08 Jul July 8, 2020 – ilumivu Kat Houghton and Responsive Leadership Jackie Jenkins-Scott
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Kat Houghton – Co-Founder and CEO at ilumivu
We saw an unmet need and wanting to fill it, which we did, but then
what came to us was a much bigger application that is more fruitful
than staying in one niche.
Kat Houghton, PhD. is a psychologist committed to cultural change through facilitating personal transformation, and intersection of technology and psychology. She has spent over 15 years working with over 900 families with children with autism on four continents. Through a gentle, self-reflective, person-centered approach, Katherine helps parents find peace with the diagnosis of their children while providing practical training in evidence-based autism treatment. Since 2009, Kat has been running the software company, ilumivu.com, that provides wearable, mobile and web systems to psychologists and behavioral health researchers. ilumivu System is a robust, patient-centered, software platform designed to capture rich, multimodal behavioral data streams through user engagement. Kat is also very engaged in local environmental activism bringing Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to the City of Asheville through a nonprofit she co-founded, Community Roots, focused at the intersection of self-governance and environmental sustainability.
Reponsive leadership focuses on the humanity of the company.
It understands that an organization survives and thrives
based on its people.
Jackie Jenkins-Scott, Founder and President of JJS Advising, is a nationally-recognized leader with more than three decades of experience in senior and executive leadership positions in both public and nonprofit sectors. She was the 13th president of Wheelock College for 21 years; a 129-year old private college specializing in educating teachers and social workers, as well as its first African-American president. Her personal commitment to improve society extends to active community and civic engagement, and she serves on several boards including The Boston Foundation, the Kennedy Library Foundation and Museum, and the National Board of Jumpstart. Jackie is also the author of the latest leadership book, The 7 Secrets of Responsive Leadership: Drive Change, Manage Transitions, and Help Any Organization Turn Around, which is richly illustrated with stories from her decades of experience as a CEO and spotlights how to build the skills to be a leader in any environment.
Highlights from Jackie’s Interview
Let’s start with responsive leadership, I want to give you two examples. One is what a responsive company does in a crisis, and the other is what a non-responsive company does in a crisis. For me, responsive leadership really focuses on the humanity of the company or the organization. It understands that an organization survives and thrives and triumphs based on its people. The decisions that it makes are based on its people. Even though a lot of people would say, that’s soft, you got to really base it on business and the bottom line, we know that no company can thrive without having a thriving workforce and a thriving employee. So let me just quickly, without naming the companies, give you two real-life examples of how two companies dealt with the COVID crisis, here in the Boston area. Both companies were faced with very large furloughs of over 400 people.
Here’s how Company A handled the furloughs and here’s how Company B handled the furloughs. Company A had a list of 400 people, the manager actually took the list home. Word got out, there were all kinds of rumors that over 400 people were going to be laid off the following week. The manager took the list home, the supervisors on Monday morning received their list people to be laid off, without training them what to tell those employees and how those employees could access unemployment benefits and other benefits that the company was making available. So you had over 400 employees who found out on Monday morning that they were being laid off or furloughed, and given a letter and a list of what they could do to get their unemployment benefits. That’s company A. When employees went to the Massachusetts Unemployment Bureau, for some of them, it took almost five weeks for them to get their benefits. As you can imagine, there was a lot of concern, a lot of anger, a lot of hostility. For some of those employees, they didn’t know that the company had changed its EIN number because it had merged a few months earlier. So those employees, some of them were delayed getting their unemployment benefits because they were filing under one name and the EIN number was actually under another name. So that’s Company A.
Here’s what Company B did, the same number of employees to be laid off, 400 employees. The company set up a special team in their HR division to handle those employees. They went to the Massachusetts Unemployment Bureau in advance, worked with them, got a special number, and a special way that their human resources office could access, and all the employees were already listed. So by the time they went to the Unemployment Bureau, it was very easy for them to get their benefits. Most employees got their benefits within one week. In fact, Company B had this special team already in place. They had trained their supervisors exactly what to tell their employees. The letter that those employees received saying that they were being furloughed, gave an attachment with exact instructions on how to access their unemployment benefits. Now, it’s obvious which company when those employees come back will have the most satisfied employees.
So this is what I mean by responsive leadership. Responsive leadership says that even when we’re making the toughest decisions in our company; laying off people, closing, creating a new product, even when we’re making the toughest decisions that may impact negatively on our employees, we want to take in the humanity of the people that work for us. We want to do this in the most empathetic and sympathetic way that we can. That’s the difference between responsive leadership.
