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Dream team of leadership - In a virtual panel discussion

Dream team of leadership - In a virtual panel discussion

July 27, 2023

Aishwarya Jain

I’m Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. We have received an overwhelming, more than 2700 registrations for this event and it is my absolute pleasure to welcome you to the second-panel discussion of the peopleHum Dream Team Series on leadersHum. leadersHum has grown to be a channel of choice for leadership thought and has collected a library of material and interviews conducted over time from some of the most well-known names in the industry.

About Dorothy Dalton

Dorothy Dalton is the global talent management strategist. She's an influencer who focuses on the inclusivity of workplaces when it comes to a diverse workforce. She's also an established blogger and published a guide book on ‘How to build an inclusive workplace’.

About Chester Elton

Chester Elton is the number one best-selling leadership author whose books have been translated to 30 different languages and have sold more than 1.5 million copies, and Chester's latest book ‘Leading with Gratitude', also now available in India.

About Debra Ruh

Debra Ruh is an inclusion strategist and global leader. She's worked with countries including agencies, national and multinational firms all over the world, helping them create strategies that help them include people with disabilities.

About Adrian Gostick

Adrian Gostick is a top global leader in leadership and organizational culture and is a sought after keynote speaker around the world, he's ‘The New York Times’ best-selling author of "The Carrot Principle" and "All In".

Today we have the opportunity of welcoming the top global minds each one has multiple accolades, including books written of people and organizations, that they have worked with, they are here to discuss the theme of changes in leadership and the workforce in these times of uncertainty, for which we have the dream team here with us today to share their thoughts and opinions.


I am also very thankful to our panel moderators today, that includes N Sekar, he is the COO of peopleHum and ex-head of engineering at ‘Success Factor’, we also have Paras Segal who’s the senior vice-president of peopleHum.

Dream Team of Leadership - In a Virtual Panel Discussion

We’re expecting a very spirited and engaging conversation with our panel and so without further ado, let me pass this on to Paras. Paras, over to you.


Thank you, Aishwarya. It's a pleasure to be here, and a part of this panel. Some notes on how we are organized today. I have five topics for discussion to get started with each panel member, and others can jump in after the first response. We'll cover the 5 questions in 45 minutes, and leave 10 minutes for questions we receive from the hundreds that are now online listening to us.

For those attending, if you need to ask a question, please submit them via the chat channel, an instructions email was sent out to you for reference a couple of days ago.

To the audience, we will also be conducting a flash poll before we take on the questions from the audience. So if you can help with your answer to the simple question being asked, that would be really helpful. Panelists, are we all set?


We’re set.


Let's begin. Sekar do you want to take this forward?


Sure. Thank you, Paras.

My first question is for Debra.

Debra, you've worked globally with organizations, governments, and agencies. The liberal societies of the western cultures are built around the individuals typically, and also the eastern cultures, where it's more hierarchical or slightly more authoritarian and they're also built around the teams.
What, in your opinion, are the concepts and leadership styles in different cultures, particularly in organizations where you find that there are certain types of concepts and leaderships styles that are applicable across all cultures, whether western or eastern and then there'll be certain things that need to be customized for the eastern culture versus the western culture. So, what do you think are those styles that are global, and what are those that need to be customized for different cultures?


First of all, thank you so much for peopleHum, for having me on another of your amazing webinars. I’m always very impressed with the content, so thank you. I thought about this question a lot, so I appreciate you giving us some of these questions ahead of time, because it's a really big question, and I thought about it a lot.

I'm joining from Virginia in the United States today. From the perspective of what's happening in the States right now with Covid19 and you're right we are very focused on individuality and individuals, and we're seeing problems with that right now during the Covid19 virus.

I think the best leaders are the ones that really think about it from a global perspective. Even if you're a national company, you've got to think about the global supply chain, the global people, about what is right for the world. 

So I think the best leaders are the ones that really do appreciate people as individuals, workers as individuals, leaders as individuals, but also understand that we are part of a community.

“So I think the best leaders are the ones that really do appreciate people as individuals, workers as individuals, leaders as individuals, but also understand that we are part of a community.”

So I think you have to take both of those, the best of both, the eastern and western cultures and bring it together.

I think, often in western culture, we could add more value to the conversations over the last 50, 60, 70, 75 years. I think that what we've learned, at least, what I've seen a lot of people learning in the western, is that we really can learn a lot from the eastern cultures. I think it has got to be a blended solution. 

A good leader is always somebody that wants to learn from their employees, from their customers, from their vendors, and really listen to what people are saying. I know Chester is going to talk later about gratitude, but I think being grateful for what we have for our team, for everything that people are going through, remembering the work-life balance, I think that is the sign of a really good leader. So, thank you.


Anyone else wants to add more to this?


Yeah, I'd like to chime in on that. I agree with Debra on all those points. I think the essence of what she said for me was that good leaders listen, they're very attentive, they listen to their customers, which we tend to do in business. 

Really extraordinary leaders listen to their employees, they get their ideas, we've had experience with a wonderful leader here in the States, who runs a large restaurant chain, called ‘Texas Roadhouse’. He's got 70,000 employees and the strength of Ken Taylor, his name is Ken Taylor is that he listens to every manager of every restaurant. What's going on in your part of the country, what's going on in your community, because, here, particularly in the United States, it's as diverse as India, right?

If what works in New York is not going to work in Alabama or Florida, and the same in India, what's good for Bangalore isn't necessarily going to work in Mumbai. So, leaders, particularly those who have large organizations, if they're not listening and if they're not attentive to their employees first and foremost, and then their customers, and then their communities, they tend to think that I'm the solo genius and that all goodness flows for me, whereas we know that's absolutely not true.

So, creating a culture where people's voices are heard, that they've listened to, become really vibrant corporations where you're free to experiment, you're free to innovate without fear. And that all starts with, ‘Are you listening?’


How about you Adrian, do you want to add anything to this? 


