Learning Experience Leader

49 // Positive Deviance and Facilitating Transformational Leadership with Dr. Beth Wilkins

December 01, 2020 Greg Williams
Learning Experience Leader
49 // Positive Deviance and Facilitating Transformational Leadership with Dr. Beth Wilkins
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Beth Wilkins is the founder and CEO of Foresight Collaborative, a management consulting firm that focuses on accelerating innovation and growth by helping clients envision and achieve aspirational strategies. Prior to starting Foresight, she was the Head of Organization Effectiveness at a global non-profit and the Director of Talent Development at Oracle. She was also a Principal Consultant at DecisionWise and the RBL Group. Beth holds a Ph.D. in Instructional Psychology with a focus on transformative learning. 

Today we talk about: 

  • Dealing with Imposter Syndrome and the role of storytelling in shaping identity and learning
  • How transformational leaders can leverage values and learning to inspire and energize others
  • The learn, experiment, reflect model to bring about real change individually or as an organization
  • How you can influence change in your organization without any formal power
  • The qualities of positive deviants and their influence in transforming teams and people


Resources:
👉 Reading and resources on Beth’s website: Foresight Collaborative 
👉 Moments of Greatness: Entering the Fundamental State of Leadership (HBR article)
👉 Dan Duckworth - Positive Deviance Program
👉 Shawn Quinn - Lift Consulting

Support the show
Dr. Beth Wilkins:

transformational leaders invite sustainable change in thoughts, feelings and actions. The most transformational leaders have been through a transformation themselves. So in other words, they've had a major turning point in their lives. And usually it comes through a heart experience that disrupts the way they see the world or that they show up in the world, and that catapults them forward because they choose to frame it as a learning experience or redemption narrative.

Greg Williams:

From the beautiful state of Utah in the United States. Hello, and welcome. I'm Greg Williams, and you're listening to the learning experience leader podcast, a project devoted to design leadership and the psychology of learning. This podcast helps you expand your perspective of learning design through conversations with innovative professionals and scholars across the world. Today's guest is Dr. Beth Wilkins. Beth is the founder and CEO of foresight collaborative, a management consulting firm that focuses on accelerating innovation and growth by helping clients envision and achieve aspirational strategies. Prior to starting foresight, she was the head of organizational effectiveness and a global nonprofit, and the director of talent development at Oracle. She was also a principal consultant at decisionwise, and the RBL group that holds a PhD in instructional psychology with a focus on transformative learning. Today, we talked about dealing with imposter syndrome and the role of storytelling in shaping identity, and learning how transformational leaders can leverage values and learning to inspire and energize others know learn experiment, reflect model that can bring about real change individually or as an organization, how you can influence change in your organization without any formal power, and also the qualities of positive deviance and how their influence can transform teams and people, you can show your support for the podcast by going to patreon.com slash LX leader. With that, let's get started. I'm really excited to have you here. Dr. Wilkins. It's a huge pleasure for me. Thank you. I'm happy to be here. So for those listening, could you provide us a brief snapshot as to what your current work is? And what that looks like?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yes, so I got brave this year, and I started my own management consulting firm. Most of you are probably thinking, why did she do that in 2020. But I felt like I really wanted to focus on some of the things that I've researched and things that I've been experimenting with for years, and I just couldn't wait any longer. So this was right before COVID that I started my business. And what my days look like now are, there's a lot of executive coaching, there is some strategy and change consulting. I'm also teaching a leadership class at BYU. And I'm in the midst of designing an online Transformational Leadership Program. Oh, interesting.

Greg Williams:

When you mentioned executive coaching, I have this picture in my head of just like, you kind of walk into a building or I guess, right now be getting on a zoom call, and just sort of asking these smart questions to these very powerful, smart people and, and try to imagine what the What's that? Like? I mean, and what was it like doing that for the first time?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yeah, it was intimidating. So luckily, I've had years of practice, I started coaching when I was at Oracle. And I took many coaching courses to figure out different methodologies. And so that I have many tools in my toolkit. However, I really felt even as I started that it was a big responsibility. The people that I'm coaching are busy, I want to use their time well. And, more importantly, than any of that, I care so much about helping people change in meaningful ways that I wanted to figure out how to do that. And so there are so many different techniques you can use, I have found that the best thing to do is to start with some kind of disruption. Sometimes people come to me because they're going through a disruption of some sort of big business change, a personal change. However, oftentimes I start with a 360 of some sort so that we can surface what's going on and where people need to change. So in other words, they might not know that there are things that aren't going well or that there's there's more value they could add, and assessment like that helps them see it and helps them realize even if and part of it is just perception, there's something they need to do about that.

