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Guest

167

Teams that are inclusive and safe will outperform homogeneous and unsafe teams over and over again.

In this episode

DEI is not about shrinking one person’s slice of pie, but rather expanding the pie for everyone.

In this episode, Dr. Vijay Pendakur discusses the importance of shifting the conversation from diversity to relevance and complexity. We also touch on the distinction between talent attraction and talent acquisition, emphasizing the significance of telling an authentic talent story in the right spaces. 

Dr. Pendakur has held Vice President and C-level roles at Zynga, VMware, and Dropbox. Dr. Pendakur possesses strong domain expertise on how organizations can adapt to changing trends, from the changing demographics of Generation Z to the rapidly evolving landscape of managing hybrid teams. Dr. Pendakur serves on the institute teaching faculty of the Race and Equity Center, at the University of Southern California, and was recognized as a top DEI leader by Channel Futures in 2021 and Untapped in 2022.

In episode #167, Dr. Pendakur shares why equity and inclusion are not just buzzwords but are crucial for unlocking peak performance in teams.

Tune in to hear all about Dr. Pendakur’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!


Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


03:50

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

08:38

Don’t always trust your gut

17:15

Dynamism is essential as a leader

26:30

How to implement DEI

30:30

Inclusion + belonging = performance

37:16

DEI is a generative model


Resources mentioned in this episode:


Transcript

Vijay, welcome to the show. 

Vijay Pendakur  02:44

Happy to be here, Aydin. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  03:06

Yeah, excited to do this. You’ve worked at a number of different companies, lots of familiar names, Inga, VMware, recently, chief diversity, equity inclusion officer at Dropbox, lots of experiences all throughout, you’ve been in the talent space for a very long time. And as you know, we usually start the podcast, though, by talking about mistakes. So we’re going to have you think about those very early days when you started to manage and lead a team. Do you remember some of the mistakes that you made back in those days?

Vijay Pendakur  03:56

Oh, gosh, there’s so many to draw from Aiden, you know, when long before I was leading teams at Zynga and VMware and Dropbox, I had a nearly 20 year career as a scholar and a administrator in higher education in the United States. So I was working on university campuses. And my background as a manager is the managers podcast, right? So my background is a manager was really formed in the norms and supports of higher education, people leadership, long before I was in corporate, and when I was 27 years old, so I’m not going to date myself. But it was a long time ago. When I was 27, I was an assistant director of a department at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois in the United States. And I was tapped to step up into the interim director role because of a sudden departure of my supervisor. And after a lengthy search, I became the full time director of that department. So at 28 years old, I suddenly found myself having a team of five full time professionals reporting to me, three graduate assistants and a large number of student workers. And I’m actually really close with a number of those folks today. So I’m grateful for this experience. But it was, it was a way to learn. And there were many mistakes made along the way, I think you asked specifically about a leadership or management mistake. And one of the ones I remember making over and over again, I did not learn the first time as I moved too quickly to forming my own viewpoint. And what I mean by that is like, I have a really strong gut intuition. And I, my mind can quickly synthesize disparate information sets and form a viewpoint. And this is advantageous until it’s not. And when I was taking over an intact team, as this new director, I had a desire to move quickly and sort of demonstrate my worth. And what I did is I missed out on the opportunity to actually get really valuable signal and clean signal from that team that led to tactical mistakes. And so I had to learn the lesson the hard way, that oftentimes phrases helped me remember lessons. And the phrase that I take away from that time, is culture eats strategy for breakfast, and I was moving to strategy before I understood culture and culture. When you take over a team, you I learned over time to actually lean in and listen openly to the folks that were trying to tell me about the programs and services and budgets and the problems and opportunities that they were really engaged with. And for me, as a leader, I think one of my many learning curves was around slowing down and learning to listen before forming a viewpoint and making key decisions.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:32

