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ET-058: Boldy Inclusive Leadership built on a Foundation of Psychological Safety

With Ms. Minette Norman

ET-058: A conversation with Ms. Minette Norman

and your host Wayne Brown on August 01, 2023

Episode notes: A conversation with Ms. Minette Norman

Hello and welcome to the ET Project. I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and as usual, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET.

And yes, this is week five, and I’m still doing the rounds in the USA with today’s guest, Ms. Minette Norman, sitting in Fairfax, California. And as a point of reference, that’s a little north of Silicon Valley. Minette Norman is an author, speaker and leadership consultant who previously spent decades leading global technical teams in the software industry. Minette has extensive experience in leading internationally distributed teams and believes that when groups embrace diversity in all its forms, breakthroughs emerge and innovation accelerates. Before branching out on her own consultancy business, Minette was Vice President of Engineering Practice at Autodesk.

Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…

“…I did have a very unexpected career and it was unexpected to me as well as to people who knew me. Because what I majored in in university was drama and French. I had a double major. What I really wanted to do when I got out of school was become a professional actor, which was why the drama major. I had done acting through high school and university and went to New York thinking that’s what I would do, I would make it big in theater. And realized very quickly what a rough life that is, what a hard life that is and how much rejection is involved in attempting to be an actor. You hear, “No, no, no, you’re not right.” And honestly, that was really hard for me to hear. And so I fell back on that second degree, the French degree, to find work when I was living in New York City…”

Today’s Guest: MS. MINETTE NORMAN

Responsible for influencing more than 3,500 engineers around the globe, she focused on state-of-the-art engineering practices while nurturing a collaborative and inclusive culture.

Minette is a keynote speaker on topics of inclusive leadership, Psychological Safety, collaborative teams and empathy. Named in 2017 as one of the most influential women in Bay Area Business by the San Francisco Business Times, and as the business role model of the year in 2018, Women in IT Silicon Valley Awards.

Minette is a recognized leader with a unique perspective. She’s the co-author of The Psychological Safety Playbook: Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human. By the way, it’s a great book for anyone wanting to get hands-on with practicing Psychological Safety.

Her second book, Boldly Inclusive Leader, will be published in August this year, 2023. Yes, that’s about one to two weeks away, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Minette holds degrees in Drama and French from Tufts University and studied in the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris.

Final words from Minette:

“…So for me, it’s just a huge education constantly of how can I try to get like a team in Asia to feel free asking me questions. And honestly, what I did is I kept showing up. I went to each office all the time, I let people get to know me. I had, I literally had an open door when I would go to Singapore or China, I just had office hours and people would come and have one-on-ones with me.

What I believe, no matter what the culture is. If you show up as a human being and you’re curious to learn from others, and you care about them, like, “I really wanna get to know you,” then people start to feel more comfortable with you. And they go, “Oh Minette’s not up on some leadership pedestal, she’s just a human being.” And I can have a real conversation with her.

And that’s how you establish trust. That’s how you build psychologically safe and inclusive environments, but it doesn’t happen the first time you show up there. The first time I go to China or the first time I go to Singapore, everyone’s gonna be very careful with me. The fifth or the sixth time I show up, it’s gonna be different. And so that’s what I just kept doing…”

[music]

0:00:02.7 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. And yes, this is week five, and I’m still doing the rounds in the USA with today’s guest, Ms. Minette Norman, sitting in Fairfax, California. And as a point of reference, that’s a little north of Silicon Valley. Minette Norman is an author, speaker and leadership consultant who previously spent decades leading global technical teams in the software industry. Minette has extensive experience in leading internationally distributed teams and believes that when groups embrace diversity in all its forms, breakthroughs emerge and innovation accelerates. Before branching out on her own consultancy business, Minette was Vice President of Engineering Practice at Autodesk. Responsible for influencing more than 3,500 engineers around the globe, she focused on state-of-the-art engineering practices while nurturing a collaborative and inclusive culture.

0:01:08.4 WB: Minette is a keynote speaker on topics of inclusive leadership, Psychological Safety, collaborative teams and empathy. Named in 2017 as one of the most influential women in Bay Area Business by the San Francisco Business Times, and as the business role model of the year in 2018, Women in IT Silicon Valley Awards. Minette is a recognized leader with a unique perspective. She’s the co-author of The Psychological Safety Playbook: Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human. By the way, it’s a great book for anyone wanting to get hands-on with practicing Psychological Safety. Her second book, Boldly Inclusive Leader, will be published in August this year, 2023. Yes, that’s about one to two weeks away, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Minette holds degrees in Drama and French from Tufts University and studied in the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. With that Team ET, I invite you to join us for this conversation with our guest, Ms. Minette Norman, in the episode titled, Boldly Inclusive Leader: Built on a Foundation of Psychological Safety.

