the water treatment plants.  That’s actually why it’s a hormone disruptor for us as humans, especially for kids, and there’s infinite websites that I have used throughout my career.  The entire website was created as a breast cancer research database to help determine what the healthy product is and what’s safe.

SF: So what would you say are the core values of Goddess Garden?

NC: We want people to enjoy the sun again. We want people to have peace of mind, as they are putting on their sunscreen, that they are not doing more damage to themselves and the planet and it’s the best possible product and that you’re well protected. I mean the sunscreen is serious. Those bad burns are the ones we know we don’t want. Parents take it very seriously. They really want to know the product works and so that peace of mind is being able to enjoy the sun again and we’re a family brand. Our employees are treated as a family as well. So, I think that family values, and not in the generic sense, but caring about people and flexibility in the workplace is always one of the benefits that I make sure my employees have.

SF: How does that play out?  Can you give us an example of what a common practice might be in order to be ensure that people have flexibility and are being honored for who they are outside of work as well as at work?

NC: One of my marketing team members took three weeks to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  And I said “do it.” He used all his paid time off and took some unpaid time as well. We’re still a fairly small company. We’re still under 50 employees.  I think being able to travel and do those once in a lifetime opportunities that come your way whether it’s travelling with your family, whatever it is that inspires people.  And a lot of people volunteer. They spend their time in outside organizations so on certain days in the week they say, “okay see you later” and go and volunteer for whatever it is. I think having work-life balance is really critical for me as well as my entire company.

SF: How is it for you as the CEO? I’m sure it’s not easy to draw those boundary lines to enable you to be the mother you want to be, spouse, friend, et cetera.  How do you do it personally?

NC: I think the first lesson is “you’re not perfect.” If I’m being an awesome CEO, I’m not being a perfect mom. If I’m a perfect mom, I’m not a great CEO. So, you can’t really be perfect all things at the same time.

SF: Bravo! It’s an important idea. You can’t do everything all at once.

NC: No. One little step at a time is how we got here. We always tell the team that each day to do what you can and chip away at the goals and head towards the vision.  And all of a sudden you’re there. Wow! Yeah we made it!

SF: So what does that mean for you though personally as you try to accept “okay, I’m not perfect.”  You have to make some adjustments in order to be the person and the leader you want to be.  And not just work but in the other parts of your life.  What are some of the most important principles that you try to follow to realize that ideal?

NC: I think one is not trying to micromanage and control every aspect of the business. I have fantastic people who I totally trust. I’ve collected these amazing people in our company that are from all over the place, from great brands, that have really done great things like Chipotle and Starbucks.

Having people that I really trust;  and without my supportive husband who’s been the real reason why I could not have a salary for a few years in the beginning when starting the company, and all those things that you do, the sacrifices you make as an entrepreneur. He has been so supportive. He’s actually the formulator of the products; he has a nutritional science background.  He’s really been the rock. And a year-and-a-half ago he left his upper level management job at IBM to join the company.

So, he’s my COO now. That is the key to me having more balance and having somebody great that I trust in that role.  He does the CFO job as well. He has an MBA from CU Boulder with upper level management experience from IBM.  He had about 400 employees under him and he helps me a lot. Without his help, I wouldn’t have as much work-life-balance as I do. We’re usually juggling.

SF: How do you find time for your personal life and your family time when you’ve got your COO next to you at home?

NC: Well, our kids start to bill us a dollar every time we mention Goddess Garden. They cut us off, “can you discuss this later at work?  We don’t want to talk about Goddess Garden.” I have an 11 year old and a 4 year old and the 4 year old is happy to cut you off!

SF: The 11 year old?

NC: She’s pretty into it. She sees herself as a part of the brand.  Up until this last year her picture was on the package with mine — another very unconventional move that we made.

SF: You mean to have your personal picture on there?

NC: Yeah that was an innovation as well and now I see a lot of brands putting a picture of someone on the front.  But we did a big re-brand in the fall and launched in March with our brand new packaging with a great design firm from San Francisco

SF: So your kids cut you off but, how do the two you, your husband/COO/CFO, find time to devote to the things that are beyond your company when you’re together at home?

NC: There’s a few things we do. We have a lot of hobbies in common like road biking. He supports me while I’m doing yoga and I support him while he’s mountain biking. I think spending time to do the things that you need to regenerate yourself is important. And then we have date night once a week. Having time together without the kids, without the business. Especially when he joined the company full time that was when we said, “Ok, we need a night designated as our time.”

