The One Thing that Will Derail Your Career If You’re Not Prepared (And How to Come Out The Other Side Stronger and Ready for Your Next Challenge) Berta Aldrich Featured Image

The One Thing That Will Derail Your Career If You’re Not Prepared (with Berta Aldrich, author of Winning the Talent Shift: Three Steps to Unleashing the New High-Performance Workplace)

Tim Reitsma is joined by Berta Aldrich, author of Winning the Talent Shift: Three Steps to Unleashing the New High-Performance Workplace. She is a highly sought-after expert and speaker on the topics of leadership, high-performance, diversity, and transformational change.  

Berta shares her insights on the danger of imposter leaders, the threat of career derailment to high performers, and the exodus of female employees in the workplace.

Listen to learn the one thing that will derail your career if you’re not prepared and what you can do about it.

Interview Highlights:

  • Originally, Berta wrote the book “Winning the Talent Shift” for her daughter as a gift for her college graduation. In the book, Berta meant to tell her daughter everything that she could possibly encounter in the workplace, along with solutions on how she could professionally manage them. As Berta was doing her research, she was led down a very different path, was connected to a publisher, and within six months the book was on bookshelves across the globe. [3:19]

If you create awareness around these derailers, hopefully we can eliminate them from the workplace. — Berta Aldrich

  • Leadership is such a complex job and career choice for most people, because they are the conduit between creating value for the company and the people who need to deliver that value. It requires a balance of talent and skills, but also personal characteristics and the ability to learn and apply it. [7:01]
  • Berta’s favorite characteristic of all, which she talks about in her book, is courage. And today, leaders will require the healthiest amount of courage particularly the high-performers. [7:50]

I believe that leadership is the highest honor that anyone can have in any capacity, particularly in the business world. — Berta Aldrich

  • The number one career derailment that Berta found in her research are unchecked people within the workplace who are average to low performers, but use tactics to take others, mostly great leaders and high performers off their upper trajectory. In the book, she called them imposter leaders, because they’re simply imposters. They’re not leaders, they just simply occupy leadership positions. [11:41]
  • An imposter leader could be an individual who steals credit from others. It could be someone who simply looks at their people as the conduit to making them look good. They could be someone with sharp elbows who looks at and views everyone as their competition. A lot of times they have very low self-esteem and very low confidence. [12:24]
  • 70% of women in the workplace have encountered degrading and derailing behavior. 35% of men have experienced this behavior. People of color experience it at a higher rate than whites. And the big Aha moment and the reason that really compelled Berta to publish the book was that 100% of high performers will encounter derailing behaviors. [14:03]
  • In the old world mechanics of management, there used to be a time when senior executives would encourage infighting in order to identify their best performers. They thought if they could actually create hyper competitiveness, the best would end up rising to the top. That type of philosophy is still being used today in modern workplaces. The only problem is that it actually derails diversity efforts and high performance. It actually has the opposite effect today on women, people of color, and most men. [17:39]

I am a huge advocate of gender-balanced teams. My highest performing teams were always comprised of both men and women. — Berta Aldrich

  • High performers can actually impact the organization two to five times that of an average performer. If you just think about productivity and the bottom line, companies cannot literally afford to lose their high performers. [21:39]

To me courage is every day you walk into the workplace, you make it one step better than it was the day before. That’s courage. — Berta Aldrich

  • Courage starts small and courage then helps you create confidence. Confidence then helps you create change. And with change, you then have the opportunity for greater success. [23:07]
  • One of the most common derailers that high performers experience is body language intimidation. The purpose of the intimidation, regardless of how they use it, is to exert power over you and diminish your performance. [24:12]
  • One of the other tactics that some of the imposter leaders use is negative surprise meetings or conversations. It’s another intimidation tactic to use the element of surprise to put you back on your heels while aggressively communicating, maybe it’s a misperformance or it could actually be gaslighting, in disguise. [29:31]
  • Imposter leaders use this tactic because they know the element of aggressive surprise creates a visceral reaction within the other person’s body. Visceral reactions create restricted blood flow to the brain. The other person cannot think, they cannot respond. It leaves you confused. It leaves you with shattered confidence, and that’s the exact intent of the conversation. And so if you ever find yourself in that position where it’s a surprise conversation, just remember at the very beginning — ABC (Always Be Curious). [30:03]

The best thing that you can do as a high performing leader is always remain professional. Don’t ever let other individuals take you off your game. — Berta Aldrich

  • Berta’s unsolicited advice is — look for those companies who not only have their wife figured out, but they have their How figured out. And what she means by that is — they’re living their values on their wall. 14% of companies today live their company values. That means 86% don’t. [36:38]
  • The one piece of advice that Berta gave her daughter was… “Always believe in yourself.”
    Far too often, other people try to drag you down, not because you’re below them, but because you’re above them. And if you just remember that, you can put everything in perspective. Maintain your confidence, keep moving forward, but do not ever let anyone deplete your confidence or derail your career when you know what path you’re on. [39:22]

Guest Bio:

Berta Aldrich is a highly decorated leader, author, C-suite advisor, speaker, and self-described pragmatist whose mission is to inspire the design of high-performing, diverse organizations across the globe. She is a highly sought-after expert and speaker on the topics of leadership, high-performance, diversity, and transformational change.

