Jackie: Thank you for listening to the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox podcast. My guest today is Kimberly Wiefling. Kimberly is a Silicon Valley innovator and serial entrepreneur. She launched her transformational consulting business, Wiefling Consulting during the .com bust and never looked back. A physicist by education, she recognized long ago the crucial role of human skills in a technical world and seeks to create a new future by making the impossible, merely difficult to transform our lives, work, and world for the better. Kimberly, thank you so much for being here.
Kimberly: I'm excited, Jackie
Jackie: Me too.
Kimberly: Woohoo baby. Let’s do this thing.
Jackie: I love. This is gonna be such a great interview. I'm so excited about it. Kimberly, will you tell us just a little about your background, your family, your identity, whatever it is you'd like to share?
Kimberly: Well, I grew up in the rural western Pennsylvania area. Kind of tell people I was raised by wolves., my dad was a welder. My brothers were welders. If I was a boy, I would've been a welder. But since I was a girl, you know, they weren't gonna waste money sending a girl to college because she's just gonna get married and have kids.
Right? So I joined the military, day, I turned 18, joined the air. Get out of there. Go get my money for college cuz I wanted to be a scientist, Jackie.
Jackie: I love it. I love that. And then Kimberly, let's talk about your early career. How did you get started? So after being in the Air Force, how did you get started? What were your experiences early in your career as a scientist and woman?
Kimberly: You know, I was so lucky in undergraduate. I was in a very supportive environment. I got a bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics, and they helped me go on and get a master's degree scholarship to get my physics master's degree. And after I left there, I joined Hewlett Packard just by pure luck, right?
Like so many things. Pure luck. I, I had my friend, she was working at HP, she said, oh yeah, they're looking for some repair people to fix mass spectrometers. Big complicated stuff. So I applied and they hired me. I was one of the first two women repair men hired by HP's analytical products division. Little did I know how hard that was going be because you know, they were looking at me. My customer said, look, she’s gonna use wrenches.
Jackie: my God.
Kimberly: That stuff
Jackie: Yeah. That's amazing. And then Kimberly, tell, tell us like, how was that hard? What were some of the challenges of being one of only two women? Right.
Kimberly: Oh God. Well, you want me to tell you the truth about how hard it was, Jackie, because I'm smiling now.
Jackie: But it Yeah, but you weren't smiling then necessarily. Right.
Kimberly: Oh man. The first month I was on the job, the ladies in the office, you know, secretaries took me aside and said, you know, we know these men's wives and we'll be watching you. And I'm like, why? They're fat and ugly. I wouldn't wanna do any of a thing with them. I didn't say that, you know, But, then somebody a couple of years later, after I was really establishing myself as quite the stunning rookie, they spread a rumor that I was sleeping with my boss, which I was not.
And, so he wouldn't have anything to do with me anymore, So I had to seek employment elsewhere, and I thank goodness every time this happens, Jackie, I get a better job and a better pay and a better place. So I got a wonderful job in manufacturing engineering as one of the few women manufacturing engineers of Hewlett Packard's analytical products route, woohoo out in California.
Jackie: Wow. I love your enthusiasm and your optimism. You know, that's such an important quality as we're going through these things, especially as a first or one of a few as so important. Kimberly, let's talk about your consulting practice and the types of organizations you work with.
Kimberly: Well, I started off in Silicon Valley helping companies develop a better, more effective product life cycle, product development process to go from idea through execution and manufacturing and beyond. But then by pure luck, like everything, I met this woman from Tokyo, Yuko Shibata, my amazing Japanese sister, and she was bringing Japanese companies to Silicon Valley to get the Silicon Valley innovation mindset.
And I was doing, you know, really interactive, engaging, dynamic work, shock therapy, what I call it. And she loved it. The first year she just sat in the back of the room, didn't say anything. The second year she comes over and says, can we have dinner? And after that, she invites me to Japan. I went to Japan over a hundred times since 2007 to work with over 50 global companies from Japan. It has been an amazing ride.
