Claude Silver: Chief Heart Officer, VaynerMedia

                                               Claude Silver

                                               Claude Silver

Today I am honored to introduce you to Claude Silver, the Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia. Her work focuses on the “people-side” of business; she dedicates herself to creating a workplace where employees can thrive.  She has enjoyed leadership positions at JWT London, Publicis London, SAYMedia, and Organic. She also founded and ran a Surfing and Outdoor Adventure company in Northern California, where she taught surfing 265 days a year! Throughout this Talent Talk you will learn more about her current role at VaynerMedia, practices she employs, and great insights for aspiring professionals in the field of talent management and the employee experience. 


Your host,

Sevelyn VanRonk


TSL (Talent Science Lab): Please describe your current role, and what that role entails.

CS (Claude Silver): My role is Chief Heart Officer; I oversee people operations and anything to do with our employees and their experiences here. My hope is that people come away from their experiences at VayenrMedia feeling more grounded in the skills they wanted to develop, and feel a sense of growth when it comes to their own evolution. When I say their own evolution, I mean the interpersonal skills, such as self-awareness, forgiveness, and how to operate on a team. Working in teams means everything here—nothing gets done alone. There is no one person that operates alone, or can operate alone, with the exception of Gary Vaynerchuk—the CEO.

TSL: What impact does VaynerMedia have on the lives of their employees and the audiences they reach?

 CS: For the employees, I absolutely believe we are teaching them both hard skills and life skills at VaynerMedia. We are doing social media marketing, digital marketing, strategy (from cultural anthropology to ethnography), we are teaching people how to apply paid media, which are the dollars behind paid advertisements—these are skills one needs in communication and marketing today, because the main focus is how to reach a specific audience with a set message. The life-skills, (I certainly don’t call them soft-skills because I think that is offensive), are skills such as self-awareness, empathy, accountability, gratitude, kindness, and much more. We teach people to “let go of the reins” and focus on the things that truly matter—this is very subjective to every individual, but I want people to lean in on the parts of their job that really matter to them. As terms of how we are effected our audience, I hope we are tickling their emotion in some way, shape, or form, because that is what advertising is, it is how you get someone to click an ad. Whether it is a pretty picture, or an emotional video; you really need to know how to target your advertising and create a story that will hit people’s emotions.

TSL: What onboarding practices do you employ that you believe contribute to teamwork and comradery?

 CS: Every employee does a 4-day orientation, no matter if you in the C-suite or a Junior Copywriter—they are all in the room together. The first thing I think that happens is people start to see that we try to be as flat as we possibly can by taking down the fictitious barriers people think are there between someone in the C-suite and another employee. I think this builds comradery and everyone is getting the same education from each subject master. In terms of team, I think they become a cohort together; they may not work directly together because they were all hired for specific roles, but it is always nice to think, “Oh yeah, I did orientation with that person 2 years ago”. We also buddy people together for lunches and try to get the DNA of VaynerMedia (putting people 1st) into the way they work with others. 

 TSL: What is the most important aspect, lesson, or training activity new-hires go through during this 4-day orientation?

 CS: It would be collaboration. It would be the sense that every person is being trained or taught immediately by different subject-matter experts. They see the materials we put out and the way we think, but they are witnessing people taking time out of their day to come in and train them. This fosters collaboration, because it is all about knowledge sharing. Our culture believes in sharing knowledge with one another—which is one of our winning formulas.

TSL: What kind of training and development do you offer employees throughout their time at VaynerMedia?

CS: Depending on their department they will go through a myriad of different trainings to provide them the skills necessary to perform their jobs. Whether or not that is learning how to create storyboards, create screenplays, radical candor feedback, presenter training, facilitator training, or paid media trainings. Some are very niche and department-dependent.

TSL: What are some innovate practices your organization does that others do not?

CS: I believe the way we train people to think about digital media and social media is different. I don’t think we are the only creative shop on the block doing this, but the point of view Gary Vaynerchuk brings to the organization is very rare. Such as, market for the year you live in; most clients are thinking about their marketing and their budgets is as if it is the year 2000 or 1980—it is very antiquated. But Gary has evolved our thinking, and quite frankly the market’s thinking. For example, Gary observes what people are doing while they are on their phones—not eaves-dropping, but noticing what apps they are using. This is something anyone in advertising should be doing.

TSL: What scientific tools or measures are you currently looking for in your line of work as Chief Heart Officer?

CS: One of the things I am asking for is a way for us to quantify and qualify why people leave. We do an exit interview with every single person that leaves—every person. In that exit interview we get so much information, they are either leaving for another job, or moving to another area, or there wasn’t enough opportunity, etc. That kind of data is very important to me and this is something I think can be built. I am interested in employee happiness, employee fulfillment, and employee satisfaction, but I haven’t found anything that speaks the language of VaynerMedia. Data is everything! If I had the right data, I could potentially make changes more rapidly.

TSL: What advice would you give to an aspiring professional hoping to enter the arena of talent management?

CS: The advice I would give to several individuals trying to get into different areas of work that have to do with people is to focus on relationship building and maintaining. How does one get the confidence to be-friend a client or make that cold-call introduction? These are skills I think are necessary in today’s day and age. This is all about human-to-human interaction, and skills that enable people to be more comfortable with this interaction are the most important skills to have. I think most other things can be taught.

Marcina Simons: HR Consultant, Myriad Insight

                          Marcina Simons

                          Marcina Simons

Today, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Marcina Simons. She obtained her Masters of Science in Organization Development from Pepperdine University, California and has applied her knowledge to a variety of settings. She currently works as an HR Consultant where she performs executive coaching, strategic planning, and change management. She was previously employed as a Change Effectiveness Director, Sales & Accounts Operations Leader, and a Global Client Management Consultant. Throughout this Talent Talk you will learn more about executive coaching, organizational development, and useful tips for current graduate students. 


Your host,

Sevelyn VanRonk


TSL (Talent Science Lab): Please describe your current role, and what that role entails.

MS (Dr. Marcina Simons): I am currently an executive coach; the reality is that I do coaching and HR consulting—whether that is with the owners or team members. In Oklahoma I currently work with smaller companies and I do coaching with individuals and team-building with the management team. So, my job really varies from week to week and month to month.

TSL: What do you enjoy most about your profession?

MS: I recently put one team through the Extended DISC Profile, which is something similar to a Myers-Briggs, but this one focuses more on a person’s team-building skills and what they provide to the team. So, I think walking people through their own assessment and how they work as a team and where improvements could be made is what I enjoy. I really like to focus on people’s strengths and seeing the light bulbs go on, when people understand why others in their team behave in a certain way it is rewarding. People will start to realize why others get along better in a team and notice things they can start doing differently as a management team to improve the overall performance of an office.

TSL: What do you enjoy least about your profession?

MS: Billings and sending invoices! However, being an independent coach and consultant is challenging for me because I enjoy working as a team and going to an office. Working from home doesn’t work best for my personality; I am an extrovert so I want to be a part of a bigger team. I don’t want to have to sell myself every day, and if you’re independent you have to be good at this. You have to always be thinking about your pipeline in terms of client work, so that you pay the bills.