Well, I'd be happy to. I think Debra starts off with some really important thinking here because you're right, there is this difference. I and Chester have done surveys around the world of different perceptions about how you get people engaged in different cultures, and you're right, India is very different and China is very different and Brazil is very different from the US. 

What we're noticing is, in many of the cultures that we were beginning to study, and I think Debra is exactly right, is that, in the Indian culture, for instance, a lot of the younger employees coming in want to be valued as individuals. Whereas, in the past, it's been a collective, ‘we are a team’ and ‘I want my voice heard’. So, we're seeing this little push and pull with millennials coming in and Gen Z coming in. Yet, we still have a very traditional culture, as you know, better than we do. The very traditional culture that says, ‘No, we operate in a collective team.’ 

So, there's this little push and pull that's going on, not only in India but around the world, which is really interesting. Then in the mix of this, you throw in Covid-19 where we're learning that individuality sometimes needs to be pulled back and that there are times where the team needs to take precedence. So, it's a really interesting dynamic that we're having right now. 

Coming to that idea of listening, though, that Chester just brought up. This is where actually the power of the individual can be very powerful because, without individual ideas, that's when great things happen. 

As Chester has mentioned, Ken Taylor, who runs this 70,000 person organization here in the US. When this started happening back in March, he said, ‘I started calling my crazies because the people who follow the rules, they're not going to help you in a crisis. They don't have the answers, they're paralyzed. They are like puppies on a porch who are afraid to come off. So, you call your crazies, they're already trying things.

"The people who follow the rules, they're not going to help you in a crisis. They don't have the answers, they're paralyzed. They are like puppies on a porch who are afraid to come off. So, you call your crazies, they're already trying things."

So, it's a really interesting push and pulls we're having right now in the world with this idea of individuality versus team and it's never a perfect dynamic. It's always going to be a delicate balance. But we've got to listen to the individual and we've got to help them understand too the benefit of working for something bigger than them. And that's where mission and vision and values come in. 

That within this organization room we're mentioning here, their goal during this past pandemic was to feed America. That's what they wanted to do. So, that became their mission, their rally cry. So, all those things are very important as you think about that dynamic between individual and team.


Thank you, Adrian. Dorothy?


Yeah, I think the only final point that I might toss in is that we tend to be in cultural silos, most of us. I'm quite often in multicultural environments, and I see potential train wrecks happening particularly in communication because people don't understand where the other person is coming from. So, I think, to everyone's point, it's about listening, but it's also about asking the right questions to try and understand why that person behaves in a certain way, why do they express themselves in this way? I think globalization has been a help in breaking down some of these barriers. So, I think it's an excellent question.


Thank you, Dorothy, over to you Aishwarya for the next question.


Thanks, Sekar, thanks to the panel for those wonderful insights too.

The next question that I have, this one's for Chester, Chester you are an expert in motivating leaders to try to be their best to lead with gratitude as well, you've talked about this but a little more expansion, there are different kinds of leadership styles, and the ones that really come out are the employee centricity versus the stakeholder's centricity, one is driven by, sheer compassion and the other one is driven by efficiency and results. 
What would be the benefits of adopting one versus the other? Employees do tend to select success over compassion at times. Do you believe that's true?


I love this question because I don't think these are mutually exclusive. I think you can have a very compassionate culture that delivers remarkable results. In the research that Adrian and I did for our latest book, ‘Leading with gratitude’, we were able to sit down and spend a good deal of time with a gentleman named Alan Mulally. 

Now Alan Mulally is famous because, during the last recession, he was the guy that saved the Ford Motor Company, this iconic brand in the States. And it was very interesting that central to everything he did, was compassion for his employees.

In fact, his first rule of management is, ‘Love 'em up’. It's really funny to watch because you gotta ‘Love 'em up’, Chester, it's all about your people, ‘Love 'em up’. 

Yes, he is the most demanding and efficient manager, you can imagine. He would set up these spreadsheets for all his leaders to meet every week, and it was a very simple system that if you're on track, it was green. If you were on track, and yet, not quite there it was yellow, and if you were stuck, it was red. He was very demanding of all his leaders and at the same time, found little ways to celebrate successes, to make sure that he put his people first and foremost. 

The proof of that was that when he took over at the Ford Motor Company, their engagement scores were like at 20%, when he left, it was over 90%. So, I don't think these have to be mutually exclusive. I think you can enter into a very demanding success-oriented culture, and at the same time, value your employees, have that compassion, and be grateful for the work they do. People often think it's either-or, and it does not have to be that way.

“I think you can enter into a very demanding success-oriented culture, and at the same time, value your employees, have that compassion, and be grateful for the work they do. People often think it's either-or, and it does not have to be that way.” 

I'd be curious as to what Dorothy would have to say about that.


Well, I think that all research shows, in fact, that what I call putting the H into the HR, the human element. Once you take care of your people, then they take care of the organization. I think all the qualities are showing to become increasingly important. Top of mind, at the

moment, I heard a lovely phrase last week, which is ‘The CEO is the chief empathy officer’ and that really resonated with me, because I think we're seeing a switch to come out from the command and control and stratum results to backing up a bit with a different approach and seeing that that actually produces the same type of results.


I might add to that. In our latest book, we found quite a preponderance of wherever it's a minority, but there's still a big number of managers, about a third of managers who do lead by fear exactly what you're asking here. Almost no managers think they lead by fear. They all think, ‘No, I'm a driving manager, I'm a performance-oriented manager.’ 

Instead of what we're finding, it comes back to Carol Dweck's work from Stanford. It’s the growth mindset versus a performance mindset. If we are performance minded then that means we will do some very subtle things to try and get people to perform. We’ll say things, like, ‘Look, I can't guarantee people's jobs if we don't get this in time’ or very subtly we put fear into the workplace. 

A growth mindset really thinks about how we can think for the long term, value for employees, for shareholders, for the communities for our customers. Are we thinking long-term? Are we really thinking about growing this organization? So, Chester is right, it's not one or the other but it's really having a growth mindset and really helping our people grow and develop and do the right thing for the organization long term.


