A Human Approach to Reskilling in the Age of AI

A Human Approach to Reskilling in the Age of AI

Investing in learning agility and core capabilities is as important for the individual worker as it is for the decision-making executive. Thinking openly can get us there.

The age of AI is upon us. Emerging technologies give humans some relief from routine tasks and allow us to get back to the creative, adaptable creatures many of us prefer being.

So a shift to developing human skills in the workplace should be a critical focus for organizations. In this part of my series on learning agility, we’ll take a look at some reasons for a sense of urgency over reskilling our workforce and reconnecting to our humanness.

The clock is ticking

If you don’t believe AI conversations affect you, then I suggest reviewing this 2018 McKinsey Report on reskilling in the age of automation, which provides some interesting statistics. Here are a few applicable nuggets:

  • 62% of executives believe they need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce by 2023 due to advancing digitization
  • The US and Europe face a larger threat on reskilling than the rest of the world
  • 70% of execs in companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue state this will affect more than 25% of their employees

No matter where you fall on an organizational chart, automation (and digitalization more generally) is an important topic for you—because the need for reskilling that it introduces will most likely affect you.

But what does this reskilling conversation have to do with core capability development?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at a few statistics curated in a 2019 LinkedIn Global Talent Report.

When surveyed on the topic of soft skills core human capabilities, global companies had this to say:

  • 92% agree that they matter as much or more than “hard skills”
  • 80% said these skills are increasingly important to company success
  • Only 41% have a formal process to identify these skills

Before panicking at the thought of what these stats could mean to you or your company, let’s actually dig into these core capabilities that you already have but may need to brush up on and strengthen.

Core human capabilities

What the heck does all this have to do with learning agility, you may be asking, and why should I care?

I recommend catching up with this introduction to learning agility. There, I define learning agility as “the capacity for adapting to situations and applying knowledge from prior experience—even when you don’t know what to do […], a willingness to learn from all your experiences and then apply that knowledge to tackle new challenges in new situations.” In that piece, we also discussed reasons why characteristics associated with learning agility are among the most sought after skills on the planet today.

Too often, these skills go by the name “soft skills.” Explanations usually go something like this: “hard skills” are more like engineering- or science-based skills and, well, “non-peopley” related things. But what many call “soft skills” are really human skills—core capabilities anyone can cultivate. As leaders, we need to continue to change the narrative concerning these core capabilities (for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the distinction frequently re-entrenches a gender bias, as if skills somehow fit on a spectrum from “soft to hard.”)

For two decades, I’ve heard decision makers choose not to invest in people or leadership development because “there isn’t money in soft skills” and “there’s no way to track the ROI” on developing them. Fortunately, we’re moving out of this tragic mindset, as leaders recognize how digital transformation has reshaped how we connect, build community, and organize for work. Perhaps this has something to do with increasingly pervasive reports (and blowups) we see across ecosystems regarding toxic work culture or broken leadership styles. Top consulting firms doing global talent surveys continue to identify crucial breakdowns in talent development pointing right back to our topic at hand.

We all have access to these capabilities, but often we’ve lacked examples to learn by or have had little training on how to put them to work. Let’s look at the list of the most-needed human skills right now, shall we?

Topping the leaderboard moving into 2020:

  • Communication
  • Relationship building
  • Emotional intelligence (EQ)
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving (CQ)
  • Learning agility and adaptability quotient (AQ)
  • Creativity

If we were to take the items on this list and generalize them into three categories of importance for the future of work, it would look like:

  1. Emotional Quotient
  2. Adaptability Quotient
  3. Creativity Quotient

Some of us have been conditioned to think we’re “not creative” because the term “creativity” refers only to things like art, design, or music. However, in this case, “creativity” means the ability to combine ideas, things, techniques, or approaches in new ways—and it’s crucial to innovation. Solving problems in new ways is the most important skill companies look for when trying to solve their skill-gap problems. (Spoiler alert: This is learning agility!) Obviously, our generalized list ignores many nuances (not to mention additional skills we might develop in our people and organizations as contexts shift); however, this is a really great place to start.

Where do we go from here?

In order to accommodate the demands of tomorrow’s organizations, we must:

  • look at retraining and reskilling from early education models to organizational talent development programs, and
  • adjust our organizational culture and internal frameworks to support being human and innovative.

This means exploring open principles, agile methodologies, collaborative work models, and continuous states of learning across all aspects of your organization. Digital transformation and reskilling on core capabilities leaves no one—and no department—behind.

In our next installment, we’ll begin digging into these core capabilities and examine the five dimensions of learning agility with simple ways to apply them.

This article series was originally published on opensource.com.

Part One: A Brief Introduction to Learning Agility

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

A Brief Introduction to Learning Agility

A Brief Introduction to Learning Agility

The ability to learn and adapt quickly isn’t something our hiring algorithms typically identify. But by ignoring it, we’re overlooking insightful and innovative job candidates.

I think everyone can agree that the workplace has changed dramatically in the last decade—or is in the process of changing, depending on where you’re currently working. The landscape has evolved. Distributed leadership, project-based work models, and cross-functional solution building are commonplace. In essence, the world is going open.

And yet our talent acquisition strategies, development models, and internal systems have shifted little (if at all) to meet the demands these shifts in our external work have created.

In this three-part series, let’s take a look at what is perhaps the game-changing key to acquisition, retention, engagement, innovation, problem-solving, and leadership in this emerging future: learning agility. We’ll discuss not only what learning agility is, but how your organization’s leaders can create space for agile learning on teams and in departments.

Algorithmed out of opportunities

For the last decade, I’ve freelanced as an independent consultant. Occasionally, when the stress of entrepreneurial, project-based work gets heavy, I search out full-time positions. As I’m sure you know, job searching requires hours of research—and often concludes in dead-ends. On a rare occasion, you find a great fit (the culture looks right and you have every skill the role could need and more!), except for one small thing: a specific educational degree.

More times than I can count, I’ve gotten “algorithmed out” of even an initial conversation about a new position. What do I mean by that exactly?

