Troy Blaser (00:04):
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the LearningBridge podcast Simply Feedback. I'm your host Troy Blaser. Our guest today is Jeff Berlin. Jeff provides organizational development consulting services to individuals, teams, organizations, and communities located primarily in Hawaii and the continental USA. He is passionate about facilitating positive change with these individuals and groups. Jeff obtained a Ph.D. In community and cultural psychology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. For 14 years, he worked as an internal organizational development consultant for a variety of companies, including NASA, Catalyst, University of Hawaii, Bank of Hawaii, and American Savings Bank. He started his consulting company over two years ago to enhance people's experience at work and in life, he finds that when people are engaged and satisfied with their job, they are more positive individuals, friends, parents, partners, and community members. Jeff says that the way people work is changing and in order for companies to recruit, engage, and retain top talent, they need to change with the times. Jeff facilitates these processes by blending a diverse academic background with a practitioner's orientation towards action and results. This helps strike the balance between deep academic analysis and the day-to-day realities and needs of business leaders. Jeff Berlin, welcome to Simply Feedback. It's great to have you with us today.
Jeff Berlin (01:30):
Thanks so much, Troy. The pleasure is all mine, and I'm just so grateful for the invitation!
Troy Blaser (01:36):
We read through all of that bio and, and it makes me excited about the conversation rather than, you know, sticking with the bio and long academic analysis words. I'm excited to get to the conversation today.
Jeff Berlin (01:49):
I think you did a great job and it's nice to hear it through someone else's voice. I've spent too much time on that bio too many times looking at it all different ways. And so it's nice to hear it through someone else's lens. So I appreciate it.
Troy Blaser (02:01):
Sure. Well, let's start with, with a question kind of to kick things off. I wonder if you could tell us about a time maybe in your life in your career or personal life that somebody gave you feedback. What stories do you have to share with us today?
Jeff Berlin (02:15):
I'd like to share two stories. One is of personal nature, and then the second is professional. So I'd like to start with the personal story first, if I may. And it was maybe 12-ish years ago. I was living in Half Moon Bay, California at the time, and I had just moved into a new apartment with a dear friend of mine. And we were getting the new apartment all situated and looking nice. And actually she had a bunch of furniture in storage that I had no idea about, and it was very nice looking furniture. And so, it really made our place look pretty fancy, way better than anything that I owned. And so, I had a good friend of mine over to show him the spot and I was giving him the tour of our, you know, relatively small apartment and we get to my bedroom and I open the door.
Jeff Berlin (03:13):
He looks in and he goes, what is going on in here? I'm like, what do you mean? This is my bedroom, this is my stuff. And what he was pointing out was the various elements of my decor. I had photo collages from high school and from college, I had some surfing posters on the wall and unbeknownst to me, it kind of looked like I was still in high school. And at the time, you know, I was working in a professional gig and, and, you know, working towards my Masters and, and he was just saying to me, you know, it's time to step it up a little bit. And he and I have a great relationship. You know, we go back and we talk trash and tease each other all the time. Like I do with many of my friends and he was sharing this feedback from a point of love, but also just kind of teasing.
Jeff Berlin (04:12):
And you know, what that really helped me do is kind of, first of all, change my decor. Step it up a little bit. And, you know, the point that I want to make about this is that his very simple and loving feedback kind of tipped me in to my next stage of growth and maturity. I was, I wasn't aware that, you know, my decor was representing X, Y, Z, or, you know, perhaps a little juvenile. And it really just helped me evolve in my life. And I, otherwise would've not known that. And so I was very grateful for that. And, you know, this is one powerful thing about simple feedback sometimes is that it can really help someone evolve. It can help someone just kind of tip over into that next stage of whether it's personal growth, professional growth, or what have you.
Jeff Berlin (05:09):
And another part of that story is that he was willing to give me that feedback He didn't think twice about it. He really didn't. He was just like, what's going on in here? You know, it was such a, it such a gut reaction. And we had such a good relationship that he, again, he didn't think twice about it, right. It was just a natural thing for him to share that with me. And so it, it really makes us think about what inspires a person to give feedback versus withhold feedback. And one of, you know, my, my stories I like to tell about this is I'm originally from New Jersey and I had a really, really tight group of friends there that were like family to me. And we were always, you know, talking trash, making fun of each other and reflecting upon it,
Jeff Berlin (06:00):
I really realized that we had a very strong foundation of friendship. We're we were good, right. Our baseline of friendship was there, no matter what happens, we're brothers and sisters. And so what that enabled us to do was it, if someone said something outlandish or, you know, dumb, or what have you, we were willing to say, whoa, that was a, that was a terrible idea. Where did that come from? Go stand in the corner or something, you know? And, and so really, you know, I think the point there is that we're willing to provide feedback to one another people are only to provide feedback when it comes from a place of security, when it comes from a place of safety, and love for one another, right. It's always said, feedback is a gift. And I truly do believe that how, how else are we going to get better, right?
