The Way We Work Isn't Working (with Ruth Penfold from Pancakes and Peacocks) Featured Image

The Way We Work Isn’t Working (with Ruth Penfold from Pancakes and Peacocks)

Tim Reitsma is joined by Ruth Penfold, Founder of Pancakes and Peacocks—a people and culture organization that partners with startups and corporations to help create space for leaders and teams to thrive. Ruth has spent the past two decades building and rebuilding teams with organizations including Shazam, Onfido, and bp Launchpad. Listen to learn how the way we work isn’t working, how we can build something better, and to learn Ruth’s golden rules for innovation leadership.

Interview Highlights:

  • Ruth spent about 20 years in the people world. She started out as a headhunter and then went in-house with Shazam for about five years until they sold it to Apple. And then she hopped out of there and into a machine learning FinTech called Onfido. And most recently, bp Launchpad. [2:41]
  • For Ruth, being a leader starts with self-leadership. You can’t really bring a good experience to others of you until you’re actually creating a good experience of you, for you. The work starts with you and authenticity is the secret ingredient for innovation leadership. It really is and human beings know when we’re being real and when we’re not being real. [4:36]

True resilience is really just learning what our needs are and learning how to meet those needs. — Ruth Penfold

  • As a people person, particularly one who is focused on self-development and supporting the development of others, Ruth thinks that where she felt conflicted was wanting to spend her time adding value and creating something that’s quite creative around how we’re looking at the idea of a people function in an organization and what it does. But in reality, spending her time trying to hold everything together and dealing with other things that pull her away from that. [10:49]
  • Human growth, from the lens of a founder, means learning the nuances of leadership really quickly and making sure that they know where they’re strong and where they’re weak so that they can build a team that can work with them on that. [13:54]

The difficult thing about self-awareness is you have to be willing to step into discomfort to develop self-awareness. — Ruth Penfold

  • If somebody isn’t willing to step into discomfort, and this isn’t just about founders, this is about all of us, then they’re really going to not enjoy developing self-awareness and learning about themselves. [19:47]
  • There are no shortcuts to self-awareness. You just have to put in the work and the work is continuous. Once you start, it just keeps on coming. [20:30]
  • When you’re not getting any critical feedback, there’s something wrong. You need to know people well enough to know how they’re going to be comfortable criticizing you. What do they need from you? What do they expect from you? What pleases them? What problems can you solve to keep them happy? Not in a manipulative way, but building your relationship so that you can really create the foundation for honesty. [27:51]
  • Leadership is an energy, it’s not a job. If you can start to tap in and bring that energy, before you know it, the doors of your career will start to open before you. It comes from within and it starts with you. [33:27]

Everybody can be a leader in their lives and should be a leader in their lives, because when we learn how to lead ourselves, that’s where we really can bring value to ourselves and the rest of the world. — Ruth Penfold

  • Ruth views leadership as something that is much more multidimensional than just roles, but she does also have some golden rules for innovation leadership, which is being consistent. [35:31]

Make sure that you develop the right consistency within yourself so that you can start to become more consistent to your people and to the people around you, because that’s what builds relationships, that’s what builds community. — Ruth Penfold

Guest Bio:

Ruth has spent the past two decades building and rebuilding teams with organizations including Shazam, Onfido, and bp Launchpad. She’s also built and rebuilt herself from the inside out in the process.

Whilst working in incredible roles within amazing organizations, she saw the same culture struggles, relationship issues, and growing pains play out over and over again. She thinks that the way to do work right now simply isn’t working and that we can build something better. 

She’s currently advising a number of startups, building a course around innovation, and developing her thesis around how we can reimagine the idea of work and create the space for all of us to thrive. You can follow that journey on her podcast Pancakes and Peacocks. She also coaches and teaches yoga.

Photo Of Ruth Penfold

Being a leader, for me, is about learning to access all of the different parts of yourself and hopefully have them show up in the right way to others.

— Ruth Penfold

Related articles and podcasts:

We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.

Read the Transcript:

Tim Reitsma

Is the way we are working actually working? Or, perhaps the way we work isn’t working. Ruth Penfold and I dive into this conversation. We approach this from a place of leadership in order to build resilient organizations that are actually working. Now Ruth has spent the last two decades building and rebuilding teams and with organizations, including Shazam and bp Launchpad.