Yeah, so I’d love to hear a little bit more about that. So how did you figure out that this was a mistake that you were making? Like what happened on the team? Did someone say something? Did things start to happen? How did you come to that realization,

Vijay Pendakur  06:48

the feedback loop, I’m thinking back eight, and this was a number of years ago, but the feedback loop that I think helped me realize where I had a problem in my process was really around moving to execution of sort of new programs, services and tactics. And then having the painful mismatch between the thing we were trying to do and the constituency we were trying to serve, we were designing solutions for various segments of the student body at DePaul University. And when there’s a mismatch between the service that you’ve designed and what that constituency really needs, then you don’t get the lift, you don’t get the outcome that you’re seeking. And it was in the iterative process of launching, failing to meet expectations having to realign that I came to realize, I actually heard about these issues beforehand, and I didn’t pay attention. The humility here, right is when you have to go, I think that Sara or Eric or Jeff was actually trying to tell me about this on the front end. But I’d come to my own point of view, so quickly, that I actually didn’t allow their wisdom and their lived perspective of leading that area to inform the design of this, this new roadmap. And so it was in the stumbling between strategic design and tactical execution, that I came to realize that one of the problems was me, and that I needed to fix that if I was going to become a more efficient and effective leader. Because if you’ve, as many of your listeners have probably experienced when you launch and then have to realign it’s inefficient, at best, if not painful. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:22

it’s super interesting. Because oftentimes, I mean, generally speaking, most of these generic advice phrases that have become almost like memes, trust your gut, and the like, can mislead you. So I think one of the things I’ve always thought about is that, yes, you can trust your gut. But you have to be careful which situations like your gut isn’t going to tell you the right answer in situations that you don’t have experience in or that you haven’t been in for a long time. So sometimes it’s better to trust your gut in certain situations, but also, you know, trust the gut of other people in other circumstances, right. So it’s not always your gut that you trust. Yeah, sometimes you have to figure out who has the highest believability index. And, you know, here’s a set of people, like you said that we’re living the situation day in and day out and may have experienced those sorts of things. I mean, I think it’s a really interesting way that you came upon it. So the whole time. Did anyone say anything? Like I told you? So? Are those sorts of things on the team?

Vijay Pendakur  09:27

Oh, let me see. Where are the I told you so this came in? And I think that this question of the I told you so is so it’s interesting to ask, right? Because in a power based relationship, right, even if I’m not an authoritarian leader, and I’m not, it’s still a power based relationship. I’m the manager and they’re the direct report, then there can be some latency around the I told you so. And I think that that latency really interrupts the feedback loop in a way that’s harmful to the organization. Right. And so, at that time, I didn’t know If I didn’t have the language and skill around investing in psychological safety early and often as a mechanism to collapse that latency so that you get the I told you so, which is a more more constructive way of framing I told you so it’s feedback, right? Authentic, bidirectional feedback. And that’s what we know managers and directors need to have. But a barrier to it is when people don’t feel safe doing it. And so at the time, I hadn’t invested in the psychological safety necessary to create the feedback loop. And so I think that rather than the learning coming from my team, saying, Vijay, you know, I remember six months ago, and that meeting, when I brought this up, it was to sort of name with real humility, that how this all went down at that time, is actually me seeing it in the data. And so it didn’t come from the team, it came from the test iterate approach to solving for, you know, human capital issues, right, when you’re launching new programs and services you’re seeing in the data, whether they’re working or not. And when I wasn’t noticing the lift that we predicted on whatever variable we were trying to change, having to go back and process redesign multiple times is where I learned that lesson, not even in the direct feedback from team members, but rather than the aha moment for me was like, Oh, this is the issue away. I feel like Sarah actually already told me about this. I didn’t hear,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  11:18

you know, this is super interesting. And we’re talking about it right now, from the sense of, you know, a new manager issue, right? Like you become a manager and this happens. But I think what’s, what’s unique about your experiences, you’ve obviously been in these leadership roles across all these different companies. And so you’ve almost kind of relive that moment, many times because you get parachuted into new company. And there’s people who have been there for a long time and have been doing the job. And so I do wonder, so now, when you get into a new organization, what is your playbook? And how do you go about it? Sure. And I guess like, the other thing to balance is, yes, you need to listen to, obviously, your team, but you’re going into a new organization. And presumably, it’s because whatever they were doing may have not been getting the results. And so you’re the change agent to some extent. So yeah, wonder what your playbook is you go into new organization, how do you play it?