SF: And how does that effect the performance of your company – having the time that’s just for the two of you?  In other words, how do investments in your family life, community and for yourself actually help you at work?

NC: By staying more connected, which is super important when you’re running a company together, you have to make sure you agree on things.  Communication is really important. We do take time, when the kids are asleep, to talk about business issues. We have a 9 PM cut off rule; past 9 PM we can’t talk about business anymore. Those are some of our techniques that we’ve accumulated to help us stay balanced. And still, you struggle everyday. Balance is an ideal we all shoot for but you have your days when it gets a little out of control.

SF: I abhor the term “balance.” And I’ve been advocating for over 25 years now that we talk about harmony or integration among the different parts of life because balance is impossible. A better way to think about it is how to create a sense of integration or harmony over the course of our whole life not at any one minute.

NC: I love it! Not having a separate work self,  I think being myself at work helps me. I totally agree with your point on balance. I don’t make any New Year’s resolutions but I choose a word for the year and a couple of years ago my word was balance. About half way through the year I said, you know balance is always a struggle.  It’s like a knife edge you’re trying to stay on top of. I agree with you; it’s the wrong metaphor. And harmony was my word of the next year after that.

SF: What does the future hold?

NC: We’re going into 4000 CVS stores Memorial Day Weekend. We’re in REI and all the natural grocery stores.

To learn more about Nova Covington and Goddess Garden visit their web site www.goddessgarden.com

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Dual Career in Couple-Run Family Business

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Jordan Lloyd Bookey, Chief Mom and Co-Founder of Zoobean, a service that helps families discover children’s books and apps at home or their local library. Before she decided to make the leap to the entrepreneurial life, Bookey led teams working at the intersection of technology and education at Google. As a speaker, educator, and mom, she is passionate about innovations in education, technology, and startups. Friedman spoke with Bookey about the challenges and insights gleaned from starting a social enterprise with her husband, Felix Lloyd.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation. Or listen to the full podcast here.

Jordan Bookey with Stew Friedman

Stew Friedman: You call yourself “Chief Mom”, and your husband Felix Lloyd is “Chief Dad”. Those are interesting titles for business; a lovely way I suppose to integrate the different domains of your life. What do those titles really mean though? What do they signify to the people who work with you—your clients, customers, other stakeholders?

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: When we were deciding what we would call ourselves (because we were co-founders and husband and wife), we initially thought that I would be CEO, COO. However, since we were both doing everything together at the beginning, we decided not to delineate responsibilities in that way, at least to start. The idea was to have something more playful that we used to refer to ourselves. Interestingly, within a few weeks, you wouldn’t believe how many friends said to me “I love that so much because it’s showing that family is a part of your life and that you put that first—you’re really integrating these pieces of your life together, and I love what that says about your company and your mission.”

SF: What does it say?

JLB: I think it says this is who I am, and I’m bringing my full self to this job. I am a professional in all work situations, but there are times when I really am Chief Mom, and I have to leave on a Friday because the kids don’t have school or my daughter was called home. There are many difficult challenges to being an entrepreneur as well as having a family business, but forgoing your family all of the time is not one of those. You really do get to decide [to prioritize family], and I think we’re putting that decision out front and saying this is really what matters first, and this is a core part of our business. That is as much for us as it is for our customers.

SF: Have you gotten any pushback? Like hey, if you’re a mom, how are you going to deliver the products on time?

JLB: I think Wharton has helped with that stigma. The way people perceive the Wharton pedigree works to counteract that. What we have heard, though, from many couples who are entrepreneurs together, is that you shouldn’t go in and pitch together or try to raise money together. You don’t want to both be in the room and remind people that you’re married because it will be perceived as a distraction. What if they fight? What if they get divorced? What if anything else happens? A relationship can overcomplicate things, so we try not to remind people about that part of our lives [that we’re married].

SF: What’s the biggest challenge you find in working with your spouse?

JLB: I’d say the biggest challenge of working together is carving out the space (to use your framework, Stew) for self. Because so much is together—work, family, and community. That is actually the hardest part… besides the actual work we’re doing. It’s so important, though, to make that space and find time to nurture yourself, and it can be especially difficult [for me] because it feels like every part of our life is intertwined, so I don’t really have that space. For many people, your work space is separate from family, but for us, work and family are circles on top of each other.