0:02:20.0 Intro: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.

0:02:38.0 WB: All right, well, welcome back team ET. Another fantastic day ahead of us. And as usual, you probably get tired of me saying this, but we have an incredible guest who’s agreed to join us today and share her insights through her career as a leader and talk about what she’s doing now. Essentially what we’re going to be looking at is everyday behavioral changes that you and I as leaders can make to become even better and more inclusive. And of course, that’s going to mean we’re gonna be talking about the AI Envy, I guess, Psychological Safety, perhaps even get to the topic of empathy. And along the way, there’s a couple of great books that our guest has written that we’re going to throw in for, to look at the good and the bad examples of all of these things. So with that, I’d love to welcome our guest, Minette Norman, welcome to the ET Project. Minette, great to have you here with us today.

0:03:38.4 Minette Norman: Thank you so much for inviting me, Wayne. I’m happy to be here.

0:03:40.8 WB: I’d love to kick off just by asking what’s got you excited about life at the moment in your world?

0:03:47.7 MN: What I would say is getting me excited about life is… Well, one, it’s summer, it’s beautiful. The sun is out, so that’s always good. But two, what I am noticing is how much appetite there is to really dive into the topics of what does it mean to lead today, and what do we need to do differently? And I do think that something is shifting and that there’s an openness to really exploring new models of leadership. So that is giving me hope and excitement and optimism.

0:04:18.2 WB: Your vision is correct. As I said, you’ve got a great backstory and I think our listeners would really enjoy hearing it. If you don’t mind, maybe going back to what you majored in to start with and then what transition within your career.

0:04:35.1 MN: Certainly, I did have a very unexpected career and it was unexpected to me as well as to people who knew me. Because what I majored in in university was drama and French. I had a double major. What I really wanted to do when I got out of school was become a professional actor, which was why the drama major. I had done acting through high school and university and went to New York thinking that’s what I would do, I would make it big in theater. And realized very quickly what a rough life that is, what a hard life that is and how much rejection is involved in attempting to be an actor. You hear, “No, no, no, you’re not right.” And honestly, that was really hard for me to hear. And so I fell back on that second degree, the French degree, to find work when I was living in New York City.

0:05:18.7 MN: And one of the pivotal jobs that I got was that I got a job working for the French Trade Commission in the mid 1980s. And the reason it was so pivotal was that it was a time that the office was transitioning from having typewriters on desks to having IBM PCs on desks. So that sort of gives you a sense of what was going on in the mid 80s. And so suddenly I found myself with an IBM PC on my desk, and I started learning what you do and how you can use this very primitive DOS-based software. And I found I was a quick study and I loved it. And what I was especially good at was translating this technical speak into something that the other people could understand. Because a lot of people who were working in the office with me were quite intimidated by these new computers.

0:06:09.6 MN: And so I just explained it and said like, “This is what you do, step by step.” I would even write out instructions. And that’s what led me into my career in software. So I ended up spending 30 years in the software industry. And what happened was I decided to leave New York after about five years there, moved to California where I had grown up. And this is now the end of the 1980s, and I decided to apply to software companies because a friend gave me a great idea and he said, “You would be a good technical writer.” And I didn’t really even know what that meant, but he said, “Well, you can explain things well, you can write well and you seem to be adept at learning technology.” And so that’s exactly what I did. I applied to the five software companies I could find at the time in the San Francisco Bay area, and one of them was Adobe.

0:06:58.7 MN: And Adobe hired me in 1989. And my first assignment was to write the Photoshop version 1.0 tutorial. It was the very early days of Adobe, I think I was employee number 256 or something like that. So that’s how I got my start. And then I’ll fast forward because I did spend 30 years in the industry and I progressed. For 10 years I actually stayed as an individual contributor ’cause I really loved writing and learning technology and talking to engineers and picking their brain and making sure I fully understood things. But then around the 10 year mark… I moved, by the way, from Adobe to several companies. I worked for five different companies in 10 years. And then in that 10th year in 1999, I ended up at Autodesk and I was hired as a technical writer, but my manager very quickly said to me, “Minette, you know, first of all, I think you’d be a fabulous manager, and I need a manager because I have too many direct reports. Would you manage a team of writers?”

