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This CEO’s Got Your Number — Shelly Ibach

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

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 Shelly Ibach, president and CEO of Select Comfort Corporation, an innovative leader in sleep products and services and creator of the Sleep Number bed. She was recently recognized as one of the Girl Scouts’ Women of Distinction. Stew spoke with Ms. Ibach on creating a corporate culture that values the employee as a whole person and how to connect employees to a company’s mission and vision.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us more about the connection between your sleep products and that end goal of individualizing the sleep experience and enriching it and how this affects what you do as a CEO to shape the company’s culture and its business strategy?

Shelly Ibach: Shelly IbachAs a mission-based culture, it was always important for us to establish a vision that was really big enough for the mission.  Our strategy and mission are consumer-based, and we are focused on innovation.  This means we need to have deep insight into our customers and be able to translate them into innovations that will solve sleep problems.

SF: So you have to be listening very carefully.

SI: Absolutely, and pay attention to trends. When you’re an innovator, it’s not only about the invention, but it’s also about the application. So the simplicity for the consumer is critical.

SF: Simplicity so that that they can understand what it is that you’re offering and how it’s going to help them?

SI: Exactly, and in the example of SleepIQ technology, all you have to do is get in bed and sleep. You don’t have to turn anything on; there’s nothing you need to wear, and it’s a full-body algorithm about you as an individual. And that information is there for when you want it. To be able to take an invention, like the sensor technology that comes with SleepIQ, and then move that into a consumer durable so that it truly is the inner net of things – that’s the kind of work that our team passionately pursues on behalf of our customers.

SF: What do you need to do to enable your employees to come to work every day, not only well rested, but also impassioned about this mission?

SI: We have to have an environment where everyone is clear on our goals, our strategic framework, and our vision. Our vision is to become one of the world’s most beloved brands by delivering unparalleled sleep experiences.  Everyone must understand how their role can specifically contribute to our strategic, long-term vision. People want to, and need to, be able to contribute and bring their whole self to work and be valued for their contributions.

SF: So How do you produce that line of sight between what I as an employeedo every day  and that inspiring end goal? What are the practices that help people see that connection?

SI: A big part of it is embracing diversity and striving to unleash each individual’s greatness. We have a number of recognition programs and one of our annual and most important recognition programs is called the Bradley Erickson Award. This is an award that is voted on by peers at headquarters. We seek to recognize a person or a team that has not only led innovation or collaboration across the organization, but also embraces the whole person, so it’s personal as well as work-related.

SF: So this is about recognition – it speaks to your values – and that’s certainly what you want to do with recognition programs. But on a day-to-day basis, how is it that you help people to see the connection between who they are as individuals and what you’re trying to do as a company?

SI: Our customer is at the core of everything we do. So at any meeting that we go to in our organization, you’re going to hear about “Sarah.” “Sarah” is our target customer. That helps connect the mission and the vision and the strategy. Everyone is thinking and making decisions on behalf of “Sarah,” and that’s a common thread throughout our organization.

SF: So “Sarah” is a fictional person who embodies the central brand proposition?

SI: Absolutely, yes. We get to know “Sarah,” not just from a demographic perspective, but from a psychographic one, and we strive to understand what she values and how our innovation can contribute to her life and improve not only her life, but her family’s life. That’s what motivates us.

SF: So as you talk to other CEOs, what do you share about your company’s practices that others find intriguing or try to adopt themselves? What should people who run companies or parts of companies be focused on as they try to figure out creative ways in their lives or in their businesses to connect the individual to the core interests of the end user – the customer, consumer or client?

SI: For us, it goes back to the customer. We do everything with our customer in mind. We’re a company that has a net promoter score, so we measure from our customer’s point of view whether they’re interested in repeating and referring. That’s the most important measurement we have. We believe that as we continue to evolve and focus on our customer’s experience, it translates to financial improvement as well.

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

Sathvik Ramanan Sathvik Ramananis an undergraduate freshman in the Vagelos Program in the Life Sciences and Management at the University of Pennsylvania.

Taking a Breather — Scott Eblin

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 Scott Eblin, an executive coach, speaker and author, who works with senior and rising leaders in some of the world’s best known and regarded organizations.  His most recent book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, offers a potential solution to the stress and strain that many experience in different parts of their lives.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Scott, how did you first come to understanding mindfulness as a way of managing stress and reducing strain?

Scott Eblin: scott eblinLike many people, my first real introduction to mindfulness was a book Jon by Kabat-Zinn called Wherever You Go, There You Are. It is comprised of little chapters and essays on mindfulness, and he has such a wonderful way of making it conversational and thought-provoking. In the nineties, that was my morning book. For a couple of years, I would read parts of it to start my day, and then I would contemplate what I read and usually journal a bit. That was the beginning for me.

It really accelerated for me in 2009 when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I was an athlete and I ran all the time, so it was a real shock to develop that disease. It put me on my back, almost literally. I could barely walk around the block, and I was having trouble getting up the stairs to bed. After about a year and a half of that, my wife and I read that yoga can really help people with MS, and so I went to try the studio close to our house. I thought, “I don’t really think I should be here. I can barely stand up, let alone do tree pose or whatever.”  But the instructor said, “Listen, we have people like you in here a lot. If you can come here three days a week, it will change your body, and if you come here more than three days a week, it will change your life.” I chose the more-than-three-days-a-week option, and she was right; it changed my life. Initially, yoga was just a physical practice for me, but I found the deeper you go with something like that, the more it affects other aspects of your life too. It really taught me the importance of baby steps—little steps, bit by bit. I´ve seen that practicing the physical aspects of yoga, and then I started bringing that observation to my work as an executive coach and consultant after reading research on the impact that mindfulness meditation has on strengthening our genes’ ability to express themselves.

SF: When you first started out with yoga, what changes did you see when you started practicing? How much of your life was devoted to yoga at that time?

SE: I was going to three or four classes per week. I always say that the changes are incremental and then they´re sudden. For example, you´re trying to learn to do a yoga pose, like Upward Facing Bow.  For the first three months, I couldn’t even get my shoulders or head off the floor, and then one day, suddenly, I´m just like up in Upward Facing Bow with my head and shoulders off the ground.

SF: So you´re working at it, working at it, working at it—and then all of a sudden you can do it.

SE: Yes, bit by bit. Four years later, I do handstands and headstands regularly. I had never done one of either of those in my life before I started four years ago. I´m still the guy with MS, but yoga helps me manage the MS effectively. You have to manage your stress if you have MS, otherwise your body is going to let you know immediately. It´s been a learning-by-doing type of process. I began to see the impact of the yoga almost instantly.  I literally felt better at the end of the first week.

SF: That’s great that you feel the effects right away. Mindfulness is more than yoga though, right?

SE: Totally. The way I think about mindfulness is that it equals two things: awareness plus intention. Awareness includes what’s going on around me extrinsically, while at the same time I´m also aware of what’s going on intrinsically inside of me. These thoughts occur not just physically, although that’s very important, but also mentally and emotionally. First, what is my mental thought process right now? And, second, what is my emotional state a response to or reaction toward what’s going on around me? Once I´m aware, I can then choose to be intentional about what I´m going to do, or maybe more importantly, what I´m not going to do. In the face of the problem of being overworked and overwhelmed, not doing anything is maybe more important than doing something.

SF: You´re choosing what to exclude from your intention, and your subsequent action is just as, if not more, important than choosing what it is you will do. Why do you say that?

SE: First of all, research shows that multitasking is a myth. In my own research with our leadership—the executives and managers we work with in our programs—we´ve been running a 360 with them for years which tends to mirror the 72 different leadership behaviors outlined in my first book The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success. So many of those behaviors are things like ¨pacing myself by taking regular breaks from work,¨ ¨giving others my full presence and attention during meetings and conversations,¨ ¨regularly taking time to step back to define or redefine what needs to be done¨—all of these are behaviors that mindfulness can really address. People are generally very good at getting stuff done, but they´re not so good at stepping back and asking themselves what really needs to be done.

SF: Yes, and it´s a hard thing to begin to do, isn’t it? How do you get people started in taking a step back so they can become more conscious and deliberate about the choices they make, about the focus of their attention, and where they invest their energy? What´s the first step if somebody comes to you stressed out saying, “I need to be more mindful, help me Scott.”

SE: First of all, it´s good that you’re recognizing that you’re stressed out as opposed to continuing to put your foot on the gas pedal driving forward with your head down. It´s like Dear Abby used to say, ¨Recognition of the problem is 90% of the solution.¨ The next thing I want to do is to look for things to prioritize. If we think of an XY graph with the vertical axis representing ¨easy to do¨ and the horizontal axis being ¨likely to make a difference,¨ I would recommend people look for things that are in the upper right hand corner of that graph: things that are relatively easy to do and yet likely to make a difference.

SF: For people who are listening right now, in their cars or in their homes, tell them where somebody could really begin now.

SE: First, just breathe. Slow down your breathing. When I first started teaching about mindful leadership, I was going through yoga teacher training myself. I asked my 25-year-old yoga teacher trainer to think if he were to be conducting the same executive coach training program as I was, what he would focus on for the corporate people in this program. He answered, “I´d focus on their breathing—ambitious people don´t know how to breathe.” What does he mean by that? That they breathe from their chest, and it´s really shallow. Sometimes you even forget to breathe when you´re stressed, and you´ll hold your breath.

What I talk a lot about in my work now is that I think people are in a chronic state of fight-or-flight. It´s not the acute “oh my gosh, there´s a saber-toothed tiger around the corner, let me run” fight-or flee response. Rather, it´s all the input we’re trying to deal with all day long which puts us in a constant state of fight-or-flight. In the end, what I think the mindfulness stuff really does is activate our bodies´ opposite response, nicknamed the rest-and-digest, your body´s para-sympathetic nervous system. Think of fight-or-flight as the gas pedal, and rest-and-digest as the brakes; you need both. You would never drive a car and only use the gas—that’d be a recipe for disaster.

SF: So the way to consciously activate the rest-and-digest system, as we´ll call it, is to simply breathe?

SE: Yes, start with breathing deep breaths from your belly.

Navy SEALS are trained to breathe like that when they´re deployed. They have a little exercise called the ¨Four by Four by Four¨: four minutes of deep breathing with four counts on the inhale and four counts on the exhale. Repeat until your four-minute timer goes off. Clearly when SEALS are deployed, their fight-or-flight response is going off, but they also want to have rest-and-digest so they make really clear, sound decisions in critical life-threatening moments. Breathing this way helps them do that.

SF: When you stop to focus on your breathing, you become actively conscious of it.  How does actively thinking about your breathing change your mindset and your physical condition?

SE: It focuses your attention in the right places. Recently I came across a study on neuroimaging from USC which found that the average person has 70,000 thoughts a day. If you think about it, most of those thoughts are probably the same thoughts you had yesterday. There’s a word in the Sanskrit language (which dates back thousands of years ago in India) called pritti which means “mental chatter,” commonly known as the monkey mind. With all the distractions we face in our hyper-connected lives with smart phones and everything else we’re dealing with, it’s very easy to have chatter-filled lives. Focused breathing can help us clear that. I think it’s the easiest and most accessible thing you can do to be more focused and center yourself in the moment because you carry your breath around with you all the time.

SF: So you start with that, but the chatter and the tools competing for your attention pull you away from that state of awareness quite quickly, especially for people just starting out with mindfulness exercises. How can you build the capacity to sustain consciousness of your breathing and still be able to undertake all the things that need your attention?

SE: Breathing is just one way to become more aware and more intentional. I think movement is another good way. So many of us now sit at our desk in front of screens for hours on end. It’s not good for your thought process, your decision-making, or your productivity, and it’s definitely not good for your health and well-being. All of the studies now are saying that sitting is basically the new smoking—it´s the same impact on your life expectancy if you sit for 8 or 9 hours per day versus smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. You really want to get up and move 5 to 10 minutes every hour at least. It helps you mentally, and it also helps you physically. The research shows that a little bit of movement every hour helps you focus mentally when you come back.

SF: It would depend on what you do with your movement, right? Are there particular things that would be useful for the beginners out there—people who are just getting into the idea of finding a greater sense of calm and reducing strain in their lives? If you were to start getting up for five to ten minutes each hour, what should you do exactly?