Jackie: That is amazing. Wow, let's talk a little about what are some of the, the ways that you help, what are the, some of the things that leaders get wrong that you kind of help them navigate? Let's talk about one or two of those things.
Kimberly: Well, first I wanna say the reason the Japanese were so interested is because they want to adopt innovation mindset. And you know, in Japan making mistakes is kind of fatal. Failure is fatal. So I had to help them understand in the US people need this too, is take necessary risks, learn from mistakes, experiment, prototype, fail forward. Ain't nothing perfect from the beginning.
Kimberly: and then of course the really crucial things is I looked at the data on why teams fail. And I am a scientist, and I look at the data now, I'll just tell you, you know, number one reason is they fail to build trusting relationships and they don't communicate effectively. They don't know how to solve problems or make decisions together effectively. And then they don't have clear shared goals that are aligned individual and team now. Here's the trick question for the audience out there. Whose job is it to make sure that there's strong, trusting relationships, great communication, problem solving, decision making, clear shared align goals. Whose job is that? the leadership.
Jackie: Uh huh.
Kimberly: That is totally a failure of leadership. So I said I am here to turn managers into leaders and groups and to real teams who can get impossible stuff done together. And that's what I did.
Jackie: I love that. And then Kimberly, will you share with us some of the secrets to turning managers into leaders and people into teams?
Kimberly: Well, the first thing is people need to recognize the distinctions. The distinction between management and leadership is so clear and both are important. Leaders set direction, align, people motivate, and inspire them to go in that direction. And managers plan, organize, control, and correct. Now, which one do you wanna be?
I mean, we need management and managers and if we don't have leaders, forget management. So, you gotta go and study the research from, you know, the Leadership Challenge Book. Have you heard about the Leadership Challenge book?
Jackie: I haven't.
Kimberly: Oh, Barry Posner and Jim Kouzes research for the last 30 years, Jackie, you'd think it would be common knowledge by now. It's just common sense and they have researched dozens of countries, millions of people, and statistically distilled out what really works. And the Leadership Challenge book summarizes five practices of the best leaders on planet Earth who are admired and willingly followed. And then each five practice has six behaviors underneath.
All you gotta do is do these 30 things more and people will think you're a better leader. And it ain't rocket scientist’s stuff. You know?
Jackie: That's awesome. It, it's the Leadership Challenge book. I'm gonna have to pick that up.
Kimberly: Right. You know, you can even download a, maybe a one-page overview of the 30 behaviors in the five practices, but I'll tell you how simple it is. The fifth practice, which is the least practiced in the entire world, is encourage the heart. Yeah, there's five different ways or six different ways he suggests to encourage and celebrate and support and appreciate, and this is the least of the five practiced areas on planet Earth. Why I, my theory is that every time you appreciate your team or your team members, they deduct a thousand dollars from your paycheck.
Jackie: That is really interesting. You know it's, the soft skills that we learn are kind of around making small talk and how strong is your handshake and we're not thinking about those soft skills that that really matter, that go to the heart of empathy.
Kimberly: Now don't call those soft skills. You know, those are the touchy-feely crap. That's what my friends call them.
Jackie: of that. That is so, so true. So true.
Kimberly: But I'll give you an example of a couple of those specific behaviors, okay? Recognizes people for commitment to shared values. So don't just say things like, good job. You say, hey, you know what? We value integrity, and you had a choice there, and you could either do the right thing or do what was easy and you did the right thing. And that's because you really care about our values and that's who you are at your core. And because of that, I admire you.
Jackie: Wow. That, you know, I'm gonna take a, a second with that because you're right. We're, we're very quick to say, Oh, good job. Oh, thanks for that. But what really resonates with people and what really matters is why are you get, why did I do a good job? Right. So, getting into that detail, because you feel seen
Kimberly: Yes. There’s a book called Extraordinary Influence that's been out since I think 2019, and this was the most impactful appreciation I've ever discovered. And they say it's the what, how, why, who formula. You tell people what they did that you were appreciating, how they did it, that you were impressed by, why they did it their motivation, their intent that you admire and who they are that inspires you. So what, how, why, and who. And if you do that, people will be brought to tears. I've had CEOs say, please give me a minute.