While working for these incredible organizations, she saw the same cultural struggles, relationship issues, and growing pains. And she believes that the way we’re working right now just simply isn’t working and we can do something better. 

She is currently advising a number of startups and building a course around innovation and developing her thesis around how we can reimagine the idea of work and create the space for all of us to thrive. 

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 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. 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.

Hey, Ruth. Welcome to the People Managing People podcast. 

It’s such a pleasure to have you here. And you know, we connected I guess about a year ago, just in, through previous jobs, previous careers and you know, I was really drawn to you, you, and your personality and was really looking forward to getting you on our podcast. So, welcome. 

Ruth Penfold

Thank you. Thank you, Tim. It’s great to be here. And actually, likewise, we did have that special connection when we met and we both, I think even said at the time, we need to make sure that this relationship goes further than this one professional moment.

Tim Reitsma

Absolutely. Yeah. I remember that we started talking about podcasts and I know you’ve got a podcast as well. And so we’ll make sure we put a link in our show notes to the podcast, Pancakes, and Peacocks ’cause it’s just a fun, fun name and a fun podcast. So, listeners, you need to go check that out as well, but yeah.

Why don’t you introduce yourself to our guests and tell us a little bit about yourself, about what you’re up to right now?

Ruth Penfold

Yeah, absolutely. Well, so I’ve spent about 20 years in the people world. I started out as a headhunter and then I went in-house with Shazam and was with Shazam for about five years until we sold Shazam to Apple.

And then I hopped out of there and into a machine learning FinTech called Onfido. And then most recently in bp Launchpad, which was a BP Scale-up arm. So I’ve really sort of touched many different sizes of organizations and kinds of different organizations from the people standpoint, but where you find me right now, Tim is in a place where I actually decided to leave my job this summer. 

I actually decided to take a step back and reflect on me, my relationship with work, and kind of everything, really. So I’m in this kind of brilliant moment of change for myself and it is giving me an interesting amount of space to really think about, I guess, the professional world I participate in.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, it’s a, it’s, we don’t often give ourselves enough permission to take that pause in our career, in our job and just, you know, maybe we don’t, for various reasons, you know, financial, family obligations, but I think it’s, if we have that opportunity it’s important to just stop and reflect and take a look back and you know, not only is this important, but it also helps just to build our resilience and build us up as leaders.

And so you’ve had an opportunity, yeah, for the past couple of decades to be in a variety of different organizations, and you’ve been a leader and you’ve worked with various leaders. Now, one question I’ve been asking our guests is, what does it mean to be a leader? And in your own words, and I know I’m kind of put you on the spot here, I didn’t prep you with this, but you know, what does it mean to be a leader?

Ruth Penfold

I think for me being a leader starts with self-leadership. So being a leader for me is about learning to access all of the different parts of yourself and hopefully have them show up in the right way to others.

And I do think that you can’t really bring a good experience to others of you until you’re actually creating a good experience of you for you. So I think the work starts with you and authenticity is the secret ingredient for innovation leadership. It really is. And human beings know when we’re being real and when we’re not being real.

And I know it’s hard to be real because actually, I mean, if we take it right in deep there, Tim you know, I had the realization earlier this year that actually, but what I think is my personality and what I think is me is actually just a series of different kinds of conditioning that I’ve learned to stay safe in the world.

So if you think about it through that lens you know, we don’t stray from our authenticity to be malicious. We, it’s a survival technique that we’ve cooked up over the years. And I think that to say ‘show up as you truly are’ is actually not even fair, because who are we and how would we ever know?

But I think a better goal is that we can show up as who we really are that day and who we really are is vulnerable, imperfect, hopefully honest, if we’re worried about something rather than being pulled into stress responses and creating a bad experience for other people. That was not a very concise definition, but hopefully, you get the gist.

Related Read: How To Outperform Under An Imposter Leader

Tim Reitsma

Absolutely I, yeah, just to kind of paraphrase or what I’m hearing is it starts with being an authentic person and bringing your true self and your true self may vary from day-to-day. 

Ruth Penfold

Right. 

Tim Reitsma

And it just reminds me of a recent opportunity. I spoke at a local university on the topic of resilience, and it really comes down to the core of who you are as an individual.

You know, we all respond to different situations differently. But I asked the class who has done work on understanding their own personal purpose, their values, their belief systems, and out of about 50 students, one person raised their hand. And so, you know, we’re going to dive into this topic of the way of work isn’t working.

