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Donna Lichaw, Lena Trudeau, and Jabali Williams at Leadership by Design Home Edition 2020 (Video)

Q&A with the Coach & The CEO

Jabali Williams facilitated a conversation with executive coach Donna Lichaw and CEO Lena Trudeau at Leadership By Design: Home Edition. Enjoy!

​​​The following transcript may contain typographical errors. Please forgive any mistakes!

I wanna take an opportunity to allow each of these wonderful people to introduce themselves, and if you don’t mind, I’m gonna… But I do I, I’m gonna ask you the artifacts to self, and then tell me a little bit about your least loss.

Sure, I’m done. Alisha and I am an executive and leadership coach. I work with folks like all of us here today, leaders in tech design engineering across the technology space, and what I help people do is simply the better leaders move people forward a line and excite everyone they work with.

My leadership philosophy, I have many, but the core of it is that you have to, if you want to best move people forward, you have to first know your own story, what excites you, what your values are, what your superpowers are, what your purpose is, and only then can you better figure out what the story is of where you’re working and what you wanna do and everyone else you’re working with and move them all forward, so that’s… That’s the core of what I believe. The cool thing is you get to use the skills that all of us here have today, which is design thinking and Lean and Agile, and the data-driven methodologies to do all of that.

That’s amazing. And if you don’t know, Don, as being humble as most people are, when introduce themselves, she also has 20 years of experience doing all the things a lot of us are doing here, we kinda led to her career as a coach, and so he said being able to bring those things to the forefront. A really awesome to see how that’s translated into your… A coach from philosophy. Alright, leader, you’re a… As a lot about yourself, I think you have sound is meted.

That was arrigo in your microphone or me as as a…

I attach.

We’ll get it right.

As long as you can hear me now. Yeah, so I rest introduced me, I’m the CEO of group, is the digital services company, which essentially means that we like to solve really complex problems and find new opportunities for our clients using a really modern tool kit and a very human-centered approach.

So that’s me in a nutshell. I have a long background working at the intersection of technology and public service, public good, even in the private sector, more commercial roles that I’ve had in my life, there’s always been some aspect of improving public services associated with it, so that’s as much as I’ll say about my background, my leadership philosophy is really based on growing up in Canada and being an enormous hockey fan, and it really is a team-based approach, I love to see teams accomplish things together that individually, the people on those teams just couldn’t do…

I love being able to work with folks and do you mention playing to strengths, finding your super-powers, really helping teams discover where those strengths and super powers are, but in a diverse environment so that everybody brings something unique and valuable to the equation, and I’m just really really passionate about seeing teams punch way above their weight. I think my most hated thing in the world is a waste of human capacity, and so my leadership style is really… Got a little bit of coaching involved in it, frankly, and is really much more about leading by example and working collaboratively with folks, so at huge falling… Oh, that’s perfect. It’s almost as if we crop is this because I think that a great transits been great, I into getting an understanding about what type of team you really wanna build, and so a lot of this is to be focused on each of us in individuals as leaders, but really, ultimately, as you mentioned, it’s about the people around you, and so what are the most important attributes that you think people should look for in their leadership team when they’re building one out around them and Lina, we can start with you.

We run through it quickly. Top of the list is diversity, and a diversity of diversity, there are some sort of traditional ways to define diversity, I love thinking about diversity in all its forms, including things like neural diversity, which I think maybe we could explore a little bit more as a society than we have to date, but I think it’s important to build teams where there is mutual respect, and so I think a very human empathetic, compassionate and respectful philosophy, and the leaders that I think are most successful honesty, integrity, humility, the ability to audit yourself and really understand on an ongoing basis, what’s working, what’s not working so well, and what they might need to change.

Typically, when people get to positions of senior levels of leadership, it means that they’ve been very successful and they’ve typically been right more often than they’ve been wrong, and sometimes in circumstances like that, people can be inclined to think they’re right all the time, which just makes those mistakes that we make as leaders, that much more impactful. So that ability to self-audit, I think is important, curiosity, a continuous learning perspective, and an inclination towards problem solving rather than looking at what’s wrong and naming it a lot, thinking about how to solve a problem and typically involving others in the journey of doing that with you… And then I think it really helps to have a sensibility of… I guess I would say it is I take my work seriously, I don’t take myself too seriously. And I think that’s important in leadership as well, it’s important to be authentic and approachable and be serious when needed, but also inject and levity into the equation when there’s stress involved, so… There you go. It’s a longer list.

It’s a great list.

So now I’m interested to hear, no, especially with the diversity of companies you work with and people that you’ve helped coach, what… Who have you advised people to prioritize attributes in the leadership team growth?

I thank you on you.