Jackie: Wow that, I love that. Well, we are on the topics of books, Kimberly and I wanna talk about some of your amazing books. I love it. Let's talk about the Scrappy Guide series I, it was great, by the way. Simple rules, practical tools. I love that. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write the Scrappy Guide series and what we can learn from it?
Kimberly: Well, I didn't realize when I was growing up how strange me and my family are. We are scrappy, and people say, what does that mean? Oh man, it means not relying on a title to be a leader, and you take risks and you have this steely resolve of a street fighter. You're like a pit bull on the pant leg of opportunity and you won't give up.
You know, and this is just genetic for my family. All right? So when I decided to write a book, I'm like, well, why don't I just call it scrappy project management? Because. You know, sometimes getting things done, it can be a little messy, socially unacceptable and politically incorrect, which pretty much describes how I was in the early part of my career.
Jackie: Got it.
Kimberly: before I learned those soft skills, Jackie
Kimberly: So then I thought, Okay, cool, I write Scrappy Project Management. And then few years later, Cheryl Sandberg was getting a lot of press for, oh, she's the woman leader and she's making $50 million a year, and I admire her. And I said, you know, I know a lot of wonderful scrappy women who are leaders who are much more in the weeds and they can be quite inspiring.
So I reached out to 11 of my scrappy gal pals and I said, Let's write a book about regular women who are leading. And so we did that, and one of them is amazing. Hannah Kane, my goodness, she's the founder of the largest woman owned business in the Bay Area, which is now a multinational global business.
These people took the time to write a chapter for this book and my, my author, my publishing guy, Mitchell Levy, he's been so supportive. Then a couple of my friends said, well, I have some scrappy ideas. I'm like, Prove it. They are scrappy. So my one friend, the Michael Cease, he wrote two of the books, Scrappy Business Contingency Planning and Scrappy Information Security.
And then someone I didn't even know writes to me and says, well, I'm in Australia and I know something about scrappiness. I'm like, go ahead, write a book. So he wrote Scrappy General Management, which I edited. Then some woman reaches out to me and says, I wanna write Scrappy Campaigning. I'm like, Cool, do it.
And so, she wrote to me and we worked on it together. And this is one woman I would absolutely vote for regardless of political party.
Jackie: I love it. Oh, that's fantastic. Now, Kimberly, let's talk about the benefits, right, of being scrappy in a world where leaders often feel they need to be buttoned up and have all the answers. What is the benefit of being scrappy?
Kimberly: Well, I wanna say the downside first. If you're not careful, people will use you like a hired assassin and they will send you in to do really tough jobs, but they won't wanna be seen dining with you.
Kimberly:, but the benefit is you look at something and say, Yep, seems impossible. That just means I don't know how. Hey, I wonder if I could do some experiments. Maybe I'll just dive off the cliff and while I'm falling and screaming, grow wings and learn to fly, and, being willing to proceed in the presence of fear, anxiety, stress, and saying, Of course, that means you care and you keep going and you keep growing. You don't give up.
Jackie: Wow. I, I love that. You know, and as a person who is naturally risk averse.
Kimberly: Oh, tell me more about that.
Jackie: Yeah. You know, I, I like to be sure, I like to have a plan. I like to not deviate from a plan unless I have a good backup plan, that's not working. And I find personally, I find comfort in order and process right.
Jackie: I also find as I grow as a leader, that that can be limiting. So how does it risk averse person become a little bit more scrappy, like Kimberly
Kimberly: Well, you know, you might wanna start by not labeling yourself as risk averse. You might be more thoughtfully risk taking. And if I was on a project that really mattered, I'd sure when a partner with someone like you, not someone else like me.
Jackie: Got it. Got it.
Kimberly: Style diversity. Right? You know, we do not need everybody to be like this. We need one person going, come on you guys, let's dive off the cliff. Some people saying, Kimberly, your pills, perhaps we could have a parachute. Oh my.
Jackie: Right. Definitely. Let's, let's make sure we've got a parachute first.
