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Improving Teamwork: Powerful Partnerships and Cross-Collaboration

Improving Teamwork: Powerful Partnerships and Cross-Collaboration

Webcast Details

  • What have two powerful partners learned about true cross-collaboration?
  • How can leaders and managers foster an intentionally collaborative environment in their teams and workplaces?
  • What does effective, collaborative workplace communication look like as people return to the office or are hybrid?

What does true cross-collaboration involve, and how can organizations, leaders, managers and teams include and value all team members in this process? What role does communication play in collaboration, and what can increase the effectiveness of that communication in the workplace? Learn from the partnership that Kristi Rubenstein, Senior Director of Enterprise Consulting at Gallup, and Ilana Ron Levey, Senior Director of Public Sector Consulting at Gallup have forged over the years, and the successes and productivity they have found in their own collaboration, even across teams.

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 9, Episode 29. This is Part 4 of a 5-part series on teamwork. Access Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 5 of the series on teamwork.

How we ... get true collaboration is by taking time to ask opinions and really invite more diversity into the conversation.

Kristi Rubenstein, 20:03

"People support what they create." And if you allow for others to be in the process of creating it with you from the onset, then you'll have a lot less work to do on the back end to try to get everybody on board with your idea.

Kristi Rubenstein, 20:25

We need to make [remote workers] feel as valued and as much a part of our culture as those that are in city centers.

Ilana Ron Levey, 33:59

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on May 25, 2021.

Jim Collison 0:20
Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. And today, never more important on that topic. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. There's a link right above our video there to let you log in. If you have questions after the fact, and many of you will listen to the recorded version of this, you can always send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And you can find us by searching "Gallup Webcasts" or there on YouTube to make sure you're up to date with everything we're doing. Dr. Jaclynn Robinson is our host today. She works as a Learning and Development Consultant here with me at Gallup, and Jaclynn, always great to see you on a Called to Coach, and welcome back!

Jaclynn Robinson 1:06
Likewise! Thank you. It feels like forever. But I think it was only 2 weeks ago. But we're in this odd time-space continuum.

Jim Collison 1:12
Yes. And things are going faster. We have a very important topic today. So why don't you get us started?

Jaclynn Robinson 1:18
Yes. So we have two brilliant humans from Gallup with us today. Kristi Rubenstein and Ilana Levy. Kristi is the Senior Director of Enterprise Consulting at Gallup. She is responsible for their professional services network of consultants, account leaders and researcher consultants across the U.S., and her team of managers and consulting professionals advise Fortune 1,000 organizations. Kristi's Top 5, in case you're wondering, is Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Communication and Positivity. And then with Ilana -- welcome, Ilana! -- she is the Senior Director of Public Sector Consulting at Gallup. So she oversees the implementation of Gallup's global public sector, client engagements and focuses on expanding those strategic partnerships with governments, multilateral organizations and philanthropic foundations. Ilana's Top 5 are Strategic, Maximizer, Individualization, Ideation and Learner. So we'll talk a little bit today about some of these overlaps with their themes. Welcome, you two ladies. It's great to have you!

Kristi Rubenstein 2:25
Thank you. It's great to be here.

Jaclynn Robinson 2:26
Yes, thank you. One of the things we wanted to talk about today, we know it marks an important day in U.S. history, and across the world it was something that impacted a lot of people and started to create some conversation. We know today is the anniversary of George Floyd's death. And so Kristi, I know you had some, some beautiful words just to help us think through this today.

Kristi Rubenstein 2:53
That's right, Jaclynn. Today marks a year since George Floyd was killed. And it was an event that compelled our country to condemn injustice and discrimination. And many additional details of those agonizing moments surrounding George Floyd's death have recently been released. And with today being the anniversary of the event, we just wanted to take time to acknowledge it and also just to reiterate our support of each other and to take time to even connect with our teams. So this morning here in Chicago, we held a town hall where we did take some time to acknowledge that it was the one-year anniversary of George Floyd's death and just be there to reiterate our support of each other. And also take a moment to reaffirm the value that we have to cultivate a workplace that makes equity and diversity and inclusion and openness a priority within the, the walls of, of our Gallup offices here in Chicago, and through, through the, the Gallup community abroad. So we just wanted to take a minute to acknowledge that today and, and think about how we can support each other along this journey.

Jaclynn Robinson 4:10
Yeah, especially as we talk about this, teams, so really connecting with, with teams today, with individuals on teams and just checking in with one another and seeing how they're doing. And that really takes us to this past year. There -- the remote work environment, COVID-19, George Floyd's death. There's been a lot that's happening. So ladies, how have you encouraged cross-collaboration and communication where people can lean on one another for tough times like this, but also actively cross-collaborate when it comes to task-oriented work?

Ilana Ron Levey 4:46
Well, maybe I'll jump in, and thank you, Kristi. That was beautifully stated, I think, about your own personal commitment and reflecting Gallup's commitment to learning from this really painful episode to make a better workplace and a better future. So thank you for that. You know, I think that this whole past year has been this incredible journey and almost leadership and management laboratory for all of us.

Ilana Ron Levey 5:18
You know, fundamentally, I think, in everything that we've done, we've needed to foster, I think, a culture of intentionality around communication. Because being remote, we really lost, I think, a lot of the spontaneity that you would typically have in a workplace. And I've been thinking a lot about it from sort of the, the manager-team member types of interactions, where some of the, the managers that we lead and that we help coach, managing remote employees was a new experience. So I think we've really been focused heavily on How do you make kind of one-on-one remote conversations meaningful, proactive, forward-looking? How do you encourage people to not just speak about sort of their tactical needs in the workplace, but how this experience of the pandemic is affecting their wellbeing, their outlook, their relationship with work? And what are they looking for in the future?