Vijay Pendakur  12:14

Yeah, eight. And I love that you’re naming one of the operational constraints that doesn’t often show up in the leadership books, right. So you’re stuck on a delay at the airport, you go into the airport bookstore, there’s, you know, all the leadership books are on the front table. And they talk about this like really extended period of sensemaking, that leaders should be involved in, right, where you carefully study the context. And then the reality is, particularly when you’re hired into a senior level role in a company, you’re expected to make decisions really quickly, often. And you’re not given some huge runway to be an ethnographer of culture and people and problems before you, you know, say make wise and sage decisions. So there’s a tension there, right around agility and learning and humility. And so for me a couple of things that have become part of the playbook as I’ve to borrow your language parachuted into a number of organizations across multiple sectors, and taken over intact teams every time. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to build my own team from scratch, right. So I’ve always taken over in tech teams, and I’ve gotten to make hires, obviously, but there’s some level of moving in and working with who is there and what is there. So two things that come up for me in response to this playbook question, one is a counter to the trust your gut, the conversation we were having earlier, my gut. So what I’ve learned about myself is my gut is driving hard towards doing stuff quickly and making decisions quickly. And I have to manage that. So managing my gut is probably more important for me than trusting my gut. And one way I manage my gut is I give myself a task that I have to do with my directs very quickly as a manager. And that is, to, through a series of meetings, assess three things about each of my team members. And these three things are one, their domain expertise. So we’re, where are they in terms of the depth of their understanding of the domain expertise, they’re supposed to have to run this or to run this function or to be a mid level person in this functional junior level person in this function, right. The second is their operational effectiveness. So there’s the what you know, and then there’s the how you get things done capacity, and just as important, honestly as domain expertise. And then the third is their emotional intelligence. And these are all three axes of when you really think about how you end up with an impact player or a superstar. It’s because they rate high on domain expertise, they rate high or operational effectiveness, and they rate high on emotional intelligence. So one task I give myself is the process of learning an individual around these three dimensions, before moving to making decisions about that individual, their remit, how we’re going to apply their talent and time towards solutioning. And that’s been a How fool heuristic or mental model to guide my gut impulse towards doing the second part of playbook that I can share. So when I started as the head of inclusion, talent and engagement at Zynga, there was a team, we were doing a lot of zero to one builds. So trying new things for the first time, right. And I realized that a technique I can bring forward to quickly raise psychological safety on my team, which is imperative, particularly in a zero to one stage is a ritual that I introduced at our team meetings called Fantastic budget. And I modeled it by talking about a mistake, I’ve made it work, and what happened that why it was a mistake and what I learned from it, and then we just created every few staff meetings, I would add it into the the agenda, five minutes at the end, for somebody to step forward, virtually, we were virtually at the time, and say, Hey, and let me unmute. So I launched this effort. And here’s what we tried, and wow, here’s what didn’t work. And here’s what we’ve learned in how we’re fixing it. And fantastic fudge UPS is a great way to celebrate the reality of failure at work. And in two ways. One, the fact that failure is just a part of any kind of innovative and iterative design process. And to center the reality of failure and innovation. On the other side, when you role model it as a leader and you don’t just ask for it, you actually increase team members sense of psychological safety, which means their willingness to take risks and potentially make mistakes without fear of harm or shame. And for us, that was actually one of our magical catalysts are on locks in a really fantastic run of building and launching new products for the company. very successfully across l&d learning, development, diversity, equity, inclusion, early talent and social impact. It was a multi part team. And we were expected to really move quickly and build and launch. And we needed to have courage in the face of failure. And so the other part of the playbook was like, How do I model that courage in the face of failure and invite that kind of sharing and learning with the

