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Moxie Makes New Things Possible — John Baldoni

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 John Baldoni an executive coach and author of a number of books including his latest, Moxie: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: What is moxie?

John Baldoni: John Baldoni Guts, gumption, and determination to beat the odds.  Courage, standing up for what you believe in and your people. I always liked the word from movies of 30’s and 40’s: “That boxer, he’s got moxie.” It’s an inner resolve. When I watched the recent economic crisis and leader after leader didn’t know how to react, didn’t know how to deal with adversity, I began to think about this as a leadership challenge.

SF: How can you address the question of guts and resolve?  How can people develop this capacity?

JB:  People can tend to focus on the negative: “my project was turned down,” “I can’t connect with my team.”  I ask people to be mindful of themselves and to be situationally aware. MOXIE is an acronym.  The “M” is for mindfulness.  Explore what you want to achieve.  A leader can’t say it’s not my job, you have to take responsibility. The “O” is for opportunity. “X” is the X-factor – character compassion, creativity, what makes you, you.  “I” is for innovation and “E” is for engagement.

SF: If those you coach lack the resolve, what do you do to help them build and develop an inner resolve?

JB: Confidence is key.  Where does confidence come from?  From inside, yes, but also from what you’ve done. Sports or academic track record, your accomplishments, achievements.  We can dwell on our defeats vs. what we’ve done. To get resolve, focus on building confidence.

SF: So it’s reframing adversity and using what they have already accomplished.

JB: Part of the reframing is that you’re not alone. Warren Bennis said he never met a successful person who didn’t have a crucible.

SF: How can people develop moxie, self-confidence and persistence? How can it be cultivated?

JB: Some of us are more dispositionally inclined toward this, but can be nurtured, learned. You need to be tactical and practical. It’s not just believing in yourself, but then it’s what are you going to do about – school, professional development courses, job rotation…you need to prepare yourself.

SF: In our uncertain world with so much economic displacement and inequality where does one get the wherewithal or strength. How to get past that? There’s reviewing past accomplishments, but how else can we develop strength, internal resolve.

JB: Role models, teachers, parents, historical figures, people who inspire. How did they achieve? If we’re talking about the disadvantaged they often have street smarts, survival skills, moxie. And they can reach out to teacher coach, pastor.

SF: So, getting help from others, or learning from exemplars who’ve risen through crucibles is another strategy. How does moxie play out outside of work, in family, community, self?

JB: I If you have inner resolve, inner strength, you’re more centered, you know what you can and cannot do. Mindfulness, the “M” is critical but so is the “E” for engagement.  How do I relate to others? It’s not simply self-awareness. It’s also how am I being perceived?  I use our Total Leadership in nearly all my coaching over the past 5 years. Some leaders have stunning lack of self-awareness, they’re not aware of how they’re coming across to others.  Leadership is an active process, how to take time to take stock of themselves.

SF: It’s important to be mindful of how we come across at home as opposed to at work or with friends?  It’s important to understand how others perceive us.

JB: Yes, at work we might have false fronts, we might be fearful of losing our jobs, or we might not be in the right job.  I borrow from you, your time and attention chart. Where’s the time for yourself? How are you prioritizing? What can you do differently? Getting 360 degree feedback takes guts, takes moxie

SF: It takes courage to look inside, to find out who you really are and what you’re trying to do in this world. It’s hard work to convert what you have toward the goal of leading the life you want, a life defined by purpose and filled with meaning.

JB: MOXIE is a way of exploring purpose. You can’t foster innovation until you engage with others. Engage hearts and minds and get the commitment of others. You can only reach out and engage if you’re self-confident, purposeful, and know how you can I do it.

SF: What’s the key take-away?

JB: Guts and gumption.  Don’t let adversity be the end.  There’s no shame in being knocked down, it’s what you do with it.  You need to figure out how to get around barriers, make good things happen for yourself and others. Radiate it yourself and coach others around defeat.

John Baldoni is chair of the leadership development practice of N2growth, a global leadership consultancy, and author of Lead with PurposeLead Your Boss, and the new book, MOXIE:  The Secret To Bold And Gutsy Leadership.  For more, follow John on Twitter @JohnBaldoni.

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.

The Online Collision of Our Work and Personal Lives: Ariane Ollier-Malaterre

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 Ariane Ollier-MalaterreProfessor of Management at the University of Quebec in Montreal, where she conducts research on and teaches about work and life around the world.  Her recent work focusses on the impact of technology on our work and non-work lives.  The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you get involved with and intrigued by the question of how life online collides with the rest of life?

Ariane Ollier-Malaterre: Ariane Ollier-MalaterrePrior to my life in academia, I was in the business world.  There I observed that, though we all have multiple identities and commitments in life, employers don’t seem to recognize or tackle this issue.

SF: What do you mean, they don’t tackle it?

AO: Most organizations operate under the myth that we leave our private lives at the door. But in truth, as your work demonstrates, Stew, when you come to work you come to work as a full person,  with history and with emotions and it’s a challenge to behave as if you are a professional robot.   Employers expect employees to behave in only a professional way, bounded by the physical space (the office) and the time (the work day).

SF: You’re saying that theboundaries are often ignored to detriment of both parties. So what about the research you’ve been doing onsocial networks with my colleagues here at Wharton, Nancy Rothbard and Justin Berg?

AO: Facebook has 1.3 billion active users, when last I checked, and half are on every day. On social networks, people average 130 connections including 16 co-workers, and sometime supervisors. So interactions at work extend to cyber space, online. But you also have personal things happening online. You may have supervisors, coworkers, clients, friends, family; all online.  People forget who has access, they disclose too much to their “invisible audience.”

SF: So what happens when these professional and personal worlds collide online?

AO: Cyberspace offers opportunities to connect with colleagues and broadcast information, for example to market a product or book.  But it also creates challenges. In real life we have boundaries. We can segment time or space.  We can have different email in-boxes for different categories of connections. We have mental fences to help us simplify complex realities and remind us of social scripts. In the real world, as opposed to cyber space, you come to work in attire appropriate to the work setting and you use appropriate language, you behave in ways appropriate to your professional setting.

SF: In the real world there are markers, reminders: clothes, mores, norms, codes of conduct.

