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Stronger Organizations and Better People: The Critical Shift in Leadership Training

In Episode 161 of Brandon Hall’s podcast on HCMx Radio, COO Rachel Cooke talks with Allen Comm CEO, Ron Zamir, and Healthy Companies CEO, Bob Rosen as they explore the evolution and expansion of health, leadership training and development, and social consciousness in the workplace.

Of course, the spaces we consider our workplaces look different these days. Leaders and employees are connecting remotely from living rooms and home offices instead of using conference rooms. Dress shoes are collecting dust while kids and pets periodically dart across virtual meeting screens.

Redefining Organizational Health

Cooke, Zamir, and Rosen jump in as the podcast begins, each noting essential adjustments their companies have made to meet unparalleled exigencies of political, social, medical, and financial disruption. According to Rosen, some of the most significant include the changes to health awareness leadership development now requires, placing “more emphasis on the emotional and social muscle of leaders to connect with their lead people” than ever before.

Rosen goes on to point out how companies’ understanding of wellness has fundamentally shifted “from a program that people go to” to “a business and organizational strategy for the health of the organization.” Building healthy leaders and healthy cultures requires a grounded approach to leadership development training that Rosen’s expert team has studied, practiced, and taught for over 30 years. His data indicates clearly that corporate America is evolving to encompass the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, vocational, and even spiritual health of its people. “We see people showing up as whole people,” Rosen explains, “and we need to connect with them as whole people.”

corporate America is evolving to encompass the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, vocational, and even spiritual health of its people.

A Surprising Way Leaders Lose Credibility, and How to Avoid It

Research supporting the need for vulnerability in leadership training and development has gained immense traction in recent years. Still, it can be uncomfortable for some to replace the long-held hierarchical perception that leaders must separate themselves from those they manage.

Allen Comm’s Zamir, who has expertly piloted technological corporate training and development services for decades, offers a poignant reality check to any lingering skeptics. If leaders “have a hard time expressing what’s in their heart[s],” he says, “and they have a hard time relating to social injustice, or to grief, or to anxiety, they are going to not just lose credibility as leaders, they’re going to impact how that company can even talk about its culture and its value to employees.”

It sounds counterintuitive, but leaders who normalize vulnerability might be surprised to discover that sharing discomfort doesn’t undermine relationships with their employees. “In fact,” Zamir explains, “growing a crop of leaders who know how to feel vulnerable is an asset.”

Demonstrating this skill himself, Zamir admits that he used to think resilience meant acting strong and sure of himself.  Not anymore. “I’m finding that I get more done by being vulnerable,” he explains. “It’s easier on a Zoom call to say, ‘I just had a conversation with a neighbor who lost his job—and this is how it made me feel.’ In the past I would never do that… There is an opportunity for us to become better human beings, which of course is always our objective—but also better leaders and stewards of our companies’ assets—which are our people.”

Consciousness as Awareness in Action

At the core of developing authentic connections and improving organizational health is an opportunity to examine the intention behind each business practice. Whether reviewing models for compliance training or addressing a healthy leaders’ social responsibility, Rosen says “it’s time to sit with some difficult questions. Are you getting real with people? Are you really talking honestly about what’s working and not working? Are you comfortable with being uncomfortable? Do you know the difference between facts and assumptions?”

He encourages leaders to reflect on their intentions. “We talk about diversity and inclusion and equity, but what’s behind that? You need people who see themselves as equal to other people as human beings. They’re able to confront and be vulnerable as they question their biases and assumptions. It all goes back to who you are, how you look at yourself, and how you look at the outside world.”

We talk about diversity and inclusion and equity, but what’s behind that?

After taking some time to honestly answer these questions, Rosen suggests digging deep for a willingness to change. Genuine reflection is a helpful catalyst, but Cooke thoughtfully clarifies, “Consciousness goes beyond self-awareness.” Zamir nods as Rosen adds a simple, but important, distinction: “We see consciousness as awareness in action.”

Creating a Better Future

Likewise, Zamir believes that it is incumbent for executives and leaders, as well as those who want to become leaders, to take an honest inventory of how they are defining and encouraging success within their organizations, not by past metrics, but in looking ahead. He predicts, “being assertive and not being afraid to change is going to be a critical component of what we will see as a successful company” in decades to come.

Change can seem daunting, but the podcast host and her guests are optimistic. They recognize that forward-facing companies view consciousness as an opportunity to create an even better future, and there is hope and opportunity when you step into “the ability to make change for the good,” Cooke declares.

Grounding corporate culture in conscious equity, empathy, resilience, and vulnerability improves every aspect of our organizational and personal health. At the end of the day, it starts with each of us having the courage to, as Cooke expresses, “react as humanely and kindly as possible” and know that we can make positive change.