Ilana Ron Levey 6:32
I think one of the things that we're learning is that the United States and the world, I think, is going through a time of just reflection. What do you want out of your job? What do you want out of a manager? How do you want your career to develop? And I think that those who were most able to succeed in terms of communication were able to foster trust, build even stronger bonds, and take their relationship to the next level, even though it was remote. And it, you know, I think it's, it's very, very difficult to strike that balance in a manager relationship between the tactical and the proactive and meeting people where they are. And we can talk more about that throughout the show. But I think that that's been, for me at least, a major kind of theme of the last year: How do we strengthen and build management skills for those that are supervising and coaching remote workers for the first time?

Jaclynn Robinson 7:38
I just love what you said there, because that's, we've seen that, we've seen that with some of the engagement data working with organizations. If they don't have the skill set, and they're not keeping it top of mind, this past year, especially, we've seen a reduction in maybe the growth and development engagement items, where people don't feel like they're able to expand and be stretched in the workplace. Or like that career path that they were seeing for themselves is no longer a path. It looks almost blurry, because they haven't had those conversations with management. So I just love what you've been touching on. Because even in the series so far, we've talked about the importance of values -- knowing what your values are as an individual, but also as a culture. And what's ahead? What's the year ahead look like for me or for my team or for my organization? What growth and development might I receive? So --

Ilana Ron Levey 8:32
That makes a lot of sense, and I think that understanding and -- you know, I think Kristi and I spend a lot of time in our relationship thinking about this -- is acknowledging the different individuals on our teams have experienced this seminal year in a really, really different way. So how we're coaching them, the kind of future that we're trying to provide a vision for, has elements of consistency and common values, but it also sort of needs to meet people where they are, knowing that there are a lot of differences. So I think that that's been a, an interesting journey as well.

Kristi Rubenstein 9:14
You know, Jaclynn, reflecting on your question, you know, How do you encourage cross-collaboration, especially within a remote environment, whether it be around your career path, as we're talking about now, or even on other topics, like, maybe something's frustrating or getting in someone's way of success. And I think that the concept of needing to collaborate means that you have different ideas that you want to mesh together, but it also assumes that there's currently silos where there's different ideas being expressed in different places that you need to bring together. And I think what's unique about being a leader is that we get the opportunity to see across many different groups and understand when somebody needs to hear something someone else has to say. And there's been many times where Ilana and I have, have been very intentional about creating some bridges.

Kristi Rubenstein 9:14
So even if you just think about the two groups that we manage, like, we, we're all client-facing consultants, but the consultants that work in Enterprise Group are dealing mostly with our Fortune 500 companies, where Ilana's group is focused more on government, education, and more within, within the public sector. So where do we see both of our, our client-facing teams needing to hear the same information or even borrowing ideas from each other? So part of us being coleaders allows for us to say, Hey, here's what my team is talking about. What would your team have to say about that? And being able to borrow each other's skills and talents when that's needed.

Jaclynn Robinson 10:54
To, to your point, how frequently do you all connect with one another to, to have that knowledge sharing?

Kristi Rubenstein 11:01
We connect formally once a week; we have a one-on-one meeting. But I would say daily, as things come up --

Ilana Ron Levey 11:10
If Kristi is not in my life on a certain day ... I wonder where she is.

Jaclynn Robinson 11:17
A testament to the best friends at work: You both had iced coffees this morning, sitting in different areas.

Kristi Rubenstein 11:26
Jaclynn, I know that this is also a session called Called to Coach, and many people are probably wondering, like, how can I coach people to create a more collaborative environment? And I was just reflecting on some questions that might be helpful for coaches to ask, in order to identify when those bridges need to be made. So even as a manager is thinking about talking with their team members, asking questions like, you know, What do you need help with today, this week, this month? Or perhaps asking, Is there anything in your work that's affecting or frustrating you? Sometimes you'll hear people express things there. Another question that I like is, Looking back on the last day or week, can you find any part of that day or week that could have been better? And maybe that's a softer way to ask them, like What's, what's getting in their way that you might be able to make a bridge to find a connection to help improve that?

Kristi Rubenstein 12:24
And then the last one's a little bit more general, but, Is there anyone that you want to get to know better on the team or within Gallup? And how can I help you set up time to connect with them virtually? So it might just be as easy as an introductory email. But I think as leaders, we have just a large network of people that we talk to about different topics, and that we know have different specializations, that we can often be a bridge to help people just simply get connected. And that's really all that, all that you need to do. And then they'll, they'll take the topic and run with it.

Jaclynn Robinson 13:03
Yeah, I absolutely love that last question, especially because, as both of you have mentioned, you can see high level, and you have connections with leaders and managers across the organization. So someone might know that they would like to be connected, but they don't know who that person is. They just know maybe the industry or the skill set. And having that knowledge base to create that warm welcome would be so appreciated. I think that even taps into the learning and growth piece, because you're, you're helping stretch their knowledge in that degree.

