Bridging The Gaps Of Humanity In Workforce - Angela Maiers [Interview]

About Angela Maiers

Angela Maiers, the founder of choose 2 matter, has enriched lives by boosting the realization of self-worth of individuals worldwide. An established leader and keynote speaker, her Ted talks are viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. She has worked with organizations like Apple and Microsoft. Full of positivity, Angela has started a universal movement that helps people realize how much they matter, in the workplace, at home, in school, at every phase of a person’s life.

Bridging The Gaps Of Humanity In Workforce - Angela Maiers [Interview]

Aishwarya Jain

We have the pleasure of welcoming Angela Maiers today to our interview series. I’m Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of peopleHum –  peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with automation and AI technologies. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors per year and publish around 10 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.

Aishwarya

Welcome Angela, we’re thrilled to have you.

Angela

I’m so honored to be here, and this is a testament to the miracle of technology and the age that we’re living in. Can you imagine going through what we’re going through right now without the ability to make these connections and find out like, if I thought about what’s happening in India, it’s not real to me, now what’s happening in India is real to me? It’s affecting real people that I’m connected with. So I’m thrilled to be here and to have this conversation.

Aishwarya

My pleasure. So, you know…

Angela, if you could tell us about your journey that took you to ‘Choose to Matter?’

Angela

Yeah, absolutely. So my background is actually in neuroscience and studying human development and human potential and moving that into the field of education and teaching and working with young people.

I taught every grade from preschool all the way to grad school and watching this miracle of learning not only individual learning but learning as a community, learning as a classroom, learning as a social act and the power of that because all of our organizations, at least the ones that are making an impact, are leading because they’re learning organizations. They’re always looking for what’s the next most powerful way to reach our customers, to reach our community, to make an impact.

So you can say I’m very passionate about learning and helping create what I call Conditions of Learning at scale because we in school have experienced teaching probably at its best, but not necessarily learning at its best. And There is a difference between delivering content, delivering information, training versus real learning where there’s agency and empowerment and authenticity.

“There is a difference between delivering content, delivering information, training versus real learning where there’s agency and empowerment and authenticity.”

Aishwarya

Absolutely. And that’s wonderful, what you’re doing. It’s really nice to, you know, have somebody that you can look up to who helps you in your learning journey because I don’t think there’s a lot of good teachers out there. There is always a dearth of good teachers, and it’s amazing what you’re doing. I know that you always carry a writing book with you. So….

Angela

Yes, I do, I have my journal right here every single day.

Aishwarya

That’s something so interesting and inspiring for me. Was that something you picked up from somewhere or did that just come to you?

Angela

I think I never really called myself a writer, even though writing has been integral because we are taught in school that there’s a certain qualification to be a writer, that Writing isn’t just an expression of thoughts and more importantly a pathway to self-discovery.

“Writing isn’t just an expression of thoughts and more importantly a pathway to self-discovery.”

And I think that’s what writing was for me, it’s like I didn’t know it or I couldn’t articulate it till I wrote it down and getting comfortable in my own skin as a writer. But part of what I learned from really great writers is not only are they great readers, they’re ferocious readers, but they’re incredible noticers like Sherlock Holmes level noticing.

And I brought that practice and refined that practice in my classrooms and started making a point to build in time each day to notice, not with any agenda, not with like, I’m gonna notice this and turn it into an article or notice this and put it here. But just simply to live your life wide awake is a skill that was 30 years ago.

Think of how critical that skill set is, living life wide awake and how much we missed in our world, how much we fail to see the awe around us. Because it’s easier to see the awful around us and how much we grow from just being present in the moment with people. What writing does and keeping a notebook does is help slow things down.

It helps increase not only awareness but your appreciation, your gratitude, your place, and position in the world, what it could be, is invaluable. And even in this digital age, with everything that comes with that, there is nothing that replaces writing it down and capturing.

Aishwarya

Yeah, I really love that idea, but you know personally, for me. I just struggle with so many distractions during the day.

How do you think that we should make time to actually sit and write about the things that we notice? Isn’t that just too much to handle?

Angela

It actually isn’t if you don’t put parameters around it. So I just wrote a post that I’m gonna share later this week called my quarantine routine because all of us have had our routine disrupted. And I think now is the perfect time to build in reflection and by writing I think it has so many connotations like people think that I’m gonna sit down and write a novel.