SE:  Something as simple as a walk around the building. And leave your phone behind when you do. I know that’s radical, but it will be there when you get back, and even if you miss something, it’s only a ten-minute break. You can also get up from your desk and stretch. Raise your arms up toward the ceiling. Turn the palms of your hands like you’re stretching up toward the ceiling and bring them down and back up again three times.

Look for those little still points throughout the day. That’s a term I learned from David Kuntz—he’s got a number of great books, but the one that I really love is called Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going. David talks about different kinds of breaks, and the shortest of these he calls a “still point,” which is a little interlude or brief pause throughout the day. I don’t care how busy you are.  Even the most back-to-back calendared people have brief 5 to 10 minute interludes throughout their days if they pay attention to them and are looking for them. Then the question is, when you get that 5 or 10 minute break, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to try and answer ten more emails? Because you know that if you get 200 emails per day, responding to 10 more in that five-minute period is not going to help you that much. What is going to help you much more is to give your rest-and-digest response an opportunity to perform. You’re going to think more clearly when you get back to work, you’re going to feel better, and you’re going to be more fully present for the people you’re working with. There are lots of benefits to be had if you just take that free minute to move or to breathe.

SF: What’s the most important word of advice you could give about accessing greater mindfulness in ways that could help people, not just at work, but in all different parts of their lives?

SE: I would want people to think about three quick questions. First, how are you when you’re at your best, and what does it look like when you´re in zone, in the state of flow? Second, what routines are going to help you show up and be your best, physically, mentally, relationally, and spiritually? Third and finally, what outcomes are you hoping for from showing up at your best? These should be outcomes in three big areas of your life: your life at home, your life at work, and your life in your community. Stew, I know you talk about this in your work. If you can get those answers on one sheet of paper, then you’ve got a reference point. Don’t try to do ten things, but start with just one thing that’s going to make a difference for you now. Begin with baby steps because progress really does comes incrementally and then suddenly, like we discussed at the beginning of the hour. If you´re consistent with improving just 5% per week, then in one month you’re 20% more mindful.

To learn more about Scott´s work, check out his recent books Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative (October 2014) and The Next Level: What Insiders Know about Executive Success (October 2010) and follow him on Twitter @ScottEblin.

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 MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America

Technique vs. Human Touch: Tensions in the Evolution of Healthcare — John Kimberly

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

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 Dr. John Kimberly, Professor of Management, Entrepreneurial Management, and Health Care Management at The Wharton School. He is also a distinguished visiting scholar at INSEAD, Penn’s partner school in France. Professor Kimberly received his BA at Yale and his MS and PhD at Cornell. Friedman spoke with Kimberly about how changes in healthcare as a profession are affecting not just healthcare professionals, but all of us.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you first get into studying healthcare as an industry?

John Kimberly: John KimberlyThere’s an easy answer to that question Stew. I wrote my dissertation a little more than 30 years ago when I was a doctoral student at Cornell University. I was in a program in organizational studies, and serendipitously a faculty member with whom I was working closely got a big grant from the National Institute of Health to study the diffusion of innovations to hospitals. That was a project that I was fortunate enough to be involved in. I actually wrote my dissertation on data we collected from that study, and it turns out, at least in my case, that you become what you write. I started writing more about hospitals and innovation, and invitations to speak and consult and so on began to emerge from that. There was a bit of a tipping point there, where the kind of opportunities that were coming my way were largely in healthcare, and so I ultimately picked up that ball and ran with it.

SF: You’ve seen a lot of changes as the world of healthcare management has been radically transformed. Let’s start with a picture of the current state of things: What’s most distinctive and unique about healthcare today vs 30 years ago?

JK: The changes have been considerable and profound. Obamacare,  the Affordable Care Act,  is just the tip of the iceberg. I think what has changed has to do with the nature of contact and interaction between us patients and the healthcare professionals. It has to do with organizational arrangements that are changing rapidly. It has to do with the introduction of a vast number of clinical innovations. One of the most exciting things for me is how we’re finally beginning to move the needle on prevention. We´re beginning to focus on community-level health outcomes and the wellbeing of communities as opposed to the medical care of individual people.

SF: Can you define what you mean when you say prevention?

JK: If you look at this country’s healthcare system, you´ll find that the vast majority of expenses are on medical care; we call it ¨healthcare ¨ but what it really is is medical care. It’s interventions that are made by professionals in the medical care system to deal with the problems of people who have gotten sick. Think about a world in which there was investment in prevention at even one-quarter of the magnitude of the investment in medical care,  a world where the incentives were to keep people healthy, to keep people out of the hospital.  Think about the kind of investments it would take at a community level to make sure people are healthy. It’s beginning to happen.

SF: What’s been most significant about how the work of medical professionals, doctors in particular, has changed, and why is that important for us as consumers?

JK: I think the most profound change has been the shift from the solo practice, where physicians were individual entrepreneurs and managed their own practices, to a model where increasingly physicians are becoming employees of large healthcare systems. What they’ve traded off is the independence and autonomy that they enjoyed when they were individual entrepreneurs for a life which is dominated by productivity targets and other things which essentially impinge on their ability to make independent decisions on how they spend their time.

SF: Not to mention their own diagnosis and intervention choices, right?

JK: Those are obviously constrained by the system in which they work. There are guidelines for the kind of equipment they use and the kind of clinical context in which they work. What’s really important is the disruption of the historic physician-patient relationship.

Forty years ago, when you got ill and called your physician, at some point in the next five or six hours, there’d be a knock on the door. The physician would be there with his or her little bag and would ask some questions and would look you in the eye and would give you what you needed in order to get you better. A part of that healing process was the personal relationship between the physician and the patient. Now, that process is much more technically-based, and physicians, who are employed by these large systems, have production quotas to meet. The time they spend with their patients is not in eye-to-eye contact because the physician has to be looking at his/her keyboard to enter data into the health information system. So there’s something fundamental that’s changed about the relationship between the doctor and the patient. Now, some people will say, “Well, of course, this is the nature of things. There’s been technological progress, and physicians are now able to see more patients in less time, so the efficiency is enhanced substantially.” There’s certainly some truth to that. However, I also believe that in the course of moving down this path, we’ve lost something important. One of the interesting issues here (the answer to which we still don’t know) is the question of how much of the healing process is a function of technical interventions versus how much of it hinges on a relationship that you develop with someone who you trust and who you think has a personal interest in you. This is an interesting area of research, and by no means are the answers in on that score.

SF: Wow, so that is an important question. You’re saying that it’s a topic that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in the research literature on healthcare outcomes?

JK: That’s exactly right. It´s understandable. Why? Because in the fascination for technological progress, the focus has really been on what’s the latest, greatest, shiniest, new technology that we can bring into the system that will have both financial impact and health outcome impact. I think what’s happened along the way is this other part of a doctor-patient relationship has gotten lost.

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.

To learn more about Professor John Kimberly and his research click here.

About the Author

Sathvik Ramanan Sathvik Ramananis an undergraduate freshman in the Vagelos Program in the Life Sciences and Management at the University of Pennsylvania.

Wharton Men Talk About Work and Life

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

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 current Wharton MBA students Dan Geoffrion and Josh Johnson about how Millennials plan to integrate work and life after they graduate.  Dan Geoffrion is a Yale graduate and former BCG consultant focusing on healthcare.  He is the head of Wharton’s Christian fellowship.  Josh Johnson is from Harlem and graduated from the University of Michigan.  At Wharton, he is deeply involved in social initiatives and serves as co-director of community service and social impact for the Wharton Graduate Association and as community service co-chair of the African American MBA Association.  Both are members of 22s, the inaugural group of male allies of Wharton Women in Business.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Dan, let me start with you.  You are the head of the Wharton Christian Fellowship.  I imagine that those who are consciously and deliberately considering their inner lives while pursuing a business degree might have a more holistic view of business, so I wonder if you’ve seen a difference between those in your club and other religiously-affiliated organizations versus those who are not so affiliated in terms of how they approach these kinds of questions.

Dan Geoffrion: Dan GeoffrionI think that at Wharton, so many people really want to find meaning in their work and have a full life.  For me to say that just one group of people is focusing on it more than others seems a little too simplistic, but it is true that every week in our small groups we think about how we can live lives that have meaning and purpose, not just about doing good on the weekends or sending money to a charity, but asking, What does that mean for my career choice?  What does that mean for the ways that I interact with my coworkers?  What does that mean with respect to what I pursue and what I prioritize at Wharton?  For many people with religious backgrounds – and I know especially those in the Christian Fellowship –we really want to understand what the intersection of faith and work is, and what that means in our lives in a practical way.

SF: So you talk on a weekly basis about why being kind to your fellow employees is an important part of how you want to represent yourself as a business leader?

DG: You can think about it in a lot of different ways: What does being a kind person who loves his neighbor look like in a work situation?  How does that serve you professionally, and how does that help you be a better employee?  But also how does that hinder you?  Maybe you’re not as focused on productivity in the way that someone who is single-mindedly focused on just their work product is.

SF: You think so?

DG: I think it can go either way.  In Adam Grant’s book Give and Take, you find that the givers are both the best producers but also the worst producers – they’re much more extreme either way.  You don’t find a lot of them in the middle.  So if we are people who are very kind and considerate and who are making good connections and who are really trying to take in the greatest number of perspectives, we can be some of the best employees.  At the same time, someone might be a really nice person who listens to people’s problems throughout the day, but then doesn’t do any of their own work!  That’s a major liability, and that’s not really using our work and our gifts to serve others in the way we might want to.

SF:  So you can’t be a doormat, to use Adam Grant’s terms.  And you’ve got to be able to ask for what you need help with, especially when you’re asking for help in the service of other people.  That way others are going to know why they should help you.  Now Josh, you’re a married student.

Josh Johnson: Joshua JohnsonYes, I am – happily and proudly.

SF: Happily and proudly?  Proudly – what does it mean to be married and proud?

JJ: Well, I’m still basking in the rose-colored glow of newly-wed-ism.

SF: How long has it been?

JJ: A year and two months.  We got married two days before I started my Wharton MBA.

SF: Yikes.  So Wharton is like your honeymoon.

JJ: Pretty much, pretty much.  I guess you could say that.

We relocated here for the MBA experience, and it’s really been interesting growing in our marriage and growing in our relationship as a couple, and at the same time I am kind of growing in this experience of being a Wharton MBA.

SF: So she’s not a student here?

JJ: No, she’s not.  My wife works for a local not-for-profit here in Philadelphia, so while she is working during the day, I am studying during the day.  There’s always this tension between the time that she has off after work because the student’s day doesn’t necessarily end at 5.  There are extracurricular meetings, academic meetings, and lots of different requirements you have to fulfill, so there’s always that tension of us maintaining the sanctity and growth in our relationship while at the same time satisfying the two different career tracks that we’re on.

SF: So how do you do that, Josh?  What are you learning about that that you can transfer into the world beyond school?

JJ:  I am very, very, very protective of my time, especially on Sundays.  My wife and I are also members of the Wharton Christian Students Association, so Sundays are our day to go to worship service, have brunch, and have family time.  My wife works with children, and anyone who’s ever worked with children knows that their time is in flux when the children have needs.  So Monday through Saturday, both of us are kind of running around.  We see each other usually later in the evening when we’re done with the day or done with our requirements, and Sunday is usually the only day that we have to spend time together.  The learning that I’ve had from this is that you have to be fiercely protective of the time that you have given the priorities that you hold dear.  For me, my wife, our relationship, and our marriage are priorities, so I don’t do any schoolwork, meet, or do phone calls on Sundays. That’s my red line, so I will stay up late or travel down to Center City to meet on a weekday to keep that time sacrosanct.

SF: And that’s something that you think you’ll be able to carry forward into the next phase of your career working in a company, assuming that’s what you’re going to be doing?

JJ: I don’t necessarily think that exact structure will hold.  Maybe the day is not a Sunday; maybe it’s a Saturday.  Maybe it’s not necessarily that one day, but one time of day.  But the overarching theme is that you have to erect hedges around the time that is allocated to the things that you prioritize.

SF: That’s for sure, because I guarantee you nobody’s going to do that for you.  That’s something that you must do for yourself and do in a way that’s going to work for the people around you.  So having that boundary and keeping that time and space sacred helps you to be a more productive employee, I would argue.  Would you agree, Dan?

