The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast

66 The Human-Centred Future of Work with Matt Dunsmoor

June 03, 2024 Dr Nia D Thomas Episode 66
66 The Human-Centred Future of Work with Matt Dunsmoor
The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast
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The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast
66 The Human-Centred Future of Work with Matt Dunsmoor
Jun 03, 2024 Episode 66
Dr Nia D Thomas

Welcome to The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast!

In this episode, Nia Thomas engages in a thought-provoking conversation with guest Matt Dunsmoor, a visionary leader dedicated to reshaping the landscape of work.

Matt is a visionary leader dedicated to reshaping the landscape of work. With a fervent belief that work should be a wellspring of fulfillment for all, Matt has devoted his career to empowering people and organizations to revolutionize their workplace experiences. As the founder and chief vision officer of Octop, Matt is a seasoned expert in crafting the workplace of tomorrow. His journey has been marked by influential roles at organizations like zappos dotcom and Simon Sinek Inc. He has a background in marketing and sales, software product management, customer services, and organizational governance consulting. Matt is driven by a singular mission to foster a more human centered future of work and spearheads initiatives aimed at equipping leaders and organizations with the tools to attract, nurture, and retain talent while fostering cultures that authentically embody their visions and values.

Together, they explore the essence of self-aware leadership, the impact of values and purpose in organizations, and the importance of curiosity in personal and professional growth. Join us as we delve into the dynamic world of leadership, human-centered workplaces, and the journey towards embodying essential qualities like self-awareness and authenticity.

Access Matt at Octopy here

Support the Show.

Find Out More
Thanks for joining me on my learning journey! Until next time...

Rate and Review
Once you've taken a listen please leave a rate and review on your favourite podcast player. A little word from you means a big deal to me!

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Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast!

In this episode, Nia Thomas engages in a thought-provoking conversation with guest Matt Dunsmoor, a visionary leader dedicated to reshaping the landscape of work.

Matt is a visionary leader dedicated to reshaping the landscape of work. With a fervent belief that work should be a wellspring of fulfillment for all, Matt has devoted his career to empowering people and organizations to revolutionize their workplace experiences. As the founder and chief vision officer of Octop, Matt is a seasoned expert in crafting the workplace of tomorrow. His journey has been marked by influential roles at organizations like zappos dotcom and Simon Sinek Inc. He has a background in marketing and sales, software product management, customer services, and organizational governance consulting. Matt is driven by a singular mission to foster a more human centered future of work and spearheads initiatives aimed at equipping leaders and organizations with the tools to attract, nurture, and retain talent while fostering cultures that authentically embody their visions and values.

Together, they explore the essence of self-aware leadership, the impact of values and purpose in organizations, and the importance of curiosity in personal and professional growth. Join us as we delve into the dynamic world of leadership, human-centered workplaces, and the journey towards embodying essential qualities like self-awareness and authenticity.

Access Matt at Octopy here

Support the Show.

Find Out More
Thanks for joining me on my learning journey! Until next time...

Rate and Review
Once you've taken a listen please leave a rate and review on your favourite podcast player. A little word from you means a big deal to me!

Nia Thomas [00:00:06]:
Hello, and welcome to the Knowing Self, Knowing Others podcast, where we discuss self aware leadership with thinkers from around the globe. I'm your host, Nia Thomas. Join me as we talk to today's guest.

Nia Thomas [00:00:18]:
A very big welcome today to Matt Dunsmoor, who is a visionary leader dedicated to reshaping the landscape of work With a fervent belief that work should be a wellspring of fulfillment for all, Matt has devoted his career to empowering people and organizations to revolutionize their workplace experiences. As the founder and chief vision officer of Octopi, Matt is a seasoned expert in crafting the workplace of tomorrow, and I'm sure he'll tell us a bit more about that in a minute. His journey has been marked by influential roles at organizations like zappos dotcom and Simon Sinek Inc. He has a background in marketing and sales, software product management, customer services, and organizational governance consulting. He's driven by a singular mission to foster a more human centered future of work, and he spearheads initiatives aimed at equipping leaders and organizations with the tools to attract, nurture, and retain talent while fostering cultures that authentically embody their visions and values. So, Mark, I'm really looking forward to having this conversation with you and finding out more about your thoughts, ideas, pearls of wisdom, and octopi. So tell us That's

Matt Dunsmoor [00:01:32]:
a lot.

Nia Thomas [00:01:32]:
More about your interest in octopuses.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:01:37]:
Yeah. So it's an it's an odd story, I will admit, to have a company that's around creating human future of work where it's centered around an octopus. I was doing some traveling. So several years back, it was 2018 to 2019, I was doing a program called remote year. And just before that, I had a good friend and, she had kind of bragged to me that she had gotten the tattoo recently. It was this big very big tattoo along her side. And so she sends a picture, and it is a gigantic octopus.

Nia Thomas [00:02:11]:

Matt Dunsmoor [00:02:11]:
And I was just like I mean, it was beautiful, but I was like, that's interesting. That's an interesting choice. Mhmm. You know, I didn't I didn't pry too much and be like, what's the deal with that? But I was just like, okay. Cool. Yeah. I really like it and didn't think much about it. And fast forward to those few months later, I was on this program.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:02:29]:
And so for those who don't know, I was traveling with a community of I think we ended up averaging around 32 or 3 over the course of the year. But you live, work, and travel with a a community of other remote workers, and you live in basically a different country. I mean, it's technically a different city. We spent 2 months in Colombia, but pretty much you spend a month in a different country over the course of a year.