TSL: How did you get involved in executive coaching?

MS: It was something that evolved while I was at Hewitt Associates a few years ago. Within my role as an HR Generalist, I become a career coach, and then a change management consultant. Whether you are talking about an individual team or a large organization, for me it was all the same: here is the current state, here is the future state, how do you get there?. Over the past few years people sought me out. They heard I was good at coaching and either felt stuck in their career or had problems with a manager and didn’t know what to do or they didn’t know how to have those difficult conversations. People were seeking me out and I would help them come up with a plan, and it evolved into me coaching people for several hours a week informally. It wasn’t in my job description, but it just kind of happened.  

TSL: Are there any specific qualities you think a person should possess to be a good executive coach?

MS: It is mostly listening and questioning. The ability to listen to what a person is saying, but also what they are failing to say and being able to read in between the lines is important. You must be able to unpack what a person is saying because as a coach, your job is to help them and you need to be able to understand where their energy is and what is on the top of their minds. I might come in with an agenda, but it could end up being irrelevant if there is something else happening in their life that they need to talk about. It is finding the balance between listening and asking the right questions. Those are the two key qualities that are needed.

TSL: As a coach, what is the typical length of time that you work with a client?

MS: It tends to be long-term. Some of it is based on sheer need; if they came in because they needed to have a difficult conversation with their boss about their career, that could be two sessions and then they no longer need my help. For those people, I usually knew them ahead of time, so it definitely made it easier because I already knew about their history. I typically like working with clients for a long-term setting, it is more meaningful for me.

TSL: Did you know executive coaching was the career you wanted while you were in graduate school?

MS: I thought executive coaching would allow me to go to school and work, but not be too taxing like a full-time job. However, there really isn’t enough work out there to just be an executive coach. I haven’t found enough coaching and consulting to keep me busy and pay the bills. My graduate program just confirmed for me that I would like to be more involved as a team and not an independent worker.

TSL: What is it about organizational development (OD) that interests you?

MS: Apparently I had been doing it for 20 years, but I just didn’t know it! As an HR Generalist and Consultant I was doing team-building, conflict-resolution, performance management, engagement, and leadership development, so a lot of things fall under OD. When I joined my graduate program and we discussed team building and team dynamics, I realized I was already doing all of this, I just didn’t know there was a name for it. I am also certified in LaMarsh, which is a change management model. Essentially, you are trying to get people to buy into whatever it is you’re changing. In past experiences, the companies I worked for were interested in new processes or new technology, my job was to work closely with the project team. The project team was creating the new process, new roles and responsibilities, and new technology; so while the project team was creating it, it was my job to get people to actually buy into it and use it. Otherwise, you end up with resistance.

TSL: In your experience, what is one of the most effective ways to achieve that buy-in?

MS: You start with, “Why?” The question you have to answer for people is, “Why do I have to change?” or, “Why can’t I keep doing what I’ve been doing?” You must build a business case for them and why the change must happen. Secondary, you must have strong sponsorship; it is important to have key leaders in place who are going to drive the initiative and support it. If people are resisting the change, they must be aware of the consequences. 

TSL: Are there any specific experiences to which you attribute your success?

MS): Life! I don’t think there was one specific instance. I got involved in my 20s through HR where I was doing training and development, which taught me to think more practical and help people perform their jobs better. And then I became a training manager which gave me the opportunity to work alongside others who were good at it. I was able to watch others and learn from them, and even if they did something poorly it was a learning opportunity to not repeat their mistakes. I took a week long class on team building and then the LaMarsh change management certification--I’ve always had this knack for wanting to bring out the best in people. I like to focus on strengths and look for the win-win between the person and the business. It has truly been a journey.

TSL: Do you have any last pieces of advice you would like to offer to current graduate students?

MS: This may sound trite, but follow your heart. When time is flying by and you don’t want to stop work, that’s a sign. Versus, where you can feel time lagging and you dread doing it. If you can test out different careers—through internships, part-time jobs, projects, whatever it is, if you can get involved and gauge your excitement about that job that will help you decide if it is right for you. If you wake up in the morning excited to do work, it is the right career for you. Follow your heart!





Dr. Lacey Schmidt: COO & I-O Psychology Consultant at Minerva Work Solutions, PLLC

                                                                   Dr. Lacey Schmidt

                                                                   Dr. Lacey Schmidt

It it my pleasure to introduce you to Dr. Lacey Schmidt. She obtained her PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology in 2006 from the University of Houston. She is currently an I/O Psychology consultant where she focuses on team building as well as leadership assessment and development. Her past experiences include working for NASA where she assisted with the psychological selection and training of astronauts, and served as an Organizational Effectiveness Consultant for ARAMARK at MD Anderson Cancer Center. This Talent Talk discusses her current role, provides information on coaching and consulting, and offers tips and resources for graduate students who are interested in working in an applied setting. 


Your host,

Sevelyn VanRonk

TSL (Talent Science Lab): Please describe your current role and what that role entails.

LS (Dr. Lacey Schmidt): Some colleagues of mine and I have started a public benefit company; we are an industrial organizational psychology consulting firm. Unlike most consulting firms, we donate 30% of our time to helping charities and non-profit organizations implement organizational development interventions, employee engagement surveys, and executive coaching. My day-to-day activities are split into two roles: One being a small business owner (most I/O Psychologists won’t have those sort of responsibilities or tasks), second, being a consultant and scientist; being within a consulting firm is very project-based. Typically, I will spend a lot of time developing business proposals that are catered towards specific companies. We must manage all phases of the project, hire a team to help with the consulting, and have face-time with the clients. It is important to find out what the clients need, because it’s often not what they are asking for. I also do research on their specific industry and try to determine what their operational context is before we design an intervention. We then implement the intervention and follow-up to make sure it was effective and we continue to adapt our services to fit the client’s long-term needs.

TSL: May I ask why you and your business partners chose that model?

LS: We like a challenge, and I think that is the most honest answer I can give you. We want to see organizations become more socially responsible; we’re trying to live the change we want to see in other organizations. We were all working full-time jobs at NASA and we wanted to do external consulting so that we didn’t lose our familiarity with other kinds of adult-working populations—we felt pretty limited to astronauts, flight controllers, and engineers. We originally started the company as an umbrella through which we could buy professional liability insurance and donate our time to local charities on the side—but it turned out that we liked doing that so much that we decided to make our living doing it.

TSL: Did you know this kind of career was right for you while you were in graduate school?

LS: I knew that I wanted to do applied work in psychology—I wasn’t sure whether that would be as an internal or external consultant. I’ve had experience on both sides, and what I’ve found for myself is that it doesn’t matter. Both have advantages. The biggest disadvantage to being an external consultant is the amount of traveling that takes place, as well as the uncertainty in work hours. However, the advantage is having more variety in projects and the people you work with.

