The Human Revolution: Celebrating Our True Selves
About This Episode
Who really are you? And is this a version of yourself you’ve allowed to be revealed to others – in your personal life? In your professional life? While we’ve been conditioned to shy away from pulling back the curtain and fully revealing our true selves in the workplace – both the good and not-so-good parts – Jaz Ampaw-Farr, an International TEDx Speaker, Thought Leader, and Resilience Ninja will tell you otherwise. Skillsoft Chief Marketing Officer and The Edge host, Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, sits down with Jaz to take a deep dive into what’s needed to lead a “Human Revolution,” including embracing our vulnerabilities, authenticity, and starting with the human part of ourselves first. Together they flip the switch on the age-old narrative, showcasing the transformation that happens when we allow ourselves to showcase who we really are.
Interested in learning more?
- To learn more even more about Jaz, check out the links below:
- Visit Jaz’s Shop to purchase your own “T-Shirt of Truth”
- Read our latest research in the 2021 Women In Tech Report, an in-depth study of the state of women in IT
The views expressed by guests are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft.
Michelle BB 00:00:07 The views expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft. Welcome to the edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike. In every episode, we engage in candid thought provoking conversation on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace. And, oh, are we going to get candid today? In fact, we're going to be vulnerable. We're going to get real. And hopefully we're going to have a little bit of a laugh too. Now vulnerability is something that we often shy away from in the workplace. I think we, we fear that when we open ourselves up, we're going to be perceived as weak and that when we pull back the curtain and display our vulnerabilities, others might not see strength, but instead of viewing vulnerabilities in a negative light, can, can we start to shift instead to focus on what is possible when we reveal our true, authentic selves?
Michelle BB 00:01:05 You know, I wrote about this in a recent medium article, but a few weeks ago I was on a run. When a song came onto my plane list that made me stop. And please don't judge. It is an old day. Who are you by the who? And lately I've been giving myself the grace to pause and reflect on that very real question. It's something that I have long grappled with. You know, we, as humans are multi-faceted and I'm not sure it's possible nor fair to put ourselves into a box and characterize ourselves as just one thing. Yep. I'm a marketer, but guess what? I'm also a mother, an athlete, a dog lover, and there are a lot of aspects of myself that I've kept hidden for a very long time. And only recently have I felt comfortable bringing them to light now beyond my love of dystopian novels.
Michelle BB 00:01:55 And I highly recommend max Barry, if you haven't read his work, if I pull back the curtain just a little bit further, I will admit that despite professional successes, I suffer from imposter syndrome. I suffer from anxiety and for a very long time, I was incredibly self-conscious. So as I ran with the who playing in my ear, I had a revelation, some of these hidden characteristics, the things that I don't love about myself, the things that are most authentically me are also the very same things that helped me spur creativity, passion, and drive. So why is it sometimes that we feel the need to be someone else to have, or live up to this unrealistic expectation that others have of us? I mean, we all do it, right. We want to put on the absolute best face possible. So nobody thinks any less of us and it can be all too easy to project a version of ourselves.
Michelle BB 00:02:56 That's only a partial view of who we really are. You know, over the past century, we have undergone several revolutions, many successful revolutions. I might add from the industrial to the technical, to now the digital age, but today's guest is going to tell us that it is time for a human revolution. We need to be human first resilient, embracing our authenticity. So today I am thrilled to welcome someone you might be familiar with. If you joined us to this year's perspectives, unleashed known as the British Oprah jazz is an international TEDx speaker thought leader, author. And my favorite she's a resilience ninja through her work, jazz seeks to help others drive change, embed, ambitious resilience, and increase their impact. And I think it's fair to say that working with jazz leaves a mark, highly regarded for her work and impact on the education and health sectors where she's inspired and galvanized change. Jazz is now a sought after keynote, who has spoken all over the world and worked with numerous organizations, including Skillsoft, but also with the marketing society, Gucci read the festival of media and the BBC. And so I could not be more grateful to have jazz here today, as we talk about her concept of a human first revolution, finding and celebrating everyday heroes and being our authentic and true sells jazz. Welcome to the edge. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Jaz 00:04:32 It's great to be here. Thank you.
Michelle BB 00:04:34 Well, you know, I, I gave everybody an introduction. Um, you joined us at this year's perspectives and in your session, which by the way, available on skillsoft.com/perspectives 2021, I have to get that piece out of the way. Um, you spoke about balancing life and work in the digital age, and you touched on how to create your own personal impact roadmap for acknowledging your value overcoming adversity and focusing on what you can control, which was really helpful. So again, I really encourage people to go watch, but you know, in, in opening up today, I'm not really sure that I did you justice. And so for that, I apologize. So I'd love for you to share a little bit more about yourself and perhaps something that, you know, one can't just read in a standard bio.
Jaz 00:05:20 Okay, well, I'm a world-class reframer is how Muslim described to me. So I'm going to get business cards with that on, but, um, I I'm really like committed to getting every bit of value out of life that I can, because I spent a lot of time not living like that. I spent a lot of time in a prison of my own making, where there's like two balls at the window, holographic balls. They were my own kind of imagination and the bars where I'm not good enough. And people like me don't do things like that. So I have tried living miserable and it sucks. I have tried that. And I think, and that came from kind of very early embedded. I grew up like in foster care, I lived, my parents were alcoholics and, and we were in and out of a foster care. We were abused.