Kimberly: Yeah. Diverse teams win. And I'm talking about not just the diversity that's protected by law. I'm talking about style diversity and different perspectives and approaches to getting stuff done.
Jackie: Absolutely. And let's dig into that a little bit because very often when people hear the word diversity, they're thinking about race or gender or sexual orientation, but style diversity and personality, it's part of that diversity conversation. It's part of the diversity that you want at the table.
It's part of those voices that you want to hear, to understand you know, how to solve problems better, how to create more innovation. You know, why do people so often dismiss different ways of thinking and projecting, right? And why is being different, a competitive advantage beyond, what I just said.
Kimberly: Yes. Well, the easy answer is, different feels wrong. You know, just cross your arms. You cross your arms like this, and then you cross them the other way. It's just different and it feels awkward and strange and uncomfortable, and it's not like you're gonna go to prison for crossing your arms the other way. It's just different. So that's how it can be with differently gifted people. I like to call them differently gifted
Jackie: Gifted. I like it.
Kimberly: The one that drive me crazy. So I, I like to use the tool called the Enneagram, and if you really wanna understand the engram, my buddy Matt Lego is an expert at it and he would love to talk about it forever. Enneagram, are you familiar with the nine strategies?
Jackie: Yes, but please, speak about it a little bit for, the who are not familiar.
Kimberly: So the Engram consists of nine strategies for getting things done, ranging from being a perfectionist, to connecting, to being an achiever, to being very intensely emotional, to being very analytical or, very risk aware or exciting or controlling or, peaceful and conflict diverse, and all of these strategies are, they're tools in the toolbox and I wanna be able to use every one of those tools when I need it.
But Jackie, I love the eight and seven tools, the controlling and the exciting. And my husband, he loves the six and the one tools, the perfectionist risk averse guy, so for me, I wanna go on vacation, just get a credit card, let's just go. And he wants to make a spread spreadsheet.
Jackie: I'm the spreadsheet person.
Kimberly: Yes. So the thing is, if we have all of those strategies on the team, when we need to use those strategies, they are available, if we have a psychologically safe environment where people can share their wisdom and insights.
Jackie: I love that. And you know, so important just to reiterate, a psychologically safe environment, because you can have those people in the room, but if they don't feel comfortable to participate, comfortable to speak up, comfortable that they're going to be heard and, and at least not necessarily do what they say, but thoughtfully consider what they say, then it doesn't benefit you to have them in the room.
Kimberly: That's right. That's what I mean, it's just a group of people pretending to work together, not a real team. So, and what Matt has found is that different phases of a project require different skills like this and a different focus. So we can all put on the one hat and like, let's imagine the perfect outcome or when we're in the risk management phase, let's all put on our dark side, doom and gloom, and let's imagine the worst that can happen together and let's value all of these perspectives.
Unfortunately, when I've done enneagram analyses for teams, I was working with one financial advisory firm, okay. Now, which kind of people do you think they hire? Do you think they hire a bunch of crazy, wild, exciting sevens or, no, they hire the sixes and the ones the, no, I wanna manage risk and I want it to be perfect.
So now you have a team, a whole company of people that has mostly two kinds of Enneagram strategies. No matter how diverse they are, ethnically or whatever, gender wise, they have this way of getting stuff done. So when they need to do disruptive change or innovation, or they need to consider something that requires community building or intense closeness, whatever, like.
They don't have that at the ready. I mean, you can do it, but it's kind of like you sign your name, sign your name, like you're signing a credit card receipt. Then put the pen in the other hand and try to sign your name. All right? All you people out there, do it. Sign your name. Then put the pen in the other hand and try to sign your name. You gotta go slow or you gotta think about it, and the results are messy.
Kimberly: So that is what it's like when you try to do other things that they're not your favorite, they're not your strengths. Bring the team on board.
Jackie: Mm. I love that. But you know, sometimes that intention, that discomfort, but intentionality and going slower and can create some really interesting and innovative results. I love that.