AO: Yes, you know not to wear a bathing suit to work. But you might post a family beach vacation picture in which you’re wearing a bathing suit.  What about if your Board of Directors sees that picture of you in your bathing suit on Facebook? They might be open to it, but their perception of you will change.

SF: With what consequence?

AO: We’ve found that there are important consequences in terms of respect and liking. If you share many personal pictures, people might like you more because they know you more. They may also like you less, if, for instance, you have a different political opinion than they do.

SF: Better to avoid politics in cyber space?

AO: Yes. That’s part of the content strategy. If you feel the need to re-create the boundary that you don’t have in cyberspace, just share neutral material. And don’t share goofy comments.  the other thing is the audience approach. Try to control who gets to be connected to you and who gets to see your information.

SF: With whom should you connect? Supervisors? Peers? Subordinates? Should LinkedIn be for professional circles and Facebook for friends and family, for example?

AO: It depends on the goals. You can try to re-create some boundaries. If you do nothing to create separation, that’s an open approach, and you might disclose too much which can have serious consequences to your professional reputation. An example of an infamous social media disaster: “The Infamous Africa tweet” by Justine Sacco, a communications executive with IAC, who was on her way to South Africa and posted a tweet “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding.  I’m white! She spent 11 hours on the plane while the tweet ricocheted around the internet and when she landed, she was fired. Funny is hard; it’s risky. You can’t judge the audience so that you can make adjustments.

SF: So, is the open strategy is to be avoided? Should caution rule? What’s your advice?  What does the evidence indicate?

AO: It is best to try to do something about the collision of the worlds.  Ignore people or don’t accept their invitations.  But then, of course, you might offend people who, while colleagues, consider themselves friends of yours. But it is best to try to re-create boundaries. Make mental fences.  And be careful about content. Avoid politics, sexual orientation, and religion.

SF: So, avoid hot content. But what about invitations from colleagues and coworkers?

AO: Bosses who ask to be connected ask are intruding. And there can be consequences to team dynamics. What if boss is friends with one or two but not with others?

SF: Are there any benefits from cyber connectivity, bringing different parts together?

AO:  You get to connect with people with whom you work and that helps your charisma.  Mixing the professional and personal makes you seem authentic.  Creating different Google circles is an option.

Ariane Ollier-Malaterre is Professor at University of Québec in Montréal (UQAM), Canada. Her research investigates how individuals articulate professional and personal identities and responsibilities and how organizations address changing career and work-family issues in different parts of the world. @ArianeOllier

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.

A Champion for Change: David Thomas

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 David Thomas, Dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, about the state of diversity and inclusion in corporate America.  The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you first get into this topic of diversity in corporate America?

David Thomas: David Thomas (by James KegleyI wasinitially interested in three topics: how organizations change, how people manage their careers, and the influence of race on opportunities. In the early 80s I was studying the dynamics of mentoring in large corporations under differing circumstances – mentoring within the same race and across race, mentoring with the same gender and across gender. This was in the context of an organization trying to change its culture.  It was so far ahead of its peers. I remained passionate about this for leaders, society, and for organizations.

SF: How wereyou personally shaped by mentoring relationships?

DT: I grew up in Kansas City MO, born in 1950s; a very segregated time. At younger than five years old when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “President.”  Only later did I say I wanted to be “the first black President.”  It’s interesting to say this now, as I’m sitting blocks from the White House which is occupied by our first black President. What’s interesting is that at five I wanted to be President, but only later, with the realization of my group identity, did I say “the first black President.”   Later, when I was not yet eight, I said “I’m going to be a lawyer.” By then I’d realized a black man couldn’t be President.  A lawyer was the next best. I saw the civil rights movement – preachers and lawyers. One went to jail, one got them out of jail. I wanted to be a lawyer.

SF: You wanted to liberate people.

DT: Yes, I wanted to try to create change, to make the world a better place. And I found my way into organizational behavior.

SF: How did you go from wanting to be a lawyer to the field of organizational behavior?

DT: In college I was a student leader around black identity in black community. At Yale, I studied the African movement in 1970s and stumbled on an organization behavior course relevant to student leadership work. I realized these were concept and tools that could change the world. There’d be lots of lawyers but few that had knowledge to make organizations better. So I went to grad school at Columbia and then back to Yale.

SF: You’ve been an observer of race, diversity, inclusion in organizations for decades — what has changed and was hasn’t?

DT: What has changed is that the gates of opportunity have opened up in a way so that no child can say that anything is impossible in the way that it was for me when I was a little kid; at that time it was not possible for a black kid to aspire to be President. That’s the positive. If you are black you can be President, a CEO, a senator, a CFO, a Corporate Board member. But still, when we look at the Fortune 250 there are only five black CEOs and the number of African Americans on Boards of Directors has been stagnant. The percent of African Americans in these elite ranks have remained about the same for two decades. There’s a sense that opportunity is not expanding and yet lack of representation is still connected to stereotypes. There is a great body of work on unconscious bias. I think this is the explanation, not intentional discrimination.

SF: Unconscious bias – define that for our listeners. It’s more pernicious than explicit racism.

DT:  Unconscious bias is the automatic reactions we have to particular people or demographic groups that are out of our awareness and that don’t necessarily represent what our intentions are. The major research findings are, for example, that people are more likely to associate women to family and men to career. People more quickly and easily make those associations.  What happens is that if boss has to send a subordinate on the road and both subordinates – a man and a woman — had a baby recently, the boss is more likely to walk over to male to assign him to being on the road of for two weeks. Unconsciously the boss has concluded that the man would be more likely to be open to this assignment. Fast forward two years, and these gateway assignments add up, the she’s lost out and he got the experience. She wasn’t even given the choice.

SF: You’re saying the manager didn’t intend to discriminate but his actions had a discriminatory effect. So what are we doing to deal with gender and race stereotypes in corporations and elsewhere?

DT: First, we know that because the expression of these biases is not intentional, if people can slow down they can become aware of the bias. For instance, the manager could walk in, describe the opportunity to both subordinates, and assess their willingness to take the opportunity.  Then it’s more conscious choice. The boss is more likely to make the choice based on task factors versus based on an unconscious set of assumptions.

SF: So, this is a more mindful approach to inclusion and diversity.

