Great Leadership With Jacob Morgan

Morten Hansen is a Management Professor at the University of California Berkeley and the author of a new book, Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better and Achieve More. He also has a previous book titled Collaboration and co-authored a book called Great by Choice with Jim Collins.

Prior to joining the I School at UC Berkeley, Hansen was professor at Harvard Business School and at INSEAD, France, where he retains a part-time role. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.  His research has been published in Administrative Science Quarterly, Strategic Management Journal, among others. He also speaks and consults for large companies throughout the world.

There is a notion that the harder we work the more successful we will be. So we become very busy and put in lots of hours. Technology has made work all absorbing. So the new book, Great at Work, looks at helping people look at the work they do with a focus on top performers.

Top performers do these two things:

  1. Choose priorities.
  2. They are hyper-obsessed and have targeted intense efforts on fewer projects. If you are doing less then you need to make sure you are doing better than others on that topic.

Some topics in his book include:

Redesign work: The top performer changed the way they work. They ask, ‘How can I do this role better?” They look at what they are doing and challenge the status quo.

They also hunt for pain points such as: Where are people complaining? Where can I find solutions? and they ask ‘dumb’ questions such as: Why are there receptions in hotels? Why have 2 months of summer vacations in schools?

Don’t just learn, loop:

  • This topic looks at how do we continuously improve? Most people are on autopilot; they’re not thinking about improving.
  • We need to have a quality learning loop. This is a method of learning that can be applied to any skill at work – or home.

Passion and Purpose:

  • If you want to be a top performer, don’t follow your passion. But you can’t ignore your passion either. The third way is to ‘match passion with purpose’.
  • Try to understand the kind of benefits this company brings to customers.

Forceful Champions

  • In today’s workplace you can’t just focus on the hierarchy, you need to be able to work well with peers. You need to convince others to buy into your project or your vision
  • Be a champion and be willing and able to navigate the landscape to get what you want done.
  • Inspire people and be persuasive – it’s a skill you have to learn


Fight and unite:

  • We need to fix meetings: meetings are the ‘curse’ of today’s workplace
  • Meetings are places to have a debate and then implement with what you decided, but most of the time unnecessary meetings are called just for the purpose of being able to say “we had a meeting”

How do you get people to work together without consensus?

  • If you don’t have a team goal, people will look at their own agenda.
  • If you let people have solid input in meetings, they are more likely to go along with the decision – make sure people are heard
  • No consensus? Then the senior manager makes the decision

When it comes to the way we work, Hansen believes we have a skewed view of what success looks like. Hansen says, “I think the fundamental problem with the way we work now is what I call the "do more" paradigm of work. We believe that doing more is the way to succeed in having better results. More hours. More projects, more activities, more features in a products. And so on. So we are piling on work. And then people are stressed out by trying to accomplish all of these things. But it doesn't necessarily lead to better work. It leads people to be stressed out. And then these perks are not gonna really change that very much. And I think that's where we're gonna go back to the root cause of the work itself to change that.”

 What you will learn in this episode:

  • How to be a Top Performer
  • Hansen’s outlook on AI
  • What The Purpose Pyramid is
  • Who is responsible for passion and purpose: the organization or employee?
  • How to become an Entrepreneur of Changing the Way You Work Inside Your Company
  • Why the way we work is not working
Direct download: morten20thansen20podcast_DONE.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 8:17am PDT

With companies making a move towards relying on data and algorithms to make decisions, it is important to remember that there is still a human aspect that has to be considered.

Many organizations are making a move towards relying on data and algorithms for their decision making, but we have to ask if this is always a good thing. The truth is, no matter how calculated and precise these programs may seem, there is still a human programming the algorithms and there is plenty of room for error.

One example of this was included in a book by Cathy O’Neil entitled, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. In her book O’Neil told a story about a school in Washington D.C. that decided to use an algorithm to find the lowest performing teachers in the school. They ended up identifying around 200 teachers who had low performance levels and the school let those teachers go. One of the teachers, Susan, was particularly surprised that she was one of the teachers who was let go as she always had high reviews from students and was well-liked by peers and supervisors.

It turns out that what the algorithm couldn’t identify was that the low scores were not Susan’s fault. What had happened was the students in Susan’s class came from another school where teachers were editing the tests to make it look like the students got all the answers correct. So when those students moved into Susan’s class where their answers were not edited, it appeared that their scores were falling drastically.

What we have to understand is we still need a human aspect when it comes to making decisions. Data and algorithms are great, but we still need human input to understand why the data is the way that it is. We cannot simply rely on the data alone.