Kimberly: Gotta go slow to go fast. And also you have to be willing to suspend disbelief and also put some of that dark side thinking where it belongs. I, I teach, creativity, innovation, design thinking, and disruptive change. We don't want that kind of attitude brought in at the ideation phase. You have a magic wand, and then, then later go to the dark side. You can kill the ideas later.
Jackie: I love going to the dark side. One of the books I really enjoyed was around why teams fail. Can you talk about that? You know, how can we be more mindful of that in a time of the great resignation and quiet quitting and, and kind of this new way to work.
Kimberly: Well, yeah, this great resignation people have started to consider, this is how I'm spending my life.
Kimberly: You know, when you look at employee engagement statistics from Gallup for the past 30 years, and people get so tired of me saying statistics and research, Sorry, I'm a scientist. I like to use data. 30 years of Gallup research, employee engagement, all over planet Earth on average is 15%, and the US is the best in the world with 32% of people going to work engaged, which means willing to give discretionary effort.
And in Japan where I've been working most of the time for the last 15 years, it's only 6% engaged and it's gone down from 7% in the last five years. Okay, so this means people come to work mostly not engaged just to get a paycheck, and that is a lack of meaning for their lives that is becoming unbearable. People want a purpose beyond profit, a mission that matters, and a sense of belonging.
And the number one reason the teams fail according to the MIT research is they don't have a sense of psychological safety, what leads to trusting relationships. They're just there and they don't feel safe. So now you're starting to think about, wow, life is short and the pandemic and millions of people dying, and is this how I wanna spend my life? Hmm. I don't think so.
Jackie: That's right. And then Kimberly, from your perspective, how can we as leaders help create that level of engagement a little more for, for our employees?
Kimberly: Oh, well, I'll give you some other wonderful information that's backed up by the Leadership Challenge Data, because they have been researching what are the characteristics of leaders who are admired and willingly followed.
Kimberly: And the number one characteristic is honest. Over 85% of people worldwide said, if you're not honest, I'm not following you willingly. Maybe if you're my boss, I have to get paid, but I'm not following you willing if you're not honest.
Kimberly: And then the next three are forward looking.
Kimberly: Where are we going? Yeah. First people wanna know about you is who are you and where are we going, and why should I follow?
Kimberly: So honest, forward looking, inspiring, and the fourth is competent. They don't even care if you're competent unless you're honest, forward looking and inspiring.
Jackie: Wow. That is so interesting. But you know, as I think about it as both an employee and a leader, right? That honest piece is it's right because you, you need to have a relationship of trust. And if you can't depend on the person to tell you the truth, be vulnerable, share what is going right, what is not going right, and, you know, and, and just keep you updated. You know, it's, it's hard to develop that relationship of trust.
Kimberly: Well, you said the magic word, Jackie. Vulnerable. The number one way for a leader to build trust with their people is to make themselves vulnerable. That's nothing in the US typical culture of look good, be right and win. No man. So my one, wonderful executive, I work with my, one of the most admired leaders.
For me, every workshop that we do, she starts with a moment of vulnerability, saying a mistake she made, how she failed, how she needs help, and opens herself up to people because I said, oh, you're the leader of this team and you're gonna come to the workshops. It's gonna be tough to get people to be open and honest unless you show some vulnerability. She goes, Okay, I can do that. It's scary. Making yourself vulnerable, showing yourself to under belly.
Jackie: Absolutely. But so important. Such good advice. And then Kimberly, you specialize in cross-functional, cross-cultural, global teams, and you talked a lot about the work that you're doing in Japan. Tell us why leaders need to be adept at global inclusion and communication.
Kimberly: Well, let me just give you a specific example to start, if I can, about Japan. So, Japan's economy has been flat for quite a long time, and the population is shrinking. And so if you're a big company in Japan and you wanna grow your business, grow your revenues, profits, you can't do it inside of Japan. So, you gotta grow it outside of Japan and then you have to hire crazy non-Japanese people like me and learn to work with us because you don't have enough Japanese people to send all over the world to do the work.