SF: What have you found that works for you in terms of finding time to restore and rejuvenate—to tap into the things that give you sustenance?

JLB: If you had asked me this a year ago Stew, I would have said “I don’t know, and you probably shouldn’t have me on this radio show!” [laughs] But we have recently found ways that work for us through implementing what you call experiments.

For example, it’s really important to me to do yoga and work out. We both aim for 4-5 days per week where we wake up at ungodly early hours and I am doing work while he goes to the gym and then drops the kids off. At night then, he’s helping with the bedtime routine, and I go to the gym or go to yoga. It helps to be able to have those separate spaces. We’ve also recently started carving time to spend with our unique friends and making sure we have planned date nights, especially ones that aren’t necessarily just the two of us but with other people in the community as well. It’s good to have other people we are able to connect with because we already do spend so much time together.

We did (and still do) really have to force those things though, otherwise honestly there’s no end to the work. We could probably be home every Saturday night just working, doing laundry, and other “exciting” things.

SF: The exciting and wonderful aspects of the entrepreneurial life. Let’s stay on this subject of boundaries, which I think is an important issue in family business, especially in the case of a couple-managed business. You can maintain those boundaries by making commitments and being very explicit about the needs that you have both as a couple and a company. What advice would you give listeners about how to make that happen?

JLB: I think one piece involves just being honest with yourself and not trying to accommodate what you think the other person really wants. That can get really muddled. In a romantic partnership, you often think to yourself what do they really want… they say this, but they might really want that…? But in a work relationship, you need to be extremely honest and direct. It’s a different dynamic, and you can’t take things personally if someone doesn’t like something you’ve done or doesn’t agree with it. At the end of the day, it’s nothing personal, but still it can be hard to separate those two things from each other. For example, at one point I was working from early in the morning until maybe 2AM every night because there was a limitless amount of work to do. I was thinking that this is probably what Felix wants, given that we’re both so dedicated to the business and there’s so much we want to do.

SF: It sounds like you were making assumptions about what his real needs and expectations were.

JLB: Jordan Lloyd BookeyExactly. And I also wasn’t thinking about what my needs and expectations were. One of the most important reasons why I wanted to start this business was to be able to spend more time with my kids and have that flexibility. So Felix and I talked about it, and we realized that it actually is important for me to have those few hours per day with the kids. I get scared thinking about looking back later in life and feeling as though I missed that chance to spend time with them. From there, we discussed how we were going to manage that need, and what it would look like for us. In a family business, it’s important to express when you’re unhappy about something in your personal space, but then you must also be able separate that out from what is happening workwise.

When it’s happening at work, just keep it at work; when it’s happening in the personal realm, try to still keep them separate. One domain does not always need to impact the other. It’s a hard balance to achieve, but it’s critical for us to attain what we want both for our family and for our business.

To learn more about Jordan Lloyd Bookey and her work, visit Zoobean and Beanstack and follow her on Twitter @zoobeanforkids.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan Motzel Morgan Motzelis an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

Re-Imagining the Work Place

Contributor: Arjan Singh

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Joshua Abram, a successful serial entrepreneur, founding advertising tech companies such as DStillery, and Integral Ad Science, before recently founding Neuehouse, a private workspace that is redefining the ideal work environment for today’s entrepreneurs and companies in the creative fields. Stew spoke with Joshua about how Neuehouse is not only creating a new work environment but also merging work with other aspects of life.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Joshua, you have been a very successful entrepreneur. What inspired this latest venture?

Joshua Abram: joshua abramI think that the businesses that my business partner, Alan, and I like to start are businesses in which we have tasted the problems ourselves. It’s a good way to focus the mind and avoid misadventure if you know the problem you are trying to solve. And in the course of starting companies with Alan over the past 15 years, we came to employ hundreds of people in New York and all over the world. Despite the companies’ prospering, one of the things we never felt that we got entirely right was that collision between the entrepreneurial moment and big city real estate.

SF: Can you explain what you mean by the collision between the entrepreneurial moment and big city real estate?