Great comments from everybody, Chester, Dorothy, and Adrian. I think and I agree with everything you're saying. I just want to also remind leaders that the younger generations have different expectations than the older generations so, if you want to be an employer of choice, now, I understand we're saying this during the Covid-19 virus when 36 million Americans, for example, have lost jobs, we have an unemployment rate of 20%, we've never seen, but at the same time, these things will correct themselves, one way or the other. 

So, if you want to truly be an employer of choice, and you want the talent, and as Dorothy said earlier, we're globalized. So, we seek to take the talent from each other all over the world. So, it's very important that you can lead with fear and I thought Adrian brought up some really good examples of how we subtly do that. But the younger generations won't work for you. And we're looking at society as customers. 

If you are treating your employees in a way that they are actually coming out and talking about you on social media. If you're attacking your employer because you do not think they're doing the right thing by your employees, then others will not do business with you. Certainly, you will not get the best talent. 

So, this is not just a, you really need to do better as a leader. This is about survival in moving forward and going into whatever this new equal equilibrium is but the fight for talent is not gone away, it's going to get even more interesting as we navigate through these times.


Thank you so much, Debra. Thanks, Chester. Thank you, Dorothy and Adrian. Sekar over to you.


Thank you Aishwarya, it's interesting we did talk about leading with care, and also we did cite a couple of examples of leaders. This question is actually a slight shift in gear because some of the leaders that we did talk about were men so my next question is to Dorothy.

Barack Obama once said, ‘Women are better leaders than men’ and HBR obviously reinforce the same opinion in one of their studies. In a situation like this, we also see countries like Germany, New Zealand, which are led by women leaders, which seem to be doing better in handling this crisis than other countries. 
What I would like to know is, what typical qualities do you see women display that are advantageous to being a great leader? What can men adopt and learn to be better leaders? 

And obviously, I would like to hear examples of more women leaders, also in this conversation. Over to you. 


It's a great question. I'm glad you sent it overnight so I could think about it, because I thought long and hard about whether or not I was going to agree with Parker Palmer or disagree with him on the global podcast, so I'm going to reframe it, right? I think in a way that you've already started to do that. 

I mean, you're very right. That we're seeing quite a disparity between the way some women leaders have succeeded against some really poor male leaders, but having said we know some bad women leaders and we also know some great male leaders. There are some men who are doing a great job as well. 

I think it's a question of moving away from gender stereotypes because women are raised to be listeners, caring, supportive, collaborative, nurturing, all of these soft skills. Whereas men have been raised to be aggressive or assertive, risk-taking, hiding their emotions.All of these sorts of things. 

And I think what this crisis has done has shown that it's time to move on and that there is a different style of leadership that can be affected. But they're not. I hate the word female skills and males skills, I much prefer just effective skills, power skills, whatever you want to call them, and men and women can exhibit them equally.

I think Barack Obama came over to me as someone who is not American, as a very compassionate and caring leader. I mean, we saw him cry very publicly. I was thinking of the Sandy Hook news announcement when he was announcing that. So he came over as a very caring leader and there are lots of men doing excellent jobs as well. 

Gloria Steinem said this, ‘we need to stop teaching our daughters to be like our sons, and raising our sons to be like our daughters.’ I think somewhere in the middle that we will get this range of skills that both men and women can employ without fear of pushback. 

I think that's really important because particularly in the workplace women are assertive, they're considered to be aggressive. If they are compassionate, they are considered emotional. If they negotiate, they are pushy, and conversely, we hear things being told to men, ‘Man up, grow a pair’, all of this sort of thing and it's not helpful. So I would like very much to move away from that and just focus on soft skills as being key to the next level of leadership or leadership in the next normal. So, I don't know what others think of that.


Thank you.


I agree with everything Dorothy said. The one reason why I think we do have to have these conversations is that women are still not being included in leadership skills. We still are only being included onboards at 30%. We are still being paid, we're losing billions of dollars every single year due to pay disparity. We are not being included equally. I want the world to be like Dorothy is saying. 

I want it to be like that, I think we absolutely have to be considerate of all those things she said, but women are still being left behind. We're not being paid the same, we are not being included, we're not being CEOs, we're not being invited to board and I think there's a lot of cultural reasons, unfortunately, we still do need to have these conversations.

Are women better leaders? Well, necessarily, because as Dorothy said, there's a lot of different things that come in to be a leader, but we still have to have these conversations, because the reality is, we still are not being included the way we should be included. 

There are some amazing women leaders. I really like Sheryl Sandberg and I like the points that she is making. I'm a huge, huge fan of Michelle Obama. ‘When they go low, we go high’ and Angela Merkel. I love these really strong leaders. 

I think the reason why we have to keep having these conversations because we're not being taken seriously in the workforce. We're still not, the numbers tell us this over and over, and over again. I'm afraid to stop, talking about this, because I believe that, if I do a good job, I should be paid equally, or maybe better than man. Just kidding. But I do think we should bring equality into those. I just think that's ridiculous, I believe, once again, the younger generation isn't going to put up with us telling the women to go and sit down and be quiet, we need to pay men more money because they have families. 


Can I just hop in, again, there? I think one of the things that is worth checking here is that currently, we place a too high value on what I would call male coded qualities. I think Debra has excellent points that we're seeing, that we know that the wider effective skills are working and we need to give them the same level of recognition in terms of representation, pay and all the other things. So I just want to attack that onto Debra’s point.


Thank you, Debra and Dorothy. Go ahead, Adrian.


Oh thanks, you had asked some examples of great women leaders. One thing that Chester and I do in our work is we always bring in examples. One of the best leaders we've ever studied is, there's a woman named Doria Camaraza who runs one of the big divisions for American Express that has probably 10000 employees throughout South America, and she handles all the call centers and Chester and I went to spend a couple of days with Doria and her team in Florida. It was really remarkable, wasn't it  Chester? 

How amazing her leadership style is because you're exactly right, it doesn't really matter if you're a man or a woman, it's the leadership style you bring. 