Nia Thomas [00:02:51]:

Matt Dunsmoor [00:02:52]:
Yeah. So so each month we would move to somewhere new. And in our 1st month, we were in Lisbon in in Portugal, and I remember coming across this tattoo that one of our so they we had city team members who were people who lived there that would kind of be our our on-site guides. And she had this really cool unicorn tattoo. I was like, who's the artist that's not so she shows me the, the tattoo artist page, which is a person that was based there, and on that page is another tattoo of an octopus. And so, so I it was at that moment I kind of just was like, what is happening? What is with all of these octopuses, octopi? Why are they everywhere? So I I just googled octopuses and how they work. And when you look at the biology of an octopus, octopuses actually have 3 separate hearts. I mean, they've got a primary traditional one, but they've also got 2 around their gills.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:03:45]:
And then they have 9 brains. And it makes sense because, you know, you will watch them kind of creep across the floor of the ocean. They're all kind of doing different things. They're just kind of feeling and responding as they go. And I just it just kind of hit me in that moment that to me, that was the perfect representation of what we want in our organizations because I'm a big fan of decentralized decision making. You know, if if we have a great leadership team in place that is clear about the purpose, the values, what our expectations are, what are our priorities, we need to be able to trust the people at the front lines who are doing the work to execute on that and make the best decisions in terms of the work they're doing as well as for the organization. And so that to me was kind of like the 9 brains. Right? We've got the kind of main one, but also each one's kind of helping to inform the others and and move together.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:04:36]:
And then every great organization's got a ton of heart. And so I just I thought that was a great kind of, you know, and they're adaptable, creative. Like, all those things that they represent in these different cultures to me was just like a great organization is all of those things. So that's where the name came from.

Nia Thomas [00:04:53]:
Okay. So, essentially, the octopi found you.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:04:57]:
Mhmm. Indeed. Indeed, it did. It wrapped its tentacles around my brain.

Nia Thomas [00:05:01]:
Definitely. I'm really interested in Octopi, and your founding principles are care, ownership, authenticity, togetherness, and growth. And the reason that I'm really interested in those is because care and authenticity are two directions of my self awareness compass. So tell us a bit more about what that means for you. Is it just about your organization, or is that how you operate and that what you want for others as well?

Matt Dunsmoor [00:05:31]:
Yeah. So great question. When we first came up with those principles, they were originally we called them our values. And so for for us, what we wanted to do was give when we were recruiting people to join the team because we had a hard time at the beginning, just like any other start up. You know, I started off with people I knew, people I was familiar with, who could do the work that I got along with. And as most people who are trying to build a company figure after a while, that doesn't really scale. And so I one thing that I was really clear on from the very beginning was I didn't want an organization that was modeled in my image. I don't believe in that.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:06:07]:
I think if something's gonna stand the test of time, it needs to be about the we, not the me. And so for me, that was a big part of why I didn't call it, you know, Matt Dunsmoor whatever. You know? I didn't have it my name on the building or anything like that. Like, I want this to when leadership team changes and evolves, I want it to still be something that means something to people. So when it came to coming up with company values, I knew it was something that it wasn't just gonna be me to come up with. And I had had a really good experience working at a great human focused company called Zappos, and they had these ten core values and and they were great. But I also remember it being overwhelming to try and remember all 10 and try and remember to do all 10. And so what I wanted to do was set us up for how do we articulate the kind of culture and environment that's gonna help all of our people thrive.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:07:00]:
I think a lot of companies out there talk about values in terms of things that they think are important. So you'll see a lot of companies out there with, like, innovation and integrity as values. But when it comes to how we expect people to show up for one another and get the work done, it doesn't actually guide us that much. And so I wanted to kind of flip that and focus on these are basically the instruction manual. If you wanna be a member of this team, we expect you to show up this way. And we are making a a contractual agreement to show up for you as well as clients and beyond in the same exact way. Right? This is a this is basically our social contract to one another is that we're promising to show up with these principles, and you need to really embody each of these things. So for for us, when we think about all of those 5 that you mentioned, it came up as we would kind of reflect on how we each when we looked at the environments where we each thrived at previous employers or at home and in other relationships in school, what were the kind of values or principles that were playing in the background? And so we collectively kind of came up with this as the top five.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:08:07]:
Something that I've talked to a few different people around is,

Nia Thomas [00:08:13]:
the the part that recruitment plays in all of this. So we have values and we have principles within our organizations, and we need to make sure that, our people will live and breathe those values. But how do you ensure that you don't have a situation where you've got groupthink or that you don't have the diversity and inclusion that you would want?

