Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #10. Navigating Toxic Work Cultures with Liz Bingham

April 06, 2022 Jean Balfour Season 1 Episode 10
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #10. Navigating Toxic Work Cultures with Liz Bingham
Show Notes Transcript

The most common topic people ask Jean to talk about is Toxic Work Cultures. In this episode Jean is joined by Liz Bingham. Liz shares her insights on this along with sharing her career journey. 

Liz began her career straight from school with BDO Stoy Hayward in 1981, joining Ernst & Young in 1986.

She went on to have a long and illustrious career with EY. As well as an outstanding career as a restructuring expert, she held a number of positions of responsibility in the firm. This included her role as Managing Partner of the UK and Ireland Board where she led the development and delivery of the firm’s extraordinarily successful strategy for employer brand, talent development and Diversity and Inclusion.   

 She is an avid campaigner for diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace, for non-graduates, for women, for parents, for flexible workers and for LGBT+ people and this resulted in Liz being recognised by HM Queen with the honour of OBE for services to equality in the workplace.

Liz has received numerous awards and honours throughout her career including being ranked in the top 20 of the FT Top 50 Outstanding in Business List. She also both appeared in and later judged the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour 100 Power List. She holds an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from BPP University.

Jean and Liz talk about

  • How it takes a community for someone to have a successful senior career. 
  • Research on how high performing teams often function as inclusive communities
  • Creating a ‘swarm’ to support you when you are experiencing a toxic work environment
  • How leaders can be aware of their own toxic behaviours  when they are derailed and get back to equilibrium. 

The Athena Doctrine 

https://www.johngerzema.com/books/athena-doctrine

Jean:

Hi everyone. And welcome to today's podcast. Today I'm really happy to welcome Liz Bingham. Liz is a really close friend. We've known each other for. I guess nearly 20 years Liz in many guises so welcome.

Liz:

Thank you, Jean is, I'm absolutely delighted to, to be with you in the podcast I just wish I was with you in person, but maybe we'll do that later this year.

Jean:

Soon, soon. I hope. Let me tell you a bit about this. She began her career straight out of school with BDO Stoy Hayward in 1981, and then joined Ernst and young as it was then I guess in 1986. And she went on to have a long and illustrious career with E Y. As well as an outstanding career, as a restructuring expert, she held a number of positions of responsibility in the firm. And this included her role as managing partner of the UK and Ireland board, where she led the development and delivery of the firms, extraordinarily successful strategy for employer, brand talent development and diversity and inclusion. Liz is an avid campaigner for diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace for non-graduates for women, for parents, for flexible workers and fair the LGBT community. And this has resulted in Liz being recognized by her majesty the queen with the honor of OBE, for services to equality in the workplace. She's also received numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including being ranked in the top 20, if the financial times, top 50 outstanding in business list, she also appeared in and later, judge. The BBC radio four, women's hour 100 powerlist. She also holds an honorary doctorate of business administration from BPP university. And with all of this, I also would like to say that I know her to be a truly authentic leader who lives her values. And so welcome. Thanks for being.

Liz:

Thank you Jean. And thank you for that very generous introduction.

Jean:

Ah, my pleasure. It's all true. So we always start with the question of how's work at the moment.

Liz:

Well, I feel a little bit of an impostor answering this question, Jean, because after 35 or so years in the world or professional services, I am now semi retired. Um, I have a couple of non-executive directorships, but I'm really working only a few days a month, which is really suited me rather well. So I can say that work is really very good for me at the moment.

Jean:

I'm going to jump in here with a question actually about, and how has the transition been from working frantically to not working so much?