Doria is tremendously empathetic. At this point when we met her, she probably had 3000 employees, knew everybody's name, knew most of their stories, that kind of leadership. And people would say, who does that? How can a leader actually know their people like that? 

We were in a conference room with her, I think with eight top leaders. We were writing up on a board, everything they were doing for recognition for their employees. We must have filled those big flip charts and 10 of them with all the things they were doing for their people and so it doesn't matter if it's a male or a female trait, it's do you care about your people? And she does, she has been promoted numerous times within American Express, but she has the loyalty of her people because she cares about her people first and her customer second and because of that her employees take care of her customers. They have been 10 years in a row number one for JD Power and Associates, number one, in customer satisfaction because she takes care of her employees first.


Yeah, the issue here is, where's the talent? Whether you're a man or a woman, where's the talent? What kind of talent do you need to lead a particular organization? And having said that, I mean, we’re very good at saying, ‘Look, these generations are different, these cultures are different’ and so on. You have to take into account that men and women are different, there are different issues depending on their circumstance. 

As you would say, look, you've got a man, he's a single parent, he's got, three kids. You've got a woman, that's a single parent and she has three kids. You are going to make some adjustments for that talent because it's the talent that you need for that group at that time. 

So, yeah, I don't think you can be blind to cultural differences or generational differences, and you can't be blind to gender differences. What you're looking for is who's the best person for the job.

If they happen to be a man, If they happen to be women, that shouldn't enter into it. What is the leadership style? You talk about hard-driving men, and so and so on. 

One of my favorite characters in history is Margaret Thatcher, you know, who came out and said, ‘They call me the iron lady and they are right’. I mean, there was nobody who was more rigid than Margaret Thatcher. So again, look at the talent, look at the need. Then, if there are adjustments you need to make, then you make those adjustments, just driven by the situation and I know I'm babbling here a little bit because it is an older white male. This is sort of the third rail, so afraid that no matter what I say, it's going to be wrong. Let the best talent win.


To hop in real quick, I just think, when you make that decision, you have to make sure you're not doing it through the lens of bias. 

If you have a single dad with three kids, and I've observed, they say, ‘Oh, poor guy’ and then, if it's a single mom with three kids as well, she needs to get her act together and prove that she's up to standard. I think that, in a neutral sense, if you take away all biases, I think that's a valid point.


Yeah. My point is just boiled it down to the talent, and you make exceptions for talent. You've got a great talent who lives in London, who doesn't want to move to New York. You'll make that adjustment if the talent is what you need so, that's really my point. Regardless of gender, what is it that you need, where's the talent? Go get that talent.


Thank you all, that's a very, very interesting conversation. I know it was not an often discussed topic and it is also a slightly sensitive topic, so I really appreciate all your candid views on that over to you Aishwarya for the next question.


Thank you so much, Sekar. I'm going to shift the talk a little bit, towards the current times and how we can cope with it as leaders, the next question I have is for Adrian.

In these uncertain times, there's just a lot of talk about resilience. It's really shifted towards resilience, and, especially, as leaders, as young leaders, and leaders, that already have so much experience. Now everybody has just suddenly built so much resilience into their organizations and their cultures, so how do you think they could really go about doing that?


That's a great question, from what I'm seeing around the world I just saw some stats a couple of days ago, I think 68% of Italy right now are saying they feel anxiety, depression and bordering on mental illness. I mean, that's a huge number where we've never seen anything like that before. 

But around the world, we are seeing huge numbers of people with anxiety, with depression, with mental illnesses coming in, in many cases have never had them before. 

A lot of managers will say, ‘Yeah, well, they should go talk to a therapist’ and that's really not an answer if they're coming to you. It's like a friend coming to you saying, ‘Well, I've got some real problems’ and you say, ‘Yeah, go talk to somebody else’. That's not healthy. Well, now, I'm not saying a manager should be a therapist. That's never a good idea, but a manager should be a listening voice, a manager should be the first person that I should turn to if I'm having challenges. A lot of this stress is coming from work because, as Debra mentioned, here in the US, we've got 20% of unemployment. We've never seen anything like that in our lifetimes, our parent’s lifetimes, we’d never seen that.

This is unprecedented, and there's a lot of fear out there, not only fear of economics, fear of my job, fear of will I be sick or my grandmother gets sick, etc, there's a lot of fear out there. So, when people are coming to you as a manager and they're expressing their fear, the worst thing we can do is just push them away and say, go talk to somebody else. We have a phone number, you should call. 

That's not how you create a relationship. You create a relationship by, ‘Tell me what you're feeling’, ‘Let's see what I can do to help’, because there’s actually is a lot that a manager can do to help build up the resilience of their people, they can give them some flexibility. They can give them a voice, as we talked about earlier. There are a lot of things that a manager can do to help.

As Dorothy mentioned earlier, we are the ‘Chief Empathy Officer’, that we are listening and caring, that doesn't mean that there are times when a therapist is needed. What we have to realize as managers is that we have to be a lot more listening, and kinda caring and compassionate than we've ever been, especially for the next couple of years. As we continue to go through this process. 


Absolutely. Debra, what do you think?


I think his answer was brilliant. So, I definitely need to get the book that they wrote but I totally agree. I think, also, what is interesting about this is, some of us were very resilient before and we were always the people that people came to because we just seem to be more resilient.

I see those people really starting to struggle now and I see it on my own team, and, in a way, when you're one of those people, and I'm one of those people, I'm very empathetic, and very compassionate, I want to help. You can get overwhelmed. Just the fear of how long is this going to go on.

I'm trying not to listen to the news, but I heard on the news the other day that 50% of small businesses in the United States will fall in the next six months. Well, small businesses, the backbone of the United States. So, things like that are terrifying, what happens to the gig economy, but it just goes on, and on, and on also, since, we don't know who has it, and you know, all the fears. 