Okay, so we typically the way, most of my clients, they are generally one of two positions, either they’ve just inherited a team for the second is they’ve got a team, but they want their team to be performing better, and so I’ll take it from that perspective. Because it taps into the other part of my philosophy of leadership is that everyone has the potential to grow and to make the kind of impact that they want to make, and so from whoever’s on top perspective, if they’ve just inherited a team, the… If you can go in with that optimistic state of not like a go-getter, like, Oh, everyone think is wonderful and everything’s gonna be great, and everyone was performing great, not talking about that I’m talking about. If you can see the potential in the people who work for you and work around you and even work above you, if there is anyone above you, you can see that potential, you’re much more likely to find solutions to any adversity or challenges that you came across or any performance issues that you come across and you’re more likely to do some of what’s been talked about today, treat it, the growth of your team and growth of your business as an innovation project where you just see potential and blue skies of things that you can all build together the perspective that I’m coming to this a firm that everyone has the potential to be amazing at their jobs unless there’s a serious issue, and then that’s a separate separate line of inquiry, but I think everyone has the potential to be amazing at their jobs.

Awesome, I think, especially talking about potential, I think that’s a good segue into a question we have from the slack from Nick, which is to please discuss the shortcomings of leadership relying too heavily on diversity of thought, and so this is for either of you… Your thoughts is only one aspect of diversity, and I like to think that actually it’s a natural outcome of paying attention to a lot of other kinds of diversity, and in my experience, it’s just really hard to measure what that looks like in a way that allows you to ensure your building diverse teams, so I… We’re in the process right now of setting some really clear so goals, metrics for a diverse pipeline of candidates that were recruiting for a senior executive position, we’ve strengthened our commitments to diversity of senior levels in the organization where we know we need to do some more… We have a really diverse team, but that diversity does not extend all the way to leadership levels sufficiently in my view, and so we’re hiring for a senior role and we’re establishing a framework of metrics that we can use to determine when our pipeline of candidates is sufficiently diverse, for us to start interviewing from that pipeline, I wouldn’t know how to put numbers against diversity of thought, if that makes sense.

And so it’s a difficult question, and we should have diversity of thinking, diversity of background and functional expertise experience, and race and gender, and a lot of other aspects of diversity that I’m sure I’m leaving off the list. If we do a good enough job of ensuring we’re reaching out to communities beyond our own sort of social networks and bringing people in who represent those different aspects of diversity, I think we’ll end up with diversity of thought, but I wouldn’t know how to go straight after diversity of that… Without thinking about some of those other things.

I’m gonna come at this from the… I’ll say from a diversity of thought from within angle, so most of my clients are probably about 80%Are in some kind of under-represented bucket, and so it’s other women or LGBTQ or people of color, it’s across the spectrum. They are in leadership positions already, but often one of the things that they come to me with is that they want to feel more confident in their ability to speak up, which is a little bit of a paradox when you’re already in a leadership position and you feel like you’re not able to speak up or you’re not speaking up as much as you want to be to be effective, and in what I’ve seen is so… So I’ll just give my perspective is that when people are able to finally speak up, and when I say speak at… It could be anything. I don’t mean taking over a meeting or interrupting people, you could speak up and whatever mode you want and you could draw… You could… Right, there’s so ways to be a leader and make that impact that you wanna have, but when you are someone and especially who’s under-represented where you work, or in your industry or in your field, and you are able to find that voice and have that voice and… Speak up essentially. The impact is amazing because these people have incredible ideas, especially when you’re already in a leadership position, you’re there for a reason, but the dissonance is strong often when you don’t look like everyone else, you maybe don’t think like everyone else, but when you are able to bring your thoughts to the table and put them out there.

The impact is enormous in my clients end up panning just insane the amount of impacts that you have multi-national organizations who suddenly they’re like Fortune… I don’t even know, 50 companies, and they’re like, Well, now I’m presenting to the CEO, ’cause people wanna do what I wanna do. This is so cool.

So from the inside out, I think it’s essential that we foster and nurture diversity of thinking and diversity of thoughts, because this is where the best ideas often come from there just not often being said or voice…

No, it he… It looks to me… Or there’s a main isostat… No, that’s a, that’s a really good topic to bring up. As far as the pressure that is applied differently, depending on the group you come from, and sort of natural comfort or fear that comes with being able to speak up, I think something that is sort of hard to ignore right now is really just the way in which social movements become more prevalent, really over the past couple of years between Black Lives Matter at a Times Up movement, the LGBTI rights movement, I really all coming to the four port of the country, and I think when we look at some of the possible impacts that leaders would have that, would have this would have on leaders, I’m curious from a philosophical standpoint, what each of you believe is the responsibility of an executive to respond to the pulse of the country when something that big and… So that polarizing is happening outside of your workplace, what is your responsibility as an executive word to coach coaching executives to respond to that post… It’s such a tough question. I think at the core of my belief is that in my role, my responsibility is to the employees of our organization and to our customers, I think that’s where my primary responsibility lies. I also happen to believe that because we have such a diverse team, and because we have such a diverse customer set, that these issues that are playing out in the country right now are front of mind for our team and for our customers, so… It’s a little bit of a challenge because there’s a question of, Do my values align with and should I be representing my values or what I think is right to respond to what’s going on in the country?

