Decision Vision Episode 47: How Can I Get My Employees to Think Independently? – An Interview with Joanna Bloor
This episode took a right turn into a question many business owners struggle with: “how can I get my employees to think independently?” Joanna Bloor and “Decision Vision” host Mike Blake veered into this important topic in a fascinating and insightful discussion. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Joanna Bloor, The Amplify Lab
Introduction expert and Founder of The Amplify Lab, Joanna Bloor is on a mission to help us prepare for the big leap into the future. To uncover and articulate our value and our place in the next chapter of humankind. No big deal. Why? Because we all need to rethink how we prepare for the future of work. The what, where, when and how of work is changing – and so is the who.
And it all starts with understanding why and how you need to have a better answer to the question “What do you do?
An “eternal student of what is around the next technology corner” Joanna started her career by scaling the revenue strategies of brands such as Ticketmaster, Cars.com, OpenTable, and Pandora. Then a conversation in line at TED 2016 led to a realization that what we are known for has far-reaching impact as an individual and a leader.
In front of audiences that range from thinkers at TED, to technologists at Dreamforce, to entrepreneurs at Gathering of Titans – like a Fairy Godmother – Joanna’s known for “live amplification” of audience members while zinging the audience with moments of surprise and laughter. All wrapped up with the practical guidance of what you too, can do next.
“Joanna shines a light on long-forgotten ingredients that make up our secret sauce, reminding us that we’re not awesome by accident.” — Cristina Jones, EVP Trailblazer Marketing Salesforce.com.
Michael Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is Host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast. Past episodes of “Decision Vision” can be found here. “Decision Vision” is produced and broadcast by the North Fulton studio of Business RadioX®.
Visit Brady Ware & Company on social media:
Mike Blake: [00:00:01] Hi and welcome to the Decision Vision podcast. We’re going to do a little of a prologue before you listen to this podcast, because I don’t want to be accused of false advertising. The discussion is about the nature of work and the changing nature of work. And we had a terrific discussion with Joanna Bloor. And I do hope that you’ll listen to this, even though the topic is a little bit different than the way it’s presented in the introduction.
Mike Blake: [00:00:29] We had originally thought that the discussion was going to be around labor models and to a lesser extent, employee engagement, but really adapting to new realities, generally, in the labor force. And the way that the conversation turned, and I decided that it was a good turn, so we just sort of ran with it, is really talking about, at a high-level, employee engagement and how do you unlock the full potential of your employees as thinking organic human beings.
Mike Blake: [00:01:02] And, you know, if you don’t think that’s a good thing, then you probably don’t want to listen to this podcast because we’re going to talk about things that you’re just not going to really jive with. But if you think that is something that’s worthwhile, I know a lot of people that come to me and say, you know, “Boy, I love to get my employees to think on their feet better. I love to get them more engaged. How do I do that?” Then, I think you’re going to find this conversation to be very interesting. It’s kind of like a TED talk but a little bit longer and with no slides, but I think a very high-level intellectual conversation.
Mike Blake: [00:01:35] So, we’ll go back and take another look with a different episode at actual models of work when we can do something a little bit more specifically. But, you know, I don’t want to have you go in 20 minutes and wonder kind of when is the topic that was advertised coming up and waste your time. And I want to be respectful of your time. So, if you’re going to listen to another podcast, thank you for doing that. Otherwise, you’re gonna stick around, sit back and relax and enjoy the infotainment.
Intro: [00:02:04] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.
Mike Blake: [00:02:22] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owners or executives’ perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.
Mike Blake: [00:02:41] My name is Mike Blake and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton, Columbus, Ohio, Richmond, Indiana, and Alpharetta, Georgia, which is where we are recording today. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast aggregator and please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.
Mike Blake: [00:03:05] Today, we’re going to talk about the nature of work. A seemingly esoteric topic, but one that is getting increasing attention and it’s receiving increased attention from a number of angles. One, there’s a macrosocial angle that is forcing us to revisit how we consider work, because we are finding increasingly that more and more of us are becoming, if not expendable, then certainly ancillary to technology that is now capable of performing more complex tasks than were even imaginable 10 to 15 years ago.
Mike Blake: [00:03:50] And to that end now, we are experimenting with different economic systems to help us cope with that, frankly, without necessarily having to sabotage technological progress, because there are very real reasons we want to do that. And, you know, the so-called Star Trek economy is great, but they don’t show you kind of the painful transition that gets you from this economy into that Star Trek economy. And that painful transition is, you know, what do people do when robots do everything that people want?
Mike Blake: [00:04:28] And, you know, some countries are now experimenting with something called a universal basic income. There’s at least one Democratic presidential candidate who is embracing that as a way to cushion the blow. But we’re forced to reexamine the role of labor, if you will, in our economy and our society because, you know, automation is not only expanding, but its rate of acceleration is increasing as well.
