In another episode of Simply Feedback, Jeralyn Mastroianni, a Human Resources Executive at Dentsu, shares her passion for unlocking others’ potential through her work and coaching. As a mother and a cancer survivor, she discusses how life-changing experiences can ignite a fundamental shift in our priorities but open up doors to new unexpected paths.
Jeralyn is a Human Resources Executive at Dentsu, where she brings nearly 20 years of cross-industry experience aligning people strategy to enable business results. She is a wife, mother of two, yogi, feminist, and executive coach, and she is passionate about helping talented people reach their fullest potential. A cancer survivor herself, she works with survivors who struggle to find their new normal, build their strength and confidence and give themselves permission to find self-care following treatment.
Troy Blaser: 0:05
Hello, and welcome to today's episode of Simply Feedback. Today we're delighted to be speaking with Jeralyn Mastroianni. Jeralyn is a Human Resources Executive at Dentsu, where she brings nearly 20 years of cross-industry experience aligning people strategy to enable business results. She is a wife, mother of two, yogi, feminist , and executive coach, and she is passionate about helping talented people reach their fullest potential. A cancer survivor herself, she works with survivors who struggle to find their new normal, build their strength and confidence and give themselves permission to find self-care following treatment. Jeralyn, it's fantastic to have you on our podcast, Simply Feedback, today. Thank you so much for joining us.
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 0:49
Thank you for having me.
Troy Blaser: 0:51
You bet. I've really enjoyed all of these conversations, and I'm especially excited to get to talk to you today. So I read through the bio, you know, kind of the official, the official bio, but would you maybe tell us a little bit about your background, how you got started , or how you kind of came to be where you are now?
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 1:15
Sure. I have always been interested in psychology and social behavior in organizations. And when I was in college, I discovered the field of organizational psychology. I didn't didn't even know it existed. And the fact that you could bring those things together was really fascinating to me. And so I pursued that path really thinking about human behavior and in organizational settings and motivation and how to support people through change and took me to grad school. And what I loved about deepening my education in the organizational development field is that I really got taught early to think about an organization as an organism that has these interconnected systems. When you tweak one part of the system, it impacts everything else in the system. And thinking about organizational behavior is a lot like that.
So I cut my teeth in consulting, I really enjoyed problem solving and taking that consultative approach to understanding the root cause of something that was going on in an organization and figuring out what was causing it, how to tease out the symptom from the root cause. That rigor that, that way of thinking is something that's really served me in the other roles that I've had in talent development. And after a number of years in consulting and talent roles, I moved into HR business partner roles and that's I think where I've found my home. I I've just kept taking on work and roles that interested me that make the employee experience better. For me, it's, it's all about that employee focus, culture, and that's what drives ultimate business results, not the other way around. And I think it takes leaders with a longer perspective to understand that and apply it. That's been something that I've really tried to focus on really throughout my career.
Troy Blaser: 3:42
I liked that idea of leaders with the longer perspective. I think it's easy to get caught up in the short-term perspective. But to have a leader who's sort of looking out there longer term can really make a difference I think. I wanted to ask you, the podcast is Simply Feedback, we like to talk a lot about feedback, but I wonder if there's a time in your life that somebody gave you feedback that had a significant impact on you. Is there a time like that that you could share with us?
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 4:12
Absolutely. Amy Cuddy, the Harvard psychologist, who studies first impressions, she has a book that's quite well known called Presence. And in that book, she talks about how people quickly answer two questions when they first meet you. The first question is, can I trust this person? And the second question is, can I respect this person? And psychologists refer to those dimensions as warmth and competence, respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both and at work professionals often over index on the importance of the competence component. Am I credible? And that's actually what I, what I was doing earlier in my career, I wanted to be seen as credible, proficient, taken seriously, especially as a woman in professional services. And I received the feedback earlier in my career that I was over-indexing on that component and that people were craving more connection from me, from my interactions with them. And so that was really a turning point for me to think about what is the lasting impression I want to leave. And I've really intentionally shifted down my focus on task and competence, particularly early on in relationships to build trust and to make sure I'm not skipping past that part, because I have this desire to be buttoned up or respected in some way. So that was a really important learning. And I was so grateful to have received that feedback when I did.
Troy Blaser: 6:00
That's fantastic. And honestly, that's something that I identify with myself. I graduated in computer science. My main job at LearningBridge is not podcast host, right? It's, it's actually to write code and to make things go from a technical perspective here at LearningBridge. And so it's very easy and comfortable for me to kind of be heads down in the computer, ticking off the tasks, you know, one by one. And, and I recognize that can be a weakness in my own self sometimes is to , hey, don't forget to focus on the connection on the relationships with others at work so it's important to keep that in mind, and I'm glad that something that you were able to hear early in your career, because it can set up a direction for you, you know, going forward.
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 6:48
It absolutely does.
Troy Blaser: 6:50
You talked about working in talent development. What are some of the challenges that you deal with in your role in talent development?