DG: Absolutely.  I, too, sort of keep Sabbath and don’t work on Sundays.  When I was working as a management consultant, I typically worked all the time, but I was able to tell my team that I was off Sundays during the day, and that allowed me to recharge, refresh, and renew so that by the time the workweek started, I was really able to dig right in and ready to work hard.

SF:  So how did that work out for you, in terms of your team and how they responded to that?

DG:  It worked out well.  BCG wants you to have as much sustainability as you can in the very intense environment.  Like Josh, I worked hard during the week, and because I was open about it, they were able to be very flexible to my needs.  They knew that Monday through Thursday, I was theirs, but then during the weekends, as much as possible, I was able to recharge.

SF: So as you’re thinking about the next steps in your life after graduation and beyond, what are you considering?  How does what you’re thinking about match with what’s out there in terms of the employers that are attractive to you, Josh?

JJ: Well, the second overarching theme I have in my life is that if I’m not really passionate about something, I wouldn’t put myself in the position to do it.  My real passion is helping people.  That’s the common theme of all that I’m involved in here at Wharton. I’ll be rejoining McKinsey and Company after graduation.

SF: How do you think your needs and interests as a person beyond work are going to be seen – either embraced, rejected, or somewhere in between – by your colleagues at McKinsey?

JJ: I think that those things would be embraced.  That was the experience that I had over the summer.  There was always someone to talk to about any kind of interest that I had in any part of my life, from my marriage to different professional arenas.

SF: How about you, Dan?

DG: I had somewhat of a different experience.  While management consulting was a great job for a few years before business school, I knew that in the long term I couldn’t live the holistic kind of life that I wanted to in the consulting world.  I looked at the lives of the partners.  I saw how much they traveled and how they were working even on weekends and flipping through all of the presentations that people made for them offering comments all throughout the weekend.  I know that I really want to be involved in my future family, and I’ll also really want to be involved in the community around me, so I chose a firm that I think is going to be a much better fit.  I’m going to work for Medtronic after I graduate, one of the largest medical device companies in the world.  There, they have a really good culture in terms of work-life balance.  They also have a very mission-oriented culture, in that their mission is extending life, alleviating pain, and restoring health. Not only do they do that through all of their products, but there are also a lot of volunteer opportunities and a very generous matching program.  They see you as the worker but also a community member, family member, and someone who has an interest outside work.  That’s what I prioritized when looking for an internship, and I was able to receive an offer and will go back full-time after I graduate.

SF: Congratulations. Josh, what do you think about what Dan is saying about the life of the consulting partner?

JJ:  I think that we all have different objectives and different things that we prioritize.  I’ve had conversations about this with my wife – and she really has the keys to the kingdom with this – because, like I said, the first priority that I have is to be present in my family’s life as much as I should be and want to be.

SF: And as much as she wants you to be.  At some point, she may want you around more.

JJ: Well at that point we’d have to reevaluate whether or not I should be a management consultant and how the way that my current workload or the frequency with which I travel is affecting our marriage and what adjustments could be made to accommodate those things.  What’s going on in the opportunities that we have right now is not going to be same as those that are going to be there two, three, or five years from now.  So I think it’s constantly a process of reevaluation.

SF: It really is.  Certainly people I know have been successful at living full and well-integrated lives that enable them to be successful not just at work, and not just at home, but in the community too and also for themselves in mind, body, and spirit.  It’s a constant quest toward understanding what matters most for me, to the people around me, and then adjusting, adjusting, and adjusting, so that you can better serve those people who matter most to you while being true to yourself.  As I said earlier, nobody gives you that, and it’s something that you have to claim in a way that others see as valuable for them.

So you’ve both made choices about where you’re headed after graduation.  As you talk to your classmates and hear what they’re saying about how they are experiencing the labor market that they’re entering, what’s your take on how they’re addressing questions such as, “How do you be a whole person?” or “How do you contribute to the world in a meaningful way coming out of place like Wharton?”

DG: I hear them say that it’s something that’s really important to them when they’re a first-year and thinking about internships – making an impact, serving the world, or doing something meaningful.  But then it turns out that a lot of the firms that they feel like do that are not able to sponsor visas for international students, or they don’t recruit with seven different wine-and-dine events, or they just don’t hire a large number of Wharton MBAs. These are firms that people think about less, and they’re also much harder to find.  So flash forward to a year and a half later, and you have a lot of consultants and bankers.  Some of them see that as in line with their long-term vision to serve the world, and others don’t even mention it anymore.  They say, “Oh, it’s going to be really great training for a couple of years, and then I’ll think about all of those questions after I get to a certain level or a certain promotion.”  I see it making an impact as having a lot less significance to people as they actually get an offer and see the compensation or travel opportunities of the more lucrative jobs.

SF: Are people selling out?  That’s what it sounds like.

DG:  It does sound like that, but I think how they see it is that they’re borrowing time.  They’re just saying, “I don’t actually know what in the world that I really want to impact yet, so hopefully if I do this meaningful job where I gain great skills, I’ll be able to answer that question down the road.”  So I don’t think people see it as selling out for the rest of their career.  They see it as making an investment that’s going to help them do that kind of work later on, but then they don’t actually have tools or a way to call a timeout two years down the road and ask themselves, Now what?  They just get into the grind, and then the people around them say that what they need to do now is to get to their next level of promotion.

SF: It’s running around the hamster wheel, then.

DG: Exactly.

SF: So what you’re doing with your Christian Fellowship is that you’re asking questions about how you weave together the different things that are meaningful to you now, and I think that’s smart because the further along you get, the harder it is for you to step off.  Josh, what are you hearing in the hallways here in Huntsman Hall and elsewhere around campus about how your classmates are thinking about their future?

JJ: It’s hard to generalize across the entire student body, but the conversations that I’ve been having have largely been with people who are thinking, What investment am I making now toward the kind of impact that I want to have later on in life?  Maybe that’s not as clearly defined, to Dan’s point, as being able to say, “Well, I want to really heavily impact the education space in the United States.”  Or say maybe they want to tackle homelessness or whatever the specific cause that’s very close to their heart is. I see it more as people wanting to be strategic and trying to position themselves to maximize their impact.

One of the many hats that I wear is the WGA’s internal co-lead for community service and social impact.  One of the things that we did this year was to survey the Wharton MBA Class of 2015 and 2016 and try to identify the biggest areas that are meaningful to them in terms of volunteerism and social impact.  We found that people have a real passion for tutoring and mentorship and taking these analytical skills that they’re learning as MBAs and then using them to magnify the impact that they have.  I think that resonates with the other side of the argument that Dan’s talking about where students are still going into consulting and banking, these very traditional and not necessarily social impact-focused professions, on the front side.

SF: Are they going to be able to have the kind of positive social impact that they want to have when they get onto Wall Street?

JJ: I think that if you’re looking at it from the standpoint of whether they are going to be able to be in a soup kitchen, maybe not, depending on what they’re doing on Wall Street.  But they might be able to lead a foundation or sit on the board of a not-for-profit and magnify their impact.

SF: So you think those values are going to continue forward?

JJ: I think so.

SF: Are you hopeful about the future, Dan?  What do you hope to see?  What’s the big idea of how you’d like to see organizations change?

DG: I want to see organizations be better able to utilize the holistic part of who a person is – not only their work skills and their work abilities but also their community interests.   I want to see them figure out a way that they can structure jobs in a way that supports both of those.

SF: And what are you hoping to see, Josh?  As a business leader of the future, how are the great organizations going to look different down the road?

JJ: I think that the greatest organizations will find a way to embrace the whole person, so that there’s not this tension between being a businessperson and being a father, a husband, a partner, or any of those things.  Once that person is comfortable and feels that all of those other priorities are also met, that frees them to be their most engaged self in their work because they’re not worried about how that work is taking away from the other things that are equally important to them.

To learn more about the organizations Josh and Dan are involved with, follow Wharton Women in Business (WWIB) and the 22s on their WWIB’s website or Twitter (@WWIB) and visit the Wharton Christian Fellowship’s website


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

Andrea YehAndrea Yeh is an undergraduate junior majoring in Operations and Information Management and in International Relations.

Wharton Women Talk About Work and Life

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 current Wharton MBA students Zinnia Horne and Abby Holmes. Zinnia completed her undergraduate education at Stanford and came to Wharton to pursue her MBA, after working at Google in California. She is a leader in the Wharton Graduate Association. Abby worked in consulting at Deloitte before coming to Wharton. She is a married student with a one-and-a-half year old daughter. Stew spoke with both women about how the next generation of business leaders are thinking about what matters most to them and how they intend to integrate the different parts of their lives upon graduation.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Zinnia, you work with the Wharton Grad Association which must give you a perspective on just how many students are involved in clubs at Wharton and what types of clubs have high enrollment and high engagement. When employers — who look like me, old, gray-haired people — look at young people coming up, what do they see? Do they see people who are self-interested, lazy, entitled, and distracted with technology? Or do they see people who are ambitious, committed, and eager to make a difference in this world? Or something in between? How do you see that?

Zinnia Horne: Zinnia HorneI think employers see students who are fresh and who bring new ideas. I think that’s really what they look to us for. We almost all have work experience, have taken two years out of school, and have really been inundated with a number of different ways to think about things. When employers are looking to the clubs to see who the rising stars are, I think they are looking for the people who are trying out new things and who are involved in a variety of different activities, so that they can get that new fresh perspective, and not only fresh, but also dynamic and a perspective that has a lot of variety.

SF: So if I were to ask the typical employer who comes to campus, “how might you characterize the MBAs in terms of their values and their attitudes?” what do you think they would tell me?

ZH: That’s a great question. While I can’t generalize across the entire Wharton population, I would say that people here want to achieve. We came here for a reason. That said, I’m definitely seeing more and more of a trend among students wanting to make an impact. Here, there are students going into different industries — from consulting to finance all the way to social impact — and they’re all thinking about ways they can make a difference in the world, and, even more so, what they can start in order to make a difference. So I’d say it’s a mix of thinking about making money for yourself, but also thinking about how you can see your impact on the community.

SF: On the community… what do you mean by that exactly.

ZH: Everyone defines their community differently. It could be a local community, it could mean pushing different ideas in terms of corporate social responsibility within a company. I think the spectrum is broad, from anyone starting their own business that does good, or working with a non-profit that does good, to going to huge corporations that may need a couple of fresh ideas and new perspectives to push the forefront of doing good for the world.

SF: That’s certainly a theme that we’ve seen evolving over the more than three decades that I’ve been here at the Wharton School. There’s much greater interest in having a positive social impact. In the study we did last year, now part of a book that I published through Wharton Digital Press called Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family, we compared the Class of 1992 graduating seniors with the Class of 2012 — same place, same school, same age, but twenty years later. One of the major trends we observed was a much greater interest, particularly among young women, in having a positive social impact, and your experience is certainly consistent with that study.

Abby, you’re a mom. How many moms are there in your class of 800 second-year MBA students?

Abby Holmes: Abby HolmesI can count them on one hand, so not that many.

SF: That certainly gives you a unique perspective. Your husband, if I have it right, is a teacher in Baltimore, and your daughter is a year-and-a-half, so you can’t be slacking very much to be managing all of that in your life! The perspective one often hears is that older people look at Millennials and think they’re obsessed with technology and really just interested in their own careers. How do you see it as a student-mom here in our school?

AH: I think Millennials are actually making a change in that a lot of people are more focused—especially women I would say—on having that balance between a family and a career. We are all trying to achieve in terms of a successful career and having that major impact, but I think we’re hearing more and more, both from employers trying to emphasize this during recruiting but also from students asking for this, that we want to be aware of a way to balance a career and a family. Being able to do that here at school is a challenge and being able to do that in the real world is also a challenge, but I think it’s definitely a hot topic among students and employers lately.

SF: How do you talk about this with a prospective employer? Especially in your personal story right now, when you can’t deny the fact that you have a child. Is that a liability for you, or an asset, or neither in your employment search right now?

AH: At times I’m worried it’s a liability. I want to be cognizant because I’m not trying to withhold that information, but at the same time I do hesitate to be as forthcoming because I guess I am worried that it is going to have a negative impact on the results.