A standout C-suite executive, she has been recognized throughout her career for making an indelible mark on the finance industry. Notable recognitions include the inaugural FCS Jamie E. Depeau Leadership Award for her ability to inspire and help others to think big, break down barriers and perform at their highest potential, and in 2020 she received the Ivy College of Business Women in Inspiration Award for making a significant impact in her career while inspiring other women in business to become leaders and reach their full potential.

A pioneer in corporate high-performance, her industry-leading programs and products have been lauded by the Wall Street Journal, Conference Executive Board, Boston Research Group, Greenwich and Associates and Graphis, The International Journal of Visual Communications, where her team won the coveted international Gold Award for industry innovation, excellence and leadership.

Her first book, “Winning the Talent Shift: Three Steps to Unleashing the New High-Performance Workplace,” (Wiley 2020) was rated as a #1 book to buy on Company Culture and #3 on Customer Experience by Bookauthority. The book is currently available in several countries including the U.K., Australia, Germany, and Japan.

In February 2021, Berta was the featured guest on Ken Blanchard LeaderChat Podcast alongside a portfolio of experts including Brene Brown, Simon Sinek and Brendon Burchard. In late 2021 she was the feature story in Working Mother and was a guest on Investment News HER Success Matters podcast with CEO Christine Shaw. She is also a human resource council member and contributor to Forbes Media.

She holds an M.B.A., Alpha Iota Delta Honor Society, from St. Joseph’s University and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from Iowa State University. Berta resides outside of Philadelphia with her husband, Mike, an architect, and sidekick, Lola.

For more information, visit BertaAldrich.com or follow her on LinkedIn (Berta Aldrich or Winning the Talent Shift page) or on Twitter (@bertaaldrich).

Photo Of Berta Aldrich

My passion is really in helping aspiring and high-performing leaders to create their own outperformance and their own success.

— Berta Aldrich

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Read the Transcript:

Tim Reitsma

Your career is on the track and trajectory that you’re excited about — but out of nowhere, it’s derailed. Your career is no longer the path you hope or plan for.

My guest today is no stranger to this as she was performing at the top of her game, winning awards and out of the blue, she was let go from her job.

My guest today, Berta Aldrich is a highly decorated leader, author, C-suite advisor, speaker, and self-described pragmatist whose mission is to inspire the design of high-performing, diverse organizations across the globe. She is a highly sought-after expert and speaker on the topics of leadership, high-performance, diversity, and transformational change. Her first book, Winning the Talent Shift: Three Steps to Unleashing the New High-Performance Workplace, was rated as a #1 book to buy on Company Culture and #3 on Customer Experience by Bookauthority.

In today’s episode, we take a deep dive into the one thing that can derail your career, but most importantly, what can you do about it? So please stay tuned.

We’re People Managing People and our purpose is to build a better world of work. We’re owners, founders, entrepreneurs, we’re middle managers, team leaders. We represent every business function in an organization, and we’re on a mission to help people lead and manage their teams and organizations more effectively. So if you want to lead and manage better, and if you want to become a better organizational leader and more effective people manager, then join us.

I’m your host, Tim Reitsma, and keep listening to find inspiration, actionable insights, and tools you need to recruit, retain, and manage and lead your people and organizations more effectively. And while you’re listening to the show, please subscribe and join our mailing list on peoplemanagingpeople.com.

Join our community of leaders and follow us on social media to stay up to date with all that’s going on.

Welcome to the People Managing People podcast, Berta.

I am so excited to have you here. And I have to say, you know, I’m reading your book right now —Winning the Talent Shift: Three Steps to Unleashing the New High-Performance Workplace.

And there’s so much gold in this book. Um, but, uh, yeah. Why don’t we start off with just telling our listeners a little bit about yourself and what prompted you to writing this book?

Berta Aldrich

Absolutely. And first of all, I have been so excited to have this conversation with you, and thank you so much for helping leaders, uh, navigate. I’m sure that very choppy waters that they’re experiencing today in their workplaces.

So, very happy to be here. Um, so a little bit about myself. I am a published author, speaker, and award-winning C-suite executive turned leadership coach. And my passion is really in helping aspiring and high-performing leaders to create their own outperformance and their own success.

So that’s what I do, um, but your second question, um, is interesting. There’s an interesting backstory to how this book actually came about and it’s, it’s fairly serendipitous. So, unlike other books, um, in bookstores today, mine was never intended to be published — at all.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. I was reading that in the book and so yeah, I was hoping you were going to go there and we can talk with that, ’cause it’s, that piece it’s fascinating to me.