TSL: What advice would you give to a graduate student who is interested in a vast amount of career options? Whether that be external or internal consulting, organizational development, executive coaching, etc.?

LS: That is sort of a good thing, as long as you are willing to let fate guide you on which one to focus your efforts on. Having that flexibility and that interest in multiple careers is advantageous. I’ve seen people focus on the wrong thing a little too much. For example, if someone is determined to work for NASA, they are limiting themselves from so many other careers out there. And if they do apply for that one dream job, then chances are they are competing against a lot of qualified people. Even if they were skilled enough, it might not be the right job for them. So it is important to ask yourself what about a specific job do you like the most. If you like the opportunity to look at teamwork in extreme environments there are several other jobs besides working for NASA where someone could accomplish that. I once had an internship as an external consultant, then switched to being an internal consultant, and then switched back to being an external consultant. So another piece of advice I have is to start out as an internal consultant—I think it would have been much easier. It would have given me time to build connections with clients, and build relationships that were deeper. Being able to see how a project pans out would have been helpful, because when you’re an external consultant you never get to see the follow-through. It makes it challenging to effectively evaluate your own work.

TSL: Could you tell me a little bit more about your experiences with coaching?

LS: Coaching for me has been largely behavior-based and operational. Before graduate school I did spend time as an operations manager, and as an employee services manager, so contrary to most I/O Psychologists, I have a little bit of a MBA flavor. I’m usually focused on improving leadership or team skills in a behavioral way. For example, some people I help have been mid-level managers and are being promoted to a general manager or a director and they just don’t know how they are going to manage their time, because they barely feel as if they are keeping projects in line in their current role.  

TSL: When you work as a coach, are you often hired by the company or by the executive?

LS: Our business model is wanting to be hired by the person themselves and not by their organization. Which is contrary to 95% of the coaches out there. Most have a coaching contract in which their consulting is one with the organization.

TSL: What innovative practices have you seen implemented in the field of talent management?

LS: One practice is working with recruiters to create questions that are more behavior-based. The goal is to get the potential applicant to tell a story and give the recruiter a behavioral anchored rating scale (BARS) so they can judge that story more objectively. This can help the recruiter see if the potential applicant exhibits specific behaviors of interest that are required for that particular job. I think this is a great low-tech innovative approach to getting at person-organization fit earlier in the applicant’s relationship with an organization.

TSL: What set of skills or behaviors do you think a person should possess to be a good consultant?

LS: Some key behaviors to be a good consultant include communication, particularly the ability to have crucial conversations, being able to sell ideas, and learning how to use all of your sources of influence and power. I have three books that I think would be helpful to get you started. Good consultants know how to do all of the things that are discussed in the book Crucial Conversations. Fierce Leadership discusses several items that coaching clients will throw at you, so it’s good exposure read it and get to see the perspective of a client and understand how they will see culture and climate. Made to Stick gives you a way to think about selling ideas in a narrative form, which is crucial because having the formal education has taught you to speak like a scientist, but you have to be able to explain your knowledge to someone who doesn’t have that extensive “sciencey” education.

TSL: Are there any last pieces of advice you would offer to a graduate student?

LS: Taking time to speak with people who have careers in the field you are interested is a great way to discover if that career is right for you. Volunteering for projects might be useful—I did a lot of free work when I was in graduate school, for example conducting statistical analysis for others. Even if it was out of my realm, it helped me see things from a new perspective.

Dr. Richard Ryan: Professor, Clinical Psychologist, Motivational Consultant, and Author

                                         Dr. Richard Ryan

                                         Dr. Richard Ryan

Today, it is my honor to introduce you to Dr. Richard Ryan. He is a leading researcher in the field of psychology and is known for his pioneering of Self-Determination Theory (SDT) with Dr. Edward Deci. SDT is one of the most influential theories in human motivation that focuses on autonomy, competence, and relatedness and has been utilized in a variety of fields: Organizations, education, sports, and much more. He obtained his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Rochester. Since then, he has authored more than 350 papers and books, and has earned three lifetime achievement awards: 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from International Network on Personal Meaning, 2014 Distinguished Career Award, Society for Self and Identity, and 2015 Shavelson Distinguished Researcher and Lifetime Achievement Award from International SELF Research Centre. Throughout this Talent Talk, Dr. Richard Ryan discusses the application of SDT into organizations and provides advice for future researchers and current graduate students.


Your host,

Sevelyn VanRonk



TSL (Talent Science Lab): Will you discuss ways in which you have integrated your research into applied settings?

 RR (Dr. Richard Ryan):  Scott Rigby, a former student of mine, and I started a company in 2003 that’s called Immersyve Inc. One of our product lines is called Motivation Works and focuses on assessments for employee engagement. It is an online assessment on the climate of the workplace, managerial styles, needs satisfaction. Our centerpiece is the motivational quality assessment, which focuses on the internalization sphere of an employee. We have been launching these assessments in several different companies over the past six months; it is pretty well developed, validated, predictive, and employees have expressed support for these assessments because they are not taxing to complete. We also do workshops with employees, and management; specifically, how to be supportive in the workplace. When you try to be autonomy-supportive is it important for this to become an organization-wide initiative. This is an area that is pretty dear to my heart because most adults today are employees, and unfortunately aren’t given the opportunities to flourish. Work should not only be a place to get paid, but it should also be a place where you feel as if you’re actualizing your talents and possibilities. 

TSL: In organizations, how can autonomy be balanced with accountability?

RR: Accountability is a buzz word that has several different definitions, I assume you mean responsibility. Accountability has actually been very destructive in organizations, if employees have some sort of measurable outcome and that is where the reward and incentive programs are built off of, then employees will take any route to that end. This can lead to harmful organizational citizenship and short-cuts. So accountability in an organizational setting should be broadly conceived; it should focus on helping employees perform their jobs with some levels of company-wide initiatives. When employees are autonomously engaged in their work, they typically understand the goals of the organization and where they are headed; employees own those goals and feel as if their contributions are helping to accomplish them. Therefore, they tend to be energetically and vitally engaged in reaching those goals; autonomy support and responsibility often become compatible when the employee understands the company’s goals and rationale. This happens because the employee has internalized the importance of the organization’s initiatives and strives to help accomplish those goals. It is challenging to have autonomy without a goal, and accountability should really focus on creating a set of goals the employee can embrace. As consultants we try to help organizational leaders see the benefits of being autonomy supportive.

TSL: How can organizations include components of competence into their practices?

RR: Competence in organizations is really an issue of job design and scaffolding. Typically, employees want to perform their jobs competently, but in order for that to happen there must be an open atmosphere where they can get feedback, and search for guidance without the fear of punishment or evaluation. Training employees to be more competent is an on-going pursuit, this leads to better performance and higher job satisfaction. The issue is supplying the training and finding challenges for employees that they have the skills to accomplish. When employees are not able to accomplish tasks it is important for organizational leaders to find resources to aid their workers, rather than respond in an evaluative manner. This knowledge has really stemmed from past work on intrinsic motivation and optimally challenging employees in pursuits they are already engaged in. There is also a parallel between competence and Csikszentmihalyi’s work on flow and finding that optimal zone between challenge and skill. However, competence really focuses human’s motivation to master those challenges. 

