Create trait-balanced teams — where everyone feels valued — in order to create the cognitive diversity needed to improve the company’s pool of new ideas and to boost productivity.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexia Parks the President of 10TRAITS.com, inventor of the Gender Equality Scale and 1-Minute GET Smarter Faster Tool. Based on science, this digital tool offers an on-demand, instant transfer of knowledge and actionable advice to help people strengthen relationships and manage conflicts in the moment, the moment it’s needed.
Early in her career, Alexia was called “One of 50 Who Matter Most on the Internet” by Newsweek magazine for her launch of Votelink, one of the first online democracy voting systems. The author of 14 books, she formerly wrote for the national desk of The Washington Post. As a United Nations Mentor, Alexia mentored the young woman leader who became the Fortune Magazine #1 Award Winner for social impact at their 2014 “Most Powerful Women in the World” Summit.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Forty years ago, when I knew nothing about meditation or mindfulness, I had the opportunity to attend a 10-day training program at The Monroe Institute. The Institute was famous for measuring the brain wave states of Zen meditation masters and then transferring those same brain wave states to people attending their programs through the use of headphones.
After 10-days, I could enter this deep meditative state at will. From personal experience I understood its power.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting thing that happened to me since leading my company happened at a talk I gave to a group of lawyers and mediators in Florida soon after we launched. I had set up an online demo of how our 1-Minute tool works and then asked for a volunteer from the audience.
I chose a lawyer in the front row who was first to raise his hand.
I asked him to think of a relationship he wanted to strengthen or a conflict he wanted to resolve. My goal was to use this live demonstration to show how a mobile phone could be used to help a person get to the heart of a conflict to resolve it, in 1-minute.
To my surprise, everyone in the audience became fully engaged. While I was talking to a single individual, everyone in the room was going through the same exercise in their mind with their own relationships.
When my talk was finished no-one rushed for the door. No one wanted to leave. They lingered for more than an hour talking with me and each other. They had entered a “whole brain state” similar to my experience at The Monroe Institute but in this case they had entered it together.
By helping them “own their power” they had made a shift from binary thinking to a unity mindset. In this moment I realized that I wasn’t just building a business, I was in the business of uplifting human consciousness.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Imagine the shift that can take place in any organization when those in leadership positions allow people they manage to use their own mobile phones as a 1-minute training tool.
Real learning takes place incrementally, with something can be repeated over and over, on-demand. It can be turned in a positive habit.
Relationships can be strengthened, conflicts can be reduced and decisions can be improved when mobile phones are used in the work culture as an on-demand training tool, personal coach or mentor.
The benefit? When our mind is free of conflict we are able to engage with new ideas and opportunities. We become more positive minded and productive.
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
One reason that more than half of the US workforce is unhappy is because most people in today’s modern workforce don’t have the skills or knowledge of how to manage or resolve a conflict. Today, more than $356 billion dollars is spent annually, by businesses around the world on conflict resolution training programs that don’t work because people soon revert to their old ways of doing things.
The reason? Because as I mentioned, learning needs to take place incrementally, over time. This is why I invented a series of 1-minute training sessions that can be delivered anywhere in the world, to any digital device.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
In terms of company productivity each person spends, on average, 2–3 hours a week dealing with a conflict. In addition, if a person is dealing with an unresolved conflict at work, then the number of hours they spend dealing with it could be much higher and even lead to absence from work.
What is the loss to company profitability? Research shows that $359 billion is lost each year by corporations around the world due to stress and conflict in the workforce. This $359 billion is a direct loss to the company’s bottom line.
An unhappy workforce is like having the flu. Whether we know it or not, we humans can “feel the unresolved pain of others.” Stress, anxiety and depression can go viral if left unchecked.
Because of our social nature and our close proximity to others at work, the health and wellbeing of the entire workforce is directly impacted by unresolved stress and anxiety in ourselves and others.
The opposite is also true: being with happy, upbeat people, or simply seeing happy people — even at a distance — can also make us feel happy.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
- Become trait aware. That is, have leaders, managers and the workforce become aware of their own trait strengths
- Discover the trait strengths of the people you work with. Have them learn to rate their own traits and the traits of others. Turn this activity into a habit.
- Make it OK for every employee to use their mobile phone at work as a training tool. When we become trait aware, we shift from a world of dualism — winners/losers, right/wrong, smart/stupid, to a focus on skills and trait strengths that bring out the best in everyone.
- Shed hidden bias. Show employees how to rate their traits and the traits of others and then find and close the gaps. For example, a fast rising employee with an entrepreneurial style of management found that his best ideas were continuously being turned down by his manager. When he rated his traits and the traits of his manager, he discovered that there was a gap between his own desire to take big risks and his manager’s more risk averse nature. By switching his focus to how much money the new venture would save — with risk minimized — he got the “green light” he was seeking.
- Create trait-balanced teams — where everyone feels valued — in order to create the cognitive diversity needed to improve the company’s pool of new ideas and to boost productivity.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
To change the work culture of any organization, we, as a society, can use a structural framework based on balancing traits that is specific to each project and each decision that needs to be made. The one I created includes 16 decision-making categories that are used by Fortune 50 companies and government.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I lead by example. My role-model is that of a resilient, open-minded, empathetic leader who also values health and fitness.
In addition, my leadership style is like the “No Rules” parental style I used when raising my own children.This is how it works:
If I say “NO” to something you want to do and you can tell me why you think my answer should be “yes” I will listen. If I agree with your reasoning and logic I will change my mind, otherwise “no” means no. What this style of leadership does is shifts the focus to the person who wants me to say “YES”. They need to think through all of the challenges and consequences before making the ASK.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My life partner, Dr. Joel, is a medical doctor and a scholar across many fields of science. Soon after we met, he gave me a book on the life of Eleanor Roosevelt.
When I finished reading the book, I asked a simple question: Why did she never had any of her ideas adopted into law? With her husband confined to a wheelchair during his presidency, Eleanor Roosevelt traveled the world on his behalf. She came as close as America has ever come to having a woman as president. His answer became the catalyst that launched this business.
His response: “Eleanor Roosevelt was ahead of her times. She had 10 powerful traits that are exactly what’s needed in the world today in order to manage the complexities of our volatile, interconnected world.”
So I asked: “What are the 10 traits? His answer began the journey that brought me here today.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As president of my company and an author, I have always been guided by one principle to help bring goodness to the world on a daily basis. That principle is this: to log your highest thoughts. That is write or speak your highest thoughts. Expect that the best is yet to come!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The life lesson quote: “Be all you can be in every moment” has guided me throughout my career. Interestingly, it came from the hot tubs at Esalen Institute. In the 1970’s I had gone there to attend a workshop.
One of the people I met in the Esalen hot tubs that overlook Big Sur was Frank Burns. Burns was a former commander of the Army’s Delta Force. At the time, he was leading programs to help military leaders learn how to expand their potential.
From him I learned that the transformational quote: “Be all you can be” was co-opted by the military and become a recruiting slogan.
I liked it, so I simply added my own ending: “Be all you can be in every moment”as a personal reminder to try to be mindful in every moment.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would launch a movement based on trait awareness, trait strengths and trait balancing to help organizations create a structural framework for their diverse inclusive work culture. This framework would help them continuously learn and apply repeatable methods for preventing workplace conflicts, improving harmony and productivity, and sustainably promoting a positive culture at work and in their own family life.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!