0:08:02.8 MN: And honestly, Wayne, I was initially really reticent and hesitant because I had never pictured myself as a manager or a leader. I just thought about what was right in front of me. And so I resisted and she twisted my arm and I became a manager. And that was so interesting, and again, a pivotal moment for me because I realized, oh, I thought management. I didn’t know what I thought of management, but I didn’t realize how fascinating, how totally fascinating human beings are. And how you can’t manage one person the same way you manage the next because everyone’s so different. And so I just got really enamored of being a great manager and then taking on bigger and bigger roles. And so I spent the next 20 years of my career literally taking on larger and larger management roles within the same company.

0:08:50.0 MN: I ended up staying at Autodesk for 20 years. And the reason I stayed was that I kept moving into new things and learning new things. And every time I’d get bored, I would get a new job within the company. And so I’ll fast forward to the very end of my time in tech, which was the last five years, I ended up in a very improbable role. I ended up as VP of engineering for Autodesk, and I was in charge of transforming how the company developed software. And the company was about 10,000 people. There were about 3,500 people in the engineering job families, and I had about a thousand of them on my org chart and I had to influence the other 2,500. And I was in charge of really transforming how things worked and how we worked together, and what I realized is there are some technical challenges here.

0:09:41.1 MN: We need to get on the same tools, and we need to use modern best practices as a SaaS software company. But the bigger challenges were about human behavior and culture and interaction. Because people didn’t work together, people worked separately, in silos. Each product team worked completely differently from the next. And we were trying to get people to collaborate and produce software that looked and felt like it came from the same company as opposed to lots of different companies. And so I just started getting myself an education in collaboration and communication, and I came across the topic of Psychological Safety and diversity and inclusion and empathy, and all these topics that were not at the time really being talked about in the company and in general in the tech industry.

0:10:32.8 MN: So I was a little bit early. Now these things are talked about a lot, but when I was doing this, I was like the first person to talk about empathy in the company and the first person to share the term Psychological Safety. So I was just reading and reading and reading. And ultimately, I did that job for five years and I can’t say I fixed everything. I made some progress, we made some good progress. But in 2019, we had a leadership change. I realized it was time for me to go. I’d had a fabulous career, I needed to do something different. And I took some time out to think about what was important to me. And I realized, well, you know, I’ve spent 20 years in leadership and I have learned so much and I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish I knew the things 20 years ago that I know now. Because it took me that long to learn so much of this. And there are leaders managing teams of people who don’t know this and who need help and who have the best intentions, but have no clue. So maybe I can help. And so I decided to venture out on my own as a consultant and speaker and now an author, and really help teams and leaders be more inclusive and let everyone do their best work and thrive.

0:11:42.7 WB: It’s an incredible story and congratulations on the career by the way. It sounds incredible. And you have a mission where you’re looking to transform the world of work to be more inclusive and more human. You mentioned also that you worked for a French company. I read somewhere that you studied in Paris. Did I read that correct?

0:12:05.6 MN: I did. I did. I spent my junior year of university living in Paris and taking all my classes in French. And I was very lucky because I had this amazing high school curriculum. So I was pretty fluent in French even when I got out of high school. And so when I lived there I was quite fluent and could just study in French, which was really fun.

0:12:26.0 WB: What are you doing now? As you mentioned, you just released a book and you’ve got another one coming up in August, but what are you doing now with your clients? What sort of clients are you working with?

0:12:38.6 MN: Well, it’s very interesting you ask that. So yes, the book that I co-wrote with Karolin Helbig, the Psychological Safety Playbook, subtitle, Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human, came out in February. So it’s been out what, like four months now. And it’s very interesting because people have found the book all over the world. I was just talking to someone yesterday in Thailand who is bringing me in to do some work with them, the kind of work that I’m doing and Karolin is doing and sometimes we do it together and sometimes we do it separately, is a typical, typical engagement, would be like, come in and do an overview, whether a keynote or a workshop on what is Psychological Safety, very briefly, because people pretty much have read about it. The gap that we’re trying to fill is what do you do about it? What can you do to increase the level of Psychological Safety in the teams that you lead and the teams that you’re a part of?

0:13:33.4 MN: So our book is really a hands-on manual, a how to, because we identified that that was just lacking in all the literature we could find on Psychological Safety. So we give tips, our book has 25 ideas in it. So in a typical engagement, we’ll come in and talk about maybe five of those and do a little bit of a deep dive into five of the 25 ideas that are in the book. And then what I typically like to do, because you and I both know this, you could give a talk, you can give a workshop and lots of enthusiasm in the moment, and then if you don’t practice this, it all falls by the wayside and we go back into our bad habits, right? And so what I believe and what my co-author Karolin believes is that in order to build these psychologically safe, inclusive environments, you need to practice these behaviors every single day.