If your specific degree—or, in my case, lack thereof—doesn’t meet the one listed, the algorithmically driven job portal spits me back out. I’ve received a “no thank you” email within thirty seconds of hitting submit.

So why is calling this out so important?

Hiring practices have changed very little in both closed and open organizations. Sticking with these outdated practices puts us in danger of overlooking amazing candidates capable of accelerating innovation and becoming amazing leaders in our organizations.

Developing more inclusive and open hiring processes will require work. For starters, it’ll require focus on a key competency so often overlooked as part of more traditional, “closed” processes: Learning agility.

Just another buzzword or key performance indicator?

While “learning agility” is not a new term, it’s one that organizations clearly still need help taking into account. Even in open organizations, we tend to overlook this element by focusing too rigidly on a candidate’s degree history or current role when we should be taking a more holistic view of the individual.

One crucial element of adaptability is learning agility. It is the capacity for adapting to situations and applying knowledge from prior experience—even when you don’t know what to do. In short, it’s a willingness to learn from all your experiences and then apply that knowledge to tackle new challenges in new situations.

Every experience we encounter in life can teach us something if we pay attention to it. All of these experiences are educational and useful in organizational life. In fact, as Colin Willis notes in his recent article on informal learning, 70%‒80% of all job-related knowledge isn’t learned in formal training programs. And yet we’re conditioned to think that only what you were paid to do in a formal role or the degree you once earned speaks solely to your potential value or fit for a particular role.

Likewise, in extensive research conducted over years, Korn Ferry has shown that learning agility is also a predictor of long-term performance and leadership potential. In an article on leadership, Korn Ferry notes that “individuals exhibiting high levels of learning agility can adapt quickly in unfamiliar situations and even thrive amid chaos.” Chaos—there’s a word I think we would all use to describe the world we live in today.

Organizations continue to overlook this critical skill (too few U.S. companies consider candidates without college degrees), even though it’s a proven component of success in a volatile, complex, ambiguous world? Why?

And as adaptability and collaboration—two key open principles—sit at the top of the list of job skills needed in 2019, perhaps talent acquisition conversations should stop focusing on how to measure adaptability and shift to sourcing learning agile people so problems can get solved faster.

Learning agility has dimensions

A key to unlocking our adaptability during rapid change is learning agility. Agile people are great at integrating information from their experiences and then using that information to navigate unfamiliar situations. This complex set of skills allows us to draw patterns from one context and apply them to another context.

So when you’re looking for an agile person to join your team, what exactly are you looking for?

Start with getting to know someone beyond a resume, because learning-agile people have more lessons, more tools, and more solutions in their history that can be valuable when your organization is facing new challenges.

Next, understand the five dimensions of learning agility, according to Korn Ferry’s research.

Mental Agility: This looks like thinking critically to decipher complex problems and expanding possibilities by seeing new connections.

People Agility: This looks like understanding and relating to other people to empower collective performance.

Change Agility: This looks like experimentation, being curious, and effectively dealing with uncertainty.

Results Agility: This looks like delivering results in first-time situations by inspiring teams and exhibiting a presence that builds confidence in themselves and others.

Self-Awareness: This looks like the ability to reflect on oneself, knowing oneself well, and understanding how one’s behaviors impact others.

While finding someone with all these traits may seem like sourcing a unicorn, you’ll find learning agility is more common than you think. In fact, your organization is likely already full of agile people, but your culture and systems don’t support agile learning.

In the next part of this series, we’ll explore how you can tap into this crucial skill and create space for agile learning every day. Until then, do what you can to become more aware of the lessons you encounter today that will help you solve problems tomorrow.

This article was originally published at opensource.com.

Part Two: A Human Approach to Reskilling in the Age of AI

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Simplifying Organizational Change: A Guide for the Perplexed

Simplifying Organizational Change: A Guide for the Perplexed

Here’s a 4-step, open process for making change easier—both for you and your organization.

Most organizational leaders have encountered a certain paralysis around efforts to implement culture change—perhaps because of perceived difficulty or the time necessary for realizing our work. But change is only as difficult as we choose to make it. In order to lead successful change efforts, we must simplify our understanding and approach to change.

Change isn’t something rare. We live everyday life in a continuous state of change—from grappling with the speed of innovation to simply interacting with the environment around us. Quite simply, change is how we process, disseminate, and adopt new information. And whether you’re leading a team or an organization—or are simply breathing—you’ll benefit from a more focused, simplified approach to change. Here’s a process that can save you time and reduce frustration.

Three interactions with change

Everyone interacts with change in different ways. Those differences are based on who we are, our own unique experiences, and our core beliefs. In fact, only 5% of decision making involves conscious processing. Even when you don’t think you’re making a decision, you are actually making a decision (that is, to not take action).

So you see, two actors are at play in situations involving change. The first is the human decision maker. The second is the information coming to the decision maker. Both are present in three sets of interactions at varying stages in the decision-making process.

Engaging change

First, we must understand that uncertainty is really the result of “new information” we must process. We must accept where we are, at that moment, while waiting for additional information. Engaging with change requires us to trust—at the very least, ourselves and our capacity to manage—as new information continues to arrive. Everyone will respond to new information differently, and those responses are based on multiple factors: general hardwiring, unconscious needs that need to be met to feel safe, and so on. How do you feel safe in periods of uncertainty? Are you routine driven? Do you need details or need to assess risk? Are you good with figuring it out on the fly? Or does safety feel like creating something brand new?

Navigating change

“Navigating” doesn’t necessarily mean “going around” something safely. It’s knowing how to “get through it.” Navigating change truly requires “all hands on deck” in order to keep everything intact and moving forward as we encounter each oncoming wave of new information. Everyone around you has something to contribute to the process of navigation; leverage them for “smooth sailing.”

