Thoughts & Rants of a Behavior Scientist

Creating Equitable Workplaces: The Role of Behavioral Science and Humane Leadership with Portia James

September 15, 2023 Dr. Paul "Paulie" Gavoni Season 1 Episode 25
Thoughts & Rants of a Behavior Scientist
Creating Equitable Workplaces: The Role of Behavioral Science and Humane Leadership with Portia James
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What does it mean to create healthier, equitable workplaces? How does behavioral science play a key role in this transformation? Join us as we welcome the insightful Portia James to answer these questions. Portia, a prominent leader in the field of behavior analysis, shares her experiences and passion for constructing fair workforces where people feel valued. She sheds light on the rapidly evolving industry, underlining the escalating demands and complexities of leadership.

Embark with us on Portia's personal odyssey as she navigates the challenges of leading in a domain that often prioritizes corporate power, money, and titles over human-centric approaches. Journey with us through the intricate world of entrepreneurship and leadership, where Portia emphasizes on the necessity for decision-making prowess and perspective-taking. We delve into the science of behavior analysis as the very DNA of leadership, stressing on the alignment of values and behaviors. As leaders, we must ensure accountability and resist the temptation to get overly absorbed in daily business trivialities.

In our concluding act, Portia and I focus on the essential subject of feedback and perspective in leadership. We scrutinize the dangerous notion of 'selling your soul' and how it cannibalizes a person's essence over time. Portia highlights the essence of humility in leadership and the need for feedback, both from industry veterans and team members within our organization. We wrap up with Portia sharing her insights on using social media effectively for communication and fostering engaging conversations. Tune in for an enlightening discussion on the significance of vision, integrity, and humility in leadership.

Positional Authority Ain't Leadership: Behavioral Science for Navigating Bull$hit, Optimizing Performance, and Avoiding A$$ CLOWNery

The Behavioral Toolbox 

Be sure to subscribe to Dr. Paulie's Heart & Science YouTube channel for a variety of content related to behavior science and bringing out the best in yourself and others. 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the thoughts and rants of a behavior scientist show Hosted by Wall Street.

Speaker 2:

Journal in USA Today. Best-selling author Dr Pauley.

Speaker 1:

All right, welcome Portia James to the podcast. I gotta tell the listeners here that my good friend dr Nick Green was at a conference, I think it was the. Was it the Weba conference, portia?

Speaker 2:

It was yeah we've been asked this year.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I get a message from him. He goes oh my god, you got to meet this woman, portia James. I gotta connect you guys. You're so Like-minded and you know you probably should have her on the podcast. So I'm like, all right, it sounds good. He's like, no, no, no, I'm serious, you got to have her on man. I'm like, okay, brother, let me take a look and go. And so I looked at her, some of her background. I'm like, oh, cool man, we're like we're living in some of the same areas, if we seem like we have some of the same passions. Of course she's a baby analyst, she, she, you know, she focuses on organizational behavior management and she also, you know, has a passion for creating Healthy workforces, people where people feel valued and it's equitable. And so when I heard that, I thought you know, this is a, this is somebody want to talk to you, because I would love to hear about your experiences and I would love to talk about how we can leverage the signs of human behavior for creating a better workplace. I have a dream that one day so I Didn't mean to say that, or I'm not trying to be Martin, but that one day, you know, there's the work will be a place where people want to go, where they feel valued and care for all these places, and I Do. You believe in our field, or any field, if you're gonna, if you're gonna give this consumers what you need. In our field there's a lot of consumers who, you know, have disabilities. Well, can't bring out the best in them if you don't bring out the folks, the best in the folks in the workplace. And Too many people are just looking at the bottom line, the result they're trying to produce, and not thinking about the people and their behavior required to produce it. So anyways, portia James, welcome to the podcast.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I'm excited to be here and to kind of just chop it up with you about, about this topic. That's really become very much. You know my life's work, you know, yeah, creating workspaces that people don't have to recover from. I think that's like the biggest thing, especially, you know, being a black woman and coming up in this industry. I've been in for 17 years now. Gosh, the time flew. So many things about this industry have changed since I got into the industry, in terms of not just the workplace but the field at large. So much has changed. I know it was the autism rate was one in 166 when I got into the field and someone gave me one in 33 yesterday and I was like again so, yeah, there's just been although we're not sure if that's you know.

Speaker 1:

They were just, you know, diagnosing more. Yeah, I think so. I think with education.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you know people being educated parents being a little bit more in a position to advocate for themselves and for their kids, and you know Making sure that they're able to, to give you information that they need in order to get the diagnosis.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but either way, it's still like man needs to be addressed. Thank goodness that we have science, even behavior, although we don't have enough people go around to support all the needs and people don't understand what we bring to the table and there's some misnomers about it. But thank goodness for the science.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I think that that's definitely. You know, that is the issue, right is that we there's this demand now that has increased year over year that we're just, I think, as Business leaders, trying to meet the demand and we're feeling the strain of that more now than I think we ever have is it is true.