Matt Dunsmoor [00:08:36]:
Yeah. It's a great question. I think for us, a big part of it's not making sure we keep going back to the same well when it comes to talent that we're trying to evaluate. Like, there are a lot of companies who will say, you know, oh, our recruiters work with these big Ivy League schools. They recruit from Yale, Stanford, Harvard. You do that, you'll get people who are highly intelligent and test well and do all the right things academically, but may not have any varying perspectives on when challenges come. Right? We all if we all have a similar background culturally, if we all have, very similar upbringings, if we have similar educational backgrounds, then we'll probably when the problem hits, we're all gonna think about solving it in a very similar, if not the same kind of way. And so I think it starts with diversifying your points of entry and where you're actually seeking people out from.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:09:28]:
And so we have talked a lot about when it comes to finding the right people, like, values translate across a lot of those different contexts. So finding people who care about one another, people who are authentic, that isn't specific to one cultural group or one, nationality or any like, anything like that. Right? So we we try to come up with principles that span those that wouldn't pigeonhole us into we're only gonna find people who think this certain way. But along that line, you still have to challenge yourself to say, where are we not looking for people? And often underrepresented groups, people who haven't been given a lot of chances. So we've talked about reaching out to people who are in different countries, different ethnic backgrounds when you talk about traditional diversity, ages, things like that, genders, but also thinking about the things in people's lives. Right? I'll give you an example of an underserved group that we've talked about, which is people who have been in and out of prison. They are not given a fair shot when it comes to getting reintegrated into the workforce and making a meaningful contribution. There are a lot of people who have been through that, who have a lot to give and just never get a chance.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:10:42]:
And so are we, you know, when we look at recruiting for roles, are we looking in places like, you know, work release programs? Are we finding out are we are we contacting people who are in the know in those kinds of networks? So find the rocks that you aren't turning over. Ask yourself why you're not turning them over. Challenge your thinking on that and then and then go for it. So that I think is a big way you can kind of get away from that group think because hopefully if you set your values up in such a way, and you mentioned we've got values, we've got principles, we all kind of different words for maybe sometimes different things, sometimes the same things. But we we have to make sure that those aren't limiting us in terms of, like, the way we allow ourselves to expand solving problems and who we connect with.

Nia Thomas [00:11:29]:
Interesting that you you talked about that. I I read a book, some years ago now by Matthew Said called Rebel Ideas, and he talked about cognitive diversity and specifically mentioned academic institutions that if we are all taught by the same professors, it's likely that we're gonna come out with the same ideas. And it's the first time I've I've heard somebody talking about that in practice. So that's really interesting that that you're you're seeing that, living it, feeling it as well.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:11:56]:
Yeah. Well, I mean, this goes to something that you've talked a lot about when we talk about authenticity. Right? We have to have the full picture of people's strengths and weaknesses. You know? But, well, a lot of organizations will talk about vulnerability in terms of, you know, we need people to be vulnerable, admit mistakes, ask for help, that kind of stuff. But if that's the only kind of thing we're looking for from people, we're only going to know who's least bad at something. Like, what if we only know what your weaknesses are and we don't talk about your strengths and we don't help you build on those, then like we're focusing on who's the least bad at this thing when it comes to solving a problem. So it's really important that we can paint the full picture, the authentic picture of who someone is, their strengths, their weaknesses, their beliefs, their backgrounds, all that stuff that usually we get scared to talk about because it's uncomfortable or we worry that it's going to start some sort of a debate, right, of if you don't agree with the same thing I agree with. Right? Yeah.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:12:50]:
Or it's not professional when we get into certain topics. If we are willing to take on some of those trickier challenges, in a meaningful way that is authentic and caring. Right? Keep coming back to that word because I think that's really important. Air is the thing that allows us to carry through those and and address those tough challenges and have the courage to do so, and also help somebody kind of lower those defense mechanisms that we've traditionally built up around those topics or those ideas. Because if you know someone is invested in you beyond bottom line performance or if I give the wrong answer, they're gonna think differently of me. Yeah. When we have that feeling about people, we're we're much more willing to open up and be our full selves and paint that whole picture. And that's what we need as employers to be able to see that that whole thing.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:13:38]:
And so you talk about kind of the the the cognitive alignment that people will have from those you know, we took the same courses. We have the same professors and stuff like that. Like, we need to know the way that people think about addressing certain problems, and it's not a bad thing, you know, for us to have different outlooks on how we would solve a problem. It's good to have that creative tension as long as we can come to the table in a way that's respectful, in a way that demonstrates that we care about one another, and that it's not a personal attack on you if I don't agree with the framework or if I have a different idea about it. It's about the idea. Like, our goal has to be, let's come up with the best solution possible, not my idea wins. And too often, I'm sure you've seen this as well, organizations reward the ego side and not the actual idea. Right?

Nia Thomas [00:14:25]:
Yeah. That's a struggle. And I'm I'm gonna explore that point with you, but there is something about how we disagree on facts. And it's something that I talk about and think about quite a lot because bottom line for me is I don't wanna fall out with people. And because it's a it creates such a, an uncomfortable feeling in an office, and how how do you work with somebody tomorrow when you've fallen out with them today? How do you suggest, recommend, support people to have those disagreements, but ensure that they do retain that care, that authenticity, that those principles that you have within your organizations, but you still may disagree on something?