Jeff Berlin (06:53):
We don't, we don't really know what we don't know. And I guess another story that just popped into my mind as I was telling that I remember I was doing our orientation at NASA in California. So we were, we were, you know, a group of us, a herd of people kind of walking around the facilities and checking out the things. And there's this one gentleman in front of me. And he, he had his, you know, first day of school outfit on. It's really nice. He had a nice pink shirt on, and he had this huge, like black thing, smudge, on the back of his shirt. And I said, Hey, excuse me. I just want to let you know, you have this there. And he had no idea and was so appreciative. And we actually wound up being really close friends for the rest of our time there. And I just had wondered, how long was he walking around. With this black smudge on his back, that, that no one was willing to say anything about. And so, you know, I think it really comes down to the idea of what makes someone willing to provide feedback and what inspires someone to withhold feedback. And I think that that's a critical juncture when we are talking in this space.
Troy Blaser (08:08):
It's really clear with your first story talking about with your friend, it was clear that there was a relationship there of trust. Like you said, you guys had, had known each other for a long, and he was able to give you that feedback almost in a teasing way, but you still knew it was kind of, it was a serious piece of feedback. Like, Hey, you could, you could improve your bedroom. And I, I thought how important that relationship was. But then as you talked about the fellow at NASA, I thought, well, here's a person that you didn't have a relationship with. You guys were still all kind of in the same boat in the orientation. And, and you were able to offer him that, that feedback, that, you know, your friend's feedback kind of was a tipping point in your life. Your feedback to the, to the fellow at NASA was probably not life changing necessarily, maybe for that day, right. And the other thing I was going to say too, your friend probably had no intention of giving you some life changing feedback. He's just like, Hey man, you could, you could improve your bedroom decor, but that turned out to be really an important way for you to make some next steps.
Jeff Berlin (09:14):
Indeed, indeed. And so I, you know, I encourage the listeners to think about, you know, the power of what may seemingly be simple feedback, a very, a very simple observation truly has the power to change one's life. And, and I know that sounds maybe a little dramatic, but it helps someone to continuously evolve and grow whether it's personally or professionally.
Troy Blaser (09:38):
So as we are maybe making some observations internally and, and that we come to that choice point, do I share the feedback or do I withhold the feedback? How do we make that decision? What are, you know, what are some ways that we can be better at sharing that feedback? Instead of withholding it?
Jeff Berlin (09:56):
Yeah, it's, it's really one of the key questions. And, and this is one of my personal beliefs and observations in organizations. And, and, you know, as you had mentioned, I come from a psychology background. And so this is my inherently, my, my approach to work is seeing an organization as a group of individuals, right. And we're all kind of individuals first that collectively come together to be teams and departments and organizations more broadly. And I am of the belief that every individual, when they confront a situation of providing feedback or withholding feedback, there's the cost-benefit analysis going in their head. They're weighing the risk versus the rewards. Now, I don't want to say that people are inherently selfish, 'cause I don't truly believe that. When it comes to organizational settings though, I do believe people are looking out for their livelihood.
Jeff Berlin (10:58):
And that's the contract people have with an organization is I come in X amount of hours. I do what you're asking me to do. Maybe I do some discretionary effort. I go above and beyond. But at the end of the day, I'm here because I'm feeding my family. I'm paying my mortgage, right. And I want to enjoy my time at work. I don't want to feel like I'm walking on eggshells. I want to feel safe and those types of things. And so in organizational settings, there's so many variables of course, but I think it depends on the extent of the feedback, right? Like, oh, I noticed this wire was fraying is really, is minor. Versus I think this entire project is going to fail because of this, this, this. Or, you know, manager I feel like you're being unfair.
Jeff Berlin (11:51):
Or I feel you're being extra harsh or unnecessarily harsh. So, there's so many different kinds of feedback that can be provided. But at the end of the day, it's one person providing information to another. And I think that that person, as I mentioned, does the risk-benefit analysis. And to get back to your question about how do we help that, how do we help that, right. It's creating a safe space that people don't feel like there's a risk. I think organizations do a really good job of trying to promote the benefits, right? We encourage you to do this. It's going to help everyone. Feedback is a gift. I don't believe they do a good enough job of addressing the risks associated. Because they're perceptual. They may be unintended. You know, I worked for an organization that had this, a really tremendous effort in helping, excuse me, encouraging people to speak up and they saw some gains and it did work overtime. But the, you know, I guess for lack of a better word, the rumors or the coconut wireless was, geez, I heard this person spoke up and said something and provided feedback. And then I don't know something happened. They left the organization, or they got transferred or, you know, something.