Ilana Ron Levey 13:33
I think that's right. And then, you know, listening to Kristi is kind of resonating for me on the collaboration perspective, that we can't take for granted that all leaders make it a goal and an objective to collaborate really well. I think in many organizations, there are some kind of territorialism where it comes for leadership. And part of leadership is also often about advocating for resources and, you know, negotiating on budgets and hiring and who gets this and who gets that. And it's not a surprise that in some organizations, that devolves I think a little bit into a zero-sum game.

Ilana Ron Levey 14:20
So I think for teams, if they have a leader who is not seen as collaborating or doesn't collaborate effectively or doesn't prioritize collaboration, I do think that that trickles down, and it's not viewed as an ultimate sort of value. You know, another example is, I think, as a leader, setting the expectation that the way that you treat partners at work, even if they're not on your direct team, or maybe you're more senior than them, maybe you're more experienced than them -- whatever it is -- is a value that we do expect you to do everything you can to partner and collaborate effectively. And I do think that that needs to come from the top.

Ilana Ron Levey 15:12
I mean, I think we've all had workplace experiences where we've seen leaders that don't collaborate effectively, and the negative implications that it can have. And just like they say, you know, about marriages, you do have to work at it. Right? It's not that it just always organically happens. I mean, it's better if you have natural chemistry and if you genuinely like each other, but I think that there are probably leadership instances -- and we're blessed not to have this -- where leaders maybe say, "You know, I don't really want to be personal friends with this person," but they still have to prioritize the effective collaboration.

Ilana Ron Levey 15:55
So these little techniques like always making sure that we have weekly one-on-ones; copying each other on emails that, even if it doesn't feel like directly relevant in the moment, you know, Hey, I just want to make sure Kristi sees this so we can circle back later and I can explain my thinking. Or, Hey, you know, I think Kristi might not see this the same way. So I want to make sure that we follow up on this. I think we probably both kind of like keep a running list of, Oh, you know, here are 4 things I need to make sure to talk to Kristi about this week. And all of that, I think, is intentional. And, you know, we're lucky that we enjoy doing it. But I think you still have to do it, even if it's not coming from a friendship place.

Jaclynn Robinson 16:44
Thank you for those tips and tricks too, because one thing I was thinking with the coaches on, is if they're coaching that person that isn't actively cross-collaborating or doesn't see the value in it, how can they give them those little nudges, so that they've got those tips and tricks to say, It doesn't have to be widespread change that you're creating within yourself; it could be you're copying that other leader in at this point in time. But helping them, helping them see the impact of that cross-collaboration. And I like your point about leadership, too: It has to start with the leader. So if, if the coach is coaching that manager or leader, and they still don't want to be cross-collaborative, can they go to that level, or HR, to say, "I'm really trying here, but can we run a 360 to give me that extra tool for support, so they can see the impact that this is making?" So I really appreciate the tips.

Kristi Rubenstein 17:34
I think that's, that's really come into play over the last year, while we've all been virtual. I think that there's a lot more accidental interactions when you're working with people in person where you might have an opportunity to collaborate because, you know, you're getting coffee, and you ask someone about what they're working on that day. And you have a natural intersection where you might be able to collaborate or share a resource or an idea that might help that person. But when you're all connected virtually, you really have to be intentional about it. Even, you know, setting up, whenever we have team meetings, we always reserve the last 15 minutes for a breakout session. And we'll usually just through, through Zoom, put people into small groups, 3 or 4; let Zoom, you know, disparate, create the own groups, so that way, there's totally random who gets hooked up with who. And give them a topic to discuss to have, to kind of force some of those accidental interactions.

Kristi Rubenstein 18:35
You know, one other thing I wanted to mention, just about creating cross-collaboration and, and being able to really collaborate. I think that there's sometimes a misconception that, just because I got a group of people together to talk about an idea, that I collaborated. And to, you might even pick some of your best friends at work or people that might be more aligned with agreeing with your plan. So that way, you can check the box and move forward, especially for those Achievers in the audience, or people that have a lot of Execution themes and just want to get it done. But they want to make sure enough people are on board that we can move forward, like how quickly can we activate on this?

Kristi Rubenstein 19:19
But I just wanted to reiterate that collaboration really takes time. Because true collaboration means that you're taking time to pick different opinions than the ones that you might be walking into the idea with, and being willing to explore the situation from their point of view; have empathy for what they're experiencing; understand how their priorities might be aligned to different objectives than yours; and be willing to not have your plan fully baked and be willing to allow them to add their own perspective and ingredients in order to come up with something that's better in the long run. But that is how we just really get true collaboration is by taking time to ask opinions and really invite more diversity into the conversation and demonstrate inclusiveness by, by asking for other perspectives. And then everyone feels like their opinion could be heard.

Kristi Rubenstein 20:25
There's also a phrase that I live by that "People support what they create." And if you allow for others to be in the process of creating it with you from the onset, then you'll have a lot less work to do on the back end to try to get everybody on board with your idea. So it's just a matter of shifting that time to the front end of when you're actually collaborating and creating the idea. And it's, it's worth slowing down and taking the time as you're building it, in order to get collaboration at that phase. Then you'll be able to move a lot faster later.

Jaclynn Robinson 20:59
Such a great callout! That alone, too, I think, could help leaders or managers that don't allow for feedback to start allowing for feedback to get that active collaboration and the idea generation. One thing it reminds me of is this tactic I just heard in positive intelligence, which is if someone offers an idea, instead of saying "Yes, but," it's "Yes, and," and you're building on that idea. So it reminds me of exactly what you're saying: How do we construct this plan together and move towards action where all of our ideas are, are pieced in there, as opposed to just one person?