Speaker 1:

Well, let's talk. Talk a little bit about when you actually wrote this. Now, if you see me moving her typing, I'm just making little notes right. When you said recovering from the workplace oh my god, did that that resonate with me? Because I, I don't know, I just keep putting my foot in it. It seems like too often, not anymore. I'm in a great spot, love, where I want to be, but I I just what I found is that there seems to be More bad leaders than good leaders, and I don't want to say bad, I should say you know leaders with bad behavior, because it doesn't mean that they're bad people. Oftentimes it's a skill deficit, but I do find that there's seems like a higher percentage of those that we might drop into a Classification of narcissistic. Narcissistic leaders and that are like brutal, they want to control all the reinforcers, man, they I don't know there might be signs of damage. So I see this kind of stuff happening. But I still have like dreams of, you know, some of my past experiences and although a lot of them weren't necessarily directed at me, it was, I didn't. I always feel, I still feel this tremendous sense of guilt where I saw people not being treated in a way that I valued and I didn't stick up for them or I didn't try to do something differently for fear of my own job or fear of you know Whatever consequences I might experience, and I hate that I allowed that to happen. I got to the point where I'm like never gonna let it happen again. Wow the points where I've confronted Leaders, you know, face-to-face, and probably said some things I shouldn't have said, because you probably shouldn't speak to people that way, but I was just angry About it because I saw it so happen and I'm a fighter. You know, I'm a fighter and like I'm never gonna hit anybody, do anything. But in my mind I'm like, oh, I'm so angry for that happening and I don't think it's a good idea to do coercion with coercion. But man, I'm human, you know, correct, but what kind of things have you seen?

Speaker 2:

It's so interesting, you know, like being in the field, working in the field as behavior analyst and just not having the access to be able to really see what happens in the corporate role, like at the C-suite at that higher level, you know, departmental director, you know, where I'm able to kind of get a glimpse, and pretty early on into my my kind of corporate role, and I was able to see, really interestingly, how, like the contingencies and the variables that people are working, the pressure that people at that level are operating under, are totally different, like the things that are driving their behavior are very, very different than what drives our behavior Right like we are. We get into the field because we care, you know and we or we enjoy the work, we genuinely enjoy the work or we have these dreams or these goals. You know for me personally I got into the industry and I went to school. I did my undergraduate work and I thought that I would go into marriage and family therapy. So I was actually looking into an MFT program. When I graduated college and I took an internship the last one that was available, procrastinated, it took the last one that was available ended up in autism.

Speaker 1:

Oh my god, hold on pause. There we are, so much alike. I started to go in there. I'm a therapist, I was a social worker, I went to that field and I ended up working in residential treatment facilities with sex offenders because I Procrastinated. But I think the greatest experience ever had and it's also where I was exposed to some behavior analysis etc. But go ahead.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I just was like, oh shoot, you know, I got a graduate on time and and so I had to choose autism. I had never met a kid, you know, who had autism. I was extremely unfamiliar. I said I would never go into special education. I actually didn't want to work with kids, I wanted to work with adolescents and families on the family therapy side, and so, so you know, I got into the industry because I just I fell in love. I fell in love with a little boy who struggled and, and more so than that, I fell in love with the story of his family going back to marriage and family therapy and the things that they were dealing with Like in their marriage. You know, at the time the divorce rate in the States was toward 50%, but for kids, specifically with autism, I had learned that it was like in the 80s. You know and so I like this is the bet. This is the greatest vantage point to help families is from inside of their homes. You know, helping navigate this space of having a child that they just don't understand, you know, and they just can't come to to agreement on, and so so, yeah, I got into it for the love of like families and building families and seeing families Thrive and get back on the same page with each other, and that's what I did for, you know, 14 years working in the field until I became a clinical director. And then, once I left that clinical director role, I realized, oh shoot, there's a whole world of things that our leaders at the top Are concerned about and they, they truly have very little to do with families, with the contingencies that drive us, the ones that are in the field, and so there's definitely a disconnect there, and I think it's for that reason.

Speaker 1:

There is man, it looks a lot. I've been up in those suites and it's a lot different and they're so far removed from that end result in the frontline Worker, with that rbt's doing and the impact that they're having and they're not able to align their behaviors with that. And it is. And I've seen people again, unfortunately, like. This is my humble opinion, I don't have any research behind this, but I feel that the best leaders don't want to be leaders because the responsibility is so great that you have, you know, because you really care about people, you realize that every decision that you make has this ripple effect across your organization. It is a large responsibility. And then you have some people who just want the positional authority, they want the positional power, they want the title, they want the money. And I'm not saying that all that isn't great, of course. You know what I mean. We all want to feel good and attention is a very powerful, most powerful reinforce in the world. So I'm not acting whole as now. I don't want to do that. You know, my titles have helped me, certainly, and money helps for sure. But I feel that in the absence of that value of caring about people and putting people first, you know, and those reinforcers, kind of taking over the attention, you know, the money etc. It becomes very dangerous and they become, their behaviors become very dangerous to people.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, 100%. I think. You know I I've definitely seen the shift. You know I had a boss that kind of similarly to you that I would try to get him to to see. You know how you said I just there were things that I didn't speak up for that I saw that I just I probably should have said something. I wonder about him often, actually, because I'm like I wonder if he ever thinks about the things that if it keeps him up at night because it should like if he's a good person, then then it should.