Matt Dunsmoor [00:15:11]:
And and

Nia Thomas [00:15:11]:
that might be a $64,000,000 question because I think that's a tough question.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:15:16]:
Yeah. Well, I so I always tell people, seek solutions, not silver bullets. So I don't know that there is, you know, one right answer for this question. This is the nature of it is this messy human stuff. Right? Like, there is there will be times where a lot of it has nothing to do with you, but how I feel coming out of the disagreement has to do with me. And this is where self awareness comes in, which is obviously something I know you're very passionate about and very knowledgeable about. And so I think the biggest thing is when we feel that sense of tension instead of going out the other person and and really taking it to I have to engage in a me versus you way is to step back and first ask yourself, what is it about this that is setting me to I need to win? Right? If you feel that coming on, if you feel like I need to defend myself. Right? So my my business partner, Jean, and I are working on this book around human focused leadership.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:16:13]:
We give 5 embodiments that are basically if you want to really focus on having strong meaningful connections with people, you got to embody these principles. The first one we start with is curiosity and because it is such an antidote to a lot of this stuff. Yeah. It's it's a very foundational practice of people who are successful at and by the way, I'm a super people pleaser, so I'm right there with you of, like, I worry way too much. I'm in my head all the time. One of the things that has really helped me navigate these hard conversations is when I think you're wrong about something rather than I need to prove to you, you need to see it my way. My first reaction is usually that. My second one has to be to challenge that and say, is there something I'm missing? Maybe there's something that I don't know.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:16:58]:
Maybe they're seeing something differently. What is it that they're seeing, and what's causing them to see it differently than me? So that to me is like that first part is when you feel that tension rather than resorting to, like, I need to get them to see it my way. And you may eventually get them to see it your way. But if you come in with that goal right off the bat, it's me versus you.

Nia Thomas [00:17:19]:

Matt Dunsmoor [00:17:20]:
And so I think first you got to seek to understand people. And so when there's that tension, approach it as a learning opportunity. And even if you're not learning about the topic, you're learning about the person. So it's an opportunity to more deeply connect and understand that person. And so then for me, you go in and you ask those questions and then then you have a chance to evaluate and say, okay, I understand now. May I share where I'm coming from? And then you share that instead of saying, no, no, no. It's this, it's this, it's that. Right? You're sharing a perspective.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:17:50]:
And so just even the way you approach it and frame it up through your language is a big way of diffusing what could oftentimes be one of those really uncomfortable next day bumping into someone in the hall because we had a knock down, drag out debate. Whereas, you know and it's hard. This I will be the first to say, especially when it's about topics we're passionate about, projects we're invested in. Right? If I have been in meetings personally where I've been working on a project, I've spent hours, if not days, working on something, and I'll come to a little present it to a leadership team, I will or I'll be ready and speaking at a conference. And someone either in the boardroom or in the audience will fire back and basically just say that's BS or that's not gonna work, you know, and just totally dismiss it. And it's really hard not to take that personally.

Nia Thomas [00:18:41]:

Matt Dunsmoor [00:18:41]:
And so I think give yourself grace to feel that feeling, but recognize when I feel that feeling, I'm going to try as my best as I can to set that aside and focus on what it is they're talking about. Address the concern, address the issue rather than they don't like me. They're dismissing me even if their activity is very dismissive towards you. Right? Asking questions, getting curious. What what do you see as as the big challenge? What are the big hurdles right there? Why wouldn't this work? Right? Those kinds of questions help them flesh it out, and a lot of times they will talk themselves into your perspective if you ask the questions the right way. But you've gotta get curious first. That that to me is the first one.

Nia Thomas [00:19:20]:
I think what you've just explained there is reflection, recognition, and regulation, which are my 3 layers of self awareness. And I think if if you had to describe it in into in a case study, I think it will be exactly as you've described it there. That's that's how we do self awareness. And maybe I need to think about the word curiosity because I'm hearing it far more and more. And it's about how do we give ourselves that space to, so that we respond instead of react. And I think curiosity is is that space.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:19:56]:
I love that. What I love that you break that down into those 3 steps. I think that's a really good encapsulation of the process of it because it's not just a one step and done. It is this but, you know, you you gotta have those moments for each of those things. And it may be very quick. For some people, it's gonna be a lot faster than others.

Nia Thomas [00:20:15]:

Matt Dunsmoor [00:20:16]:
But if you can work on it, it's it's kind of like that muscle that you build. Jean and I have gone back and forth about this a lot as we've been writing, especially on that that chapter on curiosity, is I grew up I was not a very curious person. If I look at it objectively from, I would say, probably my teens through my early to mid twenties, I was more about proving than I was about understanding. And I think I think there's a lot behind that. I think if you look at the education system wherever we're at, a lot of us, the currency for kids of your personal value is tied up in how right you are. Right? If you're at school, you know, you get rewarded for being right, not necessarily for asking the right questions.

Nia Thomas [00:21:00]:

Matt Dunsmoor [00:21:01]:
We grade people on their correctness, not their curiosity. And so I I do think there is an element of that there. So, like, you know, we got to give ourselves some grace. But I just remember it was about accomplishment. It was about achievement. It was about proving. And so it wasn't until I had some experiences where I had to get used to being the not most accomplished or achieved person in a room.

