Fusion 2.0 Event Recap
By Jen Gilhoi, SparkTrack Consulting
Bob Chapman, Truly Human Leadership
Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, Inc. Magazine’s #3 CEO in the world, who leads by implementing what he calls “truly human leadership,” opened the conference with his keynote address: Building a Truly Human Workplace Where Everyone Matters. Everyone matters because everyone is someone’s precious child. A child that was raised by parents who cared for, equipped and did everything in their power to send that child into the world to succeed. Bob elaborated on this ah-ha moment, which was about connecting the idea of a father’s truthful unspoken message to his daughter’s fiancé at the altar with the idea of hiring someone and taking them into the workplace. In either case, it might have sounded something like this, “I’m entrusting my precious child to you. A child I’ve nurtured and supported. Now don’t screw it up.”
This story framed up how Bob thinks about leadership, “Leadership is a privilege, not a job,” he said. Certainly a privilege he doesn’t take lightly, as more stories throughout his session revealed. He compared the one-hour a week at church with a 40-hour work week, and concluded that yes, the workplace and a leader can have 40x the impact of a religious leader. He's taken the roles of parenting and leadership and dissected them to find that they’re pretty much identical.
The point is: Bob is profound and you should read his book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family, coauthored with Fusion’s Friday keynote and the co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, Raj Sisodia.
Prior to Bob’s keynote, Linda Saggau and Nancy O’Brien, co-founders of Experience Happiness, hosted a 15-minute Happiness PopUp. Linda addressed the elephant in the room: organizations have to be willing to talk about stress and burnout to implement change that increases real and lasting wellbeing in the workplace.
Attendees of the session walked away with a 30-day happiness practice guide and an invitation to follow-up with accountability in that practice. Very appropriate to start that practice right away on November 7th in honor of National Stress Awareness Day, I’d say.
Morning Sessions and Labs
Twelve morning breakout sessions and learning labs covered all of the six program tracks with programs including Busting Your Bias with Kelly Weiley to Unlock Your Inner Changemaker to Foster a Truly Human Workplace with Henry Albrecht; and Creating a People-Centric Culture with Aaron Dimmock to Having Conversations That Work: Skills in Listening for What Matters with Dr. Wendy Lynch.
Unlock Your Inner Changemaker
Henry, CEO of Limeade, a Fusion sponsor, shared his journey and the build of an emotional brand. He noted that your brand is what people say about you to others when the brand (leadership) isn’t looking. He also touched on a concept – a “bank of care” that’s about long-term investment in your employees, and practices like company-wide 10-minute collective mindfulness minutes that are mandatory and meditative.
Having Conversations That Work
Dr. Wendy Lynch, Lynch Consulting and author of Get to What Matters, walked us through the journey of a meeting and a conversation. In meetings, set a clear intention by asking what do you want for yourself? what do you want for the other person? So often we gloss over this, but know that even if you don’t set a clear intention, you have an underlying one and that can backfire. She also shared some insight that is simple, but rings true when you think about what you uncover when you dig deeper: the first thing that someone says is almost never what matters.
Am I Hungry?
The morning sessions rolled into the most mindful, healthy selection one has ever seen at a conference. Our emcee, Darryl Sellers, welcomed the group and when it was time for dessert, Michelle May of Am I Hungry? guided us through a mindful eating practice that was a challenge for those of us with a love of sweets. Sweetest takeaway?: the sense of scent plays a major role in enjoying what you’re eating and rushing through the experience is a significant missed opportunity!
The energy from lunchtime conversations and mindfulness carried over into the afternoon innovators series where each presenter did a back-to-back session. The format of the series – 30-minute sessions not associated with any particular track – gave attendees insight into leaders who have put people first.
The Innovator Series: Aduro
The Innovators Series of six included Dr. Toni Best, founder of Aduro, a Fusion sponsor, and Kristen Hadeed, Student Maid CEO and author of Permission to Screw Up. Toni shared a lesson learned about giving a product away for free, re-engineering the product to do so much more, then discovering those same clients weren’t really willing to pay for what they once got for free, no matter how enhanced. Because of their culture today, Aduro acknowledges that while they of course pay their people fairly and provide for them, their employees ultimately come for the mission, not the money.