My sister said to me, one time, I feel like this silent monster is walking around and we don't know where it is. It's the ongoing fear like we've never seen before, as Adrian said, and I think this is the time when we really need to look at the Adrian's, and the Chester’s that are giving us good advice on, how do we stay mentally healthy during these intense times? How do we reach out to not only our employees, we're talking about leadership here, to make sure they're okay, but I think it's going to take different techniques. 

And I'll just give you an example. I am a little bit high strung myself. I know that I need to meditate more and I sometimes struggle, but in these times, I have to eat better. I have to be very deliberate about my hydration, about my exercise. I have to take time to meditate twice a day now. I just think it's the ongoingness of this and the unknowns and the fears and all that. Some of our leaders are making things even worse. So, I just think that's part of the conversation that we have to be aware of because we don't know what to expect from how this is going to go on.


Chester, are you also saying that leaders who are fearless are currently crumbling down?


Well, I think what's happening is people are just getting worn out. We're good at dealing with events. You know, a hurricane, a tsunami, even a terrorist attack because there's sort of this event that happens, and then we recover, we can be resilient in short periods of time. 

This thing where no one knows when it's going to end, the cycle. I mean, it just wears you down. I hope that it does shine a light more on mental health. 

As Adrian was saying, we've got some research on this, and isn't it interesting that if you called in and said, ‘I sprained my ankle. I won't be in today’ and people say, ‘That's fine’ or, ‘I've got the flu I'll be out for a couple of days’ ‘That's fine’. You call up and say, ‘Hey, I need a couple of mental health days’ and you go, ‘Buck up’. 

I remember early in my career, and I grew up in sales. I had a lot of things going on, took a lot of extra assignments. I was mentally exhausted and I'll never forget the head of HR and I was good friends. She said, ‘Would you like some counseling?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not’. She said, ‘Why?’, I said, ‘I don't ever want that in my employee folder that Chester had to go for counseling because it was a sign of weakness, right? Literally, there was no way. She said, ‘Here's the number’ I said, ‘I'm not writing it down’. 

That was an old school. Well, I think, now, with this prolonged virus, it really is evident that people are just psychologically mentally exhausted, that hopefully, this will become no different than, ‘I was out running. I sprained my ankle. I need a couple of days’ to say, ‘You know what, I'm just mentally exhausted. I need a couple of days, and I'm gonna go talk to the counselor.’ Instead of saying ‘Buck up’, they'll say, you know what ‘Good for you.

I've done that, and it was good for me too and as soon as the leaders admit that they have done it, that it was OK, it gives everybody else permission to do the same. I think this stigma around mental health is hopefully going to be lifted, and the answer isn't going to be, like Adrian said ‘Well, you know, there's an app, you can download this meditation app, and I think that'll take care of everything for you. Do it after hours, don't do it during the business, but after hours’. 

It'll be more acceptable and we will get a more transparent and healthier and a better culture when people can talk about those things without fear of being stigmatized. Dorothy, you've got that all-knowing look on your face, I'm ready to hear what you have to say. 


I think it's really important to give ourselves permission to be fearful. I think because there are things to be fearful of. I think it's important to feel vulnerable. And, certainly, one of the things I'm working with with my clients is the people they have every sort of anxiety about remote working, people are feeling a lot of isolation.

I think it's down to managers to be more inclusive, and the way they handled this stuff. So, ‘how are you doing today?’ Someone says, ‘I'm fine’, ‘Well, you're not fine, nobody's fine.’ Maybe managers start drilling down to find out what is behind the fine and say, ‘We're all worried, we're all nervous and scared’ and I think bringing that out in the open will help a lot.


Yeah to be afraid is okay. I love the old line that says, ‘Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me’. You can give yourself permission to be afraid, you can give yourself permission to mourn and to take a day off. I think that's really healthy, as long as in your culture, it's accepted as long as you're not stigmatized because that stigma can cause you to really push it down and that, we all know is not healthy.


Absolutely. Thank you so much for those wonderful answers panel. Over to you Sekar.


Thank you, Aishwarya, my next question is for Chester. 

Chester in your latest book with Adrian ‘Leading with gratitude’ you frequently talk about giving praise, giving praise frequently and immediately. On the other hand, leaders are also expected to provide constructive feedback frequently and immediately. How do you balance both? On the one hand, you have to say, ‘Hey, thank you very much for doing this, and this is what you need to improve’.
How do you balance both of these? 


Yeah, I think it's a lot easier than leaders think. First off, thank you for mentioning the book, it's now available in India. It makes a great gift for weddings and so on. 

What I love about it is that we think of feedback, and in that context even the way you phrased that question, that feedback is somehow negative, that feedback means you need to be corrected. Well, you know, we can give feedback that's very positive, and there's nothing wrong with that. The problem with a lot of leaders is that it's an either-or when it can all be part of the same leadership style. 

We've got a wonderful leader for example, that he's created certain intentionality and discipline around praise and he puts 10 coins in his left pocket, and he sets a goal to have 10 positive interactions with his people every day. 

We say, well, that's too much. Well, he's got a lot of people he manages. What he's doing is he’s making sure that when he shows up, they know that he's appreciative of what they do every day to keep the doors open. So that when he's gonna have that feedback conversation where ‘Look you got some corrective behavior’, he's got a lot of goodwill in the bank already.

Often we find, and this is particularly with new leaders, they have this feeling that they've got to be right about everything all the time. The reason I got promoted is that they've got great ideas and their great ideas are correcting everybody else whose ideas aren't as good as theirs, right? 

So I'm coming in every day and say you're doing that wrong, you're doing that wrong. In fact, I'm gonna have name tags made up, I'm gonna say, I do everything right, your name tag is gonna say you do everything wrong. 

Anytime I show up, I'm hitting people over the head. Well, if you have a culture of gratitude, that becomes even peer-to-peer, you celebrate these little victories along the way. 

You appreciate all those little things that are going well every day, so that, when people make mistakes, they are open to your coaching, right? It's not one of these things where, ‘Paras, I’ve got some feedback for you’ and immediately you go up, ‘Can I talk to you for a minute?’. 