Mike Blake: [00:04:57] And then, on a micro-level, we’re being compelled to reexamine what work looks like because, you know, particularly in the American economy in an unprecedented level of competition in many areas, not every area, to be sure, but certainly, in professional services and other areas, you know, we have competition from places we never would have dreamed we’d have competition before, whether it’s China, whether it’s India, whether it’s startups, whether it’s, again, AI.
Mike Blake: [00:05:33] We are being forced to rethink what role labor is really meant to play in the workplace. And then, you know, at some point, because there’s really a limit to how much you can improve your labor force by simply raising pay and increase in the value that you extract from your labor force by doing that, it’s compelling us to rethink models of work, whether that’s working from home, whether it’s the four-day workweek or the four-hour workweek, as we sometimes hear about, job sharing, and flex time and the gig economy and so forth.
Mike Blake: [00:06:16] And they’ve all been around to some extent, but they have not been sort of up close, in person, and in our faces the way that they have become in the last five to 10 years or so. And if you’re a business owner or an executive and you’re not thinking about this, you need to start because this is a hard puzzle to solve. And if you do solve it, then you’re going to create a significant competitive advantage for yourself. And if your competitors solve it before you do, watch out.
Mike Blake: [00:06:46] So, as usual, with all of our topics, I’m not the subject matter expert, I’m just the person who brings on the person who is the subject matter expert. And to help us work through this today is Joanna Bloor, who is expert and founder of The Amplify Lab. Joanna Bloor is on a mission to help us prepare for the big leap into the future, to uncover and articulate our value and our place in the next chapter of humankind.
Mike Blake: [00:07:08] Why? Because we all need to rethink how we prepare for the future of work. The what, where, when, and however work is changing and so is the who and I would argue the why as well. And we’ll talk about that today. It all starts with the understanding of why and how you need to have a better answer to the question, what do you do? An eternal student of what is around the next technology corner, Joanna started her career by scaling the revenue strategies of brands such as Ticketmaster, cars.com, OpenTable and Pandora.
Mike Blake: [00:07:37] Then, a conversation online at a TED 2016 led to a realization of what we are known for as far reaching impact as an individual and as a leader. In front of audiences that range from thinkers at TED to technologists at Dreamforce to entrepreneurs, a gathering of titans like a fairy godmother, Joanna is known for live amplification of audience members while zinging the audience with moments of surprise and laughter.
Mike Blake: [00:08:00] And I can attest to that. We had a preliminary conversation to come on here. It seemed like it was two minutes, before we knew it, an-hour-and-a-half had gone by. I’ll wrap up with a practical guidance of what you, too, can do next. And as a testimonial, Joanna shines a light on long-forgotten ingredients that make up our secret sauce, reminding us that we’re not awesome by accident. And that was by an executive from salesforce.com. Joanna, welcome to the program.
Joanna Bloor: [00:08:28] Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to continue our conversation.
Mike Blake: [00:08:32] Yeah. So, let’s get people caught up because otherwise, they’re gonna be jumping on a treadmill, going 30-miles-an-hour. Why are we having this conversation? I mean, you know, do what I say make sense in terms that we’re being confronted with just this need to reconsider the very nature of work?
Joanna Bloor: [00:08:49] Yes. Yes. Well, I was thinking about this as preparing and how do I kind of macro this up, because you talked about the Star Trek being future and how do we get there. And in looking at work, and I actually think there are lots of people talking about the future of work and how do we get there, the reality is, I think, we’re actually here today. And part of the challenge that we see our whole marketplace in, and I will start by saying what is really interesting about work is it’s a double-sided marketplace.
Joanna Bloor: [00:09:29] They are buyers. The employer chooses the employee, the employee chooses the employer, which adds a whole level of complexity and questions and everything to the entire thing. It’s not like you’re buying a pair of shoes that you get to walk out the store with. But what I was thinking about, this whole question about, well, what does work look like in the 21st century? I really actually took a step backwards and said, well, what has happened to work over time?
Joanna Bloor: [00:09:59] And then, separate it because how humans travel through work, how business is run, and how technology is run potentially have different patterns. And what I ultimately noticed was that, well, if you look at technology, most technology companies are running around and saying, you know, “We’re in the fourth industrial revolution.” And I go, okay. So, we’ve gotten from the original industrial revolution when we saw the shift from farming to factories and all those sorts of things.
Joanna Bloor: [00:10:34] And, you know, technology has had enormous play in that. But I would argue that the human revolution hasn’t happened yet. So, while technology has gone through major shifts and transformation and then, I would actually say that business has started to make major shifts and transformations, humans haven’t. So, let’s just say, okay, we’re just going to use the base model of the industrial revolution and how business and technology has run.