And I think we kind of landed on something here about, if we’re not able to show up in an authentic and vulnerable way every day, you know, we go into this fight or flight, this cortisol reaction, this stressor reaction, which has just such a negative effect on our workplaces. 

Ruth Penfold

Yeah, it really does. And actually, on resilience you know, resilience as a word became kind of twisted out of shape and organizations were like, oh look, we have a team of people who are working really hard and essentially annihilating themselves from the inside out. Look how resilient we are. They just keep showing up and, you know, and actually, you think that being able to sustain that as resilience for a time, I think I’ve been guilty of that myself at one point.

And actually, it’s so powerful to learn a different definition of what true resilience actually is, which true and true resilience is really just learning what our needs are and learning how to meet those needs, right? So knowing that if I feel like this today, what do I need to do to help, to support me in this space where I’m at today? 

Or if this thing has happened, what’s my best guess as to the tools that I can draw upon? And, you know, and I think at an organizational level, therefore it’s not about creating sort of these crazy machine humans that can withstand anything. It’s just about giving them the opportunity to put tools in their toolkit, really, and to build their own version of resilience, whatever that means for them.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, no, we could totally divert our whole conversation on this topic of resilience, because it’s such an important conversation to have when we think about the world of leadership and leader and the, and when we think about organizations it’s so important, but it also feeds into, you know, you and I, when we connected a couple of weeks back to talk about a podcast and something that, you know, it’s top of mind for you.

We landed on the topic of the way of work isn’t working. 

Ruth Penfold

Right. 

Tim Reitsma

And I think you’re spot on Ruth, when you talk about resilience and how organizations have said and we could come up with numerous examples of said, Oh, look, our teams are so resilient. Well, no, maybe they’re just, they’re on autopilot. They’re burnt out. They’re stressed. 

So how do we truly connect with our team? And when we think of it in the context of the way of work isn’t working, well, maybe we’ll just take a step back. What does that mean? What does that mean to you? The way of work isn’t working.

Related Read: 7 Impactful Workplace Wellness Challenges

Ruth Penfold

Yeah, absolutely. And I think, well, I mean, well, I can say is that it isn’t working for me.

And I don’t think I’m alone in that because you know, without wanting to jump on a load of buzz slogans that are out there right now, the great resignation being one of them. But I think that for me, what I was starting to experience was a relentlessness that felt uncomfortable, right? So, you know, you’re kind of driving towards things, you’re building things.

But then for myself, what I was seeing was the same challenges coming up over and over again, whether that is the growing pains of an organization that’s scaling really fast and the human growth that, that it needs to be able to do that. Whether it’s the relationship struggles that come up you know, in organizations as they’re scaling.

And I think that as a people person, particularly one who really is focused on self-development and supporting the development of others I think where I felt conflicted was, you know, it feels like you want to be spending your time adding value and actually creating something that’s quite creative around how we’re looking at the idea of a people function in an organization and what it does. But in reality, you spend your time trying to hold everything together and dealing with other things that kind of pull you away from that. 

And I think that where I landed for myself was that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. And, you know, I was part of an amazing organization working with some amazing people. But I knew that actually what I needed to create for myself was some space to be able to reflect on and maybe reinvent how we might do this better and to create some space in my world to do that. And I’ve been very lucky, Tim.

You know, actually, when I took a step back, I had a bit of time and then I’m very, I was very blessed to have some companies reach out to me and say, “Hey, can you help us? Can you talk to us about how we’re thinking about people?” So I’m actually quite lucky because I have organizations right now who want to experiment around this stuff.

And who wants to think about how to do it better, even at a kind of micro-level before we get to the macro stuff. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. It’s you know, I’ve had an opportunity to work with startups and smaller companies, whether consulting or in-house and I think you’re right on the mark. And, you know, if somebody who’s listening to this and doesn’t agree, we’d love to hear from you and love to continue the conversation.

But I, I feel you when it comes to growing pains when it comes to the people function. And it’s like getting the machine working in terms of the leadership side of things I think there’s opportunity there. Often we focus on the product, but we don’t necessarily think about, okay, how are we going to scale our people, organization, or people function? 

You know and tie right back into resilience, it’s like, okay, we’re going to scale our product, but we’re gonna keep the same amount of people. So, who’s going to do that work and, and you think about burnout, you think about you know, what does that going to do to our organizations? 