Adopting change

Only a small set of members in your organization will be truly comfortable with adopting change. But that committed and confident minority can spread the fire of change and help you grow some innovative ideas within your organization. Consider taking advantage of what researchers call “the pendulum effect,” which holds that a group as small as 5% of an organization’s population can influence a crowd’s direction (the other 95% will follow along without realizing it). Moreover, scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10% of a population holds an unshakable belief, that belief will always be adopted by a majority. Findings from this cognitive study have implications for the spread of innovations and movements within a collective group of people. Opportunities for mass adoption are directly related to your influence with the external parties around you.

A useful matrix to guide culture change

So far, we’ve identified three “interactions” every person, team, or department will experience with change: “engaging,” “navigating,” and “adopting.” When we examine the work of implementing change in the broader context of an organization (any kind), we can also identify three relationships that drive the success of each interaction: “people,” “capacity,” and “information.”

Here’s a brief list of considerations you should make—at every moment and with every relationship—to help you build roadmaps thoughtfully.


Organizational success comes from the overlap of awareness and action of the “I” and the “We.”

  • Individuals (I) are aware of and engage based on their natural response strength.
  • Teams (We) are aware of and balance their responsibilities based on the Individual strengths by initiative.
  • Leaders (I/We) leverage insight based on knowing their (I) and the collective (We).


“Capacity” applies to skills, processes, and culture that is clearly structured, documented, and accessible with your organization. It is the “space” within which you operate and achieve solutions.

  • Current state awareness allows you to use what and who you have available and accessible through your known operational capacity.
  • Future state needs will show you what is required of you to learn, or stretch, in order to bridge any gaps; essentially, you will design the recoding of your organization.


  • Access to information is readily available to all based on appropriate needs within protocols.
  • Communication flows easily and is reciprocated at all levels.
  • Communication flow is timely and transparent.


  • Balance responses from both individuals and the collective will impact your outcomes.
  • Balance the I with the We. This allows for responses to co-exist in a seamless, collaborative way—which fuels every project.


  • Skills: Assuring a continuous state of assessment and learning through various modalities allows you to navigate with ease as each person graduates their understanding in preparation for the next iteration of change.
  • Culture: Be clear on goals and mission with a supported ecosystem in which your teams can operate by contributing their best efforts when working together.
  • Processes: Review existing processes and let go of anything that prevents you from evolving. Open practices and methodologies do allow for a higher rate of adaptability and decision making.
  • Utilize Talent: Discover who is already in your organization and how you can leverage their talent in new ways. Go beyond your known teams and seek out sources of new perspectives.


  • Be clear on your mission.
  • Be very clear on your desired endgame so everyone knows what you are navigating toward (without clearly defined and posted directions, it’s easy to waste time, money and efforts resulting in missed targets).


  • Behaviors have a critical impact on influence and adoption.
  • For internal adoption, consider the pendulum of thought swung by the committed few.


  • Sustainability: Leverage people who are more routine and legacy-oriented to help stabilize and embed your new initiatives.
  • Allows your innovators and co-creators to move into the next phase of development and begin solving problems while other team members can perform follow-through efforts.


  • Be open and transparent with your external communication.
  • Lead the way in what you do and how you do it to create a tidal wave of change.
  • Remember that mass adoption has a tipping point of 10%.

Four steps to simplify change

You now understand what change is and how you are processing it. You’ve seen how you and your organization can reframe various interactions with it. Now, let’s examine the four steps to simplify how you interact with and implement change as an individual, team leader, or organizational executive.

1. Understand change

Change is receiving and processing new information and determining how to respond and participate with it (think personal or organizational operating system). Change is a reciprocal action between yourself and incoming new information (think system interface). Change is an evolutionary process that happens in layers and stages in a continuous cycle (think data processing, bug fixes, and program iterations).

2. Know your people

Change is personal and responses vary by context. People’s responses to change are not indicators of the speed of adoption. Knowing how your people and your teams interact with change allows you to balance and optimize your efforts to solving problems, building solutions and sustaining implementations. Are they change makers, fast followers, innovators, stabilizers? When you know how you, or others, process change, you can leverage your risk mitigators to sweep for potential pitfalls; and, your routine minded folks to be responsible for implementation follow through.

3. Know your capacity

Your capacity to implement widespread change will depend on your culture, your processes, and decision-making models. Get familiar with your operational capacity and guardrails (process and policy).

4. Prepare for Interaction

Each interaction uses your people, capacity (operational), and information flow. Working with the stages of change is not always a linear process and may overlap at certain points along the way. Understand that people feed all engagement, navigation, and adoption actions.

Humans are built for adaptation to our environments. Yes, any kind of change can be scary at first. But it need not involve some major new implementation with a large, looming deadline that throws you off. Knowing that you can take a simplified approach to change, hopefully, you’re able to engage new information with ease. Using this approach over time—and integrating it as habit—allows for both the I and the We to experience continuous cycles of change without the tensions of old.

This article was originally published at opensource.com.

See more work on Open leadership + culture

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Behind on Digital Transformation? Get Ahead with Open Leaders

Behind on Digital Transformation? Get Ahead with Open Leaders

Profound changes are afoot. Leading your organization through them requires an open approach.

Disruption is “existential,” notes an article from professional service provider Wolters Kluwer. It’s not just an organizational design issue. It cuts straight to the core of who we are, how we see ourselves, and what we contribute to our environments. Today, the furious pace of disruption is forcing executives to make existential decisions and commit to them much faster than they’ve anticipated.

One source of that disruption is digitization. Digitization is reshaping the way we lead, manage, and work. Even in the scope of the last decade, we’ve seen rapid adjustments to how we live, connect, and receive services. While we’ve been discussing ad nauseum how (or whether) we should be redefining organizational cultures and business models, the clock has been ticking, and the pace of digitization has not been slowing. In his book The Digital Matrix: New Rules for Business Transformation Through Technology, author Venkat Venkatraman argues that, by 2025, differences between digital and non-digital functions, processes, and business models will no longer exist.

So what’s the top priority for leaders in business today? Understanding the existential impacts digital transformation is having on every aspect of human life, and addressing the immediate need to reshape the way we work, organize, and do business. In other words: changing our organizational cultures and developing people capable of thriving in these conditions.