Jaz 00:06:08 You know, by the time I was sort of a, I'd been stealing food to feed my brothers and sisters. I was like a parent to my younger siblings. I, you know, I was broken, I was a broken child and it was only the people, um, adults of mine happened to be at school who were able to connect with me, stand with me, do witness, not do things to me or for me, but do things with me and, and value me rather than rescue me that kind of set that interrupted the trajectory and set this new kind of pathway for a new story. It's not, I'm not making an app that it's been easy, but I, um, I feel like really lucky to be able to reframe in the way I do so that when adversity and challenge comes and comes and when it does come, I'm able to reset. And, and I think the thing that I am most proud of and who I am at my heart is that I can pivot, reframe and go again. It doesn't matter how bad it is. I can do that. And that is that that's the most amazing thing about my life, I think.
Michelle BB 00:07:10 Yeah. Okay. So for our listeners out there, I told you that we were going to get vulnerable and real, and I think that's about as real as you can get and look, you know, jazz in preparation for this conversation, I did watch your Ted talk and I'd watched it before when you were joining us for perspectives, but I wanted to watch it again, the power of everyday heroes, which has more than a hundred thousand views on YouTube, everyone. And so I feel obligated right now to take a moment to thank publicly my science teacher, Mr. Asher, who treated me with incredible kindness and respect. And he helped me through a really tough life transition, even as I struggled in his physics class. Um, but, but truly everyone, I know a big thanks to Tom Asher. Um, everyone, this is a must watch it, it moved me to tears.
Michelle BB 00:07:55 And just as I reflect on what you shared, I can't help, but wonder how many people are on a similar and very real journey working to repair some damage to their sense of self. So for those of you who haven't watched it yet, and I think this would be helpful jazz. Maybe you can take us through this idea of everyday heroes and your concept of being 10% braver. And just so you know, everyone out there, um, jazz is wearing a shirt that says 10% braver, which I am sure she's got a store for because I need one of those.
Jaz 00:08:31 Well, and these became my uniform during the pandemic because I couldn't speak out in places. So I just got myself a load of like jazz isms also. And actually people asked for these, I have them in a shop.
Michelle BB 00:08:43 Okay. So we will put the link for everybody who wants it and we'll put the link to the shop, but take us, take us through what that means.
Jaz 00:08:51 Yeah. Well, the, the whole thing about being everyday heroes and the link to being braver 10% braver, which is like the tiniest bit. It's not, you know, starting a revolution yet, but it's just being a tiny bit braver than you were yesterday. Is that like, there's a difference between bravery and courage. So courage is embedded. Like firefighters are courageous, they're running towards the burning building. We're running in the opposite direction. That is courage. That is rehearsed. That's intentional, that it's practiced. That's not bravery. Bravery is when you are terrified and you still choose to take the first step and that after awhile burns itself into courage. So it's the idea of how do we take those tiny steps when we're in a toxic relationship? When we were in a job that we hate, when we we're struggling to, to apply, we want to get promoted, but we feel like we're not ticking enough boxes to do it.
Jaz 00:09:43 And imposter syndrome kind of sets in like some vulnerability vulture on your shoulder, digging a clause in saying, you're not good enough. How do you become 10% raver? And for me, it's always been about that. The ability of people to come and light a fire in you rather than underneath you, it's like having someone else who can stand with you. There was a, I read a book and it was about the SAS. Um, I don't know, is that a thing SAS British or American? I don't know. But, uh, the training for not the Marines, the training was really grueling, like really grueling. And there was a story about a guy who was training and he was swimming. Like you're just throwing an ocean. I don't know. And he's made it, made it. And he was, so it was so cold and he couldn't breathe. And he was just like, I've got to give up.
Jaz 00:10:29 I can't do it. I'm going to die. And he looked up and saw his friend go, come on. And he carried out. He found the strength to carry on growing. And you know that when you've got nothing left, someone else can stand with you and believe in you. And suddenly you have more, that's the idea of an everyday hero. But the quintessential thing about it is that it doesn't take a lot. Like for me, it was people I didn't get like smiled at, at home. I wasn't spoken to like a person. I was treated like a second class citizen. So when I would coming to school and my geography teacher would see me in the late corridors, like late every day. Cause I was taking my brothers to school and school started at the same time. Um, I'd come in and he'd go, all right.
Jaz 00:11:08 And I, and at first I'd be like, what's wrong with you? Wait, talk to me for, cause I couldn't take the kindness. But when someone does that every day for five years, it melts the ice around your heart. So it's this idea of just the tiniest things we do making the biggest difference to people's lives. It's, it's not revolutionary. It's, it's meeting people where they are. It's standing with it's witness. And, and I feel like this is so available to us, like checking in, check in with people. Who've got daughters who are very, you know, like my daughter who's got, who got very strong personality. We're not okay. Most of the time, you know, it's just like checking in with our friends, checking in with people, especially during the times you don't know what's going on in people's lives. And we always assume everybody is doing great. And when we compare our backstage with everyone, else's front stage, we start comparing ourselves. I mean, it's, it's just, it's a story. It's just a story. And that gets broken by people, standing on the truth about who you are when you can't do it yourself.
Michelle BB 00:12:11 You know? Um, that is so powerful. And I, I talked about this a little bit in the opening, this idea of imposter syndrome and doubting that we have what it takes. And I look at you and I'm like, oh my God, she's got it all together. And I feel like such an impostor. And I talked about this recently because it's something that I've had to personally tackle this feeling of self doubt or personal incompetence of thinking that we don't belong. Or we're not enough despite the fact that let's face it. We know we're skilled. We are accomplished. And you know, look, I will say this to people who are listening, if you've ever experienced these feelings. And I know you have, you're not alone. Um, the American psychological association reports that more than 80%, 80% of people experience imposter syndrome. And I think if we look at its impact in the workplace jazz, we know that it can lead to career burnout, less risk-taking and increased anxiety and depression. So is this a point at which we need to be just 10% braver or perhaps also 10% kinder to ourselves? Because I feel like so many people from, from whether you're a rising leader or C-suite you, you know, everybody's feeling like they're, they're not good enough. So I think we need your help. I need your help. Just how do we recognize that worth in ourselves?