DT: Yes, you have to work with leaders and managers to help them become more mindful. It starts with acknowledging and then taking responsibility for the fact that they’re not immune to bias. Companies that are unwilling to accept that they may be susceptible to some kinds of bias are a problem.

SF: So how do you address this?  People believe and say “I’m not racist, I’m not sexist, so why blame me?”  How do you break into this?

DT: There’s a great tool, a self-administered test to assess whether you possess unconscious bias.. The Harvard Implicit bias test examines issues such as race, gender, skin color, age, gay straight, religion.  You can see where your own susceptibilities lie.  We all have biases that have been socialized into us. There’s been real success with students and with companies. The self-administered test opens people up to the fact that they’re not immune.  But also we are not destined to perpetuate biases.  Once they’re aware they have choices about how they act.

SF: We’re all products of our culture and local familial heritage.  To evolve we have to address these unconscious biases. What’s the most import step for schools and companies to be more inclusive and fairer?

DT:  Wittingly or unwittingly we exhibit bias.  Leaders need to take responsibility to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. I’m the chief diversity officer because I’m the CEO, I’m the Dean. You have to be willing to change processes that create unearned privilege or hindrances for groups of people. For example, a finance company used credit scores to help select employees. Because of differences in wealth, people of color have less wealth, so using a credit score perpetuates inequality. The company did away with using that criteria and used others related to the work. And, they did an experiment and found no relationship between credit scores and employ performance. Also credit scores go up with stable employment.

SF: Using the credit score as an entry requirement perpetuated the structural inequality. So, what does the future hold?

DT: I’m hopeful. I see many companies that are reinvigorating and reinvesting in diversity and inclusion. I am most concerned about unconscious bias in small and medium size companies, especially in tech companies. And tech is where the future lies. In silicon valley African Americans and Latinos are woefully lacking. Women, too.

David Thomas, Dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, is a recognized leader in the field of diversity in the workplace and author of Breaking Through: the Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America. To learn more about his ideas follow him on Twitter @ProfThomas.

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.

The Career Job is Not Dead: Matthew Bidwell

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 Matthew Bidwell, Assoc Prof of Management at the Wharton School whose research focuses on work and employment patterns.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Please tell our listeners about your research on the lives and careers of our Wharton students and alumni.

Matthew Bidwell: Matthew BidwellOur survey in 2011 asked all alumni, 30K of them, about what they have been doing, what jobs have they held.  I focused on those who graduated since 1990, but the whole sample includes some from as far back as 1940s. We looked at where they worked, what kind of jobs they held within their organizations and across different organizations. We were trying to understand inside vs. outside moves. We certainly move around more. Some have been in a firm 20-30 years. 10% of grads from 1990 spent their career in one place. But even with those who graduated in 1990 we found most moved across companies.

SF: Much is being written about how career paths and employment patterns are changing now, that Millennials especially stay in jobs for shorter tenures.

MB: We looked at titles,seniority, how many people they managed. We found that by the 2nd or 3rd job 80-90% were managing others which is a good proxy for are they moving up. Career jobs are sick but not dead. Most still stay within an organization and then move.  When people moved inside the firm they tended to double the number of people they managed. But when they moved across firms the number they managed stayed the same. Moving up the ladder happens within organizations. The new employer doesn’t know you well, so they don’t hire you for a higher level job. It’s too risky for the new firm.

SF: What can you predict?

MB: If you’re looking to climb the ladder, then stay internal especially if you’re doing well. If you don’t like your employer, if there are not opportunities within, then you can consider a move. But you may not be able to get a job with promotion; promotion occur within the company.

SF: So why is there so much mobility now?

MB: You move sideways when you move across firms. So why do people bother? More money.  When you move outside our firm the new employer tends to pay more, but the new job does not include a higher level title or increased responsibility.

SF: And what did you discover about life outside of work?

MB: Of the 30K who received the survey only 5 – 6 K responded. We asked about family situations – marital status and the like. We asked about how much they were working (number of hours), work/life satisfaction. MBAs report that they work a lot. The median reporting was 60+hours/week at graduation; investment bankers, 75 hours/week; consultants, a bit less.  Ten to 15 years later all report working 55 hours/week.

SF: In my study of the classes of 1992 and 2012, reported in Baby Bust we found that, at the time of graduation, the Class of ’92 reported working 50 hours/week on average while the Class of 2012 reported working 70 hours/week.  This seemed to be largely due to the funneling into investment banking and consulting.  What trends did you see?

MB:  We looked at how things differed for men and women. From the outset men and women looked at different jobs. They were not less likely to be offered high paying jobs, but women were less likely to apply for those.

SF: Why?

MB: Work/life balance factors. The higher paying jobs demanding greater hours per week were seen as macho, aggressive. Finance jobs scored lower for women.

SF: What’s the takeaway for the modern career?

MB: The career job is not dead. You shouldn’t plan on it, but there are real benefits of staying.

Matthew Bidwell, Assoc. Prof of Management at the Wharton School studies work and employment patterns including mobility, promotion, outsourcing, staffing and more.

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.


Generosity Breeds Connection – Keith Ferrazzi

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 Keith Ferrazzi, a thought leader in American business and author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back – both best sellers.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you come to understand the importance and  power of interpersonal connections, of networking, for business?  And especially, how did you come to understand the importance of service, helping others, as way of creating value for ones self?

Keith Ferrazzi: Keith FerrazziIt started with our own practice of doing cultural transformation in organizations, especially in sales organizations.  And I learned  that when you’re trying to build relationships it’s important to be of service. I joke that the first rule of relationships is that nobody has time for one with you!  So you better make sure that you’re reaching out with enormous generosity. We’ve been teaching and coaching that with managers and leaders. I found that people were willing to change if leaders were of service to their people; that’s what had predictive power. If you want your people to change make sure they recognize that you’re in service to them. I started looking at how could change my own behavior.  I started experimenting with things in social contexts. How can I and my family practice generosity and service?

SF: So you were connecting different domains; taking a lesson from work and applying it at home, in the community and for your own growth in ways that produced meaning for you and others. What have you been discovering?