Troy Blaser (13:19):
No more advancement or, yeah.
Jeff Berlin (13:21):
Whatever it may be. And so I think that those are these kind of perceptual risks associated with providing feedback in an organization. And so, someone may say, you know what? Yeah, I could provide this feedback, but I don't think it's worth it. It's going to maybe cause extra work for me. And truthfully, one of the biggest perceived risks of giving feedback is having an uncomfortable conversation. Nobody wants to have an, no one wants an awkward conversation, right. And so, it’s, yeah. It's how to break that down. That's a very, very challenging task.
Troy Blaser (14:02):
It's interesting. I have never thought of it this way before, when, you know, at LearningBridge, we do a lot of 360-degree surveys and we talk about, for those individuals receiving feedback, we talk about the importance of those individuals showing that they heard the feedback and that they're acting on it. And that makes a real difference with the people that they work with. If they, you know, those people who gave the feedback say, oh, well, I can see that, you know, my boss heard the feedback and he's made some changes and I guess it's just kind of, I'm making that connection now. The same thing can be true in an organization, and that is, you know, the organization might say, hey, we want to hear your feedback, but they have to complete that circle and actually show that they're acting on the feedback and making changes based on the feedback. And that's one thing that can help create that safe space for the feedback to continue.
Jeff Berlin (14:56):
100% agree with that. And it's a really good observation. And you know, I've had the pleasure of working with LearningBridge for almost four years now. And I did a lot of leadership 360s and coaching with a variety of leaders at different levels. And that was one of the things that I always closed with. I always encouraged them to take the feedback and close the loop with their team and going and thanking them, first of all, thanking them for the feedback, because that encourages more, right. It creates an opportunity for them to say, here's what I heard and here's what I'm going to do about it. So, it shows that the, you know, the people providing the feedback, it didn't just, you know, float away in the mist it was heard and there's tangible action around it.
Jeff Berlin (15:49):
And then the last thing that it really does is it models the behavior, to your point, Troy, of being able to receive feedback and do something about it, right. So, it models that with the team, which is truly one of the most important things any individual can do is to, you know, graciously accept feedback, and then take action on it. It's something that helps every person grow regardless of their, you know, position in an organization or tenure in their career. And building on that about, from an organizational perspective, that same thing happens. And one of the biggest, you know, I do a lot of work in kind of organizational research and needs, assessments, surveys, focus, groups, interviews. And one of the primary things that I do is I guess I warn the leaders in the organizations doing this that it's also a tremendous risk to ask for this type of feedback.
Jeff Berlin (16:51):
Because if you ask people and then don't do anything about it, it can actually cause more harm than good. Because it's kind of the crying wolf story, parable, whatever you want to call it is how many times are people going to speak up? And then nothing happens. It's just another flavor of the month. And over time that dilutes people's willingness to share. And then that gets back to that risk-benefit analysis, right. That first time that new employee might be willing to, you know, say, oh, here's everything. I've been here a year and here's my bullet point of 40 things that I feel like you should do, right. You're all bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to change the world. And then nothing happens. Survey comes around two years later. You going to do that again? Probably less likely.
Troy Blaser (17:40):
It's not worth the effort, right? Yeah. It's not worth the cost.
Jeff Berlin (17:43):
Yeah, and I did not intend this, but that's actually a good segue into my second story. So, this is the professional story about receiving feedback. So, I was having a conversation with my manager at the time and she and I were and still are, you know, good friends, colleagues. I just respect her tremendously and, you know, she's the kind of manager that I would take all the feedback she would ever want to give me, you know, I was just there like, anything you can tell me, please, night and day, give me the feedback.
Troy Blaser (18:21):
It was valuable to you.
Jeff Berlin (18:22):
Right. Yeah, right. Exactly. And so we're sitting there having a conversation. I actually don't even remember what we were talking about. We might have just been talking story and she said Hey Jeff, can I, do you mind if I provide some feedback? And I was like, yes, please, please give me some feedback.
Troy Blaser (18:38):
You get out the notepad and pencil you were ready to...
