#77 - Transformational Leadership: A Guide for the Soulful and Practical Leaders - Jardena London

 

 

“We want to create organizations that can surprise us and do things beyond what we’ve designed them to do, rather than a machine, which only operates in the box that you’ve designed."

Jardena London is a business transformation consultant and the author of “Cultivating Transformations”. In this episode, Jardena shared insights from her book on transformational leadership and how one can become a better leader. Jardena shared the 3 different transformational leadership lenses: the “Me”, “We”, and “System” lenses and we covered several important concepts, such as self-mastery, authenticity, psychological safety, resonance and dissonance, and systems thinking. Towards the end, Jardena shared how organizations should avoid becoming machines and instead create thriving human living systems, and thus become soulful organizations.  

Listen out for:

  • Career Journey - [00:06:10]
  • Communication Between Tech and Business - [00:08:20]
  • Becoming a Better Leader - [00:11:00]
  • Transformational Leadership - [00:13:41]
  • Transformation and Getting Fired - [00:15:44]
  • Resonance and Dissonance - [00:17:36]
  • The “Me” Lens - [00:20:56]
  • Self-Mastery - [00:22:24]
  • Authenticity - [00:25:01]
  • Resiliency and Recovery - [00:28:26]
  • The “We” Lens - [00:31:50]
  • Psychological Safety - [00:32:58]
  • Getting Buy-In - [00:35:56]
  • Understanding People’s Pain - [00:37:50]
  • The “System” Lens: Thriving System - [00:42:57]
  • Systems Thinking - [00:46:08]
  • Soulful Organization - [00:47:36]
  • 3 Tech Lead Wisdom - [00:49:44]

_____

Jardena London’s Bio
Jardena is a business transformation consultant, author, keynote speaker and a certified facilitator of Dare to Lead; Brene Brown’s groundbreaking training program for organizations based on creating courageous workplaces. Jardena is also the Founder of Souls@Work.org that is focusing on leading a movement to create workplaces that nourish our souls and exude positive energy. Her recent book, “Cultivating Transformations: A Leader’s Guide to Connecting the Soulful and the Practical” has been described as “the book you buy and carry around with you everywhere.”

Jardena’s mission is to help organizations create soulful, productive and fun workplace environments that support organizational and cultural change together with improving financial results. Jardena has also served as co-founder and CEO of Rosetta Technology Group since 1997.

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Quotes

Career Journey

  • I go into the real world, and I find out that IT departments are typically the worst department in the company. The most hated, the least able to get the work out the door. Even from my first day out of college, I wondered why this was happening. Like what happened to those people in the universities that are so brilliant when they get into the business world?

  • And it’s not the people, is what I found out. It’s the system. It’s not the individuals that aren’t smart enough. It’s the way that we’re working together.

Communication Between Tech and Business

  • What they talk about is the cultural difference between people who go into technology and people who go into, say, product development, marketing, finance, like all these other business partners that we’re dealing with, and why there’s a mismatch. One of the things that they talk about that was so eye-opening to me in those books, and this was a path to solving the problem I’m trying to solve, is technical people tend to be very literal, very honest.

  • So if you say, when can you have that done? I know this about myself, like I’m not going to commit because I’m not a hundred percent sure. It’s really hard to commit or we buffer it. There’re a lot of uncertainties with technology. So it’s really hard to make that commitment to the business.

  • The other thing too is, and I write about this in the book, I write about the difference between the problem mindset and the possibility mindset. Technologists and mathematicians, we have a problem first mindset because we’re solving problems. The business partners want possibility. They want certainty and possibility and we’re giving them problems, and we’re trying to solve problems. There’s a mismatch there.

  • But working more for what’s the goal and what’s the possibility is something that is super helpful in aligning those communications. And I think that there are communications to be understood on both sides.

Becoming a Better Leader

  • It’s not even just about leading, just about following a requirement to the letter and have it not satisfy the customer. So that was the thing that I had to learn, is that because things are true and accurate, that doesn’t mean that they’re effective. And because I’m right, that doesn’t mean that I’m effective.

  • And then the other thing was the fuel of a human–to get a human system to work, because it’s a human system, not a machine. A single person working on a single problem might kind of operate like a machine. But when people come together, it’s a human system, whether you like it or not. So to get that to work, the fuel of that is soul. If you don’t care and you’re not fueling that soul of the group, it’s simply not effective. It’s got to be soulful to be effective there.

  • One of the things that I started to do as I became a better leader was understanding how to connect with human beings. Even if you’re an introvert, connecting with other human beings is an important part of getting things done. Connecting with other human beings was the key to me in terms of becoming a better leader.

Transformational Leadership

  • Transformational leadership is leading in a way that’s changing basic paradigms, that’s shaking up the status quo. It’s really changing the way we work. Some companies call it the future of work. But shifting those basic paradigms.

  • It’s such a hard job that people regularly get fired from it because of the fact that they’re being asked to shake up the status quo, and also somehow manage in the current. So if they shake it up too much, they ended up getting fired.

Transformation and Getting Fired

  • One of the things in the book that I talk about is dissonance and resonance.

  • A transformational leader, you’re being asked to create dissonance. You’re being asked to shake up the way things are done. But if you don’t balance that tension with resonance, then you’re scaring people and you’re shaking things up too much and you’re breaking things, and people don’t understand you.

  • You need to get that balance between resonating with the way the organization works and things, and shaking it up enough to make a change. Otherwise, you’re not doing anything. When you come in too overzealous, and you’re shaking things up too much without enough of a bridge to the resonance of the way things are, that’s when people get fired.

  • [Aaron Dignan] talks about finding the adjacent possible. You can’t jump to a bridge that the organization can’t get to. You need to get them to the next step, and then from that step, you can get them to the step from there. So get to that next stepping stone. If you’re trying to push an organization to a place they can’t go and make that leap over several steps, you risk getting fired.

Resonance and Dissonance

  • This goes back to the human connection. One of the big thing is, that was a lesson for me, so one of the pitfalls that I see as a transformational leader or transformation lead focusing too much on what they want to change, and not enough listening to the organization and what the organizations are ready for, and also wanting to do things optimally.

  • The other pitfall is the other way around. I listen too much and I don’t push enough dissonance. One of the things that I’ve done, and a lot of Agilists are horrified by this, is that I created a roadmap for an organization based on what the adjacent possible is like. What are the next stepping stones for them? And it might not be what the Scrum guide or the Agile books or the Agile leaders say is the order. And sometimes there’s rework.

  • We’ve been conditioned so much to be afraid of rework, like no rework. Rework can be optimal. We talk in Agile about meeting them where they are. Meet the organization where it is. Meet the people where they are, but we don’t do that.

  • If I go into an organization, and they don’t really have a strategy and they’re not really aligned around strategy and goals, but their biggest problem is that I talk about having a nail in their hand like they have pain because they’re so busy that they can’t even think about strategy - I can’t come in talking about strategy. It may be optimal to start by building strategy as a foundation, but they’re not ready. They need to stop the madness first. So that might not be the right order.

  • That’s something, in terms of being a transformation leader, where I think you really do need to be listening, not just pushing your agenda.

The “Me” Lens

  • If you can’t manage yourself, you can’t lead other people.

  • It’s always a journey, so there’s no end point to this. But just getting started on being aware of what your impact is.

  • One example is I talk about ego and armor. When you show up and you’re trying to change an organization and it’s about you, it’s going to have an impact on the decisions you make. It’s going to have an impact on how you show up.

Self-Mastery

  • If you don’t manage yourself, you can’t actually qualify yourself to be a leader. It’s because you can’t see your impact on other people. We talked about having your ego get in the way, your emotions, too. So when your emotions are driving you, and you can’t step back from that. Sometimes they’re giving you information, so it’s great to have emotions and get information from them. But when your emotions are running the show, maybe you’re not doing the optimal thing.

  • Another example is, I found out that people were spending a lot of time managing my quirks, my idiosyncrasies, my preferences. So if you’re not managing yourself, your organization becomes about people managing you, rather than people getting effective work done.

