Accept People for Who They Are

Janina AbilesSeason 4Episode 12


Janina Abiles is an independent talent & organizational development consultant with over 17 years of experience. She talks about accepting people for who they are and using feedback as a tool to help people unlock their potential instead of using it to try and mold them into who we want them to be.


Janina Abiles

Janina Abiles

Strategic Talent and Culture Leader

Janina Abiles is a seasoned learning and development professional with more than 17 years of experience. She has led projects spanning the full cycle of talent development from orientation for new hires to leadership courses for senior leaders. Janina has led teams of learning and organizational development professionals and overseeing the creation of programs, right from inception. She has played a role in the orchestration of company-wide engagement surveys, performance evaluations, talent reviews, and 360 degree leader feedback.

Janina has worked across multiple industries, most recently as director of leadership development for a regional bank, and she’s currently working independently and is available for learning projects.


Janina Abiles (00:00):
Accept people for who they are first and foremost. And this is hard because we have preconceived notions about what we think someone should be or how we think someone should be. How a manager should be, how someone should behave as a part of a team, all of those kinds of things. But I think that if we start there, then the feedback that we give to someone is going to be more valuable because we're not using feedback as an excuse to try to mold someone into the way we think they should be. We're using feedback as a way to actually help them improve and unlock their real potential versus trying to make them something that we think they should be.
Troy Blaser (00:50):
Hello, welcome to Simply Feedback, the podcast hosted by LearningBridge. I am your host, Troy Blaser. Glad to have you along for our episode today. I'm very excited about our guest today. Just to introduce her, Janina Abiles is a seasoned learning and development professional with more than 17 years of experience. She has led projects spanning the full cycle of talent development from orientation for new hires to leadership courses for senior leaders. Janina has led teams of learning and organizational development professionals and overseeing the creation of programs, right from inception. She has played a role in the orchestration of company-wide engagement surveys, performance evaluations, talent reviews, and 360 degree leader feedback. Janina has worked across multiple industries, most recently as director of leadership development for a regional bank, and she's currently working independently and is available for learning projects. Janina, welcome to Simply Feedback. It's so good to have you with us today.
Janina Abiles (01:52):
Thank you, Troy. I am excited to be here, and I have to tell you, this is my very first podcast experience.
Troy Blaser (02:01):
Awesome. Maybe, just to help us get to know you a little bit, I wonder if you could tell us about a time that somebody gave you feedback, whether professionally or personally, but maybe it had an impact on your life. Could you share a story with us?
Janina Abiles (02:17):
Yeah, absolutely. So you mentioned in my intro that I've worked in the learning and development field for a pretty long time. So when you work in that space, you get a lot of feedback, but specifically there was a time when I was a participant in a 360 process, so there was an entire team of HR professionals and all of us were kind of going through it at the same time. And at the time, my manager followed up with me, you know, afterwards and sort of was that kind of coach or support through the process. And, you know, largely the feedback that came through to me and, and through the process really just gave me a boost of confidence that I don't think I had at the time that really led me to be able to be more authentic as a leader, which was, I think, really important. Learning to be authentic, be a little bit more vulnerable as a leader, which ultimately I think helped me to grow my career just by being a stronger leader.
Troy Blaser (03:12):
Oh, that's fantastic. It's interesting sometimes how, when you were part of that 360 process, you're sort of genuinely soliciting feedback from people, and so you can feel like the feedback that you receive is honest, it's thoughtful, it's not just something that was tossed off lightly. And so really almost regardless of what you hear, you can take that feedback more seriously into the way that you work, if that makes sense. As opposed to just, you know, your manager sort of gives you a compliment off the cuff and you're like, well, maybe they weren't really paying very much attention to the way I presented that just now, even though they gave me a compliment about it. You can disregard that and, and sort of keep feeling the way that you feel, but if it's part of a, a larger, more earnest process, then it can mean different things to you because it was given maybe more sincerely. Does that make sense?