0:14:23.4 MN: And so what I like to do with my clients is, yes, I’ll come in and give you a workshop or a talk, and then let’s follow up, whether it’s a month later or a couple months later. And let’s talk. So I just recently… I work primarily with tech companies, but not exclusively. And that’s just because of who knows me, people know me in the tech industry more. But for example, I was working with a tech company and typically what happens, it’s not necessarily like a big company, it’s not necessarily the C staff that brings me in, but it’s typically an executive who wants some help with their division. And so I was working with a senior executive in a tech company recently. She has a big team and she brought me in for a talk. And then we did a follow-up session where it was really just a conversation of, “Okay, you’ve all learned the basics. Now, what’s hard? What are you struggling with? What do you still have questions about?”

0:15:13.7 MN: And getting them to talk to one another I think is really useful. Because here’s an example. One of the topics in the book is talking about failure and how in order to really create Psychological Safety, we need to talk more openly about failure and de-stigmatize it, so we can learn more quickly from our things that go badly. And this team that I was working with was in charge of tax. So tax is an area where they have low tolerance for failure, right? And so they were really struggling with that idea. And so we explored that together and like, “Okay, we don’t wanna have a massive failure. We don’t want you to have to re-report earnings, right? This would be a disaster.” But of course, the VP said, of course we have mistakes in our spreadsheets.

0:15:56.8 MN: We make mistakes all the time. How can we talk more openly about these things? Learn from them, prevent the bigger failures. And so that was the conversation we ended up having. I find those conversations very impactful because they’re not theoretical, they’re about the day-to-day work that my clients are facing. And so that’s the kind of work I like to do. So yeah, typically it starts with some kind of an overview and here are some ideas I’m gonna offer you, now come back to me and let’s have more conversations and let’s explore more deeply. And so that’s the kind of work I like to do. I like to go in and not just have a one-time thing, but ongoing work so we can really see progress.

0:16:38.6 WB: Right. You have some incredible endorsements at the beginning of the book. I had the opportunity to read through the first chapter that you make available, Seth Gordon, Michael Bungay Stanier, and even Amy Edmondson, the mother, if you like, of Psychological Safety. She may not appreciate me saying that, but through her research she’s made the topic so well known, as you mentioned. And as you said, a lot of people have heard about Psychological Safety. They may not really understand or grasp the whole concept. What I’m wondering is what was the catalyst for you and your co-author to actually write the book in the first place?

0:17:22.8 MN: Well, it all started with Amy Edmondson, honestly. And yes, she was so supportive of the book. But what happened was Karolin and I had never met. Karolin is from Germany, I’m from California. And we signed up for a class, and the class was based on Amy Edmondson’s work, and it was to get certified in running Psychological Safety assessments based on her research. So it’s called the Fearless Organization Scan, is what the certification is. So Karolin and I met in this class and we both are leadership consultants, and we had high hopes that we would come out of the class with all sorts of practical material that we could then share with our clients. So we took the class, we got the certification, and basically what we learned is how to run the assessment and have a conversation afterwards.

0:18:10.4 MN: And we both were not satisfied because we were like, “Now what? The question is now what?” You run an assessment, you say, yes, we need to improve, now what do we do? So I actually was on a different podcast at the time and Karolin tuned into it and she heard me say, “There’s a lack of practical information about Psychological Safety.” So she sent me an email and she said in the subject line, which I love, was “Crazy idea.” And she said, “I heard you say there’s a lack of practical information about Psychological Safety. Here’s my crazy idea. What if you and I put our heads and our hearts and our experience together, and we wrote something?” So she didn’t say write a book.

0:18:53.9 MN: What we initially thought was, what if we just wrote a pamphlet type of thing that we could use for our clients. That was the original idea. Like, “Oh, she’s doing her work, I’m doing my work. We’ll do something together.” And then what happened that was really quite interesting as we drafted, we brainstormed, we wrote it. We’ve never met face-to-face, we did it all virtually, and we wrote it pretty quickly. And as you’ve seen it, you may not have seen but it’s a small book, it’s by design. We had this idea of writing something as short as possible that is still useful. So, we wrote it and we thought, “Well, we’ll just self-publish this little brochure.” I ended up talking to someone I know at the Speakers Bureau that represents me, The Lavin Agency. So the head of Talent, Charles Yao, I said, “Well, hold on a second. I don’t think you can just self-publish this thing. I think you need to find a really good publisher.”