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  17:03

team? I love your framework figured out domain expertise, operational effectiveness, emotional intelligence for the people on your team, go through your trust building exercise, fantastic five jobs? And so like, Is it three months that you give yourself the opportunity to do these things before you go into strategic mode and start making decisions and moving things around? Or? Or how do you play that today?

Vijay Pendakur  17:27

Each context is different, right. So obviously, there’s the canonical first 90 days, you know, approach. And I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that approach. A lot of your listeners are going to be high level enough that they know that you’re not even offered 90 days sometimes. So one of the things I’ve done sometimes so for example, at one of my organizations, I was under some level of pressure and incentive to ship an enterprise strategy much sooner than 90 days. And so the only way I could get there was by pulling my my whole team together for an off site within four weeks of starting. Now, oftentimes, you don’t pull your whole team together for off site, we spent four weeks to start because there’s a lot of other things you’re still onboarding as a new leader. So how effective is that off site even going to be, but I had to do it in this moment. Because there are creative and risk taking tasks that flourish when you’re all together in a space that are harder to do in virtual. And so the learning I can take away from this to offer our listeners today is that dynamism or agility is really essential as a manager and leader and to not get locked into set in stone lift and shift methods. So if you’re a first 90 days kind of person, and you’re like, Well, this is my model, this is the way I do it. And you start in an organization, they go, Well, how about the first 30 days, you fall apart? Right? Because you’re not offered the runway. And so I think the agility of saying, Okay, so I’m not going to have 90 days, then how do I act and behave very differently, and maybe break some other rules and norms in order to achieve my goal. And so generally, when you are onboarding, you don’t pull your whole team together, because you’re just not ready to yet maybe have to flip that on its head if you need to ship strategy or product fast.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:09

Hey, everyone, just a quick pause on today’s episode to tell you about a new feature that I am so excited about. We’ve been working on this one for quite a while and excited to announce it to the world. We’re calling it meeting guidelines. So there’s all these things that people already know they should do when they organize a meeting. So for example, you should make sure that you shouldn’t invite too many people or if you’re booking a recurring meeting, you probably want to put an end date on that meeting. Or if you’re going to invite someone to a meeting, you should probably you know, if they have more than 20 hours of meetings that week, maybe be a little bit more considerate and ask Should I really invite that person to the meeting? So there’s a bunch of these sorts of things that you might even know about, but what happens somehow in larger organizations is that people forget all of these things. And so That’s why we built this feature called meeting guidelines. It’s super easy to use. It’s a Google Chrome extension. So if you install it, what will happen is it will integrate with your Google Calendar. And that way, whenever anyone within your company is about to book a meeting, these meeting guidelines will show up and make sure that people know and take a second look at that meeting that they’re about to book and make sure that it adheres to these guidelines. So if you want to book or within your company, have a no meeting day, or if you want to make sure that every meeting has an agenda in advance before it’s booked. So all the different sorts of guidelines that you may want. And they’re all obviously highly configurable, because every company is going to be slightly different. But this is the first time that there is a way that you can get an entire organization to change their meeting behavior. It’s something that we’ve been working on for a very long time, super proud to announce it to the world. It’s called meeting guidelines. If you’re interested in checking it out, we’d love for you to do that and give us feedback, you can get to it by going to fellow.us/guidelines. Again, that’s fellow.app/guidelines. Check it out. And let me know what you think. Yeah, that’s really good advice. And a very good way to think about it for this idea of when to trust your gut, how to leverage your team, how to build trust, and all of that to one of the common threads in your career, of course, has been Di. And one of the things that is often talked about is just the business ROI of D initiatives. You’ve seen this now at a bunch of different companies. And wondering if you can talk about I don’t know if there are any anecdotes or examples or things that you’ve seen very practically in the numbers of what kind of business ROI you’ve gotten from the initiatives that you’ve had across some of the companies that you’ve been at? Sure, sure. Yeah.