Well, the human growth side and I’d love to unpack that a little bit with you. And so what does that mean, the human growth or…

Ruth Penfold

What, to scale an organization? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And actually before just to Tim’s point, if there are people people listening to this who aren’t just exhausted, tell us, because we want to know. What is it? How are you doing it differently? 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, exactly. We’d love to hear that.

Ruth Penfold

You can write to Tim and he will let you know, right? But yeah, no. I mean, gosh, when I talk about human growth. So I think if you think about it from the lens of a founder who, by the way, you know, like founding an organization, I have such a huge amount of admiration for, because it is hard to put yourself out there in the world and try to build something.

So I have a huge amount of respect when it comes to what it takes to do that. But even if you start at that table for those people, you know, what they have to go on within themselves is like a hockey stick of growth, because if they want their organization to scale, they have to scale themselves at the same time.

And that means, you know, learning the nuances of leadership really quickly and quickly making sure that they know where they’re strong and know where they’re weak so that they can kind of build a team that, that can work with them on that. And then you’ve got that they’re kind of early crew.

And now that early crew you know, can also, I have seen that early crews scale with an organization. I mean, there’s inevitably time where people start coming in from different organizations and then you have to kind of think about how you want to make sure that you’re holding the culture together.

But certainly Onfido, the company at this the second but last company I was with did a phenomenal job of having a really solid crew of early employees who actually stayed with the organization for a really long time. And actually, many of them went on to then have their own businesses, which really is, you know, that really is a great story if you can actually do it. 

But what it takes for those human beings is you know, learning how to live in innovation imagery. And there are definitely characteristics and things that, that you need to have in your organization to support that but I think one of the biggest things there is learning to hold the discomfort in your body of growth.

You know, people think about having your own startup, any, whether it’s yours or not. You know, as it grows, there’s the great stuff about that. You have to hold that in your body, but you also have to hold the fear in your body. And you know, and all of that can feel really uncomfortable. And as human beings, we’re primed, our nervous system is primed to keep us safe.

So to actually do the big, crazy, amazing stuff, it means going against your, probably design which means you’re constantly in dialogue with yourself and in self-doubt and in all of these different things. So, so to be able to grow rapidly in any way you got to get really good at that stuff.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, and it’s, it sounds so easy, but it’s not. 

Ruth Penfold

It’s not. 

Tim Reitsma

It’s something that, again you know, we default as humans to what we’re comfortable with. You know, if I’m comfortable with spreadsheets, that’s where I’m going to bury myself if I’m having a hard day or a bad day, or, you know, and not, and drive forward that those tough conversations or those that maybe that conflict that needs to happen or that growth opportunity that needs to happen.

And so, you know, in the context of the way we work isn’t working, right? We know we need to develop ourselves as leaders, whether we’re in a startup or in this fortune 500 company. When we say the world of work isn’t working, the way we work isn’t working, for me that means, you know, we’ve set up ourselves and set up our organizations where, you know, we’re just running a machine and we were not able to bring our authentic self to the workplace. 

You know, a part of our theme here, our purpose of People Managing People is to build a better world of work. And how do we do that? Well, we can say, okay, well we need tools to measure engagement and, you know, that’s helpful. But what that means to me is how do we create and build leaders who can bring their true selves and build a trusting team. Because man, if we have the trust of our teams, we’re going to, we’re going to outperform.

We know that. We know that because if people are able to bring their whole self to work, we know, and data shows that organizations are going to propel themselves way quicker than those organizations who don’t have that trust, that foundation. And what are your thoughts on that?

Related Podcast: Unlearning Leadership: How To Lead In The New World Of Work (with Bev Attfield from Within People)

Ruth Penfold

Yeah. So it’s an interesting one. So, and I guess where my brain goes sometimes, Tim, is is there another way of coming together to build stuff that’s actually completely different to the organizational models that we have today? I think we’re some way away from that. Yeah. 

So, you know, in, in the here and now, I think I think that at the very least, to build the kind of dynamics that you need to have within a team and as a leader within your team, so you know, the difficult thing about self-awareness is you have to be willing to step into discomfort to develop self-awareness. And so if somebody isn’t willing to step into discomfort, even if they can hold the discomfort of founding a company, and this isn’t just about founders, this is about all of us.

Right? But if they can’t hold the discomfort of growth, they’re really going to not enjoy developing self-awareness and learning about themselves, ’cause that means, I’m sorry, folks stepping into some of our pain and looking at how we are, why we are and learning about ourselves. And the more impact-focused we can be as leaders.

