Imagine a workplace where employees are committed, engaged, productive—and safe to express their talents and full humanity—day after day after day. This could be where you work, though it won’t happen without understanding what is getting in the way.
In Season 2 of the Work Revolution Podcast, Debra joins forces with her new co-host lisa Schmidt to challenge the status quo of obsolete workplace practices and ideas about leadership that contribute to inequality and disengagement, and slow the pace of much-needed change and innovation. Get to know Debra and lisa, and hear how they will use their extensive experience, critical insights, humour and smart-ass attitudes to show there is a better way to work and live.
Join the Work Revolution!
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Season 2 Trailer: Join The Work Revolution
Debra and lisa Share Their ‘Why’ For Doing This Podcast, and Discuss What You Can Expect This Season
Welcome back to the show. It’s nice to be back with you after a long hiatus, launching season two. I am excited to be launching a new look, a slightly new format and bringing on my new co-host, who I want to introduce to you, the amazing lisa Schmidt, who is an executive coach, organizational consultant and writer. Welcome, lisa.
Debra, thank you for inviting me. I’m in such good company to be able to do this with you. One of the reasons I’m here is, I’ve been a huge fan of your first season with some of the great conversations that you’ve had with your guests and the questions that you’ve brought about some important aspects of our current working lives. Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this.
I’m so excited to be launching this season. We’re going to tackle some interesting topics and we’re going to be pushing the envelope a little bit. I thought we would start with a little explanation of why we’re doing this and what’s this going to be about. Let’s get right into it… lisa, tell us a little bit about your why for wanting to have some of these conversations.
It’s such a great question because I have quite a few whys but I’ll start by saying this. As many of us, you and our audience, I started working in my teens. My first job was in an ice cream parlor making soft cones. I wasn’t very good at it because it involved twisting with one hand and pulling a lever with the other, but I managed to get through it. It was a summer job… but I didn’t last the summer. One day I got to work 40 minutes late. I was riding my bike from the town I lived in to the one across the river where I worked, and the bridge was up to let a boat through. Even though I left plenty of time to be able to get to work, as I did every day, for this reason, that was out of my control, I was fired.
Did they fire you for being late?
Yes, and I was fourteen years old! Apart from babysitting, this was my first real job. In hindsight, it set the tone for what my working life was going to be from that point on. I do want to say a bit more about that because I’m no longer in the soft cone business, but that kind of boss-employee relationship did lay some groundwork for some later experiences. Let me add a bit to that. I’ve been in the workforce for many years and like many, I worked through high school and university. I worked through getting my Master’s degree and my coaching certification. I worked through marriage and divorce, illness and grief. I gave what I could, my time, energy, skills and labour, both physical and emotional.
As we know, that often falls to, I would say, roles that women are hired for. And, not once in all that time was I asked: “What would allow me to bring my full potential to my work?” Instead, in just about every place I worked, at one point in the year, I was asked what my objectives were for the year. I had to write them all down, one for every quarter, or a number for every quarter. A year later, I was assessed on what I thought I needed to have done the year my performance review was up. It made no sense to me because so many things happened over the course of a year. Yet, I was evaluated on what the “me,” who was a year younger, thought that I would be doing over the course of the year. It didn’t make sense to me.
In addition, not once was I asked what leader or what leadership I needed to bring my talents to the work I was hired to do. Finally, not once was I supported when I took bold moves around approaching senior leaders to be a mentor or even in making career choices. I felt I was either left out on my own or not supported. The only career conversation I ever had was with one boss who asked if my goal was eventually to have her job. As a little aside, a few years later, I did get her job.
We all need to be working towards bringing meaning, respect, integrity and positive impact into our working lives.
Why do I say all this? I say all of this as work or jobs, as we know them, are largely disengaging, deflating and demoralizing. This is speaking from personal experience. You might call it an opinion, but the science and the data back it up. I know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Through this show with you and talking about these things, Debra, I want to be a part of a revolution that we all need to be working towards to bring meaning, respect, integrity and positive impact into our working lives. That’s my why. What about you?