Noticing maybe instead of thinking of it as writing in a book, I call it a ‘Noticing in a book’. To notice and note my present moment with people that were in it, things that I learned while I was present in it, ideas that aren’t formulated yet, that just need to be noticed and put on paper and go back later. So I’m not trying to create a finished product in the notebook. I’m trying to be present and reflective and slow the busyness of the day down.

So one of the routines that I switched is, I have my phone by my bag and I’ve been working with this app called Calm to shut my brain off during the night and shutting my brain off like if I’m not sleeping, my brain is going at 100 miles an hour. So I built in just five minutes and you can start with one minute, just built in five minutes a day to pause and note whatever is on my mind that day.

It could be something I see outside. It could be a conversation I had. It could be a podcast I listened to. It could be a memory that came up based on one of those things and just jotting it down. Sometimes it’s in the form of a question that I’m asking. Sometimes it’s in the form of a list. Sometimes it’s in the form of just free fall words like I don’t know what these words mean. I don’t know where they came from.

So a few days ago, I shared a project with a colleague that I’ve collaborated with. We didn’t have a name, and I said these were the words that were in my notebook this week, that I just don’t know how they fit together. I don’t know where they fit, but I keep coming back to these words, and I think they have meaning. They have significance, and I don’t know yet what those are. So it is such a powerful practice, and I think writing is a practice that we have to work on building, especially in a really distracting world.

“I think writing is a practice that we have to work on building, especially in a really distracting world.”

Aishwarya

That makes a lot of sense because not you know, you’re on a treadmill and then and you have to slow down and look at things in perspective. And I think writing will really help that. So you know what I gather from what you’re saying. It’s like you’re sowing the seeds in your journal and then you go back to it, to nourish it, to make it richer.

Angela

Absolutely and relieving the pressure and because I had writing assignments and, you know, writing deadlines that I had as a writer and separating the notebook, the noticing notebook from writing, even though it informed it but not feeling any pressure to do it in a certain form for a certain amount of time. I think people call it mindfulness Now there’s a lot of words that we use, fancy terms, but it’s just stillness in the world and writing slows down and captures things that are important.

Young Children have taught me so much because they see things in the world that you don’t. I was on a run this morning and there was a two-year-old with her mom and the mom saying like, C’mon, C’mon, C’mon, You’re holding us up, we got to go walking. I gotta get home. I gotta make dinner. I gotta do all this stuff. But the two-year-old was moseying along everything like to go one inch took her like this whole amount of time.

I think about what a gift that is. You could tell she’s taking in everything. She’s noticing everything she’s slow like in her own world and space and we don’t do that, not even outside on a walk. That’s another thing on our to-do list, you know?

Aishwarya

Yeah, absolutely, especially during these times. Yeah, you can have a lot of time on your hands. So it would be a great time to just sit and to write down things that you’ve learned and note that.

Angela

Every day teaches you something inside; Self-reflection, like I said Writing is a road to self discovery. 

“Writing is a road to self discovery.” 

You don’t know what your soul is thinking, what your heart is thinking. And then stuff comes out, look at the notebook days later, weeks later and, like, Gashh! where did that come from. But you go back to it. It’s a record of your present moment. It’s really kind of beautiful.

Aishwarya

Yeah, I just saw that Ted talk and I was so excited. I wanted to talk about that. And, you know, I’m gonna try that for sure.

Angela

Like I said to give yourself two minutes. I have a little timer on my phone, set it for two minutes. Like, don’t stress yourself out like this. It is to de-stress. You don’t want your habits to be a part of your stress. You want it to be a part of your liveliness.

“You don’t want your habits to be a part of your stress. You want it to be a part of your liveliness.”

Aishwarya

Absolutely. Yeah, but that will definitely be helpful because, you know, as I said, we’re just continuing on the run. But this absolutely will help to pull us and you know it would be touching sanity every time.

Angela

Like I’ve really been doing my morning writing, I normally used to do it at night. And I just started, like, two weeks ago, doing my morning five minutes noticing. And it’s such a calming way to start the day.

Earlier, I used to turn on the news and my email right away and because the news has been so stressful and so negative lately, I’m limiting myself to 20 minutes a day of news because it gets in your brain and it’s harmful. I’m not saying being informed is harmful. I’m saying a constant barrage of negative, fear, stress. I’m deliberately shutting some of that out.