Direct download: dangers_of_relying_on_data_podcast.mp3
Category:Millennials -- posted at: 1:43pm PDT

Tracy Reinhold is currently the Chief Security Officer at Fannie Mae, a role he has held since 2015. Prior to working for Fannie Mae, Tracy spent 22+ years working for the FBI, first in the Intelligence Program in areas such as counter-terrorism and national security, and then as an FBI career agent.

With between 10,000 to 12,000 employees, the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), commonly known as Fannie Mae, is a United States government-sponsored enterprise and, since 1968, a publicly traded company. Founded in 1938, the corporation's purpose is to expand the secondary mortgage market by securitizing mortgages in the form of mortgage-backed securities, allowing banks to reinvest their assets into more lending and in effect increasing the number of lenders in the mortgage market by reducing the reliance on locally based savings and loan associations. Its brother organization is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), better known as Freddie Mac.

According to Reinhold, every company is a technology company today. It doesn’t matter what your core business is, whether it is in finance, logging or retail, it is bettered by technology

At Fannie Mae the security system is complex. For example, they have sensors on all their floors to figure out the most traveled patterns in the building so they can figure out the best evacuation routes or occupancy plan. This is beyond the usual idea of security functions within a company.  

Security is a cost center for any company. It’s not adding money to the bottom line, as opposed to what it really does - take money away from the bottom line. So in order to be viable, you have to think about what sort of technology can be leveraged to protect the building.  Or consider how it will also enhance the building operation. Ask how could this better utilize the space that the core business is currently using?

Something else going on at Fannie Mae is to leverage technology to enhance access control to what they consider critical spaces.   For example, to reduce a company’s security force. If a turnstile that allows one to reduce 3 shifts of security personnel, the initial investment of $65,000 for that turnstile is quickly offset. So when one makes a pitch to the C Suite, you need to articulate how you will make a return on that technology investment.

When asked if he is worried about the use of increasing technology, Reinhold says, “I am not worried, I’m aware, and I think that is the difference”.


What you will learn in this episode:

  • Many innovative ways Fannie Mae is utilizing technology in their buildings and with their employees
  • What it is like to work at Fannie Mae
  • The current state of work and security
  • Why every company is a tech company today
  • How Fannie Mae deals with threats/hacks
Direct download: Tracy20Reinhold20Podcast_DONE.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 8:40am PDT

Companies like Google, Netflix and Facebook have great perks and workspaces, but just trying to copy and paste their ideas into your company will not get you very far.

There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about the unique and impressive things that companies like Google, Netflix and Facebook have implemented. These companies have some great employee perks such as free food, massages, work flexibility and unlimited sick days. They have fun and exciting workspaces that include rock climbing walls, breathtaking views, on site gyms with trainers, open floor plans and napping pods. A lot of company leaders see what Google, Netflix and Facebook are doing and they feel they have to do the same to attract and retain their people, but this is a horrible idea.

The fact is, companies like Google are not making these decisions on a whim, so neither should you. They are implementing these things based on people analytics, data, research and studies.
They reach out to their employees to find out what they want and need and that is what determines their next move. Every company is unique and therefore simply copying Google is dangerous and it won’t get you very far.

The truth is there is no secret to figuring out what perks and benefits to offer your employees. If you want to create an organization where people genuinely want to show up to work you just have to ask your people and listen to them. Focus on what makes your company unique; what are your values, what are your goals, what do your people care about? Trying to be like Google kills what makes your organization special. So instead of trying to copy and paste from Google, try figuring out what is important to your organization and to your people before implementing perks, benefits or a new workspace.

Direct download: why_your_organization_should_stop_being_google_podcast.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 10:27pm PDT

Francine Katsoudas is the Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer of Cisco. She plays a major role in the company's overall performance, leading organizational strategy, promoting operational effectiveness, and elevating team performance through innovative leadership.

A 20-year veteran of Cisco, Katsoudas has extensive experience leading organizational transformations. Prior to her current role, she was the HR leader and business partner to the Engineering leadership team helping oversee its workforce of more than 25,000 people. She has also held leadership positions in the Service Provider, HR Operations, Customer Service, Acquisition Integration and Services groups.

A new venture at Cisco this last year was Leader Day. One day brought 8500 leaders together both in person and remotely, around the globe in 7 locations and it included leaders that report to CEO. Leader Day was meant to create a community for the 8500 people striving to be better and it was developed due to desire to align expectations for leaders . The event started with everyone listening to the same keynote speaker and scenarios. After that the entire group of 8500 were then divided into groups of 10 and each group had exercises that they discussed based on those scenarios.