Nia Thomas [00:21:23]:
Yeah. It does you good to sleep sometimes.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:21:26]:
Oh, it's tough. You know? And and it's it's powerful and and hard. Usually, those 2 things come in in combination in some form or fashion. But it's it's one of those things that we have to flex that muscle to develop it before we can you know, we kind of lay out the this path to embodiment. The first one is awareness. You gotta know what you don't know already. You gotta figure that out. Once we have the awareness, then we have to start practicing that thing.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:21:52]:
It's still gonna be uncomfortable. It's still not gonna come naturally. Your default settings are still gonna kick in, but you gotta be mindful and catch it. And only then, once we do that, can we move towards habit. Alright. It kinda comes as second nature. Now I can start making sure I build this into my schedule and my calendar. And eventually, somewhere along the lines, embodying that thing happens.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:22:11]:
For this, you know, I'm using curiosity as the example. Right? It's embodiment is different from habit, and that habit is one thing that we do. Embodying is, like, this is part of who you are now. And so, like, now I would say that, you know, curiosity is a core element of who I am. I did not used to be that way. But it is one of those things that's very tough that you have to. And I love, you know, having that space to break it down in those three phases, I think, is a good way for people to kind of build that muscle.

Nia Thomas [00:22:39]:
And as you were talking and thinking, the book Mindset by Carol Dweck talks exactly about this. We are recognized for our successes as opposed to the process and the fact that we are tryers, and we are constantly trying to develop ourselves. So and I think the acknowledgment of which mindset you are helps you to develop that curiosity.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:23:03]:
Yeah. A 100%. And and I think, you know, bouncing between curiosity and self awareness, they're so interconnected. Mhmm. And so for me, self awareness starts with genuine curiosity about yourself. We have to be curious about others in the world around us. Absolutely. But if we wanna truly be self aware, we have to be curious about it.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:23:26]:
And that means that we're not approaching it from a place of judgment as we do it because if we're if judgment is in the background, if we're gonna beat ourselves up for something, we'll probably avoid looking into that thing if it makes us feel bad. And so when we think about showing up curiously for yourself, it means I have to be ready to learn things that I'm not gonna like about myself. And for me, when we talk about self awareness, we usually think about it as, like, it's as deeply personal internal thing. And one of the things that I love about the work that you do is you you kind of talk about that second layer of, like, how other people perceive and how they they feel you. And and to me, you know, we get in our own way a lot. We are sometimes the the worst judges of ourselves for better or for worse sometimes. You know? Sometimes we go way too easy on ourselves for stuff that we probably shouldn't and vice versa. We're way hard on ourselves for things that are not that big of a deal in the grand scheme.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:24:19]:
But, whatever the cause, we're not great at self reflection and self evaluation to an extent, especially early on. And so enrolling other people in the process of becoming self aware is one of the scariest things that you can do, but it is one of the most meaningful things that you can do because knowing knowing how you want to impact people is different than knowing how you do impact people and how they receive that.

Nia Thomas [00:24:45]:
So true.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:24:47]:
And so so when you think about, self awareness, I think it's really important that when we have that curiosity, we open ourselves up to, I'm it's okay. I I you know, it's hard not to get hurt a little bit sometimes, but just know it's kind of like going to the dentist and having, you know, a cavity filled. It's uncomfortable in the moment, but after you get it done, you're gonna be so much better moving forward. Right? It's temporary pain for a long term gain. And I think if we approach self awareness in that way, and recognize that it's it's always going to be ongoing. Right? We we are going to need to continually learn and investigate. It's not just like, you know, you go to the dentist once a year. Hopefully, you're staying more reflective and introspective, more frequently than that.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:25:32]:
But as you do that, every time you go into that mode, reminding yourself this might suck, but it's a huge opportunity to become a better version of myself and to grow. That's one of the biggest ways I I can see moving forward. And I think curiosity is a huge tool for doing that.

Nia Thomas [00:25:50]:
I'm just thinking self awareness feels like that little sticky post it note that somebody puts on your back that you can't see, and you're constantly spinning around just, can I see it? Can I see it? And without somebody else's help, you just cannot see what's written on that sticky note on your back. So, yes, absolutely. We we can't do this alone, and it might be uncomfortable and this might be something awful written on it. But hopefully, with the help of that other person, they can explain to you what it might be about. And with your own curiosity, you can help delve into it and learn from it.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:26:24]:
And I think and being selective, especially in the beginning of who you enroll, is important. This is not to say you shouldn't open it up and learn from everyone. Absolutely, you should. But I think early on, it's gonna be the hardest. So finding people that you know, love, and trust and know that they have the same feeling towards you, and that they want what's best for you because someone caring for you is not the same thing as someone being nice to you. And so knowing, you know, the way that we kind of approach care in the book and as an organization is, you know, kind of the measurement stick is do I feel like this person cares about my personal growth and development as a human being beyond my bottom line performance? And so that should be your litmus test for at least that first round of people that you invite in to give you some of that feedback. I think that's absolutely right. Do I feel that they are invested? Because there are people who will have their own motives.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:27:19]:
Right? If you ask your boss, it's gonna be and then they're not in a caring mode. If it's not a human focused work culture there, they're gonna be focused on what are your work weaknesses that I need you to work on. And maybe I'll set aside some of those personal things because that doesn't benefit me directly. And so especially early on when you're doing some of this hardest work, find some of those people that you can tell care at a deep level about your thriving as a human being. That that is the one piece of advice I would give on that.