When a manager comes up and says, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you for a minute’, we never think, ‘Oh, that's going to be good news. It’s gonna be balloons, there's gonna be a cake’. So you've got to temper that and say, ‘Look, I really appreciate all of the good things you do all the time. Look, you need to be doing this better. Let me coach you up on that’ and so it doesn't come across as punitive, it comes across as helpful. 

Feedback has to be both positive and corrective and the ratio however, has to be overwhelmingly positive to negative because we know that a negative experience outweighs.

I mean just look on Amazon, right? 1 star review, you need 20 to offset that one. So think about what your ratio is. Harvard Business School did a study and said, it's at least 5 to 1. I think as leaders, you've got to ask yourself, what is my ratio of positive to negative?

If it's about 1 to 1 that's a very negative culture. If it's at least 5 to 1, now you've got people that will bring problems to you, that you can solve for people that are open to your coaching. I'm babbling now, but I'd love to hear what Debra has to say on this as well. How do you create that positive culture where feedback isn't a negative thing?


Gosh, I love listening to Chester. The wisdom is just so amazing. I totally agree with what you said Chester. One thing that I'm finding especially during this time of crisis, I find that we all make mistakes. But what I'm finding, and I know that I do this myself, and I know my team members do this. If I make a mistake, I'm so much harder on myself than any manager is going to be to me and with my employees, I see the same thing. 

One of my employees perceived that he made a mistake and that I felt he made a mistake recently. I actually did not think that he made a mistake but I could tell that he thought so. So as a manager, you know something's going on. So, I went to him, and I said, ‘I know you think you did this wrong’ ‘I do, I feel really guilty about it’. I said, ‘But, I don't know, you're going to have to work on that because I do not perceive that you did make a mistake.’

I actually think that because that happened I was able to do this and I think we're much stronger as a team and a company because we were able to talk about these things but I think as leaders we need to realize that often the employee is going to be much harder on themselves if they perceive they made a mistake and they think you think they made a mistake, than you could be. 

I love what Chester said about the positive ratio to the negative because I really care about my team members. I just think I have an amazing team. Many of my team members are technologists with disabilities too. I’m very proud of these amazing, talented people. But they're hard on themselves because they're such perfectionists and they care so much about the work that we're doing.

They want to have this major social impact and so I have to remember that they're going to be so much harder on themselves and what's the goal? A mistake supposedly was made or maybe was made, but can we learn from that and move forward without damaging people's self-esteem? 

Then, of course, before I turn the mic over to someone else, once again, what we're walking is so intense and so long and so fearful that everything that we did before, we have to do a little bit more now just because once again, we're in losses, worst experienced losses. We are losing parents, grandparents, friends, we are having suicide losses that we’ve never seen. 

There's just so many really scary things happening right now as leaders we need to realize that if a mistake was made, what can we learn from that? How can we grow from that? Because I have grown the most I should say because of my mistakes, and I've made a lot of them. Thank you, Chester.


Yeah true. A lot of the senior leaders we work with now, they do not call it mistakes, they're calling them learning opportunities. So, your employee comes and says, ‘Oh, I think I've made a mistake’ and the boss will go ‘Terrific, what can we learn from this!’. 

We were sitting on a call with one of our clients here today, and their computer system had gone down over the weekend and it cost them millions of dollars, and as we joined the call, we were listening in, and it's one of our consulting clients, and the COO said, ‘Look before we begin, we know the computer system was down over the weekend. We know it cost us money. There's no point in belaboring that. I want us to have a positive conversation. I want to think about what we can do going forward to make sure that we learn from this, and that next time we're in a better spot.’ 

And then, sort of the CIO came on, whose computer system it was. But it had been over Mother's Day, he didn't have people on the call, because it's never happened before. Everybody could have been piling on the CIO. But they weren't, they were all saying, ‘Well, why don't we do this and this’, and it was a great conversation, and it was really positive to hear that. 

So as Chester just mentioned earlier, there are ways to make feedback very positive,’ to say, how can we learn? how can we go forward?’. Because the last thing you want to do is a mistake happens in your team or your organization, and nobody tells you about it because they're fearful of what happens. 

Chester and I once saw a leader have to apologize in front of the team for a mistake that had happened, and as we were sitting there thinking, nobody is ever going to take a risk, here again, this is it. It's done. So, you've got to create a way to make feedback a really positive thing. Dorothy, what would you add?


I mean, I think they're all great answers and I would encourage all of that. The final point is that one of the pillars of an inclusive workplace is receiving recognition frequently, regularly. So getting the feedback is sort of, ‘Honey we need to talk’ situation, it's on a regular basis. 

The other thing about inclusive workplaces is that people are not afraid to make mistakes if I think that if the leaders are creating that culture, it goes a long way to mitigating that feeling of isolation of fear. I thought everybody gave wonderful answers.


Thank you Dorothy. Thank you all. Over to you, Paras.


Thanks, Sekar, thank you so much for this insightful conversation, panelists. We would now take questions from the audience, but before that, let us launch a quick poll to hear from our audience as to what they have got to say about that. As we launch the poll, we'd like to ask the panelists, if you can spend, like, 10 more minutes to get to some of these questions, through a bit, I guess, all of us need help, and there are many questions, which are coming through. We do have a lot of questions, but being cognizant of everyone's time, we will take about 5 to 6 questions, in front of you, as received from the audience.

So, we close the poll. We share the results. Let’s go back to our questions.

The first question is for Debra, and this is from Maryville. The question for you, Debra, is, do you find that women need sponsors, champions, mentors to get ahead?


Great question, I do. I think it's very important for everybody to have mentors and guides along the way. I know I have. I'm an older woman. I'm 61 these days, so that's why I have purple hair instead of just grey, may as well have fun. But, as you know, women were just really coming into the workforce in the 1970s, and 1980s and women were acting more like they thought men were acting. So, I found when I was a young woman that I couldn't really find good mentors that were women. Most of my mentors were men.