KF: At a Renaissance Weekend, a non-partisan retreat, which my family and I have been attending, about how society can change, my fiancé said, “we keep talking about this, but let’s do something about it.”  I’m on boards of directors, but let’s do something at the grass roots level. So we volunteered for Meals on Wheels, we started in the kitchens, then we delivered meals. In the process I met a little old lady, who was all dressed up for us; we were the only people she saw that day. As a result of that experience and others like it my relationship with my own family started to change.

SF: How did this effect you?  In what ways did the experience change you?

KF: I focused on my blessings and on gratitude.  The experience melted our hearts and souls so that we were more open to each other. It’s powerful. And I decided: I’m going to bring my team from FerrazziGreenlight to this. I’ve been involved in foster care. 80% of the US prison population came from foster care.  And foster care is correlated with prostitution. These kids never learned how to trust. They were treated transactionally. They sought intimacy in prostitution and family in gangs. So we started volunteering with fosters in foster homes. And we did this with our employees and with our clients.  We started coaching our employees and clients so that they could help these kids learn to trust more. Derivative of organizational education at Intel and Cisco and elsewhere.

SF: How does sales training apply?

KF: Intimacy, generosity, candor and accountability. You need empathy (intimacy). Gain trust by leading with generosity. Both intimacy and generosity lead to candor and accountability

SF: Can you give us some examples?

KF: If you’d like to have better personal relationship with your spouse or boss, lead with generosity. Bring flowers, put out the trash; generosity of spirit and practice. Then they’ll say, “I’ll give this person a shot.” They’ll let guard down. You can deeply connect around mutual vulnerability, which leads to intimacy, which leads to trust and then they’ll tell you more about what they need; it’s a cycle. And it’s the same in the workplace.

SF: How does leading with generosity lead to vulnerability?

KF: I talk with you about my challenges, frustrations, fears, anxieties concerning my 20 year old son and that would connect us.

SF: It would. I’d tell you about my own 20 year old daughter here at Penn!

KF: We can’t connect them, but the act of sharing humanity connects us. Just because it’s purposeful doesn’t mean it’s fake. If it’s real, it’s not fake — if your heart and soul is intentional, sincere. You can connect around service which can accelerate intimacy.

SF: What are some of the major outcomes of these interventions?

KF: At Greenlight Giving I’ve seen a  16 year old girl, the child of a client, who was primarily concerned about getting the “right car” for her birthday who has been changed by the experience of our trip to Guatemala where she sees those who have so much less than she does, who are happy.  She needs to think differently. My own foster children, now my adoptive kids, lied and stole just to make sure they had enough. But the experience in Guatemala changed him so now he gives his own money to help others. And this builds customer loyalty. Through service to customers and service to each other, this builds loyalty. It opens peoples’ hearts and souls to those in need. Release the brain to exercise the muscle of empathy and care.  Grow in relationships and in collaborative potential.

SF: What suggestions do you have for listeners?

KF: Deliver Meals on Wheels. Help at a soup kitchen. Give out MacDonald’s gift certificate with your employees and ask the recipients for their stories; how did they end up needing this help. How’d they get here?  Those are “light” ways. Heavier ways include, for example, working with GM to shift their corporate culture by coaching field reps to build better networks with their dealerships.  We packaged that training to HS kids in bad neighborhoods. Teach and grow.

SF: We learn by teaching others.

KF: This is anecdotal, but those who taught were more deeply connected to the IP (Intellectual Property) on the job. Their scores with the dealerships went up. It’s how to be a better leader through service. When you have to teach others it helps to cement the learning.

SF: What’s the most important thing you’d like to tell our listeners?

KF: To learn and grow one has to experience. We are not a training company, but a coaching and experience company that helps to shift behavior. If you want to be more intimately connected, then service the most destitute to break your heart open. The more service, the more you’ll show up as the kind of person people will want to connect to.

SF: People can be afraid. How can they overcome fears?

KF: With a Sherpa, a guide. It’s totally safe at Meals on Wheels.

Keith Ferrazzi is the best-selling author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back. To learn more about his work, follow him on twitter: @Ferrazzi.

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.


Crafting Sustainable Careers — Monique Valcour

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 Monique Valcour, Professor of Management at EDHEC Business School in Nice, France about crafting sustainable careers.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us about your work on crafting sustainable careers.

Monique Valcour: MoniqueValcourCareers and Work/Family are both long-term interests of mine. Over time I’ve combined the two.  I think crafting a sustainable career must start from a foundation of deep self-awareness, understanding, for example, what am I good at,  what do I really care about, how can I keep learning, how can I follow my passions and make money from it so it’s truly sustainable.  This is about a work/life integration over the life course.

SF: Exactly,and this is what we’ve been doing here at Wharton and elsewhere with Total Leadership.  Asking people to clarify what’s really important (their vision and values), who’s really important and then asking them to try small experiments to better align their actions with their values. How do you help people know themselves better, to figure out what they are good at, to clarify and articulate what they care about, so that they can continue to grow, pursuing what maters? How do you help them gain the insight and the courage?

MV: It’s the importance of being proactive; reflecting and tracking. Everybody needs to be a social scientist and study their own experience.  I like to recommend an end of week review; what have you accomplished, what feedback did you get, when were you most engaged, what are your goals for next week? I suggest that people keep a file — word doc or email folder – of positive mentions or positive feedback, what was high impact.  Later they can bring these little threads together to better understand themselves.

SF: This is precisely what our guest last week, Gretchen Spreitzer, was reporting on from her own research at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business’ Center for  Positive Organizations and her new book with Jane Dutton, How to Be a Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big Impact. She reported that their study included tracking regularly and looking for patterns. This may be easy for us in academia with our students. But does it require a classroom, accountability and support? Without structure how do you maintain the discipline?

MV: Teresa Amabile, Professor at Harvard Business School, says it’s very powerful to have the experience of making progress. So, you can use goal oriented programs, note your progress, and give yourself a boost on a daily basis as you move toward your goal.

SF: Amabile’s Progress Principle is all about the benefits of identifying progress. So, how do you align your career with what you care about, what you value, what you are passionate about and make a living doing it? That’s challenging.

MV: People struggle with the feeling of being overloaded, having too much work, doing one-and-a-half jobs. With all that how can they get more training, how can they get out?  So they stay the course.

SF: How do you help? What can be done?

