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Actionable Conversations - Jean Brown, Communications Consultant

If your company thinks annual performance reviews and occasional offsites will retain your top performing millennials, think again.

 
Jean Brown Communications Coach, MacKenzie Brown LLC - TotalPicture Radio interview with Peter ClaytonJean Brown

I first met Jean Brown, communications expert, partner with New York City based MacKenzie Brown, LLC almost seven years ago. She contributed to George Bradt's book, Onboarding. (See the sidebar for a link to that podcast). Jean coaches senior executives, managers, and partners of many Fortune 500 companies and law firms.

Welcome to a Learning & Development Leadership Channel Podcast on TotalPicture Radio. I'm your host, Peter Clayton.

We all know that millennials want more: More development, more training, more feedback and honest communication from their companies. And more personal guidance from their managers. The annual review and occasional offsite won't cut it. Not with top performers. Not with those employees you really need to engage - and keep. That's what we're going to address today.

As a communication coach, Jean Brown has leveraged her background in marketing, strategic communication and theater to help professionals at all levels communicate with impact: maximize leadership presence, deliver compelling messages, pitch new business, build client relationships, sell services, write more effectively and coach their teams through delegating and feedback.

To keep highly performing employees in today's competitive job market, in 2017, Learning & Development and coaching is no longer a nice to have. It's a must have. You'll learn why listening to this podcast. And for the HR leaders listening, you'll learn a new, highly effective way to deliver.

Recently, Jean became a consultant with Actionable Conversations - an innovative leadership development platform that combines coaching and technology to help leaders drive employee engagement. This new program broadens MacKenzie Brown's leadership communication offering and dovetails nicely with what companies want: leaders developing their own people, in short, cost-effective, micro-learning sessions, and deepening employee engagement with a measurable ROI.

Yes, you read that right - MEASURABLE ROI.

TALKING POINTS:

  • Jean, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.
  • Tell us about your background and company.
  • Have you seen any improvement in employee communications in the last 7 year
  • From your perspective as a learning and development expert and trainer, how has social media impacted corporate communications?
  • How significant is social media in the training and workshops your conduct?
  • When we spoke in 2009, the country was still trying to bail out of the financial crisis, unemployment was high, good jobs were few and companies could cherry pick from many qualified candidates. Obviously 2017 is a much different environment, and companies and recruiters have to work much harder to attract qualified candidates to fill their open reqs. How has this talent competitive environment changed your practice.
  • Is there a recurring theme with the executives you're working with today?
  • So let's talk about Actionable... the following is from their website.


There are five things we definitively know about professional learning in the 21st century, all of which impact how, what and why we're learning:

1. Incremental, micro-growth fits our busy schedules.

According to Bersin's Meet the Modern Learner infographic, today's professional can afford only 1% of their time to training and development. Real learning-the kind that sticks for the long term-happens in smaller bursts, on a more frequent basis.

2. Purpose matters.

Company mandated learning without a clear connection to why we should be learning something has always been resisted, but never more so than now. Millennials may be leading the way, but all of us want to understand the personal relevance of our activity. "Show me why, or I'm not doing it."

3. Context trumps content.

Through Google, YouTube, Coursera and hundreds of other free and almost-free providers, there's no shortage of content out there. What matters most, now, is context-"give me what I need, when I need it."

4. If it's not measurable, it doesn't count.

We live in a time when virtually everything is measured, particularly when senior execs are determining budgets. If learning success is ultimately about impacting behavior (why else would you do it?), why aren't most programs quantifiably measuring behavior change?

5. Human roles vs. machine roles.


And here's where it gets really interesting in HR and training. My friend Jessica Miller-Merrell interviewed Robert Scoble recently on her Workology Podcast,*  Robert in his new book The 4th Transformation talks about how AR augmented reality and mixed reality - giving examples of how AR is already in use - one example: Employees at Boeing are able to see detailed and real time instruction on how to repair aircraft that are specific to their immediate needs. Car companies can now design as well as test their new designs used augmented reality. Robert thinks that AR and MR technology will allow employees to have realistic virtual meetings, Employees can work and meet in a consistent environment complete with virtual projector screens and white boards to brainstorm ideas and build project plans for your business - remotely. So AR very soon is going to completely redefine L&D.