Speaker 1:

That's the question right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, like it keeps me up at night, wondering if it keeps you up at night. You know, and so I do, though I wonder often, like the decisions that he had to make, and I would feel the same way, like you know will I ever get to a position where, where he is, where he struggled with making decisions that were client and people centered, because of what was on the line you know, his job being on the line and what was expected, the responsibility of a role of that magnitude? And when I left that place, I just said I will never be in that position. I will leave this industry before I get myself to a place where I would have to trade my integrity, my beliefs and you know what I've done, what I've created as my life's work where I have to trade that, my humanity, you know, for whatever these other contingencies are and I don't believe that it was just money. But there is this like drive right for, like more power or even climbing the ladder, higher positions, that you know, being able to have your own professional growth and understanding that, well, this must just come with the territory I'm going to have to, you know, go away from what I got, my reason for getting into this and I'm going to have to start to chase these other norms, and it must be a really difficult. I've always wondered where that turning point is for people.

Speaker 1:

I well, I've been there and I've left a few jobs and taken like pretty dramatic pay cuts. You know, one time I was a third of my salary. Who can just lose a third of their salary, you know, end up, you know, getting it. But I just couldn't do it. You know, like just waking up and feeling like this is not right, this is not me, it's not okay. You know, even though I'm not saying anything, it's like tacit compliance and did not feel good about that stuff. And I didn't leave without first trying to shape the behavior right, trying to ask the good questions and find out what the values are and make those connections. But you know there's only so much you can do without those contingencies in place. I do want to say this, though, that in sometimes, you know again, most of the time I think it's good people just engaging in some bad behavior right making, not seeing, you know, being well intended. But it's not about intent. At the end of the day, it's about impact and being poor observers of their behavior. Poor observers of the impact of their behavior on the environment and poor observers of the impact of the environment on their behavior. But it's easy to be down, like on the ground level, for example, the front line, and judge the leader up there because you don't understand those contingencies right. It's very, very difficult to run an organization right, to run an organization but to even be an entrepreneur. I have a lot of respect for these folks, man. They dedicate their life, and sometimes too much of the life, to it because you, you know, the buck starts and ends with you. So the stress that comes with it and I have my own side business right now that I'm building up, but I'm doing it at my own pace and it's going well. I haven't experienced some of the stress of people who invest a lot of money into the organization to get up and running. I've done a lot of sweat equity and that comes with. I mean, you know it's like I'm life or death, you know I don't mean physically, yeah, yeah. Yeah, but to their career. So there's a lot of stress up there, so I don't want to come across as, like again, holier than now. There are stressors that you can't imagine if you've been in that position having to navigate all the stuff that comes with owning a business.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think you know, one thing I learned about in entrepreneurship that I didn't really fully, ever grasp was that it something that this could be daily, weekly, monthly. But there are these very distinct forks in the road. You know, once you've invested the time and the money and the energy and the heart, really, you know, more so than anything, it's your compassion for what you do, your reason why you started. There are these like forks in the road. You know that that we come to as leaders and as business owners where you do have to make decisions that are life or death for the company. You know, and it's a, it's a pressure that truly I wouldn't wish on anyone. People have asked me, like you know would you, would you ever start another company? Like you know, would you ever go? And you know, and it's hard for me to envision ever starting another company where I have employees, because as soon as you have employees, those forks in the road come a lot more frequently. And unfortunately, what happens in our industry and for industry? Leaders are right. You know, leaders get judged, you know, from the frontline, and the truth of the matter is, in this field at least, there is really no training for leaders, especially for clinician owned companies. Bcba is our out. Our value is in the field. You know we're expected to be in the field working with clients, and so we're not really taught to be effective leaders. I don't think in all of my years of training, professional development, I would have to do my continuing education units and leadership and read books about leadership in order to try to hone my skills and watch the leaders around me and mostly decide the ones that, like I was going to vow never to be, like more. So you know, like, oh, don't ever. Let me get to the point. I'm a very, I'm an excellent person, I'm great at perspective taking. So I've always had a perspective of like, what variables and what contingencies are going on for that person that they were put in a position to have to come to that fork in the road and go left, maybe when I would have gone right, you know, and thinking about, what is it that those people are up against, where they feel like their backs are up against the wall? And that's really where you come to know, like the nature of a person, how a person will make decisions is when their back is up against the wall. And I think for a lot of our leaders, our backs are up against the wall and we just don't have the training or the support to be able to, you know, be as effective in our leadership as we want to be.

