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We’re passionate about the world of work, and how we can make it better. In this interview series, we pick the brains of experienced leaders, business owners, managers, and individual contributors to get their thoughts on how we can collectively build better workplaces.

Berta Aldrich

Join us in our next instalment below as Berta Aldrich—author of Winning the Talent Shift: Three Steps to Unleashing the New High-Performance Workplace—shares her insights with us.

We’d love to get to know you a bit better, tell us a bit about your backstory.

I started my career out of college as a management trainee, and after years of hard work and dedication, reached the pinnacle of my career as an award-winning C-suite executive (or so I thought). The climb was filled with incredible opportunities, great leaders, sponsors and mentors, and a lot of key learnings, learnings I wanted to share with our daughter who appeared to be interested in a similar career path. If she knew some of the barriers I had encountered along the way, she could more easily work through them. 

So, I wrote her a book telling her everything she needed to know, which included some of the most prevalent barriers and how to successfully navigate them. While researching for the book, I discovered it wasn’t just women who encountered these barriers. It was mostly women, but people of color, and some men as well. Most of the barriers were inflicted from the hands of a higher executive in a powerful position. Some individuals recovered from their experience, and some did not. The research was viewed as revolutionary, and through a series of fortunate events, the book was published and distributed across the globe. 

I have now left the C-suite to coach and train key executives to stand out—to deliver outperformance at every step of their career, regardless of the barriers they encounter along the way. I focus primarily on executives and companies who are committed to DE&I, are employee and client focused, and are fueled by a sense of purpose. 

If we were to ask a friend to describe your personality to us, what would they say?

Thoughtful, insightful, personable, honest, driven, inspiring and someone of high integrity and character.

Thinking back to your career journey, what’s an interesting story that stands out?

At one point in my career an opportunity became a tipping point for the way I viewed myself and the impact I was supposed to make in the workplace.

There was a job opening for a role that was unlike anything I had ever done before. The charge was to take this high-priority program from #10 in the industry to #1 within 12 months with no increase in budget.  I had no idea how I was going to do it; I just knew I wanted the opportunity to figure it out.  That one project not only provided some of the greatest opportunities for growth in my career, but it completely changed the expectation I had of myself as a leader and executive from that point forward.  

And yes, the program achieved #1 ranking within 11 months and we cut the budget in half!  

I learned that I had the highest energy when I was working on something that made a difference – that mattered – and fulfilled the company purpose.

Because I was given this opportunity by an incredible executive and leader, I learned through example the importance of identifying, supporting and recognizing raw talent. And the importance of setting incredibly high goals that appear impossible. That is how leaps in business are accomplished. By expecting the impossible.

What’s the most impactful lesson you've learned over your career thus far?

I have learned so many, but a few of the most important:

  1. If you want to make an impact, and make your work mean something, plug into the company strategy. That is where you will gain the most support and create the most impact.
  2. The higher the performer you are, the more barriers you will encounter, mostly at the hands of others who are less talented.  Don’t let them derail you or what you were meant to do.
  3. Your job as a leader is to lead people, but it's to lead people to their greatest accomplishments while driving business results.  We talk a lot about the first part, but not about the second when we talk about great leadership. If you want to ascend to greater responsibility, you have to be a great leader of people, and the business.

Thanks for giving us some insight into who you are! Let’s jump into things. When you hear the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind?

It would be a workplace that is free of barriers, where everyone is valued and supported to deliver the highest good for the greatest amount of people. 

How can we build a better world of work?

By collectively focusing on executing the company strategy and purpose, because both are innately designed to create a better world—for your clients, employees, industry and community. 

For you, what’s the main blocker you see as standing in the way of building a better world of work?

Hiring, retaining and allowing the wrong leaders to be responsible for the company’s greatest asset: their people.

How do you see miscommunication as holding us back from building a better world of work?

better communication can help build a better world of work with berta aldrich quote graphic

How would you recommend someone overcome miscommunication in their team or organization?

People can see through others who are not truthful. So, I would say first and foremost, be truthful.

Can you share one thing you’ve experienced, seen, or read about that is leading us towards a better world of work?

My book, “Winning the Talent Shift”, is a blueprint to creating a better world at work, where DE&I is truly leveraged to create a workplace where everyone’s talents and skills are leveraged for the greater good.

I’m curious, thinking about building a better world of work, is there a company and/or leader who stands out to you as someone we should follow? If so, what are they up to?

I have two that stand out:

Dan Houston, CEO of Principal. Dan is a true advocate of the client, creating a diverse workforce, building a strong community, and earning his company’s rightful place as a leader in the financial services industry.  He works tirelessly to progress each one of these high goals every day. He’s a true leader in every sense of the word and is revered by his employees and direct reports.

Dawn Zier, prior CEO of Nutrisystem. I was on the Executive Leadership Team for Go Red Philadelphia under Dawn’s incredible leadership. She was an executive who didn’t expect more of you than she was willing to give herself, recognized those who were contributing with impact, and held the team accountable in a respectful way. Under her leadership, the team raised the highest amount of dollars for Go Red at that time. This all occurred while she was the CEO of Nutrisystem, leading the organization through incredible growth, and an eventual sale. 

What is the one thing we can start doing today to build a better world of work?

Eliminate the barriers that are holding top talent from achieving their full potential. Once these barriers are removed, they will become unstoppable, achieving higher profits, higher productivity, and client loyalty.

How can our readers follow your work?

Your readers can follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram @BertaAldrich

Thank you for adding your voice to People Managing People’s interview series on How to Build a Better World of Work!

It’s always an honor and pleasure.

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By Tim Reitsma

Tim has deep experience in HR, people & culture, leadership, business strategy and operations with a focus on building great teams who are excited about their craft and their organization. With over 15 years of leadership experience, Tim has always been guided by his core values: faith, family, curiosity, and fun. He is a coach, mentor, speaker, advisor, and an active volunteer in his community. Tim loves spending time outdoors with his wife and two kids as well as mountain biking in the north shore mountains.