Berta Aldrich

It is. It is because, um, and you know what that says is it was really written authentically. Um, I actually wrote it for our daughter who was entering college and you know, as I continue to mentor both men and women, um, in the workplace from outside the workplace, I kept hearing very similar stories. Um, stories of how they were getting derailed from others in the workplace.

Sometimes they were colleagues, sometimes they were bosses, sometimes they were executives from other parts of the organization. And I thought you know what? Here is this talented young woman who is going to enter the workplace, and this is what she’s going to encounter.

So, as someone who had 30 plus years of experience, I sat down and I thought — I’m going to write her a book. I’m going to give it to her at college graduation, and it is going to tell her everything that she could possibly encounter in the workplace, along with solutions on how she could professionally manage them.

And as I began to research for, for the book for her–I have a Master’s in Strategy and Statistics–um, my original hypothesis was that this derailing activity typically happens only to women. And as I began to research the data points that I started finding and connecting actually led me down a very different path.

And so the answer is it’s not just women. Um, I’m sure we’ll get into the answer here in a little bit. Um, but then I spoke to Lauren and, um, and she said, ‘Mom, you need to tell more people about this’. And so again, in, in a situation where serendipity and one in a million chance events, um, are the only explanation for this, I was connected to a publisher and within six months it was on bookshelves across the globe.

Tim Reitsma

Wow. So it started off as, I could just think of like, that’s the ultimate gift for, for, for your child is, here’s my, here’s what I’ve learned in corporate America over the last, you know, uh, over the last, however many years of my career and what a, what a gift.

And I think that is, um, yeah, it’s pretty cool that, uh, that you thought of that and you thought of your daughter. And so, and then it hit bookshelves. And so what was the intent, um, when it hit bookshelves? So was it to, you know, just publish a book and say, Okay, I published a book and — what have you, what have you been able to do with this book now?

Berta Aldrich

Um, yeah. You know what? Because it didn’t start off with kind of, I want the notoriety of being a published author. It wasn’t that at all. It was more about getting this message out across the globe to help people. Because, you know, you’re reading the book now and the goal is if you create awareness around these derailers, hopefully, we can eliminate them from the workplace. Because if people know what they are, uh, the imposter leaders that we’re encountering are less likely to perform them in the workplace because they won’t work.

They won’t work against the high performers.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. It’s a, you know, I, I hadn’t necessarily, um, heard the term of ‘derail your career’ from that perspective, um, until we connected a number of weeks back and, you know, I think we, we could have hit record on the podcast or, uh, recorded that conversation because it was so rich.

And, and so I want to take just a little step back. And so we’re going to talk about leaders and imposter leaders, as you said. What does leadership mean to you?

Berta Aldrich

Um, well, I love that question. Um, okay, so let’s do this. Um, I, first of all, I believe that leadership is the highest honor, um, that anyone can have in any capacity, particularly in the business world. And you know, if you think about it, it’s such a complex job and career choice for most people, because you are the conduit between creating value for your company and the people who need to deliver that value. Um, it requires a balance of talent and skills, um, but also personal characteristics, like character and ambition and intellect and the ability to learn and apply it.

It requires building trust. And of course my favorite characteristic of all, which I talk about in the book, which is courage. And today leaders will require the healthiest amount of courage particularly the high-performers. Um, then of course it’s not for reasons that they think, which we’re going to talk about today, but to me, leadership is just an incredible honor.

And as someone who has had the honor of leading people from, I think the time I was maybe 14 or 15, um, into the workplace and in different capacities, uh, it’s an incredible honor.

Tim Reitsma

It is. And I think anybody, um, who is thinking about picking up the book, I really encourage you to, like page or chapter one really just talks about ‘great leaders are inspiring visionaries, develop/promote high performers, passion deliver great results, give credit where it’s due and, and stand back and watch your team excel.’

I just love that. I just love the kind of the poetry in that, because that is that inspiring leader.

Berta Aldrich

It is, it is. And that’s, that’s what we talk about most often, but unfortunately, we’ll talk about the other side as well. You do need courage, uh, in order to perform all those activities.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. It’s, it’s, I think it’s, it’s, sometimes it’s easier to read the words than to put it into action.

And there’s a lot of things that get in your way. There’s a lot of barriers, there’s, we could do, you could talk about just your, your own imposter syndrome and how that works, and maybe you overcome that and then, but there’s other barriers that get in your way. And so, you know, you talk about these barriers.

I think part one is about why we need to shift and part two is about removing the barriers. And so, let’s talk about that for a minute. Let’s talk about the barriers that’s, that get stand in the way that we need to talk about.