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 6:59
There's a couple that come to mind. I think one is everybody wants to receive feedback. Employees want feedback, especially high-performing employees and when they don't get that feedback, they'll seek it elsewhere. So it really speaks to the importance of performance management or performance development process and system in an organization that really enables that conversation to take place and to the culture within the organization. So having, having tools that support the ongoing conversations, anytime it's real-time feedback, having it be part of just what naturally happens throughout the conversations in an organization is, is so important. And the, the idea that the feedback is given with positive intent, I think that, you know , can be a real game changer in terms of how an organization is able to move forward and grow. Even in challenging times, like the times we're in right now when employees are under more stress, there's more , more burnout, more fatigue. It's so important for that connection to be maintained.
Troy Blaser: 8:32
You mentioned that employees like to receive feedback, especially high potential employees. And , and I thought, I think that's true at the same time I think a lot of what we do at LearningBridge is we try to make feedback palatable to someone because it can be , uh, it can cause some anxiety to receive that feedback as well, right? What is it going to be? And so there's also maybe that, that side of it is you crave that feedback, but at the same time, you're maybe a little bit nervous to get it because you don't know what it's going to be like. So that was one sort of thought that I had with the other thing I realized. I've talked about this on the podcast before my wife is a sixth grade school teacher. And one of the things in her relationship with the school director, she struggles a little bit sometimes because the director is kind of takes the approach sometimes that if you're not hearing from me, that means I think you're doing a good job. And , and my wife's personality is like, I want to hear the good things that I'm doing. Don't just give me feedback when I need to change something, but give me feedback when I'm doing a good job. And I think that really applies as well. And maybe especially for those high potentials who probably are doing a good job and need to hear some feedback, some positive feedback that they are.
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 9:58
Yes. A hundred percent. I think that the word feedback can have an almost a negative and sometimes an anxiety provoking connotation and response. It's sort of mislabeled in that sense. And I think about it as it gets about growth, right? And it's about moving you forward, less about the back part. I think the more we can destigmatize just the word and have it be about that positive. How do you build on your strengths? How do you continue doing more of what's in your sweet spot? You know, that's so key because if somebody walks into a conversation and feels like every time they're having a feedback conversation, it's about, here's the list of things that you didn't do well. Nobody's super jazzed to have that conversation, but if it's a conversation of here's where you're shining, and here are some areas where we could use that, that shine , it's so much more of a motivating discussion, but the growth aspect of it is, is so important.
And I think it was David Rock, who did some research and said that for every negative piece of feedback or developmental piece of feedback that someone receives, they need to hear five positive things to counteract the impact of that. That's a good reminder that we are just naturally focused as human beings to kind of glom on to that the negative piece of it is just where we look first. When I share the LearningBridge 360 reports, I really make a specific and concerted effort to talk to people about reading both sides of the qualitative feedback, because inevitably they go right to the side of the page that focuses on them, you know, where can I improve? What can I do better? And that's great to want to know that and have that urge to be better, of course, but we tend to overlook or discredit easily. Oh yeah. That was luck. Or that person attributed this thing to me. And it wasn't really me. And you've got to own the positive things, as much as some of the things that will help you grow.
Troy Blaser: 12:42
The word discredit is really appropriate there it's, it's very easy to discredit those positive pieces of feedback. You know, you say, oh, they don't know me that well, or that's only what they see on the outside. And yet we give full weight and full credit to that negative feedback that, that might come, even if it's from the same source, you know?
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 13:00
Right, right. Exactly. It's such an interesting phenomenon to watch it happen. It doesn't matter what level you are in the organization. What , what industry we're in, I've seen that phenomenon happen across so many different employees.
Troy Blaser: 13:18
I'm going to ask you, is there, is there a specific story or an experience or a time when you've seen feedback cause a point of inflection in somebody's career, whether it's positive or negative feedback.
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 13:30
Yeah. I was working with a leader, a senior leader who had come in to manage a team that was new to him. And about two to three months in, it was a little rocky and he didn't quite understand why. And there wasn't, there wasn't really an open dialogue that was happening amongst the team and with the new leader. And so I got engaged to facilitate a feedback conversation. So I had met individually with all the team members and asked them like a sort of a stop, start, continue of the leader. What's going well, what are you getting that, you know, was , is exceeding your expectations. What do you need more of? What do you need less of? What would you do differently? What advice would you give this leader and asked each team member individually, collected and synthesize that feedback and anonymously presented it back to the leader and said, here are the themes that came out of these conversations. And the leader was just blown away by his own blind spots around how he thought he was coming off versus how he was being perceived by the team. And he was able to really digest the feedback that was being given about about him and his style and to sit back in front of his team in person and to say, hey, thank you so much for participating in this exercise, here's what I learned. Here's what I heard you collectively share. And here's what I'm committing to do differently as a result.
And I think that it sounds very simple, but you know, people will sometimes shy away from getting in front of a group, especially the team that they're leading and saying, like, here's a blind spot that I had that I just didn't didn't know was there. And thank you for helping me and please help keep me accountable as we move forward. And as I've stated, I want to you know, to be more open and transparent with my communication to really trust the team, to be able to do their work. And to be the competent professionals that they were hired to be. So it was really, it was really game changing to watch the team members kind of go, oh wow. He owned it. And you can't fake that, right? That comes off. He was super authentic in his ownership of it and in his commitment to action. So that came through and it was a really big turning point for this project .