Aishwarya

Yeah, that’s a good practice, because this is too much out there and you don’t want to you know, put negativity in your mind. At least at this point in time. That’s right. Makes sense.

You know, you also talk a lot about the culture of organizations, right? So what do you think? How do you establish a baseline for culture and organizations? And what do you think is missing in the employee experience that organizations are trying so hard to give to the employees?

Angela

That’s right. So I think one of the things that’s missing besides science because we don’t have to guess at what are conditions that make human beings drive, not just survive or make it through the day or make it through the week, but literally drive.

And so you don’t have to be Google, you don’t have to be Disney, even though all of their decisions, everything from the shape of the room to the kind of furniture, to the environment and activities and what’s on the walls all of that is informed by science. So I think the best way is to listen to your employees.

So today I was with the New York City Public school, and I had about 350 teachers, and so they’re creating all-new environments at home so I didn’t ask him to think about their kids. I asked them to think about an environment where they feel most alive. What are the component parts we spent probably an hour breaking down a space, a time, it’s not gonna be the same, but there are patterns that emerged in that.

What is needed for your genius to thrive? So what you find is that it’s not fancy things. It’s not like surface-level things. It is I need to feel connected with people. I need to feel like I belong. I need to feel noticed by people. What is needed for your genius to thrive? So, what you find is that it’s not fancy things and surface-level things. It is the need to feel connected with people, the need to feel like I belong, to feel noticed by people. I need to know that whatever I do, even if it isn’t perfect, my effort is acknowledged.

“What is needed for your genius to thrive? So, what you find is that it’s not fancy things and surface-level things. It is the need to feel connected with people, the need to feel like I belong, to feel noticed by people. I need to know that whatever I do, even if it isn’t perfect, my effort is acknowledged.”

So these basic things. So my question that gets to this in organizations and in schools is what would make you run to school on your worst day? What would make you run to work on your worst day when you didn’t feel good? It’s easy to feel good if something good’s happened to you, but that’s an outside force.

Think about your worst day when you don’t even want to get out of bed. But you do, and you run to work because you’re so excited about the environment that you’re going to be working in. And if you break that down and I asked 500,000 young people that question, what would make you run to school?

And then we asked 25,000 employees that same question. What would make you run to work? And so I’m gonna ask you before I give you the answers. But what would you say? What would make you come to work every day with a renewed sense of purpose and place and passion?

Aishwarya

I think it’s just, you know, having the purpose to do something that’s just greater than myself. So you know, helping out my team rather than just myself.

Angela

Yes, you are tapping into the core of what motivates us as human beings. So we need, not want. We need to know that our presence matters, that our contributions matter that we’re valued and appreciated by other people. That is the deepest driver of human behavior.

“We need, not want. We need to know that our presence matters, that our contributions matter that we’re valued and appreciated by other people. That is the deepest driver of human behavior.”

And you spoke to a purpose. I need to know that I’m working and I will put in all my effort and all my energy. I will take risks. I will be courageous if I know that it’s toward something bigger than myself. We are born to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. 

So all of those things are conditions of mattering, conditions of learning, conditions of survival, and our ability to thrive at our highest potential as human beings. But if you look at work and you ask people, do you feel that every single day? Is that in the DNA of the culture, this is not an event, It’s not an activity. It’s not like one day, a week, or one day a month where you get recognized. It has to be deeply embedded in the culture of the organization but at every level.

90% of workers, 90% of students say they rarely feel like that like ever. They can’t remember the last time they felt that they mattered or that what they were doing or working on mattered. That’s a problem. It’s not just an emotional problem. It’s a massive economic problem that costs us millions, if not billions of dollars in productivity.

Aishwarya

That’s quite astonishing. Is that the fault of the organization? What has to change in this?

Angela

I think the conversation has to change. We understand so much more about what motivates human beings. What pushes human behavior. I’m doing this, uh, collaborative research paper on the reactions during a pandemic and they’re predictable. I think that’s what our brains are pattern-making, meaning-making organs.

So if you look at the pattern of behavior, it is explainable, and I think we don’t explain the brain to people. We don’t explain why we’re seeing this behavior. We manage behavior. We don’t lead by creating conditions for different behavior to emerge. So if we looked at ourselves as leaders like, a Gardner, if you will like you don’t just throw a seed in and plop water on it and expect it to grow, you manage the conditions. 