The Innovator Series: Permission to Screw Up
In Kristen’s session she framed up the scene of her first screw-up and the starting point where she turned an exodus of 45 employees into the genesis of the culture that she’s grown into Student Maid today. She weaves in some great stories, which you can read up on in her book, and points out this particularly interesting business model of entry level work and the requirement of employee's leaving the company upon their graduation. You can bet when these young adults do move on, they’ll be seeking companies that do workplace well.
Rethinking the Role of Wellbeing for Humanized, High Performing Organizations
Next up, all Fusion attendees, aka #FusionChangeAgent(s), came together for the day’s ending keynote by Fusion and Salveo Partners co-founders Dr. Rosie Ward and Dr. Jon Robison. This duo was uplifting and inspirational to watch as they tag-teamed redefining health, wellness and wellbeing for employees and organizations.
Jon covered the biological basis of wellbeing via birds in flight, citing their need for self-determination and leadership – it’s not innate it’s learned. Successful leaders know that employee behavior and motivation cannot be forced because employees need to be intrinsically motivated and serve as the author of their own journey. In other words, offering wellbeing incentives and programs is not a healthcare cost-saving strategy.
Rosie shared her story about going from supported and human workplace behavior and treatment from her boss to a complete 180 in a workplace that had become de-humanized. She absolutely can speak to the cost of toxic workplaces and just how much wellbeing truly matters. To illustrate, the math looks like this: ENGAGED + THRIVING = WELLBEING. When this equation is working, you have employees that are:
1. 45% more likely to report high levels of adaptability in the presence of change;
2. 37% more likely to report always recovering fully after an illness
3. 59% less likely to look to a different organization in the midst of adversity
Jon and Rosie rounded out the session with The Thriving Organization Pyramid, found in their book: How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work, another conference must-read. They shared how outdated linear models are like the illness-wellness continuum from pre-mature death to high-level wellness and ended on a thought for the future of business:
“Organizations today are judged for more than their success as a business. They’re now being held responsible for their impact on society at large.”
On the second day of Fusion 2.0, new speakers and attendees continued to fuel the conversations about humanity in the workplace. The appetite for learning and taking in information subtly shifted to connecting the dots between all of the rich content being openly shared. Many people said they felt like they found their people at Fusion.
Not surprising feedback given Fusion is two years in the making and born of intentional invites from Dr. Rosie Ward and Jon Robison, conference co-founders and Salveo Partners co-founders. They invited people they knew could offer a human, connected perspective in different disciplines including c-suite, risk and safety managers, human resources, wellbeing experts, psychologists and researchers. The invitees pretty much all showed up despite the winter in November in Minnesota factor.
Robert Kegan, An Everyone Culture
The first keynote to show up Thursday morning was Bob Kegan, a research professor at Harvard University and author of An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, his most recent award-winning book. Bob calls out corporate America, drawing our attention to the fact that nearly everyone is doing a second job no one is paying them for—namely, covering their weaknesses, trying to look their best, and managing other people’s impressions of them. It’s so exhausting.
He asked attendees to turn to their neighbor and share how they lean when given identifiers of arrogant or insecure. He cited examples of using these identifiers, employee errors and vulnerabilities to help organizations and their people realize their full potential. He noted that a cultural shift to a growth mindset of practicing not perfection has benefits that include chipping away at burnout. Post-keynote many were buzzing about the burnout definition Bob planted for us: Burnout isn’t about having too much to do; rather, it’s about being stuck on the same developmental level and not growing.
Morning Sessions and Labs
Twelve morning breakout sessions and learning labs covered all of the six program tracks and included Culture is the New Currency with Tamien Dysart and Vaney Hariri of Think 3D Solutions to Am I Hungry? with Michelle May; and Pulling the Future Forward with Jennifer Reecy of N2Growth to An Outward Mindset with Mitch Warner of Arbinger Institute.
Culture is the New Currency
Tamien and Vaney, co-authors of Think 3D: A Radically New Approach to Maximizing the Potential of Your Team, kicked of their session with a philosophy: A culture will emerge whether intended or not, but if it’s not one you invest in, it will certainly be the one that you pay for.