MV: Most of your career growth and learning happens in your job, not necessarily in school.  So it’s important to consider how to refocus, even slightly, at work.  How can you learn about other projects in your company, how can you work with others who energize you?

SF: People and projects are both opportunities for growth. You want to look for who you can connect with. What about our earlier caller who was seeking advice for his millennial niece on job crafting?

MV: Get your head out of the hole and look around. It’s up to you. See and learn what’s going on in your company. In what direction is your company going? Too many people feel as though they’re waiting to be picked off, which is frightening and stressful; the fear of being let go. She should have lunch with others outside her immediate circle, use LinkedIn to see what others do, use a company intranet to connect and post to it; spread her own capital. Brian, another caller, felt overwhelmed and felt that he couldn’t pivot.  I recommend that he try to find a mentor, a local association, to gain inspiration and to connect.  He can ask others about innovative ways they scaled their businesses.  He can try to identify those people, perhaps through industry events.  People are open if approached by someone who wants to learn.  You want your social network to reflect, not where you’ve been, but where you’re headed. Do informational interviews with others. Use LinkedIn and blogs in specific areas. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are often more effective if they are in a network that includes complimentary services/goods. It’s good to get and to receive help.

SF: So it’s useful to consider related fields and people in them. What other small changes can help get someone’s “head out of sand?”

MV: Figure out and understand what is it that you have that’s unique and valuable. Be curious so you can become more knowledgeable. Connect two disconnected networks, curate knowledge and share. Information is a classic source of power and reputation. Synthesizing is wonderful skill. Or find someone who can synthesize information and learn from them. Talk to as many people as possible, read, listen, learn. Listen to yourself, know yourself and what fuels you. Listen to your inner voice.


Monique Valcour isProfessor of Management, EDHEC Business School in Nice, France.  She previously served on the faculty of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College.   Her research program focuses on careers, work-life integration, human resource and performance management, and management practices that support well-being and performance.  She is currently writing a book on managing sustainable careers. To learn more about her work, follow her on twitter: @moniquevalcour

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

Unifying the Work/Life Field — Kathie Lingle

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 Kathie Lingle, an architect of change and  a leader in the Work Life field who led WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress (AWLP), was a member of the Conference Board’s Work-Life Leadership Council, for which she served as co-chair for several years, and who served as National Work-Life Director at KPMG.

Stew Friedman: How have things changed in the field of work/life?

Kathie Lingle: Kathie LingleWhen I started childcare was my field because the question was “who’s going to take care of all the kids of the women we’re hiring? We’re not in that biz.”  Now it’s morphed into something other than childcare – eldercare, the sandwich generation. We are now focused on new ways of doing work, workplace flexibility, not just childcare. Now it’s not just childcare and it’s not just about women. The power tool of the work/life field is flexibility, because the more flex-work options the business has the better they do financially.

SF: Better productivity?  Better retention?

KL: Yes, retention, productivity and engagement. Engagement came later though, initially it was called commitment. At the Alliance for Work Life Progress (AWLP) we called it a work/life portfolio of assets which includes health and wellness programs and policies, paid and unpaid time off, corporate culture.  If you invest in all these parts of the portfolio, you don’t just keep employees but it’s also excellent for bottom line.

SF: So, work/life policies provide a competitive advantage?

KL: Yes, companies are falling all over themselves to be named “employers of choice.” It’s not for fun and games, but to be attractive to prospective employees, to retain talent, to engage employees and ultimately to make money.

SF: You see this sentiment all over college campuses and employment boards.  People are talking about doing well by doing good.

KL: In the last five years universities are leading the charge. At our recent work/life forum, Stew, you were speaker, a university won our best in class; Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.  They were working their entire portfolio.  They had lots of policies. They understood that work/life is holistic; it’s about connecting the dots between one thing and another.  Some examples of their policies: giving money to employees to help them buy a home; providing job security; providing health and financial packages.

SF: What has changed and next wave of innovation?

KL:  We started wtih childcare as women entered workforce and need for care for their kids. So smart employers who want to attract, retain, and engage employees now use eldercare/dependent care, flex-options, community involvement, as well as programs that help provide caregiving for the caregiver – the sandwiched generation.  They provide affinity groups and financial support for workers who are pressured from both ends – caring for children and for parents.

SF: It seems as though the scope of the field has expanded, so what about competence in area of Human Resources and Work/Life?

KL: AWLP (founded 1996) had promised Work/Life certification from 1996 — exams, standards, minimum threshold of competencies. We have created a certification with real certification, with letters and designation. We felt as though we were building the airplane while flying. But inside HR associations, HR is not always Work/Life’s best friend. Within an organization there’s siloing and different HR functions (compensation, benefits, diversity, work/life, employee relations) and they are all different. Compensation and benefits operate behind doors and they are still bigger. The different functions are siloed and not pulled together in most effective way to get job done.

SF: What’s the biggest obstacle to getting everyone to pull together toward a shared goal?

KL: Mindset. Set of beliefs that lead to knee jerk reactions and statements such as “that’s the way things are done here.”

SF: What can be done to shift a mindset?

KL: One of the biggest elephants in room is that we haven’t cracked this code of overwhelmed so health and wellness is a big category. Our nation spends so much on healthcare and we’re getting too little bang for the buck. We are killing ourselves at work. We need to shift from teaching people to play the piano to teaching people about the language of music. We need to go from implementing flex work arrangements  to greater autonomy. Flex arrangements are tool whereas maximizing autonomy is the goal. We need to get to the point where I get what I need and so does my company. Universities are doing great job with career flexibility, but corporations are not. Corporations are obsessed with get “Mary” in at 10 AM so she can get home at 4 PM; they’re obsessed with scheduling. People need autonomy. The question is: Do I have all I need to get my work done from the top and from my colleagues.

SF: What are the most important levers for producing change?

KL:  We need to get into mindset of the leaders. This stuff is not really foreign to them.  Leaders have lots of flexibility themselves. They think they’re athletes, so talk to them in a language they understand — driving the firm, hitting the top of your game, winning, leading.