  • You see this in organizations, where everyone is pandering basically to the leader’s own style. That’s when you see a new leader comes in, and it’s oh, well, we have to see what this new leader wants. Well, that’s not how an organization should run. It’s for the company, it’s not for the leader’s preference.

  • What happens is I talk about energy leaks. So much of the energy that could be going into effective work leaks out into being spent making slides of the way the leader wants them or delivering things in the leader’s preference, or talking behind the scenes about how we can keep this person happy. That’s a waste. That’s a complete waste.

  • Waste is trying to spend a ton of time making a person happy because they’re at the top of the food chain. Awareness helps with that. If I’m aware that I’m causing people to waste energy on me, that’s not useful.

Authenticity

  • The first thing I just want to say about authenticity, because I get the question a lot of how can I, or what can I do to be more authentic? So it’s not about doing something else.

  • Brene Brown talks about armor. Armor is something that’s blocking you from being authentic. So authenticity is more about removing the blockers, not adding something. So if you’re trying to be authentic, you’re, by definition, essentially, not being authentic, right? Because you’re adding some things on to seem authentic. But it is about removing some of that armor. This is about self-awareness, again. What are the things that I’m doing that are blocking me from connecting with other people?

  • Everyone has their own different type of armor. My armor was, and this probably still is, is knowledge. I just thought, well, if I know everything, then no one can ever say that I’m wrong. No one can ever hurt me. I can never be hurt cause I’ll always be right. Letting go of having to know everything, and letting other people know something, really helped me connect with other people, and help me be more authentic.

  • Brene Brown talks about being a learner instead of a knower. And it’s much more authentic to be a learner, because then you’re curious, and you’re listening to people and asking questions. But being a knower, it’s impossible to know everything.

  • Being authentic doesn’t mean like sharing all your most personal things with everybody all the time. But it does mean admitting some vulnerabilities.

  • In terms of knowing everything, it’s not just about knowing everything. It’s about relying on other people to know things. Why don’t you have them tell you what they can tell you? You don’t need to know everything that’s going on in your organization.

  • That’s a real pitfall for leaders, not just transformational leaders, but any leader. Technology leaders in particular, you move up and become a leader; you have to let go of knowing all the technology that everyone’s doing. It’s not possible. It’s not helpful that the leader knows more than everybody else. You’re focusing on what is happening in all the parts, instead of what you should be doing is in terms of leading.

Resiliency and Recovery

  • Resiliency is the ability to withstand difficult conditions, whatever that might be. Recovery is when you do have a setback, being able to bounce back quickly.

  • I did have somebody ask me. Well, if we’re resilient enough, we’ll never have to recover. But that’s probably not real life. And if it is, then you’re not taking enough risks, right? You’re playing too safe if you never have to recover.

  • We want to be able to take more risks and take more edgy actions. And in order to do that, we have to be able to recover.

  • When you think about recovery for an individual, we can look at this through the two lenses, the organizational lens and the individual lens. So, as an individual, how are we staying centered and healthy?

  • Making sure that we’re keeping our reserves full. So getting enough rest, getting enough relaxation, having enough fun with our families. All those kinds of things keep you full so that you can go into work and not be just at the edge of your rope.

  • Then recovery is how do we then bounce back when something happens? Again, as an individual, we have ways to do that. Can I go take a break? Do I need to go for a walk, listen to some music?

  • As an organization, then how do we do that? As an organization, when we have a setback, how do we recover? So it’s the same through the two lenses that you need to be able to do both.

  • If your work is giving you energy and you’re loving it, maybe that’s okay. People talk about, should we be working a lot? Well, what’s your definition of work? It gives me energy.

  • One of the things about resiliency is not falling into that trap of where work makes me feel good because it’s instant gratification, like it helps me feel worthy. So you have to make that distinction between my work is giving me energy, and it’s also feeding my armor and ego, making me feel worthy even though I’m burned out. So you really do have to be self-aware of, is it true energy or is it just sort of an addiction?

The “We” Lens

  • Nothing worthwhile can happen without people. This goes back with the connection and the fuel. Your single reach as a single person is very limited.

  • I thought I could just be a great programmer and program something great. But then I realized to have any software that’s bigger than a breadbox, I need to have other people. Nothing great can happen without people, and mobilizing people together is so important.

Psychological Safety

  • Psychological safety is about having people feel like they can speak up without retribution during any conversation, small or big. So that it’s safe to speak up.

  • It’s also practical for getting results because really, what innovation can happen without psychological safety? How can you even get better, incrementally better, without psychological safety? If people are afraid to speak up, or people aren’t saying the things that need to be said, you’re not getting practical results either.

  • It’s not just about feeling good. This is where the soulful and the practical connect. You can’t advance as an organization. You’re going to fall into risks that you don’t need to fall into, because people didn’t speak up and say there’s a risk ahead or an opportunity.

  • This is something that leaders always ask me, like why don’t people feel safe? We’re nice. But they don’t feel safe. It’s not just about being nice. Go back to what we just talked about with being a knower and being a learner. If you know everything, and I am afraid, then when I say something, you’re going to know more than me. I’m not going to speak up. It doesn’t mean that you’re not nice. It just means that I feel like I can never know as much as you, so why would I even say anything?

  • That’s an example from a leader’s perspective of opening up and not always speaking first. And not always knowing everything that opens up more people to be able to share more. That’s what’s important for leaders to realize is that psychological safety is not just about you not being nice.

Getting Buy-In

  • When I talked to transformation leads, (they) are always asking me, how do I get buy-in? And I’m like, “But someone hire you for this job?” Because if someone hired you for this job, don’t you implicitly have buy-in?

  • My first piece of advice in getting buy-in is don’t ask for buy-in. You should make the assumption that you have buy-in. Walk in with that assumption. Whether or not it’s true is not important. But you need to operate from the assumption that you have buy-in.

  • You don’t have buy in from everybody, but you have some buy-in. So operating from that assumption, instead of trying to get buy-in, working on getting the results that you’ve been hired to make, and working from there.

  • The example is you walk into a meeting with executives. Are you in that meeting to get their buy-in or are you in that meeting to show them how you can help them? That starts from a very different place. Because when you walk into a meeting trying to get buy-in, and what I always say is you’ve given up your power immediately. And you don’t want to walk into an organization or a room giving up your power.

  • When I say giving up your power, when you come in asking for buy-in, you’re putting yourself in a subordinate position, coming in and sort of begging and asking. Instead, you want to come in and say, “Let me show you how I can help you.” Almost like a salesperson, right? I have something that can help you.

  • And that puts you in an equal power position. That levels the power position field or the playing field. If you put yourself in a lower position, you’re never going to be effective.

Understanding People’s Pain

  • I gave the example, you have a nail in your hand. The organization has a nail in its hand, and you come in and say, well, you can transcend the pain through meditation and their hand has a nail in it. They’re not going to want to listen to you about meditating.

  • So if you’re not willing to help them get that nail out of their hand and apply first aid, they can’t hear you. If you’re saying that the nail is out of scope of your transformation, then your transformation is dead in the water. You need to make that in scope. If the organization has pain, healing that pain is your first priority.

  • My experience has been that it’s not invisible. Everybody absolutely knows it. But what I will say is that they don’t think it’s solvable. So they can all say it. But because they don’t think it’s solvable, they’re not addressing it. A transformational leader needs to solve the problems that need to be solved, not the ones that they can’t solve.

  • My experience has been that if you’re willing to face the problem and acknowledge it, then it’s solvable. But the problem is that we aren’t able to.

  • Being a transformational leader, it’s being willing to say, yeah, we’re going to sit in on these problems that we don’t know the answer to. A lot of times leaders will say, don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. That was the mantra of many. But leaders who are willing to say bring me problems even if we don’t have solutions, that’s a transformational leader.

The “System” Lens: Thriving System

  • Creating conditions and cultivating thriving human system can exponentially be more effective than fixing the problem itself.