Jeff Berlin (18:40):
Right. Exactly. I was ready to take it all in. And the feedback was, you know, you've been here X amount of months or what have you. And I would recommend, you know, maybe being a little bit more confident in your work, being more confident in, you know, your meetings and when you're sharing information and kind of sharing your ideas and your strategies and what you believe we should do as an organization. You know, and when I first came in, I was like guns blazing, you know kicking up dust like, we need to do this. It goes back to that kind of, what I was just saying about the new employee, right? Here's the 40 things, all bright eyed, bushy tailed, trying to change the world.
Jeff Berlin (19:22):
And then that kind of fades over time. And so she provided me with this feedback and we both just kind of sat there in reflective silence for a little bit. And she must have just been looking at my face and I must have had this little, maybe smirk or smile. And she said, she said to me exactly what I was thinking. And that was basically yeah but being confident requires that you care deeply. And it really hit the nail on the head. And I just want to be clear. It's not that I didn't care. It's not that I didn't care about the work, the organization, the people. I care. I did care. And I still do care deeply about that. But the difference was, was it my, you know, kind of like personal mission in life.
Jeff Berlin (20:11):
Right. Was it, was it what I, you know, to be confident, there's, you have convictions, right? You have, you believe in something so much that you're willing to provide that feedback over and over and over again, right. You're willing to bang your head against the wall over and over and over again. You're willing to put your neck out there. You're willing take the risks to provide the feedback that needs to be heard. And it was such a tremendous, I would even say validation for me that, you know, I knew that I needed to find my own space, right. I needed to ultimately fulfill my dream of starting my own consulting company, because that will enable me to do the work day in, day out. To work with the people day in, day out that get me going.
Jeff Berlin (21:04):
Right. Like that I believe in to the bottom of my soul, right. And so, a couple, I guess, some of the points associated with that story are one, is people are craving feedback. Oftentimes people want feedback. Now it's scary, right? And they may think they don't want feedback. But I think, I really do think that they do. So that's one point. The second one is that the power of feedback is really, especially with someone that you have a good relationship with, is really, it helps keep people in on course with what is in their heart. And I think we get off track a lot for a million different reasons, right. You're tired. You're out of energy. You know, your proposal got slammed. You got, you know, whatever it is, it's easy to kind of stray.
Jeff Berlin (22:03):
And I think that feedback can help people almost be true to the themselves. It can help them continue to follow what's important to them. One of my favorite, I guess, I don't know if it's a metaphor or an analogy, but I'll just go with, I'll go with metaphor. One of my favorite metaphors about this, I was doing this leadership development workshop, and we were talking about talking about feedback. And this one gentleman shared he sees feedback as rumble strips on a road. You know, the rumble strips if you kind of go out, it's like, yeah. And he said, you know, we're all on our path, right. We're all driving to our destination. We're all moving in a direction we'll just call it. Maybe a vision, an organizational vision or something. That's meaningful to someone in their life. And sometimes we veer off that path as I was alluding to before, whatever it may be, maybe you get tired, you know, what have you? And the, and feedback is the rumble strips to help get people back in line.
Troy Blaser (23:06):
I like that.
Jeff Berlin (23:07):
And that was just, that really just stuck with me. And so, kind of bringing it back to that story, you know, this manager provided this feedback, which helped me not, you know, go off the ditch on the side of the road. It helped me continue down the path of my passion and what I believe to be my mission in life.
Troy Blaser (23:28):
I really like that because, you know, in the metaphor or not in the metaphor either, but we want to go in the direction in the, where the road is leading. And like you say, there are things that take us off course a little bit. And it's that external feedback that kind of says, oh yeah, yeah, no, you're right. I want to keep going this way. Thanks for reminding me where I want to go. Like, it's that we really do want to go there. We just get off track sometimes. And that external feedback can point us back in the right direction. Just like those rumble strips do. I guess with today's technology, it would just be the lane assist right. In the car that says, Hey, you're getting out of the lane. You don't even need a rumble strip. The car will do it for you.
Jeff Berlin (24:11):
That's funny. Unfortunately that means that we have it within us. And it kind of, it means that our internal, if we're going to, you know, maybe play out that metaphor that yeah, we're automatically going to do that. And I think we do. I think we do modify our course inherently in ourselves. It's just the external feedback helps us maybe fine tune that or remind us when needed.
Troy Blaser (24:37):
For sure. It's a little bit of extra energy into the system to be like, oh, okay. Now I can, I'm refreshed. I can keep going the direction that I want to go. Jeff, it was so interesting to read on your website about your life and your career. But the other thing that really impressed me was some of the volunteer work that you've done throughout your career, probably separate from, you know, a professional career or at least next to. Are there interesting projects that you're working on right now that you could share with us?