Liz:

Gosh, that's a very good question. So I was ready, very ready to leave the firm. I was 55 years old and I didn't recognize it at the time Jean, but I was really suffering with burnout. And, uh, so, you know, I was ready to leave and I didn't have any kind of emotional reaction to leaving the firm in spite of having been there for 30 years. And I thought that was quite interesting the, the fact that I didn't have a reaction, but what I did find difficult was I suddenly became acutely aware of conversations when you meet somebody new or, I was even watching game shows on TV and they interview the contestants. And, after the first question, what's your name? The second question is what do you. And whilst I've never really thought of myself as being, you know, my whole identity being wrapped up in what I did as a job. Nonetheless, I felt really sort of cast adrift and a bit at a loss to kind of understand what my new purpose was. And I think that was one of your first podcast was talking about purpose and it really resonated with me that. I needed to find my new purpose. Um, and actually in order to do that in the post-work world, I had to put myself front and center, which I hadn't done for decades. You know, it was always firm first team, second clients, third friends, family fourth. And then if there was any space left in the day, then there was a bit of time for me. And so turning that on its head was, was a really difficult transition and giving myself permission, um, to, to find my purpose in a different way was tricky.

Jean:

Hmm. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. Cause that shift, I guess, an identity so much of your identity, or perceived identity, even if it's not true identity, but that feeling of that tied up with work and actually losing a bit of yourself almost in that process. So needing to regain that. Yeah. It leads me to pondering what would happen if we found a way to put ourselves further up that list of front and center earlier on in our careers? And so that our identity is shared with ourselves and with our work and our organizations.

Liz:

Well, I think it would make these sorts of transitions a lot, a lot smoother. Um, and, and less scary actually.

Jean:

Yeah. Yeah. So I know you're not doing masses of work at the moment, but when you are working and you have a good day, what makes it good?

Liz:

I think it is a sense of accomplishment here that I've had a good start and a good finish and got stuff done that is important. And I guess the advantage that I have now is that I can really just focus in on the stuff that's important. I don't have to get sucked away into some of the more humdrum activities that are unnecessary in business, but don't really add to your sense of enjoyment and achievement. And I think through that sense of achievement, starting well finishing well, in a day or a week or whatever, it might be adds to a huge sense of enjoyment and fun. And I think we know one of the things. I certainly lost sight of latterly in my career was that it was okay to have fun at work, and having fun and enjoying myself, enjoying my coworkers, enjoying projects, enjoying problem solving. If all of that was happening, it didn't mean I wasn't working hard.

Jean:

Yeah. In fact, just as hard, it just didn't feel like it. Yeah. There's something else really interesting about this. This is an idea I've been playing with that when we put less time pressure on ourselves, things that might otherwise have not been enjoyable, suddenly becomes satisfying and fulfilling because we've, we're not trying to squeeze them into a really tight period to get them done. And I'm not sure whether, what I'm hearing. From what you're saying resonates with that at all, that what you've got now is a bit more time to do the things that you're doing.

Liz:

Yeah. I think it's two things, Jean. I think you're absolutely right. It's definitely having a bit more time. Um, and it's also having a bit more choice.

Jean:

So I see the bit about your career journey, but it would be great if you could share a bit of the story of how your career unfolded and how you came to be here.

Liz:

Well, I guess it goes way back, and my, I come from a working class background, um, as you've said, you know, I joined, uh, started my working life straight from school. So I'm not a graduate. I'm a woman in a very male dominated environment. I was mostly educated through the state system in the UK rather than a public school. So I was quite unusual coming into the world of professional services, but I did so with my mother's words of advice ringing in my ears, which was, she always used to say, if you aim for the moon, you might hit the top of a tree. Um, Well, that meant for me in the workplace was that I didn't see necessarily the barriers that other people saw, the barriers of gender or the barriers of educational background or the barriers of socioeconomic background. You know, I just applied myself. I learned as much as I could. I was just the sponge in terms of, of learning. I worked hard at my communication skills with my coworkers, with my bosses so I could give people confidence that I was on top of my brief, So it sounds, I don't know, maybe fairly obvious but if there wasn't a sort of very rocket science to it and know, I guess in a way I was lucky there was an element of luck involved as well. Where I worked with some people who were prepared to give me a chance, even though I didn't fit the standard, mold. So there was a bit of luck in there as well. But lots also about luck that I created for myself. So, I've really had a tremendous career, very varied. I found myself in a, in a world that really suited me. It was intellectually challenging. I was surrounded by high energy. Smart accomplished problem solvers working for clients, in a whole range of different sectors and so on. So very varied. Um, and of course I was getting a huge amount of energy, um, from that and was able to work my way up through, through the career climbing wall, that it was used to describe a as rather than a ladder. Cause it was never, that's never as straightforward as a ladder. Did I have set backs? I certainly did. and I would always advise young people coming into the workplace now to really work on networks because it was my networks, um, my personal networks outside the firm, but also my networks inside the firm that enabled me to recover from setbacks. And in the world of business is so complex that, and it can be so hard at times, but if you do hit your setback, you do need help to get back on track and that's okay to ask for help a nd it doesn't necessarily need to be from the person at the desk sitting next to you. It can be from any anywhere in your whole sort of cross-section of networks. So thinking about some of the bosses that I've had over the years not only were they encouraging me to build those networks to be resilient, to ask for help. Uh, but they really encouraged me to take some risks. I think one of the biggest risks, uh, that I took was I was asked if I would, lead the whole of the UK firms restructuring business, which is about 500 people, about 35 partners from Scotland to Northern Ireland to England and Wales and I say, no, because I felt, you know, within this practice of 500 people, it must be 499 others that are better qualified than I am to do this. And I had this really acute feeling of that imposter syndrome is, you know, why are they asking me the same as everybody else died? I had this boss to really, not only did he encourage me to take the risk, but he also gave me confidence that he was going to be there right behind me. And he would have my back to help me to be successful. And he wasn't doing that completely altruistically because, you know, if I was successful in my role, that would make him look good and his role, um, you know, so there was a, you know, a good symbiotic relationship. But it was such a learning for me. And I thought, and then subsequent to that, I saw it all over the business, particularly with women saying, oh, this, that job over there. It looks really good, but I don't think I'm qualified for it. So I won't apply. I'll wait or I'll wait to be asked or I'll wait for this or I'll wait for something else to happen. And when I was, uh, And the managing partner, the talent managing partner role. One part of the business, very significant parts of the business was really struggling to bring, women through, to partnership and the response they were getting from the really great female talent to, you know, what about partner was oh, no, I don't think that's really for me, blah, blah, blah. And instead of asking good questions to understand why they thought that the men mostly, um, the men were saying, yeah, you're probably right. And would move on. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, so. I've had some great experiences, uh, that hopefully I'll be able to share that might be of interest and help others.

Jean:

Um, one of the things that strikes me about what you said is it, is this idea that it takes a community to have a career like yours.

Liz:

Yeah. That's a really nice way of reflecting that actually, because it is more than a team. It is a community. And that sense that everybody gets lifted. If one person gets lifted.

Jean:

as long as that person lifts people up behind them, which you have done. I know, but we know sometimes as a, it's not always the case, so yeah.

Liz:

Yeah. But that, yeah, that's a really nice way of describing a Jean is to call it a community. And I think part of what I experienced over the years was, you know, as I was sort of navigating my way up by career climbing wall, um, there were others celebrating my success and seeing that as a proxy for their own success, um, which you know, was incredibly powerful. And it's not just about. Being able to see yourself in other people in a more senior in the organization. It's much more I think about that community's lived experience. Mm

Jean:

The community's lived experience is what makes it possible for other people to think that they can also have that lived experience. If we see it as a community, it opens that possibility up for others.

Liz:

Absolutely. And over the years I've certainly seen the teams, if I use a more traditional corporate word, the teams that, that behave like a community. That looked after everyone that raised one another up that celebrated other people's success within that community were head and shoulders above others that weren't perhaps as inclusive and weren't as community minded and weren't as cohesive and, and you're operating, in a way that that fulfilled a community.