  • Organizations aren’t machines, but instead human living systems. So if we treat an organization like a living system, what we’re trying to do is basically, if you think about like a garden, we’re trying to create conditions for things to grow and thrive and flourish, rather than with a machine where you’re actually controlling everything and making it work.

  • We talk about the VUCA world, all you can really do is create the optimal conditions or most optimal that you can think of, and let it go and see what happens, and then keep tweaking that, rather than trying to keep everything under full control, because it easily gets out of control, because it’s not a machine.

  • When we talk about creating conditions, well, we want things to be self-organized. So self-organization, resilience and natural hierarchy are the three big things.

  • What we want to do there as leaders is create what competencies do we need? What resources do we need to give the organization so that it can thrive? Rather than give direction and dictate activities and micromanage. But can I make sure that we’re all aligned?

  • Are we all aligned on who we are? Are we all aligned on the goals and direction we’re going? Because if we’re all going in different directions, that’s not a condition for thriving.

  • But if we are making sure everyone understands where we’re going, maybe they find different ways to get there.

  • If you think about a machine, if you build a machine, it can only do what you’ve built it to do. But when you grow a garden, it can surprise you and do things that you didn’t expect. So that’s what we want. We want to create organizations that can surprise us and do things beyond what you designed them to do, rather than this machine, which only operates in the box that you’ve designed.

Systems Thinking

  • Systems thinking is such a key to thriving systems, because what we’re doing is looking at the whole and how things interact. So sometimes people say like an ecosystem. But how are all those different parts interact with each other?

  • Looking at all of those things and how they work together, if you’re familiar with Six Sigma or Lean, you know about global optimization and local optimization.

  • My chiropractor says you can build all of your individual muscles. But if you can’t get those muscles to work together, that’s where you’re going to hurt yourself. You need to actually build those interconnected muscles that don’t look as cool. But you need to build that connectedness.

  • It’s the same with organizations. You can’t just build each piece without building the connectedness.

Soulful Organization

  • I use the word soulful as an umbrella term here to mean that sort of ethos of who we are as people and as a group of people.

  • The really clear way to look at what I mean by soulfulness is to look at the reverse. So what does it look like when things are soulless or lack soul? We have a really clear idea of what it means when we don’t have soul. Soulfulness is things that are not soul crushing, that actually feed you, that give you energy.

  • There’s this feeling that we should go to work and it shouldn’t be pleasant and we should suffer through going to work so that we can have a weekend. That’s a lot of your life that you’re giving up for soulfulness. There’s no reason that your work life can’t be as fulfilling and energetic as other parts of your life. It should be feeding your energy.

3 Tech Lead Wisdom

  1. Being a transformational leader is part spiritual leader, part work manager, part inspirer, and part community builder.

  2. Acknowledging the style difference between technical people and business people, and letting that be. Like nurturing that, cultivating that and letting it be, not trying to block it.

  3. Letting go of the knowledge, trying to be a learner and not a knower.

Transcript

[00:01:25] Episode Introduction

[00:01:25] Henry Suryawirawan: Hello again to all of you, my friends and listeners. Welcome back to another new episode of the Tech Lead Journal podcast. I’m your host, Henry Suryawirawan. Thank you for spending your time with me today listening to this episode. If this is your first time listening to Tech Lead Journal, subscribe and follow the show on your favorite podcast app and social media on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. And if you are a regular listener and enjoy listening to the episodes, will you subscribe as a patron at techleadjournal.dev/patron, and support my journey to continue producing great Tech Lead Journal episodes every week.

My guest for today’s episode is Jardena London. She is a business transformation consultant and a certified facilitator of Dare to Lead, a Brene Brown’s groundbreaking training program for organizations based on creating courageous workplaces. She’s also the author of a recently published book titled “Cultivating Transformations: A Leader’s Guide to Connecting the Soulful and the Practical”.

In this episode, Jardena shared insights from her book on the concept of transformational leadership and how one can become a better leader. She shared the three different transformational leadership lenses: the “Me”, the “We”, and the “System” lenses, and for each of the lens, we discussed further several important concepts, such as self-mastery, authenticity, psychological safety, resonance and dissonance, and systems thinking. These are all powerful concepts that are covered in her book, and you can find plenty more concepts inside the book for each of the lens. Towards the end, Jardena shared an important reminder that organizations should avoid becoming machines and instead organizations should create thriving human living systems, and thus become more soulful organizations.

I really love my conversation with Jardena, and we really covered a lot of things inside this conversation. I’m also personally reminded of some of the important leadership attributes and concepts that are highly relevant in my capacity as a leader in my workplace. And I’m pretty sure you will find a thing or two that you can also apply in your workplace. If you also enjoy and find this conversation useful, I encourage you to share it with someone you know, either your friends or colleagues, who would also benefit from listening to this episode. You can also leave a rating and review on your podcast app or share some comments on the social media about this episode. You can also read insightful quotes from this episode that I post on the social media daily, which I hope can give you a spark of idea or insight that you can implement right away. Before we continue to the episode, let’s hear some words from our sponsor.

[00:05:08] Introduction

[00:05:08] Henry Suryawirawan: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Tech Lead Journal podcast. Today I have a guest with me. Her name is Jardena London. She’s a transformation and agility consultant, an author. So today, we’ll be covering most of the things from her book with the subject of “Cultivating Transformations: a Leader’s Guide to Connecting the Soulful and the Practical”. Jardena has a very diverse background. She started from programming, project management, working at startups, and now she’s actually helping large organizations to transform their way of working into a more modern workplace with positive impact. So a lot of things also related to the book itself. How she actually managed to transform herself, and that she wants to also share this to the organizations. How can organizations improve? And one of the most important thing in organization is about leadership. So I’m sure we will learn a lot as well from Jardena. How to transform yourself to be a better leader? So Jardena, thanks for spending your time today with me. Looking forward to this conversation.

[00:06:08] Jardena London: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

[00:06:10] Career Journey

[00:06:10] Henry Suryawirawan: So Jardena, I always like to start my conversation with getting to know you better. So can you probably share your background, your experience? Maybe sharing your turning points or highlights in your career.

[00:06:22] Jardena London: Absolutely. Yep. Well, I majored in college, in computer science and math. Because really, I didn’t want to have to deal with people. I wanted things to be like very black and white. I don’t like that fuzziness of humans. But I quickly found out that’s not how it is even in software. That’s what happened. So, I’m in college with very smart people in computer science and math, and then I go into the real world, and I find out that IT departments are typically the worst department in the company. The most hated. The least able to get the work out the door. Even from like my first day out of college, I wondered why is this happening? Like what happened to those people in the universities that are so brilliant when they get into the business world? And it’s not the people, is what I found out. It’s the system. It’s not the individuals that aren’t smart enough. It’s the way that we’re working together. So really, right from the get go, that’s something I sought out to solve.

I didn’t realize it at the time. I kinda thought, well, let me just be the best at this and be able to do it like no one else. But that’s not how it is. So that’s sort of what led me out of software and into organizational management and design and agility. And software is much better nowadays, because Agile has really helped, honestly. When I started in software in the early nineties, it wasn’t like that, and it still has a way to go. But it was interesting what you were saying about transforming myself. I mean, that’s a journey. I’m still transforming myself. That’s an ongoing journey. So I don’t want anyone who’s listening to think that I’m already transformed to do what I do. It’s just an ongoing thing. But, yeah, so that was sort of how I got here. And that’s the problem that I’ve set my life to solve is how can we, as humans, work better together. To be like the title of book, have practical outcomes, but also be more soulful.

[00:08:00] Henry Suryawirawan: Thanks for sharing your story. I think it’s really interesting. I feel that many people can relate. So you initially began your journey by maybe focusing on math and computer science, not wanting to deal with people. But over the time, I’m sure a lot of tech people in the industry will feel that actually we need to work together as a team. Thus, communication is more important.