Jaz 00:13:29 Not so good, because I think it's like when we go to a party, the first thing we do is we say what we I'm jazz. And I do. We say what we do. We're so addicted to achievement that we count our value as what we can be, we can do is productive. And it just leads to so much stress. And I think one of the things that I've, I've been crippled by imposter syndrome in the past. And I remember being in Rome, I'd been at, I've been flown to Rome to do a talk and I'm in this amazing hotel with light, it's got a view of the Vatican and it, all of it is just making me feel worse. And I'm thinking, I start thinking, I've got, no, I can't say I've got nothing. I should not be here. I don't know how to. And I remember before I'd like seeing the host and I said, oh my gosh, I can't, I can't do this.
Jaz 00:14:11 You've made a mistake. This is a bad idea. And he said, oh, you've got imposter syndrome. And I said, no, it's not a syndrome. If you're actually an imposter, I genuinely cannot do. He's like, oh, I remember thinking, what would it look like? What would it feel like if I could just believe what he believes about me for a minute? Because I felt like I was going to spontaneously combust he's he's flown me across the world. He believes in what I can do. How about, I know, I don't tell him that he's made a bad choice and I believe what he believes for woman. And I made myself a cup of tea, which is the British cure for everything. So I'm having myself a cup of tea and it felt so good not being anxious. I thought I'm going to try this again. And it kind of, it led to this whole idea of, um, my friend section was what, there's two pots.
Jaz 00:14:55 One's got evidence and data on. One's got your own thoughts and feelings. Which one is true. Now when I asked this, when I do keynotes, most people say, well, thoughts and feelings. But if you think about being in a murder investigation and you've got like this wealth of CCTV and a confession, you were there, you know, you've got DNA evidence, the victim scrawled the, the name of the murderer in their email address. You've got all that. And on the other side, you've got Maureen from accounting who says, I think he's a bit dodgy. Which one would you use?
Jaz 00:15:28 We've got this wealth of evidence and data about the truth, about who we are, what we're capable of, what our track record is. Then we've got our brain saying, oh, probably not very good. Don't do it. Just in case you have some, you got to hack that. Sometimes you've got to stand on the truth about yourself and not what you think. You've got to go with fact over how you feel a lot of the time. And I think that kind of almost clinical way of looking at stuff help me as someone who is very emotive, very empathic, um, helped me kind of stand on the evidence and data and just not give way to when I get the feeling of, oh, you shouldn't be doing like this podcast, but I get the feeling of what am I doing here? This is amazing. I know, I know the caliber of people you interview.
Jaz 00:16:13 And I'm like, oh, they got the right jobs. I'm powerful. I choose to stand on the truth about me. According to you at this moment, you feel I've got something to offer and I am going to, I'm going to do me. And it's, it's that, that's what the term is that brave. The thing is all the time, it'd be so much easier for me to hide away. Go, of course I wanted to, when I was doing perspectives and I saw it was Shakila meal and me on the same list, I was nearly sick in the toilet. I'm like a little bit of sick came up in my throat, but I'm like, my brain is a liar, thoughts and feelings, evidence, and data that is going to go, I'm going to go on this. And that is literally, I'm not people say, oh, you're so confident. It's not confidence. It's not comfortable. I am comfortable with things not working out. Right. Because I know how to reframe. And I choose, I choose to believe in the truth about myself rather than my vulnerability, vultures, constant terrain of how rubbish I, at everything. It's so boring. And I just turn the volume. So it's really loud. And I show up for the shine
Michelle BB 00:17:19 You do, you do. And like, so I think first of all, um, for everyone out there, when you are not feeling a hundred percent, just come back to this podcast because I promise you you're going to feel better. And just so you know, I, I had to interview Shaquille O'Neal and I thought I was going to vomit. Right. But I was so scared because who am I interview this man? And he was so generous and so kind and so truthful in what shared. And I think one of the things that was really interesting and that we talked about after the interview was that we brought him to talk about something that was really important to him, which was education and the role that it had played throughout his life. We didn't talk about basketball. And I think because we reframed for him, something that he, he cared so much about that people didn't know about him.
Michelle BB 00:18:13 They didn't know that he had a masters. They didn't know he had his PhD in education. And so this was an opportunity for him to share. And I think that's something that often we miss is that people are multifaceted and that we tend to look at them through one lens. And maybe one of the things that we need to do is show people we're more than just this one thing, because then we can connect. Right? So, so when people know that I absolutely love my dog, except when he sits right there on my red couch, or when I tell people that I'm an athlete, a broken athlete, but an athlete, there's an opportunity for us to connect in a way that maybe we couldn't have before. And I don't know if this leads into this notion of a human revolution, but I think that when we know each other's humanity, may, maybe that's where you're going with that. So could you tell us what human revolution is and why it's time?
Jaz 00:19:07 Yeah, I mean, it's in short human revolution is really simply being like professionally vulnerable and personally authentic because the other way around like personally vulnerable, well, there's a difference between like neediness and basic human needs, but personally vulnerable is where you're not healed and your sharing in the kind of hope that someone else will be able to make you feel better in some way. And we've got to do the work. You've got to participate in your own rescue, but, um, but professional vulnerability, it means you don't get to work and you say, oh, do you know what? I'm, I'm addicted to alcohol. And I think I got involved with some human trafficking on the way to work this morning. You don't need to like tell them everything, but there is something around not making out that you've got it all together because it all that, especially as a leader, because all that does is make everyone else feel that they've got to be as good as they think you are assorted as they think you are.