I’m learning new things about you! I’ve got a couple of layers to my why. I’m going to try to unpack them. First of all, I’ve spent most of my career in talent consulting in some way. My first real job was as a recruiter, full-time. I went on to do talent-related work and consulting. Much of that work had been at a time in an organization where there was significant change happening, to the point that people’s jobs are being impacted.
I’ve been there in organizations for that point of change and transition. I’ve also been the person who was first in the room after someone lost their job. Working with hundreds of professionals across many different industries at different levels who have learned that they’ve been restructured or downsized or made redundant—or their work’s going offshore or whatever it is, which has become the norm now.
One of the things I’ve learned through this process, and what I truly believe, is that everybody wants to do good work. Everybody wants to grow. Everybody wants to bring their full selves. Every single person I worked with wanted to, if they hadn’t already discovered what they felt passionate about, or what they thought was the best use of their skills and talents and capabilities, they wanted to discover it. They wanted to be in an environment where they could bring that. They wanted leadership that would help them get to that. They wanted to do work that had meaning, yet I know how frustrated many people are.
From my own experiences as well, I know that in most cases, that’s not happening for people. We don’t want people going through a whole career and never feeling that way. A lot of people feel it may be for a brief period of their career, but it’s hard to keep it going. Since the pandemic, I’ve also learned a lot about inequality. When I look back on how I felt specifically about women in the workplace, and what the workplace would be like for people of my generation and me when I started out, I was optimistic. In fact, I thought that work on gender quality had been largely done, and there would be no obstacles for my generation because we’d already conquered that or the women before me had. I wouldn’t be able to take credit for it, obviously.
Now, I’ve realized by being an observer of the data and the science coming out, that’s not the case at all. In fact, there has been very little progress relative to where we should be in that amount of time. That’s a big why for me. I think that it needs to change. I also think given all of what we’ve learned from the pandemic and the times that we’re moving into, we’re moving into a time of great uncertainty. The way we are living and working, we know now, again, if you’re following the science, it’s not sustainable.
That means we need some change agility, and technology is changing so rapidly. You and I both have parents of a certain vintage who are helping out with things. We know the vast difference between where they are with technology and for example, where my kids are. The pace of change is so fast for people. I’m not even sure that it’s appropriate for our human brains at this point. A lot of changes are coming and a lot of change needs to happen. In order to go forward in the best way possible, we need great leadership. We need conscientious leaders. We need leaders who want to do the right thing—and can listen. I think that’s important, and leadership is going to be under a real microscope. Science, again is bringing so much to bear in terms of how do we motivate people? How do we incentivize them, and help them to do their best work?
I guess what I’m saying is I think the future of work is going to be a time of significant disruption. The last thing I’ll say is that I think we have a real imbalance right now in terms of the gender piece. When I talk about that, what I’m saying is that we need more appreciation and an understanding of the value that the feminine brings. When I talk about gender equality, I’m not even necessarily talking about more vaginas and chairs. I’m talking about a real understanding and appreciation of what this imbalance has meant and what the value is in all of those more feminine aspects, whether it’s empathy and caring… There’s a place for that in business, and it is missing. It is desperately needed.
The future of work is going to be a time of significant disruption.
I could not agree more. What’s going to be fantastic about the season coming up is we’re going to get right in there with all kinds of ideas. We’re going to be bringing information. We’re going to be bringing guests. We’re going to be having some of the conversations that need to be had, and people are starting to learn to have. Hopefully, we’ll help seed some of those conversations in organizations. The other thing that we’ll be doing is, in addition to releasing two episodes every month, we’re going to have a very brief Ask Us Anything. We’re going to invite our audience to bring us questions, whether it’s a thorny career-related issue, an interpersonal dynamic or a conflict issue.
Questions about whether there are certain things you should share, what vulnerability means in the workplace, we’re happy to use your names or be anonymous, but interested in helping people have the conversations at least first with themselves and perhaps with others that are going to advance them. Hopefully, have them avoid some of the more painful aspects of work that you and I have either both experienced or supported other people through. There is a lot coming in the months ahead. I, again, couldn’t be more thrilled to work on this than I am with you.
I’m excited to bring our audience into this and involve them and hear what’s going on for people and see if we can be of help along the way. That’s it for now. Stay tuned for episode one coming soon.