0:19:46.3 MN: He introduced me to Jesse Finkelstein, the co-founder of Page Two Books, and they were really interested in it. They’re a hybrid publisher. So we ended up publishing this lovely book. And one of the things, so you mentioned Amy, the mother of Psychological Safety. Well, the premier researcher, maybe that’s a good one. She might like that better, but… [laughter] I don’t know her personally although we’ve exchanged a lot of emails. But what we felt was, it’s really important for us to make sure that Amy Edmondson will endorse this book because she is so well known. And anyone who thinks about Psychological Safety goes to her work and goes to her book, The Fearless Organization. So we contacted her, this was in late 2021 and said, “We’ve written this, we think it really complements your work, and would you be willing to read it?” And she was so generous and he said, “I’d be delighted to.” And then she read it and she wrote us the sweetest email that says, “I love it. It’s fabulous. What can I do to help?”

0:20:44.5 MN: And so we said, “Well, could you endorse it?” And so she did, and that’s sort of the history of how it came to be. I remember when we read her book, we re-read her book after taking that class, she has a chapter called The Leader’s Tool Kit, which is one of the last chapters of The Fearless Organization. And I sort of opened that book thinking that’s where all the practical information is, that’s where it will be. And she hints at, I mean, it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it doesn’t go far enough to give you the how-to. And so we thought, let’s try to develop a manual, basically a how-to, and that’s how it came to be.

0:21:20.7 WB: Just looking at the layout I love it. As you said it’s very succinct, but it is the how-to manual. So you break it into five plays and each play has five areas.

0:21:34.6 MN: That’s right.

0:21:35.8 WB: Now it’s fantastic, you have the moves that you need to make in the way, and you outline those, and then you ask the question, “So why try it, how to do it?” And then you give a very short summary about it. And the graphics is great. So the whole book, I highly endorse. Of course, you have many famous people endorsing it, but I hardly endorsed…

0:22:00.3 MN: We’ll add Wayne Brown to the endorsements, yes.

0:22:01.6 WB: Please, please, put me in the book. No, I love it. I also teach Psychological Safety, I don’t have the certification like you do, but the assessment, I definitely see the need for this books and encourage everyone that’s listening, if you are interested in introducing Psychological Safety, as you should be, as a leader into your groups, your teams, then this book is a must have to be honest. It is something, it should sit on your shelf, that you refer to daily, almost. I would suggest, it goes through great topics in there. I wanna compliment you and say two books in one year, releasing two books in one year, I’ve never met or spoken with anyone that’s done that. That’s a huge achievement. The second one is coming out in August, but incredible. So let’s jump straight into the second one because that will sort of open the door to the rest of our discussion, I guess. It’s called Boldly Inclusive Leader. Would you like to intro the book, what’s it all about?

0:23:07.1 MN: Certainly. And it may be crazy, may be ill-advised to be doing two books in one year, and it wasn’t really the plan, I will tell you that. The Boldly Inclusive Leader was a book I was working on in my head for about five years before I met Karolin, before we took the certification program, when I was still at Autodesk. I felt like there’s a book in me and it’s about leadership and it’s about being more inclusive, and I actually wrote an outline in 2019. Yeah, in 2019. And I wasn’t quite ready to write it, and so it went on the back burner. And then I met Karolin and we wrote the playbook, which as I said, is quite short. And when I finished the work with her on getting that drafted and off to the publisher for editing, I felt like, now I think I’m ready to write this other book. So really I went straight into writing it and I was ready, and The Boldly Inclusive Leader is a bigger book. It’s definitely like, if you think of word counts, it might just be helpful to think of it in that way, so that The Psychological Safety Playbook is only 15,000 words. It’s like two hours on an audio book.

0:24:13.4 MN: Whereas the Boldly Inclusive Leader is 55,000 words, so it’s more of a full-length book. But I’ve tried really hard, ’cause I read… Actually, I read and put down so many business books. I tried to make it completely compelling, so you’d read to the end, ’cause there are many business books that I don’t finish because there’s so much repetition and so much filler. So what I did in this book, and the reason I wrote it was that I feel like, as I said to you, people don’t know how to lead. With the best of intentions, we’re all trying to figure it out. So I thought, “What if I took everything I’ve learned and learned from others as well.” It’s not just my own personal learning but reading and classes and all of that, and put it into what I can make as succinct a book as possible, but fill it with stories. Because I believe that’s how we connect as human beings is through real life stories as opposed to theory.