Quoting again from Actionable's website: "When menial tasks are automated, the role of the human is one of creativity, problem solving and communication. We're no longer on the assembly line, where our roles are done in isolation. Relationships and Collaboration are the most important skills we can bring to our work." So why isn't more of our learning done in a collaborative environment?

One thing I've discovered in the over 1500 of interviews I've been privileged to conduct over the past decade with super-successful people: They all have coaches. Tim Ferriss has a coach, Marshall Goldsmith has a coach, Tony Robins has coaches - I interviewed an amazing CEO recently, Joe Apfelbaum who built the fastest growing agency in the country - Ajax Union - Joe has a coach.

So my big take-away for those listening - don't go it alone. I'm lucky, because I'm constantly reading and learning and talking to really smart, motivated, and inspiring people.

###

*Disclosure: Peter Clayton, host of this show, edits the Workology Podcast.

Jean:  Actionable conversations come out of the idea that relationships are going to drive your business.  That better relationships between managers and employees and between peers on a team, for example, this is what ultimately drives employee engagement.  Employee engagement impacts virtually every business metric you'd care to measure.  

Sponsor Intro: This spring TotalPicture Radio will be reporting from and covering a number of the most important and influential talent acquisition, HR, leadership, and technology conferences.  Including SourceCon in Anaheim, California; ERE Spring in beautiful San Diego, California; TAtech Spring Congress co-locating this year with SHRM Talent Management in Chicago, Illinois.  To learn more about these events, visit the TotalPicture Radio conference and events page on totalpicture.com.  For more information regarding our unique strategic and custom sponsorship opportunities and video production services, send an email to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with media kit in the subject line.  Or give us a call at 203-293-7003.  And now here's our show.

Peter: I first met Jean Brown, communications expert partner in the New York City based MacKenzie Brown almost seven years ago.  She contributed to George Bradt's book called Onboarding.  In fact, you can still find that interview along with a full transcript in the Talent Acquisition Channel of TotalPicture Radio and of course, you'll find a link and Jean's show notes from today. 

Jean works with senior executives, managers and partners of many Fortune 500 companies and law firms.  She recently became part of the Actionable Conversations team of consultants.  We'll get to that in a bit.  

Welcome to a learning and development/leadership channel podcast here on TotalPicture Radio.  I'm your host Peter Clayton.  Thank you so much for joining us today. 

Jean, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.

Jean:  Thanks, Peter.  I'm so happy to be here.

Peter:  I'm happy you're back.  Why don't you tell us a little bit about your background and the kind of work you do.

Jean:  I have a pretty eclectic background.  I went to Dartmouth College, but then I came to New York to be an actress.  I pursued theatre for about eight years after college, after which I went to Wharton Business School and went into the advertising business for almost nine years working for big ad agencies in New York.  After that, with a brief jump to an internet startup to make my fortune right at the end of 1999.

Peter:  Good timing, Jean.

Jean:  Yeah, really good timing.  So then I was out of a job.  I took some time off to figure out now what do I want to do.  Interestingly a friend of mine, who is now my business partner, called me up and said 'hey, I think I have this firm that I'm working with that I think would be a great mix of your theater background and your strategic communication background.'  I went to work in the field of communications skills, training and coaching.  In the end, it all makes sense.  The journey all makes sense going from theatre to persuasive communications, and then coaching and teaching communication.  But of course, it was unplanned at the time.

Then what happened was my partner and I left that original firm and started our own business MacKenzie Brown in 2005.  What we do is we work with, as you mentioned, all different kinds of companies, mostly large and midsize firms, and we help people improve all different types of verbal and written communication.  We coach them in presentation skills, in presence and impact, but also in consultant selling and business writing, and leadership communication.  That's the area now that we're focusing on with this new partnership with Actionable Conversations.  We've always been working with people in the area of leadership communication in terms of managing, motivating, delegating, giving feedback, having difficult conversations, but now we have this new tool that's going to take it to a whole new level.  

Peter:  We'll get into that in a minute.  I deal a lot with employee communications, and looking at employee retention and employee satisfaction surveys, and you know what; it's not great.  It is not great,  especially in specific industries.  We can talk about financial services as one where employee retention, employee engagement is non-existent.