Troy Blaser: 16:29
Yeah . It probably did. It went a long way towards building trust between him and those employees as well, to own that feedback and, and be upfront about here's what I heard, here's what I'm going to be doing to do things differently.
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 16:44
A hundred percent. Yeah. That vulnerability is so important.
Troy Blaser: 16:51
The other thing that I think of when you share that story is that kind of feedback, obviously it hadn't been happening naturally until you were engaged to kind of come in and start to facilitate that. It's not, at least in that case, it wasn't something that was sort of naturally occurring in the course of his leadership and his working with those employees. But ended up being so valuable and with, you know, if you hadn't been engaged, it might've never happened.
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 17:21
Yeah. And it took, it was actually this senior leader's leader who recognized that and said, actually, I think all the raw materials are here. The potential is here, the right skills are here, but there needs to be something to jumpstart into facilitate a better conversation. And that's really all that needed was a little bit of ignition. And once that sort of ignition happens , they were off and running. But again, it speaks to that there's that hesitancy, right? That, oh, is this going to be an uncomfortable conversation? And it can really be so magical when you, when you lean into it..
Troy Blaser: 18:08
Jeralyn, are there projects or initiatives that you're working on or helping with that are exciting for you, that you think our listeners would be interested to hear about?
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 18:19
One of the things that I'm super passionate about right now is leaning into my coaching practice. I have been focusing on supporting and coaching women in particular through returning to the workforce after they've had a child and are nervous about re-entry. And I've also been focused on working with cancer survivors who are looking for a new path, but are unsure about how to go about that. And what I think is really fascinating about coaching and the coaching dynamic, and particularly as it relates to feedback is that in coaching you have this amazing role of unlocking someone's potential and sort of like letting them get over whatever hangups they have about themselves. Reflecting a mirror of somebody's greatness back to them, and in a powerful coaching relationship, you can really help somebody shed some of the inner monologue they may have about themselves that doesn't serve them and help them absorb the positivity, positive feedback they've been given throughout their lifetime or positive experiences they've had that can turn into a new direction for them. And so being, being a mirror in that way to help people reflect back on themselves and not only be looking for that external validation is a really, really powerful thing. So I've been getting a lot of value and just personal excitement and just having fun, really with these conversations with these survivors and with these women. So that's been what's really exciting for me, especially over the last year I'd say,
Troy Blaser: 20:36
As you think about our listeners, there probably are women who are trying to return to the workforce after having a child or potentially even, you know , dealing with something as challenging as cancer. Is there some specific advice that you could give to folks in that kind of a situation knowing of course coaching can be a very individual , relationship, but are there some maybe more generic pieces of advice you could share with us?
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 21:04
I think when people go through a profoundly life changing experience, like having a child or having a life-threatening illness, there are things that fundamentally shift about you , and certain windows and doors open up that you might not have foreseen. And I think a tremendous amount of power can come from just listening, leaning into that and taking a moment and sitting with an idea, right ? People make life-changing decisions after having those sorts of experiences, changing direction entirely in their careers or whatever the case may be starting their own business , or just changing industries, quitting work entirely and focusing on a passion project. There's so many different things that it's all inside people, and there are different triggers that bring them out. So I think the advice I would give is to listen to that, listen to that voice that is urging you, or sort of poking what if you do that? What if you could, what if you are this other thing and you just, you needed a little push in that direction and just being open to that and receiving that, and then seeing where it leads you is, it's amazing what can happen.
Troy Blaser: 22:35
That's where the passion lies, right? When you listen to that inner voice, that's where the motivation to push forward. And like you mentioned earlier, just figuring out how to get out of your own way sometimes to really move ahead and do the thing that you want to do and not let your own self hold you back, right?
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 22:55
Right, right. How can you be giving yourself a positive, positive self-talk often the voice in our heads can be a little negative, critical, we'll call it, your inner critic, right? It's always telling you something you didn't do or do as well. And what if you could flip that voice and have it just be a, here's all the amazing things that you've done, that you are, that you will be, it's a really powerful reframing.
Troy Blaser: 23:23
Yeah. What if you are good enough or what if you are qualified enough to do that thing that you're afraid to try, right?
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 23:32
Yeah. Coming from a place of empowerment.
Troy Blaser: 23:36
That's awesome. I like that a lot. Well, this has been a fantastic conversation. If people want to know more, if they wanted to continue the conversation with you, is that something that you would be open to?
Jeralyn Mastroianni: 23:50
I would love to, you can find me on LinkedIn. I'd love to continue the conversation and look forward to it.
Troy Blaser: 24:01
They are fascinating ideas. And, you know, I had the chance to read some of the articles that you wrote about your own experience with cancer, truly inspiring and motivating to read what you shared. It was really very interesting to me to read. And so I would encourage others to get in touch with you on LinkedIn and learn some more about those experiences that you went through. Jeralyn, thank you so much for joining us for your time today. It's been a wonderful conversation. I've really enjoyed it, and I appreciate it very much. Thank you .