[00:08:20] Communication Between Tech and Business

[00:08:20] Henry Suryawirawan: I think when you mentioned about IT department is the most hated department probably in the industry, right, it’s because not having the ability, first of all, to deliver projects in time. And probably a lot of things, like tech people are associated with maybe they are nerdy and they don’t communicate well, and they always talk about jargons in technical. So maybe you can give us some tips or advice for people maybe in the tech industry. How can we actually excel much better so that IT department is not always as a point blame kind of a department?

[00:08:50] Jardena London: Yeah. There’s a great series of books. One of them is called “Leading Geeks”. The same author wrote a couple of books like this, so I’m not the author of that, but I would highly recommend it. What they talk about is the cultural difference between people who go into technology and people who go into, say, product development, marketing, finance, like all these other business partners that we’re dealing with, and why there’s a mismatch.

One of the things that they talk about that was so eye-opening to me in those books, and this was a path to solving the problem I’m trying to solve is technical people tend to be very literal, very honest. So if you say, when can you have that done? I know this about myself, like I’m not going to commit because I’m not a hundred percent sure I’m not going to commit to it. It’s really hard to commit or we buffer it. There’re a lot of uncertainties with technology. So it’s really hard to make that commitment to the business.

The other thing too is, and I write about this in the book, I write about the difference between the problem mindset and the possibility mindset. Technologists and mathematicians, we have a problem first mindset because we’re solving problems. The business partners want possibility. They want certainty and possibility and we’re giving them problems, and we’re trying to solve problems. There’s a mismatch there. Because everything is a problem in math, right? Everything is a problem in computer science. But working more for what’s the goal and what the possibility is something that is super helpful in aligning those communications. And I think that there’s communications to be understood on both sides. Now a whole industry has sprung up, as I’m sure you all know, to put a wall between business people and technology people, like the analysts. That whole analysts, project managers, all these people so that we can’t expose these technical people to the business people. But so a lot of those walls have come down because of agility, which is wonderful. But also just learning each other’s communication style is super important there.

[00:10:43] Henry Suryawirawan: I like how you phrase the problem versus possibility, because, yes, we are technical people. We love to solve problems, most of the times think in binaries, is it true? Is it false? Is it possible? Not possible? Sometimes it becomes tricky because the business world doesn’t work that way. We don’t always have to come up with the perfect solution.

[00:11:00] Becoming a Better Leader

[00:11:00] Henry Suryawirawan: This is also how you actually wrote in the book itself. You started your journey by knowing how to develop software, how to solve problems. But actually as you go through the journey and you transform yourself, your career, you have to become a leader. You said in the book that you don’t know actually how to lead people. Maybe can you walk us through how the journey from writing software into actually leading people? And what did you learn the most from that journey?

[00:11:28] Jardena London: Yeah. I’m sure that your listeners have had the experience, and it’s not even just about leading, just about following a requirement to the letter and have it not satisfy the customer. So that was the thing that I had to learn is that because things are true and accurate, that doesn’t mean that they’re effective. And because I’m right, that doesn’t mean that I’m effective. So that was the first thing.

And then the other thing was, and I write a lot and I talked about this a lot in my book and in my talks, the fuel of a human, to get a human system to work, because it’s a human system, not a machine. A single person working on a single problem might kind of operate like a machine. But when people come together, it’s a human system, whether you like it or not. So to get that to work, the fuel of that is soul. If you don’t care, and that was what I was accused of early in my career in software was like, not caring. If you don’t care and you’re not fueling that soul of the group, it’s simply not effective. So it’s not something where, oh, it can be nice and pleasant and effective, or not and still effective. It’s got to be soulful to be effective there. Those two things, I see a lot in companies is that there’s like the nice and the soulful on one side, and then there’s the effective and the business results on the other, and those two things don’t meet. But they do have to meet because that soulfulness is part of the effectiveness. It’s not a different thing. It’s not a nice to have. It’s not a side order. It’s part of it.

So one of the things that I started to do as I became a better leader was understanding how to connect with human beings. So I would talk about the leading geeks. I always considered myself an introvert. Interestingly, I’ve recently taken the Myers-Briggs and it sort of has me an introvert in some ways and an extrovert in others. So I’m sort of in between. But I really considered myself an introvert, for sure. People are surprised by that because I speak and stuff, but I definitely do get my energy from being alone, not being with people. That’s why I didn’t want to have a career with people involved and all that stuff. But the thing is, even if you’re an introvert, connecting with other human beings is an important part of getting things done. I read a really great book called “Quiet”, which is a guide to introverts. It’s a great introvert kind of book. But it really explained like you can still be an introvert and connect with people. And that connecting with other human beings was the key for me, in terms of becoming a better leader.

[00:13:41] Transformational Leadership

[00:13:41] Henry Suryawirawan: I think you mentioned something really important from my point of view is that, yes. At the end of the day, we deal with system and the humans, right? So it’s not about just technologies. Probably that’s why you started writing this book, “Cultivating Transformations: A Leader’s Guide to Connecting the Soulful and the Practical”. So you mentioned a lot of times about soulful here. And there’s also the aspect here, which is transformational leadership. Maybe, can you explain to us what does it means? Because I know digital transformation. I know leadership. But what do you mean by transformational leadership?

[00:14:13] Jardena London: That’s a great question. Thank you. So transformational leadership is leading in a way that’s changing basic paradigms, that’s shaking up the status quo. So we see all of a sudden, a lot of people having the job of like transformation lead or VP of transformation, that’s cropping up everywhere. I’ve been doing that job for years and it didn’t have a name and you couldn’t actually get a job doing that. But now it’s a job everywhere. So it’s really changing the way we work. Some companies call it the future of work. But shifting those basic paradigms.

Now, the reason I wrote this book is because that job is hard. The book actually sprung from a talk I did called “How to lead a transformation without getting fired?” Because it’s such a hard job that people regularly get fired from it because of the fact that they’re being asked to shake up the status quo, and also somehow manage in the current. So if they shake it up too much, they ended up getting fired, and it’s common. And that’s why it’s such a hard job. So I couldn’t find, as I was doing the job, a way or a place to go to learn these skills. It’s not your traditional leadership skills. There’s really no body of knowledge or study to learn how to be this person that changes the world from within the world. So that’s why I wrote the book.

[00:15:26] Henry Suryawirawan: Yes, I think I agree that transformation sometimes is always considered something that is big. You know, either big bang or is it something like introducing new framework, like Agile, these days seem to be still the digital transformation theme for a lot of companies. Or it could be also new processes, or just new leaders coming in and just need to transform.

[00:15:44] Transformation and Getting Fired

[00:15:44] Henry Suryawirawan: You mentioned without getting fired. Why do you think a lot of transformation end up being someone getting fired?

[00:15:52] Jardena London: So one of the things in the book that I talk about is dissonance and resonance. A transformational leader, you’re being asked to create dissonance. You’re being asked to shake up the way things are done. But if you don’t balance that tension with resonance, then you’re scaring people and you’re shaking things up too much and you’re breaking things, and people don’t understand you. So you need to get that balance between resonating with the way the organization works and things, and shaking it up enough to make a change. Otherwise, you’re not doing anything. When you come in too overzealous, and you’re shaking things up too much without enough of a bridge to the resonance of the way things are, that’s when people get fired.

So, for example, you’re trying to teach the organization to not micromanage, like this is the perfect example. But your boss who hired you as a transformation lead wants to micromanage you. So what do you do? And I’ve done this, but do you just ignore your boss and not report status to them? Because that’s what you’re trying to teach the organization to do. You know, you’re trying to change things. Performance reviews, like you’re trying to do away with performance reviews, but yet you’re getting a performance review. Do you fight it and refuse to do it? Or how do you bridge that gap, so that there’s enough resonance where you’re leading them to where they need to go?

There’s a book called “Brave New Work” by Aaron Dignan, and he talks about finding the adjacent possible. You can’t jump to a bridge that the organization can’t get to. You need to get them to the next step, and then from that step, you can get them to the step from there. So get to that next stepping stone. But if you’re trying to push an organization to a place that can’t go and make that leap over several steps, you risk getting fired. I worked with a transformation lead once who said every day when I come to work, I don’t know whether I’m going to get promoted or fired. And that is the job of a transformation lead. Like you don’t know whether you’re going to get promoted or fired.