Berta Aldrich

Yes, let’s do it, because, um, I think you eloquently put it at the top of the hour, which is these barriers in and of themselves, in and of themselves don’t sound bad, um, the term barrier, but when you talk about barrier as a career derailer, that really puts into action what they truly are. So you’re absolutely right. The first part of the book is for those who strategically like to understand the Why of the moment and how, how our workplaces really got to this point.

And then the second, the whole middle part of the book is the original content that was written for Lauren. Um, and so again, very authentic. It talks a lot about the different derailers, the three different types of derailers, and, um, but also it gives solutions. So if you’re a leader, it will tell you how to professionally intervene and redirect an individual and then also corporations.

But so let’s, let’s jump in. So, what exactly is a career derailer? So maybe we can start there. Does that sound good?

Tim Reitsma

Let’s do it. Sounds perfect.

Berta Aldrich

Okay, ’cause that’s opening Pandora’s box and then I think we’ll end up getting where we need to go.

So first of all, I think any leader can acknowledge that their career is ups and downs, right?

In during the downtimes, you know, most people tend to believe that a career derailment, which is, I always make an analogous to a train derailment, because people, people can get that, that picture in their mind. It’s simply just gets off track. It doesn’t mean that it’s over, um, it just simply jumped the track for now.

They seem to think that career derailment is something that occurs when maybe a project didn’t go as well as they thought, or, um, maybe they, um, are somehow in the doghouse with someone else in the organization for some unforeseeable mistake. And that’s what most people think. But career derailment actually, probably occurs some of the time like that.

Um, But the number one career derailment that I’m, that I found in my research are unchecked people within your workplace who are average to low performers but use tactics to take others, mostly great leaders and high performers off their upper trajectory. And if you read the book, we call them imposter leaders, because they’re simply imposters.

They’re not leaders. They just simply occupy leadership positions.

Tim Reitsma

Wow. So anybody who’s listening and thinking, Okay, there’s this term I’m hearing, uh, imposter leader — how do I know if I’m an imposter leader or how do I know if I’m working with an imposter leader?

Berta Aldrich

Hmm. That’s a great question because you know what? Most people know it, um, because again, most of these derailers that occur in organizations today are acceptable, embedded cultural traits that people know are wrong, but there’s no infrastructure. There’s no way to combat it. So it could be an individual who steals credit from others. It could be someone who simply looks as their people as the conduit to making them look good.

They could be someone with sharp elbows who looks at and views everyone as their competition. A lot of times they have very low self-esteem and very low confidence.

Tim Reitsma

Hmm… interesting. Yeah, there’s, there’s a number of things that even come up in my mind throughout my career, um, that, uh, that kind of ring true to what you’re saying. Somebody who may actually be taking credit for the work that you’ve done or who is, you know, just that bully getting, you know, getting their way in the organization.

Berta Aldrich

Absolutely. And they do it by, you know, kind of blocking and tackling others in order to do it.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. So, uh, as we are, we’re meeting and talking about this podcast and the recording, what is that one thing that will derail your career if you’re not prepared for it? Is it that imposter leader?

Berta Aldrich

It actually is. And that’s the number one derailer that I found in the data.

So, a little bit of back data information, um, as your, for your listeners. Um, most people don’t understand this. 70% of women in the workplace have encountered degrading and derailing behavior. 35% of men have experienced this behavior. People of color experience it at a higher rate than whites. And the big kicker here, um, the big Aha moment and the reason that really compelled me to publish the book was that 100% of high performers will encounter derailing behaviors.

Now, if you contrast that with 80% of leaders today are rated good to poor. So you step back and you say, okay, so the ones who are actually, most of them who are making it into the leadership positions are good to poor.

And most of the ones that are high performers who should be in those roles, a hundred percent of them are getting derailed. You now have your answer to our leadership dilemma and conundrum that we have in our workplaces today.

Tim Reitsma

That’s some amazing findings. I hadn’t put that together before, you know. People who, you know, we’re going to, we’re going to come into, um, derailers in our career.

It sounds like that’s just inevitable. And it’s that — what do we do about it? That’s, that’s that key piece, right? It’s, how do we respond?

Berta Aldrich

And you are, you’re so correct. And if there’s one thing that your leaders can take away from this podcast, it’s, it will happen to you. You know, I had, after the book was published, I’ve received emails and phone calls from across the globe.

From other countries, from the US, across the globe who have told me their personal stories. And of course, you know, due to confidentiality, I would never share them. But in total, I have received stories from CEOs, from others in the C-suite, from women who sit on boards to men who sit on boards, all the way into the mid-levels of organizations where this has happened to them and they had no idea what it was.

They just knew that they were sideways in their careers. They knew that what was happening wasn’t right. Um, that they were a top performer up until this certain incident happened, but it ended up taking them off their upper trajectory. And in probably 80% of the cases of the people that I spoke to directly, 80% of them quit their job.