TSL: How can organizations include components of relatedness into their practices?

RR: SDT predicts that there is a strong relationship between support and autonomy--relatedness is positively correlated with autonomy. Your best relationships are those in which you feel your autonomy is being supported. So when we look at organizations, if you are really being autonomy-supportive then you are listening to your employees and are connected to them. Relatedness means you are engaged with your full heart and volition. The ingredients of this include: Warmth, kindness, and autonomy-supportiveness.  As an employee, you not only want to be treated well, but you want your voice to be heard and you want to have opportunities to help others. So to build relatedness in an organization you need to create communities that both receive and give support; this is what binds people together and creates teamwork—there is a “we” rather than a set of “I’s”.

TSL: What tips or pieces of advice do you have for current graduate students hoping to pursue a career in research?

RR: My approach has always been to follow your passions and pursue the things that interest you. Somehow this is a better path than attempting to mold yourself into what everyone else tells you to become. I am glad I listened to my heart, even though most people told me I was making a mistake. I believe that if someone is interested in a specific topic, there is typically a reason. If you have your whole heart invested, you will likely produce your highest quality of work—which is something we have found through Self-Determination Theory. Eventually that hard work will pay-off and be recognized.

TSL: What classes or experiences do you believe have been foundational to your success?

RR: When I look around the field of psychology, a lot of people have skills in statistics and research methods, but what I see missing in our field is good theory. For me personally, having a background in philosophy has had the biggest pay-off. It has helped me to think clearly, write clearly, and have a logic to my research interests, which I believe has had a large impact in our field. A current weakness in our field is being too focused on creating models and names for our models; it is not generative to the rest of our field. Of course I am biased, because I am theory-oriented and believe in producing big theories. Knowledge needs to come together as a unit to make differences for humanity.


Linda Mains: Consultant and Founder of Mains & Associates

           Linda Mains

           Linda Mains

Linda Mains, founding consultant of Mains & Associates, has served for thirty years as an internal and external consultant in management and team effectiveness, organization and leadership development, and performance management. Her expertise spans facilitation, change management, group process design, team development, appreciative inquiry, and partnership contracting.  She has transformed organizations across public, private, and not-for-profit sectors.

Ms. Mains attended University of Washington, where she pursued an M.A. in Organizational and Interpersonal Communication. She has also completed a program in Advanced Human Resources Development Strategies from The Wharton School.

TSL (Talent Science Lab):  What spiked your interest in the field of OD? How has been your career progression so far as an OD Practitioner?

Linda Mains (LM):  As an account executive in a large, local advertising agency, I was always struck by and intensely curious about how a business whose acknowledged expertise was “communication” could be so oblivious about how to employ those skills within their own organization.  My career in OD has essentially been spent exploring the answer to this question, developing along with my clients, ways to facilitate their understanding of their own processes and needs.  

The progression of my career came via the “training” path.  Following completion of my M.A., I joined the Training and OD Department in a local, metropolitan government.  I learned the ins and outs of needs assessment, training design, the criteria for effective adult education, how to identify high quality trainers and training, etc.  It was a natural progression from training to OD since many clients approach their organizational issues initially as a “training problem.”  Acquiring the skills to explore a manager’s core concerns leads inevitably to creating opportunities for exploring with them and their employees, their team’s strengths, mission, goals, accomplishments, concerns, etc.  

The advent of Appreciative Inquiry as a change management strategy significantly enhanced my work with clients.  The AI process calls forth considerably less defensiveness, creates opportunities to change the conversation from one of problem solving to strength building, enables participants to see themselves and their work with some perspective and “appreciation” and apply those learnings to address their concerns more productively and constructively.

TSL: What are the most common challenges you face while dealing independently with different clients?


1.    The inability to get enough of the system in the room to effect useful change.

In the course of a recent project, it surfaced that substantial, core issues within the department were the result of organizational processes that went beyond that department.  After many attempts to engage managers up the hierarchy and those of the other departments that would have been involved in addressing the issue, it became clear that there was little organizational will to address these specific concerns.  We ended up doing some work with the original department that would help mitigate the consequences of the system problems but unfortunately had little effect beyond that.

2.    The clinging that clients often have to the secondary gain that holding onto their anger or dissatisfaction may provide.

Sometimes, in teams when one encounters a great deal of pain and unhappiness, the members have such attachment to their negative perceptions of their boss, or their organization, or the problem co-worker, that they are literally unwilling to let it go in order to navigate a path that is more useful, productive and cooperative.  To chart a new path requires a willingness to “see things” in a new way and to want to move in a different direction vs. what may be a preferred outcome like “getting that person fired!” or having the opportunity to lay blame.  Sometimes, the dysfunction of the team has become so entrenched that no other options seem possible or, in fact, welcome as it would require change from each individual.  So one might define some “secondary gains” as:

o   Comfort being the “victim”

o   Comfort because I’m right; you’re wrong

o   Comfort because “this is how it will always be” means I don’t have to change.

3.    The ever-present challenge of securing enough time and participant availability to engage effectively in the process.

4.    Always, the challenges of effective, ongoing client contracting.

TSL: You are also serving the community as a Senior Consultant at CCP. What motivates you to do that?

LM:  Non-profit organizations provide such value to our community and rarely have the financial resources to make use of process consulting.  In addition, CCP provides current line and staff managers and recent college graduates a rare opportunity to experience, in a substantial way, the value of attending to an organization or team’s process needs.  CCP creates opportunities for growth for both the individuals participating and for the organizations they return to; it informs future career choices, and provides significant benefit at no cost to a non-profit client.

TSL: Is there an incidence when you experienced disagreement with the client? How did you handle that situation?

LM: I can say without a doubt that most of my problems with clients came as a result of unclear contracting.  He thought he was getting one thing; I was delivering something else.  Or, we both believed we understood each other, but we really didn’t.  Or, I was unable to describe my process well enough that the client was surprised or confused or, ugh, worse!  I think many OD consultants would agree that many of our failed projects can be attributed to poor contracting. Honing my skills at contracting enabled nearly every difficult situation I encountered with a client to be solved—perhaps by agreeing not to continue!

I would like to share an incidence here: Early in my career I was the acting supervisor of the training and OD department in a large local government.  My boss, the HR department manager, and I had wildly different points of view about the process and the value of OD.  His background was  in labor relations and power was the currency of his approach to work.  He and I found ourselves in disagreement with great regularity though, personally, we had a good relationship.  

Finally, one day he asked for a meeting the following day about something he was, once again, unhappy about.  He and I were friends and he had a great sense of humor, so I walked into his office that morning wearing red 14-oz boxing gloves and announced that I was “ready for the fight!”  He broke into laughter and started dancing around doing his Rocky imitation and we had a great laugh.  Then, we got down to the serious business of understanding the nature of our ongoing conflict.  I pointed out to him that our conflict was no different than the disagreements he had experienced with the two previous supervisors of training/OD.  Since our conflict was not unique to him and me, perhaps it had more to do with our diverging understanding of the purpose of training and OD. 