Janina Abiles (04:04):
Yeah. I think, you know, it's interesting that you say that because I think that if you go into your 360 process with that belief. Right? The mindset that people are giving me this feedback because they care, because it's important and I'm willing and kind of open to it as a sort of learner participant, then yes. But, I think the caveat is there are lots of people that will through experiences like that and are not walking into it with an open mind and therefore the feedback doesn't land well and isn't received well and isn't, you know, something that has a significant impact on your life because really they're not open to receiving it, so they're kind of shutting it off.
Troy Blaser (04:48):
Yeah. Yeah. It can be a scary thing for sure. Right?
Janina Abiles (04:51):
Troy Blaser (04:51):
To open yourself up to that kind of feedback. So Janina, as you've worked with individuals maybe who don't come in with that kind of open mindset, are there ways or things that you can do to help them be a little bit more open to the feedback that they're about to receive in a 360 process?
Janina Abiles (05:09):
Oh, I feel like there's a loaded question Yes and no. So I say yes because I do believe you can help people change their mindset. I mean, just the heart of, obviously if I work in a learning and development field, I must believe that, right?
Troy Blaser (05:24):
Yeah. New Speaker (05:24): But at the end of the day, people always make that decision for themselves. So you can give them information, you can give them maybe a different way to frame their mindset going into the process, and not to be a sales pitch for the feedback jiu-jitsu, but that all the content that's contained in that, you know, class or course is the type of feedback that you need to give somebody or the type of, not feedback, but the type of information you need to give somebody to help them maybe reframe their mindset. The end of the day though, it's up to them to take that, absorb it and actually make that change in their own head, but I think that sometimes people have just never been exposed to that kind of information or that way of thinking, because if, you know, people are raised or worked in an environment where everybody's always on the defensive, you know, that kind of thing, then it's really hard for them because they have never seen it another way.
Troy Blaser (06:21):
Yeah. And you kind of bring up a good point, and that is, it can depend on the culture that you're working in, that everybody's working in in terms of...
Janina Abiles (06:30):
Troy Blaser (06:30):
What is normal for us? Do we share feedback with one another? Or is it just everybody's kind of heads down, do your work and don't worry about what other people are doing, right?
Janina Abiles (06:41):
Yep. Yeah.
Troy Blaser (06:43):
If we assume for a minute that people are open to feedback as you've worked with different organizations over the years, what are some things that you've done to help employees get that feedback? What are some things that have worked well or maybe some challenges that you've seen that have not gone as well?
Janina Abiles (07:00):
Yeah, so I think specifically when you think about the 360 process. I mean, I've seen it work well, I've seen it not work well. And going back to what I said earlier, I think at the end of the day, a lot of it comes down to the individual. So outside of any organizational strategy on how you communicate, how you roll it out, even if you do everything right, there are still going to be individual people that do not wanna be a part of the process and don't want the feedback from others.
Troy Blaser (07:25):
Janina Abiles (07:25):
So they will on the surface, go, oh, yeah, I'm really open. I love feedback, blah, blah, blah. Right? They'll say all the things they're supposed to say, but then when it comes time to read the report, listen to the report, have a conversation, and then take action on it, the door close, they're not actually interested in making the change.
Janina Abiles (07:42):
You can't do a lot about that person other than doing all the right things, right? Having the right communication strategy.
Troy Blaser (07:49):
Janina Abiles (07:49):
Making sure that you've engaged them in the process, letting them know why it matters, tying it to their growth versus their performance, or, you know, all the things that you can do, even if you've done them right. There are still gonna be those folks, but I think that taking an approach where you use something like a 360 process as an intentional part of programs for emerging leaders, manager development things and kind of processes where the people who are in that process are already engaged. They already want feedback, they want to grow, they're interested, they're open, they're eager. It makes it so much better because it never feels forced. It feels like they were a part of it and they were engaged from the very beginning. And that just makes the coaching process better. It makes it more productive, it makes it more successful. So I think if anybody's going to implement something like this and they don't already have it, starting with groups like that, it's essentially voluntary, you know? Versus every single person is gonna go through this, which then feels like, well, I don't know if I need it. Do I need it? Is this, you know? It can just make it much more approachable for people because they wanted to be a part of it.
Troy Blaser (09:04):
Yeah. I really like that. You know, you can't really give someone advice unless they're asking for it, and it's the same with feedback, right?