Speaker 1:

You said so many important things that so closely aligned my personal values. A couple things that I want to mention. I tried to get as many notes as I could while you're talking. I didn't want to hear you, right. So I like when you talk about perspective taking. I think that is a critical leadership behavior, but I think that you have to value the perspective of others first, right. And again, I think that people most leaders are just not you know, they just don't know better, right, there's a skill deficit. So I think that is critical because you got to think about what it would feel like to be on the other end of this and how they are experiencing this. Because that comes back to the intentional search for the impact of your behavior. You can't just look for other leaders and try to be that way, right? I like because you have seen this in sports, where they come out and they're hard on the team and they're yelling at them and people are saying that's the way you got to be a good leader, but they're not seeing all the other stuff. Like you know, they're showing up at the family dinners or the talks that they're having privately, right, and so that becomes like really important. But I like what you pointed out and saying. You know what? There's some leaders' behavior that I don't want to engage in, right, this bad behavior. So I agree with that. I got my doctorate in organizational leadership and here's what it did, right, it popped when I went back to for my doctorate. It started to pop me out of the matrix. I stopped suffering from what I call behavior in myopia and I suffer from sometimes we all do meaning that when we, when we take our eyes off of the learner and we start looking at the employees, we forget about the science of human behavior. We know, because we engage in blaming and all this other stuff Instead of looking at what environment is maintaining their behavior and what we need to do, more or less or differently, as an important part of that environment to get the best behavior out of people. And so I would argue that that ABA, I don't think I need to argue with you, I'm sure you'll support it. But ABA, the science, is the DNA of leadership, right? And we are already equipped with greatest toolbox in the world for making a difference. Right, the science of human behavior. But in the toolbox would be organizational behavior management. But organizational behavior management is just applied behavior analysis right, it just zooming out, it just getting results through the behavior of somebody else instead of directly working with it. And so I think that everybody, unless you're working one on one with the learner right and even then because you still have to fade out you're still going to get behavior need to get behavior change through some other people the parent, the teacher, whatever in a way that's going to likely sustain the behavior of the learner that are supporting or whatever. So everybody needs OBM and I think it is the greatest toolbox for leadership. What's been your experience with that?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think it definitely is the greatest toolbox. I think being a behavior analyst has actually contributed greatly. I would say 100% Wholeheartedly. Being a behavior analyst is what makes me a good leader Understanding human behavior and I think, what's unique about me. That shouldn't be unique because we all have the same skill set. We all have the same training as behavior analysts, but one thing that's unique it has been my ability to look at human behavior in a variety of forms, so it's very easy for me to step out of autism and go okay. Right now, my learner is this new hire that I'm training or my learner is this director that I just brought on and understanding enough about them. Being able to study people and being interested and being fascinated by human behavior and in all of its facets, and understanding how people are different and what contingencies they're going to respond best to and what motivates them, what reinforces their behavior. But also being able to use the science of behavior analysis to pinpoint that was something that I was really interested in when I was working in the field with kids is I would sometimes the behavior would be happening or a child would be really struggling with a skill and I would sit and watch. People expected me to jump in real quick and I would sit and watch and I became an observer, a very keen observer, to what is it that this person is trying to accru what maybe are they thinking? Taking the perspective of the learner even the autistic learner and understanding what is it that it is going to what is it how can I teach a skill in a way that this person is going to be able to receive it? How can I provide feedback in a way that this person is going to be able to receive it and then implement it Right? And I think that a lot of times, especially in the field of behavior analysis, as leaders we have so many other things coming from. There's so many distractions for us. We forget to become an observer of human behavior and we forget that we're actually the teacher. We forget that we're the instructors. You know, as leaders, we forget that we are the ones that are supposed to be modeling the behavior or that we're supposed to be providing tools that can help the learner you know better, conceptualize what the expectations are, and so we forget about how to see the strategies that we can put in place to lead our team right, and that there's not really a one-size-fits-all type of leader. We have to be dynamic as leaders and be able to be willing to change our interventions for individuals in order to be able to lead groups. You know, and make sure that everybody. I think for me, one thing about being in a workspace that I feel like I have belonging is feeling like I'm seen or who I am, or how I operate, or how I think you know and for what I truly need in order to perform at my highest and best use. You know we've lost that as an art. The higher up you get, that art becomes more and more watered down because there are other beings that are controlling our behavior, at least.

Speaker 1:

Yep, and I think that we also forget that in a sense, that everybody in that environment is also a learner. You know, again, if we're going to get any generalization from you know, whatever we do with the learner we got to think about that teacher is a learner, you know, that employee is that supervisor's learner, that manager is a learner, unless they're equipped with the science and behavior. What I'm also finding is that most of the folks in our field are suffering from this behavior in myopia, because they forget, you know, to apply the science or look at things through a scientific lens when people aren't performing to your point, like being a good observer of behavior. So let's make a shift. I want to make a shift because we talked about a lot of the problems and we are talking about some of the solutions, but I know what would be the ideal organization for you, because I feel like here's what we need to do. Right, in general, I do this, my business, I have a consulting business, but I and two points similarly like I don't I don't really want employees either have partners right, the Nica, costa, massacoria. I don't want to deal with that stuff, even though I know how to get the best out of people. I've done it in different organizations. It is a trip man, it's not easy, it's a lot of responsibility. I'm like I just want to put out content that's going to help people and I want to consult and coach and give trainings in those pieces of the puzzle. Right, I don't want to have to deal with anything else that's associated with that, but when we go into an organization, what we want to know is what? What is a standard, right? What do you want this to look like? And we chain it behaviorally right. Well, what outcomes do you want to produce? Well, what's that? You know? I'm just going to use schools as an example, because the easy one. Well, what? What behaviors do you need the student to engage in to produce the outcomes? And what behaviors you need the teachers to engage in that are going to help the students do that? And what about the school leaders? And it and it chains it all the way up. And so you start to find out like they're like. Well, I'm not really sure you know or you need help them figure out what it should look like behaviorally. Obviously, we're operationalizing stuff, not saying respectful. What's that mean to be respectful, you know? And it should be aligned with their values. We start with the values, by the way. If we go there, then we come back and do the same thing, we say, okay, well, what does that look like right now? And now you have something to compare to. Here is the current baseline where you're at, here's the standard, what is responsible for that deficit? And so, knowing what something should look like, I don't know that people really think about like that vision right Of where. How do we want it? But what's your vision for an organization?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think you know, my vision for an organization is number one a diverse place that just honors differences and values and values. Individuality, I think, and authenticity. For me, those are really, though. That's really what we are telling the world when we say that we're working with people with disabilities and partnering with them to be able to, you know, access this world right, and then we build workspaces where the very people that we are helping would never be able to thrive in right, they would never be welcome and they would never be hired there. And so I think it goes back to the integrity of the organization. You know, the organization, what, what an organization says, that that they stand for and what they say that their mission and their values are, and their vision is tying every single thing back to that. Every single decision that needs to be made should tie directly back to that right. That's where we struggle, because we get into the minutia of, like, all of the other things that are happening in front of us, and I think they tend to distract us from really making decisions, making changes, implementing things that and strategies, designing a strategy, that every single part of that strategy, no matter how far away see if it's a financial strategy, does the way that we're going to carry out that strategy in order to get an outcome, does it and does it relate directly back to the mission as the outcome and that's something that I think is awesome.

Speaker 1:

Oh, my god man. So again, coming back to what you mean, you just restated different words what I was talking about earlier, and that is those values, that those value statements, those mission statements. They don't mean jack if you don't align behaviors with them. And so, but you got to start there, because now we start to look at our behaviors and we promote self awareness. But not only do we have to have self awareness, but once we've identified those values in the behavior alignment, now as leaders we got to reinforce those behaviors. So you know, what does it mean to create equitability and individuality and diversity? And what behaviors does that leader need to engage in that's going to promote that kind of culture, and what would be just a couple. I'm not going to put you on spot to dump out, but like what would we need to see leaders to engage in to promote diversity and individuality and authenticity? Oh gosh.

Speaker 2:

I think one thing that leaders can do probably the biggest thing is to make sure that they're, that they are accountable and that the people that they they're holding themselves accountable, they're holding their leaders accountable and the people that they directly manage accountable to, to metrics, kpis, specific, measurable, you know, things that we can put in place that we know are going to guarantee that we get back to that outcome. There's a lot of, like you know, at the, at the upper management level, there's a lot about metrics around utilization or around. You know, there's brand strategy, right, and what happens is you have brand strategy and what brand strategy should be about is sharing this value proposition that's very authentic to the culture of the company and that builds, that draws in other people. That would be a good fit for that company, right, and that would potentially let people know about the behavior of this organization and how we're going to, what direction we're going to go and when we come to the forks in the road, what is going to guide us, right, but there's no accountability. So we lose track, because then we develop brand strategies that are really more about marketing to get more people in the door, whether or not they align with our values, whether or not those people you know, whether or not there's any values alignment at all culturally. But we're getting more people in the door to meet this demand and and then we're getting caught into this hamster wheel of just trying to meet the demand. So I think like staying focused is really important for leaders, because it's very easy to take something like brand strategy and think that it's about growth and it's about more money. It's really about accountability to the values that we say that we're going to live by as a team and calling in the right people. More quality over quantity would be nice in this industry and I think, a lot of times right now, what I'm noticing is there are a lot of fake, fake ass initiatives. Am I allowed to say?

Speaker 1:

fake. Oh, you get me excited when you cause go ahead. I did talk for Cambridge recently. The Center for Behavior Studies and and my buddy Peter counted the amount of times I dropped the swear words. He goes you might have out, you might have broken the record for swearing at a professional conference. I was just so pissed about bad leadership.