Jaz 00:20:02 And it just puts this huge pressure, like with the pandemic and everyone being on zoom and F1 covering up their backdrops. It's like, oh gosh, I'm sorry. I live in a house. I'm sorry. I have no space. We're all in the same boat. You know, we're all in this different storm, but same boat. So, so for me, I kind of feel like we've had like an industrial revolution and that went well. We've had a technical revolution and you know, that was nice. We've had a digital revolution and I'm so glad to be alive during that time. I think what we're missing. I think the next iteration is a human revolution where we choose, we choose intentionally to see everybody's heart and humanity first. So your human, my company is called human birth. So your human. And then, you know, I don't know an administrator human first CEO, human first and then a parent human first and then a Teeter.
Jaz 00:20:54 The humanity is the bit that gets missing because we all feel like being professional means trading in our humanity. And I don't see how we win if we're not able to be our honest self. And, um, my, my it's it's like tying it in with wellbeing. My plan is to turn up as my full fat self in every situation, whether I'm with my kids at work onstage, meeting a baby, meeting a Bishop, I don't care, full fat jazz, 24 7. That's what I want to do. And I can't do that if I'm constantly trying to be something or someone else I can show up as me. And if people aren't comfortable with me or don't like me, that's absolutely fine. Let's not work together. You'll be miserable. And all the sausages are available, you know, after hang out. So it's, it's about the human evolution is about it's okay.
Jaz 00:21:43 Not to be okay. And guess what you are. Okay. Anyway, if you're not broken, we, none of us are broken. We're just all trying to do the best we can in a place where we feel that we might not be good enough. We might not have what it takes. So what if we want, if we stood and said, you know what, this is who I am. This is what I can do. This is what I want to learn. This where the gaps are, this is what I'm working on. And what if that was just okay. Rather than having to be CV perfect all the time. It's that, it's that question is, is what does it mean to be human first? And I think it might mean something slightly different for each other, but I'm just, I'm dissatisfied with the way we have to hide parts of who, like I, when I start my business, um, people used to try and like meet me at nine o'clock and I'd say, I'm sorry, I've got a meeting.
Jaz 00:22:30 I didn't have a meeting. I was taking my kids to school, but I thought me saying, I'm taking my kids to school. It makes me look like I shouldn't be in the workplace. Cause I've got kids and I take them to school, which is it. It makes me look like a fantastic parent. That's what it makes me look like, who also runs her own business. But I was, I was worried about what other people think if I wasn't, if I was honest. So I decided not to be honest. So, and, and then, because I've got integrity, not being honest, ate away at me. So then I'm becoming less and less and it's no human first, everything else. Second,
Michelle BB 00:23:03 You know, th this notion of kind of accepting our vulnerabilities and accepting who we are, um, embracing it really it, which, which, yes, it can be challenging. I think, um, this idea of pulling back the curtain can be really, really uncomfortable. You know, our CEO, whom I adore, he shared a note with our entire organization and he said, you can't learn if you already know everything. And I loved that because, you know, as leaders, I feel like we're expected to have all these answers and have them quickly. And so it, it goes back to something that I've talked about with, with other guests on this podcast, the idea that even great leaders have to continue to learn. We can never stop because we don't know everything. And this takes act of humility, recognizing that there is still more out there and that it's okay to say, I don't know, just something. So I want to ask, how can we become comfortable both with ourselves and with other people on our teams to have that kind of professional vulnerability, to be able to say, I don't have that answer.
Jaz 00:24:13 Yeah. And I love, I love how you talk about leadership because it feels like it feels counter-intuitive sometimes to be a leader and not to know because we put this expectation on ourselves. Don't we? But the whole thing about a leader is that they set the tone. You know, they set the culture and when you're in a team, you need to have light. You need to know yourself in order to lead yourself. But when you bring in the team element, we've we need a team that is like in sync with each other and able to, to hear and move around them and know what it's like on the other side of themselves so that they can connect with each other. But if we're all uncomfortable in the idea of, well, what if I don't know, what will they say that actually gets in the way and productivity wise, we are missing out because people don't feel that they can show up as themselves.
Jaz 00:25:01 So when you're in a team it's really hard because there's a level of vulnerability that you're sharing. But if everybody is trying to do the same thing, if everybody is giving a little bit of themselves to each other, it feels like you've got skin in the game. And this is where teams are invincible. When they are all singing from the same hymn sheet, with a shared set of values, with the convertible lies with a, with a set of tools that they use. So that when there's a problem, they have a kind of way of working through it. There isn't something that someone else has thought of and then said, Hey, do this. I read it in a book. It's really good. But it's actually something that everyone is committed to. When there's a team where the leader is mentored by the person who's got the lowest status on that moves around every month.
Jaz 00:25:42 I mean, there's, there's so much you can do, but the whole point is it's got to be done altogether. And I think a lot of the time I see teams where people are invited, invited into being vulnerable, but not the person inviting them is not doing that. So I think it works both ways. Like if you're a leader and you're saying to everyone, Hey, you should, uh, you know, make sure that you take care of your own personal wellbeing, but you're sending emails at half 11 at night. Well, you're saying one thing and doing something else you're out of whack. And that, that kind of, that's a lack of authenticity that makes people nervous. So what we say and what we do, what we think and what we feel have to be on the same line, so that if you're a leader so that you can encourage people to say, look, I am here, come and step into the arena with me not, that's a really good arena.