I feel like I was helpful to him in coming to the clear understanding that, as the manager of HR, he had the right to set the direction and specify the manner in which the work should proceed.  By the same token, I suggested that as long as he hired professional training and OD people, the disagreements would likely continue because of the essential value/process differences.  I was quite clear that our discussion could likely result in my soon being out of a job and, in fact, within 6 months did chose to move on.  His next training/OD supervisor was not hired from within the profession. Even though the outcome was not what I would have preferred for myself or for the organization, my “client” and I got very clear that we actually did not “have a contract!”.  

TSL: As an OD Consultant what satisfies you the most?

The ah-hah’s.  When the experience of the work together yields the “hand-hitting-the-head ah-hah” moment of “how did I not understand that this is what we needed to do together?!!!!”  Or, “you mean we should address issues together?!”  The new awareness inevitably leads to leaps in a client’s ability to more effectively manage his/her own issues related to the work, the team, or the organization.

TSL: What steps do you take to ensure that your clients and stakeholders are satisfied with the intervention’s results?

LM:  Even though the process of contracting occurs in the first days of the work with a client, it is never, ever, not ever, done!  If you view contracting as a process, not a product, then it continues to be a regular part of your work from Day One to Completion.  The odds of having a successful intervention increase dramatically when contracting is viewed and pursued in that way.  

TSL:  What are the key personality traits do you think are important to become a successful OD Practitioner? What skills have you developed over the course of your practice?

LM:  The key trait is the ability to set aside one’s ego involvement in the outcome of the work.  It’s the client’s organization, team or life.  It’s their learning to do and it must be done in a manner, time, place, and process that they can connect with and learn from.  Their readiness and their needs and your ability to meet them are crucial to your success and ultimately to theirs.

The ability to raise difficult issues with a client or a team as opposed to “ignoring the elephant in the room” is critical to one’s success.  This is also a key component of the ability to manage the contracting process. The skill of crafting thoughtful questions and being an effective, active listener is crucial to helping the client discover a useful path forward.

TSL: What advice would you like to give to people aspiring to make a career in the field of Organization Development?

LM:  I would like to suggest that they start their career by joining an OD consulting firm. This will give them ample opportunities for networking and marketing themselves. They can learn from other OD colleagues and work on diverse projects for clients from different industries. The other option is to take a job in an organization as an internal OD consultant. This will help them work consistently and build relationships with supervisors and managers gradually. 

TSL:  Thank you!



Dr. Erin Greilick: Affiliate at Strata Leadership

                    Dr. Erin Greilick

                    Dr. Erin Greilick

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Dr. Erin Greilick. She obtained her PhD in Organizational Behavior from Claremont Graduate University and has applied her knowledge to a variety of settings. Past experience includes working as a Research Psychologist/Assistant Director and later a Program Evaluation Consultant for the US Army, and a Human Resources Manager for Taco Bell. She is currently an Affiliate at Strata Leadership, a full-service leadership company based in Oklahoma City, where she works with organizations to identify and resolve complex issues. This interview will provide further information on her current role, strategies for graduate students to prepare for an applied setting, and other helpful insights into Talent Management.


Your Host,

Sevelyn VanRonk

TSL (Talent Science Lab): Please describe your current role, and what you find most interesting about this role.

EG (Dr. Erin Greilick): Right now I am an external consultant, working in the area of organizational development. It has been interesting to develop a network from scratch, because I moved to Oklahoma City about two years ago, and I didn’t know anyone here professionally or personally. Right now I am primarily helping organizations with training, which is the doorway into an organization. Most often training is the most broad-based way to address an issue. However, the majority of times you need to go deeper than a training intervention to really solve issues. Some of the other projects I have worked on include succession planning, leadership program development, and coaching.

TSL (Talent Science Lab): What do you enjoy most about your current role as a consultant?

EG (Dr. Erin Greilick): What I love most about my current role is the variation of what I encounter. It is really challenging to learn quickly what the problem is in a particular organization, or within a team, or a person, and start from scratch to build a good intervention for them. That has been entirely different for me because I used to be more of an internal consultant. Now I’m challenged to learn something new week by week.

TSL (Talent Science Lab): Can you tell me more about how you manage work/life balance as a consultant?

EG (Dr. Erin Greilick): There is definitely more work/life balance in consulting once you have developed your network and started your own business. When you are an independent consultant, you can have whatever flexibility you want. My understanding [of] being a consultant for a large firm is they are heavy on travel, especially when you first join—you leave on a Monday and come home on a Friday. Work/life balance has always been very important to me, so I chose not to work for a large firm to limit my amount of traveling. Internal consulting is where I naturally gravitated. I am an introvert, but I have learned to be more extraverted, which is important for organizational behavior, as you can imagine. What I most love is when I can build long-term relationships with people. Worth noting, though, organizational development is a very specialized field. So, when the economy isn’t strong, it is more difficult to find a lot of job opportunities in OD. If you are good with living in and around larger cities, though, it might not be as big of a challenge.

TSL (Talent Science Lab): What classes in grad school, or what skill sets did you learn while in grad school that you felt prepared you for your current role?

EG (Dr. Erin Greilick): There is nothing about my experience at CGU I would change. I loved creating a portfolio that helped you handpick items tailored for your resume and to build the experience base on your needs. But there is a drastic difference between what you learn in a classroom setting and what you will use in an applied setting. There is so much complexity that is difficult to include in an academic context. Also, CGU is well-connected in the professional community and can help you find possible internships and jobs. Take the classes you love, and know that when you get out there, it will be different.

TSL (Talent Science Lab): What are some current trends that you are noticing in your field?

EG (Dr. Erin Greilick): One trend I have picked-up on recently is the study of neuroscience and leadership, as well as neuroscience and emotional intelligence. I love emotional intelligence, and I love the sciences, so this is especially interesting to me.

TSL (Talent Science Lab): What is the most useful lesson you have learned while on the job?

EG (Dr. Erin Greilick): I have learned how important leadership is. There is so much that comes from good leadership. In fact, in some ways, everything I have ever done to try and improve performance at whatever level (individual, team, or organization), has always involved leadership in some notable way. The impact and responsibility of what it takes to be a leader is what I have learned over and over again.

TSL (Talent Science Lab): If you had to attribute your success to one experience or one trait, what would that be and why?

EG (Dr. Erin Greilick): I am an overachiever. I work hard, and I am a perfectionist. That combination can be extremely wearing. So what I realized is that the number of hours you are working does not mean you are doing your best work. I have been prioritizing what I need to be focusing on, and I help my clients see what they should be focusing on as well. Trait-wise, what has made the most difference for me is the sincere desire to help an individual. I think everyone is surprised when they come across someone who sincerely cares about them. So when you show them that you do care and you ask them the important questions, and follow-through with what you say, you are appreciated by the organization and able to do so much more because of it.