Greg Williams:

And that sort of opens them up to a awareness or an interest in a coach or or somebody to help them through that.

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yes, yeah, it's that need so you're kind of awakening This urgency to change when they when they have that disruption of an assessment. So even if they are coming to me, because they already know about the disruption, I do think it's good to start with an assessment so that they have some benchmarks for the current state. And then we can talk about where they want to go, and how we can bridge the gap between the current and future state.

Greg Williams:

You might not have this off the top of your head, but I'm wondering if you can remember one of your first executive coaching sessions and what that was like? That is a good question.

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

I remember so at Oracle, I was in charge of the 360 network. And so I coached many leaders, I honestly do not remember the first one. And, but I remember, I remember really loving, coaching people that that were open to the change. In other words, they, they were humble enough to see that they needed to change and wanted my help doing so. And I remember feeling like an imposter, I'll be honest, um, because you know, I have this new bag of tools, and I'm a pretty perfectionistic person. And so it was a lot of being in my head and making sure I was following the steps and using the tools correctly. I remember that being pervasive in my, in my early coaching sessions, what I've learned over time, is that the best coaching sessions are the ones where I'm not thinking about any of that, where I just focus on the person I'm talking to, and listen at a really deep level, and then things occur to me, and tools that could help them come to mind and it just flows.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, so you're kind of out of this mindset of, Oh, you know, the author of this framework, they, they might see how I'm using this tool, and it's probably wrong and, and kind of getting out of that space to just seeing that other person. And if that tools become a part of you, it comes out at the right time. Right? Yeah, and I imagine that only comes with experience and confidence as you do it over and over again. But that's a good place, I think, for any learning designer to want to get, you know, you're not ticking the boxes on Addie, or anything like that. But you're, you're really able to get a sense of what your stakeholders need and what the gaps are for the learners. But that's no easy place to start. I don't think

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

it isn't. I think it has so much to do with practice, like you're saying, and also trusting yourself. That's, that's something that those of us who have imposter syndrome really need to do is make a shift in our mental model. And that's the kind of work I do in coaching, I'm helping other people choose different perspectives. And so if we, as imposter syndrome, folks can, can see evidence for how we are performing well, or how we are adding value and really start to believe that even if it's just Okay, I know that I'm adding some value, but giving ourselves more credit than we usually do that leads to more and more confidence and and then you perform better. So in other words, it can be a self fulfilling prophecy. Right to to be an investor to fail. And so there's there's a lot of mental work that affects our beliefs, and then our actions.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, it makes me think of, I don't know if it's technically the right name for it. But the Pygmalion effect comes from ancient story that you can see in my fair lady, that musical It was a remake of that story of the way you treat people as often what they become I know that's big for teachers in the K 12 environment, but it can be for ourselves, the self story that we have is what we choose to live out. And I imagine that's a big part of what you do as you're working with folks. Exactly.

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yeah, the narrative that I've done a lot of research on identity development. And narrative is a huge focus and identity development, it's much easier to have a good narrative about others than it is about ourselves. And so doing some work to think about, when did I, you know, perform, like I was saying, or when did I go through a hard experience and learn from that? How am I better because of that, that's called the redemption narrative. There's a lot of research showing that going through that exercise of figuring out what your guiding narratives are, your core stories are and trying to frame them in a more positive light leads to a more positive identity or lead you toward your potential or best self.

Greg Williams:

When you think about your own narrative, and maybe the current way you're crafting it and reflecting on your history, Which has its own set of narratives. Is there a particularly significant learning experience that has influenced you and your development either as a person or a professional?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yes, there are many. The one that first comes to mind is an experience that I had that has completely changed my focus in my profession. I was at Oracle, I had been there around 10 years. And it was a wonderful place to grow up professionally, I had a manager that saw potential in me. And so she had me rotate into many different positions. And I learned from many mentors, through a lot of really great experiences. However, at that point, about 10 years in, I started to feel restless, I felt like I'd hit the ceiling in my current role. And I love to learn. So that was extremely frustrating to me, I wanted to stretch myself. And I started thinking about becoming a professor. Because I had always thought that's kind of the pinnacle of achievement. And I also love teaching and helping people learn. So I started exploring that path. And I decided to go to an Academy of Management conference, and just go to some of the sessions and see if any of the research was really compelling to me, or any of the professor's inspired me. And I will say, I was underwhelmed, not that there weren't some great presentations, but there was nothing that was really resonating with me. And I didn't know if this was the way I was supposed to go. It wasn't the Lightning Experience I expected. However, on the last day, I believe it was last day, I met Bob Quinn, who is or I guess was he's now retired, but he was a professor at the University of Michigan. And his research is around deep change transformation. I had a hallway conversation with him, I couldn't even get into his session, because he's so popular and so full. But somebody that I knew told me a lot about him and that I would enjoy talking to him. I also knew his daughter. So I felt like you've probably talked to me, my dad was a good friend of his anyway. So I use those personal connections to talk to him. And it turned into this amazing coaching session in the hall of the hotel we were in. And he asked me questions like, what is your purpose? And when do you feel alive and true to your deepest self? I mean, he's really deep questions. And it was so helpful to me at that point in my life because of the wrestle I was going through. But also it was his approach. He he spent some time before he asked those questions, building rapport with me, I could tell he really cared about my life and what I was doing, I could tell, he wanted to understand what my passions were, and what I was trying to do in the world, things like that. And because of that, caring because of the laser focus on me, even though he had all these adoring fans around him, I really engaged in that discussion, we had a great interchange, I also had this thought come to me that I needed to work with him. I thought what in the world like he this is, this is a really famous professor at the University of Michigan. And by the way, the University Michigan has, in my opinion, the best Organizational Behavior program in the world. So I'm sure lots of people wanted to work with Baldwin. And I thought, who am I What in the world and I also was, you know, full time professional at Oracle. In California, we live far apart. But what was interesting was that I just kept having that idea work on me. And a few years later, I was developing an executive program at Oracle. And I was told that we could use a university to help us with this executive program. And so of course, I thought if the University of Michigan I thought of Bob and some others that were doing exec Ed there, and they ended up being the university, we chose after a good vetting process. So I did get that opportunity. And that's the continuation of the story. I started to have this turning point in my life with that hallway coaching conversation. But it wasn't until I went to the University of Michigan and went through their positive leadership program that I transformed, that I really had a chance to explore my purpose and think about my values in more depth and and figure out how I wanted to align my life with those things.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, that's fantastic story. And I imagine it's, it's continuing in the work that you're doing and the transformations you're helping others through. And we've used that word now a few times transformation transformational. I know you and I, before this conversation talked about how, in some ways that can become it's a buzzword, right and when becomes a buzzword, it loses a lot of its original meaning or value. And so wondering if you could talk through a little bit from your angle, because you've spent more time than I think most folks I know Thinking about what transformation means in the context of leadership? What What is transformational leadership?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yes, I've thought a lot about this. So it's hard to summarize. But the way that I would, and succinctly say it is that transformational leaders invite sustainable change in thoughts, feelings and actions. The most transformational leaders have been through a transformation themselves. So in other words, they've had a major turning point in their lives. And usually it comes through a heart experience that disrupts the way they see the world or that they show up in the world. And that catapults them forward, because they choose to frame it as a learning experience or redemption narrative.

Greg Williams:

So with that, then they've gone through maybe their own sort of transformation or shift. Is there a way that you've seen these kinds of leaders help spread that into building a transformational culture, or a culture that transforms successfully into sort of a higher state or a higher speed of, of activity that that helps them live their values as an organization?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yes, I've seen many examples of that. And there's one that's fresh on my mind. So I mentioned I'm teaching a leadership class at BYU. And this week, I had a guest speaker, his name's dow Wilson. He's the CEO of Verizon. And he was telling his story, and I thought this is this is maybe the perfect transformation case, I no doubt really well, he's somebody that was a bishop of mine, in the Bay Area. So I worked with him as a volunteer in that organization, I know that he has some of the qualities that transformational leaders have. But let me tell you a little bit about how he used those characteristics to transform Varian. So he, first of all, he's very purpose driven. And that's important for a leader. I mean, you heard me in my story about Bob, and say that he asked me to focus on what's my purpose. And that's something that leaders who are trying to help others have this vision of what's possible, and what could be meaningful in the world, need to think about things to think about that for themselves. Because if they get clear on that, then it's contagious. And so for Tao, he, his wife had breast cancer, so and he was very passionate about helping cure cancer and variants very focused on that. But in fact, their their vision is a world without the fear of cancer. And because Tao had this personal experience with cancer in his family, it was very meaningful to him. And he was able to authentically communicate to his organization that he wanted to work toward this vision, but he knew it was lofty, but this was something he really want to do in the world. He's also somebody that's very humble. So when he took on the responsibility of, of transforming this organization, it was not doing very well. And he shared some data with my class, he said, you know, just a few years ago, in 2017, their growth was about 2.5%. And it didn't look promising investors were not saying great things about Verizon. But he's the kind of person that tries to learn and, and tries to figure out how they can make the best of the situation. And so he brought, you know, his board his executive team together, and they started thinking about what they could do to shift the strategy and the culture. And so they were very collaborative in the way they figured that out. They talked a lot about, well, what do we need to be doing each day in order to achieve this? What what are our values as an organization? How can we align our actions to those values, so things like you know, innovation, of course, we have to innovate in order to cure cancer, right, we have to be very achievement oriented, we have to be accountable for our behavior. And so they articulated those. And oftentimes, I'm sure you know, this, from working in organizations, but oftentimes, leaders will articulate values and vision, they'll put them up for people to see on the walls of the buildings or virtually, and it actually backfires on them. Because then employees start holding them to those standards, right? And they see our executive team, they're hypocrites, because they're not living these values. I think the difference in dows approach and in transformational leaders approaches is that, you know, they say these are our spouse values, and we're all works in process. We're all working toward these things. So we're going to recognize where we aren't behaving this way. And we are going to set goals and stay accountable to those goals so that we can get closer to living these values. So he did that. I also think it was that he cared so much, not only about curing cancer, but about the people that were working with him to do. So. He is somebody I know this from working with him. He's He's so focused on potential in people. And he's good at recognizing strengths, talents and articulating those for people, which is really helpful to him. People have impostor syndrome like me. So it gives people confidence that they are needed in the effort that they have a part to play. And then he helps them become more committed to the cause. I think it's because they feel part of it. But also, when you are involving people in the innovations in solving the problems that leads to commitment. So it was those types of things that helped the organization really come together. And there were some phenomenal results, I guess the one of the thing I would say about transformational leaders and Tao really does have this quality, and they are energizers. They, they help people stay hopeful. So I already mentioned that he was good at showing people the positive and he in themselves and in what they were doing as an organization, but he's also really great at and just celebrating the progress, the small wins, as I would call them, there's gonna be a lot of failure also, in any transformation journey. So in addition to celebrating small wins and focusing on those, you have to reframe the failures as learning experience. So with all of those things he was doing, they had some phenomenal outcomes. So we're now in 2020. And they went from that 2.5% growth, to 12% growth, and they're serving a different market. So their market size was 7 billion in 2017. Now, it's 12 billion, and they went from 2.7 million patients to 4.5 million. And then things that, you know, people use to judge CEOs also went up like net promoter score was in the 70s. Now it's in the 80s. With employee engagement, they're kind of middle of the pack, now, their top 10%. So all these indicators that that things have really transformed. And, you know, he said, the most important thing to them is that they're having, they're having really profound impact in patients lives. So they've also done a lot of work to figure out how they're personally impacting people, which is continually motivating the employees, and those kinds of outcomes are most important to them.

Greg Williams:

I'm glad you shared some of those indicators, because a lot of what we've been talking about, depending on who's listening might sound like that's nice, you know, transformation, you know, listening to people and and being nice, like, of course, like, those are all nice things. But I think what you've described here is Stephen, like, there's no other way to describe it other than a transformation, you know, the difference between what was and what is has, is significant, and the difference between what you're talking about with varying as a cultural change, and then also your own individual change or transformation. It seemed one common thread was the ability to kind of self examine, or as a company or leadership, examine values, both stated and lived, look at the discrepancy there and kind of attack that with an honest, transparent strategy of Alright, here's our ideal where we want to be, here's actually where we are. That's okay. This is learning and let's move forward. I mean, is that an accurate summary of something that is basically required on any kind of transformation?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yes, yes, that self examination is huge. In fact, I now, I've kind of boiled it down to three critical steps. That mean, I just articulated all these characteristics. And those are all important. However, in order to and help people feel like this is accessible, and I know what to do next. I say, okay, the most important thing is for you to start reflecting on what you want, first of all, what result you want to create. So that's the vision piece, and then to think about where you are right now. So that gap between the current and future state and then to start experimenting. So basically, it's what do I want? That's the simple way to say it, what experiment could I do that might get me closer to that. And then after the experiment, the third piece that's critical is reflection, reflect on what happened. And then iteratively experiment, you know, make another decision about Okay, I'm gonna try this. And as I said, with the variant example, in any change, there's all kinds of experimentation going on. And there are also many failures, a lot of those experiments fail. So doing the experiment is progress. And reflecting on that is critical, because that teaches you, you know, what the next the next iteration should be, you know, the next experiment should be so it's an emergent process, is what I'm trying to say. And you have to really take the time to just do those small things and reflect on those small things. That's where the learning comes. And that gets you to the transformation. I think it can be really overwhelming to people to think about the transformation all the time and how much work there is To get there. And so I found that that framework of, you know, learn, experiment, reflect, learn, experiment reflect, is really helpful.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, that that does break it down nicely. Um, I know you've done a lot of research as a part of your dissertation. And otherwise, you mentioned some pieces that you looked at when you're at Oracle, as well, all around transformation and how an organization is influenced and changes with its leaders and wondering how that factors into what we've talked about, or if there are additional pieces there that you see as really important to this conversation?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yeah, um, well, one of the things that's coming to me is diversity, equity, inclusion, and how important some of the things we've been talking about are to those efforts. So, though, in the last few years, I've been asked to help with a lot of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. And it's been so it's been so exciting to me, because, you know, obviously, I care about behavior changing at an organizational level, that's culture change. And in order to really become more inclusive, we have to change the way that we see people the way that we treat people the way that we act as organizations. And so I've been doing a lot of research on why cultures aren't more inclusive. So let me just say, you know, I worked at this company decisionwise recently, and we did a lot of assessments, and I was their lead for D and I, or a diversity, equity inclusion. And so I was often working with organizations to look at the current state. And to talk about, okay, where do we want to go? How do we bridge that gap? And, you know, at this point, given all the great work organizations like McKinsey and Deloitte and catalyst have done, there's a strong business case for inclusion, right to, to get diverse people in your organization, and then to include them. Yeah, and so most executives, in fact, one of my friends, Sarah Jones, who's the CEO of inclusion Pro, and she said in her research, 95% of leaders say that they need a diversity and inclusion plan, but only 25% of leaders actually have one. So there's this knowing doing gap, right. And so what I am noticing, as I work with companies is that they're getting much better at recruiting diverse talent, bringing them into the organization at certain levels. However, they haven't really figured out how to change their behavior, to include them to help them feel like they belong, and therefore retain them.

Greg Williams:

So a big part of this culture shift is, you know, I can't help but wonder, hey, I am a little person in this organization. I'm not one of these executives. I'm not a CEO. I can't change everything. How have you observed individuals down at the individual contributor level, helping facilitate some of these changes, whether it's related to diversity, inclusion or otherwise? Hmm,