Let’s now talk about the book. First of all, when I started writing this book, for me, leadership really is about our values. So after thinking about this a lot and talking with people, I came up with what are the four biggest attributes that I think responsive leaders have. So let me just quickly tell you what they are because the seven secrets in my book, we show that these attributes are displayed in all of these seven secrets. So those four attributes are: the first one is curiosity, the ability to intellectually care, and want to learn and grow and help my company learn and grow. I’m looking for all the lessons that we can use to be a better company a better organization. I am curious about not only my own personal growth, but that of my company and that of my employees. So curiosity is number one. Number two, humility. The leader understands that he/she can learn from others, that she doesn’t know at all. Even though leaders are often thought of that the answer is with the leader, the leader understands that the answer is with his team or her team. Number three, empathy. Even though sometimes we can’t walk in someone else’s shoes, we can try to empathize as much as we can. So we’re laying off 400 people, we think, if I’m being laid off, if I’m being furloughed, how do I do that in a way that that employee will still feel that they are honored and respected, that we care about them? Then finally, resilience, the ability to bounce back. Our companies are going to go through ups and downs. So the ability not only to bounce back, but to bounce back quickly, will distinguish the responsive leader. So those are four attributes that I think responsive leaders use, carry, and practice. And I’d love it for your audience to tell me what I missed. And Did I get it right after they reflect on those four attributes.
Now, I know we don’t have time to go over all seven secrets, but I’ll tell you one of the ones that I love and I start off the book with, is opportunity. The first secret is taking advantage of the opportunity. When we have this practice of, I call them The Big Four, what we find is that our mind is opened up for the opportunity. So if we’re a curious leader, we’re going to be looking at and being open to opportunities; opportunities to do something differently in my company, to change, to modify how I’m doing things, to be open to a new, product or a new way of doing things that can make money for the company, or change the way we do companies. So one of my favorites is taking advantage of the opportunity. I would say that all of us have the ability to have these four in varying degrees. Our success as a leader depends on our ability to put them together.
There are many leaders who exhibit all of them in varying degrees at varying times in their careers. Steve Jobs may not have had much empathy, but he was curious as hell. It was that curiosity that said to him, we can make a better product, I want a phone that has a camera in it. Now, the way he’s done it was to tell his people to go out and figure out how to do that. But he was right there with them, he had very high standards. So that curiosity is what drove him as a leader. I never met Steve Jobs, but I understand that later on in his career, he certainly was resilient. I understand that he treated people very badly, he did not have much empathy. But we would want to see empathy. But what drove him and his leadership style was curiosity and resilience, because he had a failed company and he bounced back, and that company came back in a much stronger than his first company.
But these are attributes that I believe responsive leaders have, I couch that with responsible leaders. I didn’t say successful leaders have all four of them, I talked about responsive leadership. But what I will say to you is that in our careers as leaders, we will have ups and downs, we are going to have successes. That’s what resilience is about, that’s the ability to bounce back. I think that responsive leaders are continuously growing and working to be better as a leader, and as a person first. Then if you are working to be better as a person, you’re going to be better as a leader. Leaders will use many techniques, many tools, they will change their toolbox under the circumstances that they find themselves in. So we’re in a crisis, we have to make budget cuts. Our company must survive, we’re going to have to make these cuts, it’s how we make these cuts that make the difference. Not saying that you throw away the tools of strong management, strong leadership, ethical leadership, setting high expectations. Those are all tools that we use as leaders, but we are constantly working on what I call The Big Four if we are going to be a responsive leader.
Another one of the seven secrets is keeping your bags packed. So when I was a very young graduate student, the very first African-American Head of the Department of Corrections in Massachusetts, I heard him speak. What he talked about, the title of his talk was Keep Your Bags Packed. What that is, is that we as leaders will find times when our morals and our ethical code will be challenged. So what do you do? Do you have a line in the sand? Is there something that will say to you, it’s better for me to leave this organization than to stay here under these circumstances? That’s what he meant by Keep Your Bags Packed. If you come into a role as a leader, you’ve started your company and you find out that the only way I can keep this company going is to do something morally and ethically challenging for me, you have to make a decision. Do I keep my bags packed or do I stay and compromise my core values? What he urged us as students to do was to have a mentality that we will keep our bags packed. He only stayed in that role for about 18 months. Because at that time, many decades ago, the unions came after him because he challenged the patronage system in Massachusetts. Sure enough, he walked rather than compromise his core values. So that’s what the Keep Your Bags Packed is about, it’s about the mentality, the belief system that we take into our role as a leader and understanding what drives us.
The book is The 7 Secrets of Responsive Leadership: Drive Change, Manage Transitions, and Help Any Organization Turn Around. Right now with all of us sheltering in, you can get it through Amazon, through IndieBound, you can contact me and I’ll make sure you get a copy of it. JJSadvising@gmail.com is the best way to reach me. I’d love to be challenged on some of the concepts that I put in my book because I’m always learning and growing too.