Jean:

Um, and then translates into business outcomes. That sense of working together delivers to the client. Doesn't it? Because the client's experiences that I'm working with a team who were functioning like a community.

Liz:

Exactly. Right. And we did some quite detailed research into EY's global business. And we were comparing really two data outputs. Firstly, the data outputs from our global people survey, which most large organizations do either annually or biannually um, and an external brand survey that helped us to benchmark the sort of quality and impact of our brands versus our competitors in every region that we operated in and where we saw inclusive teams operating as communities, we saw significantly higher, retention of our best people. We saw significantly higher revenue per person in those businesses. And significantly higher, 7% higher gross margin, which in the world of professional services is that's the holy grail. Um, uh, because what we were seeing happen in those businesses, Jean was the client experience, um, was such that they. They felt better served by those teams who were operating as a community. So consequently, there were fewer fee disputes. The clients were more inclined to just, if they had a problem, pick up the phone and say, can you help us as opposed to I've got a problem. Let me go out to tender. Um, you know, so at the cost of sale, uh, was a lot lower. The whole client experience, the net promoter scores of those clients was off the charts, uh, compared to others. So, you know, the business impact. Financially was absolutely phenomenal. And the people engagement scores, which was really sort about testing, how do these individuals feel about working for the firms? They were off the charts as well, you know? So you had happy, engaged. Productive people working as communities within your organization, delighting clients, bang,

Jean:

doesn't get better than that

Liz:

does not get better than that.

Jean:

Which leads me on to, I've been asking a few people, what would it be good for me to talk about on the podcast and the topic that comes up most commonly is please. Can you talk about toxic work places and, um, yeah, a bit like you just did. I sort of a little bit of a groan. I must, we really, um, but it keeps coming up and people are really concerned about it. And I have been thinking about this for a long time, because prior to COVID I think, people's pace of work and the culture and, and in organizations was getting harder and tougher in many places. I think that. A lot of leaders are exhausted. We see some poor leadership behavior and then COVID hit and, uh, created, I think more exhaustion because we, we had both anxiety in the system and then everybody went to working from home and not knowing how that worked and back to back meetings. And we lost some of the play to your point that we had in the office. But we do seem to be in a bit of a problem. With so many people saying to me, please, can you talk about this? And we do know from the research around the great resignation that employees are voting with their feet to go elsewhere or to leave if they're finding it hard. So I'd really love to hear your views on this and, and for us to have a conversation about what is it and how can we do something about this?

Liz:

Ooh, how long have we got Jean?

Jean:

We can take as long as we want.

Liz:

This is a really complex, area and in my opinion and I think the first thing to say is that there isn't really a toxic workplace is toxic people and we shouldn't just talk about toxic people as one group of people, either. I think data people will demonstrate toxic behaviors in, in different ways. So I think perhaps a way to start this conversation would be to, to say, Let's try and understand what's going on in the business that is creating this toxicity. And then let's talk a bit about what are some practical things that we, each of us can do as individuals, to change this. And in terms of, you know, what's showing up in, in the business with leaders and leaders are not necessarily at the top of the organization they're all the way through the organization. I think you've described that really well. And you you've described a very well, the exacerbating effect of, of the pandemic and everything that's gone with that, including, the anxieties, which is the anxieties, you know, right. The way across the piece, you know, anxieties about your family, your children, their education, health risks, your community. Before you even get to the workplace and then you've got the anxieties of how'd you keep the wheels on the bus during this period? Am I going to lose my job? And set that against that backdrop of kind of almost this relentless pace of work. Um, you know, as you say with, you know, the, the respite and the fun is kind of gone out a bit because you're back to back, various video type meetings, um, And if you're anything like me, you also don't know when to call it today. When you finished the end of your working day, you're still at the same desk that you started out and you're at home. So all of that is, I think is really challenging. And, When individuals are in that stress zone, the behaviors can revert to type and can revert to the worst. Because that's just easy, you know, you don't have the capacity and the time to be self-aware. Another one of your podcast topics, Jean, to be self-aware enough to understand how your behavior is impacting on others. You just don't have that time or that Headspace. You don't want to devote time to that because you've just got to keep on running really fast and, and hope for the best. So I think there's something for leaders that they need to understand the impact that, uh, that their behavior is having in the business and, and on other people. And the fact that in moments of high stress, Even though this moment has lasted for more than two years. Um, if that's where they need to be even more thoughtful and mindful of how they're behaving and they've got to try and create some space for themselves to deal with that, it's simply not good enough to say, you know, and I heard this in my career. Well, if you can't stand the heat and get out of the kitchen, You just have to look around organizations and see the, uh, the effect on wellbeing, mental health, physical health, this kind of stress, um, behaviors that can cause in an organization. So any leader that doesn't understand that, frankly, I think shouldn't be in a leadership role. And I think in one of the challenges, and this is why I say that, you know, that there isn't really a sort of a thing as a toxic workplace because the workplace will be saying things like, you know, we have a zero tolerance for bullying. We have a zero tolerance that this and that and sexual harassment and, you know, whatever it might be. But when the rubber hits the road in the business is, where it really starts to count. And it's just not good enough having some. Broad brush statements about values and about how we go about our business. When in the business that is not, people's lived, lived reality. So it's a few things I think, from a sort of practical, what can an individual do with this? It feels to me, Jean, like we almost need, a revolution of, of employees and businesses. Um, you know, I say to people, you know, you need to find your swarm, right? Nice. Yeah. Nobody nobody's scared of a single bee. Right. But they will run like heck from a swarm. So how do you find your swarm? How'd you find and create that swarm that is going to start to say, this is not acceptable. This behavior is having a detrimental effect on our wellbeing, on our performance. It's therefore impacting the business and it's got to stop now. I'm fully aware Jean, but that's all probably sounds. Just, I dunno, big a bit pollyanna-ish if you will, and thinking that this is all going to be easy and it, and it isn't going to be easy, but if you start to think about who might, you might invite into your swarm, then there'll be coworkers. It might be some of your direct reports. There might be some of your bosses. You can look across the organization and see where the good people. Okay. And start to bring them into your swarm. And once you started to develop that, you need to think about some practical steps to give individuals the vocabulary, the confidence to start calling out these behaviors. How do you go about calling out a senior boss for behavior X or behavior? Y. It's very difficult in my experience when you're on the receiving end of some poor behavior to call that out, that takes a lot of courage and a lot of, um, a lot of very nuanced for vocab, I think to get that right. What is easier, however, is to say to yourself, I'm not going to be a bystander. When I see this happening to somebody. Because I think it is easier as a bystander to just go and have a conversation quietly to say, Jean, I don't know whether you noticed, but in your conversation with Betty over. She was appearing quite distressed at the way you spoke about X, Y, or Z. and that, that takes courage. I'm not underestimating that, but it can't be done in a very sort of coaching style. I think I'm sure you didn't intend Jean dot. But I don't know whether you notice Jean dot, dot, dot, it can be done well, but it needs to be something that is taught, I think and then the more, your swarm is doing that, the more individuals will feel empowered to do it for themselves. And then the more, it becomes very clear in the organization that these behaviors will not be tolerated. But before we close off on that Jean I did just want to just explore one type of person if I may. Um, I mean, I think we've touched on, you know, leaders under pressure who kind of reverts a bit to type and their behaviors are bad. Not because they're bad people, but because of the pressure that they're under, there are some people that are just bad. Um, and organizations, often those people will be in very senior positions. And I think that was that's a marvelous quote. And I can't remember who it was from now, but it said that only five, 5% of the global population are sociopathic narcissists. And half of them end up in prison and the other half ended up running fortune 500 companies. So they could often be in very, very powerful positions and I think you to just, the one thing to say about those individuals is that they, they are very compelling, utterly charming. They will draw you in, but they will never, ever change. And however much you feel that you be their coach and guide and bad things will happen if you try. Uh, so if we spot one of those in the business, give yourselves as much distance as you possibly can in