Ilana Ron Levey 21:37
Yeah, that is, that is a really insightful comment, Kristi, I'm reflecting on it, about the true collaboration and getting the definition right, versus just sort of like bringing groups together and checking out the box. And I think that something else that we might have also learned over the last year is because it is hard work -- and I really agree with you on that -- is what are the areas that require that intensive collaboration? And what are the areas where, you know what, sometimes you need to just make some individual decisions for the sake of efficiency and speed, or you have enough sense that the decision you're going to make will be reasonably accepted by other people?

Ilana Ron Levey 22:27
So I think that, you know, that's interesting we both have, we both lead with Strategic. And I think that that can sometimes help defining what are the areas where we really have to have that collaborative process and buy-in? And where can we just make some executive decisions and move on? And I think getting that right, I mean, sometimes we obviously err on the wrong side, and we make a decision that feels like this should not be controversial or require, you know, large-scale discussion. But when you get it wrong, stepping back and acknowledging that, and then, to Kristi's point, saying, OK, what were the voices that I didn't hear in that decision? Why, why was my instinct wrong? And what did I miss?

Ilana Ron Levey 23:18
And learning from it, I think can be really powerful, because I think that it's not reasonable to expect that a leader gets every decision correct. I think what is reasonable to expect is that a leader acknowledges if they made a sort of a decision that wasn't the best decision and learns from that to establish stronger collaboration and processes moving forward.

Jaclynn Robinson 23:45
Hear, hear! So I just coached a manager. And it reminds me of what you just said, because, because she does that at the management level, whenever she is in a one-on-one with an employee who might not be hearing the message of the other person that they're working with. She'll take those experiences that she has, and she'll pose those same questions, to say, "But have you, have you thought about it through their side, through their perspective?" And they might say, "Oh, actually, no, I haven't." "What might have been going through their minds? How, how would you have preferred the conversation to go? Where can you meet in the middle?"

Jaclynn Robinson 24:25
So I love that we're talking about leadership and management here. Because to one degree, if you're not collaborating, and you don't have those effective partnerships, for one, the teams see it. But if you're collaborating and you have those active partnerships, then you have a lot of that wherewithal and the actions and insights and questions to be able to pose to your teams, to have them be even more effective and collaborative. So I just wanted to call that out because I, from the perspective that you just offered, I saw that kind of in action just this past week with, with a leader that had this conversation with her, with her employee, who was pretty frustrated at one of the individuals she was working with. And she posed similar questions.

Ilana Ron Levey 25:11
You know, it's really interesting. And I know that we're going to talk a little bit about collaboration and hybrid workplaces and return to work and those interesting topics. Something that I've been thinking about, and I don't know the answer -- I don't know if anyone knows the answer -- is, on some levels, was collaboration more effective remotely and will, where there'll be some challenges when we're all back to physical workplaces, or is the reverse true? Because something that I can think about is, you know, Kristi's in Chicago, you know, interacting with lots of great Gallup folks. I'm in Washington, D.C., interacting with lots of other great Gallup folks. And in that in-person interaction, it's a lot easier to make a decision on the fly based on some, you know, connections that you have there or things that you observe.

Ilana Ron Levey 26:12
And I think that sometimes, you may forget a little bit to take that step back and say, OK, actually, I need to collaborate a little bit more broadly or include voices of people who are not physically located here, in order to come to the right decision. So I think that there's clearly going to be advantages to return to work. But I think that the, that virtual setting where everyone was remote probably did raise the bar on the intentionality of collaboration. And we'll just have to think about how we can continue some of those techniques that really worked once we're back into those impromptu personal interactions in person.

Jaclynn Robinson 26:58
It's good insight. And have you, have you ladies thought about what that's going to look like or how you plan to set up the teams for success too? Because to your point, communication has changed and intentionality has changed since we've been remote. Do you see that shifting again, once people are back in office, or some are, are hybrid, you know, or some are just fully remote and some are in the office? Is that going to impact communication styles and wellbeing and burnout and some of those, those pieces we were talking about earlier?

Kristi Rubenstein 27:29
Yeah, we thought about this a lot in Chicago. We have, you know, a beautiful office here. You can see the Chicago River coming in from Lake Michigan. And then here it branches north and south. So we, we have the opportunity to be in a beautiful space together. There's a lot of just physical spaces in our office where we can collaborate and work together, you know, whiteboard rooms, treadmill desks, you know, just an open-office concept with enough of a barrier that you still have, have your own space and can have your own conversations. But you can overhear things happening.

Kristi Rubenstein 28:04
So actually, last Tuesday was my first day back in the office. And I remember sitting at my desk and overhearing another consultant talk to their clients about Gallup's work in the space of ESG. And it's something that Ilana and I have worked with our Gallup practice leaders to talk about, you know, what's Gallup's offerings and approach around ESG that we can talk to our clients about. And then we launch an offering like this. And then we don't, we don't really hear anything, because our consultants are out talking with their clients about it. And then a few months later, we'll see a result. Like we'll see a new project come through or an impact that was made at a client. So we kind of see the beginning of it and the end of it, and we miss out on the middle. But being in the office, I had an opportunity to hear that consultant talking with their client about it. And I, it just, it was like such a surprise to see it in action and to know that he was utilizing all of the resources at his disposal to be there for his client around this important question that they had.