Vijay Pendakur  21:57

You know, I think that business ROI is definitely the, in the zeitgeist right of the conversation. And for years, now, there’s been the need to pull dei towards being able to demonstrate business level ROI, right. And I think taking that language of business ROI and kind of unpacking it into a set of deliverables is really helpful. So there are some talent ROI things that you can focus on, right. So one way of unpacking the talent side of this is the reality that I don’t use the word diversity, often at work, which you might find counterintuitive, given how long I’ve been doing this, but I don’t, because I actually rather think it’s more productive to talk about this in terms of relevance, or complexity. And what I mean by that is, if you help an organization understand that the complexity of its people helps it be relevant in an inherently diverse world, then achievements in increasing the complexity of your workforce actually allow you to measure that not as some sort of performative objects driven, hey, look, look at our website, we have more different faces. Now, that’s not the side of diversity I’m interested in, that’s not the side of diversity that honestly equals business ROI. The side of diversity that equals business ROI in the talent space is in alignment between the people that make your company, its services, its products, its decisions, and the inherently diverse and complex world that that organization is trying to serve. So that’s one set of measurements that programs and services increase. And I can double click on a second, right, but on the other side of this, there are performance ROI, right. And what I mean by that is, I don’t really use the language of activating inclusion as often anymore, obviously, it’s part of the D and I equity is the E and inclusion is the eye. But these things are just investments in an organization’s world class performance, if you are a manager or leader of an organization, and one of the things you care about is allowing your people to do the best work of their lives, which I’ve never met a manager that doesn’t want their team to do the best work of their life, then equity and inclusion are inherent investments in unlocking peak performance for your people. And there’s just a massive empirical body of social science research that shows us that when people are supported to not simply be in the room, but actually be in the room feel connected, have a high sense of belonging feel safe, they actually do better work. And so first, we need to reframe D and AI as relevance and performance when you do that the KPIs or the key performance indicators, waterfall very naturally from there, because then when you enact talent programs, so for example, on the talent side work that I’ve done that I think has been particularly effective, is thinking about talent, attraction and talent acquisition in different strategic buckets. And for early stage organizations. A lot of organizations haven’t done this work yet. So when I’m coaching and advising my clients that are in smaller organizations Startups earlier stage organizations, oftentimes the the consultant of work is in parsing up the where the calories are going, because there’s only so many budgetary dollars and human hours to put into this. And so how do we get really strategic about talent attraction and talent acquisition is two very different factors. And talent attraction is about the idea of planting seeds upstream in that pipeline space. It’s not about the wreck that you just posted the job opening you just posted, it’s actually about where you’re telling your talent story, and how you tell that talent story in ways that are meaningful to different audiences. So if you are an employer that is really interested in hiring people with disabilities and neuro diverse folks, how you tell your story, your talent, story matters. And where you tell your talent story matters, because there are digital watering holes, if you will, digital campfires, where people with different abilities and neurodiverse communities have gathered to make sense of things to network to share their information. And your ability to tell your talent story in those spaces in ways that are authentic and resonant with those audiences will result in a better compositional mix in your top of funnel when you do move into talent acquisition, which is the mechanics of posting a role and searching a role and interviewing for a role in hiring roles. Right. And so I think the relevance tactics, right, the diversity tactics that I’ve put in place that have helped organizations actually move this forward towards business ROI, first and foremost, are about parsing the tactical buckets towards talent attraction, as one set of investments and talent acquisition, it’s a different one. And then if you want, I can give you examples on the performance side of ways that you can really sort of get into the tactical functional space of driving performance for your workforce.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  26:50