So, as I went through my journey, I wanted to make that better, and I really made an effort. I still make a deliberate efforts to mentor women, especially young women and men, too. I also do a lot of mentoring of all kinds of people of different ages, different capabilities. I think it's really important for women to do that, and you need to surround yourself with mentors, just answering the question. 

I think both women and men, and you can tell if somebody really wants to be there and help you grow, you can say by the way they’ve been responding to you, the time that they're taking with you, the way they are responding to your questions, you can tell a mentor very quickly, and I think I always learn so much also from the people I'm mentoring. 

So I think it is important for leaders to realize it goes both ways because I've learned some of my biggest lessons from the young people that I talk to every day. I know that Aishwarya, she’s a perfect example. I've really enjoyed getting to know her. She's very smart. She's very clever, she's taught me something. So I think, yes, you need the mentors, but find mentors that will appreciate what you're bringing to the table too. 


Thank you, Debra, Dorothy would you like to add to that question?


I think research shows that women are actually under sponsored. One of the reasons for this is just basic maths. To have a door opener you need to have some senior level and to Debra's point earlier in the session, with so few men at the senior level, it's hard for women to find them.

So, I always make sure that the senior male leaders that I work with, have, if you like, a cohort of women, that they can encourage and introduce and make sure that they have opportunities. So, look for a sponsor, as well as a mentor, that would be my add on.


Thank you. Thank you so much. We go over to the next question and this is for Adrian, and this is from Vanessa the question for you, Adrian is,

How do you motivate employees to do their best to sustain business at the same time, having compassion for their peers in uncertainty?


That's a great question. How do we motivate people at this time? 

Chester and I, we're working with a team of psychologists. We put together what's called ‘The Motivators Assessment’ and more than 80,000 people have taken this around the world. It really spits out from 1 to 23 what you're motivated by because what we tend to do as managers is we tend to assume everybody's the same. Everybody is motivated by achieving, or everybody is motivated by working together as a team. No, we're all very different. The chances of Dorothy and I having the same top five of those 23 motivators in common is more than a million to one. What we're finding is we are very unique, and so this comes back to our original conversation about the team versus the individual.

The team is how we all work together and we have this noble cause and we’re all charging together. But I manage people very differently based on what they're motivated by. If I know what Chester is, one of his strongest motivators is friendship and teamwork. I will probably send him to a networking conference or now it'll be a Zoom conference to meet lots of people. He loves that every day. He wants to be meeting new people and connecting. Chester is a perfect connector. 

Me, I'm driven by ideas like autonomy and creativity. I want to be working in my office and thinking about the next big idea and crunching stuff.

We're both very productive and this is one reason we're great team members, as we have different skills and, so really, when it comes down to motivating people, especially during the crisis, we can't just assume that everybody will understand, we've all gotta work hard. No, you've still gotta motivate people in a way, that especially in these times, that will make them feel like you care about them as an individual, and you're finding ways to really spark their own passion and their own ways of working that will make them feel the most engaged.


Thank you, back to you Dorothy. What is your take on getting the employees to be really motivated during these times?


Was that a question for me?


Yes, your take on the same question.


I mean, to be honest, I've got nothing to add to that. I mean, I think you have to find out what each individual driver is, and tap into that, and absolutely not treat everyone the same and respect differences, and not belittle one driver against another. So, I think Adrian gave the perfect answer, and I can’t add anything else. 


I would just like to add that, you know...


No hold on, she just said it was the perfect answer (Laughter) now you want to add to it?


I would just like to point out, Adrian did talk about our differences. I often think man, this COVID virus, this is the greatest thing that ever happened to Adrian ever. He doesn't have to go to the airport, he doesn't have to travel, whereas I am one of those guys that actually miss the airport. So, yeah, we are very different and that's why we work together so well. My wife had a great line she said ‘Introverts, you need to call your extrovert friends. They have no idea how to do this COVID thing’.


That is true. I'm with you, Chester on that.


Ok, so over to the next question and this one's for you Chester and this is coming from Shivinder. The question is:

What do you recommend to the graduating batch of 2020 for keeping the faith and get the fewer jobs that will be available in a severe economic downturn that we are facing? What skills do you think will be relevant in the post-pandemic scenario?


You know, really a great question. My son just graduated with a Dual Master's from the University of Pittsburgh, and the program that has had over the last 10 years a 100% placement, and his is the first class where they do not have 100% placement, and he's one of those, and he's struggling with it, you know as much as we can do, It's just really an unusual time. 

So, the number one trait that LinkedIn is looking for in new hires right now, interestingly enough, is creativity. Isn't that interesting? That, while AI is taking a lot of jobs and so on, what AI really struggles with is creativity.

Right now, employers and Adrian mentioned that with our restaurant owner. They're looking for people that have creative answers and creative solutions to new problems. So, feed that creativity, look to be innovative and creative, and I think not only does that make you more appealing to potential employers, it keeps your energy up, you know, being creative and looking for new ideas and reading more and creating a bigger circle of creative friends that are very diverse and as we see right here, I mean, on a Zoom call, you can bring people in from all over the world. 

Find those groups, and get involved in those groups and network and really focus on that creativity. What are the new and different ways? Because as I've mentioned, and I can't emphasize this enough, it has a dual purpose. It makes you more appealing to employers, and I think it keeps your personal energy high. So, that would be my answer to that question. 


Thanks Chester. So, moving onto the next question, and this one is for, Dorothy, and, this question is from Jayshree. So the question is

Rich established organizations these days granting work from home till December, but startups cannot really survive in that board, what advice would you give to startups, their leaders and their HR at this point in time?


To be honest, I'm not sure that this is my area of expertise. I don't know if anybody- Chester, Adrian or Debra this is more for you, I think.


Well, I'm a small business owner and have been for many years and before that, I was in the banking industry, I was in the financial industry and what we call, corporate America. And it's very interesting right now as small businesses, and we are still in the gig economy all over the world and of course, I mentioned earlier some of the dire predictions of all of the small businesses that are going to fail. 