Joanna Bloor: [00:11:08] The past was very one dimensional and at best, binary. So, you think about how companies grew, it was all about supply chain optimization. It was all about operational efficiency. It’s all about growth and what does your P&L look like. And are you returning investment to whoever is investing to you, whether you’re public, private or whatever the financial structure is. And yet, if you look at technology, it’s gone from very ones and zeros to we’re now in the world of quantum and AI and gosh, robotics and all sorts of really multidimensional things and business has to.
Joanna Bloor: [00:11:56] And, you know, you talk to any company today and they’re starting to think about up to triple bottom-line economics. And so, both technology and business have become much more multidimensional. And when you look at the human element, all of the tools, the elements of humans, and these job descriptions, performance reviews, measurements of productivity, measurement of almost everything is still very binary. It’s still, do you have that skill set? Do you not have have that skill set?
Joanna Bloor: [00:12:35] And what I think everybody, and I know everybody who is listening is going, “Wait a second. I’m way more interesting than just a skill set.” And I go, “Yeah. Absolutely.” You look in a business and I think any business owner, any leader would say the most multidimensional interesting thing in my company are the humans and yet, all of the tools in the supply chain about, how do we navigate that marketplace? A very one and two-dimensional work in this multidimensional world.
Joanna Bloor: [00:13:07] So, I sit here and I say, so as human beings, we aren’t in the fourth industrial revolution. We’re still trying to get out of the first industrial revolution. And I think what we are starting to see with the gig economy and people really pushing back on companies around where are they investing with them and career path and all of the elements that come into play when you’re talking about humans are really beginning to change.
Joanna Bloor: [00:13:35] And the question then becomes as because it’s a double-sided marketplace as both a leader, a business owner, whatever your role is in this or as a team member, how do you start thinking about how to change the narrative about you and say, “Look, a resume isn’t the thing that tells me who I am, a job description isn’t the job.” And how do we start thinking about talent in much more of a multidimensional structure? Then, you start talking about like how all that happens.
Mike Blake: [00:14:10] So, although this is, I think, subsiding a little bit, I think we’re past the point of peak blame, but you still sort of hear it plenty, is that we’re only having this conversation because Millennials and Gen Zs are basically modern-day hippies without the tie-dye shirts and they don’t want to work hard. You know, how do you react to that? Is that a legitimate analysis or is that just a cop-out?
Joanna Bloor: [00:14:35] No. I think that is the same argument every older generation has about the generation before. Plus, let’s be real, because I wanted to say this, that like Millennials, Gen Z, Gen X, Boomer, it’s just a marketing category. This is just a sticker and a label that we have put on people. And yes, as human beings, we do need to categorize things, otherwise, our heads explode, unless the sticker is really, really good, like winner of X or the best at Ys, we don’t actually like to be labeled.
Joanna Bloor: [00:15:17] And so, first of all, I always talk to teams and say like, “Let’s step away from the stickers and let’s also recognize-“, you know, I was, for lack of a better term, it’s what a punk, 20-something-year old myself once upon a time. And I was running around saying, “Well, hang on, why are the rules the way they are? And what’s happening?” This happens, I think, with every single generation. But where I do come back is, and say like, “Where are the labels actually helpful?”
Joanna Bloor: [00:15:48] So, I’m now going to disagree with myself, is I do think as you were looking at the talent in your organization, we do need to actually give a bit of a nod to what has been, in essence, the career path. And I say this kind of airports around it of the talent that comes into your organization. And the reality is, for all of us, our career path actually starts when we’re little teeny tiny kids and start going to school.
Joanna Bloor: [00:16:19] So, I’ll give myself the sticker of Gen X. So, I was brought up in a generation in, you know, my formative years when I started to actually realize that it was more than just play out there, were in the ’80s. And if you think about what life is like for a Gen X’er in the ’80s, there wasn’t a lot of after-school programming. We were the first generation of parents of divorce. And so, there’s a concept of a latchkey kid, which is kids used to go home after school and let themselves into their own homes.
Joanna Bloor: [00:16:55] And while we all did just fine, we kind of had little to no parental supervision. And at the same time, for the boom and bust of the ’80s, you then roll those same people into the ’90s where the internet started to become a thing and technology became such a major part of young people’s lives. We were the first adapters of technology and were the first people to be described as digital first. What was true about that period, and especially for those of us, including myself, who got to really be in those early stage companies who were building the internet.
Joanna Bloor: [00:17:34] My first, I want to say, dot-com job was in 1995, but I had been playing with technology for fun for, gosh, almost a decade before that. And what was true about that era is there were no rules, you know, from, I’d say, 1995 until the present day. Every single job title I have had has been made up and every single job description I have had is made up. And I say this for myself, but that’s the same for my entire peer group of people who ran through that period of time.
Joanna Bloor: [00:18:13] And I say all of that because what I think it means is that anybody who that resonated with, can sit here and go, “Well, hang on a second. I’m really used to there not being rules and rules are made to be broken. And a job description is just a suggestion.” And really, I am going to sit here and say, “How can I play with technology as opposed to asking about career paths?” And then, I flip it around and say, “Well, what is that same narrative for people?”.