It’ll take nothing less than immediate action. We need to change the way we work and lead our organizations into this new era.

But culture change is hard, and organizational redesign takes time—at least, that’s what nearly every leader says when we agree change is either necessary or inevitable. The major problem is not that we can’t agree change is needed; it’s that we’re standing on past methodologies, processes, and mindsets to make decisions about how to address and engage the change of today and beyond.

Why is this observation so critical?

Old playbooks and models (for leadership, for business, for people development) that have previously garnered success are no longer effective. Relying on these, I often say, is like expecting your emerging technology to work on the bandwidth and speed of dial-up service from 1997. They’re not quite up to the task of meeting speed, demand, and performance outcomes. Contemporary “best practices” are unable to meet the demands of the present, let alone the future. We require new ways of doing things in order to lead in the digital age of rapid change. In fact, I would argue that your success beyond 2020 depends on them.

So if we agree we need to change and develop competencies for engaging rapid change, then how do we proceed?

Open principles and processes—and ultimately open organizations—are vital to the success of digital transformation efforts. By creating space for the key tenets of open (transparency, adaptability, collaboration, inclusivity, and community) to be infused in our workplaces, we can then begin to engage change continuously throughout the entire organization (not just on your DevOps teams).

Change needn’t be difficult. It is only as difficult as we choose it to be. As leaders, we are ultimately responsible for empowering those around us to engage change, new information, and uncertainty with a measure of ease. We need to guide them as we discover the new details, to provide support as routines are disrupted, to help new voices be heard, and to create places where people feel they belong to something greater.

The “simplest” entry point for large-scale change in your organization the way your teams work and the processes they use to solve problems. As Jim Whitehurst writes in The Open Organization, while conventional organizations utilize a top-down approach to driving change, open organizations take a bottom-up approach to addressing what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. This means (among other things) beginning the work of culture change by fueling passion and uniting everyone under a common purpose while sourcing collective wisdom and collaborating to turn the great ideas into actions. Only then can our organizations function as fully engaged and empowered ecosystems catalyzed by inclusive decision-making.

Open (and all that open entails) is also the key to our global future.

Implementing open values, principles, and processes into all facets of our lives—such as culture (both organizational and societal) education, access to information, co-creation models, engineering, and computing—is the best way to build a balanced and free society that paves the way not only for future technological advances but also new ways of working together to build our world.

If you’re still uncertain about the value of openness, I would immediately point you back to the very book you’re currently reading. It’s a prime example of how an open, collaborative, inclusive project works. A distributed group spread across multiple industries, with varied experiences and working styles, can combine their individual talents to co-create a valuable resource based solely on a shared set of well-defined values in a community (see Appendix).

As you continue learning about open leadership—and, ultimately, open culturethis book will provide tools and insights you can use to begin changing how you work.

This article was originally published as the introduction to The Open Organization Leaders Manual, Second Edition.

The Open Organization Leaders Manual, Second Edition

Newly revised and significantly expanded in its second edition, this book is for anyone interested in building more transparent, agile, collaborative, and mission-driven organizations.

Download the Book

Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Stop Hiring for Culture Fit

Stop Hiring for Culture Fit

If you’re looking for talented people you can turn into cultural doppelgängers—rather than seeking to align productive differences toward a common goal—you’re doing it wrong.

Talent leaders should hire for “culture fit”—at least, that’s what we’ve heard.

For decades, actually, that’s been the most widely recommended (and generally accepted) best practice. The term “culture fit” has itself created an industry segment worth billions of dollars.

Today, however, conventional wisdom is coming under scrutiny. And in light of today’s accelerated pace of innovation, I would argue that hiring for culture fit is no longer advisable—nor is it a method for achieving sustainable growth. It’s just not the best way to grow or sustain engagement and productivity in teams or organizations.

If you’re hiring for culture fit, you’re doing it wrong. To build, scale, and sustain your workforce to meet the demands of Industry 4.0, you’ll need to take four crucial actions when seeking external talent or building internal teams. In this chapter, I’ll explore them.

1. Align talent to these four cultural identities (or environments)

“Culture” is a broad term, and it can mean many different things to different people. Some groups will define it as something like “a core set of values and practices.” Others view it more like “their style” (think nap rooms and beer on tap in the break room).

But, what does the term “culture” truly encompass?

According to the Business Dictionary, “organizational culture” is “the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.” It’s the ethos, values, and frameworks for how a company conducts itself internally and externally. In other words, an organization’s culture includes its core values, its expectations for behavior, its decision making frameworks, how it conducts itself with others, how its information flow operates, its power structures—even how one is allowed to express oneself within the organization. This cultural identity is crucial, as it affects productivity, performance, employee engagement, and customer relations.

When thinking about culture, we should be thinking about alignment rather than fit. “Fit” implies that your organization seeks to indoctrinate new members into its specific way of life—to clone its vision of the ideal member in everyone who joins it. When we talk about “fit” we create the potential for exclusion. It prompts us to seek someone who already embodies the values and principles we think are best (then seek to “fit” them into a pre-existing spot in our organizations), and ignore others.

Achieving “alignment,” however, is different. Alignment involves embracing diversity of thought and building inclusive, innovative, community-driven teams that are all oriented toward shared goals, even if they look and think differently from one another.

The necessity of thinking about “alignment” rather than “culture fit” becomes even more apparent when we examine the complexity of organizational culture. Every organization has four separate cultures (yes, you read that correctly!). Aligning talent “with culture” means aligning it with: your main culture, the subculture of the department, the team culture, and your geographic culture. Visualize the engine that runs your organization. You’ll see gears that move you along. Then visualize small gears for your people, team, departments, verticals, and your main organization. Each of these gears contributes to the next in order to meet goals and propel the business forward. When we have well-oiled machines (that is, when everyone is doing something better together), we are able to propel our mission and realize our organizational vision.

Let me explain them in more detail.

