Tune in to Moments Move Us Episode 23: The Power of Personal Connections in the Workplace with Erik G. Wexler
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New Podcast Episode: Reflecting on Moments of Connection with Rebecca Coren
What You’ll Learn:
“There will be people in your life—family, friends, colleagues, neighbors—who believe in you more than you believe in yourself.”
Jim Dunn was once told HR work really wasn’t all that hard and was promised jumping into a Head of Personnel role with zero experience would be a breeze. Of course, that wasn’t the case. Jim now says dealing with people on a daily basis is, in fact, the hardest thing he’s ever done, but thankfully he excels at it. Jim is now Executive VP and Chief People and Culture Officer at Atrium Health. In this episode, you’ll learn what it means to be open to not-so-obvious opportunities and hear why authenticity is the key to making your strategies work.
What to listen for: Connection, Authenticity, Recognition
I was hiring for a Chief Diversity Officer, and I really had to fight to hire who I believed was the most qualified candidate. The person [I’m telling you about] was an internal candidate who had been with the organization for ten years doing excellent work. She volunteered and worked extensively giving back in ten or fifteen other countries, and it was always during her vacation. It was her personal life. She really knew well what it meant to live and collaborate with people who were different! Now, here’s the kicker: She was white. I put her in as the internal candidate, and there were external candidates coming in, most of whom were people of color.
When I would bring her in [to interview], you could see on the Selection Committee faces, “Why is Jim putting her in here? We really need someone who understands diversity.” You see where I’m going with this. Sometimes, it’s the optics of what we believe diversity looks like.
In the end, I hired her! She became the best Chief Diversity Officer in the history of that organization. Today, she has now moved on to become one of the strongest international voices in the diversity community today.
The Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) I had hired would outside of work go to other countries during her vacation time. She would pack clothes and expect to come back with nothing because she gave all of her clothes and shoes away during these mission trips!
I’ve learned that it is important how you recognize someone. In a conversation I had with this person during the hiring process, she would tell me how she keeps track of the countries that she visits and that there’s one place she’s wanted to visit on her bucket list.
When the time came that we finally promoted her and put her in her role as CDO, we had a very standard recognition process in-place of gifting a wristwatch when they are promoted; but I knew that for her, the most important thing was for her to get to that other country that she had not yet been to. So, instead of a watch, we gave her a week’s vacation to that country.
Recognition should never be applied to everyone evenly, regardless of the merit. Different people respond differently to motivations. Over the years I’ve always tried to make recognition be as personal as possible and incorporate an individual choice.
One day, the Vice President of Research was not feeling well and asked if I could do a presentation for him. At the end of the presentation, a man approached me. He said, “Do you have a minute? President Carter would like to speak with you!” I didn’t think it was the President Carter. I responded, “Well, let me give you my business card. You probably want to reach out to the Vice President of Research.” “No, he wants to talk to you,” the man responded.
All of a sudden I see a crowd of people, and slowly the sea of people begins to part, and in the middle sitting at a table was President Jimmy Carter. “Oh my gosh, you meant President President!” President Carter began to thank me and said that he enjoyed the presentation, and then said, “Let me tell you about my Center.” He explained that our Nation’s Presidents each build a library, but President Carter not only built a library but also a center to do the global work that he thought he would be able to do. “How naive I was,” he chuckled, “I forgot there was a thing called Congress and Senate, and you just can’t do what you want to do!” So, President Carter recruited me. How cool would it be to work for a former president!?
I was with him when he started Habitat for Humanity…I oversaw his board governance [when Colin Powell was the chair of the board]…It was just a great honor to work with [Carter], and it was while working with him that I realized that I would forever seek to work for purpose and meaning.
“If you want people to really bring their whole self to work, you have to ask them, ‘What is that? What does that look like?”
“Lean in and get to know people. That’s when you know what recognition looks like for them. That’s what you know what wellbeing looks like. And that’s how you know as an organization—if you want to keep them engaged with your culture—that you have to reach out to them in a very meaningful way.”
“Learn to be open to the not so obvious.”
“Be real about diversity. The problem is real, so your solutions must be real as well.”
“You have to be authentic in your intentionality. We all know what it feels like if someone’s just checking the boxes when asking questions, but if you take an hour and say, “There’s no work discussions. I don’t need updates. I just want to see how are you doing.” Just in that alone, people are appreciative and that’s when you really learn what their needs are and that’s how you customize your intention to that individual. You could be intentional. You could be engaged and make moments that matter for both you and the recipient.”
“Look at your culture. What we’re hearing right now is about this “Great Resignation,” but I think it’s more of a “Great Awakening.” People have had time to reflect. I have friends and family members who are making bold moves, and I love it! At first, they were afraid to go out on their own, but people have become less fearful in taking next steps towards their dreams. Of course, it’s The Great Awakening as well as burnout, but in healthcare specifically people are very focused on the mission. You’ll find this across healthcare as an industry, but you just have to lean in and let people know that you’re there to support them and show that there are more opportunities within healthcare than being an RN [if they’re burnt out but are still passionate about healthcare].”
Explore transformative stories from healthcare executives as they share impactful moments of human connection from their professional journeys.