And they were terrific leaders with fantastic results and a resume that would make anyone, um, you know, anyone’s heart sing and want to work for them.

Tim Reitsma

Wow. 80% have left their jobs. That’s incredible. And let’s, let’s talk about that for a minute, because as you mentioned, it’s these leaders who may be, um, from, you know, uh, if you look at it at a traditional org structure may be on top or below you who are unchecked, but have kind of figured out the politics of the organization to get to where they want to go.

And, and it’s like these, these potential, these folks are saying, just get out of my way. And, and so that’s so disheartening, to be honest, it’s so disheartening to hear that.

Berta Aldrich

It is. And you know, there’s a little bit of strategy in the book and, you know, real quick, if you look back at the history of, and kind of the old world mechanics of management, there used to be a time when senior executives would actually encourage infighting in order to identify their best performers.

So they thought if they could actually create hyper-competitiveness, the best would end up rising to the top. Well, that type of philosophy is still being used today in modern workplaces. The only problem is that it actually derails, for lack of a better term, diversity efforts and high performance. It actually has the opposite effect today on women, people of color, and most men.

So that old-world tactic is not working and that’s what we need to change within our organizations because those people are perpetuating over competition. And because of that, they’re, again, derailing the highest performers.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. It’s uh, it just makes me think, Man, we need to do better as leaders in organizations. We need to make sure that we’re in check and make sure that we are just being aware of what’s happening around us and the, and the teams that are, whether it’s a small team or large team, big company, small company. As leaders, you know, it’s our responsibility, to hold each other in check and to be able to hold each other accountable.

Berta Aldrich

Yeah and, and you know what I am, if you read any of my LinkedIn posts or anything, you’ll see that I am a huge advocate of gender-balanced teams. Um, my highest performing teams were always comprised of both men and women. And what I would say about the men in our organizations is — once they know this information, once they’re aware of the content in Winning the Talent Shift, I have also received so many phone calls and asking me to help them create a business that’s friendly to integrate a diverse work teams.

And so again, this is an awareness issue, and I think we all need to do better. Quite honestly, 65% of the perpetrators in the workplace are men, but 35% are women. And so it’s coming from both sides.

Tim Reitsma

It’s coming from both sides, but you know, those are still compelling stats that, um, you know, that men who are listening to this podcast, you know, we need to, we need to put ourselves in check. It’s, the data shows it.

You know, there was one stat I was reading in the book, just the, uh, the amount of the percentage of, um, men to women who are leaving their jobs. I mean, women are leaving at two times the rate of men. And it’s a stat that’s, uh, a number of years old, but I could just imagine that it’s 2021 now.

Uh, it’s, it’s probably not, a whole lot has changed. And you know, often people don’t necessarily, don’t leave a company that they just love being at. They might love being at that company, but something is going on behind the scenes.

Berta Aldrich

Yeah. And actually, the statistics, since the book was published, have actually gotten worse.

We had 2 million women leave the workforce in 2020. You have 45% of women rethinking their careers in 2021. So now compound that with the fact that you know, even in finance, for example, 50% of employees are women. So just think about if you lost half of them to another industry, or if they decided to stay home, um, you’re, you’re losing some of your highest performing leaders who drives some of your highest revenue and typically lead the most highly engaged teams.

And when you think about, you know, when we, when we talk about high performers, high performers can actually impact the organization two to five times that of an average performer. So if you just think about productivity and the bottom line, companies cannot afford, literally afford to lose their high performers.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. You’re, you’re absolutely right. We can’t, we can’t afford to lose them, lose high-performers. You know, uh, often I’ve heard so many stories of people who’ve left their job in a high paying job for, for reasons that, um, that’s not necessarily about the money. It’s just what’s been going on internally and people have taken lower salaries or, you know, left a prestigious career, um, because they just couldn’t handle how, how the business had been run.

And, uh, and so, you know, as we’re going through this conversation, we’ve identified some of the characteristics of that imposter leader. Somebody who is, you know, that medium mediocre performer or someone who is that, you know, I almost see this like egocentric person. Just get out of my way. I’m going to take credit for everything to get to the top. I don’t care who, who I, um, you know, rollover, uh, along the way.

And so, you know, you mentioned a bit ago about courage. So how does courage fit into this?

Berta Aldrich

Hmm. Yeah, that’s another great question. So when I talk about courage, um, you know, a lot of people think that they have to be this warrior in the workplace that’s going to go advocate for, you know, significant change, transformational change. But to me, courage is every day that you walk into the workplace that you make it one step better than it was the day before. That’s courage. Courage starts small and courage then helps you, helps you create confidence. And confidence then helps you create change. And with change, you then have the opportunity for greater success.

So everything to me starts with courage. And that means, you know, we can talk through some specific examples for your listeners on how they can create that courage in certain circumstances where these imposter leaders are using derailing behaviors. So if you want to head there, we can talk about that.