Jean:  Employee engagement is the hot button issue in most companies that we're working with. 

Peter:  Absolutely, because there's not a million people unemployed anymore looking for jobs.  They've got to somehow figure out how to make the ones that they've got working there happy and productive. 

Jean:  I think there's a generational issue that people have been paying attention to for at least five years but not everybody's doing anything about it or really knows what to do in that the managers, who are more in the baby boomer or even the Gen-X generation versus the millennials, there really is quite a big difference in what people are looking for as employees than they used to.  Companies have to adapt to that.  That's really where there seems to be quite a - and that's not the only engagement gap but that's just an obvious one.  

Peter:  Right.  Right along with that of course is social media sites like GlassDoor and sites like Facebook and Twitter, which have completely transformed how we communicate.  From your perspective, as a learning and development expert and trainer, how has social media impacted corporate communication?

Jean:  The pace of communication has accelerated.  Because of social media there's much more transparency, like you mentioned GlassDoor.  I also think that it's changed the value of content.  That content is essentially free now, right?  Anybody can access content.  If you want to know anything, you can go on YouTube and there's a video for how to do it.  If you want to learn a skill, you can just go watch a video.  How that's changed communication is I'm thinking about how it's affected how people learn and how they want to learn.  They're looking now for shorter - shorter meaning quicker impact.  They want to learn in smaller bites.  They want to digest things quickly and put them into action.  I feel like it's the pace of learning.  The pace of communication has really accelerated.  That's what social media has done.

Peter:  When we first spoke in 2009, the country was in financial crisis.  Unemployment was very high.  Good jobs were very few and companies could really cherry-pick from many qualified candidates.  Obviously, 2017 is a very different environment than 2009.  Companies and recruiters have to work very much harder to attract qualified candidates to fill their open reqs.  How has this talent competitive environment changed your practice and the kinds of communications skills that you need to help your clients with employee communication and retention, and making sure that you are communicating, because that's a whole huge problem in itself, is where I think a lot of employees really fall off the map is because no one is communicating to them.  

Jean:  The good news for us is that communication is a skill that is needed now more than ever.  If I were going to say the social media and maybe this is what you we're getting at a little bit earlier - but social media, if you think of younger generation today, people in their 20s and into their early mid-30s, they're used to communicating more on social media than face-to-face.  They also don't have a lot of good skills in terms of writing emails and communicating in full sentences. 
Actually, for our business the fundamental need for face-to-face communication, effective presence, looking people in the eye, communicating concise messages with professional presence is still a critical skill.  

What's changed is how people want that delivered; in that if I were going to say there were a trend in our business it's to shorter and shorter programs.  We have to be able to go in and make an impact in behavior change.  Because that's really what I'm in is the behavior change business.  I'm trying to get people to learn a skill, to commit to practicing it, and to have a plan for repetitive practice over time.  Ideally, in the olden days, we could take two days, two full days and have a whole program, and teach somebody presentation skills.  I find that timeframe, what people want now is they want two hours at the most.  If they can do it in one hour that would be even better.  What they want is shorter programs ideally with the same impact, but because of that we end up having to narrow objectives and to focus right in on core skills that are so fundamentally important to people.  

Peter:  Let's talk about Actionable and your involvement with this.  First of all, tell us a little bit about Actionable Conversations and what they are trying to accomplish.

Jean:  Sure.  Actionable Conversations comes out of the idea that relationships are going to drive your business.  That better relationships between managers and employees, and between peers on a team, for example, this is what ultimately drives employee engagement.  Employee engagement impacts virtually every business metric you'd care to measure.  That is the model that we're working with.  How do we drive better relationships in an organization?  It starts very simply with better and real substantive conversations between people.  Not about just talking about work, not just give me some feedback on this spreadsheet or the basic conversations.  It's going beyond that to have meaningful conversations between a manager and their team that are aligned with the individual team member's personal goals and development needs.  What Actionable Conversations does is it provides the tool for leaders to have more meaningful conversations with their team that result in measurable beholder change.