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

that is a great question, I believe that you can influence without authority. Definitely. So there's, there's position power, and there's personal power, and transformational leaders might have position power, but they definitely have personal power. So let's take diverse inclusion, I have a great story about somebody that was transformational, even though, you know, they didn't necessarily have the authority given them to influence diversity, equity inclusion. And so this woman, she was, I think, at that point, she was in the Public Affairs Department of the organization I was working with, but she was asked to be on an external committee around diversity inclusion. And the specific focus for Utah businesses at that time was including women more in senior leadership. And she came back to the organization she was working with as a nonprofit. And she just said, you know, what, I don't think we're doing enough to recruit, retain, develop senior leaders, we need to look at what's going on and decide what we want to do about this and stay accountable to our plan. And it took her years to implement but because of her strong purpose, her meaningful, you know, connection to this, she was one of the only senior leaders at that point in the organization. She was one of 5% that was female. And and so she she felt like this is this is important to me personally, and was laser focused on that as a first step. But then she started being innovative and thinking about, well, how can I use my personal network to influence change, so and she kind of thought about who she'd need to influence. She's one of those people. If you think about organizational network analysis are kind of the social map of an organization. She would be a key influencer, she'd be one of the people that set the hub of a social network. And so she was able to, you know, influence people Right around her and her group. But more importantly, for this effort, she needed to influence the Managing Director of Human Resources is the Chief Human Resource Officer, she needed to influence the president of the company, she needed to influence other women. So that, you know, it wasn't only her voice saying we need to change. And so again, after a lot of effort, she encouraged HR, one of her friends in HR to put together a steering committee and the steering committee came up with a vision, they started looking at the data, you know, how many women were we bring in? At the senior levels? How many were retaining? Were we promoting any women from from frontline to mid level to senior like all of that important quantitative analysis, we also started, I was on the steering committee. So we also started doing some qualitative analysis. And that looked like several interviews, some focus groups, so that we could capture stories of experiences in the organization. And after a lot of that work, I, this woman who first suggested the idea, who I think is a key influencer, and said, you know, we, we need to present this in a compelling way to the president of the company. So even though she was not leading the effort, it was somebody in HR leading the effort, she suggested that several of us from the steering committee, especially the senior women go to the presentation, and that was really out of the ordinary, shows how much influence she had that ended up happening, like typically had one or two presenters to the President. And that was heavily vetted. And that meaning that you had to kind of get approval on even the idea you were presenting, and then you know, only a few people could be there. Because at the time of this executive and his team, were so precious, right. So it was amazing that we got permission to bring in a group to present. But what happened in that conversation was so amazing. To me, it was it was a turning point in my work in diversity, equity inclusion, because it gave me so much hope. So I saw this executive team who has a progressive executive team, they're not closed minded. So that was important. But there was one issue in particular, that they just wouldn't budge on. And they were on the opposite side of the spectrum from the senior women in the room. And once we started telling our stories, like how that particular policy affected us, in our day to day working lives, when we thought about ourselves, it completely shifted the conversation. So the President went from one side of the spectrum to the complete opposite side of the spectrum. And he actually said, I want to take this and run with it basically, like, I'm gonna go convince the other stakeholders that this is what we need to change. So that's just an example of how anybody at any level of ordination. I mean, granted she she was somebody that was a director in that organization. However, again, she did not have responsibility for diversity, equity inclusion, she just cared so much about it, and was somebody that knew how to influence so she was able to have that kind of outcome.

Greg Williams:

It seems like she identified key decisions that had to be made in order to promote the change that she thought was important for the organization as a whole and for her own group of women, right, and others, and then kind of work backwards from that. Right. As to our choice has to be made by a decision maker with authority. How can I influence then that authority figure or figures, and that's a really powerful narrative, and must have been really neat moment to be in the room during that transformation of that group?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yeah, yeah, it was really amazing to be there. And I think you're right in your observation that it was something that she really had to break down. Like, I tried to say this took time, I would say, I can't even remember how many years I don't remember when she first started it. But I came in kind of in the middle. So it took a number of years. But she really was so dedicated to it. And she thought through strategically, what she needed to do, what moves she needed to make, and then try experimented back to it learn from and reflect she experimented with different things until it led to a transformation in these executives, mental models, or their their perspective about the issue, and therefore their actions.

Greg Williams:

Is this a good example of what I've heard you call positive deviance? Maybe you could talk a little bit about what that term is, and means maybe as it relates to the story?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yes, it's a perfect example of positive deviance. So positive deviance are people that see that the norm and an organization or a community or a family are not always healthy, right. So there could be some things that are kind of neutral, but there are some things that just aren't helping the community, the group reach their potential. And so somebody that sees things from a positive frame, wants to move toward potential, wants to make things more virtuous. Or, you know, more effective or whatever words you want to use. But when I went and did that positive Leadership Program at University of Michigan, I learned all about positive deviance and how they can be people that are anywhere in the organization, right, that it's more about the qualities these people have than anything else. And so I would say this woman and other positive deviants I've observed, are really good at figuring out, you know, how to become energizers, meaning they, they have to get so focused on and excited about their purpose, that they're willing to go through all the hard work. I mean, think about, especially in a large organization, how hard it is to influence change. So typically, these people, and they have a lot of stamina, but I think it comes from that hope that that vision they have of the future. And what I've learned as I've studied organizational networks is that these people, these energizers, they influence across three degrees of separation. So it's not only the direct people they interface with, also, they are four times more effective than other influencers. This is a whole nother podcast, but but there are all kinds of influencers in social networks, there's some that share a lot of information, there's some that help with performance that change, things like that. But these energizers, Rob Krause, and Wayne Baker, they've done a lot of research on the different and profiles of, of influencers. And they've shown that they're four times more effective than any of the effective meaning effective in influencing change, and really helping the organization improve. So I think about that, and I just, I really want to help more people become positively deviant. You know, if there were more of us that were really trying to figure out, what do I care about influencing this organization? And how can I spend the time listening to others, and so that I understand what's important to them, and I can kind of connect the vision of what I see with their vision, you know, how can I engage others in other words, to get the support I need for this effort, or that we need, I should probably say that because energizers are usually very focused on the wean off the eye. And but yeah, there there are all kinds of things these people do. But they, some of the main things are that they kind of create this community, they create a village that is able to influence change together. In other words, they are true leaders, like you can be a manager and not be a leader, right? That's the position power, but these people are using their personal power to create a village to tap into empathy, to kind of monitor energy and sustain that energy, and to help things and keep on track meaning they, you know, we talked about with the example of dow Wilson, they're, they're looking at when things are going well. And I started saying that these things, these experiments that went well, were positive pilots, and I would hold those up when I was trying to change something and say, Hey, this positive pilot worked, you know, and then reframing the hard things is learning. All of those things that we keep talking about these different examples, those are critical for these energizers, or positive deviants. And any of us can learn to do those things.