Kristi Rubenstein 29:11
So I want to make sure that we have an opportunity to promote people being in the office. You know, in order to have that kind of interaction, though, you have to show up. And I think that there's a lot of benefits that have been gained from this hybrid environment. So what we're suggesting is that, you know, 3 to 5 days a week, you're in the office, depending on what your schedule looks like. And then one day a week, we will have some sort of event that will help people collaborate and have even some social interaction. So that could be a professional event where someone gives a briefing on something they're doing with a client to a personal event to go out and celebrate someone's work anniversary. Maybe it's celebrating a holiday, so that way people can feel like themselves at work. So just give them an opportunity to be intentional about connecting.

Jaclynn Robinson 30:03
Those are wonderful ideas. Ilana, I think you were gonna say something and I interrupted.

Ilana Ron Levey 30:08
I love that. Well, first of all, I'm, I'm jealous. Our, our, I think, equally beautiful, but differently beautiful Washington, D.C., office is under renovation. It should reopen at the end of June, maybe the beginning of July, which is when I'll go back to the office. But I'm definitely at the point now where I'm very much looking forward to it. And then the nice thing is, I think this delayed return to work for Washington, D.C., teams is hopefully just sort of like raising the excitement, limiting the trepidation when we see some of our other Gallup colleagues and, and clients very happily back in the office. And I think that that vision of the hybrid workplace, what I hope is that it just represents the best of both worlds.

Ilana Ron Levey 30:56
You know, Gallup, we've always had a culture of flexibility. And we've always had a degree of a hybrid option, which many people utilized. So what I do love about it is I think we're just expanding on our values of what we know drives performance and engagement. And it's not going to be this sort of like wholesale, extreme culture change, like it is in, in some workplaces where there was no remote work before. So I think we've, we've done a lot of research; we've, we've really studied a lot, particularly about women in the workplace. And understanding that flexibility, even when you're working a lot of hours is, you know, hugely, hugely important. And I think our hybrid workplace will allow for that, so that the days that you come in, you're really focused, you're engaged, you're happy to be there. And on those days where you have to sort of integrate some childcare aspects or other elements where it makes sense to work from home, that that's also a possibility for you.

Ilana Ron Levey 32:05
I think something that, you know, I'm thinking about that, that's probably a little bit unique to my world, something that I've done in my career, even, you know, prior to joining Gallup, that I, that I really love is managing teams outside of the United States. And our public sector work is is really global. So we have employees, you know, in Europe; we have employees in Asia that are fully integrated as members of our team, but I think that something that's, that's important is making sure that those that don't have the possibility of interacting in person are not overlooked in this transition back to the workplace. Because they're highly, highly valued members of our team.

Ilana Ron Levey 32:56
But I think we have to strike that right balance of celebrating all those moments where our city centers are able to be back together. And I agree with Kristi; when you make it worth people's while and you celebrate together and you have happy hours and lunches and great recognition activities, it encourages people to go in and be present. And that's so important. But at the same time, certain segments of Gallup's workforce continue and will remain to be remote. And it's not because of COVID. It's because of, of where they were located pre-COVID, or even decisions that they made during COVID to move.

Ilana Ron Levey 33:43
So I think it's, it's about striking that right balance because Gallup has amazing talent; one of our most important responsibilities is to develop, engage and retain that talent. And some of that talent will continue to be fully remote. So we need to make them feel as valued and as part, as much a part of our culture as those, you know, that are in city centers. And we know that just the, the world is changing, where in-person business travel, it's going to take a long time to get back to the levels it was pre-COVID. So we don't know what the future looks like in terms of, you know, bringing people across offices and countries together in person. So I think we'll have to really be intentional about that hybrid engagement and like creating recognition and celebration activities, where in-person and remote employees can celebrate together and be integrated together.

Jaclynn Robinson 34:48
Hear, hear! We're really hearing the work-life integration take place, where your personal life is just as important and valuable as your professional life. And this experience that we found ourselves in has really maybe pulled back the curtains for some managers who might not have been attuned to that before, to say, OK, let's think about your scheduling. What is going to work for you where you feel like you have a better work-life integration? I won't say "work-life balance"; I know it's, it's always like this these days, but where they're, they're more attuned to that. And I really heard that with what you're saying too. And that individualized piece.

Kristi Rubenstein 35:26
I think you can also be intentional about what meetings you're planning on what days. So if I know I'm going to be in the office every Tuesday and Wednesday, then that's when I'm planning my one-on-ones with the people that are here in the Chicago office, If I know I'm going to be remote Thursday-Friday, then that's when I'm planning my meetings with my people that I'm connecting with virtually. And I also don't have any problems doing things twice. So if I need to do, you know, a team meeting with the people that are here in Chicago, and then the next hour, do another team meeting with those that are virtual in order to make sure that even the way that I'm communicating the message might be different. When someone in the virtual setting is staring into, you know, a conference room, and they can like barely see the person who's talking, it's not very engaging for the people that are remote. So luckily, you know, with Communication No. 4, I love to talk, so I have no problem with doing the meeting a second time.

Jaclynn Robinson 36:23
Talent in action. No, it's a, that's a really good point. Because in the old days, that's what we did; the "old days" -- a year ago. You know, if people were remote, you just, you're gonna be on that conference line, you'll just be on the phone, or you're gonna be Zoomed, and you'll just see the little bitty faces. But we can do it differently now.