The model had three parts - conversation, action and insight.  Conversation, action and insight are the three tenants of the methodology.  It starts with; let's say we have a leader of a team of four to ten people.  Let's pick five people on the team.  Once a month that leader is going to hold a facilitated conversation with that team around a particular business issue that the team is having.  It's context based.  Each team that you work with might have a different issue.  Some might need to build a more collaborative culture.  Some might need to improve their sales; it might be a sales team.  Or it might be aligning people to values and purpose.  It could be all different reasons why a team needs to have some team development and some leader development.  You customize the storyline, if you will, of the conversations that team has to the particular issue or pain point that that  team is having.  

What happens is that once a month over a period of, ideally a year but it could be even be six months, once a month the team is having a conversation around a particular issue.  At the end of that conversation, each team member sets a goal for the following month.  What is the one behavior change that they are going to commit to?  Then this is where the cool little part comes in, the Actionable Conversations platform, which is a technology platform.  What happens is each person logs into the app and they put their behavior change commitment into that app.  Then every day the app is going to text the individuals on the team to ask them how they're doing on their goal, and they'll give themselves a rating.  They can make comments in their journal if they want.  That information is then tracked over the course of a month to see how that person is doing.  Each day the manager gets a little daily digest, how are the people on your team doing, and at the end of the week, they get a summary.  They get some coaching as to who needs some coaching?  Who's doing well?  Who's not doing well?  There's guidance for the manager as to how to give people ongoing coaching over the course of that month on the particular goals that each person has set for themselves.  It's very personalized to the individuals.

The last part is the insight that the manager gets and the organization gets.  What we can do if you think about month by month over the course of the year; at the end of about six months you can start to see the correlation between the behavior change that's happening in the organization and the business impact that it's having.  You can measure that temporally so you can measure the whole team before and after.  The team when they started and how have their metrics changed; or you could measure that group to group - one group that's doing Actionable Conversations and one group that's not.  You can start to see the correlations based on what the metric is that you're trying to measure.  

It's very important when you go into this that you know what are we trying to measure here?  For example, you mentioned retention.  Well, one very large airline who was working with Actionable Conversations is actually using this to help the retention of their best people because they're having an issue.  They're a call center.  They're training their people but then their people are so well trained they're getting picked off by other companies.  What they're doing is they use Actionable Conversations in all the data that they get to be able to identify who's a flight risk.  Because they're seeing who's engaged and how is that engagement changing over the course of time.  If someone's ratings and their commitment start to dip, we have that data, and they can go intervene and talk to that person and say what's going on, how can we help, and give them the coaching that might get them to stay.  

There are many, many powerful applications.  That's why I'm so excited about it and why to me it's right inline with what my clients are looking for, which is leader led, leaders developing their own people in short micro-learning sessions with measurable ROI.  

That's the holy grail in the training business.  The ability to actually measure the impact.  We've had the smile sheets.  Sometimes some of my clients would send maybe a little quiz perhaps after a program to see how the knowledge retention.  But here we're actually able to measure behavior change because we know all the different commitments that people are working on and how they're doing on those, and we have the manager insight into how the manager sees the change in their people, and then we have the bigger data and the correlations to the business impact.  To be able to actually take training and correlate it to business impact and ultimately to KPIs, that's really the new thing.

Peter:  Something else that you were taking about that I also think is kind of new in this whole area of learning and development is specific team training where you're working with a team instead of just individuals in the team as a team to try to accomplish a goal related result based on whatever that team's commitment is.

Jean:  Yeah, that's a good insight, because as the coach who would be working with the team leader to help them be able, I would be coaching the leader to help them be able to run this conversation.  Just to give them the confidence they could do it and to help them understand how to walk through the facilitation guide, which is self-explanatory, but they need to be their own examples. But what happens then is that leader is learning how to be a better facilitator, how to be a better trainer of their own people, how to coach them.  But the team is also benefiting and the team is getting to know each other through these conversations.  Because everybody is talking about their personal goal, how they personally apply an issue or a concept to their own work.  People are getting to know each other on a different level within the team.  There's leader development but yeah, you're right, it's also the team development.