Nia Thomas [00:27:46]:
In your experience of working in organizations and with organizations, how are you seeing change from maybe organizations that are more focused on performance and wanna set aside the more difficult conversations because they are too difficult. Are you seeing some kind of shift, or what does it look like? And I suppose I'm coming at this from the perspective of lots of people I've spoken to have said COVID changed us, and what we want now is different to what we want before. But do you are you seeing that change in practice?

Matt Dunsmoor [00:28:23]:
Who would agree? Okay. I think so the demand is out there. So if you look at the generations that are working concurrently, and by the way, you know, for the past years, this has been and continue will continue to be for probably the next 5 years, the most generationally diverse workforce we've seen. We will have basically 5 separate generations in the workforce at once, which is you know, it usually tops out around 3. So it's it's pretty wild. And so you look at that, and there's a lot of disconnection. There's a lot of, you know, intergenerational misunderstanding. The translation layers are lacking for a lot of that.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:29:07]:
But one thing that you're seeing is now the people who were in, I will say, baby boomer and gen x are starting to move out of those leadership positions that they have held firmly. And you have to recognize that many people in those 2 generations, the way that they were raised, success was defined very differently in business versus what millennials, Gen z, and Gen Alpha are gonna see and have expressed as their so a lot of them, it has been very much performance based. It's been very much what's our profitability, what's our growth margins. It's those financial metrics. So when it comes to performance evaluation, that's the language that they speak. You are seeing in the data of interviews of younger generations who are now starting to take more and more of those leadership roles, I think I read somewhere within the next 10 years, maybe the next 5 years, millennials will actually be the most predominant workforce source, especially in positions of leadership. And so you look at how they view success, and a lot of that's very different. A lot of them think about what is the quality of life, what is our social impact.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:30:18]:
The Internet and access to information has really increased the scope of how people view the role of business in their lives as well as their communities. And so I think we're in a transitional period where there are a lot of people who recognize that have been in leadership positions for a long time that still see success as it's financial only. Yeah. Or we've been piloting ships in a way that only works that way and are recognizing that the work that's gonna be required to rebuild the engine of this organization in a way that is not just about that is gonna be really difficult. And, frankly, I would rather just focus on doing it the way we've been doing it. But we can do some pretty wrapping paper. So they will run sessions. They will have us come in and help them find a new mission statement or purpose statement or why.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:31:03]:
We will run value sessions for them. A lot of organizations that I have done talks for or workshops for that are around that. I can tell you I have touched base with some people on those teams later on, and it's interesting. I will say that a lot of the people who if if the person who is driving forward that message, bringing it into whether it was leadership team meeting or conference or an off-site, whatever, if the person driving that was in the C suite, there are results that have been happening in the past year.

Nia Thomas [00:31:35]:

Matt Dunsmoor [00:31:35]:
If it was someone who is really passionate about this stuff and was just part of the planning process and I came and did it, a lot of times it is well, we had a lot of discussions and and, you know, we didn't necessarily do this, but we we this is one thing that we did. Right? They'll they'll highlight a kind of a small change. And so I think we we see that happen a lot, and I think we're gonna continue to see that for a little bit. You know, you've heard the concept of greenwashing, which is people and companies writing

Nia Thomas [00:32:04]:
thinking value washing as you were saying. Yeah.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:32:07]:
Yeah. So Jean came up with this term and may and maybe it's exists elsewhere. The first time I'd heard it was when she shared it with me was is purpose washing. Right? There are a lot of people who are purpose washing their companies now. However, we have generations of leaders who are stepping into those positions that genuinely believe this stuff and are looking for tools for how to do it. And the problem is there's no not a lot of blueprints out there to follow. And so I think there is a big hunger for change. The problem is is no one has made it easier, said here's the guide, here's the template.

Nia Thomas [00:32:40]:

Matt Dunsmoor [00:32:41]:
Or if they have, we are hoping that when you give me the Guider template, it's gonna be easy implementation. It's like, okay. Let's do this and we'll be good. Forgetting that there are gonna be really hard conversations, we're gonna have to fire some people. And not because they're not good performers, not because we need to do it for the cost. It's because we need to have someone in that position who genuinely believes this stuff and wants to move it forward. And that is a very difficult position to be in if you are stepping into a new leadership role, if you have been the leader and you brought on some of the people that you're realizing aren't helping move that forward. You know? So it's gonna be a slow process.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:33:16]:
I have seen some progress. I I frankly see a lot of it in private companies more than public companies, because they are less beholden to shareholder expectations. There's not that public pressure. And that's usually the number one thing I hear from when I work with companies that fresh off an earnings call or whatever. We'll talk about purpose. We'll talk about values. Someone will generally pull me aside and say, yeah. Yeah.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:33:39]:
This sounds great, but we still gotta do this. You know? Right. We gotta worry about these people. And until organizations can find a way to solve that problem or change the way they look at it, it's gonna be really tough for them to tackle.

