From the website of Agility3R:
Over the past 12 years Jennifer's expertise and keen insights have dominated paradigm shifts in executive leadership, employee engagement and shareholder responsibility in both privately held and publicly traded corporations in the transportation, telecommunications and health care industries...
She recently co-authored with Koby Huberman an excellent book titled: Leadership, Strategy and the Soul: Resilience, Responsiveness and Reflection for a Global Economy. The book is the result of a 5 year journey that began when Jennifer and Koby co-author met at a conference in France in 2005.
Their book is fabulous. But, what made Jennifer stand out for me was her passion, her respect, her commitment and dedication to share. She’s made her book available as a PDF. Listeners of this show you can have a copy for free. Just email her at jsertl at rochester dot rr dot com and put my name in the subject line.
Jennifer, thank you for being on our show. How are you?
Thank you so much for having me. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and your preparation for today’s show. It made me do some extra preparation preparing for the show. I wanted to bring my A game.
I don’t encourage stalking. But where are you and what project are you working on today?
I’d like to acknowledge my co-author, Koby Huberman. There’s a wonderful quote by Anais Nin. She says that:
Each friend represent a world in us. A world not born until they arrive. And it is only by that meeting that a new world is born.
It really was the chemistry of our shared knowledge that this book was born.
Let’s start with you sharing some of the journey that led you to writing your book.
The book itself was a collaborative effort over Skype. For anyone who says they don’t have the time or money to do what they want to do ...I’d say that is not true. We had a series of calls between 5-7 AM ... 2 times a month over skype over a 3 year period that allowed us to have this book.
We’re designing a 360 evaluation to help support people take it to action. It’s great for inspiration and articulating beliefs they had already. But what do you do next. I’m working on
The 2nd piece is a personal. The book is bold. And the level of transparency it requests of people is bold . The work I have to do to live more fully in alignment with what I wrote takes effort, time and dedication.
My friend Erika Andersen also wrote an awesome book called Being Strategic. And in that book she coined a phrase of reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future. What was your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future with writing Leadership, Strategy & the Soul.
I can’t wait to read her book. I love that phrase. And if there’s one outcome it’s hope and resonance.
Those who know me would laugh. Because reasonable is not something I”m made of.
I lose sleep at night worrying that Americans may not be able to compete in the global marketplace.
My unreasonable expectations is that more American leaders will be more mindful and thoughtful in how they grow their company.
What markers or metrics will announce your progress on that journey?
Two distinct ones.
Back in 2008 I stopped measuring myself by money and capacity coaching. If you’ve ever watched CSI or those other murder mysteries, I found it fascinating that you could leave evidence behind for 20-30 years.
I started thinking that if I leave behind DNA is there any way I can impact what’s left. I started asking myself in 2008 if I had the choice and the means, what would I leave behind. I came up with Wisdom, Grace and Impact.
One of my markers is how well am I in my evolution in being wise, graceful and impactful. I do an evaluation once a week around where was there an opportunity. Am I in integrity with what I hope to leave in each of those situations with my husband, my client, my children?
The 2nd marker is really the spheres of influence I’ve been invited to join. Who I’m asked to play with and my own integrity is how I evaluate my progress on this work.
Who should read your book? Why?
The short answer to that is eager and curious people in an organization, for profit and no-profit.
We want this material to be accessible. We think the questions are good questions. We don’t try to answer all of the questions. So, we say eager and curious people and aware people.
You know the invitation is open to all. I’m more interested in working with people who are already interested and playing an offensive game.
One criteria is if the CEO participating in a CEO round-table. Are they having their assumptions questioned? That would be the greatest key. The leader actually invests in themselves and their education.
Why is a peer-to-peer, CEO roundtable, participation so important?
First in our culture, the fear of shame is so great. For those in their mid-40s to 60’s it is really a lot to to ask of them to be vulnerable . The level of ambiguity in our business today because things have changed so quickly creates a lot of fear for those not comfortable experiencing and processing that fear and uncertainty. If they can deal with their peers they will be more receptive to hearing potential points of view. Their receptor cells are going to be more available to hear and learn.
The 2nd is the acceleration of learning and knowledge. 10% of our knowledge came before the 19th century and 90% of it came after. So, how do you get ahold of all that information...The only way you can is to connect with other people giving you slices of reality and you can aggregate them.
In your book you describe 4 evolutionary stages of the corporate organizational structure. What are they?
We try not to be trite with this. We have corporate organizational structure eras.
We have the F-Organization organization from 1850 to 1940 Farmers, Families, Fortunes . Patriarchy as management style and lifetime employment were the dominant themes.