The main culture

This is your overarching company ethos, your “way of doing things.” It’s the primary “gear” that’s moving you externally in the market. It’s what others recognize as “you” and, ultimately, is why clients come to you. It is the “who you are” part of your culture. When seeking alignment, look for:

  • General characteristics and behaviors that agree with who you are
  • Brand fit and representation that aligns
  • Passion or purpose that flows into organizational mission

The subculture

Verticals or departments bring their own values to the organization’s cultural mix. Operationally, each behaves differently and pursues different goals, all of which feed into the main culture. For example, engineers building solutions think in very different ways than marketing creatives do. The goals of solution builders are very different than those of creatives. Be aware of the mix. While remaining open and inclusive in your hiring practices, don’t overlook the dynamics of a subculture. In this relationship look for:

  • Ability to cross-collaborate
  • Open communication practices
  • Big-picture thinking
  • General energy and personality fit
  • Thinking styles

The team culture

The greatest alignment you seek is right here. Team culture determines the team’s manner of working together, day-to-day, to solve problems. Team culture drives efficiency, productivity, innovation, engagement, and results. This is what allows you to build, scale, and sustain. When thinking about alignment, look for:

  • How a person responds to new information and then contributes to the process – you’ll want a well balanced team to drive all aspects of change, not just natural innovators.
  • Communication styles
  • Personality styles
  • Behaviors and thought practices
  • Alignment to open values
  • Individual “magic” (see below) and potential for (and desire for) for growth

The geographic culture

Think of geographic culture not as an engine gear itself, but rather the “grease” that aids in frictionless movement. This cultural filter might not directly contribute to meeting goals of an organization, department or team. It does, however, contribute to reducing conflict, eliminating misunderstanding, and communication delays. You’ll be looking to align with local geographical norms and global views. Considering this angle of potential alignment, look for:

  • An understanding of the geographical culture
  • A willingness to learn and integrate geographical norms
  • An awareness and intelligence of the practices, norms or variances from one’s own

2. Look for the magic

If you’re seeking people to just “fill a job,” then you’re doing it wrong.

If you think about the people you bring into your organization as partners instead of employees, you’ll have a better rate of return on your relationships. This mindset of employing partners, co-creators, and collaborators to solve problems for your clients provides a more inclusive, open approach. We use technology to “do things.” But when you take the time to find the magic within people, they will not only be engaged and perform better, but also build careers alongside you.

When assessing specific competencies, be sure to:

  • Push beyond a resume, CV, or formal degree
  • Look beyond what someone has been “paid to do” (life experience and volunteer roles actually yield amazing competencies in people)
  • Look beyond a role or title someone has held previously
  • Look for people who are not happy staying in their lanes. The potential lies in someone who seeks opportunities for growth and challenges to stretch themselves.

Remember, of course, that the demands of Industry 4.0 will require:

  • Ability and capacity to engage with fast cycles of change
  • Interpersonal skills like communication, collaboration and emotional intelligence
  • Leadership skills for running projects, teams and organizations
  • Open behaviors and values
  • Capacity to navigate open process and decision making models

And when interviewing for talent that aligns with your organizational culture, consider asking:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • Where or how do you want to get involved from a technical perspective?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • What is one challenge you would like to overcome?
  • What perspective on teaming do you have?
  • How do you see yourself as a leader?

3. Be open in your sourcing

Becoming a dynamic, inclusive organization requires an organizational culture built on open values. Only true diversity of thought can produce innovations at the level required to thrive today.

We’ve been working to break down barriers to diversity in the workplace for decades, and we still have a tremendous way to go in our effort to close gaps. “Diversity” goes beyond religion, gender orientation, ethnicity, and so on. We must stop focusing on the labels society has assigned others so we “know where they fit.” That is a fear-based model of control.

Building our teams based on “fit” can actually create exclusive tribalism rather than what we actually intend: a sense of belonging. For example, employing hiring practices that seek talent from one primary background or educational institution will end up with exclusive environments that lack diversity of thought (even though they might represent good “culture fits!”).

We want to have people from different walks of life, with different backgrounds, and with different mindsets, so that we can collaborate and create unique solutions. Your organization should have no place for a “them versus us” mentality, which already seeds a broken system. Doing better together takes a variety of perspectives and experiences.

After a nine-month field study eventually published in the American Sociological Review, Lauren Rivera, associate professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, concluded that when hiring managers talk about “fit,” they focus on things like hobbies and biographies. Have you ever heard of the airport test, the question of “would you enjoy sitting next to this person on a long flight?” Rivera stated in her report, “In many respects, [hiring managers] hired in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners.”

The tech world has become obsessed with hiring for culture fit, and has done itself (and the entire organizational ecosystem) a disservice as it has fed a growing diversity problem. For open ecosystems—communities and other organizations—to stay true to their values, building heterogeneous teams can boost performance, new ideas, and gain advantage.

4. Build (talent), don’t buy

Last year I interviewed Aaron Atkins of Slalom about a more open approach to talent acquisition. Aaron heads up acquisition in Southern California for this open organization. He shared that Slalom doesn’t seek out the “A-Players” but rather seeks people with potential for aligning creatively with the organization’s goals. Once candidates are a part of the team, Slalom begins to build talent and create utility players. Atkins had this to say about a new way forward:

“It is how we are educating and training our new folks to move towards culture change. This all comes back to a build versus buy mentality. So some organizations are large enough that they can go in and buy. They can go and acquire a new company, or they can go hire a bunch of people in the sense that we’re going to buy these folks.

Slalom is much more of the build mentality of—how do we identify the right people, with the right capabilities, and train them to have the right skill sets. So it’s moving more towards training and development of building our next level of talent.”

Slalom realized they had clients seeking specific technical talents and there was an open space that needed serving. Recognizing they were losing money because they didn’t have the “right number of folks” was not okay with them. Instead, they set about internally building competencies within their existing talent pool. Now, whenever someone is on the bench and not at a client site, they’re trained in the new skills to serve clients needs. Slalom creates utility players that can be cross-functional across a wide variety of solutions and services, which only increases their value from a market perspective.