Yeah, I mean, I loved your example of, you know, let’s not just put more diverse faces on our website, what are the relevant places and dividing those two buckets from an talent perspective, make a lot of sense to me, I do want to hear some examples on performance. Before we go into performance. I mean, you’ve also advised a lot of startups, you talked a little bit about how early stage organizations can think about hiring strategies. One question is, if you’re early stages of a company, you’re building up your company, and you’re thinking about dei and talent and all those things in one. I mean, what are your thoughts around, you know, should di be a separate role in the way that it is at a large number of companies? Or should it be more core and Central? Should the person with the DEA experience actually be running all of talent? Do you have any thoughts around just how you might organize your company, if you have the opportunity to do so?

Vijay Pendakur  27:45

That’s a great question. I think that I’m pretty pragmatic and realist at heart, right? So realistically, organizations generally don’t have the headcount latitude to bring on a dedicated di asset until they’re scaling to a certain point, maybe past 500 headcount. And so many of the organizations that I work with don’t have the luxury of having a dedicated dei asset, right? And so there’s a couple of different ways to solve for the notion of subject matter expertise in forming things, right. And so let’s zoom up a level, what are we actually solving for here? Right. First and foremost, you want to make sure that people who sit in key decision making roles have a level of awareness and sophistication around their dei decision making, so that Dei, as values or ideas are expressed through the verticals that they manage, you can achieve that without bringing on dedicated di assets, it’s just about searching for leaders that embody this work well. And actually, some of the leaders that are best positioned to make this change across the organization don’t have di in the title. If you have a chief people officer that really gets this work, and you’re an early stage or smaller organization, you’re going to be okay. And then there are ways that you can partner right with an external supporter to extend capacity or add in thought leadership or strategic advising around very specific things like when you’re trying to scale hiring into a new job, new geographic or cultural space, or when you’re trying to launch a product into a new demographic market or cultural market, right, you might need strategic advising and specific moments that exceed your in house capacity. But in house, I think that bringing in people that have a demonstrated track record of centering dei in their work without it needing to be their title is the single best level up you can bring your organization early stage. Second thing is fractional, right, I think more and more, you’re seeing fractional roles where it is a head of talent, acquisition and inclusion or ahead of l&d and dei or, you know, some array where you’re bringing the DEI piece in in a fractional way. And for early stage and midsize organizations. This makes a lot of sense when you’re headcount constrained the catch here Is that in the same way that you can’t tack multiculturalism on as a special unit in school at the end of everything, but the best way to learn about the reality that the word everything is multicultural is actually to have it read thread, or be a membrane that sits across all of your learning. When I sometimes I see these fractional job descriptions, and my call out to the industry right now is that you can look at some of these head of people and inclusion jobs, and it reads 95% of the way down as a generic head of people roll. And then at the end, they go and keep an eye out for di, it’s like, that’s insufficient, and what they’re doing there is there that’s virtue signaling that’s performative, and not actually accomplishing the goal of a fractionally designed leader. So if you’re going to do a fractional role, then it has to be baked in through the entire job description and not tacked on as a, the icing on the cake, because it just doesn’t work that way. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:54

no, that’s a very good way to put it. And I’ve seen this at companies that I’ve worked at where you do have people who are passionate about the topic. And again, if you’re before that stage, it’s really just championing them and allowing them to maybe speak up, maybe do a little bit of training, or just take some initiatives or take the lead. I mean, especially at a lot of growing organizations, there’s all sorts of things where you don’t have maybe the resources to get a full time resource, but there are people that may be good at that particular thing. And so you can definitely champion those folks. I did want to get your examples on performance, though, I think like that, that would be really interesting for everyone to hear as well,