Jaz 00:26:27 You should try it. And, and it's, it's really hard cause it's like, you know, you don't have a choice to get on with the people you live with or like join lockdown. I spent a lot of time with the people that I married and gave birth to who were great people, but you know, I, wasn't planning on spending two years in the same room with, I haven't prepared as a team, as a, as a team. When we describe ourselves as team up, I thought we had to say, so what is it that allows each one of us? What is it allows our voices to be heard individually? What is it that we can pay into the kind of group element that will make us really make a shine as a group? And, and that was a really interesting journey, you know, with a couple of teenagers and a husband, but I tell you what absolutely amazing and that was enforced.
Jaz 00:27:12 But I think if you opt into the complexity of getting dirt under your fingernails, when it comes to what makes amazing teams and some of the resources you have, I mean, some of the results you have are just amazing, but it does take, you know, it does take bravery, bravery is required. So it's, it's a case of how committed are you. And there's lots of companies that, you know, we'll, we'll talk about it, but not put themselves in the position of it. And I just, I feel for them because they're missing out, they're missing out on the amazing capacity for success that starting with vulnerability brings.
Michelle BB 00:27:51 Yeah. So, so, so team biotech did okay. During the pandemic, I will tell you, we had our, we had our moments because we had the four of us, we had, we had the dog, um, and there were days when it felt really, really cramped in here. And so I would get in my car and I would go drive to the parking lot of the Rite aid, which is our local pharmacy. And I just would sit there and I'd work. And I thought, I just, you know, because I, I, I was not used to working in this environment with these people who aren't the best colleagues in the world and all of a sudden I'm in, right. I'm in locked down with him. But, but what did, what did actually did show me is that we can and should blend these worlds a little bit more than it is okay.
Michelle BB 00:28:43 To kind of show to your, to your point, the background, without blurring it out without right. That that is okay. If you're comfortable that when the dog comes in, when the husband yells at the child and you're on a podcast, and you've got to say, I'm podcasting, that it is okay, because it shows that human element. And, you know, it's something that you talked about, Skillsoft, which I thank you, you know, th the things that we bring, but there's so many that I've advocated for since I joined Skillsoft that I love about what we do is that learning applies to us as whole people, right? It doesn't just address those hard, durable job related skills. And you can get those, you can get your technical skills here, but rather learning can and should be something that, that nourishes you and that you can apply to all facets of your life. So, so yeah, we need those technical skills. But if we think about being human first, you also need skills, like confidence, emotional intelligence, resilience, and that ability to understand that life is complicated and messy, and it's not always perfect. And it is okay to be vulnerable. So I know you have a background in education and teaching. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this idea of developing ourselves, not just in one facet, but really is how do we take care of that whole person?
Jaz 00:30:07 Yeah. I think in the first instance that people, we need to stop distinguishing between, we need to stop saying things like soft skills, It's human skills, and you are human, and it's quite handy. If you've got this way of working before I know there's Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I've got jazz. Lowe's hierarchy of needs. I just like to simplify,
Michelle BB 00:30:32 You have to tell me what those are. Okay. I need to go check.
Jaz 00:30:37 So it's like, if you're going to bring out the best in someone, obviously they need to be safe. They need to have like psychological safety and offers in the workplace that that's missing the psychological safety. So that's really important. Then they need to be, well, they need to have ways of managing. They have to participate in their own wellbeing. You can't just let someone else tell you it's enforced yoga time. Let's get our kit on. And then the last one is you have to be seen if you are safe well and seen, then there can be difference made. And I think that's the bit we miss off a lot of the time the being seen element or it's the thing that we're most afraid of. And for me, when we think about the whole person, we're always kind of trying to hide behind the things that are really easily measured.
Jaz 00:31:18 Seth Godin talks about real skills. I'm a Senate calls, I'm human skills. I personally just feel that I would rather have someone who had resilience, knew how to lead, knew how to reframe that hadn't had reinvention down. I'd hire someone in a minute like that over having all of the skills that we've worked so hard at, I'm not dismissing them. They're important, but come the next global punch or whatever happens. I want to have a team that are a class reframes. I want them to be able to take responsibility for what they're responsible for and nothing else. I that's such a, it's such a distressing thing. And we're all trying to be responsible for things. We've got no control over. We can, we can't control it, but we obsess about it all the time. Even though it's something we can't affect, I want them to be able to reach out and not have this whole thing around.
Jaz 00:32:07 I'll do it myself, or I don't want to look weak. You look weak because you're not asking anyone for help. You're not like why you are the only human on the planet who can do everything on their own. If that was true, the government be doing tests on you that have your brain out. So I've looked at how come you're so special. You're, you're a regular human stop. Awesome. By choice, not by accident, you do the work, but you're a regular human. So just own that. And then the reframe thing. These are my three hours of reinvention that I, I, I just kind of, this is what I've looked at my own life and thought, how am I not a statistic? How am I not dead? These are the things that have that I've worked on. And the reframe thing is the time it takes between like falling into a hole and getting back up.
Jaz 00:32:47 Cause it's not like you're never gonna make a mistake. It's not like you never gonna fail. But the time between failing and going again, it's getting that as short as possible. And for me, that used to be years, somebody would go wrong and I would, I would be knocked out for years. I got it down to months, weeks, days, hours, I can do it in minutes and I'm going for seconds. And, and it's like reframing after an argument, after a disagreement reframing after a job that you didn't get or a failure. And I don't mean resigning yourself to like, oh, well, if I don't laugh, I'll cry. I mean, accepting renewed hope. I mean like actively being intentional about how you process stuff. I look at myself and I spent a lot of time, Forrest Gump upping my way through life. Just, you know, hoping for the best hoping my main strategy was hope.