Your challenge, then, is to take a hard look at your organization’s hiring practices and methodologies. Transforming your organizational culture—your way of doing things, including the way you work—will require taking new approaches to build truly open organizations. Open organizations, at their core, must stand on all five principles to function and produce results. Begin by building inclusive practices as you seek out potential in either your existing talent pool or those you are looking to hire.

This article was originally published at opensource.com.

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

What you need to understand about how deep sexual inappropriateness is towards women

What you need to understand about how deep sexual inappropriateness is towards women

It is a pervasive, systemic illness in our culture around abuse and sexual violence. BUT…here’s what you need to know about why people don’t come forward and just how broad/deep these instances can be.

I’m going to share a bit about my own history with sexual violence, abuses and inappropriateness. And, why I’ve stayed quiet for so many years. It is important for others to hear there is a way out and to heal. We got you sister (& brothers). You can find safe places to unpack your feelings and heal so you don’t have to carry it every day. No more.

If you would like to share your stories (without details) below, please do. We, the collective, stand with you! <3

Surviving Industry 4.0 – think beyond digital

Surviving Industry 4.0 – think beyond digital

At the heart of what we call “digital transformation” isn’t just technology—it’s people, too. When we forget that, we put our organizations in danger.

We live in an age of innovation featuring rapid cycles of change. Futurist Gerd Leonhardt estimates we will see more change between 2015 and 2035 than in the prior 300 years of modern history. To effectively understand this change, we need to step back and see the large scale impact of this age.

The source of the changes is far more than “digital transformation” or “emerging technologies.” We are a connected and aware generation who consumes information in mass volumes in real-time through handheld devices. Policy and regulation are changing. Political upheaval is occurring. New business models are emerging. New markets are appearing. We are part of a global market and a much larger ecosystem—and as with all ecosystems, the slightest shift can cause radical changes throughout the whole of the system.

Transformation beyond the digital requires a new approach to the way we build agile, open organizations—and, it will need to start with how we empower our people to engage continuous cycles of change. With the advent of Industry 4.0, we need empowered, engaged change agents more than ever.

Humans drive change. Humans sustain change. And failing to invest in people as they grapple with change could be problematic for your business.

The importance of now

The cycles of innovation will not be slowing down (in fact, it will be speeding up). To really understand the urgency and importance of people development today, consider this.

The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey offers the subtitle “Millennials are disappointed in business and are unprepared for Industry 4.0″—before even launching into the study. The survey’s findings lead to a staggering awareness that organizational and people team leaders have not taken Millennial workforce development seriously. They are underprepared for the speed of innovation and for basic teaming skills.

Why should you care, you ask? According to 2017 statistics:

  • 56 million Millennials currently are in the workforce; making up the largest group
  • Gen Z began entering the workforce in 2016 and now comprise 5% of the workforce
  • Millennials will be 75% of our workforce by 2025

As the composition of technologies inside our organizations changes, so does the composition of people—and that means the composition of expectations is changing, too. If you expect your company to not only succeed but thrive in the 21st Century, you’ll need to make an immediate investment in interpersonal and managerial competency training.

The engine of change

The rules of engagement have changed. Transformation needed for our workforce, business models and organizational ecosystems must go beyond “digital transformation” alone. However, our approach to building applications, systems, and new technologies cannot be the same one we use use to train, engage, and prepare people. Digital transformation, policy and regulation changes, new business models—all are tools, vehicles aiding the achievement of new ends or goals. But they’re not driving the change. The change engine itself is fueled by people.

Our efforts to make technology work for humans requires applying human dynamics to solutions rather than just technologies.

An inclusive, holistic approach

Change is personal and response varies by context.

For example: You’ve probably worked on projects with someone who seemed resistant to the initiative. They may have asked 1,000 questions. Or they wanted to continue to reiterate, over and over, the legacy of what had already been built. As an innovator, your likely assumption was that they were being “wet blankets” to the team and initiative—and, had no place on an innovation team. (Am I right?!)

Or maybe this was the case: As a detail-oriented risk mitigator, you might have been given a project full of creatives who you don’t understand. It is frustrating. The need to move fast, without details, or a risk assessment—this boggles your mind. You’re thinking, “Vision is great and all, but let’s talk about the potential pitfalls along the way.” It has raised all of your red flags, and your assumption is they aren’t in touch with reality—and might not even be that good at business.

Each of these (too common) scenarios depicts a mismatch of attitudes toward change. In my work, we’ve discovered that people engage change in nine different ways across a spectrum of filters. The output of the change engagement—a “change language,” if you will—reveals a person’s positive contribution to either drive change (and aid in adaptability) or to optimize and sustain the change. When combined with interpersonal competency development, this awareness of positive contribution allows each person in an organization or on a team to understand how to navigate change by leveraging their strengths.

This awareness also helps people avoid feeling displaced or like they’re not contributing value to a process or project. It also provides them with a communication style that aids in their being understood. Taken together, this increases engagement and fulfillment in the work, as they’re operating from a more natural and comfortable position.

When a leader then leverages this information to build a well-balanced, high-performing team, they’re providing the entire organizational ecosystem with an engine of change that can now “surf the wave” of innovation rather than be caught in the undertow.

Each person in your ecosystem has the capacity for positive contribution and value to either drive change, adapt, optimize, or sustain change. Everyone has the capacity to be a valuable contributor, to channel the way they engage with change, and to make it work for everyone. This understanding combined with interpersonal competency training is what will drive the engine of change.

To become a true open organization, the shift to people development with interpersonal and change competency development must be a top priority in order to sustain growth.

This article was originally published at opensource.com.

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Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Curating Community Through Collaborative Space

Curating Community Through Collaborative Space

The following is a case study.

Organization: Roam Innovative Workplace

Size: 40

Industry: Co-Working & Meeting Space

Challenge: Creating a collaborative, dynamic workplace that fosters community

We all want a productive environment in which to do our work.  Agile workplaces—and agile people— thrive in a community-driven environment. Yet for most, the challenge remains: How do we effectively create that community?