Janina Abiles (09:10):
Troy Blaser (09:10):
And so if they're part of that program where maybe they've indicated, Hey, I want to be part of this. Okay, great, welcome to the program, A 360 is, is part of the program. And then they're more than happy to do that. They're looking forward to it, and they're excited about it.
Janina Abiles (09:25):
Troy Blaser (09:25):
On the flip side, if it's just, well, the company president said every manager in the company is gonna do a 360, then I guess I have to do it. And, you know, they get results and they find reasons to justify that feedback or rationalize it, or, you know, so and so just doesn't understand my perspective when they gave that feedback. And so they can be much more closed off to it. Yeah,
Janina Abiles (09:48):
For sure. Yeah. Seen all of that
Troy Blaser (09:50):
Yeah. I like that idea though, of having it be something that's tied to a broader initiative, a broader, you know, a program, so that it's not just an isolated event to do this 360. Any other ways that you tried to provide employees with feedback over the years besides a 360?
Janina Abiles (10:14):
Sure. I mean, sure. I think as an individual leader, I mean, I have, you know, for most of my career had direct reports, you know, myself. So people who, who I'm responsible for, you know, on a regular basis, providing feedback, having one-on-ones doing mid-year reviews, annual performance reviews, all of that. So for me, I mean, I think me personally, I think my kind of style and preferences kind of, you know, grew over the years. One of the things that I found, is grouping feedback. So kind of looking for themes and identifying the stuff that matters most.
Troy Blaser (10:54):
Janina Abiles (10:55):
And the reason I say that is because I have worked in environments where people will give you feedback, let's say on one of your direct reports and say, let's just pretend that somebody's giving me feedback about you, Troy.
Troy Blaser (11:08):
Okay. Sure.
Janina Abiles (11:09):
Well, you know, Troy said this one thing, and then he did this one thing, and then there was this one time, and they want to download every little detail to you. And as a leader, I found that, okay, I have to, I'm like a funnel, I have to absorb all of it.
Troy Blaser (11:23):
Janina Abiles (11:23):
And take it in, but not spit it all back out at the end, because that is not productive and people can only absorb so much. Especially because the nature of feedback in a lot of organizations is constructive. It's not, oh, this is all the great stuff I wanna tell you about Troy.
Troy Blaser (11:41):
Janina Abiles (11:41):
Here's all the tiny little things. I didn't like the way he worded that. I didn't like this slide, I didn't like the way he handled that one situation. And people will download sometimes that information to you as a leader.
Troy Blaser (11:53):
Janina Abiles (11:54):
And I have over the years found that I really have to take it all in, maybe come up with the most common themes, if you will. And then identify, do those things even matter. Just because it matters to that one person that downloaded it to you doesn't mean that it actually matters to the customer, the organization, the individual person to their overall performance. It could be that this person, it could be telling you more about that person, if you will.
Troy Blaser (12:26):
Janina Abiles (12:26):
That person, it just is really passive aggressive. That person is nitpicky, whatever the, you know, it sometimes it's telling you more about the feedback giver than the person that they think needs to receive it. So I would advise leaders to take it all in, but don't spit it all back out.
Troy Blaser (12:44):
Yeah. And I think part of your role as a leader in that instance is to be a listener. Right? And you may be doing more good for the person downloading the feedback just to listen, and they go away thinking, oh, that's a load off. And things may or may not change with the person who they were giving feedback on, but they feel like they've been able to sort of unload that burden that they were carrying. Right. And so, yeah.
Janina Abiles (13:07):
Yeah, that's a great point. Yeah.
Troy Blaser (13:09):
But, then I think you really do a service for the people that you're supervising, to sort of be, not a barrier necessarily, but a filter for that feedback to say, okay, let me synthesize a few things together here, and I'll share what is appropriate or what is maybe most useful. But like you said, none of us can respond to all the things at once. We can only focus on a few select things.
Janina Abiles (13:36):
Right. Yeah.
Troy Blaser (13:38):
Well, I know that you recently transitioned, we talked about you worked at a regional bank as director of leadership development, moving from that to running your own consulting company. Tell us a little bit about that experience. Are there things that you've learned in that transition so far?