[00:17:36] Resonance and Dissonance

[00:17:36] Henry Suryawirawan: So sometimes this is counter-intuitive, right? Because when you mentioned about transformation, it’s always associated with some radical change that could happen fast. You mentioned about resonance, dissonance, like we have to find the adjacent place, how we transform people slowly, maybe. But still at the same time, also delivering groundbreaking change within the organization and the mindset. Sometimes this is counter-intuitive. How can you probably advise these transformation leaders to actually balance between wanting to get things fast as soon as possible change people, versus understanding them, and maybe handholding them, getting them to understand what is the purpose of the transformation?

[00:18:14] Jardena London: Yeah. So this goes back to the human connection. One of the big thing is, that was a lesson for me, so one of the pitfalls that I see as a transformational leader or transformation lead focusing too much on what they want to change, and not enough listening to the organization and what the organizations are ready for, and also wanting to do things optimally.

But the other pitfall is the other way around. I listen too much and I don’t push enough dissonance. But one of the things that I’ve done, and a lot of Agilist are horrified by this, is that I created a roadmap for an organization based on what the adjacent possible is like. What are the next stepping stones for them? And it might not be what the Scrum guide or the Agile books or the Agile leaders say is the order. And sometimes there’s rework. So rework is a great topic too. We’ve been conditioned so much to be afraid of rework, like no rework. Rework can be optimal. So, for example, we talk in Agile about meeting them where they are. Meet the organization where it is. Meet the people where they are, but we don’t do that.

So if I go into an organization and they don’t really have a strategy and they’re not really aligned around strategy and goals, but their biggest problem is that, I talk about having a nail in their hand, like they have pain because they’re so busy that they can’t even think about strategy. I can’t come in talking about strategy. It may be optimal to start by building strategy as a foundation, but they’re not ready. They need to stop the madness first. So that might not be the right order. That might not be what a lot of the paradigms say, or the frameworks, but that’s where they need to start. And so yes. Do we have to then backtrack to do strategy? Yeah. And then everybody says, “Why don’t we do this first?” Cause you couldn’t. Because you weren’t ready. So that’s something, in terms of being a transformation leader, where I think you really do need to be listening, not just pushing your agenda.

I give another example of this too. It’s the same example of there’s too much madness going on. A lot of Agilist will come into an organization say, “There’s too much work in progress”. A lot of times, it’s true. But does the organization have a culture where they value that? A lot of organizations do have a culture where they value that. So you can’t just come in guns a blazing and saying, “Stop having too much. You need to work on half as much stuff”. They can’t. They’re not ready yet. So you need to start to say, “Well, let’s prioritize and look at it. Let’s see where we can work on something over something else, but not stop working on everything”. Because you’ll be booted out immediately. That’s when and how you get fired. You come into an organization and say, work on half as much stuff. They’re like, “Okay, bye!”

[00:20:39] Henry Suryawirawan: Yeah. So sometimes they have this difference in mindset, right? So I know like when you hire an Agile coach or transformational leader, of course, they will introduce something radical, but sometimes it’s just too radical, like you can’t even sense, is this even logical for the organization, where culture doesn’t exist to work in that way?

[00:20:56] The “Me” Lens

[00:20:56] Henry Suryawirawan: And I think it’s also important when you mentioned about this transformational leadership, you introduced these three different lenses. What you call is the Me, We and System. The first is Me. You didn’t start by introducing how people can work together, but actually you introduced something that you call it self transformational. Why do you think it’s always important for a leader to actually do more towards themselves, from the self point of view?

[00:21:21] Jardena London: Yeah, because if you can’t manage yourself, you can’t lead other people. And again, it’s always a journey, so there’s no end point to this. But just getting started on being aware of what your impact is. You know, we can give some examples of this, but one example is I talk about ego and armor. When you show up and you’re trying to change an organization and it’s about you, it’s going to have an impact on the decisions you make. It’s going to have an impact on how you show up. So I worked on a team where everybody thought that I was, my first transformation team, that I was really just there to get promoted, and they were right. And that had an impact on how they trusted my decisions. I talked to a lot of transformation leads who say, this is a stepping stone for me to get into a bigger job. It’s not a great reason. It’s not going to give you credibility. It’s not going to help you connect with other people. This is not a job, and I do talk about this a lot. This is not a job to get promoted from. You might, but it’s not. If that’s what you’re looking for, take a safer job. Because this is not a great job for stepping stone. It’s risky. And if you’re risk averse, this isn’t the job for you.

[00:22:24] Self-Mastery

[00:22:24] Henry Suryawirawan: And you also put an importance in self-mastery. You said self-mastery, you have to probably understand yourself. And that’s why you said, if you don’t manage yourself, you can’t actually qualify yourself to be a leader. A lot of times, actually, yes, I can see the importance of knowing yourself. But maybe from your experience, why do you think it’s such a key that you actually need to start understanding yourself first, and maybe self-master yourself?

[00:22:49] Jardena London: Yeah. It’s because you can see your impact on other people. So other examples of this being able to see how you’re impacting the world. So we talked about having your ego get in the way, your emotions, too. So when your emotions are driving you, and you can’t step back from that. Sometimes they’re giving you information. So it’s great to have emotions and get information from them. But when your emotions are running the show, maybe you’re not doing the optimal thing.

Another example is if you think about this, and I fell into this pitfall as a leader, I found out that people were spending a lot of time managing my quirks, my idiosyncrasies, my preferences. So if you’re not managing yourself, your organization becomes about people managing you, rather than people getting effective work done. Listen, we all have our quirks and we have to deal with each other. But you see this in organizations, where everyone is pandering basically to the leader’s own style. That’s when you see a new leader comes in, and it’s oh, well, we have to see what this new leader wants. Well, that’s not how an organization should run. It’s for the company, it’s not for the leader’s preference. So what happens is I talk about energy leaks. So much of the energy that could be going into effective work leaks out into being spent making slides of the way the leader wants them or delivering things in the leader’s preference, or talking behind the scenes about like how we can keep this person happy. That’s a waste. That’s complete waste. That’s something that probably doesn’t come up in Lean, or in Six Sigma. When we talk about waste. That’s waste. Waste is trying to like spend a ton of time making a person happy because they’re at the top of the food chain. Awareness helps with that. If I’m aware that I’m causing people to waste energy on me, that’s not useful.

[00:24:30] Henry Suryawirawan: That’s a very good reflection question, actually. Yes, because I, myself, as a manager and leader as well, sometimes, of course, everyone has a tendency to have the work done in certain ways. And I liked when you mentioned energy leakage. Sometimes what you want doesn’t necessarily mean easy for people to follow. So it could be slides, or it could be some reports. How you want it to be done? And I think it’s always great to have a self-awareness. Thinking that okay, maybe what I’m asking is not rational for the people who I want to work the task on. Thanks for sharing that. I think it’s really critical message.

[00:25:01] Authenticity

[00:25:01] Henry Suryawirawan: The other thing you mentioned about authenticity. This word has come up a lot in the industry these days. We are always advised to be more authentic. Show your vulnerabilities. Maybe you can cover also why authenticity is such an important thing as a leader?

[00:25:16] Jardena London: Yeah, so I am a big follower of Brene Brown and she talks a lot about authenticity and courage and those types of things. So the first thing I just want to say about authenticity, because I get the question a lot of how can I, or what can I do to be more authentic? So it’s not about doing something else. Brene Brown talks about armor. Armor is something that’s blocking you from being authentic. So authenticity is more about removing the blockers, not adding something. So if you’re trying to be authentic, you’re, by definition, essentially, not being authentic, right? Because you’re adding some things on to seem authentic. But it is about removing some of that armor. This is about self-awareness, again. What are the things that I’m doing that are blocking me from connecting with other people?