Kathie Lingle led WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress (AWLP) and has been a member of the Conference Board’s Work-Life Leadership Council, for which she served as co-chair for several years.  She directed AWLP’s Strategy Board for a dozen years and is a former member of the steering commitee of the Boston College Work-Life Roundtable. Prior to joining WorldatWork, she served as National Work-Life Director at KPMG LLP, where she was the primary architect of KPMG’s Work Environment Initiative, a multi-year culture change effort that continues to evolve.  To learn more,  follow her on Twitter: @WorldatWork @kathielingle


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.

Thriving at Work — Gretchen Spreitzer

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 Gretchen Spreitzer, Professor of Business Administration at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan about her research and teaching on thriving at work, part of the Positive Organizational Psychology scholarship.

Stew Friedman: How did you come to studying thriving at work, engaging with the work, and being productive at work?

Gretchen Spreitzer: gretchen spreitzerSeveral colleagues and I were talking about how much we loved our work and how meaningful it was, but also that it’s the type of job that is never ending; there’s always something to be done. We wondered how we could avoid burnout, but still be on the cutting edge. What we’ve found is that people thrive in their work when they feel energized, have vitality, feel alive at work, and feel as though their learning, growing, getting better.

SF: So what’s the impediment to this? Why doesn’t everyone feel energized and alive at work?

GS: People tend to learn from difficult situations; a crisis jolts people out of their complacency.  And it propels people to do better. We took the opposite tact. We wondered What about when there’s no crisis? How can we be pro-active?  How can people pro-actively manage rather than wait for a crisis?  How can we learn to turn on a light bulb to help people get more out of work and life?

SF: So what’s the key?  How can people take control and pro-actively find ways to thrive at home and work?

GS: We designed a study that asked people to report incidents when they are thriving at work and report when they feel they’re thriving outside of work. We found that those two correlated. When I’m thriving at work I’m doing things that create energy, not deplete energy. When they finished their day and went on to other activities, they had energy.

SF: It’s what social psychologists call “positive spillover” from one life domain to another. Feelings from one domain spillover to other domains; it’s not an either/or, it’s not a zero sum game.  It’s possible to have both, indeed it may be likely.

GS: We call it a “virtuous cycle.” It produce more resources rather than using up resources.

SF: Have you found that people in business are open to this idea that they can feel vitality at home and at work, or are they skeptical?

GS: Many people say they want that, but that they have too many other pressures and constraints that prevent them from making changes.

SF:  They feel trapped, they feel as though  they can’t make changes, that they can’t control their circumstances.  What can they do?

GS: With Jane Dutton I’ve written How To Be A Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big ImpactWe encourage people to figure out what small steps they can take to kick start a change in the right direction.

SF: This is similar to the Total Leadership approach I started at Ford Motor Company in the late 1990s.  We asked people to experiment with things that were under their control to create demonstrable and measurable change at work, at home, in the community and for their private self; what I call four way wins. And in doing this weekly radio show I hear the same thing each week from CEOs, practitioners, researchers. So why don’t more people do this?

GS:  We are kindred spirits. My point of view is that we need to look for the psychological pre-conditions that allow people to feel empowered, not the external factors. Self-empowerment includes four things: a sense of meaning or purpose in their job — a personal connection, a sense of competence, self-determination or autonomy, and impact. Being self-empowered is not about whether they are in an empowering situation.  An individual can feel self-empowered by finding ways to have meaning and purpose, for example helping customers or having strong connections at work.

SF: It’s relatively easy for us professors.  We have comparative freedom and resources. What about others?

GS:  Everyone can do this.  Our Center for Positive Organizations has developed a Job Crafting Tool.  It helps you figure out what are the parts of your job where you can still do the core work, but where you can make subtle changes, for instance in how, how frequently, or with whom you do different tasks. For example, how can a cook craft a job so it’s more meaningful, more energizing? What small changes around the edges can be made while still doing the core work? Maybe you can design a presentation on the plate so it’s more creative. The tool takes you through the process to find levers to make small changes even if you have little autonomy.

SF: What’s your advice for leaders in organizations, for managers, for small business owners?  How can they help to create an environment that supports and supports self-empowerment?

GS: If you are a leader you can be proactive, take the initiative, be transparent, minimize incivility in order to enhance high quality connections, provide performance feedback, and play to your own strengths.  If you are striving to be the best you, you are likely to thrive at work and elsewhere.

Gretchen Spreitzer is the Keith E. and Valerie J. Alessi Professor of Business Administration at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  Her research focuses on employee empowerment and leadership development, particularly within a context of organizational change and decline.  Her most recent research examines how organizations can enable thriving.  This is part of a new movement in the field of organizational behavior, known as Positive Organizational Scholarship (www.bus.umich.edu/positive).   To learn more, go to http://howtobeapositiveleader.com/.


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

Walking Away from Wall Street — Sam Polk

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 Sam Polk, a former trader for CSFB, the head distressed trader for one of the largest hedge funds in the world who left Wall Street because he wanted to live a more meaningful life, founding Groceryships, a non-profit that helps low-income families struggling with obesity, about what it takes to break addictive habits that keep you from leading the life you want and bringing your heart and soul to your work and career.

Stew Friedman: Sam, I learned about you when you wrote a much-talked about opinion piece in the New York Times For the Love of Money.  You described your evolution for Wall Street hedge fund trader earning $3.6M in bonus money at age 30 (and being disappointed with the small size of the bonus), your confrontation with your addiction, as you called it, to money, and your scary decision to leave this lucrative, but for you, empty and deadening life.  You ultimately founded GroceryShips, a company that feeds the hungry.  The reason I wanted to talk with you is that your story is such a compelling (and extreme) example of someone who was able, through a crucible, to find a way to truly live an integrated life.   Can you share with our listeners your story?

Sam Polk: Sam PolkI went to Wall Street when I was 22 years old, just out of Columbia. I remember going onto the trading floor and everything I wanted in life was right there.  I grew up sort of middle class. My dad read about successful businessmen in the paper every day and being successful was ingrained in me.  When I walked onto the trading floor, I could tell just by looking at the clothes people wore – their haircuts, their suntans (you could tell they played golf) – that I’d never seen people as wealthy as this.  And it was everything I wanted.

After the article I got hundreds of letters from college kids more or less asking me to help them get a job on Wall Street.