I would say No, it’s not right for me to impose my own particular views, I don’t believe in that way, however, for organizations that have done the good work and the hard work of establishing with people in the organization, a set of corporate values, I would say… Yeah, now is the time to absolutely reflect those as a company in a more public way and to demonstrate that we’re living those values, and maybe it’s also a really good time to go back and audit that and make sure that they really stand up in a way that everyone in the organization feels they can be proud of and also represent… Is a lot of room though, I think or… And a lot of organizations have a variety of generational representation in them, and it does seem to me that across the diversity of teams, it’s also easy to find ourselves in a situation where although people generally want to be helpful and supportive, they don’t always know how, and so navigating that is, is particularly hard, and we’re kinda going through that process right now, I think at the end of the day, it relies on a commitment to fundamental respect for one another and support for one another, and a willingness to have conversations amongst ourselves around tough subjects, so that people who have been underrepresented in the past finally feel like they really do have a voice in a meaningful and safe environment in which to use that voice on… Yeah, and also substantiated from a few levels, so I work with executives and I work with male managers, and what I’ve found is that when the executive team is on the pulse of what’s going on, things changed and movement happens in the organizations when they’re not… What ends up happening is I E people down below and in the middle, they don’t feel heard, don’t feel… Say necessarily, and I know that’s a… A lot in terms… Gets thrown around a lot there really a ton of neuro-science and yogis idea of feeling like you can relate to the people you work with and the people more prob in your industry, feeling like there’s certainty in terms of what people think and what people know and… Really, the impact that the tens of having it, not just not people feeling good or bad, but on performance, on individual performance in ten performance to the companies that have those face levels of psychological safety perform better in marketplace, and so… So when he gives, are not on the pulse, what is a patent? As people then below are disgruntled and their set a might be doing, still doing as good of the job as they can, but their brain is actually impaired, it’s almost as if you’re out in the jungle and they’re the lion out there like your brain is not safe mode when it feels like executives, they’re not listening or not understanding what’s going on, and you’re just not performing at your best, so I think it’s possible for that type of movement to come from below to above when my clients are middle managers, they are the ones who… Bring up issues as high up as they can go, but it takes a lot of energy and that’s energy that they could spend just doing really great work in instead. So yeah, it’s fast, it’s the most efficient and best for the business when it comes from above, and I’m saying some questions come through in the Slack channel and I think… Do I wanted to follow up on something where you… Did you talked about some of the things that you really help people do in your philosophy is to allow under-represented individuals to feel more empowered, if you talk about some of the tactics you use in order to really allow them to feel more visible or empowered in the workplace.

Sure, so… So some of the… I think it really comes down to knowing what their strengths are as leaders, so that they can raise those strengths and have them show up the most at work. So I’ll give an example of someone I worked with who was a non-technical person in charge of a very technical organization, this is the digital services organization for an entire city, and in order to… There’s a lot of impostor syndrome that shows up… I know it’s… For a lot of the people here today, it shows up a lot, ’cause there’s design and technology, the… Sometimes there are these contests and who’s more technical and who has Cloud and this product on… Things is design, engineering, and I can go on and on.

And so what in this case would be dug around and found it to… The reason why she was in the position, Reis not because of her technical expertise, it was actually just because of her… One, technical expertise, the…

I was a visionary, she was someone who could come in and power others to have grand ideas and those forward, and so once she realized that it changed the way she ran meetings, it changed the way she had worked with city manager here in the case was just kind of like the mayor of municipality and is it just changed everything and then results put it happening faster and faster and more effectively, and so I think that in that case, it was really a matter of embracing strength and in figuring out how to do the same for everybody who works for you, just something of how my clients do as well, because they’re the same, they often feel like they’re an impostor at something or not, but it’s something… Or wanna be doing more of something. So that, I think, is the key. Another quick example is its I… So one who is a quiet but runs a major organization, and it’s like, why… And my and I’m in charge of the seed organization and I… Right in on meetings. And it’s a torture.

And so our ways, you could be a quite an ear and still have the impact that you wanna have, and it’s just been matter figuring out what that is for you, and then essentially that’s a design problem, it’s embracing your constraints, figuring out what materials you do have to work with breaking it out, putting it back together in some experiments, getting data, and then you’re cooking with the… Cooking with gas.

So I… That’s, that’s my one.