Vijay Pendakur  31:37

just to recenter us in that part of the conversation, right, the truism that that I’ve seen play out over and over and over again in organizations, and then you can also find in the scaled social science research on the subject is that inclusion plus belonging and psychological safety equals performance. And there are controlled studies and observational studies that demonstrate this over and over again, that teams that are diverse and inclusive and safe will outperform homogenous or unsafe teams over and over again. And so tactics that actually result in a shift in the performance outcomes of your organization are things like training managers, and this is so salient to this podcast, right, making sure that your managers are ready with a toolbox of managing teams to words, set measurable gains in team connection, sense of belonging and psychological safety. These are three core measurable social science variables, you can actually measure a team’s index on these things and move the needle over time. And there are manager behaviors that are proven to turn up the dial on these things, or turn down the dial on these things. And oftentimes, in organizations, we tend to put people in management roles. I mean, this is the classic like Peter Principle, right? We elevate people into management who are really good as ICs. And then we just hope it works out. And particularly in early stage organizations, this happens all the time, right. And then when we invest in skilling managers, a lot of the first level investment is in compliance based managerial skill sets. So how to do the annual performance review how to not trigger er cases by following the law and how to not, you know, like, there’s sort of raising the floor on minimum viable managerial behaviors, that’s all nice. Once you’ve got that in place, the next step is around, balancing your managers ability to manage team performance through task based management, right. So making sure your managers know how to coach towards operational effectiveness, it’s really important management skill set. Simultaneously, we have to teach our managers how to lead people to do the best work of their lives. And in that toolbox are a set of manager or behaviors that turn up the dial on Team connection, belonging, psychological safety. And so like the work I do with intact teams, when I’m in house, oftentimes is the rescaling of managers around those kinds of behaviors that turn up the dial on those team performance variables, or when I’m partnering with an organization, that’s the kind of work I do within tech managerial teams, like your VP or SVP Leia or the team that’s managing a new geo expansion into Eastern Europe. You know, if that’s the market, you’re trying to crack, just knowing having that that skill set in place from the start makes such a difference in the way that you build the team culture going forward.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  34:25

Yeah, it’s very interesting. At the end of the day, when you’re talking about it, it’s not really coming at it from Hey, let me help you with di it’s let me help increase the performance of your team. And in order to be a better coach, you just have to also keep in mind di so it’s just part of the toolkit, if you want to be a great performance coach, a performance enhancer, which is what a manager should be, right? It should, because the manager exists, the team should perform better if you remove the manager in theory, the team shouldn’t do as well. The manager should be an enhancer of that team. And so Yeah, I think this is a really good way to look at it. You know, before we hit record, I do want to make sure to talk about this just a little bit is the environment has shifted a little bit. And it seems that when you kind of look across, maybe in the US maybe in some other countries as well, it seems like there’s some polarity, and it’s resulting in maybe some places being less committed to DEA, I wonder if, if you’re seeing any of that? Or what are your thoughts on the matter? Well,