To illustrate the importance and impact of employee engagement, Think 3D Solutions co-founders Tamien and Vaney walked us through a continuum of employee engagement from 10% (passive listening), 50% (mutual dialogue), 75% (ideas into action), to 90%+ (people teach others). We also defined toxic and non-toxic work environments and how you might get to the 90%+ level of engagement. They challenged us to fill out a work pie chart demonstrating how many waking hours are devoted to work and all things work-related. Lesson observed: a toxic workday takes a long-term toll.
Make Empathy Your Super Power
The team at Adaptive Momentum – Shannon White, Charlie White and Kathy Sisson – framed their session around design thinking and focused on one specific tool, Personas. Based on audience feedback during the session we created a Persona named Mansure, a 24YO millennial whose superpower is omniscience. We detailed Mansure’s demographics, preferences and quirks so we could describe him like we’d describe a character in a novel or movie. Armed with this Persona, the session went deeper into ways this insight could create more empathy and employee engagement.
Innovator Series: NatureWorks
Feeling empowered after morning sessions, another mindful lunch and Happiness PopUps with Experience Happiness, attendees headed to their Innovator Series session of choice.
In Sarah Morari of NatureWork’s session: Fostering the Meaning of Work: How NatureWorks Energized and Aligned Its People, we got a glimpse into organization vision and values done right even while simultaneously going through a CEO transition. Sarah shared the company’s 1989 founding Persona (see Adaptive Momentum) of scrappy pioneer and how they’ve grown to be totally okay with being obsessed about science. They brought in Tim Foss of More Belief, coincidently Fusion’s Creative Director and Illustrator, to capture vision and values discussions, and worked with a linguist to keep their word choices on point.
Innovator Series: Sportech
Billy Sanderson (Sportech) and Brandyn Negri (Live Your Yes)’s session: Differentiating through Development: How Sportech Created a Thriving Culture via Their Leadership Academy, walked us through the academy’s six-year history, learning and impact. At the concept’s core is the vision of considering their role with 400 employees as transformational, not just transactional. They shared a video, their culture of attraction and their 12-month Sportech Leadership Academy (SLA), which culminates with an SLA letter jacket, a 390-page binder created in-house by Sportech and a launch pad to leadership.
Tony Horton, Creating a Safe, Resilient and Risk-competent Organization
Following afternoon sessions, Fusion attendees gathered in the Pavilion at The Depot for the keynote by Tony Horton of Real Safety and N2Growth, Creating a Safe, Resilient and Risk-competent Organization. As an Aussie with several species rising to takeover humans in his homeland (sharks, kangas, etc), Tony embraces risk and certainly isn’t sitting behind a desk in a relatively safe organization managing risk. He’s 2.4 miles underground in “The South Deep Experience,” working with 95% humidity and violence as part of the daily equation as he moves the company to zero deaths in two years.
He talked about trains, hazards, autos from ABS to seat belts, and the challenge of creating safety to the positive degree where you actually see it influencing to the negative. For example, drivers now equipped with seat belts and ABS brakes compensate for these enhanced safety features by driving faster or paying less attention. Not the desired effect we want when improving safety.
Tony posed the idea of companies and employees operating like a jaywalker in their thinking and behavior -- stealthily looking both ways, crouching down to move quickly and safely across the street – but really existing in the safer pedestrian crosswalk with safety measures in place. He closed on the note that companies can’t address risk by talking statistics.
They have to see risk in order to manage it. Then safety becomes an outcome of risk competency. If you’re not seeing it [risk], just consider it switched off.
For the Fusion 2.0 finale on day three of the conference, attendees moved from learning to connection on days one and two to emotion and action-driven on day three. People lined up at the testimonial booth, Learning Journal entries fresh in their minds, to share what exactly they planned to do with all of the inspiration and tools when they returned to their workplace as #FusionChangeAgent(s).
Even the speakers got in on the action, building on the momentum that Fusion and all of the ideas and connections need to be carried on past this inaugural conference. Many shared how this conference felt connected on a whole new level. The speakers didn’t just breeze in and out – they stayed for the learning. You could easily find yourself taking in a session with keynotes Tony Horton and Raj Sisodia learning right along next to you (true story).