And that is to consider how we show up to others and what our impact is, so much the better, but actually, do you know what? There are some ways that you can get around this. There are no shortcuts to self-awareness, just to be clear. You just have to put in the work and the work is continuous. Once you start, you just, it just keeps on coming.

Right? So get ready for that. But there are some things that you can do as leaders. And I think, really think about your organization through the eyes of, as if you’re a marketer, right? And as if you’re trying to think about how you might consider your customer relationships. So, if you want to build trust, then what are the psychological factors that you need to have in place to make sure that you do that?

Right? So, unity. I love. Community is one of my values actually, but we have an emotional need for community as humans, whether we like it or not. If we don’t, it’s because we probably had some stuff happen, which means we just want to be on our own, right? But if we can feel a connection to others, we’re more likely to buy from them.

That’s how it works when people are marketing to us. So, how can you create the connection with your people? You know, and there’s a reason why you see these crazes and this tribalism pop up with things like CrossFit or SoulCycle or things like that because what those folks do really well is community.

And I’m not suggesting that we create this sort of cult-like, cult-like idealism or something that like, please know. But, you get what I’m saying? The community element is really important. And as is the idea of kind of, giving something back after receiving something. So some degree of that between us, I think is really important.

We build up our feelings of, you know, if we can build up our reserves of good feelings towards others by giving and receiving, and that, that flow that we create, it’s really powerful. And I think also as a leader, like, you know, who do you buy from people that you trust because they seem to have some kind of authority about the thing that they’re doing.

Now let’s not go there now. I’m not suggesting that you go and pretend you know all of the things when you know, none of the things, but actually, you’ll create authority by saying, I know none of the things. You know more of the things, show me. So take that approach instead, but you know, we do need to feel like you’re credible, right?

And that we’re buying, we’re going to buy from you because we understand and we feel that kind of you know, credibility from you. And then the perception of you. So that, and that’s the branding side, right? So we’re massively influenced by other people. I hate that about me, but we are influenced. I try not to be, but I am influenced by other people.

And I think lots of humans are the same, whether we like it or not. So, you know, if other people feel good about you, we’re probably going to feel good about you, too. So it’s kind of building that good energy and I think if this stuff doesn’t come naturally to you, then that’s okay. I mean, like, look at it through the lens of how you would scale the commercial side of your business and consider your relationships with your team through that lens.

And then you can, I mean, I can go deeper into building stakeholder, empathy, maps, and all sorts, but you get where I’m going with it, right, Tim? 

Related Read: Employer Branding: Where To Start And How To Keep It Authentic

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I’m following you, for sure. Yeah, I think it’s it’s, you’re talking about some things that I haven’t necessarily thought about.

So I’m learning here and cause it’s so easy to say, it’s like, oh, we need to see to build self-awareness. So you take an assessment and then it says, “Hey, you’re not that self-aware”, you don’t agree with it. So you kind of put it on the shelf and go, Nah, I’m the most self-aware person I know. 

Ruth Penfold

Yeah, let me go back to strengths finder, ’cause that tells me I’m good at things. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah yeah, exactly. I’m just going to go back to the assessments that I like. That’s a, you know, kind of putting that you know, putting that, you know, chip on my shoulder, making me sit high on my soapbox and you know, it’s a great assessment. I think we need to balance out these assessments.

So assessments are great, but they don’t tell the whole story and you know, it doesn’t help us necessarily build our organizations in a way that will work. You know, it’s great. We can have a great product. We could have you know, a great sales team, we could have terrible leaders in our organizations.

And, you know, just to go back to this buzzword that I, you know, kind of cringe when I hear it, it’s the great resignation, but what if we, in an organization, whether we’re a leader, people, culture, wherever we are on that org chart, but what if we call it the great reflection? We actually take time and just reflect internally, going, oh, you know, like attrition is good.

You know, we turn over is great, but you know, let’s ask ourselves, you know, what’s going on? You know, what’s the reason behind it? Is there data that we can extract to help to help us become more resilient into the future? Resilient organizations, but also resilient leaders. And maybe it’s, we don’t like what we see when we reflect in and actually sit back and go, what’s happening. 

I worked at an organization and we went through turmoil where about a quarter of the workforce left within a very short period of time. And it wasn’t, there wasn’t a lot of reflection. It was more, how do we just fill these seats?