Janina Abiles (13:56):
Oh, gosh, so many things. I mean, it's only been a couple weeks, so to say I'm running a consult... And I'm saying that in air quotes for people that can't see the video Yeah, to say, I'm running a "consulting company." It's just me. I'm a "solo-preneur." Okay. So, you know, I think I did by no means think that it would be easy. I think there's probably two big things I've learned. One, which I think I already knew, but it's become much more clear, is that you own your own career. You are the driver, and you will, no one will ever care about your career more than you do. You know, no one's gonna care about your career. No one's gonna care about your business more than you do. And so you have to take it into your own hands and do what you want with it.
Janina Abiles (14:39):
And then I think the second thing is just that I think in my mind, I always knew that starting a business like a brick and mortar business, you know, kind of old days, right? Like a store or a restaurant or something is a lot of work. What I've realized in doing this, where you're starting a business that there's no brick and mortar. It's a service I'm providing, but that it requires a great deal of discipline and organization. There's so many things from... You know, you set up your LLC, your website, your licenses, your social media, a bank account, and then when you start making money, you have to figure out bookkeeping and taxes. And so it's a lot of organizing. And luckily, I like organizing. That's actually one of the things I'm pretty good at.
Troy Blaser (15:27):
Oh, that's good.
Janina Abiles (15:28):
And I enjoy doing. But it really is a lot of, minutiae to manage.
Troy Blaser (15:35):
And, and sometimes, I don't know if you feel this way, sometimes you're probably saying to yourself, I don't wanna be doing all this. I want to do the thing that I love. Right? I want to be right in there with a client helping them figure out their problems. And instead, I've got to do all of these four different tasks before I can even get to the point where I can start finding those clients. There's definitely pros and cons to, to that being that "solopreneur." Right? I wonder, you know, in your different interactions over the years, as you've coached leaders and helped leaders develop, can you think of a specific time or an experience when you've seen feedback cause a point of inflection in someone's career that you were working with? Whether for good or for bad? I don't know.
Janina Abiles (16:19):
Yeah. You know, I don't know if this is, uh, an inflection point, and this is a little bit more personal, but, as someone that had a career in learning and development. In the beginning, the early days, as a trainer, right? Your job is to mostly deliver information that someone else has designed, written, created.
Troy Blaser (16:39):
Janina Abiles (16:41):
And so, in the early days, I feel like my role was, you know, accuracy. So deliver the information in a way that's accurate, but also make it feel authentic and engage your learners. And mind you, this is the early days before we did a lot of any kind of online, there's no podcast, any of that. So I was just like, classroom training, you know, but I remember, like, I have these very vivid memories of lots and lots and lots of practicing, which isn't something a lot of people get to do in their job. So it's, on the one hand, it's really a great privilege to get a chance to practice, but it's also constant feedback. So deliver, you know, this kind of section of the script, and then you get peer feedback, feedback from your boss, someone's gonna interrupt you, and then they're gonna give you feedback on your style, your word choices, your flow, your tone. I remember at the time, sometimes it felt like constant critique, but if you know, and I feel like I knew that it was with good intention.
Troy Blaser (17:46):
Janina Abiles (17:47):
It allowed me to listen with an open mind. And, being so early in my career at the time was like, you know, my first job, kind of full-time job as a trainer. So, I did training before, right? But not as a full-time trainer. I remember having that, like, feeling like this was an inflection point. Like, I knew this was the beginning of a career. And it's weird to say, because obviously, now it's like 17 years later. And I really did make a career of all of this, but I remember, like, there were times I was like, oh my gosh, I have to practice this thing one more time. You know how many times I have to do this? I remember having to like, do that self-talk. Like, nope, it's for a good reason. They're helping you get better. They're doing it because they care. You sometimes have to self-talk. But I really do feel like all of that set me up for success and then led to so many other opportunities.
Troy Blaser (18:41):
Oh, that's fantastic. Yeah.
Janina Abiles (18:43):
Troy Blaser (18:43):
That is exciting. And that feeling, you know, standing in front of the room and thinking it's all up to me wherever I'm gonna take this classroom. Right? That, that's the kind of felt like, you felt like that was the beginning. That this is it, this is what I want to be doing for a while.