Greg Williams:

I'm trying to think about some of the ways that what we've discussed could be applicable to a run of the mill, Instructional Designer who's maybe in a large corporation or doing freelance work, or learning experience designer is trying to make, you know, a great elearning experience come to life for somebody. And some of the things that I think about, that you're talking here relate to the the challenge, I think that many learning professionals have is how can we foster a real learning culture at our organization where it's not, here's your yearly required compliance training, and here's your required whatever to unlock something you want, where it's almost very much pushing to just get it done culture versus what real learning that can be when it's more pull and influence in such a subtle shift. But it's up here in these nuances, I think of influence that some of that could come to pass, but I don't know, what do you make of that as you think about some of these principles? And then what you know of as it relates to, like a specific l&d department or, or folks who are really dialed in to fostering learning as an organization?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

Yeah. Great question. Some of the thoughts that are coming to me, are they any learning designer needs to think about, obviously, the vision, like where's this, this learning going to take us? Where's this course or this series of courses going to take us and why would people care about that? So obviously, in the audience analysis, you're going to figure some of those things out. And in my experience as a learning designer, I should have mentioned that when I was at Oracle, that's how I started for years. I was a learning designer, and I remember feeling like so much of what we were designing He was coming from the heads of designers or from, you know, people that were leadership development professionals, and not really from the people that we were serving. And so that's a basic concept of audience analysis. But I think it goes deeper than just having an interview or two, you have to be an observer of the culture, you have to see what, what is moving the needle for people, what what's really people care about, not just by what they say, but by their actions. So once you can tap into that, then I think you can make sure that the initiatives are successful. And well, you never know for sure, but it makes it more likely right, that those initiatives will be successful. So just a quick example, when I was working with us services engineering Vice President at Oracle, and I did a lot of interviews, and tried to understand what he and his executive team wanted in this leadership development program that they asked me to develop. But it was interesting, because I don't, I don't think they really caught the vision until we started experimenting. So we kind of laid out many different things that they could do in this year long program. And but it was interesting, because it was his experience going through some of this with his people, that that kind of changed his mindset about the learning and how important it was and how it would affect outcomes. And so one of our philosophies was if we can involve the executive team, as sponsors, and what we're doing, then they're also gonna go through this learning experience. That's often half the battle, right? Like, you have these sponsors that are so detached from what you're doing, that it doesn't take root in the culture. And so involving them in significant ways. as mentors, as you know, executive Well, we had this executive panel, so they were giving feedback to people on the projects they were working on, and how they related to the business, I mean, just so many touch points. And they also, you know, were involved in some of the content that the delivery of these different frameworks that their people were applying, so that they could then effectively mentor that long story short, it was really successful. And by the end of the year, this executive his name was Mark, went around to the other executives at Oracle and sold them on this program, which then turned into that executive program, I co design, Michigan, it was a huge success, because Oracle didn't do. They didn't do you know, organization wide global training, they just didn't believe in that was it? At that point, a real Maverick culture where it was very siloed. And every executive did what he or she mostly it was he's thought was necessary, right? So anyway, this was a huge, he was in that case, Mark was positively dvn. This was a shift in the behavior of the executives across Oracle. And it led to a lot of good outcomes. That wouldn't have happened, I believe, if he hadn't become a convert through some of the experiments we did.