Everyone has their own different type of armor. But I’ll give you an example of mine. My armor was, and this probably still is, is knowledge. I just thought, well, if I know everything, then no one can ever say that I’m wrong. No one can ever hurt me. I can never be hurt cause I’ll always be right. So people might not like me, but I’m right. Letting go of having to know everything, and letting other people know something, really helped me connect with other people, and help me be more authentic. Like I don’t have to know everything and I can sit in a meeting and say, I don’t know that. And that is actually much more authentic than knowing everything.

[00:26:31] Henry Suryawirawan: This is actually quite common in the tech industry, the armor of knowledge, right? That’s why people might have this imposter syndrome because they think they don’t know much enough, and they always feel like, okay, I always need to learn many things, be a master of so many technologies. And a lot of times, actually, it’s just not possible.

[00:26:48] Jardena London: Brene Brown talks about being a learner instead of a knower. And it’s much more authentic to be a learner, because then you’re curious, and you’re listening to people and asking questions. But being a knower, it’s impossible to know everything.

[00:27:01] Henry Suryawirawan: When you are a leader, and you think like you don’t know something when people are talking about something in the work, and you probably don’t know much about it. So maybe give us a practical tips. How can we be more authentic and show vulnerability and saying that, yeah, I really don’t know this stuff, as a leader?

[00:27:17] Jardena London: So I want to be super clear. Being authentic doesn’t mean like sharing all your most personal things with everybody all the time. But it does mean admitting some vulnerabilities. So things you don’t know is a great example. Not needing things to be perfect is another. But in terms of knowing everything, it’s not just about knowing everything. It’s about relying on other people to know things. So I talked to a leader once that was an executive and said, I think I’m going to go and take a six-month course on HTML. And I was like, “Why? You have 50 people in your organization that do that”. I know, but I want to know everything so I can know what they’re telling me. Why don’t you have them tell you what they can tell you? Why go take a course? You don’t need to know everything that’s going on in your organization.

And that’s a real pitfall for leaders, not just transformational leaders, but any leader. Technology leaders in particular, you move up and become a leader, you have to let go of knowing all the technology that everyone’s doing. It’s not possible. It’s not helpful that the leader knows more than everybody else. Because then you end up with, they say, like a master with a thousand servants. You’re focusing on what is happening all the parts, instead of what you should be doing is in terms of leading.

[00:28:26] Resiliency and Recovery

[00:28:26] Henry Suryawirawan: So another attribute that you mentioned about self-mastery is about resiliency and recovery. So tell us more about that because due to the pandemic, I know a lot of people are in tough situations. Leaders might also not be able to recover themselves. So why is it important to have this resiliency and recovery?

[00:28:43] Jardena London: Yup. The topic of resiliency has come up a lot during the pandemic. First of all, let’s just make a definition here. So resiliency is the ability to withstand difficult conditions, whatever that might be. Recovery is when you do have a setback, being able to bounce back quickly. So I did have somebody ask me. Well, if we’re resilient enough, we’ll never have to recover. But that’s probably not real life. And if it is, then you’re not taking enough risks, right? You’re playing too safe if you never have to recover. So we want to be able to take more risks and take more edgy actions. And in order to do that, we have to be able to recover.

When you think about recovery for an individual, we can look at this through the two lenses, the organizational lens and the individual lens. So, as an individual, how are we staying centered and healthy? And people have trouble with this during the pandemic. Because there’s so much stressors. But making sure that we’re keeping our reserves full. So getting enough rest, getting enough relaxation, having enough fun with our families. All those kinds of things keep you full so that you can go into work and not be just at the edge of your rope. And then recovery is, well, how do we then bounce back when something happens? Again, as an individual, we have ways to do that. Can I go take a break? Do I need to go for a walk, listen to some music? But as an organization, then how do we do that? As an organization, when we have a setback, how do we recover? So it’s the same through the two lenses that you need to be able to do both.

[00:30:10] Henry Suryawirawan: And I think it also comes back to self-awareness, right? You need to know that you really need recovery. Because, for example, I’m also guilty myself, sometimes working probably too much, and you probably risk yourself getting burned out in that case. Or sometimes it’s also about trying to delegate some stuff, so that you can also take the time, take the opportunity to recover yourself, so to speak.

[00:30:31] Jardena London: So one of the things there, in terms of resiliency and recovery, you talked about working too much. If your work is giving you energy and you’re loving it, maybe that’s okay. People talk about, should we be working a lot? Well, what’s your definition of work? Because I might do some work during the day for clients, but then I’m still doing a bunch of reading about topics that I love in the technology, organization design. Does that count as work? I don’t know. It gives me energy. But I do think that balancing those two is super important.

One of the things about resiliency is not falling into that trap of where work makes me feel good because it’s instant gratification, like it helps me feel worthy. So you have to make that distinction between my work is giving me energy, and it’s also feeding my armor and ego, making me feel worthy even though I’m burned out. So you really do have to be self-aware of, is it true energy or is it just sort of an addiction?

[00:31:23] Henry Suryawirawan: Thanks for the plug there, because I think it’s really an important thing to think of as well. Because yeah, sometimes I work more because I love what I’m doing. Sometimes you are in the flow, you just want to follow and continue. And I think also it’s important not to fall into the trap of instant gratification. Like, okay, I want to chase promotion. I want to chase maybe likes for your results. Thanks for the plug. I think that’s really a key important mindset for all of us to think about when we deal with ourselves and our work.

[00:31:50] The “We” Lens

[00:31:50] Henry Suryawirawan: So let’s move on to the second lens, which is about the “We”. And you put it as a leading human systems. There’s one quote that I particularly like. You said that “nothing worthwhile can happen without people”. So tell us more about that.

[00:32:04] Jardena London: Yes, sure. This goes back with the connection and the fuel. Your single reach as a single person is very limited. And this is what I learned early in my career, because I thought I could just be a great programmer and program something great. But then I realized to have any software that’s bigger than a breadbox, I need to have other people. And that’s when I sort of dove into this well, okay, how can we organize more people to do things together? So yeah. Nothing great can happen without people, and mobilizing people together is so important. I don’t think that we’ve quite cracked the code on how to manage groups of people to be effective. So we’re getting better, but we haven’t quite cracked that code yet.

[00:32:42] Henry Suryawirawan: One of the catchy phrase that I always remember is that it’s always about people, right? If you see any problem, it’s not about technology, it’s always about people. And I think that’s very important why we need to be able to work with people. That’s why you mentioned that nothing worthwhile can happen, actually, without dealing with people.

[00:32:58] Psychological Safety

[00:32:58] Henry Suryawirawan: One of the first key attributes that you mentioned is about psychological safety. A lot of times, people talk about psychological safety. So tell us more, what is psychological safety? And why do you think it contributes a lot to the success of working with people?

[00:33:13] Jardena London: Yeah, it’s been such a hot topic over the past couple of years, psychological safety. And this is another one where we can connect the soulful and the practical. Psychological safety is about having people feel like they can speak up without retribution during any conversation, small or big. So that it’s safe to speak up. People have looked at that, and I’ve gotten from organizations that’s just sort of an employee engagement thing.

It’s also practical for getting results because really, what innovation can happen without psychological safety? How can you even get better, incrementally better, without psychological safety? If people are afraid to speak up, or people aren’t saying the things that need to be said, you’re not getting practical results either. It’s not just about feeling good. This is where the soulful and the practical connect. You can’t advance as an organization. You’re going to fall into risks that you don’t need to fall into, because people didn’t speak up and say there’s a risk ahead or an opportunity. So that’s why psychological safety is so important.

[00:34:11] Henry Suryawirawan: And a lot of times this is unconsciously done, right? Leaders might not sometimes think about overall psychological safety, and it could be like, okay, someone did something that they don’t like, and they think they need to correct that. Although at times, probably, you might want to give more critical feedback in such a way that you don’t put the culture in such a way that people now are afraid of making mistakes, and they don’t want to tell what actually happened, or they didn’t want to tell a risk that probably could happen. How do you teach leaders to be more aware about this tendency, maybe a bias, to introduce more psychological safety, maybe in the team setup or in the organization set up?