Peter:  I spent quite a bit of time on Actionable's website, which is actionable.co.  There's a lot of very interesting concepts on their website.  You've touched on some of this, but let's go through what they call the five things we definitively know about professional learning in the 21st century, all of which impact how and why, and what we are learning.  Number one is incremental micro growth fills our busy schedules.  That's something that you were talking about earlier in that it's just not realistic to do two-day offsites any more.  That just doesn't happen.  

Jean:  It happens rarely.  I say one-day offsites.  They still happen.  There are companies who are still doing traditional training.  I love that personally as a coach because I get to see the improvement in a one-day program, but from the morning to the end of the day, I can transform somebody's presence.  I can help them be better.  But what I don't know is what happens after the program.  

As a coach, this offers that personally as well.  I'm going to be able to measure the impact.  You're right, that most people are looking for shorter sessions.  It turns out that in the science of behavior change, that short micro-learning where people focus in on a single behavior change  commitment and then focus on that for the next month, that's more realistic.  It's how I end up any program.  Even if I did a one-day program, and I do a full day, at the end I would ask people to pick one thing to focus on for the next month.  Because I know they can't work on eight things; who's got time to do that?  It's a full time job.

Peter:  Right.  Also, back to the two-day offsite, traditionally those things maybe happened once a year or maybe twice a year.  I think this micro-learning concept and having these short bursts of learning over multiple days rather than oh, we're going to this offsite for a couple of days and then for the rest of the year nothing.  To your point, which is you don't know what happens when they leave from this one-day workshop.  As someone who goes to conferences all the time you get in these conference environments, you get all energized and focused on whatever it is that they are talking about, and then you fly back home.  You're right back into the reality of whatever you're day-to-day was before you went to that conference.  Within a week or two, everything you were all energized from is now kind of getting dissipated.  I really like this idea of micro-learning.  I think there's something there, especially with millennials that is far more effective.  And again to your point about employee engagement, if you're constantly evaluating where an employee is and how they're feeling about their jobs and their coworkers, and you can coach them, your retention rates are going to go up.

Jean:  That is one of the goals from many organizations.  Each organization will pick their goal, because engagement can affect productivity, profitability, customer metrics, absenteeism.  Retention is a key one.  I think that's probably an important one for many, many companies.  And there are other ones as well for sure. 

Peter:  Back to this list of the five things.  Number two on this list is purpose matters.

Jean:  I think of that in terms of the millennial generation issue that we were talking about.  Whereas in older generations it really was, you were happy to have a job.  You were happy to have a job with the salary and your focus on earning a living.  People in today's environment are really looking for work that matters to them personally.  They want meaningful work.  They want work that makes a difference.  The want to feel inspired by their work.  I think that is a trend because of the millennial generation.  It's here to stay.  

Peter:  Yeah, I would agree.  Three on their top five list is context trumps content.

Jean:  The idea here is that content is freely available on the internet, right?

Peter:  Yeah, you can go to YouTube and learn anything.  In fact, I saw an article where some woman built her own house by watching YouTube videos.  I won't be doing that.  You're right, there's YouTube videos on everything.  You want to learn how to play a guitar... there's tons of them.

Jean:  When it comes to having these conversations, I know initially a lot of my clients they get very focused on the content piece.  Yes, the content will be helping people learn a new concept and applying that concept.  But it's really the context of the team and the team's issues and applying the content to that team's context that makes a difference.  Frankly, sometimes it's not even the actual skills that they're talking about or mindsets or behaviors.  It's just the fact that they're having a conversation.  It's just the fact that the leader is engaging with people in this conversation about their personal issues as they relate to work that makes the difference. 
Sometimes that's as important as the actual content that's being discussed.  I believe that's what that means on the website.  

Peter:  Number four on their list is - and this is something that you talked about - if it's not's measureable it doesn't count.

Jean:  Not anymore, because in the traditional training realm we just weren't able to, we didn't have the tools.  To make a parallel because for me it's very similar to my career in advertising.  You know advertising worked building brands.  You could never measure it the way you could a promotion where you can link a coupon to increase sales.  You didn't have that hard data.  It was the same with training in that we see people in the classroom improving, making these great differences and then they go out of the classroom and we have no way to measure the impact of that change on their business.  But now we do.  I would say, and almost everyone I talk to, that's the exciting piece here.  There's a lot that's exciting about this but that's the most exciting.  Wait a minute, now we're going to be able to have actual data and we're going to be able to see what is happening beyond the actual learning session.