But I still think it sort of goes back to all the sort of conversation we've been having along the way. You have to really think about what your purpose is and I like the point that Chester was making about creativeness because I agree with that.

Because what everyone's looking for, what I'm looking for with my team, I want to make sure that I have a lot of inclusivity. I want different cultures. I want different genders. I want all the different diversities represented because we know that diversity equals innovation and creativity.

“I want all the different diversities represented because we know that diversity equals innovation and creativity.” 

So I think the opportunity and the really scary times that we have as business owners and let me just say that I created two businesses. 

My first business was called ‘Tech Access’, and it was a technology firm that focused on making sure everything is accessible. We need tech for all, we need tech for good, we need digital inclusion. We also need to include everyone, and that means including people with disabilities. Most of my clients have five generations in their workforce. So this is also about all the generations and all the differences. It was interesting as we were listening to Chester and Adrian go back and forth about what they bring to the table. That is what adds value to even our small organizations too is the differences in the way we handle problems and we look at situations. 

So the reality is, some businesses are just going to fail because the large corporations or the large entities that would normally give this business are tightening up. We know this is going to happen. But I think even in the failures, we need to take a look and say, ‘Well, what does that mean? How has the world changed? How do I wish the world has changed?’

For example, I also really care so much about climate and climate activism, and climate change, and climate action, and so, a lot of the work that we're doing, we're looking at, what other big problems do we see in the world that we can add value to the conversations? So, I think, if a small business or an entrepreneur is not out on social media, adding to the conversations, being on webinars, writing blogs, writing books. I mean, there are so many ways that we can contribute to the conversations, even if, after it's all said and done, our businesses fail. Because my first business, ‘Tech Access’, failed during the last financial crisis for 2008 to 2009. 

It all is how we spin things too right, because, I also could say it didn't fail because it was actually absorbed by another company. So, it sort of depends on how you're doing it, but with that, it is not failure but my business was forced to make a decision to merge with another company, because the bank we were with, failed. It was not my fault the bank failed but I had to deal with it. 

So I think that we have to look at what we can learn from this situation even if we fail and how do we pick up the failures and learn so much from it and then contribute in other ways. But it's not an easy answer, there's not. But I think we have to keep looking at life as a journey, we’re supposed to learn. 

I learned so much when ‘Tech access’ had that failure, and what I learned was I always trust myself now. If I’m hurting at my heart or in my stomach, and my intuition says, ‘Don't, don't, don't, don't’ I will not do it. I completely lead now, listening to my intuition and my gut, I learned that from when my business failed, even though I protected all my employees. A lot of people lost money, I lost the most, but that's just part of the journey. So take the time to try to appreciate the journey, including the failures along the way.


Interesting take thanks for that, Debra. So we go to the next question, Dorothy, again for you….


Ok, that's for me, I hope I can answer it.


The question that we have, for you is from Jayshree and the question is that, 

Work from home requires a lot of self-discipline, and it's difficult to approach strategic initiatives and innovation in a work from home scenario. How can organizations balance the tactical versus the strategic imperatives? What's your take on that?


Well, I think at the moment we're not working from home away, we're coping from home so that everybody is just managing and doing what they can do. So I think that certainly, for leaders this sort of encapsulates everything we've said, it's about understanding what's going on with the people. I feel I'm so glad my kids are not in education, that they are out of schools. I don't have kids at home. They call it co-spacing while you're working on the kitchen table with your kids and your partner. 

I think the pressures are enormous. So everything we said about finding out what's going on, listening, asking questions, not making assumptions, and trusting in your people to deliver and manage expectations. 

I think that everybody's under pressure. Everything that Debra said about managing your own stress levels, all of these things are really, really important. Then, sitting down with your people and saying, ‘OK, this is what's going on with you. This is what's going on with me. How can we make this work given that you're in one time, I'm in another, you've got whole kids. I've got two kids, sick grandmother’, and the rest of it.

It's a very unusual set of circumstances at the moment. I think that there will be massive lessons going forward about how to do stuff and how not to do stuff. Certainly, from the people that I work with, it's not about the tech. I've seen people with cell phones hanging out their window, trying to work. But because the boss has been so great and understanding, and empathetic, they really didn't care. So, it's about all the policies we spoke about, the effective skills, soft skills, that at the moment is the most important thing. Then, the strategy will come because as Peter Drucker said, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’


Chester, what's your take on that?


The discipline there is really the key. Pre-COVID, you had a commute where you could kind of separate yourself from work as you came home, now your commute is your walk through the door. It's immediate, it's so easy to walk back through that door. In the research we did for our book, Adrian and I had a lot of fun talking about not leaving your best self at work. We're working so hard and we're trying to take care of everybody at work and we're exhausted. Make sure you take that gratitude and those leadership best practices home.

We put it into the book about ‘Baker's dozen of 13 things you can do'. One of the things that Adrian came up with, that I really love is, when you see your family, be happy to see them that's the good stuff like, ‘Hey, I'm done for the day, how you guys doing, let's have some fun’ as opposed to, ‘You can't believe how exhausted I am.’ So bring your best self home as well. I think that's part of the discipline. My wife is really good when it comes down for us to have a meal, she says, ‘You have to leave your phone in your office, because I know as soon as that thing vibrates, you're going to grab it, and I'm going to lose you’. So set up certain rules around when I'm at work, I do this, when I walk through the door, I do this. I think that's really very helpful.


Thank you, Thanks for your take. Aishwarya over to you.


Thank you so much for those wonderful insights. I think I had a great time listening to all the very engaging questions from the audience as well, and to all your responses. I'd just like to take a moment to thank our panel members for the very high energy and engaging talk. I would also like to thank all of you individually for your support leading up to the discussion and for being part of this wonderful journey. Thank you so much we wish to see you back on our show again in the future, on behalf of our audience on leadersHum, and all over the world. 

Thank you so much. Stay safe and have a wonderful rest of the day.


Bye, Thank you.




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