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 Sticking with these outdated practices puts us in danger of overlooking amazing candidates capable of accelerating innovation and becoming amazing leaders in our organizations.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.

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.

Forbes: Nine Questions To Get People Thinking Differently About Their Careers

Forbes: Nine Questions To Get People Thinking Differently About Their Careers

Nine Questions To Get People Thinking Differently About Their Careers

As the saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” In other words, people prefer what they know to what they don’t, even if what they know isn’t good for them. This can be a major barrier when it comes to your career.

If you’ve been considering making a change but have remained stuck for longer than you want to admit, it may be time to take a closer look at your priorities. Below, members of Forbes Coaches Council share one question they’d ask clients to get them thinking differently about their careers.

Read more here on Forbes…

 

Does It Drain You or Energize You?

If you are operating from your genius zone that aligns with purpose, it will always energize you. Even beyond the hustle and work stressors, aligning your sweet spot and purpose will always give you energy. Think about what brings you joy in your work, what feels like breathing to you, and do more of it. Anxiety and energy drain is a sure sign you need a new direction in your career. – 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.

Forbes: How Senior-Level Candidates Can Make Their Resumes Stand Out

Forbes: How Senior-Level Candidates Can Make Their Resumes Stand Out

How Senior-Level Candidates Can Make Their Resumes Stand Out

As a seniorlevel candidate, you have a lot of experience to draw from, and because of this, your resume is in danger of becoming diluted. Writing a functional resume that focuses on your biggest career accomplishments is one solution.

If you’ve been in the same job for a number of years, most likely, you are a little rusty when it comes to applying for jobs. Consider hiring a professional to help you, and start reaching out to your network as early as possible.

Changing companies at this point in your career can be tough, but with a smart strategy you’ll land the next opportunity smoothly. Here, professional coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer their advice to help you submit a flawless resume.

Read more here on Forbes…

 

Create a Functional Resume

Create a functional resume that highlights your top three sweet spots and related successes. You may even choose to have a separate page with “Challenges and Results” for highlighting key wins. At a senior level, it should be assumed you can deliver on basic tasks related to a role, separating yourself as to why you, the person for the organization, are more valuable.  – 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.

Forbes: How To Recover From A Job Layoff

Forbes: How To Recover From A Job Layoff

How To Recover From A Job Layoff

If you work in the corporate world, chances are, at some point, you’ll get laid off. But how do you bounce back quickly and explain the situation during a new job search?

Many worry that a layoff, or multiple layoffs, could play poorly for future job prospects. According to several members of Forbes Coaches Council, however, there are some simple fixes. To start with, you need to reformat your resume, be transparent about your situation, and align your talents with the job you want. Only then can you strategically position yourself to get back in the game.

 

Read more here on Forbes…

 

Know What You Bring to the Table

Take the time to do a personal inventory list including personal experiences you’ve overcome in life, any unpaid or volunteer work, and finally your natural gifts and talents. You will see what makes you a great asset for an employer. It also boosts your confidence. Remember you are not a resume and your history is rich — draw from it!

– 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.

Forbes: How To Convince Your Employer To Let You Work Part Time

Forbes: How To Convince Your Employer To Let You Work Part Time

How To Convince Your Employer To Let You Work Part Time

Traditional working hours are changing. Not only is it becoming more common for employers to offer flexible work schedules, but many are discovering the benefits, both financially and in terms of productivity, of having a part-time or flexible workforce.

Though it doesn’t work for every company or boss, if you find yourself in a position where it’s that or quit, it’s worth bringing up — especially if you can show you’re capable of taking care of your responsibilities in less time. Below, seven coaches from Forbes Coaches Council tell you how to strategize before broaching the subject with your employer.

Read more here on Forbes…

 

Reframe the Opportunity as a Win-Win for Both of You

Instead of leading with the “why you can’t,” bring the “why you can” to the table. Showcasing a plan that allows you to work smarter versus harder is a win for theemployer. Especially if you can fill a need that keeps productivity up and saves them on other costs related to labor. Show your ingenuity and innovation to reframe the opportunity as a win-win for both of you. – 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.