You have to manage those conditions whether you’re in a classroom or you’re in an office or you’re in a large scale organization. They’re not only predictable, but they are also discussed by the world’s leading organizations.

There’s no secret to these conditions. If you want to know how Starbucks creates its culture. If you want to know how Zappos creates their culture if you want to know why Disney or Google or any of the other companies that have embraced science do what they do. It’s not accidental. It is not happenstance. It’s an all-encompassing leadership decision, and We think the bottom line is our product but the bottom line is our people. If our people aren’t feeling like they matter and can make a difference every day, it doesn’t matter if we have the best product in the world.

“We think the bottom line is our product but the bottom line is our people. If our people aren’t feeling like they matter and can make a difference every day, it doesn’t matter if we have the best product in the world.”

Aishwarya

Absolutely. It’s just not about managing profit and your revenue. It’s also about people who are your main asset. You know, they make the company.

Angela

We say that all the time. Our customers are our number one priority, our people are our number one priority. And I don’t think any leader, any person sets out to disturb people to make them matter, make them frustrated or exhaust them at their job. But so many other things take priority, which is why I say Mattering is the agenda.

“Mattering is the agenda.”

It’s not just an agenda, it’s not an event. It’s not something that happens when something bad happens. It is the agenda. It is the agenda that drives all other agendas. If we take care of our people, they will take care of the people that they lead.

It sounds like such common sense, but it is not commonplace and not common practice in the majority of our organizations, we have to change that.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. It’s not common, even though it just sounds as simple as abcd… It’s not. I know. Yeah, that’s where the concept of mattering will really, really help us, you know, get together teams to you, you know, kind of like happy attention to what they’re doing, right?

Angela

Absolutely. The great news is we’re not talking about mass amounts of money and we’re not talking about real disruption in the time that we spend with people, we’re talking about a shift in focus.

So going back to noticing and noting these moments in our life I think each and every one of us could be a moment hunter. That’s what I call moment hunting. And there are certain moments of interaction and specifically by science, the beginning interaction. You have with somebody, and the end interaction is the most peak moment.

So if you were with a customer and it was a 15-minute conversation, they’re gonna remember how they felt at the beginning and most importantly, how they feel when they walk away. No matter what happens in the middle our brain processes the totality of the experience.

Even if you’re at Disney World, you’re not gonna remember the middle of the day. It is called primacy and recency. So If we can be moment hunters in the seconds of interaction when we first see someone and when we last see someone, we can absolutely, fundamentally change not just their potential mood, their mind, they’re part, but our own.

“If we can be moment hunters in the seconds of interaction when we first see someone and when we last see someone, we can absolutely, fundamentally change not just their potential mood, their mind, they’re part, but our own.”

And I think we just have to be masterful at seizing those moments and making them count. And we do that through our presence, through our empathy, through things that are a simple as eye contact as a smile as a pause where you show somebody that you really are listening to them and hear them and it is so simple but profound impact in moments, if not seconds of time that we have with each other.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. And you know…

When you talk about seizing these moments, not all moments of positive you will notice something, right? Well, as a leader. You notice something that you know that bothers you about the team. So how do you cope with that? And how do you get positivity and move ahead?

Angela

Absolutely. So it’s more about authenticity than positivity.

“So it’s more about authenticity than positivity.”

And so if there is an authentic problem and you lead from a place of authentic truth, believe in that person, excited that that person is on your team or is your customer and you work through it from that lens. There’s a different tone in your voice. There’s a different look on your face. There’s a different way that your body even interacts, and you can feel that even though a computer screen or even in a chat.

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So all of those nonverbal things and verbal things make a huge difference, especially in a moment of challenge or like we’re facing right now, a moment of crisis.

Think about the leaders in your country and my country around the world that we have turned to during this crisis. They are authentic. There’s a calmness about them. I wouldn’t say positivity, because the positivity and hope is in their knowledge of the value that people have and the power that people have to get through difficult things.

They’re not sugar-coating that. So all of those elements you think should be basic for a leader. And they’re not. You know, we’ve had many experiences being on the other side where someone is the opposite of all of those things.

Aishwarya

Yeah, absolutely. That’s something that you know, a lot of people say they’re doing up they pretend they’re doing, but, you know, they’re really not.