Speaker 2:

I get so passionate about it, you know and you know, like the thing is that what I've learned is that for companies that I worked at I worked at you know different ones and I've consulted for some and what I'm noticing is there's just these, um, there's real values that are being put onto, like the website, and that they're talking about right, and in meetings, what they do. What I've seen which is really crazy is I've been in like board meetings where we're talking about what they really care about the numbers, the bottom line, the financial implications of things, and it has nothing to do with people, it's not people centered at all, and then they're like so how do we go now deliver this to the team and make it feel like whatever we're saying we're all about on the website? So like there's like this face and the reason I think that like metrics are the most and that's crazy right To be in that position where I'm in the middle. So there's like this I've seen it so much I know, yeah, I know what's really, what really the purpose is, and I have to go figure out how to deliver the message that matches this fake ass brand strategy right, and so that I mean that could be around DEI initiatives, and that's why I feel like it's important that we have metrics that tie back to the mission, so that we're like how many people are we actually reaching, how many people are we helping? What is the actual outcome for our clients? What is diversity really to this company and how many people do we actually have that work here that represent the population that we're working with, whether that's race, ability, ability level, skill set, things like that? How are we religion? What do we actually have in terms of receipts that are showing that what we're saying we're all about all the touchy, feely stuff that we care, that we love you to come work here what metrics are we measuring to make sure that every single person within that organization, from the front line all the way up to the CEO, has a responsibility to actually demonstrate those beliefs and those values in action? That is missing? I think that's the issue with the workplace is that the disconnect is truly just, that the leaders are in a position, either they're put in a position or they're willingly going into a position where they're just lying. They're just telling people that they care in order to get people's buy in, so that people think that buy in is going to help people to perform in the way that they need them to perform, in order to make them more money or to grow their company or meet whatever it is that their goals are.

Speaker 1:

I swear you are like my female values or intellectual doppelganger or something like that. Everything you're saying is just like I don't stop thinking about it and talking about it and it drives me nuts. You're going to love this, one of the things I focus on a lot. Everything you just said we got to have measurement and if you want to see what a company really values, see what they measure Now I'm not going to say they don't value the other things, they haven't thought deeply enough about it because, for example, I'll go into any organization in any school anywhere and almost always, if I ask them, do you value relationships, do you value the input from stakeholders? I say yes. I said, well, how often are you checking in with that? They said, well, we give a once a year climate survey, a culture survey. I'm like what the fuck are you going to do with that? That's an autopsy, right. That's not finding out how they feel and acting upon it. Like when I went in, when I was a new leader coming in, especially in crisis situations, I had a weekly survey, five questions, right, how you feel about things. Social validity, because now I could act on it. When I acted on it, man, they felt very valued, and sometimes you know their problem was something that I maybe didn't communicate well enough, or they misunderstood, they didn't understand the why behind something. But you're right, man, we got to have these measures and we have to have measures of you know how you measure diversity, that there's a count to that. You know it could be, you know authenticity. It could be the number of people who report that they feel that they could give input or they can be themselves, or whatever. But we can't make it about the result without making it about the people and their behavior. And what's amazing to me is that in our field, I have an article that's called OBM. Where for out, though? And I thought I was saying OBM. Where the hell are you? Apparently where, for out down meant something else, but probably think most people like me somebody correct me on it probably think that same thing, so I just left it that way. But I'm like, how are we behavior scientists right and still using coercive coercion, using these approaches, and not finding out what's reinforcing to people in the workplace, because they're going to get much more of the bottom line right, they want to make the money, but they're going to get better retention, they're going to get higher performance, all these mental health is going to be better, all these positive outcomes and the answer I know what it is is that part of it is that there's an immediate reinforcement reinforcer for engaging this kind of behavior because they get immediate change right and creating this kind of culture of sustainability that's grounded in positive reinforcement. It's probably going to take a minute to build that stuff up, but when you have an authentic leader and you, you involve your stakeholders with it, you hear their feedback and then they end up authoring it, they own it. You become a team, and a team that will keep going. Now I will say the one, one of the situations that I've seen where the leaders have worked around. This is where they pay people a lot of money right Now, for example, you see this maybe in the corporate world, where, in stock markets, where stock brokers you know that culture is horrible man, I've heard terrible stories and you know they're like stepping on their own mom's back to make a buck, you know, and they're also taking like a lot of abuse and but they're doing it in the name of the buck, right, because that reinforcement is so powerful that you know they're going to engage in those behaviors. And I see people I call it golden handcuffs. I've seen people making a way more money than they would normally make somewhere else, and of course I don't blame them, right, because they have a family and they won't have this opportunity to make this kind of money somewhere else, and and so they end up. I don't want to say it's selling their soul, it's something else, because I don't that suggests like they're bad people or something like that, but because I don't have it's a good, I think.

Speaker 2:

I think good people sell their souls.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, I think, when they, I think they become, I feel, I think, I think in the long run it erodes them and they look back, they feel bad. But now they're caught because their whole lifestyle is maintained by this income. And now where are they going to go?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you're absolutely right. I think you know and being being in a leadership seat like people will have no idea, pauly what it feels like to receive feedback difficult, hard feedback to be checked okay, checked by people that you pay, but it is in complete honesty. It takes so much humility, and not only people that you pay, but people that you have been in this industry for 17 years, and it's the people that I meet who've been in the industry anywhere half as long as I have. They're in lateral positions to me or they're doing other things in the field, but the people that I employ are like zero to five years and they have this vantage point that is on the ground, and it's an important vantage point because you get to see up close, you're in it, you're experiencing it, and that's important because I want to know how people experience the company. Human experience is extremely important to me in my personal life and also in my professional life, but they don't have the perspective taking because they can't fathom what it's like to sit in my seat right, or even in the seat adjacent to me or in the seat below mine, and so it's that, the humility that it takes to still sit and take feedback, and not only to take feedback but to solicit it. So I believe in social validity. We survey at my company often, very often. We actually have. You know when you go to the airport and those little things with a smiley face was the bathroom. We have those in our treatment centers.