Kimberly: So that is just a survival thing. In Japan, the choice they have is change or die, go out of business as slowly as possible. So I have brought together groups of people from, you know, 20, 50 people from 10 or 15 different countries, they get in the same room, before we had to do everything by Zoom, and they find out, wow, yeah, you are different from me and you're from a different country.
But that's not why we have problems. Because I ask them, raise your hand if you are, married to, or you're partnered with someone from the same country, speaks the same language, the same culture. Yeah. Yeah. Now, do you ever have any conflict with them? Oh yeah. That's not the reason we have conflict. It's because you're a human and I'm a human.
So we get people to understand that we as human beings have challenges. Yes, healthy conflict is perfectly fine, and we need to come together to achieve what we could never do alone. And that includes creating a global business that's striving, and by the way, global businesses, they are solving global problems profitably.
They're not out there to just make money for shareholders, and the Japanese businesses I've worked with get this better than any other companies I've worked with. We are here to solve global problems profitably and thus sustainably, so we can do it again next year, not just enrich our executives and our shareholders. So I admire my Japanese clients very much.
Jackie: That's so important. And you know it's, you have to think about it from a holistic perspective, and all business, whether you are working with a business that's, you know, multinational or your clients, your client organizations are multinational. You have to understand global business, to, to survive. Because you mentioned, you know, just that, that how close we all are now that we can be virtual. Right? And so we are able to work all around the world, you know, with our slippers on right?
Kimberly: Well, I got to work in Zambia, Jackie. I, I got to work by Zoom with people in Zambia, entrepreneurs to teach them entrepreneurship, the Silicon Valley approach. And here they were in a little hut with no electric lighting and one computer somehow powered, I don't know how. And 15 of them jumping around and getting into pairs and doing the workshop exercises, me in Zambia, that wouldn't have happened without this Covid pandemic.
So when I, I look at anything bad that happens in my life for the last 25 years, I always ask myself, what does this crap make possible that would never have been possible before? And look for the treasure disguise as dog turds.
Jackie: Mm. Kimberly, you know, one of the things that I just admire so much about you is your optimism, and just your, you know, you have that an infectious personality that people just want to be around. It makes them feel good, right? And so, That I, I found in business, you know, one of the things that we should be interviewing for is optimism. And because people who are optimistic find the good in the day, right? They find the good in their teams and, and what excites them about being there, which is an important thing, and, and, you know, is the more I'm reading about the great resignation and teams, the more I find optimism as a trait is not something that we naturally interview for.
And leans into again, what you said about competency being the fourth with most important thing with leaders. How do we interview for that optimism that you; you just radiate?
Kimberly: Ha. Well, first I wanna give credit to Noam Chomsky who said optimism is a strategy for creating a better future. Because unless you believe a better future is possible, there is little chance you will step up and take action to make it so. It is a chosen approach. It is not my natural way. I was born a natural pessimist, like most people who are designed to survive on this planet.
I can see all the dark side, all the risks, and yet now I choose optimism because I've learned the power of asking questions like this. What's possible? What seems impossible, but if it were possible, would make this amazing future happen, and what might make impossible possible.
Kimberly: And Jackie, once you realize the limits of a human brain, I, I can prove to you in about 10 minutes, you can't see, you can't hear, you can't read, and you can't count. And I show the, the perceptual biases and distortions that our brains are subject to, you know, I ask people this simple question, what percent of everything and the entire universe do you personally know?
Jackie? You're a very brilliant person, well educated, I see from your LinkedIn profile. What percent of everything do you personally know?
Jackie: Not a lot.
Kimberly: Maybe less than 1% most people say, and then I say, now if, if I tell you a big crazy dream, an idea that I have, and you cannot immediately imagine how to do it, what does that mean? Nothing. That something in the 99.9999% that you don't know could make it possible, even inevitable, perhaps. And this is why I'm never gonna be among those brilliant people like Lord Kelvin, who said, heavier than air flying machines are impossible.
Kimberly: And there were birds
Jackie: right? Yeah. That's successful.