Nia Thomas [00:33:53]:
Interested in the kind of leaders that you've worked with because something that I talk about a lot is that leaders have to model the behavior that they want to see. And I'm interested what is what's your experience of leaders that don't really demonstrate self awareness or or don't really live the the behavior that they want to see?

Matt Dunsmoor [00:34:12]:
It's interesting because I think a lot of them, you know, use the word self awareness right there. I I think a lot of them don't know what they want. I think they think they are demonstrating what they wanna see until it's inconvenient. You know, there is a lot of leadership, and we see this not just in organizations, but in countries and in local government where it is, this is an important thing until it's inconvenient for me, then you need to do it, but I don't need to because I'm the boss. Right? And so, I think that group is one group, and and they become pretty apparent in times of stress. And with more and more transparency into how organizations are run, a lot more people are being able to hold them accountable, which is good. What I think less is what's more insidious and less obvious is when leaders in organizations and when I say leaders, I basically mean managers with good titles. When those people make decisions and they have convinced themselves of one reality and they are not living in actual reality.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:35:23]:
I'll give you a quick example. I ran a workshop with a group. I was working with an executive leadership team and their board, and I was doing a workshop around trust. And I I kinda break these things down, and I I I break it down. And this is work that I've done with Simon's team and and with a guy by the name of Rich DeBeney. Talked about it in 4 phases kind of building trust. You have to have a circle of safety at the baseline. Only then can people be willing to be vulnerable with one another.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:35:52]:
After that, then we can have an open and honest feedback conversations, which Simon's team calls candor with care. And then finally, we have to be able to live the culture, means hold ourselves accountable to actually live the values that we say we have. And so I had this breakout with these executives and board members. And I said, alright. We just went over these 4. I went really in-depth on them and then talked about them. I said, alright. We've gone over the 4 things.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:36:18]:
My task for you is you've got 2 columns in your workbook. On your left side is which ones of these are we really strong at. On the right side is where do we need to improve? What are we weak on? And then you've got a box underneath that where you can put all the weaknesses down there and say, what are some things we can plan to do to, like, improve in these areas? And I specifically said in this moment, if you think you're good at all 4, I would suggest starting with circle of safety because that probably means people don't feel safe enough to be honest with you about what's happening. And they went into their breakout, and I think there was probably 5 or 6 groups. And, we were doing share outs. And the CEO who had been sitting in there, they're in, like, the second group that shares. And they say, well, honestly, you know, felt like we're really good at all these. Like, just goes out and says that.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:37:09]:
Right? And the energy kinda shifts in the room because the first group was very honest. The first group was just like, hey. We're good at this one, but, like, here's 3 we need to work on. After that, no one brought up more than 1.

Nia Thomas [00:37:20]:
Oh, I

Matt Dunsmoor [00:37:20]:
can imagine. And I actually had someone come up to me from one of the other groups afterward and said, it's interesting, that you said that because as soon as they shared that they thought everything was good, our group turned to each other, and we crossed off. We were gonna say all 4, and we crossed off 3 of them. And it just goes to show that when people want to believe something, they will find a way to tell themselves that. And I guess this gun goes back to curiosity. Right? Them not asking, what am I missing? Yeah. But but it goes to 2 things. I think, 1, we have to be willing to see what current reality is, and where it's headed and not get stuck in our our previous ways of thinking.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:38:01]:
So that leader's thought of what those things meant and what generated success, quote, unquote, on their team was fine. It was exactly what they wanted because everything looked good from the numbers. And, for other people, their experience was very different because they were living it every single day. The other thing is when you're in a position of authority, I think this is really important for people to think about when it comes to these kinds of conversations, is you have to work harder than everyone else in your organization to figure out the truth of what's going on. Because when you are higher up on the hierarchy, wherever you are on that org chart, if you're the CEO, if you're a director, if you're a VP, whatever, the chances that someone who is on the front line who you could easily fire, if you have the authority to fire someone or if you were at the level of their boss Yeah. They are gonna be less willing to share those hard feedback pieces with you because they're gonna be worried about their own job.

Nia Thomas [00:39:00]:

Matt Dunsmoor [00:39:00]:
And so you have to go a long way. You have to be really intentional about creating a space where people feel like they can be open and honest. You have to watch how you're reacting. This goes back to self awareness. Right? When someone says something I don't like or disagree with, how do I respond in that moment? Am I actually embracing that and saying tell me more, or am I telling them all the reasons that they're wrong? Am I blowing up at them, or am I, you know, open to these ideas? It doesn't mean I have to say everybody else is right, but it means that I have to hear them out and genuinely take these concepts and feedback pieces in. And so many leaders, it's inconvenient to do that because I have to set aside time. I have to really work hard. I have to seek those things out.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:39:42]:
And honestly, sometimes I'm just tired and I want my like, this is what we're going to do. Get over it. Move on, You know? And if you want to get stuff done, sure. You can absolutely do that. If you wanna have an organization where people are open, honest, feel empowered, feel high levels of trust, and are willing to go to those places, you're just not gonna have a lot of it. And I think that goes into conversation that we've been having around purpose is a lot of people have been put in a position by a leader whose traditional view of success is that financial one. They're pretending that it's about purpose, but at the end of the day, if it's between purpose and profit, they're gonna choose profit. They're running the team in that way, and people don't feel like they can call them out on that.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:40:22]:
And that helps them kind of stay in this echo chamber of, like, everything's fine because the the worksheets are fine, and I'm not hearing anything from anybody. And so that to me is a more insidious of those two examples because they are convinced. They're not acknowledging that, like, you know, they're the fantasy that they're living in is I am the good guy and also we're doing great. And it's just so detached, and and they just never end up doing anything about it.