Jean:

And perhaps go and get another job. Yes. Well,

Liz:

yeah, exactly. Because if they are that influential in your sphere of influence in your organization, you will not change them and so maybe that would have to be the answer.

Jean:

There's two things that come up from what you're saying for me, one is, this idea of the swarm is about taking positive action, because I think what can happen is if we come together, when we're unhappy is we create a complaining circle and, and the complaining circle doesn't solve anything, actually. So I've often said to people. If you're going to do that kind of thing, come together and complain for five minutes, but set a timer. And then when the timer goes off, move out of complaining into problem solving. And so how can we do something about this? How can we change it? What, what changes can we bring about? Because the complaining actually brings us down as much as anything. It further depletes our systems.

Liz:

I agree with you. I think the only thing that a time constraint complaining period, no more than five minutes would allow is for people to feel less isolated and alone, because then they're sitting there going, oh God, it's not just. But you're, but you're absolutely right. You can then very quickly slip into wallowing and then get absolutely nowhere. But being able to set the scene a bit and encourage others to feel less, uh, less isolated, I guess.

Jean:

Um, I think that's really important. And I think the thing about the wallowing is actually we then become toxic ourselves. So we mirror the behavior. If we're also just complaining, then, then we create a toxic environment and the other environments that were complaining and we don't want to do that. The other thing is I love this idea that you're talking about, I call the behavior out on behalf of somebody else. And I think there are really nice and subtle ways that we can do that. And one story I have. From the Obama administration actually was that early on in the administration. Uh, some of the women around the table felt their voice wasn't being heard. And so somebody else would say, wait a minute, Liz had something important to say, and I think we've gone past it. Can we come back to her? And these are just really subtle things that can, that also link back to inclusion. They linked back to help people's sense of belonging. But in that case, we're not even calling behavior out. We're just subtly bringing the person back into the conversation where they might've been pushed out or left out.

Liz:

That is such a good example, um, of that amplification. Um, Jean, and you know, when, when I read about that, um, at the time I was thinking. Wow. You know, if anybody had said to me, you know, describe Obama and his leadership style, how do you think it would feel to be around the table with him? I just said inclusive, open all of those really positive leadership attributes. And yet the women in his cabinet felt the need to amplify. And he's a good guy.

Jean:

Exactly. You think he's on the right side. So there's lots that we can do. The other question, I guess, is how do we look after ourselves then if we find ourselves in those situations where we're really struggling with feeling like we're working for somebody. That's who's undermining us or not including us, or, or maybe giving us too much work and then holding us to account for it, whatever it is. How do we look after ourselves in those situations? Because for many people they can't leave or they can't change it.

Liz:

This comes back to my sort of swarm idea. And even if you're not requiring. Everybody in your swarm to be an activist on this have people in your swarm, who you can just go and talk to and just go and share, what it is that you've experienced. And I'm saying that from a position of never really having done that. I didn't find a way to do it in the business because. I didn't want all the people in the business to think that there was a problem with the business. And I didn't feel capable of talking about it at home because I just wanted to left it all behind and I want to bring that toxicity into my safe space at home. So there's got to be a way and it, you know, and it's difficult to be generic because everybody's going to have a know, different sets of circumstances. But thinking about the purpose of the swarm and it isn't all about activism. It can just be about support and care, I think is, is, uh, an important, thing and it comes back to my network point of earlier. Use your network to help you through setbacks and difficult periods.

Jean:

Mm I'm loving it. We're all about community, essentially in this conversation. So something about that.