Jackie: Wow I love that, Kimberly, you know, and, and. What can make the impossible possible? I love that because there's, you know, so often what we think about is, oh, I've never seen that done before, or, that doesn't make sense to me, but realizing that we don't know it all right?
And, and what are the ways that we can figure out how to make it work? I think is, is a great business lesson for any leader, manager, individual contributor. I love that.
Kimberly: There's a pretty simple approach, and I'd be happy to share some articles I wrote about it. It's called Design Thinking,
Kimberly: and it starts with, all right, let's imagine for this group of stakeholders an amazing outcome, and why would we care about that, and who are these stakeholders? And what exactly would success be through the eyes of those stakeholders?
So once you have a really clear and vivid image of the big why, the big who and the big what, and you can see it, you can hear it, you can feel it, you can taste it, you can smell it. You'd be surprised. Once this gap analysis is clearly established, you and your friends will be filled with ideas of how to begin.
What should we do this today, this week, this month, quarter this year to lurch, fitfully in that direction. That's all it takes. Started the future. It's called scenario planning, strategic planning, or lateral thinking. You don't start with today and say, oh, what should I do next? That's a recipe for being stuck.
Jackie: Yes, absolutely. Kimberly. Oh my gosh, such good advice. I'm, I'm taking notes as you speak, so I, I just love it personally. It's helpful for me to think bigger, and I just love it. Let's talk about Silicon Valley Alliances team. Can you tell us a little about that?
Kimberly: That's the best team I've ever had in my life. It's a dream team., it's a group of people that we collected starting when I was going to Japan all the time, and a lot of us worked together there. And then I recruited other people from Silicon Valley, because some point I was traveling 90% time for a while, and then I said, I cannot do this though.
Let's bring in more people who can help. And now when we go, like last week, two weeks ago, we were in Germany working with a Japanese company who has a location there, and it was me and somebody from Bulgaria and someone from the US who lives in Berlin, and someone from Canada who lives in Japan, and someone from Japan.
All five of us were there facilitating this amazing workshop, mostly out in a park near the hotel because we had the covid test every day because the Japanese are very risk aware and the German people walking by would come and say, Is this a yoga class? And I'm like, no, it's a global leadership, transformational innovation thinking class.
And they're like, Oh, okay. And some of them would sit there for hours and watch us. We were doing collage, we did exercises, we did activities. You know, we do games, we don't do lecture. Lecture doesn't change anybody. You know, just tell me, oh, lecture me about how to lose weight. I know. Eat less. Exercise more is not helping
Jackie: That's true. That's
Kimberly: so, So that's our SVA team. We are a global team of people committed to putting the client first. So it's like, look, if I'm not the right person for the. Leave me out of it, whoever's right for it, we do what's right for them. We have a plan and we depart from it thoughtfully. We showcase them every day in our workshops. We have a special day person and they decide how long are their breaks.
They do an, icebreaker exercise. They are key to it, and we get our clients to be at the center of this whole experience so they can do it without us. In fact, Tokyo Medical Dental University professors hired us to teach them how to do what we do, and we don't even do it anymore with them. They do it without us.
Jackie: Wow. You know, I, I love the idea of moving away from lectures to interactive work and workshops. I think that's so important because you retain so much more by practicing and, and being involved with people. Right? And, and how building those relationships. I think that's so important.
Kimberly: Well, it's not only important, but it's proven again by other research, by Knowles. Long ago he, studied adult learning theory and he found that the most effective adult learning experiences were interactive, engaging, relevant to their real lives and project centric. And so we follow that, adult learning theory approach.
I learned it when I first taught for University of Phoenix in the 1990s, back in the last century. I was teaching Algebra Jackie. Oh. And they don't,
Kimberly: they don't lecture at University of Phoenix. So I had to learn adult learning theory and I'm like, oh my God, if I can teach algebra interactively, I can teach anything.
Jackie: Makes sense. Wow. Wow, wow. That is so cool.
Kimberly: Wanna gimme? Let me give you an example of a, okay, so make a piece sign.
Kimberly: Place it on your chin. Yeah, but your chin is right here. Ah, see?