Peter:  Number five, which I find really interesting, is human roles versus machine roles.  This is really interesting in HR and training.  My friend Jessica Miller-Merrell interviewed Robert Scoble recently on her Workology podcast.  Listeners, you'll find a link to that on Jean's show notes as well.  Robert in his new book, which is titled The Fourth Transformation talks about how augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality, giving examples about how AR is already in use.  One example, employees at Boeing are able to see detailed and real time instruction on how to repair aircraft that are specific to their immediate needs.  Car companies now can design as well test their new designs using augmented reality.  Robert thinks that AR and mixed reality technology will allow employees to have realistic virtual meetings.  Employees can work and meet in a constant environment complete with virtual projection screens, white boards, and brainstorm ideas, and build project plans for your business all remotely.  AR very soon is going to completely, I think, redefine the whole learning and development business.  

Quoting again from Actionable's website "when menial tasks are automated, the role of the human is one of creativity, problem solving, and communication.  We're no longer the assembly line where our roles are drone and isolated.  Relationships and collaboration are more important skills we can bring to our work."

Why isn't more of our learning done in a collaborative environment?  I mean that's what we're really getting to here, isn't it?  Let's face it, Ubers' cars are eventually going to be self-driven.  Truck drivers, you better figure out something else to be doing because trucks are going to be self-driven.  The robots are coming.  We have to figure out what we can value add to the robot.

Jean:  That just makes me think about how human communication is going to become more important than ever.  Because we can't disassociate ourselves from people even though things are getting more automated, the idea of having a conversation with a real person - what I like though is whether it's live face-to-face or virtually face-to-face.  The more that that technology mirrors nature, the better.  The better for communication,  because even in today's pretty good video conferencing it still dampens the expression.  It still dampens the feeling, the emotion piece of the communication.  So the more we get that technology to mirror reality and nature, then how awesome to be able to sit at your own home office and do a training session.  

Peter:  The word that they use a lot when you're discussing this kind of technology, the augmented reality stuff and AI stuff, is immersive.  Once you put these weird goggles on you're in another world and it takes you out if that world. 

One example that I have is I used to do a lot of filming out of helicopters.  It scared the hell out of me.  But when you're looking through the viewfinder of a camera, it detaches you just enough that you become immersed in another environment.  It's a weird thing to contemplate but it really happens.  I think this goggle thing, and I've tried several of these things, I mean you really go into an immersive environment.  I think that's what Robert is talking about with these virtual team meetings.  To your point, with video and video has gotten very good, you know the video team meetings, but when you put the goggles on, it becomes a whole different thing.  

Jean:  Many people I'm talking to ask me 'I have a global team.  Can we do this conversation virtually?'  I say of course.  I love the idea of being able to make it feel so immediate and real that it's almost like being in the same room together.  Even if it were on traditional video conference, you can still have these conversations in a virtual world.  That's the low touch part of it is it's still people having conversations with each other and discussing their real challenges of their team, talking about how to make improvements and doing little exercises.  They can do that whether they're in the same room together or on the video.

Peter:  Right.  Of course, companies today are using video a lot for job interviews.  What it allows them to do is record an interview and then again, back to how time-starved everyone is and busy and different schedules.  You record an interview and then you have a team of ten people who have to evaluate that person; they can do it on their own time.  Video is becoming more and more integrated into day-to-day business life.

Jean:  It's been so long since I've interviewed for a job; I didn't even think about it.

Peter:  Think about the travel costs that you're saving.  There are a ton of video interviewing companies out there now who are providing the technology to do this. 

Jean, one thing that I've discovered in the hundreds of interviews that I've been privileged to conduct over the past decade with all of these really super successful people, they all have coaches.  They all have coaches.  I don't care if it's Tim Ferriss. He has a coach.  Marshall Goldsmith has a coach.  Tony Robbins has coaches.  I interviewed an amazing CEO recently, Joe Apfelbaum who built the fastest growing digital agency in the country called Ajax Union in Brooklyn, and Joe has a coach.  Then if you look into theater background or professional sports, Serena Williams has coaches.