Tim Reitsma

I’d love to. Let’s, let’s head there for a little bit.

Berta Aldrich

All right, let’s do it.

So, one of the most common, uh, derailers that high performers experience is body language intimidation. And again, we don’t talk about this a lot, um, but the purpose of the intimidation really the goal is the same, regardless of how they use it. It’s to exert power over you and diminish your performance.

So this can manifest in a variety of ways, such as let’s say, aggressive body language in a meeting while you’re speaking. So for example, someone in the meeting while you’re speaking, folds their arms, or they look down, or maybe even they roll their eyes. Or another tactic, um, that is sometimes used, is let’s say you’re in a one-on-one with an individual and the other person is standing while you’re sitting, which seems nuanced but it’s not.

What that does is, is actually changes the balance in the room. So keep in mind if someone is doing this if someone’s standing and you’re sitting, really what they’re trying to do is, is physically exert power over you.

What does that do to you psychologically? You don’t even know that it’s happening, but of course, there’s an intimidation factor. And what does intimidation do? It decreases your confidence. And when you have decreased confidence, you’re not at the top of your game. So that is one tactic that I see used quite often against high performers and they don’t even know what the true purpose is.

They know that something’s wrong. And sometimes in meetings, they end up focusing on this individual because they want to turn them around, right? They want to convince them of what they’re speaking about and, um, and typically it backfires because that’s not what the person is really intending to do.

Tim Reitsma

It’s a, as you’re speaking I was thinking of a, of an example of my career, where I reported a, number of years ago, reported to the general manager CEO of, of the business and he would intentionally make sure his laptop is closed. There’s nothing on his screen. Uh, often we would sit at a little meeting table inside his office with just our notebooks.

Um, just because it’s the intentionality of what’s going on. He’s come prepared if you have an agenda or something. Print it off. We don’t, I don’t want any tech in the office, but I’ve also had leaders where you’re, you know, you’re in a one-on-one giving an update and you know that they’re not paying attention because their eyes are darting around their screen looking at something else.

And that is, it’s, it has a play on, you know, maybe not today, tomorrow, but it adds up. And those are like a micro behavior that, that has an effect on you.

Berta Aldrich

It does. It does. And then, you know, to flip it around, you’re exactly right. The best leaders are present.

And I’ll never forget one of my favorite leaders that I ever had. My first one-on-one with him. He came around from behind his desk and actually pulled his chair around so he was sitting right next to me. And that spoke volumes. He was so respectful. He was respectful in what I had to say. And right there, it showed that we were a team and that he was on my side and wanted me to be successful. That’s small event right there, set in motion, a 20 plus year relationship of respect and honor.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, it’s that one little moment that took, you know, five seconds to pull a chair around and you’re still talking about it to this day, ’cause it, it sticks with you. It’s an example of, they might not know, you know, those leaders might be taking the company in 10 different directions, not necessarily know where it’s going, but you know that they respect you enough to pull their chair around, and uh, you know, not saying that’s what your leader was doing was, you know, not doing, but, uh, but they were able to pull the chair around and, and meet you where you’re at and not say, Hey, I’m, I’m on top of you. I’m, I’m the authority here. That’s, that’s such a great, great story.

And for anybody who’s listening, that’s something easy to do. If you’re in a leadership position, you know, if you know, we are in this hybrid, remote work, maybe you’re in the office, maybe, you know, somebody might be thinking, well, how do I do this over a Google Meet or Zoom or, you know, virtual meeting? Well, it’s easy. Just, if you have a couple of monitors, make sure there’s nothing up on your other screen, because somebody can see your head turn and they know when you’re reading something else and not paying attention.

So it’s just these little things that you can still do.

Berta Aldrich

So true. So true. People just want your time. They want your time and your attention as a leader.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. And so what else, you know, that’s, that’s something so practical that I think I need to, I need to make sure when I go into my afternoon of meetings, that I am, I’m fully present and I’m practicing that.

And so, you know, what else, what, what’s, what’s one other thing that we can do? And, and again, tying it back to this, I love the theme of courage, in the workplace.

Berta Aldrich

Yeah, I think, you know, one of the other, let’s talk tactic and then let’s talk best practices, right? Because we certainly want to balance this out.

You know, one of the other tactics that some of these imposters leaders use is negative surprise meetings or conversations. So again, it’s another intimidation tactic to use the element of surprise to put you back on your heels while aggressively communicating, maybe it’s a misperformance, or it could actually be gaslighting, um, in disguise.

And again, there’s lots of information in the book about gaslighting. You know, they use this tactic because they know the element of aggressive surprise creates a visceral reaction within the other person, within the other person’s body. You know, visceral reactions create restricted blood flow to the brain.