Joanna Bloor: [00:18:44] And instead of giving them a sticker, let’s say, you know, anywhere from 30 to 35 and younger, the reality is, it’s both their education and their entertainment, because it was the age of fairness. It was never about here’s the trophy for participation, it was a, here’s a trophy for playing as a team, in an age of what I call a fairness in their education and attainment. You have an entire generation of people who’ve been brought up both in school, where at the beginning of school, they’re told, “This is what you need to do to get an A. Here are the rules.”.
Joanna Bloor: [00:19:21] And you think about even sports and other games, it’s very rule-based. And this is what you do to succeed and level up in all of those sorts of things. And then, you look at entertainment, too, and even the most simple and basic video game—and I will absolutely own that I do play Candy Crush on airplanes while I’m passing out on the runway and it’s something to do to distract my mind. Very simple, basic video games.
Mike Blake: [00:19:46] I’m right there with you.
Joanna Bloor: [00:19:46] You’d think we’d find a little time to meditate or something during that period. I’m not worried about that. But you look at that and in video games, if you break the rules, you die. Oh, but FYI, you also get four more lives. And so, when I look at those pattern and then, also look at the boomer generation, and I sit here and I go, why are we surprised that the talent that is coming into our organization is sitting here saying, “Tell me what the rules are and I will do it. But then, I will expect to level up.”.
Joanna Bloor: [00:20:28] And then, you have an entire leadership team who says, “Hang on a second. Rules are made to be broken”, et cetera. And I sit here and I go, this is why I think there’s a bit of angst between some of the generations because we’ve had different experiences and different patterns. But I also sit here and say, on a much bigger level, I actually think the generations coming into the workplace have it right.
Joanna Bloor: [00:20:55] I do think that questions around what is the right measure of success are the right questions to have. What does success look like? I do think they’re right to come in, like I know that they’ve given that really terrible moniker of snowflake. But what’s true about that is every snowflake is scientifically different. But the reality is, as human beings, we are all incredibly different. And that’s actually what is amazing about human beings.
Joanna Bloor: [00:21:26] And so, I don’t sit here and say, well, hang on, we’re all right in this scenario. You should learn how to break the rules. And everybody is different. And so, I sit here and go, well, the supply chain of the industrial world, which is scalable, repeatable, mechanistic, is about productivity. It shouldn’t be applied to humans because with this, much more organic, evolving, changing things. And so, I say, kill the resume, kill the job description, kill all of it.
Joanna Bloor: [00:22:01] And I know the next question is like, what do you do then? And I actually start to look at, how do you look at your talent, which is, again, for any company, probably the most important thing that you have and say, well, how do we actually shift to the supply chain of human talent? And instead of coming in and saying it’s about stickers and badges and tenure and skills and all of those sorts of things and actually look back again in time to the world before the industrial revolution and say, wow, hang on a second.
Joanna Bloor: [00:22:35] When you or somebody in the workplace prior to, what is that, like late 1800s, they had the equivalent of an internship. We were all artisans and we all learned to craft and apprenticeships. And there was a lot more of almost currency transactions beyond currency when you went to go work for somebody. So, if you were an apprentice working with a master and I will say it was with more than four, there was an expectation that it was more than just a paycheck. And so, I suggest that, you know, the workplace actually becomes much more like school and say, okay.
Joanna Bloor: [00:23:28] As talent is coming in and as you’re having the conversation around the multidimensional changing human and the value of the human, how do you then start to think about, okay, so if the job description is actually trying to solve this problem, what is the combination of skills that we are looking for? But then, starting to ask the question of, what is the potential that we are looking for? Because you’re looking for somebody with ideas, you’re looking for somebody’s brain to come into the conversation. And that has much more of apprenticeship model than I think the employee model of today.
Mike Blake: [00:24:05] So, let me jump in on that, because-
Joanna Bloor: [00:24:09] Okay.
Mike Blake: [00:24:09] … I think there’s a lot to unpack there. And we may just spend the rest of our time kind of unpacking that, which is fine. But a thought that occurs based on what you just said that I think is a critical takeaway is that the nature of work and the way we structure it really is about making it easy to get rid of people, when you really boil right down to it, right? The job descriptions, the leveling up, so to speak. And I love that term, by the way. It’s really all about protecting the firm from being basically attacked by the employee, instead of, what if our approach was we’re just never going to be sued by an employee because we’re just going to focus our efforts on making them good. And therefore, they’d be nuts to sue us and we’d be nuts to fire them.