Speaker 1:

Beautiful.

Speaker 2:

Anyone can just go hit them, and so we have them for clients and we have them for staff, and so we want to know. And then I'll ask you a question. Once you press the little button, it's like, well, why the smiley face? Or like, why the mad face? And then all of these results, they come back and I get to read them. Actually, if they are too negative, in a short period of time I get an email that alerts me, that tells me why people are unhappy. Because I want to know. But to take the ginormous amounts of feedback and, number one, be humble about that feedback and go OK, this is someone's perspective and everyone's perspective is relevant, because these are the people whose perspectives impact the perspectives of others. That's number one, right, but also there are so many perspectives that it's also really difficult to stay focused as a leader on which perspectives we should be. Like every problem isn't really one that warrants immediate solving and helping people to understand, maybe, how we're going to address a bigger issue but this is going to fall into that, or why something has to be on the back burner or why something maybe is not a priority. That's really. And then having the backlash of that, that's difficult and I think leaders have a hard time. I've had to give really difficult feedback to my leaders, to my CEO at previous companies, directly to the CEO. This is how this makes me feel. If you do this, this is how the people are going to perceive your actions. What message do you think that you're sending? I want to know because you are asking me to deliver the message right, so I need you to answer that question, and it wasn't met with welcome. No one goes oh huh, you know what. Thank you for giving me a perspective that I could Let me rework that. That's not the response that we're getting.

Speaker 1:

But that's the indicator that you probably not in the right spot when you get that kind of response.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, because that's the selling your soul part. Right, the soul part comes when you're at that fork in the road where you're like I either going to give my CEO this really difficult feedback and now potentially they hate me, or maybe I'm passed up for opportunities, especially being a black woman. I'm all ready a black woman. I'm at the table, but they really don't want me to speak unless I'm spoken to. So now I have to raise my hand and say something that nobody I answer a question or ask a question nobody asked me to bring to the table, and I have to hope that it doesn't end in retaliation. You know, and unfortunately for me, it did. But what I have, you know, to hold on to is I understand how important it is as a leader sitting in that seat, to be able to hear and see and really ask for, request, the perspectives of others, so that I can see myself and my organization through their eyes, to make sure and not everything is like valid right. Some stuff is focused, but you know what? Because I measure, because I can be accountable only to what I need to be accountable to. Hey, I have data that actually backs up that what you're saying is really, truly your perception, but that's not actually the facts. That's not the truth, right, that's not. That's maybe how you're seeing it and we can do what we can to try to mitigate that, but we have data that shows that 95 percent of everybody else is seeing it.

Speaker 1:

It's so powerful to have that stuff because the data does talking and you can. I are actually doing a talk, so I don't want to give it way too much of my stuff for Stone Soup for called Tough Talks coming up, because you do need to understand how to have tough talks. As you were speaking about this, I thought you know. You know the great thing is that positive reinforcement should be leveraged to go every direction right, and the higher up the totem pole you are on in the org chart, the less likely you're getting in touch with positive reinforcement from people, right. So we need to teach people to remember to positively reinforce up. Your leaders are probably doing a lot of good things, right? So let them know what they're doing well. Use behavior, specific praise, tell them what they're doing, how it's the impact of it, right. So do that stuff. So that way, when you do go that, when feedback they don't see you as that person right, that's always coming to them with problems. We'd all feel that way if that's the problem. Now to your point. Now you have to look for patterns of responses. You can't just like looking for an isolated response, although sometimes somebody might have a really good point oh great, I need to look more deeply into it, but the patterns of responses, that we need to look, dig more deeply into, find out well, what's at the root of it and is it legitimate or not. I think that's very important. And finally, I want to say that, with that data because you're getting data about certain, about that that's linked to other employees, managers, supervisors, et cetera, et cetera One of the problems that I see way too often is that data is using to beat people up and it should be using to coach them, to help them grow right. So we need to, and that's why social validity is so important. I really believe in these 360 degree surveys where we're just getting a gauge, so people to your point, we can see what their perspective is, and certainly there's bias, there's things that will impact it. But when you get data over time, you get to see norms and you get to see ripple effects and those things and figure out. All right, what do we want to focus on? And we can help people to better, be better, preserve their behavior and the impact of it on the environment and the employees, being a critical, the most critical part of that environment for producing valued outcomes for the organization.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I agree. I think it's interesting too because there's this generation, this generational gap, which I hate to say that, because I feel like I'm about 25 years old in my heart and so to see that there are like 25 year olds that I just have a really hard time getting on the same page with it's interesting because I didn't think I had come that far. But what data also helps to do is it informs me regularly about what matters to the current workforce, because I can list what's going to make a thriveable workspace for me. Based on my experiences, based on how I was raised, based on my generation and how we did work when I was in the field, we overall intrinsically motivated. It was nice if our boss told us that we did a good job, right, it was nice if we got a bonus, but like we were just there and then we have a healthy competition between us and like other behavior analysts, you know, or we'd get together and collaborate on like doing something really cool. Now their motivations are very, very different. Than you know, the 20 to 25 year olds of today are motivated by very different things than what we were motivated by, and so it's been kind of a honestly a tough pill to swallow because I'm like you know. I believe that everyone should do 100% of their job in exchange for 100% of their paycheck. Matching law right, like matching, it should just match. But these people, they want other things. They want to feel, they want to be a part of something bigger than them. You know they want to work smarter, not harder. You know they want to be innovative, they want to feel like they can create. And so, having people tell you what matters to them and, like you said, taking that data and going well, what patterns are we seeing in their responses? Even if I disagree with them or I'm like I don't truly understand that, I'm not motivated by that, seeing that large groups within my organization are going this direction.