Vijay Pendakur  35:29

so I’m broadcasting right now from Austin, Texas, a state in the United States. And I know you have a very international audience. So I always want to be transparent about you know, my locality. I think that from my vantage point, there’s a very real set of tensions playing out in the US right now around what the role of dei is in our society, both in the corporate space, and the education, space, all going all the way down to kindergarten level education, going through high school and collegiate education, what kinds of books should be in libraries, what shouldn’t be permissible on social media, and not so in just about every aspect of life, there is a litigation happening in the formal and informal sense of what is helpful or not in our society. And I think, for me, as somebody that’s been committed to this work for a very long time, it’s really critical for me to remind people that I’m engaged with in my personal life and my professional life, that the organizations that I’m in or the organizations that I coach, that the fundamental premise of human dignity work with the EI being another way to frame that work, is that we’re actually trying to expand the pie. This isn’t about shrinking one person’s slice of pie so that someone else can have a bigger slice of pie. Anybody who really understands this work and drives this in a meaningful and productive way knows that when you commit to the tactics and strategies correctly, we actually lift the floor for everyone to do better work in organizations to feel better about their work and organizations to trust their managers more for leaders to be able to show up with authenticity and vulnerability, as opposed to living in sort of the prison of performing perfection, which is a terrible place to lead from, there’s so many ways that that these investments help people do better work and enjoy their experience of their career more in ways that are just wins for everyone, and are also necessary investments to correct for the reality of historic exclusion, historic vulnerability, historic communities being underserved, that have to be corrected for if we are going to have equity in the workplace. So for me, when I look at the scrum, right, that just unbelievable clash that’s happening right now, one of the things I noticed is that people who feel very activated and threatened have come to misunderstand these issues, as somebody is taking away part of my pie. They’re trying to make my slice of pie smaller, so that that group, or that person gets a bigger slice of pie. And one of the reasons they’ve come to feel that way is because they’re actually being told, that’s what’s happening. And I have to be courageous to name that in this moment, there is a very active campaign to position dei as taking away something from some groups in order to give to others. And by and large, that’s not what’s going on. And so the corrective necessary here that is just about accuracy is around the reality that this is a generative model of human dignity. It’s a necessary correction to historical injustices and practices, and that when done correctly, we actually lift the floor and unlock flourishing for all members of the organization.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  38:46

Yeah, I mean, I just go back to what we started talking about, which is just the you know, performance angle. I think when you think about it that way, it just you make the pie a lot bigger. And I think let’s just make the pie bigger. Well, we’ll get more pie. Yeah, exactly. And I think a lot of these things are, it’s always the framing, a lot of things are pitched as zero sum games, where they’re positive sum. In reality, I think most things in life can be positive, something that’s just, you have to look at it from the right angle. So Vijay, this has been a super interesting discussion. We’ve talked about everything from how you evaluate your teams from domain expertise, operational effectiveness, emotional intelligence, how to build trust within your teams, how you think about the AI, which is, you know, from the lens of relevance and performance. We’ve talked about bucketing attraction and acquisition, and so many other things, including, like, championing people within your organization that just have the right mindset about di and so excellent conversation. The question we always like to end on is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks or words of wisdom that you would leave them with? Oh, yes,

Vijay Pendakur  39:59

well, Thank you for letting me have the last word Aiden. So I love a quote from Annie McKee, who has a book on resident leadership that I use a lot with individuals and teams and organizations that I coach, and she writes that significant professional growth without personal transformation is impossible. And let me just double down on that, right, significant professional growth without personal transformation is impossible. And the reason I liked this quote is it’s one it’s really strongly voiced, right? The What are using the word impossible, and that it makes people pause and go, Whoa, that’s a strong claim that’s productive. Pause, the conviction that personal transformation is actually the catalyst for successful leadership is proven out time and time again, you read anybody’s book on leadership that’s gone on to do great things for their company, their organization, or the world, personal transformation is at the heart of that journey. And so ultimately, like, I truly believe, and I want to leave our listeners today with this notion that improving your craft as a manager is, in some part about improving yourself. And the best leaders, the best managers use all of their senses, combined with intellectual and emotional intelligence to drive innovation, and to drive change within organizations. If you want to inspire people to follow you, as a leader, which is instrumental to be a leader, then you have to be invested in personal growth. And if you want to be able to recover from failure, which is a necessary growth mindset to live in a world where failure is unavoidable, the personal personal transformation is requisite. And so I’ll end there with this notion of centering personal transformation. And I really enjoyed the conversation.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  41:38

Great advice and a great place ended. Vijay, thanks so much for doing this. Absolutely. And that’s it for today. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Supermanagers podcast. You can find the show notes and transcript at WWW.Fellow.app/Supermanagers. If you liked the content, be sure to rate review and subscribe so you can get notified when we post the next episode. And please tell your friends and fellow managers about it. It’d be awesome if you can help us spread the word about the show. See you next time.

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