When I was preparing to launch LDR21, I was looking for a place to work that was a quieter alternative to a coffee shop. I needed to be around the energy of productive people, required a quiet space to take calls, and didn’t want every ounce of me to smell like coffee at the end of a day. I knew about co-working spaces, but none of the known leaders in metropolitan areas suited me. Those spaces offer great services, but I wanted more than mail delivery and free coffee. 

By nature, I enjoy people and conversations. I want to find new and interesting people to talk to and learn from. It’s one of the reasons the open way is so appealing to me: it’s community-driven. So when I found Roam and took my first tour, I was hooked immediately. The staff welcomed me with smiles, open arms, laughter, and an immediate sense of belonging. I didn’t even sleep on it; I signed us up and immediately felt at home (we even joke that I’m part of their team because I talk them up so much). But honestly, isn’t that what the support of a community is about?

Roam Innovative Workplace is based in the Atlanta, GA, market and has been scaling rather nicely over the last couple of years. Their approach to coworking is different than most other companies in their industry. They wanted to reimagine collaborative, inclusive space. They don’t simply offer private offices and open coworking space; they also provide meeting space for the business community. And, frankly, it is how they “do community” that is their biggest difference.

In this case study, I want to explain Roam’s approach to a truly communal, collaborative space. Then I’ll address how you can translate that approach into strategies for reimagining your own workplace so it’s more community-oriented.

Partnering through community

I sat down with Corey Wardell, General Manager, and Chad Kimberlin, Director of Operations, both of whom I’ve come to know quite well. I wanted to know how they were carving out a niche within a niche market—and in an exploding industry.

Roam’s, tagline is “partners in the stories of accomplished dreams.” Their mission is to champion connections in a way that allows their community to grow together in knowledge and ability for the good of all. This is particularly evident in how they care for their members: Taking the time to listen to who they are and what they’re doing is only one of the many steps in caring for those in community. Chad simply stated, “We care about the success of our members. We want you to win.”

Several community-oriented principles guide Roam’s approach to building workplaces:

  • Be engaged
  • Create value
  • Be intentional
  • Be purposeful and  impactful
  • Initiate creativity
  • Be generous and empower those in your community

As Corey told me: “I think community can just get thrown out and becomes a buzzword. But, I think when you put the meat behind it—it’s actually incredibly valuable.”

Yes, community is incredibly valuable—but many of us don’t know how to incorporate that into our workplace. Let’s take a look at four ways we can curate community in the workplace: through access, through support, through collaboration, and through sharing.

Why community?

We all have an innate need to be part of something bigger than ourselves; it’s how we’re hardwired. Community allows us to find that place we can belong and to which we can really contribute, and this leads to our feeling valued and purposeful. Understanding the value of our contributions—and the ways those contributions affect the ecosystems of which we’re all a part—creates a freedom and sense of ownership in all areas of our work. 

As long as humans have been recording our history, we’ve had examples of community to learn about and emulate. We all have heard the maxim ”It takes a village to raise a child”—and so it did. Everyone in community has a job, a responsibility, in caring for each other. That’s always been the case. It may have looked like hunting for food, caring for children, harvesting fields together, or another task that helped everyone and everything work together towards a greater good.

Over time, our communities transitioned. Today, even though we’re banding together for more than just our survival needs, we are in great need of curating community one more again.

We need human connection, purpose, and value in our day to day interactions. And with digital transformation, we have the opportunity to create places of connection and valuable contribution, and to build societies together for successful futures.

Insight from Roam: “People just want to be connected and passionate about what they’re doing,” Corey told me. “We would really love to love to go to work and love to do what we do.” Roam’s job, he explained, is to create an environment for people to do their best work. It’s about an environment where you can be productive, you can focus, you can collaborate as you need to on your own terms. Roam recognizes that different people have different needs, so designing a workplace with a flexible framework is important. That framework has to include the right technology, seating arrangements, and even the right types of furniture. It’s all part of setting people up for success. Allowing people to work from home, while beneficial, can inadvertently create another issue: people not being productive. They need the environment, too, which is where coworking can come in to solve the real estate footprint and flexibility challenges.

Curate through access

In open organizations, we leverage open principles to create collaborative and inclusive environments. We seek to break down the barriers that would otherwise prevent knowledge sharing, communication, and the ability to collaborate. Removing barriers is part of providing access and support in the workplace.

The best place to start removing barriers is with access to information and ability to have open communication. By creating knowledge commons, best practice repositories, and open feedback practices, you can begin to remove silos and see an immediate increase in productivity and efficiency. If we want to build agile people, we must remove existing barriers for them to become agile. The barriers in the actual workspace can be the space itself, the tools and feedback mechanisms you use (or don’t use!), and the way you structure access to various resources.

Insight from Roam: As leaders in agile workplaces, we must help to remove barriers that prevent people from being innovative and creative, and from building new business. Roam understands that people need access to the right space, supplies, technology, support, and communication. In order for people to succeed, as employees or entrepreneurs, they must have access to resources and services to allow them to effectively do their jobs and succeed.

Curate through support

Asking people to show up on time, sit in a cubicle, and accomplish assigned tasks is not the way to go. It may have been the way for decades—but it isn’t conducive to how we work today. We have changed as a society; generational needs vary, and we operate in a global marketplace that demands constant evolution and improvement. 

Without your people, you couldn’t run your organization, deliver services, or build products. As a leader, your people’s needs must be at the forefront of your mind. It isn’t about knocking out a wish list (ping pong tables or hammocks for rest or play). It isn’t always about the best benefit packages. It is about understanding the needs—the levels of access and support required—and getting into the trenches to walk it out with 

So instead, let’s start with these questions:  What do they need to actually do their job? What information can I get them? What type support system do we have in place? How do I retain great talent? How do we build bridges to close gaps? What do they need to hear from me as a leader?