There’s, there’s whole neurology around it. The other person cannot think, they cannot respond. It leaves you confused. It leaves you with shattered confidence. It, you’re confused. You’re wondering how to move forward. And that’s the exact intent of the conversation. And so if you ever find yourself in that position where it’s surprise conversation, just remember at the very beginning — ABC (Always Be Curious).

And if you start asking questions, meaningful questions. Tell me more about that. Tell me why you think that. The other individual is going to see that you’re engaged in the conversation as well and hopefully bring down the tone. Now it doesn’t always work because if it is a gaslighting situation, they want to stir this up. They want this type of aggression to continue.

So again, if it does, and that technique doesn’t work, ABC (Always Be Curious), then you’ll know that maybe there’s something a little bit more sinister going on and keep in mind these tactics occur because there is a greater agenda. It doesn’t mean that they’re just picking on you.

I think a lot of people are like, “Why doesn’t that person like me” has nothing to do with like, or dislike. It has something to do with a bigger agenda, um, that they’re actually implementing through this particular tactic. So, ABC — Always Be Curious.

Tim Reitsma

Always be curious. Always follow up with the feedback if it’s or the situation, if you’re unclear, just ‘Thanks, tell me more’.

Berta Aldrich

Yes.

Tim Reitsma

That’s such a powerful reaction instead of digging your heels in and let’s, you know, battle it out. Uh, I learned that early on in my career that that only lands you in hot water. And I’ve, I did it once at the beginning of my career and I’ll never forget it. It was a learning moment. If I ever decide to write a book like you did, for your daughter, if I write one for my kids like that, that’ll be a story in there, like it sticks with you. But it’s also how you respond to it. It’s so, so key. And, you know, I love that ABC, um, always be curious. Such, such an easy thing to do, and, uh, an easy thing to remember.

Berta Aldrich

It is. It’s so easy to remember. And again, because it’s a difficult situation, right?

It’s a difficult, critical conversation. And the best thing that you can do as a high-performing leader is always remain professional. You know, don’t ever let these other individuals take you off your game, you know? Um, as they say in the seal program, “Don’t ever ring the bell. Don’t give in.”

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. It’s, uh, it’s, sometimes it’s definitely easier said than done, especially when you’re feeling beat down, worn out and that’s, that’s when, you know, if you are feeling that way, Yes, you can leave your job. But maybe there’s opportunity to drive change internally and talking to somebody, whether it’s another leader in your organization or your people and culture team, or, you know, trusted advisor or mentor, um, to talk about how you’re feeling versus leaving your role.

Maybe it is, maybe you do need to leave. And, um, you know, that would be unfortunate, especially if you, if you do love what you’re doing.

Berta Aldrich

Absolutely. Absolutely. And sometimes, you know, and sometimes you don’t have that perspective until you do leave or until there’s an inflection point. Um, but always remember, it’s never going to stay this way.

Something is always going to change. Um, you may get a different leader. If it’s your leader, that’s the issue. Your boss, um, they may get rotated, uh, in four to six months. So again, most people who are in these situations, they do feel that it’s dire. A lot of them have sleepless nights. They can’t understand why it’s happening to them.

And the key here is to understand that you will have clarity someday. You just don’t have it now, and things will change. It will not always stay like this, because you always have the choice, ultimately. And we talk about choice in the book.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, and we do have choice. You’re absolutely right. I mean, we could do a whole podcast just on that choice that we do have. We don’t have to stay in these situations and you know, it’s just getting your head, uh, kind of, clearing up things that are going on in your mind, in your head, and to be able to see, see things through, through the fog, I guess. For lack of a better analogy, but, uh, that’s great.

So we’ve kind of talked about a couple of things about making sure that, you know, we’re not leaving people unchecked because people will come from, from all different sides of an organization, um, or all different levels of the organization who may try and, and, and take your job, derail you.

Whether it’s a small company or, or a large company. I’ve typically worked in some small companies and, um, the company that I work, work for now, uh, we were talking yesterday about how we, we hired somebody new and she was still kind of on the fence about things. And we were like, Well, why? She said everyone is so nice and everyone has each other’s back. Like, is this real?

And, uh, and I was thinking about going into this conversation, like, Man, what happened? She’s, she’s a young professional, like what happened in her previous roles that is leaving her skeptical? And it’s, it’s sad, but yes. It exists. These organizations exist that have your back, uh, care about you as an individual, want to see you succeed, um, regardless of gender and race and want to see you, um, to grow in your career.

Berta Aldrich

Yeah. And I think that’s the key, is to find those companies. Find those companies that match your value system in not just what they say on paper. Um, you know, I had a post, I think it was a couple of weeks ago about when you interview. You know, there’s a lot of people who are in play right now and looking for a different role and, and maybe more flexibility someplace else.

And, you know, my unsolicited advice was, look for those companies who not only have their wife figured out, but they have their How figured out. And what I mean by that is — they’re living their values on their wall. You know, 14% of companies today live their company values. That means 86% don’t. And so your coworker probably came from the 86%.