Joanna Bloor: [00:25:08] Yes. Yes, I’ve had this conversation with a couple of—like the conversation around—my first conversation was let’s get rid of the resume, because I think it’s such a single dimensional document and people spend far too much energy, and the HR executives I’ve talked to across the board have said, “Oh, but we need it so that we don’t get sued.” And while fairness in employment practice and appropriate employment practice, I think, is critically important and really understanding who a person is, is critically important, but any business owner would tell you that if you are putting into practice so that you don’t get sued, you’re actually limiting yourself rather than expanding the opportunity.
Mike Blake: [00:26:00] So, you know, let me ask this, is that tug of war? And one thing we’re hearing a lot more about now is mental health in the workplace. I’m a big advocate for mental health. I think it cannot be talked about too much. You know, is that tug of war between the desire of employees to grow and to develop versus the firm that is trying to protect itself from its own employees? Is that literally driving employees crazy?
Joanna Bloor: [00:26:41] That’s a really interesting question. Not a psychologist, not-
Mike Blake: [00:26:46] Me neither.
Joanna Bloor: [00:26:46] … a doctor.
Mike Blake: [00:26:47] Just you and me talking here.
Joanna Bloor: [00:26:49] It’s just you and me. Okay. My only inclination is to say, of course, it is. You know, there’s been endless studies around the whole carrot and stick science of reward for employees. And you come back to what I said earlier about how both, you know, the, what is it you need to do to get an A, how do you level up within your application, that feedback loop that we’ve all gotten a little bit addicted to. But well done. You got a gold star. You’re the champion on the leader board.
Joanna Bloor: [00:27:25] Like whatever it is, that feedback would just become so easy, that when we’re not getting that feedback looped within our workplace, we start to get anxiety around it. You know, am I doing okay? Is everything working? And then, you add on the fact that the challenge of business is there isn’t always a right answer, which speaks to that multidimensionality and the fact that unless I would argue, I think about like what is the product of the human being in the workplace.
Joanna Bloor: [00:28:12] And it’s their brain time. And even if you have an employee who is working in a retail store, you want them there to think critically as opposed to just being a robot and a machine. And yes, all of the things we have surrounding human’s process, the feedback loop, the, what are you doing, how are you doing it really talks to us more like we’re machines rather than as really interesting human beings.
Mike Blake: [00:28:44] And, you know, think about from a consumer’s perspective, if you have a question or a challenge, what’s the most infuriating thing you can hear? So, well, that’s the rule and I can’t break it, right?
Joanna Bloor: [00:28:56] Exactly.
Mike Blake: [00:28:57] Or if I do that for you, I get fired. And that, more than anything, it makes me want to take my phone and smash it, except it’s worth as much as my wife’s engagement ring, so I’m not going to do that. But, you know-
Joanna Bloor: [00:29:12] But you think about—yeah.
Mike Blake: [00:29:12] But that thinking-
Joanna Bloor: [00:29:14] So, I was think really thoughtfully.
Mike Blake: [00:29:14] … that brainpower is what leads to satisfaction.
Joanna Bloor: [00:29:16] Yeah. So, I just want to give a real example about this because I don’t want to sit completely esoteric on this whole scenario. So, I’m actually going to talk about a situation that I just encountered. So, I want to just lay the land of what’s out there. So, you have just a group of people who have been taught over and over and over again through time, follow the rules, follow the rules, follow the rules.
Joanna Bloor: [00:29:45] They come work for a company and I mean, use—I’m not actually going to say the name of the company since I just had a conversation with the CEO about this because I was curious, but it was a food service company that I was interacting with. And clearly, they had done a really innovative process with food that was part of the experience of the food eating process. That’s about as far as I can go on this. It was a really fun store and I was excited to be in there.
Joanna Bloor: [00:30:15] And I went in to buy the product and the person behind the counter said, “Well, what is your name?” And I said, “Well, I’m literally buying the product. You’re not making anything custom for me. It’s in this package. I just want to walk out the store. Why do you need my name?” And he goes, “But that’s what I’m supposed to do.” And I was like, well, I go and ask like, “Can we just do this?” I was in a rush, just do the credit card and run out.
Joanna Bloor: [00:30:39] Oh, that’s a very simple, easy transaction. What stuck with me afterwards is just like, gosh, if I was GM of this company, I was the CEO of this company, I’m not, what I would want my employee to know that they had the wiggle room to do is actually take the critical thinking and say, hey, look, this woman rolls in. It’s clearly moving at 100 miles an hour, kind of the pace that I operate at. Because she’s not getting something custom made for her, she’s actually just buying a thing off the shelf and literally wants to swipe and go.
Joanna Bloor: [00:31:13] Well, I’m just going to put Bob in the machine and who cares? Because it wasn’t going to take a point where it was, oh, they want my email address so they can send me marketing materials. It was literally to make that process work better. Do they have the bandwidth to break the rules to say, hey, I’m just going to skip the process and actually see that my customer across from me wants to move quickly and service that need as opposed to serving the need of company.