SF: You think it could be held against you? Like, “how committed could she be really if she’s got a little girl at home?” is what they might be thinking.

AH: Yes, and obviously children do take away some of your time, so that’s less time that you could potentially commit to a company compared to a student who doesn’t have that type of commitment. It’s definitely in the back of my mind at most times, but I do try to be pretty open about my family situation and that I do have a child during the recruiting process.

SF: I wonder if there’s a way in which the assets that you develop as a mother—the skills that you have to cultivate, particularly with respect to managing time and boundaries well—if those can be presented as part of your repertoire of skills that you bring. Has that come up at all? Has that occurred to you or does it seem unrealistic?

AH: I mean I think it’s completely true, I just don’t know whether I would publicize it in that way. When I approach an interview, I’m thinking about being able to express skills that I’ve gained either through work or school. I don’t know whether I would voluntarily bring those skills up. I agree they’re very applicable, but…

SF: It be useful for you to do that. If I’m a prospective employer, and I’m a benign progressive person trying to change my organization to make it more hospitable to different kinds of people in all different kinds of lifestyle situations, I’m going to want to know who you are as a human being and what kind of skills you bring. If you have assets which you developed in another part of your life that are going to help me in my business and also help me demonstrate that this is a kind of place where anyone who is committed can thrive, then I’d like to know how you bring that.

What do you think about what I just said? Easy for me to say at 60 years old and my kids are in their twenties, so I don’t really have to worry about it in the same way.

AH: I guess I just don’t know if employers look at it in terms of those strengths outweighing what they might think is a liability. So I understand that it is a strength, and they do want to know and understand, but I’m still not sure.

SF: You and I both agree that this is a potential strength for you, Abby. Zinnia, can you weigh in on this?

ZH: Definitely. I do think it could be a strength from the management perspective. I definitely hear Abby’s concerns though: there are several strengths that she’s been developing as a mother, but how does that weigh against the potential needs of the organization in terms of her time? Questions might arise around after she leaves work—is she really leaving work at work? Depending on the employer that may not be as acceptable of a practice.

SF: Depending on the employer, I think that’s a very important caveat in that statement. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. I know students have been talking a lot more about this issue because it’s been the subject of a lot of conversations that I’ve been a part of here. How do those conversations go with a potential employer? Are you thinking in terms of choosing employers on the basis of whether or not they are indeed embracing the whole person? Is that something that is part of your calculus?

ZH: Definitely, given some of my future life goals. I was very privileged to work at Google when I left college, so I think that gave me a certain skewed perceptive regarding what certain employers are willing to allow in terms of flexibility in work schedules. Google is skewed fairly extremely in that way, based on my experience. Google would allow you to work from home if you needed to, to come in late or leave early if you had an appointment, etc. So even though I do not have a child, I could see that being a really helpful policy for a new mother or new parent. The flexibility around scheduling and your employers understanding that you can do the work if you have a computer and an internet connection is key. And you can do work for the most part with tech companies anywhere. That’s why I think Google, and increasingly other businesses, are becoming more flexible around their employees spending time in the office, and the perceived amount of work that they’re contributing.

SF: Are you going back to Google? Would you like to?

ZH: I’m definitely open to it. I think that later in life Google would be a great place to raise a family. They have wonderful policies for parents, so it’s definitely not a bad place to work.

SF: So is that eventually part of your plan to have children of your own?

ZH: That is something I’m still figuring out. It’s still on the table, but it’s not necessarily something I’m certain I want to do.

I mean having children is a bit terrifying to me personally. When I think about my future and what I want, I get concerned about the time and dedication you have to give to a child in order to raise it correctly.

SF: Zinnia’s smiling at Abby now with admiration…

ZH: It is admiration. I don’t know how so many women do it! But clearly there are a lot of them that do.

SF: It is a scary proposition. And indeed, another thing we found in the study that I called Baby Bust was that many people in your generation, both women and men, are choosing to opt out of becoming parents because of what you just described. What do you think about that Abby?

AH: I think it’s definitely something you need to consider. Careers are certainly challenging in terms of your time, and you have to dedicate a lot to them. I think a lot of people—if they want to take on the responsibility of starting a family—know that it’s a huge time commitment. I don’t think people want to have to give in one way or the other, so if they don’t feel like they can do both really effectively, they might make that decision to hold off on one side.

SF: You decided not to hold off and how are you feeling about that now that your one-and-a-half year old is being taken care of by somebody else, right? I don’t see her crawling around the studio here

AH: Her grandmother, my mother, is taking care of her right now. That helps a huge amount. She’s actually from Baltimore where I’m from. When I need help during the week she’ll come up with me to Philadelphia. We have quite the arrangement. It’s kind of a long story, but my sister is an opera singer, and she works a lot of part-time jobs, so she usually watches my daughter when I’m in class. When she’s not available, my mom will travel with me up here during the week. I usually commute weekly.

SF: So you’re not here on the weekends? What about the whole MBA party scene? Is that not a big part of your life?

AH: Not a big part. Being a mother has forced prioritizing what I wanted to get out of my experience here.

SF: You’ve missed out on some of the social aspects of life here on the MBA campus. What’s been the upshot of that for you?

AH: I think it was actually good because a lot of students when they first arrive have an issue of trying to figure out where exactly they want to spend their time. They end up doing too much and getting stretched too thin.  I was forced to prioritize from the beginning. I didn’t waste too much time doing things that weren’t quite as valuable.

SF: So Zinnia, what do you think about that?

ZH: I’m a little envious of Abby and that she’s been able to focus like that.

SF: There’s a lot of research about focus that shows this to be true. A recent Federal Reserve Bank study actually showed that working moms are better at managing their time than other women. Abby, you’re shaking your head…

AH: It’s a necessity I think. You’re forced to.

SF: And Zinnia you said you’re kind of envious of the laser-like focus that a working mom has to have.

ZH: Definitely. As a student here you might have your plan and what you’re intending to focus on for that week or that semester or even the entire experience, but then other things always pop up. I think if I were in Abby’s position it would be a lot easier to say no to certain things, whereas I definitely feel pressure—it’s internal pressure in most cases—to always say yes and do those things and get the “most” out of this experience. Whereas I think in Abby’s case she’s definitely getting the most out of her experience in her own way.

SF: Abby you don’t experience FOMO? Fear of missing out? Which is ubiquitous on this campus, is it not?

AH: I think I did during the first semester. I felt like I was missing out on something—I wasn’t going to all the parties or doing every single Happy Hour—but I think I did start to find groups of people in my areas of interest, and I gained that social side in a different way. I think I got over that FOMO by the second semester, which was good.

SF: The more I hear the both of you speak about it, it seems pretty clear to me, Abby, that there are assets that you have as a working mom that you might want to consider how to frame in conversations. The evidence is on your side. Something that could help to create change in this world would be presenting that idea and perhaps shifting the perceptions of employers.

Let’s get back to our discussion of employers. How do you know which are the good companies to work for? What are you looking for? You mentioned Google, Zinnia, their extreme flexibility. Indeed, the investment banks I know are talking about, “Wow, we’re losing all of our top talent to Google—we need to do something.” Aside from Google though, how do you and your classmates think and talk about where you want to work?

ZH: One thing we certainly consider is what employers are saying and what they are touting when they come to campus. Is it their flexible work lifestyles, or is it daycare programs on campus to help working parents, what is it? Part of it is what they’re saying, but you have to look at what they’re doing because it could be different.

SF: Ah, so there might be a lot of rhetoric that might not match the reality? Do you tend to look skeptically at those pictures of daycare centers when companies pop them up on the screen?

ZH: In certain industries, maybe. I plan on going back into the tech industry, and I would give those companies a little bit more benefit of the doubt, in terms of what level of flexibility they’ll allow for their employees. But I think you also have to look at what they’re doing. What are employees actually taking advantage of? You could have ten programs for working parents, but if the employees aren’t taking advantage of them, that says a lot, too.

SF: How do you find these things out?

ZH: You have to talk to people. You have to ask, “Okay, on Fridays if I needed to leave early to go to an appointment, what would your manager’s reaction be?

SF: “Oh, we don’t want to hire her because she’s obviously not committed,” they might be thinking then. You’re not afraid of that? In doing your due diligence on companies, you don’t think you’re giving away an ambivalent commitment by asking questions like that?

ZH: I think it depends on the industry and the company. You have to be an active listener before you ask those questions. It’s definitely not the first thing you walk in saying, “When can I take off?”

SF: What’s your perspective on that Abby, in terms of how you find the right fit and what kinds of information are available to you as you’re scanning the employment market?

AH: I think the most valuable information, like you said Zinnia, is going to be through your personal networks. I find that I’m generally not getting that kind of information coming from the recruiting team, or trusting it if I am, but when I go through the alumni network or personal networks and try to get a real perspective to see, for example, if there are women there who have families and are able to manage it, then that says something. I think that’s where you’re going to get the most honest perspective about what is still tough about doing it at a given organization and what do they have that helps you. I think networks are the biggest resource in terms of finding that kind of information.

SF: So what’s going to be necessary to create meaningful change in today’s business world in which you both want to become leaders? What do you think is the most pressing issue that the business sector faces in terms of becoming the place where you, your friends, and your future children, would want to contribute?

ZH:  I think part of it is just openness. This relates to the points Abby and I just made about trying to get information to assess whether or not an organization is open to certain levels of flexibility. For meaningful change there has to be a shift in openness on the topic of work-life integration If we shift to a more open culture where people feel comfortable talking about these things, both from a top-down and a bottom-up perspective, and across industries, that could really drive meaningful change. I think it’s starting to happen over the past several years, but it still needs to be more open.

SF: Let’s say the recruiting department of IBM is listening to this show right now, what would you tell them?

ZH: I would say put the people in the organization who are doing a “good” job of managing their work and their life on your recruiting committees and put them talking to students, just to let them know that there is a shift in culture.

SF: And it’s important to see the good and the bad, right? I would want to know, “What are you wrestling with? What’s hard about trying to create meaningful change in the culture of your organization, and how are you dealing with that? Abby, what do you see as the great challenge facing companies trying to adapt to a new world order?

AH: I agree that a lot of it is having openness and transparency, but I also think that flexibility is essential. We are seeing much less traditional work models moving forward—women working, men staying at home, and vice versa Having that flexibility to be able to make it work for someone in your company, no matter what their situation, will be important. It’s first the openness and the conversation as to how to handle that possibility, but then also enacting that. I think there is a lot of talk about flexibility—especially in the more traditional industries such as investment banking or consulting. How are they really making things flexible for people? And how can they continue to exhibit that moving forward from the top down?

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.

Radical Innovator in Healthcare — Stephen Klasko

Contributor: Akshat Shekhar

Work and Life is 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 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 Dr. Stephen Klasko, President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University.  Dr. Klasko has advocated for a more holistic approach to health care delivery, along with the smaller iterative changes that make such an approach possible.

The following are excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us about “interactive action” and why that’s so important.

Stephen Klasko: Stephen KlaskoPart of what we’ve done in healthcare is focus on the past. Think about everything you can do as a consumer online.  The Friday after Thanksgiving you can be in your pajamas watching Game of Thrones and do all your holiday shopping.  But if you have a stomachache can you put “stomachache” on your iPhone and get an appointment with a doctor?

SF: WebMD—doesn’t it do that?

SK: No because with WebMD you cannot get an appointment with a doctor or really do “telehealth” like you would do anything else.  My goal is to look at what’s going to be obvious 10 years from now in healthcare and just start doing that today. A lot of that is changing the DNA of the system one physician at a time. The number one thing about the Affordable Care Act that hasn’t really been talked about is that we haven’t changed the physicians. Our physicians are living in the 80s and 90s, and yet we’re trying to build a 21st century healthcare system.

SF: Let’s stay on this concept of “interactive action,” and then talk in more detail about what you’re doing to change both the mindset and skillset of the medical community. How does “interactive action” come into play?

SK: We’ve gone to our docs and said, “I want you to visualize yourself as a patient, figure out what you would want if you were in their shoes, and then just start doing it.” I’ll give you a couple of examples. We started a model where our doctors, nurses, and population health professions are all working together in a simulation. We have things happen that would normally happen in a hospital, and we look specifically for their first communication. After, we talk to them about what they can do to change the way they interact with other folks in order to be more effective. There’s almost none of that in medical school. I never learned how to interact with a team member until I learned by doing when something went wrong.