Insight from Roam: “The idea of community comes into place when we engage the members in our space, put ourselves in their shoes, understand their struggles, and walk it out with them” Corey explained to me. “Our question is always: How do we help them succeed?” For Roam, part of the answer is providing access to others who will help them with their work. That means connecting people to others across teams, or helping them collaborate to solve a problem. You can provide access and support by connecting others in the community. Get to know what your people need and what they are great at. Then you can create bridges across the community to get things done—come alongside people and help them succeed. We are all acting on common interests with common goals; leverage that to foster community authentically.

Curate through collaboration

As an extrovert, I need conversation to sustain me. I need to be around people to keep my energy up. But community is more than an energizing group of people; it’s the combined effect of collaboration, inclusion, and support from others that makes it what it is. (I can personally say that I’ve previously failed in my efforts simply because I didn’t have community or collaborative people around me.)

In other words, it’s the product of an entire ecosystem of relationships. Recently I defined an ecosystem as: a living, breathing network of people and organizational frameworks. It’s a network of various actors that interconnect to form the system in which your organization operates. The actors in any ecosystem—employees, partners, external stakeholders, customers, vendors, etc.—are mutually dependent on each other for our business health, growth, and success. No matter your industry or current workplace style, perhaps our takeaway here is that—in order to foster community—people come first.

Creating places for collaboration at inclusive tables will become the engine behind the community. And knowing how we contribute to the ecosystem as a whole will strengthen our engagement in the community. People, no matter their role in the ecosystem, need to know and understand their place and the value of their contribution to the system. Our ecosystems are micro-communities connected to other micro-communities that all merge into the larger community. Our interdependence must be an understood value in order to foster community. 

In order to have a healthy workplace, we need community. We need to feel comfortable, to feel supported, and to have a sense of adventure and connection to our work. We become extensions of each other who leverage positive intent in our interactions towards common goals. 

Insight from Roam: One of the greatest things about the Roam community is the ability to connect others. As Corey said to me:

“Since we invest in knowing our people—who they are, what they do, what their needs are—we are able to play the ‘Have you met _______?’ game. We love engaging with the members because we are picking each others brains. Not only do we enjoy collaborating with our community, and making collaborative connections, the diversity of thought that comes with inclusion is invaluable. It gives us a way to ask “What is working and what is not?” so we can provide great service to our members. But, it also lets us hear about new ways of doing things that allows us to build and create right alongside of our members in our community. We believe that our members become an extension of our brand and vice versa. When meetings our hosted here we become an extension of our clients brand. We support them and solve their immediate challenges as their business partner. It is the culture we promote—to foster collaborative community that is a true partnership.”

The way you do work, the workplace itself, has a massive impact on culture in an organization. Every day, the spaces Roam provides create creates entry points for people to engage and become a part of a larger community. So create a workplace model that allows for bringing all types of people together to do better work—together.

Curate through sharing

Transparency in leadership, and the workplace, can be about sharing our failures as much as our wins—communicating with others about what is or isn’t working. This level of transparency allows collaborative teams to come together to positively contribute, and to either celebrate with you or offer help during a challenge. Collaborative communities connect deeply over time over common sets of ideas, values, or goals. It becomes about all of us rather than some of us (or ourselves). 

With that sense of belonging we create in community, we are able to create places of trust that allow for us to connect at the human level and do life—and work—together. 

Insight from Roam: “We talk about partnering in accomplishing dreams,” Chad said to me. “We all celebrate your wins with you. So that’s the idea of community, right? We become your coworker. We become your colleague. We become the extension of your team. We are your team. And it’s my favorite part for sure—this positive contribution.” One of the most important aspects of community is being there for each other. If someone in your community—a member, staff, or external client—needs something, you’ll need to come together to support them and, if you can, provide a solution. Serving your community extends beyond the workplace and workweek. We become extensions of each other’s teams in this kind of environment. “Frequently, we will have someone come straight up to the front desk after a call to share about a new client they just won or another exciting piece of news,” Corey said.

It takes five

For me, the aspect community is vital to an open organization. But you can’t curate community without inclusivity. And great communities also don’t happen without transparency and collaboration. That’s why the presence of all five open principles (see the Appendix) are necessary for creating and sustaining a successful environment.

This content was originally published in The Open Organization Workbook (2018).

In The Open Organization Workbook, more than 25 managers, leaders, consultants, and other practitioners answer that question with their favorite tips for building organizations that are more transparent, inclusive, adaptable, collaborative, and communal. Download the book.

Jen Kelchner

Jen Kelchner

I am a creative, a thinker, an analyst, a dot connector, a weaver of communities, a leader, a technologist, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a writer, an international speaker, and a Master of Change who is dedicated to building a better world.  

I intuitively understand the multidimensional transformation process, the technology of people and advise high-level leaders in the private and public sectors from around the world on transformation in leadership and culture.

Forbes: 10 Mistakes You’re Making When Building Thought Leadership

Forbes: 10 Mistakes You’re Making When Building Thought Leadership

10 Mistakes You’re Making When Building Thought Leadership

Developing your personal brand through thought leadership takes more than just getting your name to show up in a Google search. Know your purpose for being a thought leader — and make sure it’s specific so that you can best align your efforts with the outcome you wish to achieve. And remember, sharing content doesn’t have to be a one-time thing.

Still, it’s easy to take a wrong turn and actually achieve the opposite effect. We asked members of Forbes Coaches Council to each describe one mistake business leaders make when developing their personal brand through thought leadership, and how can they avoid this/do a better job.

Read more here on Forbes…


Being Inconsistent

Be consistent in how often you publish. Develop a flow or framework for your thought leadership so that it will strengthen your brand, no matter what media outlet you are publishing on. You may vary in your aesthetics over time, but your core message or content should remain aligned. Don’t forget to share yourself through your thought leadership so that people will always stay connected. –  Jen Kelchner


This article has a mention by Jen Kelchner or is authored by Jen Kelchner and was originally posted on Forbes.com. Jen Kelchner is a founding member of the Forbes Coaches Council and frequently writes on leadership and the workplace.

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