TSL (Talent Science Lab): What should grad students be doing right now to prepare themselves for a career in consulting?

EG (Dr. Erin Greilick): One thing I would recommend to any grad student is to get to know your fellow classmates. They are an invaluable resource for you while you are going through your program and they serve as the foundation for your future network. Regarding becoming a consultant, I would find opportunities to do applied work as soon as possible. Be an intern, paid or unpaid. Research, though I love and appreciate it very much, didn’t help me land the positions I was fortunate enough to have.


Dr. Geoff Smart: Chairman and Founder of ghSMART


Geoff’s academic background includes a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University, as well as a PhD in Psychology from Claremont Graduate University. Currently, Geoff is the chairman of ghSMART, a management assessment firm based in the Los Angeles area that he founded in in 1995. His firm consults with fortune 500 CEOs and boards, billionaire entrepreneurs, and heads of state. He is also the author of numerous books including: Who: The A Method for Hiring, Power Score: Your Formula for Leadership Success, and Leadocracy: Hiring More Great Leaders (Like You) into Government. Geoff’s energy and passion for topics related to talent management made the informational interview stimulating and motivating for those of us who wish to pursue a career in the field.

Your Host,

M. Brandon Angelos


1. Please describe what you do in your current role?

I’m the chairman and founder of ghSMART, a management assessment firm. My primary role for this year is to do a marketing test to see if we should start an events business. Currently, our organization is comprised of two parts: the consulting business and book development and creation. I’ve been thinking of ways to innovate and one way I believe we can accomplish this is by hosting events. Our first event, called Smart Fest, will take place in two weeks and the idea behind these events is to share our knowledge with others. With this being said, one of my primary roles, for this year, is to innovate and promote this event.

I would define my 2nd role as supporting the core which involves hosting quarterly meetings with our managing partner to monitor progress, problem solve, and to examine the financial aspect of our business.

My 3rd role is sales. When a prospective client contacts the office, occasionally I will visit the client with a colleague and help sell the person.

My 4th role is developing my colleagues. This involves conducting career chats with colleagues, providing performance feedback, as well as discussing how they can succeed at the firm.

My final role is brand ambassador which entails giving speeches to promote our brand. Just this week I Skyped in with Professor Yip’s Talent Management course at Claremont Graduate University, I did an in-person meeting with MIT Sloan, and taught at Harvard Business School. The goal of these speeches is to educate the world about our methods and to help individuals become better leaders and to promote our brand. 

2. What are some of the experiences or skills that have prepared you for your current role? How do you draw on these experiences or skills in your work?

In high school I sold newspapers at a grocery store which taught me a lot about sales and rejection. For an individual who has never been in a sales position, dealing with this type of rejection can be very jarring. However, if you have sold something to someone in your past, the fear of rejection is greatly reduced which enhances your selling abilities. I still draw on these sales experiences whenever the job requires it. To prepare myself for my first sales job, I listened to a lot of audio books on different sales tactics. I still use these frameworks to pitch million-dollar consulting projects today. These frameworks help me anticipate clients’ needs, determine potential reasons for rejection, and ways to overcome these rejections.  Furthermore, my experience on the debate team has helped with my public speaking.

I would say my undergraduate and graduate training prepared me for about 1/3rd of my current role. In graduate school I was heavily trained in the scientific method and research methods and this has really helped prepare me for doing research and writing books. I also learned a lot about clinical psychology listening skills which have transferred over to the consulting context. In undergrad I studied economics and I use finance and economics as a business leader every day to evaluate our business performance.

3. What are some innovative practices that you have observed or implemented in the area of talent management?

The innovative practices that we have discovered include the creation of a scorecard which involves creating a set of criteria for hiring, not just on a profile, but on what you want someone to actually accomplish and thinking about those criteria that tend to be pretty “squishy”, such as culture.

Providing people with quantitative feedback is not something that is new to the field of talent management but it’s very unevenly practiced. At ghSMART, all of my employees get at least 20 bits of quantitative data, every 6-12 months, on how they are doing coupled with qualitative data. A lot of employees really enjoy this type of objective/quantitative feedback on their client satisfaction metrics, revenue metrics, goals vs actual results and often have not received this type of feedback at their other jobs. Sure, many managers know that they are supposed to be giving people data to understand how they are performing and to provide talent development information. However, a lot of times this is not always practiced.

Another innovative practice around talent management that is practiced at my firm involves creating a career roadmap for employees. We have a sit down with our employees and help map out their career, not just at our firm, but beyond as well. We will ask questions such as “what do you want to do across your entire career?” and this helps us understand how we can really make their time here count.

4. What kinds of research or data do you use in your talent management practice? What kinds of research or data do you wish you could have – one that would be useful to you but is not currently available?

Most often we collect qualitative data from our clients. For example, when we are doing assessments for candidates, either for hire here or for another firm, we collect 50 pages of notes ina structured way that helps us to map out their whole career chronology. Mapping out someone’s career chronology helps answer questions such as “what was the person hired to do?”, “what did they accomplish?”, “what are the data or facts around their different jobs?”, “what did they not do so well?”, “how highly were they rated by their bosses and peers?”, and “why did they exit the job?”

I would love to have access to ALL data. Data are power and the more data you have, the better. If the cost to acquire data was lower and the ability to analyze it was higher, I think it would make the match making process of talent acquisition and talent development way better. I think in the world of big data that we are entering, the era of big data analytics and predictive analytics, both talent acquisition and talent development will get better and more useful with more data.

5. What advice might you give to an aspiring professional who would like to develop a career as a talent management professional?

I would recommend developing skills in two areas that are not obvious. The first area of skill development would be to add finance and business to your repertoire. Understanding finance and business can really help you to understand the business context in which you operate and can help enhance your ability to be persuasive with decision makers. A lot of times, when one does not have a background in finance or business, people end up saying things such as “we ought to do this or we ought to do that”. Instead, you ought to say something like “I think we should put a million dollars into this and here is the return on the investment that I expect and this is how it will help other business metrics”.

The second area of skill development involves selling, public speaking, and persuasive communication which are really important to many jobs. You can be extremely smart and have the right answer to very complex problems, but if you can’t persuade people to act, whether you are a recruiting professional, a consultant, or an internal HR person, you’re not adding as much value to the world as if you were able to persuade people to take action. I would recommend reading books and taking classes on sales and take classes on persuasive speaking and writing.

Dr. Kathryn E. Keeton: Chief Executive Officer and Consultant at Minerva Work Solutions, PLLC

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Dr. Kathryn Keeton—an inspirational woman who has demonstrated several different skillsets in the field of Talent Management. She obtained her PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology at the University of Houston, Texas. Past experiences include working for NASA as a Behavioral Health & Performance Research Scientist, and an Innovative & Strategy Specialist. She is currently the Chief Executive Officer and Consultant at Minerva Work Solutions, PLLC, and a professor at the University of Texas in San Antonio. Throughout this interview we touch on topics including: her current role, past experiences that prepared her for her current role, and advice for aspiring HR professionals.