Liz:

There really is something about community and about good communication, I think it's, it's difficult to stay true, I think to good, effective communication when you're high in emotion. And all you want to do is cry or shout or something. So sometimes giving some distance and some time might be, uh, a good thing to do before having the conversation. So you can yourself be a bit less stressed about having that conversation.

Jean:

A couple of other things that I I sent can really help is. Writing down what's going on so that the, because the writing process is a bit cathartic and can help to separate what. What's my emotional reaction to it from what are the facts that I might need to find a way to deal with because we somehow want to be able to separate those two things out and in the presence of high emotion. That can be very hard to do that.

Liz:

Yeah. I think you've just taken me right back to when I was 14 years old and I had a, what I thought at the time was a particularly difficult teacher at school. Didn't like me in inverted commas and was just, it really, I felt very difficult and I remember sitting on a Stony beach with my father and, um, just talking him through all of this. And he got me to write her name on, let score her name on a pebble and throw it into the sea time after time. And I was like, scoring the name, checking these pebbles into state, talking to. And that very physical act of chucking these pebbles with a name scored on into the sea really allowed me to get that perspective. And I think you've just described that beautifully yet. Take some time, write it down and then come back to it and get that perspective.

Jean:

There's one other angle to this that I'm kind of curious about, because I'm wondering if there are some leaders listening who are thinking, Hmm. I wonder if I'm being the best leader. I could be at the moment. And I know for myself that, uh, you know, during I've been very open about my own period of burnout during that, that I was not the best leader that I could be by a long way, that when we're tired and burnt out, um, We can ourselves behave in ways that are misaligned with our values. We become derailed. We lose our perspective. And what would you suggest for leaders who are feeling in that space, feeling derailed, feeling that they're not being the best for their people?

Liz:

I think the swarm probably works for them as well, but not necessarily with swarming activists, but with people who they can go and talk to and share their experience and their reflections on their behavior in a safe space at the relevant time. So none of this should be done. Twice a year performance review by the boss. This should be in a peer to peer buddy to buddy. I'm really struggling with X at the moment. Can you help me? Can you help me in a proactive way? So for example, that they might form the part of the same leadership. Can you give me some feedback immediately after the meeting to tell me whether or not I was on point with X, Y, or Z, or just to use the time with them, with the buddy to explore what's going on for you and there's so much that could be going on. You know, if you say If you've got a really strong trusting relationship with somebody, uh, that you can start to share those experiences with that would be great. Failing all of that. Then in a hundred percent, get yourself a professional coach, somebody, you know, uh, pay for it yourself. If your organization is not going to pay for it because they will have. To get back on track, to understand and unpack what it is that's going on for you and how you could more importantly, how you can then mitigate the impact on others and get back on track to be a good leader. Um, so all of that external help needs to, to form a part of the picture. I think that helps leaders cause they know. As much, if not more arguably. Yeah. And,

Jean:

and there's no shame, I believe in say. You know, I I've really slipped up. I've got to a bad place and how I'm being. And it's, it's hard to own up to it, but it's also, we're human and, and some leaders, I mean, like you will be leading for 20, 30 years. There's surely going to be some periods where we're in perfect in that time. And it's good for us to own up, I think, and be honest to our people, the people we're working with and honest to ourselves.

Liz:

Yes, I think because the other impact that this has outside of the workplace is that you, you, you start to carry this home, um, and what that then starts to impact on your personal relationships, with your relationships, with your children, with your partner, with your pet, and that needs to be arguably your safest of safe spaces. And if that is starting if those relationships are starting to be tainted because of what you're manifesting at work, then you're in a world of trouble. Yeah. We went to a program Jean at E Y of. Inclusive leadership coaching for our partners. So the most senior leaders in the business, and I remember one of the chaps, um, saying to me afterwards that he felt this is some weeks afterwards, he felt that he'd become a better father and a better husband at home. Yeah, it was incredibly powerful and actually did, really did make me think. That will only then have an amplifying positive impact for him and the business because people in the business we're starting to see a difference. But if he's got that affirmation at home as well, happy days.

