Dr. Ciela Hartanov runs Humcollective, a boutique strategy and innovation firm that helps companies, executives, and teams make sense of the forces shaping our future and prepare strategically. In this episode, Ciela discusses the shift that will be needed to turn teaching leadership skills into teaching a leadership mindset. She discusses how and why sensitivity (not emotionalism) is needed more than ever at work. Listen in for an impressive view of the future of work and how that will shape our communities.
[1:57] Ciela has a passion for the human experience inside of work. She believes it is important to put the human at the center of work. Ciela grew up with a father who was very interested in people and she traveled a lot with him.
[3:29] The idea of work as a transaction comes from the Industrial Revolution and the assembly line. You work these hours, produce these widgets, and you get paid. Before the Industrial Revolution, you worked for yourself to build a life and had jobs inside the community, such as baker and candlestick maker, to build the community together.
[5:37] Society is trying to break the transaction mindset. Because of the pandemic, there has been a reckoning and reconsideration of the employee/employer contract. Everyone’s responsible and we are making agreements together about what that contract is.
[6:52] Ciela says we’ve been sold the idea that purpose is an individual pursuit. We are social beings. Ciela has learned through sociology that we are ourselves because we are reflected through other people. An individual’s purpose and meaning are within the context of society. Ciela is working to put us back within the context of our society. We don’t operate as solo individuals.
[8:01] Before the pandemic, Ciela was worried that loneliness was an epidemic. People were using work to relieve their loneliness. Employers encouraged employees to be more connected to their organization and to have a “best friend” at work. This idea was disrupted by remote work. Individuals need to have their social needs met outside the organization. It’s not enough to just be on your own.
[10:05] Ciela doesn’t talk about transformation. She sees what is happening as a renewal of what it means to be alive as a human being. This is a new conversation in society. The Great Resignation is a philosophical conversation about what it means to be a human being and what it means to work.
[11:54] Advances are happening that will impact human beings. But the human condition will always be evergreen. We are still discovering things about the human condition. Those things aren’t new, we just didn’t know them yet. The things that are new are technological advances and tools, like AI.
[12:42] Ciela is studying Emergence and Emergent theory. It is a fundamental human condition that we don’t like uncertainty. We will be experiencing more and more uncertainty. Ciela helps organizations figure out how to tie the thread between the growing uncertainty and our dislike of it.
[15:12] People will learn that adapting to change is an essential skill. Companies can teach their employees how to adapt to new requirements of a job. It is essential to have emotional resilience for the triggers that come with change. When Ciela was at Google, they spent years teaching people how to meditate. Meditation is a tool to regulate emotion inside a complex and challenging environment.
[17:15] Humans are naturally curious and interested. We have it as children. The industrial era has stripped that out of us because it’s not efficient. You can’t measure creativity in the same way as productivity. Celia is writing a book. In her book, she talks about moving from the idea of knowledge work to perceptual work. Perceptual work involves perceiving what is happening around us.
[19:07] After perceiving comes interpreting. This is a human skill, not a machine skill. When we gain insight, our creative mind sees it and considers the way forward to make a move. In uncertainty, making a move is an experiment. This requires rethinking organizational practices and patterns. There’s not a straight path from Point A to Point B anymore.
[21:50] Ciela was on a team at Google that studied the future of leadership. She tells of the insight that led her to organize the study team. She held the position that we need to examine mindsets before we teach leadership skills. It’s like our operating system. If you don’t have the right operating system for the context, you’re never going to be able to demonstrate the right behavior.
[25:06] The team developed six mindsets that matter. Ciela shares three of them: 1.) I must know myself and get over myself to be in the service of other people., 2.) Believe that being in uncertain terrain is progress and progress needs tension., 3.) Know that power is responsibility, and take that seriously when you sit in a leadership seat.
[27:30] Teaching leadership skills before teaching mindset worked in a time of more certainty. We are in a time of uncertainty that requires a shift, a different way of working with leadership. Now we need to teach mindsets.
[28:11] To be an employer of choice, you could offer your employees the ability to gain transferable skills to be able to have a lattice career. Today’s younger employees have more clarity about their values, purpose, and mindset. Ciela would like employers to bolster that and help them gain the skills that are not being taught in school. Organizations have to train skills that are lacking in the talent pool.
[29:36] Ciela is writing a book, Reclaiming Sensitivity, due out in 2023. We generally misunderstand what sensitivity is. Sensitivity is the ability to perceive. Let’s reclaim our innate human ability to perceive, both through our emotional attunement and our ability to plan and get curious — the original definition of sensitivity in its widest capacity. One chapter is devoted to making sense of uncertain terrain.
[34:36] Jan asks if sensitivity will become the rule in Fortune 500 companies. Ciela replies “Yes, and,” because we haven’t evolved to the new era of work. There is a place for execution, and that’s when you are not in a complex domain. But the level of complexity will start pushing further into the organization and we need to shift our mindset to be ready. We’re not there yet.
[38:16] Growing up, Ciela traveled the world with her father. She shares how travel shaped her views on perceiving. Her father taught her to travel like a local. She learned to go inside other peoples’ experiences, versus being on the periphery. Someone in the gig economy must be first understood from an anthropological view before you can have insight and work with them.
[41:07] Ciela talks about a study she did at Google about what makes someone able to shift, adjust and be a transformative leader. She found two things: 1.) They were able to find their stable ground — such as a daily workout, and 2.) They were incredibly good at perspective-taking and perceiving. They could transform because they could perceive but also had stable ground from which to move.
[42:14] Ciela’s closing thought: Leaders feel tired and burnt out. They “don’t have time for innovation; it’s too hard!” Ciela acknowledges there’s a real tension around the pressures of being a leader right now. Don’t let that blindside you from focusing on what matters, which is paving a path for the future. Open your eyes and start perceiving and thinking about the innovative way out of the uncertainty.
[43:43] Closing quote: Remember, “Each person does see the world in a different way. There is not a single, unifying, objective truth. We’re all limited by our perspective.” — Siri Hustvedt