Joanna Bloor: [00:31:44] And I know that seems really myopic and individual and I sometimes wonder if when I describe it, I sound a bit like a whiny customer, which maybe I am. But I sit here and I say, as somebody who understands the retail experience as an example, I would much prefer the employee who understood that the rules could be broken there and that they wouldn’t actually get dinged, punished, whatever for not just being a cog in the machine, while it is a very complex machine that they are running because they’re doing all sorts of customizations and all lots of stuff.
Joanna Bloor: [00:32:19] And I sit here and I go, that this structure of, here is the job description, here are the rules, here is the process, here are the expectations, here’s what’s correct, here’s what’s incorrect is really making our employees into machines more than the amazing thing that they really are. And so, how do you actually help people understand that rules can be broken while also recognizing that we have brainwashed people into saying that you have to follow the rules. Like I think we’ve just roboticized the workforce because you might get sued, because you want to move faster, because of all of these sorts of things. And I come back to, okay, we have got to shift into this more multidimensional space. And again, I could go on, on all of these sorts of things.
Mike Blake: [00:33:10] Well, let’s drill into that actually. So, I’m just gonna tear up the script. And to be perfectly candid, we’re not talking about what I thought I would talk about today, but I think this is really cool and we’re just going to roll with it, okay?
Joanna Bloor: [00:33:20] Okay.
Mike Blake: [00:33:21] And that is because the question I’m really driving at, because you’ve uncovered something I think is important and I think that business people and executives and owners want to know is, how do you deroboticize your workforce? Right? Everybody is subject to this roboticism. And even the places where we don’t want people to be robots, look at customer service representatives, right? We all know they’re looking at a screen.
Mike Blake: [00:33:49] And based on what we tell the CSR on the other end of the phone, assuming they’re human, is that there’s an algorithm in front of them then telling them what the choices are they can give back to me in order to try to resolve whatever it is we’re trying to resolve, right? So, even there, they’re robots, it’s just that there’s a human interface to a robot, basically. So, maybe let’s go with number three, what are three things that an executive should be thinking about if they’re concerned that their workforce is too robotic, too going through the motions, too rigid, and encourage them to, you know, be the thoughtful, organic beings that is there in our nature.
Joanna Bloor: [00:34:34] Okay. Big question, but I will try and get it to three. So, the first one, I would say, is really looking at—so, if you know that you are currently getting roboticized humans, let’s just call them that for right now, the result that you were getting from your current processes of roboticized humans, then I sit here and I say like any products that you are looking at within your company, look at your purchase process.
Joanna Bloor: [00:35:03] You know, if you were buying software as an example, which is, in essence, it is the same thing you’re doing, you would have an RFP process and you would say like, were they nice to have, were they enough to have, like what is that entire purchase process that you are going through? And my guess is for any companies that if you really sat and broke it down and said like, what is—and let’s think about the sales process as a whole and the sale’s funnel starts with how you get into consideration sets.
Joanna Bloor: [00:35:38] What is that first step of consideration set for you? And is it what it is today for most people, which is resumes and keywords and all of those sorts of things. And maybe that is the right set of criteria to get somebody into consideration set. But then, I sit here and say, okay, then there’s the evaluation process of protecting somebody, which currently sits, sometimes, with recruiter, sometimes, with just the hiring manager and say like, are we actually interviewing, for lack of a better term, a robot or are we interviewing for critical thinking?
Joanna Bloor: [00:36:17] And then, the customer service world, like what is it you’re actually asking for and taking them through that? And so, really looking at your purchase process of somebody’s brain time and saying like, what are the different things that we should be looking for as opposed to what does the machine look like, which, I think, on the machine side, tends to lean more to, what are your experiences in the past? What is your skill set?
Joanna Bloor: [00:36:48] You know, I’ll actually use myself as an example of where I threw a purchase process completely out of the windows for a company when I was early in my career. You know, I was a manager of a high-end swimsuit store, where I think it was like $100 to $200 for a swimsuit sort of situation and had, through people that I knew, gotten an opportunity to interview for a dot-com, where I was going to shift from selling swimsuits to selling websites.
Joanna Bloor: [00:37:25] And in today’s world, I absolutely would have not made it through the consideration set because while sales was a consistent skill set, absolutely nothing else on my resume said anything about media, said anything about understanding how to sell to small to medium-sized business, like literally would have not made it through. But because I knew the right people, et cetera, I managed to get a meeting.
Joanna Bloor: [00:37:51] And in the process, and now, I look back on it, I could hear the VP himself really having a hard time trying to bridge my experience in the past with what he needed for me to be a critical thinker for in the future. And we were getting really stuck on a conversation about objection handling and did I know how to handle objections in the media space? And I remember saying to him quite sassily and I held my hands up and I said, “I’ve been selling a piece of fabric this big-“, put my hands fairly close together, “…to more than this big”, and I move my hands apart, then I said, “I’m making them feel great about themselves, at the end today, I don’t think objections are my problem.”.