SF: But wait, the article was about you leaving Wall Street because you found that it wasn’t meeting your inner needs, though it was more than meeting your financial needs.  And they were asking you to help them get jobs on Wall Street?!

SP: I understand why. They hear that success is all about being rich, powerful or famous and these kids are insecure, they don’t have any of these things.  I was like that at 22 and just graduating. They’re getting strong cultural messages.  I think 3% of our cultural dialogue says “don’t be a money lender” and “money doesn’t bring happiness,” but 97% says “get as much money as you can, as quickly as you can” and Wall Street is the place for that. I feel compassion for these college kids, the culture says you’re important if you start a tech company and make a $1M.

I had a black car waiting for me when I landed, I went to countless World Series games, sat in the 2nd row at the Knicks games whenever I wanted.  It’s a tremendous feeling of power. I was living the life.   Making money feels good.  You come home and show your girlfriend, “look at this, I’m proud of this.”

The college kids want to be Lloyd Blankfein (CEO and Chairman, Goldman Sachs). I was like that.  They feel envy and I did too.  No matter how many millions I made. Trading was the coolest thing in the world. So I understand why these college kids are writing to me wanting to be on Wall Street and hoping I’ll be able to help them get a job there.

SF: So what happened? What changed for you? Why did you give it all up? Was there a moment? An epiphany?

SP: I began to realize that the stuff I was doing every day didn’t matter, even though I was being so well compensated.  There were so many moments including one during the hedge fund crisis.  Other brokers were against any new regulations on the industry, and I said, in a meeting in front of my boss, “but isn’t this better for the system as a whole.” And my boss said, “I can only think about what’s good for our company.”  My dream was to a billionaire; a billionaire was a hero.  The fact that my boss (who was a billionaire) was self-seeking made me realize that there was no end point. I have enough, let me go do what I was meant to do.

Kids wrote saying, “I just want to travel, take care of my family, I just want $6M.” I don’t have that.  And most people don’t.  If you get to $6M, you want $12M.  Money, power and prestige fill that hole.

SF: So, what about that void that you wrote about? You weren’t able to truly bring your whole self to work as a hedge fund trader, but now your personal passions fuel your work.

SP: I was trying to fill this hole inside me, this sense of worthless. The only way I thought I was valuable was Columbia, millions of dollars, a big loft apartment on Bond Street; those things you get when you are on Wall Street. Then I realized the hole is still there. We have this brief life and if you play out the Wall Street story all the way, you get $100M and the world thinks he’s successful.  But he’s spent his whole life getting money and accolades for himself.

SF: So how did you get out?

SP: I had a spiritual teacher, a Native American women, for whom I more grateful than anything I can imagine.  Three weeks into first internship I was dating this girl so out of my league; I was punching outside of my weight class.  She dumped me three weeks in. First love. I didn’t see it coming.  It was a devastating heartbreak. I could barely eat or get out of bed. But I had this internship, and besides this girlfriend, that was the most important thing to me at the time. I needed help. This girlfriend had brought me in to couples counseling with this Native American spiritual teacher who was the only counselor I knew.  I went every week. No Ph.D.  No Ivy League.  No thank you, was what I thought then. She had a completely different perspective from the one on Wall Street which was all about hierarchy, bigger, and more being valuable and important. Wall Street was all about the chase to get the top. And she said, “No, there is no hierarchy.  We are all equally valuable and that the value of the life is in the inner character, not in outside achievements.  It’s about treating people with compassion.”  I thought she was wacko. I wanted to know how can I get over the breakup so I can make money. At the beginning I believe her 10% of the time and I believed in the Wall Street philosophy 90% of the time.  But over 8 years it shifted, little by little until the balance went in the other direction; I believed her philosophy 90% and I believed in Wall Street’s 10%.   It was like in The Matrix, taking a red pill and seeing how the world really is.  On Wall Street people refer to other people by the size of their bank account; he’s a $100Millionaire. Money is the signifier.

SF: So, what happened when you left?

SP: I left when I was 30 and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done until then. (I know other people have it harder in life, but for me, that was the hardest thing I’d done.)

SF: What was the reaction?

SP: I heard, “I’m sorry you’re leaving.  I think y could have made a lot of money”

SF:  A bonus of over $3.5M was not already a lot of money?

SP: I had to give back half that year’s the bonus because I left. I gave up almost $2M to walk away. And I was in contention to be head of trading.  I’d been so focused on making money my whole life.  A lot of people didn’t agree. My Dad didn’t agree.  But I didn’t seek his counsel. There were different cultural values. My Dad was this guy focused on money and on himself and his extra-curriculars and not on me. As a kid I was desperate to impress him. Wall Street and my bosses were my dad. I was trying to impress my boss.

SF: So how’d you go from there to founding GroceryShips? And what is GroceryShips?

SP:GroceryShips is a health program for low income folks struggling with obesity. We go into a community, get applications from families, select 10 families who will receive food scholarships. We provide healthy cooking classes, emotional support groups, education about food, how to read labels, how to manage stress, deal with mental health, talk about childhood trauma if it’s affecting emotional eating. And we provide incentives. For example, if you and your family eat 5 fruits or vegetable a day or lose weight, we provide money for healthy food.  The support for these folks comes not just from GroceryShips but from each other.

SF: How did you come up with this idea?

SP: My family struggled with obesity. Two people in my family had bariatric surgery (stomach stapling). I went in the other direction with wrestling. But food was always in issue in my life. When I walked away from Wall Street one of the things that I was able to see is that in this hierarchy we on Wall Street we step over people as we strive to get to the top.  There’s waste in their backyards, highways in their neighborhoods; these folks are seen as not as valuable to those of us on Wall Street.  I spent my whole life climbing the rungs. And, of course, obesity exists in wealthy communities, but it mostly affects the poor. Groceryships focuses on equality, not hierarchy, and on reciprocity. We focus in people who need help, but we treat them as equals, with total respect. Reciprocity is the structure of the organization.  We’re a non-profit with an extensive nutrition and health curriculum.  We’re expanding into corporate wellness, and using those earnings to pay for low income in surrounding areas.

SF: Why would an organization hire Groceryships for their wellness programing?  What do they get out of it?