JA: For sophisticated entrepreneurs, the competition is no longer about raising capital. Money is available. The real competition is about talent and bringing brilliant collaborators to work with you on a project or at a company. And when Alan and I were starting these companies, we were recruiting people out of the great media companies – Hearst, Conde Nast, Google, Facebook. And the people that we were recruiting were not people who were jonesing for their corner office; that was never the discussion. They were people who cared deeply about the environment in which they worked and whether it was an inspiring company. And part of that had to do with the company, and the mission of the company.

SF: So what was missing from the typical environment in terms of it being uninspiring and what were people looking for in a space to inspire greatness?

JA: I think people are looking for a place to learn. And I think that as diverse as talented people are, curiosity is one of the distinguishing factors that characterize the kind of people that we have always wanted to work with in our companies. And we began to think about the environments that we wanted to create, not just for ourselves but also for others. We thought that, given changes in the economy and changes in the attitudes toward work, maybe it was time, independent of the companies we were starting, because we knew other people were facing the same situation, to take out a blank piece of paper and entirely re-imagine the ideal environment and experience for work for people not so much in technology but in the creative industries operating on a global basis.

SF: What is the distinction between the ideal environment and ideal experience?

JA: When we think of Neuehouse, we don’t think so much about a space. We think about what the experience is from the moment someone enters Neuehouse, from the moment their staff is at Neuehouse. What is experience of their visitors? How will the environment we are creating inspire them? How will it drive their success? How will it allow them to attract more interesting collaborators and more interesting clients? And how will it be a place where both the principals of the company and their staff can learn? We decided to focus on four things. One is that design matters in all of its forms. We are very focused on creating beautiful, inspiring environments. The architect David Rockwell, who is globally known, is our partner at Neuehouse. Another thing that interests us is hospitality. In our lifetime, there has been a hospitality revolution. We are all very aware of the power of hospitality.

SF: What’s the essence of that hospitality shift?

People want to be taken care of. They want to be in an environment where it’s possible to be your best-self. And hospitality can really drive that and influence that. So imagine the experience of being at your favorite boutique hotel and the experience of being there and the ease of living there was transported to your office. That is very active within Neuehouse and very much our focus.

The other thing that we focus on is an intentional community. Neuehouse is an office in which people are invited to participate. If someone is interested in what we are doing, we ask them to apply. And we took this membership-driven approach not to be rude or obnoxious, quite the contrary. We think that the magic in office and in any setting happens not when you have the same people doing the same things but when you have diversity. We never wanted to be a tech ghetto, a design ghetto or a fashion ghetto. The magic happens when those communities are in close proximity to each other and accidents happen. And frankly, if the accidents aren’t happening fast enough, we stir the pot a little bit to make sure the accidents are accelerated.

SF: So how do you intentionally stir the pot and connect the different members?

JA: We do it in number of ways. One is we think of this as being the host of a good dinner party. When you go to a good dinner party and have a great time, you probably have a host who has thought carefully about who will be there that evening with you. And that person tries to find people who were not doing the same thing. You want to meet people who are in different fields doing interesting things. To have a host who is not only convening you, but guiding the conversation and making connections between people that they know well in hopes that those connections will end up having a life of their own. We do that very actively.

The fourth pillar of what we focus on is programming, which at Neuehouse means “food for the curious.” Several nights a week, 100-200 members and their guests gather for conversations with leading tastemakers, opinion leaders, sometimes troublemakers from the creative industries. It might be Paul Smith, the English designer talking about his creative process, or the environmental artist Christo talking about thirty years of environmental art and innovation therein. All of our programming is always non-business related because we think that at the end of the day, in a commercial environment, the last thing that many of us want to hear about is purely commercial topics. It’s much more interesting to hear about things on the periphery of your expertise – it’s much more inspiring.

SF: What has occurred as the result of people convening to listen to someone who provokes their thinking, even if they are operating in different spheres?

JA: It bridges conversations in the community. It’s a shared experience outside of conventional silos of commercial life. It propels a conversation that leads to deeper relationships amongst our members. And also tangents that might lead them to engage in ways they otherwise might not have. It often leads to someone saying, “in the course of talking about what we shared together last night, we’ve come up with a new idea together. Let’s pursue that.”

SF: You have talked about the fuzziness between work and life, and that you see Neuehouse as being designed for that fuzziness. Can you explain what your thinking is? And how your design is uncovering this fuzziness or this blending or mutual enrichment of work and other parts of life.