SF: This simulated environment is for the seasoned professionals already on the job, right?

SK: Actually it’s for both. We created the Center for Transformation Innovation not only for the seasoned professionals, but also for our medical students. Everything about medical education is ‘look to the left of you, look to the right of you—only one of you will get in.’ It’s constant competition in medical education, but then we’re amazed when physicians don’t work together as high-powered teams. A lot of my research has been based on what makes physicians different from average people. Interactive action is about taking steps to go from having physicians being autonomous, competitive, and hierarchical creatures to having them become more interdependent and members of a team.

SF: Wow, that sounds radical, Steve. So what does it mean for a physician to become a member of a team?

SK: It means you have to teach doctors more “followership” as opposed to leadership. We thought it was a big revolution to teach doctors leadership, but some of us are pretty good leaders already. We like to give orders. Now it’s about how we become followers. Maybe the nurse knows more about something than you do, and you have to listen. It’s about listening skills, interaction skills, and ultimately making those practices an important part of what they do every day. We’ve shown that this model provides better care because medical teams are communicating better.  In an accountable care organization in Florida we showed improvements in the triple aims of patient satisfaction, cost, and quality, just by communicating and interacting in a different way. Rather than doctors giving orders, we encourage getting teams together and making decisions together.

SF: What resistance have you met in trying to push a different mindset and role for physicians in the medical community? What was the most important hurdle you overcame?

SK: I actually did a study with Richard Shell from Wharton about why doctors don’t understand collaboration and found that doctors blindly followed rules. When the MBAs didn’t get it, they said, “We failed.” When the doctors didn’t get it, they said, “I’m really sorry, but at least the other person didn’t win either.” The way we select and educate physicians now creates a cult around a competitive, autonomous, hierarchical, and non-creative bias.

SF: Non-creative?

SK: The issue is not that we’re not creative, but when we asked MBAs and entrepreneurs if creativity was something that helped them in their profession, they said yes. Doctors, not so much. When I went to Wharton, they said, “You are so lucky to be in a $2 trillion industry in transition. Things are going to be good and going to be changing.” Then I’d be back in our old lounge, looking at the same set of data, and doctors would say, “I wish things were still the way they were 20 years ago.”

SF: They were threatened by change.

SK: The MBAs felt change would help them come up with an answer, whereas we doctors felt we would be autonomous creatures losing control.  We found that to deprogram this cult that we doctors are entering into, we have to change the DNA of the system by selecting and educating physicians in a totally different way than we do in medical schools today.

SF: That’s a big agenda, Steve. Where do you start with the education and socialization of medical students?

SK: We still accept students based on science GPAs, MCATs, and organic chemistry grades.

SF: Well, I want my doctors to be smart.

SK: One thing is that we’ve been surprised that doctors aren’t more empathetic communicators. Is a doctor with a 3.9 in memorizing biology much better than a doctor with a 3.6 or 3.5? Or would you rather have a doctor with a 3.5, who memorizes 92% of the Krebs cycle instead of 100%, but also can communicate with you? We started a medical school admission model where we actually choose the students based on emotional intelligence. We’ve chosen 56 students a year based on empathy and social awareness. Once they reached certain academic minimums, we knew they were smart enough on science.

SF: So technical excellence is needed, but you also need to be able to communicate effectively and listen well. Once you make a certain cut, then you test on other factors?

SK: We look for self-awareness and empathy, much like Google and the airline industry do. They want to conduct behavioral and clinical interviews. We take these applicants to art museums, for example, and we ask, “What do you see?” Half the kids can only see what they see linearly.

SF: Concrete thinking.

SK: I’ve delivered over 2,200 babies, and I know it’s easy to deliver a healthy baby. But if you deliver a Downs Syndrome baby and the mother asks, “Doctor, what does that mean?” you can’t reply “It means that the chromosome…” Consider that doctor compared to another who says “Your vision of what a perfect baby means might have to be adjusted.”

SF: Now you’re helping me understand.

SK: It’s about seeing versus observing. To see is to see linearly, to see the DNA, but to observe is to recognize what signals the patient is giving you. We believe the folks we accept based on empathy and self-awareness will be better partners, better fathers or mothers, and better in their work-life integration.

SF: Why is that important to you, as the CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Health System?

SK: It’s important to me because I believe that in order for healthcare to fundamentally transform, it needs to be about the people that provide the care. If we have a more stable and caring workforce of physicians and nurses, patients will get better care, and we’ll be able to provide better access to them.

One of the things we do at Jefferson which I love is that we have a practice which includes standardized patients. We have the physician go through what they would actually go through in an examination, but then we have the patient critique them while videotaping the doctor throughout. Normally medical schools just check off whether or not you asked all the right questions, but we look at the communication skills, and we ask the patient how he or she did in that regard. If a doctor or faculty member says, for example, “That’s ridiculous, I wasn’t looking at my watch,” we can check at the video like when a golf instructor tells you you’re lifting your head in your swing.

SF: Does it break through to them once they see the data?

SK: Well, if they’ve been doing this for 20 years, they’ll say they think the video was doctored! For the medical students, they really get it: think about not doing that, and think about the fact that we unleash doctors on folks without any of that cultural bias training. Part of the training we’ve done is that we’ve coached these medical professionals and residents so that their overall professionalism skills will be up to where they need to be.

SF: The fact that physicians need to have lives that are enriched not just in the clinic, but also in what they’re doing in the home and community—why is that important to you and the future of medicine?

SK: That’s sort of my job, as a president of a university. I gave a talk on “Humans of Tomorrow” in the Hospitals of Tomorrow for US News and World Report, and I started out by telling my introducer, “You know what? I may never get invited back here after saying this, but I think you’re a big part of the problem in healthcare because what you judge us on is not based on what you personally would want in a doctor. You judge us on technical attributes, but not how our folks are doing after spending $200,000 at our university.” He looks at me and says, “You’re right—you’re right that you’ll never be invited back!” But since I charge these students $55,000 a year, I view an important part of my job as ensuring that five years from now, that doctor that came from Jefferson not only provides great care, but he or she also provides great caring. I also would like to know that they’re great mothers or fathers and partners, and I view that as my job too, not just teaching biology and cardiology and OB/GYN.

SF: How did you come to that understanding that an important part of your job is that people have lives beyond work that are enriching and meaningful?

SK: Frankly, a lot of it came from when I went to Wharton and law school and seeing that there are different ways of teaching. The way we select and educate physicians is not only maybe creating a cult, but it also might not be the right way to the future. I looked and saw that so many of my physician friends had gone through divorce and had not been happy in their profession. The Wall Street Journal says 70% of physicians feel unhappy 2 or 3 years out, and they’re also not happy about their futures. I think they’re unhappy because they’re autonomous, competitive, hierarchical, and they don’t think creativity.

Our goal is to create physicians that are excited, for example, about change, so that when something like the Affordable Care Act comes, they ask “How can I help?” as opposed to “How can I go back to where we were 20 years ago?”

If you go to a tennis coach for a year, you expect to be a better tennis player. At Jefferson, we’ve launched a pilot initiative to make our patients feel better a year from now. We’re bringing in more than just the typical physicians to help them do that. Medicine needs to go from these episodic sicknesses to continual and sustained wellness.

SF: That’s so exciting, Stephen. For people listening out there, can you share what you have learned about creating meaningful change in organizations that you’d like to pass on?

SK: If you look in my office, there are two quotes. One’s from Buckminster Fuller: “If you really want to change something, don’t try to change the existing reality. Create a new model that makes the old one obsolete.” A little further in my office is another philosopher, Mike Tyson, who says, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I believe if I’m running a mom-and-pop shop or academic medical center and something needs to be changed, I need to start by creating an optimistic view for people around the future. We have a great morale here because we’re trying to envision and create the future today.

Dr. Stephen Klasko, a Wharton grad,  is the President of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health System.  To learn more about his work follow him on Twitter @SKlasko.

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

Akshat Shekhar akshat shekharis an undergraduate junior at Wharton and in the Engineering School.

Costs of Covering Who You Really Are — Kenji Yoshino and Christie Smith

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

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 Kenji Yoshino and Christie Smith. Christie Smith is the National Managing Principal at Deloitte University’s Leadership Center for Inclusion.  She was named Diversity Journal’s 2013 Woman to Watch and was thrice recognized by San Francisco Business Times as one of the most influential women in the Bay Area.  Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU, author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, formerly on the faculty at Yale where he also served as Deputy DeanTogether, Smith and Yoshino have been studying why people of all backgrounds cover up their identities in the workplace. Following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Christie you are a phenomenally accomplished professional who is out and raising children with your same-sex partner.  Your portfolio of professional activities includes many other issues apart from those that affect the LGBT community.  You’ve really been at the forefront of bringing awareness to these complex issues that are faced by some gay men and women at work. I wonder if we could start with the question of how and when you decided to come out at work and to invest so much of your time and energy in the workplace issues affecting the LGBT community?

Christie Smith: christie smithI’m not sure that it was a conscious decision to advocate strictly for the LGBT community.  I come by this very naturally having a mother who was a tremendous social justice activist working in Newark, NJ in the 60s helping to educate black men and growing up watching my father support her in her career. He took part in raising six daughters, all of whom were very strong young women. I guess I grew up in an atmosphere that valued social justice – fighting for the underdog – with a very untraditional father figure in terms of his support of my mother and of his daughters.  I think with that as the basis, my entire life has been about the values of service, seeking social justice, and fighting for the underdog.  It wasn’t until I made the decision to join Deloitte – and I had been out as a gay woman for twenty years prior to joining Deloitte – that I made the decision through the interview process not to hide my identity and not change pronouns and not do things that I had done to cover previously in my work world because I was simply uncomfortable or felt that it hindered my professional opportunities.

SF: You had been covering in prior professional environments?

CS: Absolutely.  I was being recruited by another firm at the same time.  The stark difference between the two firms was that Deloitte wanted to know who I was, not what I had done.  It was a very different interviewing process.

SF: How was that manifest?  Was it particular questions you were asked, or was it nonverbal cues?  How did you get that sense?

CS: I think it was all of the above.  When you join Deloitte as I did, as a direct entry partner, it is a long process to be admitted into the firm. Mostly that is to honor our culture but it is also to make sure this is the right decision, not only for the firm but also for the individual.

SF: Backing up a bit, what led you to decide at that moment in your life and career that you were no longer going to cover up who you really are?

CS: I knew I was successful enough that I didn’t need to anymore, and I was comfortable enough in my own emotional journey to feel that I didn’t need to play the game anymore. If I was going to make a commitment to a firm like Deloitte – which really was a decision to join a firm that I knew I would retire from – it was going to be long-term, and I couldn’t do that unfaithfully by hiding who I was.

SF:  You had a track record of success that gave you the confidence to be more true to yourself. Do you regret not revealing more of yourself sooner in your life? How do you advise young people on this question of when to reveal oneself?

CS: I’m not sure that regret is the right word.  I am saddened by the missed opportunities by having covered or hidden an aspect of who I was.  I often say in Kenji and my work on covering that it’s almost as if you’re going to work a second job.  Imagine the feeling of only giving half of yourself to your work – half of your brain, half of your passion, half of your emotional connection – because you’re working so hard to work that identity instead of your job.

SF: Can you give us an example of what kind of extra burden or work that covering requires, this second shift as it were?

CS: It requires not engaging in personal conversation.  So when frequently asked about my weekend on Monday morning, I would probably give one response: “Oh, I went for a long run.  I’m training for a marathon.  What did you do?”  I’d immediately deflect by asking a thousand questions to the person who was talking to me, so as not to have to field any other personal questions about my weekend.  It’s not only distracting in the moment because you’re working so hard to protect your identity, but it even lingers afterwards.  For me, when I walked away from a conversation, it impacted me for the next fifteen minutes, sometimes a half hour.  I just would be distracted by the fact that I didn’t feel comfortable revealing my own identity as a gay woman.

SF: Of course, you’re basically having to lie about yourself, and that’s got to create all kinds of angst and doubt about confidence in your professional life.