[00:34:48] Jardena London: Yeah. So this is something that leaders always ask me, like why don’t people feel safe? We’re nice. But they don’t feel safe. It’s not just about being nice. Go back to what we just talked about with being a knower and being a learner. If you know everything, and I am afraid, then when I say something, you’re going to know more than me, I’m not going to speak up. It doesn’t mean that you’re not nice. It just means that I feel like I can never know as much as you, so why would I even say anything?

So that’s an example from a leader’s perspective of opening up and not always speaking first. And not always knowing everything that opens up more people to be able to share more. It comes in sneaky ways. So that’s what’s important for leaders to realize is that psychological safety is not just about you not being nice.

[00:35:32] Henry Suryawirawan: Thanks for sharing that. I think, yes, it’s not about being nice. It’s not always about speaking first. So sometimes we as a leader, again, sometimes I fall into this trap as well that yeah, you do need to let other people speak first. Probably they might know something, maybe better than you, or maybe not better than you, but it doesn’t matter, right? As long as you give them the opportunity to express themselves. And that’s why I think psychology safety slowly is being built across the team.

[00:35:56] Getting Buy-In

[00:35:56] Henry Suryawirawan: So another thing about transformational leader is about introducing change, but at the same time, getting the buy-in, right? Because sometimes people are skeptical. They don’t think it may work, or this is how we are always doing things. So how do you actually get buy-in from people to change?

[00:36:11] Jardena London: So this is such a funny thing. This is a great example of something very unique to transformational leadership. I’m sure it shows up everywhere. It’s so interesting. When I talked to transformation leads, (they) are always asking me, how do I get buy-in? And I’m like, “But someone hire you for this job?” Because if someone hired you for this job, don’t you implicitly have buy-in? So my first piece of advice in getting buy-in is don’t ask for buy-in. You should make the assumption that you have buy-in. Walk in with that assumption. Whether or not it’s true is not important. But you need to operate from the assumption that you have buy-in. Someone hired you for this. You don’t have buy in from everybody, but you have some buy-in. So operating from that assumption, instead of trying to get buy-in, working on getting the results that you’ve been hired to make, and working from there.

The example is you walk into a meeting with executives. Are you in that meeting to get their buy-in or are you in that meeting to show them how you can help them? That starts from a very different place. Because when you walk into a meeting trying to get buy-in, and what I always say is you’ve given up your power immediately. And you don’t want to walk into an organization or a room giving up your power. When I say giving up your power, when you come in asking for buy-in, you’re putting yourself in a subordinate position, coming in and sort of begging and asking. Instead, you want to come in and say, “Let me show you how I can help you.” Almost like a salesperson, right? I have something that can help you. Let’s talk about how I can help you. And that puts you in an equal power position. That levels the power position field or the playing field. So in terms of asking for buy-in, I think that is super key for a transformation lead, because if you put yourself in a lower position, you’re never going to be effective.

[00:37:50] Understanding People’s Pain

[00:37:50] Henry Suryawirawan: Another thing, this might relate to what you mentioned in the beginning as well, sometimes getting buy-in, you also need to have empathy. When people do not want to change, it’s not because they don’t understand or they don’t want to change, but it’s also because of the problems that they are having. So this is what you mentioned about healing the pain. So, like you mentioned at the beginning that people have a nail on their hand bleeding, and you actually ask them to change. Why is it important to understand people’s pain? You know, the current pain and try to heal the pain in order to effectively do the change.

[00:38:21] Jardena London: So if you are a transformation lead. It’s interesting. I talked to a lot of people who say, well, that’s out of scope of my work. And I gave the example, you have a nail in your hand. The organization has a nail in its hand, and you come in and say, well, you can transcend the pain through meditation and their hand has a nail in it. They’re not going to want to listen to you about meditating. Maybe someday they can actually walk across a bed of nails through meditation, but they’re not there yet. So if you’re not willing to help them get that nail out of their hand and apply first aid, they can’t hear you. If you’re saying that that nail is out of scope of your transformation, then your transformation is dead in the water. So just forget it. You need to make that in scope. If the organization has pain, healing that pain is your first priority. So, of course, organizations don’t have a nail in their hand. But like we talked about earlier, maybe they just have too much work in progress. Like everyone’s running around too crazy to be able to even think about transformation. If that’s the case, your transformation is going to fail. So if you think that’s out of scope, it’s in scope.

[00:39:22] Henry Suryawirawan: Sometimes I think finding the nail itself could be the challenge. Sometimes it’s invisible, right? Invisible nail. So it’s not always obvious that people are bleeding, people are suffering because of a certain thing. How would you advise a leader to actually be able to identify this invisible nail, so to speak, the pain that the team is suffering?

[00:39:42] Jardena London: So first of all, my experience has been that it’s not invisible. Everybody absolutely knows it. But what I will say is that they don’t think it’s solvable. So they can all say it. But because they don’t think it’s solvable, they’re not addressing it. So I do talk in the book about a transformational leader needs to solve the problems that need to be solved, not the ones that they can’t solve.

So if I walk into an organization, and I tell this story in the book, where the problem was that finance was an obstacle to getting products out the door for product development. They had accounting problems and different finance issues that they would come up with a product, but then they couldn’t sell it. So all these products will be piled up at finance’s door, and they couldn’t get them through finance and figure out how to book the revenue or sell them. And the product development people were like, oh, well, that’s their problem. Our job is to develop products. Well, that is actually your problem. Cause if you can’t get products out the door, then you’re not a very good product development team. That was one where they said it’s been a problem for years. We can never solve it. All we can do is just keep developing products. Well, no, actually. The problem that needed to be solved was we needed to get products out the door. And so that’s when everyone knew that was the problem. No one thought that it was addressable. So when I go into organizations, and I start to talk to people and build a roadmap, everyone knows what the problem is. They just don’t think it’s addressable.

[00:41:02] Henry Suryawirawan: I like how you differentiate between something that is solvable and something to be solved. Also, from my previous consulting background, sometimes we come to the organization, the problem is actually obvious, but like you mentioned, people think it’s unsolvable. They just don’t know how to figure it out. Probably, yeah, that’s why all these consultants, or maybe transformational leader comes in, and give them maybe more practical steps. Maybe change a new way of thinking or mindset in order to make it possible for people to solve it, I guess, if I put it the right way.

[00:41:32] Jardena London: My experience has been that if you’re willing to face the problem and acknowledge it, then it’s solvable. But the problem is that we aren’t able to. So in the example I gave, the solution I came up with was a simple backlog and prioritization. No magic there. It was just that I was the first one that was willing to say like, no, we have to solve this. Stop ignoring it. That’s most of the battle right there.

[00:41:54] Henry Suryawirawan: Yeah. Sometimes it could be as simple as that. Just do it. Instead of overthinking and over-analyzing, sometimes simple solution can be the key to solving the problem.

[00:42:03] Jardena London: That reminds me of back to what you were saying earlier about leaders, you know, in terms of psychological safety and being a transformational leader, it’s being willing to say, yeah, we’re going to sit in these problems that we don’t know the answer to. So a lot of times leaders will say, don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. That was the mantra of many. It still is, right? But leaders who are willing to say bring me problems even if we don’t have solutions, that’s a transformational leader.

[00:42:28] Henry Suryawirawan: Yeah. I like how you brought it up. Because a lot of times, yeah, I also heard from some leadership book or something, don’t come with problems, but also come with the solutions. But sometimes it’s not effective because you don’t get to know all the solutions to the problems. And if you don’t know the solution, does it mean that you don’t raise it? So sometimes it’s also not true, right?

[00:42:46] Jardena London: Yeah. That’s a problem. So then I have these leaders who go, “How come no one told me that this was a problem?” Well, they didn’t have a solution. So no one told you. Do you want that? Do you want to not know the problems because there’s not a solution yet?