Jaz 00:33:35 And, and it's exhausting. It's exhausting. And it's not it's, I am work this hard to live some sort of mediocre life. So the human skills, the important things, those are the things that I choose to invest in, into, into my kind of more than my intellectual capital. You know, my spiritual capital, my relational capital, that that is that's where I place my investment. Because if I've got those, I can always generate financial capital. But if I, if I focus my presuming, my focus just on that, that, and miss out on the other things I D I don't wanna, I don't wanna get to the end of my life and, you know, look back and say what a lot of people say. I wish I hadn't. I wish I'd had the courage to be myself. I wish I'd spent more time with my family. I've done a pre-mortem on my life.
Jaz 00:34:23 I'm like not a post-mortem, I'm looking at it now, thinking, what do I want my hundred year old self to be saying? And I write that script. And then that's the script I choose to live to. But a lot of that script is about being able to say yes, when it's right, for me being able to say no, when it isn't. And also on that script is making out with my husband more, which is my it's a good one. I'd encourage her, but it's, it's, it's, it's telling your own story. It's not letting someone else write your story for you saying, this is what you should be like. This is what you should do. That, that's what I, I get excited about with Skillsoft, because you, I don't think you always know that you're doing it, but you encourage people to pick up the pen and take ownership of their own story. And that, that is unique and significant in being human first. It really is.
Michelle BB 00:35:11 So I love, I love that. I, um, wrote something called the stand. It was part of an exercise that I had to do, and it was, you know, what is your stand? And, and, you know, you're, you're talking to yourself from a point in the future and you're looking back and what have you accomplished between that point? And this one? And I, I wrote it. And as I wrote it, I realized that I need to make some changes because what I don't want my tombstone read is, Hey, she was a great marketer or a great writer, a great runner, or that she was available 24 7. She
Michelle BB 00:35:46 Moments. Instead. I wanted to read. She cared immensely. Yes. If nothing else, that's what I want my tombstone to read. And I realized that there is a lot of work I have to do to get there, because right now I think it would read she was available 24 7 again, but I can, I can do, I can do that work. Um, but I really do love that. And I also have to tell you you're going to laugh, but I referenced, and you can probably listen to it in every single podcast. I referenced Maslow's hierarchy all the time, and I'm going to stop and I'm going to reference Charlotte's hierarchy, and I'm going to, I will credit you, but I really I'm going to shift the script a bit. I love that. I love that.
Michelle BB 00:36:32 it really is. Um, so, you know, I promise, I promise. I promise people laughing. I really did. And you know, I think people who are listening to us would say, you both sound like confident women, right? You're hearing you sound confident you're having a good time. But I think that, you know, when we talk about things like we did in the beginning about imposter syndrome, I think the prevalent narrative is that women are more often affected and feel less confident in the workplace than their male counterparts. And in this, um, in this podcast that I did with, uh, uh, pluma coach Beth Eagan, we talked about people often falsely equate confidence with competence and that that disproportionately impacts women. And, uh, as you and I are talking today, um, we've just released some new research to Skillsoft 20, 21 women in tech report. And, you know, in this study, we focused on women who work in technology, and we learned so much that even still, even today, as we sit here in 2021 women feel they must work harder to prove themselves and demonstrate con competence. And what we heard repeatedly from the people we surveyed is that they want things like professional development. They want training opportunities. They want to be given the chance to Excel, but they aren't always seen and heard. And I think about this and I'm like, oh my gosh, that's how does this still exist in, so just how do we create workplace cultures where people feel confident, where they feel brave, um, where they feel like they belong and, and, you know, is there something we can do to adjust this gender inequity that I think still exists?
Jaz 00:38:19 Yeah, it's, it's a narrative. I feel like there are four stories going on in, in all our lives at the same time. And the first story is the stuff that we tell people about us and they know, and that can come across as I'm confident because you're supposed to be able to sell yourself. You've got to tell the truth about yourself and it's not bragging if it's true, you know, it's only bragging if it's not true. So, so there's that. And people feel differently about being able to tell the truth about to the world, right? And then there's the throw your toe yourself. And there's the first problem that those stories of out of sync that we tell everyone else we're competent. And then in the morning, when we're getting ready for work, we look in the mirror and go, oh, you're fat, you're ugly.
Jaz 00:38:55 You're going gray. And we give ourselves that sort of pep talk to go to work. So it's, it's two different narratives. And then there's another story about the stuff that people say about us. And, and the problem with that story is that people have always, they've got their own, they've got their own journey that they are adding to that story. So people say all sorts of things about me. They make all sorts of assumptions about me. When I walk in a room, you know, they see that I'm a woman that I'm brown, that I look like Beyonce. Now. They don't see that ever but living hope, but you know, they, and they make up these stories about that. Well, I can't, I can't be all of their stuff. So I do me. And then if it, if it, you know, it either fits or it doesn't, but I can't, there's no point in me trying.
Jaz 00:39:36 So I can't take control of the stories that other people tell about me. And, and, but the last story is the unknown story. And that's a story we have absolute control of because that's the story that we haven't written yet. And we get to write. So when it comes to a culture in the workplace, I firmly believe that this is the tone is set by hierarchically, by the leader. And the tone is, is seeing people. You know, what I love to do with the team is sit down and say, right, tell me all the unwritten rules in the workplace, tell me all the things that haven't been said, but you know, it's a rule. And then go back to the leader and say, here's the list of things that you are enforcing without knowing it, because there's so much because we're looking at things from different viewpoints.