Speaker 1:

That's the reinforcement, those are the reinforce. So what can we do to provide that kind of you know, that kind of environment for you?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, because because truly, I realized I thought I knew, but there are so many things about the current workforce that I just did not know and I still struggle to understand and that I might deeply disagree with, but it really takes again that humility to go. You know what? This is the direction we're going. This is what the people want in order to stop the turnover. They want to be seen for what matters to them right now. There's a lot of like social justice things going on. There's a lot of mental health. You know, people are getting more comfortable talking about how their work impacts their mental health, and so that wasn't something we were allowed to talk about at work when, I was coming up in the field.

Speaker 1:

I'm glad that all that says being talked about now. I'm a social worker, you know. I started off with that, so I believe in all that. I feel like the science is getting sucked in and like a negative way to some of this stuff. You know, the science in my eyes is the science. We need to leverage it to help people, you know. But anyways, that just triggered me for a second with some stuff that's been going on.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you know, and we have to figure out how to get the metrics met right, because we do have to build thriveable. You use the word sustainable, you know, and sustainability sometimes I wonder like, is this, if you add this model, is the current model a sustainable model for this industry? And in many ways it's not. Unless you're doing that, like you know, money crazed, rapid growth, nothing else really. The human approach doesn't really feel sustainable and that's what I think that's. That fork in the road that leaders are coming to is like that human centered approach is really hard to maintain on the financial side. Keep the doors open.

Speaker 1:

Well, I think that, thank goodness, you have organizational behavior management as your toolbox, because it's an adaptable system and that's the thing right. We need to have environments that are going to be adaptable and if you have good measurement, feedback loops and they're tight enough, you can respond to issues right and but into your point, you need to have metrics for all these different things and they need to be on a nice dashboard, need to be looking at them and figuring out the why or reinforcing what's going in the right direction, and that's what good behavior analysts do. So, man portion, we're getting up to the hour here and this has been like a part of a masterclass for leadership. I feel like you know leadership and a lot of fun. I mean, we really I got to thank Nick again for for connecting us, because we are just so aligned with our thoughts and our passions and our values with this kind of stuff. So I want to have you back on again at some point, because I was like shooting the shit with my buddy. You know I mean.

Speaker 2:

Oh, I can talk shit all day.

Speaker 1:

Well, we definitely will. Now, if, if somebody wanted to reach out to you for anything, you know what would be, and I'm just going to ask you if you can send me something for the show notes and I'll pop it in there, you know, but what would be the best way to get in touch with you?

Speaker 2:

Best way to get in touch with me is email. I'm not opposed to sharing my email. Maybe one day I'll be overwhelmed in my inbox, but you can also share LinkedIn if you want.

Speaker 1:

That's better oh.

Speaker 2:

LinkedIn is great as well. I'm bad on LinkedIn. The thing is, I hate to tell people that this is a good way to get in touch with me, and then I'm like I'm really bad on LinkedIn. I'm really good on Instagram at Miss Portia M-I-S-S-P-O-R-T-I-A. I'm super good on there, but my email is really. I get a lot of people that just drop into my email inbox and go hey, I had a question about this or that, so my email is pjames at behaviorgeniuscom. I can be. I check my email all day, every day, so that's that's probably the easiest way to get in touch with me between that and Instagram, which is where I have my fun. I entertain fun conversations. If it needs to get serious, I schedule Zoom calls with people and jump into email, but that's really where people can really connect with who I am and what I'm doing on a regular basis.

Speaker 1:

Okay, awesome. It's been a real pleasure chatting with you and we will definitely be having you on sometime in the near future. Thanks, Portia.

Speaker 2:

I would love that. Thank you, Polly.

Creating Healthy Workplaces and Behavioral Science
Leadership and Values in the Field
The Challenges of Entrepreneurship and Leadership
Aligning Values and Behaviors in Leadership
Leadership, Feedback, and Perspective
Contacting Portia