Jim Collison 36:41
Well, hopefully, we've learned a little bit about -- I always felt the remote experience was subpar up until a year ago; you always, you were kind of a second-class citizen. You were on the fringe of the conversation -- you were there, but you weren't really engaged. And I hope we don't, as we come back, we don't forget what that used to be. And so we continue to, because when, when we were all, and I'm going to ask you guys, I'm gonna pivot on this question really quick here for a second. But when we were all having to do it, I think we understood the plight of the person who is on the fringe; we were all on the fringe for a while. And that actually made some of our virtual meetings better; it made my job a lot easier. Because everybody got better at this medium.

Jim Collison 37:22
Like before, a year ago, it was like, it was hit or miss. Now everybody is good at this. And so -- and that's a blanket statement. Kristi, I want to ask you this question. You know, sometimes, though, we, as we talk about coming back, it's a little, that, that comes from a statement of almost a little bit of privilege. In other words, we've had the ability to go home; we've had the ability to work from home. Not everyone's done that. I think there's a group in the population that's like, Hey, wait a minute, I've still been at work the whole time. Like I had, I was an essential worker, or I was in a, I was in a role where I couldn't -- this thing, manufacturing, right can't be done that way. What kind of advice are we giving for those managers, workers, when we think about collaboration in spaces that didn't get this opportunity, that didn't do this? Are we giving them any different advice as there's this mass return back to the office? Is there any different advice for them, for those that are, that have just continued to be on site?

Kristi Rubenstein 38:25
Well, I always go back to, you know, asking first a question of, How are you doing? And then, second, Do you have what you need? And, you know, perhaps there are things that have changed in terms of how people are doing, like, as things progress within the world around them, that it's good to touch base on that, that question again. And then in terms of, Do you have what you need? You know, are there other things that could support them in, in the current work that they're doing? Or maybe they've seen other possibilities that they hadn't seen before that, that they have observed elsewhere that could be incorporated into their current work environment. So just being open to asking good questions as a manager. And I think those two are open-ended enough that you might make some discoveries along the way.

Jim Collison 39:21
That's good. Ilana, would you, would you add anything to that?

Ilana Ron Levey 39:24
Yeah, so, well, it's a great question, and that was a great answer. And I think that you -- it's almost like you have maybe 3 types of workplaces. This is probably an oversimplification. But you, you have a workplace like Gallup, where everyone, with very, very, very few exceptions, were privileged enough to be able to work remotely during COVID. So I think in our language, it does feel appropriate to have the lens of like this great return. Then you have organizations like a hospital, and we do have, you know, health system clients where 85% to 90% of their employees never had the luxury of returning from home. And, of course, I think your messaging is going to be completely targeted differently, where you're actually hopefully reflecting on that from a point of pride, you know, so the healthcare heroes, and you gave of yourself to make this society safe, and you were brave enough to come in when others weren't.

Ilana Ron Levey 40:28
And I can imagine, and we're seeing this in some of our clients, that healthcare obviously had an enormously difficult time during the pandemic, but their, their standing in the population now, I think, is soaring. Or you look at like the image of pharma, from what they were able to do with the creation and, you know, testing a vaccine so quickly. So hopefully, it can be a point of pride. And I've, you know, even read some great articles about grocery store workers who sometimes feel and have interactions where they feel not respected. But great managers have also, and great leaders have said, No, you are an essential worker; you provided for the American people and allowed them to continue to have food and supplies and you too are a hero. And I can imagine that's amazing.

Ilana Ron Levey 41:17
I think what's gonna be hard if, I had to guess, is those organizations that have both. So I think in manufacturing, you have people who are on the factory floor, but then you have lots and lots of, you know, managers and accountants and technologists and people who didn't have to come in. And I, I think that that will be, that will require some exceptional leadership to get those messaging correct. I love what Kristi was saying about, she's willing to do the same meeting twice to get the messaging perfect and to tailor it. I'm inspired by that; I've never thought about it that way. But I think in organizations with that hybrid reality, that, that is probably what it will take to -- to be generous and thoughtful enough with your messaging that you're consciously trying to tailor it and put in that extra effort to do so.

Jim Collison 42:19
Kristi, any follow-up to that, in things that you heard Ilana say, would you add any more to it?

Kristi Rubenstein 42:27
Well, I think what it brought to mind was the idea that people like to hear why, how they are a part of the organization's overall mission. So one of our questions that we, we ask around assessing employee engagement or, is "The mission or purpose of my job makes me feel my job's important." And I think that that, that second half of the question is one that often leaders and managers miss. They think that it's about talking about the mission of the organization overall, and they forget about the second half of the question, which is about translating it to what the person is doing to contribute to that mission. And this might be a time where they need to hear that.

Kristi Rubenstein 43:07
And so, so be reminded of, of the impact that they make, and how each person is, is a part of that. And that doesn't come from leaders, because a leader can't always tailor that message to each individual; it really comes from manager being able to translate that vision into helping each person see how their unique contribution feeds into the overall mission. And in this case, you know, if they're an essential worker, feeds into, you know, just the, the safety and ability for our, our country to get back on, on our feet and begin to flourish again. So it's a good time to be regrouping on those messages.

Jim Collison 43:50
Thanks for letting me take that little tangent. You know, over the year on Called to Coach here, we often, we've spent a lot of time talking about remote working, because it's, that has, it's been our experience. But I have to remember, you know, my wife goes in every day, she works in healthcare, and she goes in every day. And so that experience, we completely flipped roles, like, you know, she used to be home all the time and I was out at the office, and that flipped completely. And so it just gave us new opportunities, you know, gave us new opportunities to think and new opportunities to collaborate, even at the family level. I'm collaborating in my relationship with her much differently than we collaborated just a year and a half ago.