Cisco looks at 3 pillars within the talent strategy:

  1. What do we want individual experience to be?
  2. Teams – create an environment that builds and develops world class teams
  3. Team of teams – how do we work with 73,000 employees to drive alignment and innovation

In addition, Cisco has identified 11 'Moments that Matter’. Identifying the concept of ‘moments that matter’ has led to managers becoming more thoughtful about issues surrounding these types of moments. It has also driven a new level of appreciation.

What you will learn in this episode:

  • The story behind ‘getting rid of annual performance reviews in 3 days’*
  • The path that led to Katsoudas to her current role at Cisco
  • What is ‘The best of we’ and ‘The best of me’
  • Should you be aware of your personal brand?
  • How do you deal with fear at work?
  • An offer to other orgs to collaborate with Cisco on new topic

*Check out previous podcast with Jacob and Francine to learn even more about this subject!

Direct download: Francine_Katsoudas_Podcast_DONE.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 8:47am PDT

It is quite common for people to worry about technological advances such as AI, Automation and self-driving cars. And while these changes are coming, it won’t happen overnight.

The impacts of technology are all around us. You don’t have to go far to hear a conversation about how technology is shaping the future of work and the way that we live. You can see it on television, you can read it in the newspaper or in online blogs, you can hear it on the radio--it really is all around us.

The subject of technology is usually at the forefront of any conversation about changes in our world such as AI, automation, the Internet of Things, robots, self-driving cars, etc… A lot of times people are quick to panic when these subjects are brought up. They worry about automation taking over jobs, they worry that self-driving cars will be dangerous, they worry that robots will become too advanced.

But it is important for us to remember that there is more to these changes than just the technology. Just because we have the technology in place to create these things doesn’t mean that they can be implemented tomorrow. There is a lot more that has to happen aside from the technological ideas and know-how.

Other things that have to be considered before things are implemented are rules and regulations, ethical issues, culture, society and the environment. For example, we have to have rules in place that will help a self-driving car make critical decisions in the case of an accident. Also, before something can be widely implemented humans have to be comfortable with the idea of using the technology. There was a time when Airbnb or Uber probably wouldn’t have been accepted by people, for example.

Don’t get me wrong, the changes brought on by technology are inevitable and they will keep coming. But we need to remember that we aren’t going to wake up tomorrow and all of a sudden be living in a whole new world; these things take time.

Direct download: Technology_Alone_is_Not_Enough_to_Change_the_World_podcast.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 9:08am PDT

Kimberly Samon is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Weight Watchers. She has more than 20 years of HR experience in the Retail industry. Previously Samon was at KSL Advisory Services, a private Corporate Strategy and Human Resources Consulting firm providing expertise to companies on all facets of their business.  Before assuming that position, she held top HR and Strategy executive roles with Simmons Bedding Company, Frito-Lay, HQ Global Workplaces, Lacerte Technologies, and Kinko’s (now FedEx Office).

Samon holds a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, a MBA in Management from Mercer University, and a JD with a focus in Labor and Employment Law from Stetson University.

Weight Watchers started in 1963. With over 18,000 employees, it is the world’s leading commercial provider of weight management services, operating globally through a network of Company-owned and franchise operations. In the more than 50 years since its founding, the company has built its business by helping millions of people around the world lose weight through sensible and sustainable food plans, activity, behavior modification and group support.

Weight Watchers has gone through a major transformation over the past several years. When Samon started working there the industry was in turmoil, but they have found a way to refocus their brand and in turn they have seen the company return to success. It started as a company that was solely focused on weight loss, but now it is a company that looks at the overall well-being of their clients. It is not just about losing weight, it is now about being your healthiest self--physically, mentally and emotionally.

Samon believes that instead of thinking of work-life ‘balance’, it is important to think of it as work-life ‘integration’ – we need to give ourselves permission to not work 24 hours a day. For instance, Samon will go to events during her children’s school day but then will work later in the evening.

What will leadership skills look like in 2025? The fundamentals like communication will remain the same and results orientation is always going to be fundamental to organizations. Now people want to be attached to a purpose, and a meaningful mission. So how people show up may change but fundamentals won’t change.

Samon’s advice for employee skill sets are to have technology skills, be agile – as a way of thinking.  and have the ability to collaborate.

What you will learn in this episode:

  • What it is like to work at Weight Watchers
  • How Weight Watchers has evolved over the last few years
  • Fundamental leadership skills for now and the future
  • What practices listeners can use to be more authentic, empathetic and vulnerable at work
  • The distinction between traditional and non-traditional HR
  • How WW justifies spending money on Employee Experience
Direct download: Kimberly20Samon20Podcast_DONE.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 7:36am PDT