Jeff Berlin (25:08):
Yeah, so I think one of, one of the primary ones, volunteer activities that I've been doing over the last couple years is working with the Jordan and Cara Odo Scholarship Foundation. And they're a local organization doing just a lot of good work to support our community. And it’s been a pleasure and an honor to work with a few folks on their mentoring and internship programs. And so over the last three-ish years, we've actually done three of them. And the last two have been within COVID. And so, we did our first pilot one and then we're kind of getting ready to do our second at one. And then the world turned upside down and we found that a lot of internships were being canceled. You know, we were obviously all having to stay at home and, and it was kind of early in the transition to this virtual world.
Jeff Berlin (26:00):
And so, we quickly pivoted and created this virtual internship program and we got tremendous involvement from students right out of the gate because, you know, they found themselves in this position where they're like, what am I going to do for the summer? This internship just got canceled. And it was really an incredible experience. I think it was maybe six weeks, the first one. And what we did is we brought people in and exposed them to a variety of senior leaders around you know, around our state, in our community. And their goal was to come up with local solutions to the COVID crisis that we were experiencing very fresh in the pandemic. And they had the opportunity to present these solutions to a panel of some of Hawaii's most senior leaders.
Jeff Berlin (26:52):
And they got scholarships on the spot. So it was, it was a competition. So just a really good opportunity for them to, you know, build their new network, get experience working on teams. And this last one we did there were three teams working on topics of homelessness, racism, and environmental sustainability. And it was such a pleasure to collaborate with LearningBridge. And you all generously donated these team feedback reports for them. And so, the teams, at a very early stage in their career, got to experience the process of receiving feedback. And I just heard over and over from them how valuable that was. And it, and we did that about halfway through the whole program. And it was tremendous to see how it altered their trajectory, you know, even if it was a slight shift, they really kept coming back to me with feedback about, oh, I didn't know that this is how I was coming across, or I wasn't aware that I was being, you know, too demanding about timelines or I was being this or that.
Jeff Berlin (28:02):
And it was really cool to just see them just, I don't know, just develop that awareness through the gift of feedback. And so, we are all so grateful to you all for your generous donation of that opportunity.
Troy Blaser (28:16):
Of course. You know, one of the things that occurs to me is I think a lot of times when we're working together on a team, we sort of have this assumption that, oh, well, if I need to give some feedback, I'll give it if something comes up and I'll just do it on an informal basis. And, you know, I think the example that you shared with the internship program, and I've seen it elsewhere too, is if you formalize that feedback process to make it be a defined exercise, the whole team is going to take a moment to focus on giving feedback to each other. You draw out some feedback that you wouldn't otherwise get. And so, people find that they're surprised at, oh, I didn't realize that, you know, and it's because nobody had thought in terms of, let me give this person feedback until we did the exercise, you know, specifically to accomplish that.
Jeff Berlin (29:02):
Right. Right, I completely agree with you. And what you made me think about as you were sharing that is, that's one of the wonderful things I love about organizational development work is that a huge part of it. Actually, the starting point of it is giving people in an organization the opportunity to share their voice when they might not have done so otherwise, right. Because we talked about the risk-benefit, like you were just saying, Troy, you know, people may not be willing, or they don't even know that they're ready to, you know, maybe it's in their brain somewhere, but it's not to the extent that like, something needs to be done or something needs to be said. And so, you know, by doing you know, research and conducting needs assessments with tools like surveys and interviews and focus groups that gives people an opportunity to share their voice that they might not have otherwise. And it gives them an anonymous space to share their real feedback. And so that's one of the things that I think is really powerful about that. And I guess one more point here too because I think it relates to what you just shared Troy, and then also these students is really giving and receiving feedback are both skill sets.
Troy Blaser (30:19):
Yes, right. Distinct
Jeff Berlin (30:21):
They're distinct skill sets. And I think we maybe underestimate that a little bit. You know, I think we share that with leaders and leadership development programs or leadership training, or what have you. I'm not sure how good we all are at sharing that with, you know, with others, with individual contributors and with teams. How, and so I would, I would say that that's something that organizations individuals can focus on is identifying what those skill sets are and then helping to actually provide those development opportunities.
Troy Blaser (30:58):
Yeah. One other thing I wanted to come back to as you were talking about, we were talking about formalizing the feedback exercise, and I think you hit on it a little bit, and that is that sometimes people have, you know, a piece of feedback in their minds, but it's not, they think, well, I'm not going to share that right now because it's not that big of a deal or it's something I can live with. Until then the feedback exercise comes. And they're like, well, okay, if you're asking, here's what I have to tell you. It's not really that big of a deal, but I'm going to go ahead and share it. And really that's the right time to get that feedback before it turns into a big deal. Before it turns into a real problem. You know? And so, there's some value in that feedback exercise, in capturing feedback early, before there are real problems that are more difficult to solve. So, I liked what you said there.