CS: Exactly.  I wonder about the missed relationships that I didn’t feel I could develop.  I wonder sometimes in some instances, Could I have been more successful? Could I have served my clients better?  While there were no great catastrophes, I am left wondering, If I had felt comfortable in bringing my whole and authentic self to work, would I have had more energy to have deeper human connection and engage in greater productivity?

SF: So that’s a huge cost, isn’t it?  What have you thought about or even assessed in terms of the economics of this cost?

CS: What we saw in our research are three main things.  First, covering is happening: not just in life or the law, but at work as well. 61 percent of our respondents said that they are actively involved in hiding an aspect of themselves while at work.  Second, and as a result of the first, people are showing up feeling sub-optimized in their roles.  Finally, people who cover or feel that they have to cover are contemplating walking out the door.  The real cost is to their productivity and retention.

SF:  Kenji, could give us the short version of what brought you to focus on this issue in your professional life, in addition to all the other work that you do as a constitutional law professor at Yale and now at NYU?

Kenji Yoshino: Kenji YoshinoFor me, it was driven by the experience of being a gay man in the workplace and particularly in academia. Like many other gay people, I overcame the demand to downplay my identity. It evolved from a time when I just wanted to be straight; to passing, which was when I was in the closet; to, by the time I entered the workforce, covering, which is when you admit you have a particular identity but make every effort to downplay it.  Stew, I’ll never forget walking down the corridors of Yale Law School as a junior law professor and having a very well-meaning colleague put his arm around me and say, “Kenji, you’ll do a lot better here if you’re a homosexual professional, than if you’re a professional homosexual.”

SF: What does that mean?

KY: I knew what he meant was that I would go further and faster if I were a constitutional law professor who just happened to be gay, rather than if I were the gay law professor who taught gay rights subjects and litigated gay rights cases and wrote on gay rights issues.  Unfortunately for me, my passion was the latter.  For a couple of years I tried to heed to his advice, but after a while, I realized that I would much rather not get tenure acting as somebody who I was, rather than get tenure as somebody who I wasn’t.

SF: How did you come to that decision, Kenji?

KY: I think it was really cumulative.  I sensed that I wasn’t doing the things that were at the front of my mind nor was I doing them at the top of my game and that those two feelings seemed to be related.  I looked peripherally, and I saw that my colleagues who taught constitutional law were teaching a lot more gay content in their classes. This was the 1990s when cases like Romer v. Evans were breaking and when same-sex marriage was on the horizon.  It was a very exciting time to be in that area of law, and I felt like it was crazy that I was gay and passionate about this but couldn’t bring myself to be involved in it.

Ultimately, the decisive factor was related to the person who actually mentored me when I was at Yale Law School – an openly gay man who came from the ACLU to teach a class on sexual orientation in law.  Once Yale had hired me on the tenure track, they no longer kept him on because he was just a lecturer, and they wanted somebody who was a full-time professor.  There was this kind of irony that they wanted a gay person but didn’t necessarily want – at least according to this individual who gave me advice – a person who was too passionate about working on gay rights issues.

That’s when I started wondering about what was going on and whether there was a word to describe this phenomenon. It wasn’t conversion or passing – nobody wanted me to be straight or to say I was straight or to stay in the closet – but it was this notion of “you can be different, but just downplay it.”  Instead of having diversity and inclusion, it was diversity or inclusion; you could be included so long as you downplayed the things that made you different.  I found the term “covering” from Erving Goffman.  The more I delved into it, I realized that it seems to hit LGBT people first, but once you start pulling on the thread, it really becomes a universal phenomenon.

SF: We all wear masks, right?

KY: Exactly. All the organizations that Christie and I survey believed in inclusion on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability, but when we actually talked to respondents about whether or not they felt like they had to downplay those identities in order to be fully included, we saw a supermajority saying that they had to choose between being included and being diverse.

SF: Wow.  So Christie, what did you make of that startling distinction?

CS: Well, it certainly wasn’t unanticipated. We did expect that we would find that traditional minority groups covered, on one dimension or another.  What we didn’t necessarily anticipate was that 45 percent of straight white men would also state that they covered or hid some aspect of themselves.  Many of the straight white men covered that they were participating in their son’s or daughter’s soccer game, for example.  They would say they were leaving for a meeting instead of leaving for the game.

SF: Was that the most common kind of covering activity by the straight white men in your study, or were there others that were also apparent?

KY: People reported covering age a lot as well; “I colored gray hair to look younger” was a common answer.  People also covered their class background, so if someone was coming from a working class background or their parents had not been professionals, that would be a form of affiliation-based covering.  People would cover their veteran status too.

SF: They would cover their veteran status because that was stigmatized?

KY: Yes, people would say that, particularly in advocacy-based covering, which is where you don’t stick up for your own group, that people would report hearing an anti-military joke and not speak up lest they be perceived as overly strident or militant.  But also, on affiliation-based grounds, veterans would also often report PTSD.  The veterans who reported affiliation-based covering on the basis of the PTSD were very candid.  I think we were actually honored by how candid the responses were.

SF:  Affiliation-based covering – could you define that term for our listeners, Kenji?

KY:  Affiliation-based covering is the form of covering of behaviors that can trigger stereotypes about you. The idea is that I might tell you very proudly that I’m a veteran, but I might not tell you that I have PTSD because I worry that will trigger you to have conscious or unconscious biases toward how I’m going to behave.

SF: So you were proud of those veterans in your study who spoke to you about the fact that they were doing such covering?

KY: Not exactly. I was proud of the fact that they were very candid about it, and that they were also very pragmatic.  Christie and I are very practical people, and we don’t want our research to just sit on a shelf.  We said, “What can we do to help you uncover yourself in ways that would be helpful to you?”  Some of our military respondents said, “When we were in the military itself, and we had PTSD, we had a buddy system so that somebody would know that we had PTSD and would actually support us when we were in situations where that manifested itself.” PTSD itself is not an easy fix, but assisting people who have it can be easier.  For example, say I’m going into a meeting, and I have PTSD.  A car backfires in the street, and I suddenly have an episode.  If Christie is there with me at the client meeting, and she knows my condition, she can actually help run interference for me.

SF: I want to make sure we get to what you have been doing with this research in practice by helping to raise consciousness. You were talking about the importance of really digging into how these stigmas play out in everyday life because that’s the only way we’re going to get to solutions.

CS: I think there are two buckets for the solutions.  One is the personal bucket: What will I do in order to uncover? The second is organizationally: What can an organization do to help?

On a personal level, there are five aspects we generally look to, but I’ll share a couple just to give you a flavor.  First is to develop your personal uncovered narrative – how does your personal diversity or experiences define who you are at work and your leadership? The second thing from a personal standpoint is to share your story – your personal uncovered narrative instead of your professional resume – and we have leaders who are actively doing this now. When they give presentations, they start with who they are, not what they are, and include their experiences growing up such as being the first to go to college in their family.

SF: Whatever has been a source of struggle for them – is that the key to the narrative, that it creates that sort of trust?

CS: It includes anything leaders believe they had to cover because they thought these might impact their sense of opportunity or commitment.

SF: When you’re coaching people, particularly executives, to be able to convey these stories, what do they wrestle with most? Or is it an easy thing for most people to be able to do?

CS: I think they wrestle with the vulnerability, first and foremost, but they also face an internal challenge because “this isn’t how we’ve always done it. 

SF:  How do you help them?  What do you do to coach people through that anxiety of vulnerability?

CS: We generally do that on an individual basis, through one-on-one coaching. We discuss what they stand for, what they’re hoping to accomplish from a business standpoint, and how revealing their own story – including the challenges they went through and overcame in developing a followership – will be useful in creating a culture of bringing diverse experiences in order to ultimately solve business problems on the table.

SF: So we’ve discussed your belief system about diversity and your personal story about where you’ve had to cover and how you’ve dealt with that.  What’s the third piece?

CS: I think it’s to dare to have the conversations across difference.  We’ve spent so much time in the past ten years talking about emotional intelligence as a great attribute to great leaders. That is certainly true, but what we need to do is to move to emotional maturity, which is a competency to take my own self-knowledge and create an environment in which I can have a conversation across difference and invite other people’s stories into the room.

That is a different competency; it takes more time, which we don’t like in our organizations, but it ultimately creates great teams and great innovation and enables us to delight our clients. From a personal standpoint, those are some of the things we look at.

Organizationally, we want to diagnose and analyze whether covering is happening in your organization, and, if it is, what the impact is. We administer our survey to understand where the blind spots are and where covering may be happening.  The second step is to understand where biases show up in your talent life cycle, so we examine the analytics in your hiring, retention, attrition, and performance management system.  The combination of those data sources gives us an opportunity to specifically identify where the breakdown or the stalling of leadership efforts is happening and ultimately provide point solutions to those business units, rather than just a blanket initiative across the entire organization, which is what we’ve done for thirty years.

SF: Kenji, what have you found to be most challenging about the work of engaging the organization or other institutions in doing the fundamental work of diagnostics?

KY: We actually haven’t struggled that much in the area of diagnostics. I think the real struggle has been in beginning the conversation.  Part of this project includes public education regarding self-diagnosis and organizational diagnosis, and it’s been happily a pretty smooth ride for both of us in terms of different sectors of society getting involved –

corporations but also educational institutions. Organizations are really driving to take the survey in order to understand both how they might be diminishing the authenticity and commitment of individuals who are in their organizations and how that might be hurting organizational effectiveness across the board.

SF: Can you tell us about a success story that you’re either in the midst of or that you’ve been a part of in doing this work of both diagnosis and then intervention to create meaningful change in an organization?

KY: Well, the phenomenon that Christie was sharing earlier was the “Share your Story” campaign at Deloitte, which is a form of mature vulnerability.   A number of versions of this have gone out, and I think they were outgrowths of Deloitte’s commitment to authenticity and leadership.  “Sharing your story” is exactly what Christie was alluding to earlier when leaders were videotaped and asked to tell not their resume stories, which are extremely polished and manicured, but rather to show up as human beings.

Harvard Business School Professor Robin Ely is fond of talking about “mature vulnerability,” which I think is a wonderful phrase.  The idea is that when you actually show up as a human being in one of these videos, the videos go viral within the organization because you have individuals who say that they had to cover the fact that they were gay or Latino or black or female and then explain how they overcame it.  That’s not only inspiring for people within their own cohorts, it also sends a broad signal which is particularly important to the millennial generation.

CS: I think one problem we’ve seen in our push to shift organizational mindsets for our clients occurs when you begin to talk about diversity and inclusion and all of the eyes straight, white men tend to glaze over.

SF: Why does that happen?

CS: I think it’s because they don’t feel or see a path through which they actually belong as participants in this conversation.  Rather than showing them as knights in shining armor that are coming in to sponsor a program or vilifying them because they have the roles that everybody wants, our research ironically levels the playing field for the straight, white males in the conversation of inclusion, and ultimately the adoption of the change management process is thus accelerated.

SF: So is that working?  What is the trigger that helps you get past the glaze?

KY: The trigger is the statistic.  When we present the fact that 45 percent of straight white men cover, they immediately want to know how they cover.  So when we start going through anything from veteran status to mental or physical illness to working class background, immediately people are leaning forward and engaged for the first time.  Many people in the room find themselves actually inside the paradigm.  They’re not outside looking in, rather, they’re actually part of this communal issue.

SF: What’s the main message that you want our listeners to take away?

KY: I would say to be yourself because being anybody else is a lot harder work, and you’re going to use up a lot of bandwidth to do it.  When you actually begin to be your authentic self and uncover that in public, you plug yourself into a power source that hugely benefits both you and your organization.

SF: Christie, what is your final word for our listeners in terms of what you want them to take away?

CS: I would agree that being your authentic self is important, but I think you also have to be particularly intentional. You have to develop that personal, uncovered narrative and connect it to how it defines who you are when you’re leading at work. Then you have to be able to share that story.


To learn more about Christie Smith’s and Kenji Yoshino’s work on uncovering you can visit www.deloitte.com/us/uncovering, check out Yoshino’s book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (Random House, 2006) and follow on Twitter @Kenji_yoshino.


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

Andrea YehAndrea Yeh is an undergraduate junior majoring in Operation and Information Management and in International Relations.


