business

Episode 64: Like Change, Uncertainty Is a Constant Undercurrent in Life

Stories of Risk and Addressing Uncertainty

Marylene Delbourg-Delphis doesn’t see risk the same way most people might define it. To her, it’s all about how prepared you are for whatever step you intend to take, the people you’ve surrounded yourself with and trust to take that step with you, and your ability to address uncertainty at any given moment.

Uncertainty is, like change, a constant undercurrent of life. There’s nothing certain in life, and there definitely isn’t anything certain in business. So how do we find ways to cope with an ever-uncertain world?

As a founding CEO and a turn-around CEO, Marylene has learned to quickly identify the resources she will need to address uncertainty and to make decisions effectively. She also has learned to trust that people truly want to learn, they have the capacity to learn, and they want to do a good job.

We covered a lot of ground in our conversation about how she sees risk, and how she addresses learning and innovation in her employees. One strategy Marylene uses in her presentations is to include music, particularly classical symphonies and opera. Here are a few links we agreed to share for you - our listeners - to get a better understanding of the impact:

Hector Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique

Why listen to what Marylene has to say about building a strong, engaged, trusting workplace? For one thing, she has had great success in this area. For another, she is the one who, when she started her first US tech firm, poached Guy Kawasaki from Apple, and wrote the French forward for his recent book!


The operatic piece she mentioned, featuring Maria Callas:

And the book The Republic, by the philosopher Plato.

Learn more about Marylene by checking out her book, Everybody Wants to Love Their Job, and by connecting with her on LinkedIn.


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Will You Disrupt Yourself? Or Will You Be Disrupted?

Disruption: Our Subconscious Mind Knows When We Need One

Photo credit: Pete Longworth

Photo credit: Pete Longworth

Whitney Johnson knew she found something really useful in the book she was reading, The Innovator’s Dilemma, but she had no idea that it would change her perspective about her career and life trajectory.

She was in the middle of a major project, doing research on disruption in the telecom industry when she realized that the description of disruption as a business concept could easily be applied to personal growth and career.

That seed turned into a full sized tree over the next few years as she started to consider all the other traditionally labeled business concepts that could be applied to career and personal growth. The beauty of those concepts is that they could help not only explain where we are in terms of learning and development in a job, they could help people create a visual representation to help people apply those concepts to ultimately improve their productivity and engagement at work.

In our conversation, I discovered two things about Whitney that surprised me: She didn’t cook until recently, choosing to avoid the connection between “women’s work” and her professional image, and she is a musician. She is a classically trained pianist, but had given up piano after completing her music degree. Even more interesting to me than learning those things was learning that she had taken both up in the recent past, learning to cook (and enjoy it), and coming back to the piano through the discovery of a love and connection to Gospel music.

I had to mention my love for Gospel and Spiritual music, of course. I’m not a Christian, but I get chills up my spine when I hear people perform this music with passion and a depth of spirituality.

Our conversation took some wonderful twists and turns, from our relationships with our mothers and children, to career challenges related to boredom and a lack of dopamine boosts from learning something new.

One of my favorite parts of this conversation was an “ah ha” moment related to the challenges of parenting adult children, and trying to avoid letting our “advice monster” out in conversations with them.

To me, the most important concept in our conversation was that our brains crave learning new things. When we aren’t exploring something new, whatever that may mean, we are likely to find unproductive activities to satisfy that craving. Have you found yourself in a job that isn’t satisfying, and suddenly either you’ve been let go, or you notice more drama going on in your personal life? Whitney and I shared a theory that when we aren’t actively learning and satisfying our brain’s craving, we often sabotage ourselves in different areas of our lives.

In her book, Disrupt Yourself, Whitney spends time exploring the S-curve (typically used to describe a business’s growth) as a visual representation of skill-building or the learning curve of a new job or career. When we reach the top of the S, we hit a plateau and either stay there for a while, or we jump onto a different S, usually having to start at the bottom again.

Because of our human need to learn new things, when we sit on top of that S-curve too long, we tend to get bored. In my case, that’s when I sabotage relationships and jobs. In Whitney’s case, that’s when she takes on new or renewed interest in creative outlets.

It was a pleasure to spend time with Whitney after more than five years of conversing through email and on LinkedIn. She was a major source of inspiration for me when I started blogging, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities she offered when she published one of my first posts on her website, and a follow up post a few years later.


Recognized as one of the 50 leading business thinkers in the world (Thinkers50), Whitney Johnson is an expert on disruptive innovation and personal disruption; specifically, a framework which she codifies in the critically acclaimed book Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work and in her latest book Build an “A” Team: Play To Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve(Harvard Business Press, 2018). She is also the author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream

She developed her proprietary framework and diagnostics after having cofounded the Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen. This framework is complemented by a deep understanding of how executives create and destroy value, having spent nearly a decade as an Institutional Investor ranked equity analyst on Wall Street.

In addition to her work as a speaker and advisor, Whitney is one of Marshall Goldsmith's original cohort of 25 for the #100 Coaches Project, is a coach for Harvard Business School's Executive Education program, frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, is a Linkedin influencer, and hosts the weekly Disrupt Yourself Podcast. You can follow her on Twitter at @johnsonwhitney.

Our Culture, and How It Colors Our Communication

Using Stories to Uncover Our Deeper Connections

ZachCulturePodcast

We know innately that when we find things in common with each other, we forge deeper connections, but how do we do that with intention and true curiosity? And how do we make this the first part of communication, the priority, so our discussions don’t immediately devolve into defensiveness and hostility?

Zach and I believe that if we understand our own perspectives, where they come from, what we’re reading to bring us to certain conclusions, and why we trust the resources we trust, we could make a start toward better understanding and appreciation for others’ perspectives.

One key to starting those conversations is simply finding common ground, and that can be found in culture. During our conversation in this podcast, we discuss a less traditional definition of culture; lifestyle culture. Are you a dog person? A cat person? Are you part of the mountain biking culture? Each of us can live in many different lifestyle cultures, which makes it much easier to find common ground.

Zach Messler knows a lot about communication strategy, and he uses own cultural commonalities to strengthen his work.

Connect with Zach on LinkedIn, and be sure to check out his website to learn more about how he can help you develop your messages, your content, to be clear and compelling!

From Zach’s website:

I help entrepreneurs know what to say and how to say it so they make a bigger impact on the world…and their wallets.

So, yeah. I’m on a mission to help entrepreneurs find relevance…and revenue.

An Unlikely Foundation for Optimism

Some Stories Teach Us the Wrong Lessons - At First

When she was a teenager, Jennifer Heflin overheard a conversation between her parents that gave her the impression the only way to succeed in business is to be aggressive, unkind, and ruthless.

That was the story she told herself as she completed her MBA at Wharton, and started her career on Wall Street. It stuck with her so deeply that she left Wall Street because she simply didn't have that cutthroat attitude and the environment didn't work for her.

As she started to process her career, and focused on mindfulness and self-reflection, she realized that the culture she experienced was just one perspective of the business world. Her awakening moment came to her in the early morning on a beautiful spring day: It doesn't have to be that way.


Jennifer Heflin is a personal development coach with a focus on meditation, mindfulness, emotional mastery and empowerment. She is also the founder of Angels Evolution, a company on a mission to bring personal growth to the business world. You can find Jennifer’s podcast, Embracing Mastery, on iTunes, Spreaker, SoundCloud and YouTube.