Janina Abiles (19:01):
Troy Blaser (19:02):
That's awesome. Well, you know, as you think about the people listening to our conversation today, you know, other HR professionals, other leaders, is there any advice that you could offer to our listeners? You know, if you were, if you were gonna come in your consultancy, how would you approach that? What some advice that you would give?
Janina Abiles (19:26):
When I think about sort of the theme of feedback, I think, and this maybe it feels a little bit adjacent, but is accept people for who they are first and foremost. And this is hard because we have preconceived notions about what we think someone should be or how we think someone should be. How a manager should be, how someone should behave as a part of a team, all of those kinds of things. But I think that if we start there, then the feedback that we give to someone is going to be more valuable because we're not using feedback as an excuse to try to mold someone into the way we think they should be. We're using feedback as a way to actually help them improve and unlock their real potential versus trying to make them something that we think they should be. So it's a little bit backwards, but if we start from a place of I just accept you for who you are and the way that you are and the way that you show up, and then I'll give you feedback to try to help you improve. That's different than, well, this is the way you should behave in this organization, or what I'm paying you to do. And it's a different mindset. I know it sounds funky, but I, I hope that's helpful.
Troy Blaser (20:49):
No, I really like that. It is subtle. For me, the image that I got as you were kind of talking about that, was that idea of, you know, accepting the path that someone is on. I am Troy, I'm on a path that is laid out in front of me. You might come in and think, well, Troy, you should be on a different path. Don't stay on that path. Be on a different path. And maybe what you're saying is, let me give Troy feedback so he can continue on the path he's already on and improve, like you say, unlock that potential rather than giving me feedback so I can jump onto a different path, the one you think I should be on.
Janina Abiles (21:24):
Right. Yep. Yeah,
Troy Blaser (21:25):
I like that.
Janina Abiles (21:26):
Yeah, that's a good image.
Troy Blaser (21:28):
I know that you're also a yoga instructor, that that's something that you enjoy doing. Are there any principles in yoga and in your time as a yoga instructor that can be applied to feedback and receiving feedback?
Janina Abiles (21:42):
Troy, I've been waiting for somebody to ask me a question like that for years, because I really do love yoga. And I more recently started teaching. I've been doing it for a long time, and it's a little bit of a can of worms, but yoga does involve a lot of philosophy. Most people think of it as just, you know, movement and flexibility, but it actually is more than just movement. It's really mindset. And there's, I could probably go on on this topic for a long time, but there's maybe two things I'll say. One of the principles that yoga teachers often talk about is the concept of surrender. And I won't go too far down into it, but it's the, it's the idea of letting go of things. And it's not about giving up, but it's about learning to let go.
Janina Abiles (22:29):
And that, for me, how that ties into things like feedback is learning to not try to control everything. So let go of the fact that maybe somebody delivered feedback that was a little bit hurtful. Maybe the way that they delivered it was not the best. But if you can let go of that, then you can listen to the intent of it, or the meat of it, or the heart of it, and just kind of let go of those things, because otherwise it can hold you back. So this concept of surrender or letting go. And then the second one is called svadhyaya. I might be saying it wrong, svadhyaya. Okay. Which means self study. And it's about the never ending journey to fulfill your potential. So it's self-inquiry. It's being willing to listen to feedback. As a person who's giving feedback, it means being willing to self-assess and improve and go, well, could I have given that feedback in a way that would have made them listen more? So it's self-inquiry and self-assessment on both ends, as a feedback receiver and a giver, but just kind of in life. So I think those two things to me do really stand out in terms of yoga philosophy. But yeah I think there's a lot people can learn from yoga that's not just about movement.
Troy Blaser (23:51):
I like that. It does sound like number one, I appreciate your enthusiasm for that. And it sounds like we could have a long conversation about it and probably spend a lot of time just even thinking about, well, how does the practice of yoga relate to my everyday career? You know?
Janina Abiles (24:10):
Troy Blaser (24:10):
Apart from feedback, but, just all kinds of principles that could be applied there. All of that separate from the actual movement that increases our health and in a lot of ways, and improves our mindset just by the fact that we're moving and exercising.