Jeff Berlin (31:50):
It's a great point. And I completely agree with you. And I think that that's one of the biggest challenges that organizations face, and managers and teams and individuals is it’s the deferment of feedback. It's kicking the can down the road, it's doing anything that they can, except, you know, have that difficult conversation.
Troy Blaser (32:12):
Or to stay focused on the work of the team, right. The team has an objective. Let's just focus on that and not worry about this other stuff right now, you know?
Jeff Berlin (32:20):
Yep, it's sometimes seen as ancillary, right? It's not like, again, it might cause more harm than good. It's not that big of a deal. But the thing as we know with feedback is that someone said that I worked with it’s not, feedback is not like wine. It does not age well. But the more,
Troy Blaser (32:39):
I like that.
Jeff Berlin (32:40):
The more we let it fester and build up the harder it gets to provide the feedback, first of all, but the more we start kind of blowing it out of proportion in our minds. And, you know, there's this model that I really enjoy. And it's like the difference between one instance of something that needs to be, be excuse me, one instance that happens where you can provide feedback. Hey, I noticed you did this.
Jeff Berlin (33:07):
What's going on, right? Like a one-time circumstance, then it becomes a pattern over time, then it's providing feedback then. But then ultimately it becomes a relationship issue. And so, what was just some seemingly small thing now becomes, I can't even work with this person anymore. They just need to go, right? We're not, we can't, this can't happen. And so, it does, it builds up over time to the point that sometimes it becomes personal and that's really hard to disentangle when it does feel like you're attributing one type of a behavior or one instance of a behavior to who that person is you know, deep down and there's a psychological term for that. It's the fundamental attribution error. It's something where we attribute one instance of a behavior to who, to one's disposition and who they are as a person.
Troy Blaser (33:59):
Got it. That makes sense. That it's more about who, we falsely say it's about who they are instead of something they do, kind of.
Jeff Berlin (34:08):
Right, right. We make assumptions about people's behavior.
Troy Blaser (34:11):
Yeah. That makes sense. Well, so as you talked about the internship program, you mentioned how you know, you did the first pilot program, but then COVID came right as the second program was coming. It reminded me, I wanted to ask you know, to talk a little bit about some of the changes or the shifts that you've seen as you've worked with organizations. The pandemic has brought tremendous change. But can you highlight some of those changes is for us and ways that you you've addressed them or helped organizations address them?
Jeff Berlin (34:46):
Absolutely, yeah. I mean, there's so much being written out there there's so many, you know, kind of pop culture observations about what is happening over these last couple years in this era of COVID and it's pretty wild to watch us all go through this collectively you know, this is certainly a global event and one of the primary things that has really stuck out to me, you know, you said this in your introduction about retaining and recruiting top talent, and we've heard these terms about the great resignation and the great reshuffling. I think there was a report that came out in August, like 5 million people quit their job in August alone. And then there was a study that another 40% are planning to do so in this coming year. That is tremendous.
Jeff Berlin (35:43):
That is tremendous and terrifying. And not only are people leaving, but they are not necessarily applying either. And it's really hard for people to find good workers these days. Good, top talent. And so, in a way, you know, this is a feedback podcast, in a way, the workforce is giving collective feedback to employers. People are over it. People are over the, you know, tough hours for little pay and having to you know, deal with really challenging customers without having support, are tired of dealing with the boss that they don't like. All this, all these things. And you know, these, this has been around pre-pandemic. It's just, it was easier for employers to kind of get away with it. I suppose that's maybe a little harsh, but this is the, these are the types of things that in OD and kind of people first organizational practices we've been talking about for decades. This isn't, these aren't new concepts.
Jeff Berlin (36:51):
It used to be, you know, the best companies did them, right. It was seen as, almost above and beyond organizational practice. This is, whereas now it's necessary. If a company wants to survive, if they want to recruit and retain people, they need to change with the times, right. They need to adjust their practices and,
Troy Blaser (37:13):
Step up their game kind of.
Jeff Berlin (37:14):
Right. And there’s four primary things that I've been seeing come to the surface. And I won't go into each one of them in detail, but the first is really purpose and meaning. People want to feel like when, they're not wasting their time at work, they want to feel like they're contributing to something they believe in, right. And so, there's this connection between day-to-day work and the overall purpose of the company, of their role, et cetera, people want to feel meaning. Obviously, flexibility and balance, right?