So that’s awesome, that’s awesome. So there’s been an entire conversation going on in the Slack that I think kind of Tiger about something that you said lines… I’ll ask you the question first, which is, you mentioned the idea that you’re intentionally going on a search for an executive and wanna ensure that you bring more diversity to your executive leadership team.

I think really for both of you, but starting with you, Lena, is how do you avoid, I guess from a hiring standpoint, falling victim to the idea of token is… Because you want to feel a specific type of slot and then when you are looking for jobs are coming into a position and there’s opportunities to speak up, how do you avoid that same concept as an individual from under-represented community? So Elena first, how do you ensure the to even well intention that you don’t end up finding yourself, I guess, sort of looking more for something that could be considered a token.

Yeah, it’s a great question. And underpinning all of this is the need to have a really good sourcing recruiting and hiring process, and we spent some time working on that at you group, so that now I’m really confident that we have good solid position profiles, that we have inclusive materials about the rule to put out to the community broadly, and to surface internally, because our hiring is open to everybody in the organization and outside of the organization, but we audit our position descriptions, our profiles for the language that we use to make sure we’re being gender-neutral and inclusive.

So it starts with a good, robust set of practices for sourcing and recruiting a diversity of candidates that meet the requirements that we have, we’re careful about our requirements though, there’s been a lot of good research done into what is a good job description or position posting that… People who might be from under-represented communities would feel comfortable applying to… Even if they don’t meet all of the criteria. So some of the language we’ve used in the past, we’ve changed in order to make our positions more inclusive and to make people who might otherwise not a play feel like they could… And then through the interview process, having a structured interview process that we’re really transparent about to candidates and ensuring that we have confidence that our practices in the interview process are fair and also designed to ensure that we have the right level of skill and capability, the desire to make sure we’re putting metrics on our candidate pipeline is because we really wanna make sure it really is a funnel, and if we start with a funnel that’s not sufficiently diverse, we’re gonna end up with a set of candidates that we’re interviewing that’s not sufficiently diverse, and so we’re just trying to back that up through the process and make sure that we’re sourcing a very capable, credible, competent pipeline of candidates before we start interviewing in the incentive, because we know some of these rules are really important, so there’s incentive there to make sure we do a really good job at that sourcing phase so that we can move into interviewing without delaying the entire process overly much, but making that an a go-no-go, I think is really important to the ultimate outcome.

Oh, and I guess the other part of that question was, how do I avoid in my role… You’re in a…

I don’t know that I have a lot of good advice. Early on in my career, I literally had a manager, oh my god, I had a manager on a consulting project, I was on HEAL at me for not speaking out more, we were on a conference call and he needed the call with the client, and he yelled.

Speaking out, which I will never forget. It was a little bit traumatic, I don’t mind sharing. And we talked about it afterwards, and his view was, and I will never forget this advice, that I was closest as the most junior member of the team who was doing a lot of the research and a lot of the interviews with clients… On client side, I was closest to the data and I had a responsibility to the team to bring that forward, and that’s just sort of always stuck in my mind that if I’m thinking something or if I have a perspective, actually, it’s my responsibility to bring it forward and that’s helped me, I don’t know that that would help everyone, but it certainly helped me in the work that we do, especially in some of the sectors we deal in, whether it’s defense or Homeland or until I am quite often only in the room, and so I think there’s a lot of people probably as part of this event who are often feeling like they’re the only in the room, but they need to hear, that means they need to hear people and remade here what you have to say even more more. It’s so important, we thank you so much and I’m getting the Rapid notification, but I wanted to give you a chance to respond as well, and they like me around method.

Yeah, what I wanna say is be… Is just representation matters. And I imagine if Leda was in a room with more people who look like her mole, who look like a whole lot of other people, you feel safer, you perform better, you’re less scared to speak up and everyone… And ends up being about bottom line and businesses perform better study show. So I don’t really think that’s what it comes down to. It’s not a… It’s not just a token Guster, but it really is about making people more better, more human. That’s what we do.

No, that’s a perfect perspective is, I think you’re right, the idea of not having… Minimizing the amount of which people feel like they’re in rooms as the one that removes a lot of that pressure of, Is it my responsibility speaketh? It’s not my nature because otherwise somebody else might say the wrong thing or I am the closest to this information, so I have to be the one even it’s not in my nature, especially on a professional setting, so that… It’s very important. I like to go over time on these things apparently, but I would genuinely like to thank both of you for for coming, for taking the bread stand on making an answer a lot of these questions. The climate is such with the conversation, easily go in this direction, I really appreciate you. So your perspectives on this, I wanna thank everybody in the Slack channel for the questions and please continue these conversations though out the day and just beyond and give both of our presenters, the coach and the CEO with Lena and Donna as much A plus possibly can in the Slack channel, so they… show your love.

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