Janina Abiles (24:27):
Yeah. Yeah. And then breathing and the nervous system.
Troy Blaser (24:30):
Yes. New Speaker (24:31): Lots of great benefits.
Troy Blaser (24:35):
It sounds like a whole separate podcast episode. We might have to do that one sometimes.
Janina Abiles (24:40):
I'm in.
Troy Blaser (24:41):
I wonder what are some ways that you've overcome challenges in your career or in your organization? I talk about your organization now thinking, well, she's just one person in her current organization, but what are some ways that you've overcome challenges to help achieve one of your objectives?
Janina Abiles (25:00):
Yeah. So I think you're, it's funny that you say that. because you're right, it is. I'm sort of solo in my organization. But the interesting thing about it is, as I've been embarking on this journey, I've had people say like, oh, you're gonna have so much freedom, right? Like, you're gonna be your own boss. And that is true. Maybe you don't have to deal with some of the things that you would as an internal employee, like politics or drama or whatever. But it doesn't mean that you don't have to listen to people. It doesn't mean that you don't have to work with people. So, going back to like, how do you overcome challenges? I think one of the ways that you overcome challenges in organizations, relationships is collaboration.
Troy Blaser (25:38):
Janina Abiles (25:39):
And collaboration. It helps you, you know, and it's gonna help you achieve success. But you have to be willing to collaborate, which means both listening to others and being vulnerable, to not always be right and give feedback when your opinion is asked. I mean, those are all parts of what collaboration looks like. And so I think that no matter whether you're a solopreneur and your collaborative partners are clients or, you know, hey, somebody like you who's just willing to, you know, have a conversation or I'm supporting, you know, you guys in the podcast, you guys are supporting me. That it's a collaborative effort. So I think that collaboration and partnership applies no matter whether you're working alone, quote unquote, or you are part of an organization. That is how you overcome lots of challenges.
Troy Blaser (26:33):
I like that. I think that's fantastic. It's good advice. And yeah, your point, no matter how small your individual company is, we're all working with other people. You know, they might be part of another company, they might be a client, they might be a partner that you're working on a project with. And so it's important, like you say, to maintain that collaboration across all those different fronts. And maybe you felt that too, as you leave a larger company and move into your own solo entrepreneurship, you start to see these collaborators maybe coming out of the woodwork where you didn't have a need for them in a larger company, but you, now that you're by yourself, you're like, oh, but wait, I know. so-and-so, and I know these people, and all of these different kinds of networks that you have and had all along now start to move to the forefront as you're embarking on this new career on your own.
Janina Abiles (27:26):
Right. And just to that point. We were talking about tech issues and not having an IT department. When you were solopreneur just a couple weeks ago, I was talking to somebody who, who gave me some advice on how to kind of manage that as I start to navigate and, and just like the difference between, you know, hiring somebody one time versus being on a retainer that at some point you're gonna need tech help. Yeah. It's gonna happen. Yeah. So knowing, right. Collaborating with someone or knowing who knows someone else, building your network. All of that is a big part of it.
Troy Blaser (27:57):
Yeah. No, that, that's really true. Well, Janina, this has been an interesting conversation. I've really enjoyed getting to know you a little bit. I'm really intrigued by the yoga connection still, but if people want to know more, if they want to continue the conversation with you is that something you're open to? And if so, how do they get in touch with you?
Janina Abiles (28:18):
Yes, and yes. And it doesn't have to be just about yoga. I'm happy to talk about, you know, leadership development feedback. All the things. Probably the best way is just email me directly, which is my first name, so J-A-N-I-N-A at, and then my company name is Enzenia, so E-N-Z-E-N-I-A .com. That's probably the easiest way to track me down my website too, which is That's also an option. Yeah. And then LinkedIn.
Troy Blaser (28:51):
I think there's a contact us form on that, on your webpage too.
Janina Abiles (28:55):
Yeah. Yep, There is. Yep.
Troy Blaser (28:56):
Well, like I said, I've really enjoyed our conversation. Thanks so much for your time today and for your insights. I appreciate it. Thanks Jamina.
Janina Abiles (29:04):
Thanks for having me, Troy. Have a great day.