Jeff Berlin (37:47):
With this whole remote work transition that has happened. People have realized I don't want to spend three hours a day in my car commuting.
Troy Blaser (37:54):
I’m right there, yep.
Jeff Berlin (37:55):
I get to spend time with my family, right. All of these things, we've all experienced this. And so, it's really, it's kind of prioritizing individual lives over organizational lives. Everyone, you know, if you asked people, if it came down to it, would you choose your family or your job? I would say 99.5% of people would choose their family. And so, instead of pushing that away, let's celebrate that. And let's meet people where they're at. And as a, from an organizational standpoint, you know, accommodate those unique needs and it's different for every single individual. So, it's treating people as individuals and accommodating those needs to the greatest extent possible. So those, that's two, the third one is people want to be safe.
Jeff Berlin (38:43):
They want to feel physically safe and they want to feel psychologically safe. Physically is obvious with, you know with COVID and kind of safety protocols, right. They want to feel safe going to the office. Psychologically safe is they want to feel like they can be their authentic selves. They want to be real. They want to not have to have, you know, put on the mask to show up to work, even though, you know, they're struggling with this, this, this at home, or even within in the workplace. And this is critical in the context of feedback, right? Because people need to feel, right, this is this risk-benefit analysis. People want to feel like there isn't risk for them being who they are and speaking their truth and being authentic in their perceptions of what's going on in the workplace. And then finally is development in career growth.
Jeff Berlin (39:33):
People want to feel like they're growing. They want to feel like they are, you know, developing new skill sets, establishing new relationships, getting new experiences. And when they do that, they want to know that there's a career path ahead of them. Like that it's actually getting them somewhere. And the whole traditional notions of the corporate career ladder, right. Individual contributor to manager to midlevel man-. Those things are, I mean, I guess they're still real, but they're kind of antiquated in thinking that every individual wants that. And so, it's really working with each person to understand, what does it mean for them to grow in their career? And then helping to accommodate that to the greatest extent possible.
Troy Blaser (40:19):
That's fantastic. That, I really like how you've sort of distilled that down. And all of those resonate with me as things that I've seen in my own career, as I've observed in, you know, in friends and family members all, sort of, those basic needs, things that we want to see, want to have in our lives and in our careers. I really like how you've outlined those things for us. That's fantastic.
Jeff Berlin (40:47):
Yeah. The game is changing. The game is changing significantly, and it's really nice to see people prioritizing, you know, individual well-being and balance and enjoyment, right. Life is short. I know that's so cliche, but life is short. We spend most of our time at work. We might as well feel like we're making the most of that time.
Troy Blaser (41:11):
And I really like that image of the workforce is giving this massive collective feedback to the organizations of, hey things aren't okay for us. And so, we're going to, we're going to show that by, you know, the great resignation or whatever it might be. We're going to give that feedback and say to the organizations, you need to step up the game. You need to change the environment yeah. In a few different ways.
Jeff Berlin (41:40):
Completely agree. And one of the primary things that I noticed in working with leaders throughout this pandemic is there was the leaders that were kind of waiting to go back to normal, right. It was like the rubber band effect. They're like, ah, this is stretching but it's going to go back to normal soon enough. And then there's the leaders that knew that wasn't going to happen and started making strategies immediately to pivot and adapt to the, to the new world. And I found that to be really kind of a dividing point between the success of leaders and maybe sometimes being left behind a little bit because things are not going back to normal.
Troy Blaser (42:25):
Nope. I think it's clear at this point that there will be something new, something different than before the pandemic started. For sure. Well, Jeff, are there other projects, things that you're working on right now that you're excited about, that you're passionate about, that you want to share with us?
Jeff Berlin (42:43):
Yeah. Thanks for asking Troy. I guess two that I'm really excited about. One is leadership, or just coaching in general. I'm working toward my international certification in coaching. I've been doing, you know, coaching for much of my career. And now I'm kind of moving into this more formalized coaching role. And so I'm really excited about that. And then secondarily, I'm working with a dear friend and colleague of mine in Norway, and he and a colleague of his wrote this book about leadership replacement. And we’re in the process right now of translating that book into English.
Troy Blaser (43:24):
Jeff Berlin (43:25):
And it's all about if a leader leaves, you replace the leader and all that comes into that. And unfortunately, that is not often a smooth, effective, efficient process for organizations. And so hopefully you know, this book and this set of tools that we're going to be put together can help organizations with that process that happens all the time.
Troy Blaser (43:48):
That's cool. Does it have a name, the book, leadership replacement?
Jeff Berlin (43:53):
Not yet. But I think it's going to be something along the lines of leader exchange.