JA: It’s a really big focus for us at Neuehouse. I think one thing that strikes most people who visit us in New York – and we are about to open in Los Angeles and soon London – is that Neuehouse does not resemble a typical office. When you walk in, frankly the first thing people tend to say almost in unison is “what is this place?” And we love that ambiguity because it signals that we are not just tweaking the office, but fundamentally reimagining its terms. And your question suggests that we are merging different parts of life that have traditionally been separated, although arbitrarily. And one of the things that people say about Neuehouse is that it feels like a beautiful home and that it feels domestic. And we have been very careful to use a design language that much more resembles a home, a home of a curious person, a sophisticated traveler who has seen a lot of things and had a lot of experiences and brought back those experiences and represented them in their home, whether through books, objects, art — which is an important part of the agenda at Neuehouse. So we focus on this domestic setting. And Neuehouse tends to be a place where people come in the morning, and stay through the evening.  They work during the day and then in the evening they invite friends over for the programming, to share a glass of wine and maybe stay for dinner.

SF: Do children become a part of the experience?

JA: It’s so funny that you ask that today. I was at Neuehouse at lunch and I was so glad to see that a member had brought in her two children, ages 6 and 8,  and they were having lunch together. I think it suggests that this is an extension and an integration of their whole life and it signals to me that we are getting something right.

SF: I’m interested in your market. Is this concept one that is just for an elite group of creatives who can afford such an environment? It has to be for a particular niche in the commercial market. What is your vision for how to take that model and scale it

JA: We’ve already begun to do that. We opened in New York 18 months ago. We opened in September, and by December, we were oversubscribed. When we first took this 50,000 square foot lease in New York, it felt like a big gulp, but with a great team, we were able to make it happen. We feel that we have tapped a very strong demand that exists in creative capitals all over the world, and that many cities – New York, Los Angeles and London included – will have more than one Neuehouse. We have a long waiting list in New York. Heterogeneity is very critical to us. We’re focused on the creative industries, so typically film, fashion, music, design. We’ve made the decision that 50% of the companies at Neuehouse will be led by women. And that is indeed the case. It tends to appeal to a fairly cosmopolitan group. 40% of our members in New York have a European passport.

To learn more about Neuehouse, visit them online at neuehouse.com.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Arjan Singh Arjan Singh (2014_02_10 08_00_04 UTC)is an undergraduate junior at the Wharton School.

Executive Search from the Inside – Greig Schneider of Egon Zehnder

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Greig Schneider Managing Partner of Egon Zehnder’s U.S. practice. Greig is a core member of Egon Zehnder’s Assessment and Development and formerly led that group globally, working with senior leaders and Boards on succession, assessment and executive development projects.  Before his work at Egon Zehnder he earned an MBA from Harvard, was an officer in the US Navy, worked at McKinsey and was VP of Strategy Consulting at Michael Porter’s Foundation for Strategy Group.

The following are edited excerpts from their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us about Egon Zehnder, this premier search firm.

Greig Schneider: greig schneiderEgon Zehnder is a global firm, one of the world’s leaders in talent consulting. There’s three lines of business: Executive search which is about helping clients find the right talent for critical roles; Assessment and Development which helps our clients understand their people’s capabilities and make critical people decisions such as merger integration or helping teams align; and there’s Board Services which includes finding Board members, helping Boards align and helping them be more effective in the role.

SF: How does a typical search unfold from each parties perspective?

GS: From the client’s perspective there are a few key steps. The first one is a pretty substantial investment in understanding the role. These are C-Suite, or close to it, roles and they’re not all the same. So, if it’s for a CFO position, then what kind of CFO? Specifically, what is needed from a skills perspective? What kind of person? What kind of culture? You want to get all the detail you can to find the right fit. From the client’s perspective, once we have that brief it’s our job to go out and find people that are great fits for that. They’re paying us not just to find them but to assess them and prepare them. They’ll then interview people that they probably know already are right for the role to choose the best one.

From the candidate’s perspective you’re evaluating from the other direction. Where are you in your career? What are you trying to do? Where are you trying to go? And is this role better or worse than your current set of opportunities to advance you in your goals?

SF: How do you help candidates explore those questions?

GS: That’s where I think we earn our money. At the levels we work at, pretty senior folks, all of the pieces that you look at are in play. So they tend to have large teams, they’re usually players in their communities, often-times there are dual-career issues. We don’t get it right unless they’re successful and they’re not going to be successful unless all those piece align.