And you know, you have to be careful where you go to work, because if your values aren’t aligned and there isn’t an infrastructure in place to support them, that’s where most often these imposter leaders run wild and, uh, and are completely unchecked.

Tim Reitsma

Well, absolutely. And I think it’s so timely. Um, this book — Winning the Talent Shift, whether it’s 2021, 2022, 2023, you know, right now there’s a lot of talk about the great resignation. People are leaving their jobs and their roles. I heard one study that came out was, 95% of people are thinking about leaving their jobs, which is just crazy.

So, how do you win? How do you win in that? And that is, you’ve got to look internally. You’ve got to look at, are we living our values? Do we have our Why? I love that you said, Do we have our How figured out?

It’s like, why do we exist? Okay, we know why we exist, but how are we doing it? Like that is, that is, again, I think we have a whole series of podcasts with you Berta coming up, because that is, that’s so, so key. And, um, and yeah, if we don’t have our organizations in check, people are going to be looking for other roles, other jobs.

Berta Aldrich

And you know what? You want to retain those individuals with the highest character.

You know, I would say that if you’re hiring for anything, hire for character first, because those individuals will, they have this internal beacon that others are attracted to and they have an internal light that, that kind of paves the way for others to follow and let them hire them, let them do their job.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Hire for character. We can, we can all see somebody’s LinkedIn and resume, right? If we believe that to be true, if it’s not, well, then, then there’s something wrong with the character of the individual, but it’s, it’s higher for that character. That’s, that’s so great. And I’m really curious, what, what has been that one piece of advice, and I’ve kind of putting you on the spot here.

Maybe there’s one piece of advice that you’ve shared with your daughter that, uh, that is key in for her entering the workforce in corporate America. So, what does that one piece?

Berta Aldrich

Always believe in yourself.

And I know that is so cliche and I wish I had something better that just came off the top of my head. Um, but far too often, far too often, other people try to drag you down, not because you’re below them, but because you’re above them. And if you just remember that, you actually can, can, you know, can put everything in perspective. Maintain your confidence, keep moving forward, but do not ever let anyone deplete your confidence or derail your career when you know, um, you know what path you’re on.

Tim Reitsma

Oh, that’s, it is cliche, but it’s so true. Believe in yourself and it’s, I love it. I recently recorded a podcast and, uh, we were talking about insecurities and how often, you know, we don’t, if we don’t believe in ourselves, these insecurities, this, this internal, um, voice picks off. So always believe in yourself. That’s, that’s such great advice.

And, and, uh, you know, for those who are listening, I highly encourage you to pick up the book, Winning the Talent Shift. It’s, it’s a phenomenal practical book. It’s not just, um, from your perspective, Berta. And what I love about it is towards the end of the chapters, it’s, it’s, it has a plan.

Here’s what you do, which a lot of books out there don’t have that plan and, and yours does. And so I think it’s, it’s such a great, a great read and it’s something that we need to be focusing on. We need to be looking at, at, uh, are there unchecked leaders and what’s, what’s it doing to the diversity of our workforce?

I think that is such a key element. We didn’t really touch on that too much today, but that’s such a key element that you’ve written into the book is, is yeah. It’s, um, women are leaving our organizations at a faster rate, than men, and that’s just reality. How do we, how do we change that then? And that’s something that we need to be focusing on in, now, today. Not tomorrow, but today.

Berta Aldrich

Today, because if your company wants to win the great resignation, they need to create change now. And that’s where your greatest leaders that are listening to this podcast, we’re counting on you to have the courage to do it.

Tim Reitsma

Yes. That’s, I love how you’ve tied it all together. It’s having the courage to do so.

If you’re seeing this behavior in your organization, and you don’t know what to do, I would, again, recommend you reach out to, uh, to Berta, um, to myself. Let’s, let’s help you get there.

And I know Berta that you, you coach and you mentor and, um, so, you know, it’s, uh, there’s, there’s almost no, no excuse to be stuck. There’s resources. There’s people that can help you, um, to get unstuck.

So with that, I just want to thank you Berta for coming on. Uh, we could go on for a couple of hours, I think, on the podcast, and, uh, it’s such a pleasure to talk to you.

And for those who are listening, I really hope you enjoyed this, this episode as much as I have. There’s so many practical insights in here. And, um, if you, if you’ve liked what you heard today, uh, please let us know. In the show notes, I’ll put a link to a Berta’s LinkedIn, as well as how to get ahold of her through her website.

And again, the book — Winning the Talent Shift, pick it up today. And, uh, with that, I hope everyone has a great day.

Thanks again, Berta for coming on.

Berta Aldrich

It’s been an honor and a pleasure. Thanks so much, Tim.

Tim Reitsma

Thank you.