Nia Thomas [00:40:47]:
And one of the best things that that I recommend for people who really want to live this value of listening to their people is whenever you get the opportunity, go last. Don't if you're the most senior person in the room, never be the one that speaks first because you'll always miss that opportunity to hear what everybody else is saying. Matt, one question before you go. You are obsessed with exploring the future of work. So what is the future of work gonna look like?

Matt Dunsmoor [00:41:19]:
I think we're starting to see the seeds of it now. I think we are seeing a workplace where it's less about a factory and more about recognizing the pieces and the importance of the human beings behind it. It's scary because simultaneously we've got the conversations around AI. And I know a lot of creatives, for example, are worried about losing their jobs. It was funny. I was running a workshop yesterday, and and I did exactly what you said. I said, if you know you're an overtalker, if you know you're the, like, the the person who's got the biggest personality, go last in your group and you share out. So it's just kind of funny that you mentioned that.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:41:59]:
So as we're sharing out after we get done, with one of those rounds, I I was having them work on purpose statements. And in the room, one of the groups had gotten on chat GPT and submitted, hey. Write us a purpose statement for this. And so I, as a workshop facilitator, was like, my job is being outsourced right now to chat GPT and AI. And so I think I think the future of work is is going to involve really hard conversations around ethics. A lot of us have been raised to believe and see the fruits of profit is king. You need to make the most of it. You can.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:42:38]:
You gotta take care of number 1, which is yourself. And we are seeing the the dividends of that play out on a social scale, international scale, how it's impacting not just businesses, but the landscape of human life. Right? Housing is affected by how people have been approaching running businesses and making money. And so I think we're gonna have some really hard conversations around ethics, how we utilize things like AI and technology for good. It should be an amplifier for the work that people are doing rather than replacing them.

Nia Thomas [00:43:09]:

Matt Dunsmoor [00:43:09]:
Right? Instead of instead of it saying less employees, it's saying maybe same employees but better outputs because of it. Right? That kind of a shift. But I think we've seen the seeds of it, whether it's hybrid work, remote work, how we approach teaming in general, being focused around how do I help somebody thrive where they're at. It doesn't mean that we settle. It doesn't mean we don't coach people up and help them become better versions of themselves. But, you know, if we've got a team where it makes more sense for somebody to be dialing in from home, can we have a team that does that, and can we have leaders who know how to navigate those things? I don't think leaders right now are fully equipped on those kind of, issues. So I think it's one where organizations are built around the people, not vice versa, which it has been recently. You know, in the past 100 years, I think it's been.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:43:57]:
The organization exists. We gotta find the pieces and bring them in, and and they will fit into the machine that we've built. I think we have a core concept, and the future of work is gonna be here's our purpose. Here's our our why or however you wanna call it. Like, this is the world that we're trying to build or how we contribute to it. To get there, we're using these values as kind of like our guardrails. And if you fit in that and you wanna help us do it, let us know, and we'll figure out how we can best work together. And and I think that to me is is what's at the core of human focused leadership.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:44:32]:
What I'm so passionate about is so many of us are disenfranchised with work, and a lot of it stems from the way that our leaders have shown up from a very process. Like, the process is more important than you. The purpose, Yeah. It takes a back seat, you know, whatever. And instead we say, you're here because you're a great fit. You talked about recruiting earlier. Right? If we do recruiting right, it's not about getting butts in seats. It's about getting the right person here so that they can thrive in the long term and help us thrive as a result.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:45:02]:
And so approaching even things like recruiting, onboarding, leadership development from that lens, to me, that's what the successful organizations of the future are gonna do. Are they gonna make great products? Absolutely. Are they gonna be cutting edge? Are they gonna still gonna need to innovate and all those things? 100%. But if if you wanna have a sustainable organization from a people perspective, I think that's what the future of work is gonna look like.

Nia Thomas [00:45:25]:
Adaptability is going to become increasingly more important.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:45:30]:
Mhmm. Mhmm.

Nia Thomas [00:45:31]:
Matt, I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. It's been a long time coming. I think the first time that I came across your work was back in 2020 when we happened to be in a a training session, and I and I remember hearing you speak and thinking you spoke with this Gandalfian wisdom and I thought I really must have a conversation with Matt at some point in the future. So where are we? 3, 4 years later we managed to achieve it. Matt it's been absolutely brilliant talking to you. Thank you so much for joining me.

Matt Dunsmoor [00:45:59]:
Thank you. Wonderful as always.

Nia Thomas [00:46:03]:
Thank you for joining me on today's episode where we aim to develop self aware leaders around the globe to generate kinder, more respectful and creative working relationships through reflection, recognition and regulation. Head over to my website at knowing self knowing to sign up to my newsletter to keep up to date with my blog, podcast and book. Looking forward to having you on my learning journey.

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