Angela

Yeah, you can’t fake being authentic and you can’t fake an authentic belief in people. And when you know that a leader or a colleague believes in you and sees the best in you, they’re not expecting perfection. They’re expecting authenticity and truth and a promise to improve.

And it goes back to what you were saying earlier about if your mission is bigger than yourself, then it’s not personal that we’re all trying to contribute to this mission that is bigger than ourselves. And so it’s not about us. It’s about us being able to be our best selves with each other and it’s a totally different way of teaching, coaching, leading, and serving.

Aishwarya

Yeah, and you know, there’s no manual to this like nobody really teaches us what we have to do, how to get to go about this. And you know, that’s where people like you are important because that’s when we understand that. You know, we’re not under the right path, you know, there’s something missing, right.

Angela

And I think that my biggest leadership lessons have come from being around young children. And it’s so funny because as adults part of our job is to shape young people.

But we have a lot to learn from them as well. In the way they handle conflict in the way they handle feedback at their purest sense, to remember that each and every one of us was born empathetic. We were born compassionate. We were born open-minded. We were born with the ability to celebrate one another, to learn from one another, to be lifted by one another, and we are taught all those other things, we’re taught judgment, we’re taught contempt, we’re taught prejudiced and biased and to hate and to hold in views that don’t let our minds be open.

And I’m constantly reminded that I am a model to young people in the world, and I am self-checking my own behavior because there are natural things that happen. But at the core, you go back to who we were born to be and who we were meant to be. And it is a promise to work on that every single day.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. There are certain qualities that are innate, and those are our values and our vices are just those acquired, you know, characteristics that you’re building up and you have a choice to either call this way or that way. It’s really the right voice. And I agree. You know, you kind of really learn a lot from young people.

Angela

So one of the things, like a practical thing that actually helps me as a leader is, it doesn’t have to be every day, but at least each week, instead of making a to-do list and letting your life be driven by what you have to do, and I think whether you’re a company, whether you’re a mass organizations or you’re just managing your own life in your own way, we allow our to-do list to define us. They define our time. They define our focus. They define our feelings of accomplishment and success. The problem with that is, it’s a really bad indicator of what we’re capable of because If you’re really driven, your to-do list is never done. The check that we need to make for ourselves as leaders and learners is to make a ‘to be’ list.

” If you’re really driven, your to-do list is never done. The check that we need to make for ourselves as leaders and learners is to make a ‘to be’ list.”

So it was my challenge to leaders this week. To think about the best leaders that you admire, that you seek to embody, that you see traits in that you think that’s something that I want to work on and jot down a few of those things.

If you looked at the leaders that you can see today that are worth embodying, they’re self-aware, they’re passionate, they’re empathetic, they’re compassionate. They’re all of these things. Pick a couple of those. So if you think one of those traits is to be open-minded, then put that at the top of your list.

On my To be list this week is to be courageous, to not stay comfortable and what I’ve always done because all of my speeches have been canceled, so everything that I’ve always done that I’m comfortable with doing, live events is no longer available.

So I have to be courageous, and I have to take action to do things I might not be as comfortable with. But I can still leave. So whatever’s on your to be a list, then check at the end of every day. Just a quick self-reflection. Is my to-do list servicing my to be list and our life will be much more congruent. It’s much more in the balance because we’re not shooting randomly.

If what I did, even if I didn’t complete my to-do list for the day, I still took action toward being that kind of leader, that kind of community member, that kind of citizen. These are really little things that make a huge difference.

Aishwarya

When you talk of change and when you want to change yourself when you internalize things and you decide on changing things, it’s never really easy. The process is rarely easy. What would be some factors according to your experience that would really help us make that process simpler and to really drive, change, and be a better person?

Angela

I think of all of the actions that I give leaders in the transition of changing themselves or helping move their organization forward. That the ‘To be list’ is probably the most practical and the most powerful because it forces you to be self-aware.

“The ‘To be list’ is probably the most practical and the most powerful because it forces you to be self-aware.”

So even if self-awareness isn’t on your to-be list, none of the other things can be accomplished without deep self-awareness.

And so I really default back to that because right now the question isn’t what do we do as an organization? But who are we being as an organization, or who am I being or seeking to become? And if we don’t lock in our values in our actions, we don’t align those two things, then we’re gonna end up down the road taking actions, moving forward and, in the end, not even recognize who we are.