0:25:06.3 MN: And so I try to back everything up with research, but most of it, every chapter is full of stories. And Psychological Safety, this is the relationship, I think they’re very closely linked. Psychological Safety is a chapter within the book, and to me, Psychological Safety is completely foundational to an inclusive culture. Because if people don’t feel safe to show up as themselves, as different from others, if they don’t feel safe to speak up and share their ideas and their unique perspectives, you do not get to inclusion and belonging. And so to me, that’s very foundational. So the book is really about what every manager and every leader can do individually to create those cultures. And we have to start with our own behavior. We can’t say all of you behave this way until we really look deeply at our own behavior and become very self-aware of all of our interactions and how we show up as leaders. And the tone were setting, and what we encourage and what we tolerate and what we punish and what we ignore, all of these things are setting the culture and the tone for the organization. So I dive into how do we show up as leaders every day, and that can be like one-on-one conversation, or it can be in a team meeting, or it can be in an all hands, in all of those places. It’s so important for us to show up open-minded, human, inclusive, I don’t have all the answers.

0:26:37.1 WB: Yeah. One of the first stories that I read in chapter one I think it was… You have an example in there of a CEO who has an Ask Me Anything session with his team or her team. And the first question that person gets, they don’t like and they shut it down. And then to the point of Psychological Safety, it just destroys that whole fabric, trust throughout organization I guess or whoever was in that meeting. So it can be so difficult to build, it’s so easy to destroy. And I think that’s a key message for everybody listening. These things are not easy. They say I’m simple, of course, when we talk about them, but they’re not easy. And you work hard to put it in place, and therefore you have to be intentional as you say, about your actions, about your behavior. And yeah, you have to learn how to be able to do that and you give some great examples. I think in this case, you said, only if they had paused for a moment and breathe, maybe their brain would have caught up with their emotion and they could have responded more effectively. But in that spur of the moment reaction, they probably undid all the great work that they’ve done in the lead-up. So I think it’s a great example. And then you go on and you give your own example. The book, for me, I’m captivated, after the first chapter, can’t wait for it to be published.

0:28:14.6 MN: Oh, good.

0:28:16.2 WB: It also then gives your insights at the end of each chapter, about what you can do. It says, again, a little, not a deep how-to, but it gives you the insights and then it gives you some suggestions to about what you could do to improve your own leadership.

0:28:34.6 MN: I’m glad you found that story compelling. It’s so true. I mean, honestly, I bring it up a couple of times in the book, I have a chapter on it, I believe, about our reactions as managers and how important it is to be aware of how we respond. Because the whole thing about stimulus and response, we don’t have to respond to that defensive moment where we feel the fight, flight, freeze. We can pause, and honestly, I was really bad at that for many, many years. And I would be that leader or even just that individual who would snap at someone, and I realized this is so destructive. It really can destroy morale, it can destroy relationships. And if we can become aware of it, we can really transform things because it is as simple, it does sound very simple, but it takes practice. It is as simple as a pause. And a pause can be so powerful, ’cause then that same CEO who snapped at the individual who was brave enough to ask the question, they could have just said, “Thank you so much for that question. I don’t even have a great answer, but can I get back to you?” And in that moment, everyone would have felt good, right? Instead of shame or embarrassment or humiliation, or any of those things that might have happened.

0:29:52.4 WB: And I love as you continue on with that story, the consequences of that single action as you identify it, probably there are other people ready to ask their own questions, who would’ve all of a sudden started to second guess.

0:30:09.3 MN: Exactly.

0:30:09.3 WB: “Wow. I think I didn’t like the way that answer came back, maybe I won’t ask my question now.” Right? So all of a sudden you shot the conversation there, you shut the transparency, the openness, the vulnerability is all gone. It’s destroyed in that instant. And if people leading could just pause long enough to realize the bigger picture and understand what they’re doing. So I think it’s such a powerful message and a great way to open the book. So yeah, very, very…

0:30:41.8 MN: Thank you.

0:30:42.5 WB: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, what are you hoping people take away from the work itself? What’s the overarching message of it?

0:30:52.9 MN: What I am hoping is that people who read this book, and I hope many, many do, because I really feel like all leaders, whether you’re starting out as a first time manager or you’re a long time CEO, I really think everyone can benefit from it. And my big hope is that people, they find something in it, they don’t have to embrace every single thing in the book. But they find something in it and they understand that, oh, small changes, small behavioral changes can have a big impact, and I’m willing as an individual to invest in this. And I’m willing to go in on it and say, “Yeah, I’m not gonna get it right every day, but I’m gonna practice and I will be a better leader as a result.