Greg Williams:

Yeah, that's a great example. super helpful. And all of these ideas, you know, speaking of energizing, and so forth, is really got my wheels spinning and excited to think about ways I can apply it in my current role, and also with some of those that I visit with and talk through, as you reflect of some of the themes that we've picked up on, and also just actions you've seen others take off? Is there one suggested action, someone listening to right now could take today that you think could help begin facilitating transformation? Or at least start the journey of moving the needle?

Unknown:

Yes,

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

let me go back to my formula. So this is three things, but I think they tie together well, this is how I think you can discover the transformation opportunities in your own life. So first, explore what you want, what results do you want, then think about? And what experiments will help me get there? So just to kind of double click on that, you have to think about, are there patterns or biases that are keeping me from these results, and maybe one of those patterns are or biases I need to change? Right? So how could I do that? What's a small way I could change or try to change that. Honestly, great. It takes. It takes many experiments before some of these things change. You don't get transformation overnight. But I promise you, if you take that seriously, you'll have epiphanies, about ways that you can iteratively change an experiment, and then reflect on that reflect on how it went and go on to the next experiment that occurs to you. So yeah, just what is the results? How can I move closer toward that? What experiment can I do? And then some good reflection on how that went and what I need to do next to get me closer to the results I want.

Greg Williams:

Fantastic. Well, there's some really actionable things and But I know can be hugely impactful for listeners. And for myself. Have I missed or not asked you about something that you feel is just really important for folks to understand about these topics that we've discussed.

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

We've covered a lot of ground. Now guess the thing that's occurring to me right now is that it's, it's really helpful to have people around you who are also change agents. Um, as I've said, a few times transformation is not easy. And it's helped me be more successful or just kind of sustain changes if I have other people who can can help me and think about what's going well or help me be hopeful helpful. When I'm not feeling hopeful, or helped me reframe things. It's hard to do in isolation. So I guess the other thing that I would suggest people do is figure out who the changemakers are in their lives. Yeah. And, and spend more time with them figure out how you can inspire one another, to transform things in positive ways.

Greg Williams:

I think that's a really good call out. It's, I can't remember where it comes from. But they say you're you kind of are who you surround yourself with. A previous guest. Zack Atherton is an improv comedian talked about just the power that came in and change in his life when he started surrounding himself purposefully with people who built him up and, and invited that kind of change. I think that's a great suggestion. And in light of what we've discussed, super applicable. Finally, are there any resources that you would recommend along these where people who might want to learn more about some of these topics? Should should start?

Dr. Beth Wilkins:

I have several on my website, maybe you could link to that. Yeah, it was that collaborative. So I have some articles on transformational leadership. One of my favorite is the fundamental state of leadership. It's one that several of the professors at the University of Michigan collaborated on. And I also have some articles there on diversity, equity, inclusion on organizational network analysis, if any of that sparked your interest, and you want to dive deeper, I speaking of changemakers I have a couple that are really inspiring me right now. One is Dan Duckworth. And he has created a program that I was just part of as one of the facilitators, and it was a positive deviants program. So if any of you want to learn more about being positive deviants, look up Dan Duckworth. His his organization is called Crux Central. And then also Sean Quinn, who's Bob Quinn son. He's been part of the program that Dan and I were facilitating. He's also been teaching these principles about positive change for years. He's, I believe his title is executive director at the University of Michigan. But you could, you could look at Shawn's website. It's lift consulting. That's his organization. These are some of the people I admire most that keep me inspired and moving forward as a change maker.

Greg Williams:

Fantastic. I'll link to those in the show notes here. And Beth, this has been a fantastic conversation. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for your time. You're welcome. I've loved it. Thanks, Greg. What did you think of today's conversation? I'm interested to hear about your experience or perspective. So take a minute to leave me a voicemail at 801-900-5970. Again, 801-900-5970 or send me an email at Gregory Spencer williams@gmail.com maybe I can use your insights to improve the show. Be sure to rate the podcast so others can better find it. And if you found this conversation insightful, please share it with a friend or colleague. And remember, you can show your support for the podcast by going to patreon.com slash LX leader. Until next time, keep learning