Forbes: Seven Ways To Handle Losing Your Job

Forbes: Seven Ways To Handle Losing Your Job

Seven Ways To Handle Losing Your Job

No matter what the circumstances are, losing a job is a life-altering event. The absence of purpose, routine, personal value — nevermind a paycheck — is terrifying.

First, stay calm. Take time to evaluate your finances and form a plan for what’s next. Try not to let your emotions run the show. Losing your job doesn’t mean you’re a failure; it just means whatever you were doing wasn’t right for you. Think of it as an opportunity to find something more in line with who you are and what you want.

Below, seven coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer their advice on how to move forward.

Read more here on Forbes…

 

Look at This Moment as an Opportunity

Let go of the associated emotions and reframe this as a great opportunity. Reconnect with what you really desire for your career and life; reset your goals to align with that desire, and create a plan of action to execute. That plan should lead you to an organization and role that fits your vision. You’ll find yourself thriving very quickly!

– 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.

Forbes: Seven Things You Can Do Now To Get Closer To Your ‘Dream Job’

Forbes: Seven Things You Can Do Now To Get Closer To Your ‘Dream Job’

Seven Things You Can Do Now To Get Closer To Your ‘Dream Job’

You have a job that pays the bills, but at the end of the day, you often feel unsatisfied. You wonder if there is something else you should be doing, if maybe you studied the wrong subject in school.

On average, individuals are changing careers much more frequently than ever before. With all the options out there, sometimes you can’t know what you want until you know what you don’t want.

Your sought-after “dream job” might not be as far out of reach as you think. By setting up goals and an action plan, you can begin to narrow the gap between your reality and dream. Below, seven career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer their advice on how to make it happen.

Read more here on Forbes…

 

Know Where You Want to Go

Create a life map that details out specifics in numerous categories of your desired life/job. You will see distinct commonalities that allow you to know precisely how to position yourself. You now also have a tool available to align your decisions by to ensure you take steps in the right direction. Aligning yourself brings about fulfillment even while in transition to the dream job.  – 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.

Forbes: Seven Warning Signs Your Current Job Isn’t Right For You

Forbes: Seven Warning Signs Your Current Job Isn’t Right For You

Seven Warning Signs Your Current Job Isn’t Right For You

The average person has seven careers over his or her lifetime and an even greater number of individual jobs. Chances are, at least a few of them are going to be a bad fit.

Rather than dwell on what you’re not doing, try to see this as a good thing — each “wrong” job provides information and experience you need to make better decisions about your career. That said, if you find yourself planning an exit strategy instead of preparing for work on Sunday night, it might be time to move on from your current position.

Finding the right job requires time, patience and, let’s be honest, the occasional grunt work. The first step to something better is identifying that it’s time to make a change. Below, seven career and business coaches from Forbes Coaches Council share some key signs that indicate when it’s time to move on.

 

Read more here on Forbes…

 

Work Feels Like an Itchy Shirt

If your anxiety kicks in on Sunday nights, or you’ve been working on an exit strategy for a while now, it is likely not the right fit for you. Leverage what you know about what drives you to find or create a job feels good. Find your natural flow and work with it. – 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.

Forbes: Six Nonverbal Communication Mistakes That Could Tank Your Next Job Interview

Forbes: Six Nonverbal Communication Mistakes That Could Tank Your Next Job Interview

Six Nonverbal Communication Mistakes That Could Tank Your Next Job Interview

These days, competition for the most desired jobs is steep. With so few openings available, it’s important to make the best impression you can at every stage of the recruiting process, from your application materials to your in-person interview with the company’s hiring manager.

Chances are, you’ve practiced your interview responses and picked out your clothes in advance. But half the battle is the impression your body language is conveying, intentionally or not. Fidgeting? Bone-crushing handshakes? Even these little mistakes can make a hiring manager think twice.

Six coaches from Forbes Coaches Council share the most common nonverbal mistakes that could cost you the job if you’re not careful.

Read more here on Forbes…

 

Not Being Present

Looking at your watch during an interview implies you have better things to do. It is a quick killer of the interest your interviewer may have held in you moments before. A seasoned interviewer will see and understand a measure of nervousness. However, if you are giving off cues that you would rather be somewhere else, you won’t be getting a callback or offer. – 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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