Joanna Bloor: [00:38:34] And that started the whole hilarious conversation where we really talked about how we transferred, how I think about selling swimwear, and what was the decision-making process for a customer in a swimsuit store, and how did I bridge that to how that would also manifest in this whole internet world because the internet didn’t really exist and somehow, lots of stuff until I was given the opportunity to make that bridge and that required them to rethink their buying process.
Joanna Bloor: [00:39:02] And it worked out for all sorts of reasons. So, I sit here and I say, how do you think about how you were buying people and not necessarily saying, “Look, in my RFP process, they need to be this exact thing, go to this exact school, have this exact skill set.” Because unless you’re having that conversation, you can’t bridge. So, that’s the first one. The second one is really understanding as an employer, that your employers do their job, they don’t marry it.
Joanna Bloor: [00:39:35] It is a transaction. You are renting their brain. And right now, in the robot world, what if it’s just a cash transaction? Well, the only thing is like let’s look at how are you measuring success in the robot-based world. The only things that you can sit here and say like, this is where I can show success for the employee is compensation and title. And I sit here and I say, well, gosh, if you have a real conversation with an employee that, is compensation or title important? Absolutely. But is everything else important, too, because they’re multidimensional? Absolutely, as well.
Joanna Bloor: [00:40:20] And so, I look at it and I say like if you were working for somebody that you are an apprentice with us. And as an apprentice and you’re an apprentice for a, I don’t know how much time I’m going to get with you because it is a double-sided marketplace and my employee might choose to leave. And so, how do I sit here and say, where can I add value that actually helps them much more intrinsically to themselves.
Joanna Bloor: [00:40:48] As opposed to just saying, well, I’m going to add value by adding a ping pong table or bringing in lunch or whatever the pool sparkly thing is today or I’m in a different compensation and/or title and actually come back and say like, who is this human being and how can I actually help them? And I heard people say develop and grow, but it’s not just on their skills to make them more of a human, but actually development in their thinking approach. This brings back to my-
Mike Blake: [00:41:18] Yeah. How do you help them evolve?
Joanna Bloor: [00:41:20] Yeah. And now, I’m going to jump the shark for a second because I sit here and I say like I have been—I mean, I’ve been obsessed about this whole idea for decades and, you know, a lot of this whole narrative on how do you think about talent, which really forced upon me as an executive at Pandora, because I had a team that went from 30 to 400 over three years with revenue numbers that were around $100 million annually to $1 billion annually over that same period of time. And so, everything was moving at a ridiculous speed. And then, the majority of those 400 people were maybe second job out of college, 27, I think, was the average age. And what I realized really quickly was I couldn’t promote every single one of them every six months. Not physically possible.
Mike Blake: [00:42:16] Right.
Joanna Bloor: [00:42:17] I couldn’t give them a raise every single six months. So, coming back to this whole how do you have a conversation was about who they really are and what is their value to the organization completely shifted the narrative around who they were and what they were all about. And as the executive in charge, I would literally go around and be like, “This is why you are important and this is why you are important.” And we’d have a conversation around their value.
Joanna Bloor: [00:42:41] And it had a dramatic difference on their engagements, their tenure, their ability to collaborate with each other, all of those sorts of things. When I sit here and I say like, think about more as apprentices and that you get to borrow their brain. And how do you do that? But what I saw in not only getting our hand forced at Pandora but then, also, as I started to really study this phenomena out in the real world and started to build The Amplify Lab was that, I’d say, 99.9% of the people that I engage with, and it doesn’t matter if they are 18 or 60, have no idea who they want to be when they grow up.
Joanna Bloor: [00:43:27] There’s a tiny percent of people who go, “Oh, no, I have complete and utter clarity about who I want to be and how I can get there.” Well, actually, not necessarily how they can get there, but actually what that thing is or if they have an idea of who it is they want to be. And again, I’m going to come back to the, what are the experiences of the younger, and I say younger, I’m an old lady, younger generations is there’s so much feedback today. Like I just got tagged two times on Instagram today and I was like, “Well, look at that. I got an instant feedback.” There’s so much feedback on am I successful, et cetera. People are then also terrified of breaking the rules, which is also a part of the problem because we are these multidimensional people. So-
Mike Blake: [00:44:17] So-
Joanna Bloor: [00:44:17] I just sit here and I say, let’s-yeah, sorry, go ahead.
Mike Blake: [00:44:19] Well-
Joanna Bloor: [00:44:20] I really jumped the shark just on a bit there, but getting back in.
Mike Blake: [00:44:22] No. Well, actually, you segued because I think then the way to summarize that is, is that third principle is really get to know your employees.
Joanna Bloor: [00:44:29] Yeah.