Jaz 00:40:18 And I think if you look at the history of women in the workplace, that there was this kind of, you can come, if you're the same as everyone else you're accepted, if you're the same. So basically you're accepted. If you can be like the men and, and like in world war two, when women in Britain first started doing men's jobs, it was like, well, you know, how are we going to, you're going to have to be like the men, because there was no schema for a woman who was right. But sometimes today, like despite the massive evidence and data, there's still very, some people do not have a scheme. We make it work. But, but saying to women, okay, you gotta be braver. Sometimes it's a bit like telling the, the hound, the Fox to stop being chased by the hound. You know, there's got to be, um, a standpoint where everybody says, so what's it like to be on the other side of where I am?
Jaz 00:41:07 And that's where you, you meet people in empathy, not sympathy. Sympathy is useless. Sympathy is what you say. When you say, when someone says, well, my dad died. You go, I'm so sorry. That's kind of British for, oh, I don't know what to say. Don't talk to me. This is really uncomfortable. Sorry is useless. Empathy is powerful. I don't know how you feel. I don't know what you're going through, but I will stand with you. That is powerful as a statement. Then the next thing is engage. That's when, when you've, when you've bought, you've gone at loyalty, cause you've stood with someone, then you can engage in a conversation that is where Yvonne could stay neutral and just get curious about what it's like to be, where they are. Like the, you know, the feeling that I want the training, but I feel like no one sees me and I don't know what, how much noise do I have to make before somebody says, oh, would you like to come on the car?
Jaz 00:41:51 You know, it's that we've actually got to just, what's it like on the other side? What, what is it like for you? And then you can enroll someone into a different way of thinking. But I think what we try and do is go for enrollment. First. We say, well, you should just be like this. And you look like you're like this, so everything's fine. And it's like, that's a bit lazy. You got to do the work. The empathy and engage parts are really important. And, and I, this is why this piece of research is so important because who would have said that, that women in technology who are already in an industry where they're outnumbered, who would have said that they would have come up with those actual specific things, we could make assumptions about what their story is. But actually it's like, you know, what, what I feel is this.
Jaz 00:42:32 And, and being able to hear that means that we can start making tiny shifts in the direction of making sure we're not missing out on talent, because that's the cost we are missing. We are missing out on talent by not giving us space for people to get curious about what it's like, not to be them to be different to them. And it's, it just shuts down conversations. And I think in particular, I L I'd love to do a piece of research around the unwritten rules that women feel and that men feel and see if they're different in the same workplace, you know, to see if there's that there's a felt kind of difference in there. That would be interesting. But I, but I think it's around stories. I think it's the stories. We tell ourselves a story. Let's say it's all around stories. And if it's just a story, then we can all choose to write a better story. We can all choose. Cause we're going to be, we're going to be talking about this time forever. I'm going to be talking about that research forever. So what I don't want to do is say to my daughter's daughter, oh yeah, this is how it was when I was at work. And now this is how it is for you. Because then what, what was the point of me? What did I do if I didn't engage in some courageous conversation about how it can be better.
Michelle BB 00:43:39 I want to write these unwritten rules. I want to write this research with you. So you tell me when I love it. No, I really do.
Jaz 00:43:47 I would say though, Michelle, I wonder if it would be, cause the unwritten rule thing is huge. I mean, people say stuff and leaders are heartbroken when they, when they see it, I've done this exercise so many times. They're like what? I never said, you got to stay till seven. So, but something you're doing is illustrating that. And it's not, it's more than one person that's saying it. So, you know, we're giving and I wonder if it's different, even different. Like, is it different for leaders different from middle managers? It will be interesting to find out what it,
Michelle BB 00:44:16 So here's, here's a, here's a Noto listeners. If you were interested in doing a workshop with jazz that we're going to put together and I'm just making this up on the fly about let's write the unwritten rule or let let's go through this exercise of let's figure out what the unwritten rules are for our, because with that insight, yes, it's probably really, really hard to hear. But ultimately when we know what's happening, we can, we can impact change. We can't do it if we don't have. Hmm.
Jaz 00:44:46 Hmm. It's true.
Michelle BB 00:44:46 Oh my gosh, this is, this has been so much fun. I told you, I promise you that we would get candid. I promise that we would get vulnerable. And I promise that we would have a bit of a belly laugh. I did not expect as big a belly laugh and I'm thrilled for that. And I love this conversation. I wish we could keep going, but I do have one final question. If you've listened to the podcast, it is something I've asked every single guest since I started this, this was my pandemic era or my pandemic thing. Right? So we started this podcast and it's a three parter, just so you know, in case you need it. But you know, as we reflect on the past 20 months, we've all had very different experiences when it comes to the impact. The pandemic has had some good, some bad, um, some tragic. Um, so, so what I ask is three things. What have you learned about yourself during this time? How are you applying what you've learned in the flow of your work, in the flow of life? And then the third and final thing is what advice would you share with others based on that? So what have you learned? What have you applied and what advice would you give?
Jaz 00:45:58 I have learned that freedom is not freedom to me. It is chaos and the beauty of constraint I've leveled up my life. I mean, I lost my entire business. Obviously when the pandemic came, no events, I'm a speaker, no events, no work. So, but I speak about resilience. I'm not going to sit here. I'm my lamenting. I was like, all right, already frame. What am I people need? And I put together like a manifesto, new rules and, and made all these videos. And I knew I could live for a couple of months without worrying that I, I didn't have anything to eat. But what I found over time is that the, the, the note that the complete freedom of the day was actually exhausting to me. And what I needed was constraint. I have too much constraint before I was traveling all over the world.