Jean:  I always use the sports analogy because the high-level professional athletes have coaches.  You don't have a coach because you can't do something and you're bad at it necessarily; you also have a coach if you're good at something.  If you're a high achiever, you have a drive to constantly improve.  You're never satisfied with status quo.  You want to get better.  You want to keep growing and you want to keep learning.  That's why people have coaches.

Peter:  Something that's very interesting about the Actionable website.  There is a link that's called Book.  Again, back to all of these successful people that I've interviewed, they all read.  They're reading constantly.  Joe Apfelbaum reads Napoleon Hill's book Think and Grow Rich every year.  That book has been around for years.  Talk to us a little bit about what this whole book idea is combined with what you're doing with your virtual teams.

Jean:  I'll give a shout out to Chris Taylor who started Actionable Conversations.  The whole idea grew out a year in his life where he took on a personal project to read, I believe it was one book a week, a business book.  He decided to summarize because he didn't want to just read a book and not do anything with it.  He said if I'm going to read a book, I have to implement something from the book.  He developed this program initially for himself years and years ago by reading all these books and writing summaries.  That's why on the Actionable Conversations website you'll find this place called Actionable Books where you can find I believe it's over a thousand summaries of the leading business books.

What happened with that is that is where the content for conversation spurs out of.  It's not a book club.  But what it is, that a leading book like a Good to Great or a Stephen Covey or Warren Buffet, all the leading business thinkers who write books, within that book there's usually a big idea and a couple of gems.  You don't need to do the whole book but you need to pick something, there's usually something from that book that is inspirational and actionable.  We use the content initially from that book as the lens through which the team will have a conversation about their own challenges with their own team and their own work. 

That's how the books inspire the content of the conversation.  In many cases Actionable work with the authors to distill the big idea and to design the exercises that the team will do together to make that more actionable for them. 

Peter:  Tell us a little bit about the leadership of Actionable.  How long has this company been around?  Just give us some background.

Jean:  The company has been around in Canada - it comes out of Canada - and Australia, for about the last five years with different incarnations.  The technology platform is really about a year and a half old at this point.  They only started working with consultants in the US in 2016.  Obviously when you launch, if you know about launching new technologies, it goes through several iterations and the platform is always improving and coming out with new releases and new aspects, and growing.  They have been working at an incredibly fast rate of getting this platform optimized, which is where it is now.  The companies who are signing on, the US companies, because it's been around for a few years and they have quite a substantial and credible client base in Canada and Australia.  It's relatively new but the big companies who are signing on are really the early adopters for people who get it, who see the value of the technology and are jumping in.  A solid number of Fortune 500 companies who are already onboard.

Peter:  My big takeaway Jean, for all of those listening, is don't go it alone.  I mean I'm lucky because I'm constantly reading and learning, and talking to really smart motivated and inspiring people.  I think so many people who are out in these jobs today just really, if they had a coach, if they had an anchor it would improve their productivity, their happiness, everything.

Jean:  Yeah.  I think within organizations, not everybody is going to have access to a professional coach, which is why a program like this where some people are going to have me as a professional coach but then I'm going to help the team leader become that coach for the people on the team.  It really is a coaching model, which gives more access to a larger number of people within an organization.  It makes it more scalable for organizations.  Yeah, we're going to have a certain level of people who will have a coach.  I agree with you - I have a coach too, by the way.  Anytime you can have a coach, it's always going to help you break through, learn new things about yourself, get unstuck if you're not able to move on some goal that you have or learn new skills.  

Peter:  Jean, it's really been great to have you back on TotalPicture Radio.  This is really exciting this new adventure that you're on with Actionable Conversations.  I think it's a great concept and see that much success in the future.

Jean:  Thank you, Peter.  Thanks so much.  I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you again after all these years.  Take care.

Peter:  Remember to check out Jean Brown's show notes for resource links.  Sign up for our newsletter to keep updated on all of our interviews and important conference dates.  Join the conversation on TotalPicture Radio's Facebook page and connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Twitter.  

This is Peter Clayton.  Thank you for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio.  

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Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.

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