[00:42:57] The “System” Lens: Thriving System

[00:42:57] Henry Suryawirawan: Yeah. So thanks for reminding us on that front. Let’s move on to the third lens, which is about the system itself. So we have talked about Me, which is ourselves. We have talked about the We, which is the human aspect. And now it’s about the system, right? The organizing for adaptability. There’s one quote that I like from this section is about “creating conditions and cultivating thriving human system that can exponentially be more effective than fixing the problem itself”. So maybe you can explain a little bit more. What do you mean by creating conditions and cultivating thriving human system?

[00:43:29] Jardena London: Yeah. We talked earlier about organizations not being machines, but instead being these human living systems. So if we treat an organization like a living system, what we’re trying to do is basically, if you think about like a garden, we’re trying to create conditions for things to grow and thrive and flourish, rather than with a machine where you’re actually controlling everything and making it work. When one think about complexity and chaos, and if you think of like the Cynefin, all you can do with a complex system and in a VUCA world, we talk about the VUCA world, all you can really do is create the optimal conditions or most optimal that you can think of, and let it go and see what happens, and then keep tweaking that, rather than trying to keep everything under full control, because it easily gets out of control, because it’s not a machine.

So when we talk about creating conditions, well, we want things to be self-organized. So self-organization, resilience and natural hierarchy are the three big things. But what we want to do there as leaders is create what competencies do we need? What resources do we need to give the organization so that it can thrive? Rather than give direction and dictate activities and micromanage. But can I make sure that we’re all aligned? So, for a practical example here, are we all aligned on who we are? Are we all aligned on the goals and direction we’re going? Because if we’re all going in different directions, that’s not a condition for thriving. But if we are making sure everyone understands where we’re going, maybe they find different ways to get there, as we do in Agile. But if we all, as a leader, if we understand where we’re going, that’s a condition for thriving.

[00:44:58] Henry Suryawirawan: So I like to bring this analogy in technology. We always talk about orchestration versus choreography. I think this, in a sense, is a choreography based, like in a dance where people know what they need to do, rather than following a conductor, so to speak. One leader to give tasks or directions, in a breakdown, detailed manner. So people know what they’re supposed to do, and thus they put their creativity innovations, rather than following a certain particular order from the leader. You mentioned about this striving living systems, because sometimes again, it’s counter-intuitive for leaders, right? They think their job is there to give solutions and directions, but sometimes just alignment is good enough and people can solve the problem given the right parameters or boundaries.

[00:45:39] Jardena London: Yeah. And when we think about adaptive, so a big thing now is for organizations to become adaptive, especially when we’re in this complex VUCA world. So if you think about a machine, if you build a machine, it can only do what you’ve built it to do. But when you grow a garden, it can surprise you and do things that you didn’t expect. So that’s what we want. We want to create organizations that can surprise us and do things beyond what we’ve designed them to do, rather than this machine, which only operates in the box that you’ve designed.

[00:46:08] Systems Thinking

[00:46:08] Henry Suryawirawan: It’s like building a program that only knows a certain output, given a certain input. This is also another thing that you mentioned about systems thinking in this particular section. Tell us more, what is systems thinking? Why do you think it’s important and how does it relate to creating this thriving system?

[00:46:23] Jardena London: Yeah. Systems thinking is such a key to thriving systems, because what we’re doing is looking at the whole and how things interact. So sometimes people say like ecosystem. But how all those different parts interact with each other? So we know this from software. When you fix one thing and something else breaks and that’s why we do regression testing. So that kind of thing in a bigger world, in an organization, or even outside the organization, right, cause you have external factors. But looking at all of those things and how they work together, if you’re familiar with Six Sigma or Lean, you know about global optimization and local optimization. So it’s sort of like that.

The example I’ll give you is actually from my chiropractor. So my chiropractor says you can build all of your individual muscles. But if you can’t get those muscles to work together, that’s where you’re going to hurt yourself. So you have like strong biceps and strong abs, but if you can’t reach over and get something, because your abs and your biceps don’t work together, you’re going to keep hurting yourself. So what she says is, you need to actually build those interconnected muscles that don’t look as cool. There’s nothing to look at when you wear a bathing suit, those connectedness. But you need to build that connectedness. And it’s the same with organizations. You can’t just build each piece without building the connectedness.

[00:47:36] Soulful Organization

[00:47:36] Henry Suryawirawan: And probably this also brings us to the topic of soulful. You mentioned about soulful organization, and the title of the book also mentions about soulful. I mean, sometimes this might be spiritual. What does it mean by being a soulful team or organization? Does it have spiritual aspect to it or is it something that is totally different in your point of view?

[00:47:56] Jardena London: So I use the word soulful as an umbrella term here to mean that sort of ethos of who we are as people and as a group of people. I didn’t intend for it to mean religious, although if that’s what it means for you as an individual, that’s what makes you feel soulful, then great. But I think the really clear way to look at what I mean by soulfulness is to look at the reverse. So what does it look like when things are soulless or lack soul? So I always hear people say, this is a soul-crushing job, or this was a soul sucking day, or this department is sucking my soul. So we have a really clear idea of what it means when we don’t have soul. So soulfulness is things that are not soul crushing, that actually feed you, that give you energy. There’s this feeling that we should go to work and it shouldn’t be pleasant and we should suffer through going to work so that we can have a weekend. That’s a lot of your life that you’re giving up for soulfulness. There’s no reason that your work life can’t be as fulfilling and energetic as other parts of your life. So that’s what I mean when I say soulful. It doesn’t have to be religious or spiritual, although it can be if that’s what it is for you. But really, it should be feeding your energy.

[00:49:04] Henry Suryawirawan: By soulful organization, I believe that you want also the people who work in that organization to come with their soul, so to speak, and love what they’re doing. Having the energy and motivated to actually do their best or maybe express themselves, and maybe grow out of that experience as well.

So thanks for this conversation, Jardena. I really love learning about leadership. I personally, myself, as a learning leader, think that there’re a lot of aspects maybe that we can always think about. So it could be ourselves. It could be the connection with the human, our teammates, our leaders, which is the We, and at the last point is about system, right? How interconnectedness between different aspects of your organization is actually also important.

[00:49:44] 3 Tech Lead Wisdom

[00:49:44] Henry Suryawirawan: Before we wrap up the conversation, Jardena, I always love to ask this one last question, which is to share about three technical leadership wisdom. So think of it as something that you want to leave to the audience to think about. Maybe based on your wisdom or based on your experience.

[00:49:59] Jardena London: Well, the one thing I just did want to share in terms of that technical leadership is when we talk about the transformational leadership and I’ll wrap up our conversation by saying this, is that being a transformational leader is part spiritual leader, as we’ve talked about part work manager, part inspirer, and part community builder. So if you think about all those aspects of it, that may not be what you normally thought about leadership as being spiritual or inspirer and spiritual leader and community builder, but that’s what you are. So in terms of technical leadership, I think looking at it as a more rounded role is super key.

So the other two things I’ll give you for being a technical leader that we’ve talked about in this conversation. One is acknowledging the style difference between technical people and business side people, I guess we call it, and letting that be. Like nurturing that, cultivating that and letting it be, not trying to block it.

And then the third thing in terms of technical leadership is letting go of the knowledge. We talked about that. So trying to be a learner and not a knower.

[00:51:00] Henry Suryawirawan: Yeah, it’s really beautiful. Like you have to let go. Sometimes you don’t have to know everything and you should put your head as a learner instead. So Jardena, for people who want to connect with you, or maybe learn more from the book, where can they reach out to you online?

[00:51:13] Jardena London: LinkedIn is a great way to connect with me. I do post there a lot. But you can check out CultivatingTransformations.com for the book. And then my consulting website is Rosetta Agile.

[00:51:26] Henry Suryawirawan: I’ll make sure to put that in the show notes. So thanks again, Jardena. Hope to be able to see more transformed leaders out there that follow your learning and your advice here in this particular area.

[00:51:37] Jardena London: Great. Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

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