Jaz 00:46:47 I made ridiculous decision. I said yes to many times. And, and that was ridiculous constraint, but constraint where it's like, you know what? Let's like you did. We're going to do a podcast. I'm going to do it, join lockdown. And we're going to start it now. And I don't know if it's going to work, let's go for it. Anyway. It's it's the constraint has given me so much. I don't know whether it's discipline or discretion. I don't know what it is, but it's just given me a place to fill up the small box that I gave myself rather than rattle around in a big box, trying to, trying to make a noise. So that's, that's the main thing I've learned about myself, which I am excited about. I've applied that by, you know, I think I do time blocking. So I have Mimi Mondays where Monday mornings, I'm just to create my social media content and do my own.
Jaz 00:47:31 I'm going to procrastinate. I give myself Monday morning to do that, and I have freedom Fridays. So on Friday afternoons, I, if I'm not having a cocktail with my husband by three, o'clock, something's wrong. You know, I put this in. What I did is I designed my whole week, my dream week. I'm like, if I could set my own rules, imagine if I was the boss of my own life, if I could, what would my best week look like? And it was like Monday, I would get into it Friday afternoon. I would just stop and celebrate five o'clock every day. Me and my husband make ourselves available to each other in the kitchen. And for that hour, one of us cooks, the other one might be reading or, but we are available to each other. And, and so I've put these kinds of constraints in place, which feel frustrating sometimes like, oh, just one more email.
Jaz 00:48:16 I'm like, no, the commitment to myself is more important than that email. And so that's helped me build this way of being this intentional way of being, which stops me from Forrest Gump pink through the day, and getting to the end and collapsing into bed, like an exhausted lab. Ratter off past eight. It eradicates that. So I've created this constraint that I'm able to work within. Um, my advice for the people, I mean, I don't know that this would work for everyone because I think I, you know, there are people that are more disciplined than me, but I would say that if you, if you, if you need help, then make a request. Because I think if I'd asked tuna identified sooner that I was, I was busy and harassed. Now I'm busy, but I'm not harassed. And I didn't ask for help because I didn't want, I didn't.
Jaz 00:49:03 I was scared of what people think of me if they knew that I didn't have it altogether. So I didn't ask for help. So if you need help, make a request, find someone you trust and someone who's who fights for your highest good I'll make a request. And if you don't need help, then go offer it to someone else. I wish someone had got busy up in my life and gone. Let me tell you about yourself, jazz, yo, going to bad out. And you're going to be in an early grave. I wish someone had just sat me down. Like, listen, you ate too much sugar. You're going to be diabetic. I mean, I would say maybe with a bit more kindness, but I, I respond well to a short, sharp shock, a kind kick up the bottom is something that I respond quite well. So, so my advice is either go looking for a kind kick up the bottom or give someone a kind can call the bottom, but get involved in kind kicking of the rear end. That would be my advice.
Michelle BB 00:49:55 Oh my God. I don't think there's a better place to end this podcast. That, I mean, talk about a powerful episode. We've gone from vulnerability to kind kick in the bottom and everywhere in between. Thank you so much, jazz. This has been amazing. And I needed it this morning, cause I wasn't having the best day. And I will tell you, this has been a reframe for me because I know the rest of my day is going to get so much better after this tastic.
Jaz 00:50:28 It is a genuine honor. I'm glad that I worked through the little bit of sick in the back of my throat. It's a genuine honor to have spent this time with you. And, and to just be part of the Skillsoft family is one of my lockdown highlights. So thank you.
Michelle BB 00:50:44 Oh my gosh. I, I love that. I love that. It's true. It's true. Well, then we got, then we got to thank our listeners because they tune in to this. And every episode we unleash our edge together and, you know, on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team and jazz, you know, we want to encourage you to keep learning, keep growing and in light of today's conversation, when was the last time you took a moment to pause and ask yourself, who am I really? And then based on that answer, is this a version of yourself that you've allowed to, to be revealed to others? Or is it just the version of you that you show at home? Are you someone different in the workplace? And I would say, how can you try and do a better job of uniting those? And I think part of what we all need to collectively remember coming out of this particular episode, we are good enough. So I'm Michelle BB. This is the edge. And until next time be well.
About Our Guest
Jaz is a world class re-framer. She has a unique ability to help people and organisations reframe their stories and situations, bringing transformation in their work, life and communities. This is Jaz’s alchemy.
Jaz is highly recognised for her impact on the education and health sectors, inspiring and galvanising positive change. She has led national and international projects unlocking potential in leaders and teams and is now a sought after headline keynote speaker by business leaders, corporations and governments wanting the same results.
It is fair to say that working with Jaz leaves a mark. She empowers you to get out of your own way and challenge that which you previously considered impossible so that the next time you face adversity and challenge, you’ll be ready. In her TEDx TALK she re-storied her life as a broken child, highlighting the transformative power we have to make a difference. Jaz’s determination drove her from appalling abuse at the hands of her own parents to running away from foster care and life as a teen on the streets, to advising countries on education policy and living as the resilience influencer she is today.
As a speaker, Jaz has a disarming ability to captivate her audience and share her story with humour and humility and without anger or bitterness. She invites people into a more authentic narrative around choice and agency, leaving individuals and organisations reporting an increase in determination and productivity.
Jaz’s ability to reframe means she sees the world in a unique way, which challenges and ignites those around her, lifting them out of what she calls ‘mindset poverty’ into previously unachievable outcomes.
Jaz speaks all over the world and works with industry leaders such as Skillsoft, The Marketing Society, Gucci, RED, The Festival Of Media and the BBC.
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.