And so if now, many years later, if we would have actually took time and reflect and say, “Hey, what’s happening? Like the way we’re working isn’t working, what’s happening?” It would have caused us to probably have a different reaction or different change. 

And I’m curious, have you seen that in, in companies that you’ve been involved in or you know of, and are people taking this opportunity to reflect because you know, that helps build our self-awareness?

This is one of the hardest things I had to do as a leader is when I was struggling and I had a coach and one of the exercises was go round to your team or your peers and ask for areas that you can improve on as well as your strengths. Man, what an eye-opening experience. That wasn’t fun. I still remember it. I still have the paper but it was hard. 

And so I’m just curious, like, what’s, what has been your experience in building that self-awareness from an organization, but also a leader perspective?

Ruth Penfold

Yeah. Yeah. Goodness. Yeah, so, I mean, I think, yeah, many organizations and humans are taking this as a moment for like, maybe rather than the great resignation, maybe it’s the great retrospective. 

It’s like the biggest retro we ever had. You know, it’s like, oh yeah. But yeah, I mean, I think hardest of all to come back to what you’re saying about feedback and you know, getting prepared to hear the good and the bad is actually, there’s a big part to that, which is, and I’ve been guilty of this.

I actually am quite disciplined about asking for feedback, but where I haven’t been disciplined always is when you’re not getting any critical feedback, there’s something wrong. Right? You know, I have been in that disillusionment of, Oh, okay. So everyone seems to be okay. And then it’s like, Oh no, hang on, they’re not okay. Right? 

So I mean, what I would say, even from personal painful experience is that therefore you really have to know at an individual level as much as possible, certainly with your direct reports but definitely, as much as you can at an organizational level too. Like what do you pick, what, you need to know people well enough to know how they’re going to be comfortable criticizing you, right? 

You know, what do they need from you? What do they expect from you? What pleases them? What problems can you solve to keep them happy? Not in a manipulative way, but building your relationship, but also what doesn’t work with them and where have they reacted badly in the past. So that you actually learn the sort of dynamics of the humans that are certainly your closest humans, so that you can really create the foundation for honesty, honest reflection between all of you.

And I think that is quite hard. That’s quite, it’s quite a hard place to be but I think as long as you can do that and you can get to that place of honesty, then wonderful. But I think many organizations right now are reflecting deeply and you know, some of the organizations that I’m working with, I’m very lucky, like I said, that they want to look at kind of reinventing and I’m working with some incredibly proactive and progressive CEOs who really want to build something that but that the people in it feel truly empowered to be a part of. 

Know, but I mean, I and not necessarily with those companies and not even necessarily with the ones that I’ve worked within but I’ve definitely within businesses before her dove and I also coach people. So I do hear about this by proxy too. 

And what I think we still have too much of is people believing that the experience that they’re feeling of their business is the experience of everybody. So somebody in a leadership role they think, they feel like they’re able to be honest and straightforward in their business, for example.

And they believe that people feel that too. But that people don’t necessarily feel like that. Some do, but some don’t. And I think that’s where all of this stuff comes together, right? Is that, you know, that, that’s the very opposite of creating inclusion, you know? You know, and you can do it with the best of intention and you really don’t mean to do it but until you’re really able to find the right flow, that means that each person who is sitting at a table with you feels able to express themselves freely in the truest versions of themselves that day, as we talked about earlier. You know, that’s where you’re going to start to, to really create something magical together.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. Wow. That’s powerful, Ruth. Thanks for sharing that. I think if we can just take that last couple of minutes and just say that is how we’re going to fix the way we work. That’s that, that really resonates with me and there’s a lot packed in there. And leaders and I’m kind of feeling guilty of this of, Okay, I’ve, I’m building a team. I’m leading a team. Are they being honest with me? That’s my team being.. 

So, so I know my team’s going to be listening to this because they’re going to be the ones publishing the podcast. And I truly want to create an environment of honesty and trust and because you know, I’ve, I have my own blinders on. As leaders, we have our blinders on. 

Ruth Penfold

We do, we do. 

Tim Reitsma

And, and man, if we’re not open and receptive to hearing that criticism, that feedback I often, and I’m guilty of this. I, if I get feedback, I go to a place of defensiveness and I feel the tension and I’m, I, it takes me a while to just calm down. So often I’ll leave, I’ll end the situation or I’ll leave a conversation just like, Okay, thanks for that.