Then we have in 1940 to 1970 the shift to the era of the S Organiztion. We call it the S era because it had Structure and Security. The goal was stability. The structure became hierarchical. Seniority was valued. The Drucker Method and a lot of different lean technologies came out of that.
Then we move to 1970 - 1995 where we call this era the P-Organization. Products, performance and profits. This is where the rise of the MBA came together. Systems became more important than people. There were a lot of policies and procedures.
Then came the E organization from 1995 - 2002. It’s the E organization simply because of electronic evolution. Ebusiness, ecommerce and my favorite E word: Everbody can play.
What I hope is that people in the audience are asking themselves how are they designing their world in these areas. A lot of people are still playing the product performance profit game.
It really is a changed game. We talk a lot about the I-organization and transorganizations. I can’t tell you the details on that because we are in it right now.
We, here in the US, and likely to a greater extent everyone around the world face a turbulent future, marked by ever-increasing rates of change. And a new organizational structure has emerged you call the Transorganization. What is the significant difference in this structure? Why is it necessary? How will it help its members ride the wave of all these changes?
The transorganization is really more of a biological structure, If you think of a single cell, a single cell can replicate and clone me in my entirety. Yet it will live inside my body and decide whether it’s going to be a lung or an artery. It has a destiny.
If I burn my hand, my endocrine system will slow down, my digetive system will slow down...to make sure I have the resources to address my burn.
If we think of a transorganization it’s an organization that has a central nervous system which is very clear on the operating design system of the business. but has these informed capillaries that have the ability to exchange information and bring information back.
What is the the third way or third quality that transorganizations look for in an individual?
When you look at this model, there’s functions and distinct roles they play but how they communicate is very different. The soul of a business is the collective knowledge of the employee base. There’s a decentralization of power with a centralization of communication.
You hear a lot about the voice of the customer. You want to know everything my customer is doing when they’re not with me. Every interaction is a research opportunity sounds very sterile. But if you’re paying attention, and observing and caring deeply then what you bring back and transform is deeper and richer.
We talk about focus and flexibility. How do you design in a way that allows you to be adaptable and spontaneous?
What we want to do is to say the more self-aware that leader can be then the more they can understand how they see reality and the more they can make choices that represent their slice of reality and therefor align themselves with employees who share that...
One of the key talents we need moving forward is the ability to cope with the unexpected. Are our businesses and schools prepared to train and develop that ability?
I do believe our words have power.
Businesses and schools as institutions are not prepared.
However, there are individual instructors, leaders and employees who are modeling this better than I can articulate it. It’s happening and it’s organic. One of the things we hope to do is to add language to this process and connect those who get it. Those who are playing in this sandbox who get the transorganization, are transleaders, they find it is lonely. I believe if we can add the language for this conversation, then this can help them be less lonely and have more courage.
Let’s say right after this show you have a call from Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education. Mr. Duncan says:
Jennifer, look. It’s obvious that standardized tests develop skills to handle standardized task building a standardized world. But that’s so 19th century. What are 3 things we can do to develop our students abilities to cope with the unknown and unexpected?
I’d love to have that call. I’d have two responses, one for parents and one for teachers.
I really think a lot of the problems in education aren’t the fault of teachers but of parents modeling bad behavior. Adults have to be adults and be better role models. The imprint of self-esteem happens to the brain between 1 and 5. The ability and desire to learn comes at such a young age that if the parents had higher self-esteem and more self-respect that they would model better behavior. The 2nd one is turn off the TV. The average American watches 4 hours of TV per day. And 58% of TV programming is bad news, crime or war or violence.
Do more as a family. Connectivity creates connectivity.
For teachers I love this question. The idea of personal tutors, more outside field trips, and more simulations with interactive learning in small groups. That would do so much.
Molly Anderson who co-authored The Corporate Lattice wrote that in the near future 60% of the jobs will require skills that only 20% of the population owns. It sounds like this ability to cope with the unknown and unexpected is a broad category of skills that we’re lacking.
When The World is Flat was written it generated a lot of conversations in our community. And so many people asked "Given this world what should our children study?" And I had the opportunity to interview the author Thomas Friedman, and I asked him what would be his advice for those asking that question. And he said:
As long as my children have curiosity and passion I trust they have the skills to navigate their future.
Human beings are passionate and messy People want the brilliance and innovation without the mess. And that’s not realistic. If you want lean thinking and systems replicated and want people to follow a chart of rules then they’re going to lose the ability to be insightful for fear of shame. It’s our fear of failure to see it happen in younger and younger children. They cut off their ability to add value for fear of being alone and being ridiculed. Brilliance comes with a cost.