Your Host,

Sevelyn VanRonk


TSL (Talent Science Lab): Please describe what you do in your current role. 


KK (Dr. Kathryn Keeton): We have pitched what we do as essentially HR Consulting where our company has four main founders who are all Industrial Organizational Psychologists. We have three main areas of focus: (1) employee engagement, (2) leadership and team development, and (3) executive coaching. Our company can help with customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, morale, turnover, and other issues the organization may not know how to deal with.


TSL: One topic Talent Science Lab is interested in is the employee experience, can you tell me what your company does with regards to helping organizations to foster the employee experience? 


KK: When I look at the IO literature I think employee engagement it is just another way to assess the employee, it is definitely it’s own construct, but the way we are using it is a way to connect an understanding of what we are trying to do for the employee through the organization. We are following an evidenced-based approach, and the findings with what we are doing will help translate to an increase in employee engagement. Our company specifically looks into constructs like motivation, talent development, work/life balance, and much more. I have about 5-10 coaching clients in San Antonio, when we go in we have a very specific target market for each of those three services we offer. I target middle-aged women who have a decent amount of work experience, typically in middle-management, who are looking for promotional activities. I absolutely have male clients and people who fit outside of that target market, but we have had much success with our current target.


TSL: May I ask what attracted you to that target market?


KK: I think I fell into it, I never considered myself much of a feminist, but the more women I met in this realm it opened my eyes to the disparity—it is real, it exists. It has really lit a fire for me to represent these women. We know from research that promotions into managerial roles and direct reports happens significantly less often for women. This has really driven me and I feel passionate about helping women in these ways.


TSL: Once you engage an organization, for example, let’s say they were interested in team development, what are the next steps?


KK: To translate things from the IO side to an actual business, we are selling them a product. So if an organization is interested in team development, we sell them our team training simulation. We developed this with astronauts and flight controllers with NASA. We were able to take that training simulation and tweak it for other purposes. We usually have two trainers for each simulation.


TSL: What are some prominent trends in Talent Management that you have noticed?


KK: The prominent factors I have noticed are heavily related to employee engagement, such as work/life balance, alternative work schedules and arrangements (more people are wanting to work from home or have flexibility in their hours), and diversity. An interesting trend right now is focusing on the aging demographics, especially with the Baby Boomers, how are we going to make sure those employees stay engaged or maintain some sort of relationship between the organization and the employee?


TSL: What kinds of skills and experiences do you feel prepared you for your current role?


KK: For me, I relied on internships, my program was a balance between applied and research. I got lucky with my advisor who was able to help me make connections and get into applied projects. I did however, Google internships on my own and found an unpaid internship opportunity for the summer, and I got it! It was unpaid for 3 months, working 40 hours a week, but it turned into a full-time paying job by Fall. So besides luck of the draw with advisors, I am a big believer in pursuing websites and you must be proactive. You must reach out for these opportunities and make connections.


TSL: When you were obtaining your PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology, were there any specific classes you felt prepared you for the applied world?


KK: Statistics wasn’t anything I loved or was passionate about, but it has really helped. The data and the evidence-based practices is what distinguishes you from any other HR Consultant out there. When we market ourselves as HR Consultants we are putting ourselves into a barrage or sea of other people who also call themselves HR Consultants. We are still working on finding that right lexicon or wording to describe what we do; but I can tell you the data, the evidenced-based practices, and follow-through—like the implementation, is what sets you apart in the applied world. It is important to be proactive rather than reactive.


TSL: How do you think your company stays proactive rather than reactive?


KK: In my own professional life we have strategic meetings every three months with all the founders and we ask, “What are we doing, and what should we be doing?” and “If we had to do this all over again, what would we do differently in our business?” It is important to take time for strategic thinking and to be able to pivot if necessary. Right now this is easier for our company because it is still fairly small, but even from organizational research, companies who are large tend to be more successful when they take time for strategic thinking. We even try to help our clients think more proactively, for example, if an organization has a big turnover issue we help think about their hiring process and bringing the right people in the door, or if they performed better training, that turnover issue would likely reduce. You need to be proactive about how to run your business which, will help the overall organization. I recently heard a podcast where someone was talking about doing one thing a month out of their comfort zone, and I think that is an excellent way to put yourself in unknown situations to build your skillset and education.


TSL: Are there any other suggestions or words of wisdom you would like to pass on to graduate students who are interested in entering the Talent Management field?


KK: It is so important to put yourself out there and find what you are truly passionate about. Grow your network so that you can try out a diverse array of opportunities. It is important to be open, I see so many people try to focus too narrowly and then when that changes they are at a disadvantage. So be open and diverse!




Dr. Maren Dollwet Waggoner: Director of HR & Talent Management at Ticketmaster

Without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Maren Dollwet Waggoner. She is not only one of the most accomplished, sharp, and resilient professionals I know, but is also likely the kindest person you will ever meet.  Maren's academic background includes a Masters in I/O Pyschology, as well as a PhD in Organizational Behavior from Claremont Graduate University.  Today she lectures as an adjunct professor at CGU and serves as the Director of HR & Talent Management at Ticketmaster.  I feel fortunate to not only consider Maren an inspiring role model but also a good friend.  I am especially appreciative of her taking the time to share her wisdom with us in this interview.  We touched on extremely timely topics--changes undergoing performance management, data analytics, her advice for aspiring HR professionals, and much more.


Your Host,

Jocelyn Courtney

TSL (Talent Science Lab): Please describe what you do in your current role.  What do you enjoy most about your work? 

MDG (Dr. Maren Dollwet Waggoner): What do I enjoy most about my work? One is the diversity of the tasks and projects I get to work on.  I think in the field of Talent Management there's a lot to do- everything from the employee life cycle, like helping our recruiters with hiring, help managers formulate job descriptions and structure teams, compensation, looking at market data, coming up with pay recommendations, deciding on promotions, 1:1 coaching, and conducting learning and development.  I also do trainings like in conflict resolution, team cohesion, and leadership.  I work on everything from hiring to unfortunately, letting people go, and everything in between.

It's really cool.   And I think what I love most is that I get to be an HR business partner and an organizational development consultant.


TSL: What are some of the experiences or skills that have prepared you for your current role? How do you draw on these experiences or skills in your work? 

MDG: The one that comes to mind first is the analytical-- the data analysis and the story behind it.  What we learn at CGU really is a unique skill especially in the HR realm to have.  If you're in general HR, most people do not have that skill.  Even in collecting the right data and how to make sense of it, analyze it and present it--that cycle.  Knowing that comes in very handy.  For example, we just implemented the HR system, Workday, and it has customizable dashboards that collects data in real-time. I'm actively helping build out those dashboards and deciding what data we should collect, based on what I know how data should be presented and what will be most useful to senior leaders.