Jim Collison 44:33
I think as we return or we go back or however that's, you know, how organizations -- and Ilana, I really appreciated the hybrid organization that has manufacturing people that have to be there; back-office folks that don't -- I appreciate that challenge. I think from a collaboration standpoint, we're gonna have to rewrite the rules in some regards of how this works. And so that makes this conversation very important. Jaclynn, I'll throw it back to you for more questions.

Jaclynn Robinson 44:59
Yeah. I'd love to hear what we might have from our folks in the coaching community.

Jim Collison 45:06
In the chat room -- we'll give them a, yeah, we'll give them a second to, to respond back to that. As we're waiting for some of those questions, in the preshow, we had a little bit of a strengths conversation between the two of you. And I was just on a webcast the other day where we all had Maximizer. It was funny, all 4 of us. I was looking for that here today -- we don't. But you guys, you guys had mentioned you both have Strategic, but that plays out in a different, kind of in a different -- well, just in the way, in your leadership path. Ilana, as you think about Strategic with all your other themes around it, how does that play out? And then Kristi, I'm gonna ask the same thing of you like, How does that play on your decision-making process?

Ilana Ron Levey 45:50
Well, that's a great question. And I think that for me, the Strategic theme, I think, helps me narrow in pretty quickly on what I think are the most important challenges to tackle or prioritization of focus for us. And also, I think, helps you see the end in sight so you're not getting stuck in the tactics. So let's talk about like learning and development for roles. It can be tempting, I think, without the Strategic theme, to obsess over the tactics of is it this course or that course, or this framework or that framework? But obviously, the big picture is helping create a culture where our talent feels that they're evolving in their role and acquiring the experiences and the skills to serve our clients better and to progress.

Ilana Ron Levey 46:57
And if, if you forget that end in sight, then I think you can get really kind of mired down in the tactics. The tactics are important, but what it's all leading to, in my mind, is even more important. So that's, that's sort of how I leverage it. I think that there's a very interesting dynamic about Individualization and Strategic in my mind, because one of, you know, leadership styles, there's, there's some who focus heavily on consistency. And there are some who focus on kind of individualized paths. So with the Strategic, if you know what the outcome is, to me, it's easier to individualize. Because, you know, maybe this person doesn't want to have this traditional developmental framework, but they want to end up in the same place; but they're gonna do it a little bit differently. I think that that helps. If you individualize, though, without that Strategic big picture, you're just, it's just chaos sometimes. So --

Jim Collison 48:01
No, it's good. Kristi, talk a little bit about then how you see your Strategic working for success.

Kristi Rubenstein 48:07
Yeah. So I actually see my Strategic as working as a very structured way of thinking. So when I hear about a problem, I'll often generate a solution that is a structure that most people will be able to work within. And then, I think what Ilana is saying is, without that structure in place, then you can't really iterate off of the core. So for example, around account-leader development, so our account leaders, our consultants at Gallup that are responsible for the key, like, point of contact for our client relationships, so we want to continuously develop them. So we created a framework where we expect for them to build their expertise, deliver excellence, and generate growth for our clients. And then all of the learning opportunities that we have for them are fitting into the framework within those three levels.

Kristi Rubenstein 49:05
And then we iterate what that looks like, in terms of the level of that consultant from when they first joined Gallup, what does it look like to develop expertise? You know, in your, in your third or fourth year, what does that look like? In your seventh or eighth year, what does that look like? In your 15th year, what does that look like? So being able to have a core and common framework and then customize for each person where it counts is how we are able to kind of leverage some of that strategic thinking, along with putting on an individual perspective on it.

Jaclynn Robinson 49:37
I love hearing your themes work together. Just how they work separate and then, to Jim's point, in our pre, preshow when it was just the four of us talking, hearing how your, your themes interact together. You all are just so brilliant.

Jim Collison 49:54
We, and I'll remind those listening, we did an interview with you guys back in August of 2020 where we really zeroed in on your, your job role and how you work together. And so, if you want to get some additional, if you didn't get a chance to hear that, go back, August 2020, and as we talked about working together on that, you can get a whole nother hour with Kristi and Ilana. I want to ask you this question. So Maika and I, you know, we partner a lot. And I'm partnering with Jaclynn a lot more this year. But Maika and I, we're, we're coming up with some Summit ideas, some things we wanted to do during our breakout. And we have this rule with each other that we'll say like, OK, just ideas. These are just ideas. No, no, you know, no one is, like, if it's a bad idea, it's OK; if it's a good idea.

Jim Collison 50:43
And we'll just, we'll continue just to spout things in our partnership until a few really good ideas come to light. It works well, because we both have a high Ideation; we've got high Activator in it, like, that works for us. Do you guys have some, like, do you have some partnership things that you can kind of land on all the time that say, "We're gonna go to this place to be really effective" and kind of call it that. Do you kind of have any spaces like that, where you really start kind of activating it? It's probably the wrong word to use, but talk a little bit about that. Do you have any of those, any of those kinds of systems, as partners, that you rely on?

Ilana Ron Levey 51:21
That's a good question. I mean, I think that, you know, we're, we're lucky that the getting work done together, I think, has evolved really naturally in the -- and I think that, because we have that shared Strategic, and even if it manifests differently, what I think did not manifest differently was I think we were able to agree, relatively quickly, what were the most important things to tackle. And I think where it could have been difficult was if Kristi said, you know, "For our, our full, integrated group, these are the top 3 things we have to make progress on this year." And then I was saying, "I completely disagree with all those top 3 things; it's 3 other things." Luckily, that, that hasn't happened at all.