Troy Blaser (44:00):
Cool. So now I got to ask, do you speak Norwegian or are you like the English-speaking consultant on the translated text?
Jeff Berlin (44:08):
I very much do not speak Norwegian. Very much do not. I went to graduate school with this gentleman in California, in the bay area. And he is from Oslo and has been working there for the last well, I mean his whole life, but since graduate school and we've kept in touch.
Troy Blaser (44:30):
Oh, that's cool.
Jeff Berlin (44:31):
And so, he's doing the first cut of taking the text, translating it to English, and then I'm taking that English and kind of taking it that next step further.
Troy Blaser (44:42):
Putting, bringing your expertise in not only in the language, but also just in the material, in the content itself. That's cool.
Jeff Berlin (44:48):
Right, right. Yeah, it's really fun, the book was written quite a while ago. And so, it's really an opportunity to not only, as you were saying, kind of translate the verbatim text, but also freshen it up and add new and kind of different ideas to it. You know, based on what's happened over the last however many years since it was originally published. So, it's really an exciting project and I'm hopeful that it'll help a lot of people. I think losing a manager or, you know, a manager leaving is very disruptive for an organization, especially the higher up they go. And then having a new manager come in is potentially highly disruptive. And so, to make that transition as smooth and efficient and effective as possible I think a lot of people will benefit from it.
Troy Blaser (45:38):
That's cool. That sounds exciting.
Jeff Berlin (45:40):
Yeah, thanks for asking.
Troy Blaser (45:41):
You know, if there's one positive thing that has come out of the pandemic, it is the increased ability for us to work and collaborate with people all over the world. You know, the number of clients and partners that I have met now face-to-face via video compared to prior to the pandemic, when it was, you know, a phone call we're talking with just with the audio. That's one thing that I love is this chance to, you know, you and I are having this conversation, but you're in Hawaii and I’m in Utah. And you collaborating with somebody in Norway is fantastic, so.
Jeff Berlin (46:18):
Right, right. It's really, yeah.
Troy Blaser (46:20):
A small silver lining.
Jeff Berlin (46:21):
It's shrinking the world, right. And we are seeing those trends pre-pandemic. And then this is really obviously just kind of tipped the scale. I agree. It brings us all closer in kind strange in a strange way.
Troy Blaser (46:35):
Closer, but physically separated.
Jeff Berlin (46:37):
But physically, I was talking to someone, I was on a zoom the other day, and someone was saying, yeah, I know this person really well. We've actually never met in person. And so, it's a strange thing that there's all these zoom relationships out there, right. And it's funny to think about that over the last couple years, how many new people have you met that you actually have not met in person? It's a very interesting dynamic we're all experiencing these days.
Troy Blaser (47:02):
Well and I'm sure that you've probably had thoughts and a lot of people have thoughts about, okay, well, how does this affect the organization now that we are working remotely, or we are much more virtual, meeting virtually than in person. And what effect does that have? We don't necessarily need to go into that, but.
Jeff Berlin (47:19):
I was about to. No, but in the context of feedback that I think is one of the biggest challenges in this virtual environment is it's hard to build trust and rapport and that solid foundation of a relationship that is conducive to one providing feedback. And so how does one do that in this virtual environment having never met in person? It does, it creates new challenges. It's certainly doable. We just need to kind of shift our mindsets around how to make that happen.
Troy Blaser (47:48):
Yeah. I agree. Well, Jeff, this has been a fantastic conversation. I've really enjoyed the ideas. And just discussing and talking things through with you. If people want to know more, if they want to continue the conversation with you, is that something that you're open to?
Jeff Berlin (48:04):
Oh, warmly welcome. Yeah, I am always happy to connect, talk story around these ideas and many others. So yeah, please.
Troy Blaser (48:13):
Lots of other things. How can they get in touch with you? What would you recommend for people to, what's the best way to get in touch?
Jeff Berlin (48:18):
Yeah, so there's a couple ways. One, you can just connect on LinkedIn, so you can go LinkedIn, Jeff Berlin, Hawaii, I should pop right up, or you can go to my website, jeffberlinconsulting.com. Be careful there's also a very famous bassist by the name Jeff Berlin. And so, I do not play bass. So, if you Google my name, you're probably going to see a lot of bassist references, but you can Google Jeff Berlin, Hawaii and that should track me down.
Troy Blaser (48:48):
Well awesome. Jeff, thanks again for this time, I've thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and I've enjoyed having you as a guest on our podcast today. Thank you.
Jeff Berlin (48:57):
Yeah, likewise, Troy, it's been such a pleasure chatting with you and the pleasure's all mine.