Jackie: Yeah, I, oh, so just for everyone that's listening in audio, Kimberly, I made the peace sign. No problem there. And then Kimberly placed her peace sign on her cheek, but told me to place my peace sign on my chin, and I placed it on my cheek because I was watching her and not listening.
Kimberly: And isn't that the best example of a crappy leader who tells you one thing and does another?
Jackie: Mm, Wow.
Kimberly: We do that all day long. Jackie, we got exercises to take anywhere from 30 seconds to two hours, and we do that all day long and people, by the end of it, they're going, Okay, Kimberly, you in? Okay, I get it.
Kimberly: Cause you think you know how to be a great leader and a great team. And then you fall into these traps over and over again and eventually you have to say, look, stop.
Think, organize, plan. Stop, think, organize, plan. Big. Why big who, big what? And measure of success before how, don't just go, because that is how we fall into those brain traps where our biases take over.
Jackie: That's amazing. Kimberly, what are some of the reasons we fail to strive for success when obstacles seem insurmountable? Right? And then how do we overcome them, first in our mind and then second in our actions. So what's possible is a great first question, but how do we move from asking that question of ourselves to delivering on that question?
Kimberly: Well, I think you have to have a thinking partner, Jackie.
Kimberly: You can't see the back of your own head,
Jackie: That's true.
Kimberly: and sometimes you need someone else to hold up a mirror to you and say, look, Kimberly, you're not completely screwed up. You're okay. You have many fine qualities because that there's a little voice in our head. You know that voice right now that's asking what voice? It
Kimberly: It says like 20,000 things a day, and most of them are negative, so, we need some people from the outside and I call them thinking partners, who will hold the space for us and remind us of our greatness and our strengths and help us with our challenges and keeping going, Keep going and keep growing.
Right? And don't let us give up. And it's as simple as just meeting, you know, meet with somebody once a week for 30 minutes and for the first 15 minutes you say, well, I'd really love to do this, but, and before you can say, but they say, oh yeah, tell me more. Interesting. Tell me more. And then you rant about your big crazy dream of the future.
And then they say, Yeah, I think that's a great idea. What, what might make that possible? What might that allow for? Please continue. And they let you just talk about it. And if you talk about something like that, your dreams for three minutes, even. It's funny because it starts off sounding impossible, but someone listened to you and didn't kill your idea and said, Sure, why not?
And three minutes you go, Wait a second. Maybe it's just hard. And then it goes, in the next 30 minutes it goes to, well, this could be done. Oh my gosh, I'm gonna do it. You know?
Kimberly: And I had a friend, do this for me every week for a year back in 1990s. And that's how I got started in my career.
Jackie: Wow. That's amazing. You know. I've just personally gotten so many amazing pieces of information and wisdom to consider, so thank you for that. What's the message as we begin to wrap up that you wanna leave our listeners with today?
Kimberly: All right, starting with this sobering thought.
Kimberly: We are blobs of protoplasm clinging to a giant rock hurdling through outer space around a big, giant ball of fire called the sun. It's not safe. It's never been safe, and in this moment while we are here, this precious moment, how might we show up for each other, to support each other to be the highest and best versions of ourselves, and to support each other in becoming the highest and best versions of themselves and continue on this journey around the sun together? Could we please people find a way? Okay.
Jackie: I love that, Kimberly, thank you so much for spending time with me today. I've enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing so many amazing pieces of wisdom with our audience.
Kimberly: I really wanna thank you Jackie. This has been such an authentic conversation and your preparation for this event was stunning. I've done many podcasts and you are among the top. Thank you so much.
Jackie: thank you so much, Kimberly.
A former member of the U.S. Air Force, Kimberly Wiefling knows what it takes to build a strong team—and the signs of a weak one— which is why she started her consulting business, Wiefling Consulting. Through decades of consulting in Silicon Valley, she’s gathered data and observations from teams she’s transformed to perfect her recipe for success of human skills in a technical world. In this episode, hear how you can apply the data Kimberly has gathered on cross-functional, cross-cultural global teams to create a new, better future for your team.
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