            I think the other thing that comes to mind is the ability to think at a macro-organizational level.  That's something our program teaches really well.  It's easy to lose sight of the macro in the HR field.  This is essential, especially in Talent Management realm, because it's all connected.  Like which leader you place where and what their job description is, affects everything else.


TSL: What are some innovative practices that you have observed or implemented in the area of talent management? 

MDG: Moving away from performance ratings--that's something we did at DirectTV and now at Ticketmaster.  We're constantly looking at the best companies and what they're doing, benchmarking, and conducting internal needs assessments to see if our process is effective.  We want to know what people like, what they don't like, and based on that data to make recommendations about what the performance management system should look like-- quarterly check-ins, coaching culture, abolishing performance ratings, and focusing on the quality of dialogue.

            I can also speak to a few other special initiatives at Ticketmaster.  One is launching an initiative with women and technology.  We want to be known as an organization where women leaders in technology want to come.  So we have been having our high potential internal women out recruiting, doing campus visits and speaking in the community, helping out brand ambassadors.  In return, we also want to make sure that we're giving them career opportunities- mentorship, and making sure they're on track for promotion.


TSL: I know we see fewer women in leadership roles.  From where you sit, do you know why that is?

MDG: I think it depends on the company, but generally we don't have the proper work-life balance programs in place.  For example, I think childcare onsite could be really important.  I think the other thing is that what gets measured gets tracked.  So I know that for Ticketmaster, for any type of employee data we collect, we look at demographics.  So are there any differences between males and females, do we see a difference by generation, etc., and we really want to make sure that no group is less satisfied than another.  And if they are, we want to dive into that.  And actually in our most recent engagement survey we did find that females are equally as engaged as males, which is good.  Another metric to look at is promotion rate, as well as in talent review data, and how many female high potentials we have compared to high potential males.  I think that even by putting metrics behind something gets it into people's minds.  Not that we're going for any quotas or anything, but just to pay attention to it.


TSL: Are you the one creating and rolling out these surveys?

MDG: No, actually we have someone at the corporate level who is in charge of all of the employee engagement surveys, and she works with an analytics team to do the analysis.  Then as the HR business partner, I work with my teams to make meaning of that data and create action plans.


TSL: What kinds of research or data do you use in your talent management practice? What kinds of research or data do you wish you could have – one that would be useful to you but is not currently available? 

MDG: I definitely think data is becoming more important and leaders do what to see that, but the challenge is in getting the data right, and making sure you're defining and tracking things equally.  For example, an issue we ran into recently is what we define as 'regrettable loss...' 

            We have to be consistent in our definitions.  We in the field of Talent Managers have to be leaders in what we define as best practice and influencing leaders to see that.  Leaders want data, but they might not necessarily know what it's referring to.  So we have to enter a consultative, educating space.  And not overwhelm them.  Like with that Workday example I mentioned earlier, we had a consultant who was an I/O psychologist who was awesome but just got carried away.  He was tracking way too much data that our leaders wouldn't even know what to do with.  The other challenge, then, is knowing how to present the right data in just the right amount to tell the right story.  And that's where we can be really influential.  So what's important is identifying what data is important to the company.  For any company that would be: 1) who we're getting into the company (hiring trends), 2) who's staying (employee promotion, engagement data), and 3) who's exiting (regrettable/non-regrettable, demographics).

            The biggest piece of advice I can give around data and story-telling is show your stakeholders your drafts and get feedback.  Unless people get actively involved, they won't accept it.  I learned that the hard way.


TSL: What advice might you give to an aspiring professional who would like to develop a career as a talent management professional?

MDG: Trust in your skill set of what you've learned.  Know that you know so much more than many in the field.  You can do so much with your skill set, and don't doubt yourself.  Just got for it, whether it's talent management or data analytics.  You're equipped with all the right knowledge and people will look to you as a thought partner.  The biggest success I've had is when I stepped into that role without questioning it.  Step into that role and don't shy away from it.

Dr. Kellan London: Senior Talent Management Consultant at The Clorox Company

Up next, we have Kellan London, Senior Talent Management Consultant at The Clorox Company.  He also happens to be a CGU alum, having received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology.  I cannot emphasize it enough--speaking with Kellan was an absolute delight.  He is incredibly kind, wise, and humble.  When speaking with him, I couldn't help but think, it's no wonder he's a successful leader!  Moreover, he has a wealth of experience that he shared with us today.

A few of the topics we discussed include:

  • Clorox's transition to the platform, Workday
  • The various data points Clorox collects to make smart HR decisions
  • Kellan's path to the Ph.D. program at CGU, to Disney, and later on to Clorox
  •  Kellan's advice for what classes future Talent Management professionals should take while at CGU
  • Emerging opportunities in Workforce Analytics
  • And much more!

Happy listening!

Your Host, Jocelyn Courtney

Dr. Jeremy Hunter: Associate Professor of Practice

Dr. Jeremy Hunter places a high value on quality of presence.  For this reason (and many others) it was an absolute pleasure sitting across from Dr. Hunter for this interview.  Dr. Hunter serves as an Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter. F. Drucker Graduate School of Management, trains executives in leadership and self-management practices, and travels as a speaker nation-wide.

In this interview, Dr. Hunter shares the harrowing personal experience that led him to establishing a mindfulness practice, as well as the transformative work he gets to be involved in these days.  My favorite parts of this interview were our discussions about addiction and common misconceptions of mindfulness.  With his self-deprecating humor, genuineness, and kind grin, Dr. Hunter is extremely likable.  I especially appreciated his humility, gratitude for life, and wisdom.  I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.

Happy Listening!

Your Host, Jocelyn Courtney

Dr. Paul Zak: Professor of Neuroeconomics at CGU

This episode of Talent Talk features Dr. Paul Zak, professor of Neuroeconomics at CGU.  Dr. Zak is the author of"The Moral Molecule" and even recently made a guest appearance as Dr. Love on this season's The Bachelor.

I instantly clicked with Dr. Zak and loved everything about this interview!  I found myself spellbound listening about his upbringing, current projects, and perspective on life. 

From having a mother who had been a Catholic nun, to doing consulting work with Zappos, to discussing the qualities that have enabledhis success, Dr. Zak is full of stories and wisdom.  We discuss his groundbreaking research on oxytocin, his formula for organizational flourishing, and his upcoming book.  I especially loved his perspective on being curious, humble, asking questions, and living a life of service.

Don't miss out on this insightful and entertaining episode!

Happy Listening!
Your Host, Jocelyn Courtney

Dr. Vanessa Kettering: Wellness Consultant


What a pleasure it was to begin this project by getting to know Claremont Graduate University's very own Vanessa Kettering.  Vanessa is a wellness consultant and Ph.D. student in Positive Developmental Psychology.  In this episode, you'll learn:

  • The characteristics that sustain her through graduate school and starting her own business
  • What inspires her to pursue her life's work
  • How she overcomes challenges
  • Her journey from existential crisis to finding meaning and purpose in life

Happy Listening!
Your host, Jocelyn Courtney