And so after grieving a little bit of losing my whole income for months and months like many other people, instead of wallowing in self-pity, I made a to-be list. Who am I? Who am I working to be?

There is nothing preventing me from being that, being as impactful, being as courageous, being as inspiring whatever it is just because I’m not seeing people face to face. So what can I do today so that I can still be those things for people and just not be able to see them face to face?

And it’s totally shifted everything. It shifted my day. It’s shifted the tools I use, It’s shifted everything. I think there’s no better, more practical exercise because it puts you in touch with, you know, your deepest values. Your deepest truth.

Aishwarya

Right and, you know, seeing as you spoke about self-awareness, that’s really the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy. But that’s the ultimate, right?

Angela

It’s hard because going back to what we talked about earlier, with all the busyness, there’s not really time to be self-aware. You’re too busy doing so like there’s this sequence that I think is what I call a management sequence. Have, Do, Be – So we make this list, here’s what we have to have. Here’s what we have to do and this is what we have to do and then we’re gonna be okay. That’s a sequence.

So managers seek like we need this material, we need these tools, we need this. Here’s what we gotta do, we say to our employees or say to our customers, You got to do this and this. And if we follow all that to the T then we’re gonna be okay. There’s no guarantee. But If you start with the ‘Be’ that this is who we are and who we are going to continue to be. You can count on that.

“If you start with the ‘Be’ that this is who we are and who we are going to continue to be. You can count on that.”

It is our values in which we stand on. Here’s what we have, and here’s what we do. And I promise you things are gonna be okay because you’re coming from a place of deep grounding. Does that make sense?

Aishwarya

It does make sense. Never really thought about that…

Angela

So I think managers follow ‘have to be’ and that’s how they lead their organization. This is what we have, this is what we’re gonna do and then hopefully will be that. And I think true leaders flip that entire perspective around. ‘This is who I am. This is who we’re going to be. This is what we have and this is what we’re gonna do.’ It’s a totally different approach to people.

Aishwarya

And in this process of, you know, we have to know how much of a role do tools, machines, and technology play?

Angela

I think they play an important role. But the key is I believe technology is neutral and technology’s ultimate purpose is to advance humanity.

“I believe technology is neutral and technology’s ultimate purpose is to advance humanity.”

So even with powerful technologies like artificial intelligence, it’s not the second coming of the world. It’s not a savior nor is it the enemy.

It is an extension of human ingenuity, human creativity, human compassion. If we don’t match the human element with the technology, platforms, tools, and trends, then that’s where we get into trouble. And so we have to put humans first and then see it as a place to advance our human agenda. And technology can be incredibly life-changing. If we mirror those two things together.

And underneath recognizing that AI isn’t the savior. It was developed and fueled and shaped by human design. If we let who we are and seek to be and then say what technology is gonna advance that, I’ll give you a perfect example with AI, I’m not usually impressed with new technology tools. I’m really not. I’m impressed with human beings and their creativity and using tools in ways that we haven’t thought of.

I have a tagline in my speeches, in my writing, and it says, “the smartest person in the room is the room.”

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And so whether I’m with you live or whether I’m with you virtually, it is really important for me to get not just the feel of the room, but the insights of the room, the feelings of the room, the perceptions of the room. And there are all kinds of techniques if you’re with an audience live to do that, I’m learning new techniques if you’re with an audience virtually.

A company reached out to me, and they’re using AI technology to create these human exchanges so I tested one out yesterday with 300 leaders, and the topic was leadership in the time of crisis and so what it does is, we surveyed the leaders before the online event. It’s integrated with Zoom, and we had a zoom room set up and there were these three exchanges throughout our time together based on what the leaders needed to talk about.

And so the first exchange, a question went up and then everybody gets a text on their phone and they respond to that question, and it’s like 350 characters. So it’s not like a yes or no, not something surfaced, so you can tell when everyone in the room responds. So think about that. Can you get 300 voices in the room to read, act, and share their perceptions and thoughts about a concept? And so it’s showing all this in real-time.

So then the second phase of the exchange is you have to listen and process as many responses as you can. You’re not going to get through 300 but you could get through 30 or 40 and so it gives the participants in the room time to reflect on and vote kind of like Reddit, where you vote up and vote down so that you get the sense of what are the rooms most pressing issues?