Ondra Berry, Creating a Thriving Workplace Culture
If attendees came into Friday wondering how they would find the energy to process the previous two days of learning and take in more, Ondra answered them with an emphatic I will bring the energy. Ondra, Senior VP MGM Resort International, has been championing leadership, diversity and organizational change for over 25 years. He attributes his ability to success in this area to attitude. “Attitude matters. Companies are spending too much time on skill set and tool set development and very little time on heart and mind.”
Get the employee attitude right and they’ll be ambassadors who rave about your company – its product or service and the people – without prompting. To create this culture of attitude, leadership must first embrace the vision, values and daily practices set forth as their North Star.
Ondra stressed the value of making a defining moment everyday and by building this into culture. Employees seek and create a good beginning, good middle and good end to every day. Companies that do culture right tell their story well, have phenomenal on-boarding and a great system of coaching and feedback. Ondra’s enthusiasm had most of us wondering how we could sign up to be the waitress in his organization who raved about the ribs.
Morning Sessions and Labs
Six morning breakout sessions and learning labs covered all of the six program tracks and included The Art of Purposeful Leadership with Craig Neal of The Center for Purposeful Leadership, Shifting the Focus from Weight to Wellbeing with Rebecca Johnson of Vidl Solutions, Safety and Risk with Tony Horton of Real Safety, Delivering the Ultimate Employee Promise with Andrew Sykes of Habits at Work, and Unlocking Purpose at Work with Arthur Woods of Imperative.
The Art of Purposeful Leadership
In this session packed full of purposeful tools, Craig Neal, The Center for Purposeful Leadership, began with one simple idea: A purposeful leader is anyone who steps up to make a positive impact in the world. Craig and his wife and business partner, Patricia Neal, had a cadence to their sharing that made the experiences in this session delightful. In a U-shaped seating arrangement with a range of tactical items at our fingertips, the group practiced “stringing the beads,” where each person contributed their response to a prompt like what gets you excited to get out of bed every morning?
Beyond the straightforward response of, “an alarm clock,” each comment or bead, told a story about the person and at the end, a collective story of the group. Craig and Patricia walked us through The Napkin Test, by Richard Leider, an Art of Convening exercise to outline nine steps to thoughtful collaboration, and a Conversational Intelligence Assessment to rank ourselves and select one area to improve upon.
Facilitated Learning Sessions + Conference Tools
After morning sessions, the full group came back to the last of the conference’s three 40-45 minute facilitating learning sessions. Guided by the conference emcee, Darryl Sellers, each session followed a similar format. There were prompts for written thoughts and intentional time to put pen to paper with actions to take upon returning back to the workplace. The coolest part about this whole process was the attendees’ Learning Journals, created by Tim Foss of More Belief. The 100-page journals were designed with white space for notes and perforated cards to tear out and post within daily sight for action and accountability.
Raj Sisodia, The Healing Organization
Raj Sisodia, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. was nothing less than an incredible way to close the conference. Raj bookended what Bob Chapman, Raj’s Everybody Matters co-author, started as the first conference keynote on the theme of business is fundamentally about healing.
Raj put forth a call to action for businesses to take responsibility, “We are the only species that is systematically destroying our habit and we continue to allow businesses to get away with it.” He talked about the cumulative impact of toxic waste, noting that the human costs of doing business are unconscionably high. Layer business practices with the fact that 96% of senior executives experience burnout and that most Americans don’t have a cushion of more than $400 in their bank account, and you have a whole lot of hurting for the planet and people.
To understand sources of hurting and behavior in business, Raj outlined the four energies for us, which include masculine, feminine, elder and child. Each energy has a mature (positive) and hyper (negative) quality within individuals and as Raj would argue, business. A history buff, Raj walked us through how these energies show up and in particular how the hyper-masculine development of business in America is responsible for society’s suffering.
He left us with the ideas like “the cunningness of others is our greatest opportunity,” meaning that when we see businesses contributing to suffering we need to step in and address it and do better. And finally the idea that:
You can heal both the past and present in the present moment. Business is fundamentally about healing. We must exist to serve others.
-- This event recap is not inclusive of every session during the 3 day conference. It’s intended to give attendees and anyone interested some of the highlights and flavor of each day.