Jean:

Yeah. Yeah. It actually reminds me of a story of a leader. Really many years ago, nearly 30 years ago. And she got some really challenging 360 feedback. And now we would describe her leadership as toxic. And she said to me, no one ever told me. And so in all of this, I think it's always good for us to assume that the other person may not know. How they're being experienced, particularly if they're derailed because our self-awareness drops away and our empathy drops away and all of that and finding the courage as if you've described to create a swarm, to bring people together, to help raise people's awareness of what it's like working for them can be very powerful because I know this leader went on to change because she had the data she knew and she knew how to change.

Liz:

So she did. Yeah. And probably 95% of leaders are not bad people. They're just in a bad space. The 5% that I mentioned in a narcissistic sociopath will never be good. Um, but mostly people are not bad people.

Jean:

No, no. We just have to help create environments where they're able to be at their best. Yeah. What can I add to the end of this bit of the conversation and drawing to the end of the podcast? I'm wondering if there's anything from all we've talked about that you'd like to particularly pull out from this conversation?

Liz:

Oh gosh, that's quite tricky. Just an observation is, as we've talked through this Jean, there are so many facets. To making sense of work. There are so many facets because it's about you, but it's also about everyone around you. That's about the hierarchy. The values is it's really complex. It's a really complex thing to navigate. And my reflections on our conversation was that, you know, after 35 years of, operating in a very complex professional services environment, uh, still only got a little bit of insight into what some of these things look like, um, and how to deal with some of these things. And so I guess, Like the more we talk about this, the more accessible, um, things like your podcasts become the better the conversations that we can have in organizations, the more chance we've got of actually shifting the dial on this, you know, and it always used to baffle me somewhat Jean in that sometimes to me, it felt like there was a great. Garbage bin outside the front door of the office, into which you were requested to put your humanity before you walked through the door. What have we created here that, that makes people feel that, that humanity, that empathy, that self-awareness, that kindness, that sense of fun. You know, all of those things just needs to be left at the front door. And we've got to find a way to, to bring that back because that. It will future-proof us as individuals in a workplace, but we'll also future proof. The business.

Jean:

Couldn't agree more. We have to bring ourselves to work and feel like we don't have to leave ourselves outside the door. Yeah. A wonderful let's just finish with asking if there's one book or podcast that has influenced you that you would recommend for.

Liz:

I think the one book that I have enjoyed, uh, above all others, and I've read a lot on, particularly the topic of leadership is a book called the Athena Doctrine. And they subtitled to that is how women brackets and the men who think like them close brackets will rule the future. And it's, uh, it's by, uh, two chaps called John Gerzema and Michael Dantonio. And it explores attributes of leadership but it does so in a slight, in a genderized way. So it, it says that here are the attributes of leadership. They did a really broad survey like that tens of thousands of people, um, asked them to genderize these attributes. So you've got your deemed female attributes deemed male attributes, and then it explores, well, what makes good leaders. Um, particularly to navigate complex world of work that we are operating in today. Um, and then hence why it says it's how women and men who say things like women will become the leaders of the. Um, but it's just a really interesting insight into what makes good leadership some of those attributes put them all together and you know, what does that good leadership package looked like? So I thoroughly enjoyed that. Um, and I think my, just my other hint and tip, if you will, would be to say that. Harvard business school Forbes WEF, they all have fantastic podcasts and short articles on various topics. Just read, keep reading, keep applying that, um, wherever you find it, keep applying it to your personal situation.

Jean:

Um, yeah, I love that. Well, thank you so much for spending this time with me and sharing your experience and thoughts, Liz, and, um, I'm really hoping we'll do this again soon. So thank you, Jean has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you. See you soon.