How Men Feel About Flex — Jennifer Owens

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 The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 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 Jennifer Owens, Editorial Director of Working Mother magazine and Director of the Working Mother Research Institute, about new findings on working fathers and their need for flex at work.

Stew Friedman: Today, on the first ever National Flex Day, I am pleased to welcome Jennifer Owens, Editorial Director at Working Mother, where they just released today a report on men and flexible work scheduling.

Jennifer, you just completed this study, with Ernst & Young, on working dads – give us the big findings. What are the headlines that people need to know?

Jennifer Owens: Jennifer OwensIt’s been very surprising to find that men are stressed too. They have the same work-life issues. They’re coming at them differently than women because they’re a little more confident about using flex, but they are using it. They say that they feel comfortable using flex, and they’re using flex to help with their family life.

SF: What was most surprising in the study findings?

JO: What’s so surprising is how strong men are about flex. I totally admit it – I think I have a gender bias from being an editor of Working Mother magazine, where we see everything through the “working mother lens”…

SF: Are you going to be changing the name of the magazine to Working Fathers and Mothers? Is that what’s coming?

JO: We’ve always cared a lot about the men in our lives, and the single dads – just men in general – but no. When we fix it for working moms, we can talk about the name change.

SF: You were saying that the big surprise was the intense feeling about the need for flexibility? Or how much men are using it? What was it that really sprung out at you?

JO: We talked to 1,000 men. Three-quarters of the men said they have access to workplace flexibility, and 42% say they’re comfortable with using the flexible support available at their work.

SF: So they don’t feel stigmatized, which we know is a big issue?

JO: It is a big thing, but the study says no. When we’re looking at it from a work-from-home lens, the version of flex that men like is a maximum of two days home per week.  Any more than that and they start to feel like they’re disconnected from the workplace. The interesting thing is that these results mirror everything that women tell us. I think that’s the most surprising thing – a finding that boy, you’re just like us.

SF: That’s interesting. So the dynamics of what makes flex work are very similar for men and women, is that what you’re concluding from this study?

JO:  I am. The rise of dual-income families, the rise in hands-on male parenting hours, the rise in the amount of time men are spending on housekeeping – all of these mean that the rise of work-life stress for men is happening as well. At Working Mother, we are big proponents that flex is the only way – especially for a dual-income family and even a single parent family – for men to be the best parents and the best employees that they can be.

SF: What kind of recommendations flow from this study in terms of what organizations and what working fathers – and working men more generally – should focus on? What are the key priorities for businesses and for working men?

JO: In organizations, I think we have to realize the other half of the coin. Much of the way we talk about work-life comes from a working mother perspective, and then we broaden it to think about people going for advanced degrees or having a specific passion or maybe someone with a chronic illness in their life. We need to think about the men, ask them what they need and include them in the conversation. They’re our work-life allies. This isn’t just a working mother issue, it’s an everybody issue, and while we say that, and we’ve felt that for some time, we can truly see it now.

SF: That’s certainly one of the things we found in a study comparing the Class of 1992 to the Class of 2012 at Wharton which I published last year in a book called Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family. We see that among today’s graduates – the people who are now in their twenties – that the men are anticipating conflict between work and life because they want to be more engaged at work, and yet they expect that their spouses are also going to be working full-time. It’s clear that young men and, as in your study, even men across different age groups, are in need of the same kind of flexibility that women have been fighting for for years now.

JO: Definitely. The millennial men are much more involved at home and say that it is a valuable part of their lives to be hands-on parents. We also see men from the Boomer Generation wondering if any of them are ever going to be able to retire—‘how are we using flexibility as we’re thinking towards retirement?’ Flex works at all levels, but it’s interesting that the same questions that the women are having, the men are having too.

SF: What specifically do you recommend for men who are seeking to create more flexibility in their work and in their lives?

JO: I think you need to ask for it. One good way to do this is through a pilot program, which is what we always recommended to the women. Sometimes, if it seems like an open request, it can frighten your manager into thinking you’ll never come back in the office. I think a, “Hey let me try this for 30 days or 60 days, and after that, we can check to see how it’s doing,” often works much better. But you do need to ask for it. Other studies have found that men are actually more apt to get approval for their flex requests than women are.

SF: So it might be easier for men to ask, but you just do have to ask and be unafraid. The important point you mentioned which I want to underscore is the idea of setting it up as a temporary experiment. That tends to reduce resistance and make it easier for people in the organization to get on board.

JO: Exactly. First you must prove it can work.

Jennifer Owens is the Editorial Director of Working Mother magazine and the Director of the Working Mother Research Institute. She is an award-winning journalist who has been featured in outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, Fox Business News, and USA Today. For more information on her work, visit the Working Mother online at www.workingmother.com, or follow her on Twitter @working_mother.

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 MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America


How Work Affects Health — Robert Hedaya, MD

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

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 Robert Hedaya, psychiatrist, founder of National Center of Whole Psychiatry. The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you come to look at your patients as whole people not just a picture of symptoms, but people trying to create harmony and integration in their lives and health?  What is it that shaped your thinking?

Robert Hedaya: Robert Hedaya. M.D.The short answer is that back in about 1983 or so when I first went into practice, I had a patient who was a 50-year-old woman.  She had one child and a marriage that wasn’t so good, and her child was going off to college.  She started having panic attacks, and I thought she was anxious about having to live with her husband or leaving her husband. I went through a series of standard treatments over the course of a year.  Nothing worked – not therapy, not various medications, not cognitive behavioral therapy. I went back to the drawing board.  I looked at her labs and saw that the size of her red blood cell count was a little bit larger than the upper limit of normal.  I did a little research and found out that it could be a B12 deficiency.  I gave her a B12 injection, and her panic attacks cleared up overnight.  I was blown away. And I thought, “Gee, this is important.  I wonder what else I’m missing.  What else wasn’t I taught, and what didn’t my teachers know?”  I eventually figured out that it is essential to remember that the head is connected to the body by the neck.  I learned all the different interactions between the body and the mind and ultimately how the mind is really influenced by every level of our environment.

SF: As you know, on this show we focus on work and the rest of life, including our minds and our bodies and our spiritual lives, as well as family and communities.  We’re looking at how the four domains of work, home, community, and self interact; how they affect each other in both positive and negative ways; and what can be done to maximize the former.  In the National Center for Whole Psychiatry, what is your primary mission, and how do you go about serving it?

RH: l I’ve shifted my focus recently, and I’ve decided to look closely at inflammation because inflammation really is the key factor for all of our chronic illnesses.  Inflammation is affected by psychiatric conditions.  Just take an example in the workplace:  If you have a boss who is abusive, if you’re having trouble with your colleagues, or if you’re frustrated and you’re having continual difficulties, these all cause changes in your immune system, which leads to changes in your gut.   Most of your immune system is around your gut, so then you get these immunological changes, which will bring out various illnesses over time.

SF: Inflammation – can you define what that is for our listeners?

RH: When you get a cut and you see redness and increased blood flow and heat, that’s a localized inflammation. We have more and more difficulty as we age in controlling inflammation, so we might have more aches, more pains, more joint problems.  We may have inflammation in our cardiovascular system, for example. And inflammation is at the root of atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries.  Inflammation is also at the root of dementia, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.

SF: What are some of the most important aspects of the work environment that can cause problems like the ones you’re studying now with inflammation in various body systems?

RH: A useful metaphor is to think of concentric rings. On the outermost ring might be something like the stability, innovation, or financial condition of the organization that you’re a part of.  Then you move to a ring that’s closer into you, and you might have management issues, which might be having an even closer and more direct effect on you.  Of course if these are good situations, your health improves and wellbeing improve.  If there is an opportunity provided by the organization and management to grow – challenges, learning, stimulation, supportive relationships with you, your colleagues, etc. – that also supports your health.  Then if you move even a little bit closer in, it might have to do with your immediate work environment, say the floor you’re on, the office you’re in.  Maybe the lighting is affecting you in a positive way or negative way.  Maybe there’s a moldy environment.  Then you can move more intimately towards yourself to look at the relationships that you’re involved in on the day-to-day and the hour-to-hour basis at work and examine how those are affecting you.  Ultimately if you come in even closer, it’s worth asking how your skill set fits with the kind of work you do.  Does it provide you the opportunities that you as a person need to feel fulfilled, to find meaning in your life, and to be challenged?

SF: Let’s dig a little further into that if we can.  From a whole psychiatry perspective, there’s just so much you could look at, in terms of identifying the sources of physical and mental strain.  How do you know where to start?  Especially if the source of the problem is at work, how do you find that in your intake and diagnostic?

RH: I spend a lot of time with people. I’ll usually spend four hours on intake.  I’ll do a medical history and a physical, and I’ll talk with family members.  That’s something that’s not accessible to everybody.  I wrote a book about ten years ago that’s still available called The Antidepressant Survival Program.  The content of the book gives an analysis of different aspects of a person’s life.  Going through that might help you identify areas of vulnerability.

SF: So the book takes you through a kind of diagnostic checklist to look at things that might be affecting your health?

RH: That’s right.  I think that’s one way of doing it.  Another way is to think about where you feel best at work, and where you feel worst.  What are the stresses at work, and what are the strengths?  What is it you wished you had more of?  When were you happiest in your work life?

SF: I wonder if you could share an example of someone who you’ve treated where there was a work element to both the diagnostic and the treatment that helped.

RH: I have a good story about a woman who was in her fifties working for the government.   She started to become ill, and we went through the whole checklist of situations in her life, but nothing had really changed.  It turned out that an important factor was that she had recently advanced in her career and moved to a different building.  Many government buildings are old, and she moved into a building that was full of mold – it was a sick building.

SF: Sick building?

RH: Yes, it’s called “sick building syndrome.”  There was a lot of mold and toxins in the air.   It turns out many of the people that she was working with would become ill.  There was just a lot of subtle illness.  So when we got her to work at home, she just really cleared up.

SF: Amazing.  Bob, is there one piece of advice you’d like to leave our listeners with in terms of how to think intelligently about their mental and physical health and how their work affects it?

RH: I think the key comes down to finding meaning in your work; that is the most important thing.

You can find meaning in work by the nature of your work, by the nature of the relationships you have, by helping people around you, and by being of service to the people around you. Hedaya’s work underscores the importance of evaluating our lives holistically.  Given that mental, social, and physical problems may all be interrelated, finding a resolution to an issue we face may require a multi-dimensional analysis.  As Hedaya suggests, we can ask ourselves, when we have personally found our work and life most rewarding, and what were the circumstances surrounding that satisfaction?  Have you experienced instances where your physical and mental well-being affected one another in a positive and synergistic way?  Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below.

To learn more about Dr. Hedaya, the Founder of the National Center of Whole Psychiatry and his work, read his book, or visit the National Center of Whole Psychiatry on Facebook.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Andrea YehAndrea Yeh is an undergraduate junior majoring in Operation and Information Management and in International Relations.

A Life of Learning Leadership — Eric Greitens

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 The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 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 Eric Greitens, former Navy SEAL and Purple Heart recipient, CEO of the Greitens Group, and author of the memoir The Heart and the Fist, about his not-for-profit The Mission Continues, which empowers returning veterans of foreign wars to continue to serve in their home communities.

Stew Friedman: Eric, you are the youngest of the six people that I profiled in my new book, Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life. The oldest, by the way, is Bruce Springsteen, so you two guys anchored the age scale. But you’ve truly lived a number of lives in the time you’ve lived on this beautiful earth: you’ve been a Rhodes Scholar, a humanitarian worker, a Navy Seal, and the founder of a very important and successful not-for-profit about which you wrote in your memoir, The Heart and the Fist.

Let me ask you about the moments that were of particular interest to me. You were a boxer and a humanitarian worker back in the 90s. What did you learn from those experiences that served you well in your service in the military and in your founding of The Mission Continues?

Eric Greitens:  Eric GreitensI’ve truly learned a lot from both of those experiences. I started boxing when I was at Duke University—college kid going down to a gym in the inner city there in North Carolina. What was fun for me was that I had this great boxing coach named Earl Blair. Earl Blair had grown up in the Depression, served in the military at the tail end of World War II, and was working in a warehouse when he was coaching me. His real passion, though, was teaching boxing, and he was really teaching life at night to a bunch of kids who really needed it in this gym in the inner city. One of the things that Earl always said to me when I was boxing was to “watch Derek.” Derek was one of my training partners—he was about 26 years old, a professional fighter, and a construction worker. Every time I’d step up to the heavy bags, to the speed bags, to the jump rope, Earl would always say, “Watch Derek.”