0:31:32.0 MN: I will lead a much more healthy organization.” People here, this is my hope because honestly, people are suffering so much at work, and if you read any of the stats and then all these surveys that… There have been a lot of studies that have come out, whether it’s the state of workplace empathy or the recent Gallup study. Employees are suffering, and they are suffering because of bad managers. That’s the top reason people are… I don’t even like the word quiet quitting, but the idea that they’re not engaged in work, they’re de-motivated, they are experiencing depression and trauma and mental health issues. Much of this is because of poor management. So my hope is that people will start to say, “I need to do something, I need to look at my own behavior. Let’s dive into Minette’s book and see what I might learn.” So that’s my hope.

0:32:22.1 WB: Fantastic. You have a statement about, you never wanna work for toxic bully again. What was your experience in that area?

0:32:33.6 MN: I did work for a bully. And it was very insidious because I learned a lot about bullying after the fact. I didn’t know much about bullying. And honestly we don’t… I include a little bit about bullying in the book because I was so ignorant about what bullying is. And I don’t know in other parts of the world, but in the US, for example, bullying… There’s no one definition, first of all, but second of all, it’s not illegal the way like sexual harassment is or other kinds of harassment. Those are clearly violations and they’re illegal. Bullying is not illegal. So it’s this gray area. And what happened was I got a manager who at first seemed really sweet and nice, and then just started little by little, making me doubt… First it started, he made me doubt myself. He told me that I didn’t deserve to be a VP when I was a VP. And then he started stripping away my responsibilities one by one until… I had this huge job, and then suddenly I had this small job, and then he started berating me in public. In a really, really destructive way, actually telling, putting his hand in my face in a meeting and saying, “Stop saying anything, stop speaking.”

0:33:42.2 MN: Like literally silencing me. And other people witnessed it. So the interesting thing about bullying that I learned is… So first of all, I went into the spiral of self-doubt, so you heard about my amazing career, this was in the last years of my career, I felt like I didn’t believe any of my success. He made me doubt all of my successes, he made me doubt my reputation. And I was truly, truly devastated, and what I learned about bullying after the fact was that bullying, just the way that Psychological Safety example affected the other people in the room, so does bullying. So not only was I bullied, but everyone around me witnessed the bullying. And so they were scared and they were holding back and they were like, “I’m not gonna put my neck out there. Look, what just happened to Minette.”

0:34:32.3 MN: And it was very, very devastating. And I ended up leaving the company because of it. And I found this report, it is called The State of Workplace Bullying, and it comes out every year in the US, and it turns out the majority of victims of bullying leave their jobs or are forced out of their jobs. It’s not usually the perpetrator who loses their job, it’s the victim. And I was one of them. And honestly, Wayne, I would say like… I left the company in August of 2019, and it took me a full six months to kinda get my mojo back and feel like, “Oh, I actually did accomplish a lot in that long career, and I do have things to be proud of, and people do respect me.” ‘Cause I had been destroyed honestly, totally destroyed.

0:35:22.2 WB: I know in your role, you look after teams in different companies. I’m wondering what was your experience, if we come now back to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, what was your experience with the different cultural language challenges and how to lead through that?

0:35:48.4 MN: That’s such a huge question and something I love. I mean, I did, I led international teams for a couple of decades, and I had teams in North America, Europe and Asia. And the largest teams that I led were in Europe, in China, and Singapore, and then I had people in smatterings of other countries. I had people in Switzerland, in France, etcetera. Well, what I learned was, first of all, I got a big education in different cultures, and the fact that communication is so different in different cultures. And how in a lot of western cultures, but even nuances in western cultures were much more direct, direct versus indirect. And going to Asia and learning a whole new way of interacting, and even just like how relationships are so important before you get down to business and things like doing business in China or Japan. To me, it was like people in the US in general, and I blame Americans for this, I don’t know how this is in other parts of the world, but we’re not very internationally savvy generally. And we look at, especially if you’re working for a US-based company, you expect everyone to act the way you do. And I as a leader never wanted to do that.

0:37:00.2 MN: I wanted to learn about the different cultures and learn how do I flex my muscles? And how do I adjust my communication style and leadership style to make sure this is gonna resonate if I’m talking to people in China or Singapore, or France or Switzerland or India. And so honestly, I’m still learning. I just had a conversation this morning with someone who has a podcast in India, and he and I were talking about… This is an example. We were talking about Psychological Safety. And I said, “Oh, I got a question from someone in India about… We have this sort of culture of respect, I’m the manager. You’re telling me with a psychologically safe environment, my employee should be able to disagree with me?” He said, “I can’t even get them to stop calling me mister, let alone disagree with me.” And the man that I spoke to this morning, Gara was saying, “You know, it’s… ” And I thought it was about hierarchy, and what he said to me was quite interesting, again, educational. He said, “I think more than hierarchy, it’s about respect for the gray hair and respect for age, and we have such a societal tradition of respecting our elders that we wouldn’t dare challenge.” And so we have to really work against those very deeply ingrained cultural and societal values.