That leads us to the next question about balancing systems and innovation, brilliance and consistency. Einstein said something to the effect that an intelligent mind can accommodate two opposing viewpoints. How do they develop those skills to cope with the unknown and unexpected? What are the results?
Koby did some work with open space technology . And that technology talks about how you can expand the circle to include all the components of an organization. So the paradoxes we talk about in our book are focus and flexibility, discipline and play, open space and deliberate design. What we do we invite businesses to expand to include both, to create parallel strategies to allow them both space to live.
Koby was creating communication circles between Israelis and Arabs. Nothing is more primally opposing than those two ideologies. We know we don’t get along; we know we don’t like each other; we know we don’t believe each other. But we do love music, we don’t want our children to die in battle.
I work with organizations and try to design in both. As long as both are out loud. People sometimes try to hide what’s uncomfortable. Everything is uncomfortable. Let’s design with reality; we will be safer, even though it takes more courage.
Intelligent business would be one that possesses meta-knowledge. What is meta-knowledge for a business and why will it be more critical in the future?
I will tell you that when we use that term, meta-knowledge, is that ability to pull in resources from multiple sources. The person in the middle of meta-knowledge is clearly comfortable with not knowing. So the value comes from the source that I call a conduit. The conduit is aware that the value they create is the value to bring resources together and not the possessing of knowledge. Synthesizing knowledge to create a knowing.
Why are core competencies dependent on this meta-knowledge?
This goes back to our earlier discussion on the value of a CEO round-table. The world is global now and there is so much knowledge generated and you bring in the multi-cultural and the multi-generational elements.
This comes from Ken Wilbur: No one holds the truth. But everyone has a slice of the truth. All perspectives are included.
The core competency is the ability to separate the chafe from the grain. The discernment factor. The people who are really good aggregate of Meta-Knowledge are those who can discern what’s useful and what’s not useful.
If I can learn how to train people to do that that would be a miracle. It really comes from people’s own internal wisdom and their own ability to trust it.
The people that are at the centers of this are people who have fine-tuned and honed their ability hear their own core wisdom.
Passion and energy are discussed as key elements of employee engagement. You describe them as bursts of energy. Why are some bursts of energy in employee engagement not so productive?
If anyone who has not heard of David Whyte. He's a corporate poet from Wales. He wrote a book called The Heart Aroused. And he talks about the choices for businesses. Do businesses want to be efficient or do businesses want to be brilliant?
Darwinian evolution theory says that there are elements of our primal brain that are very old and in that we still have a desire to know that if we were chased by something we would be able to run and survive. People have a natural need to have an adrenal rush and have a way to express it. It’s almost like a security check.
When great leaders have the ability to say human nature has passionate energy and it comes in spurts and if I am wise I will find a channel for it. What they do is create an external enemy that’s a clear target. People will find a way to express that energy going after that target. If not it will become self-destructive
My opinion is that we don’t have a target big enough. And so become self-destructive. And that ends up in drugs, alcohol and depression....
A few recent guests have talked about transparency and its role in flattening the hierarchical corporate structure. You talk about making the invisible visible. Tell us how that works and how it can increase a company’s operating efficiencies.
We covered that when we talked about open space technology and the polarities. Make what is as visible as possible. People can trust what they see. So you can navigate more quickly.
You talk about how a transleader enables people to work within their comfort zone w/ minimal micromanagement. And yet you point out that this same leader leads restlessly, always willing to consider something new, change course even when it’s a course of proven results. How do you balance those two diametrically opposed tendencies in a leader?
A transleader is someone who leverages their right and left brain hemispheres. They own their impact. They realize that that they do impacts the whole system.
I talk about personal integrity. Do they have a true working plan on how their work and personal life connect and are they seeking more alignment?
Do they have a global reference-point. Have metaphors from multiple cultures.
People learn through modeling.
I talked more about what is a transleader...
You’re a leader. Jim Rohn wrote that Leaders are readers. In all your free time with this book, your consulting, your 3 children, occasional sleep...what are you reading?
I’m reading two books.
The 4 Loves, by CS Lewis’s. It’s about the 4 ways we live love.
Complex Adaptive Leadership by Nick Obolensky. He has some really rich case studies.
Where can we find you on the web?
The business website is Agility3R. And the three R’s are: Resilience, Responsiveness, Reflection.
Facebook and Twitter are under Jennifer Sertl.
I’m happy to send an ecopy of the book to any of your listeners. Just mention your name in the email.
Email Jsertl at rochester dot rr dot com and put my name in the subject line to help her track the requests and manage the emails.