We work very hard on the skills fit, their capabilities and their potential. But it won’t be a success if they go and they’re miserable if it’s not a place that they’re going to like living, if their family isn’t supportive. It’s important to explore all this with them to help them understand this life decision.

SF: How do you address the non-work considerations?

GS: It’s not easy. We get to know these people over a series of conversations and, as you know from your own work and research, there’s differing levels of openness to sharing their family situation. Very often candidates want to come across as all about business. They don’t want to talk about family because they think that someone might find that to be a weakness. Our job is to help them think about it. Here’s an example: There’s very often a question of working remotely which is coming up more and more.  So you have someone who says, “I have kids who are going to graduate in a year and a half. I’ll just fly in and be there five days a week and fly back. And I can do that for a couple of years.”  Some people can do that. It’s always hard, but it’s not always wrong. We often see people who are overconfident in their own and their family’s ability to manage something like that.

SF: It’s often hard to know in advance until you’re actually in that situation.

GS: You’re absolutely rights. So, we ask, “Have you done this before?” Is this something your family’s used to? Do you have systems in place to make it work? If the answer’s yes, we’re going to feel better about it. If the answer’s no, we’re going to push hard to make sure to make sure that conversation has happened and that this has been fully considered. Sometimes, we’ll find an appropriate way to say it’s just not going to work and that’s not good for anybody.

SF: Because of non-work or family considerations it might not work?  And you’ll make a recommendation on that basis.

GS: Absolutely. It’s complex. In the end, if we don’t think they’re going to be successful, which includes being happy putting all these pieces together, it’s our job to tell our clients that we have that concern. We don’t make the decision. The client makes the decision. We bring them the information.

SF: From the candidate’s perspective they’re largely in selling mode. They’re trying to appear as the best possible candidate if this is a position they’re keen on. How do you get past the sell to the reality?

GS: It’s a critical part of the role – being a good assessor. Part of it is asking the right questions. Part of it is building a trusting relationship. And that’s based partly on the backgrounds we all come from. We hire people who have been in their roles – people that have been in industry, that know the same kind of decisions they’re facing. So we can have that peer-to-peer conversation.  Plus, we’ve seen it a lot of times so we can ask questions like, “I’ve seen this before and someone in your shoes often asks this…”  And that can help them consider things that maybe they hadn’t thought of.

SF: Apart from your own credibility and experience in working with others in similar situations, what else do you do to build that trust?

GS: Part of it is the incentives. Our business is built on providing great solutions that work out well for everyone. It really is in our own self-interest to really make sure that they’re going to be happy and do well.

SF: So you’re thinking years ahead for this person and if it doesn’t work out for family reasons you feel responsible?

GS: Absolutely. If someone is picking up and moving from a community they like, sometimes their kids are in schools, I have kids. We recognize the weight of these decisions and we feel it. It’s crucial that we don’t leave any stone unturned to find out what could make it great or what could make it work out badly.

SF: How do you manage the growing issue of dual careers?

GS: With respect to our clients it’s a crucially important issue we have to understand. It’s one of the first questions we ask. And then, if they have kids in HS we need to explore that. These are often the reasons that someone says ultimately, “I just can’t do it right now.” Usually if someone is consider this type of change they’ve already had a conversation with their spouse about whose career has priority right now, how are we thinking about this, what cities are options because the spouse could transfer there.

SF: Are there patterns of solutions for resolving a dual-career challenge? What’s a good process? What advice do you have?

GS: The most important thing is to have open conversations – put these issues on the table and really explore them. We encourage people to think through their priorities and that includes all the pieces – it includes family, it includes the linkage to the community, are parents in the area, support systems. And these are particularly important for dual career couples. Do you have family members that can help you if someone has to run out of town?  Do you have a nanny that you trust and like?

We also see a lot of situations with special needs kids who need special schools and this may rule out certain cities.

SF: Do you find that family and non-work issues are increasingly important as candidates consider relocation?

GS: I would say increasing, but not a marked spike. As generations evolve, priorities evolve as well. We’re certainly seeing that with some of the younger people. If you’re graphing interest in the whole person and age, we are seeing more interest in this from younger people.

To learn more about Greig Schneider and Egon Zehnder go to their web site:  www.egonzehnder.com

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