The lesson that Earl knew was that we learn best when we actually have models in front of us. He understood that it’s really hard for us to learn any new skill on our own, but when we have a model whom we can imitate and emulate, it helps us learn much more quickly. Now what was fun for me was that I’d be doing this down in the boxing gym, and then I’d be back on campus later reading Aristotle, who says, “You will know what the good thing is by seeing what the good person does.” So I had Aristotle and my boxing coach Earl Blair both saying the same thing.

The lesson I’ve taken from that, which certainly we use in the work we do at The Mission Continues with returning veterans, is that oftentimes, especially when things are hard, especially when people are facing a place of pain, hardship, and difficulty, they need to have a model in front of them for how to get through it.

In practice, what we do at The Mission Continues is, if we have a group of 100 veterans coming together from Afghanistan and Iraq, and we’re at the end of our opening weekend, we will make sure that over the course of the weekend they will hear from a veteran who’s dealt with and overcome severe post-traumatic stress disorder. They’ll see and hear the story of a veteran who might have lost his eyesight, lost a limb, or been severely burned. They’ll talk to people who had trouble integrating with their family when they came back, people who struggled financially or who struggled to set up or find private sector employment. By seeing these models of people who have successfully made it through hardship, people begin to see how they can do this again in their own lives. I think that was one of the things I learned from Earl that we use in the work that we do today. I think we always have to make sure, no matter what age we are, that we have models to emulate.

SF: This is a fantastic example of one of the skills that I really hone in on in your story. For each of the six people I analyzed, I wanted to see what are the skills that these great leaders and people of significance have cultivated to lead the lives they truly want and go out and serve others with their talents and passions. The one that you’re referring to here, Eric, is this notion of applying all your resources, which means taking what you’ve learned or somehow gathered in one part of your life and applying it in others. Learning the value of models, even 20 years ago, is something that you’re now bringing to bear in making The Mission Continues even more powerful. It’s just one example of many that is illustrated in your story, and it’s a great one. Taking the lessons of experience from wherever you get them—whether it’s a ratty gym in the inner city of Durham or on the fields of battle—and then using them later in life by harvesting those skills and applying them, which you did so well.

There are other things that you’ve learned, especially in your humanitarian efforts, about how people survive in the most challenging and even horrific circumstances. Can you talk about that?

EG: My first real experience of doing hard humanitarian work overseas was in Bosnia in 1994. As people will remember, this was during the horrible campaigns of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. I was 20 years old at the time, and I was living and working in refugee camps. I remember I’d see people step off of these busses into the refugee camps, and they were literally carrying everything that they owned. They’d lost their homes, they’d lost their clothing, and they’d lost every material possession. Many of them had also lost friends and had lost family. If somebody listening right now thinks about that—what it would be like right now to lose everything you own and step. What I saw that was interesting in the refugee camps was that oftentimes the people who were doing best in the camp were the parents and grandparents who had really young kids. The people who were oftentimes struggling the most were the people who were my age at the time, older teenagers or young adults. They felt like their lives had been cut short, but they didn’t really feel like they had any purpose to serve.

SF: Because they had no dependents? There was nobody counting on them?

EG: Exactly. The parents and the grandparents knew that every single day they had to get up and be strong because their kid was counting on them. That lesson, again, is something we took to the work we do at The Mission Continues, and I think it is a lesson for all of us. When things are really hard, when we’re really struggling in a situation of pain and hardship, it’s really natural and can be really easy to turn in on ourselves. What we often need to do is to remember the fact that there are other people counting on us to be strong. When we have a sense of purpose that is larger than ourselves, and when we remember that other people need our strength and what we have to offer, it often helps us to make it through those difficult situations as well.

SF: That is the ultimate theme that I drew from writing these six biographies. I looked back and thought, well, that’s it! Each and every one of the people that I wrote about, including you, has found a way to use their particular skills and passions and converted that to value to others. I think that is how you lead the life you want—you get the strength of confidence to progress through life, through all its disappointments and tragedies, by having this mindset of “Where can I serve?” and “How can I be of value?”

EG: One of the nice things I picked out from the book when reading about Bruce Springsteen is where you talk about how he embodies values consistently and creates this culture of innovation. It’s this idea that there are specific skills that people can pull on, build, and develop, and I think your book is a whole series of models about how people can learn from others to build the life they want.

SF: Another one of the skills I thought was so powerfully illustrated in your story was this notion of holding yourself accountable. Your story, to me, is such a wonderful example of doing that when you realized that compassion and charitable works were not enough, and that, when there are bad guys out there, they must be stopped through physical means. Can you talk about how you came to that realization and what it meant for you to make the decision to hold yourself accountable for what was emerging as your understanding of what your core values really were?

EG: I remember when I was a young kid, I wanted to make a difference. In the cleansing in Bosnia and in the genocide in Rwanda where over 800,000 to one million people had been killed, I remember talking to a number of refugees, and they all said some version of, “Listen, we really appreciate that you’re here, and we’re glad that there is a roof over our head, and we really deeply appreciate the fact that there’s food for our families to eat. You’ve even set up places for refugee kids to go to school…” But what was also really clear, and in fact, one guy in Bosnia said this to me: “If people really cared about us, they’d also be willing to protect us.”

I didn’t know what to say to him at the time, but I thought about what he said later, and I realized that what he said was true. If we really care about something, then we’re willing to respond not only with compassion, but we’re also willing to respond with courage. We’re willing to protect those things we care about. For me, at the time I was doing a lot of this work, I was a graduate student. I was talking a lot, I was thinking a lot, and that was all important. But I also felt very strongly that if I was going to hold myself accountable, if I was going to live my values, I also had to find a way to be willing to protect others. That led me to think about joining the US military and ultimately the SEAL teams.

SF: What was the internal struggle there to come to that decision? In terms of being willing to make that kind of change and sacrifice in your everyday life?

EG: One of the things that happens in life is that we all want good things. I was 26 years old, and I joined the military relatively late. At the time, I was finishing a PhD, and I was in a very comfortable place where I had an offer to stay in a university and continue to teach, and I knew that would have been valuable and meaningful work. I had an opportunity to go to a consulting firm which offered to pay me more money than both of my parents had ever made in any one year period, and I also had this offer from the United States Navy where they said, “We’ll pay you $1,332.60 per month.” They said, “The deal is if you sign up on the dotted line, then you’re going to owe us eight years. In return for that, we’ll give you one and only one chance at basic underwater demolition sea training. If you make it through, you’ll be on your way to being a Navy SEAL, but if you don’t, you’re still going to owe us eight years.” It’s not actually a really great recruiting pitch from the Navy. [Laughs].

But I remember as I was thinking about all of these options, there was actually a moment when I walked into this place on the University of Oxford campus called Rhodes House, and I looked up and saw these names etched in the marble of the Rotunda where you walked into the building. I didn’t know what those names were, so I asked somebody later, and it turned out those were the names of students who had left school in World War I and World War II and who had fought and died overseas.

It’s a really powerful reminder. It was a reminder for me, and it was a reminder, I think, for everybody who walks through those doors that our lives are only possible because people before us had been willing to serve and willing to sacrifice. And for me, at that moment, I thought about what you write in your book a lot about how we have to hold ourselves accountable. When I looked up at those names, I thought that I had to take advantage of this opportunity to serve and that I had to find a way to contribute, and again, that’s what led me there.

SF: So that was the turning point, seeing those names on the wall?

EG: It was a really important moment, yes.

SF: You also told me in our conversations for the book that, even as a kid, you had kind of fantastical ideas about wanting to be in a historical moment where you did something important.

EG: Yes, absolutely. I remember as a kid actually reading these books in my local public library—I’d hang out in a little corner and read—and I remember worrying that all of the great battles had already been fought. All of the important things had already been done, and all of these new lands had been discovered. I wondered, What can I do? What can we do? I think, for all of us, if we’re going to build our vocation and really build our sense of purpose, we’re going to have to find ways to embrace our own time and the challenges that we have in front of us. Thinking like that led me to go to Bosnia and Rwanda and start this journey where I joined the SEAL teams and started The Mission Continues. I wouldn’t have been able to anticipate any of that when I was a kid, but the journey has been a good one.

SF: So how do you teach that idea? How do you convey it to young people or the people you work with through The Mission Continues—this notion of finding that connection to what you really care about, what you stand for, what you’re willing to die for, and to move in that direction? I think that’s an issue that many people face, and learning to hold yourself accountable is a skill that’s not easy to hone and develop. It’s easy to slip.

EG: It is incredibly easy to slip, and I think that one of the things we have to do is to get rid of this notion that you can find your purpose. I often tell people you can’t find your purpose because your purpose isn’t lost. It’s not like it’s sitting out there somewhere waiting for you to find it. When you look at the lives of people who have really lived full and harmonious lives, as you talk about, Stew, you find that it is a process of creation. Often what we have to do is to throw ourselves into things, not knowing exactly where they’re going to take us. For me, it was throwing myself into boxing when I was at Duke and throwing myself into the study of philosophy. When you really dive in, it’s actually in that experience of pushing yourself, of challenging yourself, of having the right mentors, of being a part of the right teams—that’s where you really build that passion and create it, actually in the process of doing the work itself.

SF: Some people think of that as education. You explore new avenues for bringing your talents, your ideas, your passions to whatever circumstances are available to you, and you discover along the way, but you need help with that, right? Your story is such a great one in illustrating how you drew on the support of many mentors throughout your life and career. You wouldn’t be where you are now if not for Earl Blair, I would venture to say.

EG: I wouldn’t be where I am without Earl Blair, Barb Osburg, my high school English teacher, Bruce Carl, my Leadership St. Louis mentor when I was a teenager, so many great professors at Duke University, and so many good friends. I think that if we have the humility to recognize that everyone has something to teach us, then we can go out into the world and find ways to learn from our peers, learn from our fellow students, learn from colleagues, and really make everyone a teacher for us.

SF:  There’s an important caveat in that statement, and that is “if you have the humility.” You learned that somehow—probably your parents taught it to you or maybe you picked it up somewhere else. How do you coach people, especially young people, to understand the importance of learning from the world around them, and especially learning from people who have been around for a while?

EG: One of the things I think we have to do is to structure activities for young people where they are, in fact, learning from mentors. Too often today when we think about education, we only think about kids learning information. There’s an aspect of education in the sense that they’re going to learn information, but there’s also an important aspect of cultural training, and this comes from coaches, and it comes from mentors. I think it’s really important for young people to be engaged in these kinds of activities where they can learn from a mentor.

In fact, it’s important not just for kids, but for all of us to do that. I found it’s important for me to do it at my age. For example, I just started Taekwondo a couple of years ago. One of the great things about that is that I got to a place in my life where I was the CEO of my own company, I was running The Mission Continues, and I was writing books, but it’s really important in my life, and I think maybe for others as well, to always be at a place where you’re learning. It’s about learning wherever you are, and it’s about building a life so that in an aspect of your life you’re always learning from people around you. I think that spirit of always being the student, at least in part of your life, is really important, especially as we get into positions of more and more power and prominence where we’re leaders in companies and leaders in families. If we have that place where we’re also always students, it reminds us to stay humble and to keep learning.

SF: Eric, let me ask you just one more question. You’ve recently become a father. Can you give us a brief insight into how that’s changed your perspective on leading the life you want?

EG: I am so excited Joshua arrived just eleven weeks ago. It’s been a mind-blowingly wonderful experience. One thing that parenting does do for sure—and other people have said this—is that it gives you a sense of your own mortality. I’m excited for the life that Joshua’s going to lead, and we, as parents, really want to think about what’s going to be lasting and what our legacy is going to be.

Eric Greitens is the founder of The Mission Continues, a not-for-profit that helps returning veterans continue to serve in their home communities, and the CEO of The Greitens Group.  He is also the author of The Heart and The Fist and a former Navy Seal and Purple Heart recipient. For information on his new book coming out in March, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life and more,visit him online at www.ericgreitens.com, or follow him on Twitter @EricGreitens.

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.


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

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