Ilana Ron Levey 52:15
I do think, though, a place where we can be very powerful together is on the relational side. So for instance, I think that because it's natural to invite each other to some sensitive meetings, even if we're not the ones driving it, like, it would be very rare that because you would have a meeting and someone would say, Well, why'd you invite Ilana? Why is she here? Or vice versa. I can kind of be a fly on the wall when I'm not center stage in a meeting. And I think Kristi trusts my relational skills, where I can step back and say, OK, your framework was perfect; your presentation was perfect. Everything was perfect. But what I think you missed was, there's a lot of tension between these two people. And, you know, their Significance is getting in the way. And that's why we're not moving forward.

Ilana Ron Levey 53:06
Or Kristi can sit in a, you know, exit interview for someone that was primarily my responsibility in terms of management and kind of hear the feedback really objectively and say, "OK, I didn't know you well; I didn't know your world well. But here's what I'm taking from that experience. And here's the commitment that we can make together to sort of drive that forward." And I think that's really beneficial and powerful. And it's pretty rare. So we can process the intangibles together really well. And we, there are certain experiences where really only the two of us have. And you need a best friend at work, you know, to be able to call and say, "Did you just hear what I heard? And like, "What's going on in those dynamics?" Because if I don't get that, right, I'm gonna, you know, I'm not going to be effective in this particular instance. So I'm very grateful for that.

Kristi Rubenstein 54:09
Oh, absolutely. I think having, you know, a coleader has been just, it just gives you so much permission to like be candid in conversations and even admit, "This is hard. I'm not sure what to do. Can you help me think through it?" Or, "Here's the approach that I want to take with that. How do you think that's gonna land?" And there's no judgment; there's no, like, there's no way that you can fail when you're talking to your friend about it, who's equally as responsible as you. So it's nice to have, you know, a teammate who's, who's, who's working towards the same goal that you can have those hard conversations with. But I think a lot of our discussions also come up when we see a shared issue. Like so many organizations complain about the lack of knowledge management And at Gallup, you know, as a research firm, with all of the books that we studied, and all the topics that we've covered here on Called to Coach, we have a lot of information.

Kristi Rubenstein 55:09
So we, our problem with knowledge management is certainly not knowledge. It's actual management of that knowledge. So what Ilana and I said was, you know, we don't need any more books in the library; we just need more librarians. We need people who really know everything that's available and can help other people navigate through that. So, you know, Ilana knew someone kind of personally in the D.C. office who was really good at kind of organizing and putting information in, in a way that can be easily resourced or easily accessible by others.

Kristi Rubenstein 55:46
So maybe you have people that actually go to the container store and buy those containers and actually use them to organize their homes, like people with this natural talent for organizing information. So we identified a few of those on our teams. And then we put them into roles where they can utilize that talent to help organize information around knowledge management in a way that's easy for others to access, and then be the librarian there to help get that information. So, you know, we came up with a problem; we knew what type of solution that we needed to make; and then between our, our two networks, were able to figure out who to, who to place within that structure to make it come together.

Jim Collison 56:27
I just, I just heard your Strategic in there. That's pretty great. Walking through that framework, very, very, very clear. I'm going to reserve the right to bring you guys back next year about this time and do a follow-up to like, OK, how did it really go? This has been the fun part for my job is that things have been changing so fast year over year, if you interview every year, or every 6 months, there's enough new things that we're kind of learning all the time. Jaclynn, let's take a second to thank our guests for coming today, would you?

Jaclynn Robinson 56:58
Thank you, ladies! You know, the, the chat has appreciated this. I've been looking at the comments, the questions coming in. And your feedback has just been so, so helpful. I learned something new. I think everybody in chat learned something new, as we think about cross-collaboration and partnerships with teams, but also between managers and between leaders. So thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to be with us today. For those listening in, we will have our final episode on improving teams coming up in June with Rachael Breck and Sara Vander Helm. And they will be talking about Celebrating Successes. So we're going to end on that positive, happy note after we're coming out of this year we've all been through.

Jim Collison 57:44
And thanks again, ladies. Hang tight for me one second. We'll remind everyone to take full advantage of all those resources -- and Kristi just said, we don't have a lack of resources that's out there -- now on Gallup Access. So go to And actually, upper left-hand corner, drop the menu down and choose Resources. And you can search -- we have a ton of stuff available for you there. So get in there and get that done. If you're interested in coaching, master coaching, or you want to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach -- which would be great for 2021; we could use a few more of those as well -- you can contact us. Send us an email: Don't forget, if you want to stay up to date on all the webcasts that we're doing, including when we have Ilana and Kristi back next year, follow us on Eventbrite: There's still time to join us for the 2021 Gallup at Work Summit, and it's going to be pretty great. So you're going to want to be there: And you can still get registered, you got a, I think 2 weeks from today is when it kicks off. So you want to make sure you get that done. And then, of course, join us on any social platform -- and who wouldn't? -- just search "CliftonStrengths" on those platforms, and you can find us there. Want to thank you for listening today. We'll send you back to your next virtual meeting, whatever that might be. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Kristi Rubenstein's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Communication and Positivity.

Ilana Ron Levy's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Maximizer, Individualization, Ideation and Learner.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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