0:38:18.4 MN: So for me, it’s just a huge education constantly of how can I try to get like a team in Asia to feel free asking me questions. And honestly, what I did is I kept showing up. I went to each office all the time, I let people get to know me. I had, I literally had an open door when I would go to Singapore or China, I just had office hours and people would come and have one-on-ones with me. And through, this is what I believe, no matter what the culture is. If you show up as a human being and you’re curious to learn from others, and you care about them, like, “I really wanna get to know you,” then people start to feel more comfortable with you. And they go, “Oh Minette’s not up on some leadership pedestal, she’s just a human being.” And I can have a real conversation with her. And that’s how you establish trust. That’s how you build psychologically safe and inclusive environments, but it doesn’t happen the first time you show up there. The first time I go to China or the first time I go to Singapore, everyone’s gonna be very careful with me. The fifth or the sixth time I show up, it’s gonna be different. And so that’s what I just kept doing.

0:39:23.7 WB: I think that’s such a great message for all leaders. What are you working towards at the moment? Anything new in the pipeline? Another book perhaps the next year?

0:39:35.8 MN: I think I’m gonna take a break before writing another book. I really want these books in the world and doing the work behind them. So Karolin and I, for example, right now, going back to The Psychological Safety Playbook, we’ve been getting a lot of inquiries. Other consultants who wanna use the book and we’re fine with them using the book as long as they credit us ’cause we just want to work in the world. But big companies, a big company just approached us and they’re interested in a train the trainer model, where we could scale across a big company. So we have decided we are going to develop some materials and maybe a certification program, so people could get certified to be trainers of The Psychological Safety Playbook material, so that’s one thing that’s in the works.

0:40:16.8 MN: And then I’m working on lining up speaking engagements and book events to launch The Boldly Inclusive Leader. I have a couple lined up, one in the San Francisco Bay Area, one in New York. But if you know anyone who’s looking to bring me into speak, I am available and love to do that, and love to basically spread the word and spread the optimism. Because like you, it can be, like you said in the beginning, it can be really tempting to fall back on despair and negativity about the leadership world and the workplace, and there are a lot of bad examples. And I just wanna counteract that and say something else is possible. And it isn’t rocket science, it’s practice, it’s a daily practice. And we all practice other things in our lives, whether it’s a sport or a hobby, so why not practice leadership in the same way.

0:41:07.5 WB: When you first mentioned about the certification program, collaboration, partnership hasn’t come into your mind with Ms. Edmondson?

0:41:18.0 MN: Well, that’s on our board. We have a Miro board where things that we need to think about, and Karolin just said, “What are we gonna do with Amy? Is she gonna do something with us?” I’m like, “Amy has a new book coming out in September, and so I figure she’s pretty busy.” But we will definitely follow up with her because that would be a dream come true, right?

0:41:36.4 WB: I’m sure. Right. Endorsement is one thing, but partnership… Wow, yeah, good luck with that.

0:41:42.8 MN: Yeah, she’s a very busy woman.

0:41:45.4 WB: Where can people connect with you if they want to learn more?

0:41:50.2 MN: Yes, well, my website is an easy place to go, it’s just my name, minettenorman.com. There’s a free chapter of the book available for download, which you know… And then on LinkedIn, I’m always happy to connect with people on LinkedIn, so they can find me there. And engage and tell me what’s on your mind and what you wanna talk about, what you wanna learn more about, and maybe there’s an opportunity for us to work together on something.

0:42:13.7 WB: Minette, you’re a wealth of knowledge in this field and people have access to you now, through this little small window connection that I really hope our listeners do follow up. Now all the best with your future ventures, I will certainly be watching very closely, waiting for the book to be released. I think I’ll probably get the pre-order in today. So let’s…

0:42:39.3 MN: Oh, fabulous.

0:42:41.4 WB: But Minette Norman, thank you so much for the conversation, the insights and being on the ET project. It’s been a wonderful conversation, so thank you very much.

0:42:51.0 MN: I loved the conversation. Thanks for having me Wayne, and thanks for all the support with the books.

0:42:56.5 Outro: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.

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