Mike Blake: [00:44:30] And get to know them for who they are, not what their resumé says they are.
Joanna Bloor: [00:44:35] Right. And it’s not get to know them and say like, “How are your kids”, and all of that sort of stuff, it’s—and thank you for helping me bridge it back—just get to know them, but also help them see themselves and see what their potential could be. And I have absolutely no doubt that every single one of your listeners has a person, whether they have worked for them or not, but they have engaged with where they’ve gone, “Wow, this person has enormous potential and I’m going to put my relationship capital on the line for them and open doors for them and make connections and guide them.” Some people might call this mentors. I think that’s the wrong thing. I think that they are sponsors.
Mike Blake: [00:45:25] Yeah.
Joanna Bloor: [00:45:26] Because when you are putting your own capital on the line, it’s a little bit different. But we sit here and we look at this contract of potential and that is what we’re looking for. Reverse that transaction and say, okay, who are the people who saw that in your personal career path up? And I’ll tell you today, if any one of the people who opened doors for me, who taught me things that made me better, that said, “Gosh, Joanna. Here is your potential”, if they picked up the phone today and said, “Hey, Joanna, I need something from you” or “Hey, Joanna, will you come work with me on-“, whatever it is they’re doing, I would drop everything and go do stuff for them.
Joanna Bloor: [00:46:13] And you sit here and as a manager and you say, okay, how do I get my entire organization to be that excited to work with you? It’s because you have seen the potential in them. And, again, it’s coming back to that double-sided marketplace. And if anybody is listening who is an employee, I sit here and say like, consider that in who you’re working with and that, “Yes, we absolutely want you to do a good job and there’s stuff that needs to get done.”.
Joanna Bloor: [00:46:51] But we are hired, we are promoted, we are given opportunities based on our potential, and it is justified by our past. And so, having that whole conversation about potential and not only for the individual, but what is at their life that they want to go down? And how do you get to know them and know that it’s not just—although, again, because we live in this binary business construct, how do you take just title and compensation off the table and have a conversation about what will actually stretch you, help you grow, help you learn, you know, what is your potential, where am I seeing patterns of something that you’re uniquely good at that maybe you haven’t even considered them?
Joanna Bloor: [00:47:41] Instead of, you know, being almost myopic and saying, “I’m going to follow this career path to be X”. And of course, you want to be a physician and then, I think we will observe a bit different there. But how do you get off that path and actually start to pattern what has happened with business and technology, which again, I’ll say they have shifted and used some of the business constructs of agile developments and beta testing ideas and redeploying one part of the organization, another part of the organization. You would take all of these constructs and do them with human things as well, which allow for a much more multidimensional workplace.
Joanna Bloor: [00:48:26] Like some of my favorite team members in all of my jobs who worked with me were ones that I gave to other departments and said, “I think they’d be really great for you.” While, yes, they don’t have any experience in fill in the blank here, legal, finance, creative, employee development, didn’t matter, but they showed the potential in this space and helping them move into that space. I’ve now got an ally in another part of the company who we’ve got this great relationship with and it always ends up paying off and allows the person to actually start to make more of a portfolio of who they are.
Mike Blake: [00:49:07] So, Joanna, as I predicted, I blinked and about an hour has gone by, so we will have to continue this at some point. But I want to thank you so much for coming on and having this conversation. If somebody wants to pick this up with you, how can they best reach you?
Joanna Bloor: [00:49:24] Well, I am across all of the social medias at Joanna Bloor. I have them all, so come find me anywhere there or they can go to joannabloor.com and find out how to contact us there. Very easy to get through. Clearly, I can talk about all of this ad nauseam and like the nicest notes like say, we are all different, so we will have different questions. So, it’s important to think about how that looks for you.
Mike Blake: [00:49:54] So, before we go, I’m going to test your social media street cred. Do you have a TikTok account?
Joanna Bloor: [00:50:01] No.
Mike Blake: [00:50:03] That’s a shame.
Joanna Bloor: [00:50:04] I know. You know, I am too wary of data and data privacy issues. In my former life, I was an ad technology executive.
Mike Blake: [00:50:17] Okay.
Joanna Bloor: [00:50:19] I have yet to be convinced that that is an environment where the data of me is actually where I want it to be. And so, yeah, I’m going to hold off on TikTok. Yeah.
Mike Blake: [00:50:34] Well, when you do, hopefully, you’ll do something—
Joanna Bloor: [00:50:36] It is off at the moment.
Mike Blake: [00:50:36] When you do, since you’re a child of the ’80s, as am I, I’m hoping you’ll do a Pat Benatar cover and then, make that available.
Joanna Bloor: [00:50:45] Perfect. Done.
Mike Blake: [00:50:46] So, that’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Johanna Bloor so much for joining us and sharing her expertise with us. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week, so please tune in so that when you’re faced with your next executive decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy these podcasts, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision podcast.