What are their thoughts on that? And it shows the AI-powered conversation happening in real-time so you can really see connections being made and then it produces in 10 seconds, I swear, 10 seconds or less, the top words used in the discussions and reflections and then the top responses.

So I thought, like, technology should be used when you want to do something that you would not be able to do face to face. And I thought if I was in a room physically with 300 leaders, even with the most intimate welcoming conditions, would I really be able to get the thoughts, perceptions, beliefs of every single person in the room, sharing and coming together with an idea of what was most important on people’s minds? And could I do that in 10 seconds?

Absolutely not. That is technology, that is advancing human potential in our human agenda, to listen to each other, to understand each other, to be empathetic and compassionate, to be open-minded, to able to welcome opposing views, and reflect on it. Technology should be used in a way that advances the bigger question or agenda. 

“Technology should be used in a way that advances the bigger question or agenda.” 

And I thought, Oh my gosh, we need to give this to all our politicians. We need to give this to students because when every voice isn’t heard in the room, we all suffer. It’s not perfect, but that’s a technology that I can get excited about.

Aishwarya

Yeah, and you can actually find common patterns

Angela

It was an incredible experience. I think that’s where AI holds the most power. Because if you look at the things that are on our human agenda, the ability to find information efficiently, the ability to share not only information with each other but ideas and beliefs and perceptions, the ability to respond to people’s needs and thoughts immediately. AI can advance and amplify our ability to do that for each other. But you need human beings underneath it, running it, shaping it, so that it’s not randomness we have.

“AI can advance and amplify our ability to do that for each other. But you need human beings underneath it, running it, shaping it, so that it’s not randomness we have.”

Aishwarya

Absolutely. And…

When you talk about the future now, do you think the people are going to be more empathetic and, you know, they will bring about a culture change after this pandemic?

Angela

I believe in my heart. Yes, and I know people accuse me of being like a rosy optimist. But I think I’m a realist. I’m a realist, much more than I’m an optimist. I believe in humanity. I believe that the best of human beings exist, but the conditions for our best to come out are rare. I don’t think good human beings are rare.

I think the conditions that extract the best from all of us are rare. And one of the paradoxes is that the condition of crisis, the condition of unprecedented, actually brings out the best of humanity.

It’s sad that we need the condition or something bad to happen, But I think we have realized, our need for each other. We have realized how much we depend on each other. How much in isolation, even though this is physical isolation, mental isolation is just as bad. To feel like your voice is not being heard to feel invisible when you’re in the midst of a crowd.

I think we have seen the real toll of what those can take. I believe we have to have more compassion for one another to recognize that every country is affected by this, every state is affected by this, every demographic, every zip code is affected by this and at the end of the day, we’re all human beings that when we take stock in our life, the question we ask ourselves is Did I matter? Did I matter?’ I’m gonna rethink I’m gonna do something different. I’m gonna be different. We’re not perfect. Humanity is not perfect. But I think at its core, it is the best thing that we have. It is the best and brightest hope.

“Humanity is not perfect. But I think at its core, it is the best thing that we have. It is the best and brightest hope.”

Aishwarya

Absolutely. This would be a good time to really use that and create fruitful relationships and be really compassionate as you said!

Angela

It’s a reminder of how healing those things are that we have to build time for that in our lives. When you see somebody on TV or a movie star, the political opponent you didn’t agree, then you see them sick, get in the hospital on a ventilator with their family. There you see them now as a human being. So I hope we see each other as human beings. Um, in this together towards something bigger, bigger than any one of us.

Aishwarya

Yeah. Absolutely. Now is the time, And, you know,

Lastly, just to sum it up and you know, it’s been wonderful talking to, just to give a gift kind of message or are there any important sound bites?

Angela

It’s so simple. But you matter, you matter more now than ever before. Leadership is about making others’ lives better. It’s about leaving people better than you found them.”

“Leadership is about making others’ lives better. It’s about leaving people better than you found them.”

That’s true influence, right? And every one of us has the chance to do that every day in small ways and in big ways. You are a leader and you matter and the world needs your contribution.

Aishwarya

Wow, that’s a wonderful message. Very short and very powerful. Well Angela it was amazing talking to you!

Angela

You are so lovely and I’m sending you thoughts that your country heals in the way my country heals. And I’m grateful that this has brought us together and I look forward to many, many more conversations.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. I would love that. Thank you so much for your wish, take care. Have a great great day.