But I need to come back to it because I know, I, and I know this about myself, that if I attack it, if I go at it right in that scenario, well, when I’m receiving it, I’m hearing it, but I know my reactions are going to be great. And I’ve, I learned that early on in my career where yeah, it didn’t go well. And I had some, some talking too, but as leaders, man we, we have to be receptive to this.

And, not even as leaders as whether you’re an individual contributor, wherever you are in your organization, like man, growing this and being able to exercise this muscle is gonna just help us in the way we work. 

Ruth Penfold

Yeah. And I like to put it, I like to also say to particularly lots of people when I’m coaching them is, leadership is an energy, it’s not a job. Right? And everybody can be a leader in their lives and should be a leader in their lives, because you know when we learn how to lead ourselves, as I was saying from the beginning, that’s where we really can bring value to ourselves and the rest of the world. But anybody who is working their way up the corporate ladder, or you’re kind of looking up and you’re thinking, ah, you know, please remember those words.

It’s an energy, it’s not a job title. And if you can start to tap in and bring that energy before you know it, you will, the doors of your career will start to open before you, because people will be like, Wow, what is it about that person? But it comes from within and it’s, and it starts with you. 

Tim Reitsma

Oh, it’s, I love how we’ve kind of tied this all back together.

From, you know, we’ve talked about the great resignation, great retrospect. We’ve talked about resilience and I think we could spend an hour just on that conversation, but you know, even going right back to the definition of what it means to be a leader and tying that into the way we work isn’t working. It’s a and I love what you said. You know, it’s, leadership is an energy, it’s not a job. 

So if you’re listening to this and you’re striving for that management title, or you’ve got that title, you’re leading a team, it’s not just, it’s not a title. It’s the energy. 

Ruth Penfold

Yeah, it’s an energy.

Tim Reitsma

And if any leadership book or blog that you’ve read or podcasts says that you need to bring it every single day, man, I don’t know about you, but I’m human and I can’t bring it every single day.

Ruth Penfold

Yeah. 

Tim Reitsma

Let’s, what if we can be honest with our teams and say, Hey, I’m not on my A-game today. 

Ruth Penfold

Yeah, no, that’s really powerful. And actually, I do view leadership therefore as something that is much more multidimensional than just roles. But I do also have some kind of golden rules for innovation leadership, which are you know, being consistent.

So making sure that you develop the right consistency within yourself so that you can start to become more consistent to your people and to the people around you because that’s what builds relationships, that’s what builds community. Serve before you tell. So asking questions and seeking understanding first, focusing on collaboration as much as you can to get to the right outcome, because the answers don’t lie within you most of the time.

So definitely that, and then the third thing is just to always show gratitude. So, you know, gratitude for life where you are, your privilege, everything, but also a little thanks goes a long way. Even if a project isn’t quite where it needs to be you know, you’ve got people most, for the most part, investing a whole lot of themselves into trying to build something with you.

And so whatever, whether the leadership is an energy or whether it’s a role you know, a little gratitude goes a long way. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. Well, I think that again, whoever’s listening there’s three things, three takeaways that you can go and reflect on today. I think it’s a, it’s an important reminder as we look to continue to build the future of work and to build a better world of work.

And if we, if we have that opportunity to be in that leadership position leading teams, leading from a place of consistency, collaboration, gratitude. I mean, those are three, three pillars to work on starting today. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Don’t, you know, try and look for a course.

Connect with Ruth, you know, we’ll put her contact information in the show notes as well as when we release the podcast. And I think Ruth you’ve added a lot of value to me just even in this conversation. And I know people who are listening, I would encourage you to, yeah to reach out to myself, to Ruth and how can we help you in your leadership journey? 

As well as if you’re in an organization or you’re a startup and trying to look to lead better and lead from that place of innovation, I know Ruth has spent a significant amount of time in her career in this area. And so she’d be just a phenomenal benefit to any organization.

So with that, I just want to say thank you, Ruth, for coming on to the People Managing People podcast. 

Ruth Penfold

Thank you, Tim. It’s been a total pleasure and wonderful to spend time with you. 

Tim Reitsma

Yes. And again, if you’re listening, we’d love your feedback. So please head to peoplemanagingpeople.com and check out the podcast.

You can follow us and subscribe to us on all your major podcast players. And with that, we’ll wrap it up and I hope you have an amazing day.

Related Read: How To Become A Change Leader