SP: if they’re looking for a wellness program, we’ll bring one plus their money will go to low income communities in their surrounding areas.  I believe that people are good and if you are faced with two choices and one has a social good component and it’s good public relations, then it’s an easy choice.  Companies use Groceryships both for corporate wellness and for civic engagement and for P.R.

SF: The changes you’ve made in your work and your life are quite dramatic.  What advice do you have for others?

SP:  First,Wall Street is not evil; it’s just that something was missing in my life. I now haveintegrity in the way of everything works together.  I work just as hard, but all with one thing in mind.   I’m living a life in line with my principles.  My life not perfect.  But there is no dissonance inside me.

When I left most people congratulated me, and said that they wished that they could do the same, but that they couldn’t do it yet. The idea is that they’ll do it as long as they can, to get the most money out of it before they can move on to what they really want to do.

So, I say to others: Respect where you are.  It’s hard to make a change like this.  If graduate from Wharton, for example, you can expect to make more than $400K/year in the next few years and then maybe about $3M or more per year if you go to Wall Street. That’s the straight and narrow, “right” path.  The left side is path you can’t see.  Inside every one of us is the unique compilation, the one path that no one has taken before.  It’s your gift to the world.  You can’t go right way, but you have to go left.  I made one huge trade that combined all my years of training, education and experience and expertise and in one trade I made $5M and I thought that with all these gifts, and talents, and opportunities, I could be doing something else. Take your Goldman Sachs or take a different path.

SF: What is your gift to bring to the world? How can you ask for help?  How can you explore and learn about other paths that will help you lead the life you want?

Sam Polk is the Founder and Executive Director of Groceryships, a former trader for Bank of America and the head distressed trader for one of the largest hedge funds in the world. After eight years on Wall Street, he left because he wanted to live a more meaningful life. He founded Groceryships, a non-profit that helps low-income families struggling with obesity. In January 2014, he published an OpEd about money addiction on the front page of The Sunday Review section of The New York Times. To learn more, go to www.Groceryships.org and follow on Twitter @GroceryShips, and Sam on @SamPolk

Join Work and Life  at 7:00 PM ET on Sirius XM Channel 111. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests and a roster of past guests.

The Building Blocks of Productivity — David Allen

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

Work and Life is a two-hour 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 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 David Allen, the best-selling author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life about the five steps in his method to maximize what you accomplish by being focused and present wherever you are, and the habit that can change the culture of productivity in an organization.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: You’ve developed and refined a method that helps people to be present in the moment. For the uninitiated, can you give us a brief synopsis of the essence of that method?

David Allen: david allenThe one sentence version is both very simple and practical and pretty sublime. It is: You need to pay appropriate attention to what has your attention; otherwise, it will take more of your attention than it deserves. What has your attention? How many things are on your mind? “I need to get cat food.” “I need to find God.” “I need a career.” “I need to talk to my aunt.” “I need to answer those ten emails.” If you don’t handle those things appropriately, you are inappropriately engaged with your email, with your cat, when you are at work, or with your family. Here’s the big secret: getting things done is not about getting things done. It’s about being appropriately engaged with your life. I figured out the algorithm for being appropriately engaged. There are five steps. First, you have to capture the idea, identify what’s on your mind and record it; do something to get it out of your head. Second, decide what it means to you and what you’re going to do about it. Third, park the results of that decision somewhere you’ll see them at the right time. Fourth, look at the results of those decisions – the things you need to get done – when you need to get them done. And fifth, engage appropriately with doing those things. It isn’t rocket science, but it is something most people haven’t yet truly implemented.

SF: What do most people struggle with, in your experience?

DA: They try to keep everything in their head. If you’re going to try to go somewhere, you need a map – an orientation tool – and a place to store it. Most people are trying to use their psyche, inside their head as an orientation system, and it’s not designed for that. Your psyche is a terrible map, and a terrible office. Since my first book was published, in the last decade, a lot of neuro- and social scientists have validated a lot of the underlying principles I’ve talked about, including that your head is for having ideas, not for holding them. Evolutionarily, your brain was not designed to remember anything. It was designed to recognize patterns, but not to recall them. Once people get stuff out of their head, they have a much better sense of control and focus about what to do next. Everyone has at some point felt overwhelmed or confused, sat down and made a list, and felt better. Once you reverse engineer that and ask why you felt better without anything actually changing, you’ll never keep anything in your head for the rest of your life.

SF: And it doesn’t matter where you gather the ideas you’ve captured – you’re impartial to the tool as long as there is one.

DA: You can’t beat a pen and paper – that’s my basic collection tool. I carry a notepad in my wallet and tear sheets off for my in-basket, which I can then empty out. I think digital is dangerous for that reason – out of sight, out of mind. The problem with the digital world is that it gives you so many opportunities to put anything anywhere – in files and folders all over the place. You have to keep the collection buckets as simple as possible and empty them as often as possible. Once you’ve gathered the ideas, the next step is to clarify what they mean. Is this something to act on? If it is, what is the action? What outcome are you committed to?

SF: If you have 85 things in your collection place, how do you start?

DA: Pick up one at a time. You can’t prioritize until you’ve been through the whole list – number 84 could be more important than number two, and if you only have ten minutes, your highest priority is to accomplish something that will only take ten minutes. Until you know what all of those 85 things are, you can’t make that judgment. You need your whole inventory.

You have to work at the habit of doing this. For some reason, we don’t seem to be born with these behaviors that seem obvious. People fall off because they have a habit of keeping things in their heads. People also avoid making decisions – someone may write “Buy Mom’s birthday present” and put it in their in-basket, but then pick it up and put it back down over and over saying, “I don’t know what to get her.” You have to decide the next action and make a commitment to what you’ll do. That’s how you get things done, but those questions are not obvious – your brain doesn’t automatically think in terms of outcome and action. “What am I trying to accomplish?” and “How do I move toward that?” are the zeroes and ones of productivity. For companies, for teams, for families, beginning the conversation with “What are we trying to accomplish?” and ending with “What did we decide, what are the next steps, and who’s responsible?” can change a culture.

David Allen has been recognized by Forbes, Fast Company, and Time, and has delivered a TEDx Talk on his method. Hear more from him on Twitter @gtdguy.

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About the Author

Liz Stiverson Liz Stiversonreceived her MBA from The Wharton School in 2014

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